Bhakti Builds Temple
A Brief History of ISKCON Dwarka
aho bata svar-yaśasas tiraskarī
kuśasthalī puṇya-yaśaskarī bhuvaḥ
paśyanti nityaṁ yad anugraheṣitaṁ
smitāvalokaṁ sva-patiṁ sma yat-prajāḥ
Undoubtedly it s wonderful that Dvaraka has defeated the glories of the heavenly planets and has enhanced the celebrity of the earth. The inhabitants of Dvaraka are always seeing the soul of all living beings (Krishna) in His loving feature. He glances at them and favours them with sweet smiles.
H H Mahavishnu Goswami Maharaj built the Dwarka ISKCON temple when he was 84 years old, when anyone else would have been happy to retire and rest. When he took up this daunting service, he struggled through innumerable challenges that one cannot imagine facing in their life. By this offering to Srila Prabhupada, he set an example for all of us that it is only Bhakti that builds the temple, not the money. This book titled Pearls of Wisdom contains the transcendental realizations of Maharaj in a lifetime of practicing and preaching sincere devotional service. This presentation of a brief history of how Maharaj developed the ISKCON Dwarka yatra and built Sri Sri Rukhmini Dwarkadish Temple - the first and only stone temple in ISKCON, will serve as an apt introduction to this book and will give a peek into the pure devotional mood of Maharaj whose life is a great inspiration for all of us.
H H Mahavishnu Goswami Maharaj joined the ISKCON movement in London in early 70’s. Maharaj was very much inspired by Srila Prabhupada’s teachings and by the enthusiasm of his disciples. After completing his grhastha duties he joined the ISKCON London temple full time in the late 70’s. After taking Sannyas in the year 1990, he traveled around the world several times and preached the message of Srimad Bhagavatam. In India, he would travel to various cities like Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Valsad, Surat, Calcutta, Delhi etc. and preach. In the year 1996, when he was 77 years old, Maharaj came to India with an inclination to travel to Dwarka for a few days. He was staying in Pardi, near Valsad and started for a few days yatra to Dwarka. However once he reached Dwarka, he got attracted by the dham so much that he wanted to stay there and start a small preaching center.
Initial days of Struggle
After a few weeks of stay in his first visit to Dwarka, Maharaj returned to Pardi but he kept traveling to Dwarka several times in an effort to get a small place. At one time, to start the preaching center he wanted a place and paid Rs 10,000 to a local man who promised to get him a residence, but eventually cheated him. With no permanent place to stay, Maharaj then stayed in different ashrams in Dwarka but nobody allowed him to stay for more than 2-3 weeks since they were worried that outsiders will stay there forever. With no money in his hand, Maharaj then shifted to Bhartiya Bhavan Dharmashala guest house to stay for a few days. This guest house was owned by one Pritish Bhartiya whose mother is a pious lady and the family lived in Delhi, having appointed a care taker to manage the guest house. Maharaj was given a room in the terrace of this guest house from where the main Dwarkadish temple dome was so beautiful to look at. As soon as he saw the top floor, Maharaj was so pleased that he told his assistant, “Krishna willing, we will build a nice temple in this place.” Lord Krishna heard the sincere desire of His devotee and started working to fulfill his dream.
Maharaj’s Perseverance and Penance
However in a couple of weeks Maharaj was asked to vacate Bhartiya Bhavan too and he had to shift to a sannyas ashram nearby Gomati river. It was an extremely austere place, the ashram was being used to perform yajnas in the morning and in the night the floor would be burning hot. Maharaj would tolerate all the difficulties simply for the pleasure of serving Srila Prabhupada and would never stop preaching, his study of Bhagavatam and chanting. He would go from the Sannyas Ashram to a nearby Khodiyar temple, put up a small tent in an open land and keep reading Bhagavatam all day. There was a stone crushing factory adjacent to the temple with dust floating in the air all day but in spite of his chronic asthma and old age, Maharaj was not worried, he kept reading Bhagavatam. There was no prasadam arrangement too. Adding to the complication, there was no washroom nearby and Maharaj had to take an autorickshaw to go to the city every day for prasadam and answering nature’s call. Looking at the difficulties faced by Maharaj, the assisting devotees asked if we can move to a hotel room. Maharaj said, “If you want convenience, you can go to a room, but I am here in Dwarka to glorify Dwarkadish through the pages of Srimad Bhagavatam and if He is pleased, He may give us shelter but in any case, I will continue to glorify Him through the pages of Srimad Bhagavatam.”
Krishna Begins His Magic
As Maharaj continued studying Srimad Bhagavatam in that open land, the word started spreading around Dwarka that a nice sannyasi is doing austere devotional service in his old age and people were slowly getting attracted to him. The word reached Pritish Bhartiya’s mother who was very much attracted to Maharaj’s austerity and devotion. She asked Pritish to call H G Yashomatinandan Prabhu (in-charge of ISKCON in Gujarat) and inquire about Maharaj. She said she wanted to give a piece of land to a devoted saint and had heard from various sources that here is a saintly vaishnava who is simply attached to serving and glorifying the Supreme Lord Krishna and nothing else. Yashomatinandan Prabhu was not aware that Maharaj is in Dwarka and he was also looking for someone to give the responsibility of developing ISKCON in Dwarka.
In the mean time, one day Maharaj, unaware of these developments, called Yashomatinandan Prabhu and told him that I am in Dwarka and would like to develop a center there. Yashomatinandan Prabhu was very pleased, he immediately contacted Pritish and made arrangements for every one to meet. When they were traveling together to see the piece of land, they were led to this Bhartiya Bhavan Guest House. Pritish informed Maharaj and Yashomatinandan Prabhu that the land where the guest house is located is what they wanted to donate! It is not a coincidence that it is the same place from where Maharaj once desired, “Krishna willing we will build a nice temple in this place!”
Krishna Tests His Devotees for their Own Glorification
Pritish Bhartiya’s family agreed to donate the place to ISKCON but the problems were far from over. Pritish had until then appointed a local brahmin as the caretaker for their guest house and he disagreed to give the land. He openly threatened Maharaj to leave Dwarka and would kill him if he fails to do so (zinda rehna hai tho iss gali mein phir kabhi math aana). Maharaj, not the one to be swayed by such threats never budged from his strong determination and replied him with humility, “Your fight is not with me, but with Krishna. It is up to you to decide whether you want to fight with Krishna or surrender to Him. And Krishna is the one who does not like to lose. And if things go according to your plan and you kill me, then also I have nothing to lose. Hardly does one get the fortune of dying in Dwarka. I have only one request to you that when you kill me, throw my body in the Gomati Ganga river so that my body will be of use at least to the fishes.” There were many such repeated incidents of threat and violence Maharaj had to face frequently from the local authorities, tenants and neighbors but Maharaj withstood all these dangers bravely for the sole purpose to serve the Supreme Lord and Srila Prabhupada. After a long struggle with the local authorities, at last with the help of Yashomatinandan Prabhu the matter was finally settled and the land was given to ISKCON on 5th May, 1996.
Once Maharaj moved into the Bhartiya Bhavan along with two of his disciples, he would continue daily mangala arati, study Bhagavatam and preach. Devotees would regularly go on harinam twice a day. However they had no bhoga to prepare prasadam, so Maharaj requested the devotees to adjust by taking free prasadam served in the nearby dharmashalas. Maharaj also took prasadam there even though it was not fit for his health. Maharaj encouraged the devotees to bear with the situation and Krishna will arrange the needful in due course.
Maharaj then invited two of his disciples H G Vaishnav Seva das and H G Sundargopal das from Mumbai to visit Dwarka. Initially they were planning to stay for 2 weeks and return to Mumbai. But whey they reached Dwarka, they were so enamored by its purity that they decided to settle there. In the mean time Maharaj went on a preaching world tour and left the guest house in their care.
Devotional Service Continues Against All Odds
In the later half of 1996, a small brass deity of Sri Sri Radha Shyamsundar arrived. On 26th Jan 1997, Maharaj organized the first Jagannath Ratha yatra in Dwarka in a simple Thela. The resounding Harinam kirtan filled the entire Dwarka and everyone including the locals were pleased. Maharaj requested all the devotees to promise to Dwarkadish that every year on the 26th January they will come to Dwarka to participate in the Rath yatra. Shortly thereafter, the Temple President of Surat, H G Vrindavanchandra Prabhu kindly donated a set of marble deities and Maharaj promptly named Them, Sri Sri Rukhmini Dwarkadish. As days went on, Maharaj continued the mangala arati and Bhagavatam study incessantly.
One time, there was a heavy flood in Dwarka and the guest house ground floor was filled with knee-deep water. Devotees serving Maharaj shifted him to the terrace and advised Maharaj not to risk coming down for Mangala arati as it is still raining and there is no power. Early in the morning next day, they were shocked to see that Maharaj had come down on his own, sat in the knee deep water in the dark and was performing mangala arati with a small candle lamp.
As the preaching, service and sadhana went on in the small guest house, Maharaj continued his plan to build the temple in the mean time. Through his regular preaching tours around the world, Maharaj continued his Bhagavata Saptah, Bhagavad Gita & Bhagavatam classes and lovingly guide hundreds of devotees to take shelter of Srimad Bhagavatam and Bhagavat Gita.
In 1998, inspired by Maharaj some of the devotees from Abu dhabi and Singapore donated for the temple construction and soon the work for a traditional stone temple began. Sri Ishwar Lal Pujari, a saintly person and one of the Pujaris in the main Dwarkadish temple did the architecture design of our temple.
Temple Construction Begins with a Quake
On 26th Jan 2001, Maharaj organized the Bhumi Puja ceremony for the temple. Mangala arati was completed and devotees were chanting Japa. Maharaj was sitting in his room on the top floor meeting with some of the guests. Suddenly they heard some big noise and building shaking heavily. Within few minutes they realized that it was an intense earthquake. Devotees were running around for shelter and some of them realized that Maharaj is in the top floor of the building and ran to save him. But Maharaj, to their utter dismay, refused to leave and induced them all to stay on and chant the holy names intensely. He said, “If you die now, chanting Krishna’s names, you will directly go back to Godhead.” With great difficulty, the devotees forcefully brought Maharaj down and within moments the earthquake stopped. To everyone’s surprise, many new buildings in the surrounding were brought down to ground but the old and delapidated guest house was saved by Krishna for His devotees.
The Bhumi puja was then performed with the installation of Anantasesha by the devotees and local brahmins. Maharaj nicely revealed the hidden reason for the earthquake, “Since we are building a strong tranditional stone temple, Anantasesha wanted to test the firmness of the ground by shaking it a bit, before we commence our service!”
Bhakti Builds Temple
Maharaj followed a very strict principle of not begging to anyone for lakshmi to build the temple. He had firm faith that if we sincerely do our bhakti, Krishna will build His own temple. In regard to collecting Lakshmi, Maharaj would often say that we need to put our legs in others’ shoes and understand their pains. He would quote the Bhagavatam verse 6.10.6 which was very close to his heart:
nūnaṁ svārtha-paro loko / na veda para-saṅkaṭam
yadi veda na yāceta / neti nāha yad īśvaraḥ
Those who are too self-interested beg something from others, not knowing of others’ pain. But if the beggar knew the difficulty of the giver, he would not ask for anything. Similarly, he who is able to give charity does not know the beggar’s difficulty, for otherwise he would not refuse to give the beggar anything he might want as charity.
The temple construction commenced and the ground floor was completed with great struggle by the end of 2001. But the temple fund was completely exhausted and at one point there was only Rs 22,000 left in the bank account. Vaishnav Seva das who was looking after the temple construction, was worried how to build the temple without money. Maharaj encouraged him,”Vaishnav, when we came, we had nothing. We now have at least ground floor. Don’t worry, Krishna will arrange in due course.” The next day morning after mangala arati, as the Tulsi arati was going on, the phone rang and Maharaj answered the call. As Maharaj was talking, he was laughing loudly and they were wondering what was the cause of his laughter. Maharaj was blooming with joy when he returned to the temple room. He then revealed to Vaishnav Seva Prabhu, “Vaishnav, not only that I want to laugh, but I want to dance also for Krishna.”
The devotee who spoke to Maharaj over phone was a businessman who was attracted to Maharaj’s pure attachment to Srimad Bhagavatam. He wanted to build a second bungalow in India but his wife insisted that he should rather give the lakshmi instead to Maharaj who is building the temple in Dwarka and are struggling for lakshmi. So he decided to send the lakshmi for the Dwarka temple construction! Krishna once again proved Maharaj’s words that only Bhakti builds the temple.
Sri Sri Rukhmini Dwarkadish Manifests in Dwarka
As the word spread about Maharaj building the first stone temple in ISKCON, in the next 2 years, more devotees started visiting Dwarka, the annual ratha yatra was conducted regularly on 26th January every year. In the year 2003, on the 6th and 7th of December, thousands of devotees arrived from all over the world and the inauguration ceremony was conducted with great pomp. The ceremony was presided over by H H Gopal Krishna Goswami Maharaj and the Finance Minister of Gujarat Sri Vaju Bhai Vala. Many senior sannyasis like H H Lokanath Maharaj, H H Kavichandra Maharaj, H H Navayogendra Maharaj, H H Radha Govinda Maharaj, H H Radha Raman Maharaj graced the momentous occasion in the history of ISKCON. Senior Vaishnavas such as H G Yashomatinandan Prabhu, H G Ambarish Prabhu, H G Vrindavanchandra Prabhu and many others also presided over the ceremony. On the 7th December the 84th Vyasa Puja ceremony of H H Mahavishnu Goswami Maharaj and Ratha yatra were also conducted in a grand manner. It was a momentous 4 days of festival that will be etched in the hearts of all those devotees for lifetime.
- Kalacakra Krishna das.