The Disappearance Day of Sri Gopal Bhatta das Goswami
A part of the 1999 US Tour of His Divine Grace Om Vishnupada Paramahamsa 108 Sri Srila Bhakti Ballabh Tirtha Gosvami Maharaj
As part of the New York leg of His US tour, on 1 August 1999, the disappearance day of Sri Gopal Bhatta das Goswami, His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Ballabh Tirtha Maharaj, along with His spiritual associates, visited the ISKCON Mandir in Brooklyn. There, Srila Gurudeva and His entourage were warmly received with flower garlands and all appropriate paraphernalia by the Vice-president, Sri Kadacar das, and other enthusiastic devotees. The illustrious visitors then took darsana of the Holy Deities.
Leaving the Brooklyn temple, they made their way to Tompkins Square Park in downtown NYC, where rousing kirtana, loudly resonating the words of Narottama das Thakur's "Saparsad-bhagavad-viraha-janita-vilapa," ("Lamentation Due to Separation from the Lord and His Associates," from "Prarthana") along with chanting of the Holy Names of Sri Krsna, was led by Sri Bhuta Bhavana das. This took place with Srila Gurudeva at the very spot under the tree where, in the 1960's, Srila Prabhupada (His Divine Grace Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaj) had initially disseminated His message of Krsna Consciousness to the West. After the exhilarating kirtana was finished, Srila Gurudeva gave an eloquent and spiritually insightful speech in the way that only He can. In a mood of intense devotion, He elucidated the significance of this special day, the disappearance of Sri Gopal Bhatta das Goswami. The highlights of this speech are as follows:
"On a day such as this, one should pray for the mercy of the Vaisnavas. It is the injunction of the sastras that we should do this on both the appearance and disappearance days of saintly persons. These days are full of spiritual potency. Sri Gopal Bhatta das Goswami, one of the six Gosvamis is in fact, in Krsna-lila, the Gopi Ananga-Manjari. He appeared at Ranganatha Dhama at the house of Venkata Bhatta in South India. Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu Himself stayed at Venkata Bhatta's house for a period of four months, profoundly influencing Sri Gopal Bhatta das Goswami. Sri Gopal Bhatta das Goswami eventually went to Vrindavana where, among His many spiritual achievements, He obtained the Saligrama Sila from the Gandaki River in Nepal and established the Radha-Ramana Temple in Vrindavana."
Srila Gurudeva then recited "Sad Gosvami Astakam" and gave an explanation of its significance. He stated that it is our duty to remember Sri Gopal Bhatta das Goswami on the day of His disappearance. He said, "We may not have seen Sri Gopal Bhatta das Goswami directly, but we have seen our Gurudeva (His Divine Grace Nityalila Pravistha Om Visnupada Paramahamsa 108 Sri Srila Bhakti Dayita Madhava Gosvami Maharaj), Who is His Absolute Counterpart. Therefore, today we pray for the mercy of Srila Gurudeva. We pray that He may forgive our offenses, and that we may attain the rare opportunity of service to His Lotus Feet. We also fervently pray for the mercy and service of His Istadeva, Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu."
Seeing His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Ballabh Tirtha Maharaj speaking "Hari-katha" with the people from the park gathered round to listen was like traveling in a time machine to those earlier years, when Srila Prabhupada had first initiated the Krsna Consciousness movement in the West. One could clearly see the ongoing indestructible nature of Sampradaya. Even though different gurus have their own individual personalities, in a certain respect, they are one. Via the medium of these direct representatives of the serving aspect of Sri Bhagavan, the divine message of Sri Krsna goes on throughout time, unchanged, for the welfare of all living entities.
It is worth noting that in the 1960's, when His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Ballabh Tirtha Maharaj was still known as Sri Krsna Ballabh Brahmacari, He met His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktvedanta Svami Prabhupada at the Damodar Mandir in Vrindavana. At that time, Srila Prabhupada delineated His plan to go and preach in the West, and asked Sri Krsna Ballabh Brahmacari to accompany Him. Sri Krsna Ballabh Brahmacari explained, with great humility and deference, that He could not do so, as He had the instructions of His own Guru Maharaj to follow, along with many responsibilities deputed to Him within His own Math. In 1997, Srila Gurudeva's siksa guru, His Divine Grace Om Visnupada Paramhamsa 108 Sri Srila Bhakti Pramode Puri Gosvami Maharaj, gave Him the order to go to the West, as He Himself could not make the journey. He was advised to continue preaching to the western world the message of Divine Love of Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu, as put into motion by His predecessor, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Svami Prabhupada.
In His lectures, Srila Bhakti Ballabh Tirtha Maharaj sometimes can be heard to say that He requests His siksa guru , A. C. Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaj, to forgive Him for not having been able to accompany Him to the West, due to His other responsibilities. Srila Gurudeva is among the most spiritually elevated personalities of His time, or any other time, and is the President/Acarya of Sri Caitanya Gaudiya Math. He exemplifies by this demonstration of humility, the true nature of the bonafide acarya. We should follow the example of Srila Bhakti Ballabh Tirtha Maharaj and, with sincerity, adopt this position of utter respect and humility toward all great spiritual personalities. The behavior of the acarya is always for the benefit of the fallen souls, and in accordance with the will of Bhagavan Sri Krsna.
On this special day, following Srila Gurudeva's example and instructions, we offer our most humble dandabat pranams at His Lotus Feet, at the Lotus Feet of Sri Gopal Bhatta das Gosvami and to all the Vaisnavas.
Humbly submitted by,
Vrinda devi dasi
1 August 1999