“ISKCON, with all thy faults, I love thee”
By Srutadeva das
“ISKCON, with all thy faults, I love thee”
In May of 2006, a young man who had been born into a family of devotees, who had gone to and been abused at different ISKCON gurukulas in the 70’s and 80’s, committed suicide. A huge outpouring of emotion surged through the Vaishnava community, especially on the internet. On the Chakra website, in addressing abuse in ISKCON, someone wrote:
“How can somebody take disksha from Prabhupada, chant for many years, study the shastra for many years, and end up abusing their power like this? How can somebody who associated with Prabhupada personally so much, who was personally given sannyas by Prabhupada and who was glorified by Prabhupada, end up abusing his power so much? (I’m referring to ‘Kirtanananda Swami’ in particular.) How can I have faith anymore that Prabhupada was a pure devotee? I don’t want to offend anybody, but this is how I am really thinking and feeling right now. My faith in ISKCON is almost finished, and my faith in Prabhupada and Krishna is slipping.”
In a response, another devotee wrote:
“This is possible because contrary to mass opinion in ISKCON, Srila Prabhupada was not superhuman. Although he was amazingly accurate in assessing people’s character, he was not infallible. He was capable of making an error of judgment, of putting the wrong people in charge of our movement and in charge of our schools. The reason for this is the limitations inherent in the jiva soul – they include him not being omniscient, thus there is the possibility of him making a mistake. That freedom from error is in relation to the philosophy, as the liberated soul never changes it and thus presents it as it is – perfectly- and without error.”
The first devotee brings up some very important questions and honestly reveals having a crisis of faith. How could someone who had such close association with Srila Prabhupada falldown from his spiritual practices? How could someone who is chanting Hare Krishna regularly and following the practices of Krsna consciousness become an abusive person? I am sure we have all pondered these heart-wrenching questions at one time or another. There is an interesting word – iatrogenic. This term is defined as “induced inadvertently by a physician or surgeon or by medical treatment or diagnostic procedures.” It is used especially in relation to a complication of treatment. It is estimated that in the United States alone, 250,000 deaths per year are attributed to iatrogenic causes. That would put doctors and hospitals as the third leading cause of death in the US! So not everyone who goes to a doctor or a hospital walks out a perfectly cured person. Similarly, this Krsna consciousness movement is a hospital for the diseased souls of Kali-yuga. It is a very difficult job to become free from the diseased condition.
Certainly I don’t think anyone involved in ISKCON will disagree that there is much room for improvement. But let us not subsribe to the logic of “give the dog a bad name and hang it.” Because there have been many problems within ISKCON, some of an extremely serious nature, that does not mean that the whole purpose and mission of ISKCON has been a failure. As for Srila Prabhupada, to understand his words, actions and decisions, one must have a fairly deep understanding and appreciation for Vaishnava culture and philosophy and also the time and place in which Srila Prabhupada was preaching.
First of all, what is the purpose of ISKCON? Of course, Srila Prabhupada wrote down his seven purposes of ISKCON. But to summarize, if that is acceptable to our readers, Srila Prabhupada’s sole mission in life was, as was his spiritual master’s and his spiritual master’s before him, the mission of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, to help the fallen conditioned souls who are rotting within this material world by teaching them the process of Krsna consciousness, devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krsna. Not only teaching, but benedicting and practically forcing them in one way or other to get some transcendental benefit. Something to change the terrible downward course of their sinful, Kali-yuga existences.
Krsna Himself states in Bhagavad-gita:
In this endeavor there is no loss or diminution, and a little advancement on this path can protect one from the most dangerous type of fear.
Activity in Krsna consciousness, or acting for the benefit of Krsna without expectation of sense gratification, is the highest transcendental quality of work… One percent done in Krsna consciousness bears permanent results, so that the next beginning is from the point of two percent, whereas in material activity without a hundred percent success there is no profit. Ajamila performed his duty in some percentage of Krsna consciousness, but the result he enjoyed at the end was a hundred percent, by the grace of the Lord. There is a nice verse in this connection in Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.5.17):
“If someone gives up his occupational duties and works in Krsna consciousness and then falls down on account of not completing his work, what loss is there on his part? And what can one gain if one performs his material activities perfectly?”
And in the Sri Caitanya-caritamrta it is said:
“My dear Thakura Haridasa, in this Age of Kali most people are bereft of Vedic culture, and therefore they are called yavanas. They are concerned only with killing cows and brahminical culture. In this way they all engage in sinful acts. How will these yavanas be delivered? To My great unhappiness, I do not see any way.”
Those who are following in the footsteps of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu should take the Lord’s mission most seriously. In this Age of Kali, people are gradually becoming less than animals. Nevertheless, although they are eating the flesh of cows and are envious of brahminical culture, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is considering how to deliver them from this horrible condition of life. Unfortunately, even some so-called Vaishnavas enviously refuse to cooperate with this movement but instead condemn it in so many ways. We are very sorry to say that these people try to find fault with us, being unnecessarily envious of our activities, although we are trying to the best of our ability to introduce the Krsna consciousness movement directly into the countries of the yavanas and mlecchas. Such yavanas and mlecchas are coming to us and becoming purified Vaishnavas who follow in the footsteps of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. One who identifies himself as a follower of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu should feel like Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who said, “How will all these yavanas be delivered?” Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was always anxious to deliver the fallen souls because their fallen condition gave Him great unhappiness. That is the platform on which one can propagate the mission of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Haridasa Thakura replied, “My dear Lord, do not be in anxiety. Do not be unhappy to see the condition of the yavanas in material existence.
These words of Haridasa Thakura are just befitting a devotee who has dedicated his life and soul to the service of the Lord. When the Lord is unhappy because of the condition of the fallen souls, the devotee consoles Him, saying, “My dear Lord, do not be in anxiety.” This is service. Everyone should adopt the cause of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to try to relieve Him from the anxiety He feels. This is actually service to the Lord. One who tries to relieve Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s anxiety for the fallen souls is certainly a most dear and confidential devotee of the Lord. To blaspheme such a devotee who is trying his best to spread the cult of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is the greatest offense. One who does so is simply awaiting punishment for his envy.
“Because the yavanas are accustomed to saying ‘ha rama, ha rama’ [‘O Lord Ramacandra’], they will very easily be delivered by this namabhasa. A devotee in advanced ecstatic love exclaims, ‘O my Lord Ramacandra! O my Lord Ramacandra!’ But the yavanas also chant, ‘ha rama, ha rama!’ Just see their good fortune! Namacarya Haridasa Thakura, the authority on the chanting of the holy name, said, “The chanting of the Lord’s holy name to indicate something other than the Lord is an instance of namabhasa. Even when the holy name is chanted in this way, its transcendental power is not destroyed. Even a mleccha who is being killed by the tusk of a boar and who cries in distress again and again, “ha rama, ha rama” attains liberation. What then to speak of those who chant the holy name with veneration and faith?’ Ajamila was a great sinner during his life, but at the time of death he accidentally called for his youngest son, whose name was Narayana, and the attendants of Lord Visnu came to relieve him from the bonds of Yamaraja, the superintendent of death.
(Sri Caitanya-caritamrta – Antya 3.51-57)
The mahatmas are always ready to render such service to the Lord with great determination. In this regard His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura once made this comment in a lecture:
“The neophyte Vaishnava devotees’ ringing the bell even once during worship of the Deity of the Supreme Lord is a million times more valuable, spiritually and otherwise, than the charitable fruitive workers building many hospitals, feeding thousands of the poor, or building homes, or even the empirical philosophers’ Vedic studies, meditation, austerities, and penances.”
(Renunciation Through Wisdom)
These are the Bhagavata. There is no comparison. There is no literature throughout the universe like Srimad-Bhagavatam. There is no comparison. There is no competition. Every word is for the good of the human society. Every word, each and every word. Therefore we stress so much in the book distribution. Somehow or other, if the book goes in one hand, he will be benefited. At least he will see, “Oh, they have taken so much price. Let me see what is there.” If he reads one sloka, his life will be successful. If one sloka, one word. This is such nice things.
(Lecture – Los Angeles, January 1974)
So to truly appreciate Srila Prabhupada, one has to understand how there is such benefit for the fallen souls even in the slightest advancement in Krsna consciousness. Remember, never before had any Vaishnava tried to bring Krsna bhakti to so many mlecchas and yavanas. Certainly Srila Prabhupada knew that ISKCON had many faults when he was present and would have many faults in the future. But as Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur said:
“Very soon the unparalleled path of hari-nama-sankirtana will be propagated all over the world. Already we are seeing the symptoms. Already many Christians have tasted the nectar of divine love of the holy name and are dancing with karatalas [hand cymbals] and mrdungas [drums]. By the super-excellence of Lord Krsna’s holy name and the grace of pure devotees, our consciousness gets purified. When I see these signs, my hopes of seeing Lord Caitanya’s aforesaid prophecy being fulfilled are quickened, and that time has arrived. Although there is still no pure society of Vaishnavas to be had, yet Lord Caitanya’s prophetic words will in a few days come true, I am sure. Why not? Nothing is absolutely pure in the beginning. From imperfection, purity will come about.”
Was Srila Prabhupada Superhuman?
So if we accept that Lord Caitanya’s sankirtana movement is the prime benediction for humanity at large and that Srila Prabhupada was totally dedicated to spreading Krsna consciousness for the benefit of the fallen conditioned souls that still doesn’t mean that he was infallible or superhuman. Couldn’t he still make a mistake or an error of judgement? First I looked in the dictionary:
“superhuman: 1. having a nature above that of man; divine 2. greater than that of a normal human being”
Then I looked up “superhuman” on the Bhaktivedanta Vedabase. The majority of uses of the word referred to Krsna and His divine activities as superhuman. There were also quite a few uses referring to the Vedas as superhuman because of their coming from Krsna, not from any mundance source. The demigods were also referred to as superhuman quite a few times.
The omnipotent Yamaraja is as good as Lord Brahma, for while situated in his own abode or in everyone’s heart like the Paramatma, he mentally observes the past activities of a living entity and thus understands how the living entity will act in future lives.
One should not consider Yamaraja an ordinary living being. He is as good as Lord Brahma. He has the complete cooperation of the Supreme Lord, who is situated in everyone’s heart, and therefore, by the grace of the Supersoul, he can see the past, present and future of a living being from within. The word anumimamsate means that he can decide in consultation with the Supersoul. Anu means “following.” The actual decisions concerning the next lives of the living entities are made by the Supersoul, and they are carried out by Yamaraja.
The fortunate demigods said: O great one, just see this darkness, which you know very well and which is causing us anxieties. Because the influence of time cannot touch you, there is nothing unmanifest before you.
Brahma is addressed herein as Vibhu and as the Personality of Godhead. He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead’s incarnation of the mode of passion in the material world. He is nondifferent, in the representative sense, from the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and therefore the influence of time cannot affect him. The influence of time, which manifests as past, present and future, cannot touch higher personalities like Brahma and other demigods. Sometimes demigods and great sages who have attained such perfection are called tri-kala jna.
So the demigods are jiva souls. They are not the omniscient, infallible Supreme Personality of Godhead, but just see how powerful they are by the grace of Krsna. We cannot even imagine how their potency is working. Would we say that Yamaraja has made an error in judgement? (That would be frightening if he mistakenly sent someone to hell.) Or that Lord Brahma made a mistake? (What if the planetary systems stopped working correctly?) So similarly, by the grace of Krsna, the spiritual master can also be so powerful. So to say that Srila Prabhupada is not the omniscient Supreme Personality of Godhead but to say that he did not make any mistakes or errors in his particular sphere of activities is not necessarily mutually exclusive. When I was in Vrindavan in 1972, I remember very clearly Srila Prabhupada saying during a lecture “just now I forget.” He was referring to a particular verse he couldn’t remember at that time. I looked on the Vedabase and Srila Prabhupada had said that five times during different lectures over the years. So does Prabhupada’s forgeting a verse automatically mean that he was imperfect and prone to make errors of judgement just like an ordinary conditioned soul? It means he is not the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That’s all. And if Srila Prabhupada’s perfection is limited only to his presenting the philosophy (“That freedom from error is in relation to the philosophy, as the liberated soul never changes it and thus presents it as it is – perfectly- and without error.”) then how are we to understand these philosophical statements?
In the Srimad Bhagavatam [SB 11.17.27] it is said:
“One should understand the spiritual master to be as good as I am,” said the Blessed Lord. “Nobody should be jealous of the spiritual master or think of him as an ordinary man, because the spiritual master is the sum total of all the demigods.”
“It is the injunction of the Vedas that the Spiritual Master should not be treated as ordinary man even if sometimes the Spiritual Master behaves like ordinary man. It is the duty of the disciple to accept Him as Superhuman Man. In the beginning of your letter your comparison of the soldier and commander is very appropriate. We are on the battlefield of Kuruksetra—one side Maya, the other side Krsna. So the regulative principles of a battlefield, namely to abide by the order of the commander, must be followed. Otherwise it is impossible to direct the fighting capacity of the soldiers and thus defeat the opposing elements. Kindly therefore take courage. You are capable in so many ways. Let things be rightly done so that our mission may be correctly pushed forward to come out victorious.”
(letter to Brahmananda – July 1970)
When I first joined the movement in November of 1970 I had only been there a week or two when we received a letter from Srila Prabhupada. I didn’t know much about the philosophy at that time but something he said has always stuck in my mind:
“I am very much happy that you have added worship of Srimati Tulasi devi to your Temple activities. That is most auspicious. However, you should not try to speculate on the “level of consciousness” of the pure devotee of the Lord. In the material condition of life the consciousness of the living entity is covered over in varying degrees by the material energy in the form of sensuous body and subtle mind. But the consciousness of the pure devotee is not limited by the influence of maya and so it is never to be speculated in that way.”
So it would seem from the above quotes that to call Srila Prabhupada superhuman would not only be appropriate but that it is our duty. The following excerpts from three different conversations confirm this point:
Bharadvaja: I understand, Srila Prabhupada, that the pure devotee can be as pervasive as Supersoul?
Bharadvaja: By the mercy of Supersoul, he can be present in many places at once?
Prabhupada: Yes. By the grace of Krsna, a devotee can become anything.
Duryodhana-guru: So in other words that means the pure devotees can be omniscient?
Prabhupada: Everything. God is omniscient, so a pure devotee can become omniscient by the grace of God.
(Morning walk – Los Angeles, June 1976)
Prabhupada: God talks with whom? That is said. Tesam satata-yuktanam bhajatam priti-purvakam [Bg. 10.10]. Those who have already become devotee of God and engaged in His service, He talks with him. Not he’s a third-class fool. He doesn’t talk with him. It is clearly stated, tesam satata-yuktanam [Bg. 10.10], one who is twenty-four-hours engaged in the service of the Lord, with love and faith, God talks with him. That is clearly stated. How do you understand that God is talking with him? A rascal fool, who has no business with God? God talks with devotee, very sincere devotee who is already engaged in God’s service. He talks with him.
Pusta Krsna: But then he might say “But I love God.”
Prabhupada: He might say, that is another thing. The standard is this. He may say-he’s a rascal, he can say so many nonsense. That is not the standard. He says that “God is talking with me.” So I have to see whether he’s a candidate with whom God can talk. The formula is tesam satata-yuktanam. “One who is twenty-four-hours engaged in My service with love and faith, God talks with him.” So first of all see whether he’s twenty-four-hours engaged in God’s service with love and faith. Then you can understand, “Yes, God is talking with him.” You must know with whom God talks. But you also do not know with whom God talks. Clearly stated. Tesam satata yuktanam. Tesam evanukampartham [Bg. 10.11]. Why don’t you read all these proposals? With whom God talks? Hmm? Why did you not? Why did you not say “God talks with such and such person, but you are not such and such. Why you are talking nonsense? That means you are cheating. But you cannot cheat me. I know.” So you must know. You must know with whom God talks.
(Conversation – New Vrndavan, June 1976)
Interviewer: Are you the one who chooses who runs each center, who is responsible in each temple.
Prabhupada: Yes. Our program is to open centers in every village, every town, to propagate Krsna consciousness.
Interviewer: And you choose the leaders, or Krsna does and tells you? How does that work in terms of specific, say, choosing, specific things, specific details? You chose, for example, these fellows here to run the publishing house and be responsible for the east coast.
Prabhupada: Yes, like that. He’s in charge of publication, he’s in charge something else, he’s charge, like that.
Interviewer: On what basis, though, can you tell me some of the things that…
Prabhupada: Basis, just to see whether he’s qualified, that’s all. Just like ordinarily one manager is appointed by the superior authority on the merit, on his qualification. That’s all.
Interviewer: Okay, is it a mediated choice or is it a direct communication from Krsna? That’s my question.
Ramesvara: He’s asking whether we claim that God speaks to us directly.
Prabhupada: Yes, God speaks to you when you are qualified. You cannot expect God as order supplier. When he sees that you are qualified, he will speak to you.
Ramesvara: It’s difficult for people to understand that God can speak to a man. They question, “How can God speak to some man?”
Prabhupada: God is situated in everyone’s heart. As soon as He sees that “Here is a qualified person,” then He gives him instruction.
Interviewer: But in the same way that Krsna says He’ll provide for your needs you still must work to achieve whatever Krsna is giving you.
Prabhupada: Yes. You work for Krsna. You have to work to get your necessities.
Interviewer: In the same way I’m curious with respect to the way Krsna communicates with you, whether it’s in a similar kind of way that He gives you your necessities.
Bali-mardana: In other words, when you decide that someone is to be in charge of a particular temple does Krsna tell you that this person should be in charge.
Interviewer: Or do you by judging him say this person is qualified.
Prabhupada: Yes, because a devotee always consults Krsna and He gives order.
Interviewer: It’s a more direct communication.
Prabhupada: Yes. And He gives order.
Ramesvara: Because intelligence, our philosophy is that intelligence comes from Krsna. So if I have some…
Interviewer: And your philosophy is that your daily necessities come from Krsna as well.
Ramesvara: Yes, try to understand. Suppose my intelligence sees that this person is qualified, that means Krsna has told me.
Prabhupada: No, not necessarily, Krsna will tell directly. A devotee always consults Krsna and Krsna tells him, “Do like this.” Not figuratively.
Interviewer: Does that apply then to other kinds of decisions and other kinds of activities as well?
Prabhupada: Everything. Because a devotee does not do anything without consulting Krsna.
Bali-mardana: But that applies to a very greatly elevated soul, that is not an ordinary person.
Prabhupada: That is, therefore the minor devotees, they consult the spiritual master. That is our process. Yasya prasadad bhagavat-prasadah.
Ramesvara: I see, I was trying to explain the minor devotees.
Interviewer: No, I was talking about…
Ramesvara: You’re talking about the topmost level.
Bali-mardana: He’s getting right to the source.(laughter) Right to the top.
Interviewer: That will do it for me, I thank you, kindly.
Prabhupada: Give him prasadam. Thank you for your coming. Take this flower.
(Interview – New York, July 1976)
That is the glory of Srila Prabhupada – Not his mistake
So if we accept the above conclusion, that Srila Prabhupada, as the topmost, pure devotee of the Lord, is not an ordinary man, but yes, superhuman, and that he was being directly empowered and guided by the Supreme Personality of Godhead in all his words and actions therefore being above making mistakes,* then why were persons who would later falldown and become abusive appointed to leadership positions in ISKCON? Was this actually Krsna’s desire? You could also ask why does Krsna allow Kali-yuga at all? Which goes back to the age old question, why does God “allow” evil? Of course, Bhagavad-gita explains this very nicely.
*(if you still would like further elaboration on Srila Prabhupada’s transcendentally glorious position we suggest you take the time to read the complete Srila Prabhupada Lilamrta, Hari Sauri’s Transcendental Diaries, What is the Difficulty?, The Great Transcendental Adventure, The Hare Krishna Explosion, and many other books on Srila Prabhupada’s life. That should be sufficient to convince any unbiased reader that Srila Prabhupada was directly empowered by the Supreme Personality of Godhead in all his thoughts, words and deeds; and was indeed greater than a normal human being, divine, superhuman.)
It should be pointed out that the devotees that Srila Prabhupada appointed to different positions within ISKCON during his physical presence on this planet were by in large sincere souls who performed enormous amounts of service under Prabhupada’s guidance and encouragement. Even though the vast majority of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples have fallen far short of their vows and duties as disciples, it would be unfair to say that the vast majority were abusive. Although the abuses and falldowns of many disciples certainly put a blemish on the movement and are greatly disturbing to Srila Prabhupada they do not constitute a total failure of ISKCON or even a majority of the present ISKCON. Even in regard to our gurukulas, there are many previous students who feel they received great benefit and mercy being able to attend a gurukula and not a karmi school during their formative years.
The mission of Lord Caitanya is to give mercy to the most fallen souls in the most fallen age:
In distributing love of Godhead, Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His associates did not consider who was a fit candidate and who was not, nor where such distribution should or should not take place. They made no conditions. Wherever they got the opportunity, the members of the Panca-tattva distributed love of Godhead.
(CC – Adi 7.23)
Srila Prabhupada saw everyone who came to him as being sent by Krsna and his Guru Maharaja to help him in his service. He simply saw himself as a humble servant of his Guru Maharaja and Lord Caitanya to help the fallen souls of this age. He felt that if someone performed even a little devotional service they could be saved from a hellish condition at least in the next life. So he did everything he could to engage the fallen souls in devotional service to the Lord.
So when I was seventy years old I decided, “Now I must go and execute the order of my Guru Maharaja. And thus this movement was started in 1965 from New York. And I was not very much hopeful because it is very difficult task, just opposite the European and Western culture. I came… When I first came, I had no money. So I got a free passage through some Indian steam navigation company. So I came by ship. So when I was on the ship at Boston port, Commonwealth port, I was thinking that “I have come here. I do not know what is the purpose because how the people will accept this movement? They are differently educated, and as soon as I will say, ‘So, my dear sir, you have to give up meat-eating and illicit sex and no intoxication and gambling,’ they will say, ‘Please go home.’ ” (laughter) Because that was the experience of one of my Godbrothers. He went to London, and he had the opportunity to talk with one big man, Marquis of Zetland. Marquis of Zetland was formerly governor of Bengal. At that time I was student. He was Scotsman, and I was student of the Scottish Churches’ College. So he came to see our college, and he was standing in front of me in the second-year class. So he was very nice, good gentleman. So he proposed to my Godbrother, “Whether you can make me a brahmana?” So my Godbrother proposed, “Yes, we can make anyone brahmana provided you follow this principle: no illicit sex, no intoxication, no meat-eating, no gambling.” So that Lord Zetland immediately replied, “Impossible.” (laughter) So I was thinking that “I will propose something which is impossible. Anyway, let me try.”
Devotees: Jaya! Haribol!
(lecture – Atlanta, March 1975)
As for your nice sentiments about our first meeting on Houston Street, it was all arranged by Krishna. That was practically a favor shown to me by Krishna because I came in your country by superior order. I had been feeling lonely although I had the mission of starting this Krishna Consciousness movement. So Krishna sent you to me, and therefore our meeting was also the desire of Krishna. Therefore, both of us, or for that matter, all of the boys and girls who are working with me, have met by the desire of Krishna. As such, everyone should always feel the responsibility that Krishna wants us to do something for Him, and we must invest all of our energies to fulfill this mission of Krishna Consciousness.
(letter to Hayagriva – January 1969)
You are doing so much for fulfilling the desire of my Spiritual Master so you are indirectly the representative of my Guru Maharaja. He has been helping me in this matter by sending so many young boys and girls, otherwise who would help me in this mission while I came here empty handed and without any friend. I can only pray to Krsna to take care of you, otherwise I cannot repay your sincere service in my mission.
(letter to Bali Mardan – Feb. 1970)
Prajapati: In the early days of this movement, Srila Prabhupada, in New York, devotees said they did not know how to treat Your Divine Grace. They did not know your exalted position. I think we are still very much offensive.
Prabhupada: No, I am servant. I have no exalted position. Servant. Caitanya Mahaprabhu sat down in a place where people were washing their feet. Yes. [break] …a representative of Krsna. I came to preach Krsna consciousness, and Krsna has sent so many representatives to help me. I consider like that. Without your help I could not do. So I wanted Krsna’s help, so Krsna has sent you. Therefore you are representative of Krsna. That is my conception. Hare Krsna.
(Morning Walk – Los Angeles, December 1973)
So Srila Prabhupada did not reject anyone. He accepted anyone who came forward as being sent by Krsna and his Guru Maharaja and engaged them in devotional service for their eternal benefit. That was his mercy. He did not look at their material disqualifications. If he had done that he wouldn’t have even come to the West in the first place. He accepted everyone as being sent by Krsna. I remember back in the seventies, if someone would complain about a temple president, we would think that if Krsna wanted he could send the Six Goswamis to be the temple presidents and GBC but he must have some other plan. Kali-yuga is part of Krsna’s plan and preaching in Kali-Yuga is especially difficult. That is the glory of Srila Prabhupada. Not his mistake.
You are carrying my order so faithfully in a far distant place. So you always have my blessings and Lord Caitanya’s blessings. Do not think otherwise. Even if you think you have committed offenses, it is like kicking of the small child, which is taken pleasingly by the parents. So don’t worry about it. Krishna will give you all protection. I’m so pleased upon you that on my order you have gone to distant places and faithfully served the cause. I thank you for this attempt.
(letter to Upendra – 2/16/71)
“So this life is for tapasya,” Prabhupada said. “But we cannot execute severe penances in this age. So our penance is to try to reform poor crazy persons. One should take voluntary pains for Krsna. Krsna comes to save the fallen souls, so if you help a little, He will be pleased. Krsna comes Himself and He sends His devotee and He leaves books, and still we are mad for sense enjoyment. Our penance, therefore, is to try to reform the fallen souls.”
(Srila Prabhupada Lilamrta, Volume 5)
So we have to educate these classes of men, sva-vid-varaha-hostra-khara, these class of men: dogs, hogs, camels, and the asses. The world is full of these classes of men, and you have to educate them. Your responsibility is very great. You have to make an ass a devotee, a camel a devotee, a dog a devotee, a hog a devotee. This is your mission.
(lecture – Los Angeles, June 1972)
Prabhupada regretted that sometimes his own men, though knowing the proper standards, don’t always live up to them. In that connection, Hridayananda also had news of Paramahamsa Swami, Prabhupada’s former secretary, who hasn’t been heard of for several months. He has left ISKCON and is now a gas station attendant in Oregon.
Apparently he and another sannyasi spent a month in Bangkok where they broke all the regulative principles. Paramahamsa returned to the USA, and the other sannyasi came to South India where he spent a few days with Srila Prabhupada before going back to Bangkok. This devotee is also reported to have been going to see movies in Japan.
On hearing this Prabhupada simply commented, “Yes, I could understand it from seeing his face.”
Prabhupada also mentioned another wayward disciple named Audalomi who had been told by doctors that he would die within a few months. He asked to be given babaji initiation. Prabhupada had reluctantly agreed and thus Audalomi Maharaja came to spend his last days in Mayapur chanting Hare Krsna. But when another doctor informed him he would not die so soon, he returned to his wife in the U.S.A., gave up devotional service, and became like a karmi again. He was last seen surfing on the West Coast.
Added to this, another disturbing report was related about one of our sannyasis who is currently preaching here in India.
Prabhupada shook his head regretfully. He said that he is doing his best to push forward this movement with whatever men Krsna sends him, although he is aware that some of his men are deviating from the principles he has laid down. Despite this, as long as a person is willing to keep trying, he is willing to engage them in Krsna’s service, with the hope that they will eventually become purified and attain success on the spiritual path. In the meantime, they can do something useful for pushing on the movement.
(Transcendental Diary, Volume 1)
Glorious Guru / Rascal Disciples
Another point is that there are many instances in the sastra of a bona fide guru having a rascal disciple.
As recorded in Caitanya Caritamrta, Isvara Puri, the spiritual master of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, performed service to Madhavendra Puri in the last, difficult days of his spiritual master’s life on earth. Isvara Puri intimately cared for the body of his spiritual master and was always chanting the holy name and pastimes of Lord Krsna for Madhavendra Puri to hear. In this way, he helped Madhavendra Puri remember the holy name and pastimes of Lord Krsna at the time of death. Madhavendra Puri was very pleased and gave Isvara Puri the benediction that he would become a great devotee and lover of Krsna. Krsnadasa Kaviraja remarks that for this reason Isvara Puri became an ocean of ecstatic love of Krsna, whereas Ramacandra Puri – who offended his spiritual master – became a dry speculator and critic of everyone else. “These two persons, Isvara Puri and Ramacandra Puri,” writes Krsnadasa Kaviraja, “are examples of the object of a great personality’s benediction and punishment. Madhavendra Puri instructed the entire world by presenting these two examples”
(Cc. Antya 8.34).
Know it that I am eternally your guide, but if you don’t accept me as your guide what can I do? Unfortunately, if my disciples do not take my guidance, what can I do? By bad association it so happens, so I remain silent. I see the pricks of maya. You mentioned that your pathway has become filled with stumbling blocks, but there are no stumbling blocks, I can kick out all those stumbling blocks immediately, provided you accept my guidance. With one stroke of my kick I can kick out all stumbling blocks.
(letter to Krishna das – September 9, 1972)
Since the guru is even more concerned for his disciple than the wayward disciple for himself, the guru continues to instruct him, in hopes that he will rectify and take up his constitutional service before it’s too late. When a wife came and forcibly dragged away one of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati’s sannyasi disciples, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati cried, “I could not save the soul.” So Srila Prabhupada did everything he could to instruct and guide his disciples. But free will is still there. Therefore Prabhupada repeatedly said, “What can I do?” Even someone directly associating with Lord Caitanya Himself can have a falldown:
“Now that I have brought him here, I am asking him to leave. Now he can go wherever he likes, for I am no longer responsible for him.”
Kala Krsnadasa was influenced and allured by nomads or gypsies, who enticed him with women. Maya is so strong that Kala Krsnadasa left Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s company to join gypsy women. Even though a person may associate with Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, he can be allured by mayä and leave the Lord’s company due to his slight independence. Only one who is overwhelmed by mayä can be so unfortunate as to leave Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s company, yet unless one is very conscientious, the influence of maya can drag one away, even though he be the personal assistant of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. And what to speak of others? The Bhattatharis used to increase their numbers by using women to allure outsiders. This is factual evidence showing that it is possible at any time to fall down from the Lord’s association. One need only misuse his little independence. Once fallen and separated from the Supreme Personality of Godhead’s association, one becomes a candidate for suffering in the material world. Although rejected by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Kala Krsnadasa was given another chance, as the following verses relate.
(CC Madhya 10.64)
So sattva-guna and rajas-tamah. This material world, there is three qualities, so there is always struggle. If you want to remain in the sattva-guna, then the rajas-tamo guna, they will give you trouble. Rajas-tamo-bhavah. Tato rajas-tamo-bhavah kama-lobhadayas ca ye [SB 1.2.19]. So we are trying to introduce this sattva-guna, and above sattva-guna, suddha-sattva. This sattva-guna… Just like sometimes we experience that one person is elevated to the brahminical principle, sannyasi principle, but all of a sudden he falls down, he becomes a demon. We have got experience. He becomes demon. Very high… So this material world is so contaminated that even you are on the sattva-guna, there is chance of being contaminated by the rajas-tamo guna. The struggle is there. Therefore we have to become very, very careful.
(Lecture – Mayapura, March 1976)
Gurukula – Prabhupada’s desire for ISKCON’s Children
It would be helpful at this point to see some of Srila Prabhupada’s thoughts on gurukula and children.
Prabhupada’s concern for the future development of his gurukula system is growing as correspondence comes in from the West. The latest arrived from Jayatirtha, explaining the difficulties they are facing in complying with government regulations in Dallas. Several proposals for the relocation of the school have been touted, but no definite decision has been made.
Srila Prabhupada wrote him a long letter thoroughly outlining his desires for educating the Society’s children. He condemned modern educational systems, saying they meted the greatest violence upon the young by training them as sense gratifiers. He said that the karmi system was producing “cats and dog who feel quite at home in a society of sense gratification.” Therefore they could not appreciate the gurukula system based on vairagya vidya, knowledge based on renunciation.
He told him, “They will never accept that one must undergo austerities to break the influence of the modes of material nature upon the living entity in order that he may experience the transcendental bliss on the platform of pure goodness. Therefore they see our school as a threat and a cruel punishment to the children. Complying with the authorities’ requests would mean a gradual watering down of our standards,” he said, “until it becomes unrecognizable and useless.”
His solution was to send the young boys to the newly developing Vrndavana gurukula. “To live in Vrindavana and to grow up there is the greatest fortune. To spend even one fortnight in Mathura-mandala guarantees liberation.” He described Krishna-Balaram Mandir as “the finest in the world.” He said that by living there the boys will be able to follow all the practices of brahmacari life and become very blissful. There are many other advantages also. That fact that living in India is much cheaper would ease the burden on the parents. “Therefore in all ways it is obvious that the best place to have this gurukula is in Vrindavana. This should be done before the US Government starts to cause a disturbance which will harm us, and before we have to waste large sums of money on a risky endeavor, which may turn out to be a complete failure.”
Prabhupada told him that important temple personnel can be maintained by the temple. He also suggested that by farming and selling the produce, grhasthas can make a living. “I can give good suggestions,” he said, “but it is up to the GBC to practically execute them.”
(Transcendental Diary – Volume One)
My Dear Bhanutanya dasi,
Please accept my blessings. I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter undated, and I have noted the contents with great concern. One thing is, I am very much sad to learn that you have left the company of the devotees over this incident at Gurukula school. Now you are living by yourself because you have been hurt by seeing that the children are sometimes mistreated, and because no one has taken your good advice in this connection. But you may be assured that I am always anxious about the welfare of my disciples, so that I am taking steps to rectify this unfortunate situation. Now my advice to you is to give up these feelings and return to your life of Krishna Consciousness devotional service, and if you go back to Dallas school and demonstrate to the other teachers there just the proper way to instruct and discipline the students nicely, that will be a great service. I am forwarding the copy of this letter, with your letter, to Satsvarupa for his immediately attention.
Now the thing is, children should not be beaten at all, that I have told. They should simply be shown the stick strongly. So if one cannot manage in that way then he is not fit as teacher. If a child is trained properly in Krishna Consciousness, he will never go away. That means he must have two things, love and education. So if there is beating of child, that will be difficult for him to accept in loving spirit, and when he is old enough he may want to go away—that is the danger. So why these things are going on _ marching and chanting japa, insufficient milk, too strict enforcement of time schedules, hitting the small children? Why these things are being imposed? Why they are inventing these such new things like marching and japa like military? What can I do from such a distant place? They should run and play when they are small children, not forced to chant japa, that is not the way. So I have given you the guiding principles, it is not that I must be consulted with every small detail, that is the business of the in-charge, but if no one is there who can manage in the right way, what can I do? Now if you have got the right idea how to do it, you may go there again and take some responsible post for correcting the situation, that will be your real duty, not that there is some disagreement and I go away disgusted, no. That is not Vaisnava standard. Standard should be that, never mind there is some difficulty, my spiritual master has ordered me to do like this, now let me do it, that’s all.
Hoping this will meet you in good health.
Your ever well-wisher,
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
(letter – 18 November, 1972)
This letter is particularly revealing and at the same time very sad. Here Srila Prabhupada is directly dealing with the problem of mistreatment of children. Srila Prabhupada was giving such very clear instructions but still the disciples were unable to follow properly and continued mistreating and abusing children. I myself am more guilty of this than anyone else. I could never follow strictly and ended up being very abusive. Please forgive me Srila Prabhupada.
I guess one could speculate as to why Srila Prabhupada didn’t stop everything else and just live in Dallas and oversee the school there. I suppose that would have solved the problem. At least temporarily. But Srila Prabhupada’s mission was to spread Lord Caitanya’s mercy to every town and village. He could not stay in one place forever. It was and still is the duty of his disciples and followers to serve his instructions properly. Srila Prabhupada had a dual purpose in pushing his disciples to preach and serve within ISKCON. One was for the immediate benefit of all involved. And secondly, it was to establish a strong ISKCON for the future. After all, failure is the pillar of success. If Prabhupada had not pushed us to open temples and farms and schools would we still be striving to establish and continue with Srila Prabhupada’s strong desires? And even counting the failures, wasn’t there still so much benefit? Or are we going to discount all of the transcendental benefit hundreds of thousands of conditioned souls received when Srila Prabhupada was on the planet and are still receiving to this day?
Srila Prabhupada gave continuous instructions about the standards he wanted from his students who were entrusted by him to run the gurukulas and made it very clear he didn’t want any corporal punishment and that the children were to be dealt with in a very loving fashion. He said it again and again that children could be threatened to be hit for misbehaviour but they must never actually be hit. Srila Prabhupada saw the gurukulas as one of, if not the most important projects in ISKCON. He gave clear guidelines which he expected would be followed but he was also fully aware that he could not personally be present to oversee everything. A failure on his disciples part does not constitute a failure on his part.
What can I do?
When Srila Prabhupada was extremely ill in Vrindavana in the summer of 1974:
Prabhupada explained that his illness was due to the sins of the ISKCON leaders, eighty percent of whom were not strictly following the rules and regulations, he said. Even in Vrndavana some of the devotees weren’t regularly rising at four A.M. Since Prabhupada was speaking little, he had only briefly mentioned this cause of his illness. But brief as it was, it crushed his disciples. As for who was guilty, each disciple would have to say for himself. (Srila Prabhupada Lilamrta, Volume 5))
In earlier years, Prabhupada had cried when a dear disciple had left him. In those days, the fall of a disciple had been rare, almost unheard of. But over the years Prabhupäda had seen more casualties, even among his G.B.C. leaders and sannyasis. In 1967, when one of his first disciples, Krsna-devi dasi, had left her husband, Subala, and gone off with a boyfriend, Prabhupada had consoled Subala by reminding him how rare it was that one could become a devotee of Krsna. “The wonderful thing is not that Krsna dasi has left,” Srila Prabhupada had said, “but that we can stay in Krsna consciousness.”
(Srila Prabhupada Lilamrta, Volume 6)
So I would have collected millions of dollars if I would have cheated like that. But I do not want that. I want one student who follows my instruction. I don’t want millions. Ekas candras tamo hanti na ca tara-sahasrasah. If there is one moon in the sky, that is sufficient for illumination. There is no need of millions of stars. So my position is that I want to see that at least one disciple has become pure devotee. Of course, I have got many sincere and pure devotees. That is my good luck. But I would have been satisfied if I could find out one only. There is no need of so-called millions of stars. If we can, I mean to say, raise one person to Krsna consciousness, that means we have successfully preached our mission. One moon is better than millions of stars. Hare Krsna.
(lecture – San Francisco, July 1975)
So Srila Prabhupada was never unaware of the difficulties and faults of his disciples. Srila Prabhupada preached Krsna consciousness and engaged everyone in devotional service for their eternal benefit. If someone was put in a leadership position and that increased their devotional service, at least for the time being Prabhupada would encourage them. And if there were mistakes and mistreatment on their part it was everyone’s responsibility to try to rectify the situation. Afterall, Srila Prabhupada knew he would not always be with us and he was training us for that inevitable future. We had to take responsibility for pushing on Lord Caitanya’s movement. Ultimately, how everyone used their free will was and is up to the individual. As he said so many times: “What can I do?” To me that means, “I want you to become pure. I want you to become advanced in Krsna consciousness and follow my instructions without deviation. But if you do not, that is not under my control, that is not in my hands. What can I do?”
You have committed a very grave error. I am depending on you leaders for the future of our Society, yet there is all this interest in illicit sex life. this is causing me heartache worrying how things will go on. What can I do? I have given you all instructions, why you cannot follow them? Now you are supposed to be a responsible devotee, and this situation must be rectified, it is bad example for others. You have begged for my blessings and I give them to you because you are my spiritual son and I have taken responsibility for engaging you in the service of Krsna. But I think you can from now on follow the regulated restrictions strictly and refrain from any sex life at all, that can be your austerity.
Your proposal to go to Chicago Temple under the supervision of Satsvarupa Maharaja and Kirtanananda Maharaja is very good. They are your well-wishers. Now you may take up your activities with determination and seriousness.
I hope this meets you in good health.
Your ever well-wisher,
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
(Letter for Kaliya Krsna – March, 1973)
Please accept my blessings. I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated November 30th, 1972, wherein I am so shocked to hear from you that you have left your good wife for some time to have sex-life with another girl, who is also a devotee, and that she is now pregnant with your child. That is most disturbing to me. But I know that all big leaders are falling victim to sex-life. So let her live in New York and you live in Paris with your wife, what can be done? But you should not ever see or correspond in any way with her again. That will be the worst example. If you are leader, how you can do these things? If someone will have her, she may get herself married and be happy in Krsna consciousness—I do not want that she shall go away from shame. But you must have nothing more to do with her. Just like [another devotee] has done. He was like the sifter, full of holes, and he was finding fault only in others: Oh, just see that needle, he has got a hole. Now he has made one girl pregnant and they were found out, so he has left me as my personal servant. That is the common practice: full of holes, yet they are accusing others, “Oh! He has got one hole!
Our business is to raise ourselves to the highest status of life as preachers of Krsna’s message, and one should behave himself rigidly, then he should instruct others. Two things: Be himself exemplary, then teach others to be exemplary. If one has not come to that high standard, he cannot judge or criticize others. There is one saying from Bible: ‘Judge not, lest ye be judged.’ So how we can preach unless we are able to make judgements? That will not be possible. Only those who are above suspicion can judge others. One must himself act in such a way that he is always above suspicion. Then he can judge, then he can preach. But now you have no power to instruct. One who is not following himself, how he can instruct others?
If you are repentant, that’s all right. You have got your wife, so if you are sexually inclined therefore you should always be with your wife. You are repenting, so Krsna will excuse you. But never do this again. Rather you should stop sex-life altogether, make this your austerity. Do not eat nicely, chant always sixteen rounds, and pray to Krsna to excuse you for your great offense. You are one of the senior devotees, therefore if you behave like that then the whole Society will be at risk.
(Letter to devotee – December, 1972)
So it is not that Srila Prabhupada tolerated all kinds of nonsense just to spread Krsna consciousness. As we can see from these letters, he especially expected his older and leading disciples to be very strict. But as Srila Prabhupada said, ISKCON is a voluntary movement, if a disciple was bent on falling down then what could he do?
Child Abuse – Karma and Free Will?
It is said that whenever there is peace in the world, it must be known that it is due to the good will of the Lord, and whenever there is upheaval in the world, it is also due to the supreme will of the Lord. Not a blade of grass moves without the will of the Lord. We cannot move freely without the sanction of the supreme authority. It is generally said that not a blade of grass moves without God’s sanction. Similarly, we cannot do anything without the supervision of a superior authority.
So if this is true, that would mean that whatever decisions Srila Prabhupada made were sanctioned by Krsna. Depending on your point of view and whether you accept the above analysis or not you may say directly or indirectly but still ultimately it is Krsna’s arrangement. That is if you believe in God and that Krishna is God. So the real question is not did Srila Prabhupada make a mistake of judgement. The real question is did Krsna make a mistake in judgement? Why did Krsna allow these people to have positions of leadership and then eventually become abusive? Why did Krsna allow the children of ISKCON to be abused?
I was talking to a friend the other day about this issue and he made the comment that it seems that some devotees think the law of karma applies to everyone else but themselves. So if terrible things happen to others it is their karma. But if terrible things happen to devotees they blame the GBC, the temple president, and even Srila Prabhupada and Krsna, but they don’t take the blame themselves. We have to remember that we are in the material world because of our sinful desires. So someone in prison should not complain about the terrible conditions there. He only has himself to blame. When I got out of jail for my sinful activities, I was attending a treatment program with many other sick people. Sometimes someone would complain that their parole officer did this or that to them. The therapist always had the same response. If you hadn’t committed a crime you wouldn’t be having this problem. So stop complaining. It’s your own fault.
Actually, the pure devotee never thinks that he is fit for liberation. Considering his past life and his mischievous activities, he thinks that he is fit to be sent to the lowest region of hell. If in this life I am trying to become a devotee, this does not mean that in my many past lives I was one-hundred-percent pious. That is not possible. A devotee, therefore, is always conscious of his real position. Only by his full surrender to the Lord, by the Lord’s grace, are his sufferings made shorter. As stated in Bhagavad-gita, “Surrender unto Me, and I will give you protection from all kinds of sinful reaction.” That is His mercy. But this does not mean that one who has surrendered to the lotus feet of the Lord has committed no misdeeds in his past life.
Actually, in the higher status of life, a devotee does not think anyone as enemy. Samah sarvesu bhutesu mad-bhaktim labhate param. Samah. He knows that “Nobody can become my enemy unless Krsna desires. So why shall I think of him as my enemy? Krsna has desired him to act as my enemy just to correct me, just to make me more advanced in spiritual life. So why shall I take any action upon him as enemy?” Of course, this stage is meant for very highly elevated devotee. That is not meant for ordinary devotee. But the fact is this: “How one can become my enemy? If I am Krsna’s servant, how one can become my enemy? If one is acting as my enemy, it is Krsna’s desire. I have got some defect, and he is correcting me.” Therefore it is called samah sarvesu bhutesu mad-bhaktim labhate param. That is the topmost devotee’s conception.
(Srila Prabhupada – Bg. lecture – Hawaii 2/8/75)
Look what happened in India in 1370 AD. It is hard to imagine. Twelve hundreds devotees slaughtered by the Muslims at the temple of Ranganatha! (I’m sure it was very difficult for the devotees to understand this at the time.)
When Sudarsanacarya was an old man, the Muslims attacked the temple of Ranganatha and killed about twelve hundred Sri Vaisnavas. At that time the Deity of Ranganatha was transferred to the temple of Tirupati, in the kingdom of Vijaya-nagara. The governor of Gingee, Goppanarya, brought Sri Ranganatha from the temple of Tirupati to a place known as Simha-brahma, where the Lord was situated for three years.
(CC, Madhya 9.79)
O King, no one can know the plan of the Lord [Sri Krsna]. Even though great philosophers inquire exhaustively, they are bewildered.
The bewilderment of Maharaja Yudhisthira over his past sinful acts and the resultant sufferings, etc., is completely negated by the great authority Bhisma (one of the twelve authorized persons). Bhisma wanted to impress upon Maharaja Yudhisthira that since time immemorial no one, including such demigods as Siva and Brahma, could ascertain the real plan of the Lord. So what can we understand about it? It is useless also to inquire about it. Even the exhaustive philosophical inquiries of sages cannot ascertain the plan of the Lord. The best policy is simply to abide by the orders of the Lord without argument. The sufferings of the Pandavas were never due to their past deeds. The Lord had to execute the plan of establishing the kingdom of virtue, and therefore His own devotees suffered temporarily in order to establish the conquest of virtue. Bhismadeva was certainly satisfied by seeing the triumph of virtue, and he was glad to see King Yudhisthira on the throne, although he himself fought against him. Even a great fighter like Bhisma could not win the Battle of Kuruksetra because the Lord wanted to show that vice cannot conquer virtue, regardless of who tries to execute it. Bhismadeva was a great devotee of the Lord, but he chose to fight against the Pandavas by the will of the Lord because the Lord wanted to show that a fighter like Bhisma cannot win on the wrong side.
In the Mahabharata, Draupadi says, “My dear Govinda, Your promise is that Your devotee can never be vanquished. I believe in that statement, and therefore in all kinds of tribulations I simply remember Your promise, and thus I live.” The purport is that Draupadi and her five husbands, the Pandavas, were put into severe tribulations by their cousin-brother Duryodhana, as well as by others. The tribulations were so severe that even Bhismadeva, who was both a lifelong brahmacari and a great warrior, would sometimes shed tears thinking of them. He was always surprised that although the Pandavas were so righteous and Draupadi was practically the goddess of fortune, and although Krsna was their friend, still they had to undergo such severe tribulations. Though their tribulations were not ordinary, Draupadi was not discouraged. She knew that because Krsna was their friend, ultimately they would be saved.
(Nectar of Devotion)
Suffering is Purification
“A devotee always accepts punishment from anyone as the mercy of the Lord. If one lives in this conception of life, he sees whatever reverses occur to be due to his past misdeeds, and therefore he never accuses anyone. On the contrary, he becomes increasingly attached to the Supreme Personality of Godhead because of his being purified by his suffering. Suffering, therefore, is also a process of purification.”
So for one who is a little advanced, all these painful experiences can be seen as the mercy of the Lord. That maybe very difficult, but still it is a fact.
When Kamalakanta Visvasa heard about this punishment by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, he was very unhappy, but when Advaita Prabhu heard about it, He was greatly pleased.
In Bhagavad-gita the Lord says, samo ’ham sarva-bhutesu na me dvisyo ’sti na priyah: “I envy no one, nor am I partial to anyone. I am equal to all.” (Bg. 9.29) The Supreme Personality of Godhead being equal to everyone, no one can be His enemy, nor can anyone be His friend. Since everyone is a part or son of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Lord cannot partially regard someone as a friend and someone as an enemy. Thus when Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu punished Kamalakanta Visvasa by no longer allowing him to come in His presence, although the punishment was actually very hard on him, Sri Advaita Prabhu, understanding the inner meaning of such punishment, was happy because He appreciated that the Lord had actually favored Kamalakanta Visvasa. Therefore He was not at all unhappy. Devotees should always be happy with all the dealings of their master, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. A devotee may be put into difficulty or opulence, but he should accept both as gifts of the Supreme personality of Godhead and jubilantly engage in the service of the Lord in all circumstances.
Seeing Kamalakanta Visvasa unhappy, Advaita Acarya Prabhu told him, “You are greatly fortunate to have been punished by the Supreme Lord, the Personality of Godhead, Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
This is an authoritative judgment by Sri Advaita Prabhu. He clearly advises that one should not be unhappy when reverses come upon him by the order of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. A devotee should always be happy to receive the fortune awarded him by the Supreme Lord, which seems pleasant or unpleasant according to one’s judgment. (Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi 12)
So as difficult as it may be, we have to try to see things philosophically. Kali-yuga is so contaminated that envious so-called brahmanas and Vaishnavas even tried to murder Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvatai! And look what happened at the Gaudiya Matha:
Shortly after Srila Bhaktisiddhanta’s passing away, litigation had begun. Ananta Vasudeva, supported by a majority of the members of the Gaudiya Math, had claimed that he, as the next acarya, was the owner and director of the properties. But although Kunjavihari had only a few supporters, he defied the majority by pressing his claim through lawyers in court. Kunjavihari and his men had possession of the Caitanya Math and the temples in Mayapur. Vasudeva’s party captured other buildings. Quarreling and fistfights broke out.
(Srila Prabhupada Lilamrta)
Just see. Fistfights amongst devotee. So, as Srila Prabhupada would say, “these things are going on.” We have to learn from past mistakes and push on. We have to take personal responsibility both for our own suffering and to try to rectify whatever wrongs we see. Not just to criticize but to get personally involved in improving.
The Severe Test – Don’t be a better paramahamsa than your Guru Maharaja
The reason why leaders of ISKCON had problems is not because Srila Prabhupada erred in giving them the chance to render big service but because having gotten that chance they neglected Srila Prabhupada’s instructions and again indulged in nonsense. They couldn’t’ pass the severe test. That possibility is always there. No matter how advanced a person may be, no matter how trusted they may be, no matter how good their association is, they can still choose to misuse their independence and contradict the principles of devotional life.
Bali Maharaja passed the severe test put before him by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This is further proof of the Lord’s mercy toward His devotee. The Supreme Personality of Godhead sometimes puts a devotee to severe tests that are almost unbearable. One could hardly even live under the conditions forced upon Bali Maharaja. That Bali Maharaja endured all these severe tests and austerities is the mercy of the Supreme Lord. The Lord certainly appreciates the devotee’s forbearance, and it is recorded for the future glorification of the devotee. This was not an ordinary test. As described in this verse, hardly anyone could survive such a test, but for the future glorification of Bali Maharaja, one of the mahäjanas, the Supreme Personality of Godhead not only tested him but also gave him the strength to tolerate such adversity. The Lord is so kind to His devotee that when severely testing him the Lord gives him the necessary strength to be tolerant and continue to remain a glorious devotee.
Prabhupada: …I.A.S. civil service examination before one man is posted in some responsible office. Similarly, to be recognized by Krsna, as He says na ca tasman manusyesu [Bg. 18.69], one has to pass examination, severe test of examination. All the big, big devotees we see. Narada Muni, before becoming Narada Muni, he had to pass through severe examination, test. That chance is there in the human form of life, to pass the examination, test. But they are passing this human life with ordinary animal propensities. They are not trained up to pass the examination and be recognized by God. That civilization is lost, Vedic civilization, to prepare the human beings for passing the test, examination for being recognized by God.
Atreya Rsi: Is it true, Srila Prabhupada, that Krsna is testing us every day? We’re having tests, opportunities…
Prabhupada: No, just like if you want responsible post, then there is question of test. If you want to become a vagabond, remain vagabond. Where is question of test?
Atreya Rsi: No, for devotees.
Prabhupada: Ah, for devotees, there is test. For devotees there is test. We see from the devotee’s life, Prahlada Maharaja, how much severe test he had to pass through. Bali Maharaja, Narada Muni.
Atreya Rsi: And the most advanced the devotee is, the more severe the test is, the more chance.
Prabhupada: No, after you pass the examination, there is no more test. But before coming to the post of recognized devotee, Krsna tests very severely. That one has to pass.
Hari-sauri: I read once in the Bhagavatam in one of your purports, you said that maya is there to test the sincerity of the candidate.
Prabhupada: Yes, we see from the life of Bali Maharaja, how he was put into difficulty. Even his spiritual master cursed him. [break] …put into test and still he remains in his determination, then he’s passed. That is very natural. And there is a word, “acid test”?
Prabhupada: For ascertaining real gold, the acid test one has to pass to become real gold.
Nava-yauvana: [break] …this test depends on one’s faith in Krsna?
Prabhupada: Faith in Krsna? What do you mean by faith?
Hari-sauri: If you want to pass the test, he says, does that depend on one’s faith?
Prabhupada: What does that faith mean?
Atreya Rsi: Conviction.
Prabhupada: What is that conviction? Describe it.
Atreya Rsi: That Krsna is the controller.
Prabhupada: Krsna is controller. You may have faith or no faith, that doesn’t matter.
Hari-sauri: If one is convinced that Krsna will always protect him.
Nava-yauvana: When he’s convinced to abide by the instructions of…
Prabhupada: Faith means that you are meant for giving some service to Krsna. You should stick to that service, that path, in spite of all impediments. That is the passing of test. Generally, just like we are meant for preaching Krsna consciousness. So there may be severe test, but still we shall remain determined. That is wanted. There may be so many impediments, punishment, still you should do that. That is wanted. That is test. Not that as soon as there is some difficulty I give it up. There may be severe test, but still we shall not give it up. We must go on. That is determination.
Nava-yauvana: Passing the test means executing the order of the spiritual master.
Prabhupada: Yes, that is spiritual life. One has to take order from the spiritual master and execute it, despite all impediments. That is determination.
(Conversation – Tehran, 1976)
The influence of Kali is very strong and its a miracle that any of us are even making the attempt to become devotees. That miracle is simply due to the tremendous effort of Srila Prabhupada in trying to pull us out of
the mire of ignorance into which we were so deeply sunk. It is a testimony to his spiritual power that he could roll back the blanket of maya and expose us to the sun of Krsna. If we have blinked a few times, that does not
mean we should condemn the attempt to bring us into the light.
Upon your recommendation I am initiating the following disciples. You must see that they strictly follow the regulative principles, the four prohibitions as well as the devotional practices of arising early, taking morning bath, putting on tilaka, attending mangal arati, chanting japa 16 rounds, and attending Srimmad Bhagavatam class. This is the duty of all my initiated disciples, whether they are big or they are small. Actually in our movement there is no such thing as big or small. Everyone is a devotee. So everyone is expected to follow the devotional practices. Here in Vrindaban I am enjoying my disciples how they are speaking. So two times daily everyone must attend the classes. During the morning and evening times there should be no business, simply kirtana, chant, dance, and be purified. Do not be paramahamsa that now I haven’t got to hear Srimad-Bhagavatam and Bhagavad-gita. Don’t be a better paramahamsa than your Guru Maharaja. I go and sit and I enjoy the lectures and how they are performing kirtana. So as I am doing, you must also do.
I hope this meets you in good health.
Your ever well wisher,
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
(letter to Gopijanavallabha – September, 1974)
Except in a time of emergency, lower persons should not accept the occupational duties of those who are higher. When there is such an emergency, of course, everyone but the ksatriya may accept the means of livelihood of others.
The occupational duty of a brahmana should not be accepted by persons in lower social orders, especially vaisyas and sudras. For example, an occupational duty of the brahmana is to teach Vedic knowledge, but unless there is an emergency, this professional duty should not be accepted by the ksatriyas, vaisyas or sudras. Even a ksatriya cannot accept the duties of a brahmana unless there is an emergency, and then even if he does so he should not accept charity from anyone else. Sometimes brahmanas protest against our Krsna consciousness movement for creating brahmanas from Europeans, or, in other words, from mlecchas and yavanas. This movement, however, is here supported in Srimad-Bhagavatam. At the present moment, society is in a chaotic condition, and everyone has given up the cultivation of spiritual life, which is especially meant for the brahmanas. Because spiritual culture has been stopped all over the world, there is now an emergency, and therefore it is now time to train those who are considered lower and condemned, so that they may become brahmanas and take up the work of spiritual progress. The spiritual progress of human society has been stopped, and this should be considered an emergency. Here is solid support from Narada Muni of the movement known as Krsna consciousness.
Conclusion – The dogs may bark, but the caravan will pass
Guest: How many other people are there on this planet who have made as much spiritual progress as you have?
Prabhupada: There are no statistics in my possession. The formula is that what is the use of taking statistics how many there are? Why don’t you become one of them? (laughter) Why you are wasting time in that way? These are not very intellectual questions. You just try to become enlightened. What is use of who is enlightened or not. You try to be enlightened. That’s all. You are going somewhere, purchasing the plane ticket. Do you ask, “How many tickets you have sold?” Huh? What is the use of? You just purchase your ticket and get on the airplane and go. (laughter) Don’t waste your valuable time in that way. If you are serious, just purchase ticket and get on the airplane and pass on. That’s all. Therefore God comes personally to teach you. Why don’t you take the teaching? Why don’t you take the teaching? Sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam sarana [Bg. 18.66], why don’t you become fully surrendered to Krsna?
(lecture – Los Angeles, December 1968)
Mr. Triveri told him about a recent negative incident he had experienced with one swami. The swami had publicly condemned ISKCON and Srila Prabhupada’s preaching activities. The swami had read aloud to the public on Janmastami day an adverse newspaper article concerning the devotees in Japan. He declared that ISKCON was not a bona-fide sampradaya and should be avoided.
Srila Prabhupada strongly defended his ISKCON’s world-wide efforts to spread Krsna consciousness. He advised Mr. Triveri how to deal with such criticism, “Dosam icchanti pamarah. Maksika bhramara icchanti…Maksika, these ordinary flies, they find out where is sore, and the bhramara [bee], he finds out where is honey. Similarly, dosam icchanti pamarah. And the Bhaktivedanta Swami is doing preaching all over the world. That has not come to his eyes. He has come to the Japanese incident.”
Mr. Triveri said that he had told the man that in a big organization there might be some such incidents.
But Prabhupada said, “No. Why did you not say, ‘You are such a pamara [low minded or sinful] that this thing has come to your notice and not other thing’?…Just try to understand what is the mentality of these rascals that ‘The good things do not come to your notice.’ If something is bad, ‘Oh, here is…’ You see. Pamarah dosam icchanti gunam icchanti pamarah. Saj-jana gunam icchanti dosam icchanti pamarah. That means they are not even a Vaisnava. You see? Vaisnava means paramo nirmatsaranam. Even one has got some fault; a Vaisnava does not see that. He takes the good qualities. But they are not even Vaisnava. The mission of Caitanya Mahaprabhu is being preached all over the world—that does not come to their attention. Some Japanese newspaper has written something—it has come immediately. He’s a lowest of the mankind. You can say that ‘Why this thing has come prominent to your eyes and not the other thing?'”
Mr. Triveri said, “No, I did say in my own way, though I did not quote this, that ‘You are a pamara.'”
And Prabhupada confidently said, “Yes, you can say now that, ‘That day I forgot to say that you are a pamara. So I have come to say that you are a pamara. I forgot it. Excuse me, I forgot it. So you are pamara.'”
Mr. Triveri agreed. “As a matter of fact, it is so.” And then he added, speaking as the swami in question might respond, “And for that, the apology is, ‘No, no, I do realize that lot of work is being done about that…'”
Prabhupada completed the apology: “‘But because I am pamara, I am finding out this fault.'”
“This Maharaja showing that article on Krsna-jayanti day,” Mr. Triveri continued, “reading out to the entire audience. That was a rubbish.”
“So what is the wrong there?” Prabhupada asked. “What was the wrong?”
“He said that, ‘This movement has got these black sheep and they have been banned in Japan. Everywhere they will be banned.'”
“But there is something in Japan which is banned,” Prabhupada explained. “But what you have got in Japan?”
Yasodanandana added, “First of all, we are not even banned in Japan. The center is still there.”
Prabhupada said, “No, no, that’s all right. Banned means we had something. But what proof you have got that you have done something in Japan? So it is better. Just like one man said that ‘I have lost fifty thousand this year.’ His friend said, ‘You are still fortunate because you had fifty thousand. But I have no fifty paisa even!'”
Mr. Triveri was encouraged. “So there is something. Here nothing.”
“Prabhupada,” Bhavabhuti said, “they said that if Caitanya Mahaprabhu wanted Krsna consciousness in the Western countries, why didn’t He go there Himself? That’s what they told us.”
Prabhupada answered, “So he left the credit for me!”
The devotees all cheered. “Jaya! Haribol!”
“He loves His devotee more than Himself,” Srila Prabhupada said.
Then Harikesa asked, “Why didn’t Krsna kill everybody at the Battle of Kuruksetra?”
“Yes!” Prabhupada enthusiastically replied, “Krsna, by His simple desire He could kill. He said therefore, bhavisyatvan. Prthivite ache yata nagaradi grama sarvatra pracara hoibe. He [Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu] is leaving the task for somebody else.”
(A Transcendental Diary – Volume One, January 4, 1976)
So don’t be pamara. Be a honey bee … ISKCON, with all they faults, I love thee.
It is recommended that one honor the spiritual master as being on an equal status with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Saksad dharitvena samasta-sastrair. This is enjoined in every scripture. Acaryah mam vijaniyat [SB 11.17.27]. One should consider the acarya to be as good as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In spite of all these instructions, if one considers the spiritual master an ordinary human being, one is doomed.
The pure devotee is always within the core of My heart, and I am always in the heart of the pure devotee. My devotees do not know anything else but Me, and I do not know anyone else but them.
Since Durvsa Muni wanted to chastise Maharaja Ambarisa, it is to be understood that he wanted to give pain to the heart of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, for the Lord says, sadhavo hrdayam mahyam: “The pure devotee is always within the core of My heart.” The Lord’s feelings are like those of a father, who feels pain when his child is in pain. Therefore, offenses at the lotus feet of a devotee are serious. Caitanya Mahaprabhu has very strongly recommended that one not commit any offense at the lotus feet of a devotee. Such offenses are compared to a mad elephant because when a mad elephant enters a garden it causes devastation. Therefore one should be extremely careful not to commit offenses at the lotus feet of a pure devotee. Actually Maharaja Ambarisa was not at all at fault; Durvasa Muni unnecessarily wanted to chastise him on flimsy grounds. Maharaja Ambarida wanted to complete the Ekadasi-parana as part of devotional service to please the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and therefore he drank a little water. But although Durvasa Muni was a great mystic brahmana, he did not know what is what. That is the difference between a pure devotee and a so-called learned scholar of Vedic knowledge. The devotees, being always situated in the core of the Lord’s heart, surely get all instructions directly from the Lord, as confirmed by the Lord Himself in Bhagavad-gita (10.11):
“Out of compassion for them, I, dwelling in their hearts, destroy with the shining lamp of knowledge the darkness born of ignorance.” The devotee does not do anything not sanctioned by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As it is said, vaisnavera kriya mudra vijneha na bujhaya [Cc. Madhya 23.39]. Even the most learned or experienced person cannot understand the movements of a Vaisnava, a pure devotee. No one, therefore, should criticize a pure Vaisnava. A Vaisnava knows his own business; whatever he does is precisely right because he is always guided by the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
For one who explains this supreme secret to the devotees, pure devotional service is guaranteed, and at the end he will come back to Me. There is no servant in this world more dear to Me than he, nor will there ever be one more dear.
THERE IS NO SERVANT IN THIS WORLD MORE TO ME THAN HE, NOR WILL THERE EVER BE ONE MORE DEAR.
SRILA PRABHUPADA KI JAYA! SRILA PRABHUPADA KI JAYA! SRILA PRABHUPADA KI JAYA!