Some Memories and Glories of Srila Sridhar Swami Maharaja
Posted March 28, 2004
When I met HH Srila Sridhar Swami to seek his blessings just prior to going on the South Indian Safari Maharaja was very emphatic! His time was not yet up! He had many things to still do or Srila Prabhupada. I mentioned to him that the Temple of Vedic Planetarium in Mayapur was one such work. Sridhar Swami confirmed. He said he wanted to encourage and help Amburish Prabhu in building the main Panca Tattva Mandir at Mayapur. Srila Sridhar Swami said many things at that time. How he felt better. His diet was difficult, but it seemed the medicines were working. Tridandi Prabhu, from Italy, had brought an Ayurvedic Doctor (who treated and had cured many hopeless cases in the past) to Mayapur. It was his cure that Srila Sridhar Swami was taking. In fact it was visible that Srila Sridhar Swami was improving. Even his dear brothers had gone on a pilgrimage seeing his improvement.
When Srila Sridhar Swami had arrived in Mayapur his mood was almost resigned to die very soon. But now Srila Sridhar Swami was in a fighting mood! He told me he was planning to fight to stay alive and do some more devotional service for Srila Prabhupada. He was concerned that with his illness it was quite common to go into a coma and then pass away. He said he didn't want to leave like that in a coma. He wanted to be conscious and hear the holy names and remember Lord Sri Krishna in full consciousness. He said the cure was working and he was feeling better so he was going to fully follow the treatment and hoped to survive this terminal disease if Lord Sri Krishna so desired. That was the last mood I saw Srila Sridhar Swami in when I left Sri Mayapur just over a week ago. On the wall he had a poem which wrote about leaving the world in a fighting spirit to live. Considering that I come to the conclusion that it was only the divine desire of Lord Sri Krishna that has taken our beloved Srila Sridhar Swami from us at this time.
Srila Sridhar Swami was so loving with me during his last period in Mayapur. He always addressed me as "Big Brother" or "older Brother". He would treat me like a loving Brother. He thanked me for having him do the Arotik to Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu on the Maha Installation day, for giving my frequent flyer miles to bring him first class to India now, for so many even insignificant things. He would love to reminisce about times we were together and things we did with Srila Prabhupada or together. I didn't spend so much time in the room with Srila Sridhar Swami, but would just sneak in now and again or otherwise consult with Mayapur Das, his secretary, if he needed anything. We arranged a hospital bed from Kolkatta, for instance. Still whenever I would come in he was always so friendly and loving. I cannot help but cry to think I won't be able to see and associate with Srila Sridhar Swami anymore in this lifetime.
Srila Sridhar Swami was a very jolly devotee most of the time. He liked to joke and had his own unique sense of humor. He could surprise devotees with some of his statements. He was not an overly diplomatic person, but would rather speak as he saw things. Sometimes his statements would embarrass the listeners they would be so blunt. Srila Sridhar Swami liked to have a personal relationship with all his god brothers and god sisters. Many can tell about personal dealings received from Srila Sridhar Swami. He sometimes addressed god brothers by nicknames. Often he would say something humorous to a god brother. Sometimes he was very serious and would request some devotional service to be performed for Srila Prabhupada. Sometimes he was impatient and encourage people who were not doing enough or their spiritual life to get active. Srila Sridhar Swami had in the past years given a lot of time to the Balkans and surely the devotees there have much to say about his contributions and association. I have close relationships with many of Srila Sridhar Swami Disciples. Srila Sridhar Swami authorized some to be siksa disciples. He was open and caring, wanting always the best for his disciples and for everyone, for that matter. I don't think it is possible to explain all the good qualities of Srila Sridhar Swami. So instead I would just share some experiences I had together with him.
I can't remember even when the first time I met Srila Sridhar Swami was. I also can hardly remember a time since I came to India when he wasn't somehow involved at one point or another.
One thing happened when we were living in Mayapur in the grass hut in the early 1970's. Srila Prabhupada was in the grass hut and behind it was a tent which was being used as a kitchen. Srila Sridhar Swami came with a new "high tech" invention which had just hit the market---an automatic puri roller! He was asked to give a demonstration. So we were all sitting around him and he rolled some puris. Whether they would cook properly or not? So someone heated up some ghee and cooked the puris. Seemed they came out quite okay. Let's try how they tasted! There was nothing to eat any hot puris with. I suggested we take some of the liquid date gur and that was poured on everyone's leave plate. Maybe we were making some commotion. Like children trying out a new toy. Well Srila Prabhupada was looking out from his window seeing what we were doing. He instructed that it wasn't proper for people in the renounced order to sit around and eat hot puris like we were doing. Later we explained what was happening, but we always will remember the instruction. Srila Prabhupada also tried some puri rolled on the puri rolling machine.
Like that Srila Sridhar Swami was a player in so many activities. At that time he was a Brahmacari. I don't know how, but I was present in the room with Srila Prabhupada in Bombay when Srila Sridhar Swami asked Srila Prabhupada or Sannyasa initiation. What I remember was Srila Prabhupada asked him I he was 100% sure he wouldn't fall down. Srila Sridhar Swami was very humble and straightforward. He said he wasn't 100% sure he wouldn't fall down. Then Srila Prabhupada asked him if he was 75% sure he would maintain sannyasa. Sridhara Brahmacari said he wasn't 75% sure either. Then Srila Prabhupada asked Sridhara Brahmacari if he was 50% sure that he would maintain Sannyasa strictly. Sridhara Brahmacari confirmed that he was 50% sure that he could maintain Sannyasa. Then Srila Prabhupada said it was okay. Srila Prabhupada said he would grant Sannyasa order of life to him in Vrindavana were an initiation ceremony was being planned in the near future. Srila Prabhupada obviously knew the nature of Srila Sridhar Swami perfectly. Srila Sridhar Swami observed his Sannyasa vows very strictly.
Srila Sridhar Swami was a totally Srila Prabhupada man. He was sold out to Srila Prabhupada! He wanted to do whatever he could to fulfill Srila Prabhupada's desires. Srila Sridhar Swami was very active in the Srila Prabhupada Centennial campaign, for instance. Srila Sridhar Swami was also always involved in the Mayapur Project, mainly in the field of fund raising. Talking about fund raising, Srila Sridhar Swami was ISKCON's Minister in that field for some years. I don't remember the official title off hand, but I remember attending his seminars. He would use white boards, black boards, flip charts and sometimes computer projections. His presentations inspired me very much. He became my presentation guru. I learned from him how to make presentations. He inspired me to attend the VTE trainers course. Srila Sridhar Swami also inspired me to take up the Monitor-ship and Minister-ship of Congregational Development. We used to work together with the different aspects of cultivating the Congregation. I would do the spiritual side of their development and he would do the devotional service engagement through contributions. Srila Sridhar Swami created direct mail campaign program Bhisma in Mumbai which was very successful in many campaigns. I remember Srila Sridhar Swami having some technical books on the topic of direct mail campaigns. Whatever Srila Sridhar Swami got into he became a real expert on the concerned topic. In this regard I found him a real role model to emulate.
Sometimes I would meet Srila Sridhar Swami at the Croatian Summer camp. He was his jolly self. He would be preaching according to the schedule and then he would also be giving guidance to whoever came up to see him. Like all of us it was a time when many devotees would come and take association. Sometimes I would take prasadam with Srila Sridhar Swami. Other times we would see him taking care of his health by jogging with a walkman on his ears hearing Srila Prabhupada lecture or some spiritual vibrations. He had a saffron colored jog suit and with the big black earphones he was something to see. He didn't seem to care what people thought about how he looked. Srila Sridhar Swami did what he had to do. His nature was like that.
Some years ago when his liver was suffering from cirrhosis due to having Hepatitis C infection and he was in the Bhaktivedanta Hospital in Mera Road, a suburb of Mumbai. He had been to other Hospitals as well. We were all worried about him. It was very serious and his body had filled up with fluid. His liver wasn't functioning properly. I went to see him in the hospital. Srila Sridhar Swami was happy to see me. He asked me to give him some quality association. He asked me to read some sastra to him. So I read some pastimes of the Lord to Srila Sridhar Swami for over almost an hour. I tried to dramatize it. I was feeling very ecstatic in his association reading sastra. At the same time to see a beloved god brother ill with a life threatening disease was also very heavy. After the reading Srila Sridhar Swami embraced me and thanked me for reading to him. I felt our relationship had grown closer from that simple service.
Srila Sridhar Swami went to some healer in Brazil and it seemed that he was helped by him. He told me the healer would have Srila Sridhar Swami sit and chant japa as he could see Srila Sridhar Swami was a very spiritual person so his prayers would help the healer to heal others. So this healer could also recognize the spiritual strength of Srila Sridhar Swami.
Anuttama das, a god brother and friend of Srila Sridhar Swami, reminded us last night how Srila Sridhar Swami got his famous Narasimha Saligram Sila. Srila Sridhar Swami was visiting Nepal and saw a man with a basket of saligrama Sila's. Srila Sridhar Swami looked through the basket and found the unique sila of Narasimha with open mouth and crown. He asked the man how to get that one. The man asked for $1000! Srila Sridhar Swami said he was a Sannyasi and didn't have any money. But the business man said he couldn't give it free since he was a business man and needed money. Then they began bargaining, as is done in India and Nepal. Finally, miraculously, Srila Sridhar Swami got the man to give him the Saligram Sila free. I was present in the room when Srila Sridhar Swami asked Srila Sivaram Swami to agree to take charge of his sila after his departure.
Sometimes Srila Sridhar Swami would preach very heavy. Generally he could surprise one as to what he would say. Sometimes he would be gentle as well, but generally he would be very straightforward and tell things as he saw them. I remember once we were together a couple of years at the Woodstock Festival in Poland at the camp organized by Srila Indradyumna Swami. Giving lectures to that crowd was the most difficult thing to do as they were mainly tuned to entertainment mode. They wanted to be entertained and were not in a patient mood. It was a music festival so the young people wanted to hear music or see some drama or something. I found it difficult so when it was my turn I tried to present things in a colorful way with a Bharat Natyam dancer demonstrating my points. Srila Sridhar Swami was asked to give a lecture at around 9-10 in the night. That is the most difficult time as many of the young people are already very much under the influence of different intoxicants and become a bit rowdy. For big bands heavy security is put in place at that time. Somehow Srila Sridhar Swami was speaking to them, but then he became impatient with their Maya. He took a heavy tone in his voice and chastised them for wasting their time imitating hippies. I can't remember all the things he said but he was simultaneously humorous and heavy. Someone through a full beer can on the stage and barely missed Maharaja. He took it lightly and after looking at the beer he told the crown it wasn't his brand. He was stomping back and forth on the stage and admonishing the crowd to not misuse this valuable human form of life. Sri Prahlad das was a bit anxious as the usual tone of talks is in the mode of "love and peace" and this could get out of control. Then Srila Sridhar Swami closed his speech. I asked him with a smile why he got so heavy in his preaching. He smiled at me and said, "I got in the mood." Like that Srila Sridhar Swami could sometimes preach very bluntly and very directly. Not everyone could immediately digest everything he said, but I you could it would certainly do you good!
Like that there are so many pastimes with Srila Sridhar Swami. He was a vibrant person. Maybe because I settled down in Canada and he was from Canada, or maybe because we were always brought together for different devotional services, or maybe because we looked similar, he always called me as Brother and I would address him in the same way. Somehow he was always an action person wanting to do something for Srila Prabhupada.
We are all very thankful for how Srila Indradyumna Swami accompanied Srila Sridhar Swami to India and to Mayapur. That was really a wonderful expression of affection. When Srila Sridhar Swami arrived in Mayapur everyone came to receive him in natural affection and love for this great Krsna conscious Warrior and General who had returned home from valiant battles in the War against Maya. He was received with conch shell blowing and a Sannyasi Maharaja reception. When Srila Sridhar Swami got out of the bus he put his arm around me and addressed me as Brother. I was able to accompany him to the temple and to all the Deities. It was a very moving moment.
Although it would have been more wonderful for all of us if Srila Sridhar Swami had been given a miraculous recovery and still been here with us, it is truly wonderful that Srila Sridhar Swami had such a glorious departure from this world. Leaving surrounded by devotees chanting the holy names, in the Holy Dhama of Mayapur, at the Sri Mayapur Candrodaya Mandir, after having performed abhisheka and arotika of Panca Tattva, after having met with his disciples and god brothers and sisters, leaving in a positive frame of mind as a great spiritual warrior was truly a wonderful and blessed event. It makes one feel proud of Srila Sridhar Swami in some ways blissful, but then I think, "When will I see my dear brother again?" The tears flow again. Like this I am feeling happy for him and sad for us who are deprived of his transcendental association.
I tried to reach in time to help with the Samadhi ceremony, but there was no way from Rajamundhry, Andhra Pradesh, India that I could have reached prior to late at night long after the program would be finished. So everyone advised me it was no use in my coming. So I advised Mayapur Das over the phone of all the things to be done and he assured me also he had expert guidance there for the details. Last night in Vijayawada we observed and today in Tirupati we are also observing Smriti Sabha's or remembrance festivals in the memory and glory of Srila Sridhar Swami.