Sri Srimad Bhakti Vedanta Vamana (Baman in bengali) Goswami Maharaj was former President-Acharya of the Sri Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti, a prolific author and an ardent speaker of Gaudiya Vedanta philosophy. He travelled across India and established many temples and centers in multiple states for the propagation of Gaudiya Vedanta philosophy. Before he became the President, he was the General Secretary of Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti. He came in association of Srila Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Maharaj in Sri Chaitanya Math, Mayapur as young boy of age 9. He was among a few associates of Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Goswami Prabhupad, who were with Srila Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Maharaj when Sri Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti was founded in 1940.
Birth and Early Life
He was born on 23rd December, 1921 in Piljang village, Khulna district of undivided Bengal (now Bagerhat district of Bangaladesh) in a family of ardent Gaudiya Vaishnavas. His paternal uncle, Bhakti Kushal Narasingha Maharaja was among early disciples of Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Prabhupada. His mother, Srimati Bhagavatibala Devi, was also a disciple of Srila Prabhupada. She was very strict, disciplined and devoted to Gaudiya philosophy. She disciplined her children in the same manner. His parents gave the name ‘Santosh’ which means ‘Satisfaction’. Indeed, his personality was such that everyone would feel the sense of satisfaction by just being around him. His father Sri Satish Chandra Ghosh became disciple of Bhakti Prajnan Keshava Goswami Maharaja and was known as Sri Sarveshwar Dasadhikari.
Young boy Santosh was admitted to Town Nowarapara English High School. He was very polite, obedient, punctual and brilliant student. He was so adorable and radiant, he was automatically everyone’s center of attraction. When he was on 5th class, his paternal aunt was ready to attend Gaur Purnima festival like every year. He was adamant in going with her to attend Gaur Purnima festival in Mayapura. His mother, Srimati Bhagavatibala Devi, could not refuse.
Life in Sri Chaitanya Math
During Gaur Jayanti, March 1931, 9 years old boy Santosh came to Sri Chaitanya Math along with his paternal aunt. Once the festival was over, he was adamant in staying back in Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Prabhupada’s Chaitanya Math. Even after lot of persuasion, he didn’t return back home. While in Chaitanya Math, Santosh was under the guidance of Sri Vinod Bihari Brahmachari (then Estate Manager), Srila Narahari Sevavigraha (Chaitanya Math’s in-charge), and his paternal uncle Bhakti Kushal Narasingha Maharaja. Sri Vinod Bihari Brahmachari admitted Santosh in Sri Bhaktivinod Institute, Mayapur. He was so brilliant that he never had to revisit or review anything he reads once. He memorized entire Bhagvad Gita, and many shlokas from Srimad Bhagvatam, Upanishads and other scriptures. After study hours, he used to pick flowers, cut fruits & vegetables, fold clothes of devotees after they are washed and dried, fetch drinking water, clean ‘Achaman-patra’ of devotees. He used to wash Srila Saraswati Prabhupada’s feet, massage his body, pick green peas from garden and serve Sril Saraswati Prabhupad. He used to get up before ‘Brahma-Muhurta’ and before anyone gets up, he would clean toilets daily along with Srila Narahari Sevavigraha. At that time, there wasn’t a single resident of Sri Chaitanya Math whom he did not serve personally. He was so skillful and energetic that his work looked effortless. Everyone was amused and kept wondering when and how he acquired these skills in such a young age. There is something ‘Divine’ in him and started considering him a close associate of Srila Saraswati Prabhupad. Thus, he grew up serving Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Prabhupada and his close associates, studying Gaudiya philosophy under the guidance of exalted devotees and nurtured by Sri Vinod Bihari Brahmachari and Srila Narahari Sevavigraha in Sri Chaitanya Math. Pleased with his service and knowledge of Gaudiya philosophy at such an early age, Srila Saraswati Prabhupad gave him Harinam in 1936.
In 1st January 1937, the founder of Sri Chaitanya Math and worldwide Gaudiya Maths, Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Prabhupada left this material world to his eternal Abode. In the same year, Santosh passed matriculation with first division. He did not want to accumulate degrees anymore rather he decided to gain spiritual knowledge concentrating on Srimad Bhagvatam, Vedanta Sutras, analyzing different schools of thought worldwide, understanding deeper meaning of Sastras and setting the next stage of his life in this world. He discussed his interest with his sole guardian, Sri Vinod Bihari Brahmachari. Sri Vinod Bihari Brahmachari not only agreed with him but was very satisfied with his line of thinking. There were many young boys like him staying in Sri Chaitanya Math, however, after sometime he was the only one left behind.
Sri Chaitanya Math had a comprehensive library of books. Acclaimed associates of Srila Saraswati Prabhupad helped him understand the realms of Srimad Bhagvatam, Vedanta Sutras, teachings of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and his associates and other Vaishnava literature. He searched further for authentic books in different libraries, went through contemporary Indian literature, studied western philosophy and writings by Kant, Hegel, Socrates, Huxley, Plato, etc. He also studied scientific works in the likes of Darwin’s theory of evolution, Dalton’s atomic molecular theory and many others. He also collected Bible, Quran and other religious texts. He researched on Indian history from Indian as well as western philosopher’s perspective. The result and its effect of such comparative and analytical studies are evidenced in his speeches, discourses, lectures and writings. It is not easy to understand the biography of persons who are God-sent; the personality who is going to lead the materialist world from the clutches of atheism to Sri Krishna consciousness will not be ordinary one. The choices he made in his life are exquisite; endeavors at every junctures with the kind of electrifying energy are nothing but divine; and a lesson to be taken to history for everyone in the years to come.
On 1939, he received Diskha from Sri Vinod Bihari Brahmachari and he was renamed as “Sajjan Sevak Brahmachari”. Although there were many senior sanyasi and associates of Srila Saraswati Prabhupad including disciples of Srila Bhaktivinod Thakur in Sri Chaitanya Math available at that time, however, Sri Vinod Bihari Brahmachari was destined to be Santosh’s Diksha guru since transcendental relationships are not made based on mere turn of events.
Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti
In 1940, Sri Vinod Bihari Brahmachari along with few associates of Srila Sarswati Prabhupad left Sri Chaitanya Math. They had taken a house in rent in Tegharipara, Nabadwip town and founded Sri Devananda Gaudiya Math. They started preaching the tenets of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and teachings of Srila Saraswati Prabhupad. Sajjan Sevak Brahmachari was along with them travelling, preaching, collecting donations, cooking, cleaning, etc. He was always on his toes serving and helping Sri Vinod Bihari Brahmachari in various ways in his every accomplishment. In April 1940 (Akshay Tritiya), Sri Vinod Bihari Brahmachari founded Sri Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti in a rented house in 32/2 Bosepara Lane, Kolkata. As usual, Sajjan Sevak Brahmachari was with him as a capable assistant or co-founder. In 1941, Sri Vinod Bihari Brahmachari recieved sanyas (Renounced Order) from Srimad Bhakti Rakshak Sridhar Maharaj. His name has been changed to Srimad Bhakti Prajnan Keshava Maharaj.
Srimad Bhakti Prajnan Keshava Maharaj started Sri Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti without a penny. However, he had some brilliant associates of Srila Saraswati Prabhupad with him including Sajjan Sevak Brahmachari, who was his only disciple at that time. Together they formed the organization, working very hard day and night. When Srimad Bhakti Prajnan Keshava Maharaj bought “Gauranga Printing Works”, Sajjan Sevak Brahmachari was the right person to start publishing Sri Bhaktivinod Thakur’s books. He immediately learned the entire publishing processes. In 1943, he moved the printing press to Sri Uddharan Gaudiya Math, Chinsura, Hooghly and the move saved a lot of expenses. In 1949, Samiti’s monthly magazine and mouthpiece, “Gaudiya Patrika” was started and Sajjan Sevak Brahmachari was its Publisher.
Received Sanyas, travelling and preaching
In 1952, Sajjan Sevak Brahmachari received sanyas (Renounced Order) from Srimad Bhakti Prajnan Keshava Maharaj along with two of his god brothers. His name has been changed to Srimad Bhakti Vedanta Vamana Maharaj. His two god-brothers are Srimad Bhakti Vedanta Narayan Maharaj and Srimad Bhakti Vedanta Trivikram Maharaj. Although Srimad Bhakti Vedanta Vamana Maharaj was very busy with organization development and publishing works, he started travelling and preaching activities. In 1966, he was appointed General Secretary of Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti and he started full-fledged preaching to different places of India. He started with Jharkhand, Assam and then Bengal, Orissa, UP, etc.
In 1968, Srimad Bhakti Prajnan Keshava Maharaj left this material world and Srimad Bhakti Vedanta Vamana Maharaj became the President-Acharya of Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti as per Srimad Bhakti Prajnan Keshava Maharaj’s wish and decision. The decision was natural and evident.
By Sri Krishna’s divine wish and energy, the great-soul who arrived at the lotus feet of Srila Prabhupad in Sri Chaitanya Math; who was personally nurtured by Srimad Bhakti Prajnan Keshava Maharaj; the personality who has a tall, beautiful and lustrous physique, is cynosure of all eyes in any assemblies of Sanyasis and devotees; whose strength is on unadulterated faith in his Gurudev and based on the depth of knowledge; who can quote scriptures in verbatim anytime, and an epitome of renunciation seen in his life and character; such a personality can take Sri Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti to its next stage.
President-Acharya of Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti
As President-Acharya, he started increasing the foot-print of Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti. Under his leadership, about 30 Maths and preaching centers were established in different towns and cities in India. Gaudiya Patrika’s subscriber’s base increased leaps and bounds. Under his guidance Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti published and re-printed many ancient literatures. Participants in Sri Navadwip Parikram, the annual event of Sri Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti, increased exponentially because of preaching and campaigning. And hence the infrastructure to accommodate such a huge influx of devotees also had been increased. Pilgrimage travels for devotees to different parts of India like Skhetra Mandal Parikrama, Gaur-Mandal Parikrama, Vraja Mandal Parikrama, Dwaraka Parikrama, travels to pilgrimage places in south India and north India increased many folds. As there were increase in numbers in every section of the Samiti, Srila Vamana Maharaj’s concentration on the quality or individual development on Bhajan-Sadhan remained constant.
As an Acharya, he was very merciful to everyone irrespective of caste, creed, colour, religion and nationality. His disciples were from every walks of life including Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Jains, Adivashis and tribal from remote areas, rich, educated from metro-cities to poorest of poor and illiterates. He was multi-lingual and could speak Bengali, Hindi and English fluently. He went door-to-door, village to village, concentrating on elevation of everyone on individual basis. His sharp memory will not forget anyone he met only once even after several years.
He published many poems, articles and given lectures on current issues well as discourses on Srimad Bagavatam and Sri Chaitanya Charitamritam. His personal letters written to his associates have become now “nectar-of-knowledge”, published as “Patramritam” for practical spiritual guidance. His knowledge in Gaudiya literature was well known in the Gaudiya Vaishnav society. In case of any confusion or conflicts in understanding any scripts, he was the ‘go-to’ person. He would resolve and reconcile such issues immediately. His humility, calm and composed nature, assertive in action and Guru-nistha was unique and a lesson for everyone.
Last some years of his history in this world would be very difficult to comprehend for any ordinary person. He reserved and disengaged himself from this world, stopping talking and even refused to recognize devotees came for his darshan. His engagements became very personal and may respond to queries which he thought important. He used remain awake at night at times. He did reply to few queries once in a while, saying how he can sleep when so many tasks to be done for Srimati Radharani. Sometimes, he replied, his Gurudev has asked him to do something. Sometimes he says, his Gurudev is performing some activities and he is assisting him. At times, he tried to control his answers as if he is divulging too much. Even his close sevaks were unable to explain his mood and condition. It seems he reserved himself for something transcendental.
Once Srila Bhakti Vedanta Paryatak Maharaja paid a visit. Srila Paryatak Maharaji asked whether he was able to remember him. Then Srila Vamana Maharaja replied, “You are Krishnadas”. On that Srila Maharaj asked, “If I am Krishnadas then who you are?” “Gurudas”, was the prompt reply. The reply talks a lot about his personality and character that he will always been known for.
In 8th January 2002, he indicated his disappearance date in Sri Keshav Goswami Gaudiya Math, Shaktigarh, Siliguri. Many of His disciples were in his Bhajan Kutir on the occasion of Vyas Puja (the previous day) when he told that he is going leave this world within two years and will not be available for 84th Vyas Puja. He once said, “I will leave this world on the bank of Ganga in the midst of Sankirtan”.
In 24th October 2004, Ekadash day, he came to Navadwip Dham from Seoraphuli. Within few days, Srila Bhakti Vaibhav Puri Maharaja paid a visit. Srila Bhakti Vedanta Vamana Maharaja recognized him. Srila Puri Maharaj started reciting a shloka from Srimad Bhagvatam, “kvaham daridrah papiyan”. Srila Vamana Maharaj completed it saying “kva krsnah sri-niketanah”. Then Srila Vamana Maharaj went on saying the yuga of his Gurudev has long gone and now our yuga or period is gone as well. If he (Srila Puri Maharaj) would have come later, would not have found him.
In 14th November 2004 (month of Kartik), Sunday, he left this material word, leaving behind a wealth of his nectar of instructions and guidance to his devotees, the principles he followed, his way of performing certain devotional services and way of chanting Harinam. Certainly, a yuga or period has gone with him. A period of spontaneous devotional service and a period of preaching the efficacy and supremacy of the Divine Names, by setting an example in His own Divine career.
As spoken by Sripad Bhakti Vedanta Narayan Maharaja
“After Prabhupada departed from this world, and then Srila Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Maharaja established the Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti in 1940. Vamana Maharaja was doing everything; writing letters, managing the temple, cooking, and travelling for preaching. Vamana Maharaja is a great scholar just as his gurudeva was. It has been said that he is like a dictionary of slokas because he knows so many verses from the scriptures. When while lecturing Srila Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Maharaja would sometimes forget a sloka, Vamana Maharaha would always supply it from memory. Once, Srila Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Maharaja went to Assam for preaching. One of the sects there, were virtually prepared to stone us, challenged us by saying, “You say that Caitanya Mahaprabhu is Bhagavan Himself, but what evidence is there of this?” Guru Maharaja turned to Vamana Maharaja and said, “Speak.” Then Vamana Maharaja recited fifty shlokas one after the other from different scriptures as evidence, and those people were silenced.
Srila Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Maharaja left the entire responsibility of editing and publishing our Bengali magazine exclusively on Vamana Maharaja. From his boyhood Vamana Maharaja studied Bhagavatam verses and their commentaries, and as a result he can speak on Vaisnava philosophy for hours without stopping. He was such great scholar, and he is a very sweet persons as well. With children he is very affectionate, and he speaks with them concerning things like ghosts which they enjoy hearing about. He attracts everyone to spiritual life, and evening an assembly of scholars, he is always the greatest scholar. He refutes others’ misconceptions, but he does it in such a way that their feelings are not hurt, as if carefully performing a surgical operation.
Vamana Maharaja is very grave and quiet, and there is another special quality which he possesses: I have seen many people, myself included, who give explanations from the scriptures and enjoy taking praise from others for it. But having known Vamana Maharaja for almost fifty years, I have never seen him do this, note even by accident. He is also very tolerant. As if taking poison and digesting it, he may see the faults in others, but he never speaks about them. He has so much eagerness to preach the instructions of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and he has preached in all the villages of West Bengal and Assam. Bhagavan has especially empowered this great personality with many transcendental qualities. Today I pray to Srila Vamana Maharaja that he will mercifully allow me to always remain as his shadow, thereby enabling me to always follow him. I consider him to be my siksa-guru, because since the day I joined the mission he has given me whatever I required with great affection.”