Around the turn of the century, the great spiritual master Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura made this prediction: "Soon there will appear a personality who will preach the holy name of Hari [Lord Krsna] all over the world. "As we have witnessed for the past twelve years, that personality was His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Throughout his life, Srila Prabhupada prepared himself for his great mission, and from his arrival in America on September 18, 1965, to his passing on November 14, 1977—through some seventy books and thousands of letters, interviews, and lectures-he gave the world the holy names of Krsna and the Vedic science of self-realization. Bhaktivinoda Thakura also wrote a short stanza about the influence that a Vaisnava (a pure devotee of the Lord) carries in this world even after his passing:
He reasons ill who tells that Vaisnavas die When thou art living still in sound! The Vaisnavas die to live, and living try To spread the holy name around!
So, while it is natural for us to be sorrowful that Srila Prabhupada has passed away, we can know for sure that he will never pass away, for he is "living still in sound." As he himself said, "I will never die. I will live forever in my books." In the days and years to come, may everyone come to remember Srila Prabhupada in the same way that he remembered his spiritual master: "He lives forever by his divine instructions, and the follower lives with him."
An address given at the University of Stockholm in September of 1973 by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
In order to enter into spiritual life, two things are required. As enunciated by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, one needs the mercy of the Supreme Lord and the mercy of the spiritual master:
brahmanda bhramite kona bhagyavan jiva
The living entities are wandering throughout the universe changing bodies, transmigrating from one body to another, from one place to another, and from one planet to another. Brahmanda bhramite: they are rotating within this material universe. This science is unknown to the modern educators-how the spirit soul is transmigrating from one body to another, and how he is being transferred from one planet to another. But we have explained this in our book Easy Journey to Other Planets.
In fact, the guru can help you transmigrate from this planet directly to the spiritual sky, Vaikunthaloka, where there are innumerable spiritual planets. The topmost planet in the spiritual sky is Krsna's planet, called Goloka Vrndavana. The Krsna consciousness movement is trying to give information of how one can be transferred directly to the Goloka Vrndavana planet, Krsnaloka. That is our mission.
What is the difference between this material world and the spiritual world? The difference is that in the material world you have to change your body, although you are eternal. ajo nityah sasvato 'yam purano na hanyate hanyamane sarire
You are not destroyed after the annihilation of your material body, but you transmigrate to another body, which may be one of 8,400,000 forms. Jalaja nava-laksani. There are 900,000 forms in the water, 2,000,000 forms of trees and plants, 1,100,000 forms of insects, 1,000,000 forms of birds, and 3,000,000 forms of beasts. Then you come to this human form of life. Now it is your choice whether to be transferred again, by the cycle of transmigration, from one body to another in the lower species of life, or whether to be transferred to the spiritual sky—to the highest spiritual planet, known as Goloka Vrndavana. That is your choice. You have been given the chance of this human form of body to make your choice. In the lower species you are completely under the control of material nature, but when the material nature gives you a chance to get the human form of body, you can choose whatever you like.
That is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gita (9.25):
yanti deva-vrata devan
Those who are trying to be elevated to the higher planets—deva-loka, or the planets of the demigods, where the standard of living and the life span are very great—may worship the demigods. Or you want you may be transferred to the Pitrloka, to the planets of the ghosts, to the planet where Krsna lives (yanti mad-yajino 'pi mam). This all depends on your activities. But samsara—rotating, wandering within this material world from one body to another or from one planet to another—is not advised. Material existence is called samsara. Bhutva bhutva praliyate: you take your birth in some form of body, you live for some time, then you have to give up this body. Then you have to accept another body, again live for some time, then go up that body, and then again accept another body. This is called samsara.
The material world is compared davanala, a forest fire. As we have experienced, no one goes to the forest set a fire, but still it takes place. Similarly, no one within this material world wants to be unhappy. Everyone is trying to be very happy, but one is forced to accept unhappiness. In this material world, from time immemorial to the present moment, there have been occasional wars, world wars, even though people have devised various means to stop wars. When I was a young man there was the League of Nations. In 1920, after the First World War different nations formed the League Nations, just to arrange for peaceful living among themselves. No one wanted war, but again there was a forest fire the Second World War. Now they have devised the United Nations, but war still going on—the Vietnam war, the Pakistan war, and many others. So you may try your best to live very peacefull but nature will not allow you. There must be war. And this warlike feeling always going on, not only between nation and nation, but also between man and man, neighbor and neighbor—even between husband and wife and father and son. This warlike feeling is going on. This is called davanala, a forest fire. No one goes to the forest to set fire, but automatically, by the friction of dried bamboo, sparks arise, and the forest catches fire. Similarly, although we do not want unhappiness, by our dealings we create enemies, and there is fighting and war. This is called samsara-davanala. This forest fire of material existence goes on perpetually, and the authorized person who can deliver you from this fire is called guru, the spiritual master.
How does he deliver you? What is his means? Consider the same example. When there is a fire in the forest, you cannot send a fire brigade or go there yourself with bucketfuls of water to extinguish it. That is not possible. Then how will it be extinguished? You need water to extinguish fire, but where will the water come from—from your bucket or your fire brigade? No, it must come from the sky. Only when there are torrents of rain from the sky will the blazing forest fire be extinguished. These rains from the sky do not depend on your scientific propaganda or manipulation. They depend on the mercy of the Supreme Lord. So the spiritual master is compared to a cloud. Just as there are torrents of rain from a cloud, so the spiritual master brings mercy from the Supreme Personality of Godhead. A cloud takes water from the sea. It doesn't have its own water, but takes water from the sea. Similarly, the spiritual master brings mercy from the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Just see the comparison. He has no mercy of his own, but he carries the mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That is the qualification of the spiritual master.
The spiritual master will never say, "I am God—I can give you mercy." No. That is not a spiritual master—that is a bogus pretender. The spiritual master will say, "I am a servant of God; I have brought His mercy. Please take it and be satisfied." This is the spiritual master's business. He is just like a mailman. When a mailman delivers you some large amount of money, it is not his own money. The money is sent by someone else, but he honestly delivers it—"Sir, here is your money. Take it." So you become very much satisfied with him, although it is not his money he is giving you. When you are in need and you get money from your father or someone else—brought by the mailman—you feel very much satisfaction.
Similarly, we are all suffering in this blazing fire of material existence. But the spiritual master brings the message from the Supreme Lord and delivers it to you, and if you kindly accept it, then you'll be satisfied. This is the business of the spiritual master
Thus the spiritual master is offered obeisances: "Sir, you have brought mercy from the Supreme Lord; therefore, we are much obliged to you. You have come to deliver us, so we offer our respectful obeisances." That is the meaning of this verse: the first qualification of the spiritual master, or guru, is that he brings you the message to stop the blazing fire in your heart. This is the test.
Everyone has a blazing fire within his heart—a blazing fire of anxiety. That is the nature of material existence. Always, everyone has anxiety; no one is free from it. Even a small bird has anxiety. If you give the small bird some grains to eat, he'll eat them, but he won't eat very peacefully. He'll look this way and that way—"Is somebody coming to kill me?" This is material existence. Everyone, even a president like Mr. Nixon, is full of anxieties. What to speak of others. Even Gandhi, in our country—he was full of anxiety. All politicians are full of anxiety. They may hold a very exalted post, but still the material disease—anxiety—is there. So if you want to be anxiety-less, then you must take shelter of the guru, the spiritual master. And the test of the guru is that by following his instructions you'll be free from anxiety. This is the test. Don't try to find a cheap guru or a fashionable guru. Just as you sometimes keep a dog as a fashion, if you want to keep a guru as a fashion—"I have a guru "—that will not help. You must accept a guru who can extinguish the blazing fire of anxiety within your heart. That is the first test of the guru.
The second test is, mahaprabhoh kirtana-nrtya-gita-vaditra-madyan-manaso rasena. The second symptom of the guru is that he is always engaged in chanting, glorifying Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu—that is his business. Mahaprabhoh kirtana-nrtya-gita. The spiritual master is dancing and chanting the holy name of the Lord, because that is the remedy for all calamities within this material world.
At the present moment, no one can meditate. The so-called meditation now popular in the West is humbug. It is very difficult to meditate in this disturbing age of Kali [the age of quarrel and hypocrisy]. Therefore sastra [scripture] says, krte yad dhyayato visnum. In the Satya-yuga [the age of truth], when people used to live for one hundred thousand years, Valmiki Muni attained perfection by meditating for sixty thousand years. But now we have no guarantee that we are going to live for sixty years or even sixty hours. So meditation is not possible in this age. In the next age [the Treta-yuga], people performed rituals, as they are described in the Vedic sastra. Tretayam yajato makhaih.. Makhaih means performing big, big sacrifice. That requires huge amounts of money. In the present age people are very poor so they cannot perform these sacrifices. Dvapare paricaryayam—in the Dvapara-yuga [the age just prior to the present age] it was possible to worship the Diety opulently in the temple, but nowadays in the Kali-yuga, that is also an impossible task. Therefore, the general recommendation is kalau tad dhari-kirtanat: in this age of Kali one can attain all perfection simply by chanting the holy names of the Lord. The Krsna conscious movement is meant to spread chanting. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu inaugurated this movement of chanting and dancing. It has been going on for last five hundred years. In India it is popular, but in the Western countries have just introduced it five or six years ago. Now people are taking to it they are feeling happy. This is the process.
Therefore, the guru is always engaged in chanting. Mahaprabhoh kirtana-nrtya-gita—chanting and dancing. Unless he performs it himself, how can he teach his
The third symptom of the guru is :
The spiritual master's duty is to engage the disciples in worshiping the Diety, sri-vigraha. In all of our one hundred centers, we engage in Deity worship. Here in Stockholm this worship has not yet been fully established, but we worship the pictures of Lord Caitanya and the guru. In other centers, such as the ones in England and America, there is Deity worship. sri-vigraharadhana-nitya-nana-srngara-tan-mandira-marjanadau: Deity worship means to dress the Deity very nicely, to cleanse the temple very nicely, to offer nice foodstuffs to the Deity, and to accept the remnants of the Deity's foodstuffs for our eating. This is the method of Deity worship. Deity worship is done by the guru himself, and he also engages his disciples in that worship. This is the third symptom. The fourth symptom is:
The spiritual master encourages distribution of prasada (remnants of Krsna's foodstuffs) to the public. Ours is not dry philosophy—simply talk and go away. No. We distribute prasada, very sumptuous prasada. In every temple, we offer prasada to anyone who comes. In each and every temple we already have from fifty to two hundred devotees, and outsiders also come and take prasada. So prasada distribution is another symptom of the guru.
If you eat bhagavat-prasada, then gradually you become spiritualized; it has this potency. Therefore it is said that realization of God begins with the tongue. Sevonmukhe hi jihvadau: if you engage your tongue in the service of the Lord, then you realize God. So what is that engagement of the tongue? You chant the holy name of the Lord, and you take this prasada, remnants of foodstuffs offered to the Lord. Then you become self-realized, God-realized—by these two methods. You don't have to be very highly educated or be a philosopher, a scientist, or a rich man to realize God. If you just sincerely engage your tongue in the service of the Lord, you will realize Him. It is so simple. It is not very difficult. Therefore the guru, the spiritual master, introduces this prasada program. Svadv-anna-trptan hari-bhakta-sanghan. Hari-bhakta-sanghan means "in the association of devotees." You cannot do it outside. Krtvaiva trptim bhajatah sadaiva: when the guru is fully satisfied that prasada distribution is going on, he is very much pleased, and he engages himself in the devotional service of the Lord by chanting and dancing. This is the fourth symptom.
The fifth symptom is:
The spiritual master is always thinking of the pastimes of Krsna with His consort Srimati Radharani and the gopis. Sometimes he is thinking about Krsna's pastimes with the cowherd boys. This means that he is always thinking of Krsna engaged in some kind of pastime. Prati-ksanasvadana-lolupasya. Prati-ksana means he is thinking that way twenty-four hours a day. That is Krsna consciousness. One must be engaged twenty-four hours a day in thinking of Krsna. You have to make yourself a program like this. We, at least, have made such a program—all the boys and girls in the Krsna consciousness movement are engaged twenty-four hours daily—not just officially, not that once a week they meditate or go to some temple. No, they engage twenty-four hours a day. The next symptom is:
The spiritual master's ultimate goal is that he wants to be transferred to the planet of Krsna, where he can associate with the gopis to help them serve Krsna. Some spiritual masters are thinking of becoming assistants to the gopis, some are thinking of becoming assistants to the cowherd boys, some are thinking of becoming assistants to Nanda and mother Yasoda, and some are thinking of becoming God's servants. Some are thinking of becoming flower trees, fruit trees, calves, or cows in Vrndavana. There are five kinds of mellows: santa [veneration], dasya [servitorship], sakhya [friendship], vatsalya [parenthood], and madhurya [conjugal love]. Everything is there in the spiritual world. Cintamani-prakara-sadmasu: in the spiritual sky, even the land is spiritual. The trees are spiritual, the fruit is spiritual, the flowers are spiritual, the water is spiritual, the servants are spiritual, the friends are spiritual, the mothers are spiritual, the fathers are spiritual, the Lord is spiritual, and His associates are spiritual. It is all absolute, although there are varieties.
In the material world these spiritual varieties are merely reflected, just like trees on a riverbank. A tree is reflected in the water, but reflected how? Upside down. Similarly, this material world is a reflection of the spiritual world, but a perverted reflection. In the spiritual world there is love between Radha and Krsna. Krsna is always young—nava-yauvana. And Radharani is always young, because She is Krsna's pleasure potency. Sri-radhika-madhavayor apara. Jaya radha-madhava. We worship not Krsna alone but Krsna with His eternal consort Srimati Radharani. There is eternal love between Radharani and Krsna. Therefore the Vedanta-sutra says, janmady asya yatah: the Absolute Truth is that from which everything emanates. In this world we find love between mother and son, love between wife and husband, love between master and servant, between friend and friend, between the master and the dog or the cat or the cow. But these are only reflections of the spiritual world. Krsna is also the good lover of the animals, the calves and cows. Just as here we love dogs and cats, there Krsna loves cows and calves. You have seen this in pictures of Krsna. So the propensity to love even an animal is there in the spiritual world. Otherwise, how can it be reflected? This world is simply a reflection. If in the reality there is nothing like that, how can it be reflected here? So everything is there in the spiritual world. But to understand that original propensity to love, you have to practice Krsna consciousness.
Here in this world we are experiencing frustration. Here we love—a man loves a woman, or a woman loves a man—but there is frustration. After some time they are divorced, because their love is a perverted reflection. There is no real love in this world. It is simply lust. Real love is in the spiritual world, between Radha and Krsna. Real love is there between Krsna and the gopis. Real love is there in the friendship between Krsna and His cowherd boys. Real love is there between Krsna and the cows and calves. Real love is there between the trees, flowers, and water. In the spiritual world, everything is love. But within this material world, we are satisfied merely by the reflection of the things in the spiritual world. So, now that we have this opportunity of human life, let us understand Krsna. That is Krsna consciousness—let us understand Krsna. And as the Bhagavad-gita [4.9] says, janma karma ca me divyam evam yo vetti tattvatah—you should understand Krsna in truth, not superficially. Learn the science of Krsna. This is the instruction—you should simply try to love Krsna. The process is that you worship the Deity, you take prasada, you chant Krsna's holy names, and you follow the instruction of the spiritual master. In this way you'll learn how to understand Krsna, and then your life will be successful. This is our Krsna consciousness movement. Thank you very much.
In just a dozen years,
by Jayadvaita dasa
"The spiritual master is receiving benediction from the ocean of mercy. Just as a cloud pours water on a forest fire to extinguish it, so the spiritual master delivers the materially afflicted world by extinguishing the blazing fire of material existence. I offer my respectful obeisances unto the lotus feet of such a spiritual master."
The Vedic teachers compare the material world in which we live to a forest fire. Although no one wants a forest fire, sometimes a fire spontaneously takes place in the forest, inflicting suffering on the helpless creatures who live there. But if, by the grace of God, storm clouds gather and shower their water, drenching the forest with rain, the forest and its creatures are saved. Similarly, when a bonafide spiritual master, by the grace of Krsna, showers upon human society the benediction of Krsna consciousness, that benediction can save us from the eternal problems of material ignorance and suffering and give us the chance to return to our real life of eternal bliss and knowledge in the service of Krsna. We should therefore glorify and offer our respectful homage unto the lotus feet of such a bona fide spiritual master.
A devotee poet has written that no one can fully understand the words, activities, and characteristics of a pure devotee. Nonetheless, let us try to appreciate some of the extraordinary gifts given to the world by the beloved spiritual master of the Hare Krsna movement, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
Of course, although the movement Srila Prabhupada started has great tangible manifestations, his contribution is ultimately spiritual, not material, and therefore it will be appreciated according to one's spiritual understanding. Just as an intellectual contribution is truly appreciated only by intellectuals, a spiritual contribution will best be appreciated by those who are advanced in spiritual culture and knowledge.
Generally speaking, gross material accomplishments win immediate popular applause, but they are also quickly forgotten. Although an intellectual contribution may take longer to be widely acclaimed, its benefits are more profound and long-lasting. A spiritual contribution, however, though perhaps least appreciated immediately, is ultimately the most profoundly significant and enduring. Therefore, let us try to understand and appreciate the myriad spiritual contributions of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
The first point we might consider is that whatever Srila Prabhupada did, he did not to serve any personal self-interest or create an individual charismatic mission, but rather to serve the will of the Supreme Lord, as expressed by the Lord Himself in the Vedic literature and handed down since time immemorial by the Vedic chain teachers. In the recent era, Srila Prabhupada's spiritual master, Sri Srimad Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati. Thakura, was the most outstanding representative of this Vedic line, and the spirit of full, unalloyed devotion to this great Vedic teacher and to the Supreme Lord Himself was the essence of all that Srila Prabhupada did.
Now, let us see the gifts Srila Prabhupada has given us, one by one
The Hare Krsna Mantra
Srila Prabhupada began his movement in the Western world simply by chanting the maha-mantra, or the Great Chant for Deliverance: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. The Vedic scriptures repeatedly emphasize that no other method of spiritual realization can be as effective in the present age as the chanting of this maha mantra. It is the sublime method for reviving our transcendental consciousness. Krsna and Rama are names of the Supreme Lord, and Hare calls upon the spiritual energy of the Lord. By chanting these holy names, one can derive unlimited benefit, for this chanting can free one from all material entanglements and revive one's dormant natural consciousness of unalloyed love of God . Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the great apostle of love of God who appeared in India some five hundred years ago, desired that the benediction of these holy names of God be bestowed upon all living entities, and He predicted that one day the chanting of these holy names would be heard in every village and town of the world. It was Srila Prabhupada who established a worldwide movement—the Hare Krsna movement—to fulfill Sri Caitanya's prediction and desire.
Wherever Srila Prabhupada went, on fourteen journeys around the globe, he constantly spread the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra, and when he finally departed he was surrounded by loving disciples from around the world, loudly yet sweetly chanting these names of God he had given them. He began his movement by chanting Hare Krsna, and when he left, "Hare Krsna" were the last words he spoke. This was Srila Prabhupada's mission: Let the chanting of Lord Krsna's holy name be glorified!
Hare Krsna Hare Krsna
No one can find the limits of the glories of these holy names, carried around the world by His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada.
A Vedic Library Of Transcendental Knowledge
Although Srila Prabhupada gave us a way of transcendental realization by which even a child can very easily make advancement in spiritual life—simply by chanting Hare Krsna—he also left the world a unique library of profound philosophical literature, literature studied and praised by scholars and intellectuals, eagerly acquired by professors and librarians, and treasured by devotees of Vedic philosophy and culture.
Srila Prabhupada was the author of nearly seventy volumes of translations and summary studies of, and commentary upon, India's immortal Vedic scriptures. His books have already been translated into twenty-eight different languages.
To a world afflicted by a lack of spiritual knowledge and plagued by sentimental, vague, flimsy ideas of wisdom and truth, Srila Prabhupada's books offer the rigorously consistent, all-conquering, deeply rewarding transcendental philosophy of the Vedic literature. Srila Prabhupada's books are unique because they present the Vedic literature as it is, without personally motivated interpretations. Consequently, his books, apart from their immense scholarly and literary value, offer one the opportunity to understand and actually attain the perfection of self-realization and ultimately realize the Absolute Truth, the Personality of Godhead, and see Him face to face. In other words, by reading his books, not only can one gain access to a wealth of Vedic history, poetry, philosophy, culture, and guidance in down-to-earth, practical affairs, but also one can traverse the path to the highest perfection of human life. Those who have lost their spiritual vision due to the darkness of the present age of quarrel can get light from the books of His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada.
Distribution of Vedic Knowledge
Srila Prabhupada was never satisfied merely to write books, nor to print them and keep the copies in stock. Rather, earnestly desired that books of Vedic wisdom be profusely distributed for the enlightenment of human society. Thus in 1972 His Divine Grace established the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, which in six years has become the world's largest publisher and distributor of books concerning the philosophy, religion, and culture of India. It was his desire that BBT books be placed everywhere, every library and home.
Indeed, nearly every college and university library in the United States has at least one of Srila Prabhupada's books, and more than twenty-five hundred college professors and public and university libraries have placed orders for full sets. Inspired by Srila Prabhupada, his disciples have distributed more than sixty million books of Vedic knowledge. Thus, by Srila Prabhupada's desire, the true glory of Vedic knowledge and culture is now being recognized, for the first time, throughout the world.
Here we may also mention that Srila Prabhupada was the founder and original editor of BACK TO GODHEAD, which he began in India in 1944 and which continues to be published according to his eternal directions.
The Society of Devotees
Some of Srila Prabhupada's earliest disciples recall that in 1966, when Srila Prabhupada, newly arrived in New York City, first began holding classes in an old loft in the Bowery, he had a small, handwritten sign downstairs near the mailbox: "International Society for Krishna Consciousness." In those days, the Society was not very extensive. Practically speaking, there was only Srila Prabhupada himself. But where others may have seen only an elderly Indian svami and a few young men coming to hear him, Srila Prabhupada, with his usual transcendental vision, saw the hope for an international society of devotees that could spread all over the world.
A devotee poet has sung, tandera carana sevi bhakta-sane vasa: "Let me serve at the feet of the gosvamis—the predecessor spiritual masters—and let me always associate with devotees." This is the essence of Krsna consciousness. Alone, one may find it very difficult to make spiritual advancement, but in the company of devotees, all sharing the same objective, advancement becomes swift and easy. Moreover, a society of devotees, all cooperating for the service of Krsna, can act wonderfully to spread Krsna consciousness for the benefit of others. A pure devotee knows that Krsna is the supreme enjoyer, Krsna is the supreme proprietor of everything, and Krsna is the supreme friend of every living being. Therefore, although a pure devotee is himself completely God-realized, for the benefit of others he desires: "Let there be a society of devotees. Let the people of the world serve Krsna together and be happy." This was Srila Prabhupada's desire. He confidently began his tiny society, carefully nurtured and expanded it, and trained his disciples to expand it further and maintain its purity. Thus by Srila Prabhupada's grace, we now have a strong, healthy spiritual society of devotees, devotees from all walks of and all nations of the world—a United Nations, in which everyone unite on the spiritual platform, in service of Krsna.
Once, years ago, an astrologer took count of Srila Prabhupada's horoscope and remarked, "This person can build a house big enough for the whole world to live in." We are grateful to be able to live in that house—the society of devotees that Srila Prabhupada began—and share the warmth and joy of Krsna consciousness with others under its roof.
Purity Is the Force
In particular, we may note that Srila Prabhupada never compromised principles. The standard Vedic discipline requires that one strictly follow the basic rules—no gambling, no intoxication, no meat-eating, and no illicit sex. When Srila Prabhupada first arrived America and saw for himself the high fever of Western materialistic life, thought, "Who will agree to follow these rules? As soon as I mention them, everyone will go away." Nonetheless never seeking to become popular catering to the public taste, he always insisted that his disciples adhere to these basic rules for spiritual purity. His mission was to present the right medicine for the materialistic disease, even though that medicine might at first seem a little bitter, for he knew that what might seem bitter at first would very soon taste sweet. Only when an aspiring devotee was regularly chanting Hare Krsna and following these basic Vedic principles would Srila Prabhupada accept him as an initiated disciple.
Temples Around the World
In the context of his International Society, Srila Prabhupada, in the brief span of ten years, established more than one hundred temples of Krsna consciousness in thirty-six countries-in North America, South America, Europe, Australia, Africa, and Asia. Some of them he started personally, and others through his disciples. That was another aspect of Srila Prabhupada's genius: he was expert not only in serving Lord Sri Krsna, but also in training others to assist him in Lord Krsna's service. He personally demonstrated how to conduct all the temple affairs—how to clean the temple (he showed us on his hands and knees); how to hold classes and festivals; how to cook food for Krsna, offer it to Him, and then serve it to devotees and guests; how to grow flowers for Krsna; and even how to keep accounts and acquire temple property. He did everything perfectly, and with unceasing devotion he traveled around the world, perfectly teaching his disciples how to follow in his footsteps and spread Krsna's mission for the benefit of others.
Service to the Deity
In each of his temples, Srila Prabhupada established the murti, or Deity, of Lord Krsna. To a materialist, the Deity appears to be no more than a statue of wood or stone, but an advanced transcendentalist, seeing through the eye of Vedic knowledge, understands that the Deity is nondifferent from Krsna Himself and that without worshiping the Deity one cannot fully develop and mature one's love for God. Because the form of the Deity is exactly described in the Vedic scriptures, it is the answer to all imaginative iconography about the form of God. By appearing as the Deity, Krsna frees the conditioned soul from false ideas that God is impersonal or void, and by worshiping the Deity, one learns how to love Krsna and becomes eligible to go back home, back to Godhead. When Srila Prabhupada came before the Deity, he saw not a statue but Lord Krsna Himself, and with tears of love in his eyes he bowed down before Lord Krsna in devotion, considering himself but a humble servant of the Deity. The extent of the struggle Srila Prabhupada personally, willingly undertook in London and Bombay for the service of the Deity is only partially known, even to his disciples. Srila Prabhupada's glories are fully known only to Lord Krsna Himself. As Krsna becomes increasingly celebrated and the science of Krsna more fully understood, so too will the glories of His dearly beloved servant, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
Krsna consciousness, Srila Prabhupada would often say, is not dry. Devotees of Krsna are not dry renouncers. To prove it, Srila Prabhupada introduced the transcendental art and pleasure of cooking and eating in Krsna consciousness. He personally showed his disciples how to cook many varieties of palatable vegetarian dishes, offer them to the Supreme Lord, Krsna, for His satisfaction, and then accept the food thus sanctified as krsna-prasada—the mercy of Lord Krsna. This was another of Srila Prabhupada's transcendental desires: Let the whole world taste krsna-prasada!
By eating krsna-prasada, not only can one fulfill the demands of the tongue in a very nice way, but also, as understood from Bhagavad-gita, one becomes free from the reactions of all past sinful deeds and makes advancement in spiritual life. Thus purified, one is released from dualities and illusions, and one becomes eligible to render devotional service to the Supreme Lord. Srila Prabhupada, therefore, was always pleased to see that his disciples were eating only krsna-prasada. On many occasions, he personally cooked prasada and then served the devotees with his own hand. This was Srila Prabhupada's program: chanting, dancing, philosophy, and feasting. Anyone may come to any of Srila Prabhupada's temples and take sumptuous krsna-prasada, and especially on Sundays each temple invites guests to enjoy opulent prasada feasts. Directed by Srila Prabhupada, many temples have started prasada restaurants and even mobile kitchens to distribute the mercy of Krsna. And in India, where hunger is for many people a very real day-to-day problem, Srila Prabhupada started ISKCON Food Relief—a program to distribute prasada in massive quantities to the needy.
Even in his final days on earth, Srila Prabhupada asked to hear in detail about how prasada was being distributed in his temples, and although he himself was eating nothing at all and drinking only a few ounces of fruit juice, he took particular care to see that the devotees and guests who visited him in Vrndavan were all fed sumptuous krsna-prasada..
Festivals of Transcendental Life
Every year since time immemorial, millions of people have journeyed to India's holy city Jagannatha Puri to take part in a joyous transcendental festival-Ratha-yatra, the Festival of the Chariots—to glorify the Lord of the universe. When Srila Prabhupada was small child in Calcutta, he insisted to his father that he too wanted to celebrate Ratha-yatra festival. Thus his father built him a small cart, and Srila Prabhupada led his neighborhood friends in chanting Hare Krsna and celebrating the festival as their childhood play. Later in life, when Srila Prabhupada became the spiritual master of the Hare Krsna movement, he led his disciples in celebrating the same transcendental festival, on a large scale, in major cities throughout the world—San Francisco, New York, London, and many others. Thus he showed how to give millions of people the opportunity to chant Hare Krsna, dance in ecstasy, take krsna-prasada, and begin the journey back home, back to Godhead.
Every Town and Village
In addition to establishing temples for festivals in major cities of the world, Srila Prabhupada also inspired and organized his disciples to travel from city to city, town to town, to preach the message of Krsna everywhere. From American suburbs to African tribal villages, Sri Prabhupada's disciples, following in the-footsteps of their spiritual master, chant Hare Krsna and distribute literature about Krsna consciousness for the benefit of others. Feeling compassion for those unfortunate souls who had forgotten Krsna, Srila Prabhupada was always immersed in the mood of the great, devotee Prahlada Maharaja, who once prayed to the Lord: "O best of great personalities, I am not at all afraid of material existence, for wherever I stay am fully absorbed in thoughts of Your glories and activities. My concern is only for the fools and rascals who are making elaborate plans for material happiness and maintaining their families, societies and countries. I am simply concerned with love for them."
Science and Art for Purified Senses
We should not think that Srila Prabhupada was the leader of a sectarian religion. On the contrary, the principles taught by Srila Prabhupada were universal, far transcending the superficial, man-made boundaries between one religious sect and another, and even transcending religion itself. "Gold is natural," Srila Prabhupada taught. "We do not speak of 'Hindu gold' or 'Christian gold.' Gold is always gold. Similarly, when we speak of Krsna consciousness, we refer to the natural pure consciousness lying dormant within the heart of every living being." Srila Prabhupada didn't care about the temporary "isms" of this material world. Rather, he sought to awaken that dormant spiritual consciousness—unalloyed love of God. Let our senses be cleansed of all material, bodily designations, and let the purified senses be engaged in the service of the Supreme Lord. This was Srila Prabhupada's desire.
Thus, far from being a sectarian religious figure, Srila Prabhupada was the leader of a cultural movement for the respiritualization of all human society. Literature, music, dance, drama, painting, sculpture, film—all can serve to purify our senses and awaken and express our eternal love for Krsna. Srila Prabhupada was the spiritual master who taught how this can be done.
And why only the arts? The sciences also, Srila Prabhupada taught, should be directed towards the Absolute Truth. Srila Prabhupada boldly challenged scientific theories that make matter alone the basis of everything and fail to acknowledge a spiritual energy and supreme controller. Such theories, he said, were the notions of rascals and fools. Indeed, he so logically and convincingly presented the science of spiritual realization that even scientists stepped forward to become his disciples. Later, these disciples formed an educational society of Ph.D.'s—the Bhaktivedanta Institute—to introduce this Vedic understanding to their colleagues.
Ideal Life in Harmony With God and Nature
The spiritual master, as the representative of the Lord, conveys the Lord's instructions and shows how to put them into practical effect. In the Vedic scriptures, the Supreme Lord perfectly teaches how to live happily in this world and at the end of life go back home, back to Godhead. He gives the perfect system of social organization, known as varnasrama-dharma, and He tells us how to solve all economic problems simply—by depending on the natural fertility of the earth and by protecting cows and drinking the milk He's arranged for them to give us. Thus Srila Prabhupada, to demonstrate the practical value of "simple living and high thinking" according to the Vedic way, established twelve Krsna conscious farm communities in North America, South America, Europe, Australia, and India. There, devotees work hard in a simple, natural life, dedicating their thoughts, their words, and their work to the devotional service of Krsna. As life in the world's cities becomes increasingly hellish, as it surely will, those who wish to turn away from their artificial mode of life and return to the way prescribed by the Lord Himself will be increasingly grateful to His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada for giving them the chance to do so, not only in theory but as a working day-by-day reality.
The Mercy of Krsna in India
The Vedic literature repeatedly emphasizes the spiritual importance of India. Since time immemorial, India has been a center of spiritual knowledge and culture. From the Vedic scriptures we understand that in former ages the world was one unified kingdom, with its capital in India, and the Srimad-Bhagavatam tells us that even if spiritual culture declines, as it has in the present age, in India it may at any time be very quickly revived. Srila Prabhupada, therefore, especially in his last years, devoted great energy toward revitalizing India's declining spiritual culture. He personally traveled in India extensively, from city to city, always preaching, and started several branches of his International Society. In Hyderabad he began a large farm project, and in Bombay he under took the ambitious construction of a modern Center for Vedic Education and Culture, including a magnificent temple, a 450-seat theater, a recording studio, an extensive Vedic library, a prasada restaurant, and a comfortable eight-story guesthouse.
Throughout India there are also many sacred places especially favorable for spiritual advancement, but among them all, the holy cities Vrndavana and Mayapur are especially important. In these places, therefore, Srila Prabhupada established special centers so that visitors from around the world may go there to cultivate Krsna consciousness. In Vrndavana, where Lord Sri Krsna performed His youthful pastimes five thousand years ago, Srila Prabhupada established the Krsna-Balarama Temple and International Guesthouse, now a place of pilgrimage for visitors both from India and from abroad. And in Sridhama Mayapur, the birthplace of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the already completed guesthouse, temple, and residence buildings mark the initial stages of what Srila Prabhupada planned to be a full-scale Krsna conscious city. When completed, Srila Prabhupada's "Vedic Planetarium and Temple of Understanding," in the center of the city, will be the largest temple and cultural center in India. Moreover, the city will set an ideal example—for India and for the world—of how society should be organized for a life of Vedic culture and spiritual advancement, culminating in Krsna consciousness. This was but another of the many ways by which Srila Prabhupada desired to bestow the benediction of Krsna consciousness—the perfection of life—upon the people of India, and of the entire world.
Schools for Self-realization
Looking forward toward the welfare future generations, Srila Prabhupada also reestablished the age-old gurukula system of education, by which a child learns early in life how to control his senses, fix his mind upon Krsna, and make his whole life successful in spiritual values. The human form of life, Srila Prabhupada taught, is a rare gift and although it is short, it offers one the greatest opportunity—the chance to go back home, back to Godhead. Srila Prabhupada therefore established gurkula schools around the world, and especially in Vrndavana, to enable children to take full advantage of the great opportunity. Srila Prabhupada had great affection for his gurukula children as they had great affection for him. Much earlier in his life, Srila Prabhupada was a Krsna conscious child, and later he most kindly attended to the Krsna conscious children of the present—and the future
In many wonderful and varied way; Srila Prabhupada worked to bestow upon the world the benediction of Krsna consciousness. Yet perhaps his greatest contribution was the personal change he brought about in the hearts of his disciples. The joy and purity of Srila Prabhupada's disciples, their dedication and their freedom from sinful life—these are outward signs. But the inner gratitude each disciple feels to his spiritual master for having changed the course of his life is practically inexpressible. We can best echo the words of the great devotee Prahlada, who prayed to the Lord: "My dear Lord, O Supreme Personality of Godhead, because of my association with material desires, one after another, I was gradually falling into blind well full of snakes, following the general populace. But Your servant, my spiritual master, kindly accepted me as his disciple and instructed me how to achieve the transcendental position . Therefore, my first duty is to serve him. How could I leave his service?"
Srila Prabhupada factually rescued his disciples from the materialistic life of today's misdirected world and led then on the path back home, back to Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Now, Srila Prabhupada himself has left this world and gone back to the spiritual world of Krsna. Yet although physically His Divine Grace is no longer with us he lives eternally by his instructions, by the movement he began, and by the memory of his personal example of how to serve Krsna in unalloyed love and devotion.
An interview with his personal secretary,
Back to godhead: As Srila Prabhupada's personal secretary, you came to know him quite intimately. Most of Srila Prabhupada's disciples have only seen him seated on his vyasasana giving a formal lecture. And, of course, there are millions of people around the world who have read Srila Prabhupada's books but never seen him. But I think you can give our readers a very personal glimpse of what Srila Prabhupada was like. Now, my first question is, what one thing pleased Srila Prabhupada more than anything else?
Tamala Krsna Gosvami: What pleased Srila Prabhupada most was a willingness to serve Krsna. Whenever he could detect within a person a willingness to engage in the service of Krsna, that pleased him more than anything else. He would simply look for that quality in each person, no matter how hidden it was. If he saw even the slightest spark in anyone, Srila Prabhupada would be pleased. Sometimes I or another disciple could not see any spark of Krsna consciousness within a particular person, so we wouldn't want him to talk with Srila Prabhupada and waste Prabhupada's time. But Srila Prabhupada would seem to push us aside, bring the person close, and engage him in Krsna consciousness. In fact, Srila Prabhupada's greatness was such that even if a person had practically no Krsna consciousness, somehow Srila Prabhupada would engage him in service to Krsna, or at least make him favorable to the Krsna consciousness movement.
BTG: Now, on the other hand, maybe you could tell us what displeased Srila Prabhupada. Did you ever see him angry?
Tamala Krsna Gosvami: Yes. Sometimes Srila Prabhupada would become very angry if a disciple would disobey his instructions. Of course, this was not ordinary anger; because disobedience to the spiritual master's order causes the disciple to lose his spiritual standing. Srila Prabhupada, out of love, would become angry at the disobedient disciple. But apart from that, Prabhupada would not very often become angry.
Also, during the years Srila Prabhupada spent traveling to preach around the world, he used to preach to anyone and everyone he met. Sometimes during those years, I saw Srila Prabhupada become angry at certain persons who came to visit him or attended his lectures. You see, those people were all potential devotees, and Srila Prabhupada wanted to defeat their nonsensical philosophies and arguments, so he would become angry. But his anger was always compassionate, just like the anger of a father and mother toward their naughty child who is doing something that will hurt him. That anger is actually love.
BTG: In the talk you gave earlier, you eulogized Srila Prabhupada as "a beautiful devotee." Would you elaborate on that.
Tamala Krsna Gosvami: Yes. If someone wants to understand what Srila Prabhupada was like, he should read about Krsna's intimate devotees and associates in transcendental books like Nectar of Devotion and Krsna. Actually, Srila Prabhupada manifested all the qualities of the eternal associates of Krsna. His humor was completely sublime, his compassion was sublime and transcendental. Courage, competitiveness—all the qualities we read about in Krsna and Nectar of Devotion were manifested in Srila Prabhupada. He was the living embodiment of Krsna—Krsna's representative. We learned about Krsna by seeing Srila Prabhupada. And we learned to believe in Krsna by seeing Prabhupada, because we could see that here was a person who had actually come from the spiritual world to be among us. So "beautiful devotee" means that he was a pure devotee of Lord Krsna, with all transcendental, beautiful qualities. Srila Prabhupada called a chapter of one of his books "Wonderful Krsna." And Srila Prabhupada was Krsna's representative—so, "wonderful Prabhupada." Everything he did was wonderful. Everything. All the qualities possessed by the greatest personalities were present in Srila Prabhupada to a wonderful degree.
BTG: Could you think of some incident that closely reveals Srila Prabhupada's character?
Tamala Krsna Gosvami: Well, what stands out the most in my mind right now is how in the last few months Srila Prabhupada constantly asked to allowed to pass away peacefully, and then how he repeatedly yielded to our quests for him to please stay with us. Our relationship with Srila Prabhupada as disciples has always been one of total obedience to his orders and desires. As his menial servants, we weren't in a position to deny his requests or insist having things our way. Yet at the end, Srila Prabhupada seemed to be expecting exactly that from his personal servants. And he responded lovingly to our affectionate requests that he not leave us, that he please stay with us longer.
But first he brought us to the point of complete despair: he stopped all doctors and medicines and told us, "So now there is nothing left for me to do but die." This brought within us such a great anxiety that we just begged him "Please, Srila Prabhupada, we need you. Please stay with us." And when the intensity of our appeal reached a high enough level, then he said, "All right, I won't leave. Let the doctor come. I'll stay with you." He did this several times during the last few months.
Finally I could understand that he was deepening our affection for him. After the last time he dealt with us like that, I told him, "First you bring us to the point of utter despair, and then you give relief by agreeing to remain with us. This is simply deepening our affection for you." And Srila Prabhupada calmly replied, "That is my duty." It was clear—he was teaching us how to 1ove him, and thereby how to love Krsna.
In fact, that's how we have to understand Srila Prabhupada's last few months with us. Physically, he didn't really do much. He translated some, but only a very little. He didn't open any new temples. He didn't give any lectures. In fact, he hardly left his room. He simply lay on his bed. But he was giving all his disciples an opportunity to approach him render very intimate service to him, to deepen their affection and love him. And that was actually the purpose.
He told me, "I want to travel around the world one more time. If I can visit my temples, I can strengthen this movement and the disciples. I can strengthen their love for Krsna more." Of course, his physical condition did not permit this, but that didn't stop Srila Prabhupada. He accomplished the same end, simply by lying in bed. By his expertise, he trained us and helped us become more and more lovingly attached to him and in that way to Krsna. Therefore, I feel that these last months with Prabhupada were the most important months I ever spent with him.
BTG: People generally want to know just what accounts for the greatness of a great personality. Even to the common man, Srila Prabhupada appeared great—the founder of a successful worldwide movement, author of dozens of books. What traits did you see in him that contributed most to his greatness?
Tamala Krsna Gosvami: Above all, there was one. And this was the real reason, the actual cause of Srila Prabhupada's greatness: he was a completely surrendered servant of God. The Supreme Lord is the creator and maintainer of the entire creation. And He is the controller of all activities as well. If someone is completely surrendered unto the supreme controller, Krsna, then Krsna empowers that person to perfectly carry out the mission of the Supreme Lord within the world. So, because Srila Prabhupada chose to carry out Lord Krsna's mission, and because he completely submitted himself to Krsna's desires and control, he was fully successful. He was a great personality simply because he was a pure devotee of Lord Krsna. Krsna could act perfectly through him, so there was nothing impossible for Srila Prabhupada. God can do anything. And by God's grace, His pure devotees become empowered. So this was actually Srila Prabhupada's greatness.
BTG: You've been talking about the few of you who were personally with Srila Prabhupada, and the lessons that you learned from him. This raises a question. Sometimes people want to know how Srila Prabhupada could relate to all his disciples. He had so many. Certainly, they weren't all able to be with him personally. In fact, they were in distant parts of the world. So how could he teach them all?'
Tamala Krsna Gosvami: That was one of Srila Prabhupada's great qualities—he knew how to preach according to time, place, and circumstance. In the very beginning, even before he came to the West, Srila Prabhupada based this movement primarily on the instructions within his books. He called the press the big mrdanga—brhat mrdanga. When someone plays on a mrdanga drum, you can hear it for some distance. But the brhat mrdanga, the printing press, can be heard all around the world. So before he even came to the West, Srila Prabhupada first of all published the first three volumes of Srimad-Bhagavatam, and then, with that big mrdanga, he began to play. And automatically, results sprang up all over the world. He was able to reach all his disciples. Only a few months ago he jokingly said to me, "People are wondering if this old man is still living. Now they should know that I am here, and that I am still beating on my mrdanga, and it is going all over the world."
So even in his weakest physical condition, he was still able to create and instruct disciples, completely defeating the forces of materialistic civilization. Therefore it is said that vani, or the instructions of a spiritual master, are more important than vapuh, his physical presence. And in this respect we have to understand that Srila Prabhupada has not left us. He is present in his instructions. And those faithful, sincere disciples who are able to repeat his instructions perfectly, without changing them, can preserve and expand all the effects of Srila Prabhupada's accomplishments.
BTG: I think it would be good if you could explain the significance of Srila Prabhupada's life to the millions of people who were not actually followers of his teachings. Beyond the rather limited idea of being the leader of a particular sect, what relation does he have to our times and the world?
Tamala Krsna Gosvami: Srila Prabhupada did not preach a sectarian philosophy. He taught sanatana-dharma, eternal religion. Sanatana-dharma means the principles enunciated for all humanity by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Srila Prabhupada taught the constitutional nature of all living entities in their eternal relationship with Krsna. That is called sanatana-dharma. For example, the dharma—the constitutional nature—of sugar is sweetness; you can't separate sweetness from sugar. You cannot separate heat from fire, so heat is the dharma of fire. Similarly, you cannot sever the living entity's connection with God; every living entity has a relationship with God. In that sense, to revive one's sanatana-dharma means to revive one's eternal relationship with Lord Krsna, or God.
That is the teaching of Srila Prabhupada—the most essential message for all living beings. The movement Srila Prabhupada has created, and the teachings he has given, will guide human civilization for centuries to come. The Vedic scriptures predict that over the next ten thousand years there will be a revival of God consciousness throughout the world. We understand that Srila Prabhupada has laid the foundation for this revival. Whereas cult leaders, faith leaders, and so-called religious teachers may have presented religious principles limited to their particular groups, the teachings of Lord Krsna, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and Srila Prabhupada are eternal and are intended for all humanity. They explain the eternal soul's eternal relationship with God. These teachings are not subject to a particular time or place. They deal with the most basic eternal quality within the living entity: how he can again become a devotee of God.
Therefore, we have to realize that the disappearance of such a great spiritual master is the most unfortunate thing which can happen on this planet. The newspapers, due to their materialistic nature, have not at all comprehended the significance of Srila Prabhupada's presence on this planet. But time will show that Srila Prabhupada's presence in the world was the greatest positive influence in this age. He made the teachings of the Vedas available to the world, and he gave us the chanting of the holy name of Krsna, which is the only means for obtaining liberation in this age. These are just a few of Srila Prabhupada's lasting gifts to the world.
BTG: Do you think he left untimely, prematurely?
Tamala Krsna Gosvami: Well, of course we wanted Srila Prabhupada to stay with us for hundreds of years. But just as he came here by his causeless mercy, he also left us. His coming was perfect, and his departing was also perfect. Just as his appearance was full of meaning, so also there was great meaning in his timely departure. We should not think that he left untimely. He left when Krsna desired and he himself wanted to leave.
BTG: Could you explain more fully what you meant when you said that there was meaning in his having left at this particular time?
Tamala Krsna Gosvami: He and Lord Krsna must have felt that this movement now had a sufficient basis on which to endure. Srila Prabhupada did his work. He laid the foundation and provided the framework for a worldwide movement to spread Krsna consciousness. So he and Krsna felt satisfied that this movement will endure.
BTG: Did Srila Prabhupada give any special instructions at the end?
Tamala Krsna Gosvami: His instructions, of course, are given in his books. But this last instruction he gave to all of his disciples: now that this movement has attained a prestigious, respected position all over the world, now that our institutions throughout the world are substantial and we are well represented everywhere—now, please maintain this. Do not let it deteriorate or decrease.
Srila Prabhupada emphasized that even if we do not increase, if we simply maintain what has already been established, that will suffice to alleviate the suffering and ignorance in this world for many generations to come. So our first responsibility, as Srila Prabhupada's disciples, is to see that whatever Srila Prabhupada gave to us—and we have to understand that whatever we have is the gift of Srila Prabhupada—is cherished and maintained.
Now, if we can increase even more, that is very good, and he would like that also. But at least we should not allow what he has given us thus far to be in anyway diminished. First of all care for your father's property; then think of accumulating further property.
BTG: By "property" do you mean the actual money and the buildings?
Tamala Krsna Gosvami: I mean the money, the buildings, the writings, the teachings, the institutions—everything Srila Prabhupada has given. That should not be in any way neglected. I think this is the most important duty of his disciples—this loving concern. They should maintain what they have inherited from their father. If a son neglects or squanders his father's property, that is the greatest disgrace for the son.
BTG: What do you think Srila Prabhupada's feelings were on this matter? Did he think that his disciples would fulfill his dreams?
Tamala Krsna Gosvami: He repeatedly said to me that he had great hope that this Krsna consciousness movement would endure. "I am feeling that everything is in good hands," he said.
BTG: One of our Godbrothers read a scriptural quotation saying that when the spiritual master appears he brings order to chaos, and when he leaves, the chaos returns. So, now that Srila Prabhupada is no longer physically present, what is your feeling about ISKCON's future?
Tamala Krsna Gosvami: That depends on our strength in keeping Srila Prabhupada with us—not by his physical presence, but by his sound vibration. He'll stay with us eternally if we follow his instructions. As long as all of his disciples constantly look to his instructions and remain faithful, there will not be any chaos. But if they look away from or neglect the teachings of their spiritual master, or if they fail to follow them, then there will be chaos. Prabhupada's presence in his instruction is more important than his physical presence.
Yes, by the acarya's presence he brings order to the chaos, and who's to say that Srila Prabhupada is not still present? We do not feel that Srila Prabhupada has died. If we felt that way, we could not bear to live. We regret the loss of his physical presence, but we are consoled by his eternal presence in the form of his instructions, and therefore we are very hopeful that the order he has established will continue to exist for thousands of years to come
Srila Prabhupada Departs
At 7:20 p.m. on November 14, 1977, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, departed from this world. At the time, he was in his quarters at the Krsna-Balarama temple in Vrndavana, India, surrounded by loving disciples chanting the Hare Krsna mantra. The chanting continued throughout the night as devotees performed the last ceremonies for their revered spiritual master. The following morning, the devotees took Srila Prabhupada's body on procession to the main temples in Vrndavana, the holy city most sacred to Lord Krsna, and finally they performed the burial ceremonies in the temple's outer courtyard.
Vedic tradition prescribes that when an exalted spiritual personality departs, a wake and cortege be held to honor him. Accordingly, soon after Srila Prabhupada's departure, his body (dressed in simple saffron robes, garlanded, and seated on a palanquin) was taken into the temple, before each of its three altars, and then carried several times around the temple. After placing the palanquin on the vyasasana (the seat of honor used only by the guru), the devotees remained in the temple throughout the night, chanting Hare Krsna and singing songs of bereavement. Guiding the ceremony was tridandi svami Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja, a disciple of Sri Srimad Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Maharaja, Srila Prabhupada's respected Godbrother.
The next morning, at daybreak, devotees carried Srila Prabhupada on his palanquin through the streets of Vrndavana, giving the residents a chance to see him for the last time. Srimad Narayana Maharaja led the chanting as the procession visited each of the eight main temples in the holy city. When the procession returned to the Krsna-Balarama temple, devotees performed the final ceremonies and interred Srila Prabhupada's body. Srila Prabhupada's disciples then began a daily program of twenty-four-hour chanting and offerings of flower garlands, incense, and other tokens of devotion at Srila Prabhupada's samadhi (tomb). The morning ended with a devotional feast in his honor.
All over the world, Srila Prabhupada's disciples felt profound shock and grief when they heard of his passing. For them, the most beloved person in the universe, the dearmost teacher and friend, the very source of spiritual life and knowledge, was now gone. Many wept for hours, and others wondered how the Krsna consciousness movement could go on without its powerful founder and guide.
As the days passed, devotees sought solace in the timeless philosophy Srila Prabhupada had preached so untiringly. Buoyed by this philosophical understanding and consoled by many sincere friends and well-wishers, devotees resolved to work together even more vigorously to spread the teachings of their beloved preceptor.
An Outpouring of Appreciation for Srila Prabhupada
During the eleven years of Srila Prabhupada's worldwide preaching, he touched the lives of millions through his personal presence, his books, his temples, and his disciples. With his passing, many people felt moved to express their remorse and sent notes of condolence to Vrndavana. Characteristic of the response from devotees' parents was the following letter:
"Dear Satsvarupa dasa Gosvami,
Nowhere more than in India was Srila Prabhupada's greatness appreciated by the leaders of society. The following letters from the Governor of Tamil Nadu and from one of India's foremost scholars evince Srila Prabhupada's broad following in his homeland:
"I was deeply shocked to hear of the demise of your beloved gurudeva, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. The death of this great world teacher of God consciousness is a severe loss not only for you and for myself, but for all Indians and indeed the whole world.
"By his spotless example of service. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada showed us the way in which a true son of Bharata Mata (Mother India) should live. In his daily life, he never compromised the sacred principles held most dear to our ancients, the learned and holy guides of mankind. Rather, he fearlessly preached against the deadly mistakes Western society is making and never for a moment became overawed or illusioned by their scientific advancement. Yet because he saw the hand of God at work everywhere, he always held high his ideal that Western technology could be utilized in such a God-conscious way that all mankind could benefit. It is only through God consciousness, he taught us, that any form of permanent good could be done for the world.
Devotees Pay Homage To Srila Prabhupada
The weeks following Srila Prabhupada's passing saw a number of special commemorative events.
On November 27, a viraha-mahotsava (festival in honor of the spiritual master's passing) was held in all the Society's centers throughout the world. Devotees chanted Hare Krsna, expressed their eternal gratitude and devotion to Srila Prabhupada, and served feasts for the thousands who attended. At the Society's center in Mayapur, near Calcutta, devotees held a second festival on December 2. Besides several moving eulogies by Srila Prabhupada's God-brothers and senior disciples, the Mayapur mahotsava included the establishment of a shrine in Srila Prabhupada's honor.
The Vrndavana mahotsava on November 27 was especially significant; some of the world's leading Vaisnavas (devotees of Visnu, or Krsna) came together in the most important Vaisnava city—Vrndavana, where Lord Krsna appeared fifty centuries ago—to pay homage to the most glorious Vaisnava of our era. Prabhupada's disciples deeply appreciated this glorification of their spiritual master. The following are excerpts from the statements of Sri Visvambhara Gosvami (priest of the Radha-ramana temple) and Sri Narayana Maharaja.
Sri Visvambhara Gosvami:
Respected guests, acaryas from Vrndavana, devotees of ISKCON from around the world, and residents of Vrndavana: Today we are all assembled here in an atmosphere of great pain and separation. Until 1953 I had a very intimate relationship with Sri Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja, and for the last six years I have also been in quite close touch with him. I have one very clear impression of Sri Swamiji Maharaja: that he had unalloyed devotion to and faith in the name of Sri Krsna. On the strength of the name of Sri Krsna, and with great attachment to and consciousness of Krsna, he went to foreign countries in every corner of the world to spread the glory and message of Krsna consciousness. He spread the pure teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu: "Simply chant the name of Krsna and your life will be successful. The only real meaning and goal of human life is to love Lord Krsna and be a servant of Lord Krsna. Take shelter of the lotus feet of Sri Krsna, and you will easily reach self-realization and be released from all anxieties and miseries caused by the entanglement of birth and death.
Spreading these teachings all over the world cannot be done by any ordinary man. Only one who is specially empowered by God and guru to fulfill the mission of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu can do what Srila Prabhupada has done. Today I would like to assure all the members of-ISKCON—both those known to me and those unknown to me—that whenever you require help, we will work together with you shoulder to shoulder, to propagate the names of Sri Krsna. To finish the work of Srila Prabhupada and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, we are even ready, if required, to sacrifice our own lives.
Sri Narayana Maharaja:
Honored guests, devotees, and acaryas of Vrndavana: Whether he believes it or not, every living being is the eternal servant of God. But when the living being turns away from God and forgets God, he comes under the control of maya [illusion] and becomes entangled in the cycle of birth and death wandering through 8,400,000 forms of life. God and the devotees of God do no like to see the living beings suffer. So out of compassion for them, to bless them they incarnate within this material world.
Five hundred years ago the Lord appeared as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu for the deliverance of the fallen souls of Kali-yuga [the present age of quarrel and hypocrisy]. He spread the glory of Krsna and love of Krsna all over India. After Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's disappearance. His followers carried on His mission. But in the course of time, owing to the influence of Kali-yuga, people in general became degraded. They became mad after sensual enjoyment. Contending parties arose, and the true purport of Sri Caitanya's message was lost. The teachings and the love of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu were forgotten, and the succession was broken.
Then, in 1874, to reestablish the mission of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu - to revive love of God for the welfare of the world—Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvat Gosvami Maharaja, an eternal servant of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, appeared on this earth. It was he who revived the work of Sri Caitanya. To assist him he had so many great disciples, but out of these disciples Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada was the most prominent, for he actually spread the message of his gurudeva in the Western countries.
Srila Prabhupada was born in 1896 into a very aristocratic and religion family. His parents and his grandparent were all Vaisnavas. From his very child hood he was worshiping Sri Radha and Krsna, and he was observing all Vaisnava festivals by the age of twelve years. It can be seen from his life that he was attached to the name of God from his childhood. After he graduated from college in Calcutta, he became the manager of a chemical manufacturing firm. But Srila Prabhupada was not one to remain in worldly activities. He was great saint, who appeared in this world to fulfill a specific mission. So when the time was ripe he left his worldly activities without hesitation. Later he lived for four years in Mathura, where, seeing his enthusiasm to preach Krsna consciousness, I advised him to enter the renounced order, sannyasa. I told him that it would be most beneficial to the world if he would take sannyasa, and he accepted my prayers. At the same time my own guru, Om Visnupada Sri Srimad Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Gosvami Maharaja came to Mathura, and Srila Prabhupada took sannyasa from him.
When Srila Prabhupada was twenty-five years old he left his studies and joined Gandhi's movement for independence. Shortly thereafter, he went with a friend to see Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami for the first time. Srila Prabhupada told me how fortunate he was that he went to see Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, who, after seeing Srila Prabhupada's English education and strong faith, spoke for two hours about God: "Human life is not meant for sensual enjoyment. The human form is very rare and should not be wasted in sensual enjoyment. If we simply engage in eating, sleeping, mating, and defending, we have to take birth again and again. The only duty of human life is to practice devotion to Sri Krsna so that, at the time of death, we can return to His lotus feet."
Srila Prabhupada told me he was fascinated and deeply influenced by the lecture of Sri Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami, who at that very first meeting asked him to spread the teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu all over the world.
India can teach the world the eternal religion—that the real nature of all living beings is to be the eternal servant of God. It is the pride of India that she can give this teaching to foreign countries. So this great saint, Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, has not done any ordinary thing. He acted as a humble servant of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and with full confidence he followed His order: "Preach the message of Sri Krsna in every corner of the world." When he went to America he didn't have any money—just a few rupees. With a trunk full of his Srimad-Bhagavatams, some chanting beads, and a pair of hand cymbals, he went to America. He didn't have any other belongings. In New York City he would sit in a park where people gathered for walking and enjoyment, and he would sing the maha-mantra and play his cymbals. He would explain the teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to those who would come to sit with him and inquire. So he was a guru in the real sense—an empowered guru—because without being empowered by God, no one can distribute the name of God or teach devotion to God.
In the Vedic scriptures we find many similar examples of empowered (saktyavesa) incarnations: Srila Vyasadeva, Sri Sukadeva Gosvami, Sri Naradaji. Naradaji is a saktyavesa incarnation of devotion; God's energy works through this great soul to spread devotional service. In the course of time we will realize that Srila Prabhupada was also an incarnation of devotion. So this is a festival of separation from Srila Prabhupada, for by feeling the pain of separation from him our devotion to him will increase. If one 'does not feel the pain of separation from God or guru, one's devotion has not yet begun; one whose heart is filled with this pain of separation has already developed devotion to God. Actually, though, Srila Prabhupada has not died. He is still with us in our hearts—if we ask his mercy. Then, wherever we are, at any time, he will direct us and give us strength.
Today we no longer have Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja with us in his physical form, but in his words he is present without any doubt. So we should not think that because Parama-bhagavata Sri Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is not present here physically, there is no more work to be done. Instead, we should all take his mission seriously and work more to spread Krsna consciousness all over the world. That will be our real homage to Srila Prabhupada. We should all work together, ignoring the small differences among us. As Sri Visvambhara Gosvami has already said, we will help you in every respect. Please don't feel that you are alone. We are all behind you and will help you according to our strength.
We pray to Srila Prabhupada to please have mercy on us, that we can be successful in spreading his words and the words of Lord Caitanya. We pray that he may give us strength, and that he may give us the same faith in the guru and faith in the Lord that he had.
His Final Instructions
During his last months, Srila Prabhupada was not very active physically, and he spoke relatively little. Yet when he did speak, his words were full of spiritual strength. These excerpts from Srila Prabhupada's last statements reveal the mind of the pure devotee and universal teacher. And they show that Srila Prabhupada is indeed a transcendental personality, whose devotion to Lord Krsna and to the mission of spreading love of Krsna is undying.
"I cannot speak. I am feeling weak. I wanted to travel to Chandigarh and other places, but I changed my program because my health is deteriorating. I decided to come here to Vrndavana (the land of Lord Krsna). If death takes place, let it take place here."
"There is nothing new to be said. Whatever I had to say, I have already said in my books. Now you must all try to understand it and continue with your endeavors. Whether I am present or not present doesn't matter. Just as Krsna is living eternally, the living being also lives eternally. But especially... kirtir yasya sa jivati: 'One who has done service to the Lord lives forever.' You have been taught to serve Krsna, and with Krsna we'll live eternally. Our life is eternal. Na hanyate hanyamane sarire: the disappearance of this temporary body doesn't matter. The body is meant for disappearance. So, live forever by serving Krsna. Thank you very much."
"There are two things—life and death. So if I die, where is the wrong in that? If I die, that is natural."
"Our money is only spent for Krsna—Krsna's palace, Krsna's temple, Krsna's worship, 'Krsna's glorification. It is not for our personal enjoyment. This is human life."
"And I also want you to organize varnasrama society [the Vedic social structure]. Divide society: brahmana [intellectual class], ksatriya [administrators], and so on. There should be social division, just as there is a division of the different parts of our body. This will help people. Don't waste the human form of life by sinful living. I have already given the ideas in my books, so you should all read them. You are intelligent, all of you. Caitanya Mahaprabhu said para-upakara—do good to others, do not exploit them. Any human being has the ability to chant Hare Krsna. Give them chanting. And also make the situation favorable. Is that clear?
"This is our mission: whatever we have, teach others. The whole world is filled with distress. Therefore our Gurukula school is meant for this purpose: to teach the students, and let them go all over the world to teach others. Durlabha manava janma sat-sange/ taraha e bhava-sindhu re ['Human life, especially in the association of devotees, is very rarely obtained. So please take advantage of this opportunity to cross over the ocean of material existence']."
"My Guru Maharaja [spiritual master] said, 'Whatever money there is, use it to print books.' He was so happy to print books. So, do it all very nicely. My Guru Maharaja used to say, 'Go on printing, go on printing.' I printed my books, now you do the same '
"Printing of spiritual books is our life-force. Print more books. This material body is only bones. But go on printing—this is life. We are not concerned with bones and stones. Our concern is the living force: apareyam itas tv anyam prakrtim viddhi me param. The living force is sustaining these bones. In the material world, people are all simply protecting bones and flesh; they have no [spiritual] idea.
"Take matter—you mix earth, water, put it into fire, and then make a building. But matter cannot act automatically. Matter cannot have mind or consciousness or impetus. It is nonsense to say that matter gives rise to life. Matter has no sense. Life is the superior energy; matter is useless. Bhumir apo 'nalo vayuh [the material elements] are useless. But there is another, superior nature. Yayedam dharyate jagat And that nature is actually governing the whole, universe.
"You [disciples] are all intelligent and experienced men; you can go on managing this movement. If I depart, there is no cause for lamentation. I will always be with you through my books and my orders. I will always remain with you in that way."
"I didn't waste a single moment. I tried my best, and it has been successful ,to some, extent"
"Have sankirtana [congregational chanting of God's holy names]. All Europeans, Americans, Africans-United Nations under Caitanya Mahaprabhu's flag. Do everything just as I have shown you. It is possible. This is the real United Nations. You try, under the protection of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and things will be successful. Others will simply waste their time and be disappointed. They will change from one body to another and suffer."
"As soon as one forgets Krsna and wants to enjoy life independently, he falls down."
"Material motives should be given up, and everything favorable should be engaged in Krsna's service. Then there will be success."
When asked who would succeed him as the leader of the Krsna consciousness movement, Srila Prabhupada replied: "All of my disciples will take the legacy. If you want, you can also take it. Sacrifice everything. I—one—may soon pass away. But they are hundreds, and this movement will increase. It's not that I'll give an order: 'Here is the next leader.' Anyone who follows the previous leadership is a leader. I don't make any distinction between Indian and European. All my disciples are leaders... as much as they follow purely. If you want to follow, then you can also lead. But you dont want to follow. 'Leader' means (one who is a first-class disciple. Evam parampara-praptam. One who is perfectly following. Our instruction is, guru mukha-padma-vakya. Do you know this? Ara na kariha mane asa. [My only desire is to have my consciousness purified by the words emanating from the lotus mouth of my spiritual master']. To become a leader is not very difficult, provided one is prepared to follow the instructions of the bonafide guru.
"Consider this example: when the sun is in the sky, there is no question of darkness. Similarly, when the Hare Krsna mantra is vibrating on your tongue and you are hearing attentively, then your consciousness becomes Krsna consciousness, or clear consciousness, and there is no question of maya, or hazy consciousness. Just as when light and darkness come together the darkness cannot stand before the light, maya cannot remain in the presence of Krsna.
"In Bhagavad-gita, Krsna says to offer Him at least a leaf or a flower. It is not that Krsna needs a flower or leaf. He is full. He does not need you. But He wants you to come to Him in love. Therefore Krsna says, 'Just stop all your nonsense and surrender to Me.' "
"People are thinking that if they get a car and an apartment, everything will be all right. But the problems are still there. Still they must undergo death, old age, and disease—so how is everything taken care of? They are thinking in terms of this spot life. They do not know that they are eternal. There are so many kinds of bodies, and they don't know which kind they will have to take in their next life. But if they take to Krsna consciousness, all problems are solved."
Once, Srila Prabhupada commented on some big buildings being torn down: "They are torn down and rebuilt—so many strong buildings. There is no pleasure in it either way. Either in building them or tearing them down, nobody is happy. It is like with a small child: he is happy to get a toy and then is happy to break it—but there is no real happiness. Or just like a boy and girl: they come together in union, and then they separate, divorce. There is no real happiness either in the union or in the separation. Real happiness is in union with Krsna and separation from maya [illusion]."
"Nobody knows what love is. As soon as you say 'love,' there must be a person. We have no experience of impersonal love. Everybody talks big words about 'universal love' and 'brotherhood'—simply word jugglery—but no one has personal realization. Love means giving! I give something, and you give something in return. It is not that you can give Krsna just a flower and leaf and keep one hundred dollars for yourself. If you do that, He won't love you in exchange; He is very clever. But if you give everything to Krsna, then He will give you intelligence by which to come back to Him."
"People think it wonderful that Krsna had sixteen thousand wives. For an ordinary man to have sixteen wives is very difficult. But God is omnipotent. Why sixteen thousand wives? He could have had sixteen million or sixteen billion wives. But fools say that it is all imagination that He could have had sixteen thousand wives. As Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita, 'Fools and rascals deride My human form.' He is inconceivable. They have no idea of the spiritual. They try to think of Krsna materially, but He is inconceivable. So they say that He doesn't exist, that He is impersonal. They say that the sky is greater than Krsna because it is not limited by form. But they do not know that millions of skies are within the mouth of Krsna! They think it is all imagination, but He is simply inconceivable. You have to accept this. Krsna says, 'All the universes are held up by one quarter of My energy.' Fools and rascals do not know what even one universe is, and yet Krsna is upholding countless universes with one quarter of His energy. Just imagine what three quarters of His energy is. Even though Lord Siva and Lord Brahma have meditated on Krsna for thousands of years, still they do not know Him."
"Even if men go to the moon, they won't have attained perfection. Anywhere you go in the material world, you have to come back to birth and death. On any planet, you'll find the four principles of material suffering—birth, death, disease, and old age. The period of my life may be very long, but after leaving this body I may be pushed into the womb of a mother on the moon planet and come out there. Wherever there is birth, there is death—and in between there is disease and old age. But I am a spirit soul: I have nothing to do with these miseries. "The present life is meant for preparation, and you can prepare to go to any planet you desire. But if you go to the Krsna planet, you haven't got to come back. So why not prepare to go to the Krsna planet?"
"The spirit soul is eternal—the oldest—but he is always fresh. For instance, although I am the oldest man here and you are all young, I have the same propensities as you. The body hampers my real happiness. Therefore, our problem is how to get out of taking one body after another. Krsna gives the solution. 'If you go to My planet,' Krsna says, 'you will not come back again. You will get eternal life, full of knowledge, and you will enjoy with Me. Here is real information about the highest perfection of the living entity. It is not a bluff, nor is it artificial."
"The name Krsna and Krsna Himself are identical, on the spiritual platform, everything is identical. In this material world you may talk on the telephone with someone a thousand miles away. You are hearing his voice, but you cannot derive the full benefit of being with the person himself. But with spiritual sound there is no such difference. You immediately make contact. In spiritual life there is no use thinking of something void—simply struggling for it and wasting your time. Krsna consciousness is tangible. Why not contact Krsna? He is so nice and beautiful. He is accepted as the Supreme Personality of Godhead by saintly persons, great scholars, and they have achieved success."
"The more you make advancement in Krsna consciousness, the more you will see Krsna everywhere—on the bank of the river, on the streets, trees and lamp posts, and everywhere else. The more you see like that, the more you know you are making tangible advancement in Krsna consciousness. Actually, there is nothing but Krsna all around us. This is explained in the Gita. He is the taste of water, the light of the moon, the fragrance of the flower, the light of the sun, the sound in the sky, the power of the strong, and so on. So one who is actually making progress in Krsna consciousness can see Krsna everywhere. At every stage of life, who can avoid the sunlight, the moonlight, the fragrance of the flower, the taste of water? But one has to learn that Krsna is in all these varieties of existence. Without Krsna there is nothing. It is simply by the influence of maya that we forget the relationship of Krsna with everything that be."
"There are two things you may want to ask about a flower—how this flower is being produced by the energy of Krsna, and how you can create a flower the way He does. The first thing is to appreciate Krsna's energy—that He can produce a flower—and the second is' 'How shall I get yogic power so that as soon as I attempt, I can produce a similar flower?'
"In Benares there was a yogi who could just take a plate and you'd find a rasagulla, a sweetmeat. Because of this power, many scholars said, 'Oh, he is a great yogi—he can manufacture a rasagulla.' People are captivated by magic—so foolish. What is its worth? One rasagulla, four cents. And another, again four cents. Don't be allured by a magician. He can play so many tricks, but that is not perfection. Just try to revive your eternal relationship with Krsna. What magic can anyone show before God?"
"Cleanse the mind and intelligence, and the body is automatically cleansed. The hatha-yoga system is for those who have a gross bodily concept of the self. Krsna says to Arjuna, 'You are grieving for those for whom you shouldn't grieve—the living and the dead.' This is the first 'slap' by Krsna in the Second Chapter of Bhagavad-gita. When Arjuna surrendered, Krsna at once gave him a verbal slap—'You are nonsense.' A spiritual master can do that. They were talking as friends, but then Arjuna surrendered: 'You just teach me.' This is only in the Second Chapter, yet this principle is at once established. See how much of the book is left.
"Krsna says that the wise man doesn't care for the material body. But hatha-yoga mainly concentrates on the body. By bodily exercise one wants to have Krsna's love! If this were possible, all wrestlers and sportsmen would have achieved Krsna's love.
"The preliminary stage is to make the body suitable for elevating one's consciousness. We in Krsna consciousness keep the body clean, just as we keep a coat clean, but we don't think we are the coat. The mind is the controller of the senses. Therefore, Lord Caitanya's program of chanting begins with the cleansing of the mind, and this takes care of the cleansing of the body. Otherwise, where is the time? Separately, it takes a long time to make the body fit and perfect to receive Knowledge. That is why it is said that only a high-class intellectual can accept Krsna consciousness. After many births, one surrenders—but why not surrender at once and become a wise man? If someone is offering me a million dollars, why should I say, 'No, thank you—I'll earn it myself, ten dollars at a time'?"
"Krsna is very kind, but He is especially kind to His sincere devotees. Krsna is always with us, within our hearts, and He is always ready to give us directions. But because everyone is independent, Krsna responds according to our mentality. If one voluntarily cooperates with Krsna's desire, Krsna responds to one's call very eagerly. Krsna descends to teach us Bhagavad-gita, begging our cooperation, and anyone who cooperates with Him is blessed."
"If you really want Krsna, you will realize Him quickly. But most people want maya on the plea of wanting Krsna. Somebody goes to Krsna and asks, 'Please supply me this maya.' People go to church and pray, 'Please give us our daily bread.' They aren't asking for God—they're asking for bread, for maya. But even if I want maya, it is better that I ask Krsna for it. One day my relationship with Krsna will be so nice that I will forget maya and want Krsna.
"So if you have a desire for maya, you should still take to Krsna consciousness. Just like Dhruva Maharaja: he wanted to worship Krsna with the desire to achieve the kingdom of his father. Of course, when he finally saw Krsna he said, 'I don't want anything but You.' But Krsna is so kind: 'You came to Me for this purpose—come on, take it.' Dhruva said, 'No,' but Krsna told him, 'No, take it. You will enjoy it—but then you'll leave it behind, and I assure you that you'll come to Me.' Without separate desires, Krsna consciousness is very nice, but even with desires, one should come forward to Krsna. One's other desires will be fulfilled. If one follows some path besides Krsna consciousness, one's separate desires may be fulfilled, but he won't get Krsna."
Someone asked, "What is the Krsna conscious person's attitude towards others?" Srila Prabhupada replied, "He sees everyone as part and parcel of Krsna. The Krsna conscious person thinks, 'They are suffering from not knowing Krsna, so let me bring them to Krsna.' This is the highest service. Everyone is suffering, so to act in Krsna consciousness is the highest service. After all, they are suffering on account of detachment from Krsna."
"Krsna consciousness never becomes old, it is fresh eternally. Do you know of any book five thousand years old that reads as fresh as Bhagavad-gita? Live in spiritual understanding and you'll never become faded."
"Don't try to do something artificial. Krsna does not say, 'Come to Me after being qualified by studying Vedanta No. He says, 'Come as you are—simply surrender.' And you should say, 'Krsna, I surrender to You.' Krsna makes no condition. He doesn't say, 'Yes, you can surrender if you have undergone courses in gymnastics and Vedanta and have gotten your M.A.' This is all nonsense. Simply surrender. The more you surrender, the more you advance. If you are not sincerely surrendered, you are missing the point. I have told you the secret, now make your choice. Krsna is guiding everyone."
"We want unlimited life, unlimited pleasure, unlimited knowledge—but this is not possible in conditional life. Liberation from the material condition is recommended. If you want to get free from the material clutches, the first prescription is that you should go to a mahatma. Mahatma means one whose heart and mind and life are expanded. Bhagavad-gita recommends seva—you have to approach a person who knows the science of how to get out of the clutches of material life, and then you have to surrender fully to him.
"Surrender does not mean that you don't question, that you simply have to take everything blindly. After explaining the Bhagavad-gita to Arjuna, Krsna said, 'My dear Arjuna, I have now explained the most secret knowledge. Consider what I have said, and then do whatever you like.' The spiritual master—whether he is the representative of Krsna or is Krsna Himself—does not force. Force has no effect: even a child, if forced, won't act.
"With a cool head we have to approach a person who knows the science. Find a person you can surrender to. Don't surrender to one who's not an authority. And if you approach a real authority, don't think, 'Oh, let me accept this spiritual master—so many people have accepted him.' Try to understand the science nicely. If you think the man teaching you is a real authority, surrender to him. Try and understand with all reason and argument. You'll find something sublime."
Where are you now ?
You have gone,
Now I understand
By your grace I now know
Where are you now?
I can't bear to think you are no longer here,
Where are you now?
—by Prapanna dasa
To better understand the significance of Srila Prabhupada's passing, we can look back Five hundred years, to another historic moment.
by Drutakarma dasa
If you visit the town of Puri on the Bay of Bengal, you will find, amid palm trees and small houses, a stone shrine marking the place where the great saint Haridasa Thakura sat alone or with a devotee companion and worshiped Krsna. There he passed almost the whole day and night simply chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra. He softly repeated the sacred syllables hour after hour, keeping count on his prayer beads until, long after sunset, the holy names had crossed his lips no less than three hundred thousand times.
Not far from Haridasa Thakura's secluded hermitage lived Lord Caitanya and His followers, who loudly chanted the maha-mantra, proclaiming the glories of Krsna. People honored Lord Caitanya as an extraordinary devotee, and a select few knew that He was an incarnation of Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and that He had come to this world to spread the chanting of the mahamantra. Since Haridasa was fully dedicated to chanting the maha-mantra, Lord Caitanya felt especially affectionate towards him and numbered him among His inner circle. Lord Caitanya and His followers visited Haridasa often.
One day Lord Caitanya's personal servant Govinda brought Haridasa a present of prasada, vegeterian food first offered to Krsna and then distributed to others. In India devotees of the Lord traditionally share prasada among themselves to express spiritual friendship. Govinda wanted to give Haridasa the prasada, but he saw that Haridasa was lying on his back and chanting Hare Krsna very slowly.
"Please get up and take your prasada", Govinda said.
"I am fasting today," said Haridasa ."I have not yet fulfilled my daily vow of chanting three hundred thousand names. How , then, can I eat in good conscience?" After a moment, Haridasa reconsidered. "You have brought maha-prasada" he said, "so how can I neglect it?" He then offered prayers and took a little portion.
The next day, Lord Caitanya Himself came to see Haridasa. With great concern He inquired, "Haridasa, are you well?"
Haridasa bowed down to the Lord and replied, "My body is all right, but my mind and intelligence are not well. My disease is that I cannot finish my prescribed amount of chanting."
Lord Caitanya tried to console Haridasa. "Now that you are old," He said, "you may reduce your chanting. You have already done more than enough to spread the glories of Krsna's names in this dark material world."
But Haridasa remained in a somber mood. He had something else on his mind. "My Lord," he said, "kindly hear my real plea. I feel in my heart that You will soon end Your pastimes in this world and return to Your spiritual home. Before that time comes, kindly let my poor body fall dead at Your lotus feet. I do not wish to witness Your last days."
Lord Caitanya answered gravely, "My dear Haridasa, Krsna is so merciful that He must do whatever you want—but whatever happiness is Mine is all due to your being present with Me here in Puri, and it is not at all fitting that you go away and leave Me aside."
Still, Haridasa would not be dissuaded. Catching Lord Caitanya's feet, he cried, "My Lord, do not create an illusion! You have millions of devotees more useful than me. If an insignificant insect like me dies, what is the loss? Besides, You are always affectionate to Your devotees, and although I am only an imitation devotee, I still hope that You will fulfill my desire."
Lord Caitanya then embraced Haridasa Thakura, and after agreeing that He would return the next day, He left to perform His noontime duties.
The next day, the Lord returned with all His associates, and upon seeing them Haridasa Thakura bowed down with deep humility. Lord Caitanya inquired, "My dear Haridasa, what is the good news?" Haridasa replied, "My Lord, the good news is whatever mercy You can bestow upon me."
Upon hearing this. Lord Caitanya began great congregational chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra, and all His devotees surrounded Haridasa Thakura and joined the chanting. Then Lord Caitanya began praising Haridasa Thakura for his saintly qualities. The more the Lord praised Haridasa, the more the pleasure the Lord felt. All the devotees were struck with wonder, and they bowed down at Haridasa's lotus feet.
Then Haridasa asked Lord Caitanya to sit down before him, and he fixed his eyes on the Lord's moonlike face and placed the Lord's lotus feet upon his chest. As he chanted the Lord's name, tears fell from his eyes. Soon he gave up his life—his soul passed from his body.
At that very moment, everyone was roaring Krsna's holy names, and Lord Caitanya became Overwhelmed with spiritual ecstasy and love for His departed devotee. He raised Haridasa's body and placed it on His lap and then danced in the courtyard in great ecstatic love. All the devotees joined Him in dancing and chanting.
Later, the devotees raised Haridasa's body onto a carrier and took the carrier on their shoulders toward the sea. All the way there they chanted, and Lord Caitanya danced in front. Upon reaching the shore, Lord Caitanya bathed Haridasa's body in the waves and declared, "From this day on, this sea is a great pilgrimage site."
The devotees dug a hole on the beach and placed Haridasa's body in it. Then Lord Caitanya started covering the body with handfuls of sand and chanting "hari bol! hari bol!"—"Chant the holy name of the Lord!" The devotees took up the chanting and threw more sand, and then they constructed a platform to mark the spot. Lord Caitanya danced and chanted all around the platform, and the whole universe became filled with the vibration of Krsna's names. Afterward, Lord Caitanya and His devotees swam and sported in the sea.
At last Lord Caitanya went to the temple of Jagannatha ("the Lord of the universe"—Krsna) to get prasada from all the shopkeepers near the main gate.
"I am begging prasada for a festival to celebrate the passing of Haridasa Thakura," the Lord said. "Please give Me alms."
Greatly pleased with the Lord's request, all the shopkeepers came forward with big baskets of prasada. But just then Svarupa Damodara, one of the Lord's chief devotees, stopped the shopkeepers, and after they returned to their shops, he and other devotees went around to the shops, gathered all the prasada, and found servants to carry it to Lord Caitanya's residence.
There, after asking all the devotees to sit in rows, Lord Caitanya personally started distributing the prasada. Since Lord Caitanya was not accustomed to eating small amounts of prasada, He put enough on each plate for at least five men. After some time, the devotees begged the Lord, "Please sit down and watch—we shall distribute the prasada."
When the prasada was served, all the devotees waited for Lord Caitanya to start eating, and then they themselves started. Before long, everyone was filled to the neck, because the Lord kept telling the servers, "Give them more! Give them more!"
After all the devotees finished their prasada, Lord Caitanya garlanded them with flowers. Then the Lord gladly informed the devotees, "Anyone who has seen the festival of Haridasa Thakura's passing, anyone who has chanted and danced here, anyone who has thrown sand over Haridasa's body, and anyone who has partaken of the prasada will very soon achieve Krsna's favor."
The Lord praised Haridasa Thakura. "Being merciful upon Me, Krsna gave Me the company of Haridasa Thakura. but now He has separated us. When Haridasa wanted to leave this world, I could not stop him—he simply gave up his life and went away. And now, without him, this world has lost its most valuable jewel."
Lord Caitanya then ordered everyone: "Say 'All glories to Haridasa Thakura!' and chant the holy name of Krsna." After saying this He began to dance, and everyone chanted and danced with Him. Finally, Lord Caitanya bade all the devotees farewell, and then with mixed feelings of happiness and distress He rested.
Surely Lord Caitanya and His associates lamented the passing of Haridasa but they also knew that he had gone back to Krsna in the spiritual world—and for that reason they rejoiced.
Near Puri, in a grove by the seashore there still stands a small, grayish temple of Krsna, the Tota Gopinatha temple. II you were to walk from this temple to the sea, along the way you would find the samadhi (tomb) of Haridasa Thakura There the devotees hold a yearly festival to honor his passing.
On a wall of the samadhi, a marble plaque bears a verse by the great devotee Bhaktivinoda Thakura (1838-1914). It explains how Lord Caitanya and His devotees were able to rejoice at the passing of a great Vaisnava, a great devotee of the Lord:
He reasons ill who tells that Vaisnavas die,
The history of Haridasa Thakura's passing is more fully described in Sri Caitanya caritamrta, translation and commentary by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
How many times have we recently been asked, "Who will succeed His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada as the spiritual leader of the Hare Krsna movement?" And how often have we been confronted with the ominous inquiry, "Will the Hare Krsna movement be able to survive without His Divine Grace?"
First of all, no one can replace His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. You cannot simply elect a person to the post of the most exalted sainthood.
In the Vedic tradition there is an unbroken chain of disciplic succession from guru to guru, going all the way back to Lord Krsna Himself. The Vedic teachers affirm that all the devotees should be given respect. But on rare occasions, jagad-gurus (spiritual leaders of the world) have appeared who are not to be replaced. For example, acaryas (teachers by example) like Ramanuja (eleventh century), Madhva (twelfth century), and Lord Caitanya Maha-prabhu (sixteenth century) are still worshiped and followed, even today. Yet sincere disciples may still act as gurus to maintain the eternal parampara (disciplic succession).
For decades before Srila Prabhupada came to the United States, so-called svamis and yogis had been coming here from India, supposedly to teach Vedic philosophy and religion. Yet they created not a single devotee of Krsna. Like Srila Prabhupada, these "gurus" also introduced India's greatest book of knowledge, the Bhagavad-gita. But unlike Srila Prabhupada, they could not present it purely, as it is, because they were not unalloyed devotees of the Supreme Lord, Sri Krsna, the speaker of the Bhagavad-gita. Lord Caitanya, the inspiration for the present-day Krsna consciousness movement, predicted that the chanting of the holy names of Krsna would spread to every town and village in the world. But only since Srila Prabhupada arrived in America in 1965 has this prediction been fulfilled. Only by Srila Prabhupada's compassion, intelligence, and complete surrender to the will of Krsna were Westerners able to receive the rare gift of Krsna consciousness. Thus Srila Prabhupada's contribution, proves that he was empowered by God to spread love of God all over the world. Such a unique world-teacher is not to be replaced.
Nonetheless, speculations abound. Shortly before Srila Prabhupada's passing, one scholarly "expert" on the Hare Krsna movement, an anthropologist, conjectured that Srila Prabhupada was keeping his choice of successor a secret, but that he would reveal it before his departure. This is simply not a fact: he picked no such single person to succeed him as leader.
How then will ISKCON—the International Society for Krishna Consciousness—go on? The answer is that our spiritual master has given us a complete arrangement for pushing forward the worldwide Krsna consciousness movement. As early as 1970, Srila Prabhupada created a Governing Body Commission (GBC), which now consists of twenty-four senior devotees, all personally selected by His Divine Grace to supervise ISKCON's missionary activities in various zones around the world. These GBC devotees have been trained (some of them for ten or eleven years) under Srila Prabhupada's direct guidance. For years now they have been conducting all the spiritual management of this mission within their assigned zones, and now they will continue to do so. The GBC meets yearly in India, and together its members plan how to execute the will of His Divine Grace.
Also, during his last months in this world, Srila Prabhupada selected eleven senior disciples to act as initiating gurus who could accept disciples after his disappearance. In this way he insured the continuation of the parampara.
As for spiritual leadership in general, Srila Prabhupada has often quoted to us from the scripture,
kiba vipra, kiba nyasi, sudra kene naya
"Whoever you are, regardless of your birth or social position, if you know the science of Krsna you can become a guru." Srila Prabhupada, then, expects all his disciples to become pure devotees, or instructing gurus, capable of bringing pure spiritual life to the conditioned souls of this material world. Thus, now that His Divine Grace has left us and gone to the eternal, spiritual world of Krsna, there shall be not just one leader but numerous gurus to carry on this tradition.
Do we sound optimistic, even on the loss of our dear most preceptor and guide? Yes, it is a fact. We devotees of the Hare Krsna movement, while feeling deep personal loss at the physical passing away of our spiritual master, are certain that he is still with us and that we can successfully pass all tests, as long as we follow his instructions. This faith rests upon a basic tenet of Krsna conscious philosophy: the spiritual master is served in separation by disciples who follow his teachings. As Srila Prabhupada writes in his Bhaktivedanta purports, "The service of the spiritual master is essential. If there is no chance to serve the spiritual master directly, a devotee should serve him by remembering his instructions. There is no difference between the spiritual master's instructions and the spiritual master himself. In his absence, therefore, his words of direction should be the pride of the disciple."
Therefore, in Srila Prabhupada's absence, we, his disciples, feel more dedicated to his mission than ever before, more determined to cooperate amongst ourselves and present purely his sublime teachings. He never instructed us on the basis of charisma. Rather, he always taught that he was delivering without change the words of the parampara, or 'disciplic succession, which are handed down from spiritual master to disciple and confirmed by the eternal scriptures. We always understood that by serving him we were serving all the past spiritual masters, and through them the Supreme Lord Himself.
Discussion about the future of ISKCON shouldn't be regarded merely as talk about the inner workings of a sectarian religion. Krsna consciousness should be seen for what it offers to society and humanity. It is not an insular, sectarian religious faith, but a universal science of the soul. The Vedic scriptures predict, and we can readily see, that the present leadership of the world is moving rapidly toward destroying the spiritual values of life. As the madness mounts, those who can maintain their sanity will look more and more to the Krsna consciousness movement, set up by Srila Prabhupada as a beacon of hope and a real spiritual shelter.—SDG.
His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada was known to the world as the founder-acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (acarya means "one who teaches by his very life"), as the spiritual master who singehandedly made "Hare Krsna" a household word, and as the foremost author and scholar in the realm of ancient India's Vedic philosophy, religion, and culture.
Srila Prabhupada appeared in this world in 1896, in Calcutta, India. In 1922 he met his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami, who asked him to teach the science of Krsna conscousness in the English-speaking world. To that end, in 1944 Srila Prabhupada started BACK TO GODHEAD magazine, and in the early 1960's he wrote and published three volumes of translation and commentary on Srimad-Bhagavatam, "the cream of the Vedic literatures."
In 1965 Srila Prabhupada sailed to America on the steamship Jaladuta, with only seven dollars' worth of rupees, a pair of hand cymbals, and a few copies of the Bhagavatam. He was also the author of Bhagavad-gita As It Is and some forty other large books. The scholarly community regards these publications as definitive and has made them standard textbooks and reference works.
Traveling almost constantly, Srila Prabhupada guided his international society from humble beginnings on New York's Second Avenue to a worldwide confederation of more than one hundred asramas, schools, temples, institutes, and farm communities. He passed away in Vrndavana, India (the place most sacred to Lord Krsna), on November 14, 1977. Now that Srila Prabhupada has departed, his disciples will carry on the movement he began.