A talk on Sri Rama-ekadasi, November 6, 1996, in Pune, India, by Giriraj Swami
We are gathered here in the auspicious month of Kartik, which is also known as Damodara. Srila Prabhupada wrote in The Nectar of Devotion that just as Lord Damodara is very dear to His devotees, so the month of Damodara is also dear to them. And in the month of Kartik, in the year 1974, Srila Prabhupada completed his translation of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, in Juhu, Bombay.
When Srila Prabhupada was in Bombay, we used to go to his quarters every morning after mangala-arati, because at around six o’clock he would go for his morning walk. One morning Harikesa Prabhu, Srila Prabhupada’s secretary at the time, greeted us at the door. He was very excited and said, “Last night Srila Prabhupada finished translating Sri Caitanya-caritamrta. And he dictated the most wonderful glorification of his spiritual master.” Harikesa said that Srila Prabhupada was feeling blissful and that he had instructed that we celebrate the occasion with a feast.
So, the exact anniversary of Srila Prabhupada’s completion of the translation of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta falls some time between the night of Ekadasi and the morning of Dvadasi.
Srila Prabhupada ki jaya! Sri Caitanya-caritamrta ki jaya!
At the end of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami concludes:
‘ami likhi’,—eha mithya kari anumana
amara sarira kastha-putali-samana
“I infer that ‘I have written’ is a false understanding, for my body is like a wooden doll.” (Cc Antya 20.92)
anipuna vani apane nacite na jane
yata nacaila, naci’ karila visrame
“My inexperienced words do not know how to dance by themselves. The mercy of the guru made them dance.” (Cc Antya 20.149)
Now we shall read from Srila Prabhupada’s Concluding Words at the end of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta:
“Today, Sunday, November 10, 1974—corresponding to the 10th of Kartika, Caitanya Era 488, the eleventh day of the dark fortnight, the Rama-ekadasi—we have now finished the English translation of Sri Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami’s Sri Caitanya-caritamrta in accordance with the authorized order of His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Gosvami Maharaja, my beloved eternal spiritual master, guide, and friend. Although according to material vision His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada passed away from this material world on the last day of December 1936, I still consider His Divine Grace to be always present with me by his vani, his words.”
The theme of the Concluding Words of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta is Srila Prabhupada’s relationship with his spiritual master and his service to his spiritual master. But what he really discusses is service to the spiritual master in separation—vani-seva.
Sometimes people think that physical proximity to the spiritual master is an indication of special mercy or good fortune, and in one sense it may be. But the real essence of the relationship with the spiritual master is service to his instructions. And service to the instructions does not depend on physical presence. In the Concluding Words, Srila Prabhupada explains how he translated Sri Caitanya-caritamrta following the order of his spiritual master. Even though Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura was no longer present from the material point of view, he was present by his instructions, and Srila Prabhupada was connected to him by following them.
“There are two ways of association—by vani and by vapuh. Vani means words, and vapuh means physical presence. Physical presence is sometimes appreciable and sometimes not, but vani continues to exist eternally. Therefore we must take advantage of the vani, not the physical presence. Bhagavad-gita, for example, is the vani of Lord Krsna. Although Krsna was personally present five thousand years ago and is no longer physically present from the materialistic point of view, Bhagavad-gita continues.”
Lord Krishna spoke the Bhagavad-gita to Arjuna five thousand years ago. He was personally present to speak the Bhagavad-gita, but even though from the material point of view Krishna is no longer physically present, His words—the Bhagavad-gita—continue to exist. And if we take advantage of His instructions in the Bhagavad-gita, we can experience His presence.
Still, we should not conclude that because Lord Krishna or Srila Prabhupada is present in the form of transcendental sound, we do not need a personal link to the previous acharyas and Krishna. By the direct instruction of the spiritual master, one gets one’s life’s mission. And after one gets one’s life’s mission, one dedicates one’s life and soul to following the instruction.
“In this connection, we may call to memory the time when I was fortunate enough to meet His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada, sometime in the year 1922. Srila Prabhupada had come to Calcutta from Sridhama Mayapur to start the missionary activities of the Gaudiya Matha. He was sitting in a house at Ulta Danga when through the inducement of an intimate friend, the late Sriman Narendranatha Mallika, I had the opportunity to meet His Divine Grace for the first time. I do not remember the actual date of the meeting, but at that time I was one of the managers of Dr. Bose’s laboratory in Calcutta. I was a newly married young man, addicted to Gandhi’s movement and dressed in khadi. Fortunately, even at our first meeting, His Divine Grace advised me to preach the cult of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in English in the Western countries. Because at that time I was a complete nationalist, a follower of Mahatma Gandhi’s, I submitted to His Divine Grace that unless our country were freed from foreign subjugation, no one would hear the message of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu seriously. Of course, we had some argument on this subject, but at last I was defeated and convinced that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s message is the only panacea for suffering humanity.”
Srila Prabhupada told us that many sadhus used to visit his father’s home but that he was usually not satisfied with them. He knew one who used to don the dress of a sadhu in the morning just to go and beg. “What is the use of such sadhus?” Srila Prabhupada would ask. So, when his friend Narendranatha Mallika suggested that he meet Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, he initially refused: “What is the use of meeting another sadhu? I have already seen enough of them.” But in the end, he agreed.
Even in his youth, Srila Prabhupada was the leader of his group of contemporaries, and they wouldn’t be satisfied until Srila Prabhupada had met Srila Bhaktisiddhanta and given his approval. Anyway, Srila Prabhupada agreed to meet him, and at their very first meeting Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura asked Srila Prabhupada to preach Lord Chaitanya’s message throughout the world. Srila Prabhupada argued that India was still dominated by foreign rule. Even less-advanced countries like China were independent, but not India. Srila Prabhupada questioned, “Who will listen to us when we are still a dependent nation?” But Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura countered that the message of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was eternal and had nothing to do with relative material conditions like political dependence or independence. Somehow Srila Prabhupada was defeated, yet he was happy to have been defeated by his spiritual master.
“At last I was defeated and convinced that the message of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is the only panacea for suffering humanity. I was also convinced that the message of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was then in the hands of a very expert devotee and that surely the message of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu would spread all over the world. I could not, however, immediately take up his instructions to preach, but I took his words very seriously and was always thinking of how to execute his order, although I was quite unfit to do so.”
At the very first meeting, Srila Prabhupada got the instruction, and although he was unable to take up the instruction at first, he always kept the instruction in his heart. And he was always waiting for the time when he would be able to take it up. Again, vani-seva.
“In this way I passed my life as a householder until 1950, when I retired from family life as a vanaprastha. With no companion, I loitered here and there until 1958, when I took sannyasa. Then I was completely ready to discharge the order of my spiritual master. Previously, in 1936, just before His Divine Grace passed away at Jagannatha Puri, I wrote him a letter asking what I could do to serve him. In reply, he wrote me a letter, dated 13 December 1936, ordering me, in the same way, to preach in English the cult of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu as I had heard it from him.”
Srila Prabhupada had received the order at the first meeting, and he received the same order again just before his guru maharaja passed away. In other words, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura reconfirmed the instruction he had given to Srila Prabhupada at their first meeting. Srila Prabhupada knew for sure that this was his life’s work.
“After he passed away, I started the fortnightly magazine Back to Godhead sometime in 1944 and tried to spread the cult of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu through this magazine.”
It is also auspicious that Back to Godhead has begun again in India, in Bombay, to further Srila Prabhupada’s mission—to serve the order and fulfill the desires of his spiritual master.
“After I took sannyasa, a well-wishing friend suggested that I write books instead of magazines. Magazines, he said, might be thrown away, but books remain perpetually. Then I attempted to write Srimad-Bhagavatam. Before that, when I was a householder, I had written on Srimad Bhagavad-gita and had completed about eleven hundred pages, but somehow or other the manuscript was stolen. In any case, when I had published Srimad-Bhagavatam, First Canto, in three volumes in India, I thought of going to the U.S.A. By the mercy of His Divine Grace, I was able to come to New York on September 17, 1965. Since then, I have translated many books, including Srimad-Bhagavatam, Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, Teachings of Lord Caitanya (a summary), and many others.”
Srila Prabhupada received the instruction to preach the message of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in English, so he was thinking how to execute the order and preach. He decided to start Back to Godhead magazine and, further, to translate books. So, he began to translate Bhagavad-gita As It Is and other works.
“In the meantime, I was induced to translate Sri Caitanya-caritamrta and publish it in an elaborate version. In his leisure time in later life, His Divine Grace Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura would simply read Caitanya-caritamrta. It was his favorite book. He used to say that there would be a time when foreigners would learn the Bengali language to read Caitanya-caritamrta. The work on this translation began about eighteen months ago. Now, by the grace of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His Divine Grace Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, it is finished. In this connection I have to thank my American disciples, especially Sriman Pradyumna dasa Adhikari, Sriman Nitai dasa Adhikari, Sriman Jayadvaita dasa Brahmacari, and many other boys and girls who are sincerely helping me in writing, editing and publishing all these literatures.
“I think that His Divine Grace Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura is always seeing my activities and guiding me within my heart by his words. As it is said in Srimad-Bhagavatam, tene brahma hrda ya adi-kavaye. Spiritual inspiration comes from within the heart, wherein the Supreme Personality of Godhead, in His Paramatma feature, is always sitting with all His devotees and associates.”
Here Srila Prabhupada explains further how he received direction from his spiritual master. Of course, he received direction from his spiritual master in their personal meetings—beginning with their first meeting, when Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura instructed him to preach the message of Lord Chaitanya in the English language. And the same instruction was reconfirmed in his last letter, when Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura again said to preach the message of Lord Chaitanya in English. But here Srila Prabhupada gives more insight into how the disciple can receive guidance from the spiritual master: from within the heart.
We know Uddhava’s prayer to Lord Krsna:
naivopayanty apacitim kavayas tavesa
brahmayusapi krtam rddha-mudah smarantah
yo ’ntar bahis tanu-bhrtam asubham vidhunvann
acarya-caittya-vapusa sva-gatim vyanakti
“O my Lord! Transcendental poets and experts in spiritual science could not fully express their indebtedness to You, even if they were endowed with the prolonged lifetime of Brahma, for You appear in two features—externally as the acarya and internally as the Supersoul—to deliver the embodied living being by directing him how to come to You.” (SB 11.29.6)
In his Concluding Words Srila Prabhupada explains that not only is the Lord sitting within the heart as Paramatma, but the Lord is not alone; He is sitting there with His associates and servants. The implication is that the Lord in the heart is sitting there with the spiritual master and that therefore one can get inspiration from the spiritual master within the heart. Of course, there are some conditions; it is not that everyone can get inspiration or direction from the spiritual master in the heart. The main qualification is that one should be free from material desires. One should have no desire except to serve the order of the spiritual master. And one should feel that if he cannot execute the order of the spiritual master, he should rather die. In other words, one should be prepared to lay down one’s life to execute the order of the spiritual master.
“It is to be admitted that whatever translation work I have done is through the inspiration of my spiritual master because personally I am most insignificant and incompetent to do this materially impossible work.”
Basically, Srila Prabhupada is saying that he was not capable of translating Sri Caitanya-caritamrta personally, but that he was inspired and guided by his spiritual master within the heart.
One newspaper reporter came to interview Srila Prabhupada, and Srila Prabhupada explained that actually he was not writing his books but that Krishna was writing them. One disciple wanted to make the idea easier for the reporter, so he offered that what Prabhupada meant was that Krishna was giving Prabhupada the intelligence to write the books. But Srila Prabhupada said, “No. Krishna personally writes them.”
Here Srila Prabhupada is giving further insight into his statement by explaining, “Yes, the Lord within the heart is there to give direction, but the Lord is not alone; He is accompanied by His devotees, and among the devotees is the spiritual master.” Srila Prabhupada feels that his spiritual master guided him in his translation of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta.
“I do not think myself a very learned scholar, but I have full faith in the service of my spiritual master, His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. If there is any credit to my activities of translating, it is all due to His Divine Grace.”
Srila Prabhupada said, “If we try to do some service and take the credit for ourselves, there will be so many problems. But if we give the credit to Krishna, things will go nicely.”
“Certainly if His Divine Grace were physically present at this time, it would have been a great occasion for jubilation, but even though he is not physically present, I am confident that he is very pleased by this work of translation.”
Srila Prabhupada was envisioning that if his guru maharaja were physically present, it would have been a great occasion for jubilationthat Sri Caitanya-caritamrta had been rendered into English. But Srila Prabhupada feels confident that although his guru maharaja is not physically present, still he is pleased by this work of translation. In other words, even if his guru maharaja is not physically present, he is spiritually present and is aware of Srila Prabhupada’s activities. Earlier, Srila Prabhupada said that his guru maharaja wasalways seeing his activities, and now he says that he feels that his guru maharaja is pleased with his service of translating Sri Caitanya-caritamrta. The connection is alive and dynamic.
Now, if we hear about Srila Prabhupada’s intimate relationship with his spiritual master in separation, we may start to imagine that we have the same relationship with Srila Prabhupada and begin to speculate, “Srila Prabhupada wants this, and Srila Prabhupada is pleased.” But maybe Srila Prabhupada does not want this, and maybe Srila Prabhupada is not pleased. So, he brings us back to the practical platform, where the spiritual master directly says what he wants and shows when he is pleased—not that we imagine that we are on the same platform as Srila Prabhupada and speculate, “Oh, my guru maharaja wants me to do this. My guru maharaja is very pleased with me.”
Srila Prabhupada continues, “He was very fond of seeing many books published to spread the Krsna consciousness movement.” He saw it, and everyone knew it. He was not speculating or imagining, but acting on what he saw and heard. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta was pleased to see books published to spread Krishna consciousness.
“Therefore our society, the International Society for Krsna consciousness, has formed to execute the order of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura.”
Once, Srila Prabhupada asked us in Calcutta, “What is the duty of the spiritual master, and what is the duty of the disciple?” Then he himself gave the answer: “The duty of the spiritual master is to serve Krishna, and the duty of the disciple is to assist the spiritual master.” He gave the example that the spiritual master has to serve Krishna and that part of the service is to clean the temple floor. So, when the disciple is washing the floor, he should think, “I am assisting my spiritual master in his service to Krishna.” But then again, we never serve Krishna directly. We always serve through our spiritual master. So, when we assist Srila Prabhupada in his service to Krishna, we are more directly assisting him in his service to his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, and through disciplic succession, in service to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, or Krishna. Thus, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness has been formed to execute the order of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati and Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, specifically in the matter of publishing and distributing transcendental knowledge.
“It is my wish that devotees of Lord Caitanya all over the world enjoy this translation, and I am glad to express my gratitude to the learned men in the Western countries who are so pleased with my work that they are ordering in advance all my books that will be published in the future.”
Professors and librarians placed standing orders for all of Srila Prabhupada’s books. They wanted them all—even those not yet published. Here too Srila Prabhupada says that he wants us to relish his books, not just sell them.
“On this occasion, therefore, I request my disciples who are determined to help me in this work to continue their cooperation fully, so that philosophers, scholars, religionists, and people in general all over the world will benefit by reading our transcendental literatures such as Srimad-Bhagavatam and Sri Caitanya-caritamrta.”
Srila Prabhupada is requesting us to help him in his work of publication and distribution of transcendental literatures all over the world. And he mentions different categories of readers: philosophers and religionistsand people in general—everyone, all over the world. He is asking us to help. Therefore, we should preach. And, as Srila Prabhupada indicated, there should be some result. Either people should chant Hare Krishna and change their lives, or they should give some money and take a book. When there are results, Srila Prabhupada is pleased in two ways: He is pleased that people are taking to Krishna consciousness, giving some money and taking some literature, chanting Hare Krishna and becoming devotees. And he is pleased that his servants are becoming purified, because preaching also purifies the preacher.
We often hear or say that we should practice what we preach. If we don’t practice what we preach, who will follow us? Srila Prabhupada said, “If you are smoking a cigarette and you tell someone, ‘Don’t smoke,’ how will he hear you?” And Srila Prabhupada specifically instructed that if we carefully chant at least sixteen rounds of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra daily and follow the four regulative principles, we will get sufficient strength to preach. But if we don’t chant sixteen rounds and follow the four regulative principles, we cannot expect to have the potency to impress the hearts of the audience. So, we should do both—practice and preach. We don’t have to be very learned scholars or big tapasvis. Our little austerity is to chant sixteen rounds and follow the regulative principles—not much. But that will give us sufficient strength and purity to preach and actually touch and move people.
“Thus end the Bhaktivedanta purports to Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, dated November 10, 1974, at the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, Hare Krishna Land, Juhu, Bombay.”