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The following excerpts have been taken from the book called, Krsnalingita-vigraha: One Who is Always Embraced by Krsna.
Whenever as young boy he would become naughty and not stop crying, his mother would simply put the Srimad-Bhagavatam in his hands and he would stop crying. He was so much inclined to read the Srimad Bhagavatam, that if he were reading he would forget to take his meals. The family was too poor to afford candles or a lamp for reading, so in the evening he would sit close to the cooking fire and read Srimad-Bhagavatam. At night he would go to sleep holding the Srimad Bhagavatam to his chest.
A Family of Vaisnavas
His mother and father were very fond of studying and reading the scriptures. They would regularly read to their son. Srila Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja recalls:
"I would regularly listen to Krishna katha from my parents, they would read different Puranas to me and other Vedic literature: Srimad Bhagavatam, Mahabharata, etc. Such an opportunity I received at such an early age! From then I was singing, dancing, doing kirtana and listening to Srimad Bhagavatam."
His father would read to him from Srimad Bhagavatam, completing all twelve cantos once a year. He was completely absorbed in pure love for Sri Sri Radha Gopal Jiu.
In 1952 his mother arranged for his marriage. In 1955 when his father passed away the financial responsibility to maintain the family fell on his shoulders. After obtaining a B.A. and B. Ed. degrees from Utkal University, he took up government service as a school teacher. Although this time was busy and burdensome with family and teaching responsibilities, he maintained a strict daily sadhana of rising at 4 AM, chanting Hare Krsna, worshiping Tulasi and speaking on Bhagavad-gita. Throughout his life he made entries into his diary in the form of prayers to Sri Gopaljiu. In 1973, entries frequently mention his desire to renounce family life. The following is from the book "Gopaljiu, the beloved Deity of Srila Gour Govinda Swami":
"O Prabhu Gopal, please make me a yogi sannyasi! I don't need anything, Prabhu. I'm not asking You for material opulence, respect, glory or anything else. You may give those things to my younger brother Kripa-sindhu. Let him maintain Your family. Make me a samsara-vairagi-yogi, a renunciate of family life. Let me beg that prema-dhana, that wealth of love of Godhead! Let me distribute prema and ananda! Let me serve You! Please shower this mercy on me, Prabhu! Please bless me with prema-bhakti, ecstatic love for You!"
In April 1974, he left his family life and had taken up the name of Gour Gopal. Gour for Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Gopal for his beloved Sri Gopaljiu. Ghanashyam Giri recalls:
"He arrived at Gopal's temple about 2 PM. Generally Gopal's arati begins at 12 noon and by 2 PM the arati is finished and everyone has taken prasadam. Somehow on that day the key was lost and Gopal's service was delayed. When Gurudeva arrived, the arati was just beginning. I think that Gopal made this arrangement so that He would be able to see His dear devotee."
After the noon arati, Gour Gopal read the Bhagavad-gita and Rama-carita-manasa to the devotees. With a choked voice he sang the following verse where Lord Ramacandra says: vane gale muhin muni-jane bheti sarthaka koribi prana, "If I go to the forest I will meet so many sadhus and thereby fulfill my life's desire."
That night Gour Gopal laid down to rest in Gopal's temple. At the last part of the night Gour Gopal woke up one of devotees and told him, "I have received Gopal's order. I'll be a sannyasi." In the morning, Gour Gopal told the devotees:
"I am going. You are all great kirtaniyas. Always do kirtan for Gopal. Take care of Gopal. Gopal is the Son of Nanada Maharaja. He should not stay like this. [Sri Gopaljiu was being worshiped in a humble temple constructed of mud and straw.] We will cooperate together to help maintain and develop Gopal's place."
Receiving Sri Gopaljiu's blessing, Gour Gopal left Gadeigiri for the Himalayas in search for his spiritual master.
A Life of Purity
His whole life prior to meeting his spiritual master His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada, was one of purity, preparation and devotion. In search of his eternal spiritual master he left home with only two gamchas (short dhoti), a bamboo stick, a begging bowl, and no money. He completely depended on Krishna for everything. He would walk everywhere and talk about Krishna to the devotees, eat whatever Krishna would provide and sleep under any tree at night. As a mendicant, he visited many holy tirthas, from the Himalayas to Cape Comorin in South India. From a darsan in 1989 Srila Gour Govinda Swami recalls:
"I was born here in Orissa. Many Vaisnavas are here. There are so many mathas of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Goswami here in Orissa. I know many Vaisnavas. I was born in a Vaisnava family. From my very childhood I have been attracted to Mahaprabhu. From an early age I was performing sankirtan and worshiping Radha and Krsna. In my family we were reading the Srimad Bhagavatam. I was born in such an atmosphere. But I had to search out a bona fide Guru. I wandered from the Himalayas to Kanya Kumari, throughout the whole of India. Although I met many Vaisnavas, I was not satisfied with them.
I was a secondary school teacher. I gave up my service. I gave up my family. I had seven children. I had land and property, twenty-five years of Government service with a pension, but I gave up everything and left home. I searched throughout India and met many Vaisnavas and many jnanis and mystic yogis. I had discussions with them. I told them, sastra says: harer nama, harer nama, harer namaiva kevalam, kalau nastyeva nastyeva nastyeva gatir anyatah. Only the chanting of the holy names of Krsna is the yuga-dharma in Kali-yuga, the process for this age. Why shall we do all these gymnastics, hatha-yoga, dhyana-yoga, etc.?
At last they told me to leave. I said, "Alright, thank you I am going." After wandering through all these places, at last I came to Vrndavan. That was my final goal. I thought, 'Let me finish all parts of India and at last I will go to Vrndavan.' Vrndavan is the dear land of Krsna. I fully believe Krsna will shower His blessing upon me in His beloved land of Vrndavan. At that time I was a wandering sadhu. I had just put on saffron dress, so I was outwardly appearing to be a sadhu."
In Sri Vrndavan Dhama Srila Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja was given a Back to Godhead Magazine by an ISKCON devotee. Srila Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja recalls:
"I looked at the magazine, because I was searching for three things: Bhagavata, Krsna and Mahaprabhu. Where it is? Oh, oh yes, here it is! I found it here! I have found it in Vrndavan!" I thought, "Yes, after completing all parts of India, in Vrndavan, the dear land of Krsna, Krsna may fulfilled my desire here. Oh here it is! Yes, Bhagavata, Krsna, Mahaprabhu. Oh! What I am searching for is here! I have got it!" Then I inquired, "The Founder Acarya His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is he here?" And fortunately he was there! Fortunately!"
Srila Gour Govinda Swami met His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada by the order of the transcendental system in Sri Vrndavana dhama. The date was 15th September, 1974.
The first meeting with Srila Prabhupada in Sri Vrndavan Dham can best be told in his own words:
"It was noon time and Prabhupada had already taken his lunch. He was alone in his room, sitting in a chair. So Brahmananda went in and said one sadhu has come, he wants to meet you. I was putting on that saffron dress, gamcha so I was looking like a wandering sadhu, looking like! It was paramatma's prompting, Krsna's arrangement. Prabhupada said, "Yes, call him, call him." So I went in and paid dandavat, he looked at me and inquired, "Who are you? What is your name?" "Goura Gopalananda Dasa." He looked at me and said, "O, have you taken sannyasa?" He asked me from his side. I said, "No." "Then I'll give you sannyas!" I immediately know, "Oh, it's paramatma what I am looking for now it is here. Yes, I have gotten now. I have gotten now." You see this is Krsna's arrangement. How we can find our Guru? What is your inside, he'll speak, you see. Only two or three questions he asked. I immediately surrendered! I immediately said, yes!"
Two weeks later in Sridham Mayapur, Srila Prabhupada gave him first initiation, second initiation in Bombay shortly followed and then sannyasa in Sri Vrndavan Dham on Sri Ramnavami, 20 April 1975, the grand opening of ISKCON, Sri Sri Krsna Balaram Mandir, Vrndavan. All were in quick succession.
Srila Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja recalls:
"At this time I was given some varieties of services to do. I was cleansing the cooking pots, the big, big, handas. I was cooking prasadam, rolling chapatis, carrying water, big buckets, and cleaning. All these things I was doing. In the beginning, yes, any service is Krsna's service. When I was engaged in writing, no other service,. finished. One day, two days the devotees were eating. "Oh so sweet feast today, who has cooked? This sannyasi has cooked. Mayavadi sannyasi! [laughter!] Oh, so sweet today how sweet, it has never tasted like that!" Everyday eating they said like that."
A Devotee from Birth
Srila Prabhupada quoted the following Bhagavad-gita verse at the time of giving sannyasa to Srila Gour Govinda Swami:
karyam karma karoti yah
sa sannyasi ca yogi ca
na niragnir na cakriyah
“The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: One who is unattached to the fruits of his work and who works as he is obligated, is in the renounced order of life, and he is the true mystic, not he who lights no fire and performs no duty.” (BG, 6.1)
He uttered this verse and said, “He is a real sannyasi,” then gave him the sannyasa mantra and danda. Shortly thereafter, many sannyasis and GBC members asked, “How has he taken sannyasa? He is a new man!” Then Srila Prabhupada told them, “He is a devotee from birth - you are new men!"
Srila Prabhupada had said in regards to Srila Gour Govinda Swami that “Krsna has sent him...”
Srila Prabhupada in Sridhama Mayapur, October 1974, on a morning walk. Srila Gour Govinda Swami is behind to the right. Srila Gour Govinda Swami received harinama initiation during this time.