Chapter 20 – Sannyasi Thakura Sannyasa Initiation of Gour Govinda Swami

His Heartfelt Desire Come True, Rama-Navami, 1975

The date was Sunday 20 April 1975, Navami. The day was the appearance of Lord Ramacandra—Rama-navami—in Vrndavana. The day celebrated the opening of the Sri Sri Krsna-Balarama temple, which had been built on the order of Gour Govinda dasa’s spiritual master, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, in Ramana-reti Vrndavana, India.

It was now one year since Gour Govinda dasa had left family life and wandered India looking for a bona fide guru, and it was now approximately seven months since he had come into contact with His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada. As he been previously mentioned, Vrndavana is the holiest of holy places in India and the abode of Lord Sri Krsna and some 300 years ago the famous deity Sri Gopala Jiu came from Vrndavana to Jagannatha Puri and was given into the charge of Gopal Giri, the famous ancestor of the now Gour Govinda dasa. In this holiest of holy places Gour Govinda dasa would now be given the title of sannyasa.

Gour Govinda dasa went to Vrndavana for the opening of the Sri Krsna-Balarama Temple on the Ramana-reti land. On leaving home he changed his name to Gour Gopalananda dasa, at initiation Srila Prabhupada called him Gour Govinda dasa and now his name would change to Swami—“Gour Govinda Swami.”

In the words of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, “One who has taken sannyasa is called svami, which means that he can never have any sex desire. He should never even think of a woman for one second. A sannyasa is fearless, he’ll go anywhere to preach, no matter how dangerous it is. A sannyasa never thinks he is alone, but always knows that Krsna and guru are with him.”

In the year of 1975, the highest aspiration of Gour Govinda dasa’s life would be realized—to take sannyasa and preach the mission of Mahaprabhu under the order of a bona fide sad-guru, his spiritual master His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. The opening of the temple has been described very nicely in the Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta:

16 April 1975

When Srila Prabhupada finally arrived to conduct the Krsna-Balarama Mandir opening, he was pleasantly surprised to see the three tall domes rising over the temple. The domes had been entirely constructed during the eight months since his last visit. The four-storey international guesthouse had also been completely built during his absence. Surabhi had supervised workers in day and night shifts to get everything done on time.

The tall central dome and two side domes, one each altar, were magnificent. Their graceful form led the mind to higher thoughts and suggested an existence beyond the material world. The strength and the beauty of the domes reminded one that beneath resided the Deity of the Supreme Lord. A temple was to enlighten people, to remove their nescience, and the domes eloquently spoke of this purpose. They could be seen for miles, rising boldly above the landscape of Vrndavana, proclaiming the worship of Krsna and balarama.

20 April 1975

Srila Prabhupada installed the deities for the grand opening of the Krsna-Balarama Mandir. Almost a thousand disciples were present, and the governor of Uttar Pradesh was the guest of honor. After years of hard endeavor, the grand opening was a climactic triumph for Srila Prabhupada and his movement. While still standing at the altar after having offered the first arati to Krsna-Balarama, Prabhupada addressed the crowd, explaining that this was an international temple, where people from all over the world could come to worship and take shelter of Gaura-Nitai, Krsna-Balarama and Radha-krsna.

Bhagavata dasa: In Vrndavana, on the last day of the festival there was a fire yajna and Gour Govinda was acting as the priest for the ceremony. Only one person was supposed to take sannyasa; that was Tripurari dasa, but their two dandas and two sets of sannyasa cloth. No one knew who the other person was. Then Prabhupada said, “Can the sannyasa candidates come up and get their cloth.” At that time Gour Govinda came out from behind the fire and took his cloth. Then Prabhupada handed him the danda, looked at him with a big smile and said, “You have understood.”

During the opening of the Krsna-Balarama Temple and the installation of the Deities Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai, Sri Sri Krsna-Balarama and Sri Sri Radha-Krsna, Srila Prabhupada was also initiating many devotees from all around the world. One devotee who vividly remembers the sannyasa initiation of His Divine Grace Gour Govinda Swami was Rddha dasa from England:

Rddha dasa: The first time I came across Gour Govinda Swami was when I was in Vrndavana in 1975 at the opening of the Krsna-Balarama Mandir. I was on my way to South Africa and there were initiations taking place in the courtyard of the Krsna-Balarama Temple, and during that time Srila Prabhupada was giving initiation to many people from all over the world. Most of the devotees who came up and took vows from Srila Prabhupada were just accepting their beads and repeating their vows in front of Srila Prabhupada, and then Gour Govinda dasa was introduced as being someone from Orissa who was a brahmacari who was taking sannyasa.

Then the most astounding thing took place; actually it was set up a little bit by the new devotees that were taking initiation from Srila Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada had to explain the meaning of initiation. But then when Gour Govinda Maharaja came up, well, he took over the whole show, because he gave a spontaneous speech to Srila Prabhupada on the glories of the guru. Srila Prabhupada went into a sort of trance when he heard this. His offering was quite lengthy and it was all in Sanskrit and Srila Prabhupada was very taken back and was practically crying, and Srila Prabhupada glorified Gour Govinda Maharaja very much. He said this is how to glorify the spiritual master. He was very much taken by the offering of Gour Govinda Maharaja.

I never forgot it; it is something you don’t forget. Srila Prabhupada was really taken back. Gour Govinda Maharaja seemed very natural sannyasa. There were many taking initiation at that time, there was one French devotee and Srila Prabhupada asked him what are the four regulative principles. The boy said, “No meat, fish or eggs; no gambling, no intoxication and no sex.” Then Srila Prabhupada said, “No! I didn’t say no sex, I said no illicit sex.”

Then Srila Prabhupada explained that you can have sex as a grhastha but not illicit sex, and that was all around the same time. Many of the devotees were coming up to Srila Prabhupada to get their beads and they were nervous. But when Gour Govinda Maharaja came up to take sannyasa, he was very natural.

When His Divine Grace Gour Govinda Swami took sannyasa Srila Prabhupada quoted this verse:

sri-bhagavan uvaca
anasritah karma-phalam
karyam karma karoti yah
sa sannyasi ca yogi ca
na niragnir na cakriyah

“The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: One who is to the fruits of his work and who works as he is obligated, is in the renounced order of life, and he is the true mystic, not he who lights no fire and performs no duty.”3

He uttered this verse and said, “He is a real sannyassi”, and then gave him the sannyasa-mantra and danda.

Bhagavata dasa: After Gour Govinda Swami took sannyasis and Governing Body Commissioner started complaining, “How has he taken sannyasa? He’s a new man!” then Prabhupada told them, “He is a devotee from his birth, you are new mean!”

Whilst in Vrndavana on the day of the opening of the Krsna-Balarama Temple, Srila Prabhupada spoke to Gour Govinda Swami about the Bhubaneswar land. He said, “IS the land the same as the land in Vrndavana—Ramana-reti—is it the same as Vrndavana?” and Gour Govinda Swami replied, “Yes!” So Srila Prabhupada said, “Then call the temple that you are to build in Bhubaneswar Krsna-Balarama Temple.”

He also said to Gour Govinda Swami, “If anyone comes to you for help, don’t refuse them!” Many years later, Srila Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja said in this regard, “I cannot refues, but I can only give spiritual help; I cannot give material help.”

After Gour Govinda Swami had taken sannyasa he went to the temple at Hyderabad and then from there he went on to Bhubaneswar alone. Whilst in Hyderabad he wrote to Srila Prabhupada about going to Bhubaneswar. The reply was as follows:

20th November 1975,


My dear Gaura Govinda Swami,

Please accept my blessings. I am in due receipt of your letter dated 15/11/75 and have noted the contents. So if you think your presence is required in Bhubaneswar, then you can go there for necessary action. I am going to Vrndavana, so you can come and meet me at Vrndavana and from there you can go to Bhubaneswar.

I hope this meets you in good health.

Your ever well-wisher,

A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami

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