Gurudev was listening intently to the song. When I came to the last line he fainted and fell back unconscious against me. Seeing that his jaw was clenched tightly shut, I took a piece of bamboo and pried open his mouth.
When the teachers saw him faint in this way, they became convinced that Gurudev was no ordinary person and that he was truly qualified to leave home and take to spiritual life. The students, however, still wanted him to return. Seeing the mood amongst the students, I told them, “Now he is unconscious. We can easily take him back to his home. Go and get a motor rickshaw.” As soon as they left I carried Gurudev away where they could not find him. Later we came back to the matha. That evening Gurudev’s wife Srimati Vasanti Devi came. Gurudev had her sleep inside the room while he and I slept outside on top of some coconut palm leaves. In the morning I pointed out to Gurudev how there was an imprint on his body from the leaves. He said, “Yes, renounced life is like this.” His wife was unable to convince him to return, and he sent her back home that morning. He stayed there at Kakudia Math for five or six days, during which time he called for his younger brother Kripa-sindhu and asked him to take care of his family. Then he left Kakudia Math and walked 14 kilometers to Gadei Giri to request Gopal’s permission to take sannyasa.
After taking to the renounced order of life, Braja Bandhu asked Subhas to give him bhiksa or donations for a sannyasi. He told him, “Just as Buddha after leaving home first begged alms from his disciple Chandika, you please give me my first alms as a renunciant.”
Subhas had two sons and three daughters. During this time he lost contact with Braja Bandhu and became interested in Buddhism. After some years he left home and became a Buddhist sannyasi. In that position he traveled and preached in Tailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and various places in India. Although traveling extensively and preaching, Subhas never forgot his mentor Braja Bandhu.
In 1979, Subhas was visiting Bhubaneswar. While there he went to the Buddhist shrine known as Dola Giri. On his way back he went to get a bus. At the bus stand he was approached by a white skinned westerner, dressed in a dhoti with Vaishnava tilak. That devotee gave him a magazine in Oriya called Bhagavat Darshan. Seeing that Subhas was interested, the westerner began explaining some things about Krishna consciousness. He showed Subhas an article in the magazine written by an Orissan sannyasi, whom he said was living at their center in Bhubaneswar. The devotee’s name was Bhagavat Das, and he invited Subhas to come to meet that sannyasi. When Subhas later arrived at the ISKCON property, he was astonished to see that the sannyasi, now known as Gour Govinda Swami, was none other than Braja Bandhu — the mentor of his youth.
Gour Govinda Maharaja explained that he and Bhagavat had received initiation from His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada; and that his name was now Gour Govinda Swami. Subhas started coming every day to see Gour Govinda Maharaja, who patiently explained to him the principles of the Bhagavad-gita. Due to Maharaja’s strong preaching Subhas gradually gave up his interest in Buddhism, and became a follower of Srila Prabhupada. In 1984 he took intitiation from Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja and received the name Svayambhu Das. From that day, under the guidance and instruction of his spiritual master, Svayambhu began strongly preaching to the pious village people of Orissa. This remained his focus for the rest of his life. He became well-known for his learned discourses during which he would frequently sing traditional Oriya Vaishnava songs. He converted many sahajiyas in Orissa into pure followers of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Srila Prabhupada. After Gour Govinda Maharaja left this world in 1996, Svayambhu waited a few years and then took sannyasa from Srila Bhaktisvarup Damodar Maharaja in 2003. After taking sannyasa, he became known as Svayambhu Maharaja, and became even more enthusiastic to preach.
Around 2008, Svayambhu Maharaja started becoming frequently sick. His condition became acute in early August 2010, and the devotees took him to a local hospital. There he was treated for a few days and then passed away on the 11th of August 2010 at 4:15pm. A few minutes before his departure, Svayambhu Maharaja’s eldest son Mahendra came to visit. He gave his father some caranamrita and Jagannath maha-prasadam from Puri. After giving his father those items, Mahendra started playing a recording of Srila Prabhupada singing the maha-mantra; at which time Svayambhu Maharaja peacefully left his body.
Svayambhu Maharaja was 75 years of age when he departed from this world. He had no formal disciples, but he will be remembered by thousands of villagers all over Orissa whose lives he transformed by giving them the maha-mantra and the teachings of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Maharaja is survived by his purva-asrama wife Malati Nayak (initiated as Manjulata Devi Dasi), his two sons Mahendra and Bipin, and his 3 daughters Sangha Mitra (initiated as Su-prema Devi Dasi), Sujata (initiated as Suvarna Manjari), and Sakuntala, all of whom, with the exception of the youngest Sakuntala, were initiated by Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja.
The devotees in Bhubaneswar fondly remember Svayambhu Maharaja as being close with Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja. They are in the process now of making a svayam samadhi (full samadhi) for Svayambhu Maharaja at the ISKCON farm project in Atala, and a puspa-samadhi at his birthplace in Garaam.