It was 1983 when I first met His Holiness Gour Govinda Maharaja. That event is forever etched in my heart. It was night and Brahmananda Swami and I traveled to an isolated jungle area in Bhubaneswar where some crude construction had begun. I wondered, "Where is that saint that I had heard so much about?" I yearned to meet him. We were led to a mud hut. Inside, the walls were raw mud, as was the floor. A straw mat and a low table were the only furniture that I remember. Sitting near a lantern, immersed in writing, Gour Govinda Maharaja put down his pen and rose to greet us. In that setting, his smile, sweet words and embrace made me feel that I had been transported into Lord Chaitanya's divine pastimes.
With tears in his eyes he exclaimed his good fortune to be able to live in that mud hut where his beloved Guru Maharaja, His Divine Grace A.c. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, had chosen to reside for sixteen days. His voice choked with emotion as he explained that Srila Prabhupada had asked him to translate all of his books into the Odia language, to build a temple in that jungle, and to preach Lord Chaitanya's message all over the world. My heart melted, witnessing a living saint and scholar ornamented with genuine simplicity, humility and deep devotion.
When Good Fortune Arises is a priceless gift to the world. It brings into the incredible life of Gour Govinda Maharaja. We are given entrance into his childhood in a simple village of Odisha where he was surround by kirtana, hari-katha, and devotion to his beloved Gopal. He would. for the Srimad-bhagavatam, and he slept with it embraced to his heart
The fire of yearning for Krishna blazed in his heart. Through education, career as a teacher, and family life, that fire blazed more a more until at an appropriate time he walked away from everything taking nothing with him, to wander the world as a homeless seeker After roaming from the southern tip of India, Kanyakumari, to the
Himalayas searching for a teacher, his heart's yearning at last found refuge at the feet of Srila Prabhupada in Vrindavan. The love between these two saints, a perfect guru and a perfect disciple, is a model that will inspire the world for generations to come.
There is much that has been misunderstood and much understand in the life of Gour Govinda Maharaja. I believe t: it is critical to understand his life and teachings through the lens of unity in diversity. It is a lesson that can open the doors of Srila Prabhupada's grace to unite sincere devotees with all of their differences and create a family that will attract the world.
His background and profound realizations were unique in ISKCON and at times the differences resulted in conflicts. Srila Prabhupada and our previous acaryas explained our siddhanta without contradiction, due to differences in time and place, their explanations will be seen to differ. According to the personal nature of an advanced devotee's love, for Krishna and their compassion for the suffering souls, that one truth may be understood from different levels and various perspectives.
Gour Govinda Maharaja shared his realizations with the fearless pass
of his pure love and always with profuse scriptural references. He went so
deep, with such bhava, in anything he did or said. It always struck me that
even when challenged by his juniors he never had a trace of malice or envy . He would instantly forgive anyone, even his critics, because he was everyone’s well-wisher, whose life was exclusively dedicated to serve with love.
Nothing was for himself. Everything was for his beloved Gopal and for all of us. For the service of Srila Prabhupada, Gour Govinda Maharaja could be soft as a flower or hard as a thunderbolt. Whether he lived as a beggar in a snake- infested jungle or he traveled the world being honored by thousands, he tasted the sweetness of Mahaprabhu's grace.
A particular subject in this book that I feel is beautifully revealed is how Gour Govinda Maharaja strived with all of his soul to assure the world that Srila Prabhupada's books and teachings were perfect and complete. It was a special calling in his life, and he was specially empowered to fulfil] that call.
One morning, in Mayapur, during the GBC meetings, I met Gour Govinda Maharaja on a veranda. I bowed down and pressed my head on his feet. When I rose he smiled broadly. There was a mystical sparkle in his eyes, like a child in anticipation of something wonderful. "Maharaja," he exclaimed, "I am so happy to see you." Then he became very serious; the words he next spoke came from so deeply in his heart, "Srila Prabhupada is very pleased with your service. Thank you very much." His face then lit up with an ecstatic smile and he tightly embraced me. To this day I feel that encounter to be a treasured blessing and even in trying times its remembrance brings me strength and encouragement.
That same evening, I was at his bedside, holding his gentle hand as tears of separation streamed down my face while singing the prayers to the departed vaisnavas. In the ecstasy of speaking of Sri Radha's infinite love for Krishna, he had passed into Srila Prabhupada's loving embrace.
My sincerest gratitude to Madhavananda Prabhu for his unfailing love and dedication to his gurudeva, Gour Govinda Maharaja, and for blessing the world with this book wherein we can all be blessed to see when good fortune arises.
Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja, in The Worship of Sri Guru, speaks of the plight of some bumblebees that tear their wings and suffer in futile attempts to get sustenance from the fragrant but nectar-less, thorny ketaki flower. Fortunate among those bees are the ones that obtain nectar as well as relief from their suffering in the shelter of the cooling lotus. Similarly, it is only when the white lotus of good fortune arises that a suffering soul obtains the shelter of the lotus feet of Sri Guru - sri-guru-carana-padma.
When Good Fortune Arises is a brief, essential look at the life and teachings of Sri Srimad Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja. As mellow fragrance permeates exquisite flowers, so the good fortune obtained through the shelter of the lotus feet of Krishna's elevated devotees is found throughout the life of Gour Govinda Swami. This fortune is exemplified in his attaining shelter of his guru Srila Prabhupada, the search for whom carried him away from a loving family and secure career to wander about India as a penniless mendicant. It is found in his teachings, in which he repeatedly stressed the principle of always hankering for such shelter. It is seen in the lives of the hundreds of devotees whose good fortune arose in the form of Gour Govinda Swami's shelter and guidance.
It is natural that before we consider the teachings of a person, we first want to know something about them. As Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur once said, "I don't read the book, I read the author. I first see the author to see if he's authentic." For that reason, before presenting the teachings of Sri Srimad Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja, we thought it appropriate to begin with a look at his life.
However, in attempting to write about such a personality, a great obstacle looms before us. A conditioned soul perceives the world through the very senses that bind him to it. The attempts of fallen persons such as ourselves to comprehend the behavior and activities of great souls only grants a two-dimensional black-and-white perception taken through the filtered lens our conditioned senses. There is a Bengali saying, vaisnava cinite nai, devera sakati - "Even the demigods with their high qualification and powerful sense abilities cannot understand who is a vaisnava."
The story of Krishna's entry into the wrestling arena of Kamsa is frequently used by our acaryas to describe how great personalities are perceived differently by diverse persons. Just as Krishna is identified by various people according to their respective qualifications to see and approach him, so too, Krishna's dear devotees are perceived in many ways by many individuals. Amongst devotees, some will see a sadhu-vaisnava in a formal institutional way as a manager or leader of many persons within a particular sect. Others will see him or her as a scholarly preacher. Yet others may consider him or her as a counselor providing solutions to their problems, yet others as an intimate friend. None of these conceptions are wrong. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur Prabhupada has described:
There are different ways in which different persons whose faculty of spiritual consciousness has been aroused judge about their own requirements. Every enlightened person is privileged to have a sight of Sri Gurudev in accordance with his particular mode of judgment. Sri Gurudev is that real entity who thus reveals himself to the view of enlightened souls in a variety of ways.
Where does that leave us in our attempts to speak about the lives of the saints? The vaisnavas may even question our motives in writing. The poet Devakinandan Das has said:
vandana korite mui kata sakti dhari
tamo buddhi dose mui dambha matra kori
What power or ability do I have to glorify the devotees of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu? Being engrossed in ignorance, it is only out of pride that I attempt to do so.
In writing about the life of our revered spiritual master Sri Srimad Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja, we have tried to be conscious of our own inescapable biases and limitations of vision. We wanted, as far as possible, to allow the readers to meet Gour Govinda Swami on their own. For this reason we have endeavored to present Maharaja through his own personal recollections as well as through some collected memories of various persons who had interactions with him.
The material in this book is only an introductory sample from the life and teachings of Sri Srimad Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja. It is in no way a complete or even an extensive presentation. We have only interviewed a very small percentage of the devotees who interacted with Maharaja and have only taken a few drops from his many writings and nearly three thousand lectures. In short, there is much, much more which could be contained herein.
We hope that this book will inspire some of the followers of the beloved son of Mother Sachi.
tathapi mukera bhagya manera ullasa
dosa ksami' mo adhame koro nija dasa
Even though I have no speaking power to glorify the devotees of the Lord, still I am feeling great pleasure in my mind. Please overlook my faults, 0 vaisnavas, and make me your servant. Sri-guru vaisnava krpa prarthi, dasa-anudasa-abhasa, Madhavananda Das, Bhubaneswar Dham, Odisha
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