By Indradyumna Swami
Dear Tamal Krishna Goswami,
Please accept my most humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
Today I am writing you a posthumous letter, just as our spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, did in the assembly of his disciples in Seattle when his godbrother Bhakti-prajñana Kesava Maharaja passed away in 1968. Srîla Prabhupada wrote: “Be it resolved that we the undersigned members and devotees of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness in a condolence meeting, express our profound bereavement on hearing of the passing of Kesava Gosvamî Maharaja, our sannyasa guru.”
Goswami Maharaja, this evening a number of your godbrothers, disciples, friends, and well-wishers are also expressing our profound bereavement that by the Lord’s mysterious plan you have suddenly been taken from our vision. We are still in shock as to how we have become bereft of one of ISKCON’s great sankirtana generals. Each of us feels the loss in a different way. Your godbrothers miss your sweet, Krishna conscious association, your disciples miss your loving care, the congregation misses your awe-inspiring leadership, and the newcomers who may be present tonight will miss the chance of ever meeting you, who could charm the hearts of so many conditioned souls by your preaching and bestow upon them the priceless gift of devotional service to Srila Prabhupada and Lord Krsna.
As for myself, Goswami Maharaja, I have lost with your departure a dear friend, a friend who had my real interest at heart and who was willing to extend himself to me on numerous occasions. Our association goes back to the mid-1970s, when each year you, Bhagavan dasa, and I would take a spiritual retreat to sacred Hrisikesh in the Himalayas. There we would read and chant, swim in the Ganga and hold kîrtanas, just the three of us, in the sacred abode’s spiritual atmosphere. It was during these retreats that I imbibed from you (and you alone) a great zeal for the missionary activities of Krishna consciousness, for you would always preach to me the glories of the holy name, book distribution, and the making of devotees.
But what amazed me the most was your brilliant plans and strategies for organizing these activities. Recognizing your managerial abilities early in your devotional career, Srila Prabhupada entrusted you with the most responsible services, including being one of the first members of the Gov-erning Body Commission, acquiring and securing the land for our Mayapur project, and heading up book distribution in America. Srila Prabhupada’s supreme love and trust in you was demonstrated by his making you his per-sonal secretary—a service you executed faithfully for many years up to the moment of his departure.
As a result of that service, you had an intimate look into the life of a pure devotee, something that you have shared freely with all of us throughout the years. You were part of a rare breed of devotees, Goswami Maharaja, devotees who had intimate association with his Divine Grace and who understood his mood and the particular way he did things for Krsna. No doubt you earned the most prestigious title any ISKCON devotee could earn, for you were in every way a “Prabhupada man.”
I first met you when I was a new devotee. You awed me. I revered you—or perhaps it is better to say I was afraid of you. Like a commander leading his troops in Lord Caitanya’s army, you instilled those sentiments in your followers in order to push forward the sankirtana movement in military fashion.
Unfortunately, some devotees saw you only in that light. They didn’t have the good fortune to know your soft heart, your love for the devotees, your thirst for associating with your godbrothers, and your eagerness to attain Vrndavana and the loving mood of the Vrajavasîs.
You once showed me that kinder face when I approached you with the desire to take sannyasa in 1978 at the Gaura-Pürnima festival in India. Being an itinerant preacher since the day I joined the Krishna consciousness movement, I had a strong desire to leave household life and enter the renounced order. When I had revealed my desire to my GBC representative,he had replied, “Ask Tamal Krishna Maharaja. If he agrees, I’ll accept your request.”
I was petrified, but I approached you on the Long Building roof and revealed my desire. I expected grueling questions about my plans and motivations. Instead, you sat down with me, and after asking a few questions about my determination to preach, gave me advice on how to practice sannyasa life. I still follow those guidelines.
In 1980 when we were together at the Los Angeles Ratha-yatra, you pulled me aside and said, “Indra, let’s form a team—you and me. We’ll travel all over America, all over the world, just like I did with Vishnujana Maharaja. You’ll lead kîrtana and I’ll speak. We’ll make devotees every-where.” Goswami Maharaja, how much I lament now that I didn’t take you up on that offer. I also lament not accepting your many invitations to visit you in Dallas, Vrndavana, Cambridge, and Oxford over the years. Of all my godbrothers, I see that you most appreciated and understood the value and need for associating with devotees, especially with godbrothers.
It distresses me that in this lifetime I will not be able to have your association again. I will never again hear your clear, logical, dynamic lectures. Goswami Maharaja, among all the devotees, you were my favorite speaker on the Bhagavatam. What nectar you could have given us during the next twenty years. It’s hard for me to understand why Krishna took you at this particular moment. You had so much to offer. You had so much association with Srila Prabhupada, so much Krishna conscious experience, so many ideas for expanding the movement.
And you were on the verge of a new and promising career in devotional service. It can only mean that Krishna has a greater plan for you. I’m jealous of those who will soon be serving alongside you. With you, Krishna consciousness was full of life—spiritual life.
And it’s not that you didn’t have your problems, Goswami Maharaja. I remember our long talks in Cambridge last year. You indicated your dissatisfaction with the ways things were developing in some parts of our movement. You also had your opponents and some personal struggles with health. Throughout it all, you remained chaste and loyal to Srila Prabhupada and his ISKCON movement. You were a pillar of strength for others, the best of spiritual fathers to your disciples, the best of friends to those who chose to love you, an inspiration for masses of devotees, and you displayed real compassion to the fallen conditioned souls when you underwent incredible austerities during ISKCON’s pioneer days and especially as the preaching spread in China.
You were the first in a number of fields, although I saw that you always cultivated a servant’s spirit. Now, in typical fashion but in an unlikely way, you are the first of the initiating spiritual masters to be placed in samadhi in Mayapur. Your departure and its circumstances were tragic, but death is always tragic—even more so when it is a devotee who has left the world. With the departure of any devotee, but especially one of your caliber, the world becomes a little less fortunate. Devotees are the only good fortune in Kali-yuga, and there are so few of them. Thus my lamentation is all the deeper today because my beloved disciple, Vrndavanesvarî dasî, also passed away in the accident with you.
We mourn your loss, Goswami Maharaja. I know my life will never be the same. Sankirtana, our primary activity, is based on teamwork. When one of the primary members is removed from the team, we lose a little of our endurance. Some of the wind is knocked out of us. I’ll miss you. I’ll miss your presence on the preaching battlefield and miss our discussions on Vraja-bhakti. To whom can I turn now with my questions on how to love Krsna?
As tragic as your departure was, it was also glorious. You gave up your body in holy Mayapur-dhama, near Phuliya, the village where Haridasa Thakura chanted 300,000 names of the Lord every day. You departed on the disappearance day of Jagannatha dasa Babajî and Rasikananda Prabhu. Your samadhi ceremony was attended by all our movement’s GBC men, many sannyasîs, most of the temple presidents, and masses of devotees. Your samadhi ceremony was fitting for a devotee of your stature, a devotee of your accomplishments, a devotee loved my many, many godbrothers, disciples, friends, scholars, and common people.
We were together when my disciple Vraja-lîla passed away in Vrnda-vana in 1997. At that time you said that after her departure she would be in a transcendental position to bless us. Goswami Maharaja, you are now also in a transcendental position to bless me. Whether you are back home, back to Godhead, or again serving as our beloved spiritual master’s personal secretary as he continues to establish Lord Caitanya’s mission, you are blessed, no doubt. Please remember and think fondly of me always.
And Goswami Maharaja, the next time you ask me to form a team with you, I won’t be so foolish as to refuse. I’ll happily lead the kîrtanas and you can give the classes. I became a sannyasî by your mercy, and I’m ready now to follow you anywhere.