Friends and colleagues joined ISKCON devotees to inaugurate a memorial bench in honor of Tamal Krishna Goswami, on the grounds of Cambridge University’s Clare Hall this November 25th.
Passing away prematurely after a fatal car crash in March 2002, Tamal Krishna Goswami left behind many dedicated disciples and a worldwide ISKCON community that treasured him. He also left a nearly-completed PhD thesis which he had been working on at Cambridge since 1998, and it was obvious that his work and personality had had a profound impact on many around him during his stay at the University.
At a rather emotional event, many from the local community said a few words of remembrance and appreciation for ‘Goswamiji,’ often citing him as a ‘people person’ who truly cared about others.
College President Sir Martin Harris spoke first, warmly welcoming all the attendees and saying that in his opinion, Goswamiji represented all that Clare Hall stood for. While expressing his regret for never having met Tamal Krishna in person, Harris simultaneously noted his delight at having heard so much about the Goswami that he felt he did know him.
Julius Lipner, Professor of Hinduism and the Comparative Study of Religion, and PhD supervisor to Tamal Krishna Goswami during his years at Cambridge, spoke next. Despite Goswamiji’s commanding personality as guru and leader of an international society, said Lipner, he took on his role as a student with great humility.
He was also a ‘trailblazer’, Lipner pointed out, impacting people wherever he went and unafraid of going against the status quo. A case in point—his coming into academia at a later stage in life. Despite the challenges surrounding such a choice, Goswamiji faced them in the same way as he did everything else in his life; with focus, determination and an abundance of intelligence.
Professor Lipner spoke gravely about how Tamal Krishna Goswami had placed the unfinished final chapter of his PhD thesis—about the theology of ISKCON’s founder Srila Prabhupada—on his desk before he left for India in 2002, suggesting that they discuss it upon his return.
When Goswamiji never did return, Lipner explained, he took it upon himself to complete the thesis. For one and a half years, he went through the entire work to ensure that the concluding chapter would properly represent Goswamiji’s message. He then handed the thesis over to another Vaishnava academic—Comparative Religion scholar Dr. Graham Schweig (Garuda das)—to polish and complete.
“I look forward to the day when this much awaited work will be brought to completion,” said Lipner, “And will be published in Tamal Krishna Goswami’s name.”
Concluding his speech on a more light tone, the Professor spoke fondly of the peanut burfi sweets and other “vegetarian culinary delights” that Goswamiji would always bring for him.
The next speaker, College Tutor and Librarian Rosemary Luff, also expressed how much she always looked forward to the abundance of “Indian fare” that he would treat colleagues to.
ISKCON devotees also spoke at the event, including GBC of ISKCON U.K. Praghosa Dasa—who spoke of his various pleasant encounters with Goswamiji—and Varsana Dasi, who concluded the ceremony with a short reading from the Brihad Bhagavatamrita, a book close to Tamal Krishna Goswami’s heart.
Devotees present noted that all attendees to the event spoke with such love and high regard for Goswamiji, and they felt proud of him. Even seven years after his departure, he continued to have an impression on the staff of Cambridge University. It was obvious that as a disciple of Srila Prabhupada, Tamala Krishna Goswami had served his spiritual master in an exemplary way.
Proceedings ended with a prasadam buffet which delighted all, bringing back memories of the culinary adventures they had enjoyed with their “dear Goswamiji.”
As they ate, some gazed at the plaque on the memorial bench:
Tamal Krishna Goswami (1946 – 2002)
PhD Student Clare Hall (1998 – 2002)
Leading member of the Hare Krishna Movement (1968 – 2002)
A loyal friend and spiritual teacher of compassion and integrity