Brahmananda prabhu was virtually the first ISKCON devotee—senior to everyone. Actually, we are all here because of his invaluable service to Srila Prabhupada—especially in the early days when he so selflessly assisted Srila Prabhupada in starting ISKCON. For one example, anyone who has ever read Bhagavad-gita As It Is, owes an eternal debt to Brahmananda prabhu, who first arranged to publish it. He was able and willing to do anything Prabhupada wanted, and his personal dedication both sustained and expanded this movement over many years, and across many continents.
Brahmananda prabhu might also be called Srila Prabhupada’s original “dancing white elephant.”
One can gain tremendous appreciation of just how much Brahmananda prabhu sacrificed for Srila Prabhupada by reading the account titled Swamiji, which Satyaraja prabhu very capably published just a short time ago, using Brahmananda prabhu’s own input.
Brahmananda prabhu’s character embodied—or perhaps created—the very notion of being “a Prabhupada Man.” He personified guru-nistha, and his profound love for Srila Prabhupada was at once obvious, awe-inspiring, and legendary. Like each one of us, he passed through difficult times and had his personal challenges, but he never displayed any loss of faith in, or love for, Srila Prabhupada—of whom he constantly spoke.
I don’t remember when I first saw him, but the first time I heard him speak was at the Mayapura festival in early 1978; this was just a few months after Srila Prabhupada had left this world. Brahmananda prabhu spoke on SB 5.5.10-13, a well-known passage:
“O My sons, you should accept a highly elevated paramahaàsa, a spiritually advanced spiritual master. In this way, you should place your faith and love in Me, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. You should detest sense gratification and tolerate the duality of pleasure and pain, which are like the seasonal changes of summer and winter. Try to realize the miserable condition of living entities, who are miserable even in the higher planetary systems. Philosophically inquire about the truth. Then undergo all kinds of austerities and penances for the sake of devotional service. Give up the endeavor for sense enjoyment and engage in the service of the Lord. Listen to discussions about the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and always associate with devotees. Chant about and glorify the Supreme Lord, and look upon everyone equally on the spiritual platform. Give up enmity and subdue anger and lamentation. Abandon identifying the self with the body and the home, and practice reading the revealed scriptures. Live in a secluded place and practice the process by which you can completely control your life air, mind and senses. Have full faith in the revealed scriptures, the Vedic literatures, and always observe celibacy. Perform your prescribed duties and avoid unnecessary talks. Always thinking of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, acquire knowledge from the right source. Thus practicing bhakti-yoga, you will patiently and enthusiastically be elevated in knowledge and will be able to give up the false ego.”
Brahmananda prabhu read this verse and its purport. Then he began to explain, slowly and thoughtfully. He said something to the effect that:
“Rsabhadeva has given these very deep instructions to his one-hundred sons. My father never gave me such important instructions.”
After a pause, he added: “Then I met my real father…” With this, Brahmananda prabhu simply broke down and began to sob uncontrollably, which ended the class. So natural and deep were his attachment, gratitude, and love for Srila Prabhupada, that this happened on other occasions as well, even many decades later. That was simply his nature, unique and irreplaceable. With his departure, who can estimate our loss?
I can only imagine what Gargamuni prabhu, his dear brother and equally stalwart servant of Srila Prabhupada, must be feeling now. I offer my respects and condolences to him, and pray that both brothers look kindly upon and bless us all. Despite such a sudden loss, it is a consolation that Brahmananda prabhu departed this world in Vrindavana, as was his strong desire. As many have said, this shows Srila Prabhupada’s own reciprocal love and continuing mercy upon him. Such a glorious soul. All glories to Brahmananda prabhu!