Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakura
Srila Bhakti Vedanta Swami Prabhupada
Tridandi Swami Bhakti Hridaya Vana Maharaj
Akinchan Krishnadas Babaji Maharaj
Avadhuta Ramesh Babaji Maharaj
Memories of Srila Prabhupada
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(C) 1995 by Richard S. Brown All rights reserved.
Tridandi Swami Bhakti Hridaya Bon (Vana) Maharaj
RARE Swami Bon Maharaj Kirtan-1
RARE Swami Bon Maharaj Krishna Katha-2
RARE Swami Bon Maharaj Krishna Katha-3
HIS EARLY LIFE:
His Holiness was born Narendra Nath Mukherji in 1901 in East Bengal, the Gaudiya Vaishnava Brahman son of Brahmarishi Rajanikanta, who was a renowned Vedic scholar and devotee. Vana Maharaj was a life-long celibate and as a brahmacari he joined and took initiation from the early 1900s
Later, in 1924, at the age of 23, he was the third disciple to accept life-long Tridanda Sannyasa from Srila Saraswati Prabhupada and quickly became one of his leading preachers. He was the most bright and educated among his godbrothers and under his Gurudeva's order he preached the message of Lord Chaitanya delivering literally thousands of lectures all over India, including at the Royal Albert Hall in Calcutta. He also established new Gaudiya Math's for his Gurudeva (such as in Madras) and he organized theistic exhibitions in Calcutta and Dacca which drew 100,000 visitors daily.
Young Swami Bon Maharaj
He was so successful and aggressive a preacher, introducing the message of Srila Sarasvati Prabhupada and Lord Chaitanya up to the highest levels of social and intellectual society of that time (during the British Raj) that he soon became famous all over India.
Because of his good breeding and high education he was sent by his Gurudeva, Srimad Bhakti Siddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada, to UK and Germany to preach. Unfortunately the 1930's were not like America during the mid-1960's prosperity and "counter-culture" revolution, and although he took Lord Chaitanya's teachings to the very top of mletccha society (He was even received in audience by H.M. The King of England) and gave many lectures throughout England and Europe, still it was (to quote Lord Zetland) almost "impossible" to make beef eaters of that time and place turn into Brahmin-Vaishnavas. Vana Maharaj, being born a Bengali brahmin and living as a celibate Tridandi sannyasi, suffering in the bitter cold and damp London during the British Raj AND the Great Depression.
One lakh of people greet Sripad B.H. Bon Maharaj (3rd from right with tridanda)on his return from Europe with two mlettcha converts.
AC Bhaktivedanta Swami, then A.C. De, is seated at far right
Still, Vana Maharaj influenced many souls and converted two German gentlemen (Dr. E.G. Schulze and Baron Koeth) whom he brought back to India and offered at the feet of Srila Sarasvati Prabhupada, his Gurudeva, for initiation.
But there was a jealous conspiracy being hatched against Srila Vana Maharaj by some evil members of the Gaudiya Matha. They acted to poison the mind of Prabhupada by telling him that Vana Maharaj was taking money sent from them in India and living a life of luxury. In fact, the truth was just the opposite. It was a great austerity for a pure Bengali born Gaudiya Vaishnava Brahmin to brave the miserable English weather and the ignorant and puffed-up British and Europeans.
Prabhupada, out of his infinite personal mercy, acted displeased with Vana Maharaj (at the prompting of those devious members of the Gaudiya Matha who later left the mission in disgrace). They appeared to have poisoned the mind of Prabhupada against Vana Maharaj.
Upon his return to Calcutta he received a grand reception by one lakh of people. But at the Matha he was returning in disgrace and being called a failure. At that time he felt very wounded by the harsh treatment of his spiritual master and the jealous plotters, so he went away to stay at another Gaudiya Matha outside Bengal.
In 1942, after the disappearance of his Gurudeva, Srila Sarasvati Prabhupada, and the breakup of the Gaudiya-Matha into factions, Vana Maharaj voted for Srila B.V. Tirtha Maharaj to be the next Acharya.
And (it is known) that Srila Vana Maharaj spent one month living on a raft in the middle of the Ganga to atone for any unresolved misunderstanding with his great spiritual master, Srila Sarasvati Prabhupada.
Later, when the disputes within Gaudiya Math became violent, Srila Vana Maharaj went by foot on a solitary pilgrimage into the Himalayas for many years of severe tapasya (only chanting Hare Krishna!).
His vows were (1) not speaking to anyone, (2) eating only fruits and nuts off of trees, (3) sleeping bare bodied on the ground, and (4) not taking a single step without chanting the Maha-mantra. He journeyed 650 miles on foot and lived at the source of the Yamuna River under very severe circumstances. During these years alone Vana Maharaj describes in his Bengali book, Vaikunther-pathe, how he had vision darshan of his Gurudeva, who revealed to him his siddha-bhajan-pranali, and ordered him to go serve Sri Vrindavana-dhama.
Thereafter he retired in Vrindavana where he constructed a small bhajan-kutir on land donated to him. He also excavated an under-ground cave-room where he spent many years performing secluded bhajan (chanting in meditation).
HIS LATER LIFE:
By the age of 70 Vana Maharaj had many thousands of initiated Bengali and other Indian born disciples. I personally went on a tour of several East and West Bengali villages where the entire populations were his disciples. And all Vana Maharaja's bona fide disciples worship, respect and serve Lord Krishna through him. He is known as a siddha-purusa by all his disciples.
During his life Vana Maharaj wrote and translated some excellent books including his master-piece translation and commentary of Sri Rupa Goswami's classic, Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu. Other books by Swami Vana which have also been published include the Gita As a Chaitanyite Reads It, Sri Chaitanya, Viraha-vedana, On the Way to Vaikuntha (Hindi & Bengali), and seven more books in German, English, Hindi and Bengali.
Vana Maharaj also served Vraja-dhama by offering the Vraja-vasi's local accredited education...
1) He built the Vaishnava Theological University (later became affiliated with the University of Agra as the Institute of Oriental Philosophy), in Vrindavana, where many Vraja-vasi's received BA, MA and Ph.D. degrees without leaving the Dhama;
2) He also constructed the Sri Krishna Chaitanya Primary School next to Sanatana Goswami's bhajan-kutir in Nandagrama which is the first school there in 5,000 years; the local kids used to take a bus to Kosi in order to even begin studies;
3) He also maintains Sri Sanatana Goswami's bhajan kutir in Nandagrama where many of his Godbrothers would stay, and even now this sacred tirtha is still under the care of his babaji disciples. It is also the sacred spot where Akinchan Krishnadas Babaji Maharaj left his old body. If anyone takes darshan of the Nandagrama bhajan kutir altar they will see the Guru Parampara descending to Srila Vana Maharaj.
4) His personal Math is called "bhajan kutir" in Vrindavana where he lived a quiet life with brahmacari and sannyasi disciples. Vana Maharaj was always very strict with the four regulative principles, and he never acted or spoke sahajiya or fallen in any way; he was a fixed-up, life-long celibate sannyasi disciple of Srila Sarasvati Prabhupada who mostly performed private bhajan after returning from his tapasya. He was very concerned about the Nitya-lila pastimes of the Divine Couple and his own service therein.
Sripad Bon Maharaj's BEST FRIEND Srila Krishnadas Babaji Maharaj
After an entire life of intense unbroken devotional service (preaching, tapasya, bhajan, and Vraja seva) Srila Vana Maharaj departed this material world at 9:04 PM on July 7, 1982 at his Bhajan kutir in Vrindavan, U.P. India.
Here are the facts about the disappearance of HDG Srila Vana Maharaja as reported in the book "Supreme Divinity and Sad-guru" by Dr. Tapodhir Krishna Dastidar.
"Our hearts, laden with anguish and anxiety, we spent all day taking part by rotation in the kirtan which somehow continued even after the expiry of the midday of July 7. In the evening when a few of us were singing sadly kirtan before the ashram Deities, we were hastily summoned from the Natmandir by Swami Rasikananda Maharaj and requested to gather round Gurudev's bedside.
"While ceaselessly chanting the "Hare Krishna" Mahamantra over and over again, we watched helplessly as Gurudev's chest slowly heaved up and down with every intake and exhalation of breath. All the while, even in his semi comatose condition, his tongue was rhythmically chanting the Holy Name of Krishna. Swami Keshavananda Maharaj was feeling Gurudev's pulse all the time. The end, as already stated, came at 9.04 PM on July 7, 1982. The last giant amongst the best exponents of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, His Holiness Swami Bhakti Hriday Bon Maharaj left his mortal coils to join the company of the Supreme Godhead's Eternal Associates who are ever engaged in offering esoteric and supra-mundane devotional service to Sri Krishna and His Counter whole projection Sri Radha in their transcendental love-sports. We shall never see the like of him again." (SDASG, 83-84)
Afterwards, when his corpse was taken out for a parikrama of Vrindavan, his eyes opened when the palanquin left the Bhajan Kutir, and they closed when it returned. Also, Lalit Krishna Brahmacari reported that there was a distinct smell of sandalwood coming from his transcendental body.
Please accord full respect to the sacred memory of H.D.G. Tridandi Swami Srila Bhakti Hridaya Vana Maharaj and ALL his devoted and blessed disciples. His vapu-samadhi temple is located on Madan-mohan Ghera in Sridham Vrindavana, and the murti is a very good likeness of Srila Vana Maharaj at about 72 years of age. Some of what is known about Srila Vana Maharaj is his siddha-pranali realization and his eternal service in Radha-Krishna's Vrindavan nitya lila.
---by a worthless and ungrateful servant, Hrsikesa das