the passing of Gopinatha Acarya(ACBSP)

September 9, 2020 in Articles by Damaghosa dasa

Hare Krsna–I first learned of this nice devotee when some Australian devotees came to our ashram for a Janmastami festival. They showed and gave me a copy of Gopinathas 3 volume set of books called –Make Vrndavana- a huge compilation all from the conversations books that he did  focusing on what Srila Prabhupada preached about simple living, and cow protection.I have this rare set of books and they are simply wonderful.!!
When he was kicked out of some Iskcon farm in Australia due to some “management issues” with him. I dont know what happened at that time but from what I can surmise about him and iskcon it was because he was not standing for the current guru fall downs and politics surrounding them all. So he lived in some van or car for about a year, I was told, and went daily to the local library to use their computer so he could put together his 3 volume set–Make Vrndavana. Below is part of his story, and I wish I could have met such a great soul

Hare Krsna

damaghosa das

The passing of Gopinath

Story by Priyavrata das

For me, Gopinatha Acharya das was a hero — a true living legend. His example of brahmacharya was untouchable in ISKCON. When I became a monk in 1983, he was the one I aspired to be like. His cool demeanor, strong determination, effulgent brow, piercing eyes, soft voice, gentle movements and graceful gait were something out of the great stories we read in the ancient scriptures. He was a “throwback man” — someone that had popped in from a past age just to give us encouragement. When I first met him he was leading the charge to sell sets of the ancient India classic Srimad Bhagavatam, considered the “cream of the Ancient Vedic literature.” He would go door to door in Sydney making presentations and encouraging people to purchase the 12 books that made up the series. And he was very successful too, usually selling more than anyone else. His good friend and ally in this endeavor, Brighupati dasa is today the number one bookseller for Bhakitvedanta Book Trust in the United States. And then something changed. After dedicating years of his life to studying these ancient scriptures and sharing their wisdom with the world, he decided to go live on a farm and protect cows. I remember the day I asked him, “What happened? Why did you stop your preaching work?” With a reassuring smile, he said: “I came to the conclusion that protecting cows and showing an example of living on the land in harmony with nature and the cows, was the best preaching. This is the actual front-line of preaching.” I was shocked at first but then realized how profound his statement was. Yes, he was right. The purpose of the ancient scriptures is to inspire us to remember God and to live in harmony with God’s plan. Srila Prabhupada, the author of these books, repeatedly encouraged his readers to live simply but to never forget Krishna. He proposed that the Hare Krishna movement should create an alternative society and be fully independent and self-sufficient and that his society should be centred on cow protection, as clearly shown in these selected quotes:

“We shall have to live there self-independently, simply by raising cows, grains, fruits, and flowers.” (Letter to Kirtanananda, 12 January 1968)

“If we can keep cows sufficiently and grow our necessary foodstuffs, then we shall show a new life to your countrymen—completely spiritual life in healthy atmosphere in divine consciousness.” (Letter to Satyabhama, 30 March 1969)

“Another feature of the devotee is nirihaya, simple living. Niriha means “gentle,” “meek” or “simple.” A devotee should not live very gorgeously and imitate a materialistic person. Plain living and high thinking are recommended for a devotee. He should accept only so much as he needs to keep the material body fit for the execution of devotional service. He should not eat or sleep more than is required. Simply eating for living, and not living for eating, and sleeping only six to seven hours a day are principles to be followed by devotees. As long as the body is there it is subjected to the influence of climatic changes, disease and natural disturbances, the threefold miseries of material existence. We cannot avoid them.” (Srimad Bhagavatam 4.22.24, purport) “The brahmana, their duty is how to practice to control the mind, to control the senses, camo damas titiksa, to be tolerant, to be very simple, simple living, not very gorgeous living. Whatever is absolutely necessary, a brahmana will accept, not more than that. That is simplicity, simple living, high thinking.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.8.21 lecture, Mayapur, October 1, 1974) “Yes, we are trying to set a perfect example according to the Bhagavad-gita as it is, how to execute simple living and high thinking. We are not interested in any material comforts of life which are limited and temporary. We are interested in solving the real problems of life, birth, death, old-age, and disease. These problems must be solved, and Krishna gives the formula in the Bhagavad-gita. (Letter to Radha Krishna Dhawan, Honolulu, 10 June 1975) “So if you can educate people, they will be united. This is actually united nations movement. Actually see how these Europeans, Americans, and Africans, and others, without any artificial allurement, how we are keeping together. Nobody is dissatisfied with humble eating, humble living, humbly, plain living. So it is possible. There is possibility. We live simple life, high thinking-United Nation. We can possibly… And there will be no scarcity. If we live simple life with Krishna conscious thinking, There will be no scarcity.” (Room Conversation, January 29, 1977, Bhuvanesvara)

“In Vedic culture, the welfare of the cows and the welfare of the brahmanas are essential. Without a proper arrangement for developing brahminical culture and protecting cows, all the affairs of administration will go to hell.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto 7: Chapter Three, Text 13: PURPORT)

“One cannot become spiritually advanced without acquiring the brahminical qualifications and giving protection to cows.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto 6: Chapter Eighteen, Text 52: PURPORT)

Gopinatha was a true Vedic scholar, to the point that he could recite the entire Bhagavad-gita by heart. But more importantly, he understood their essence, and for him, this was the fact that Lord Krishna was a cowherd boy and so protecting cows and establishing a spiritual society based on holistic agrarian principles centered around cows was the key to spiritual success. For the next 20 years, Gopinath dedicated himself to learning the ancient art of cow protection. His soft hands became toughened and cracked, his effulgent brow was often now sweaty and mixed with dust and his back more muscular from the hard labor. But he never lost his calming presence. Inside, he was the same gentle soul now expressing his wisdom and determination through working the land and protecting cows. I remember when I returned to Australia in 2011 after being away for many years and I saw him again walking down the road on his way to the library. I picked him up in my car and he told me that he was now living in a caravan next to the New Govardhana farm run by the Krishna devotees. I asked why and he said he had a disagreement with the management and so they asked him to leave. This was astonishing to me, considering his status in my eyes. Here was a man that joined the movement in 1973 at the age of 17 to become a monk and who had dedicated himself fully for the next 40 years, sacrificing personal ambition and pleasure to serve the goals of the movement. And yet, because of a disagreement with management he, was told he could not stay on the property! It was clear to me, that ego had clouded the intelligence of those in charge and this was clearly an offense to a true brahmana. But what surprised me the most was how Gopinath accepted his fate. He did not complain but went about doing his service and living his convictions despite the challenges. His demeanor never changed one bit. He then told me that he was again spending time studying the Vedas and his specific focus this time was on milk and how and why cow’s milk was so central to the Vedic culture. He then showed me a stack of papers with all this research. “I want to publish this,” he told me. “There is so much misunderstanding in ISKCON about this topic,” he said. “Devotees should not be drinking commercial milk, it is tamasic (ignorant) and cow protection is the most important service.” I fully agreed with him. For me, it is ISKCON’s Achilles heal. The fact that after 50 years they are still holding onto to this ludicrous position of defending the use of commercial dairy just shows how much they have misunderstood the vision of the founder, Srila Prabhupada. For me, Gopinatha will forever be a living example of Prabhupada’s vision. He was a true brahmana among ordinary men and the personification of brahmacharya (celibate living). A few years later, after meeting him again, I left Australia on a world tour and ended up settling down in Colombia, South America. Yesterday I heard that Gopinath was observing Nijala ekadasi wherein one has to fast from all grains and water the entire day and chant 64 rounds of the maha mantra (which takes about 10 hours). He did this, as he had done about a hundred other times and then went about tending to the cows as he has done for decades. However, on that day, it was extremely hot, around 40 degrees celsius and it appears that Gopinatha collapsed from dehydration and died in the field. He was later discovered by a neighbor. He passed away from this world in the field with his dearmost friends, the cows. I am sure his passing was blessed and that he is now with Krishna and the cows in the spiritual world. But today I am very sad that I did not get to talk to Gopinath again and to feel his warm and hearty embrace. He needs to be recognized and honored for his selfless service. I hope someone can find his research and publish his book. Gopinatha Acharya Prabhu, I will never forget you. Thank you for your kindness and wonderful example.Your servant and friend,

Priyavrata das