Recognizing Srila Prabhupada’S Greatness While Preaching In Bangladesh
By Devaki Devi Dasi
Our Ukrainian team traveling around Bangladesh returned to Dhaka on the 16th of November – just in time for Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance day celebration…..
Swamibag temple area had been converted into a huge Pandal tent. HH Jayapataka Swami was there, and devotees had come from all around Bangladesh to get his association. As in previous years he initiated around two thousand devotees – something which requires quite some coordination and organisation…..!
I had been contemplating Srila Prabhupada’s greatness and outstanding position, meditating on how I could glorify him in a way which was relevant to the devotees here in Bangladesh….
On the morning of his disappearance I took our Ukrainian visitors to the nearby Gaudiya Math temple, which Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur had established. It was here where he had lectured for one entire month on the first verse of the Bhagavatam, and he had also installed these beautiful marble Radha Krsna Deities. We were taking darshan, and one young devotee of this temple took us upstairs to Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur’s room. Sitting in front of his picture I started asking our young host some questions in regards to their Math – how many devotees live in the temple, and how many temples are there in Bangladesh from this particular Math, and how many other Math’s from Bhaktisiddhanta’s line are still there in Bangladesh.
The young boy answered our questions, all the while giving us a somewhat depressed and sad impression. He confirmed that quite a number of their temples had closed, and some of the Math’s had dried up all together. He explained: “It is our duty to share this information…..” And he concluded in the same sad mood: “And every Friday we are meeting here in Maharaja’s room, and we are praying to him….!”
We could indeed sense a gloomy mood pervailing the entire room – almost as if Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur was not so pleased…..
I had been comtemplating how Srila Prabhupada had been the only one of Maharaja’s disciples who had clearly understood his mission. None of his other disciples had – Prabhupada was indeed the only one! Already Bhaktivinoda Thakur had the clear vision that a worldwide organisation spreading Lord Caitanya’s Sankirtan movement throughout the whole globe could not be headed up by one acarya. Such a mission was simply too large for one person. It had to be done by a team of acaryas – the GBC.
Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur had taken up the same concept, and he had requested his disciples to form a GBC. However, since this had been such a revolutionary idea it was not heard and understood by his disciples – except for Srila Prabhupada. He had understood the importance of cooperation in order to fulfill Mahaprabhu’s prediciton that the holy name would be chanted in every town and village. Until then various Math’s were doing some local preaching, and the tradition had been that one acarya is the head of the Math until he would leave this world. And usually there had always been a fight amongst the followers, who would be the next in line….
This preaching system had some local preaching impact no doubt, but to spread Mahaprabhu’s mission all around the world could not be done in this way. The test to achieve this glorious task was the willingness to cooperate and share one’s influence with others of similar influence – something which brings out the most hidden anarthas from the most secret corners of our heart.
Bhaktisiddhanta could clearly understand the level of his followers and disciples, and just before leaving this world he called out in disappointment: “None of you have understood my mission – none of you are my true disciples.” Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja speaks about this incident….
As soon as Bhaktisiddhanta left this world, fire broke out in his Math. His followers argued who would be the next leading acarya, and as a result his mission split up into so many branches and was ultimately completely spoiled. Today they all have his picture on their altar – without understanding his mission. The connection comes through understanding the mission – not by having the photo there, and even not through diksha itself……
Srila Prabhupada was the only one who truly understood his Guru Maharaja’s mission. This was his greatness! Again and again he requested his godbrothers to join him and fulfill their Gurudeva’s mission in a combined team effort, forming a GBC. But they were unwilling. They rather prefered to each be the head of their own little Math.
Since Prabhupada was the only one who clearly understood the importance of a GBC he had no other choice but founding a new society. He did not establish a new society because he also wanted to be the sole head of HIS society – no, he established ISCKON to re-establish Bhaktisiddhanta’s mood and vision: the importance of a GBC. The fact that he understood his Guru’s mission qualified and empowered him to be the head of a society which would establish exactly this new concept: that Mahaprabhu’s Sankirtan movement would not be lead by one acarya! In other words: what qualifies Prabhupada to be the founder acarya is the fact that he established the need and importance of the GBC being the highest spiritual and managerial authority of the Sankirtan movement. It sounds paradox, but it is simply a historic fact.
On this day of Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance, sitting in Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur’s room I felt an immense urgency to deeply understand these points and clearly present them to the devotees in Bangladesh. I could feel a strong connection to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta. I almost felt personally addressed by him, and I could sense a powerful energy permeating his room – something I had never felt before.
Unless we deeply undestand our Param Guru’s mission of the importance of the GBC we are running every risk that history can repeat itself, and very easily Prabhupada’s mission can also be spoiled.
This also explains why the Gaudia Math does not have the same potency in preaching. If we don’t understand our Param Guru’s mission, and we are not fulfilling his desire and order – how can we be connected to him?! And how can we receive the flow of mercy coming down from Mahaprabhu and our previous acaryas through the parampara? If we don’t understand Param Guru’s mission, then the connection is broken like a blocked pipe. The mercy and empowerment cannot flow through and will not reach us. Some connection is there – like that of a bad internet connection, but the message is stuck….
This is the very difference between the Gaudiya Math and ISKCON, and this is the very reason why ISKCON is the most empowered branch of Lord Caitanya’s Sankirtan movement – because in ISKCON we are trying to clearly understanding Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur’s and Srila Prabhupada’s concept, desire and instruction to work combinedly under the GBC. It had taken me many years to clearly understand this point…..
It has not always been easy for the GBC’s to work as a team, and for the devotees to accept them as the ultimate authority. But as long as we are endeavoring for it we will receive the mercy and empowerment of Mahaprabhu and all our previous acaryas. The connection will not be broken. And at the same time cooperation always brings along purification of the heart.
On this day of Prabhupada’s disappearance I was so bold to glorify him in this way, in front of several hundred devotees …. In Bangladesh these thoughts are rather revolutionary ideas and concepts. Also here the devotees are strongly conditioned by the local tradition of one acarya being the head….. Some could understand…..
On the next evening HH Jayapataka Swami gave a program for his practicing disciples in a rented hall. Interestingly enough – he also touched upon similar topics: the importance of the GBC as the ultimate authority of ISKCON, and that nobody will be ‘the next one’ after Prabhupada. And he instructed his disciples not to put his picture on the altar after Prabhupada. It gave me some reassurance that there is a need to strongly establish the true siddhanta …..
Finally it became very clear to my mind that the question “who is next after Srila Prabhupada” is simply Maya’s trick! As soon as this question arises in our mind we are running the danger of getting caught up in the last snare of extended false ego: it must be MY Guru Maharaja who is next, and it could be ME after him…..! And it is a clear sign that we are not understanding our Param Guru’s vision.
The six Goswamis were certainly not indulging in such kind of discussions! It was of no relevance to them. And there are so many of Mahaprabhu’s associates who are eternal associates of the Lord, and who are not mentioned in the list of names of our parampara. It does not mean anything really! Being “the next one” is after all another upadi – a material designation. It has nothing to do with our eternal relationship with Krsna…..!
On the 19th of November our Ukrainian devotees left Bangladesh – with sad hearts and tears in their eyes….. Especially little Visvambhara had really enjoyed his time here, and he had firmly concluded: “As soon as I finish school I will come to Bangladesh to learn from the devotees here. I will stay in Pundarik Dham – it is the best place…!”
Your servant, Devaki dd