HH Mahavishnu Goswami
His Holiness Srila Mahavishnu Goswami Maharaj was born in the outskirts of Mumbai in 1919 on the auspicious day of Dattātreya Purnima in the month of mārga-śīrṣa [November-December]. He appeared in an eight generation Vaishnava family. At the tender age, he began studying the holy scriptures of Srimad Bhagavat-gita and Srimad Bhagavatam in earnest. He is highly educated having obtained a masters degree in both Sanskrit and English and is equally conversant in Marathi, Gujarati, Hindi, Urdu and the Gujarati dialect Kachhi. His burning desire to realize God was finally answered, when he met Srila Prabhupada, the founder acharya of the International Society of Krsna Consciousness (ISKCON). Maharaj first took darshan of Srila Prabhupāda in 1973 when, as President of the London Gujarati Community Society, he invited Prabhupäda to be guest-of-honour at the society’s annual function. There Srila Prabhupada’s lecture marked the turning point in Maharaj’s life. Srila Prabhupāda had stated that whenever we meet our friends, we ask them so many material things, like how is your business, your family etc. But this is simply a waste of time. If we really cared for them, then when we meet them, we should ask them how far they have progressed, since we last met, in the matter of stopping the repetition of the cycle of birth and death. Since that profound meeting, H H Mahāvishnu Goswami Maharaj has dedicated his life to the rigorous study of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.
His Holiness Srila Mahāvishnu Goswami Maharaj, is a brilliantly divine personality and such kind of personalities are rarely seen on the stage of human life. Anybody who has come in touch with Maharaj experienced that he was not just a spiritual master, but a sweet loving father, who, by his loving dealings with everyone, made them experience the love of Kṛṣṇa. He is an embodiment of all the exalted qualities. His deep serenity, the vast limitless wellspring of knowledge he possessed, the beautiful sobriety he exhibited, his gentle, sweet and simple demeanor, the soft expressiveness of his features and the natural flow of all his actions could capture everyone’s heart.
Maharaj could relate even the most ordinary event to the scriptures and for even a seemingly ordinary subject matter, Maharaj could offer a spiritual perspective. He was a genuine guide in our struggle to carry on the material life, as well as for understanding the transcendence. His presentation of the scriptures and especially Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam which is his life and soul was not a dry academic subject to be theorized and armchair philosophized about. Maharaj spoke and lived the essence of the scriptures and made everyone understand that the scriptures are not in the cloud or in the sky but very much on the ground, intimately related to our day-to-day life. That way he was a practical Maha Bhagavata and a down to earth Paramahamsa. The humility which Maharaj exhibited is a conclusive proof of his greatness.
Maharaj is simultaneously grave and jolly and often he laughed and joked and brightened the whole atmosphere with his effulgent Vaikuntha smile but even his lighter mood was fully Kṛṣṇa conscious and not frivolous. Maharaj’s every movement, every word and every action had a transcendental purpose in it. Throughout his whole life and at the time of leaving the world, Maharaj showed us how not to be bewildered by the inevitable miseries of the material existence and always remain aloof simply by remembering the lotus feet of the Lord. (saṁsāra-dharmair avimuhyamānaḥ smṛtyā harer bhāgavata-pradhānaḥ – SB 11.2.49).
Once His Grace Viraja Kṛṣṇa Prabhuji humbly asked His Holiness Mahāvishnu Goswami Maharaj how he was able to become so famous a devotee all over the world. Maharaj replied with his trademark, uncommon humility that it was because he lived every moment of his life based on the verse 1.6.26 from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. This particular verse spoken by Srila Narada Muni reveals the nature of an unflinching servitor of the Supreme Lord.
nāmāny anantasya hata-trapaḥ paṭhan
guhyāni bhadrāṇi kṛtāni ca smaran
gāṁ paryaṭaṁs tuṣṭa-manā gata-spṛhaḥ
kālaṁ pratīkṣan vimado vimatsaraḥ
“Thus I began chanting the holy name and fame of the Lord by repeated recitation, ignoring all the formalities of the material world. Such chanting and remembering of the transcendental pastimes of the Lord are benedictory. So doing, I traveled all over the earth, fully satisfied, humble and unenvious.”
Anyone who comes in touch with His Holiness cannot go away without the impression that Kṛṣṇa consciousness is all common sense, practical, logical and simple. The one shloka which Maharaj had in his heart even till his winding up pastimes was SB 1.5.40, the instruction of Srila Narada Muni to his disciple Srila Vyasadev on the power of the pure subject matter of the transcendental pastimes of the Supreme Lord and how it is satisfying both to the general mass as well as great learned men.
tvam apy adabhra-śruta viśrutaṁ vibhoḥ
samāpyate yena vidāṁ bubhutsitam
prākhyāhi duḥkhair muhur arditātmanāṁ
saṅkleśa-nirvāṇam uśanti nānyathā
Please, therefore, describe the Almighty Lord’s activities which you have learned by your vast knowledge of the Vedas, for that will satisfy the hankerings of great learned men and at the same time mitigate the miseries of the masses of common people who are always suffering from material pangs. Indeed, there is no other way to get out of such miseries.
Maharaj urged everyone that the preaching of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam with emphasis on its practical aspect is the one and only way to mitigate the miseries of common people who are suffering from the material pangs. His instructions ranged from organizing one’s own shaving kit, washing one’s own clothes, to living a life without a tinge of expectation from anyone. Maharaj firmly emphasized that without organizing our material lives in a perfect manner, there is no question of progressing spiritually.
Maharaj is unflinchingly attached to the lotus feet of Srila Prabhupāda and studied His Divine Grace’s books very deeply. With his compassionate, powerful, intense, pure and earnest preaching and encouragement, Maharaj could impress upon the living entities to translate all the instructions of scripture into real life experiences by changing the behavior for good. Maharaj is of the firm belief that Srila Prabhupāda’s literatures are so powerful that by the force of this literary influence, a revolution can be brought in the lives of the conditioned souls and thus save them from the miserable conditions. Maharaj’s appreciation and attachment to Srila Prabhupāda’s transcendental literature is so much that Maharaj says that if it had been possible, Prabhupāda would have physically taken out his heart and put it in these books.
At about 3:25 pm on 25th January 2010, our beloved spiritual master, H H Mahävishnu Goswami entered into his final pastimes in this mortal world and left us all in great grief of separation at the Bhaktivedanta Hospital, Mira Road, Mumbai, India. Those who had the good fortune of meeting him soon became aware that the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam was indeed his very life and soul. In a very simple and sublime manner he would provide anyone practical guidance in their lives based on the teachings of the Bhāgavatam, and with this he has awakened so many souls to the importance of the amala purana Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. May he live forever by his divine instructions in the hearts of his sincere followers.
The following verse from Srimad Bhagavatam 2.6.34 spoken by Lord Brahma to Srila Narada Muni reveals to us a glimpse into the transcendental bhakti that His Holiness Mahavishnu Goswami Maharaj epitomized in his life.
na bhāratī me ’ṅga mṛṣopalakṣyate
na vai kvacin me manaso mṛṣā gatiḥ
na me hṛṣīkāṇi patanty asat-pathe
yan me hṛdautkaṇṭhyavatā dhṛto hariḥ
“O Nārada, because I have caught hold of the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Hari, with great zeal, whatever I say has never proved to have been false. Nor is the progress of my mind ever deterred. Nor are my senses ever degraded by temporary attachment to matter.”
For many, Maharaj is a humble and loving Vaishnava, who has made them follow the teachings of the Supreme Lord and realize the true value of human life. Still others cannot help, but be completely and helplessly touched by Maharaj’s love and compassion. In today’s age His Holiness’s love and humility coupled with his profound wisdom and realization, have brought many fallen souls to the lotus feet of Prabhupāda and the Supreme Lord. We offer our deepest respect unto His Holiness Mahävishnu Goswami’s lotus feet for kindly guiding us on the path back to the Supreme One. Now more than ever, his divine instructions are the only shelter for his disciples and all sincere souls seeking to reunite with the Supreme Lord Kṛṣṇa.