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Vyāsa-pūjā
2017

Khonika Gope (Dhaka - Swamibag - Bangladesh)

Dearest Guru Mahārāja,

Please accept my most humble obeisances. All glories to Śrīla Prabhupāda. All glories to your glorious service to Śrīla Prabhupāda.

I am your unqualified daughter. I absolutely do not have any knowledge or qualification to even understand your greatness, what to speak of glorifying you. However, with your mercy only, for my own purification, I should speak a few words. I want everyone know how merciful you have been to this insignificant soul - how you have brought me to the lotus feet of Śrīla Prabhupāda and given me a chance to associate with wonderful devotees. I would like to start by quoting a verse from Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (1.1.15) which is very relevant to my journey.

“O Sūta, those great sages who have complete­ly taken shelter of the lotus feet of the Lord can at once sanctify those who come in touch with them, whereas the waters of the Ganges can sanctify only after prolonged use.”

In a similar note, Narottama Dāsā Ṭhākura sings,

yāhāra nikaṭe gele pāpa dūre jāy
emana doyāla prabhu kebā kothā pāy?
gaṅgāra paraśa hoile paścāte pāvana
darśane pavitra koro ei tomāra guṇa

“Where does anyone find such a merciful personality by whose mere audience all sins go far away? After bathing in the waters of the sacred Ganges many times, one becomes purified, but just by the sight of you, the fallen souls are purified. This is your great power.”

Yes, I was saved by your mere sight. By simply glancing at me, you have brought a fallen soul like me to Kṛṣṇa consciousness. It was July 9, 2003, when I had the greatest fortune to have your darsana and immediately my heart changed. Exactly a year earlier in 2002, I and my sister landed up in a Ratha-yātrā in Dhaka. We did not have any clue what a Ratha-yātrā is, who Jagannātha, Baladeva and Subhadrā Devī are. However, we liked the festival so much that we decided to come next year. During this one year, we did not have any connection with the temple or the devotees or any preaching program. We just read something about ISKCON in the internet and skimmed through a couple of books. So, in 2003, we went to the Ratha-yātrā and got to know that 8 days later, there is another festival called return Ratha-yātrā. We decided to join that festival too. Little did we know what was waiting for us!

Out of your causeless mercy, you used to visit return Ratha Yātrā in Dhaka each and every year. However, we did not know any­thing about you or your magnitude. When they announced your arrival as the chief guest of the program, we saw a very effulgent man draped in bright saffron dress and wearing many flower garlands walking to the stage surrounded by numerous devotees. We were awestruck! You appeared to us like a King or a demigod, who is surrounded by his associates. I and my sis­ter were discussing, “Who is this brilliant man? Where did you appear from?” When you started giving your lecture, you did the mangala caranam first, “oṁ ajñāna-timirāndhasya…” We were even more surprised; we never heard maṅgalā caraṇam before, what to speak of from a western bodied sādhu. Then, you started speaking, and to our surprise in pure Bengali, “Uposhit bhodro mohila and bhodro mohodhoygon…” Though we were just kids and didn’t understand much, we listened to your lecture in complete wonder! The whole place was cramped with thousands of people and we were trying hard to have a proper glimpse of yours. You suddenly glanced upon me and smiled. Immediately something happened inside me.

After your lecture got over, I told my sister, “Monika, let’s become devotees.” Since we never had any devotee association or properly exposed to Vaiñṇava philosophy, we didn’t even know what a devotee means. We only knew that someone who follows four regulative principles is a devotee. I told her, “We already follow three regulative principles, let’s just give up meat eating.” From the very day, July 9, 2003, we completely gave up meat eating without any difficulty at all. Then, we started going to the temple regularly, met the wonderful devotees and learned the philosophy. It is you Guru Mahārāja who just by glancing upon this pour soul saved me from drowning in the material world. I would like to quote the famous verse from Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛita (Madhya 22.54)

‘sādhu-saṅga’, ‘sādhu-saṅga’ — sarva-çāstre kaya
lava-mātra sādhu-saṅge sarva-siddhi haya

“The verdict of all revealed scriptures is that by even a moment’s association with a pure devotee, one can attain all success”

Prabhupāda gave a one-line purport to this verse, “According to astronomical calculations, a ‘lava’ is one eleventh of a second.”

Yes, by one eleventh of a second, you changed me and many others!

People who know the culture of Bengal would know how attached most people are to demigod worship and how difficult it is to convince them about Kṛṣṇa’s supreme potency. However, you have made that impossible possible. Just like me, so many hundreds and thousands of people became devotees just by seeing you once. Personally, I know a quite few. Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛita further mentions (Madhya 24.97)

ādhu-saṅga-kṛpā kimvā kṛṣṇera kṛpāya
kāmādi ‘duḥsaṅga’ chāḍi’ śuddha-bhakti pāya

“One is elevated to the platform of devotional life by the mercy of a Vaiñṇava, the bona fide spiritual master, and by the special mercy of Kṛṣṇa. On that platform, one gives up all material desires and the association of unwanted people. Thus, one is elevated to the platform of pure devotional service.”

Kṛṣṇa is the most merciful; however, devotees are more merciful than the Lord. That’s why Nityānanda Prabhu was more merciful than Mahāprabhu. He delivered personalities like Jagāi and Mādhāi, who didn’t have any chance of Mahāprabhu’s association. Śrīla Prabhuada is even more merciful because he delivered hundreds of Jagāi Mādhāi. You are his true disciple and got his full blessings. You have travelled all the nooks and corners of the world to bestow your mercy upon thousands of Jagāi Mādhāi. You have given up your youth, risked your health to travel to all the remote villages of Bangladesh and India, dangerous places like Russia and Middle East, and all over the world and transformed thousands of people. Who in this present world is as merciful as you? There is no one! Absolutely no one!

I offer my humble obeisances to your lotus feet again and again. Please bless me so that I can always be attached to you and Śrīla Prabhupāda. Please make me an instrument in your service to Śrīla Prabhupāda.

Your unqualified daughter,
Khonika Gope