Durban, South Africa
|Arrival at Durban Airport
[Condensed from the report by Krishna Nandini devi dasi]
Eighteen months of separation from Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Maharaj was finally relieved by His Divine Grace appearing before us at 9:10 a.m. on Thursday, June 4th, 1998, at the Durban International Airport.
Srila Maharaj and his entourage were greeted by almost all the Durban and Pietermaritzburg devotees. Garland upon beautiful garland decorated his effulgent form as he smiled in appreciation of the devotees' presence. Srila Maharaj then proceeded to the V.I.P. lounge where he greeted everyone and delivered a short discourse. Prabhu Gopinath then led an ecstatic kirtan in glorification of Srila Gurudev.
Srila Maharaj was then driven to the residence of Prabhu Rshabhdev, our leader in Durban. Rshabhdev Prabhu offered his entire house in the nearby suburb of Phoenix for Srila Maharaj to reside in during his stay in Durban.
Devotees offered flower petals at Srila Maharaj's lotus feet as he entered the flower-decorated room to take his seat beneath a large welcome sign made of blooms. Srila Maharaj, Sripad Sagar Maharaj, and the rest of the entourage then met with the local devotees. After hearing about the schedule for the next few days, they accepted lunch Prasadam, then rested.
This was to be the most wonderful sunshine filled day, with all the devotees somehow or the other engaged in seva to make Srila Guru Maharaj's stay in Durban as pleasing as possible. Somehow it seemed like the wonderful seva mood of Nabadwip Dham had manifest itself all around, and it accompanied Srila Maharaj wherever he went.
|Sri Guru Arati
That evening, by the grace of Srila Maharaj's dear servitor, Sri
Rasabdhi Prabhu, His Divine Grace was officially welcomed in Durban and
honored with a grand arati function with ecstatic chanting of "Sri Guru
Arati," composed, and now also led, by Sri Rasabdhi Prabhu. Srila Maharaj
then chanted "Sri Guru Charana Padma" followed by the Maha Mantra. Sripad
Sagar Maharaj led the chanting of "Gaura-Arati" as the devotees witnessed the
performance of arati to Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai. Srila Maharaj subsequently
delivered a sublime discourse on the glories of Sri Gaura Hari and His mercy.
The program concluded with Srila Maharaj bestowing his divine mercy upon all
with the chanting of "Yasomati Nandana" and an ensuing kirtan lasting almost
The next morning Srila Guru Maharaj gave darshan from the early hours until 10:00 a.m. Srila Maharaj and his entourage then honored an invitation to visit the house of a senior devotee, Shyamali Devi Dasi, for lunch Prasadam. Here, Maharaj gave his darshan to her family and friends and distributed much inspiration to everyone by his divine presence.
The first public program was held that evening at an ashram in Chatsworth, south of Durban. It was filled to capacity, and many devotees from other missions had the opportunity to get Srila Maharaj's holy darshan. Srila Maharaj's glorious discourses and merciful chanting of "Jaya Radha Madhava" and the Maha Mantra held everyone spellbound in ecstasy for almost two hours.
Saturday morning saw in the dawn of Nirjala Ekadasi. Srila Maharaj chose this auspicious day to bestow Harinam initiation to some fortunate seekers. Srila Maharaj spent the rest of the day with the devotees. That evening a great public program was held at a Temple Hall in the Phoenix area. A grand sankirtan party welcomed Srila Maharaj on his arrival at the hall. Devotees chanted and offered flower petals at his lotus feet from the moment he alighted from the car until he stepped onto the beautifully decorated stage.
The hall was filled to capacity with whole families attending, enhancing the family oriented seva mood of the devotees. After Sripad Sagar Maharaj's wonderful introduction, Srila Maharaj chanted the most beautiful Krishna-katha, relating to everyone the glories of the Holy Name. Everyone felt this evening to be very special. Members of the audience asked Srila Maharaj a number of questions after the discourse and Srila Maharaj very sweetly answered them. His Divine Grace also related the glories of Ekadasi and encouraged everyone to fast from grains on this auspicious day. Srila Maharaj concluded the program by asking everyone to join him in chanting the Maha Mantra. The kirtan became so ecstatic that the hall vibrated with everyone clapping and dancing while chanting.
|To Pietermaritzburg and Back
The next morning the devotees met with Srila Guru Maharaj quite early,
completed the Ekadasi fast, and left together for
Pietermaritzburg for the next stage of Maharaj's
Srila Guru Maharaj graced us again with his divine presence by arriving back in Durban on Thursday 11th June 1998. A number of guests and well-wishers met with him during the course of the morning and Maharaj related to them the highlights of his tour thus far. Here Sripad Sagar Maharaj presented to the lotus hands of Srila Govinda Maharaj the Hindi version of the book "Sri Prema-Dhama-Deva Stotram," which had just arrived by courier from Singapore, where it had been printed.
By late afternoon our national television crew arrived to meet with Srila Maharaj and film an interview with him. The journalists asked Srila Maharaj questions of current interest, which Srila Gurudev answered in depth, giving much inspiration to our troubled South African society. Sripad Sagar Maharaj was also interviewed for two forthcoming religious programs, and, in answering a particular question, revealed how the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math is actually the "Mother" organization to the more recently founded, worldwide Krishna consciousness movement. After the interviews, which lasted well over an hour, Srila Govinda Maharaj ecstatically chanted "Bhajahu Re Mana," which was also filmed for national television broadcasting.
It was already late in the evening when Srila Maharaj gave his darshan to the Durban devotees. He graciously accepted an arati offering as Prabhu Rasabdhi led the chanting of "Sri Guru Arati." Srila Maharaj proceeded to lead further chanting and then gave a profound discourse full of instructions for our spiritual benefit.
A sad mood overcame everyone as we knew that this was in fact Srila
Guru Maharaj's farewell talk. The next morning Srila Maharaj gave personal
darshan to the devotees and again displayed his divine Pastime of bestowing
Hari-Nama initiation, this time to one more sincere seeker. By late afternoon
Srila Maharaj left his place of residence for the airport. He was followed by
all the Durban and Pietermaritzburg devotees. Amongst tearfully sad eyes and
heavy hearts Srila Guru Maharaj bade farewell to his children who had just a
few days earlier shed tears of joy upon seeing His Divine Grace.
Alas, time which had just as a display of kindness allowed Srila Gurudeva to be personally before us, had now ticked to its moment of wrath upon us. We wept as Gurudeva departed, but we knew that others were about to welcome his personal holy presence. Thus time worked its nature of giving us the experiences of union and separation from our beloved Gurudeva in here in Durban, South Africa.
Next Stage: Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.
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