December 1, 2015
The Question of Surrender
Srila Prabhupada taught of the importance of the spiritual master. No one can understand Krishna except through the spiritual master. However, he never said, “I am that pure devotee. I am the spiritual master.” If somebody asked him bluntly, he replied, “That you can judge for yourself.” Yet he preached that we must surrender to the spiritual master. When some met Prabhupada, they resisted, suspecting that he was just an exchange of material false egos. They thought, “Oh, he’s trying to sell himself as the guru. He wants me to submit to him,” so they resisted. However, some who wanted a guru did not resist and accepted him. We wanted a loving exchange with Krishna. “Why are they after me?” Prabhupada asked later, “I am just an Indian, I have no money. I never bribed them.”
“What is this chanting? Is it some mumbo-jumbo? Is it hypnotism?” Prabhupada accepted a question like that because at least it was moving in the direction of an enquiry about God. “As far as I am concerned, there is no next life. The scientists have proven it.” That would be acceptable for Swamiji because it led to important subjects. As long as they were willing to hear, he would talk.
December 2, 2015
Listening to Prabhupada Sing Alone in His Room, 1965
Up in his room alone in New York City, he is singing, “Krishna kirtana …
vande rūpa-sanātanau raghu-yugau śrī-jīva-gopālakau.” He is calling to them. We did not understand of whom he was singing. To us it was simply, “Swamiji is singing.” And “Krishna.” That was the vision, simply to know his mood, to hear his karatals. He was crying to the Lord.
Why did he record those songs? He may not have known at the time what he would do with the tapes. He may not have known how his solitude in New York City would later become a legend. “… gadādharaśrīvāsādi-gaura-bhakta-vṛnda.”
Prabhupada, you had so little money: Camping in an office lent by a yogi; barely having enough for eatables to pay the high prices, to survive the Manhattan cold – but you are not afraid.
Śrī-kṛṣṇa-caitanya-prabhu … patita-pāvana-hetu. Dr. Mishra allowed you to stay, but no lectures. Someone knocked on your door bringing brown rice from the macrobiotic restaurant and inviting you downtown. I recall the story tonight and your singing from 1965, hāhāprabhunityānanda.
We want to follow you, Srila Prabhupada, although we fight so much. We pray to receive you in the standard ways. Please deliver us from the wrongs of ordinary life in which we tend to get stuck. Please deliver us from forgetfulness of you, forgetfulness of your mission.
December 3, 2015
Mysterious, Yet Familiar
Prabhupada is mysterious and we cannot fully understand him. We know him the way an affectionate child knows his father. We think, “This was my father’s cup and these were his shoes. This is what he says.” We know him in a familiar way, yet we also know that he is inconceivable. We should never minimize the strength that we get by thinking of ourselves as followers of that person, Prabhupada.
If I study a God consciousness or Vaisnava philosophy with someone who does not have a tight connection with guru – or if I myself do not feel my connection to Srila Prabhupada – then spiritual life becomes vague. There is a hollow feeling. Someone may talk of “experience of God,” but you want to ask him, “Do you know what you are talking about? Do you have experience of this?” No matter what he may say, he cannot convince or touch me the way Prabhupada did. That which is most solid for me in Krishna consciousness is based on my relationship with Prabhupada. It comes to this: God is known by our relationship to the guru. If all you know is guru, you are doing all right. Vaisnava philosophy does not approve of strong aspirations for connection with God, while maintaining weak connections to guru.
December 4, 2015
The dictionary defines an idiom as “a style or form of expression that is characteristic of an individual.” One has to know how Prabhupada used idioms by listening to his lectures, or by being present for his talks. Each of these phrases can open up a whole world of Prabhupada realization.
“Everything is there.”
Prabhupada said this to indicate that everything we need to know is present in the Vedic literature. He said it to convey urgency. By the chanting of Hare Krishna, you can directly contact Krishna. By reading Bhagavad-gita, you can know your relationship with Krishna. Prabhupada enumerated points such as these, and then, as if realizing there was no end to the favorable items, he would interject, “Everything is there.” He said it with pride as a follower of Krishna consciousness, and with confidence that there was nothing lacking in Bhagavad-gita. Everything is there, so you should turn to it.
“Thank you very much.”
This was Prabhupada’s trademark at the end of every lecture. One might say that this is nothing more than formality: The speaker thanks the audience for their attentive hearing. Because Prabhupada did it, however, it is a trademark to remind us of him. We wonder about it. Sometimes we even imagine that Prabhupada was being a touch sarcastic when he said, “thank you very much.” With some audiences, it sounded like he was amused. Perhaps I am reading the mind of the acarya by these interpretations, each person will hear it in his own way. At least, let us keep his “thank you very much” in our collection of remembrances.
“This is going on.”
Prabhupada used this to express the opposite mood of “everything is there.” By saying “this is going on,” he pointed to the rascaldom and nonsense that goes on in the material world, especially in Kali-yuga. He stated it at the end of a string of anomalies. The politicians are cheating the people by taxing and not giving anything in return; people in general are in ignorance about the goal of life; gurus claim they are God but are interested in illicit sex … After stating a list of malpractices, Prabhupada added, “This is going on. They are getting away with murder. The cheating continues. Rascal goes on by misuse of free will. The sadhu and Krishna know very well that this is happening. They are not naive. Prabhupada also was aware that rascaldom will continue as long as there is a material world, as long as people do not take to Krishna consciousness. Acts of irreligion pass in the guise of religion. “This is going on.”
“Where is the difficulty?”
Prabhupada said this after explaining how easy and accessible Krishna consciousness is. Anyone can offer Krishna a fruit, a flower, or some water. Even a child can take part in the chanting – “Where is the difficulty?” Just as we were born from our father, so our father had a father, and his father had a father; if you go back ultimately, you will find there is an original father who is the source of everyone. In this way we can understand that Krishna is the seed-giving father – where is the difficulty to understand this?
By this expression, Prabhupada encouraged us to come forward and not make excuses. If we take to Krsna consciousness, we will not find it difficult. Prabhupada used the phase as a challenge to those who believe that spiritual life is too problematic. Prabhupada untangled the problems with logic and sastra, and then interjected this challenge.
December 5, 2015
Prabhupada on Immortality
Prabhupada spoke of immortality. He said people do not know how to become immortal, and this is the greatest blindness in Western civilization. They think they can attain lasting goals within the temporary material world, but that is impossible.
Prabhupada said it was the mission of Lord Caitanya and Lord Krishna to teach immortality. If we can know why Krishna comes into the world, as taught by Lord Caitanya, we will become immortal (janmakarma ca me divyam).
Immortality is inconceivable to us. It is not a topic that we have already mastered. It is the basis of everything. Although we may grasp it academically, what do we know of eternality? Who is thoroughly convinced that he is spirit soul? How nourishing it was, therefore, to hear this from Srila Prabhupada.
December 6, 2015
Thank You for Educating Us in God Consciousness
When I hear people make mistakes while speaking about God, I try not to be puffed up. Just because we have received the best God conscious education from Srila Prabhupada, does not mean we should look down on others. Students at Harvard University or Oxford University may be better educated, but they spoil their treasure if they look down upon common people. Similarly, we do not want to be a snob in God consciousness, but appreciate what Srila Prabhupada has taught us.
I feel humbled sometimes when I see someone else’s faith in God. I also meet people who have more love for God than I do, even though they may not have received such a thorough education. I will never stop being grateful to Prabhupada, however, for giving me this education. In that sense, I am proud.
In the modern age, people are proud of their college degrees, but this is also an age of increase in atheistic propaganda. Therefore, unless we get a good education in God consciousness, we are liable to be misdirected by education. Godless education is worse than being illiterate. It is like a poisonous snake with a jewel on its head.
Swamiji blasted the ignorance of puffed up people. He said, “You do not know anything. The whole world does not know anything. No one knows God. You think that the self is the body. You think that this life is for amassing money for sense gratification. This is all ignorance, all illusion.” Prabhupada said that love with the family and the noble attempts to help people by altruism are both illusion; they will all be destroyed.
December 7, 2015
New York Times Headlines: “New York City Hospitals Report Marked Rise in LSD Cases Admitted for Care.” “Protest Against U.S. Participation in Vietnam War Mounts.”
The weather grew cold, but there was no snow in December. On Columbus Avenue shops were selling Christmas trees, and the continental restaurants were bright with holiday lighting. On Seventy-second the Retailers’ Association erected tall red poles topped with green tinsel Christmas trees. The tops of the trees on both sides of the street sprouted tinsel garlands that spanned the street and joined in red tinsel stars surrounded by colored lights.
Although Srila Prabhupada did no Christmas shopping, he visited many bookstores – Orientalia, Sam Weiser’s, Doubleday, the Paragon, and others – trying to sell his Srimad-Bhagavatams. Mrs. Ferber, the wife of the Paragon Book Gallery proprietor, considered Prabhupada “a pleasant and extremely polite small gentleman.” The first time he called she wasn’t interested in his books, but he tried again, and she took several volumes. Prabhupada used to stop by about once a week, and since his books were selling regularly, he would collect. Sometimes when he needed copies to sell personally, he would come by and pick them up from Mrs. Ferber, and sometimes he would phone to ask her how his books were selling.
Mrs. Ferber: Every time he came he would ask for a glass of water. If a customer would make such a request, I would ordinarily say, “There is the water cooler.” But because he was an old man, I couldn’t tell him that, of course. He was very polite, always, very modest, and a great scholar. So whenever he would ask, I would fetch him a cup of water personally.
Once Prabhupada was talking with Mrs. Ferber about Indian cuisine and she mentioned that she especially like samosas. The next time he paid her a visit, he brought her a tray of samosas, which she enjoyed.
December 8, 2015
Harvey Cohen came to room 501 to visit the Swami who had impressed him at Ananda Ashram.
Harvey: The room he occupied was a tiny office in the back of the Yoga Society in uptown Manhattan. I began to go there regularly, and we sat facing each other on the floor in this little office with his typewriter and a new tape recorder on top of two suitcases. And there was a box of books he had brought from India and a color reproduction of dancing figures which he looked at often. I told Swami Bhaktivedanta that I was an artist, and he asked me to please paint the picture of the dancers, which he explained was of Lord Caitanya and His disciples. The painting was called “Sankirtana.” Whenever I came to visit him, Swami would always be happy to see me. I told him about myself, and we chanted Hare Krishna together in his room many nights that winter. I would get the train uptown from my apartment to go see him.
December 9, 2015
Anyone who studies Prabhupada’s books becomes educated in the most important subject. Whenever a follower of Prabhupada hears a discussion of God-consciousness, he spots contradictions or a “poor fund of knowledge” wherever it occurs. Even a young brahmacari can note the flaws in the presentations of learned theologians or clergymen. Theologians are puzzled as to “why bad things happen to good people.” Some of them theorize that God may be all good, but He is not all powerful. Some say that God cannot have a form, or that God exists only in human relationships – but one who knows Srila Prabhupada’s teachings can see this is a poor fund of knowledge.
One of the benefits of a good education in any field is that one easily handles opposition from prejudiced or ignorant persons. Sometimes Prabhupada would be challenged, “What is your faith?” Prabhupada usually replied, “It is not faith, it is fact.” He also said, “You may believe or not believe, that is a different thing.”
Let us always thank Prabhupada for giving us the best education in the most important of all subjects. It is not a sectarian religious education; it is not less important than material knowledge. Prabhupada teaches raja-vidya, the king of education. Most of us are unqualified to receive this education, and yet we have received a full scholarship. Just as an underprivileged person feels fortunate to receive a scholarship to a top university, we are grateful that Prabhupada has accepted us into the University of Vaisnava Brahmanism. One who is trained by Prabhupada is better than a Ph.D. – yet he humbly thinks himself unadvanced. We can never know everything about Krishna; therefore, a Ph.D. in this field honestly says that he does not have deep love for Krishna. He reasons that if he had love for Krishna, how could he live in this world without Him? The accomplished student of Krishna consciousness never considers himself a master of this subject and never becomes puffed-up. He acknowledges that even simple people can receive God consciousness by the direct method of chanting the Holy Names. Prabhupada has taught us everything: he has given us the service and the practices, and he has stressed humility. This is true education.
December 10, 2015
Thank You for Being a Lover of God
“One should not become an official meditator. Life should be so molded that one will always have the chance to think of Krishna. One should always act in such a way that all his daily activities are in connection with Krishna. He should arrange his life in such a way that throughout the twenty-four hours, he cannot but think of Krishna.” – (Bg 18.65 Purport)
In another purport Prabhupada states, “In the advanced stage, one falls completely in love with Krishna.” – (Bg 8.28)
Prabhupada teaches us not to be wishy-washy, but to give everything to God, he exposes all types of maya, including religion which is not completely surrendered to God. Anyone who wants to love God can learn from Srila Prabhupada.
This love is not a saccharine piety. It is doing the needful, even if it means fighting for Krishna as Hanuman and Arjuna did. The lover of God pleases Him under all circumstances. Prabhupada was an intrepid preacher, ready to face the atheists and mayavadis who deny God. This is another aspect of the lover. We may think of a “lover” as someone who seeks a soft situation, lying in an inner chamber to enjoy with his beloved. The lover of God, however, works on His behalf and fights on His behalf to establish the principles of religion. He goes out on behalf of the Lord, just as Ramacandra’s brothers went out to conquer, and just as Prabhupada left Vrindavana to come to America.
December 11, 2015
On Obtaining Krishna-Prema
Prabhupada taught love of God according to the teachings of Lord Caitanya. This means Krishna-prema, the conjugal love of Radha and Krishna.
We have often heard the phrase “love of Godhead.” How far this love of Godhead can actually be developed can be learned from the Vaisnava philosophy. Theoretical knowledge of love of God can be found in many places and in many scriptures, but what that love of Godhead actually is and how it is developed can be found in Vaisnava literature. It is the unique and highest development of love of God that is given by Caitanya Mahaprabhu. – (Teachings of Lord Caitanya, Introduction)
By following Prabhupada, I have learned that love of God is not attained cheaply. One may claim, “I love God,” but it is not so easy. Prabhupada said that the beginning symptom is obedience to God’s laws. Even if we follow the laws, though, we may be attached to material desires. We have to qualify before we can experience love of God.
One who attains Krishna-prema feels happiness at every moment. He is not distracted by the upheavals of the material world. He is always hankering to be in Krishna’s association. “O Govinda … I am feeling the whole world as vacant without You.” These feelings can only come in a genuine way when one becomes purified by service to the pure devotees of the Lord.
Prabhupada has given us a realistic appraisal of the work we have to do. He assures us that we can make the necessary progress, but he does not hide the fact that we have to do a lot of cleaning within the heart. The day will come when by chanting Hare Krishna, we will experience symptoms of love of God.
Quoting Rupa Gosvami, Srila Prabhupada says that it may take many lifetimes to obtain the price of Krishna-prema: intense desire. Prabhupada compared bhakti to a mango. In the beginning stage it is unripe, and when perfected, it is a delicious, ripened mango. However, even in the beginning, we are students on the path of pure bhakti. As soon as we start, we receive the rewards of the bhakti-marga – the ability to give up illicit sex, intoxication, meat-eating and gambling. We want to thank you, Srila Prabhupada, therefore, for being a lover of God. May our “thank you” not be a casual remark, but a gratitude expressed of Prabhupada and made true in our lives in every way.
December 12, 2015
The Perfect Theist
Prabhupada is the perfect theist. He doesn’t belong to the twentieth century or the twenty-first century; he is a timeless devotee-sage. The atheists are timeless too. They have been with us in one form or another since the beginning of time. They are prominent in Kali-yuga, blaspheming religion and preaching gutlessness. What passes for religion in this age is a sorry spectacle.
Prabhupada is the educated theist of Vedic culture, the modern parivrajakacarya-paramahamsa who speaks like a layman in language which is inescapably blunt and clear. And he calls them rascals for not accepting the obvious hints, conclusions and analogies, and the direct statements of the Supreme Personality of Godhead in the scripture.
December 13, 2015
The soft saffron on Prabhupada’s body … He was not tall, nor fat, but neither do we think of him as gaunt. None of these words seem to apply. We met him in his seventieth year, yet we remember his graceful form. The movement of his fingers, hands, wrists. Never lost grace. Never slowed down or showed signs of palsy. He extended his pinky in a delicate way when putting on tilaka, and his fingers did their “dance” of spontaneous mudras while he lectured.
The rest of Prabhupada’s body was also graceful. Grace is not possessed only by a youngster on a trampoline, or by a ballet dancer leaping. Prabhupada was graceful in the way he used his cane and the way he put his feet forward when he walked briskly. He was graceful in the way he turned to someone who called his name. He opened and closed books, and picked up objects from his desk in the same flowing way.
December 14, 2015
Prabhupada never made a big autobiographical presentation about coming to America. Some swamis wrote books, “My Year in England” or “My Year in America.” Srila Prabhupada was not interested in telling about his adventures. He spent his time telling us about Krishna’s adventures in the spiritual world and how Krishna brings that spiritual world into our world. He was interested in writing more and more books about Krishna’s teachings and translating the Vedic literature.
Prabhupada recalled his earliest days in America as “happy days.” One reason was because he depended entirely on Krishna. Until he came, he was not certain whether Westerners could actually become practicing devotees. Prabhupada’s gradual discovery of this on behalf of Lord Caitanya produced his happiness. He was such a realistic missionary though, he did not bask in that happiness and exaggerate it with praises of his own accomplishments. He immediately took the good news that Westerners could take to Krishna consciousness and went further and further with it.
Prabhupada did not run back to India, but assessed the situation realistically. He thought, “I am here, but how much more can I do?” According to Vaisnava philosophy, everyone is a spirit soul and it’s possible for everyone to become Krishna conscious. Lord Caitanya’s name should be known in every town and village. In a practical way, Prabhupada was determined to do this as much as he could. He saw that it was not going to be easy. He was happy at the prospect of rescuing a few, but unhappy that so many would remain stubbornly detached from Krsna consciousness. Srila Prabhupada never lost his intelligent, cool-headed way of looking at things. He was thrilled on behalf of the parampara, but remained grave and angry (a devotee has a right, just as Hanuman was angry) that people were in such ignorance and yet puffed up with their pretenses and excuses for not accepting Krishna consciousness.
December 15, 2015
Giver of Krishna lila
Prabhupada spent much of his time teaching basic Krishna consciousness. This was the work that Krishna wanted him to do. He introduced Krishna consciousness into the West by writing and speaking untiringly on the basis of Bhagavad-gita As It Is.
Neither was Prabhupada stingy in his discussion of Krishna’s personal form and pastimes in Goloka-Vrindavan. He often interjected Krishna lila into a basic lecture, and in a way that showed his direct realization. Sometimes Prabhupada said that the real feature of Krishna is in the village life of Vrindavan. All of Krishna’s associates – His parents, cowherd boyfriends, and the gopis – are all village people. Vrindavan means village life where Krishna is the centre of everything. In Vrindavan they have not learned about Krishna from the Vedas, and neither do they care much for the Vedas. However, everyone loves Krishna. At any moment, Prabhupada might speak directly like that about Krishnaloka. The wonderful thing was how he conveyed it to us.
December 16, 2015
Alone with Prabhupada
Moments alone with Srila Prabhupada were rare but cherished. Sometimes one daydreamed that he might always remain alone with him, but he would soon be awakened to the reality that Prabhupada was meant for everyone. If it came about that Prabhupada was alone with a particular person for some time, he accepted that, but when others came into his association, he showed he was not attached to being with one over the other. If you began to think that you had a special relationship with Prabhupada, that maybe Prabhupada liked to be with you alone, that feeling would be shattered.
In the early days Prabhupada appreciated an audience of any size – it meant that the preaching was alive and vital. It meant that Krishna was being glorified. It meant that kirtana was being conducted with great enthusiasm and that Prabhupada would be able to speak to many people about Krishna. On occasions like that Prabhupada would think, “I am fulfilling my Guru Maharaj’s order.”
An envious person would misunderstand and think, “Oh, this man wants worship. That’s what he likes.” But when preaching, Prabhupada became surcharged with a different emotion. He rose to these occasions and became very blissful with waves of Krishna consciousness. It was a far cry from the long periods when no one cared to hear him. He also saw it as suitable that Krishna’s representative was well received.
Prabhupada liked to be among others. If he had wanted to be alone, he could have stayed in Vrindavan and never come to the West – and we all would be rotting in hell.
December 17, 2015
Prabhupada had a lot of ammunition. He had good reasoning power and good arguments. He had personal saintliness and a mystical connection with the Supreme. He had the ancient and great Vaisnava tradition behind him. He was from India and spoke of many acaryas who also accepted Krishna consciousness. He said that what he was preaching was the same thing that Christ and Buddha taught. So, if one went against him, he went against all the Vishnu incarnations, all the God-teachers and sages of renunciation and lovers of the Supreme. He frankly said that the truth is beyond our senses; we should accept it and be humble.
Prabhupada said that what he was teaching would bring freedom from anxiety. This was wanted. Swamiji himself appeared to be free of anxiety and he was “fixed.” He said that anyone could do it just by chanting Hare Krishna.
One time while Swamiji was lecturing about life on higher planets, he added, “I am not just saying this, but I am convinced.” Other times he would say, “Rest assured.” Or, “Take it from me.” He was willing to teach on that basis also. He was saying in effect, “I know what I’m talking about. I realize this. It is a fact, so please take it and accept it from me. If you chant Hare Krishna, you will understand that Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. All these things will become revealed to you. Take it from me, there are higher planets. Just because you can’t understand it and you cannot touch it with your senses, that does not mean that it does not exist.”
December 18, 2015
Prabhupada’s Teachings: A “Package Deal”
A doubtful person inquired and got answers from Swamiji. Gradually, he began to accept whatever Prabhupada said. He wanted us to accept everything, a “package deal”: the demigods in the higher planets, four-armed forms, thousand-headed forms, and so on. Everything started to be part of the same axiomatic truth – whatever was in the Vedas, whatever was taught by the spiritual master. One did not get to pick and choose. Besides, there was a reason why everything was believable. If it was not “believable” to you, that is also understandable. You did not have to comprehend it with your own brain – it was often beyond you. Once you accepted these premises, then you accepted particular teachings that sounded strange to outsiders on the principle of acintya, inconceivable knowledge. And as one came to learn, knowledge born of these senses was defective. The realities of other worlds didn’t have to tally with our world. The guru knew what was right.
December 19, 2015
Prabhupada’s “Preliminary” Lessons
Even if Srila Prabhupada and Vyasadeva and other acaryas do sometimes teach us in preliminary ways, as one deals with less intelligent people, the learner will not be harmed if he follows their exact instructions. If there is more esoteric information that is beyond him, and which he does not know because his teachers do not teach him – still he will not be harmed if he trusts them. They know the best way to bring him through all the obstacles, back home, back to Godhead.
The literal presentation of Krishna consciousness in the Scriptures that Prabhupada insists on is not itself simplistic or dogmatic. Prabhupada states that Krishna certainly walked the Earth in His divine form and He is also present now in His holy name. He is fully present in stone or brass deities, but these truths are themselves very esoteric and can only be fully understood by the pure devotee. As stated in the scriptures, atah sri-krsna-namadi … “One cannot understand Krishna with blunt senses. When his senses are purified through service, then one can understand Him.” Prabhupada taught esoteric knowledge, but he has kindly given it to us in such a way that even beginners can accept Krishna literally – but they should know that the full Krishna will be revealed to us only when we are purified.
December 20, 2015
Prayer in Practice
Prabhupada meditation transcends time and place, although it can happen in any time and place. He can be with you even in a hot cubbyhole in a cheap hotel. When he does come to you, your place becomes transcendental.
Rupa Gosvami has stated that everything can be used in the service of Krishna. Even the botheration of travel can evoke a fond meditation. Whatever our ongoing situation, we can always dovetail it with Prabhupada meditation of one sort or another.
Give respects to the memories of Swamiji. Just hold them in your mind, worship his lotus feet. You do not have to be a radio broadcaster telling everyone about it. It is a moment of remembrance for you. For your own benefit. Appreciate that you were there; worship the minutes and hours. “Prabhupada, I loved you. I do love you. I appreciate the Krishna consciousness that you have brought. I want to be carried out of this material world; please save me. Please let me remember that I am your menial sisya who learns from you, practices Vaisnavism under your direction.
December 21, 2015
His Risks on Krishna’s Behalf
In the first year in New York before he started ISKCON, Prabhupada’s life was full of risk and adventure. His coming to America was itself a risk. We can’t imagine what it was like for Prabhupada to be without money in a foreign country and yet to dare to present Krishna consciousness. If at any point he had gone back to India, after the robbery in his room on 70th Street, or on any of those Scindia return voyages, or after he had to leave the Bowery when Mr. Paul went crazy – if at any point he had gone back, then we would never have been born.
Sometimes he had to abandon the strict regulations of sannyasa in order to stay and do the more important work of spreading Krishna consciousness. When he stayed in Carl Yeargen’s apartment, he had to keep his food in the same refrigerator where Carl kept cat food. Prabhupada knew this was actually against the rules for sannyasa living, but “if I thought ‘I can’t do this, let me go back to India,’ then I never would have been able to preach.” In Prabhupada’s case, his risks were completely protected by Krishna.
Prabhupada conducted his activities with faith in the holy names and a desire to carry out his spiritual master’s order. He improvised and accepted the broken souls who came to him, provided he saw them as sincere. Everything he did was bona fide according to Vaisnava smrti, but some things had to be done according to time, place and persons.
Later on, Prabhupada’s mood had not changed; he was ready to go to hell for Krishna. According to the ninth offense against the holy name, the guru must not give the holy name to unqualified persons. Technically speaking, we lack some of the qualifications for initiation, but Prabhupada accepted us because we showed at least some sparks of spiritual interest. Prabhupada impressed on us that initiation vows were lifelong and serious and he expected us to follow them. Nevertheless, he went ahead with tremendous trust, even though we hadn’t done that much to show we were trustworthy.
December 22, 2015
We Are Meant to Praise
“Persons who hear from a spiritual master with great labor and for a long time must hear from the mouths of pure devotees about the character and activities of pure devotees. Pure devotees always think within their hearts of the lotus feet of the Personality of Godhead, who awards His devotees liberation.” – Bhag. 3.13.4
In his Bhaktivedanta Purport, Srila Prabhupada writes, “Such pure devotees of the Lord are as glorious as the Lord; they are, in fact, recommended by the Lord as more worshipable than He Himself. Worship of the devotee is more potent than worship of the Lord.
However, Prabhupada writes, “It is therefore the duty of the transcendental students to hear of pure devotees, as explained by similar devotees of the Lord, because one cannot explain about the Lord or His devotee unless one happens to be a pure devotee himself.”
Does this mean we should not remember and glorify Srila Prabhupada until we become pure devotees? I don’t think this is the intended meaning. But I should recognize that my own appreciation of Srila Prabhupada is very limited. Only a pure devotee can fully understand the nature of pure Vaisnavas, but if we follow the principles of prayer and glorification as given by the great acaryas, then we too can raise our tiny voices in praise of our spiritual master. This affirmation was expressed by the “professional reciters” who were praising King Prhtu:
“Although we are unable to glorify you adequately, we nonetheless have a transcendental taste to glorify your activities. We shall try to glorify you according to the instructions received from authoritative sages and scholars. Whatever we speak, however, is always inadequate and very insignificant.” – Bhag. 4.16.3
Discussion of the activities of mahatmas will help us to become better devotees. When a young disciple of Srila Prabhupada’s sent him an original poem, “Eight Verses in Praise of My Spiritual Master,” Prabhupada replied that it was “very nice and thoughtful.” He encouraged his disciple to continue praising the Vaisnavas:
“May Krishna bless you to improve more and more in writing the glories of our previous acaryas and the Lord. Be engaged in glorifying the parampara system and your life will be glorified automatically thousands of times.” – Letter August 14, 1971
The Supreme Lord and His liberated associates are beyond the estimation of even other great souls such as Lord Brahma and Lord Siva. But it is our duty to pray, although we are inadequate, in order to purify ourselves. Prabhupada writes, “As stated by Prahlad Maharaj, everyone should glorify the Lord according to his own ability. If we are sincere and serious devotees, the Lord will give us the intelligence to offer prayers properly.” (Bhag. 4.16.2 Purport)
In teaching Sanatana Goswami the regulations of devotional service, Lord Caitanya also advised that when a disciple comes before the spiritual master, he should speak appropriate praises. So there’s no question of “waiting until you become a pure devotee.” We are meant to praise, to give thanks, to repeat the teachings of Prabhupada and to please the devotees by remembrances of His Divine Grace.
December 23, 2015
More Reasons for Remembering Him
Prabhupada has said that each person is ultimately alone, like a pilot in a one-man airplane. This will be made clear to us at the time of death when we have to “fly our own plane.” Then we will want to surrender ourselves fully to Prabhupada and Krishna. Then there will be no relief in medicines, when the body itself, which seemed to be our friend and shelter, will not be able to sustain us. Worldly pleasures and possessions will lose their taste.
Now is the time to prepare. Later, our ability to think of Krishna and Prabhupada will be impaired. Telling memories of Prabhupada is for now, when we are looking for subject matter for hearing and reading, and when we are capable of it. The living being is so lively and curious that if he doesn’t hear of the pure devotee, he will hear something else. So Prabhupada meditation is a way to keep the mind fixed at the lotus feet of the pure devotees.
Some philosophers say that the best preparation for death is detachment toward things of this world. It is not possible for the eternal living being to kill all his attachments and desires, but one may transfer them from material things to Krishna consciousness. Whatever we think of at the end of life will form our situation in the next life. And so it is said by Lord Kapiladeva:
“Every learned man knows very well that attachment for the material is the greatest entanglement for the spirit soul. But that same attachment, when applied to self-realized devotees, opens the door of liberation.” – Bhag. 3.25.20
December 24, 2015
Our business is to save ourselves by remembering Srila Prabhupada at the time of death. All his activities are worth remembering and passing on to others, at least for the next ten thousand years of Kali-yuga. It is distasteful to us if someone says, “Prabhupada is just one guru, and eventually he will be forgotten. There will be other gurus with other pastimes and the main thing is the message, not this person.” We don’t want to hear that. If we persist in being attached to Prabhupada, it can’t be inauspicious. Even if aspects of his pastimes were temporary scenes, nevertheless, being attached to Prabhupada in a particular setting will not go in vain. Krishna will recognize it, and He will transform our devotion into eternal benefit. Krishna will say, “Because you were attached to Prabhupada there, now you can be attached to Radha and Krishna and Prabhupada.” Somehow, Krishna can make it all satisfactory. It’s not wrong to remember our teacher, how he taught us, when he taught us, and who he was.
December 25, 2015
Srila Prabhupada acknowledged that time wears away all things. Even Krishna’s places of pastimes in this world have become covered over, leaving little trace of His presence. Rupa Goswami expressed this in a cryptic message to his brother, Sanatana, in jail. Rupa Goswami’s note stated, “Where is the Ayodhya of Raghupati? Where is the Mathura of Krishna?” His meaning was that everything in this world changes, but if you keep your mind fixed on that which is eternal, you will be steady. This is good advice to anyone in anxiety over the temporary , terrible situation of material prison life. According to Rupa Goswami, even the dhamas within this world undergo change; therefore we should always meditate on the eternal essence of life.
Just as Lord Krishna’s dhamas are eternal, Prabhupada’s pastimes have a similar quality; we should not be alarmed or doubt their validity. We may ask, “Where is Ayodhya? Where is Dwaraka, the city by the sea? Where is the Yadu dynasty? Where is the pious humankind whom Krishna came to restore? Where are the Pandavas or their descendents?” Although the spiritual pastimes of the Lord may disappear from our vision, they continue to exist for those who have perfect vision. Time is not greater than Krishna or Krishna’s pastimes. But because the material world is the kingdom of Maya, even spiritual edifices will crumble. The inner spirit is carried on by the parampara of living devotees.
Even in terms of perceivable objects, Prabhupada’s most important legacies are still flourishing. His books continue to be printed in new editions, and the chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra goes on just as it was during his time. His vani, and therefore his spirit, his presence, is alive as long as there are sincere devotees. The vyasasana he sat on may not be there any more; its upholstery has corroded, or is in somebody’s basement, or in a museum. But the chair is not as important as what he spoke from the vyasasana.
The recitation of Prabhupada’s pastimes, in words and books, is not subjected to destruction as long as it is carried on from generation to generation.
Viewed against the powerful forces of time, the devotees may seem like pathetic creatures vanquished by maya. In fact, we are very tiny, and we have a very limited conception of time. The time of the universe is beyond our calculation, and yet even the universe is created again and again. We say, “We want Prabhupada as he appeared in America in 1965.” On that material level we may seem foolish, but we know that Srila Prabhupada’s appearance had an eternal reality we can preserve. “True Vaisnavas never die, but live in sound …”
December 26, 2015
Why Meditate on Prabhupada?
“Just as a person travelling on the road rests one foot on the ground and then lifts the other, whereas a worm on a vegetable transfers itself to one leaf and then gives up the previous one, a conditioned soul takes shelter of another body and then gives up the one he had before.”
“This is the process of the whole transmigration from one body to another. At the time of death according to his mental condition, the living being is carried by the subtle body consisting of mind, intelligence and ego to another gross body. When higher authorities have decided what kind of gross body the living entity will have, he is forced to enter such a body, and thus he automatically gives up his previous body. Dull-minded persons, who do not have the intelligence to understand this process of transmigration, take for granted that when the gross body is finished, one’s life is finished forever. Such persons have no brains with which to understand the process of transmigration. At the present moment there is great opposition to the Hare Krishna movement, which is being called a brainwashing movement. But actually, the so-called scientists, philosophers and other leaders in the Western countries have no brains at all. The Hare Krishna movement is trying to elevate such foolish persons by enlightening their intelligence so that they will take advantage of the human body. Unfortunately, because of gross ignorance they regard the Hare Krishna movement as a brainwashing movement. They do not know that without God consciousness one is forced to continue transmigrating from one body to another. Because of their devilish brains, they will next be forced to accept an abominable life and practically never be able to liberate themselves from the conditional life of material existence. How this transmigration of the soul takes place is very clearly explained in this verse.” (Bhag. 10.1.40 Purport)
Question: “This passage makes me think about Prabhupada meditations and doubt their importance. I can see how earnest Prabhupada is to spread the knowledge of Krishna consciousness which starts with transmigration of the soul. If you can’t understand that, then you cannot go further in Krishna consciousness. And so one might argue like this: The important thing is to learn this science, starting with transmigration of the soul, from Prabhupada’s books. Cultivation of personal memories of what he did and said is therefore not important because it is not related to the important knowledge. Prabhupada lived for Krishna consciousness, this is what he wrote the books for, this is what the world needs. So by various means of propagation, Prabhupada’s followers try to convince others that this one lifetime is not all. It was for these lessons that Prabhupada called us together and taught us and wanted us to serve and teach.”
My reply to this is that cultivation of memories of Prabhupada and continuing our attachment to him is connected to learning the knowledge and carrying out the mission. Many of us accept this knowledge and believe in it only because he said so. For some of us, our “bottom line” of faith and realization is “Prabhupada says.” “Prabhupada says that Krishna is God. Prabhupada says that Bhagavad-gita is the best scripture, so read it.” Of course everything doesn’t just end with a dogmatic “Prabhupada says.” Once you actually hear about Krishna from him and read Bhagavad-gita As It Is, you get realization. But it rests on that foundation, that Prabhupada said so. Thus the Siksastakum verse declares, “The sankirtana movement is the life of all knowledge.” Because of him, the knowledge of Bhagavad-gita becomes alive. It was Sanskrit, or mythology, or academic study, but now it comes alive. So it is essential for all the devotees in the Krishna consciousness movement to receive the knowledge through Prabhupada in parampara. Therefore, why should they not want to relish hearing about him, and become attached to him as a person, and understand better how he was a teacher?
Stories about Prabhupada may indeed be considered a supplementary activity, a body of knowledge in our literature to help us have personal attachment to the pure devotee. Yet, by that personal attachment, Krishna is pleased. Yasyadeveparābhaktiryathādevetathā gurau – Only by having faith in the guru and Krishna is knowledge revealed. We should not think that we will pick up the science of transmigration in the higher stages of bhakti by intellectual studentship. There has to be a personal relationship with the guru. This will hold true also for future times. They will have a relationship with Prabhupada.
December 27, 2015
Everyone has their own Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada is an objective reality. And yet, we don’t want to be told by someone, “This is exactly how you must feel about him, and this is what he wants from you.” No, we want our own understanding of Prabhupada, because we have to surrender our own free will to him.
Therefore, dear Prabhupada, let me call you, “My Prabhupada.” I don’t mean “pet Prabhupada” or “illusory Prabhupada.” You, Srila Prabhupada, are the master, and you will tell me what to do. And yet I call you “My Prabhupada” because you touched my heart in the beginning and you continue to do so.
When a devotee says, “My spiritual master, Prabhupada,” that cry has to come from the self. It cannot be programmed into you by another person. Others may help by giving us Prabhupada’s books and telling us about him, but ultimately, with our own hands, we have to reach out and hold on to his mercy.
This is a simple fact, because we are each alone and we must respond with our own senses. On our own we have to stop sex, intoxication and gambling. When you dream, does someone else dream for you? When you chant japa, you must hear your own japa. When you lecture and repeat something that Prabhupada said, it is you speaking, not someone else. You either know the Bhagavad-gita verse, or you don’t. It is up to you, and you get the reward. Each plane must go by itself into the sky; each bird keeps itself aloft by its own power in the sky – and they may meet at the destination. So it stands to reason that we each have our own Prabhupada.
December 28, 2015
Prabhupada, the Essence of Cool
Although Prabhupada was worlds apart from the young people in America, the younger generation accepted him as “cool;” he was hip in his own way. He was not a middle class conformist, and he had not come to give us Boy Scout lessons. He was not a churchman giving sermons with a piety that we could not relate to.
Aside from age and cultural distances, there is always a distance between two persons until they get to know each other. In the beginning you try to see whether you really will be able to be intimate with another person. We must never forget that Prabhupada was able to establish intimacy with hundreds of persons. He did not really give us lessons in perfection delivered from a mountain top. Rather, his physical association was always near by.
The Swami was fearless. He was convinced that his message was relevant and had to be spoken. It was his show; he was in control, but he had to protect himself, especially in the beginning. It was not that the devotees were completely ready to be on his side, so he had to control the whole thing and say, “Don’t disturb, don’t disturb.” He depended on Krishna as he went on speaking the difficult-to-understand philosophy – concepts of Bhagavad-gita and the assertion that Krishna is God. He just went right ahead without watering it down in the least. You couldn’t understand it all, but you stayed and listened to him. You caught a word here and there: “Caitanya, Krishna.” Missed a word here and there. We did not understand very much of it.
December 29, 2015
Prabhupada: The Strength Within Us
In order to stay in touch with Prabhupada, we can’t be dead. We have to be active and reciprocate. However, there are some things that Prabhupada instigates himself. There is spiritual strength, a faithfulness that I feel, which I know is from Prabhupada – it is almost like a growth of some kind, and it has its own existence and its own strength. According to sastra, this is the bhakti-lata, the devotional creeper. It is Prabhupada being with us in an important way.
For example, when I hear skeptical talk against Krishna, there are certain responses of faithfulness that are within my power, in my consciousness and intellect, and so I reply with those. Sometimes I may become overwhelmed by opposition or distractions, but nevertheless, there is this supply of strength that keeps coming from being a disciple of Prabhupada. We speak of causeless mercy. Krishna and Prabhupada have claimed us, and in a sense we can’t get away, because we have sincerely surrendered. As the Bhagavatam says, “If you ever sincerely surrender to the lotus feet of the Lord, you can never go completely away even if you seem to. The Lord will claim you back.”
Let me try to describe it again. We say that we are staying in spiritual life by the blessings of the spiritual master. Sometimes we can actually feel that blessing living within us, in addition to our own meagre resources, and in addition to what we are as persons. It is part of you, but you know where it comes from: from Prabhupada. One should use this strength courageously – and fight on the basis of knowing it is there. Krishna says His devotee will not be vanquished: Kaunteya pratijanihi na me bhaktaḥ praṇaśyati. So one should think, “I am a follower of Prabhupada, his sakti is in me, I can sense it. I needn’t be afraid. I can go anywhere and preach; he will protect me.”
Maybe this is what the Vaisnavas are expressing in their poetry when they say, “By the blessings of the guru the blind man can see the stars in the sky, the lame man can cross mountains, and the dumb man can speak like a great orator.” It is the sense of being empowered by the spiritual master. Devotees can witness these connections and speak of them and glorify the fact that Prabhupada lives in us.
December 30, 2015
Conversing With Srila Prabhupada
I like to converse with Srila Prabhupada. I pray to him, along with Krishna. I say their names; I go through Prabhupada to Krishna. The talking is also a form of heart-to-heart talk.
I speak, and then I listen to them. Again they are together. Krishna speaks directly in the Bhagavad-gita. He says, “One who understands Me as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, without doubting, is the knower of everything. He therefore engages in My full devotional service.” And after Lord Krishna speaks, Prabhupada elaborates and explains to me what Sri Krishna means.
After hearing from them, I speak some more to my masters. I tell them what I am trying to do, where I am at. I ask for help. I express my thanks to them and feel my loving connection to them. I think that this kind of communication is far more important than too much thinking about Prabhupada (rather than being with him.) After all, I am not an academic of Srila Prabhupada. I am a devotee.
Conversing with Srila Prabhupada is a form of meditation that can be done on a daily basis. As we face new predicaments, there is always new need to express ourselves to our guides. I try not to speak only at a pragmatic need, but to enter a loving exchange.
I accompany my prayers with action. At the end of the day, I give thanks for the service connection that I have enjoyed during the day and the ways in which Prabhupada and Krishna came and touched me – as well as the ways that I failed them.
December 31, 2015
Becoming Attached to Prabhupada
It may be said that as we get attached to Prabhupada, there is a tendency to weaken in other relationships, especially material ones. If family ties are material, then they tend to weaken. The more you become Prabhupada’s disciple, the less you become interested in other things that are not connected to Krishna. You also develop friendships with those who are Prabhupada’s followers.
In my case, I did not know of Krishna except for the painting on the cover of Prabhavananda Swami’s Bhagavad-gita. I thought He was some mythical figure. But by meeting Swamiji on the Lower East Side, I began to know of my relationship with Krishna, starting with hearing about Him. And that has grown to the stage where I now identify Krishna as God, the God whom I understood in my childhood, the Supreme Being, the Creator, the God of religion and so on. As you make further progress, you begin to understand Krishna as Krishna. He becomes part of yourself, just as Prabhupada does. Even if you neglect the attachment, He is still there and He acts from His side, and that is a wonderful thing.
The Prabhupada connection is tangible and strong. By his strength, you maintain yourself in spiritual life. If you haven’t fallen down from the four rules, it is because he is protecting you. You should be able to perceive where the strength is coming from. “O Gurudeva, your mercy is all that I am made of.” As I perceive it, I am grateful, and I promise – with feelings of regret for having failed so far – to protect and reciprocate with Prabhupada’s protective presence. Request him to stay always and especially as you go over the bridge from here to the next life.