In 2002, Sridhar Swami visited the temple in Vodice, Croatia. My husband, Anenata-Sesa prabhu, and I took our children Sarasvati, aged 3, and Hari, who at the time was just a baby, to the temple. My daughter kept looking at Maharaja, shyly, and he told her, if she behaved nicely during the class, he would give her a garland. And it really happened! She kept quiet and got the garland. We never spoke about this incident again. Sometime later, my spiritual master Bhakti Vikasa Swami came to Croatia. I remember holding Sarasvati in my arms in front of my Guru Maharaja and happily asking her if he was her guru. She said, “No. My Guru is funny and fat and his name is Svidav Swami“. I was amazed that she actually remembered him at all. When she saw his picture, she said, „That's my Guru“. I told this to Acyutananda prabhu, who was Sridhara Swami's disciple, and he wrote in his letter to Maharaja:
„Maybe you remember little Sarasvati, you gave her a garland when you were in Vodice. So, she was staying in front of Bhakti Vikasa Maharaja and her mother Sukanthi, who is his disciple, asked her, “Sarasvati is this your Guru?“ and Sarasvati replied, “No my Guru is fat and funny...Svidav Swami!“. Since then she is always saying,“This is my Guru!“ and pointing to your picture, and she is only three years old.“
Sridhara Swami wrote back, “Sometimes disciples stay with their guru for many lifetimes. When I come the next time I will give her initiation.“
We have not met Maharaja until a year later. Sarasvati wrote him a letter once, and sent it to Ljubljana, Slovenia, during his stay there. She drew him a painting and, with her funny handwriting wrote, „Your disciple Zarasvati“. She did not know how to write, so she wrote a Z instead of an S. Devotees later said Maharaja found it very amusing and said it was a letter from his youngest disciple Zarasvati.
Next time we met it was at a devotee summer camp in Ostro, Croatia, in 2003. In was holding my daughter in my arms, when Maharaja approached us and pat her on the head. He was so nice to her and very gentle. He wanted to take her in his arms, but she was to shy. He said, „Don't be shy, Sarasvati, I'm your guru!“ Later he sent Acyutananda prabhu to invite her for initiation the following day, but she said she could not get up so early. Maharaja laughed.
After the camp, Maharaja visited us in Zadar on his way back. He stayed for lunch and we had a home program. There were about ten devotees and my daughter was really excited. Trying to tease her a little, we asked if she had any questions for her Guru Maharaja. She said she had three! As she was too shy to ask herself, she asked her daddy to ask in her name. Her first question was, „Will Mate and Paula also go to the spiritual world?“
„Who are Mate and Paula?“ asked Maharaja.
„They are some friends from the neighborhood.“
„Have you given them prasadam?“
„Yes, I have.“
„Then they will surely come to the spiritual world!“
Sarsvati's second question was, „Are there birthday parties in the spiritual world?“ Maharaja said, there is a birthday party every day and there is a chocolate cake, too. „And if there isn't, I don't want to go either!“ We all burst into laughter. Her third question was, „Did Ramacandra feel sad when Ravana kidnapped Sita?“ Maharaja explained that Ramacandra was extremely sad, but that Ravana actually never took away the real Sita. I was amazed how seriously he would consider all those funny questions of a four-year-old. In the meanwhile Acyutananda was taking photos of devotees present, so he wanted to take a photo of Sarasvati as well. Being shy, she hid in a cupboard in the kitchen and refused to come out. Maharaja came to the kitchen, lay on his belly and, stretched on the floor started to persuade her to come out. It was like they were of the same age. He was really a very special person. Some time after that visit, Maharaja phoned my husband to ask if Sarasvati liked dolls, because he wanted to give her something. We had no idea what that was all about, and were completely surprised when, a couple of months later, the postman brought us a parcel from India with dolls of Sita and Lord Rama. Maharaja was not in India at that time, but he arranged that the lady who was making the dolls sent them by post when they were finished. My daughter was overjoyed. She kept on showing the dolls to everyone, explaining that it was her Guru who sent them. I helped her to make a nice altar for Sita-Rama, and she even put a picture of Sridhara Swami on it. Unfortunately, we never had a chance to met Maharaja again. He was already very sick and went to India. Most of his disciples were there with him in Mayapura. A few days before Gaura Purnima, my husband got a call from Acyutananda prabhu, who said Maharaja wanted to talk to him. Maharaja said he had been thinking about Sarasvati and that he wanted to give her a name if we did not mind. He asked us to call back in a few minutes, because he had some names that he liked a lot and wanted to choose one for our daughter. When we phoned him, he wanted to speak to Sarasvati. As she was again too shy to talk to him, Maharaja spoke to my husband and said, “Tell her that her name is Visaka devi dasi and ask her if she likes it!“. She smiled and nodded her head. He then said, „Visaka, you are now my disciple and you have to promise me you will listen to Mummy and Daddy and serve the Vaisnavas. Did you hear me?“ She again nodded her head.
After this conversation we were immersed in happiness and distress at the same time, since we knew, we will probably never hear from him again. Soon thereafter, Maharaja left his body. Recently, I have heard from Parasurama prabhu, another disciple of his, that Maharaja, on his last journey to India, stopped in London to have darsan with his disciples. He asked if anyone knew how his youngest disciple Sarasvati was doing. Parasurama prabhu said that she was surely fine, but was probably missing her Guru a lot, to which Maharaja replied, „I will have to get used to that!“
I am not sure if I have been successful in my attempts to describe what kind of personality Sridhara Maharaja really was. Even little children were completely attracted by his love, warmth, cheerfulness and sense of humor. Recently, my daughter, who is now 10, asked me, „Mum, is there any other Guru like Sridhara Swami, who is equally nice, funny and loves children a lot?“
These stories were written by Sukanthi devi dasi (Sanella Micic, 1969), a disciple of Bhakti Vikasa Swami, who currently lives with her husband Ananta Sesa Prabhu, and her three children, Visaka (Sarasvati), Hari and Nandi in a coastal town of Zadar, Croatia.