By Navina Nirada Dasa
So you want to become Prabhupada?” These words of a senior devotee rang in my ears, and I started pondering. He had asked me about the purpose of my stay in Mayapur. I told him that I’m attending the Bhaktivedanta Course. Although appreciating his fervor, I have mixed feelings regarding the connotations of his question, some of which I’ll address in this thesis. Reflecting on his undertone, I conclude the topic must be worthy to explore, if it stirs up such a reaction.
As devotees in ISKCON we often casually use the term “Bhaktivedanta” dozens of times daily. Are we doing this simply mindlessly, or do we fully understand the real meaning and significance of Bhaktivedanta?
This is my thesis for the Bhaktivedanta Course and it focuses on three topics: 1. The meaning of Bhaktivedanta; 2. The person Bhaktivedanta; and 3. A Bhaktivedanta’s mission and contribution.
Arjuna asks Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita (2.54) about the nature of a transcendentalist: “How does he speak, and what is his language? How does he sit, and how does he walk?”
Bhaktivedantas are spiritual conduits. They dedicate their lives to exemplify and mercifully broadcast Krishna’s literary incarnation, the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Embodying bhakti, the conclusion of the Vedas–loving devotional service to Sri Krishna – and faithfully following the methodology of the Bhagavatam, Bhaktivedantas present its timeless wisdom in relevant and appreciable ways to all without prejudice according to time, place, and circumstance.
Did you know that in 1953, for a period of three months, Srila Prabhupada was called A. C. Bhaktisiddhanta dasa Adhikari? Actually, in the League of Devotees’ papers this appears three times in Srila Prabhupada’s own handwriting.
What does Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada have to say on the topic of devotees aquiring the title Bhaktivedanta? “Another examination will be held sometimes in 1971 on the four books, Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Teachings of Lord Caitanya, and Nectar of Devotion. One who will pass this examination will be awarded with the title of Bhaktivedanta. I want that all of my spiritual sons and daughters will inherit this title of Bhaktivedanta, so that the family transcendental diploma will continue through the generations. Those possessing the title of Bhaktivedanta will be allowed to initiate disciples. Maybe by 1975, all of my disciples will be allowed to initiate and increase the numbers of the generations. That is my program. So we should not simply publish these books for reading by outsiders, but our students must be well versed in all of our books so that we can be prepared to defeat all opposing parties in the matter of self-realization.” Letter on 69/01/03
In this essay I have explained the meaning of Bhaktivedanta and the usage of its title, established Srimad-Bhagavatam as the highest pramana, given the historical and current context of Bhaktivedanta by quoting several examples, spoke on the perils of deviation, reflected on the mission and contribution of Bhaktivedantas, contemplated on personal application by highlighting sharing and glorifying the superlative characteristic of Krishna’s mercy, the path of bhakti.
Link to the full thesis: