ISKCON 50 – S.Prabhupada Daily Meditations – Oct. 9-2015 – Dec. 31-2016
November 1, 2015
So far, Prabhupada’s sole strategy had been to seek support from India. It was a plan that would ultimately fail, but Krishna had not as yet revealed that to him or showed him an alternative. Tirtha Maharaj, the president of the Gaudiya Math, had told him that the Math’s Institution funds could not be used for Prabhupada’s mission in America. It was a plain and clear rejection. Yet somehow Prabhupada managed to see a glimmer of hope in his letter and persisted in writing him back describing the building he had found and seeking support. After writing letters to Sumati Morarji with a general description of his activities and trying to indirectly inspire her to help, he had pulled out all the stops and asked her to donate for the building and become famous in history as the pious woman who had started the first temple to “Bala-Krishna” in America. But she hadn’t even written a reply. Prabhupada thought of other possible donors in India. He wrote to Padmapat Singhania, a very wealthy man who was known as a devotee of Dwakanatha-Krishna, but received no reply.
At this time Prabhupada was living alone in New York City with no friends, disciples or financial support. He had found a building in Manhattan that he wanted to purchase and use as a temple, but his only attempt to raise funds was to write rich donors in India and it seemed unlikely they would help. From outside appearances, Prabhupada may have seemed like a lonely, unsuccessful person, but he felt otherwise. He believed firmly that he was living intimately with the Supreme Lord Krishna, and that He was directing His will. Prabhupada wrote later in a Bhagavad-gita purport (16.1-3) that to be a sannyasi one should be unafraid to live alone, without dependence.
“For a sannyāsī, the ﬁrst qualiﬁcation should be fearlessness. Because a sannyāsī has to be alone without any support or guarantee of support, he has simply to depend on the mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. If one thinks, “After I leave my connections, who will protect me?” he should not accept the renounced order of life. One must be fully convinced that Kṛṣṇa or the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His localized aspect as Paramātmā is always within, that He is seeing everything, and He always knows what one intends to do. One must have ﬁrm conviction that Kṛṣṇa as Paramātmā will take care of a soul surrendered to Him. ‘I shall never be alone,’ one should think. ‘Even if I live in the darkest regions of a forest I shall be accompanied by Kṛṣṇa, and He will give me all protection.’ That conviction is called abhayam, fearlessness. This state of mind is necessary for a person in the renounced order of life.”
Prabhupada felt a close contact with his beloved spiritual master, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur. There are two ways of associating with the spiritual master, by vapu and vani. Vapu means physical presence and vani means following the teachings. Vapu is temporary and vani is eternal. Prabhupada felt the intimate personal touch of his spiritual master’s instructions that he preach Krishna consciousness in English in the West. He believed his spiritual master was always watching over his actions and guiding him through his vani. Prabhupada in 1965 never felt lonely or depressed or in need. He had powerful, loving well-wishers and they would take care of him. It was just a matter of time before his mission would come to fruition.
November 2, 2015
How to Meditate on Srila Prabhupada All the Time
One psychologist was talking about the importance of noticing things: If you notice when you get angry, or you notice when you are acting, you can curb these tendencies. He recommended a simple technique of just paying attention to your own breathing and noting how your skin or eyes feel. In order to work deeply, the noticing should be kept very simple. It is not a matter of thinking of concepts, but the primitive act of noticing. When I read of this technique, I thought of applying it to my Prabhupada meditations. I think it’s something anyone can do.
For example, someone pronounces the word “Prabhupada.” You become alert. You don’t have to think about it. You can feel “Prabhupada’s name was just spoken.” On another occasion, say you are taking prasadam in the association of devotees, suddenly you notice that you are among devotees and the prasadam you are eating has been cooked in a particular way; that the child of the couple to your left has a Sanskrit name – everything has been taught to us by Prabhupada. You may feel this in an overall way, or you may notice particular details. It doesn’t require a verbal acknowledgement, but you want to feel the awareness of Prabhupada in everything you do.
This act of noticing is not intended as a substitute to the more discursive methods of glorifying Prabhupada with our intelligence and words, but it can supplement our present meditation. Sometimes we are tired of talking, or we realize that words will not be able to capture our experience. Perhaps we are with people who have no interest in Prabhupada, or we ourselves don’t feel inspired enough to speak. At times like this, this “awareness” technique can be fully utilized. We stop in the midst of outward activities, perhaps starting by becoming aware of our own breath, and then turn up the “awareness” volume until we perceive Prabhupada’s blessing and presence.
If we are fortunate to live in a society of devotees, then whether we “notice” or not, we are regularly being exposed to Prabhupada’s lectures, books, kirtanas and way of life. Even when we don’t actively remember him, we can be assured that our inner self is benefiting by exposure to Prabhupada. If an iron rod is placed in fire gradually it will become hotter and hotter, even if only by imperceptible degrees. Prabhupada used to give that example that a preoccupied airplane passenger may not notice when the plane takes off, but after awhile he will be surprised to see that he is thousands of feet above the Earth. Similarly, even if we sometimes fail to notice the benefit of living in Prabhupada’s shelter, eventually Prabhupada will bless us to become more aware.
The Scriptures inform us that the association of devotees gives the greatest benefit and is the only solace in this material world. More important than techniques meant to bring us into greater awareness of Prabhupada is to first situate ourselves solidly in the association of devotees. In this way our hearts and minds will automatically fill up with Krishna consciousness. But when we do become situated, we will want to develop our abilities to remember and love Prabhupada. We will want to fill our minds only with positive impressions of Prabhupada’s presence in our lives. This will not only help us come closer to Krishna, but will give us greater appreciation for Prabhupada’s other followers. It will help to eradicate envy from our hearts, which in turn will give us a stronger desire to absorb ourselves in Prabhupada consciousness.
November 3, 2015
What Were Srila Prabhupada’s Private Thoughts in 1965
vaiṣṇavera kriyā mudrā
Devotees sometimes try to guess what was on Prabhupada’s mind. Whenever this question comes up, someone inevitably quotes the familiar saying vaiṣṇavera kriyā mudrā vijñe nā bhujhaya, “one cannot understand the mind of the Vaisnava.” Prabhupada sometimes added, “Nor should one try to inquire into his previous life.” The meaning of this verse may also be extended to mean that people should not criticize an acarya or try to give him advice.
Prabhupada makes this point in Nectar of Instruction: “The spiritual master must not be subjected to the advice of a disciple, nor should a spiritual master be advised to take instructions from those who are not his disciples.” (Nectar of Instruction, Text 6 Purport)
We can get a general impression of Prabhupada’s thoughts in 1965 from what he wrote in his letters, or what he later reiterated in conversations, but it is not possible to totally understand the mind of the pure devotee. Only Krishna knows.
November 4, 2015
Further Intimate Understanding of Srila Prabhupada
It is especially important for disciples not to try to second-guess their guru. I remember in the beginning days at 26 Second Avenue, devotees sometimes wondered, when does Prabhupada actually talk to Krishna? Maybe he does it in his sleep. For awhile, there was even speculation whether Prabhupada was even actually Krishna Himself.
The disciple can only understand things rightly when they are explained by the acarya according to sastra and sadhu. It is stated in the Caitanya-caritamrta, “Although I know that my spiritual master is a servitor of Sri Caitanya, I know him also as a plenary manifestation of the Lord.” (CC Adi 1.44)
Interpretations on the position of the spiritual master are probably inevitable though. I remember once hearing some devotees talking about japa. One devotee said that we should chant very intently and call out to Krishna. Japa, when done rightly, is an intense experience either of love of God, or of aspiring for love of God.
But another devotee countered this by saying, “I’ve heard Srila Prabhupada chanting japa on a tape. I don’t mean to speculate on the mind of the acarya, but his voice sounds very regular and not particularly emotional.”
This is an example of someone making a judgement based on external perception of the guru’s activities. He heard the guru’s voice and decided that he wasn’t chanting Hare Krishna with much emotion. From that, he concluded that he was chanting “like Prabhupada.”
We do not know how Prabhupada chants, although we can hear the sound of his chanting. Neither do we know what he thinks about when he chants. He was not obliged to reveal these things to us. He sometimes quoted Jesus Christ’s statement, “There are many things I have to tell you, but you cannot bear to hear them now.” Prabhupada said, “Yes, the acarya knows things, but he does not tell everything to the disciples.”
November 5, 2015
Further Intimate Understanding of Srila Prabhupada (con’d)
Lord Caitanya also followed this principle of not revealing everything on His mind. Although He was deeply immersed in the conjugal rasa, He spoke about Radha and Krishna’s pastimes to only a very intimate few.
We can be certain that Prabhupada did not reveal everything on his mind to us. Even if we were to ask him, “What do you think of when you chant, Prabhupada?”, it is unlikely he would reveal his innermost state. There is a sastric statement that when a pure devotee appears in the world, he is not really seen by the people. His appearance is compared to a cloud in relation to the moon. The moon is actually stationary in the sky, but it appears to be blowing across the sky with the clouds. It is an optical illusion. Similarly, a pure devotee often appears to be an ordinary person moving through the world, but actually his mind is fixed only on Krishna. “One should not try to understand the mind of the acarya.” This should be a stabilizing reminder to us. Although we want to know our spiritual master as deeply as possible – we will listen to him and pray to him and study his books to find out exactly what he wants from us – we should be careful not to look for so many hidden meanings, or to speculate on esoteric principles. Prabhupada will give us what we need to know.
We have to trust him to reveal himself to us as we qualify ourselves and know that he understands each of our hearts in this regard. Let us first digest what he has given us, and then increase our remembrance and love for him by studying his writings and activities as told in his biographies and memoirs.
Let us first understand him as he has revealed himself to us, and then by service and inquiry, trust him to give us more.
What does a pure devotee experience when he chants Hare Krishna? When does Prabhupada talk with Krishna? Where is Prabhupada now? When I go to the spiritual world, how will I recognize Prabhupada? Prabhupada often replied to such questions: “When you go there, then you will understand.”
November 6, 2015
Prabhupada, having obtained an extension on his Visa, stayed on. America seemed so opulent, yet many things were difficult to tolerate. The sirens and bells from fire engines and police seemed like they would crack his heart. Sometimes at night he would hear a person being attacked and crying for help. From his first days in the City, he had noted that the smell of dog stool was everywhere. And although it was such a rich city, he could rarely find a mango to purchase, and if he did, it was very expensive and usually had no taste. From his room he would sometimes hear the horns of ocean liners, and he would dream that some day he would sail around the world with a sankirtana party, preaching in the major cities of the world.
Swami Nikhilananda of the Ramakrishna Mission had advised Prabhupada that if he wanted to stay in the West, he should abandon his traditional Indian dress and strict vegetarianism. Meat-eating and liquor, as well as pants and coat, were almost a necessity in this climate he had said. Before Prabhupada left India, one of his godbrothers had demonstrated to him how he should eat in the West with a knife and fork. But Prabhupada never considered taking on Western ways. His advisors cautioned him not to remain an alien but to get into the spirit of American life, even if it meant breaking vows he had held in India; almost all Indian immigrants compromised their old ways. But Prabhupada’s idea was different, and he could not be budged. The others may have had to compromise, he thought, but they had come to beg technological knowledge from the West. “I have not come to beg something,” he said, “but to give something.”
November 7, 2015
In his solitary wanderings, Srila Prabhupada made acquaintances with a number of local people. There was Mr. Ruben, a Turkish Jew, who worked as a New York City subway conductor. Mr. Ruben met Prabhupada on a park bench, and being a sociable fellow and a world traveller, sat and talked with the Indian holy man.
Mr. Ruben: He seemed to know that he would have temples filled up with devotees. He would look out and say, “I am not a poor man. I am rich. There are temples and books; they are existing; they are there, but the time is separating us from them.” He always mentioned “we” and spoke about the one who sent him, his spiritual master. He didn’t know people at that time, but he said, “I am never alone.” He always looked like a lonely man to me. That’s what made me think of him like the holy man, Elijah, who always went out alone. I don’t believe he had any followers.
November 8, 2015
When the weather was not rainy, Prabhupada would catch the bus to Grand Central Station and visit the Central Library on 42nd Street. His Srimad-Bhagavatams were there – some of the same volumes he had sold to the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi – and he took pleasure in seeing them listed in the card catalogue and learning that they were being regularly checked out and read. He would sometimes walk through U.N. Plaza or walk up to the New India House on Sixty-fourth Street, where he had met Mr. Malhotra, a Consulate officer. It was through Mr. Malhotra that he had contacted the Tagore Society and had secured an invitation to lecture before one of their meetings.
Riding the bus down Fifth Avenue, he would look out at the buildings and imagine that some day they could be used in Krishna Consciousness. He would take a special interest in certain buildings: One on Twenty-third Street and one with a dome on Fourteenth Street attracted his attention. He would think of how the materialists had constructed such elaborate buildings and yet had made no provisions for spiritual life. Despite all their great achievements of technology, the people felt empty and useless. They had these great buildings, but the children were going to LSD.
November 9, 2015
While Prabhupada sat alone in his fifth floor room in Dr. Mishra’s yoga studio, the lights suddenly went out. This was his experience of the first moments of the New York City blackout of 1965. In India, power failure occurred commonly, so Prabhupada, while surprised to find the same thing happening in America, remained undisturbed. He began chanting the Hare Krishna mantra on his beads; meanwhile, outside his room, the entire New York metropolitan area had been plunged into darkness. The massive power failure had suddenly left the entire City without electricity, trapping 800,000 people in the subways and affecting more than 30,000,000 people in nine states and three Canadian provinces.
Two hours later, a man from Dr. Mishra’s apartment arrived at the door with candles and some fruit. He found Prabhupada in a pleasant mood, sitting there in the darkness chanting Hare Krishna. The man informed him of the serious nature of such a blackout in New York City. Prabhupada thanked him and returned again to his chanting. The blackout lasted until 7 o’clock the next morning.
November 10, 2015
Prabhupada once remarked, years later, that now that he had thousands of disciples he had many headaches, whereas in the beginning when he was alone with Krishna he was happy depending only on the Lord. This was an unusual statement because Prabhupada usually expressed that he was more enthusiastic and hopeful with more men and money. Nevertheless, he made the remark. He was not disturbed or in anxiety being alone in the jungle (New York City) with scarce apparent hopes of starting his mission. He maintained the six symptoms of surrender through saranagati: (1) Humility – (2) dedication of the self – (3) acceptance of the Lord as one’s only master – (4) the consciousness that “Krishna will surely protect me” – (5) execution of only those acts favorable to pure devotion – and (6) renunciation of conduct averse to pure devotion. And thus he was steady and peaceful in his outwardly unstable situation. He was driven by his mission and would be active in pursuing the path to carrying it out, but he would not be unduly worried when immediate results did not appear. Everything was in Krishna’s hands and Prabhupada was His surrendered instrument.
November 11, 2015
At this time in Prabhupada’s life, he was most restricted in conducting his mission. He was forbidden from preaching to Dr. Mishra’s yoga students. He had no money of his own and was dependent on Dr. Mishra’s support. He only had about two men who were interested in visiting him in his windowless room, Robert Nelson and Harvey Cohen, but they were not able to offer much help. When the thousands of loyal, surrendered followers of Prabhupada today read of his neglected condition in 1965, they may feel frustration and wish they were present in 1965 to give him care and support. Years later when he had many followers, he once said, “I am the same person now that I was in 1965, the only difference is that now I have devotees and money.” But what a difference! We feel poignant and helpless when we read of his condition in 1965. Why weren’t we there to help him? Each devotee can ask himself or herself, “Where was I in 1965 when Prabhupada needed me?” Maybe you were too young or not even born yet, but some of us were old enough; we were just too entangled in Maya. In short, we were not ready.
We have to be grateful to Prabhupada that he was patient when he had no assistance and that he persisted and endured until Krishna gave him the opportunities to spread the Movement.
Reading the accounts of his situation in 1965, we simply pray, “Please stay in America, Prabhupada. Don’t give up. Help is coming. Krishna is guiding you.”
November 12, 2015
In 1965 Prabhupada worked on the Srimad-Bhagavatam singlehandedly. He typed on his small manual typewriter, the one he had brought with him from India. As in India, he worked with no assistance. He translated the Sanskrit verse, composed the word-to-word synonyms and then, referring to his book of commentaries by previous acaryas, he wrote his own Bhaktivedanta purports. He had no one to help him with the English editing and no specific plan how to finance the publications.
Today’s meditation is a general reflection on Prabhupada’s books. Prabhupada always did the needful – whatever was best for spreading Krishna consciousness. His own Krishna consciousness was mature; therefore, he wanted to give Krishna consciousness to others. As he preached, his own enthusiasm and attachment to Krishna increased more and more. Although he was perfect, the ocean of Krishna consciousness is always increasing.
The BBT publishers list many of Prabhupada’s accomplishments in the “About the Author” section at the end of Prabhupada’s books. Finally they state, “Srila Prabhupada’s most significant contribution, however, is his books.” Thus we think of Prabhupada as a writer of transcendental literature. He was a translator and a commentator on sastra. He was a philosophical writer who carefully represented the parampara in modern English. His writing contained his personal experiences and realizations.
Prabhupada had much personal love and enthusiasm for his practice of writing the Srimad-Bhagavatam. He had the satisfaction towards the end of his life of seeing his works quickly edited and published by the BBT and then distributed with wild enthusiasm by his sankirtana devotees.
Prabhupada was not attached to his own writing. He saw it as Krishna’s writing with himself only recording what Krishna wanted to say. Although he knew it was important to spend as much time as possible producing Srimad-Bhagavatam – and it also gave him personal peace and satisfaction to produce Bhagavatam – yet he also had to forego his writing time in order to manage ISKCON. Some days would go by and he would not touch the dictaphone. We would gently remind Prabhupada that we hoped he would go on working on his translations. He didn’t need our reminders. He loved the Srimad-Bhagavatam, but he also saw that he couldn’t always work under all circumstances. He sometimes spoke of giving up other activities in favor of his translation, but he was never able to do that.
November 13, 2015
In 1965, Srila Prabhupada had no Movement to manage. He was relatively free to work on the Srimad-Bhagavatam, but he had other things that took up his time. Every morning he had to take a long walk from the yoga studio room on 72nd Street to Dr. Mishra’s apartment on Riverside Drive where he cooked his lunch. He also was involved in trying to buy a building as a temple and writing many thoughtful letters to India seeking support. He also washed his own clothes daily and sometimes spoke to a few young men who would come to his room and had to instruct them in Krishna consciousness.
Today’s meditation describes how throughout his career Prabhupada had to sacrifice time in writing his books to execute other activities in his mission.
As Prabhupada’s disciples and followers, we can try to understand Prabhupada’s example in the context of our own lives. Nowadays, we lament that Prabhupada didn’t give us more literature so that we could relish it continually. Padma Purana, Visnu Purana, the later Cantos of Srimad-Bhagavatam, more works by the six Gosvamis, the Ramayana and Mahabharata … Prabhupada stated his intention to do all these books with the Bhaktivedanta purports, but it never came to pass.
There is a message for us in the fact that these works were not completed. One message is that we also have to sacrifice our interest in order to do the needful. Prabhupada’s unfinished work on Srimad-Bhagavatam does not go down in history as an incomplete task, rather, it speaks volumes in its own way. Now, for all time, we can see the example of Prabhupada giving up his own interest, in a personal sense, in order to carry out the duties and responsibilities of Founder-Acarya. He wanted to protect his Movement and make it strong and this required his attention. Sometimes the thing he paid attention to seemed to be unfruitful. He worked at stopping the arguments between devotees – he heard their complaints about each other in the mail – but the same problems and falldowns continued regardless of his attention. Still, he couldn’t give up on ISKCON. ISKCON was his child, and he was an ever-responsible parent. He wanted to leave us not only with books, but with a strong ISKCON Movement.
We who want to please Prabhupada have to keep in mind that attention to ISKCON was very important to Prabhupada. As he was willing to put aside other interests in order to further the interest of his Movement, we should also be prepared to do that sacrifice.
November 14, 2015
“Make Me Dance”
One of my favorite lines from the poems that Prabhupada wrote is, “Make me dance, make me dance, O Lord make me dance as You like.” Prabhupada declared himself a puppet in the hands of Krishna, and he asked Krishna to please fulfill the actual meaning of the name Bhaktivedanta. That poem wasn’t written as the musings of a reclusive scholar, it was written on board the Jaladuta, a freighter with one Indian-style passenger cabin. The one passenger, Bhaktivedanta Swami, had no money, yet he was striking out for America. The poem was written by a preacher, who although fearless, appeared to be momentarily overcome by his first sight of an American city. Even Lord Krishna hesitated when He faced the Aghasura demon. Srila Prabhupada didn’t hesitate in his purpose or waver in his determination, but he realized and admitted his helpless situation to Krishna, his friend.
Prabhupada was always turning to Krishna, but it is natural for a devotee to turn even more to Krishna when he is in a difficult situation. Nanda Maharaja also did this. When Nanda Maharaja was returning from Mathura, he began to fear that something may have happened to Krishna, his baby in Gokula, so he began to think of Krishna very intensely and chant the Holy Names. Similarly, Prabhupada’s Krishna consciousness was intensified on that boat-crossing as he suffered heart attacks and seasickness. He expressed himself intimately to his spiritual master and to Krishna in poems.
The cry, “Please make me dance,” is from the heart. Just as a poor man cries out, “Give me money,” so the preacher who is faced with the tremendous task of preaching to foreigners, to people who have demoniac habits, also cries out, “Please make me dance. Please fulfill the purport of my name: devotion and knowledge.” It took an extraordinary combination of devotion and knowledge to make even the slightest impression on these proud and dirty-minded Americans who Prabhupada saw that day with his first glimpse of Boston, Massachusetts.
How would he do it? Prabhupada found the clue in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. In his poem, he selected several verses describing in a systematic way the words “the Lord is working within the heart of every conditioned soul for his betterment. This takes place, according to Srimad-Bhagavatam, when one hears the glories of Krishna, the modes of nature which grip each person’s heart are broken up, and liberation is possible. By recalling these verses, Prabhupada took heart for the task of preaching in America. He gathered his determination just before officially entering the country through immigration in New York City. When the boat docked at its final destination, although outwardly he may have appeared to be an immigrant lost in the foreignness of a new country, inwardly he had gained resolve. As he expressed in his poem, he was already fully surrendered to the task and awaiting Krishna to direct his steps.
November 15, 2015
“Make Me Dance” Part 2
“Make me dance!” This is not only a desperate cry; there seems to be celebration in his voice. He wants to dance in ecstasy for Krishna! He wants to be Krishna’s puppet. Lord Krishna did make Prabhupada dance in America. We saw his stately kirtana steps in the storefront at 26 Second Avenue and his dancing in Tompkins Square Park, his “Swami Step” before the students at Stanford University and Golden Gate Park San Francisco, at Ohio State University and at public halls in London. He danced along with the energetic steps of his disciples in the hand-to-hand rings of bounding hippies at Golden Gate Park. Actually, all the dancing during ISKCON kirtanas was but a response to Prabhupada’s hand gesture inviting them, “Get up and dance!”
Also, if we think of the word dance in a broader sense as an ecstatic spontaneous celebration, as movement with rhythm and grace, then we can see that Krishna made Prabhupada dance in many ways. His writing is a dance of the spirit liberated from matter. His expressions were filled with lightheartedness with the heaviness of guru that only the pure devotee can deliver. Krishnadasa Kaviraj also used the image of dancing when referring to his writing. He said his words were like dolls under the puppetmaster and they had danced to their full satisfaction throughout the chapters of the Caitanya-caritamrta.
It is significant that Prabhupada referred to his work as a “Movement.” This doesn’t refer to political agitation with lobbying or marches on the Capital; it refers to the dancing in kirtana in the streets, and in the movement of gathering numbers of disciples all over the world to create a favorable eddy against the current of Kali-yuga disasters. Prabhupada’s movement is like the dance of a young cowherd boy upon the many, many hoods of the poisonous serpent.
Prabhupada is still engaged in his movement, still dancing for you and me, and waiting for us to join the dance. To hold back during this dance means to miss the whole purpose of human existence. Prabhupada is gesturing, “Get up and dance. Just surrender to Krishna. Do as I am doing. Do the ‘Swami Step’ back to the spiritual world with me.” Let us take courage in Prabhupada’s words: “If You have brought me here to dance, then please make me dance as You like.”
November 16, 2015
Questions and Answers Part 1
Were there some questions we should have asked Prabhupada but didn’t? Were some questions taboo? Were there some questions he didn’t like to answer? Were there some questions he couldn’t answer? What was his general attitude towards answering questions – was he very open, or limited?
In general, I think we can safely say that Prabhupada was very open and willing to discuss almost any subject from the Krishna conscious point of view. He might point out an impertinent or illogical question, but he would answer it anyway. He considered questions that did not relate to the points he raised in his lecture as improper. Questions after the lecture should be asked to clear up doubt. So many topics can be discussed in questions, but Prabhupada chose one area of the philosophy to discuss in his lectures and he preferred the questions to be relevant to that. Even if someone asked something off the topic though, Prabhupada would answer it.
An example of an impertinent question: Soon after Prabhupada performed my marriage, I wrote him a letter and asked him about sex life within the grhastha asrama. Prabhupada wrote back and said, “I am a sannyasi; this is not proper that you ask me questions like this. However, I know that you have no one else to turn to for answers, so I will give you the answer.” Srila Prabhupada was lenient in giving information, even if the questions weren’t right.
Some people asked Prabhupada questions that were too hair-splitting. He considered these unnecessary for those who were seriously trying to practice Krishna consciousness. Other inquiries were too esoteric. I once asked Prabhupada, “In your Teachings of Lord Caitanya, I read that one should follow an eternal resident of Vrindavana. Could you tell me more about that?” Prabhupada replied, “Don’t try for this. That is a very advanced topic. It will automatically be revealed to you. Just go on serving.” Similarly, when Prabhupada was asked about the origin of the living entity, he said, “It is not important. There is a history to it, but right now you may not be able to understand it. The important thing is that you are now in a fallen condition and you need to go back to Godhead. It does not matter how you came here.” Prabhupada did not evade questions, but like the acarya he himself described in Krishna Book, he sometimes gave information and sometimes withheld it. Prabhupada knew what the important inquiries were.
November 17, 2015
Questions and Answers Part 2
Sometimes Prabhupada would be blunt: “This is not a very intelligent question.” “Are all your devotees pure devotees? How many pure devotees are there on the planet now?” Prabhupada replied, “This is not a very intelligent question.”
Other questions were too challenging:
“Why don’t you send your missionaries to Muslim countries instead of preaching in India?”
“Do you accept Jesus as Lord?”
“You don’t seem to give many teachings about health. Why is that?”
Prabhupada could see the motive behind questions, but he always entered the breach to give the Vaisnava conclusion.
Sometimes questions were too personal. “Are you happy?” Prabhupada replied, “If I told you ‘yes’, would you believe me?” Prabhupada was expert at not getting trapped by questions and being able to turn them around to put the question back on the person who asked it.
Prabhupada was especially exposed to challenges, and both sincere and insincere questions in public lectures. Over the years he had heard practically everything there was to hear. It wasn’t possible to shock him. Prabhupada was responsive to intelligent, sincere questions. Like Sukadeva Gosvami who became more enthusiastic to speak due to the intelligent questions of Maharaj Pariksit, so Prabhupada appreciated solid inquiries.
One time someone asked him, “In Nectar of Devotion it says you shouldn’t wear red clothes before the deities. Why is that?” Prabhupada said in his reply, “There’s a reason why you shouldn’t wear red, but if I reply to your question by saying you shouldn’t wear red because it says so in the scriptures, is that all right?” Prabhupada always gave the most substantial reply according to time, place and person. Prabhupada was instructing us not just by answering our questions, but by demonstrating by his own responses what was important information for us to know. He taught us that the important inquiries were based on service and surrender. In this way, he taught us that our sometimes flimsy questions were missing the point and he uncovered for us our very elementary grasp of Krishna conscious philosophy.
November 18, 2015
How can you tell a story about Srila Prabhupada if you weren’t actually there to witness it? The obvious answer is that you can repeat what you have heard from biographies, memoirs, or from devotees who were actually with Srila Prabhupada. Although the direct witness has advantages in storytelling, the re-teller can make up for that by his enthusiasm.
Telling any story is a delicate operation. We have to have faith in the story we are telling and enter into it. And it must be accurate. Sometimes we hear a devotee retell a story like this: “One time, Prabhupada said to Gurudasa, ‘You say you want to be at my lotus feet, but my lotus feet are always moving.’ When Prabhupada said that, he pushed Gurudasa away with his lotus feet.” The difficulty with that last story is that no one who was actually present for this episode said that Prabhupada actually pushed Gurudasa with his feet. In this way, stories sometimes get blown into tall tales. They may become very different from what actually happened. Therefore, it is good to be enthusiastic when telling Prabhupada stories, but we should never exaggerate or make up details. Our enthusiasm may capture the ears of some, and may even impress some people, but if the story has some untrue elements then people will have a false impression. The story has to be authentic and the storyteller has to be honest.
If you were never with Prabhupada you can openly say, “I wasn’t present for this story, but I heard it and it impressed me.” Admitting that you weren’t there may be humbling. It shows that you don’t appear so prominently in Prabhupada’s manifest pastimes, but even that fact may add a poignancy to your story that will draw your listeners in. The fact is that most of your listeners will not have had direct contact with Prabhupada either. If you tell the story in a genuine humble way, it may be even more effective than someone who boasts slightly as he relates the story of when he was with Prabhupada. The direct witness may also mistake the facts, or exaggerate his role in the story. The honest approach is always best.
November 19, 2015
Sharing Prabhupada Stories with Devotees
Although a story may not be filled with so many personal exchanges where the storyteller can “dialogue” between himself and Prabhupada, and he can’t notice that his body was shivering and his hairs standing on end – still, the story has its own authentic sound. If it is told by someone who is serving within Prabhupada’s movement, who speaks his own appreciation, and who depends on the aural tradition or recorded biographical information, then we should be confident to hear and repeat such stories. Whoever shares a story like this can make as potent a presentation as the presentation of someone who happened to be there personally. The main thing is to tell authentic stories with well-placed details and to speak your own feelings from your actual position. Basically, telling stories of Prabhupada means expressing our appreciation and helping to improve Prabhupada meditation.
Can you think of a Prabhupada story that you have read or heard from someone who was there? Imagine how you could retell this story if you had an interested listener. Then, the next time you are with someone who is interested in Srila Prabhupada, try sharing this story.
November 20, 2015
Purity is the Force
Prabhupada was the symbol of self-sacrifice. He was not overbearing, just pure. He had no desire to win respect for himself, he simply wanted people to recognize the supremacy of Krishna. This came out especially in Prabhupada’s writing. Walt Whitman said that everything one is will come out in one’s writing. If you are the kind of person who likes to have a servant stand behind you at the dinner table, that will come out in your writing. If you are cruel to your wife, that will come out in your writing. Even if you try to avoid those topics in your writing, still they find their way into your expressions. In Prabhupada’s case, we see every phrase saturated with his faithful desire to present Krishna’s message. His writing is not outstanding because he was a great Sanskrit scholar, or because he used polished prose. These things are also true, but his outstanding feature is his presentation of Krishna as He is. This is very unusual for commentators of Bhagavad-gita. Most Gita commentators cannot resist using the Gita to propound their own philosophy.
November 21, 2015
Be a Servant, Not a Dilettante
I cannot simply “study” Prabhupada as a scientist studies a specimen under a microscope. There were many photographs of Prabhupada in the early days representing many posed and candid moments. Still, I cannot understand the mind of my spiritual master. I can study his words and teachings, but even that has to be done with faithful hearing and service. I am not a literary critic or a lawyer who can endlessly dissect his instructions, looking for … what? Loopholes? That would be over-intelligent, and it is an offense.
I have my service in his movement like everyone else, but regardless of whether my service differs from yours, we are all students at the feet of the guru. I don’t want to become like a jaded sense-gratifier, always needing more and more stimulation to get the same “high.” Prabhupada is enthusing me. I collect his memories and photographs to remind myself of that. To stay alive in Prabhupada memories, while remaining free of dilettantism, is to know that he has a current connection with us. Don’t relegate Prabhupada to the museum in your mind and think that you are the antiquarian collector of rare books and artifacts. Prabhupada is out preaching. I want to serve those devotees who have that “face-to-face with-Prabhupada” realization. I am poor in Prabhupada consciousness. Am I trying to compensate for that by collecting Prabhupada memorabilia? It’s okay, it works. But let me take the dust on my head of devotees who are alive for Prabhupada.
November 22, 2015
The main impression people got when they met Prabhupada, especially in a private darsana, was his strength of purpose in his dedication to serve Krishna. His demeanor, however, always impressed others as being gentle and sweet. He didn’t use coarse expressions, and his physical movements were graceful and reserved. He was a gentleman.
But despite that demeanor, Prabhupada wanted to create a revolution. When he went to Pennsylvania upon first arriving in America, they thought he had only come to sell some books and would go back to India in a few months. Prabhupada would surrender to Krishna’s will. If that was all Krishna allowed him to do, he would accept that, but he was certainly ambitious to do much more. He wanted to create a revolution in the consciousness of the entire world. He was prepared to work at it, even though he was in advanced old age. Books were the basis, but books by themselves couldn’t do it. There had to be people to practice the teachings of the books, people to distribute the books to others. And there had to be money to accomplish these things. Prabhupada pushed hard to get all these things done.
Prabhupada was especially uncompromising in his condemnation of materialistic activities. He used strong language to describe people who are devoid of the inclination for spiritual life, calling them dogs, hogs, camels and asses. He also referred to them as rascals. He called the leaders of the countries cheaters. He said they were all going to hell for their impious activities. By any standard, this was harsh criticism.
He also protested against the government. He did it in a non-sectarian way, favoring neither the Communists nor the Capitalists. According to the scriptures, he said, “Any political leader in this age is bound to be the lowest kind of man.” In a sense, he protested against the material bonds that held families together.
The devotee is described in sastra as one who doesn’t have enemies and who doesn’t cause agitation for others. Prabhupada was not a troublemaker. He simply wanted to give people the key to their own happiness, but because of their inimical attitude towards renunciation and devotion to God, there was trouble. Despite everything, Prabhupada continued distributing books and propagating the Holy Name.
In personal meetings, Prabhupada actually got very little reaction to his strong words. It was hard to be upset with Prabhupada. He was so pure that anyone who met him immediately felt disarmed by him. No one insulted him back, even if they thought they had been insulted by Prabhupada. He always explained the philosophical basis of his words and actions and everyone was satisfied, if not convinced.
November 23, 2015
Memories of Prabhupada
When we remember Prabhupada as he was in the past, we go back to a previous existence. By definition, a memory is a reminiscence. It is a little unreal. One journeys back through time, visits with Prabhupada, then returns to the present.
Memories of Prabhupada are nectar. Without them, there would be no substance to Prabhupada consciousness. If there were no memories of Prabhupada, then he would become only a legend. For example, although I don’t have any direct experience of Lord Caitanya’s appearance in the world, many persons who were with Lord Caitanya recorded His pastimes in diaries and books. Therefore, I can know who He actually was. Similarly, the followers of Prabhupada write memoirs and encourage Prabhupada’s disciples to compile their accounts before they pass away, so that everyone now and in the future can know what it was like to be with Prabhupada.
But there is a lot more to Prabhupada consciousness than memories of him. We may enter that “unreal” world of the past, but eventually, we must return to the present and surrender now. By meditating on the memories and practicing internal, minute-to-minute surrender, we will be Prabhupada conscious. This internal cultivation is very important. Prabhupada recall doesn’t mean only remembering what he did in the past, it means recalling our need to serve him now.
It’s exciting that there are so many facets to recalling Srila Prabhupada. It is not a matter of thinning out or extracting the same memories again and again until they get so thinned and refined that it’s not really Prabhupada any more. That can become a kind of mayavada meditation. No, Prabhupada consciousness is personal. It has to do with very basic things, like reading his books on a daily basis and understanding when we chant Hare Krishna that Prabhupada gave us the maha mantra. It also means referring to him in a basic way as our teacher – our beloved teacher who compassionately instructs us in Krishna consciousness. Prabhupada is with us at all times through his vani. He shapes our lives to fulfill his purpose. Also included in this many faceted way of meditating on Prabhupada is the nectarean activity of recalling what he did when he was here.
November 24, 2015
A Lifetime in Preparation
After a full day’s work the non devotee watches tv or goes to the movies; other non devotees get their entertainment through books, or by doing any of these things in conjunction with intoxication. Devotees, on the other hand, use their leisure time for Krishna–katha. Like-minded friends in Krishna consciousness can read Krishna Book together, or spend an hour with the Prabhupada-lilamrta.
A good place to start when we choose to read about Prabhupada is the first volume, A Lifetime in Preparation. Usually when we think of Prabhupada, we conjure up images of Prabhupada in America, either as a lone preacher struggling alone in New York, or as the grand founder-acarya of ISKCON. But when we read the first volume of the biography, we glimpse Prabhupada’s life in India, before we met him, before he came to preach.
Even when Prabhupada was a young businessman travelling around India, he was still our Prabhupada. He said about himself, “I don’t remember a time when I ever forgot Krishna.” Krishna was waiting to fulfill the preaching mission through Prabhupada, and Prabhupada was preparing himself …
Sometimes Prabhupada would present himself humbly, saying he wasted most of his life, even after meeting his spiritual master. “But better late than never,” Prabhupada said, “I wasted so much time, I realize that now.” These are statements of humility. But Prabhupada also said, “Actually, I was preparing myself. I was looking for the opportunity.” When Prabhupada was in householder life, he had to do business. He felt duty- bound to provide for his family. Neither was there any opportunity to preach in the West, as Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur had encouraged him to do.
As it is relishable to think of all the little things Prabhupada did in the 1960’s and 70’s, so we can relish his activities before we even met him. In a sense, his earlier life is obscured from our view. There is a special taste in hearing about the life of a famous person, an artist or writer, when they were still preparing themselves for the greatness that would follow. We can empathize with his or her struggle as they move in the world, unappreciated. The years when Prabhupada was travelling around India in the third-class compartments of trains, maintaining his household, faithfully keeping the Vaisnava principles which his father had taught him, thinking about his spiritual master as “such a nice saintly person” – these are precious meditations for us. Prabhupada was so patient and dutiful. Our spiritual master was such a nice saintly person.
When Prabhupada came to us in his seventieth year, he already had spent a lifetime preparing himself, not only by preaching, but by practicing self-discipline and the many other qualities of an advanced spiritualist. Prabhupada encouraged us simply to add the chanting of Hare Krishna to our lives and our anarthas would fall away. But our anarthas remain. Even after many years of practice, we are still trying to throw them off. In Prabhupada’s case, nothing of his earlier life was extraneous or had to be thrown off. Everything was useful in his preaching – his business sense, his ability to size up a worldly situation, his courage in living in New York City, his fearlessness in the face of crime, noise and dirt. He was able to maintain his integrity and go about his pure purpose, even while living in Manhattan. He was trained up by his years in India, and strengthened by all the renunciation and austerity he had to perform just by living there and trying to preach Krishna consciousness. One may ask, “If Prabhupada’s early years are so important, why don’t you talk about them more in your meditations on Prabhupada?” One reason is that we don’t have much direct information; we only have what Prabhupada directly told us. Also, it is improper to investigate the previous life of the spiritual master. Prabhupada’s earlier life was liberated – he did not become a pure devotee after coming to the West – but still, family and business activities are not the essence of a spiritual master’s mission, and are, therefore, not meditated upon by his disciples. It is correct for us to emphasize Prabhupada’s role in our lives as Bhaktivedanta Swami, to remember him as we knew him, but his lifetime in preparation has a special sweetness to it that can be found by reading A Lifetime in Preparation and discussing it with friends.
November 25, 2015
When Swamiji Went Out
It was unusual for Prabhupada to be anywhere but at Dr. Mishra’s studio. Prabhupada did a little shopping, but he rarely went out on any other kind of outings. Mostly he went out for walks. Occasionally, he went to the bookstores to see how his books were selling. He did not have a car in the early days, so he took the subway or the bus. When he went out, he didn’t take on the appearance of an ordinary person in his old, checkered suburban coat. For one thing, he always wore his dhoti. He was elderly and Indian, but these were all external. He burned with an inner flame that was visible, even as he sat in the subway. He was always intensely focused on Krishna. His eyes were different than other people’s eyes; they shone with inner vision. He was always a pure devotee of Krishna.
When Swamiji went out, he was not so relaxed. He was grave, conserving his energy. He showed no signs of nervousness or fear, or even uncertainty in the unfamiliar city. Still, he was keenly aware that this was the material world. It was so jarring to sit on the subway or bus seat, look up and see a half-naked woman on a poster or sitting across the aisle jiggling her leg … Through it all, Prabhupada was there, absorbed in his own Krishna consciousness.
November 26, 2015
Prabhupada was definitely otherworldly. He wrote and taught that this material world is temporary and unhappy, and that real life is in another world, the spiritual world. Prabhupada taught this because it is Krishna’s message in Bhagavad-gita. And yet, “otherworldly” is not exactly appropriate when describing Prabhupada. Some picture otherworldly as someone who is always gazing heavenward while they wander around this world in a trance. Otherworldly people don’t relate to other people, to earthbound beings, because they are so ethereal. An otherworldly person is often like an absent-minded professor. This is not a description of Prabhupada.
Prabhupada said he was a Calcutta man. He used his practical intelligence on planning ISKCON. When he met with non devotees, he was present with them; he was able to examine their mentalities and attack their mistake in logic or atheism in a very direct way. Therefore, we can appreciate these two aspects about Prabhupada: That his philosophy and teachings were very much otherworldly, pointing to eternal life and the soul, and stressing the unimportance of this spot life on earth; and that his preaching intelligence made him seem very much part of this world – very much present in it.
Trying to inject any otherworldly philosophy into present Kali-yuga America is a near impossible task. Prabhupada was successful at establishing Vaisnavism because of his practical preaching message. For example, he preached to convince materialistic scientists of the otherworldly proposition of Srimad-Bhagavatam: There is a soul (although the materialists cannot perceive it) and there is God (although materialists cannot perceive Him). He not only tries to prove these points by quoting sastra, but also attacks the very roots of scientific theory and then shows those theories in the light of Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Prabhupada’s preaching was practical in other ways. He taught varnasrama, farm development, education and so on. He was interested in the relief of world suffering, although he knew that the only relief would come from “otherworldly” Krishna consciousness. Prabhupada was always after the ultimate interest of the soul. He was compassionate, but he knew there is no possibility of happiness in the material world. In this, he was very practical.
Another example of Prabhupada’s mix of worldliness and otherworldliness is his emphasis on book distribution. Prabhupada was not content to write his books on a palm leaf and just let them sit. He used book printing technology, although he said he was simply “blindly” following the order and example of his spiritual master. It took both spiritual acumen to write the books and down-to-earth practicality to transfer the spiritual message into type and then bind it. The book distribution was not a worldly activity, it required practical intelligence and hard work to accomplish.
The difference between Srila Prabhupada and ourselves (there is a huge difference) is that we belong to this world and he was in another world. He always had Krishna on his mind. He could withdraw into himself and become so grave that he wouldn’t be present with us any more.
Prabhupada reserved the right to meditate internally on Krishna. He wasn’t thinking what we were thinking. He didn’t always laugh when everyone else laughed, because he didn’t have the same passing sensory attitudes that other people did. He was not of this world. We could perceive that by the way he looked and by the way he always thought of Krishna and not of material things.
Therefore, he would sometimes demand that we be more in touch with the world. Keep our feet on the ground. Take our heads out of the clouds. Do things nicely for Krishna. But other times we were aware that we were stuck in our bodies while his consciousness was in Goloka, a place we could only imagine, which for us was theoretical but was real to Prabhupada.
November 27, 2015
Who Are You?
We didn’t know where Swamiji came from. He was asked, “Where did you come from? Who sent you?” Bit by bit, he told of his Guru Maharaj and the tradition he represented. Nowadays we speak with confidence about Prabhupada’s background and his intentions to spread Lord Caitanya’s sankirtana movement. But in the earliest days, no one knew anything about these things. We only knew Swamiji. First came Swamiji; everything else came later.
He just started singing; he explained later. You walked into the park and saw the Indian swami singing, then you waited because he would explain everything later. That was his preaching spirit, his greatness.
Vaisnavas who live in India may take their enormous cultural facility for granted. Their culture accepts Hinduism, being Indian, following the Vedas, the Gods, sadhus. To be a Vaisnava in India is similar to being a Catholic priest in the West. Of course, even in India sadhus have difficulties – people are materialistic and confused – but still, the facility is there. No one finds it strange to see someone in saffron singing mantras. Prabhupada had a different experience in New York City. He endured so much. He has to be given credit for his preaching spirit.
Of course, in the early days, we had no way of knowing that Prabhupada had crossed the cultural barrier by coming to America to preach. We just saw him. He was inviting us to participate in Krishna consciousness. Some took him seriously. It didn’t occur to us that he had come out of hundreds of thousands of Vaisnavas to fulfill the prediction of Lord Caitanya. We didn’t worry about a philosophy. We cared about Prabhupada. Philosophy was something we got from him. It came from him. He was our only supply. He had the book, the Srimad-Bhagavatam. It was hard for us to penetrate, impossible actually, without him. We knew that much even then.
November 28, 2015
TAGORE SOCIETY OF NEW YORK Inc.
CORDIALLY INVITES YOU
to a lecture:
by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
Date: Sunday, November 28, 1965
Time: Lecture, 3:30 P.M. Tea, 4:30 P.M.
Place: New India House, 3 East 64th Street
A widely respected scholar and religious leader in India,
Swami Bhaktivedanta is briefly visiting New York. He
has been engaged in a monumental endeavor of
translating the sixty-volume Śrīmad Bhagwatam from
Sanskrit into English.
Daoud Haroon had never met Śrīla Prabhupāda. He was a musician living downtown, and he used to attend the meetings of the Tagore Society up on Sixty-fourth Street.
Daoud Haroon: I went uptown and walked into the auditorium, and I noticed that the stage was empty and a few people were sitting toward the rear of the auditorium. I walked forward down the center aisle, because I usually like to sit up front. Then I saw an old gentleman sitting over to the right, and he sort of drew me over to him. So I went over and sat beside him, and then I noticed that he was saying his beads. Even though he had his beads in a bag, I could hear them, and I could see his body moving. And I felt very comfortable, because this was something I was used to.
As I was sitting there looking around the auditorium, he just turned around and smiled at me very nicely. He nodded his head, and I nodded my head, and he smiled and turned around. Then he turned back to me again and softly asked me if I was from India. I said, “No, sir, I’m not from India. I am from here, the United States.” He turned back, and he kept chanting with his beads. Then he turned around the next time and asked if I was a Hindu. I said, “No, sir, I’m not a Hindu. I’m a Muslim.” And he said, “Oh, very good, very good. Yes, many times I hear the children in India reciting the Koran.” And then he turned back around and his body was moving, rocking, and he was working with his beads.
Then there were a few more exchanges of pleasantries, sort of intermittent. And then a lady came up on the stage and announced that the lecture was to begin and if the folks could give the speaker a round of applause they would welcome him to the stage. At that point, the man I was sitting next to put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Excuse me, sir, could you do me a favor?” And I said, “Yes, anything.” He said, “Would you watch over my books?” I looked down on the floor, and he had several boxes of books and an umbrella and several other articles. I said yes I would watch over these. And he said, “Excuse me.” He walked up the aisle, and surprisingly, he walked up on the stage. And it was the man I had come to hear – Swami Bhaktivedanta!
He walked up on the stage and introduced himself to the people and tried to get them to come forward. He said, “Come forward, come forward.” A few of them came up to the front. There were mixed couples, many Indians, male and female, mostly middle-aged and some college aged, a lot of professor-types and ladies were there.
Then he began his speech. He dove right into it. He just started exclaiming, proclaiming, the greatness of the Creator and that the most important thing is to remember the Creator and remember God. He began to expand on God consciousness, what God consciousness is and how God is everywhere and how it behooves us all to remember God – no matter what we call Him, what names we call Him by, but that we should call Him. He gave a demonstration which was very moving. He chanted Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Rāma and spoke about the power and saving grace in the mantra. He took a little break about halfway through and had some water.
The last thing he said as he was coming down from the podium was that he had copies of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. He explained that he had been working on them and that they came in three volumes and were sixteen dollars. Then he concluded and came down.
A lot of people went over to him. Some were timid, some were enthusiastic. Some people shook his hand and were asking for books. At first there were about fifteen people gathered around him talking to him and asking questions. With so many people around, he came over to me and said, “Sir, would you do me one more favor? Will you kindly take over the selling of the books? People will be coming to you for the books, so you sell the books and put the money in this little box, and I will be with you in a minute.” I said, “Fine.”
So while he talked to the people, others came up to me. They must have thought I was somehow his secretary or his traveling companion, and people were coming over to me and asking me personal questions about him, which I couldn’t really answer because I didn’t know. Some people were buying the books or looking through them. So this went on, and I was trying to listen to him carry on his conversations with people and carry on the book-selling at the same time.
Some of the people were looking for a guru and trying to find out what he was supposed to be. Some of them were really interrogating him. But he just smiled and answered all their questions simply. I remember he told them, “You will know. There’s no pressure. You will know if I am your guru.” He suggested that people go over and read the books.
And then the group dwindled down to about half a dozen, and the few remaining were just looking at him, and some were too timid to approach him. He walked over to them and spoke to them, putting them at ease. Later he came over, and we counted the collection, and I helped him pack up his box and carry downstairs the boxes of books that were left. As we parted he thanked me very much, and I gave him my name and address and phone number and purchased a set of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatams.
November 29, 2015
Krishna’s Books, Written by Srila Prabhupada
Prabhupada knew the value of his own books. He said they were spoken by Krishna, not by himself. If someone reads one page, his life could become perfect. Prabhupada also said that history would prove that his books had saved the world from barbarism. Without receiving the message of Krishna, people are degraded to less than animals – eating, mating, sleeping and defending. Prabhupada’s books make the difference. Prabhupada understood by personal experience that his books were needed. Although he knew that the Bhagavatam described humanity devoid of Krishna consciousness as a species of “two-legged animals,” Prabhupada had personal experience with this. He saw the neon signs for topless and bottomless dancing. He would see the cover of Time magazine: “Crime. Why and what to do?” He personally saw the degraded students and hippies living in the parks, so fallen that they wouldn’t even respectfully listen to Prabhupada when he began to speak in public. He rode in cars and saw the traffic jams on the highways. All these experiences impelled him more and more to give Krishna’s message to the people. He was convinced it would uplift them.
Prabhupada was ambitious to help the world in a substantial way, but he recognized that it could only begin with the implementation of God-conscious education. Prabhupada’s books were not his invention – there was nothing whimsical about them. It was Krishna speaking according to time and place through Prabhupada’s words. Prabhupada’s non-egotistical attitude as an author is expressed in the Nectar of Devotion:
“The author of Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, Srila Rupa Gosvami, very humbly submits that he is just trying to spread Krishna consciousness all over the world, although he humbly thinks himself unfit for this work. That should be the attitude of all preachers of the Krishna consciousness movement …”
(Nectar of Devotion, Introduction, page xviii)
Although the books were actually spoken by Krishna, Prabhupada’s followers definitely saw them as Prabhupada’s books. We like to see him reading his books. We saw that it gave our spiritual master tremendous satisfaction. He said that he felt that he had conquered an empire whenever a book was published. Prabhupada ushered his followers into the consciousness of living for his books, of loving his books. We will never be able to forget him because we have his books. As long as we have his books, we will be close to Prabhupada. Just looking at the books layout – the bold face print, the Sanskrit, the synonyms and then the purports – will bring us close to Prabhupada. Because Prabhupada personally oversaw all the details of his book production, we can appreciate how they were done according to his own vision.
It is a spiritual act to hear one of Prabhupada’s purports read, or to speak on them in an ISKCON temple. The same effect can be achieved by any person sitting in his home and opening the book, reading it respectfully with eager attention.
Prabhupada liked to read his own books. They amazed him because they were written by Krishna. When he revealed his feelings about his own books to us, we were always astonished. It was another aspect of Prabhupada’s relationship with Krishna and we were being invited to witness it.
November 30, 2015
The Son of a Pure Devotee
God consciousness is the goal of human life. If a person is born of a mother or father who can give the child love, as well as a God-conscious education, then he or she is very blessed. According to Bhagavad-gita, if one is born into a family of transcendentalists, that is the result of good karma.
“It is certainly very fortunate to take birth in such families. Fortunately, both our spiritual master, Om Visnupada Sri Srimad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Maharaja, and our humble self had the opportunity to take birth in such families, by the grace of the Lord, and both of us were trained in the devotional service of the Lord from the very beginning of our lives. Later on, we met by the order of the transcendental system.” (Bhagavad-gita 6.42 Purport)
In gratitude to the father who raised him, Srila Prabhupada dedicated the Krishna Book to his father, Gour Mohan De. Prabhupada described him as, “A pure devotee who raised me as a Krishna conscious child from the beginning of my life. In my boyhood ages, he instructed me how to play the mrdanga. He gave me Radha-Krishna Vigraha to worship, and he gave me Jagannatha-Ratha to duly observe the festival as my childhood play. He was kind to me, and I imbibed from him the ideas later on solidified by my spiritual master, the eternal father.”
Even one who has a pure devotee as a father still must approach a spiritual master for initiation. It is not true that only someone who has an unhappy relationship with his material father seeks out God or guru.