Srila Giri Maharaja “A Stage of Devotion”

There is a stage of devotion when the necessary, knowledge comes from within, automatically, revealed from the heart.

Sometimes jñāna, that knowledge necessary, can come from within. There is a stage of devotion when the necessary knowledge comes from within, automatically, revealed from the heart. There is a stage of bhakti where things occur in this way, through revelation you can know what is what. Without studying, by internal supply, caitya-guru, sometimes knowledge about devotion may come to us, generally by hearing from the lips of the devotees.

The Kṛṣṇa, the Vṛndāvana, that is not in want of knowledge. That is not want of grandeur and awe, what is found in Vaikuntha. It is there, but when this ānanda takes the better part of cit, caitan, then it is said that ‘don’t try much through knowledge.’ Sat, cit, ānanda, cit, caitan, to know. By knowing we cannot have anything and everything, by the faculty of knowing and understanding. But the real thing comes automatically to us by service. And that is also a sort of knowledge, department of knowledge, and that is automatic.

—Srila Sridhara Maharaja, 82.11.03.B

Srimati Lila Sundari Devi received Hari Nama initiation from Srila Govinda Maharaja about thirty three years ago (1988) by me as his rtvik. In 1993 during the time of Srila Govinda Maharaja’s first visit to our Math she received mantra diksha directly from His Divine Grace.

From the earliest time, even before her first initiation, she has been an unwavering servitor of Srila Govinda Maharaja, our Math, Deities and Mission and, at all times, our principal brahmachari. One may ask how a lady may be regarded as a brahmachari. One answer could be: the same way a married man can be known as a brahmachari, as Srila Sridhara Maharaja told us Arjuna was. A more exacting answer is this: one who follows the practices of brahmachaya may be known as a brahmachari, as with Srimati Devahuti who was given this instruction by her son Lord Kapiladeva:

ahiṁsā satyam asteyaṁ
yāvad-artha-parigrahaḥ
brahmacaryaṁ tapaḥ śaucaṁ
svādhyāyaḥ puruṣārcanam

One should practice nonviolence and truthfulness, should avoid thieving and be satisfied with possessing as much as he needs for his maintenance. He should abstain from sex life, perform austerity, be clean, study the Vedas and worship the supreme form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

From the Purport:

A brahmacārī practices celibacy, controlling his sex life. One cannot enjoy unrestricted sex life and practice yoga; this is rascaldom. So-called yogīs advertise that one can go on enjoying as one likes and simultaneously become a yogī, but this is totally unauthorized. It is very clearly explained here that one must observe celibacy. Brahmacaryam means that one leads his life simply in relationship with Brahman, or in full Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Those who are too addicted to sex life cannot observe the regulations which will lead them to Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Sex life should be restricted to persons who are married. A person whose sex life is restricted in marriage is also called a brahmacārī.

—Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja, ŚB 3.28.4

In 1991, while still living with her parents, Lila Sundari Devi made a substantial contribution to Srila Govinda Maharaja’s first world tour, even though she was unable to attend any of the events surrounding his visit to the United States, which took place in California and Florida.

She took up residence in the Math shortly afterwards.

In 1994, during Srila Govinda Maharaja’s second visit here she received this recognition from him “She is my guru. Yes, because her devotional mood is worshipable by me.” During that same time she won an argument between us regarding the worship of the gunja-mala. The govardhana-śilā and mala had miraculously come to me in 1983. Since that time I worshipped them together seeing the gunja-mala to represent the shelter of Srimati Radharani.

CC Antya 6.307

“śilā diyā gosāñi samarpilā ‘govardhane’
guñjā-mālā diyā dilā ‘rādhikā-caraṇe’ ”

“By offering me the govardhana-śilā, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu has offered me a place near Govardhana Hill, and by offering me the garland of conchshells, He has offered me shelter at the lotus feet of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī.”

Sometime in 1993 during one of my pilgrimages to India for the darshana of Srila Govinda Maharaja I had discussions with him about the worship of Govardhana-shila with gunja-mala.  He told me that had not been the practice during the time of Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakura. Govardhana-sila was worshiped alone, without gunja-mala. Hearing this brought pain to my heart but — perhaps being a fanatic to my guru — I became resolved to separate the gunja-mala from the worship of Sri Giriraja.

When I returned to our Math in New Jersey I informed Lila Sundari Devi of what I had heard from Srila Govinda Maharaja and my determination to follow the ‘correct practices’ of our line. This greatly disturbed her. Seeing govardhana-shila as Krishna and the gunja-mala as Srimati Radharani, she could not bear to see Them separated. We had a fierce argument over the matter. By sheer force, rather than persuasion, I prevailed, leaving her tearful and crying.

When Srila Govinda Maharaja came for his visit in 1994 she brought the matter up to him. Tearfully she pleaded her case to him. While I was waking the Deities in the morning he asked me to explain why I had taken the decision I had. I reminded him of our discussions in India on the matter. I thought he would appreciate the logic of my decision and be pleased with me that I had decided to strictly follow the practices of our parampara, even though it was painful for both myself and Lila Sundari Devi. I was very surprised by his answer which was along this line: “We cannot dismiss the feelings of a devotee.” I was shocked to hear this. On my side (the side of righteousness) were the direct instructions on the matter given to me personally by Srila Govinda Maharaja. On the other side was what I thought must be emotion in the place of devotion. On both sides were the saving grace of Srila Govinda Maharaja. His new directive not only served to edify my thinking but also give relief to both parties to the argument by allowing for the reuniting of the gunja-mala with our govardhana-shila which we could now continue to worship together.

I present the above history and anecdote to highlight the point being made by Srila Sridhara Maharaja made in the quotation above: “Sometimes jñāna, that knowledge necessary, can come from within.” If Lila Sundari Devi engages in study of our shastra, I have not seen it. She learned something from attending classes and listening to recordings but that too is limited. She is a very simple vaishnavi who I doubt one would expect to see at the forefront of our preaching efforts. And yet I have been very surprised to hear how nicely she can preach when, from time to time, I hear her doing so. I have heard her explain the philosophical basis for Krishna Consciousness very nicely and sometimes wondered how it was possible she knew so much, so well. And then there are are the times she has defeated my arguments causing me to feel inept and remembering Srila Gurudeva’s words “She is my guru.” Seeing her remarkably unshakeable devotion and service to Sri Sri Guru Gauranga Gandharvika Giridharijiu, now for more than three decades, I am left with this conclusion: “Sometimes jñāna, that knowledge necessary, can come from within.”

That idea came to me again recently when I read her composition for the card she prepared for our observance of Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s disappearance. It is my hope that by presenting it herewith devotees will be likewise appreciative and bestow their blessings upon me so that my hard heart may be softened, and upon her for that is the means for attaining true happiness.

Srimati Lila Sundari Devi’s card presented on the occasion of the observance of Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s Tirobhava, Aug. 8, 2021

Text version—

August 8, 2021

On the occasion of the Tirobhava of His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Rakshaka Sridhara Deva Goswami Maharaja

Your Divine Grace,

All your devotees are crying in great separation due to your disappearance.

We realize we are nothing without you. We, being shallow hollow shells, can simply weep; and only dry tears come out!

We are yours always.

What the previous gurus spoke of on the subject of disappearance is the guru snatches the devotee and places them in the proper place, a better place, where Krishna Consciousness is abounding and service is available in droves.

We love you and try always to remember you accordingly.

Love,

Lila Sundari Devi
Bhakti Kanan Giri Maharaja
Your devotees, family and friends.