Archive for March, 2002

TKG: The Final Verdict

March 18th, 2002

Vasant Falls, New York

Tamal Krishna Maharaja was a controversial person. Many loved him deeply and others were less favorable. By nature he was very strong, intelligent, and dominating, but also personable and soft; he had the thunderbolt/rose phenomena of a powerful spiritual personality. In the service of Srila Prabhupada he generally had no qualms about using the force of his character to get his way. It was irresistible and if one found himself on the other side of that force it could be quite unnerving–and only in rare instances was there any use in resisting. At times, however, I also saw him humbly lament to his close friends that this side of his character was a burden to his more internal development.

Tamal Krishna Maharaja was, above all, a practical person and very surrendered to Srila Prabhupada’s mission. He understood that the best way he could serve his spiritual master was to offer everything he had, including his nature, in the service of Srila Prabhupada. He set extremely demanding, seemingly unattainable service objectives, and then, like a powerful general, he commanded his forces to achieve his goals which were inevitably attained. Being in his proximity implied a wllingness to fulfill his objectives, to be driven toward those goals, and to live in his mission–a testing proposition at times for others with seemingly their own mission and needs, and their own world to live in. In that sense Maharaja’s temperament could sometimes appear heavy, even controlling, and often hard to understand or difficult to appreciate in terms of the life of a saint. I thus also, at times, wondered how he would be ultimately be judged by the greater community of devotees.

Although Tamal Krishna Maharaja was the most senior and prominent member of the GBC, he hadn’t been to the GBC meetings in seven years. At the end of Maharaja’s life, he was again brought to Mayapur, into the association of his dear Godbrothers, where once more he could resume his service as the most senior GBC member and respected advisor to its leadership. It is also the time of year when all Gaudiya-Vaishnavas, not just ISKCON, congregate to celebrate the appearance of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. His passing was thus perfectly timed and perfectly placed to guarantee the appropriate recognition and glorification of his practically unparalleled service to the mission of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, all of which seems to have been obviously arranged by the will of providence.

Whatever individual opinions one might have concerning the legacy of Tamal Krishna Maharaja, it is higher authorities that ultimately weigh one’s life and contributions. Can anyone doubt–by the way Lord Gauranga has orchestrated the passing away of Srila Tamal Krishna and arranged for the consequent overwhelming outpour of appreciation and affection worldwide–that it is Mahaprabhu Himself loudly issuing the final verdict and a clear message:

“Srila Tamal Krishna Maharaja, a great and dedicated servant of Srila Prabhupada has passed from this world. His contribution to My mission is very significant and his life and teachings are to be forever remembered and honored. His life and passing is a message to all: Service to my mission is rewarded!”

New York City Indradyumna Maharaja

March 16th, 2002

New York City

Indradyumna Maharaja turned to me at lunch today and reflected the loss of Tamal Krishna Maharaja, our very dear friend, by saying, “I feel scarred for life.” It’s a new experience for me. I cannot recall ever losing someone who was so much a part of my life since Srila Prabhupada left. The loss is felt deeply and it will be for life.

The Vrindaban Tamal Krishna
Outside of Vrindaban one can only know Krishna’s position as the creator and maintainer. In Vrindaban, His home, His full personality is revealed. One can know Him intimately as a friend, parent, or lover. I knew the Vrindaban Tamal Krishna Maharaja, his personal side. Growing up in ISKCON, however, I first knew him only in terms of his position as Srila Prabhupada’s personal secretary, one of the first zonal acaryas, the most prominent and influential GBC, and an extremely powerful, respected, and feared leader. In the late ’80s, however, Maharaja embarked on a new development in his devotional career–his internal nurturing of spiritual life in Vrindaban. He came there to devote quality time to studying the works of Goswamis and to chant and hear about Krishna. Since Vrindaban was my home, we became very close friends. I got to know and observe his personality, his ability to reach out and exchange very intimately with people, whether it was with his Godbrothers, his disciples, or the many other people he contacted and knew through his outreach preaching. We are missing him dearly for his service as a stalwart general of Srila Prabhupada’s mission, but I suspect that it is this side, what I call the Vrindaban Tamal Krishna, that many devotees are remembering and missing most–a part he cultivated and developed more and more as his devotional life matured, especially in Vrindaban. When I first contacted Satyaraja after Maharaja left, he lamented that this very personal and intimate side of Tamal Krishna Goswami–which Satyaraja felt was especially manifest in the last five years–was not so well known. He feared that only his awe-inspiring power as a leader would be remembered. But Satyaraja was wrong. The torrent of attachment for Maharaja after his passing is certainly as much a reflection of the intimacy he achieved in his relationships as it is the result of the respect earned by his position. In great separation we thus remember the Vrindaban Tamal Krishna.

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The Passing Away of His Holiness Tamal Krishna Goswami

March 15th, 2002

New York City

We are all in shock to lose such a dear friend and well-wisher. I will reserve the next few days of this journal for realizations concerning Tamal Krishna Maharaja. It is 2:30 in the morning. I have just returned from a memorial service today for Maharaja, so I won’t have much time for writing. I will just say a few words and in the days ahead I will try to recall some of my realizations about Maharaja.

The program in honor of Tamal Krishna Maharaja at 26 Second Avenue was life-transforming. Many devotees told me so. It was so packed that a rug was put on the sidewalk and a speaker was placed outside. All I could think about was how pleased Tamal Krishna Maharaja would have been to see the success of the preaching here as the growing congregation of 2nd Avenue, including many newer devotees from New York, have today joined some of his dearest friends like Indradyumna Swami, Dayananda, and Satyaraja to honor him, and by doing so, honor the principle of service to Srila Prabhupada’s mission.

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