Chapter 16 – Gour Gopalananda Dasa and the International Society for Krsna Consciousness

When Gour Gopalananda had been in Vrndavana for two to four weeks, Srila Prabhupada left Vrndavana and went to Delhi, then Calcutta and on to Mayapura. From there he wrote a letter to Gour Gopalananda and sent it with an English devotee—a grhastha—named Dhananjaya dasa.

This letter mentioned that a piece of land had been made available in Bhubaneswar, Orissa, and Srila Prabhupada said, “I want a good center developed there under your leadership. If you are willing, please come here to Mayapura and we will talk.” Srila Prabhupada wrote three times in that letter; “Your leadership, your leadership, your leadership.”

When he received that letter Gour Gopalananda dasa left Vrndavana immediately and went to Mayapura. In Mayapura two weeks later Srila Prabhupada gave him first initiation—hari nama. He had been calling himself Gour Gopalananda dasa, and when Srila Prabhupada initiated him he named him Gour Govinda dasa. When he received hari-nama initiation, at Mayapura, at the end of 1974, the people who wanted to donate the land were there—Srimati Chhabi Kanungo and her husband, Vijaya Kanungo. They donated the land in Bhubaneswar.

After the initiation Srila Prabhupada called Gour Govinda dasa to his room and told him, “Gour Govinda you will take me to Orissa.” As Srila Prabhupada told him that Gour Govinda dasa was thinking, “I will take him.” He could not believe his ears or what he had just heard. He felt that this was a most important instruction from his spiritual master. Even after only six to eight weeks in the mission of his spiritual master he was given such an important task, but he did not think that he was really worthy of the task.

Srila Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja: Prabhupada’s mercy, wonderful! He told me in Mayapura when he gave me first initiation, he told me in Mayapura that very day, “You will take me to Orissa.” He took me to his room and said, “Gour Govinda, you will take me to Orissa.” I will take him; I’ll carry him? (Laughter) because Prabhupada was not coming here. The western disciples are not allowed to come into the Puri temple, so he had developed sulkiness. One person will be there who will break the sulkiness, and he caught me. “O, you are!” I said, “Yes, Prabhupada, you are so merciful; now you want to go to Orissa.” Yes, I thought of that one thing, he wants to come. Yes, he will come. What can I do? I am nothing, I have no strength, no qualifications, nothing. O, it is his mercy only that will act. We are just an instrument in his hands. You just use us, nothing else.

Prior to this, when he had first met Srila Prabhupada in Vrndavana in 1974, Gour Govinda dasa had said to Srila Prabhupada two to three times, “You have founded an International Society for Krsna Consciousness, but I have not heard this name in Orissa. In Orissa this name is not heard. This is a world society, a big famous society. The people of Orissa do not know it. I had not heard this name; why isn’t there a center in Orissa?” but Srila Prabhupada did not give him an answer; he only smiled and remained silent. Gour Govinda dasa could not understand what was the mystery behind this. Why was Prabhupada not answering his questions?

Then on the hari-nama day, Srila Prabhupada said, “Gour Govinda will take me to Orissa.” And he was thinking, “Now Srila Prabhupada wants to go to Orissa; now I must go.”

In a letter to Syamasundara Brahmacari, who was from the Purushottam Gaudiya Math in Puri, written before His Divine Grace Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja met Srila Prabhupada, Srila Prabhupada explains his reasons for not entering the Jagannatha temple.

8th April 1974

Puri, India

Dear Syamasundara Brahmacari,

Please accept my greetings. I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter of 3/4/74.

I have not visited Jagannatha Puri because my men are not allowed to see the deity. When you arrange that we can visit the temple with my disciples than I come immediately. Now I am in India up until May 15 then I am going to Europe to visit in France, Switzerland, Italy, Germany etc., and then I will come back and remain until the end of August, and then go again to England and the u.s. this is my program. I am still here until the 15th of May. I am going to Hyderabad on the 18th of April and then going to Tirupati. So from there I can go to Jagannatha Puri if arrangements can be made. It is very regrettable that these European and American boys who are purely Vaisnava and who follow all principles are not allowed by the rascals to enter the temple. As stated in the Padma Purana: arcye visnau siladhir gurusu naramatir Vaisnave jati buddhir.*

I do not know what makes the management take this attitude. If you can remove this restriction you will do a great service to the Gaudiya Vaisnava community. According to the sastra, anyone who wears tilaka and sikha and kunti over and above the Vaisnava dress or Vaisnava sannyasa must be accepted, especially while chanting Hare Krsna mantra with bead bags. Kindly convince them and induce them to allow these Vaisnavas to enter Jagannatha temple.

arcye visnau siladhir gurusu vaisnave jati buddhir
visnor va vaisnavanam kalimala-mathane pada-tirthe’ mbu-buddhih
sri-visnor namni mantre sakala-kalusahe sabda-samanya-buddhir
visnau sarvesvarese tad-itara-samadhir-yasya va naraki sah
(Padma Purana)

One friend in Orissa has offered to give us land in Bhubaneswar and I have a desire to construct a big Jagannatha temple there for our men if we are not allowed to enter Jagannatha temple in Puri. In Jagannatha temple people come from all the Indian states. Now when Jagannatha has expanded His jurisdiction over the whole world why the so-called servants of Jagannatha should not allow them to see the Lord of the Universe? I don’t know their philosophy.

We shall see that your copies of Back to Godhead are dispatched to you.

In conclusion, I shall come to Jagannatha Puri as you have kindly insisted, but only when they allow entry to all my disciples.
Your ever well-wisher,
A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami

ACB/sdg © 1991 by Bhaktivedanta Book Trust

At that time Srila Prabhupada also asked Srimati Chabbi Kanungo and her husband, “I am sending my disciple Gour Govinda there to Bhubaneswar; will you please help him? Show him the piece of land that you have donated and he will organize everything there. Please help him.” When he came out of Srila Prabhupada’s room, Gour Govinda dasa asked Srimati Chhabi Kanungo and her husband about the donated land in Bhubaneswar. They explained to him that they lived in Calcutta, but were originally from Orissa; they are Life Members of ISKCON and they want to see an ISKCON center established in Orissa.

They also revealed to Gour Govinda dasa that they had once said to Srila Prabhupada, “You’re opening temples in all the dhamas (holy places) of India, such as Mayapura, Vrndavana and others. Puri Dhama is also a very famous place and very dear to Mahaprabhu. Therefore you should open a center in Puri, Orissa.” Srila Prabhupada had said to them, “No, I will not go to Puri. Why? Because I preach the message of Mahaprabhu all over the world, yet they will not allow my disciples to go into the temple. The servants of Lord Jagannatha, the pandas, they will not allow them in.”

The local Puri brahmanas will not allow westerners in the temple because of their western birth and the fact that they are or were meat eaters; therefore they are not allowed entrance. But Srila Prabhupada had reversed the situation; he had turned the westerners into brahmanas, they were practicing the life of brahmanas under his guidance, and they were definitely vegetarians now, not meat eaters; therefore they should be allowed in because of the higher principle which they were following. They were worshipping the deity and chanting the holy mantra, Hare Krsna. Still, even though these western disciples of Srila Prabhupada were converted to what we would call at least Hindu brahmanas, they would not allow them entry to the great Jagannatha temple. And therefore Srila Prabhupada would not enter the Jagannatha temple himself for this very reason, even though the Puri pandas knew the greatness of the world leader of ISKCON, who was regarded by many astrologers of the time as the most powerful personality on the planet.

Because of this Srila Prabhupada had developed a sulking mood. “I will not go to Orissa,” he said. So there is no ISKCON in Orissa. But Srila Prabhupada really wanted to go, he knew he must go because it was the dear land of Mahaprabhu. Therefore Srila Prabhupada was looking for a suitable person to take him to Orissa, to the Puri-Bhubaneswar Dhama and he found the one he needed in the person of his newly initiated disciple Gour Govinda dasa. So he said, “Gour Govinda, you will take me to Orissa.” Srila Prabhupada was in search of a person to break his sulkiness. When he found Gour Govinda dasa, he gave the responsibility to him.

Srila Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja: I was thinking what qualification do I have, I am not a worthy person to take Srila Prabhupada to Orissa. Now he has the desire to go—now it must be done, Krsna will fulfill it. In Bhagavad-gita (11:33) Krsna has said: nimitta-matram bhava savya-sacin—“Become an instrument in my hand.” So that came to my mind—we have no willpower. It is Krsna and His representative Gurudeva; they will act through the servant. I had this belief.

After this, Srila Prabhupada went to Bombay to check on the Bombay branch of his mission, which was at Juhu beach. There he gave Gour Govinda dasa second initiation—brahmana-gayatri-mantra. He had now first and second initiation from Srila Prabhupada, but still had not received sannyasa—the reason that he had left home for and that which he had been searching out to do his whole life so that he could go and preach the mission of Mahaprabhu under the auspices of his spiritual master.

Bhagavata dasa: At this point I had not met Gour Govinda, and did not do so until he went to Bombay to work with Gopala Krsna on the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust translations for Srila Prabhupada. When I first saw him, like everyone else I was ignorant about who he actually was, but I noticed that he was very, very quiet. He never spoke to anyone. He was always either chanting, saying prayers, reading or translating Srila Prabhupada’s books. He never spoke gramya-katha (nonsense talk). I noticed he was very sincere; still, I thought he was just another brahmacari.

I remember one sannyasa came into the room when I was there with Prabhupada and he said, “That boy…” and Prabhupada said, “What boy?” “That boy Gour…” And Prabhupada said, “Do you mean Gour Govinda?” And the sannyasa said, “Yes.” Then Prabhupada said, “He is not a boy; he is practically old enough to be your father…”

Srila Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja: Then one month later in Bombay Srila Prabhupada gave me brahmana initiation—gayatri-mantra [second initiation] and then after Bhagavata dasa and myself, left for Orissa, to see the land in Bhubaneswar.

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