Sri Srimad BV Narayana Gosvami Maharaja
Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja took birth on February 19th, 1921, on the amavasya (new moon) day.
He appeared in a highly educated and respected brahmana family in the famous village of Tivaripura in the Boksar district of Bihar. Tivaripura was situated on the banks of Patipavani Bhagavat Ganga, but she has since shifted her course and is now some distance away. Tivaripura is a village where only brahmanas live; everyone is educated and prosperous.
The name of Tridandisvami Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja in his purvasrama was Sriman Narayana Tivari. His father’s name was Pandita Balesvarnatha Tivari and his mother was Srimati Laksmi Devi. Both parents were virtuous, altruistic, truthful and above all, Vaisnavas of the Sri Sampradaya. The people of the nearby villages held them in high esteem.
His parents and relatives gave him the name Sriman Narayana. In the future this name would become well-known. However, everyone called him Bholanatha because as a child he was very peaceful.
Natural Taste for the Name of Bhagavan
A special taste for dharma was evident even during his childhood; he was always naturally chanting the name of Bhagavan, without any order or instruction. Srimad-Bhagavatam, Gita, Ramayana, Mahabharata and other scriptures were read at home and the boy eagerly heard them with great faith. In fact, he completely memorized Ramayana, Mahabharata and other stories.
After receiving primary education in the village school, he entered Boksar High School, five miles away. He walked to and from school every day. In spite of this difficulty, because of his extraordinary intelligence he was always first or second in his class. He was also had a special attraction for athletics. He was state champion and received many prizes while in high school.
Meeting His Gurudeva
After graduating from college, he chose not to continue with his higher education. Because of his athletic skills, he easily obtained a good position in the police department. After three or four years in government service in the town of Sahibaganja in Bihar, he met Mahamahopadesaka Sri Narottamananda Brahmacari Bhaktisastri Bhaktikamalaji, a preacher from Sri Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti.
Sri Narottamananda, Pujyapada Bhaktikusala Narasimha Maharaja, Sri Jagannatha dasa Babaji Maharaja, Sri Radhanatha Dasadhikari and Sri Premaprayojana Brahmacari were at that time preaching suddha-bhakti and harinama extensively in Sahibaganja. Tivariji attended their gatherings daily and faithfully listened to Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Occasionally he sat with Sri Narottamananda Brahmacariji listening to hari-katha throughout the night. Hearing powerful hari-katha in the association of pure Vaisnavas had a great influence on Tivariji’s life. Due to his natural religious disposition, his life changed completely. When the preaching party left, he begun chanting one lakh of harinama maha-mantra daily. In his heart a natural detachment from the material world slowly arose.
At this time he was transferred to a government position in Rajmahal on the bank of the Ganga, not far from Ramakeli (the place sanctified by the lotus feet of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Sri Rupa Goswami and Sri Sanatana Goswami). By now he had become completely detached from the material world. He tried to retire from the police service, but the senior officers, who where extremely satisfied with his service, refused to accept his letter of retirement.
In the course of these events he exchanged letters with Paramaradhyatama Sri Srimad Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Goswami Maharaja several times. Finally, at the end of 1946, with great difficulty he managed to leave his position. At that time he left everything – his parents, brothers, friends, wife, family members, and all his wealth – and, completely niskincana, surrendered to the lotus feet of Sri Gurudeva in Sri Navadvipa Dhama.
‘Friend of the Devotees’
On Phalguni Gaura Purnima, 1947, during the Sri Navadvipa Dhama parikrama, Paramaradhyatama Srila Gurudeva gave him harinama and diksa. From then on he was known by the name Sri Gaura-Narayana. After that, seeing his interest in hearing harikatha, Srila Gurudeva engaged him in his service. Very soon Srila Gurudeva also awarded him with the title Bhaktabandhava, which means ‘friend of the devotees’, because he was always serving all the Vaishnavas in a very pleasing manner.
When Srila Gurudeva went somewhere for preaching or other special tasks, he always kept him with him. On one occasion, Srila Gurupadapadma had Sri Gaura-Narayana take care of Gurudeva’s dear servant, Sri Anangamohana Brahmacari, when he became sick. But after Anangamohana left this world Gurudeva again kept Sri Gaura-Narayana with him.
Travelling and preaching bhakti with Srila Guru Maharaja throughout the length and breadth of the subcontinent provided an excellent opportunity for him to hear hari-katha. Sri Gurudeva was also very happy to train him in bhakti-tattva.
He had the rare opportunity to perform parikrama with Srila Gurudeva of all the major places of pilgrimage in North, South, East and West India and to hear the glories of the dhamas. Especially significant were Sri Brajamandala, Sri Gaura-mandala and Sri Ksetra-mandala, which are the sacred places of Sri Krishna and Sri Gaurasundara, who is radiant with the mood and lustre of Sri Radha.
Once, when Srila Gurudeva was sitting with one of his Godbrothers, Sri Gaura-Narayana was also sitting nearby. Paramaradhyatama Sri Gurudeva looked in Sri Gaura-Narayana’s direction and said, “I want to give you the red cloth of sannyasa. I have seen many non-Bengali Indians; they don’t understand the profound depth of Sriman Mahaprabhu’s elevated bhakti-siddhanta, especially prema-tattva. But you have taken to heart these moods in a very unsophisticated way. Sri Rupa, Sri Sanatana and our many Gaudiya Vaisnavas acaryas remained many days in Braja, but they could not find any bhakta from North India who could take to heart Sriman Mahaprabhu’s inner moods. You are very fortunate.”
Weeping, Sri Gaura-Narayanaji fell at the lotus feet of his guru and with great humility said, “I devote myself fully to your lotus feet. I am removing everything – the attachment of my mother, the affection of my father, the love of my wife and the friendship of my friends – and I am offering it at your lotus feet. You can keep me naked, dressed in a loincloth, in a white cloth, in a red cloth, or you can give me sannyasa. Keep me in the way which is auspicious for me. Now I solely belong to you.”
Hearing his words, Sri Gurudeva’s eyes also brimmed with tears. He looked at Sripada Sanatana Prabhu, who had also heard Sri Gaura-Narayana’s words and was stunned. What Srila Gurudeva determined after this was only known to him. He was quiet for some time, the he continued with his hari-katha. Some time later, on Gaura Purnima in 1952, Sripada Gaura-Narayana Dasadhikari was given tridanda sannyasa and became known as Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja.
Srila Gurudeva appointed Sri Narayana Maharaja to be the matha-president of Sri Kesavaji Gaudiya Matha in Mathura. From there, on the order of Srila Gurudeva and under his guidance, he published Hindi translations of Sri Bhagavata Patrika (a monthly journal), Jaiva Dharma, Sri Caitanya Siksamrta, Sriman Mahaprabhu ki Siksa, Bhakti-tattva-viveka, Upadesamrta, Sri Siksastaka, Sri Manah Siksa, Sindhu-Bindhu-Kana, Sri Gaudiya Kanthahar, Srimad Bhagavad-Gita (with Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura’s commentary) and other books.
A significant relationship in the life of Srila Narayana Maharaja was his association with Srila Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja, the world famous preacher of Gaudiya-Vaisnavism and the Founder Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
They first met in Calcutta in 1947. A few years later, in the early 50’s, Srila Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja came to reside in Mathura at Sri Kesavaji Gaudiya Matha, by invitation of his godbrother, Srila Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Maharaja, where he stayed for some months. By having regular devotional exchanges with him and deep discussions on Vaisnava philsosophy, Srila Narayana Maharaja developed a very intimate relationship with him during this time period, regarding him both as siksa-guru and as his intimate friend.
In 1959 Srila Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Maharaja initiated him into the sacred order of sannyasa, giving him the sannyasa name and title, Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja. The ceremony of Vedic fire sacrifice (yajna) and all the rituals were performed by Srila Narayana Maharaja.
When Srila Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja went to preach in the west, and succeeded in starting the first Radha-Krishna temple in America, Srila Narayana Maharaja sent the first mrdanga drums and karatalas to him to be used for sankirtana. He also sent Radha-Krishna deities and his sanskrit books for translation. Srila Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja maintained regular correspondence every month or two with Srila Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Maharaja and Srila Narayana Maharaja.
In his last days, Srila Svami Maharaja very lovingly and affectionately took Srila Narayana Maharaja’s hands in his own hands and made Srila Narayana Maharaja promise to always help his western disciples and followers to understand and follow the deep teachings of the Vaisnava philosophy as presented by his gurudeva, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada.
Srila Svami Maharaja also requested Srila Narayana Maharaja to take complete charge of performing all the rituals for his samadhi burial after his departure. Both of these requests by Srila Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja clearly demonstrated the firm and utter confidence that he held in Srila Narayana Maharaja.
In 1993 while they were in Calcutta, Srila Vamana Maharaja told Srila Maharaja that Srila Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Maharaja had reserved a very special service for him. It would come to pass within the next three years he said, and was such that only Srila Maharaja would be able to do it. Srila Maharaja then replied that he was now old, plagued with many kinds of sickness, and a cardiac patient. What kind of service would he be able to do? Srila Vamana Maharaja told him that everything would become clear to him in due course of time.
Three years later when Srila Maharaja first went to New Vraja (devotee community, Badger, California) in 1996 during his first tour of America, he was able to understand what Srila Vamana Maharaja had meant. Weeping, he wrote a letter to him in acknowledgment of this.
He is now preaching suddha-bhakti throughout India and also internationally in the United States, England, France, Belgium, Holland, Canada, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Australia, Malaysia, Fiji, Hawaii and other big and small countries around the world. His books have been translated into English, French, Spanish, German, and other languages. Thus, even in his old age, he is enthusiastically devoted to the innermost service of Sri Hari, Guru and Vaisnavas.
In 1954 Srila Kesava Maharaja posted him in charge of the newly opened temple in Mathura named Sri Kesavaji Gaudiya Matha. Srila Narayana Maharaja began to spend part of the year in Mathura and the other part in Bengal, carrying on extensive services in both areas. This went on over the period of the next fourteen years. He was also appointed by Srila Kesava Maharaja as Vice-President of his institution, the Sri Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti, and Editor-in-Chief of its Hindi publications and the monthly magazine Sri Bhagavat Patrika.
In 1968 Srila Kesava Maharaja passed from this world, and Srila Narayana Maharaja performed all the necessary ceremonial rituals for his samadhi burial. During this time period, as a humble servitor of the Sri Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti, Srila Narayana Maharaja also began to organize the annual Karttika Vraja Mandala Parikrama, which he continues to carry on up to the present day.