Living with Srila Prabhupada
“Bless My Son”
Living with Srila Prabhupada.
By Rukmini Devi Dasi.
The ultimate anxiety for every parent is how their child will fair in the world. Srila Prabhupada’s mother wanted him to study in London and become a barrister, akin to the current day I.T. specialist who scores a job in the USA. However, Srila Prabhupada lovingly describes how his father’s ambition differed. Gour Mohan De wanted Abhay (Srila Prabhupada ’s birth name) to be skilled in mridanga and the art of knowing and sharing the sacred scripture, Srimad Bhagavatam. As an honest cloth merchant and fiercely dedicated pujari, his father would invite a steady stream of saintly men to his home. After offering them a meal and a comfortable seat he would appeal, “Please bless my son so that he may become a servant of Srimati Radharani.” As it turned out Srila Prabhupada studied at the prestigious Scottish Church’s College in Kolkata and became a reputed pharmacist. His mother would have been pacified to see him a professional. Imagine the joy, however, of Gour Mohan De? The maha-mantra, accompanied by the beat of the mridanga, now constantly circles the globe. Each morning devotees in major cities across the planet gather to imbibe the sacred Srimad Bhagavatam, now translated in 38 languages; all by the grace of his son. Such a servant of Srimati Radharani did his little Abhay become! Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the original Creator, the cause of all causes, the greatest among the great. Yet there is one thing greater than Krishna. That is bhakti, or actions performed with love, that pleases Him. Srila Prabhupada thus defined bhakti as devotional service. Such acts are not of the material realm and can conquer Krishna Himself. Srimati Radharani has the unique position as the epitome and prime bestower of bhakti. The spiritual realm is described as a forest of divine touchstone and wish-fulfilling trees, and on the dark glistening Yamuna River lies a golden lotus. Upon the inner whorl of this golden lotus, rest the Divine Couple, Sri Sri Radha-Govinda. Upon the lotus petals sit the Gopis of Vrindavana with the principal servitors of Radha and Krishna closest to the inner whorl. Sri Lalita Devi leads the primary gopis in service to Sri Radha. The deluge of divine love emanating from the lotus’ center ricochets to the outer whorls; a love that is pristine, selfless, and non-existent on the material plane. Assisting the principle gopis are a line of manjaris, skilful younger maidens. Sri Lalita Devi is assisted by Rupa Manjari. Thus the Srimad Bhagavatam and related texts describe in detail the devotional intricacies of the spiritual realm. Srila Prabhupada spent hour after hour translating the first canto of the Srimad Bhagavatam in the Radha Damodar Mandhir, the heart of Vrindavana and the spiritual hub of the creation. The entrance to his tiny rectangular room is low, requiring a slight bend of the head. Against the right wall is a wooden desk and a single bed sits on the left. On the right wall is a picture of Srila Prabhupada’s guru, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur. What strikes me most is the simple red brick floor. Something in those bare bricks speak of the hours that Srila Prabhupada spent here as a lone sadhu without financial backing, family, or following. Adorned with many failed attempts to market the spiritual magazine, Back To Godhead, he became divinely inspired to translate the 18000 verses of the Bhagavatam instead. What would have appeared like a highly illogical next step is now evidently a crucial leap of faith! Across the veranda is an even smaller alcove that Srila Prabhupada used as a kitchenette. He would prepare and offer a simple meal there and while honoring the prasada he would look out the window, gazing upon the tomb of Srila Rupa Goswami. The Radha Damodar Mandhir is surrounded by the tombs of more than forty saints and the collective spiritual consciousness in that sacred place is tangible. The tomb of Srila Rupa Goswami is most prominent and there Srila Prabhupada would pray for spiritual empowerment. Friends would find him in middle of the night sweeping the courtyard with tears in his eyes, begging the Goswami for the ability to infuse the message of bhakti within the western world. It was the enormous order of his guru and he felt incapable of doing it, although willing. One night Srila Rupa Goswami appeared to Srila Prabhupada, urging him to proceed to the western lands, assuring him that he did not go alone. Rupa Goswami is none other than Rupa Manjari, servant of Lalita Devi, the principle friend of Srimati Radharani. Thus humbly following in the line of servitude, Srila Prabhupada was a glorious servant of Srimati Radharani. And we, humbly following after him, understand what serving Srimati Radharani truly means; serving Srila Prabhupada. Therefore we approach Vrindavana and the spiritual realm as servitors of Srila Prabhupada. We offer our obeisances to the River Yamuna wherein that golden lotus must sit and the sacred places of Krishna’s pastimes. Yet in doing so we remember that the most potent of holy places for us are Srila Prabhupada‘s samadhi, wherein his body lies entombed, and the those very rooms in Radha Damodar Mandhir. Those rooms are the womb of our good fortune, where Srila Prabhupada meditated on delivering the message of the Srimad Bhagavatam to the world. We can sit on those same red bricks and pray to be empowered, faithful servants of Srila Prabhupada. We embrace the Bhagavatam, understanding it to be the eternal fruit of his ardent endeavour. Therefore living with Srila Prabhupada implies living with the Srimad Bhagavatam.
Hare Krishna News – Published by ISKCON Durban. Used with permission