The Temple of Love and Affection

Yesterday and today the divine disappearance day of Śrīla Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswāmī Mahārāj was observed in Śrī Chaitanya Sāraswat Maṭh of Śrī Nabadwīp Dhām.

In the morning, afternoon and evening, yesterday and also this morning, devotees spoke about the divine qualities and Pastimes of Śrīla Govinda Mahārāj. The overarching theme that emerged from all the devotees’ hearts centred on the extraordinary love and affection Śrīla Govinda Mahārāj exhibited in his personal dealings. Devotees repeatedly marvelled at Śrīla Govinda Mahārāj’s capacity to cross over linguistic, cultural, spatial and temporal barriers and touch the hearts of countless fortunate souls.

The festival marked the inauguration of the Samādhi Mandir of His Divine Grace, named the ‘Temple of Love and Affection’. The Samādhi Mandir’s name was personally chosen by Śrīla Bhakti Nirmal Āchārya Mahārāj in consultation with Śrīpād Goswāmī Mahārāj and other devotees. The title refers to the love and affection that Śrīla Govinda Mahārāj personified and exhibited in his relations with devotees and fortunate souls. Relatedly, Śrīla Śrīdhar Mahārāj expresses in his prayers in separation from Śrīla Saraswatī Ṭhākur,

vātsalyaṁ yach cha pitro jagati bahumataṁ kaitavaṁ kevalaṁ tat
dāmpatyaṁ dasyutaiva svajana-gaṇa-kṛtā bandhutā vañchaneti
vaikuṇṭha-sneha-mūrtteḥ pada-nakha-kiraṇair yasya sandarśito ’smi
yatrāsau tatra śīghraṁ kṛpaṇa-nayana he nīyatāṁ kiṅkaro ’yam
(Śrī Dayita Dās Daśakam: 3)

Parental affection, so highly esteemed in the world, is a colossal hoax (as an obstacle to Hari-bhakti); socially recognised pure matrimonial love is nothing but dacoity (in that it plunders away both the husband’s and the wife’s eagerness for the chance to acquire the treasure of love (prema) unadulterated by the superficiality of familial prejudice); and common friendship is merely deception: I have gleaned these thoughts from the rays of light that emanate from the toenails of the holy feet of that great personality, the embodiment of supramundane affection. (Bereft of the vision of my Divine Master,) O my sorrowful eyes (dīna-nayana), wherever that great soul, that savior of the fallen may be, please quickly take this servitor there.”

In this verse Śrīla Śrīdhar Mahārāj described Śrīla Saraswatī Ṭhākur as Vaikuṇṭha-sneha-mūrti, the embodiment of supramundane affection. The definition of the word Vaikuṇṭha is vigata kuṇṭha yasmād, which means that which has no limit, that which cannot be measured or that within which there is no anxiety. Thus describing Śrī Guru in this way can come to mean Śrī Guru is the personification of affection which cannot be limited, which can appear anywhere and everywhere (throughout all time, space, and circumstances of the limited, finite world) to an unlimited degree. This is to say that the affection of Śrī Guru eclipses all of one’s worldly suppositions of affection (one’s general worldly relationships), redefining and re-calibrating one to the Absolute, divine, pure and all-powerful nature of affection proper. Moreover, ‘unlimited affection’ (Vaikuṇṭha-sneha) comes to mean not only that which is not limited by the nature of the mundane but also that which is ever-fresh, ever-increasing, ever-deepening in its irresistible nature (that which in and of itself is not limited). Additionally, the phrase Vaikuṇṭha-sneha-mūrti can be understood to mean the personification and via media of infinite affection which cannot be measured, the value of which cannot be calculated or estimated (by finite recipients). Furthermore, it can mean the personification of affection which is utterly devoid of anxiety, affection which dispels all anxiety (born of illusion, worldly suffering, or separation from one’s beloved).

Through all of these angles of vision, one can develop their appreciation for Śrī Guru and reflect upon Śrīla Govinda Mahārāj’s divine form within his ‘Temple of Love and Affection’.

Another consideration in relation to the name of the temple is that Śrīla Govinda Mahārāj not only personified divine affection but was a preeminent recipient and appreciator of divine affection. Throughout his life he exhibited the mood and behavior of one who was utterly bound by the love and affection of his own Gurudev, Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣak Śrīdhar Dev-Goswāmī Mahārāj, and the mercy he received from Śrīla Śrīdhar Mahārāj.

During the lectures, Śrīla Govinda Mahārāj’s great emphasis on Śrīman Mahāprabhu’s advice for practitioners as to how to avoid Nāma-aparādha was also discussed.

tṛṇād api sunīchena taror iva sahiṣṇunā
amāninā mānadena kīrtanīyaḥ sadā hariḥ
(Śrī Chaitanya-charitāmṛta: Ādi-līlā, 17.31)

One who feels themself to be lower (more humble) than a blade of grass, who is as tolerant (and nourishing) as a tree, and who gives honour to everyone without desiring honour from anyone, is capable of always chanting the Holy Name and glories of Lord Hari (purely, without offence).”

Śrīpād Bhakti Sudhīr Goswāmī Mahārāj shared that he once asked Śrīla Govinda Mahārāj how he came to the realisation that this particular point of emphasis and instruction was most essential for practitioners of pure devotion. He explained that he was expecting an answer relating to Scriptural commentary or profound meditation and was pleasantly surprised when Śrīla Govinda Mahārāj replied, “Out of desperation, out of necessity.”

Śrīla Govinda Mahārāj’s special capacity to present Gauḍīya Siddhānta and teach his disciples through humor and clever analysis of seemingly simple circumstances was also celebrated.

The various heartfelt accounts, memories and expressions of faith from the devotees over the last two days is far more than can be readily recounted or summarised here.

Overall, we can say through our observance of his disappearance festival our appreciation for Śrīla Govinda Mahārāj’s frequent reminder and the farewell phrase he would tell countless devotees, ‘I am always with you,’ came to be further strengthened within our hearts.