Today is the disappearance day of pūjyapāda Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja. Nara means ‘human being,’ and ayaṇa means ‘shelter,’ and therefore when the sāstras mention the name Nārāyaṇa, it refers to a personality who is the true shelter of all living entities.
Pūjyapāda Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja was like my satīrtha (godbrother). In his early days, when he was staying in Mathurā, we were once sitting together. I told him, “Mahārāja, because you are from North India, you are very proficient in the Hindi language. It would be everyone’s great fortune if you were to go and preach everywhere in Hindi.”
Pūjyapāda Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja replied, “My health is not good at this time, and so I am unable to travel much.”
I asked him the details of his health, and after I had heard him, I said, “Please come to Kolkata, so that I may take you to a very qualified doctor there. After that, we can discuss preaching.”
Pūjyapāda Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja agreed, and he came to Kolkata during the time I was there. I personally took him to see the doctor, who had great respect for sādhus. The doctor would consider, “Sādhus are always engaged in bhajana. I do not want them to waste even a single moment waiting for me.” In this way, he would immediately tend to any sādhu who would come to him for treatment. After examining pūjyapāda Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja, he advised him to take only rice and raw banana sabjī, among other things.
A short time later, pūjyapāda Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja fully recovered, and he told me, “I will follow what you advised earlier; I will go everywhere and preach.” It was at that time that he started his preaching efforts.
Another time, pūjyapāda Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja and I attended a festival for the opening of Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Vaibhava Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s maṭha in Viśākhāpaṭnām, and we stayed together in the same room. The festival was attended by many senior Vaiṣṇavas.
A number of us had plans to go to Purī after the festival and stay in our Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha. Pūjyapāda Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja mentioned to me, “I also have a desire to go to Purī, but due to the state of my health, the accommodations at our Nīlacāla Gauḍīya Maṭha would be uncomfortable for me. Though I would like to go with you, I am unable to do so.”
I immediately told him, “There is no need to worry about such things. Please come with us and stay in our maṭha. We can arrange for whatever accommodations or facilities your health requires.”
Hearing this, he became pleased and said, “If that is possible, I will definitely go to Purī with all of you after this festival.”
Although my train ticket was reserved and I was set to travel with Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Pramoda Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja and other devotees, I started my journey one day before everyone else. Withholding the details, I told everyone that I had to leave early for some special reason. Then, with an unreserved ticket, I departed for Purī.
Because there were many devotees staying in our Purī maṭha, it was difficult to get a separate, private room. I thus removed all the luggage from my own room, cleaned it and then shifted to a room without an attached bathroom, keeping my room reserved for pūjyapāda Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja.
I knew that if Mahārāja were to see me clearing out my room for him, he would have been reluctant to stay there, and would have insisted me not to shift. It was to avoid such a situation that I departed a day early and, without his knowledge, prepared my room for his arrival so that he could stay there without worry.
I fondly remember a humorous interaction he had at that time with his sevāka, Navīna-kṛṣṇa Brahmacārī (now Śrī Bhaktivedānta Mādhava Mahārāja). Pūjyapāda Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja told Navīna, “Give me one more roṭī,” and Navīna replied, “No, no. No more roṭīs for you.” Pūjyapāda Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja then jokingly said, “If you refuse to give me another roṭī, then it will be vaiṣṇava-aparādha, because you will have disobeyed the order of a Vaiṣṇava.”
Whenever I see Mādhava Mahārāja, I always ask him, “Do you remember that incident?”
Pūjyapāda Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja once invited me to attend a festival at Śrī Keśavajī Gauḍīya Maṭha in Mathurā in observance of the disappearance day of Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja. After the glories of Śrīla Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja were spoken, all the Vaiṣṇavas sat together to honour prasāda, but pūjyapāda Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja wanted to wait until everyone had been served to their satisfaction before he himself honoured prasāda.
He asked me to sit, but I told him, “No. I will wait, so that we can honour prasāda together.” After all the assembled Vaiṣṇavas finished honouring their prasāda and got up from their seats, we sat down to honour prasāda in pūjyapāda Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja’s room.
Just as we were about to honour prasāda, one disciple of Śrīla Prabhupāda, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Prapanna Dāmodara Gosvāmī Mahārāja, arrived. Upon seeing Śrīla Dāmodara Gosvāmī Mahārāja, pūjyapāda Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja immediately got up from his seat and said, “Mahārāja, please sit for prasāda.”
Śrīla Dāmodara Gosvāmī Mahārāja replied, “I will certainly sit and honour prasāda, but only after taking bath. I will return shortly.”
After he left, pūjyapāda Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja turned to me and said, “Mahārāja, please honour prasāda now. It will be some time before I honour prasāda.”
I replied, “No, no. I will also wait for some time so that we may honour prasāda together.” In that way, after Śrīla Dāmodara Gosvāmī Mahārāja returned and honoured prasāda, pūjyapāda Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja and I honoured prasāda together.
From that time on, I always kept this exemplary conduct of pūjyapāda Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja in my heart. With my own eyes, I observed that the affection he exhibited for the Vaiṣṇavas was extraordinary, and the service attitude he maintained was unparalleled.
About fifty-five years ago, pūjyapāda Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja was staying in Govardhana for some months at the site where his Śrī Giridhārī Gauḍīya Maṭha now stands. At that time, he wrote me a letter, in which he said, “I am here in Govardhana, and I desire to dive deeply into the philosophy of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. I want to truly understand the gift Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmīpāda has given the world. Therefore, I request you to purchase and send Ujjvala-nilamaṇi and Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu from Kolkata, as they are not available here.”
Acquiring these books in those days was no small feat, as they had both been long since out of print. Somehow or other, I was able to purchase old, secondhand editions of the books, and I sent them to pūjyapāda Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja for his study. In his life, he always exhibited a deep interest in the writings of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmīpāda.
—Śrīla Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Mahārāja
Image/Art made possible by Pixabay.com