Appreciating the senior devotees

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By Jatayu dasa (SDG)

Learning to appreciate the devotees is a Vaisnava etiquette that helps us in our quest for purification, especially the appreciation of senior devotees.

I have always been slow to understand this but as time passed I began to develop a certain admiration for those devotees who came before me. This is due largely to the fact that I have become a senior devotee.

I can’t say that I always act like a senior devotee so I guess I am senior by default, simply because of time only. But the arrogance and offensive behavior I showed senior devotees when I was a new devotee frightens me even today causing me to wonder how I ever made it this far in devotional life. As I reflect upon the many years behind me I consider myself very fortunate to have been surrounded by so many senior devotees, most of whom were disciples of Srila Prabhupada.

Though I could not understand it at the time, being around these strong personalities helped to make me strong through all the rough times I would have to face in the future. Still I sadly remember treating these rare souls as though they were my equal. I had no idea who they were and to some degree today, I still remain in ignorance of who they are. And even sadder it is, that I didn’t even know what services they performed or the austerities they endured while serving Srila Prabhupada.

Many did not have a proper place to sleep or proper meals and almost all lacked warm clothing. Some were Srila Prabhupadas personal servant; some were temple presidents while others did book distribution for years. All of these I have not done and truthfully, could never do. Being a devotee for a number of years I feel I have a lot to give but so did these devotees and my foolishness stopped them from giving me what could have made me a better devotee. If only I had the wisdom then to sit before them and just listen with respect I would be much richer in spiritual insight today.

Now many of them are gone, the opportunity is gone and I sit here lamenting over the fact that I was given a great treasure and lost it. Such a valuable asset sat before me within arms reach, day after day, year after year and I squandered it. They would have handed me years of experience and knowledge but because I acted like a silly clown the doors were closed. Had I even a small amount of humility then they would have opened up their hearts to me and my spiritual advancement would have taken giant steps. Had I even tried a little bit to serve them with but a token amount of submission the road to my spiritual journey would have been so much easier to travel.

I actually feel bad when devotees around me mistakenly judge me about the amount of service I rendered in the past. Perhaps the senior devotees I mistakenly judged felt the same way. I can surely say that I cannot match the immense service the devotees rendered to Srila Prabhupada, nor can I say that I suffered so many setbacks as did they. I cannot say that I could even pass the extreme tests that they did when encountering problems in India or preaching amidst deprogrammers.

It was they that struggled so hard so that I would have a temple to go to in India, it was they that sweated day and night so that I had one of Srila Prabhupadas books to read and it was they that I saw on the streets singing Hare Krsna that inspired me towards spiritual life. Had I only a small amount of appreciation for these brave souls for their sacrifices, their stories would have steered me clear of so many personal setbacks of my own.

If for one minute I could have thought that it was possible that they knew more than me and acted accordingly, their loving advice would have saved me many tears. Happily, by Krsnas grace it is not too late to dive into the open hearts of these advanced devotees taking advantage of their deep realizations. Somehow, I have learned, that they do know more than me and they are more advanced than me and it will be by their kindness that I am able to take a few steps closer to Krsna. And what about the steps I have already taken, are they not the mercy of senior devotees?

They have certainly blessed me with their realizations and it is a wonderful feeling. So now I am learning to act so that they will welcome me into their association and accept whatever little service I offer them. My offenses to them caused them to turn away from me and it hurts and thus my realizations are, that the lost of devotee association is the greatest tragedy in this world. There is no greater lost or misfortune than to find oneself in separation of their friendship.

I have also learned to open my heart to them, in turn they have greeted me with love and affection. Looking at my own actions to my junior devotees I think that I have not equaled the kindness afforded me from Srila Prabhupadas disciples. I need these devotees; I need them to advance in Krsna consciousness.

I need them to stay afloat in spiritual life. When I came to ISKCON everything was there, the morning program, the deities, the books and the temples. Had it not been for them I would not even have a place to live. Maybe they will forgive me one day for having neglected them for so many years and not appreciating the sacrifices they made.

So let me now offer my most humble obeisances to all the disciples of Srila Prabhupada, no matter who they are for they are certainly very dear to Krsna having served His pure devotee Srila Prabhupada, when love was the only motive.

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1 Akruranatha

This is a beautiful article full of great truth. Appreciating the devotees (instead of competing with them) is a great asset in our spiritual lives.

Many years ago when I actually lived in temples I would from time to time leave (about three or four times I left and came back). Other times I thought of leaving but managed to hang on in there.

One thing that kept me hanging on some of those times was reading the Vyasa-Puja books. When I marvelled at the realizations one after another of my senior godbrothers, it gave me strength and I thought, “How can I dream of leaving such a wonderful society full of so many wonderful people.”

Srila Radhanatha Swami gave a marvelous class (as he so often does) in San Jose temple several months ago, on the verse “In this endeavor there is no loss or diminution, and even a little advancement on this path can protect one from the most dangerous type of fear.”

It is a long class and although my intention is to at some point transcribe it, in the mean time anyone who wants to hear it can find it on the San Jose temple website: http://virtualtemple.org/ListDownload.html (22 August 2007, entitled “Sense Control”)

In this class Maharaja talks about how even certain devotees who were having difficulty at times in strictly following the rules and regulations were special recipients of Prabhupada’s mercy and should not be underestimated. (He related very feelingly and personally some of his recollections of Hyagriva Prabhu’s relationship with Prabhupada). He also told the story of how Gadadhara Pandit initially underestimated Pundarik and eventually regretted His offense and took initiation from him.

Anyway, it was such an amazing, perfect lecture, I cannot do it justice. There were many excellent points, excellently made. For my own purification I will have to eventually sit and carefully type out the whole thing. I remember, though, that it nicely conveyed this mood of appreciation for the devotees, even the ones who might not seem very fixed up.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on November 27th, 2007
2 pustakrishna

Dear Jatayu das,
Dandavat and Hare Krishna. All Glories to Srila Prabhupad. Please do not lament over the past. It is gone. The moment “now” is at hand. Krishna is in your heart. By His special mercy (tesam evanukampartam…) He will enlighten you from within. We all sometimes wonder what obstacles we have to overcome to become Krishna conscious, but these are likened to the small puddles left behind by a calve’s hoofprint. Krishna is the Summum Bonum. He is Infinite and the Controller of all. Thus, everything depends on our faith and Krishna’s mercy.
Years ago, some fearlessly tried with our hearts to please Srila Prabhupad. Some wonderful souls have persisted in this way into their middle and later years, and others have developed lives that sometimes seem unrelated to Krishna’s devotional service. All, each and everyone of us, was touched profoundly by bhakti. It is mostly the case that some left the central flow of the movement because of the glare of maya, others because of vaishnava aparadha, and others still only to be drawn back into the central flow of Krishna’s Love later in time. Whatever the case, all were imbibed with some faith in Krishna that will carry us along into the future, birth after birth, making sure progress toward the ultimate destination. If affectionate dealings were the rule in dealings between Godbrothers, I know that the numbers of these early western bhaktas who would now be fully engaged in devotional service, would be greater. At least, that ideal is something I dream of. But, we live with the uncertainty of the powerful external energy of Krishna. Still, I have deep and abiding faith in Krishna and Srila Prabhupad.
Srila Prabhupad wanted the simplest of things from us: that we love Krishna. He wanted that we be happy in Krishna consciousness. We are not seeking position in this world of shadows, and such behaviour by some did much harm after Srila Prabhupad’s disappearance. We must seek that which is most beneficial for us, that which the simple hearted and sincere devotees keep their focus upon…clean and honest devotional service brings spiritual happiness and fulfillment. Be open to this, and do not worry about the early disciples of the movement in the west. Krishna will bring to you what you need…and remember, that He dwells within your heart always as your dearmost Friend.
Sincerely, Pusta Krishna das

Comment posted by pustakrishna on June 8th, 2008

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