Memorial Program for His Holiness Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Maharaja, (download mp3), at the 2007 Gaura Purnima Festival, Sri Mayapur Candrodaya Mandir, Mayapur, India.
Hari Sauri Prabhu: So this morning the GBC requested that we have a special observance for the disappearance of our dear godbrother Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Maharaja. There are a number of speakers. We will probably go until about 9:30. I was told there were two senior disciples of Maharaja here but I haven't been introduced to them. So if they could come forward, we can ask them to speak at different intervals. Prasada Prabhu and Devarsi Prabhu, if they can come up and sit at the front there.
To begin with, I'll ask His Holiness Jayapataka Maharaja to say a few words. He had a lot of association with Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Maharaja over the years.
Jayapataka Swami: Every year, at the New Panihati festival in Atlanta, we have a Prabhupada lila-smarana festival of his visit there. Svarupa Damodara Maharaja was there when Prabhupada was there and he would come to this lila-smarana festival. So we heard from different devotees also how much Prabhupada showered his mercy up on him. There are pictures of him receiving Prabhupada at his car.
He was a VIP devotee. His special service was cultivating VIP's, especially the scientists. We showed a number of his disciples in Bali and different parts of the world some slides we have of him. He also was a wonderful sadhu. It is rare to find probably scientists who are sadhus, but he was a super-wonderful sadhu because he was very gentle, very kind.
Once we did a Panihati festival in Prabhupada Desh. His Holiness Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Maharaja, I gave him the first pot of the cida-dadhi. He, normally you get a big pot of this cida-dadhi covered with rasagullas, sandesa, normally what you would do is eat it. But what did he do? He took it and offered it in the mouth of all the devotees. There are pictures of the devotees with their mouths open and he is like birds feeding their babies. He was putting the prasad in their mouth.
He had special tunes, maybe these are Manipuri melodies, he would sing. He reached a very high note. Sometimes we would raise his hand. He had a particular, I can't imitate it, only he can do it. He would raise his hand and then reach this high note. Then he, changed the tune again sang a part of this particular tune.
Prabhupada, I remember that he said that, I heard, I didn't see it in writing, but I heard that the Manipuris were somehow descended from the gandharavas. That is why they are such nice singers and dancers, very cultural. His Holiness Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Maharaja was like that, he was a great kirtan leader, singer, wonderful Vaisnava.
Somehow he was very kind to me always. He invited me to his World Congress Conference for the Synthesis of Science and Religion, both the one in Bombay and the one in Calcutta. I was studying science when I was in university, but I dropped out and joined Prabhupada's university. Prabhupada didn't tell me to keep studying because I was only in my freshman year. So my sophomore year I spent in ISKCON, but Prabhupada had him finish his study and get his PhD and use it.
Somehow he brought me and I tried to do what service I could do discussing with the scientists. One of the Nobel prize scientists in Calcutta, he was the discoverer of the laser. This is how much influence Maharaja had on him, he said, "I came to this function where 20 years ago I would never come, I would never dream, I would say that someone is crazy that I would be sitting here, a scientist, physicist, with religionists discussing about science."
But because the scientists, the physicists, at least, I can't speak for the chemists, the physicist, he came, "As quantum mechanics, quantum theory, now we have gone beyond the classical physics. These little particles act like people. I was hearing from Maharaja how this is, the Vedas have knowledge about consciousness in a scientific way, so I'm here to hear about it, I'm here to discuss it."
So in this way, Maharaja in his tenacious and humble way, he would go and discuss with different scientists and he would convince them to some degree, I don't know how much, but they would definitely come to his conferences they were influenced. He would influence them to be open to read the Vedas, to read Prabhupada's books, to come to the conferences. He was having a great impact.
He also was a member of the World Parliament of Religions. He never invited me for one of those, so I don't know exactly what happened, maybe someone else could speak later. He was very versatile.
I remember one time I was walking with Prabhupada and Svarupa Damodara Maharaja, maybe it was in Bhubaneshwar somewhere, I can't remember now, Svarupda Damodara Maharaja was saying, "If we can influence the scientists, they are the people who are most respected in the world day, everyone follows science."
Prabhupada was saying, "Yes, if you can convince the scientists, we can change the world."
I am a Namahatta preacher, I am trying to get to the masses, so I was saying, "Well, it is very hard to convince the scientists. If we can convince all the people, maybe they'll be more selective about what they accept from the scientists."
Prabhupada told me, "Yes, if you can get people to come up to the scientists and say, 'I don't believe your theory of Darwin,' that will be a big thing."
But then he would go and convince Svarupa Damodara. It was like some kind of a game Prabhupada was playing, but he won. Svarupa Damodara won. Convincing scientists was considered more. . . but I got some good encouragement also.
Svarupda Damodara Maharaja, we were together in many places, but he was able to do things pretty much on his own. Sometimes he would call for help, but generally that was just his mercy. He was a very capable person.
Prabhupada told him to make Manipur a Vaisnava state. It was already a Vaisnava state, but to revive it to its full glory. I had the opportunity to go to Manipur and see. They have what is called Vijaya Govinda deities.
Sometimes he would serve the GBC special Manipuri meals. It's been a long time since that happened. But he would give this special, they have blue rice in Manipuri. Manipur is like seven mountain ranges. In the middle there are two big lakes. What are they called, the Duck Lake or something? The main flower of this lake is lotus, so lotus is one of the main dietary parts of Manipur. He would feed the GBC's lotus stems and lotus preparations and this blue rice. Especially when you make the blue rice, it is a sweet rice. It tastes like blueberries. Like this, he was introducing so much culture.
He was so dedicated to Prabhupada. we were discussing that even in the last moments, he was just thinking, "How can I please Prabhupada?" He was completely dedicated to being in ISKCON and please Srila Prabhupada.
There is some, Prabhupada told him especially do this kind of cultivating of scientists. Svarupda Damodara told me how he had this program in Rome in some special hall where once a year all the top scientists get together and have some program. The mayor of Rome gave it to him to also have a program. They had a number of scientists and devotees speaking. It was so successful that the mayor said, "You can have it every year." It is a very prestigious venue.
I think my time is up. I don't know who is trained up to follow in his footsteps, who can do the wonderful service he was doing. We were all expecting him to be with us for twenty, thirty years more at least. It is a big loss for all of us. He was very dear to all the Vaisnavas.
His Divine Grace Svarupa Damodara Swami Maharaja ki jai!
Hari Sauri Prabhu: Thank you very much Jayapataka Maharaja. Now we'd like to ask one of Sripada Maharaja's senior disciples, Devarsi Prabhu, to say a few words.
Devarsi Prabhu: So my name is Devarsi Das. I received initiation from Srila Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Maharaja in 1992 in New Mayapur in France. The day that he gave me initiation, it was re-initiation for me, I asked him to come to the Padayatra in south of France. He accepted. Two-three days after, we were riding to south of France. At that time he had his cane, so it was a little difficult for him to walk on Padayatra. We had very simple accommodation. I invited him to stay in the room I was renting in the south of France. It was about eight meters square room. It was a place for one bed and one mat and a little kitchen. Actually, from the beginning he showed me what is simplicity. He accepted to stay in the bed where I was sleeping before and I was sleeping just on the mat. His simplicity was quite extraordinary. I have always seen this quality in him.
Since Jayapataka Maharaja spoke quite a lot about his different services in ISKCON and his scientific preaching, I may speak a little about different qualities that I have seen in him. One quality that impressed me a lot was his humility. He very often reminded me of this verse:
trnad api sunicena taror api sahisnuna amanina manadena kirtaniyah sada harih.
He really exemplified this verse in his life.
I remember one time in Manipur, we were visiting one of his former teachers in a very small school. The teacher was about seventy-five, eighty years old. Immediately as soon as he saw his teacher, he paid full dandavats to his former teacher.
He was so tolerant about life because many of his disciples, including myself, we are not so qualified so we are making quite a lot of mistakes. Like a father, he was always guiding us and always helping us to develop tolerance. On time I asked him in Calcutta, I was also in the Congress in 1997, I asked what is possible to do for the French devotees. He said, "They need to be the tolerant, so maybe I can invite them all to come for five years to Calcutta to learn tolerance!"
He was very joyful, very humorous. Actually in my observation, he was really a perfect gentleman. I have never seen him really angry, even in some disaster. He showed me and he showed to us real Krsna consciousness. It was a question of consciousness. He was so busy working, serving his own spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, and a huge toll to present Krsna consciousness to the scientific world. He very peacefully, with a lot of determination and a lot of joy, he was really working a lot, a lot, a lot. Calcutta was his place of work, really.
Prasada Prabhu at the end is going to tell us what was the last days in his life, how he was experiencing something quite special.
One day I was in Calcutta with him. I got the opportunity to get some books from BI and to go to Calcutta to distribute some books in Ultadanga, BI books. He was very pleased to see that it was possible, that people door to door, shop to shop were able to appreciate the books and took some books. He put a lot of emphasis in these books about Bhaktivedanta Institute, about this scientific preaching, about God is a person, about all these things.
Personally, I am quite inspired all that he has done in his life and also for me and also for many non-devotees I know. He has been able to touch the heart of many, many people, actually. Not in a big way like that, but in a very subtle and very deep and very profound way.
Now two days ago I was in Radha Kunda in his samadhi. If you want to know a little more about him, I can invite you to come to Radha Kunda to his samadhi in Gopaldeva Mandir because it was the place he really wanted to be. Although he never stayed there in Radha Kunda, it was the place that was the object of his meditation. You are most welcome to Gopaldeva Mandir in Radha Kunda.
Srila Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Maharaja ki jai!
Hari Sauri Prabhu: Thank you very much Devarsi Prabhu. Now we'd like to ask His Grace Sesa Prabhu to say a few words.
Sesa Prabhu: I take it as a very great honor that I can sit before you today to speak a little bit about His Holiness Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Swami. As I do so, I remember my godbrother, His Grace Bhojadeva Prabhu. I want to mention his name because he was actually our godbrother, Srila Prabhupada's disciples' godbrother, that was very, very close to His Holiness Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Maharaja. Actually he was sitting on the stage on Janmastami in Manipur when the terrorist attack happened and the bomb blast took place. Bhojadeva is a rather big person. He took a lot of the shrapnel from those bombs shielding His Holiness Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Maharaja and preventing more serious injury from happening to him. Of course he himself was very seriously injured. Fortunately now, by the grace of Lord Krsna, he is recovering. I know he would like to be here today to speak about Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Maharaja, so I hope that I can do some service to him and Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Maharaja by saying a few words here today.
I think that all of us should realize the significance of the loss that we are experiencing by the departure of His Holiness Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Maharaja. He was, and his relationship with His Divine Grace AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada was very, very special. It taught us a very, very special lesson about the relationship between Guru and disciple.
Srila Prabhupada was very, very fond of His Holiness Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Maharaja. Of course, the spiritual master is very fond of all his disciples, that is not to be questioned, but sometimes we see a very, very special relationship that exists between the spiritual master and one of his disciples. In ordinary material life, such a special affection is the cause of envy for others, but in spiritual relationships, the matter is different.
Whatever pleases the Lord, whatever pleases the spiritual master is the life and soul of all the disciples, of all the devotees. So if one can be pushed forward that offers special pleasure to the spiritual master, that is everyone's pleasure. In my mind, His Holiness Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Maharaja had this type of a relationship with Srila Prabhupada.
Srila Prabhupada would actually call for him, "Where is our scientist?" Whenever he wanted to have some fun debating about smashing the scientists, he always wanted His Holiness Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Maharaja to be there. "What do they say?" he would always ask him, call him very affectionately.
Of course we know that Srila Prabhupada, his point in discussing the scientists and their belief system and how they've gained control in the world was more than just a mere joking session. It was a very, very key essential part of his preaching Krsna consciousness all over the world to destroy the hold, the grip that these materialistic scientists have on the minds and hearts of modern civilization.
Therefore, when he got a disciple like His Holiness Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Maharaja, who was a scientist, who was trained by them, who could understand their arguments, and who was so surrendered to His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada, he was very, very pleased by that.
He therefore called him, trained him, grilled him, provided all the instruction, all the support that he needed to be a key player in Srila Prabhupada's plan to change this world. They had a very, very special relationship. And all of us whose life and soul it is to please His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada have lost something with the departure of His Holiness Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Maharaja.
So the question now becomes, how do we go forward? This is more and more becoming the unfortunate task of those of us who remain behind as our beloved Godbrothers one by one depart to serve Srila Prabhupada in other places. Our task is to remain faithful to His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, his mission, his vision, and to try to support that and participate in that mission in whatever way that we can.
Clearly, Srila Prabhupada wanted this materialistic science to be defeated. Clearly and very affectionately, he trained His Holiness Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Maharaja to do that. Clearly, it is our duty to try to further that work which was so dear to both of them.
I know that during the last year of his presence with us here in this material world, His Holiness Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Maharaja became more and more and more determined and fixed on the instructions, the very specific instructions, that Srila Prabhupada had given him about this type of scientific preaching. I had the great fortune to be involved in debate with him about such instructions. Of course, that is very insolent of me to feel that I can debate with my senior godbrother, sannyasi, but somehow or other, by Krsna's arrangement, I was put in that situation. The great lesson I learned from that was that I should be so fixed to instructions given by Srila Prabhupada as Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Maharaja was fixed to the instruction given to him by Srila Prabhupada.
I think that none of us will be prepared at any time for such a wonderful Vaisnava to depart, but if we can separate ourselves from the feelings of anguish at his departure and we can look at it objectively--I don't know that looking at it objectively is what we'd want to do, we'd rather look at it in a more heartfelt way--but if we did try to look at it objectively, if we could do that, we would have to say that he, no matter what the circumstances were, was fixed, irremovably fixed, at the lotus feet of Srila Prabhupada and that such departure was indeed timely. Timely in the sense that he was so fixed.
We can only pray to Srila Prabhupada, Sri Sri Radha Madhava, that at the time we leave this world, we can be as fixed in the determination to serve Srila Prabhupada as His Holiness Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Maharaja was when he left this mortal world.
Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Maharaja ki jai!
Hari Sauri Prabhu:Thank you very much Sesa Prabhu. Now we' d like to ask His Holiness Hrdayananda Goswami to say a few words.
Hrdayananda Goswami: Hare Krsna.
I spent a good deal of time with Bhaktisvarupa Damodara in Los Angeles when he, I think not too long after, he began visiting the temple and taking those famous walks with Srila Prabhupada. I was present so I was on many of those walks.
Of course, we became friends. Bhaktisvarupa Damodara was, I was sannyasi then, he was of course a student at the University of California in Irvine. It is certainly true that his presence there inspired Prabhupada to speak on the famous topic of life comes from life.
One time, when I was relaxing in Los Angeles, I am from Los Angeles, I was born there, I was looking at the Vedabase, Prabhupada Vedabase, I looked up Los Angeles. I was curious what Prabhupada had to say about Los Angeles, the sacred place where I was born. I found that there were basically two main things that Prabhupada always said about Los Angeles: One is that he really liked the weather and two that he had a disciple who was becoming a scientist.
That was Thoudam Singh and he became initiated as Svarupa Damodara. Basically that is what Prabhupada had to say about Los Angeles, that he like the weather and there was this disciple there who was a scientist.
It was something new in a sense for the Hare Krsna movement. I think Sadaputa had been a scientist, but he concealed the fact and preferred to wash pots for a while. Actually, Svarupa Damodara was the first. It was the fist time a practicing scientist, a young man still getting his PhD, joined the Hare Krsna movement. He wasn't just someone who had studied science and then got burnt out and joined the Hare Krsna movement, but he was actually involved in science, finishing his doctorate.
Not only that, but from Prabhupada's point of view, because Svarupa Damodara, as we called him then, because he was from East India, of course from Manipur, but he studied in Calcutta University, as I just saw in this book here, Prabhupada could actually talk to him.
There was a sense in which Prabhupada, when he came to the West, his disciples were very enthusiastic, very devoted, and also we were quite immature and sort of awestruck by Prabhupada and also coming from often somewhat fallen backgrounds in the sense that before we met Prabhupada we had gone through a period of, well, non-Krsna consciousness, extreme non Krsna consciousness.
So all these factors including Prabhupada came externally even from a different culture. We didn't know all that much about Indian culture, what to speak of Vedic culture. I personally observed, and Prabhupada said this himself actually, that when Prabhupada would be in the association of devotees who just on a regular external level understood the culture that he was coming from and he understood their culture, in a sense, it was a more mature, more natural relationship.
Spiritually of course, whoever was devoted to Prabhupada got his mercy. We've seen that many devotees from all parts of the world have received extraordinary mercy from Prabhupada and extraordinary empowerment. But if we allow Prabhupada to be a person as well as an icon, for all of us, even for preaching, even we are acting as guru, as sannyasi, it is nice to relax and talk to someone who actually understands what you mean.
That was the case with Svarupa Damodara. He provided that kind of pleasure of Srila Prabhupada. Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita, yuktahara viharasya, there has to be, even in Krsna consciousness a bit of relaxation, there is a need for a certain minimum amount of comfort in order to be peaceful and do your service properly. Of course, like Prahlada, we can sometimes serve in extraordinarily difficult circumstances. It is normal for any soul, for any person, to enjoy that kind of natural intimacy where people understand each other.
I think it was a combination of these two things, thinking in retrospect as a historian: the fact that Svarupa Damodara was not a burnt-out Westerner who had formerly studied science. He was a sober, non-sinful doctoral student studying science. He was from East India. He lived in Calcutta. He spoke Bengali. I think Prabhupada felt a natural affinity. Prabhupada was quite enthusiastic. Prabhupada had the vision to see that a whole new chapter for Krsna conscious preaching was possible. He definitely focused on Svarupa Damodara as the sort of pivot for that kind of preaching.
When Svarupa Damodara establishd the Bhaktivedanta Institute, so Svarupa Damodara had the distinction, or Bhaktisvarupa Damodara, had the distinction of not only dedicating his life to serving Prabhupada to the best of his ability but also for being Prabhupada's special instrument to inaugurate in ISKCON an important new chapter of our missionary activities, and a chapter which we need to continue writing.
He was also a personal friend of mine. I'd like to say a few words about that. We were always friends. Whenever we would meet each other, we would joke a lot. You may find this hard to believe about me. But we had a very friendly relationship. He would always say the same thing, whenever he would see me and I would start joking with him, he would always say to me, "Your pastimes are inconceivable."
Also, I think I should mention that Bhaktisvarupa Damodara was one of the great ambassadors in the history of ISKCON. Especially, in two ways, I think of two ways in which he was an extraordinary ambassador of ISKCON to the world. One way, I'll start with one and go to the other because that's the most important. he was, of course, born in Manipur and he was quite familiar with Manipuri culture. He used that ancient Manipuri culture, which in many ways was Vaisnava culture, to open many doors in the west. He brought the Manipuri troop, sword fighters, rasa-lila dancers, the martial artists.
I remember in Los Angeles, and I'm sure in other place as well, he booked this show in Los Angeles at hundreds and hundreds of high schools. So he did a tour of high schools in Los Angeles. He also presented programs at universities all over the west. So using this facility of his Manipuri heritage, he was able to open many doors and be an extraordinary ambassador of Krsna consciousness throughout the world.
And of course, an ambassador to the scientific word, he had the ability to be charming and to win the hearts of all kinds of scientists, Nobel laureates, people who usually do not come on a regular basis to their local Hare Krsna temple. He had a humble manner. He was really able to sort of get in any door. He was able to ingratiate himself and establish a rapport with all of these different scientists. And by the power of his own personality in Krsna consciousness, persuade them to, in some ways, interact with Krsna consciousness, to participate in various ways in Prabhupada's mission, even if it was just giving advice or writing papers or putting their names on publications.
In this way, I think he is one of the greatest ambassadors that we have seen in ISKCON. Anyway, I am glad to be able to participate here in this literal memorial service in sense of memory establishing or engaging our memory a wonderful Vaisnava. All of us will have to leave this world. I hope no one is trying to stay here too long. In a sense, his final example of leaving the world in a very Krsna conscious way is another extraordinary example from his life.
Thank you very much. All glories to Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Maharaja!
Hari Sauri Prabhu: Srila Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Maharaja! Thank you very much Hrdayananda Goswami Goswami. Now we'd like to ask another godbrother of Svarupa Damodara Maharaja, Visuddha-sattva Prabhu who was working with Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Maharaja since about 1980 on the scientific preaching, particularly in pursuance of the instructions Prabhupada gave to Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Maharaja to gather up all our PhDs and present the Vedic Planetarium. So Visuddha-sattva Prabhu, if you'd like to say a few words.
Visuddha-sattva Prabhu: It is my honor to say a few words about my godbrother Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Maharaja, with whom I had to the work very closely in the last thirty years. I know that it is not possible to glorify Vaisnavas in a short time, eight-ten minutes. I will try to do my best to some glorification of His Holiness Sripad Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Maharaja because I have very few things to say that nobody knows about his pastimes, even some confidential things about his departure.
As were saying Jayapataka Maharaja, Hrdayananda Maharaja, Sesa Prabhu, the qualities of Svarupa Damodara Maharaja as Vaisnava are very wonderful. He was a very special disciple of Srila Prabhupada. of course, Prabhupada, like all fathers, eternal well-wishers, he likes every disciple, but there are some special disciples who are more surrendered.
So Prabhupada through his instrument Svarupa Damodara Maharaja made this specific task to preach to the academic community against the atheistic theory that life comes from matter. So there was this conversation in Venice Beach between Srila Prabhupada and Svarupa Damodara Maharaja in the form of a book, everyone knows that book, "Life Comes From Life".
By the arrangement of Krsna, they met each other under very special circumstances. I want to explain to Vaisnavas what is not well-known: how Srila Prabhupada met Svarupa Damodara Maharaja. He was preparing his thesis in physical organic chemistry in University of California in Irvine. His very close friend was Dr. Rao, also a PhD student. He was Indian. Maharaja was also Indian, from Manipur.
In fact, Maharaja was naisthika-brahmacari from birth. This is another quality that should be mentioned. Along with his gentleness, he was a perfect gentleman, very charming, very humble, very simple, at the same time very learned. This is the quality of Vaisnava, to be humble. He was PhD, but he was always very aware of his mission entrusted by Srila Prabhupada.
Hrdayanada Maharaja said Prabhupada made him a perfect instrument to be an ambassador for preaching to the academic community because Prabhupada knew that if we can defeat this materialistic tendency, because the scientists are the leaders, then the International Society for Krishna Consciousness will have credit. So Maharaja was acting in tune with Prabhupada to be his perfect instrument to defeat these, as Bhagavad-gita says:
mayayapahrta-jnana asurah bhavam asritah.
So Maharaja met Srila Prabhupada when he was a PhD student at the insistence of his friend Dr. Rao. It was in Los Angeles, "I want to go to see Srila Prabhupada."
He insisted at different times that he go to see Srila Prabhupada, but he [Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Maharaja] said, "No, because I am very busy with my thesis."
For one month again and again he insisted, his friend Rao. Finally, he said, "If you are not coming today, I won't be your friend anymore."
So Maharaja, at that time, said, "OK, I will go with you." So he met Prabhupada.
As soon as he met Prabhupada, he knew that they are both scientists from Manipur and India, he said, "You are both coming to USA to steal scientific knowledge and to get money, but I gave to give a very valuable thing through this Krsna consciousness." Those are the words that very much impressed Svarupa Damodara Maharaja. He became convinced in his heart. The rest is history.
I want to say a few words about his departure. I had the honor to work with him very closely. He was superior to me in many ways, but by his compassion, his mercy, as his disciples were saying, he was always showing a lot of compassion to everybody. He was the perfect ambassador of how to deal with the scientists, especially Nobel laureates.
Prabhupada's message came through him because Prabhupada told him to establish BI, Bhkativedanta Institute, for this specific purpose of preaching to the academic community. Otherwise, they may not accept this wonderful movement as strong and understand consciousness. Prabhupada wanted him to play that role. I think that he accomplished this task very wonderfully.
I remember that I was in Bombay. I came to India in 1979. I was sankirtana leader in Caracas. I was working under the GBC, Hrdayananda Maharaja, at that time. I went to the BBT in Los Angeles. I met Svarupa Damodara Maharaja for the first time there. Svarupa Damodara was brahmacari. He was staying in the BBT apartment. I was very impressed, as with Gaura Govinda Maharaja, when I met him for the first time, with his humility.
He told me, "I know that you are mathematician doing research on Fifth Canto, so please you join BI."
So I went to Bombay and joined. I was in Bombay for many years with other scientists, Madhava Puri, who has a PhD in quantum physics. So we were with Maharaja very closely. We traveled together to different places all over the world, conferences in San Francisco, Los Angeles. Here in India we had a special alliance with Professor George ?, a Nobel laureate in Bombay, and Nobel laureates in Delhi. I remember one All-Indian Science Conference in Delhi, there were three Nobel laureates, and a Nobel laureate in quantum physics also.
Anyway, Maharaja was empowered by Srila Prabhupada as a special disciple. As Sesa Prabhu was saying, his determination, even in the time of obstacles and impediments and disagreement, he was fixed in the determination to follow the instruction of his spiritual master. This is a very nice quality to remember in this memorial about his character. His personality was fixed.
For the last few years, I also had the honor to be very close with him. He was very intensely preaching here in India. Maharaja told me . . . . Maybe I can tell you, even about his departure.
During the Manipur blast, I was supposed to come to India in July. Then by arrangement of Krsna, the ticket never came. I complained to Krsna, "Why, Krsna, why?" In fact, Krsna is unbelievable. His plan is acintya. He had some plan for my humble self. So I could not come to Manipur, it was that blast. Bhojadeva was there. He was severely injured during the rasa-lila. It is Vaisnava state. Some criminal activity threw some grenade. It was big blast. Five local Manipuri devotees died. Almost forty-fifty devotees were injured. Bhojadeva Prabhu was one of them. He protected Maharaja so that he did not die. All these were signs together.
Maharaja told me very confidentially, "Maybe I don't have more time left in this world. I am already sixty-one."
I said, "Maharaja, what will happen to the Bhaktivedanta Institute because the disciples . . . . Who is going to continue this mission, vision of Srila Prabhupada, this legacy?"
He was saying, "Let's see. Everything is in the hands of the Lord. We are insignificant. He should carry on the mission of Srila Prabhupada."
With this very intensity, even in year 2006, we did Govardhana Parikrama together. He never did Govardhana Parikrama, but he did parikrama naked feet. Brijabasis told me, I spent many years in Vrindavan, "We respect Svarupa Damodara Maharaja because he has the qualities of a sadhu, titiksava karunika. He is very compassionate, very merciful, very charming person, also his smile."
He was empowered by Srila Prabhupada how to deliver Krsna consciousness to that difficult academic community. In fact, he was the only disciple of Srila Prabhupada who wrote a book during the presence of His Divine Grace, "Scientific Basis of Krsna consciousness". Prabhupada was very pleased. At that time, '76, '77, we had a conference in Vrindavan. Prabhupada was very pleased with him giving reports every day.
In the departure of Prabhupada, the antya-lila, final pastimes of His Divine Grace in Vrindavan, he also had close association, Svarupa Damodara. In fact, from one o'clock to three o'clock, he was nearby the bed of Srila Prabhupada. Prabhupada told to him in Bengali. He told to me, "Prabhupada, told me in Bengali." Maybe when we are going to pass away, we talk in our mother tongue. Of course, Prabhupada was transcendental. He came from the spiritual world to save us. He was an emissary of Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai, parama karuna. He was nearby the bed of Srila Prabhupada.
He was speaking many, many things only about Bhaktivedanta Institute. Prabhupada said, "Bhaktivedanta Institute is a more prestigious branch of ISKCON. If we can convince the scientists that will be for the glory of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness."
I want to say to finalize, I have many, many things to say about him. I was fortunate to get close association, intimate relation. Prabhupada made him GBC for life. One thing I learned from him is tolerance and humility. It may be easy to be humble, but it is very difficult to be tolerant. So the last year, the last two years, he was very disgusted, very sour from many misunderstandings, circumstances from his Godbrothers. He told me, "Anyway, I will be obedient to Prabhupada and I will be fixed in my determination to carry on that mission that Prabhupada instructed to me."
So he was worrying about that conference in Puri, Jagannath Puri. He was the chairman. We organized a Second All-Indian Student Conference for Science. The first was held in Vrindavan after his Vyasa-puja in 2005. So this past December 9-10, we held that conference. I made a presentation on Vedic Cosmology in his honor.
Before that, in Vrindavan, I'll just take one minute more because it's important, about his departure. We say that Svarupa Damodara Maharaja died because of a massive heart attack, but it was not so. I will reveal for the first time in the presence of Radha-Madhava, asta-sakhis, and Vaisnavas what was the real departure.
I called him two days before. From Vrindavan, I called Calcutta. Some disciple told me that Guru Maharaja has high fever. So he was last recorded, his last address to the disciples, "Thank you very much for all the service you are doing for me and Prabhupada, etc." But some perception came to my heart by the mercy of Prabhupada and Radha-Krsna that said that Maharaja wants to leave.
So that night, about ten o'clock, he was in his apartment in Bhaktivedanta Institute in Calcutta, M.P. Road. Maharaja woke up and complained about some pain in his left shoulder. He asked a disciple taking care of his publications, to bring some ice because the pain was going from his left shoulder to his fingers. Then suddenly Maharaja started breathing heavily with difficulty.
He asked for some massage, but he was waiting for the maha-rasa because after the Manipur blast, he was complaining, "My mind came to new spiritual world." He was revealing, very confidential, I can tell you, I have perception also about that. Maharaja left this world because Prabhupada wanted to take him back for his nitya-lila service and Radha-Krsnacandra also wanted to have him back in the spiritual world. I had this perception by the mercy of Srila Prabhupada. we said, for the practical sense, to the doctor, that he was passing away form a heart attack, to avoid making [unclear]. But in fact, by Krsna's arrangement, he was waiting for the rasa-lila time, so he passed away at that moment.
Many things to say, but time is short. We don't want to tie-up the Vaisnavas. We should take the wonderful example of this great disciple of Srila Prabhupada, scientist, Vaisnava from birth. He was in the line of Narottama dasa Thakura. He was Vaisnava from the very beginning. This is an example for all our ISKCON society, for disciples of [unclear], the wonderful qualities he had. We want to pray for his mercy.
We want to pray also to the lotus feet of the Vaisnavas and Srila Prabhupada to continue and put forward the legacy, the vision, the mission of Bhaktivedanta Institute that Srila Prabhupada entrusted to us.
Srila Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Maharaja ki jai!
Srila Prabhupada ki jai!
Hari Sauri Prabhu: Hare Krsna. Thank you, Vissudha-sattva Prabhu. Now our final speaker is Sriman Prasada Das. There is a sheet that has been passed around giving a description of Maharaja's last few hours. He will read from that. Then we are going to end with a very short audio clip of Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Maharaja singing a verse that he wrote about Radha Krsna lila. Thank you. Prasada Prabhu.
Prasada Prabhu: So I will read about the glorious departure of Srila Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Maharaja, which is written by Sripada Maharaja's servants, those attending him in Calcutta for the last seven to ten years:
Srila Sripada Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Maharaja, beloved spiritual son of Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, disappeared from this mortal world during the Ratrilila period of Lord Sri Krishna's Astakaliya lila on Vijaya Dasami, which according to this year's Panchangam, is the most auspicious day of this calendar year, 2006. Sripada Maharaja's disappearance took place in Calcutta, the holy appearance place (Janmasthan) of his divine master Srila Prabhupada. Calcutta is also the holy site from which His Divine Grace Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur chose to disappear. Due to Sripada Maharaja's deep and intense love for his divine master Srila Prabhupada, he not only chose Calcutta as his place of work but also as his place of disappearance.
Sripada Maharaja's unwillingness to compromise on Srila Prabhupada's instructions is well known and we hope that his dedication to Srila Prabhupada's instructions will serve as an illustrious example for the world-wide devotee community, now and for all times to come.
As most of you may have heard, there was a serious bomb blast inside of ISKCON Manipur's temple complex on August 16, 2006, Sri Janmastami day. Six devotees including two children left this world and over forty devotees were seriously injured. Sripada Maharaja's body was also injured during this blast. He had a deep cut and a fractured bone in his left forearm, a small puncture in his left eardrum and a tiny shrapnel burn on his back. After preliminary treatment in Manipur and performing the sraddha ceremonies for the departed devotees, Sripada Maharaja came to Calcutta on August 25, 2006 where he was admitted into the Apollo Hospital. There, he underwent successful operations on his forearm and ear. He was discharged from the hospital on September 9, 2006.
On September 19, 2006 Maharaja visited the hospital for a routine checkup. At that time the burn on his back had almost healed and the doctors were surprised by how quickly the fractured bone in his forearm was setting. The cut on his forearm was also healing well.
While returning from the hospital to his flat Sripada Maharaja asked us to search his room and find his Manipur Nat Sankirtan (Rasa Lila) audio cassettes. From September 10, 2006, until the day of his disappearance, Sripada Maharaja's mood and behavior was different from what we had previously experienced.
Everyday, he would listen to and sing along with these cassettes for the entire day except for when he was taking his medicine, prasadam or a little rest. We thought that Maharaja was taking it easy during his recovery, as his normal schedule was very active and he never previously took the time to listen to Kirtan cassettes. The Manipuri Nat Sankirtan cassettes that he was listening to are Kirtans sung in the Manipuri language, which describe the pastimes of Lord Sri Krishna and Srimati Radharani. Since we do not understand the Manipur language, Sripada Maharaja, during his lunchtime, would sometimes explain to us what was being sung on the tapes. He said that the songs describing the Rasa Lila are so absorbing that one can completely forget this world. He said, "This world is on one side and that world is on another side." He was always in an extremely happy mood and said he was feeling more enthusiastic than ever.
One afternoon, Sripada Maharaja explained to us that one of the Manipuri songs described Srimati Radhika's walking to be like that of a graceful female elephant. Sripada Maharaja expressed many other details about the pastimes of Sri Sri Radha and Krishna, however, due to our unfortunate lack of qualification we could not understand them nor did we make any recordings of Sripada Maharaja during this time. Sripada Maharaja described how the Rasa Lila is performed according to the ancient Manipuri tradition. He also told us that once he discussed the Manipuri Rasa Lila with Srila Prabhupada and said that Srila Prabhupada was very pleased with the profound Manipuri Vaishnava culture.
We asked Sripada Maharaja how the Gaudiya Vaishnava culture and these peculiar Manipuri tunes originally came to Manipur. Sripada Maharaja said that the songs and devotional culture are from Narottam Das Thakur whose disciples came to Manipur and initiated King Bhagyachandra Maharaja. The tunes were developed by Bhagyachandra Maharaja himself and some subsequent Manipuri kings. While explaining more, Sripada Maharaja described how the performance of Rasa Lila is done in the Manipuri tradition. It first begins with the glorification of Gaura Lila wherein Lord Gauranga is requested to come and be the principal witness of the Rasa Lila. The glories of the Yuga Dharma Hari Nam Sankirtan are extolled, and prayers are sung to Lord Nityananda. Then only does the Rasa Lila begin.
A week before his disappearance, Sripada Maharaja, in a deep mood, wrote down a wonderful transcendental song in the Manipuri language. He then sang and recorded it for all of the devotees. Many devotees now have a recording of this wonderful transcendental song. It was sung in what we, his disciples, call "his gopi voice".
We are very fortunate to have this recorded. Maharaja often sang these verses in crying mood. So now we will play the recording:
om ajnana-timirandhasya jnananjana-salakaya caksur unmilitam yena tasmai sri-gurave namah
nama om visnu-padaya krsna-presthaya bhu-tale srimate bhaktivedanta svamin iti namine
namaste sarasvati deve gaura vani pracarine nirvesesa sunyavadi pascatya desatarine
jaya sri-krsna caitanya prabhu nityananda sri advaita gadadhara srivasadi gaura-bhakta vrnda
hare krsna hare krsna krsna krsna hare hare hare rama hare rama rama rama hare hare
(In "his gopi voice":)
VRAJAPREMDA LUPPE ANGAOBAGUMLE RADHABU THIRAKLE SRI GAURANA
KEIDANO BRINDAVAN KEIDANO KUNJAVAN KADAIDA LEIKHRE SAKHISHINGDUNA THIRAKLE RADHABU SRI GAURANA
HARE KRISHNA HARE KRISHNA KRISHNA KRISHNA HARE HARE HARE RAMA HARE RAMA RAMA RAMA HARE HARE
VRAJAPREMDA LUPPE ANGAOBAGUMLE RADHABU THIRAKLE SRI GAURANA
Immersed in the loving thoughts of Vrajaprema, Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu is searching for Srimati Radhika like a mad man. He is constantly heard saying, "Where is Vrindavana? Where is Kunjavan? Where are the loving sakhis?" Crying again and again uttering these words, Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu is searching for Srimati Radhika like a mad man.
My dear loving devotees, by the divine grace of Srila Prabhupada and Sri Sri Radha-Krsnacandra and also by your sincere prayers, I am recovering very rapidly. I'd like to thank each and every one of you for your sincere prayers. I look forward to seeing all of you in Puri in November, otherwise December. [Unclear] our protector Srila Prabhupada and Lord Sri Krsna. [Unclear] Hare Krsna. [End of recording.] Srila Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Maharaja ki jai! Srila Prabhupada ki jai! Bhaktivedanta Institute ki jai! Gaurapremanade haribol!
Hari Sauri Prabhu: Thank you very much, Prasada Prabhu. Unfortunately we don't have time for any further talks, but there is a printed sheet. If you don't have one, you can see Prasada Prabhu and get one of these. This is an account of the last few hours of Maharaja's stay with us. There is also a wonderful book. There is a very nice book that glorifies Sripada Maharaja, it is called "Bhagavata Sevarpanam". It gives a few details of his early life in Manipur, how he came to the west, how he met Srila Prabhupada, how he took up the instructions he was given, and some of the consequences of his scientific preaching. I think that is available from the BI bus that is parked just opposite this building. You can get that from Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Maharaja's disciples.
Thank you very much for attending the program. Let's meditate on Svarupa Damodara Maharaja's wonderful service to Srila Prabhupada as we go about doing our own service to Srila Prabhupada and the Vaisnavas.
Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Maharaja ki jai! Srila Prabhupada ki jai! Gaura premanade!
[The following is the remainder of the document from which Prasada Prabhu was reading:]
On October 1st, 2006, Sripada Maharaja discussed with some of his disciples from IIT Kharagpur about the upcoming conference in Jagannath Puri entitled: 'All India Students' Conference on Science and Spiritual Quest'. The speakers and session topics for the conference were finalized during this discussion. That day, he also wrote a letter inviting the President of India to the conference. Around 8:30-9:00 PM Sripada Maharaja took a little soup as his dinner and after that he went to take rest, as did we.
About an hour later Sripada Maharaja got up from his bed and walked to his connected office room where some of his assistants where sleeping. He woke one of them and asked him to come to his room. He was extremely jolly. He asked, 'What is the time now?' His assistant said it was 10:35 pm. Sripada Maharaja then requested to have some ice put on his left fingers as they were feeling a little hot and on his left shoulder where he felt some pain.
Sripada Maharaja then called in Manipuri language for his elderly Manipuri assistant, who was also resting nearby, to come and massage his shoulder. We were surprised that although Sripada Maharaja stated he was experiencing some pain, he was simultaneously exceedingly blissful and joyous. It was just a moment later that Sripada Maharaja tilted his head back slightly and disappeared from this world. One of assistants cried out "No Sripada! You can't do this!" We were shocked by what was happening. We immediately called two assistants who were in the next room. We all started rubbing Sripada Maharaja's feet and hands hoping our most beloved Guru Maharaja would awaken from his Samadhi. But Sripada Maharaja had already entered Lord Sri Krishna's divine Rasa Lila.
The following day, Sripada Maharaja's transcendental body was brought to Sri Sri Krishna Balaram temple in Sri Vrindavan Dham for one night. There, many devotees had his darshan before the Samadhi ceremony that took place the next day, October 4th, 2006. As per Sripada Maharaja's desire, he was placed in Samadhi at the Gopaldeva Mandir just on the bank of Sri Radhakunda, on the auspicious disappearance day of Srila Raghunathadas Goswami (our Prayojan Acharya), Srila Raghunatha Bhatta Goswami and Srila Krishnadas Kaviraja Goswami.
For the disciples and friends of Sripada Maharaja we feel his desire to enter Samadhi in Sri Radhakunda has now opened an eternal residence for us in Sri Radhakunda. For the disciples, the Guru's Samadhi is the place to meditate on the pastimes of their Guru Maharaja and their respective personal association with him. During Sripada Maharaja's pastimes in this manifest body, he arranged for us to have many wonderful pastimes with him at his Sri Gopaldeva Mandir in Sri Nabadvipa Dham. Now as we begin his un-manifest lila, he has brought us all to Sri Radhakunda and we cannot express our gratitude in words. Sripada Maharaja used to say that it is not about how much money you have collected, how many temples you have built or how many men you have, it is about how pure you have become.