Through a Servant’s Eyes: Review of A Transcendental Diary, Volume Two
By Patita Pavana das Adhikary
If I was asked my opinion of the “Luckiest Man Alive” , I would cast my ballot in favour of Shriman Hari Sauri das. As Shrila Prabhupada’s personal servant for a number of years, through both encouragement and chastisement, he repeatedly qualified himself as a recipient of the causeless mercy of the Supreme Lord’s pure devotee. Evidentially Hari Sauri Prabhu is well aware of his incredible good fortune, because he has emerged as a leading biographer of the Prabhupada Era, and—in true sharing Vaishnava form—he has invited the entire world along for the ride. Through his encyclopedic 7-volume Transcendental Diary series, all devotees can learn what it was like to be at the beck and call of the shaktyavesh avatara, who step-by-step introduced Krishna consciousness to the Western World for twelve momentous years. From 1966 through 1977 Shrila Prabhupada gradually revealed the torchlight of a true conception of religion in the darknes of Kali Yuga. But imparting that sublime message to us mlecchas—His Divine Grace noted—was like “washing coal.” Through the windowpane of the Transcendental Diary series, we discover in detail how the pure devotee’s words and example cleansed the Earth with the nectar of Hari Nama, the Gita and the Bhagavata and the pure devotee’s pristine example of love of God.
Having just completed volume two of A Transcendental Diary, I feel almost as though I was there tagging along with His Divine Grace during those historical years of global peregrinations. True, by the causeless mercy of Shri Krishna, I did have Shrila Prabhupada’s rare darshan dozens of times at many ISKCON centers all over the world. And though I always longed to personally serve the needs of my spiritual master, I never envied those who did, knowing that it was no simple task. His Divine’s Grace’s stalwart example of pure bhakti-yoga could break anyone whose intelligence was not honed to needle-point precision, and who did not walk the razor’s edge of single-minded devotion. But just by reading A Transcendental Diary, it is as if that old longing has been fulfilled. Indeed, through these endearing and affectionate memories, written as both glorification of the pure devotee and as a historical account of a world acharya, any surrendered devotee may feel the privilege of personally serving the lotus feet of His Divine Grace.
It is said that there is nothing more difficult than offering service. That servant who allows himself a very close proximity to the master is accused of being too forward, while the disciple who remains a little distant is accused of being aloof and inattentive. The spiritual master is compared to a great fire: find yourself too near and you will suffer burns; remain in the background and you will forfeit the benefits offered by Shri Guru. That Hari Sauri successfully passed so many of the spiritual master’s tests in the blazing fire of devotional service is a credit to a disciple’s steadfast devotion. Therefore Hari Sauri’s sharing the warmth and glow of guru-seva through the pages of A Transcendental Diary has afforded the other devotees a chance to advance both in understanding the unfathomable mind of Krishna’s representative, as well as personal service to Guru Maharaja.
The second volume of A Transcendental Diary covers April till June of 1976, during which time Shrila Prabhupada’s travels took him to Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Los Angeles, Detroit and Toronto. As always, we find herein hundreds of events demonstrating Shrila Prabhupada’s unmatched managerial skills, his supernatural ability to quote just the right verse from his spiritual storehouse of thousands of shlokas, and his ability to charm both the learned and unlettered into surrender. One incident that occurred in Melbourne really strikes me.
In April, a youngish government minister in the department of social services, came to talk with Shrila Prabhupada along with his voluptuous secretary. This highly-placed government servant wanted to know whether Krishna consciousness could be incorporated into helping young Australians become free from intoxication. Prabhupada replied to him that pious conduct must originate with purity of the heart. Hari Sauri writes, “ Prabhupada…told him that real education means but three things; teach a young man to see all women as his mother, to see another person’s property as garbage in the street, and to see all living beings as the same level as himself.” Prabhupada summed it up: “Character training is the real basis for becoming a pandita.”
Hari Sauri continues: “Shrila Prabhupada observed that in the United Nations there is only talk, but no unity. He asked why they don’t pass a resolution that all land is the property of God, and all people are sons of God. On that basis everything should be shared.” Shrila Prabhupada commented after he left how he could not possibly improve the characters of others: “He himself has no character. See, here it is an open secret to keep a beautiful secretary…so where is purity?”
Some declare that late the minister’s predilections were somehow made public and he was forced to resign his post. Incidentally, the standard of education that Shrila Prabhupada suggested is from Shri Chanakya Niti Shastra, and we give the verse hereunder.
mätåvat para-däreñupara-dravyeñu loñöravat
ätmavat sarva-bhüteñu yaù paçyati sa paëditaù
“He who looks upon another’s wife as his mother, another’s money as a lump of clay, and sees the spiritual unity of all creatures is a true pandit”.
Chanakya’s advice bears great similarity to these words Krishna shared with Arjuna:
vidya-vinaya sampanne brahmana gavi hastini
shuni chaiva shvapake cha panditah sama darshanah
“That gentle soul who through his learning sees with equal vision a brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater is a true pandit. (BG 5.18)
Noting that even sannyasis and yogis of the day were seen keeping convenient secretaries, Prabhupada labeled the minister’s hollow efforts to reform the characters of others, while ignoring his own, as “a showbottle attempt”. Hari Sauri quotes His Divine Grace, ‘Dog’s tail. Either you become a sannyasi or grihasta or anything, but the tail is this side. You may grease it as much as possible, but the whole tendency is sex. That’s all, in different dresses only. The objective is sex.”
Such instructive episodes as these would have been lost to time if Hari Sauri had not cared to jot them down in his spare moments. Join up with the jagat-guru Shrila Prabhupada and travel the world alongside Hari Sauri and the other disciples through the pages of A Transcendental Diary. For me it offers a journey to distant locations, and to the inner reaches of my own heart.