On February 10th, 1977, Śrīla Prabhupāda paid his last visit to Śrī Caitanya Sārasvata Maṭha, particularly to visit Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja.* On that visit, two astounding things occurred – the first was that Śrīla Prabhupāda announced his departure from the world to Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja. He also requested him to look after his disciples after his disappearance. This is a recorded conversation that has been printed and distributed worldwide for the information of the general devotees. Śrīla Prabhupāda informed him, “Mahārāja, I will not remain much longer in this world. I want to bring you to Māyāpura so that you can preach to my disciples. I will bring people from all over the world – they will come and hear from you and you will preach to them.” Of course, nobody at the time could really understand that Prabhupāda was announcing his departure from the world, but in fact he told this to Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja.
Also on that day, Śrīla Prabhupāda requested Śrīpāda Bhakti Sundara Govinda Mahārāja to compose a Sanskrit praṇāma-mantra which would then be recited daily by all of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s disciples, because Govinda Mahārāja was a very expert devotional scholar of Sanskrit. At that time Govinda Mahārāja was a householder, but he was a lifetime servitor of Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja, and from his youth he was very intimate with our Śrīla Prabhupāda.
*This Bengali conversation was transcribed by H.H .Bhakti Cāru Swami.
In 1947 when he was a young boy, he ran away from home and came to the āśrama of Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja at sixteen, and was initiated and given the name Gaurendu Brahmacārī. His family didn’t live so far from Navadvīpa so they eventually came there looking for their son. Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja knew that Gaurendu’s family would eventually come there, so he decided to hide him. Where did he hide him? He hid him in Śrīla Prabhupāda’s house in Kolkata. And so, for about 5 years he stayed mostly in Śrīla Prabhupāda’s house and became the favourite son of Śrīla Prabhupāda. Śrīla Prabhupāda’s own children were captured by their mother – she never really took much serious interest in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. But young Gaurendu was very enthusiastic for Sanskrit studies, studying Bhagavad-gītā, kitchen service and all these things. In the beginning of his devotional service, Śrīla Prabhupāda had a hand in training him for preaching. In 1944, when Śrīla Prabhupāda started his Back To Godhead magazine, Govinda Mahārāja would go out and distribute it. He would meet so many people with opposing views, then he would come home and report to Śrīla Prabhupāda, “I found this opposition – they say this, they say that” then Prabhupāda would give him the answers. But he would say that sometimes Prabhupāda’s answers were “too heavy” and he was afraid that if he repeated them, the people might chase him and beat him with sticks. Therefore, while he lived with Śrīla Prabhupāda, a very affectionate relationship naturally developed between them that endured throughout.
In about 1983 or 1984, remembering the request of Śrīla Prabhupāda before he departed this world, Govinda Mahārāja wrote a praṇāma-mantra in Sanskrit. Actually, if you look very closely at this composition, you will see that all the things that are near and dear to the followers of Śrīla Prabhupāda are included there. He has included all the glories of Śrīla Prabhupāda that are very important to us, much to our satisfaction – and in particular our fervour to always refer to our Guru Mahārāja as Śrīla Prabhupāda. He restructured the original praṇāma-mantra that we are used to, so it read, svāmī śrī bhaktivedānta prabhupādāya te namaḥ.
namaḥ oṁ viṣṇu-pādāya kṛṣṇa-preṣṭhāya bhūtale
svāmī śrī bhaktivedānta prabhupādāya te namaḥ
“I offer my humble obeisances unto His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedānta Swami Prabhupāda, who is very dear to Kṛṣṇa on this earth, having taken shelter of his lotus feet.”
gurvājñāṁ śīrasi-dhāryam śaktyāveśa sva-rūpiṇe
hare-kṛṣṇeti mantreṇa pācātya-prācya-tāriṇe
“Taking the order of his guru on his head, he became empowered to act as a Śaktyāveśa-avatāra. He distributed the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra all over the Western world, delivering and uplifting all fallen souls.”
viśvācārya pra-varyāya divya kāruṇya mūrtaye
“He is the best of millions of jagat-gurus, because he is the personification of divine mercy. He has distributed the sweet nectar of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam and the transcendental knowledge of Bhagavad-gītā all over the world.”
gaura śrī-rūpa-siddhānta-sarasvatī niṣeviṇe
rādhā-kṛṣṇa-padāmbhoja-bhṛṅgāya gurave namaḥ
“He is constantly engaged in exclusive devotional service to Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī and Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. I offer my humble obeisances unto Śrīla Prabhupāda, who is just like a bumblebee always tasting the nectar of the lotus feet of Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa’s.”
(From a lecture given on Śrīla Prabhupāda’s appearance day, at Myrtle Beach, USA, on August 29th, 1994)