So I will say something, some words of appreciation for Srila Kadamba Kanana Swami Maharaja, and in glorification of him. I have known Kadamba Kanana Maharaja since sometime in the early 90’s. He was temple president in Vrndavan, in Krsna Balaram temple. He was temple president there and at that time, of course, he was a householder. But he was very renounced and completely dedicated to Krishna consciousness, he was not the type of person that was deeply entangled in these things at all.
But as temple president in Krsna Balaram temple, it was a very big responsibility, an extremely complex responsibility and perhaps the most complex than for any temple president in the world, he was handling it very nicely, and preaching alot. He would go out regularly to do university programmes, in Delhi, Agara and other places, and that was his purpose – preaching Krsna consciousness and organizing that very big, and as I said very complex temple very nicely for Krsna consciousness. I recall one time, I forget the year. When did Maharaja take sannyasa? 1997. So it was some years before that. He was still temple president in Vrndavan, and I met with Jayadvaita Maharaja. Jayadvaita Maharaja is of course the diksha guru and sannyasa guru of Srila Kadamba Kanana Swami Maharaja.
So we were there in Vrndavan, Jayadvaita Maharaja and I, and we were talking about this and that, and we were talking about householders in this movement and householders taking sannyasa. Because according to sastra, Srila Prabhupada would sometimes quote a verse: panca sordhvam vanam vrajet that at the age of 50 one should go to the forest. Going to the forest means one should take sannyasa. Traditionally, sannyasa would mean that people would just leave home and go to the forest and just live a life, like a recluse or hermit-type of existence in the forest, and put up their days, in bhajan and chanting japa, reciting prayers, meditating on the Lord. This was really the programme of sannyasis. So that’s the verse that Prabhupada would refer to from time to time. So Jayadvaita Maharaja and I were discussing this idea of householders, who’ve been devotees throughout their adult lives, their household lives, and that they come to the point of turning 50 and what happens then? So we were discussing this and we were making the point that in our experience in ISKCON, there are not so many householders who were doing that. And rather it appears that the great majority, not all, but more than 90%, just carry on with their household lives into their old age. So we were lamenting a little bit about this point, because we knew that it was Srila Prabhupada’s idea that the householders do this. And this standard should apply in varnasrama, and we were making this point, that not so many do that, and there are so many good devotees who are at that point in their lives, but it is not really happening.
So then Jayadvaita Maharaja said, “Yes, it is like that, but I know one householder and he is very enthusiastic to go in that direction. And he is going in that direction. He is going to take sannyasa.” Well, at that time, it was not known generally that Kadamba Kanana Maharaja was intending to do that. So I asked Maharaja who it was, and at first he did not want to say! He sort of, well he just said, “Wait and see.” But I pressed him a bit, and he said it is Kadamba Kanana. And I thought that’s nice. Because he was already as I said, in a very renounced position as a householder. So this is how he introduced the idea of Maharaja taking sannyasa, although I already knew him quite well as a very dedicated servant of Srila Prabhupada. He was then in Vrndavan. And in the early to mid 90’s, through the first half basically in the 90’s, in Vrndavan, there was a particular controversy which arose. It really became a very big controversy, regarding some of our very senior devotees and their involvement with a disciple of one of Prabhupada’s godbrothers, and not an ISKCON devotee. So Kadamba Kanana Maharaja, as the temple president, he had to look into that whole situation and evaluate the situation, as that was where it was all happening. So he was officially doing that, and it was the matter of analyzing this Gaudiya math sannyasi.
I saw at that time that he was very dedicated to Srila Prabhupada and to Prabhupada’s understanding of Krsna consciousness, and Srila Prabhupada’s emphasis that we should not go outside this movement and get involved with other people, even His own contemporaries and godbrothers, because they all had a very different slant on Krsna consciousness, and in many ways the wrong slant in so many ways and had frequent misunderstandings in Krsna consciousness. So at that time all of this was going on. I was there in Vrndavan quite regularly, twice a year for about a month. For five weeks or so, I was there twice a year. And during the early first half of the 90’s I saw how Kadamba Kanana Maharaja, who at the time was a householder and the temple president, and was completely fixed at Srila Prabhupada’s lotus feet, was not at all entertaining any sort of alternative ideas, some other approach to Krsna consciousness, other than Srila Prabhupada’s approach.
This is an extremely important quality in devotees and in my observation from that time, we are talking about probably 15 years ago, perhaps slightly more, he was totally convinced about Srila Prabhupada and the unique position of Srila Prabhupada, and the absolutely important, essential importance, of following Srila Prabhupada exclusively and not getting involved with others who are Krsna conscious, but not in the same way as Srila Prabhupada. So he was a very strict temple president, in a very nice way. But he was not one of these people who could be fooled by anyone who wanted to take advantage of the temple president and the resources. But he was maintaining Prabhupada’s standards, and as a result, because as we said this whole situation at Vrndavan temple was extremely complex, there was this group of devotees who were involved with this Gaudiya math sannyasi, but then there were other devotees living in the asrama who were involved with other people in Vrndavan – babajis, caste goswamis.
Vrndavan is such a wonderful place, but these are the headquarters, it is the capital city for unauthorized Krsna conscious people. There are all, from the caste goswamis – different categories of them, to the babajis – and many different categories of them. And the Gaudiya math, all of them of different tracks from the tracks that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati and Lord Caitanya wanted. And the others, sahajiyas and people who were completely mayavadis, they were all there in Vrndavan. If anyone has a propensity to get deeply into it, they will find all opportunity in Vrndavan! Even if you go there with the proper association and you do everything nicely and it could be the most wonderful experience, but if you even try to go off track, there are certain tracks to go off on. But Maharaja, he was not interested in that, and he was very firmly fixed in seeing that Prabhupada’s standards were maintained, and he was doing very nicely actually, but the problem was, as they say, you cannot please everyone all the time. So some people became disturbed with him, because of his dedication to Srila Prabhupada actually, and his insistence that Prabhupada’s standards be maintained. Some people became angry with him, and I remember I was staying there.
It was during one of the V.I.H.E semesters. V.I.H.E means Vrndavan Institute of Higher Education. So I was there and devotees were coming from all over the world. They were here to take different seminars. So I was teaching one such seminar, and I was sharing a room with H.H. Prahladananda Swami Maharaja, another very wonderful and dedicated ISKCON sannyasi. So we were there in the room, and we were taking rest, and I actually forget what time it was but it was some time late, and there was a knock on the door. I was sort of semi conscious and Prahladananda Maharaja opened the door. There was some little discussion, but I couldn’t make out what it was about, and Prahladananda Maharaja came and told me I had to go to Mathura with Kadamba Kanana prabhu, but he didn’t tell me why. Why did I have to go to Mathura in the middle of the night?
So what had happened was Kadamba Kanana Maharaja had been shot in the bathroom. It was there in what is now the gurukula, right next to the Krsna Balaram temple. So he had been shot and Maharaja had to be taken to the hospital, and fortunately his life was saved. So since that time, well he recovered of course, as we know, and he took sannyasa. Well, I think he’s pretty well recovered from that gunshot wound but I do recall immediately afterwards, and a couple of months and years afterwards discussing with him how the recovery was coming, and he was always very positive about it, but he would also say how you know it’s a little difficult after you’ve been shot, and he would advise me to try not to get shot. But one way not to get shot is to not become temple president in Vrndavan! Because as I said it’s very complex. You know our temple here – Radha Radhanath temple, is very simple and innocent compared to Vrndavan temple. So since Maharaja has taken sannyasa, well you all know for the last 11 years now, he’s been traveling and preaching widely, leading kirtan. You know what his kirtanas like – full steam ahead, start the kirtana with full throttle, keep going at full throttle and complete the kirtana with full throttle! Well this is kirtana.
So this is Kadamba Kanana Maharaja. Some of our devotees were videoing the procession at the recent Ratha Yatra, and in this footage there was Kadamba Kanana Maharaja just completely full steam ahead. And that’s what he is, an uncompromising and full-steam-ahead devotee, and this is the type of devotee we should be. He is of course a great scholar and very knowledgeable in Krsna consciousness, but the most impressive for me is that whatever he gets into, he gives it his everything. And he has some type of respiratory problem, so sometimes he gets bronchitis and things of that sort, but I’ve seen that when he comes for these festivals, we see that he’s lost his voice or he’s got some cough or something like that. So he says he’s got to be more careful, but as soon as the kirtana starts, it’s just roaring kirtana. So this type of devotee we should all try to become.
So we have to take some responsibility to push Prabhupada’s movement and Kadamba Kanana Maharaja is an excellent example of that. Really working hard, and even risking his health to go the extra mile for Prabhupada, for presenting Krsna consciousness, for giving Krsna consciousness, for giving people the experience of Krsna consciousness. So I really appreciate that so much in him. Every devotee, particularly every senior devotee, they have certain qualities which are outstanding, and of course Maharaja has many, but for me, I really appreciate this as I’ve said especially in our festivals, so many times he comes and he’s not well and I tell him, you know you should be careful. He says “yes, yes, I will.” But as soon as you turn around, there he is in the kirtana, full steam ahead!
So on this day, this sacred day, his appearance in this world, I offer my humble respects at his lotus feet and I offer my prayers to Srila Prabhupada and Sri Sri Radha Radhanatha to please protect him and help him in every way, so he’ll continue being such a beacon of inspiration for so many devotees in ISKCON, and such a powerful force for spreading Krsna consciousness all over the world.
His Holiness Kadamba Kanana Swami Maharaja ki Jai! Hare Krsna.