Be Chaste to Bhagavatam - Part 3

Hare Krishna Prabhujis and Matajis,
Please accept my humble obeisances! All glories to Srila Prabhupada and Srila Gurudev! 

This is in continuation of the previous mails transcribing the speech by HG Devakinandan prabhuji in the Bhaktivedanta Hospital, Mumbai, on the occasion of the first disappearance anniversary of our most beloved Gurudev HH Mahavishnu Goswami Maharaj. In the previous offerings, we saw what should be our mood to approach Srimad Bhagavatam. 

1. The starting point we should always remember is that in order to really appreciate Bhagavatam, we must be convinced that there is no need for any other scripture or any other recourse or solution except Bhagavatam. 
2. The purpose of studying Srimad Bhagavatam is to be always chaste to Krishna. 
3. The royal road for relishing Bhagavatam is to desire to sincerely hear Bhagavatam. 

We also saw how attention leads to attraction for Bhagavatam. Today we will see how Maharaj showed this practically through the example of his own life.

4. Attention leads to attraction: Maharaj said that we must be attentive first and then we will become attracted to Bhagavatam. In this offering, we will see how Maharaj's life was one of whole-hearted attention to Bhagavatam.

By the time Maharaj came to London, he was already in his late forties and by then he already had 3 children and he was working to make both ends meet. He was also performing odd jobs here and there and some business because it was not easy. Back home in India, he had 10 brothers and sisters and he was the eldest. His father had given up the household duties and practically renounced the world when Maharaj was only 12 or 15 years of age. He was in Ram mandir just chanting. The whole burden of the family came on Maharaj’s head. So Maharaj said every year there was either one daughter to get married or one brother or one sister to arrange the marriage. So where the money was going to come from, Maharaj said, "I had no idea. But this thing I knew. I knew that whatever I had to do, the first important thing, the root of all things would be first to be with Bhagavatam." So Maharaj said that every time he was engaged 10,12 or 15 hours at the shop or at his work, what he would do is, he would always carry with him, Bhagavad Gita. Whenever he had free time, according to the free time, he would take out the verses. He would study them. 

When he finally met the devotees in London, he thought, how is it that a devotee who is of Western descent knows more about Krishna than I? And I am Gujarati by descent. I should know Krishna. So Maharaj asked him, "How do you know Krishna?" He said, "I know Krishna because I know Srila Prabhupada." So Maharaj thought, "I should know who Srila Prabhupada is. Then I will know Krishna." Also, Maharaj was born in a family of eight generations of Vaishnavas from Pushti marg. So they were worshippers of Laddu Gopal. But after so many readings of Bhagavad Gita and constant reading of Srimad Bhagavatam from youth, Maharaj was always wondering, "When am I going to have the day when I want to eagerly open Srimad Bhagavatam? When am I going to have the taste?" So when Maharaj started going to ISKCON Temple, the devotee he actually met first was HG Hare Krishna Prabhu. Such a nice name and that is how Maharaj got introduced to ISKCON. 

So from mid '70s onwards, Maharaj started coming to ISKCON in Bury place, London and at the time, he went up to the temple president and said that, "I am taking Vanaprastha. Now I am winding up my family life. What can I do here?" So the temple president looked at Maharaj and said, "Frankly speaking, I do not know what service to give you. You are a bit old to do the menial service." Maharaj always had problem balancing his feet. His feet were always swollen even in the early days. So he could not stand very long. So the president said, "If that is the case, you can't even stand and do the aarti because after a while you may just slip and fall. I can't expect you to go out for book distribution because you are a bit old and you will come back. Frankly speaking, what else can I give you? Better you do one thing. You just sit in one corner and read Srimad Bhagavatam and Bhagavad Gita." So Maharaj thought, that is not a bad idea because that is the reason why I came here. So there is a pillar in the Soho street temple which is a very famous pillar today. Anyone if you go there and if you ask, tell me the pillar where Maharaj sat. Everyone would point to the pillar. Because, the devotees tell us that for 8 or 9 years, Maharaj would come in the morning and he would take Srimad Bhagavatam book and he would sit just at that pillar and from morning right till shayana aarati he would not move except for some prasadam. He would write pages and pages of diaries. I think we have about 55-60 diaries of Maharaj with us today. Any book that he could get, he would write. Phone books would be used not to write phone numbers, but to write slokas and Maharaj began this practice at that point when he entered into devotional service. He started writing and writing purports. He would write the purports down. He would repeat the verses and he would add one or two lines he thought Srila Prabhupada was writing and that became the essence of relating with Srila Prabhupada through his books. Maharaj did not meet Srila Prabhupada very often. He met him from time to time. But every time Srila Prabhupada met him, he said to Maharaj, "You should take sannyasa because you are a Sanskrit scholar. You have the Vedic tradition. You should preach." Maharaj always said that, "I can’t do that because I have family obligations." But Srila Prabhupada always said, "Then alright. You just study my books. Study Srimad Bhagavatam." Maharaj said, "I left behind everything. I decided that Srimad Bhagavatam should become my life." So daily he would write notes and he would study. For 8 or 9 years, all he did was study and be in the kitchen to wash pots and plates and serve the devotees. 

One day the temple president did not have anyone to take the class. So they looked around and the temple president said,"You please come and sit down and take the class because there is no one else." Maharaj took the first class he ever took after nine years of study and when he spoke, the devotees in the temple realized that all along all that study has been manifested in his wonderful preaching, and from that time on, Maharaj never stopped preaching and Soho street temple devotees told Bhaktivedanta Manor devotees, "You please call this devotee to speak." Then opportunities followed in Belgium, Holland and other places in Europe and after a while Maharaj became very very sought after for preaching. But Maharaj said, "All this preaching, was of no value to me, if I did not want to be with Bhagavatam." So Maharaj told me always that, "It does not matter whether you get a chance to preach Bhagavatam or not. That is a by-product and that is up to Krishna. But what is up to you in your hands, is your desire to study Bhagavatam. That is what Krishna wants to see. The more time you put aside for Srimad Bhagavatam, the more time Srimad Bhagavatam puts aside for you." 

Maharaj famously said, "If you neglect the pages of Bhagavatam, then pages of Bhagavatam will neglect you. If you neglect your chanting, then chanting will neglect you. It is not the fault of chanting or Bhagavatam. It is that you are lacking attention. So chastity in devotional service is the key for Srimad Bhagavatam and once we have chastity, then there is automatically attention and when there is attention, attraction follows." 

Krishna willing, the other points Prabhuji spoke, shall be transcribed and offered in the ensuing mails. 

Thank you very much. 
Yours in service of Srila Prabhupada and Srila Gurudev, 
Vaijayantimala devi dasi, 
Abu Dhabi.