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Divine Life Sketch of Srila Gurudeva





His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Ballabh Tirtha Goswami Maharaja (Srila Gurudeva) is the dearly beloved disciple of Srila Bhakti Dayita Madhava Goswami Maharaja (Paramagurudeva) the equally beloved disciple of Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Goswami Prabhupada.

His Early life

Srila Gurudev appeared in 1924 in Assam, India, on Rama-Navami, the most auspicious appearance day of the Supreme Lord Krishna in His form as Ramachandra. From his childhood, he had a natural attraction to and affinity for spirituality. Having been brought up in a pious environment, he developed a strong inclination to search for the ultimate goal of life and began to spend the majority of his time in meditation. Consequently, indifference to the material world developed and he became acutely aware of the non-eternal nature of the material world. He realized that one day his mother, father, brother, sister and all others would be gone... Everything would be finished. This manifestation of the path of self-realization led him to take up the study of philosophy at Calcutta University. His fellow students at the university invariably noted his outstanding qualities of nobleness, truthfulness, benevolence and non-enviousness. (For first-hand accounts from family members who witnessed these events, read the blog posts labeled "Early Life.")

Taking Shelter of the Divine Master

While studying at the university, he came in contact with his spiritual master, His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Dayita Madhava Goswami Maharaj, and immediately became attracted by his transcendentally powerful personality. Srila Paramgurudeva was one of the leading followers of the illustrious preceptor of the pure devotional bhakti school, His Divine Grace Prabhupada Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur, and a great proponent of the devotional teachings in his own right After completing his Masters Degree in Philosophy in 1947, Srila Tirtha Maharaja wholeheartedly and unreservedly dedicated his life to the service of his spiritual master.

Srila Gurudeva traveled extensively with Srila Madhava Maharaja on preaching tours. His service attitude was so exemplary that soon Srila Madhava Maharaja established him as the secretary of the devotional institution known as Sree Chaitanya Gaudiya Matha, which has over twenty ashramas (monasteries) in India alone. He was awarded sannyasa, the order of renunciation, in 1961. Setting an example of unadulterated service to Sri Guru, Srila Tirtha Maharaj served his spiritual master with every facet of mind, body, and spirit.

Eventually, Paramgurudeva, seeing his disciple's degree of dedication and sincerity combined with an astute and practical mind, selected him as his worthy successor. After his disappearance in 1979, our Gurudeva was appointed as President-Acharya of the Math. He has received the fortunate blessings and great affection of many of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta's prominent followers, such as Srila Bhakti Rakshaka Sridhar Deva Goswami Maharaja, Srila Bhakti Promode Puri Goswami Maharaja, Srila Bhakti Hridaya Van Goswami Maharaja, Srila Bhakti Akinchana Krishna Dasa Babaji Maharaja, Srila Bhakti Kumud Sant Goswami Maharaja and many others.

An Ideal Acharya (one who teaches by example)

For nearly 60 years, Srila Gurudeva engaged in the propagation of the all-embracing doctrine of transcendental Divine Love of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to counter the present trend of violence and cruelty, and to bring about the unity of hearts among all, irrespective of caste, creed or religion. "Example is better than precept" is his way of preaching. He always practised what he preaches—compassion toward all living entities, true kindness, simplicity, innocence, complete detachment, absolute tolerance, intense spiritual blissfulness, an incomparable degree of humility and unflinching faith in Sri Guru combined with exclusive devotion and complete surrender to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

Srila Gurudeva is known for not deviating even one inch outside of the four corners of the prescripts of the Holy Scriptures. His Divine Grace is a renowned authority on Gaudiya Vaishnava philosophy and he is beloved by thousands of devotees throughout the world as the very embodiment of humility and spiritual affection.

Inspired by the grace of his Gurudeva, He was always on the move, going from towns to villages in India and abroad, propagating the divine message of the Bhagavad Gita and the Srimad Bhagavatam. Without caring for his own personal comfort and undergoing many austerities, he took a lot of trouble upon his precious body to maintain an extremely heavy preaching schedule, tirelessly serving the mission of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

It could, in fact, be said that Srila Bhakti Ballabh Tirtha Maharaja is the very personification of all desirable and rare attributes such as: humility, affection, purity of heart and exclusive devotion. Because of these qualities and the mercy of his guru, Our Gurudeva, His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Ballabh Tirtha Goswami Maharaja became President-Acharya of the Sri Chaitanya Gaudiya Math devotional institution and became the Founder-Acharya of GOKUL (Global Organisation of Krishnachaitanya's Universal Love). He also served as president of the World Vaishnava Association (WVA) and is acknowledged by Vaishnavas around the world as one of the most exalted spiritual personalities of his generation.

His Worldwide Preaching

Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja requested Srila Gurudeva to accompany him to the US just prior to his launching of the Hare Krishna Movement in the West in 1965. As he was, at that time engaged in the service of his spiritual master with many duties and responsibilities, Srila Tirtha Maharaja humbly declined.

Eventually, with the idea of traveling outside India to propagate the all-embracing gospel of transcendental Divine Love of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Our Gurudeva was ordered by his Gurudeva to take lessons in the German language. It was several years after the disappearance of our Paramgurudeva, due to constant and persistent requests of devotees, that our Gurudeva approached Srila Bhakti Promode Puri Goswami Maharaja, who is one of the foremost associates of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Prabhupada, for guidance regarding travel to the west. At the behest of his beloved shiksha-guru (instructing preceptor), His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Promode Puri Goswami Maharaja, he then embarked upon preaching the message of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu throughout the world, beginning with an America in 1997.

Since that time, he continued to disseminate the remedy for the afflictions of the current age quarrel, the chanting of the Holy Name, throughout the world. To date, his preaching engagements have taken him to 25 countries including England, Holland, Italy, Austria, Germany, France, Russia and throughout the length and breadth of the continental USA.

Srila Gurudeva, during his US tour in 1997, addressed the United Nations "World Conference On Religion and Peace and World Peace Prayer Society" in New York City, offering them a succinct outline for world peace based upon the spiritual tenets of the ancient Vedas. All participating in these meetings were very much taken by Srila Gurudeva's sweet and humble personality and regarded him as a genuinely holy man. His preaching programs over the past years have also included many interesting dialogues with prominent Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim and Baha'i theologians, in such diverse settings as universities, interfaith groups, churches, Hindu temples and a wide variety of metaphysical and private educational centers. All are invariably won over by his gentle and affectionate nature, combined with his resolute faith in Guru-Vaishnava-Bhagavan.

He has also spoken on the sublime teachings of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu on many radio and television programs, including a thought-provoking interview on BBC radio in 2000, which was broadcast worldwide. In lieu of a request by the devotees worldwide, our Gurudeva gave his approval for the establishment of GOKUL (Global Organisation of Krishna Chaitanya's Universal Love), which he founded in 1997 with the goal of expanding his preaching mission.

A Fearless Preacher

Srila Gurudeva's knowledge of scripture was formidable. He substantiated everything he said with innumerable evidence from all over the Vedic literature. He always preached fearlessly and never compromised the conclusions of the scriptures for the sake of mundane practicality. During his devotional, powerful, informative, heart-piercing lectures, he inspired numerous devotees. He uses every moment of every day to fulfill Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's desire to preach the Holy Name of Krishna in every town and village.

He is the perfect example of the famous and oft-quoted verse "trnad api sunichena" from Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's Shikshastaka Prayers. Although very meek and humble in his personal dealings, in his classes he roars like a lion, smashing false pride and cutting all misconceptions from the hearts and minds of his disciples and followers.

His Teachings

Srila Gurudeva adroitly dispels the doubts of those who come to him for shelter and spiritual guidance. He places great stress on the chanting of the Holy Name without offense, encouraging and inspiring all to achieve the pure stage. He practices and preaches complete surrender, not partial or conditional, but complete one hundred percent surrender to the instructions of his spiritual master.

His Writings

Srila Gurudeva was always engaged in writing articles and books of a profoundly spiritual nature in several native languages as well as English, for the eternal benefit of the conditioned souls of the world. Many of his writings are in the Bengali language but have been, and continue to be, translated into many other languages. As far as spiritual content is concerned, our Gurudeva left no stone unturned. It would not be exaggerating to say that all bona-fide spiritual questions are answered with each turn of the page. His is the accumulated devotion, knowledge and wisdom of many generations of self-realized souls extending back through time without deviation from truth due to self-interest.

His Entrance Into Nitya Lila

On the evening of April 20, 2017, our dearmost Srila Gurudeva departed from this world at Sree Chaitanya Gaudiya Math in Kolkata while devotees were in the 7th day of nonstop sankirtan yagna. The timing of his entrance into nitya-lila corresponded with the conclusion of the 7th of the eight period eternal pastimes of Sri Sri Radhakrishna (asta-kaliya yam).

In the years prior to this, he had completely withdrawn his senses from this world in a state of antaranga (internal) bhajan. His sevaks and many devotees present for his darshan during this time witnessed ecstatic symptoms and bodily transformations similar to Mahaprabhu's experiences of extreme separation found in Antya-lila of Sree Chaitanya Charitamrita. These included stiffening of the limbs, tears rolling down, motionlessness, and crying out in a chocked voice.

This extremely exalted state came was seen to be poignantly connected with his own dearmost Gurudeva, Sri Srimad Bhakti Dayita Madhava Goswami Maharaj. For many years previously, he would often be seen in his Gurudeva's bhajan kutir daily, praying and crying out in a mood of extreme separation.

On the day following his departure, his transcendental body was placed lovingly on a huge cart (rath) covered with flowers bound for Sri Mayapur dham. His welcome there was an unprecedented ecstatic festival. It was accented by an auspicious pushpa vristi: a sweet and most gentle light rain from heaven accompanied with a pleasant breeze. Trees bowed down offering their respects to him. Shops closed and thousands came on the street to offer flowers, sweep the road, and offer tears, prayers, and devotional songs.

Every Gaudiya math en route to Sree Chaitanya Gaudiya Math offered pujas. The sound of "Ha Gurudev", "Ha Gurudev" was being sung out in separation from all sides. His samadhi function was attended by devotees from all over the world. This pastime united acharyas and sanyasis that normally would not be seen together in one place. He glories were lovingly sung by them the following day for several hours. Even after leaving, his Divine Grace and love harmonized the entire Gaudiya family, irrespective of organizational boundaries.


—Compiled and edited by Akincana Das and Prahlad Das

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