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Srila Narayana Maharaj, ISKCON devotees, rtvks, and disciples of Kirtanananda

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His Divine Grace Bhakti Vaibhava Puri Maharaj

in New York City


Article and Photographs by Krsnacandra das.


Krsnacandra dasa Om Anjnana Timirandhasya jnananjana salakaya cakur unmilitam yena tasmai sri guruve namah. I hope with the mercy of the Vaishnavas, that I will be able to recant with clarity the wonderful events which have taken place here in New York for the past one week.


Since the month of June 2001, when my own Gurudeva's North American tour ended, I felt lonely for the sanga pure Vaishnavas. I yearned for it day after day, and finally one day, my friend Madan Gopal Prabhu told me that his Gurudeva Srila Bhakti Vaibhava Puri Maharaj would be coming to New York (just one stop on his world tour) in the month of August. His mission; to retrace the steps of Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.


New York would have a particularly special mood, as this is where Srila Prabhupada began his mission to preach Krishna consciousness to the West, and single-handedly performed sublime seva for Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His prophecy, "In every town and village, the chanting of My name will be heard." I was extremely excited, and had Srila Puri Maharaj's darshan in the past when I was in Mathura and Vrindavan for Kartika last year.




Thursday, August 23rd, 2001


A contingent of devotees from the New York area, including Bhumipati Prabhu (sisya of Prabhupada) Madan Gopal Prabhu, some godsiblings and myself, arrived at the airport to personally welcome Srila Puri Maharaj to New York. Srila Maharaj's host, Madan Gopal had not arrived at the time, and we were filled with anxiety. How would we properly welcome Maharaj without his host in New York. But just at the same moment when Madan Gopal had arrived at the terminal, Srila Puri Maharaj entered the room, and all of a sudden, the terminal was filled with chanting.


(Left to right: Sripada Bhakti Vichar Bishnu Maharaj, Srila Bhakti Vaibhava Puri Maharaj) We were all in a state of bliss, a feeling completely foreign to us since my Gurudeva had left North America. Even the common passersby around us took notice of Srila Maharaj and the ecstatic kirtan which seemed to follow him around. Flower petals were spread in his walking path and they were touched by his lotus feet.


Soon, Srila Puri Maharaj and his entourage, consisting of his disciples from Italy, as well as Sripad Bhakti Vichar Bishnu Maharaj and Vrajendra Nandana Brahmachari, both from India, had boarded Madan Gopal Prabhu's vehicle, and they left for his apartment, in the heart of Greenwich Village, Manhattan. Upon arriving at Madan Gopal's apartment, there was a Guru Puja would consisted of the bhajan "Sri Guru-Carana-Padma" and a foot-washing ceremony. Srila Puri Maharaj gave a short lecture and took rest. The apartment was a most serene place at this point in time. Most of the devotees had left after the lecture, and all that remained were a few of the Italian devotees (their residence was seperate, but nearby) taking a short rest or chanting their gayatri. Just the mere knowledge of knowing that Srila Bhakti Vaibhava Puri Maharaj was so close by, sleeping peacefully, was enough to make me feel so very fortunate to have such sanga.


Friday, August 24th, 2001


This was a most exciting and glorious day. In the morning, after breakfast prasadam, we all left for Thompkins Square Park, the place where Srila Prabhupada introduced the nama-sankirtan movement to the Western World. I was with several of the Italian devotees from the entourage, including Sajjan Prabhu, Adhoksaja Prabhu, Mathura Prasad Prabhu, and Mana Mohan Prabhu. We began kirtan, anticipating the time when Srila Puri Maharaj would arrive. We were soon joined by devotees from every known camp prominent in the New York area including disciples of my Gurudeva Srila Narayana Maharaj, ISKCON devotees, rtvks, and disciples of Kirtanananda Swami. For one brief, shining moment, we were all able to unite in the backdrop of this most auspicious place. Finally, Srila Puri Maharaj arrived, and our kirtan became most ecstatic upon seeing him. He strode through the park, and took his seat under the very same tree which Srila Prabhupada would sing kirtan.


He gave a wonderful, captivating class, about the history and glories of Srila Prabhupada, as well as the potency of chanting harinama. From the moment he entered this park, until our departure, I felt as if he briefly brought Vrindavan with him. Even after his lecture was finished and he circumambulated the park, animals such as squirrels and dogs walked up to him, and stopped by his feet, almost as if they were offering their pranams to him. I hope that I will always remember with perfect clarity the delightful expression on his face when he was confronted with joy by spirit souls of every kind, devotees, karmis, and animals alike.



What followed was an over one mile long harinama procession from Thompkins Square Park to 26 Second Avenue, or "Matchless Gifts", the first temple that Srila Prabhupada opened. Despite his seniority, Srila Puri Maharaj walked through the streets with the sankirtan party with such vigor that upon seeing him, Bhishma's prowess during the Battle of Kurukshetra immediately came to mind.


The Sankirtan procession ended at 26 Second Avenue. Srila Maharaj had finally seen the place which served as Srila Prabhupada's first temple. The visit was relatively brief. Srila Puri Maharaj was greeted by Danhudar Swami, as well as Yagna Purusha Brahmachari of ISKCON, and together they viewed the many framed photgraphs of Srila Prabhupada inside.




Finally, Srila Maharaj signed the guestbook. After the parikrama of 26 Second Avenue, Srila Maharaj returned to Madan Gopal Prabhu's apartment, resting before the next program, which was to take place in Jersey City, at the home of grhasta followers of Srila Bhakti Ballabha Tirtha Maharaj.


Srila Puri Maharaj spent a short time in Madan Gopal Prabhu's lobby. He first briefly skimmed the cover of New York Press, a newspaper, followed by the menu of a local Chinese restaurant. As he was reading, he exclaimed, "One dollar fifty for vegetarian soup. This is sixty-seven rupees! In India, we can feed one dozen people with this money!" Srila Puri Maharaj, glancing at the latest issue of "New York Press" Despite the rather lousy traffic on the way to and from Jersey City, the program was warm and wonderful.


Pradyumna Prabhu, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada, came with us that evening, and we arrived at the home of some Indian devotees. The program took place in the backyard of the home, and we were greeted by the comfortable evening air while Srila Puri Maharaj spoke illuminating discourses on Gaura lila and the importance of chanting the holy name. Our hosts fed us generally with prasadam, and we soon returned to New York City.


Srila Maharaj and his associates from India took rest, while Madan Gopal, the Italian devotees, and myself hit the streets of Greenwhich Village and had a great naga sankirtan led by Golokananda Prabhu. The end of a perfect day for harikatha and sweet sadhu-sanga.



Saturday, August 25th, 2001


This was a most auspicious day, as many devotees in America celebrated as the Appearance day of Srimate Radharani. I waited in anxious participation for the wonderful lecture which he would soon give at the home of Champakalata devi dasi, a disciple of Srila Bhakti Ballabha Tirtha Maharaj, in nearby Richmond Hill, Queens.


Although it was apartment, it was spacious and inviting due to her hospitality. When we entered her apartment, which was tastefully decorated for the occasion, I had remembered the times when I was at the Vraja Mandala Parikrama, and my godsiblings and I would follow my Gurudeva to the homes of many grhastas, and we would all crowd together as our Gurudeva would give a class. The mood of this particular program was very similar. Most of the time, I had felt as if I was in Vrindavan or Mathura, and I would purposely forget that I was in Queens, New York.




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