The following is an offering of appreciation I wrote one year after my godbrother, Sridhar Maharaja, left this world. Fifteen years have passed now. Let us not forget his pioneer work in spreading this Krsna consciousness movement.
My dear god-brother Sridhar Maharaja,
Please accept my most humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
Today is the celebration of your appearance in this world, and those of us who remember your kindness upon us gather to express our appreciation and glorify you.
Each of us, in our own way, benefited from your saintly association when you were among us: your disciples from your fatherly guidance on the spiritual path, your friends and well-wishers from your brotherly love and affection, and the fallen jivas from your learned discourses on the Absolute Truth.
Personally, I had the privilege to call you my friend. At least, you considered me in that way. The truth is that you were light-years ahead of me in Krsna consciousness, but you kindly associated with me as an equal and tried to raise me to your own level. Such is the nature of saintly persons who are non-envious and always concerned about the spiritual welfare of others.
We were friends in the ultimate sense because we liked the same things. From the minute we met we were spontaneously attracted to each other because we both relished speaking on the Bhagavatam and chanting and dancing in kirtan. We also liked the adventure of traveling and spreading Krsna consciousness, and as young men we had a zest for taking prasadam together. I was always amazed at your voracious appetite! But I knew your gusto for prasadam was not simply because of its taste, but rather because you realized it was the mercy of the Lord. And as preachers we always needed mercy to defeat our adversaries.
Perhaps my greatest appreciation for you is that you were a fearless preacher. You had mastered the philosophy and did not tolerate any conclusion to the contrary. You would preach strongly and forcefully, not giving in to your opponents in any way. If they accepted defeat you smiled and graciously offered to help them on the blissful path of service to the Lord’s lotus feet. But woe to them who chose to argue with you! Your keen intelligence and witty remarks would soon reveal their foolishness and leave them no recourse but to withdraw.
A preacher willingly puts himself in such awkward situations as a service to guru and Gauranga. He endures the rigors of traveling far and wide to preach the glories of the Lord. Sometimes he sleeps in a palace, sometimes on the side of the road. At times he tolerates the heat, and at other times the cold. Nevertheless, he remains satisfied because of sharing his good fortune of Krsna consciousness – although you appeared not only satisfied but jolly throughout it all! In happiness and distress, honor and dishonor – even in the face of death itself – you were always the Jolly Swami. Today we honor worship you for that endearing quality.
Your merry nature and constant humor enabled us to tolerate the fluctuating nature of this world. If something like this world can be the object of a joke, it can’t be taken too seriously. Through you, we learned not to take material life seriously. We thank you for that.
And conversely, we thank you for helping us to take Krsna consciousness seriously. Your example as a sadhaka – a practitioner of Krsna consciousness – was exemplary. You always chanted your rounds and your Gayatri mantra; you faithfully attended morning programs, associated with your god-brothers and god-sisters and enthusiastically worshipped the deity of the Lord. Just remembering these attributes gives us strength – even in your absence.
We miss your dearly, Maharaja. The adage that time heals all wounds does not apply in the transcendental realm of devotional service. Actually, the contrary is true: as time goes on we miss you more and more. This is painful for those of us who love you. It is difficult to live without you and other god-brothers and god-sisters who have left this world. Devotional service is relishable in the association of other devotees. As we grow older and devotees begin to depart, even devotional life appears to be devoid of happiness. The only remedy is to join all of you and Srila Prabhupada again, wherever your pastimes may be happening.
In the meantime we will continue with our services here in a mood of separation. I believe it is these feelings of separation that will bring us together again, because in the end one goes to where the heart takes them. Because you endeared yourself to me with your brotherly love you are forever n my heart. Thus I am confident that one day I will again enjoy a good laugh with you in Krsna consciousness and perhaps a good fight, too, as we defeat our opponents somewhere in this universe in service to Lord Caitanya!
Happy trails my friend, until we meet again.
September 2, 2019: An Appeal for Ramdas Abhiram Das
An Appeal To Help Ramdas Abhirama Das Who Is In Critical Condition
Dear Devotees worldwide, Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
We are again making an appeal for financial support, this time for a very dear and loved devotee who has made significant contributions to the cultural expansion of our Krishna consciousness in the world. Ramdas Abhirama Das, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada, suffered a serious cerebral intraparenchymal hemorrhage while visiting Italy with his wife Dhrti Dasi last week. Cerebral intraparenchymal hemorrhage is when a blood vessel bursts in the brain depriving the brain of oxygen and proper blood supply. It can result in death or impaired mobility throughout life.
When the hemorrhage happened Ramdas fell unconscious and was immediately airlifted by helicopter to a good hospital in Livorno, Italy. He has been in an induced coma in ICU since that time and more than likely he will remain in ICU for several weeks. Because the hemorrhage is deep within his brain doctors cannot operate. They can only monitor the situation.
Ramdas and Dhrti have Medicare in the USA, but unfortunately, it does not cover medical expenses in other countries. Additionally they have no travel insurance.
We have consulted with the doctors about the cost of his care while in the hospital and they gave a rough estimate of £50,000. I say rough estimate because at this stage no one really knows what will happen to Ramdas. We can only pray and wait. If Ramdas survives the doctors say he will require months of successive treatment to learn how to use his bodily functions again. In their opinion that could easily amount to another £30,000. Needless to say, Dhrti will also need some financial support throughout this ordeal as well. She is presently staying with an Italian family who kindly offered a room in their modest house at least for the time being.
Ramdas and Dhrti are legends in ISKCON art, having painted in the BBT art trust from 1975 to 1986, with the original core of BBT artists including Jadurani Dasi, Pariksit Das and Murlidhar Das. They received personal instructions on painting from Srila Prabhupada and their paintings are included in the Srimad Bhagavatam, Bhagavad Gita, Nectar of Devotion, Caitanya Caritamrta and Krsna Book.
Please donate generously to helping Ramdas and Dhrti in this very difficult and challenging moment in their lives. Srila Prabhupada once described the paintings done by them and other ISKCON artists as, ‘windows to the spiritual world.”
September 4, 2019: Update on Ramdas
Dear devotees: Here is an update on Ram Dās. He remains in ICU but is breathing independently now with a tracheotomy tube. Two days ago when sedation was removed he opened his eyes. Slowly they are removing different types of assistance to see if he can function independently. He has responded to questions by blinking his eyes . The doctors explain all this takes great effort and work for the brain, so time is needed on this difficult journey.
Our festival’s are an interesting blend of east and west in order to attract the general mass of people to the deeper message of Krsna consciousness. They are family affairs and we arrange them so that there is something for everyone in the family. Because they are colorful,attractive, fun and deeply devotional people attend each summer, year after year. My godbrother, B.B Govinda Mahārāja once kindly described them as, “The Greatest Show On Earth.
Many thousands of devotees showed up for this year’s annual Bhakti Sangam festival in Ukraine. The theme for his years event was “boiling the milk.” In other words, taking care of devotees. The kirtans were out of this world, as were the many seminars and cultural performances.
Yesterday a very dear disciple of Srila Prabhupada, Bahulasva das, departed this world. Please click on the following link to watch the touching interview he gave just two days before he left his body. His memories of Srila Prabhupada are wonderful. Bahulasva prabhu made an indelible impression in my Krsna consciousness in my formative years in the movement. He would sometimes visit the Detroit temple where I joined and give lectures that I still remember. Once I told him, “I want to be a preacher just like you!” I have no doubt he is now with Srila Prabhupada. He is in white, walking on the far right side of the photo with Srila Prabhupada. We owe everything to devotees like him who helped pioneer this great Krsna conscious movement. Here is the link:
September 19, 2019: For Gopali
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
Once again I approach you with a straw between my teeth and ask you to donate liberally to a worthy cause. Last week, after a festival in Ukraine, two devotee couples and their children were driving back home at night. Suddenly a vehicle coming in the opposite direction swerved into their lane. To avoid a head-on collision, Damodar Svayam das (Dmitriy Jhelo), the driver, swerved to the right but lost control of the vehicle and swerved back into the oncoming traffic. At that point another oncoming car smashed into his vehicle, instantly killing his wife Lalita Swamini dasi and Ekaterina who was five months pregnant. Ekaterina’s husband Puspavan Das underwent surgery and is now conscious.
Damodar’s 9-year-old daughter, Gopali dasi (Bogdana Zhelo), was sitting on her mother’s lap and saw her die. Gopali herself sustained serious injuries. Her hip is fractured in five places. She was taken to a nearby Children’s Hospital where she underwent five hours of surgery. I was present when she woke up and was informed that her mother had indeed perished. It was a heart-wrenching scene. The doctors told me that due to the extent of her injuries Gopali will have to stay three months in hospital. Though young, she is a serious little devotee who has been chanting japa and worshipping her deities daily for a long time. Her father, Damodar, is a taxi driver by profession but has now lost his car and means of livelihood. The hospital bills will be far beyond his means. I beg you to reach out to these families and help them in their time of distress. I will personally be keeping in touch with them.
My disciple Prema Narasimha das (Shimal Shah) in London has setup a Go Fund Me page and will organise for monies to be transferred for Gopali: https://www.gofundme.com/Gopali
You can also send in any currency to him via Paypal: paypal.me/shimalshah
After 8 months on the battlefield I’m home again. Such a wonderful feeling. Very grateful to Radha and Krsna for granting me some time again in Their sacred abode. Śrī Radhe!
September 26, 2019: Update On Gopali Dasi
This is an update on the condition of 9-year old Gopali dasi recovering from a recent car accident in Ukraine. As mentioned before her injuries are centered around a number of serious fractures to her hip bone. She underwent surgery last week where the broken pieces of bone were moved into the right position and are being held in place using metal pins and screws. As with all such patients, she is immobile in bed and is being monitored by the doctors to ensure there is no infection. For obvious reasons healing is slow with hip fractures and in her case, the doctors say she will be in the hospital for 3 months and in rehabilitation for an indefinite period afterward. She is also receiving special counseling, due to the fact her mother died in the same accident. As such, they now estimate her hospital expenses alone will surpass 30,000 British pounds. So, I am requesting devotees, friends and well-wishers to keep donations coming in to help us reach that goal. I also want to thank all of you from around the world who have so kindly given towards the recuperation of this little Vaisnavi. May Krsna bless one and all!
Along with the Go Fund Me page, donations can also be sent in any currency to: paypal.me/shimalshah
Upon arriving back in Vrindavan I visited old friends, holy places and some very friendly cows. I chanted on Srila Jiva Goswami’s japa beads, took in the beauty of the sacred Yamuna river, had darshan of everyone’s favorite Radha Ramanji and paid my respects to the most sacred Giriraja Govardhan. All in one day!
We are visiting several holy places in the Vrindavan countryside this morning, in preparation for our Kartika parikrama starting in 2 weeks. We are expecting 400 devotees.
Yesterday we walked through small villages and country roads in rural Vrindavan to the ancient samadhi mandira of Vajranabha, the great grandson of Krsna. He is well known for establishing a number of historic deities in Vrindavan soon after the departure of Lord Krsna 5,000 years ago. To really understand Vrindavan one must associate with the people, the Vrajavasis, living in the small villages in the countryside. They are truly Krsna conscious! [ Photos by Kartamashi dasa ]
Yesterday we did a lovely program at the home of two brothers in Delhi, Honey and Sunny Katiyal who are successful businessmen with a newfound interest in Krsna consciousness. A highly cultured family, they received us nicely and loved the Krsna katha and ensuing kirtan. On the way to the program we visited one of their developing projects: a 48 floor apartment building with a stunning view of the sacred Yamuna river flowing on it’s way to Vrindavan.