Maharaj Memories by H G Atmaram Prabhu (ACBSP)

Verse Number

Below is transcription of glorification done by HG Atmarama Prabhuji, recorded during the memorial service held in Sydney for our beloved spiritual master H H Mahavishnu Goswami Maharaj on 24th April 2010. Our heartfelt thanks to HG Navadwipa candra Prabhuji, for doing the below transcription of the glorification of Maharaj.

HG Atmaram Prabhuji, disciple of His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada lives in Sydney and has been very instrumental in preaching Krishna consciousness to people there. As per the introductory note of HG Viraja Krishna Prabhuji (who has been serving for several years in Sydney) in the memorial function, “Maharaj was very personal with devotees. I always remember that whenever I had a phone conversation with him, without fail he would inquire about each and every disciple and well-wisher and one of the person he would always inquire without fail was HG Atmaram Prabhu. Maharaj when he first came to Sydney at that time, HG Atmaram Prabhu was serving as temple president and Maharaj told me, “Atmaram Prabhu, when he came to the temple, there was only one chair and one temple and there was nothing else. There was nothing else. But he grew. He laid the foundation and grew and upon which we see the vast foundation of the Sydney congregation. It has foundation and many of us might not know where the foundation has come from. The foundation has come from him. Atmaram Prabhuji had very close association with Maharaj and Maharaj relished his association very much.”

Glorification of H H Mahavishnu Goswami by HG Atmaram Prabhu (ACBSP)

True Memorial Gathering
So, the point has been made many times this evening, that this is very much a family affair. Memorial celebrations, often in the material world, are conducted by people, that are to a large extent stranger, perhaps even to the person whom they are trying to memorialize and a few official words are said, but no one really knows that person that well, and maybe they did a few obvious public things and apart from their immediate family members, no one really knows they had a relationship with that person. But I think this gathering and this assembly is significantly different because each and every one of the devotee here feels very much closely associated with Mahavishnu Goswami Maharaj. And I think all of us could say something very deep and very meaningful and very personal about Maharaj. I have no doubt about that. In fact, I feel very very privileged to be able to take up all of your valuable time by having my say. Well, to actually have an opportunity to say something. And I know that all of you would like to have an opportunity to say something and hopefully tomorrow you will all get a chance but, even though I am speaking, I know that each and every one of you also have something to say. I don’t think anybody has not been touched by Maharaj on a very deep and personal level and indeed everyone here has some realization or some experience with Maharaj which for them, was very very profound and in fact life changing. So therefore, every one of us here is not a stranger and we are all part of the same family. We all have some significant realization and something we would love to say about Maharaj. So this is a true memorial gathering and it is a great privilege to be here.

True Disciple of Srila Prabhupada
We haven’t had the opportunity so far but this gives us the chance to say a few words in appreciation and glorification of Maharaj which actually is very important because the fact of the matter is that we like to get things off our chest. We all like to express ourselves. Although, it is words which we are using, it is emotion that is coming through and it is very important to be able to express that emotion. So this has given me a little bit of a chance. So I would like to say something to begin with about Maharaj and I think, that you will be very happy for me to say it and I think that you would really appreciate me saying it. And that is that Maharaj was truly a disciple of Srila Prabhupada, first and foremost. Whatever the technicality and formalities were, Maharaj is absolutely a true disciple of Srila Prabhupada. And that struck me from the very beginning. He was completely Srila Praphupada conscious the whole time.

Extremely Friendly to Everyone
When he first arrived in Sydney, I can’t remember it was ’94 or ’93, my feeling is it was ’93. I had been to Sydney already may be year-and-half. As it was pointed out, at that stage the temple was in a difficult situation. I had just taken over in early ’92 and literally the walls were still wet from the paint and we didn’t have anywhere to sit. There was no chair and there was no table. I am not even exaggerating! For the first two to three weeks, I managed using a clip-board because I didn’t have a desk. We had no filing cabinet and even if we had, we wouldn’t have had anything to put in it (laughter). So, it was very much in the beginning. And Maharaj came to Sydney sometime later. In many case, we ran parallel from that point on because it was also in the very beginning more or less. I had never actually heard of him so much before. He more or less arrived unannounced, without any fanfare and without any big resume. He was just all of a sudden there.  But the thing of course was that Maharaj was striking in many ways. But the obvious thing that I think that everybody could say immediately, what is the most obvious thing about Maharaj when you first meet him? “He is just so friendly. He is extremely friendly and unassuming, he doesn’t stand on protocol, he is just everybody’s friend.” Something, Sila Sampana prabhu made the point that he didn’t care who you were, whether you were a young child or whether you were a new bhakta or whether you were a member of congregation, he would just make you so comfortable and so much belonging to him in a family sense, and we all felt that.

Give Krishna to All
So my relationship with him was unusual because, it was both official and personal. We had some things in common and some things, of course, were very very different. Obviously, I am an Australian and he was Gujarati-Indian. Although having spent a long time in England and he was very well educated and speaking very good English too. He had a tremendous sense of humour. And somehow our humour was kind of similar. We used to enjoy the same kind of, same way of looking at things. We also had in common tremendous skepticism about bureaucracy (laughter). We shared notes on that ad nauseam (so frequently). (laughter). But, unfortunately, I was in the official position and having to deal with him, sometimes, from the point of view of the management of the organization, and that was little awkward. Because, he wasn’t always exactly, we may say, strictly co-operative. (laughter). But in this also, he reminded me of Srila Prabhupada because Maharaj had only one idea, one plan and only one agenda – He just wanted to come and give people Krishna. He didn’t have any grandiose strategy or some pre-determined sort of plan to subvert anything or anyone. He just wanted to give people Krishna, in the same spirit and in the same mood of as Srila Prabhupada had given Krishna. In many many ways, he often reminded me of Srila Prabhupada. He even looked enormously like Srila Prabhupada - Isn’t it? In fact, more than any other devotee, I have ever met, he looked like Srila Prabhupada! So, there was tremendous similarity in his approach and in the way that he actually came to the west, at least Australia. He simply wanted to give people Krishna and invite them to join the family of Krishna, the family of Srila Prabhupada. So, he was very non-calculating and had an almost innocent kind of an approach.

But unfortunately, bureaucracy has always a way of messing everything up. The organizational imperatives and concerns and insecurities have a way of riding a rough shot against an agenda that is just purely innocent and in the mode of goodness.

So therefore, inevitable tension developed between Maharaj and the officialdom which I represented (laughter).

Loving Father
And on the other hand, we had a very nice personal relationship. As I said, there were similarities and there were differences. Maharaj was elderly, quite a lot elderly than myself in bodily terms. And of course, he had a lot of experience. He was a very mature, worldly-wise person. He was an experienced businessman. And he was a very experienced family man. I think that helped a lot. That’s what enabled him to give that kind of shelter and grandfatherly affection or fatherly affection, as the case may be, to anyone and in that sense I enjoyed a relationship like that. Like he was my father, or sometimes he was my grandfather. And his perspective on life, was the kind of perspective only an elderly or experienced or worldly-wise person can have. And from that I have benefited enormously. And many times, he delivered that insight with tremendous humor and earthliness.

So some of my favorite sayings, I got from him and actually vice versa because he used to say a thing what he remembered and always laughed about and kept quoting. So it was a kind of an exchange and actually some of the things I most relished and which I wouldn’t dare repeat here (laughter…) but it was very relishable.

Very Dedicated to Srila Prabhupada
But in a certain way, I was kind of more experienced than him because he very innocent in terms of ISKCON, in terms of organization or the official way in which things operate and the way things worked because he had not really, we may say, grown up through the system. He had just been attracted by Srila Prabhupada and he always read and studied the shastras at home. He always had been actively participant in the congregational community. But at a mature age, he was inspired by Srila Prabhupada’s example to preach Krishna consciousness and at a certain point, he made a very serious determination to do that, based on his own very natural Krishna consciousness, discipline in his sadhana and his inspiration in seeing the example of Srila Prabhupada. He had not joined the ashram, he had not grown up, we may say, the system of officialdom. He had not gone through various, we may say, stages and he had not been part of management, part of a committee, part of different tiers and structures of complexity. And he had no patience or sympathy much with that either (laughter)And even in that, he was just like Srila Prabhupada.

Srila Prabhupada also said or it was said about him that he was always the enemy of bureacracy. Prabhupada always preached against it, “Why are you making bureaucracy?” “Bureaucracy, all they can do, all they know is to say “No!” (laughter)”. “Just, they can say ‘No’. There is never any ‘YES’”. (Laughter) There is never any “Let’s go”.  “Yes we can do it”, it’s always “No! Let’s have a meeting!! (Laughter)”.

Time Conscious
So Maharaj was actually very conscious that he was pushed for time. He was very conscious of his age. And even for the first time, from the first time to when he passed away, may be 17 to 18 years ago, even in the very beginning, he was not in full health. And he always had tremendous suffering in his feet and legs. And he was not robust. So he was very conscious that he had borrowed time. He was anxious to push forward with the preaching. So there was a sense of urgency about his mission and this exacerbated or aggravated the situation for him, even more that he had to deal with various considerations which were essentially organizational or organizational concern but had no particular relevance to him and his need and urgency to spread Krishna consciousness. Anyway, Maharaj succeeded somehow or the other by and treading very fine line between conforming and non-conforming, in consideration of the urgency of the mission and in consideration of the requirements of the officialdom. And, the fact that so many people who are here today, is a testimony of that success in that regard.

Jolly Nature
Other thing that immediately struck me about Maharaj was his sense of humor. He was always jolly. In fact, Srila Prabhupada says, “The symptom of pure devotee is that they are always jolly, they are always happy”. Because, of course lamentation is a product of material consciousness. On the spiritual platform, there is never anything to lament. Even though there may be inconveniences, that is not lamentation. That is just a challenge. So Maharaj, has tremendous sense of humor and even if we were together, whether it was a half an hour, or 10 minutes, or three hours, it would be non-stop laughing and joking and exchanging insights and perceptions about different things. And it was very congenial on that level. We were very close like friends, like brothers and we really understood each other’s thinking and sense of humor. And so there were similarities and there were tremendous differences. So I helped him enormously, well, may be that’s exaggeration, but I tried to help him in terms of understanding what he was up against in terms of the organization which in some ways I had more experience. In life, in general of course, he had much more experience. But in sense of humour and different interests, we were very similar.

Very Encouraging
So we started when Maharaj first came to Sydney temple, it was in its infancy stage. Then for the next four or five years especially, we had huge struggle to release the complete initial refurbishment of the temple. And he was step by step observing that and always encouraging and in fact one of the thing that really endeared me about Maharaj was, among everyone who had visited the temple, he was the only one who was really encouraging and really supportive. Everybody else were like, almost if they could make it harder for you, they would (laughter). If they can think of something else to make it more difficult. But Maharaj, was always enthusiastic and always positive and so appreciative.

Pure, Sincere and Honest Vaishnava
Therefore, later on, when Maharaj began his temples in Rajkot, in Gujarat and in Dwaraka. then I felt an obligation to reciprocate and also go and see what he was doing and also give him what encouragement I could. And he had similar struggles. Because it is not easy. It is not easy when you are at seventy or eighty years old. It is not easy when you are thirty or fourty years old; It is not easy to start a temple. He was starting it from nothing. I don’t know if anybody has been to Rajkot. So, we know it was a bare, bare piece of desert. It was a horrible piece of land. When I go there, of course in India, everybody appreciates lands, no matter how it looks like. A land is land and land is fantastic; But I am looking at it from my experience in Australia! And what!? who would live there!! This is horrible!! When is the next plane? (laughter) It was a terrible situation and he just built a bungalow for the Deities, small cabins and he was living there in the small cabin with one or two brahmacharis.

Rajkot was a famous town in Gujarat, specially known for its piety; it is very religious town but it had been actually ruined, in terms of ISKCON’s public image, because of some bad dealings by previous officials from ISKCON. So, when Maharaj went there at the time as a representative of ISKCON, he had a little credibility. But he actually recovered the whole situation and completely turned around, the impression that the whole of the city has about Srila Prabhupada’s movement and how did he do that? Simply by personal influence. He used to go house to house, visiting different families and by his personal credibility and as Sila Sampanna made the point by “purity” convinced everybody that he was a genuine devotee. This was actually a sincere, honest Vaishnava - servant of Krishna. Because, they were so struck with his sincerity, honesty and integrity, they supported him. So, there was with nothing. Beginning with nothing, he was able to inspire so many people to come and support him and help. Therefore, from very humble beginnings, the project expanded.

Worldly-wise Personality
There is another very interesting anecdote none of you would know but after my first visit to Rajkot, about three weeks later and I was at official function, something like Diwali, it was a big function and there were some dignitaries there and counselor general of India was there. He was new at that time and only been there few months but he was extremely cultured gentleman, very articulate and I was trying to find an excuse to meet with him. I went and sat next to him. So we exchange pleasantries and he was not a religious man, particularly, but very cultured, very educated and therefore naturally a real gentleman. So, I mentioned that we began talking and I mentioned that how I just come from India. And I saw he was not interested. He asked, “where did you go?”  I said that I went to Rajkot. And immediately I had him because he was from Rajkot. This was the coincidence. And then rest of the program, we were just talking all the time. He was telling me where he grew up, he was telling me the school where he went to, on and on and on. His whole family has a big history there. His name is Sujan Chinoy. His grandfather is the Dewan of the previous king of Gujarat. He went to a school in Rajkot which is the best school in India. All the princes used to go there, all the richest family children will go there to get education. He went to that school. So from that time onwards we developed a good relationship. He was a very famous personality. So that time on, we developed a very good relationships and he become so fruitful that he helped us out to very different political problems we were having. And in many different ways, he helped us enormously. He visited me at my home up in Woolumba, about a year or so later, stayed with us and even visited the primary school of my young daughter and gave impromptu discourse to all the students in the school. It led to other things. So the last time, I went to Rajkot, it coincided with the counselor general having his annual vacation. So we arranged therefore to meet in Rajkot and that time I encouraged Maharaj that we should get together with him. And he was very enthusiastic. So then, we came there and by different coincidences, we happened to be at the right place, at the right time on the right day. So, Maharaj and I, and one of the devotees from the temple, we drove to the bungalow of that family and the counselor general was there and very relaxed. And we had a very nice congenial morning for two to three hours, with little something to eat and Maharaj had charmed the counselor general like anything. So even though, he was not Vaishnava and not particularly religious, but he was very much attracted to Maharaj. He very much enjoyed Maharaj’s company. Because, Maharaj was also, not just an articulate in English, but he had an ability to talk with people, to be friendly and to be interesting and to talk on many subjects. So he was not someone wanting in any particular company. He was not fazed by someone’s status or someone’s education, because he was an extremely worldly wise, articulate and intelligent man, and people appreciated that. I have to say sometimes, Sannyasis especially, all glories to them, I was very hesitant to introduce them to the counsellor general of India (laughter). But with Maharaj there was no hesitation. So later they had tremendously good rapport and then this led to other things and I am not sure of what the eventual outcome was, but there were some other people who dropped in and friends of his and some influence in the community, visits to the temple etc etc. So from little things, big things come and we cannot understand how all threads will weave together and eventually create a nice cloth.

Extra Ordinary, Sincere disciple of Srila Prabhupada
Maharaj’s activities, they have deep transcendental import and their influence, will continue, on and on and on. Who can actually tell, eventually, what everything will combine and where eventually lead to? We look forward for a big thing from Devakinandan when he takes sannyasa, for example (laughter). Who can tell, how everything can go but there is a saying that tree can be told by the fruit, isn’t it? I think, there are many many nice fruits here. This is a testimony and it is a reflection of the quality, of the integrity and inspiration that Maharaj represented. I think from these fruits, many more trees would grow and many more fruits would come and that would go on and on as a testimony to the work and dedication of sincerity of someone who is an extra-ordinarily sincere, disciple of Srila Prabhupada. That is the best thing you can ever say about anybody and I am sure that Maharaj would appreciate me saying that about him today. Of all the disciples of Prabhupada, I have ever met, there has been none better than His Holiness Maha Vishnu Goswami Maharaj. Maharaj ki Jai.