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Chapter 9: A Resident of Vṛndāvana
The passenger cars behind the locomotive moved forward almost silently. Thumping at a slow rhythm over the tracks, the train pulled out of the station-past freightyards, a neighborhood of run-down tenements, the old Delhi fort, the garbage dump at Nizamuddin with its hundreds of crows and vultures flying overhead, and then past a marble-domed red sandstone mosque. Seated in a third-class compartment, his luggage stored Beneath his seat, Abhay could see factory workers walking near the tracks, carrying their lunches in metal
It was the morning train to Agra, and there were few passengers. Abhay would be riding as far as Mathurā and then traveling by
He had been to Vṛndāvana several times. In his childhood reveries over the train timetables, it had been the first place he had thought of visiting. His first visit, in 1925, had been but a brief pilgrimage while he had been in nearby Agra on business. Then in 1932 Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī had been in Vṛndāvana on
The train passed through the dense thickets of Faridabad and into the agricultural fields, with their interspersed patches of wheat,
For a long time Abhay had wanted to take shelter in Vṛndāvana, and now there was no obstacle. His purpose remained the same: he would write
In moving to Vṛndāvana, Abhay was following his predecessor spiritual masters. Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī and Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura had had their house at Rādhā-kuṇḍa and had preached in Vṛndāvana. Gaurakiśora dāsa Bābājī, Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī, Viśvanātha Cakravartī, and Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura had lived either in Vṛndāvana or in Navadvīpa, near the birthplace of Lord Caitanya.
Lord Caitanya and His immediate followers had an especially intimate relationship with Vṛndāvana. Lord Caitanya had commissioned Rūpa Gosvāmī and Sanātana Gosvāmī to uncover the places of Kṛṣṇa's pastimes in Vṛndāvana that over the centuries had become lost. Rūpa and Sanātana had left their prestigious government posts and gone to live in Vṛndāvana. Dressed in simple loincloths, they had lived without fixed residence, staying each night under a different tree. They and Jīva Gosvāmī, Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī, Raghunātha Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī, and Gopāla Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī, known and worshiped as the six Gosvāmīs of Vṛndāvana, had compiled a voluminous literature on
Even those Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas who did not live in Vṛndāvana kept Vṛndāvana always in their hearts and proclaimed its glories. The
Vṛndāvana is the earthly manifestation of Lord Kṛṣṇa's eternal spiritual abode, which the Lord Himself describes in
Although Lord Kṛṣṇa's abode, Goloka Vṛndāvana, is far beyond the material world, when Kṛṣṇa comes to earth He displays His eternal abode in the Vṛndāvana of India. That eighty-four-square-mile tract in north India is identical with the eternal world in the spiritual sky.
To live and die in Vṛndāvana guarantees the devotee's transfer to the eternal spiritual world. The residents of Vṛndāvana, even the animals, are exalted; at the end of life they will transfer to Goloka Vṛndāvana. Lord Brahmā, therefore, prayed that he might take birth as a clump of grass on the outskirts of Vṛndāvana so that these pure devotees would purify him with the dust from their feet. And Vaiṣṇava
The train arrived at Mathurā. Abhay stepped down with his luggage and looked around, noting the recently constructed Mathurā Junction Building. Proceeding through the gate and out of the station, he found a
For half a mile the wobbling horse-drawn cart followed the road between the tracks and the railway yard. At the main road, they turned left, passed under a railroad bridge, and entered an open market. Piles of fruits, vegetables, and grains were displayed on the ground, their vendors sitting beside them, bartering and measuring while customers milled about. The women of Mathurā, dressed in brightly colored
The sun was high, but the
They approached the three-way junction: New Delhi, central Mathurā, Vṛndāvana. The driver struck the horse with his whip, and the
Although much had changed in Abhay's life since he had come here to see his spiritual master during the
The sight of taller trees signaled the precincts of Vṛndāvana, as the thin horse trotted along, past the police station and water trough for animals. On either side appeared the garden courtyards of private estates and
After stepping over the curbside drain and walking up three marble steps, Abhay entered the front door, the driver following him, carrying the luggage. Once inside, Abhay removed his shoes and entered the courtyard, which was open to the sky through a metal grate, on which a few birds sat two floors above. A column of sunlight lit one side of the courtyard, where a potted
Mahant Gopal, the temple
Gopal led Abhay upstairs. Coming out onto the roof, Abhay smiled to see again the wonderful vista. Barely a hundred yards away he could see the Yamunā, not only the immediate patch of water flowing before him, but to his left and right a broad curving sheet of river shimmering in the afternoon sun. There were sand deltas, herds of cows and buffalo grazing, the flat grassy banks of the Yamunā, and plains and trees as far as the eye could see. And in the opposite direction was the town of Vṛndāvana, marked by dozens of temple spires and domes.
Abhay's room, the only one on the roof, was small, with narrow double doors and barred windows. Sitting on the apartment's roof, monkeys with their tiny offspring sat watching, unalarmed. Just outside the door, a two-foot-high cement pyramid signified that the temple Deity was directly beneath. Abhay entered the room. Through the barred windows he could see the palace at Keśi-ghāṭa, the venerable tower of the Gopīnātha temple, and, beyond, the uninterrupted, flat river, the green banks, and the sky.
After acquainting Abhay with the details of the room-the small kerosene burner, the rope and bucket for drawing bathwater from the well to the roof-Gopal meticulously produced a government-stamped rental agreement. Abhay wrote a short paragraph, declaring himself a disciple of the late Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Prabhupāda and attesting to his renting the room at five rupees per month. Both parties signed.
After his bath, Abhay took
He returned to the roof as the sun was setting over the town of Vṛndāvana. Having the entire roof's walkway to himself, Abhay walked and chanted
As day turned to twilight, temple bells rang throughout the town. Abhay walked to the western side of the roof and looked into the city of thousands of temples. The Govindajī temple, the Raganātha temple, and thousands of smaller temples were having their
Abhay responded to the sights and sounds of Vṛndāvana as only a pure devotee could; his thoughts and emotions were full of appreciation and awareness of Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa's devotees, and Kṛṣṇa's land. Naturally he began to think of preaching, hankering for others to know the intimate peace and ecstasy of Vṛndāvana. Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of
Abhay thought of
The next morning, before sunrise, the residents of Vṛndāvana were austere, bathing in the Yamunā, performing
Keeping to his regular schedule, he put aside his writing and began chanting
It was light when he went out, his bead bag around his neck, a few copies of
Soon Abhay arrived at the Rādhā-ramaṇa temple, established almost five hundred years before by Gopāla Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī, one of Lord Caitanya's chief followers. Here residents of Vṛndāvana were coming and going according to their vows, following a strict schedule that allowed not a moment's delay, making their daily visit to various temples. Abhay entered and stood amidst a group of worshipers, viewing the Deity of Kṛṣṇa, Rādhā-ramaṇa. The Deity, wearing a fresh garland of flowers, His enchanting black form adorned with bright silks and jewels, appeared very opulent.
Knowing the priests of Rādhā-ramaṇa to be respected, learned Sanskritists, some of whom also read English, Abhay had brought with him a few copies of
Abhay then continued along Vṛndāvana's winding lanes to visit an other temple, Rādhā-Dāmodara. He passed old
Abhay would regularly visit Vṛndāvana's important temples, and afterwards he would shop, returning to his room around eleven with vegetables for cooking. Using the kerosene burner and a three-tiered cooker, he would cook rice, potatoes, and sometimes
Just before sunset, he would again go out visiting temples. At Keśi-ghāṭa he would pass by
When in the evening he walked through town, he would find himself amidst the vibrations of one
Even the greetings were
Commuting became difficult. He would take the morning train into Delhi and, having nowhere to stay, return to Vṛndāvana the same night. That didn't give him much time in Delhi, and it was expensive. At first he had stayed with Mr. Gupta, a pious gentleman who studied the
Even with his minimal personal expenses, it was difficult to raise enough in donations to cover traveling, printing, and mailing. Giving copies of
After his twelfth consecutive fortnightly edition, the issue for November 20, 1956, Abhay ran out of money. Mr. Jain had to throw up his hands, saying he couldn't print simply out of friendship. Abhay returned to Vṛndāvana, where he spent his time writing but with no plan for publication.
It was because people weren't interested in becoming Kṛṣṇa conscious-because they had "no time"-that
That was his outstanding asset-his faith in his spiritual master. He was sure that by following Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī, he would receive his blessings and the blessings of Lord Caitanya. Although for the last two years he had followed any path that had opened as far as it had led, he had remained one-pointed, aimed at serving the order of Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī. He was confident. Sooner or later he would obtain substantial backing, he would find a sympathetic audience, sincere workers would join him.
A letter came to Abhay in Vṛndāvana from his disciple, Ācārya Prabhākar Misra, and it gave Abhay an idea. Ācārya Prabhākar, who was in Bombay working as secretary of the Sanskrit Department at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, invited Śrīla Bhaktivedanta Prabhu to join him there for preaching together, just as in the old days. The founder-director of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan was Governor K. M. Munshi (the same governor whose wife had pressured Abhay to give up the Radha Memorial in Jhansi). But Ācārya Prabhākar, having recently established a friendship with the governor, intimated to Abhay that the governor might be willing to help. Thus in January 1957, after assuring Mahant Gopal that he would return and that he would send five rupees a month for his room, Abhay traveled to Bombay.
Ācārya Prabhākar got Abhay quarters in the faculty residence and introduced him to various scholars and religionists. They then attended a lecture by Governor Munshi, "What Is Wrong With the World?" Afterwards, Abhay approached the governor, expressing his appreciation of the speech, but stressing that it would take a
As Honorary Professor of
Then, along with other members of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Abhay attended the fifth annual convention of the World Academy of Sanskrit at Kurukṣetra (where five thousand years before, Lord Kṛṣṇa had spoken
Ācārya Prabhākar soon joined Abhay. As they talked together in Abhay's room at Vaṁśī-gopālajī temple, Abhay spoke again of his desire to revive the League of Devotees. After having recently seen the watered-down cultural programs in Bombay and Kurukṣetra, he felt even more keenly the need for a society of pure devotees. There were already so many cultural and religious organizations; if he liked he could join one. But where was that organization with which he could affiliate himself wholeheartedly? Only the League of Devotees espoused the conclusions of Lord Caitanya and Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī: vigorous, worldwide preaching of devotional service to Lord Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Abhay drafted "An Appeal to the Generous Public, Modern Philosophers, Leaders, and Religionists" on behalf of the League of Devotees. The activities of the League, he stated, would be to publish
Within a few days, Ācārya Prabhākar returned to his post in Bombay, and Abhay was again alone in Vṛndāvana. He loved Vṛndāvana, yet with no means to publish and preach, he was not content there. If he were to travel, he might be able to enlist members for the League. He thought of Kanpur, which was nearby, a city of more than one hundred big factories and many wealthy industrialists, some of whom he had met during his business travels. He decided to go. After printing some League of Devotee membership forms, he explained to Mahant Gopal that he would be away for a couple of months.
The Mahant was surprised. Although most elderly
Abhay preached actively in Kanpur, staying in various homes and canvassing for League members. As the guest of the Anandesvar Satsang Mandal, he lectured regularly at the popular Parmat bathing
After some months in Vṛndāvana, Abhay decided to go back to Bombay and preach. In Bombay, he quickly broke off his association with the stifling Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and moved out of the faculty residence there. Staying a week at a time in the homes of various patrons, he tried to generate interest in his missionary activities. When a friend of Ācārya Prabhākar's arranged for Abhay to address Sunday-evening crowds at a Bombay beach, Abhay accepted. Following already established custom, he sat on a cushion, and the people gathered-from five hundred to a thousand, sitting and listening-as he loudly spoke the philosophy of
But Abhay wanted to do more than deliver occasional lectures to uncommitted audiences. The conviction was growing within him that he should preach outside India. The idea, of course, had been there for some time. He had expressed it in his prospectus for the League of Devotees, before gatherings at the Radha Memorial in Jhansi, during his meeting at the Birla Mandir in Delhi, and on many other occasions. Informally he had expressed it hundreds of times to acquaintances. And he had woven his dream throughout his writings.
He was ready to travel anywhere if he could fulfill Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī's order to preach in English. In India the English-speaking population was small, so Abhay continued to dream of going to the West. If he could travel to Bombay, Delhi, and Kanpur, why not to London or New York, where millions spoke English and had never heard the message of Lord Caitanya? Writing to Mr. Ved Prakash, a Kanpur industrialist, Abhay explained his idea.
One way of expanding his way of preaching was to mail copies of
Abhay found that while the people of India's educated, cultured class were rejecting their own spiritual culture, the religiously inclined masses were being baffled by an array of conflicting, unauthorized doctrines presented in the name of Hinduism. An alarming example of this came to his attention as he was preaching in Bombay during the summer of 1958. "Bhagwat Week" was being publicized by a group whose teachings conflicted with the pure
Abhay warned that legal action could be taken against such a religious fraud. But Bhagwat Week continued, and hundreds were cheated.
While the professed followers of Vedic culture were being baffled in their allegiance, modern Westernized Indians were rejecting Vedic culture as backwards and irrelevant. There was Prime Minister Nehru, who wasn't at all spiritually inclined; he was for modernization and for what Abhay called "Made in London" ideas. At least Mahatma Gandhi, although he had never responded to Abhay's letters, had been spiritually inclined. But not so his follower, Pandit Nehru. Still, out of concern for the way India's leaders were rejecting their country's spiritual heritage, Abhay decided to write Pandit Nehru.
Although in Bombay Abhay was practically homeless, in August of 1958 he boldly wrote the prime minister, expressing his conviction that India's spiritual culture must not only be revived at home, but also be distributed to the West. He reminded Pandit Nehru that from ancient Greece down to the atomic age the Western world had seen only materialism and had therefore never known peace. If Nehru were to continue following the path of materialism, the only results would be strife and war.
Even without having been to the West, Abhay expressed his conviction that the Americans and even the Russians were hankering for spiritual realization; they could not have become satisfied merely with material advancement. Pandit Nehru, therefore, should help his friends in the West by offering them spiritual knowledge from India.
Back in the 1930s the Nehru family had bought their medicines from Abhay's Prayag Pharmacy, and Abhay now appealed to Pandit Nehru as an old friend from Allahabad. Just as Abhay had requested Mahatma Gandhi, he requested Nehru to leave his political responsibilities "and as a popular gentleman of the world, engage the rest of your life in this organised spiritual movement to make a real adjustment of western material science combined with Indian way of spiritual realisation." As with his letter to Gandhi, his letter to Nehru went unanswered.
Among Abhay's former Bombay contacts was Mr. Harbanslal, a landlord who had once assured Abhay that he would provide him lodging whenever he needed. In the summer of 1958 Abhay went to call on Mr. Harbanslal, only to find that he had gone to the West. When Abhay learned that Mr. Harbanslal was traveling not only on business but on a cultural mission, his imagination seized on the idea of an Indian on a cultural mission in the West. He wrote to Mr. Harbanslal, asking for a place to stay, but also presenting his own cultural mission. Abhay knew that many Westerners respected Indian culture. He had heard from his German Godbrother that although Indians who went to the West, especially to Germany, were well received, they were sometimes tested on their knowledge of Indian culture. So Abhay advised Mr. Harbanslal to teach the real conclusion of Indian culture as he traveled.
Clearly, Abhay would have liked to have gone himself.
Abhay also reminded Mr. Harbanslal of his promise to provide him with an apartment: "...I am passing my days in Bombay in great inconvenience for want of a suitable residential place." But the letter never caught up with the touring Mr. Harbanslal.
Wanting to go to the West as soon as possible, Abhay visited one of his Godbrothers in Bombay, Kṛpāsindhu, and asked him to help.
Kṛpāsindhu told Abhay of how the Gaudiya Math in Bombay had sometimes been assisted by a pious business magnate, Mrs. Sumati Morarji, head of Scindia Steamship Lines. Abhay tried to see her but was unable. He did, however, see one of Mrs. Morarji's employees, a deputy manager for the Scindia Company, who heard him out and, to Abhay's surprise, responded generously. Considering Abhay a genuine
Back in 1956 in Delhi he had been struggling and homeless. And now, as he considered his last two years of traveling out of Vṛndāvana, he felt that his position hadn't really improved; perhaps Kṛṣṇa didn't want him to succeed in this way. But one positive thing he had gained: determination to go to the West and preach. There he would surely meet with success.
Alone and poor, Abhay returned to Vṛndāvana. He was sixty-two, but he wasn't thinking of retiring. More than ever, his mood was reflective and renounced. Because few people knew him and because he wanted to write, he kept to himself.
He enjoyed deep peace as a resident of Vṛndāvana. Outside his window, the sacred Yamunā flowed by in a peaceful panorama for his private audience. The Keśi-ghāṭa neighborhood was quiet, though in the predawn he could hear a few devotees bathing and chanting. When the moon was full, the river seemed like a coolly resplendent jewel. And in the morning the sun would appear, like a red smudge, a fire burning through an opaque wall, at last bursting forth and clearing the entire sky, until in the hot blaze of noon, while the room would be in shadows, Abhay could see from his window a shimmering sun high in the sky and glittering across the silver sheet of the gentle river. Without so much as leaving his room, from his doorway he could see hundreds of temples clustered together for miles in the friendly town of Vṛndāvana. The various punctual
On the veranda Abhay could chant
Abhay lived frugally in Vṛndāvana, keeping exact account of every expenditure and every receipt. He carefully kept a ledger, just as if he were running a substantial business, even though his purchases were only a little milk, a few vegetables, charcoal for cooking, bus rides, and his major expenditure, postage.
Abhay composed a Bengali poem, "Vṛndāvana-bhajana." Its opening stanzas were especially self-reflective and personal.
In this mood I am getting many realizations.
But I have no money, so they are a fruitless glory.
Kṛṣṇa has shown me the naked form of material nature;
By His strength it has all become tasteless to me today.
Wife, relatives, friends, brothers, everyone.
This is misery, but it gives me a laugh. I sit alone and laugh.
Where have my loving father and mother gone now?
And where are all my elders, who were my own folk?
Who will give me news of them, tell me who?
All that is left of this family life is a list of names.
No one is mother or father, or personal relative;
Just like the sea foam, they remain but a short time.
Just as the froth on seawater mixes again in the sea,
The body made of five elements meets with destruction.
How many bodies does the embodied soul take in this way?
His relatives are all related merely to the temporal body.
This relationship is not tinged with the smell of Māyā.
The Supreme Lord is the soul of everyone.
In relation to Him, everyone in the universe is the same.
All your relatives, brother! All the billions of
Forgetting Kṛṣṇa, the
And as a result he is firmly grasped by Māyā...
On an October visit to Delhi, Abhay received a donation from Kaviraj Baidya Nath Sircar, to be used for printing one thousand copies of
The front-page article in the November issue was "Truth and Beauty." An editorial in
Once a man fell in love with a beautiful girl, who tried to resist the man's advances. When he persisted, she requested that he wait for seven days, after which she would accept him. During the next seven days, the girl took a strong purgative and laxative and repeatedly passed stool and vomited. She stored the refuse in buckets. Thus "the so-called beautiful girl became lean, thin like a skeleton and turned blackish in complexion and the beautiful eye balls were pushed into the sockets of the skull."
Abhay went on to assert that literature which did not describe the ultimate truth and beauty of the Supreme Person was no better than stool and vomit, even though it be presented as poetry and philosophy.
In "Standard Morality," Abhay explained, "Morality is the standard of activity by which the Supreme Authority is satisfied." The scriptures contain moral codes prohibiting unholy sex relations, animal slaughter, intoxication, and gambling. Abhay attributed Mahatma Gandhi's success as a public leader to his observance of these moral principles. Abhay also praised the Vedic system of marriage: "after the attainment of puberty a woman wants a male, and if she is not married within that time and allowed to mix up with boys,... it is quite natural that there is every chance of fall down either by the boy or the girl." Despite changing social conditions, Abhay argued, "You cannot indulge in unholy connection with the opposite sex [just] because the social conditions have changed. Because unholy connection with woman is the beginning of all immorality."
In "Scholars Deluded," Abhay presented a critical review of Dr. Radhakrishnan's edition of
On the disappearance day of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī, Abhay keenly felt separation from his spiritual master. He perfectly understood that Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta's instructions were more important than his physical presence and that, in fact, the spiritual master was present within his instructions; in this way, Abhay had always been with his spiritual master. Yet on this annual day, Abhay could not help feeling loss. He remembered how in 1932 he had been a
How powerful had been Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta's mission! His presses had been running day and night, printing magazines, books, the daily
Abhay looked back on the more than twenty years since his spiritual master's disappearance. The Gaudiya Math had been undone by its leaders, and everyone else had scattered like leaves in a storm. It was an unspeakable loss. And it was an old story-how the big
Abhay groped after memories of his spiritual master. He felt secure in that his own relationship with Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī was intact, continuing. Yet he felt helpless. He was diligently pursuing his spiritual master's order to preach in English, yet without his spiritual master's physical presence he felt small and very much alone. At times like this, he questioned the wisdom of having left his family and business.
Lamenting Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta's absence and the fall of the Gaudiya Math, he composed a Bengali poem, "Viraha-aṣṭaka."
Śrīla Prabhupāda, you are always compassionate towards the suffering
On this occasion of your separation, I see only dejection.
An unlimited ocean of mercy, cutting an illusion,
Nityānanda distributed an ocean of flood of love of God.
But coming yourself, Lord, you revealed this illusion.
So once again everyone was immersed in the flood of love,
Even one so fallen, insignificant, and sinful as I.
On the strength of Lord Caitanya's order
You sent all of your servants door to door as
There was preaching everywhere, from the sea to the Himalayas.
Now, in your absence, everything is darkness.
O Śrīla Prabhupāda, you are always compassionate towards the suffering
On this occasion of your separation, I see only dejection.
In the same way that Advaita Prabhu brought Lord Gaura,
so did Bhaktivinoda pray.
His enthusiasm brought you; on the strength of his enthusiasm you came
And made everyone understand that India is a holy land.
One who takes his birth in the land of Bhārata
Must make his life perfect and then preach to others.
Now in your absence, Lord, everything is darkness.
Your ocean of compassion has again been stopped.
This spear of great misery has cut through my heart.
Without Lord Caitanya's message, there is just confusion.
Seeing this, all the Vaiṣṇavas feel pangs of separation.
The conditioned souls are all in darkness once again.
They are searching for peace, but are dying in an ocean of anxiety.
O Śrīla Prabhupāda, you are always compassionate towards the suffering
On this occasion of your separation, I see only dejection...
Abhay's was a dark view. The golden era of preaching that had flourished in the days of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī was no longer. "By the influence of
Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta had said that a dead man could not preach; only one with life could preach. As long as Abhay and others could deeply regret the Gaudiya Math's failure, there was still life and still hope: "If everyone obtained this right and went out and made disciples, / Then the suffering souls in the world could be saved." It was useless to cry over what his Godbrothers had done, yet in seeing and resenting it, Abhay found, within the pain of what might have been, a continuing spark of what still might be.
Abhay sent this poem and "Vṛndāvana-bhajana" to Keśava Mahārāja, who published them in the
One night Abhay had a striking dream, the same dream he had had several times before, during his days as a householder. Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī appeared, just as Abhay had known him, the tall, scholarly
Abhay awoke in a state of wonder. He thought of this instruction as another feature of the original instruction Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī had given him at their first meeting in Calcutta, the same instruction that his spiritual master had later solidified in a letter: become an English preacher and spread Kṛṣṇa consciousness throughout the Western world.
Abhay deliberated cautiously. By accepting
The Vedic standard and the example set by the previous
Knowing that many cheaters would accept the saffron dress and abuse the respect given to
Abhay first had to approach one of his Godbrothers for permission. He decided to turn to Bhaktivilāsa Tīrtha Mahārāja(formerly Kuñja vihārī), the leader of the Caitanya Math in Calcutta. Abhay still thought of the Caitanya Math as the headquarters of his spiritual master's mission. During the heated legal disputes, the Caitanya Math had been the most prized acquisition, and since 1948 it had been under the legal ownership of Bhaktivilāsa Tīrtha Mahārāja. Now, although each
Bhaktivilāsa Tīrtha Mahārāja replied that Abhay should first join the Caitanya Math. He mentioned the strife that still lingered: "Those who are acting against Caitanya Math, they are motivated by their individual ambitions." Anyone who was against the Caitanya Math, he said, was acting illogically and against the instructions of Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī. So according to Tīrtha Mahārāja, the thing for Abhay to do, the thing he had neglected to do for so many years, was to join the Caitanya Math and act under his direction. Tīrtha Mahārāja mentioned several members of the Caitanya Math who had recently accepted the
Abhay was not encouraged. The main difficulty, he felt, was the Caitanya Math's shortage of funds.
Without printing books and going to the West,
Abhay could understand the needs and priorities of the Caitanya Math, but he could not allow them to overrule what he considered the highest mandate: preaching as Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī had ordered. Abhay had offered his services to the leaders of the Caitanya Math, thinking they might also see things his way. He thought that with the world's crying need for Kṛṣṇa consciousness staring them in the face, they might see that this Abhay Bābū was convinced and enthusiastic and so should be sent right away with whatever he required. But they had other priorities.
Abhay next turned to Keśava Mahārāja in Mathurā, and Keśava Mahārāja told Abhay to take
Keśavajī Gaudiya Math was located in the midst of one of Mathurā's downtown bazaars. Its main entrance, an arched doorway, led into a courtyard, open to the sky through a metal grating above. The architecture was similar to that of the Vaṁśī-gopālajī temple. The atmosphere was secluded, as in a monastery. Abhay was a familiar, welcomed figure here. He had lived here, written and studied in the library here, edited the
Abhay had been living as a renunciant for nine years; there was no need for him to observe a ceremony or to proclaim himself a
On the morning of September 17, 1959, in the fifty-by-twenty-five-foot Deity room on the second floor of the Keśavajī Math, a group of devotees sat before the Deities of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa and Lord Caitanya. The Deities were colorfully dressed in royal clothing and silver crowns. Rādhārāṇī's right hand faced palm-forward in benediction for the worshiper; at Her side, Her left hand held a flower for Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa stood like a dancer, placing His right leg in a casual tiptoe pose before His left, playing His long silver flute, which He held gracefully to His red lips. His long black hair reached down past His shoulders, and the garland of marigolds around His neck reached down to His knees. On His right stood the Deity of Lord Caitanya, His right arm raised, left arm at His side, His body straight, feet together. He was a soft golden color, and He had large eyes, a well-formed red mouth, and straight black hair down to His shoulders. One level below the Deities were pictures of the spiritual masters in disciplic succession: Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī, Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, Gaurakiśora dāsa Bābājī, Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī, Bhakti prajñāna Keśava Mahārāja.
Abhay sat on a mat of
Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja chanted the required
After Abhay's speech, each initiate received his
Keśava Mahārāja didn't impose any strictures on Abhay; he simply encouraged him to go on preaching. Yet Abhay knew that to become A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami did not mean merely that he was giving up family, home comforts, and business. That he had done five years ago. Changing from white cloth to saffron cloth, from Abhay Bābū to Bhaktivedanta Swami Mahārāja, had a special significance: it was the mandate he had required, the irrevocable commitment. Now it was only a matter of time before Bhaktivedanta Swami would travel to the West as Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī had ordained. This was Bhaktivedanta Swami's realization of his new