Memories of Sridhar Swami
Posted March 20, 2004
At 5:30 PM, at Bhakti Caru Maharaja's quarters, Sivarama Maharaja started bhajanas, beginning with the Gurvastaka prayers, and then the Hare Krsna Mahamantra. Then Bhakti Caru Maharaja sang a kirtan of the Hare Krsna Mahamantra. Then Hari Sauri Prabhu spoke.
HARI SAURI PRABHU: I didn't have much association with Sridhar Maharaja. We were friends, but physically distanced. Since I was coming to see Sridhar Maharaja everyday and read for him from my Diary, Stuart [one of Maharaja's brother] asked Maharaja about me, and Maharaja told him, "We are pals." That was the essence of Maharaja: he could be pals with any devotee. No devotee wouldn't feel good about him. The appreciations that devotees had for him were true, not false.
I joined Srila Prabhupada's personal service in November 1975. I was there when the two brahmacaris had come to take sannyasa initiation from Srila Prabhupada, who then became Lokanath Maharaja and Sridhar Maharaja. I was also there when Srila Prabhupada told them to "just add Swami" to their names after the sannyasa-initiation.
And just a little after his sannyasa-initiation, there was a vacancy in Calcutta. So Sridhar Maharaja went to Calcutta and was made the temple president there. In January 1976, Srila Prabhupada came to Calcutta. At that time, I was his servant, and Tamal Krishna Maharaja was his secretary. Srila Prabhupada was staying in his room which is across the verandah. Tamal Krishna Maharaja set up a small space for himself just outside of Prabhupada's room. Once, Sridhar Maharaja was standing by the doorway when Srila Prabhupada rang his bell asking for me. I was in the verandah, and I thought that if Tamal Krishna Maharaja was in his little space outside of Prabhupada's room, he could answer Prabhupada. This would be faster than for me to go across the verandah to Prabhupada. So I asked Sridhar Maharaja, "Is Tamal Krishna Maharaja there?" Sridhar Maharaja, not understanding what was in my mind, thought that I was lazy to answer Srila Prabhupada's calling and chastised me saying that I was lazy. Later, when I clarified my thoughts, he became immediately humble and apologetic.
He was not very happy in management, but was very alive and enthusiastic in preaching. In Bombay, he built the life membership base, he was also dealing the top rich people of India. He was a person Srila Prabhupada relied upon from Bombay. In the beginning, it was very austere in Bombay. They were living in tents and rats were running around. But Sridhar Maharaja was more in element in India than elsewhere. He learnt Hindi.
He was asked to become one of the official fund-raisers for the Mayapur Project. As far as I know, Sridhar Maharaja was the first person in ISKCON India who had developed the direct mail program. He was happy to work with Ambarisa Prabhu and Jayapataka Maharaja. It was his burning ambition to get the big temple at Mayapur started.
One evening, here in his room, he was laughing after speaking on phone to Urmila. She had told Maharaja that he can take birth as her grandson, that he would be brought up as brahmacari, and that when he was 8 years old, he could take sannyasa to preach. Anyway, where ever he is, he is absorbed in his eternal service to Srila Prabhupada, here or in Goloka Vrindavana.
He is one example of a Godbrother who took up Krsna consciousness with such strength. He kept up his vows. His mind, intellect, spirituality was so strong. Just as Srila Prabhupada's consciousness was so clear and focused on Krsna even though his body was frail in his last days, so it was with Sridhar Maharaja. Like father, like son. He was greeted here in Mayapur like a warrior. And he passed away on the first auspicious day, appearance day of Srivasa Thakura, after Gaura-purnima in Mayapur. This is not ordinary.
NANDAKISORA PRABHU: I was fortunate to associate with him extensively in Bombay from 1991-96. At that time, I was the manager there, and he was the President there sometime. I don't remember his servants being there, they must have come later. I used to drive him around there.
Four days before he passed away, Acyutananda brought Maharaja for a darsana of Panca-tattva. As I was there (I had dressed Srivasa Thakura), I brought him garlands from Srivasa Thakura. I also asked him, "Is the dressing of Srivasa Thakura okay? I dressed him." Maharaja told me, "You did this? You should get back to Bombay and do construction and other things! There are too many flowers on his turban."
So he used to joke a lot, but he was also tough. Once I was driving Maharaja in Bombay, when a rickshaw came just in front of me, and we stopped, just missing a crash. I was so furious at the rickshaw driver that I got out of the car and was going to punch him. Seeing me like this, Maharaja came out of the car and chastised me, "Keep cool. You don't know how to drive a car in Bombay. Just sit down in the car."
There were several incidents like this. A few days before he passed away, he asked for a rasagulla. But my wife is a pathologist, and she said that it is bad for his liver. Maharaja wasn't happy.
Mayapur Prabhu then requested Sudevi Mataji, a disciple, to speak. She had served Sridhar Maharaja for many years.
SUDEVI MATAJI: I am the youngest disciple here. I will tell about a pastime regarding prasadam. In Mira Road, Bombay, there is a Nrsimha-kutir, an apartment where he would be. Once I saw him eating some idly, something he wasn't allowed to eat. When I asked him about that, he told me that Mayapur Prabhu would be furious about it, and so I should make banana milkshake for him. When I took the banana milkshake to Mayapur Prabhu, he told, "Just give this to him!" I told him, "Guru Maharaja isn't allowed to take this." Mayapur Prabhu said, "If he can take idly, he can also take this banana milkshake!" And finally, I had to take the banana milkshake, and I don't like bananas at all! [all laugh]
MANJARI MATAJI: Guru Maharaja used to tell me, "I am like Sasi to you." (Sasi is my son.) We never realized that Guru Maharaja was so sick. He kept us always laughing.
Actually, I didn't know about Guru Maharaja, but my husband knew. And one day he practically forced me to go and offer obeisances to Maharaja. He told me, "Just go to the temple, find out who is Sridhar Maharaja and offer obeisances to him." I did that, and Maharaja smiled at me. That was the beginning of my dealings with Maharaja, and later on, he accepted me as his disciple.
Guru Maharaja engaged my whole family in Srila Prabhupada's service. He was always telling me to send my son to Vrindavan Gurukula. He told me, "Even if he doesn't become a devotee, he will at least become favorable to devotees. So this will be good for him." Last Kartika, my son himself volunteered to go to Vrindavan Gurukula and we are planning to put him there this year.
I was thinking of coming to serve him after Gaura-purnima, but Maharaja told me that when I come back to Mayapur, he'd be gone. I don't know whether to be happy that he has gone to Goloka or be sad that he has left us alone. [Cries]
CANDRAVALI MATAJI: Actually I can't speak much, but by Guru Maharaja's mercy, even a dumb person can speak.
When I was getting to know him, I wanted to do some service for him. He asked me, "What can you do for me?" I said, "I can drive you." So he allowed me to drive him around sometimes. After sometime, he asked me, "Can you cook something for me?" I said, "I don't know anything about cooking. I have never entered the kitchen at all." He was very surprised that I, being an Indian girl, didn't know cooking at all. He told me, "Learn how to make a burger." Somehow, I tried to learn how to make a burger, and made something for him. He told me, "Not promising at all. Try to make some cookies for Lord Nrsimha." I then learnt how to make cookies, and made some. But he told me, "These are hard like stones." And then he gave me some cookbooks and asked me to learn using them. But still, most of the time, my cooking was really bad. One day I told him, "I am simply a laughing stock. I am not helping you in any useful way. Everything I do comes out bad." He told me that he was nevertheless pleased by my endeavors. A few weeks back, he gave me brahmana initiation.
I feel that this is an opportunity for us to serve the devotees in his absence.
MALATI MATAJI: I didn't get a chance to serve him always. I am an emotional girl, and I would always cry when I was before him. I once told him, "I am always around materialistic people due to circumstances. What should I do? How can I serve you?" He told me, "Just serve your husband nicely." [cries]
CAITANYA MATAJI: I met him first in 1995. When I first saw him, I developed a feeling to serve him. He changed my life. I started to do more services in the temple. I began to chant more. When I got his darsana for the first time, he told me, "First get attached to Srila Prabhupada. Read his books, and get to know him." When I asked him for initiation, he told me to listen to the GBC. My name was Tanya before, and at the time of initiation, he told me, "You are getting a simple name. Just add 'Cai' to it." Other devotees got confused, but I knew it.
When I heard that Guru Maharaja was going to Mayapur from Vancouver for the Panca-tattva installation and Gaura-purnima, I prayed to our Panca-tattva Deities in Slovenia that his health might recover. I then came to London, and came to the airport to see Guru Maharaja. We had kirtana there for 2 hours, but he didn't come out. I was very worried thinking that he might be in some wheelchair, but then I saw him walking with his briefcase containing his Deities. He seemed to be under strong medication, but he was quite able to walk around.
I would like to thank all of you for helping us to serve him. I thank Bhakti Caru Maharaja and his disciples for accommodation, Indradyumna Maharaja for taking care of Guru Maharaja from London to Mayapur, the devotees in Mayapur for having a vegetable garden because of which we could cook for Guru Maharaja, and my friends in Slovenia for their sympathy.
ANNAPURNA MATAJI: Please forgive me as I can't speak English well. Actually, I am the youngest disciple -- I was initiated 5 months ago. Guru Maharaja was very merciful for accepting me as his disciple. He once wrote to me, "Srila Prabhupada is like an ocean of mercy, but I am only like a pond of mercy." He went away so quickly. I didn't have much personal association or opportunity to serve him. Just two days before, I was helping Shyama Mataji with the cooking. But I was helping in editing his lectures, and in this way I felt a strong connection with him.
He once instructed me to get married and that every girl should be married, etc. He then said, "Just give me [your son as] a brahmacari!" I told him, "First I should have a husband for that!" He asked me, "Really?" [all laugh] Then he said, "All I want is to see you happy." I will try to carry out his instruction. I would like to thank all of my Godsisters and Godbrothers for engaging me in his service. I want to be more Krsna conscious.
JANANIVASA PRABHU: Sridhar Swami was here in Mayapur in 1972 when Srila Prabhupada was in his Bhajan Kutir. We would serve him together. He was a nice person to be with, very jovial. He was also very submissive. When there were heated discussions among devotees, he would give in, "I am sorry, it's my fault." And the whole argumentation would stop immediately because of that.
He was also ready to do various services, like jumping on a truck to get things. Once he asked me, "Can I do mangal-arati for Radha Madhava?" He was so inspired that he forgot to take his jacket off! He was a source of inspiration for all devotees.
A few days back, Pankajanghri Prabhu gave him pavitra. I and Pankajanghri Prabhu both once went to see him in his room and we remembered the old times. He then asked both of us to embrace him together.
He was very fired up about preaching. He was interested to going out for preaching. At one time when I was in his room with him, Visakha Mataji was speaking to him. She was saying something like she was now interested in getting into bhajana and less into preaching. Maharaja told her very emphatically, "Just go out and preach! That's what you should be doing. Don't worry about your bhajana. Just preach!"
He worked hard for Srila Prabhupada and at the end he came to leave his body, and his mission was successful. It is said in Navadvipa-dhama-mahatmya that there is no faulty death in Mayapur. Whoever dies here gets pure devotion to Krsna, Gauranga. He has set a perfect example, a very wonderful example for us to follow. He left to join Gauranga's party, Prabhupada's party.
LALITA MATAJI: The first time I met Guru Maharaja was when he came to my house in Slovenia [Croatia?]. He was very dedicated to Srila Prabhupada, and I was half a year into the movement, my son had passed away. He stayed for a week. The second time I saw him was in Vrindavan. I requested that he accept me as his disciple. He smiled and said, "But you are more aged than me. How can I be your guru?" But then he agreed. I once needed an MP3 player to listen to lectures, and he took me to a shop and bought me an MP3 player.
Now it is up to us, his disciples, to follow his instructions with good sadhana, and especially to follow his last instructions to be united and cooperate with each other. In this way, we can follow his instructions to go to Krsna as soon as possible.
ACYUTANANDA PRABHU [offering to Sridhar Maharaja]: I am a shy person. I am not used to speaking before others. Last year, when you were on stage speaking before a few thousand people, you said, "I am actually shy. I am not used to speaking before people." [all laugh] What can I say about you?
Guru Maharaja, you were vyavasayatmika buddhi. You were fully focused on Srila Prabhupada's instructions and to his institution ISKCON. You once said, "Even if everyone leaves ISKCON, I will stay!" So you were so attached to Srila Prabhupada and his ISKCON. You gave all of your energies to to get the devotees together.
You were also always prepared for tricks and jokes. In Zagreb, during a festival, you were once lecturing on the same verse vyavasayatmika buddhih. After the lecture, when you were walking out, you saw a prasadam table where they had pizzas. You pretended as if your chadar fell on one pizza, and you picked up your chadar with the pizza! [all laugh] And I was so happy, because you shared the pizza with me. [all laugh again]
But I also have given you a lot of pain, as I had to come and give you those bitter medicines. You used to say, "Oh no! Here he is coming again, the executor!" I am sorry that I tortured you with the medicines. I pray that I also join you and serve you in a pleasing way.
SACINANDANA PRABHU: In the 1970s, our family used to visit Juhu beach [in Bombay]. And Srila Prabhupada used to sing kirtanas and lecture. My parents were life members and a brahmacari used to invite them to come to hear Srila Prabhupada. But I strayed away into maya, even though the books were at home. I went to USA and into maya like the other teenagers.
After I came back from the USA, one of my friends told me, "Let's go and hear Sridhar Maharaja speak on Nectar of Devotion in the ISKCON temple." I didn't know who Sridhar Maharaja was or what Nectar of Devotion is. He was speaking on NOD daily at 7:00 PM. Then after hearing him, I got to know of him.
I was also inspired by Mayapur Prabhu. I would sweep Maharaja's room, and then I asked him, "Is there any service I can do for you?" He told me to find out all I can about Hepatitis C. So I went on the Internet and found out. Later on, I wanted a photo of Lord Nrsimha, and he gave me his own laminated photo of Nrsimhadeva.
We once received him at my home. My mother became happy, and she told me that he was the same brahmacari whom they saw in Juhu bringing them to Srila Prabhupada. Once he was in hospital, in semi-coma. At that time, I got the opportunity to serve him and feed him.
When I was in Singapore working and away from family, Sridhar Maharaja would
sometimes call me and tell me that this was a good opportunity to become
fixed up in reading and in my sadhana. At that time, my wife's changed
totally and she requested for and received neck beads from Maharaja. I am
trying to live up to his high expectations. I was 20 minutes late for
placing him in the samadhi. (He used to tell me that I should never be late
in doing anything, as I would often be late to receive him from the