Sripada Gour Govinda Swami (1929-1996)

One evening in late February I was on the top floor of the "Conch Building" at our ISKCON center in Sridham Mayapur, West Bengal. I'd finished my chanting for the day and was on my way downstairs to head across the campus to rest for the night. One flight down, I heard a group of devotees loudly doing kirtana, chanting Hare Krsna together, gathered outside one of the rooms. I headed in their direction, wondering what was going on.

Just then one of my godbrothers, Harikesa Swami, made his way out of the room and through the group of chanters. He was walking in the direction I was coming from. As he drew near I gave a quizzical look and asked, "What's up?"

"Gour Govinda Swami just left his body."

The expression "left his body" is a term devotees use where other people might say "died." It denotes more precisely what has taken place the atma, the eternal spark of consciousness, has gone, leaving behind its temporary vehicle, the outward body.

But however the news might have been put, I was taken aback. Sripada Gour Govinda Swami was a leader of the Krsna consciousness movement, known for his learning and his devotion, and sometimes for unbending outspokenness. He was a sannyasi(a renounced saintly person). He was a member of the movement's Governing Body. He was the spiritual master of many disciples. And he was my personal friend.

He had shown no signs of ill health. And now, suddenly, he was gone.

I joined the disciples and godbrothers chanting Hare Krsna by his bed, and by the next day I was 350 miles south in Bhubaneswara, where by Srila Prabhupada's order he had built a magnificent temple. Next to the temple, in the small hut where he had lived and worked, his body was buried in the ground.

Now, for the first time since the departure of Srila Prabhupada, disciples in the Krsna consciousness movement would have to live and push on in the physical absence of their spiritual master. The inevitable circumstance that had come to us, Srila Prabhupada's disciples, had now come to them, the disciples of a disciple.

I spent the next days in their company, as they recalled and recounted their experiences with Sripada Gour Govinda Swami, their affectionate dealings with him, and the teachings he had given them by his word and his example. I remembered my own touch with him and shared in the acute sense of loss.

For here was a devotee who, till the last moment, had shown how to live immersed in the real business of life hearing about, speaking about, thinking about, and serving the lotus feet of Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

An article on page 18 tells more.

-Jayadvaita Swami