Srila Bhakti Asraya Keshava Maharaja
Srila B S Govinda Maharaja
Srila B A Keshava Maharaja is a native to New Zealand and appeared in this world in Invercargill in 1967, at the young age of 17. He quickly developed attraction to the path of Bhakti and joined with the Vaisnava tradition in 1985, under the teachings of Srila AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja Prabhupad. For 10 years he lived in ashrams and travelled throughout the world receiving vital lessons on the path of Bhakti(Vedanta) by various teachers and wellwishers, he also lectured and taught in numerous ashrams around the globe. In 1995 he met his eternal Master Om vishnupada Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Maharaja and received Harinama initiation, then in 1997 Diksha Gayatri mantra from his Gurudev personally in Navadwipa India. For many years he was assisting his Gurudev's mission in the UK, Ireland,India and Sweden. In October 2012 Srila Keshava Maharaja entered into the sacred order of Sannyasa awarded to him by his Godbrother, Srila Trivikrama Maharaja,from Brazil. Srila Trivikrama Maharaja expressed, "I consider Srila Govinda Maharaja has arranged your Sannyasa and as I am doing the service of Guru, you must also embrace the preaching revolution and begin doing the needful in the South Pacific and also give connection and training to the newcomers". Srila Keshava Maharaja is based in the South pacific and is currently teaching between NZ and Australia, the Divine path of Bhakti Yoga, as revealed and taught by Srila Govinda Maharaja and Srila Sridhara Maharaja.
Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Maharaj made his Appearance in this world on December 17th, 1929, at Bamunpara, District Burdwan, only about six miles from Sripat Hapaniya where his beloved Gurudev made his Advent, also situated in the holy area of Gauda-Mandal.
Revealing his pastimes to the conditioned souls of this worldly plane, at the tender age of only seventeen years Srila Govinda Maharaj manifest his coming to the Lotus Feet of his Gurudev, Sri Srila Sridhar Maharaj, in April 1947, on the Holy Appearance Day of Lord Nrsimhadev.
On the Amavasya [dark-moon day] of August 12th, 1988, when Srila Guru Maharaj silently took his form of Holy Samadhi at his beloved place of bhajan, Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math, Nabadwip Dham, all the devotees felt that the exalted moon had disappeared from their vision; yet by his Divine Grace, Srila Guru Maharaj had already foreseen the devotees' need for uninterrupted light, for the smooth continuation of their devotional services, and therefore three years before he had conferred the holy order of Tridanda-Sannyasa upon Srila Govinda Maharaj, naming him as his illustrious successor, as the guiding light to perfectly ensure that no darkness could enter into his Sampradaya.
Highly learned in Sanskrit and Bengali, Srila Govinda Maharaj has, as did his illustrious Gurudev, given us many divine prayers and songs most valuable for the cultivation of our spiritual life. His valuable natural talent, coupled with his fine delivery of Hari Katha [holy talks of the Supreme Lord and His Pastimes], and, on the practical side of devotional life, his untiring services to his Gurudev in nurturing and upholding Srila Guru Maharaj's Indian and Worldwide Mission from the very beginning to the present (it was none other than he who designed and supervised the building of Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math) have ever fulfilled the desires of Sri Gurudev.
The elixir of nectar which has been carried around the world from Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math is still flowing by the mercy Sri Guru and Gauranga represented in the person of Srila Govinda Maharaj, and through him it has become doubly sweet.
Srila Guru Maharaj -- acclaimed by one and all as the "Maker of Gurus" -- has presented to us his most precious gem in the personage of Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswami Maharaj.
Srila B R Sridhar Maharaja
His Divine Grace Sri Srila Bhakti Rakshak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj, the founder of the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math, was born in India in 1895, in a respected Brahmana family of the Bhattacarya order, at Hapaniya, District Burdwan, West Bengal. He received his education at Baharamapur University.
Having taken his pious birth in Sri Gauda-Mandal, the holy lands where Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu exhibited His divine pastimes on this earth, Srila Sridhar Maharaj, from his very childhood, had a natural affinity for the mission of Sri Chaitanya Sankirtan -- the Grand Congregational Chanting of the Holy Names of the Supreme Lord.
In 1926, Srila Sridhar Maharaj joined the Sri Gaudiya Math, and became an initiated disciple of its founder, the illustrious Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur Goswami Prabhupad (1874-1937). He later accepted the holy order of sannyasa [monkhood] in 1930. Recognizing him as a faithful stalwart preacher of the perfect precepts of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Prabhupad conferred upon him the name "Sri Bhakti Rakshak," which means "Guardian of Devotion." And further echoing the statement of the great Vaishnava Preceptor, Srila Jiva Goswami -- who referred in his Sanskrit writings to the renowned Srimad Bhagavatam commentator, Sri Sridhar Swami, as bhakti eka raksaka [Supreme Guardian of Devotion] -- Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Prabhupad gave him the Tridandi-Sannyasa title of "Sridhar." Thus, he became Srila Bhakti Rakshak Sridhar Maharaj.
As a prominent preacher in the Sri Gaudiya Math mission, he travelled extensively throughout India and preached fluently in Bengali, Hindi, Sanskrit, and English, spreading the teachings of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu on many levels in universities, public seminars, and Sankirtan festivals.
Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Prabhupad also expressed high appreciation of Srila Sridhar Maharaj's Sanskrit composition, Sri Bhaktivinoda Viraha Dasakam, considering it an omen of assurance that the grand ideals and dignity of the Sri Gaudiya Sampradaya would be perfectly upheld and preached by such a learned and sensitive devotee as Srila Sridhar Maharaj.
As a testimony to this fact, just prior to Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur Prabhupad's departure from this mortal world, Srila Prabhupad had Srila Sridhar Maharaj sing, in his presence, the holy prayer most venerated by the entire Sri Gaudiya Vaishnava community, Sri Rupa Manjari Pada.
After the passing of Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur Goswami Prabhupad, Srila Sridhar Maharaj's Godbrothers, associates, and the public, naturally revered him as the senior-most representative of the Sri Gaudiya Sampradaya, although Srila Sridhar Maharaj himself was more inclined to anonymity as a humble Vaishnava. Nonetheless, by the call of divine duty and divine inspiration, he established the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math at Sri Nabadwip Dham, hinting in a short Sanskrit poem that the Math -- as a sanctuary where the holy message of his Gurudev, Sri Rupa, and Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was preached -- would inevitably become renowned throughout the world amongst the sincere and pious seekers of Unalloyed Truth and Divinity.
Srila Sridhar Maharaj is the composer of numerous classical prayers and commentaries in Sanskrit and Bengali. His works are hailed as gems of pure Vaishnavism by scholars, philosophers, and devotees worldwide. He authored Sri Sri Prapanna Jivanamrtam, a Sanskrit devotional treatise on the subject of divine surrender, which has become a standard text-book for devotees everywhere.
Upon reaching his eighties, not only Indians, but persons from America, Europe, and the world over, became attracted by Srila Sridhar Maharaj's teachings and personality. He was known as a pure saint of the most simple living habits. He was respected and loved for his saintly simplicity, and his affectionate nature and dealings. He was revered by his Godbrothers, disciples, other devotees, and the general public, and was unanimously venerated for his formidable encyclopedic command of the revealed scriptures, and his unique and unprecedented style of casting newer and newer light upon the most internal philosophical and revelatory purports of pure Sri Gaudiya Vaishnava Siddhanta.
A vast library of Srila Sridhar Maharaj's taped discourses has been compiled by his disciples, and from such recordings, the exquisite English books -- Search for Sri Krishna, Sri Guru and His Grace, The Golden Volcano of Divine Love, Loving Search for the Lost Servant, and Srila Sridhar Maharaj's unique commentary and interpretation of "Srimad Bhagavad Gita: The Hidden Treasure of the Sweet Absolute" -- and many other books have been published. Many more publications are also anticipated.
On August 12th, 1988, His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Rakshak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj departed from this world, to enter into his eternal pastimes. His departure did not herald the departure of one of the great stars of the Sri Gaudiya Vaishnava firmament, but that of the moon itself. Even the Earth herself trembled on two occasions, forecasting and punctuating the event. A divine temple, "The Temple of Union in Separation," was erected at his holy shrine at Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math, Nabadwip, and worship will continue throughout the generations.
Srila Sridhar Maharaj selected his most intimate and senior Sannyasi disciple, Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Maharaj, as his successor, blessing him with the position of Acharya-President of Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math and its affiliated branches worldwide.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada was born in 1873 at Jagannatha Puri. His father, Kedar Dutta Bhaktivinoda Thakura, was magistrate of the city and superintendent of Jagannatha temple. Once, during the Ratha yatra festival, the car stopped in front of the family’s house. Taking the opportunity, the mother of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura came out with the baby and put him on the Lotus Feet of Jagannatha. A garland from the hand of Jagannatha fell down on the baby.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura was educated in Calcutta and became learned in Mathematics and Astronomy. In his childhood he once took a mango which was meant as an offering for the Deity. When his father rebuked him, saying that he should not have taken the fruit which was meant for the Lord, the child took it very seriously and thought himself a great offender, promising not to take mango again throughout his whole life. He was known as Bimal Prasad Dutta before his renunciation. On account of his writing a book on astronomy known as Surya Siddhanta, he received the title Siddhanta Sarasvati. And, when he took sannyasa, preaching the gospel of Lord Chaitanya, he was known as Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. He was acclaimed a great scholar in Calcutta, and the celebrated Dr. Kalidas Nag used to call him ‘a living encyclopedia’.
Thakura Bhaktivinoda trained his son in childhood for preaching, and, after taking sannyasa, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura started the Gaudiya Mission Institution. He started 64 branches of the Gaudiya Math all over India plus one in London and another in Berlin. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura was the spiritual master of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the Founder-Acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, also Srila B R Sridhar Maharaja, the Founder Acharya of the Sri Chaitanya Saraswati Math.
Srila Gaura kisora Dasa Babaji
The next in the parampara, after and is an associate of Bhaktivinoda Thakura - a great paramahamsa babaji by the name of Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji Maharaja. Technically he was the disciple of Bhagavat dasa Babaji Maharaja, who was a disciple of Jagannatha dasa Babaji Maharaja.
In 1897 Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji Maharaja came to Mayapur Navadwipa Dhama from Sri Vrndavana Dhama, where he was accredited the exalted title "Bhajananandi". Srila Bhaktivinoda (Kedarnath Datt), seeing the transcendental behaviour of Babaji Maharaja, would use him as an example of nirapeksa (indifference), as his level of renunciation was beyond belief.
This Vaisnava saint's life was an example of utter humility and poverty, the true attributes of a Vaisnava. Gaurakisora never accepted any material object from anyone. For his clothing he used the discarded loin cloths from corpses left on the bank of the Ganges. For food, he would collect rice by begging, soak it in river water, and garnish it with salt and chilly. He never asked favors from anyone and lived a fully detached life, devoid of all possessions.
Srila Gaurakisora lived on madhukari, begging and slept beneath a tree. He would lie prostrate, offering his humble obeisances to the residents of Vraja, considering them as embodiments of Lord Krsna. He even offered his obeisances to the flowers, trees, and land around him. He spent about thirty years at Vraja mandala serving the deities there. Afterwards, perhaps by the direction of the Supreme Lord, he left for Navadvipa.
During his stay at Navadvipa, Gaurakisora underwent various transformations of spiritual moods. Sometimes he danced on the bank of the Ganges chanting, "Gaura, Gaura", while at other times he would lie on the ground in an unconscious state. He joyfully moved throughout the groves located on the bank of the Ganges, considering them sites of the divine sports of Sri Sri Radha Govinda. His only clothing was a strip of cloth around his waist and often went totally naked. He chanted japa on beads or sometimes knotted a cloth and used that as a substitute for japa beads. Occasionally, he went to Godruma Dvipa to listen to Bhaktivinoda Thakura recite ”Srimad Bhagavatam.
Babaji Maharaja would often visit Bhaktivinoda. During his last days in retirement, absorbed in Krsna katha, he would hear Srimad Bhagavatam at Bhaktivinoda's house and they would discuss together. Though Babaji Maharaja could neither read nor write he was regarded as vastly learned and self-realized. His only possessions were the Tulasi beads around his neck and the japa mala he kept in his hand. Sometimes he wore no Tulasi mala on his neck and would chant on knotted cloth as beads - such was his renunciation. Sometimes he would live under an old broken overturned boat, and other times he would scatter fish bones around a place he occasionally used as his bhajan kutir to make materialists think he was a fish-eater, and thus they would not disturb him. But by his pure bhajan he purified the three worlds.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura (1838-1914) is a prominent preceptor acharya in our succession of spiritual masters and disciples coming from Lord Krishna. He was a pioneering spiritual leader, a householder, a magistrate working in colonial India under the British rule, a prolific preacher, writer, and poet. He wrote volumes of books reintroducing the pure teachings of Lord Chaitanya at a time when those teachings had practically become lost. He composed hundreds of devotional songs glorifying Krishna to uplift the consciousness of the suffering people of this world. He corresponded with philosophers, theologians, leaders, scholars, and professors of his time and sent books, including The Life and Precepts of Lord Chaitanya, to university libraries in foreign countries, planting the seeds for a worldwide movement of Krishna consciousness.
Bhaktivinoda Thakura discovered and excavated the birthplace of Lord Chaitanya. Along with his devoted wife, Bhagavati Devi, he raised ten children, including the illustrious Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, who would become a great spiritual leader in his own time and the spiritual master of Srila Swami Maharaja Prabhupada and Srila B R Sridhar Maharaja.
Above all, Bhaktivinoda Thakura taught devotion to Krishna by his personal example. His life story, excerpted below, demonstrates a tremendous amount of courage, character, and perseverance in the face of many difficulties and gives hope to those of us who may be wondering just how to find the time to serve Lord Sri Krishna, His holy names, and His devotees in our ever so busy lives.
In many ways, aspiring devotees of Krishna today owe a significant debt to Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura for charting the course and laying the foundation for the modern-day Krishna consciousness movement.
Once, as he looked out from his window across the river towards the birthplace of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Bhaktivinoda Thakura had a vision that people from all nations would soon come together there in harmony through the blissful chanting of the holy names of Krishna, sankirtan.
Srila Jagannath Dasa Babaji Maharaja
The 6 Goswamis Of Vrindavan
The Six Goswamis* were a group of scholarly and ascetic devotees of Krishna who lived and wrote in India during the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century. They were the leading disciples of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
A number of the Goswamis came from aristocracy but left aside considerable wealth and influence to live as wandering mendicants, dedicating themselves to writing commentaries on the Vedas. They also uncovered many of the lost places of Krishna's pastimes in Vrindavan, and established temples there that are visited to this day. Under Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's direction, they showed that the essence of all Vedic teachings is devotional service to God, bhakti-yoga . Their work largely forms the scriptural and philosophical basis of the Vaishnava or Hare Krishna culture.
The brothers Rupa and Sanatana were formerly high-ranking ministers in the Islamic government of Bengal, India. Their nephew Jiva, is considered by some Sanskrit scholars to be the greatest philosopher of all time. Gopal Bhatta was from an aristocratic South Indian family, Raghunatha dasa's father and uncle were the wealthiest landowners in India, and Raghunatha Bhatta studied under Rupa and later established the famous Govindaji temple In Vrindavan.
Srila Rupa Goswami, the foremost of the six Goswamis of Vrindavan, was an incarnation of Rupa Manjari, the most important of the eight confidential maidservants of Shrimati Radharani in the eternal spiritual Vrindavan.
It is said that without taking shelter of Srila Rupa Goswami one cannot enter into the pastimes of Lord Chaitanya, and without taking shelter of Rupa Manjari one cannot enter into the confidential loving pastimes of Shri Shri Radha Krishna.
Srila Rupa Goswami’s lineage can be traced back to Karnataka, South India where his Saraswata brahmana descendants held influential positions. Srila Rupa Goswami's nephew, Jiva Goswami has explained in his Laghu Toshani that Rupa's descendants were of the Bharadvaja gotra and were learned in the Yajur Veda.
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu appeared at Sridhama Mayapura, in the city of Navadvipa in Bengal, on the Phalguni Purnima evening in the year 1486 AD. His father, Sri Jagannatha Mishra, a learned brahmana from the district of Sylhet, came to Navadvipa as a student. He lived on the banks of the Ganges with his wife Srimati Sacidevi, a daughter of Srila Nilambara Cakravarti, a great learned scholar of Navadvipa. Their youngest son, who was named Vishvambhara, later became known as Nimai Pandita and then, after accepting the renounced order of life, Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Lord Chaitanya is Krishna himself appearing as a devotee of Lord Krishna. Lord Chaitanya's appearance was predicted in the Vedic Literatures thousands of years before he physically manifested on this earth planet. Mahaprabhu is considered a hidden incarnation, also the most magnanimous incarnation of Godhead because he distributes love of Godhead to all souls and doesnt make a distinction between who's qualified and who's not like past incarnations.
The wonderful pastimes performed by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in the city of Navadvipa and in Jagannath Puri are recorded by His biographers. The early life of the Lord is most fascinatingly expressed by the author of Chaitanya-bhagavata (by Sri Vrindavana Dasa Thakura), and as far as the teachings are concerned, they are more vividly explained in the Chaitanya-caritamrta (by Sri Krishna Dasa Kaviraja Gosvami). Now they are available to the English-speaking public in our Teachings of Lord Caitanya.
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu preached the Srimad-Bhagavatam and propagated the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita in the most practical way.
The essence of His teachings is recorded in Chaitanya Manjusha as follows:
Lord Sri Krsna, who appeared as the son of the King of Vraja (Nanda Maharaja), is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and is worshipable by all.
Vrindavana-dhama is non-different from the Lord and hence is as worshipable as the Lord.
The highest form of transcendental worship of the Lord was exhibited by the damsels of Vrajabhumi.
Srimad-Bhagavata Purana is the spotless literature for understanding the Lord.
The ultimate goal of human life is to attain the stage of prema, or love of God.
His instructions to Srila Rupa Gosvami and Srila Sanatana Gosvami, His discussions with Ramananda Raya, the debate with the Mayavadi sannyasi Prakashananda Sarasvati and the Vedanta Sutra Discussion between Him and Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya are the excellent sources through which we understand His teachings in detail.
The Lord left only eight slokas of His instructions in writing, and they are known as the Siksastaka. All other literatures based on His teachings were extensively written by the Lord's principal followers, the six Gosvamis of Vrndavana, and their followers.
His mission was to preach the importance of chanting the holy names of the Lord in this age of Kali (quarrel). In this present age quarrels take place even over trifles, and therefore the sastras have recommended for this age a common platform for realization, namely chanting the holy names of the Lord. People can hold meetings to glorify the Lord in their respective languages and with melodious songs, and if such performances are executed in an offenseless manner, it is certain that the participants will gradually attain spiritual perfection without having to undergo more rigorous methods. At such meetings everyone, the learned and the foolish, the rich and the poor, the Hindus and the Muslims, the Englishmen and the Indians, and the candalas and the brahmanas, can all hear the transcendental sounds and thus cleanse the dust of material association from the mirror of the heart. To confirm the Lord's mission, all the people of the world will accept the holy name of the Lord as the common platform for the universal religion of mankind.
Shrila Jagannatha dasa Babaji Maharaja was respected by all the Vaishnava community and was thus known as Vaishnava Sarvabhauma, or chief amongst the Vaishnavas. There are some nice stories connecting him with the finding of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's birthplace recorded in Shri Navadwipa Dhama Mahatmya.
Shrila Jagannatha dasa Babaji Maharaja was born around the year 1800 AD. He spent many years in Vrindavana where he became famous as a perfect Devotee, though more than this is not known of his early years and pastimes. What we do know, however, is that he was particularly enthusiastic in serving the Lord's Devotees and performing 'kirtan'. In later life his servant, Bihari Lal, used to carry him on his shoulders in a basket, though when he would hear a 'kirtan' or himself be engaged in 'kirtan', his body would extend itself out of the basket like a beautiful banyan tree and he would loudly shout, "Nitai ki nam eneche re! Nitai, ki nam diteche re!" "Oh Lord Nityananda, what a wonderful name you have brought! Oh Nitai, what a wonderful name you have given!"
Due to his old age, Shrila Jagannatha dasa Babaji couldn't open his eyes, but had to forcibly open them with his fingers, what to speak of walk. If he went anywhere he was carried in his basket by Bihari Lal, but upon arriving at the transcendental site, he leapt out of the basket and danced in ecstasy shouting, "Haribol!" and "Gauranga!", definitely establishing it to be the very same birthplace of Lord Chaitanya.
Shrila Jagannatha dasa Babaji Maharaja had a disciple named Bhagavat dasa Babaji Maharaja, and Gaura Kishora dasa Babaji was his disciple. However at this time there was another great exponent of Vaishnava teachings that, on passing, we have already mentioned. His name is Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura.