Sridhara Deva Gosvami

Apr 9 2002 - Krishna Talk 26

Question: There has been some discussion on the use of the honorific title 'Deva' as in the name of Srila B.R. Sridhara Deva Gosvami Maharaja, to the extent that some parties say that it is appropriate, while others say that it is not. Could you please say something that would shed some light on this topic?

Answer: According to the tradition of the Gaudiya sampradaya we cannot find fault with the honorific title 'Deva' as in the case of an extremely advanced and revered Vaisnava such as Srila B.R. Sridhara Deva Gosvami Maharaja.

The name 'Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Deva Gosvami Maharaja' was printed on the covers of and in many books of Srila Sridhara Maharaja, such as 'Bhagavad-gita,' 'Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu,' 'Sri Kirtana Manjusa,' 'Prema-dhama-deva-stotram,' 'Sri Guru and His Grace,' 'Search for Sri Krsna Reality the Beautiful,' 'The Golden Volcano of Divine Love,' 'Loving Search for the Lost Servant,' 'Sermons from the Guardian of Devotion' and more. All this was done in the living presence of Srila Sridhara Maharaja and was approved by him. To say, as some persons have said, that the suffix 'Deva' is an insult to such a great acarya as Srila Sridhara Maharaja has no real basis and is obviously false.

The root of the word 'deva' is 'diva' meaning lustrous or shining brightly. Another meaning is 'to play or to sport.' The suffix 'deva' in fact is quite common in the Gaudiya sampradaya and is used in such names of the Supreme Lord and His devotees as; Govindadeva, Baladeva, Gaurangadeva, Purusottamdeva, Sukadeva, and Gurudeva, etc.

As a prefix 'deva' has also been in use among the brahmana community in India for many centuries to designate a person with divine characteristics -- in the case of Srila Sridhara Maharaja divine characteristics and especially, divine intelligence. So either as a prefix or a suffix the use of the title 'Deva' may be considered appropriate.

Both the Gaudiya tradition and the Sanskrit rules of grammar harmonize and support the use of the word 'Deva' as an honorific title for great Vaishnavas and saintly persons.

Another example of the use of the word 'Deva' is found in the guru-pranam prayer to our Guru Maharaja, Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Svami Prabhupada. There it is written, namaste sarasvate deve. Here the words 'Sarasvati' and 'Deva' are joined together under the Sanskrit rule of grammar known as 'samasa.' Thus 'Deva' becomes 'deve', 'Sarasvati' becomes 'Sarasvate' and the first 'a' in 'Sarasvate' becomes long. Thus the meaning of 'namaste sarasvate deve' means, 'I offer my respects unto he who belongs to, or is a servant of 'Sarasvati Deva.'

The pranam prayer, 'namaste sarasvate deve…' was written personally by our Guru Maharaja for his disciples to chant. So at least for those who profess to be followers of Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Svami Prabhupada, the use of the word 'Deva' in glorifying one's guru may be deemed appropriate.

Some persons may say that 'Deva' refers to the Demigods, but to such persons we say, Krsna is the 'Deva' of such 'Devas,' deva-deva jagatpate -- Krsna is the God of Gods. Indeed, even the Supreme Lord Himself is known as 'Deva' so how can it be a demeaning title?

In the Kama-gayatri we find, kama-devaya vidmahe. In the Damodara-gayatri we find, 'tanno devah pracodayat' and in the Gadadhara-gayatri we also find 'tanno devah pracodayat.' In each of these instances 'deva' indicates the Supreme Lord or His Internal Energy (as in the case of Gadadhara Pandita).

In Caitanya-lila Gadadhara Pandita represents the guru-tattva for those devotees following in the madhurya-rasa. This is another bona fide reason why Srila B.R. Sridhara Maharaja may be addressed as 'Deva' because he has revealed the hidden treasure of madhurya-bhava (parakiya-rasa) in Bhagavad-gita (Chapter 10 Verses 9 & 10) and also he has revealed Radha-dasyam (the service of Sri Radha) in the heart of Gayatri-mantra (Gayatri Nigudhartha).

In the Brahma-gayatri we find the words, 'bhargo devasya dhimahi'. Srila Sridhara Maharaja has given the meaning thus, 'Bhargo represents Mahabhava (Srimati Radharani) the predominated Moiety,and deva, Krsna, is Rasaraja, the predominating Moiety……Deva means 'who is beautiful and playful,' that is Krsna Reality the Beautiful. He is not a non-differentiated substance, but is full of lila, pastimes. Deva means pastimes and beauty combined, and this means Krsna.'

So we may also understand the word 'Deva' to mean one who reveals wonderful pastimes of love, that is Krsna. Since Srila B.R. Sridhara Deva Gosvami Maharaja is that divine personality who has revealed the hidden wealth of the Brahma-gayatri, revealing that ultimately Gayatri worships Srimati Radharani, he is therefore highly qualified to be honored with the title 'Deva'. 'Deva' means one who manifests pastimes of love to attract the hearts of His pure devotees. The Gayatri has sprung from the flute song of Sri Krsna and it is attracting the pure devotees to serve Him in various transcendental moods of loving devotional service.

Srila Sridhara Deva Gosvami Maharaja is that empowered personality in the Gaudiya sampradaya who has shown us the hidden most truth in Gayatri and connected that to that which lies in the heart of Srimad Bhagavatam, radha-dasyam:

gayatri-muralista-kirtana-dhanam radha-padam dhimahi
gauatri-gaditam mahaprabhu-matam radha-padam dhimahi
dhir-aradhanam-eva nanyad-iti-tad-radha-padam dhimahi

(See Sri Gayatri Mantrartha Dipika, Chapter 2 and 3 for translation and full explaination).

The purport of Gayatri has never before been so clearly revealed as in the commentary 'Sri Gayatri Nigudartha' by Srila B.R. Sridhara Deva Gosvami Maharaja. This is the first time such has been fully revealed since the Gaudiya sampradaya began. Therefore 'Deva' (a saintly person) as his title is quite appropriate.

One who is expert in revealing the innermost plane of the domain of the Lords' confidential pastimes as is condensed in Gayatri is certainly worthy of such a title as 'Deva.' Not only is his purport of Gayatri taking us to the Lord's lila, but Srila Sridhara Maharaja has also concisely manifest Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's divine lila in his Sanskrit composition, 'Prema-dhama-deva-stotra.'

Srila Sridhara Maharaja has begun 'Prema-dhama-deva-stotra' with the words, 'deva-siddha-mukta-yukta-bhakta-vrnda-vanditam' and he has sung in each of the seventy verses, 'prema-dhama-devam-eva-naumi gaura-sundaram'. Srila Sridhara Maharaja is therefore recognized as 'Deva' because he has expertly sung the glories of the Supreme Lord, the Golden Avatara, Sri Caitanyadeva.

These are a few of the reasons why the title 'Deva' is appropriate in the case of Srila B.R. Sridhara Deva Gosvami Maharaja. However, some obstinate persons may not be satisfied with the above. Therefore, we requested one of our sannyasis to go to Navadvipa Dhama last week to speak with Sripada Govinda Maharaja, the successor of Srila Sridhara Maharaja at Sri Caitanya Sarasvata Matha and to ask him about the use of 'Deva' in Srila Sridhara Maharaja's name. Sripada Govinda Maharaja commented that in the last years of Srila Sridhara Maharaja's life that he used to sign letters and other papers as Sridhara Deva Gosvami.

So either from the ontological point of view or from the practical point of view, it seems that 'Deva' is an appropriate title for Srila Sridhara Maharaja, one used and approved by him personally.

We should stop to think for a moment. Who is Srila Sridhara Maharaja? What is his position in the Gaudiya sampradaya? According to those who were advanced disciples of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura such as Srila Bhakti Pramoda Puri Gosvami, Srila Sridhara Maharaja was the possessor of the divine grace of Paramaradhya Sri Srila Prabhupada, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. In the words of many of his Godbrothers, encluding our Guru Maharaja, Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Svami Prabhupada, Srila Sridhara Maharaja was their siksa-guru. In the words of many he was the Guardian of Devotion and the keeper of life's ultimate goal, Krsna-prema. He was considered by many to be the keeper of the Rupanuga sampradaya, the keeper of the line of Sri Rupa Gosvami.

In his own words Srila Sridhara Maharaja wrote as follows:

lila-samgopa-kale nirupadhi-karuna-karina svaminaham
yat padabje 'rpito yat pada-bhajanamayam gayayitva tu gitam
yogyayogyatva-bhavam mama khalu sakalam dusta-buddher agrhnan
a sri-rupah kada mam nija-pada-rajasa bhusitam samvidhatte

"Just prior to the withdrawal of his manifest lila, my causelessly merciful Divine Master, Srila Sarasvati Thakura, handed me over to the holy feet of that Divine Personality (Sri Rupa Gosvami) by having me sing the glorious prayer unto his lotus feet (Sri Rupa-manjari-pada). Despite my lowliness, when will — disregarding all my various qualifications and disqualifications — Srimad Rupa Prabhu grace me with the dust of his holy lotus feet?"(Sri Prapanna-jivanamrtam, Srimad Rupa-pada-rajah Prarthana Dasakam, verse 10)