Sri Sri Guru-Gaurangau Jayatah!
Throughout our travels in Europe we stayed at very nice places -- hotels, homes of devotees and rented accommodation -- but when we came to London we immediately felt very much at home in our own Math. It is very small, no doubt, but seeing the Deities all of us immediately felt the mood of Srila Guru Maharaj. We felt it to be our home, and we felt very happy.
Throughout our stay Srila Govinda Maharaj's room was almost always full of devotees, and he gave very nice Hari-katha constantly from early morning onwards. I was surprised to see devotees from even the other side of London would reach the Math before 4 a.m.
Srila Maharaj came every evening to the Temple room, and every day many visitors came for his holy darshan. Our Godbrother and very dear friend from the 1980s in Nabadwip, Amiya Asthana Prabhu, came daily with his wife to be with Srila Maharaj.
[Right: Sripad Swarupananda Prabhu welcomes Srila Govinda Maharaj outside our London Temple.]
Sripad Swarupananda Prabhu made arrangements for the accommodation of us all, and he looking after everyone who came. As well as the British devotees, so many came from other countries and they were all very helpful with cooking, Prasad distribution, arranging programmes, engaging in Nagar Sankirttan and in assisting the other devotees. In particular I was so pleased to see how much service all the devotees were doing.
By Srila Acharyyadev's holy presence every day was a festival in the London Math throughout our stay. We also held some specific festivals including Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur's Appearance Day. Srila Govinda Maharaj was clearly pleased to be there and he pointed out that Srila Guru Maharaj considered the London Math as his own Math.
My first impressions of London
Many Bengalis and Indians live in East London in the area of our Math, and sometimes I felt like I was perhaps in some area of India. In the local market I felt it was almost like Calcutta due to the many Bangladeshi people.
One day Lalita Krishna Prabhu took myself and a small group to the City of London. We saw many places including Buckingham Palace and Hyde Park. I saw real swans, also cranes and many, many pigeons like fly around the dome of our Nabadwip Temple.
My observation was that the people of London are generally happy. Many people stopped me and talked with me, and some gave me presentations in the street. It is a very busy city and I felt a very happy mood there. It is so busy like Calcutta, but all the streets, pedestrian areas and vehicles are very organised. I was impressed to see the traffic lights and the discipline of the drivers.
[Right: The audience attending the gathering.]
One day Lavanya Mayi Devi Dasi arranged for the devotees' children to do a dance drama depicting the Appearance of Mahaprabhu. It was a rainy day but everyone was very cheerful. The programme was held in the Narayan Guru Mission Hall. That day Srila Govinda Maharaj gave a lecture. The audience was principally our own devotees, and Srila Acharyyadev took the opportunity to stress that within one year we must get a bigger Ashram in London -- at least four times the size, because there are now so many devotees in our U.K. family.
Bengali Sita Devi Dasi of London arranged a gathering with the London Bengali community. Many Bengalis live there, and we were so surprised to see they worship a large picture of the Pancha-Tattva on the altar. Srila Maharaj gave a big lecture in Bengali to the assembled Bengalis, Assamese and other East Indian peoples. This, too, was just like being in Calcutta. Then Sripad Goswami Maharaj and Sripad Giri Maharaj also lectured and stressed how rich India is in spiritual wealth. Sripad Goswami Maharaj in particular pointed out how eager the East is to follow the West due to the wealth of the West, but now you can see the West is eager to follow the East due to its wealth of Scripture, Saints and religion.
We were very pleased to see Sripad Goswami Maharaj's presentation. In India we see him humbly at the feet of Srila Acharyyadev, but not speaking so much. But throughout this tour we have seen him speaking so much and with so much substance. Srila Govinda Maharaj told us that Sripad Goswami Maharaj's style of preaching is nicely represents Srila Guru Maharaj, his Hari-katha is ontological, and always he is giving some substance, not just history. Srila Sridhar Maharaj's sayings are in his heart and he is constantly quoting Srila Guru Maharaj.
Guests and Hosts
In London we would also often go to other devotees' homes for breakfast or to accept an invitation to visit. Amongst the devotees we visited were Amala Harinam Prabhu and the household of Saraswati Devi Dasi. They were all so happy to host Srila Maharaj.
Srila Govinda Maharaj himself said that seeing the mood of the devotees in London he feels inspiration to do something extra for the London Math. Srila Maharaj explained that he doesn't normally ask anyone for donations, but he accepts whatever comes automatically. However for London he felt the need to break with tradition and to personally petitioned for donations. He telephoned to well-wishers and requested many who came, thus succeeding to personally collect pledges for many thousands of pounds towards establishing a larger Temple in London. By Srila Govinda Maharaj's example he inspired everyone.
10 October 2000.
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