It is with a heavy heart burdened with the feelings of pain in separation that we are having to tell of the disappearance of our beloved godbrother, Oṁ Viṣṇupāda Paramahaṁsa Parivrājakācārya Aṣṭottara-śata Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Abhaya Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja. The readers of this remembrance of Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja, as he was affectionately known, will certainly lament his absence from our sight.
Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja was a friend and well-wisher to everyone. His ability to be a friend to all was possible only due to his being a pure devotee of the Supreme Lord, Śrī Caitanya. Such unwanted feelings as pride, anger, and desire for honour were never visible in his divine person. What we have heard in the scriptures about the character of a pure devotee, we have found fully in our dealings and association with him.
Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja first came to the lotus feet of his spiritual master, Śrīla A.C. Bhaktivedānta Swami Prabhupāda in 1971, when Kṛṣṇa consciousness was unheard of throughout most of western Europe and all of eastern Europe. He was initiated by Śrīla Prabhupāda as Dvārakeśa Dāsa Brahmacārī and, as a fully surrendered disciple, empowered to preach, publish transcendental literature and increase the number of devotees. This Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja did very successfully throughout his life, wherever he went, but he was especially empowered to achieve all success in the communist block. For this service, surrender and deep affection for the lotus feet of Śrīla Prabhupāda, he is known among his godbrothers as an eternal associate of our divine master.
After the disappearance of Śrīla Prabhupāda from this mundane plane, Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja furthered his service to Śrīla Prabhupāda by accepting and initiating disciples of his own. Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja became the shelter and guidance for all those sincere souls that Kṛṣṇa guided to his lotus feet.
In 1985 Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja came to the lotus feet of Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Deva Gosvāmī and received the tridaṇḍi staff of the renounced order of life, sannyasa. At that time, Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja conferred upon him the sannyāsa title and name Bhakti Abhaya Nārāyaṇa, Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja blessed Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja to continue his service to Śrīla Prabhupāda and recognized him as a true representative of Śrīla Prabhupāda and a qualified spiritual master in all respects.
From 1985 until his sudden disappearance from our sight on February 20 1993, Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja was a messenger of mercy wherever he went, distributing the blessings of Śrīla Prabhupāda and Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja. In those years, Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja initiated many souls into the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava sampradāya. It is those devotees who find it most difficult to bear his absence at this time.
The activities of Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja first became well known to many of the devotees in America in 1982 when he came and told stories of preaching in the Eastern Block countries. These narratives became the talk of many temples as devotees imagined themselves taking such immense physical risks for the preaching mission of Śrī Caitanya. At that time, the countries where Mahārāja was preaching were the kind where people were imprisoned for simply saying words like ‘transcendental’ or ‘yoga’, what to speak of being in possession of volumes of literature contradicting communist ideology. When asked what would happen in those countries if one was captured preaching an anti-communist doctrine, Mahārāja casually replied, “I think your family would never see you again,” and laughed, seeming to minimize the risk involved. Such danger was the atmosphere in which his daily devotional activities were conducted. The stories which Mahārāja told of near misses and escapes from the communist authorities were thrilling and exciting, but they were only symptoms of something very powerful going on within him. He was the embodiment of the principle of expecting Kṛṣṇa’s protection. He could keep an assembly of devotees captivated not only by the practical details of what it meant to preach in these oppressed countries, but by the sweet realizations such intense surrender had imparted to him. Armed with his implicit faith, he daily confronted imprisonment and possible torture or death. He was a true servant, dedicating himself to the fulfilment of Śrī Caitanya’s prophecy that His movement would go to every town and village.
Despite so many victories and escapes with this world of cloak and dagger preaching, Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja held with his grasp an obvious lack of self-importance, the rare jewel of humility that Śrī Caitanya had indicated is required for immersing the heart in the nectar of the Holy Name. Despite his cleverness and stealth, he displayed in the execution of his service, despite the successes he saw in his preaching field, despite possessing the rare selflessness that is a prerequisite for such activities, he would never allow himself to be the subject of praise and would often physically run from the room if praise was directed towards him.
It certainly behooves all those aspiring on the path of bhakti to remember the service and self-abnegation of Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja, especially when it seems our service is somehow overwhelming our capacity to endure. He showed absolute endurance in the mission of Śrī Caitanya.
O my dear Lord Kṛṣṇa, what have You done? Why have you taken Your dear servant from our sight? Your ways are unknown and unknowable. Is it to make us all the more attached to our dear friend and guide that You have taken him in the embrace of Your infinite arms? What is Your plan, we do not know. Our hearts are feeling too much pain, so kindly help us, O Lord, in our hour of need.
O my dear Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja, when we last parted, we did not say goodbye, but only that we would meet again soon in this holy land of Śrī Vṛndāvana. I thought that it was I who would await your return, but now it is you who are waiting there in the eternal world for me. Our humble prayer to you is that you do not forget all of us fallen souls here in this world. We will keep your sacred memory always in our hearts and cherish the day when we will have your most holy association once again. Farewell until then and kindly give us your blessings.