Chapter 29 – Gour Govinda Maharaja an Exalted Personality

When Srila Prabhupada left Bhubaneswar so did most of the devotees. At that time an Oriya boy, Vaisnava dasa, was with me, but he has since left and another sannyasi who has now left also—just Bhagavata and myself were left
- His Divine Grace Srila Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja

Devadharma dasa was in Bhubaneswar from August 1976 to the time of the Mayapura festival in 1977. When Srila Prabhupada left with all the devotees for Mayapura, Devadharma remained there on his own. He was eager to stay with Gour Govinda Swami, but it was too isolated for him and living such an austere life was too hard for him, especially as he was more or less at that time living alone. He was just there by himself, and in his own words, “It became too difficult for me. Even though Srila Prabhupada told me to stay, still I found it impossible and I left as well. One day a bus load of German devotees arrived at the asrama, they were sankirtana devotees, they were heading for Mayapura so I packed my bags and went to Mayapura with them. I do not know how Gour Govinda Swami could tolerate those conditions for such a long time.”

Yet despite the difficult and primitive conditions, Gour Govinda Swami stayed on the land tolerating everything and co-operating with one and all (which, as will be seen, he did his whole life). Jayadharma dasa said many years later, in 1991, “Only Gour Govinda Swami could have stayed on the Bhubaneswar land; that was because he was such a great Vaisnava, he tolerated everything! Only a great Vaisnava could have stayed on the Bhubaneswar land and developed that great temple.”

Living in That Mud Hut

Bhagavata dasa: So then began our adventure here in Orissa, with Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja and myself living in that mud hut. Even though I was a young brahmacari half his age, still he treated me with great respect and allowed me to live with him side by side in his hut. Not to speak of half his age, I was less than half his spiritual advancement. Prabhupada told him that we would be co-presidents; therefore Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja treated me as an equal. That was his mercy and his humility.

During this time Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja shared many things with me. He would read from many different books, such as Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika, Hari-bhakti-vilasa and Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu. I could not read the Sanskrit, so he would read and explain it to me. He would describe who everyone in Caitanya-lila was in Krsna-lila. And then he would tell me about all the personalities in krsna-lila, what they were like, what they looked like and what they did. I began to appreciate my association with him and to appreciate how great a devotee he was.

R. dasa: I had come here (Bhubaneswar) with Bhagavata dasa. He was the president and he had asked me to come to stay in Bhubaneswar. So I came down here and while we were here some devotees from Lokanatha Maharaja’s bullock cart arrived—after the Mayapura festival 1977, Lokanatha had gone back to Delhi and they had come to Orissa. When they arrived in Bhubaneswar one of the bulls died, and they were stuck here for some time. So there was quite a collection of devotees who were resident, and there were a few passing through.

The Photograph and the Scorpion

After Bhagavata had assumed the presidency of the center, ISKCON Bhubaneswar, which was really just a hut in the middle of nowhere, he wanted to take a group photograph. So all the devotees collected outside the hut where Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja lived. Here he was translating in the place where he always was, day and night, and where he was waiting for all to assemble. As soon as everyone was there Gour Govinda Maharaja would come out and take his place in the photograph. The devotees had a large framed picture of Srila Prabhupada. Because there was no chairs around the temple or anything available to stand the picture on, the only thing that could be found was Gour Govinda Maharaja’s trunk, which he was using as a desk for translating. So Bhagavata asked Ravi and Atmatattva, two men from the bullock cart sankirtana party, to bring the trunk out so they could get everything ready. They were going to place a cloth over the trunk and have Srila Prabhupada’s picture on it. So they went into Gour Govinda Maharaja’s room, and as usual he was sitting there in front of the trunk translating. They said, “Excuse us Maharaja, we would just like to take the trunk to put the photograph on.” He immediately agreed and removed his things from the trunk, and as they picked it up and moved just one step away, there was a huge black scorpion on the ground beneath the trunk, at least five inches long, a very fat one. Some of the devotees there had never seen a scorpion before.

Gour Govinda Maharaja just sat there without moving, as if nothing was happening. This big scorpion obviously must have been resting under the trunk and immediately one of the devotees picked up a shoe and beat the scorpion killed it. To everyone’s amazement, Gour Govinda Maharaja was non-plussed; he was not affected at all. But everyone else was shocked that the scorpion could be sitting underneath the trunk—and such a big one as well. You very rarely see such big ones. Then everyone came outside for the photo, and after the photo, Gour Govinda Maharaja went into his hut and took up his translating work again.

Gour Govinda Maharaja Always Translating

The conditions on the Bhubaneswar land were austere; there was the hut and practically nothing else at all. The devotees had constructed in front of the hut a shelter made from wood and leaves. There were stakes driven into the ground—they were about seven feet high—and over the top of those they laid leaves and branches to give some protection from the sun. They would also sleep outside there because there was nowhere else to sleep.

According to many of devotees who were in Bhubaneswar at that time, the thing that stood out most was that Gour Govinda Maharaja was always translating. He never stopped. Many say that he would get up about 2:00 a.m. and would translate until mangala-arati (4.00 a.m.). Then either during mangala-arati or after he would take his bath. Then he would usually give a class for whatever guests were there from the nearby villages.

Just an Idea

Not only was there nothing on the Bhubaneswar land at that time, but the village of Nayapalli was just a fraction of the size it is now-a-days. But the local people would come to the ISKCON land. The people were attracted to Gour Govinda Maharaja.

After he had given the class he would greet the deities and take prasada, then he would go back to his translation. Many devotees who had been in Bhubaneswar at that time said later, “He translated all the time and then he would chant his rounds.”

All the construction planned for the land was just an idea. There was not even anywhere for all the devotees to sleep; they just had to sleep on the ground outside and for their ablutions they had to go into the fields. There was one pump working at the front, and a little later they constructed a temporary toilet, but that too was generally reserved for Gour Govinda Maharaja; everybody else just went to the fields.

What An Exalted Personality He Was

Bhagavata dasa: There was another incident which revealed to me how exalted he really was. Once we were having a discussion in the hut with two or three other god brothers and myself. One of the devotees mentioned that once someone had asked Prabhupada, ‘Are you a cowherd boy?’ Prabhupada answered, ‘I don’t know who I am. But I like cowherd boys.’ Another time someone asked Prabhupada if he was the incarnation of Vyasadeva, because he wrote all these books. Again Prabhupada answered, ‘I do not know, but it sounds nice.’ We asked these questions because we were not very advanced, but Prabhupada did not reveal this to us. In this way these two or three god brothers were discussing the subject of who Prabhupada was in his original svarupa. At that time Gour Govinda Maharaja had gone across the hut to the other end to get a drink of water. When he finished drinking his water—he always used to drink water in a sitting position—he stood up turned, looked at us and said, ‘Prabhupada is not cowherd boy! Prabhupada is a gopi!’ at that time I was looking right into his eyes. The way he said it and the way he looked, made me think, ‘He really knows.’

Bhagavata dasa: During the time I shared the hut with Gour Govinda Maharaja I began to notice what an exalted personality he was. Every morning he would be writing and translating. He would say his prayers, and his vow was that he would not eat until he had finished his translating and his chanting. This vow and his control of his senses impressed me very much. He inspired me greatly. He even did his own washing; he did not allow anyone else to wash his clothes.

Leave a Reply