March 1, 2016
Prabhupada’s lectures were always of a good quality, although he never prepared them. Usually he went to the engagements without having chosen a topic, although, if a club or organization requested a topic, he would agree to it. Neither did he ever appear nervous or uncertain of what he would say, yet he writes with joy in his diary for February 1966: “Today’s meeting was attended by a greater number of members than other days.”
His preparation was his total commitment to Krishna consciousness. In that sense, he was more prepared than any speaker on any topic. He lived and breathed Krishna consciousness twenty-four hours a day. There was no question of his speaking about anything else. In one lecture at Northeastern University in 1968, Prabhupada began, “Thank you very much for allowing me to take this opportunity to glorify the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” That was always his topic – glorifying Krishna. His speeches always appeared well thought out because he had such realization of his topic.
Prabhupada’s main emphasis was to present Krishna consciousness; therefore, he was sometimes concerned about his audience and was prepared to address their particular concerns. At other times, however, he was not. When reporters asked their hackneyed questions, Prabhupada often springboarded off their questions to his own points of interest in the philosophy. Similarly, he would give lectures to particular groups, but remain the irrepressible Prabhupada. He was independent.
March 2, 2016
Typing His Words
In February 1966 Prabhupada spoke, over the space of two lectures, what later became the introduction to his Bhagavad-gita As It Is. He recorded these lectures himself and we typed them later. In a 1968 letter to me, Prabhupada wrote, “You have to meet many opposing elements in the matter of preaching work; therefore, you should always be careful to follow the principles in Bhagavad-gita As It Is. You will be glad to know that our arrangement with Macmillan for publishing Bhagavad-gita As It Is, is already complete and the manuscript has been handed over to them. We should clearly preach that our Krishna consciousness movement is purely based on Bhagavad-gita As It Is. Any other movement which does not tally with the principles of Bhagavad-gita As It Is, is considered unauthorized by us.”
I was still typing for him in 1968 despite many opposing elements. Typing is yoga. You sit on the floor cross-legged in front of the typewriter. Instead of performing pranayama and raising the life air in the cakras, you type the words of Swamiji from the Bhagavad-gita manuscript. If you make a mistake in typing, then stop and correct it. Everything is concentrated on looking at the message and making it right. Thinking of typing as yoga gives a nice spirit to the work, but the most important thing is that it is in connection with the Swamiji. It is his words of Bhagavad-gita. Besides the recorded lectures, he had bundles of thousands of pages that he had typed, wrapped in saffron and lying on the floor in his closet. When he first took some typing out of this mass of material and gave it to me, I remarked, “I think you have enough work to last me a whole winter.” Swamiji laughed and said, “I have many lifetimes of work for you.”
March 3, 2016
Empowered in Kirtana
Rayarama told me once in 1966 that Srila Prabhupada said it took him thirty years to attain his present level of kirtana. Even before chanting with his disciples, early in 1966 Prabhupada joined Dr. Mishra on the yoga retreats in upstate New York and conducted kirtanas – which all the yoga students appreciated. On February 26, Prabhupada wrote in his diary: “Kirtana demonstration was given. Dr. Mishra appreciated it very much. Next morning also invited.” Kirtana is the yuga-dharma. We can read many, many references to this in the scriptures – but no one would be chanting kirtana in the West on their own. Prabhupada came and brought us the chanting. He had such faith in the holy name! It is impossible to think how the holy names of Krishna and Rama, which are not names familiar in the West, could have been introduced and accepted. It was impossible to conceive of this. This could only be done by a pure devotee of the Lord. Thus it is written in Caitanya-caritamrta: “kṛṣṇa-śakti vinā nahe tāra pravartana. “Unless one is empowered by Krishna, he cannot spread the chanting of Hare Krishna around the world.” (CC Antya: 7.11)
You spread this chanting, Prabhupada, by chanting with us and stressing in us the importance of kirtana.
March 4, 2016
Some of the most direct instructions on feelings of separation from Srila Prabhupada are in the Fourth Canto of Bhagavatam, where Prabhupada explains that the disciple is supposed to cry after the disappearance of the spiritual master. As far as separation from Krishna, or separation from the devotee is concerned, it’s the most exalted part of our philosophy. The worst kind of unhappiness is separation from the devotee. If we feel there is no devotee around us, then Ramananda Raya said, “This is the most unhappy condition.”
Prabhupada, in 1966, wrote about this unhappiness in his diary: “According to Mayapur Panjika, today is Adhivas day of Gaura Purnima. Devotees at Vrindavana and Navadvipa are enjoying the celebration. I am here alone without a devotee companion, but I have come here to serve the Lord and not for personal happiness. I am prepared to live in hell, even if I am able to serve the Lord. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu wanted that His mission should be propagated all over the world, and that is my objective. I do not mind the inconvenience personally felt.
Prabhupada also expressed the mood of separation from Krishna in the poem he wrote while crossing the Atlantic Ocean aboard the Jaladutta:
“Today the remembrance of You came to me in a very nice way. Because I have a great longing, I call to You, I am Your eternal servant, and therefore I desire Your association so much. O Lord Krishna, except for You, there is no other means of success.”
March 5, 2016
Pioneers of Kirtana
Prabhupada gave us – and is giving us – the great opportunity to be pioneers in the spreading of kirtana. Often the word “pioneer” conjures up the image of leaving our home country and going to open a centre in a different part of the world, or join a world tour of kirtanas. However, Prabhupada also encouraged us to perform kirtana among our own people. Therefore, he made those of us who were pioneering among the student population in Boston as much a part of the pioneering movement as those who went to Germany and London, or later, Japan and Africa. We always felt that Prabhupada was with us and that we were trying to accomplish what he asked of us. We could only pray to be successful. No one could sit down and relax. We were so caught up in immediate preaching that we had no time to reflect on our relative position to other temples, or what the non-devotees would think of as later. To serve Prabhupada, we were forced to live in the present. We hardly had time to think. Such a life thoroughly engaged our minds and senses in Prabhupada’s service and we left it to him to define whether it was pleasing or not, and to encourage us.
March 6, 2016
When asked about his dream on board the Jaladutta, Prabhupada said: “The dream was I must come here … The dream was that Krishna in His many forms was rowing the boat.”
Be true to the great personality who brought pure love of God, be true to yourself who desires pure life and freedom in love of Krishna, be true to this highest mission for the world’s welfare. In other words, I realize I cannot force anyone, and all will have to withstand maya on their own, but if they will only follow His instructions, they will be safe. Otherwise, all this danger, implications; caught in the web of action reaction.
March 7, 2016
Prabhupada Wrote His Books for Us
Prabhupada loved to write because it was an effective way to spread Krishna consciousness. He got good results from his writing. He also communed deeply with the previous acaryas when he wrote. He felt their power, even when his essays weren’t being read. Writing seemed to be his dharma. Even his spiritual master encouraged him to write. So, Srila Prabhupada became occupied with writing books, and he saw temple construction as not important for him, especially in the years before he came to America. He saw himself as following his guru’s example, and his order: “If you ever get money, print books.” Prabhupada wrote that the first duty of a sannyasi is to write books.
Prabhupada’s books teach us about the spiritual relationship between the disciple and the spiritual master. Prabhupada’s books are like the map, but I still have to undertake the journey myself. I study the symbols on the page; they refer to a situation like my own, describing what is required of me as a disciple in giving my whole life to Srila Prabhupada. The map marks out hazard areas – don’t be whimsical, don’t disrespect the spiritual master, pray to him, inquire from him … But it remains general. Each of us has to make our own journey guided by the map of the sastra. The journey is meant to be long; one has to pass through all phases of life in this body while he traverses the path. But still, the sastra gives us only general guidelines.
The Nectar of Devotion states that one should accept the shelter of a bona fide spiritual master, accept initiation from him, and receive instruction in Krishna consciousness while serving him in faith and confidence. But even Rupa Gosvami admits that he is speaking only basic principles. Prabhupada comments,
“For example, a basic principle is that one has to accept a spiritual master. Exactly how one follows the instructions of his spiritual master is considered a detail.” (Nectar of Devotion, Chapter 6, page 53)
In a sense, my relationship with my spiritual master is not mentioned in the scriptures. It’s unchartered territory. The details have been left up to Srila Prabhupada and me. The outcome is still waiting for further development. Will I surrender completely? Will I receive more grace? Without the authorized books I would not know how to conduct myself, but the books cannot cultivate my relationship with Prabhupada for me. I have to make the attempt myself every day. I have to choose good association, control my senses and mind, do the work which is fit for me as approved by Srila Prabhupada. There is much work to do in my individual case. This is true for every disciple.
March 8, 2016
Krishna’s Recognition Comes Through Srila Prabhupada
Lord Krishna demands that we present ourselves to Him as followers of Srila Prabhupada. Prabhupada is our “passport” to the spiritual world.
“… Unless one gets the association of a devotee like Narada Muni or his servant in the disciplic succession, one’s dormant spirit of renunciation cannot be awakened. It is not a fact that because material enjoyment involves so many painful conditions, one will automatically become detached. One needs the blessings of a devotee like Narada Muni. Then one can renounce his attachment to the material world. The young boys and girls of the Krishna consciousness movement have given up the spirit of material enjoyment, not because of practice, but by the mercy of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His servants. –
(Bhag. 6.5.41, Purport)
Prabhupada grants renunciation; he grants devotion. We work to achieve it, but it comes by his grace. Therefore, any disturbance to our relationship will be like a grating sound in your car’s engine – something is wrong, something is going to break down. He has to be pleased.
March 9, 2016
Prabhupada’s Expectations for Us
Prabhupada is always the instructor for his disciples. There is usually an edge of chiding in his voice, but it is still gentle and loving. Of the disciple, Srila Prabhupada writes: “… A disciple cannot disobey the order of his spiritual master, that is the relationship between the disciple and his master.” He gives the example of Arjuna who surrendered to Krishna “without any vanity regarding his own erudition, and without any reservation.” If you relax your defenses and allow him to instruct you, even in how to fold a cadar, then your relationship will be smooth. You will not become aggravated and neither will he become displeased; you will quickly learn how to do things his way. The spiritual master is to train you to be expert in spiritual activities, including the details of how to fold a cadar. As soon as you resist, thinking you know how to do something, or that he is too demanding, then there will be trouble.
Prabhupada wants us to understand the difference between the temporary, material world and the eternal, blissful world of Goloka Vrindavana. This is the life-work that Prabhupada wants from us, to somehow fill our minds with more and more Krishna and less and less maya. And Prabhupada is with us in our attempts to hear about Krishna. It is the basis of our relationship with him. Srila Prabhupada spoke specifically of Krishna. He described His flute and the feelings of separation the gopis experienced. Prabhupada was fully absorbed in Krishna. He wrote in KRSNA Book, “The spiritual masters should enrich the devotees to the highest devotional perfection. Feeling constant separation while engaged in the service of the Lord is a perfection of Krishna consciousness.” (KRSNA, Vol. 1, page 231)
I cannot expect Srila Prabhupada to again come to where I am in the material world. He expects us to love him enough now to go to Him. That’s how it should be – the disciple should go to his guru and render service and hear from him. For now I am doing that by reading his KRSNA Book, but the day will come when I can sit at his lotus feet and hear him speak of Krishna and the gopis, or any number of other transcendental topics. It will just take time and conscious endeavor, by Prabhupada’s grace.
March 10, 2016
Prabhupada and Dreams
The appearance of Srila Prabhupada in dreams is a shaky kind of evidence that cannot always be held as absolutely true, free of all symbolism or mental concoction. We often don’t like to hear other people’s dreams about Prabhupada, especially when they claim they are literally true. If Prabhupada appears in a dream and says, “There’s going to be a world war. You should immediately go to south Italy.” – It may mean many things. It may not be a literal order from Prabhupada himself.
Still, dreams are worth pursuing. Much of our conscious life is spent trying to capture Prabhupada’s presence, but so much time is spent in sleep. If one can dream of Prabhupada and Krishna, then that time will not be wasted. And in fact, dreaming of Prabhupada or Krishna may be a good sign that Krishna consciousness is finally infiltrating one’s heart.
One who craves to be with him will accept whatever he can get, even infrequent, inconclusive dreams.
March 11, 2016
Dependent on Krishna
He would record every amount received; yet Prabhupada didn’t worry about the money at all. When he moved from one place to another in 1966, he didn’t worry about the rent money, but simply depended on Krishna. American hippies were accustomed to living as mendicants too, but their renunciation was more an act of irresponsibility, and therefore, simply another variety of materialism. Prabhupada was purely renounced in Krishna’s service.
It is an amazing feature of Prabhupada’s surrender and dependence on Krishna that he came to the West completely alone with no material backing. Because the Gaudiya Matha had become divided after his spiritual master left this world, there wasn’t enough solidarity among his godbrothers to fund him from his Guru Maharaj’s institution. If someone pressed him about what religion he was representing, or about who sent him, he couldn’t claim anything other than a philosophical and spiritual connection with the Gaudiya Matha.
Prabhupada didn’t demand his disciples to do what he did – to go alone to a new place without any income – but it inspired us to think that he founded the movement on his complete dependence on Krishna.
March 12, 2016
Prabhupada is In Our Hearts
Prabhupada expands in each of our hearts. He is present simultaneously with his many followers as they worship him in his murti, or read his books, and when they remember his exchanges, his intense desire to preach, his book distribution or the way he took prasadam. If we panic when Prabhupada seems distant, then it is meant to be an impetus to propel us forward in our remembrance of him. There are so many ways to be with Prabhupada, we should be grateful to him that he has made himself so available to us and pray to be recognized by him out of his infinite kindness.
Prabhupada, please relieve me of my forgetfulness. I offer my obeisances to His Divine Grace, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. He is very dear to Lord Krishna. His goal was to absorb the minds and hearts of his disciples in love of God, and in this, he represented the Six Gosvamis of Vrindavana.
If Prabhupada is shining in each of our hearts, we will automatically love each other more. As a result, people will be drawn to take part in this mystic sanga, which will increase tenfold when we chant and hear together. Prabhupada will be approving us, and we will all feel accepted and purified in his presence.
March 13, 2016
Faith in Prabhupada’s Instructions
Srila Prabhupada is the topmost acarya, the representative of Krishna capable of delivering all conditioned souls. His disciples and followers seek release from the material world through bhakti yoga, engagement in Krishna’s service. If we accept Prabhupada’s instructions with faith, we can become fully Krishna conscious and go back to Godhead.
Unfortunately, a disciple doesn’t always measure up to the guru’s demands due to a heavily conditioned nature, and this may lead to doubts in his relationship with his spiritual master. Prabhupada is not unreasonable in his requests; he wants us to be perfect, to render pure, unmotivated service to guru and Krishna. He knows that bhakti must be unconditional, and his duty is to train us to perform that unconditional service. Whatever doubts we may still have in Krishna consciousness should not be about Prabhupada’s spiritual calibre, or about his disposition toward us. We doubt only our ability to respond to him. In other words, we doubt ourselves. Srila Prabhupada once said that even if we have the most expert guru, we may still fail unless we help ourselves.
March 14, 2016
Real Love for Srila Prabhupada
If we are to love Prabhupada, we have to actually care about his interests as much as we care about our own. What does he want? He wants us to become Krishna conscious. He wants us to cooperate with his other disciples, to maintain his movement and expand it by preaching. Loving Srila Prabhupada means carrying out these aims, even at the expense of some of our more personal aims. There is room for us to develop our interests in serving him. But our own aims should not be separate from his expressed desires; they have to fall within the parameters of his teachings.
This is, at least, a working definition of love for Srila Prabhupada. One will be ready to forgo one’s own conveniences, to invest one’s own time, and even to risk one’s own security to promote the desires of Srila Prabhupada. Our love is not just a feeling, but feeling translated into action. Feelings are fickle. Sometimes they are deep, and at other times, they are distracted. It is the constant sacrifice for the sake of love that makes those feelings profound and steady.
It is impossible to love all the different people in our lives with equal intensity. The spiritual master has a special place, and he is given special love. Srila Prabhupada said, “To be everyone’s servant means that you are no one’s servant.” We give him more respect, more credence, more attention than anyone else we may have love for. And by loving Srila Prabhupada, Krishna consciousness gets distributed and the love is spread around to all living entities. That is the special quality of loving a pure devotee – the love gets spread around: people can eternally benefit just by our loving Srila Prabhupada.
March 15, 2016
Honoring Prabhupada’s Relationship With Us
Each of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples has chosen to love him. It is a commitment that I will always honor, and I have sealed that commitment at my initiation. We have a contract of love now. Although my love for Srila Prabhupada may not yet be free of any material tinge, he is patient. And Prabhupada himself has placed conditions of his love on his disciples. He expects them to follow him. Although he will still love a disobedient disciple, his love will not reach a disciple who rebels or disobeys his order, and who blasphemes guru and Krishna. The relationship between guru and disciple is meant to be based on honor.
I have heard people say that this “condition” Prabhupada places on his love for us is not much different than the conditions some of our parents placed on us to win their love. Many people have been hurt by parents who sold their love for high grades in school, or conformity to family rules, etc. There was no chance for people who grew up in these families to develop themselves as individuals, or to feel self-worth despite their failings to meet their parents’ standards. They grew up only with conditions and have no experience of real love. Is Prabhupada’s love for us like that? Is it a lesser kind of love because he places on it the condition of our obedience?
No, Prabhupada will accept a fallen disciple. He does not reject anyone who fails to follow his standards. What he expects of his disciples is that we maintain our honor. We have to try, and we have to be faithful to him, even if we do not always succeed. He wants at least that much reciprocation for the great gift he is giving us. Neither is his motivation for setting these standards based on false ego, as our parents’ motivations were. Following the spiritual master is best for us. We have to follow the spiritual master in order to learn to love Krishna. And this is the gift he so much wants to share with us, but he knows we have to be qualified first. Prabhupada’s conditions are not the same as so many mundane performance requirements. They are purely spiritual. Neither does he distinguish between race or sex or religion; he doesn’t ask for money. And although he loves all living entities (he is mahatma, great-hearted), he feels a special obligation to guide and nurture those who surrender and seek shelter from him as his disciples. It is the case of “if you love me, then I will love you.”
The pure devotee loves us in a much greater proportion than we can love him. We are simply beggars. All he is asking in return for his gift of Krishna consciousness is our sincerity.
March 16, 2016
The Perfect Disciple
Srila Prabhupada told us many things about his relationship with his spiritual master. One time, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura reprimanded him when it appeared that Srila Prabhupada had diverted his attention from his Guru Maharaja’s lecture. When they first met, Srila Prabhupada debated with Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati about India’s independence. Prabhupada told us, “I liked being defeated by my spiritual master.” He dreamt of his spiritual master, too, mostly the same serious dream, in which Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati told Srila Prabhupada to take sannyāsa.
His spiritual master praised him highly on a number of occasions for his attentive hearing, and for his poetry and prose writings. He said, “Whatever he writes, publish it.” When Srila Prabhupada’s godbrothers asked Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati to make Srila Prabhupada the president of the Bombay Temple, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura said, “It is better that he lives outside your company. He will do everything himself. You do not have to recommend him.”
After their first meeting, Srila Prabhupada had to travel away on business, but he often thought fondly of his spiritual master. Of course, they had some personal meetings in which important things were conveyed to our Srila Prabhupada, especially his Guru Maharaja’s order, “If you ever get money, print books.” Then, near the end of his Guru Maharaja’s life, they exchanged letters. Srila Prabhupada asked, “How may I serve you?” And his spiritual master replied, “You can explain in English our thoughts and arguments. This will do much good to yourself as well as to your audience. I have every hope that you can turn yourself into a very good English preacher if you serve the mission.”
Prabhupada was given a lot of freedom by his spiritual master to develop in his own way. But the best example we can take from these anecdotes is that Srila Prabhupada molded his whole life to serve his guru’s mission. Srila Prabhupada gave all he had. In return, he was empowered by his guru’s blessings and the mercy of Lord Caitanya.
Prabhupada was given the shakti to convince the fallen Westerners to become devotees and chanters of the holy name. Although I can take examples from his life with his spiritual master, I can’t, of course, imitate it. The point is, how to give ourselves to his order, just as he gave himself to Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati’s order.
March 17, 2016
Disappointment from India
On February 8, Srila Prabhupada had written to India’s new Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, requesting her to sanction the release of money from India. A reply, dated Feb. 25, New Delhi, came from the Prime Minister’s official secretary, Mr. L. K. Gha:
The Prime Minister has seen your letter of February 8, 1966. She appreciates the spirit which prompted you to carry the spiritual message of Srimad Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam to other countries. Owing to the critical foreign exchange situation which the country is facing, it is greatly regretted that it will not be possible to assist you from here in your plan to set up a Radha-Krishna temple.
But Prabhupada had other hopes. After writing to the Prime Minister, he had written again to Tirtha Maharaja asking him to request Dr. Radha Krishnan to persuade the government to sanction the release of funds. He waited for one month.
Apparently, his godbrothers felt little obligation toward preaching in America; he had written that he needed encouragement from them to continue preaching in America because it was so expensive. He had explained that he was spending the equivalent of Rs.1000 a month. “As such, I am counting every day to receive your favorable replies.”
But there was no reply.
March 18, 2016
Preaching Like a Lion
Back to Godhead magazine. I like to scan the titles of Srila Prabhupada’s Back to Godhead essays written during the War: “Mr. Bernard Shaw’s Wishful Desire” (referring to Shaw’s desire that Gandhi’s 76th birthday could actually be his 35th birthday). Srila Prabhupada wrote, “We heartily join with Mr. Shaw in his attempt to subtract forty-one years from the present age of Mahatma Gandhi. But death does not respect our wishful desire.” He called another essay, “Churchill’s Humane World.” (Churchill wanted to get rid of the “National Frenzy of Hate.” Srila Prabhupada writes, “The frenzy of hatred is another side of the frenzy of love … This position of equilibrium free from love and hatred is attained only when men are sufficiently educated.”
He called other articles, “No Time, a Chronic Disease of the Common Man,” “A Scholar’s Deluded,” and so on. The Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta describes them: “His articles were shorter, this time displaying the flair of a news columnist as with philosophical criticism, verve and a touch of ironic humor. He commented on world leaders and crises.” (Vol. 1, page 116)
Srila Prabhupada seemed so far away right now. I don’t think I can understand who he was when he was still in India during the War. Think of the spiritual master and he will be with you. There is really no “answer” to cure feelings of separation.
March 19, 2016
On Love of Guru and Krishna
I recently had a conversation with a friend who claimed that theoreticians estimate that the average person accomplishes only 10% of his promises, is open to only 10% of his emotions, and his heart is only 10% alive with love. If there is any truth in that, it isfrightening to consider that I will miss out on so much in life. I have the greatest fortune to be linked to the Supreme Lord and to his best devotees, but if I give only 10% of my love, that is the greatest misfortune.
Krishna consciousness is about love. It is the art and science of love, not just ordinary love, but Supreme love – love of God. Krishna loves us and He wants us to serve Him. “Offer me with devotion, a leaf, a flower, a fruit …” But I am not immersed in love. Therefore my relationship with Krishna takes place through my connection with my spiritual master. I need to learn how to love Srila Prabhupada. I still haven’t learned this lesson, but it is meant to help me learn the secrets of loving exchange with Srila Prabhupada and Lord Krishna.
Prabhupada acknowledged self-esteem as an important element of this relationship. We cannot become a surrendered servant by pounding ourselves into the ground like a wooden peg. And neither can another person pound us into loving surrender. I have to meet my needs. I need to serve my spiritual master. And I need to do it with self-knowledge. When I know how to love him, then he will teach me how to love Krishna. I am groping toward this end.
March 20, 2016
Prabhupada is Praiseworthy
The concept of guru-disciple is not foreign anywhere in the world. Credit is given to teachers and spiritual directors, but not with the emphasis found in the Vaisnava sampradāya. People think that too much dependence or praise of the guru is cultish, a kind of deification of an ordinary man. They look for feet of clay in all heroes, and signs of exaggerated and sentimental dependency in the followers. So we strive to exemplify the real relationship. The spiritual master is praiseworthy, and although we may be foolish, he’s still able to lead us out of the material world, to shelter in eternality, bliss and knowledge. If the world leaders are not praising Srila Prabhupada in the authorized parampara, then “stand-ins” such as this writer will have to do it until the world discovers that this is the real responsibility of everyone.
Dear Srila Prahbupada,
You are a reservoir of Krishna consciousness. You pump fresh water into the parched population. You replenish your own resources in the cloudbank of Krishna’s mercy. His blessings flow down to us from the mountains of the previous acaryas. The reign of Krishna’s mercy runs down the mountainsides and deposits the rich loam of the acarya’s realization directly into your own reservoir.
As we drink that water, our lives are sustained by it. Please don’t let us continue taking it for granted. Please let us always remember that we are living only by your kindness. You are providing for us all the nourishment we need to advance in spiritual life. You are giving us the water of immortality. Thank you, Srila Prabhupada.
March 21, 2016
“We Cannot Help You”
He wrote again to Sri Padmapat Singhania, requesting him to send a man from India to supervise work on the temple in New York, as Mr. Singhania had previously suggested.
There is no record of any reply to this request.
Prabhupada wrote again to Sumati Morarji, requesting her to please send him a mrdanga to accompany his chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra. He also requested her that in the future, when he would send many men from India, she oblige by giving them free passage on Scindia Steamship Lines.
As his financial situation became more urgent and his hopes more strained, his support from India withdrew in silence. His unanswered correspondence was itself a kind of message, loud and clear: “We cannot help you.”
March 22, 2016
Singhania Not Interested
Prabhupada’s series of correspondence with Mr. Singhania, which began hopefully, ended negatively. Mr. Singhania did not reply personally to Prabhupada’s last letter. He had his secretary, Mr. Iyer, write to Prabhupada, thoroughly discouraging his last hopes for purchasing a building in New York.
I regret to write that Sir Padampatji is not interested in the scheme of building a Radha-Krishna temple in New York at present. In regard to the inquiry in the last paragraph of your last letter, Sri Padampatji duly received your books of Srimad-Bhagwatam from your Delhi office.
Seeing him from a distance – a tiny figure walking Manhattan streets and avenues among many other tiny figures, a foreigner whose visa had almost run out – we come upon only the external appearance of Srila Prabhupada. These days of struggle were real enough, and very difficult, but his transcendental consciousness was always predominant. He was not living in Manhattan consciousness, but was absorbed in dependence upon Krishna; just as while on the Jaladuta he had suffered his heart attacks, his reading of Caitanya-caritamrta had supplied him “the nectarine of life.”
He had already succeeded. Certainly he wanted to provide Radha and Krishna a temple in New York, but his success was that he was remembering Krishna, even in New York City in the winter of 1965-66. Whether the world recognized him or not, not a day went by when he did not work on Krishna’s book, Srimad-Bhagavatam. And not a day went by when he did not offer food to Krishna and speak on Krishna’s philosophy of Bhagavad-gita.
Lord Krishna says in Bhagavad-gita, “For one who sees Me everywhere and sees everything in Me, I am never lost to him and he is never lost to Me.” And Krishna assures His pure devotee that, “My devotee will never be vanquished.” There was never any doubt about this for Prabhupada. The only question was whether Americans would take notice of the pure devotee in their midst. At this point, it seemed that no one was going to take him seriously.
March 23, 2016
Free to Preach
Room 307 at 72nd Street was never meant for use as a residence or ashram or lecture hall. It was only a small, narrow office without furniture or a telephone. Its door held a large pane of frosted glass, the kind common in all offices; above the door was a glass-paneled transom. Prabhupada placed his blankets on the floor before his metal foot locker, which now became a makeshift desk where he wrote. He slept on the floor. There were no facilities here for cooking, or even for bathing, so daily he had to walk to Dr. Mishra’s apartment.
When he had lived in Room 501 at Dr. Mishra’s yoga ashram, Dr. Mishra had financed his needs. But now Prabhupada was on his own, and whatever he could raise by selling his books, he would have to use for his daily maintenance and for the monthly rent of seventy-two dollars. He noted that for a little powdered chili, the West End Superette charged twenty-five cents, ten times what he would have paid in India. He had no guaranteed income, his expenses had increased and his physical comforts had reduced. But at least he had his own place. Now he was free to preach as he liked.
March 24, 2016
A Source of New Life
Moving out of the yoga studio into the small office downstairs gave Prabhupada what he was looking for – his own place – but not even euphemistically could that place be called a temple. His name was on the door; anyone seeking him there could find him. Who would come there? By its opulence and beauty, a temple was supposed to attract people. But Room 307 was just the opposite: it was bare poverty. Even a person interested in spiritual topics would find it uncomfortable to sit on the rugless floor of the room shaped like a narrow railroad car.
One of Dr. Mishra’s students had donated a reel-to-reel tape recorder and Prabhupada recorded some of his solitary bhajanas, which he sang to his own accompaniment on hand cymbals. He also recorded a long, philosophical essay, Introduction to Gitopanisad. “Even if no one attends,” Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati had told him, “you can go on chanting to the four walls.” But since he was now free to speak his message in the new situation God had provided, he decided to lecture three evenings a week (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) to whoever would come.
His first audiences consisted mainly of people who had heard about him, or met him, at Dr. Mishra’s yoga studio. And despite the poverty of his room, the meetings became a source of new life to him.
March 25, 2016
Letter to Sumati Morarji
Prabhupada expressed his optimism about his situation in a letter to Sumati Morarji:
I was very much encouraged when you wrote to say, “I feel that you should stay there until you fully recover from your illness, and return only after you have completed your mission.” I think these lines dictated to you are the words of Lord Bala Krishna expressed through your goodness.
You will be pleased to know that I have improved my health back to normal, and my missionary work is nicely progressing. I hope my project to start a temple of Sri Sri Radha-Krishna will be realized by the grace of the Lord.
Since I came to New York from Butler, Pennsylvania, I have rented the above room at seventy dollars per month, and I am delivering lectures on the Bhagwat-gitaand Sriman-Bhagwatam, accompanied by sankirtana. And the American ladies and gentlemen come to hear me. You will be surprised to know that they do not understand the language of sankirtana, yet they hear with attention. The movement which I have started here is completely new to them, because Americans are generally acquainted with the Indian yoga gymnastics as performed by some Indian yogis here. They have never heard of the bhakti cult, of the science of Krishna before, and still they are hearing me. This is a great success for me.
March 26, 2016
“Don’t Turn Your Attention, Just Hear”
Outside the closed windows of the Room 307, the late winter night had fallen. Prabhupada’s words are punctuated with the muted sounds of car horns and occasional sirens from the street, and sometimes the startling chords of a lonely fog horn on the Hudson. Although bare, the room is warm. Prabhupada is speaking on the second chapter of Bhagavad-gita.
Now Arjuna is perplexed. He is perplexed about whether to fight or not to fight. After seeing in front of him his relatives, with whom he was to fight, he was perplexed. And there was some argument with Krishna.
Now here is a point: Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead….
Prabhupada’s voice is earnest, persuading. Sometimes his speech becomes high-pitched and breaks with urgency. His cultured British diction bears a heavy, Bengali accent.
Suddenly, he pauses in his lecture and addresses someone in the room.
Prabhupada: What is that?
Prabhupada: What is this book?
Man: Well, this is a translation of the Bhagavad-gita.
Prabhupada is obviously displeased that while he is speaking, someone is looking through a book. This is hardly like the respect offered to learned speakers described in the Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Prabhupada: Well, no, you can hear me.
Man: I am hearing.
Prabhupada: Yes, don’t turn your attention, just hear me.
He is taking the role of a teacher correcting his student. Of course, there is no compelling reason why any of his casual guests should feel obliged to obey him. He simply begs for their attention, and yet he demands it – “just hear me” – as he attempts to convince them of Krishna consciousness.
March 27, 2016
One is Free to Regard His Talks As He Likes
Although his audience may be momentarily enamored by what appears to be a description of Indian social customs, a careful listener can grasp the greater context of Prabhupada’s speech: everyone must accept a spiritual master. It’s a heavy topic for a casual audience. What is the need of taking a spiritual master? Isn’t this just for India? But he says, “Everyone should have a spiritual master.” What is a spiritual master, anyway? Maybe he means that accepting a spiritual master is just another cultural item from Hinduism, like the sacred thread, or the part in a woman’s hair, or the widow’s dress. The audience can easily regard the discussion as a kind of cultural exposition, just as one comfortably watches a film about the living habits of people in a foreign land, although one has no intention of adapting those habits as one’s own. The Swami is wearing one of those threads on his body, but that’s for Hindus, and it doesn’t mean that Americans should wear them. But these Hindu beliefs are interesting.
Actually, Prabhupada has no motive but to present the Absolute Truth as he has heard it in disciplic succession. But if anyone in that railroad car-shaped room were to ask himself, “Should I surrender to a spiritual master?” he would be confronted by the existential presence of a genuine guru. One is free to regard his talk as one likes.
March 28, 2016
“But If the Disciple is In Ignorance …”
Prabhupada is speaking on the qualifications of a spiritual master and a disciple:
Suppose you accept the wrong person as a spiritual master and he guides you wrongly. Then your whole life is spoiled. So one has to accept a spiritual master whose guidance will make one’s life perfect. That is the relationship between spiritual master and disciple. It is not a formality. It is a great responsibility, both for the disciple and the spiritual master. … Yes?
Student: But if the disciple is in ignorance before …
Prabhupada: Yes. (Prabhupada acknowledges a serious question. It is for answering questions like this – from “disciples in ignorance” – that he has left retirement in India and come to America.)
Student: … how does he know which master to choose? – Because he doesn’t have the knowledge to make a wise decision.
Prabhupada: Yes. So, the first thing is that one should be searching after a spiritual master, just as you search after some school, you must at least have some preliminary knowledge of what a school is. You can’t search for a school and go to a cloth shop. If you are so ignorant that you do not know what is a school and what is a cloth shop, then it is very difficult for you. You must know, at least, what a school is. So that knowledge is like this:
tad-vijñānārthaṁ sa gurum evābhigacchet
samit-pāṇiḥ śrotriyaṁ brahma-niṣṭham
According to this verse, the spiritual master is required for a person who is inquisitive about transcendental knowledge. There is another verse in the Srimad-Bhagavatam: “One should search after a spiritual master, and if one is inquisitive about transcendental subject matters.” Unless one is at least conversant with preliminary knowledge of transcendental matters, how can he inquire from the spiritual master?
His questioner seems satisfied. The lecture is not a prepared speech on a specific subject, though grave and thorough in scholarship, it ranges over several philosophical points. Yet he never pauses, groping for words. He knows exactly what he wants to say, and it is only a question of how much his audience can take.
March 29, 2016
Exploring His Western Audience
Sometimes his mood is light, and he commiserates with his fellow New Yorkers, chuckling about the difficulties they share: “Suppose there is a heavy snowfall, the whole New York City is flooded with snow, and you are all put into inconvenience. That is a sort of suffering, but you have no control over it.” Sometimes he praises Dr. Mishra’s students for having learned so nicely from their teacher: “Now, what Dr. Mishra is teaching is very nice. He is teaching that first of all you must know, ‘Who am I?’ That is very good, but that ‘Who am I?’ can be known from Bhagavad-gita also – ‘I am not this body.’” And sometimes a guest suddenly speaks out with an irrelevant question, and the Swami patiently tries to consider it.
Yet behind his tolerance, Prabhupada’s mood is always one of urgency. Sometimes he talks quickly, and one senses his desire to establish Krishna consciousness in the West as soon as possible. He has no followers, only a few books, no temples, and he openly states that he is racing against time: “I am an old man. I could leave at any time.” So, behind the full delivery of Krishna conscious philosophy is an anxiety, an almost desperate desire to convince at least one soul to take up Krishna consciousness immediately.
Now the constrained situations of Butler and the Ananda Ashram and Dr. Mishra are behind him, he is free to speak about the Absolute Truth in full. Throughout his life he has prepared for this, yet he is still discovering the best ways to present Krishna, exploring his Western audience, testing their reactions.
March 30, 2016
No One Has Seen a Picture of Krishna
Prabhupada is speaking: We should always remember that He is God. He is all-powerful. In strength, no one could conquer Him. In beauty – as far as beauty is concerned – when He was on the battlefield … Have any of you seen a picture of Krishna? Have any of you ever seen Krishna? Oh … no?
Prahbupada’s voice fades as he pauses, looking out at his audience. No one has ever seen Krishna. None of them have the slightest previous knowledge of Lord Krishna. In India, hundreds of millions worship Lord Krishna daily as the eternal form of all beauty and truth, and view His graceful form in sculpture, painting and dance. His philosophical teachings in Bhagavad-gita are all famous. And Prabhupada is His intimate emissary. Yet the ladies and gentlemen in Room 307 look back at the Swami blankly.
March 31, 2016
“I Have to Execute My Duty”
Prabhupada is discussing the real meaning of going to a sacred place in India.
One should go to a sacred place in order to find some intelligent scholar in spiritual knowledge living there and make association with him. Just like I … My residence is at Vrindavana. So, at Vrindavana, there are many big scholars and saintly persons living. So one should go to such holy places, not simply to take bath in the water. One must be intelligent enough to find some spiritually advanced man living there and take instruction from him and be benefited by that. If a man has no attraction for hearing from learned people there, he is considered to be an ass. (He laughs.) So, the whole civilization is moving like a civilization of cows and asses. Everyone is identifying with the body … Yes, you want to speak?
Woman: In the places known as secret places –
Prabhupada: Sacred. Yes.
Woman: Is it “sacred” places?
Woman: Isn’t it also a fact that there is more magnetism because of the meeting of saints and more advanced people?
Prabhupada: Oh yes. Certainly. Certainly. Therefore the place itself has got some magnetism.
Woman: Yes, and when –
Prabhupada: Just like at Vrindavana – that is practical. Here I am now sitting in New York, the world’s greatest city, such a magnificent city, but my heart is always hankering after that Vrindavana.
Woman: Yes. (Laughs.)
Prabhupada: Yes, I am not happy here.
Woman: Yes, I know.
Prabhupada: I shall be very happy to return to my Vrindavana, that sacred place, but then, ‘Why are you here?’ Because it is my duty. I have brought some message for you people. Because I have been ordered by my superior, my spiritual master: “Whatever you have learned, you should go to the Western countries and you must distribute this knowledge.” So, in spite of all my difficulties, all my inconveniences, I am here because I am obligated by duty. If I go and sit down in Vrindavana, that would be good for my personal conveniences – I shall be very comfortable there and will have no anxiety, nothing of the sort, but I have taken all this risk in this old age because I am duty-bound. I am duty-bound, so I have to execute my duty despite all my inconveniences.