Ananda Sambada

Some Iskcon Sadhus

On this page, I’d like to offer my respects to those senior godbrothers of my most worshippable Gurudeva Sri Srimad Gour Govinda Swami, who, during his presence in this world, were his good friends and supporters. (We will be adding more devotees along with more photos and details.)


Sripad Partha Sarathi Goswami wrote, in the Ananda Sambada newsletter –

"In January 1995 Gour Govinda Maharaja came to South Africa, and I really wanted to speak with him, wanted his association. So I went into his room in Durban – I started asking the Maharaja about the different levels of bhakti, and he gave a nice example that will always stay in my mind; that bhakti is like an ocean and those persons who are deep will dive deep to get the jewels at the bottom of that ocean, whereas those persons who are not so deep, more shallow, will play around in the shallow parts of the ocean. Then he started quoting verses from the Goswami’s books, especially from Raghunnath dasa Goswami’s vilapa kusumanjali – verses that I knew, that I’d read. When he started quoting those verses I was very impressed. I specifically recall him quoting text 72



ha modatah kanaka-gauri padaravinda-

samvahanani sanakais tava kim karisye

I felt, here’s a person who’s very deep, who has something very valid in Krsna consciousness; something that I don’t have, but that I want. I was very impressed – I was looking for that kind of association.

Afterwards I felt that I should try to get more of his association, but that was his last day in Durban. So I went to the airport with him. He carried on talking about uttama-bhakti, quoting Rupa Goswami and Raghunnath dasa Goswami, especially more from Vilapa kusumanjali (I don’t know why that book in particular, it is a very esoterical sastra.) In the airport, Maharaja was aloof. It was like he was in a different world – he was, in the spiritual world. I guessed he was internally meditating on Krsna. Then he left, flew off on his whirlwind tour of Africa, something which I could never do, and I am 20 years younger.

What really impresses me so much, I have faith he was on an advanced stage – I believe he was on at least the stage of bhava-bhakti, quite possibly beyond that, and yet he remained faithfully preaching within the Iskcon institution and serving Srila Prabhupada’s instruction; which I believe is the best and most admirable example."


Among the many moonlike devotees of Srila Prabhupada, Srila Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja shines brilliantly in the firmament, illuminating the hearts and lives of those who come into his light.

Today we are observing the twentieth anniversary of Maharaja’s divine departure, on Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura’s appearance day in Mayapur, February 9, 1996. I had left Mayapur earlier that day, after placing my head on Maharaja’s lotus feet and receiving his affectionate blessing. As I learned later, that afternoon Bhaktarupa Prabhu and two senior lady devotees came to meet Maharaja in his room, and they inquired of him about Krishna—why Lord Chaitanya made his base in Puri, what was the relationship between Lord Jagannatha and Vrindavan. Maharaja enthusiastically narrated the pastimes of Krishna and how Krishna, having been in separation from Radharani, assumed the form of Jagannatha. Because of Maharaja’s exalted Krishna consciousness, he felt transcendental ecstasy remembering and narrating Krishna’s pastimes. And in this case he became overwhelmed, and he excused himself, saying that he was unable to speak more. He lay back on his bed and, gazing at a picture of his worshipable Deity Gopal Jiu, while devotees chanted the holy names, in a deep state of Krishna consciousness, he left this world.

In Srimad-Bhagavatam (4.28.47) Srila Prabhupada discusses the departure of the spiritual master: “[W]hen the mortal body of the spiritual master expires, his disciples should cry exactly as the queen cries when the king leaves his body. However, the disciple and spiritual master are never separated, because the spiritual master always keeps company with the disciple as long as the disciple follows strictly the instructions of the spiritual master. This is called the association of vani (words). Physical presence is called vapuh. As long as the spiritual master is physically present, the disciple should serve the physical body of the spiritual master, and when the spiritual master is no longer physically existing, the disciple should serve the instructions of the spiritual master.”

Devotees cried for Srila Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja when he left, and we should cry for him now—for his mercy—and be eager to hear from him, as he instructed: “All sadhus speak through their books. Jiva Gosvami, Rupa Gosvami, Sanatana Gosvami, Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, and Srila Prabhupada all say that they speak through books. . . . This is our Vaishnava procedure. But you should see him. . . . You may say, ‘Oh, I have read their books, I have their association.’ . . . You cannot understand what they have said merely by reading their books.”

Once, when Maharaja came to Mauritius, after he gave a class at the ISKCON Vedic Farm in Bon Accueil, I mentioned to him the verses in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya 22.128–129) about the five most potent forms of devotional service:

sadhu-sanga, nama-kirtana, bhagavata-sravana

mathura-vasa, sri-murtira sraddhaya sevana

“One should associate with devotees, chant the holy name of the Lord, hear Srimad-Bhagavatam, reside at Mathura, and worship the Deity with faith and veneration.

sakala-sadhana-srestha ei panca anga

krsna-prema janmaya ei pancera alpa sanga

“These five limbs of devotional service are the best of all. Even a slight performance of these five awakens love for Krsna.”

I told him how much I cherished mathura-vasa, residing in Mathura (or Vrindavan). Maharaja looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Kamsa also resided in Mathura, but still he was a demon.” Immediately I realized that yes, one can reside in Mathura, but he must also give up the demonic mentality of wanting to be the Supreme—the proprietor, the controller, and the enjoyer. Externally one may reside in Mathura, but internally he must do the work of purifying the heart.

Maharaja spoke these words to me with great love and compassion. I felt that he was seeing straight into my polluted heart and acting to purify it. He instructed me that the goal was not to reside in Mathura but to actually develop the consciousness of a devotee. And we can see from this example that the direct, personal association of a sadhu is required to understand the real import, or purport, of the books we read, of scripture.

The sadhus speaking through their books “are very, very merciful,” Maharaja said, “but you should follow the proper path. If you are intelligent you will understand how they are still here, not only in the form of their books, but also they are here. You should see them. . . . If you can get his mercy then you can see him. Otherwise, by your own effort and perception you cannot see him. No, no, no. You always think that you are drasta, the seer, and that the sadhu is drsta, the one to be seen. Everyone is like this. They think they are the seers. But it is just the reverse. You are to be seen and they are the seer.” And when a devotee asked him, “How are we seen by the sadhu—by our service?” Maharaja replied, “Yes. The sadhu is the seer. If he showers his mercy upon you, he sees you. If you receive that merciful glance then you are very fortunate.”

Part of Maharaja’s mission was to show that everything is in Srila Prabhupada’s books. He said that they are like an ocean filled with gems and that to gather those gems one must dive very deep. Maharaja’s own books include talks based on Srila Prabhupada’s books, revealing many beautiful gems there and showing how one can get the highest realizations of Krishna consciousness from them—sambandha, abhideya, and prayojana: what our relationship with Krishna is, how to act in that relationship, and how to actually realize life’s ultimate goal, pure love for Krishna, krsna-prema. We should also dive deep into Maharaja’s books and mine the priceless gems he has kept for us there.

After Maharaja’s passing I was unable to visit Mayapur for some years, and when I finally returned I was most eager to visit the newly constructed samadhis of my dear departed godbrothers—Tamal Krishna Goswami, Sridhar Swami, Bhakti Tirtha Swami, and Gour Govinda Swami. When I offered my obeisance at Srila Gour Govinda Swami’s samadhi, I felt that he gave me a direct instruction: “Do not judge others. You do not know what devotion they have in their hearts.” In other words, I am not the seer of the sadhus; I am meant to be seen by them.

On this occasion, I pray to Srila Gour Govinda Swami Swami Maharaja that by his grace he always keep me under his shelter, instruct me and rectify me without reservation or hesitation, and engage me in service to him, Srila Prabhupada, our parampara, and their mission.

Your—and his—eternal servant, Giriraj Swami




My association with Gour Govinda Maharaja was primarily in 1977 when I was with Srila Prabhupada in Bhubaneswar for laying the foundation stone of the temple. I saw Maharaja staying in the hut, which is still there. He was serving Srila Prabhupada by doing translation work. He was humility personified. I always liked him, but our responsibilities were in different fields. So we didn’t get to often meet. But in the GBC meetings we always sat together. I invited him to Manipur in 1981 when we opened a small temple and installed the deities there. We arranged for his ticket a one hour flight from Calcutta. I was told it was the first airplane journey in his life. We organized a Krishna conscious debate competition between students and I requested Maharaja to be a judge. The subject was how Krishna consciousness is the only solution to the many problems of this world. He was very happy to be a judge.

We had a very informal relationship. When I was the GBC in France he came there a number of times. He liked South France, with its climate, landscape, architecture, geography, and the mountains on the Spanish border, it is very attractive. We had a small preaching project there - a quiet place, far away from the cities - situated in the forest, by a small lake. One evening, we had dinner together and I asked Maharaja, “It seems like you have some difficulty with your body. You cannot walk freely. Doesn’t this journey give you some problem?”

He replied, “So long as I can preach; I can speak on Srimad Bhagavatam, it gives me unlimited pleasure, unlimited happiness.”

I told him that he had been given some special blessings by Srila Prabhupada. I admire your courage and your determination in order to carry out Prabhupada’s order in order to please him. Our exchanges were very informal. When we joined at the festival for Srila Prabhupada’s centennial in 1996. The year that Maharaja passed away, he did a very good festival in Bhubaneswar. I didn’t go to the festival, but we were informed that Maharaja was speaking like a lion at the pandal.

He came to the GBC meeting late. The very day that he passed away, I came from the top floor downstairs and we met halfway. I said, “Maharaja how are you doing? I heard you had a wonderful festival in Bhubaneswar.” He was laughing joyfully and looked very healthy. He was going up the steps to the GBC room. We had a friendly chat and I went downstairs for a meeting. He had a separate subcommittee meeting so we didn’t sit together that day in the GBC.

Later after the meetings were over, I was in Nabadwipa. Some of Maharaja’s disciples had brought his car up to Mayapur. They parked it at my place in Nabadwipa. The driver of the car came to me that evening and told me, “Our Guru Maharaja seems to be having some heart problem; I want to take the car. However, he had lost the keys to the car. He was running here and there looking for the keys and was in a very depressed sorrowful mood. He said that Gour Govinda Maharaja was sitting unmoving in his bed and may leave his body. Finally the keys were found and I came with him to Mayapur in a hurry to see Maharaja. When we arrived we found that he had left his body and was in the room surrounded by many devotees. That moment was very painful. We didn’t expect that Maharaja would depart so soon.

One can say many things about Maharaja. He was a greatly advanced soul. One of the most qualities that I remember of Maharaja was his humility and his great attachment and determination to execute the orders Srila Prabhupada gave him. Following Prabhupada’s instruction he was continuously translating his books from English into Oriya. Because of his work, most of Prabhupada’s books are available in Oriya. These books are a very big source of inspiration for the Oriya devotees. When I’m traveling around the world today it’s very wonderful to find so many devotees reading the books, beautiful printed magazines, and email magazines that the devotees at Gopal Jiu Publications have been producing based on Maharaja’s lectures. These are an important source of inspiration for many, even for those who never met Maharaja. Just by reading these books they get inspired. Maharaja’s disciples who are carrying out his desire to make these lectures available are giving a very important contribution to our Krishna consciousness movement.

We are very happy that our Guru Maharaja Srila Prabhupada produced wonderful great souls like Gour Govinda Maharaja. All of us have to leave this world one by one. In the last few years we have lost many of our godbrothers. Try to see that life in this material world is very temporary. Maharaja was saying that we have to cry for Krishna. If, in this lifetime, we can develop this culture of crying for Krishna and the blessings of guru. If we develop this culture and culture of humility and one-hundred percent dependence on the blessings of the spiritual master and the supreme lord and the vaishnavas and vaishnavis we can make the best of this temporary human form of life. That way someday by the blessings of guru and Krishna we can go back to Godheard.

Maharaja left on the appearance day of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Prabhupada. We are certain that Gour Govinda Maharaja got all of the blessings of our Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Prabhupada and Krishna. Gopal was very dear to Gour Govinda Maharaja.

Spoken at Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja’s disappearance festival, Mayapur 2006