Srila Bhakti Vaibhav Puri Maharaja
A Lifetime of Pure Devotion
Om Vishnupad Srila Bhakti Vaibhava Puri Goswami
Srila Bhakti Vaibhava Puri Goswami appeared in this world on January 26, 1913 in Fulta, a village situated 15 km from Berhampur in the Ganjam District, Orissa, India. His parents, Srimati Devi and Sri Damodara, named the second of four sons Nrsimha.
Srila Maharaj received his primary education from a teacher in Kutarsingi and his higher education in Surangi.
By the encouragement of his elder brother he attended Khalikote College in Berhampur. All members of his family were initiated in the Sri Sampradaya and were chanting the respective mantras and wearing the tilak of this Sampradaya. But Srila Maharaja refused to take initiation from any ‘ordinary’ family guru. He told his parents that he is waiting to meet an extraordinary saint, whom he would accept as his spiritual master.
He was of noble character from the beginning, truthful and devoid of envy, so naturally he was attracted to Mahatma Gandhi’s freedom movement and the non-cooperation movement of the 1930s. Due to his strong character he eventually became the leader of the local Freedom’s Fighter Association.
During that time he developed interest in the science of Ayurveda and decided to study it under the famous Ayurvedic doctor Sripad Madhusudana Sharma, who, by divine arrangement, happened to be an initiated disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada. After the Ayurvedic class, Srila Maharaja used to stay longer and discuss spiritual topics with his teacher such as Srimad Bhagavatam, the scriptures of the Gosvamis and the magazines and newspapers which were published by the Gaudiya Matha , like The Gaudiya, Dainik Nadiya Prakash etc. After successfully completing his studies he opened a charitable Ayurvedic hospital in Bhanjanagar and became known as Nrsimha Kaviraj. In this way by the influence of devotee association he developed the skills to cure both material and spiritual diseases.
Meeting his Spiritual Master
Having been repeatedly requested by his family, Srila Maharaja performed some austerity with the aim to find his spiritual master. In a divine vision he was told that he should go to Mayapur, where he will find his guru. At that time he had never left Orissa, so he did not know where this place called Mayapur could be. When he revealed his vision to his teacher, Sripad Madhusudana Sharma, he immediately understood, that Mayapur is the birth place of Sriman Mahaprabhu in Nadia district, West Bengal, and his guru will be Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada. His teacher immediately paid for tickets for both of them to travel to Mayapur, and in this way he came to the lotus feet of his Divine Master.
On August 3, 1936 on the appearance day of Sri Balarama, in Sridhama Mayapur Srila Maharaja received initiation from Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada who gave him the name Nrsimhananda das. After staying some days in the holy land of Mayapur Srila Maharaj and Madhusudana Sharma returned to Orissa.
But very soon after that, on January 1, 1937 Sripad Madhusudana Sharma received the news that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada had left this world. When Srila Maharaj heard this painful news he immediately fainted. Having met his spiritual master only once for a few days he had developed full faith and a deep relationship with him that manifest throughout his whole life. He unerringly very strictly adhered to the principles of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada.
Taking A Leadership Role
Seeing Srila Maharaja’s devotional attitude and expertise in understanding revealed scripture, his godbrothers advised him to join the Gaudiya Matha as a full time member. After doing so, he took charge of the management of the Gaudiya Math Temple in Madras and also in Kovur, Andhra Pradesh, the place where Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu met Srila Raya Ramananda. Under his guidance the temple was reconstructed, and a guest house and a prasadam hall were constructed.
Keeping very good relationships with all his godbrothers he served under the guidance of his seniors like Srila B. R. Sridhara Gosvami, Srila B. V. Tirtha Gosvami, Srila B. P. Keshava Gosvami, and others. In this way he spent many years faithfully serving in the Gaudiya Math, and in this he received the blessings of all Vaishnavas. He was known for being able to correctly answer any question on Srimad Bhagavatam for which he was awarded the title Bhagavat-acarya. He was also known for his skill in managing temples.
Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mission.
In 1966 he accepted the renounced order of life, sannyasa, from Srila B. S. Giri Maharaja and became known as Srila Bhakti Vaibhava Puri Goswami. In the same year he started his own mission which was previously called Sri Krishna Chaitanya Ashram at Rajamundrih , East Godavaree , Andhra Pradesh. Later on Srila Maharaj registered Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mission in 1987 at Sri Chaitanya Chandra Ashram, Ithota, Sri Jaganath Puri, Odisha. He served as the President, and His God bother Srila Bhakti Jivan Janardan Goswami served as Vice President. Srila Nityananda Brahmachary, Anandalilamaya vigraha das prabhu and all his God brothers joined with his preaching mission with full spirit. By his intensive continual preaching he established 22 temples in Puri, Vrindaban, Mayapur, and other important places in different parts of India.
Srila Maharaja had an intimate friendship with Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj, the founder-Acharya of ISKCON, whom he invited, along with his disciples, to attend the opening ceremony of the Vishakhapatnam temple in 1973. Srila Swami Maharaj came with 15 of his western disciples and stayed for 20 days. Even today, 45 years later, all these disciples remember the loving hospitality and affection shown by Srila Maharaja and the other devotees of the temple. As a consequence Srila Swami Maharaja invited Srila Maharaja to lay the foundation of the present ISKCON Chandrodaya Mandir in Sridham Mayapur. Srila Maharaj personally went down the pit, performed the puja, and installed a deity of Ananta Sesha with his own hand.
Preaching in the West
In 1992 Srila Maharaja became seriously ill. Finally he decided to leave this world and rejected all medical treatment. In a divine revelation the personification of the Supreme Lord’s pleasure energy, Srimati Radharani herself appeared to him and told him, that he should not go now, because he would have to take on important responsibility in the near future. On the order of Srimati Radharani he again accepted medical treatment and gradually recovered. After this, gradually more and more devotees from all over world approached Srila Maharaj for spiritual shelter and guidance that he selflessly offered for his remaining days.
Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja invited Srila Maharaj previously to come with him to the west to preach their Gurudeva’s message. But due to the heavy responsibility he had accepted in the Gaudiya Matha he could not fulfill the desire of his senior godbrother at that time. But later in 1997, at the age of 84 years he left India for the first time to preach the message of Divine Love around the world. By his open minded, simple hearted and affectionate nature he attracted hundreds and thousands of devotees in America, Mexico, and Europe. And by his impressive and realized Hari-katha he inspired them to chant the holy name of the Lord and perform devotional service to Hari, Guru and the Vaishnavas. By seeing his personal example of purity, devotion and humility even those who had lost their enthusiasm or faith became filled with devotional spirit again. Due to his self-controlled behavior he preserved his perfect physical health until old age, which allowed him to extensively travel around the globe from 1997 until 2005. Inspired by his preaching, temples and ashrams were established in Italy, Spain, Austria and Mexico.
Gradual Withdrawal from the External World.
Then in 2005 he retired from traveling abroad and after some time he gradually ceased from giving public lectures. His mood became more and more introspective and he lost interest of the external movements of this world. The last words he said in a public lecture were, “kirtaniya sada Hari” – always chant the holy name of the Lord. Although he was no longer speaking, his personal presence was strikingly effulgent, influential, and a great source of inspiration to whomever met him.
On March 3, 2009 during evening arati and congregational chanting of the Lord’s Name, Srila Maharaj fixed his eyes, heart and mind, on his Gurudev, Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada and left this world in his temple in Vishakhapatnam, to enter the eternal pastimes of his beloved Lord. The following day his transcendental body was put into samadhi in Chaitanya Chandra Ashram ,Ithota, Jagannath Puri, Odisha. His disciples held a great festival in his honor that lasted for thirteen days, and devotees from all over the world, and from many different missions, came to attend the function.
Srila Maharaja was the epitome of humility, compassion, truthfulness, and detachment from anything mundane. He exemplified service to the devotees, self-surrender, self-sacrifice and dedication to his spiritual master. He could not tolerate any offense against the devotees of the Lord. Being an exemplary Acharya he could apply the essence of the revealed scriptures according to time, place and circumstance, yet when he had to speak the truth he would not accept any compromise. He preached and practiced in the purest way, the message of Sriman Mahaprabhu and Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada. He had great love for chanting the holy name and speaking the glories of the Supreme Lord and His devotees, and while doing so, tears of ecstasy constantly flowed from his eyes. His knowledge and realization of the revealed scriptures were extraordinary. He showed all the symptoms of a perfect self-realized Mahatama, but he was free from even the slightest trace of pride. It is impossible to fully describe the depth of his transcendental qualities. His disappearance from this world has left a void in the Vaishnava community that cannot be filled.
By the influence of his extraordinary qualities, his disciples are conjointly preaching the message of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu all over the world. This is the ideal that he expected from his followers, and showed by his example, that the preaching should go on in a peaceful way, even in his physical absence.