The Unique Contributions of Srila Sridhara Maharaja

Aug 5 2013 - Krishna Talk 163

(On the occasion of the disappearance of His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Deva Gosvami Maharaja, we present the following article that was originally written by Srila Narasingha Maharaja for the publication, "Encounters WIth Divinity")

One can easily understand the greatness of an individual by the acts he performs or by the contributions that he makes to society. The glories of Srila Sridhara Maharaja are many and they are all deep like an ocean of transcendental nectar.

Srila Sridhara Maharaja was not a mundane welfare worker that sought to uplift the bodily condition of a fallen man or that of many fallen and diseased men. Quite to the contrary – the contribution of Srila Sridhara Maharaja was to uplift all of humanity to the spiritual platform of Krsna consciousness, a rare contribution indeed.

The words of Srila Sridhara Maharaja, both on audio tapes and in book format, are perhaps one of the greatest theological treasures of the 20th century. When the transcendental vibration from his lips enters the heart of a sincere seeker of truth, one immediately feels the fulfillment of the innermost hankering of the heart – we want Krsna and nothing else.

To compile the complete list of Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s glories is not possible, but to speak of some of them in terms of what he has said and what he has written is a purifying, and an enlightening experience.

Sri Sri Prabhupada-padma Stavaka

Sri Sri Prabhupada-padma Stavaka is a song of eleven verses composed by Srila Sridhara Maharaja that eulogizes the transcendental personality of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada. This song is so revered and appreciated by the disciples and grand-disciples of Sarasvati Thakura that it is sung daily in virtually all the Gaudiya Mathas.

The concluding line to each of the eleven stanzas, pranamami sada prabhupada-padam (I eternally offer my obeisances to that wonderful effulgence that emanates from the radiant lotus toetips of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada) is so sweet that it has become the hallmark of remembering that great acarya of the Gaudiya firmament.

Srimad Bhaktivinoda-viraha Dasakam

The ten verses of Bhaktivinoda-viraha Dasakam (expressing deep separation from Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura) were greatly appreciated by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada who commented that, “Sridhara Maharaja has caused Thakura Bhaktivinoda to appear in those verses.”

One of the favorites of the Bhaktivinoda-viraha Dasakam is the ninth verse that represents the ontological line of the inner substance of Krsna consciousness:

“What was sanctioned by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu by His descent, was intimately known only to Sri Svarupa Damodara Gosvami. Sanatana Gosvami, the elder brother of Sri Rupa Gosvami, was attentive to that divine truth, and Rupa Gosvami himself served that very thing with his own hands to the devotees. Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami tasted its sweetness and also added something of his own to its flavor. (He was assisted in doing so by Raghunatha Bhatta Gosvami and Gopala Bhatta Gosvami.) What was distributed and tasted by Raghunatha Dasa was protected by Sri Jiva Gosvami, who lent support to its divinity with scriptural evidence. The taste of that divine truth is aspired after by Sri Sukadeva Gosvami, Lord Siva, and Lord Brahma who regard it from a little distance with the highest respect. What is that inconceivable ambrosia? The sublime sweet nectar of the mellows relished in the service of Srimati Radharani’s holy lotus feet. O Bhaktivinoda Thakura, within this world, you fully possess the ability to give us that extraordinary nectar.”

Sri Sri Prema-dhama-deva Stotram

Sri Sri Prema-dhama-deva Stotram is a concise description of the lila of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu composed in the Sanskrit tunaka metre that represents the dancing rhythm of spiritual delight. The verses of Prema-dhama-deva Stotram are based on Caitanya-caritamrta and other authorized writings about Sri Caitanya. It describes Sri Caitanya as Sri Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Divine Truth, permeated with the mood (bhava) and complexion (kanti) of His supreme pleasure potency, Srimati Radharani. Sri Caitanya is portrayed as the unlimited ocean of ecstatic love of Krsna.

This stotra describes some of the most predominant aspects of Sri Caitanya’s divine personality. His transcendental characteristics (aprakrta-vaisista), qualities (guna), beauty (rupa), charm (akarsana), compassion (karuna), generosity (audarya), power (tejas), forgiving nature (ksama-silata), magnanimity (mahattva), wisdom (prajnana), conviction (visvasa), determination (drdha-sankalpata), self-contentment in ecstatic love for Krsna (svanubhavananda), all-encompassing kind love for others (sarvajive daya), limitless ecstatic love for Krsna (krsna-prema-dhama-rupa), and His compassionate sharing of that divine love ecstasy with others (maha-vadanya-krsna-prema-pradatrtva).

Prema-dhama-deva Stotram is highly regarded for its siddhantika content and especially for its mellow sweetness that transports the listener to the realm of loving devotional service of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Paramahamsa Sri Niskincana Krsna Dasa Babaji Maharaja, a dear friend and godbrother of Srila Sridhara Maharaja, used to say of this stotra that he found in it the very presence of Sri Rupa Gosvami Prabhupada, the leader of our sampradaya.

Sri Sri Prapanna-jivanamrtam

Sri Sri Prapanna-jivanamrtam is, as the title indicates, the life nectar of the surrendered souls and leads its readers to positive and progressive immortality. Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s introduction reads as follows:

“The substance expressed within the ten chapters of this holy book called Prapanna-jivanamrtam gives life to the surrendered souls, effecting their eternal growth and nourishment. It is the panacea of the heart and spiritual senses, bestowing those dedicated devotees with mutual happiness by the ever-increasingly newer and newer play of supra-mundane joy (aprakrta-rasa). Lord Krsna and His associates are portrayed in their natural pastimes of separation and union, and the line of unconditional surrender as established by scriptures and saints has been elucidated.”

The doctrine of saranagati (surrender) is at the heart of Gaudiya Vaisnavism – indeed, it is the indispensable necessity in the life of a devotee. In Prapanna-jivanamrtam, Srila Sridhara Maharaja has complied an anthology of verses in the chapter Words of Nectar from the Devotees, delineating the six processes of surrender. Here the processes of anukulyasya sankalpa (acceptance of the favorable), pratikula-vivarjjanam (rejection of the unfavorable), raksisyatiti visvasah (confidence in the Lord’s protection), goptrtve-varanam (embracing the Lord’s guardianship), atma-niksepad (full surrender), and karpanyam (surrender in humility) are illuminated.  Prapanna-jivanamrtam also includes the chapter Words of Nectar from the Supreme Lord. Srila Sridhara Maharaja says:

“Herein, collected from the holy scriptures headed by Srimad Bhagavatam and Bhagavad-gita, are words of nectar directly from the lotus mouth of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This is the nectar to vanquish all sorrow and darkness for the souls surrendered to the lotus feet of Sri Krsna, and also for those aspiring for exclusive love for Krsna. It nourishes the lives of the devotees, pleasing their hearts by fulfilling all their cherished desires for devotional service.”

Concluding Prapanna-jivanamrtam, Srila Sridhara Maharaja writes, “Comprised of five nectars (pancamrtam) respectively entitled Upakramamrtam, Sri Sastra-vacanamrtam, Sri Bhaktavacanamrtam, Sri Bhagavad-vacanamrtam, and Avasesamrtam (Prelude to Approaching Nectar, the Nectar of Scriptural Words, Words of Nectar from the Devotees, Words of Nectar from the Supreme Lord, and the Remnants of Nectar), the supreme fruit that gives life to the devotees and delights their hearts has been served in this book.”

Sri Sri Gayatri-nigudartha

Garuda Purana states:

artho ‘yam brahma-sutranam bharatartha-vinirnayah
gayatri-bhasya-rupo’ sau vedartha-paribrmhitah

"The meaning of the Vedanta-sutra is present in Srimad Bhagavatam. The full purport of the Mahabharata is also there. The commentary of the brahma-gayatri is also there and fully expanded with all Vedic knowledge."

In his Sanskrit commentary on brahma-gayatri (Sri Gayatri-nigudartha), Srila Sridhara Maharaja has uncovered the steps leading the gayatri-mantra to the Srimad Bhagavatam. The conclusion is:

gayatri-muralista-kirtana-dhanam radha-padam dhimahi

"The gayatri, that has sprung from the flute sound of Sri Krsna, only sings the glories of Srimati Radharani."

gayatri-gaditam mahaprabhu-matam radha-padam dhimahi

"The highest and innermost instruction of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is to engage yourself in the service of the lotus feet of Srimati Radharani through sankirtana. Her lotus feet are to be your constant meditation."

Regarding the Gayatri-nigudartha of Srila Sridhara Maharaja, Srila Bhakti Pramoda Puri Gosvami has said:

“The explanation of brahma-gayatri, the mother of all Vedas, signifying devotional worship unto Srimati Radharani, sri radhanudhyana-para explanation, which was revealed in the depth of realization of Pujyapada Sridhara Deva Gosvami Maharaja, possessed with the divine grace of Paramaradhya Sri Srila Prabhupada (Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura) upon his head, is deeply appreciated by those fortunate, intelligent devotees who are aware of the relishable beauty of pure devotional service.”

Upon the transcendental appearance of Sri Gayatri-nigudartha from the pure heart of Srila Sridhara Maharaja the Vaisnava world of pure devotees rejoiced and danced in great ecstasy.

The Guardian of Devotion

The sannyasa title of Srila Sridhara Maharaja ‘Bhakti Raksaka’ means the Guardian of Devotion and this is something that Srila Sridhara Maharaja lived up to in every sense of the word. From our personal experience we can honestly say that were it not for the presence of Srila Sridhara Maharaja (after the disappearance of our Guru Maharaja, Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Svami Prabhupada) all would have been lost in darkness forever.

After the disappearance of Srila Prabhupada, many misunderstandings and deceitful practices crept in amongst our Guru Maharaja’s disciples. At a time of great unrest and confusion, Srila Sridhara Maharaja manifested before our eyes as the Guardian of Devotion and guided the devotees on the path to their greatest fortune.

As the keeper of the storehouse of life’s greatest treasure, Srila Sridhara Maharaja shared with us the unlimited wealth of Krsna consciousness and manifested before us many self-effulgent gems (unrivalled conceptions of Gaudiya siddhanta) to which he was heir. Many of those gems of theological conception have been presented in his books and have in time become sutras (simple phrases with a deep philosophical purport) in the English language. Some of those sutras are: The Search for Sri Krsna - Reality the Beautiful (the ultimate goal of life), Radha-dasyam (the service of Sri Radha), The Line of Sri Rupa, (the ontological position of Sri Rupa Gosvami), The Golden Volcano of Divine Love (the ecstatic manifestation of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu as the giver of love of Krsna), The Loving Search for the Lost Servant (Krsna’s loving search for His long lost servant), and pujala-raga-patha gaurava-bhange (the motto of the followers of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada that put forward the position to be taken by a devotee in the relativity of the Absolute).

Srimad Rupa-pada-rajah Prarthana-dasakam

Just prior to the withdrawal of his manifest lila, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada handed Srila Sridhara Maharaja over to the holy lotus feet of Sri Rupa Gosvami by having him sing the prayer Sri Rupa-manjari-pada. The ontological position of Srila Sridhara Maharaja became that of the storehouse keeper of life’s greatest gift, that of the position of the servant, of the servant’s servant, servant in the camp of Sri Rupa-manjari (sri-rupanuga-varga). His intense desire for the dust of the lotus feet of Sri Rupa Gosvami is beautifully expressed in his prayer, Srimad Rupa-pada-rajah Prarthana-dasakam.

Srila Sridhara Maharaja humbly considered himself as a gatekeeper of the highest conception of sri rupanuga-bhajana and endeavored unwaveringly throughout his life to be faithful to the ideal and teachings of his Divine Master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada.