His motto was, "Preaching is the essence, purity is the force, books are the basis, and utility is the principal." This graphically depicts the mood of Srila Prabhupada, and those who walk with him.
"The people of India could not recognise Srila Prabhupada
very well when he was there, to their great misfortune. But, day by day
we hear people say, 'how unfortunate I was, I didn't get Srila Prabhupada's
'darshan'. How great he is, he has spread this culture all over the whole
world. No one has ever done that.'
Day by day I'm hearing more and more people comment how much they are unfortunate that they failed to take the opportunity of Srila Prabhupada's presence. Actually Srila Prabhupada predicted that something like that would happen. That eventually everyone, from India, ......once all of India, then the whole world, they would realise how great this movement is, and how great Srila Prabhupada is to spread it all over the world. And the movement is still spreading by all of his powerful representatives, all of his devotees! Just see!
"The people of India were so foolish, that even though Srila Prabhupada was present, he didn't put on such a big show, he didn't manufacture 'rasagulas'. He simply manufactured pure devotees wherever he went. Which nobody can do! But the people they are more interested in the 'ashes', if somebody can create some ashes, that is very wonderful. I was in Jagannatha Puri and some 'sadhu' came up, and said, 'I am a 'sadhu' give me a flower'. So one devotee gave him a flower, he went like this (closed his hand on it), opened his hand, there was ashes. 'Can I have some Rupees?'
"What is the use??? So one is asking Rs. 2., and one is getting so many followers. The point is they are simply producing ashes, they are not producing one devotee They are not changing one persons' heart!
"So, Srila Prabhupada has changed, and his representatives, are changing the hearts of people all over the world. You see that is the real miracle. That is the real miracle!!! But people are so foolish that even today they are not able to understand what is miraculous, and what is cheap. But gradually they will understand. It took them ten years in Navadwip to understand (after Lord Caitanya's leaving that place to take 'sannyasa'). So more the preaching goes, so more the people will come to understand.
"Of course Srila Prabhupada is carrying out the same thing that Lord Nityananda started in Bengal 500 years ago. Lord Nityananda started the 'Nama-hatta', the market place of the holy name. Where everyone can come and get the holy name. But the price of purchasing it isn't an ordinary 'pounds-shillings-and pence'. What is the price? the price is faith. The price is desire. If one has the faith to chant, the desire to take the mercy, that is the only price. So in this way Lord Nityananda sent out His representatives everywhere, to open up branches of the market. And this was in turn done by Bhaktivinoda Thakura, he wrote 'Anyone all over the world, they can be part of this transcendental market place of the holy name'; and of course Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, he actually established the market places, all over the world. Any where there is a big temple with so many devotees, that is described as a bazaar. A Bazaar means where there are so many shops, so many opportunities to purchase the goods. So all these temples, big temples, they are like market places. A devotee can come and get wholesale mercy. And where there are individuals, one or two, few devotees, there is a shop where one can go. And then there's the travelling salesman. Travelling salesmen, they go from village to village, they carry the goods on their heads, and crying out........'Anyone who is interested.........!' They give him the merchandise. It is described, there are two kinds of salesman. One kind takes the goods on credit and one buys, cash. The person who takes on credit, he takes the goods, goes and sells it, realises the profit, the money, returns the price of the goods and keeps the profit. The other person he's already got the capitol, he buys the goods cash, he goes out sells the goods, realises the profit. So like that some devotees, even they have not realised, even they may not have taken initiation, they may not of realised themselves what is the full nectar of devotional service. Still by taking the message from the bona-fide source, going out distributing it, then going back and getting some more mercy to give out, they realise their profit. They make their spiritual advancement. And some, even he is realised, even he's got a taste for chanting and hearing still the same thing, ......he takes the goods and distributes - - what is that merchandise, that's the pure holy name. Of course the pure holy name is existing in Srila Prabhupada's books, on every page, word by word, glorification of the holy name, form, pastimes of the Lord.
"So in this way everyone is taking part, some people are the employees of the this market-place, just like there's a treasurer; there's the man who weighs the goods up; there's the 'coolie', who carries out the goods, throws them up, in the van; then there's the tailor, the barber and the washerman.
"In India these three types of people are considered very low. Especially the washerman, and the barber. The dirty jobs, cutting all the hair........! But in the market place of the holy name these are the most important people, Yes. The tailor, they take so many pieces of cloth, stitch them together and make a garment. So the tailor, his job is to take so many different diverse ideas 'karma-yoga', 'jnana-yoga' 'bhakti.......!' He takes all different kinds of materialistic things he combines them together, [the] stitches [are] 'time, place and circumstances', [he] cuts the suit to engage the person in devotional service. And the barber is very essential, in the barbershop he's got the long hairs, and the beards. He cuts, and gets them all cleaned up. This is just like the 'new bhakta director' - man comes in he's completely materialistic, and he's shaved up and preached to, he's cleaned up in his conceptions. In this way the barber takes the gross materialist, cleans them up, and brings them into devotional service, very important.
"But the most difficult task, I must admit, is actually the laundry man, the 'dhoba'. His job is very difficult. He takes all the dirty clothes with all the spilled chutney, 'dahl' and everything and has to make it spotless and clean. This is just like when a devotee is negligent in his devotional life and he 'bloops', he falls down or he becomes confused, and lacks enthusiasm. It means he's become coloured with materialistic desires, materialistic contamination. So the washerman, he takes such people, 'the fringies', 'the bloops' and he cleans them up and brings them back to the perfect line of devotional service, a most difficult task. It doesn't matter the devotional market place in the 'nama-hatta' everyone is engaged in the transcendental.....there's no consideration 'Oh this man's a washerman......' Every engagement is very essential and important. So the thing is to immediately join Lord Nityananda's enterprise, His International, intercosmic, transcendental spiritual market, either as salesman or employee in the market or sweeper, cleaner or whatever it may be. Sweeper is the post that was taken by Bhaktivinoda Thakur, it's especially reserved for the Acarya. The sweeper has to always keep the market place clean, no nonsense, no dirt allowed to settle. Everything has to always be kept clean, no 'maya' allowed to enter. In the market place of the holy name the highest position which appears in the material view point to be most menial. Actually what is the duty of the 'guru', he's simply to see that there's no 'maya' enters into the disciple's mind. And that all the dirt is swept away. So he's a sweeper, he's a servant of everyone, but in the market place he's given respect by all the other devotees. So in this way this transcendental preaching is going on without cessation. It's going on eternally, constantly.
"Srila Prabhupada, when he was walking through Vrindavana a 'rickshaw walla' got down off his 'rickshaw' and bowed down to Srila Prabhupada. Prabhupada said just see, this simple man, this 'rickshaw walla', how he's respecting a Vaisnava. This is the greatness of Indian culture. Unfortunately, most people see a dirty 'rickshaw walla' got off his 'rickshaw' and bowed down, what's the big deal? But Srila Prabhupada was overwhelmed that this simple person knows how to respect a Vaisnava. Where else in the world can you get any taxi driver get out and bow down to the 'acarya'. So this is the remnants of the glory of the Vedic culture which is still in India."(Jayapataka dasa Goswami. 29th August 1979. Srimad Bhagavatam class excerpt S.B. 3:29:45., Bhaktivedanta Manor, London.).
In regards to the different functions within the market-place
of the holy name, Sri Caitanya Mangala of Locan dasa Thakura Lord Caitanya
is recorded speaking the following words, which the members of Iskcon believe,
although in some cases are general, specifically refer to Srila Prabhupada.
"In the Kali Yuga, However, I'll use the weapons of My transcendental holy names, qualities, and the potency of My 'prema-bhaktas' (pure devotees). With these I'll conquer the people's demoniac mentalities and award them pure devotional service to Radha and Krsna.
"Now without considering anything else, everyone just come with Me, and we'll destroy the sinful activities of the age of Kali. With the powerful chopper of 'nama-sankirtan' I'll cut the hard knots of demoniac desires from the hearts of everyone.
"Even the sinners reject or flee to foreign countries, still they will get the mercy. I will send 'mor senapati bhakta' to go there and deliver them.
['mor' means My; 'senapati' means a military field commander, and 'bhakta' means devotee. So Lord Caitanya will empower His own devotee to spread Krishna consciousness around the world.]
"I will inundate the entire universe with My love. Not a pinch of misery or lamentation will remain. I will freely give My ecstatic love to the demigods ('devas'), and all moving and non-moving living entities."(Sri Caitanya Mangala, Locan dasa Thakura.; Mahanidhi Swami. 1994. page 48.)
"Brahmananda: Oh, Bhavananda Maharaja, he knows. The astrologer
Bhavananda: Oh, Mr... In Svarup Ganj there's one big astrologer. So he saw your photograph, and he said, 'This is the face of the most powerful spiritual personality on the planet.'
Prabhupada: (laughs) Hare Krsna.
Brahmananda: Then what else?
Bhavananda: Then he said that, 'I can tell from his face that he can make a house in which the whole world can live peacefully.'
Devotees: Jaya Prabhupada!
Prabhupada: At least I desire so. (break) Where your preaching was going on?
Tamala Krsna: We were preaching in Berkeley, California. Our other parties are spread out all over the country. One party is in .....................!"(Morning Walk Conversation, A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. 1st. July 1975. Denver.)
Srila Prabhupada was born Abhay Charan De on September
1st 1896 in Calcutta, India. His father was Gour Mohan De, a cloth merchant,
and his mother was Rajani. His parents in accordance with Bengali tradition,
employed an astrologer to calculate the child's horoscope, and they were
made jubilant by the auspicious reading. The astrologer made a specific
prediction: When this child reaches the age of seventy, he would cross
the ocean, become a great exponent of religion, and open 108 temples.(Satswarupa
das Goswami. 1987. "Your Ever Well-wisher". page x.) It is noteworthy that
in that very same year, 1896, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura's book was accepted
into McGill University in Canada, a pilot light for preaching in the West.
When young Abhay had been unwilling to go to school, his father saw the humour in it, and always treated him kindly, and was lenient. His mother however, hired a man to escort young Abhay daily to school.
Gour Mohan De was also a pure hearted Vaisnava. He often
used to take young Abhay to the local Sri Radha-Govinda temple. Where young
Abhay was seen to be stood for many long hours offering prayers before
the Deity. "The Deity was so beautiful, with His slanted eyes".(A.C.Bhaktivedanta
Swami Prabhupada; Satswarupa das Goswami. 1987. "Your Ever Well-wisher".
As Abhay grew up he became more and more devoted to the Deity form of the Lord. He was especially enamoured with the Jagannatha Rathyatra festival that was held in Calcutta each year. Hearing and understanding the significance of the festival Abhay would sometimes check railway timetables to go to Jagannath Puri where Lord Caitanya personally attended some 500 years before. Every year a conservative estimated 5 million people attended the festival, this absorbed Abhay more in the mood of Rathyatra.
1901 (circa) Young Abhay conducts his very own first Rathayatra. His father making a small cart, three feet high with a canopy resembling closely the huge carts in Puri. all the local children and many adults would come. Abhay stood out as a leader even then, as he organised and engaged everyone, even many of the mothers were engaged by him in cooking, (especially his sister Bhavatarini), who all cooked special preparations to be offered and distributed as 'prasadam' at this Rathyatra festival.
At age 6, his father purchased upon his request, his own Radha-Govinda Deities. Seeing the family engaged from his birth, watching his father performing the 'puja' at home, and going regularly to see Radha-Govindaji, it was only natural. From this day on whatever foodstuffs were brought before him by his parents, he would first offer to Sri Radha-Govindaji, and then eat Their 'prasadam'. He also used to daily offer them a ghee lamp, and properly put Them to rest at night. Little is know of his adolescence.
During his college years his father arranged a marriage, selecting Radharani Datta as Abhay's bride. In 1918 they were married, but for several years Abhay lived with his family and Radharani with hers as she was only 11 years old, and Abhay was 22 years of age. So as well as for obvious reasons, this was to facilitate his finishing his college education. As it was recognised that the added responsibility of supporting a family is a challenge.
In his fourth year of college Abhay felt reluctant to accept his degree, a degree that was given by the British. He had become a sympathiser to the Nationalist case, which advocated 'National schools', Freedom from British Rule, and Self Government (Self Rule).
At the same school (Scottish Colleges) in the class one year ahead of Abhay was the highly spirited Nationalist Subhas Chandra Bose, who later became the leader of the Indian National Army formed to overthrow British Rule of India.
Abhay was attracted to the pure and simple teaching of Mohandas K. Gandhi (Mahatma Gandhi). Who stood by the ancient pure principles of moral India, and regarded Bhagavad Gita above all other books. His personal habits too, and life-style were pure, as he lived a life as a saint, 'sadhu'. Abhay had seen many 'sadhus' and was not overly impressed. However, Gandhi had more integrity than most.
Gandhi called on all Indian students to rebel and give up British mundane, manipulative educations, that would ultimately bind one in slavery to the British Raj and would deny the Indian people of their freedom, religion, culture, and inevitably their country. The schools shaped the students, 'brainwashing' them to British Imperialism, teaching them the corrupted philosophies taught by the Christian Church funded Western Indologists shaping them for the control of generations to come.
Abhay weighed up the 'pros' and 'cons'. Abhay then rejected his diploma even after completing his fourth year and passing his examination. So doing he made his principled stand of protest in response to Gandhi's call.
When Gandhi called for a boycott of everything British and 'non-co-operation' after the British soldiers had gunned down hundreds of innocent, unarmed Indians who gathered at a peaceful rally at Jallainwalla Bagh, Abhay moved closer towards Gandhi's independence movement.
Abhay's father was somewhat disturbed for Abhay's future, but didn't resent his decision. More concerned for Abhay's future than Indian politics Gour Mohan De arranged employment for Abhay through a prominent friend, distinguished surgeon, and chemical industrialist, a Dr Kartick Chandra Bose. Dr Bose gladly accepted Abhay as his department manager in his firm.
1921 His wife gave birth to the first son and child, while she was just 14 years old (A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. June 8th 1974. Morning walk conversation. Geneva, Switzerland.).
1922 marked the first meeting of Abhay with his spiritual master. Some of Abhay Charan's friends were going to see a 'sadhu' who was preaching in Calcutta, a descendant in the Brahma Madhwa Gaudiya line coming through Bhaktivinoda Thakur, his father none less. The 'Scottish School' educated, and prestigious leader of his group of friends, was asked to come along too. At his family home Abhay Charan De had seen so many 'sadhus' come, his father a pure devotee of the Lord, would daily invite 'sadhus' to his house for 'prasadam', and as a general feeling Abhay was not overly impressed with what he saw. His friends knowing his devotion, learning and expectations, valued his opinion, and so insisted that he come and see Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Goswami. Abhay was reluctant, but his friends wanted his approval. So Abhay conceded to go.
"No sooner did Abhay and his friends respectfully bow before the saintly person and prepare to sit than he said to them, 'You are educated young men. Why don't you preach Lord Caitanya's message throughout the whole world?' "(Satswarupa das Goswami. 1987. Your Ever Well Wisher. page xvi.)
Abhay was surprised that the 'sadhu' had asked immediately for them to become preachers on his behalf. Impressed by Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakura he wanted to test him with intelligent inquiries"(Satswarupa das Goswami. 1987. You Ever Well-wisher. page xvi.)
Khadi clad, Abhay asked, "Who will hear your Caitanya's message? We are a dependent country. First India must become independent. How can we spread India's culture if we are under British rule?"
Note that he never objected to the concept of spreading Lord Caitanya's mission, his concern was with the apparent obstacles that stood in the way.
Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati dispelled any thought of potential obstacles saying that Krsna consciousness didn't have to wait for a change in Indian Politics, nor was it dependent on who ruled. Krsna consciousness could not be impaired by anyone or anything, it is so important that it could not wait. Therefore you must do it.
Abhay was struck by his boldness. He brushed all temporal material miseries and condions aside, leaving the only worthwhile and factual conclusion and solution to all material difficulties, Krsna consciousness.
In a very short time Abhay was convinced, "He's wonderful!" Abhay said to his friend, "The message of Lord Caitanya is in the hands of a very expert person"(Satswarupa das Goswami. 1987. "Your Ever Well-wisher", page xvii.) It was that very night that in his heart young Abhay accepted Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur Prabhupada as his spiritual master(Satswarupa das Goswami. 1987. "Your Ever Well-wisher", page xvii-xviii.).
In 1925 Abhay Charan De first visits Sri Vrindavan, the Holy place of Lord Sri Krsna's pastimes.
For business purposes, Abhay and his wife and family moved
to Allahabad. As a pharmaceutical salesman, Abhay did a lot of travelling
by rail, especially in North India.
By now Abhay Charan had developed a strong relationship with Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur Prabhupad, to the point where he requested formal spiritual initiation. On November 21st 1932., in the Gaudiya Math in Allahabad Abhay Charan De receives 'diksha' initiation.
Abhay tried to organise to visit his spiritual master but whenever he visited Calcutta Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati was not there. Unlike many of his other disciples Abhay was thus unable to travel and spend time with his spiritual master. Consequently over the next four years they only met about a dozen times.
When finally they did meet Abhay Charanaravinda das took every opportunity to hear from Srila Bhaktisiddhanta. "Although Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati was so strong in argument against other philosophies that even his own disciples were cautious about approaching him if he were sitting alone, and although Abhay's contact with him was quite limited, still Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati would always treat him very kindly. Srila Prabhupada would later recall, "....sometimes my Godbrothers would criticise because I would talk a little freely with him, and they would quote this English saying, 'Fools rush in, where angels fear to tread'. But I would think, 'Fool? Well, maybe. But that is the way I am'. My Guru Maharaj was always very, very affectionate to me"(Satswarupa das Goswami. 1987. "Your Ever Well-wisher", page xx.)
1935 on the occasion of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati's 62nd birthday Abhay submitted a poem and an essay at as meeting of his Godbrothers in Bombay. The articles were well received and duly published in the 'Harmonist' for which Abhay was informally daubed 'kavi' (learned poet) by his Godbrothers. Abhay's real pleasure in his offering was when it reached Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, who in particular liked one stanza and showed it to all his guests:
1939 Abhay Charan prabhu in recognition for his devotional scholarship receives the honorary title 'Bhaktivedanta' from the Gaudiya Matha.
February 1944 A.C. Bhaktivedanta begins the 'Back to Godhead
magazine', an English fortnightly magazine, single handedly. Srila Prabhupada
edited it, typed the manuscripts, checked the galley proofs, and even distributed
the individual copies.
Indian independence in 1947 was followed by the horrors of 'Indo-Pak' fighting. Hundreds of thousands died in the fighting that followed 'partition' of the land into India and Pakistan. Abhay Charan' always remained in spiritual prospectus, reflecting Srila Prabhupada recalls, "We have seen in 1947, Hindu-Muslim fighting. One party was Hindu, the other party was Muslim. They fought, and so many died. And after death there was no distinction who was Hindu or who was Muslim - the municipal men gathered the bodies together in piles to throw them somewhere".(Satswarupa das Goswami. 1987. "Your Ever Well-Wisher", page xxiii.)
In regard to the problem Abhay Charan das presented a solution in BTG (Back to Godhead Magazine), in his article "Gandhi-Jinnah Talks", he wrote, "Fighting will go on between Hindu and Mohammedan, between Christian and Christian, between Buddhist and Buddhist 'till the day of annihilation".(Satswarupa das Goswami. 1987. "Your Ever Well-Wisher", page xxii.) As long as people forget their purpose in life and relationship with God and each other out of selfish material interests and desires for sense gratification, they will continue fighting. "Real unity was possible only on the platform of spiritual understanding and service to the Supreme".(Satswarupa das Goswami. 1987. "Your Ever Well-Wisher", page xxii.)
On December 7th 1947 Abhay Charan' wrote a long letter to Gandhi in New Delhi. Having doubts that Gandhi would ever receive it Abhay Charan addressing himself as Gandhi's "Unknown Friend", he wrote, "I tell you as a sincere friend that you must immediately retire from active politics if you do not desire to die an inglorious death". Abhay Charan never received a reply, and on 30th January 1948 Gandhi was shot to death, his letter appearing as a prophecy.
For the next few years Abhay Charan put less and less
energy into business and more and more into writing and preaching.
Abhay Charan was invited to speak at the Gita Mandir in Jhansi by a colleague he had met as a customer at the Jhansi hospital. The audience was mostly students and professionals, who were mostly interested in social and cultural mental titillation. Many speakers came and went. But Abhay Charan was visionary and ambitious, and leaving his Allahabad business affairs in the hands of his son, he tried to start a spiritual movement there in Jhansi. This was "The League of Devotees".
1950 he retired from family life, adopting the 'ashrama' of 'vanaprastha' (retired). He was far from retirement in actuality. Now he dedicated his energy into study and writing.
In 1953 initiates his first disciple in that centre in
Jhansi, Acarya dasa.
Starts his own centre in Jhansi, to which the Grand Opening for 'The League of devotees' was on May 16th.
The 1950's were a difficult time for Abhay Charan. He had to leave his "League if Devotees" building because the governor's wife insisted it be used for a "Ladies Club". With no place to stay and no real support, he left Jhansi - but not his plan for a world wide association of devotees. He moved around from an 'ashram' in Delhi, stayed with different Godbrothers, now he knew he was on his own. He lived like a mendicant, staying here and there for a week at a time in various temples or in the homes of the wealthy pious people who would receive him. These difficult times of no money, simple clothing, little proper food, etc., made him more resourceful. He took these difficulties as assets(Satswarupa das Goswami. 1987. "Your Ever Well-Wisher", page xxix.) Not so much in material terms, but in term of what it did for his faith. He had no-one, he was alone. Rejected by family and friends as a material failure his only solace was the mission of his spiritual master.
To fulfil this mission he approached many prominent personalities including Dr Rajendra Prasad, the President of India a that time, but received no reply.
In September of 1956., Abhay Charan moves to Sri Vrindavan
Dham eighty miles south of Delhi to begin an intensive preparation and
study to embark on his life's mission. His plan was to draw enough energy
from the well of spiritual purity and energy of Sri Vrindavan Dham, write
in the tranquil atmosphere and then commute to Delhi to distribute his
literature and seek donations from respected persons.
Having full faith in guru and Krsna, always expecting their mercy, daily Abhay Charan pushed on even in the 60 degree Centigrade heat of the Vrndavana and Delhi summers. Living simply, in an inexpensive room in the Vamsi-Gopalji Temple, located on the bank of the sacred Yamuna River, he entered into a special mood, and quality of Vrindavan life.
It was very difficult, commuting to Delhi on the early morning train, but having nowhere to stay, returning to Vrindavan the same night. It didn't leave but a few hours in Delhi, and everything was so expensive, for one on a budget of next to nothing. Yet he continued, travelling, printing and mailing. After producing 12 consecutive fortnightly editions of "Back To Godhead" Abhay Charan ran out of money. The printer told him that he couldn't print simply out of friendship, and so there was no more publication. Abhay Charan continued writing, building up a stock-pile of preaching materials, but the plan for publication was distant.
After many years of struggle to support and maintain his family, finally in 1954., A.C. Bhaktivedanta prabhu leaves his family to dedicate his life to the mission of fulfilling the order of his spiritual master.
He ventured again to preach in Delhi. Resolute in his definite major purpose A.C.Bhaktivedanta prabhu sat in his Chippiwada temple (Delhi) typing by day and night in order to present Srimad Bhagavatam faithful to the Vedanta Sutra of Vyasa, and with purports to affect the stone like hearts of the misdirected civilisation presently inhabiting the Earth. Srila A.C.Bhaktivedanta prabhu carefully and thoughtfully with exacting care and concentration worked quickly to this end.
After some time moved to the Radha-Damodar Temple in town.
There he would eat, sleep and write in his humble rooms overlooking the
courtyard at the Sri Sri Radha-Damodara Temple, where the six Goswamis,
four hundred years previously, would sit and take 'prasadam' and discuss
Vaisnava philosophy and the loving pastimes of Sri Radha Krsna in the presence
of Lord Caitanya. At this sacred place, the home of Gaudiya Vaisnavism,
Srila Prabhupada, by the mercy of the 'parampara', became surcharged. His
conviction, and mission to write and preach becomes more apparent, with
much deep reflection upon his role, and the method by which he would fulfil
Living at the historic Sri Radha-Damodar temple in Vrindavana he began his monumental 'life's masterpiece' the multi volume commentated translation of the eighteen thousand verse Srimad Bhagavatam (Maha-Bhagavat Purana)
Reflective, and in a renounced and solitary mood, Abhay Charan Bhaktivedanta prabhu composed a Bengali poem, entitled, "Vrindavan Bhajan". Its opening stanzas were especially self-reflective and personal:
"I am sitting alone in Vrindavana Dham. In this mood I am getting many realisations. I have wife, sons, daughters, grandsons, everything. But I have no money, so they are a fruitless glory. Krsna has sown me the naked form of material nature; By His strength it has all become tasteless to me today, 'yasyaham anugrhnami harishye tad-dhanam shanaih' "I gradually take away all the wealth of those upon whom I am merciful".
How was I able to understand this mercy of the All Merciful?
"Everyone has abandoned me, seeing me penniless wife, relatives, friends, brothers, everyone. this is misery, but it gives me a good laugh. I sit alone and laugh!
In this 'Maya samsara', whom do I really love?
Where have my loving father and mother gone now?
And where are all my elders, who were my own folk?
Who will give me news of them, tell me who?
all that is left of this family life is a list of names.(Satswarupa das Goswami. 1987. "Your Ever Well-Wisher", page xxxi.).
Soon after this realisation Abhay Charan Bhaktivedanta
prabhu had a striking repetitive dream, one that he had as a householder.
In the dream his spiritual master appeared, just as he knew him, a tall,
scholarly 'sannyasi', 'Vaikuntha man', the pure representative of the Lord.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur indicated to Abhay Charan that it
is time now to take 'sannyasa'. Repeatedly he called and motioned to the
cloth. He was definitely asking Abhay Charan to take to the 'sannyasa'
When Abhay Charan awoke he pondered carefully the dream. "Abhay Charan dasa reasoned that his spiritual master was saying 'now take sannyasa and you will actually be able to accomplish this mission. Formerly the time was not right'."(Satswarupa dasa Goswami. 1987. "Your Ever Well-Wisher", page xxxiv.)
Humbly Abhay Charan (Bhaktivedanta prabhu) although apprehensive, approached his senior godbrother, Srila Bhakti Prajna Keshava Maharaj in Mathura, who stressed that Abhay Charan take 'sannyasam' immediately.
September 17th 1959., he receives formal 'sannyasa' initiation
in Mathura from Srila Bhakti Prajna Keshava Maharaj, a dear godbrother
and senior disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur Prabhupada.
He was given the suffix Goswami to his name, and so carried the full name
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami.
That day he was horned by a bull in the market place, and took it as purification after the initiation.
In the Autumn of 1959, "Srila Prabhupada was living in
Sri Vrindavan Dham and would sometimes practice 'madhukari'. 'Madhukari'
means to collect a little food door-to-door for one's maintenance just
as a bee collects a little pollen flower-to-flower. Sri Prabhupada, however,
often requested the householders whom he called upon to give pen and paper
for his writing rather than the rice, dahl, and chapattis traditionally
sought by holy men practicing 'madhukari'.
On those papers that he received as alms, Srila Prabhupada wrote page after page, preparing his messages of Godhead for the world. Some of his manuscripts he published in his 'Back to Godhead Magazine', and others, like 'Easy Journey to Other Planets', he printed as small booklets. Although unable to publish everything he wrote, Srila Prabhupada nevertheless continued to write and stockpile his manuscripts. Unfortunately, some of the early writings of His Divine Grace were lost after Srila Prabhupada left Sri Vrindavan Dham to conduct his worldwide campaign of spreading Krsna consciousness."(J.G. Bhaktigaurava Narasingha Swami. 1993. Introduction to 'In Search of the Ultimate Goal of Life'. page xv.)
Following the mood of the day, acknowledging the world struggle and control between the 'post war super powers' for the 'uncharted, unknown realm of space', and understanding the mentality of the people of the day A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami publishes his first book 'Easy journey to other planets' in Delhi in the autumn of 1960.
As a culmination of many years of study, reflection, meditation,
discussion, and thought A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami publishes Canto One, Volume
One of Srimad Bhagavatam a commentary with super condensed, compacted purports
which were the crystallised product of a life times study and realisation.
From his small room at the Radha-Damodar temple, where he would prepare his meals, and rest he could see the 'samadhi' of Srila Rupa Goswami and the Deities that he installed there. Bhaktivedanta Swami prayed there, at the feet of Rupa Goswami, his predecessor for guidance. what he received in return, the inspiration, intimate direction, was like the scribe Ganesh who wrote on Srila Vyasadeva's behalf as Vyasa dictated to him.
In 1962, with his Srimad Bhagavatam now published he personally travelled, preached its glories, and sold copies. Using favourable reviews from prominent persons like; Hanuman Prasad Poddar (Gita Press - Gorakpur), Hindu philosopher Dr Radhakrishnan, the prestigious 'Adyar Library Bulletin', Scholarly Godrothers, Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, Dr Zakir Hussain - the Vice President of India, Sri Biswanatha Das - governor of Uttar Pradesh, as his advertisements. Bhaktivedanta Swami visited prospective donors as he tried to raise funds for further volumes. To publish the first canto in three volumes it had thus taken a little more than two years.
"In Vrindavan Bhaktivedanta Swami met Mr Agarwal, a Mathura
businessman, and mentioned to him on passing, as he did to almost everyone
he met, that he wanted to go to the West. although Mr Agarwal had known
Bhaktivedanta Swami for only a few minutes, he volunteered to try to get
him a sponsor in America by asking his son Gopal, an engineer in Pennsylvania,
to send back a sponsorship form. When Mr Agarwal volunteered to help in
this way, Bhaktivedanta Swami urged him to please do so"(Satswarupa das
Goswami. 1987. "Your Ever Well-Wisher", page xxxviii.)
Meanwhile A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami went about his daily affairs following his usual avenues of book selling, looking for whatever opportunity might arise.
Then one day to his pleasure and surprise, he was contacted by the Ministry of External Affairs and informed that a certificate of 'No Objection' for travelling to the U.S was ready. Mr Gopal Agarwal of Butler Pennsylvania had solemnly declared that he would bear any and all expenses of Bhaktivedanta Swami during his stay in the United States.
With newly acquired passport, visa, 'P-form', sponsor,
and travel fare A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami travelled to Bombay to seek assistance
in getting to America. He approached Srimati Sumati Morarji, head of the
Scindia Steamship Line, who had previously helped him with a large donation
for printing volume two of Srimad Bhagavatam.
Concerned to his health and welfare Sumati Morarji said, "no" to his request for assistance.
Bhaktivedanta Swami coaxed her secretary Mr Choksi, advising
him in exactly what to say; "I find this gentleman very inspired to go
to the States and preach Lord Krishna's message to the people there....."
again she said, "no". He demanded a personal interview, which he got, and
then presented his single minded emphatic request; "Please give me one
Finally she conceded and gave him a scheduled place on the ship Jaladuta, which was sailing from Calcutta on 13th August 1965. She made all the arrangements, making sure that he would travel on a ship whose captain understood the needs of a vegetarian and a 'brahmana'. She organised that the captain, Arun Pandia carry extra vegetables and fruits for Bhaktivedanta Swami.
A couple of days before the ship was to sail Bhaktivedanta
Swami arrived in Calcutta. Although he had spent so much of his early life
growing up there and had known so many persons as in his poem, now he knew
Staying with a slight acquaintance, and on the day before his departure, travelling north to Mayapur to visit the 'samadhi' tomb of his spiritual master Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura Prabhupada to ask for his blessings. Now he was ready.
His main baggage was several trunks, two hundred three volume sets of first canto Srimad Bhagavatam, his personal baggage a small suit-case, an umbrella, and a supply of dry cereal in case he couldn't find food in the land of the meat eaters. If that be the case, he was prepared to live on boiled potatoes and the cereal he brought with him.
On Friday August 13th 1965., at 9:00 am., he sets sail
for America aboard the steamship 'Jaladuta'. By Saturday 14th., Bhaktivedanta
Swami experienced seasickness, dizziness, vomiting as they moved slowly
in heavy rains through the Bay of Bengal.
Reaching Colombo, Sri Lanka on 19th., Bhaktivedanta Swami was able to go ashore and get some relief from his seasickness. A diary is recorded of the exact route in Satswarupa das Goswami's books in the chapter "Struggling Alone"(Satswarupa das Goswami. 1987. "Your Ever Well-Wisher", pages 1-3.)
After experiencing sea-sickness from the Atlantic crossing,
in rough seas, and in mid-Atlantic, and at the advanced age of 63 years
of age A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami suffers two heart attacks. "If a third
comes I will not survive!"
That night in a dream the Lord appeared to him in a boat full of many incarnations, and assured the dedicated mendicant that He will protect him.
Sri Krsna was very kind to Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, and he appreciated that. In his diary he wrote, "If the Atlantic would have shown its usual face, perhaps I would have died. But Lord Krishna has taken charge of the ship".
After a 35 day journey from Calcutta the Jaladuta docked
at Commonwealth pier at 5:30 am., September 17th 1965., the ship docks
in Boston, United States of America, stopping briefly before pushing on
to New York City Harbour, for A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami a new journey had
The Captain made comments to the effect that, this had been the calmest of all the Atlantic crossings that he had ever been on, and light heartedly, yet with regard for his health, asked Bhaktivedanta Swami if he would return with him to ensure another safe trip.
With only forty Rupees, and an Indian steel trunk full of Srimad Bhagavatams, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami set his sights for creating a movement that would have the effect of changing the world that we live in so many ways.
Unlike many Indians who had gone before him and come to
the West, he had not come to receive from the West, but had come to give
to the West!
He was staunch. In an uncompromised manner, with shaven head, 'Vaishnava tilak', Tulasi neck beads, saffron 'dhoti', 'kurta', 'uttara' and an old 'chaddar' - shawl; and rubber pointed slippers, all not uncommon for 'sadhus' in India. But who in America had ever dreamed of seeing anyone dressed in the traditional Vaisnava way? "He was possibly the first 'Vaisnava sannyasi' to arrive in New York with uncompromising appearance"(Satswarupa dasa Goswami. 1987. "Your Ever Well-Wisher", page 5.)
Srila Prabhupada recalls, "I did not know whether to turn
left or right"(Satswarupa das Goswami. 1987. "Your Ever Well-Wisher", page
5.) After passing through the dockyard formalities he was met by a representative
from travellers aid, sent by the Agarwals' in Butler Pennsylvania.
He stayed there for a while, always meditating on how best to preach. With a burning desire to start his preaching movement he got Gopal Agarwal to take him to Pittsburg where he got a bus for New York City.
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami knew no-one in New york, he only had a contact: Dr Ramamurthi Mishra. Dr Mishra was a flamboyant, dramatic personality. Bhaktivedanta Swami was given a room at his apartment, but when it became inconvenient he shifted Bhaktivedanta Swami down to his Hatha Yoga studio near Central Park. Bhaktivedanta Swami stayed there for a short time, but found himself constantly at odds with Mishra who turned out to be a 'mayavadi'.
In Butler he had been confined by the Agarwals' middle class sensibilities; now due to having to be temporarily dependent on the good will of a 'mayavadi' - treated with kindness, yet viewed as a threat. Dr Mishra tried desperately hard to keep his 'yoga' students away from the personalistic philosophy emanating from Bhaktivedanta Swami's mouth.
November 8th., 1965., Bhaktivedanta Swami wrote to his
godbrother Tirtha Maharaj, who had become president of the Gaudiya Math.
He tried to urge his godbrothers to come and help him, or at least send
a couple of men he could work with, preach with and open a centre with.
Three weeks later a reply came from Tirtha Maharaj, unfortunately today, I think for him, Tirtha Maharaj's letter was a very polite yet to the point, ".....that the Gaudiya Math's funds could not be used to open a centre in New York".
That didn't deter him in the least, his faith in the mission
of his guru maharaj was firm, he knew what he wanted and knew that all
he had to do was be willing to follow the design of the Lord. the practical
example of Arjuna was there in the forefront of his mind, trusting that
the battle was in fact already won, the humble follower of this ageless
tradition now stood up proudly amidst numerous potential foes and declared
the battle won. Proof of the foresight of
his faith, like one who puts faith in the darkness of the early morning, knowing that light of day will appear, he revealed his mind to those he met, who he found worthy.
"In his solitary wanderings in Manhattan, Bhaktivedanta
Swami made acquaintances with a number of local people. there was Mr Ruben,
a Turkish Jew, who worked as a subway conductor. Mr Ruben met Bhaktivedanta
Swami on a park bench and, being a sociable fellow and a world traveller,
sat and talked with the Indian holy Man.
Mr Ruben: He seemed to know that he would have temples filled with devotees. He would look out and say, 'I am not a poor man, I am rich. There are temples and books, they are existing, they are there, but time is separating us from them'. He always mentioned 'we' and spoke about the one who sent him, his spiritual master. He didn't know people at that time, but he said, 'I am never alone'. He always looked like a lonely man to me. That's what made me think of him like a holy man, Elijah, who always went out alone. I don't believe he had any followers."(Satswarupa dasa Goswami. 1987. "Your Ever Well-Wisher", page 14.)
Even in the severest conditions of blizzards and snow
Bhaktivedanta Swami worked on his "Krsna Book", Srimad Bhagavatam, preached
from Bhagavad Gita and offered his food to the Lord.
15th February 1965., Bhaktivedanta Swami moved from Dr Mishra's 'yoga' studio to an place of his own, a small narrow office without furniture or telephone. Sleeping on the floor on blankets, and a makeshift desk for writing made by covering a trunk with a cloth. There were no bathing or cooking facility so he travelled up two flights to use Dr Mishra's 'Yoga Ashram'. Now Bhaktivedanta Swami maintained himself simply by selling his books to who ever he met that was interested.
Even in this bare room Bhaktivedanta Swami began to preach. On a donated reel to reel tape recorder he recorded some of his solitary 'bhajans', accompanying himself on 'karatals' (hand cymbals). He even recorded a long philosophical essay, "Introduction to Gitopanishad (Bhagavad Gita)". Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati had told him, "...and even if no one attends, you can go on chanting to the four walls". Now uninhibited by those around him, and free to speak, Bhaktivedanta Swami began lectures Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays to whoever would come. His first audience were Dr Mishra's students that he had preached to at their 'ashram'. But news soon spread like fire in the Lower East Side of New York, the time was right and so were the people.
After having his typewriter and tape recorder stolen,
disappointed, Bhaktivedanta Swami moved to the Bowery to be where the people
were, and where he was offered accommodation in a loft.
The classes continued, and the musicians of the area came to chant along with Bhaktivedanta Swami, as long as they chanted 'Hare Krishna' he didn't mind.
But alas the nature of the Bowery's drug using population convinced Bhaktivedanta Swami that as he was warned, the Bowery was unsafe for a gentleman such as he.
Gaining assistance from some of his students Bhaktivedanta Swami stayed with Carl Yeargens and his wife Eva, until Michael Grant and Carl helped him to find a store front, a former gift shop on 26 - 2nd Avenue, called "Matchless Gifts". The rent was $71 a month and including bond, electricity etc., it came to $196 to move in. Carl, Mike and some of the others pitched in and Bhaktivedanta Swami was able to move in.
The apartment was painted, electricity connected, water turned on, and a phone installed - everything paid for by his friends.
The musicians and people of the Bowery considered Bhaktivedanta
Swami "Highly Evolved", and felt inspired when it was time to move him
into his new place. He was pleased to be there too, and seeing things slowly
but surely coming together encouraged the mission of his spiritual master
to keep going on.
The time was right, things were radically changing in the west. The youth were looking for the positive alternative, something to give lasting peace after decades of war.
Now finding himself strategically placed by the Lord ready to receive the influx of potential spiritual seekers, who had come from all over the U.S. to descend on the Lower East Side, "Which in the parlance of the renting agents became known as the 'East Village'."(Satswarupa dasa Goswami. 1987. "Your Ever Well-Wisher", page 34.) Their search was unlike other immigrants to the area, their's was a search not for work or acceptance by material society. Their's was a search to find real love, real peace, real existence, integrity, and ultimately real spiritual consciousness. They had rebelled against the war in Vietnam, political manipulation, T.V. propaganda, the trivia, and mundane advertising, and influence of the media - in fact they rebelled against everything that the ephemeral goals of 'middle class America' whence they came stood for. "They were disillusioned by parents, teachers, clergy, public leaders, and the media -- they were just right for spiritual life."(Satswarup das Goswami. 1987. "Your Ever Well-Wisher", page 34.) Sometimes, with his usual visionary and humble outlook, he would declare that they had been placed there by his 'guru maharaj' to assist with his preaching.
With complete disregard for his own safety he went to a place that Vaisnavas normally find distasteful, the most materially successful place, but a land of passion and ignorance, beset with crazy misguided youth and demoniac scientists, and where intoxication, illicit sex, and cow killing were a way of life. Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, at an age when most elderly gentlemen would be thinking of rest and retirement, started a revolution that has, without any doubt, changed the face of the earth.
The pure unalloyed Vaisnavas like Srila Prabhupada always
act in a way that is pleasing to the Lord and in no other way, as in the
case of Lord Caitanya's servant, who, after Lord Caitanya fell asleep across
the doorway of the room, stepped over His body to perform devotional service
for the Lord. Upon Lord Caitanya's waking he saw that His dear servant
was still in the room and had not taken his meal. Lord Caitanya enquired
why he had not gone for his meal, and the devotee replied that he couldn't
as You, the Lord were sleeping, blocking the door. The Lord further enquired
saying, "How then did you enter the room?" The devotee replied that,
"I had stepped over You so I could do some service for You, but for my
service, service of my tongue and belly, I could not cross over You as
this would be an offence." There are many stories like this in the Srimad
Bhagavatam. One story relates how, at one time, Lord Sri Krsna played the
part of having a headache. He stated that the only medicine was to take
the dust from the lotus feet of the 'brahmanas', and so approached the
'brahmanas' in that way. Thinking for their own welfare and not for Krsna's,
they all said that if they were to allow the Supreme Lord to take their
feet on His head, they would all go to hell, never to return. However,
when Krsna approached the 'gopis', the simple cowherd girls of Vrndavana
with the same request, without hesitation gave Krsna their feet and He
placed them on His head. Their thoughts are recorded as, "We don't care
if we go to hell. Let us satisfy our Krsna. If Krsna is suffering we will
do anything we can to relieve Him."
Another time in Jagannatha Puri temple, which gets very full, an old lady climbed onto the body of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to see the forms of Lord Jagannatha, Baladeva and Lady Subhadra. Many devotees were perplexed, but Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu could see her deep love for the Lord, and thus allowed her to do so. Another is in the case of Lord Krsna Himself, who broke His promise to save His devotee Arjuna. When grandfather Bhisma attacked Arjuna, Krsna ran at Bhisma to crush him with a chariot wheel, even though He had said He would not intervene in the battle. Yet for His devotee He gave up His reputation.
So in the same way, as a spotless 'paramahamsa Vaisnava sannyasi' of the Lord "our Srila Prabhupada", for the service of the Lord and for the service of mankind and all living entities, took up the preaching mission as laid down by the Personality of Godhead, Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, at the risk of his own personal safety and comfort.
Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami was never concerned for the petty criticisms of the caste conscious 'smartas' and 'gosais', or others who never preached to try to lessen the suffering of the living entities in this world, for his turning those born outside of the 'Hindu' caste of 'brahmin' into sincere 'Vaisnava brahmins'. Rather he strictly followed the higher principal of compassion to all the conditioned souls, as spoken by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu;
The 'shastric' injunctions that the many rigid 'smartas'
quote are it's true there for our guidance and safeguard. The context however
needs to be examined, and then applied to practical application as in the
way of it's intent. In reality the sum and substance of these injunctions
restricts the movements of purified or pure devotees outside of 'karmabhumi'
(India) to safeguard them from the undesirable lifestyles of the non-devotees,
and barbarian carnivores who pervade such places, least not only their
Vaishnava principles be threatened but also their lives. Specifically the
west is referred to as 'bhogabhumi' meaning a place of unrestricted sensual
exploitation and enjoyment.
We can see though, that such a strong willed, pure hearted and dedicated person as Srila Prabhupad never ever became affected by the lesser influences of the material energy. Rather 'Mayadevi' stands hands folded as the assistant of her Lord and master (Sri Krishna) to help and guide such a pure devotee.
"We shall call our society I.S.K.C.O.N. Bhaktivedanta
Swami had laughed playfully when he had first coined the acronym". He had
initiated the legal work of incorporation that spring, while still living
on the Bowery, but even before its legal beginning, he had been talking
about his "International Society for Krishna Consciousness", and so it
had appeared in letters to India and in "The Village Voice" (newspaper).
A friend had suggested a title that would sound more familiar to Westerners
"International society for God Consciousness". But 'God' was a vague term,
whereas 'Krishna' was exact and scientific; 'God Consciousness' was spiritually
weaker, less personal. And if Westerners didn't know or understand that
Krishna was God, then the 'International Society for Krishna Consciousness'
would tell them, by spreading His glories 'in every town and village'.
'Krishna Consciousness' was Bhaktivedanta Swami's own rendering of a phrase from Srila Rupa Goswami's Padyavali, written in the 16th century. 'krsna-bhakti-rasa-bhavita': "To be absorbed in the mellow taste of executing devotional service to Krsna'.
The purposes stated within Iskcon's articles of incorporation reveal Bhaktivedanta Swami's thinking. There were seven points, similar to those given in the prospectus for The League of Devotees, he formed in Jhansi, India 1954. That attempt had been unsuccessful, yet his purposes remained unchanged.
Seven Purposes of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
(a) To systematically propagate spiritual knowledge to society at large and to educate all peoples in the techniques of spiritual life in order to check the imbalance of the values in life and to achieve real unity and peace in the world.
(b) To propagate a consciousness of Krishna, as it is revealed in the Bhagavad Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam.
(c) To bring the members of the society together with each other and nearer to Krishna, the prime entity, thus to develop the idea within the members, and humanity at large, that each soul is part and parcel of the Quality of Godhead (Sri Krishna).
(d) To teach and encourage the 'sankirtan' movement, congregational chanting of the Holy Names of God as revealed in the teachings of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
(e) To erect for the members and for society at large, a Holy place of transcendental pastimes, dedicated to the personality of Krishna.
(f) To bring the members closer together for the purpose of teaching a simpler and more natural way of life.
(g) With a view towards achieving the aforementioned purposes, to publish and distribute periodicals, magazines, books and other writings.
Regardless of what Iskcon's charted members thought of the society's purposes, Bhaktivedanta Swami saw them as immanent realities."(Satswarup dasa Goswami. 1987. "Your Ever Well-wisher", page 45-47.) In 1966 (July 20th), he incorporates ISKCON. Autumn of 1966., he establishes the ISKCON Press.
In January 1967 A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami experiences his first airplane flight to San Francisco to be greeted by his newly established temple inmates there.
September 1967., he finds himself suffering from a third heart attack since leaving his beloved Vrindavan.
July 9th 1967., he inspires his disciple to perform the first Rathayatra outside of India, it was to be performed in San Francisco.
In July (24th) 1967., Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami leaves for India because of ill-health. But found a warm welcome to meet him.
In May of 1968., Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami visits the new fledgling community of 'New Vrindavan', West Virginia.
This opens a new chapter by installing the first Radha-Krsna Deities outside of India, in the Los Angeles Iskcon temple (June 23rd 1969). Being sensitive to the predictions that Los Angles may become like Dwaraka and return to the sea, (Los Angles, due to its being in an earthquake zone, being on a fault line etc.) the Deities are called Sri Sri Rukmini-Dwarakadisha.
Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami pays his first visit to London (September 1st 1969) to see his disciples there, and resides at 'Beatle' John Lennon's country estate at Tittenhurst, near Reading.
On 28th July 1970., Srila Prabhupada forms the Governing
Body Commission (G.B.C.) as originally requested by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta
Saraswati Thakur for his disciples to do.
The very next day (29th July) he establishes the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust (BBT). A book trust specifically for publishing the works of His divine Grace. Highly respected by scholars for their authority, depth, and clarity, the books are now used as standard text books in numerous college, and University courses.
As a publishing enterprise it has to date published, and distributed world-wide more books in number, unequalled by anyone book publishing house. (In some Iskcon literature 1972 is the date given as the foundation of the BBT.).
August 29th 1970., marks the instituting of the 'Life Membership Program' in Calcutta. Later that fall, he performs a series of preaching tours with his American and European disciples.
May 1971., Srila Prabhupada signs a contract with MacMillan Book Publishing Company to print the unabridged edition of 'Bhagavad Gita As It Is'.
1971 (May) marks the acquiring of five acres of land in Sridham Mayapura, near the birthplace of Lord Caitanya, Nadia, West Bengal. This will further one of the purposes of the society.
Sometimes some of Srila Prabhupada's godbrothers would try to criticise him saying that they had noticed that when he came to Mayapura that he didn't stop his vehicle at the Gaudiya Math get down and pay obeisances as the others did at the 'samadhi' tomb of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura. Srila Prabhupada stated that it was not that he saw his spiritual master only in that place, he said that never was there a second of any day that he felt the absence of his spiritual master. He always felt the presence of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta because actually he was always in his association.
We can truly see that Srila Prabhupada followed in the
mood of the great predecessor acaryas like Sripad Madhwacarya, Sripad Vyasa
Tirtha and the Goswamis of Vrindavana, for he was never simply attached
to the worldly system of 'varna' and 'ashrama', or materialistic etiquette
and its' dogma. But rather knew how to please Lord Krsna, and subsequently
all others, by adapting whatever situation occurred into a favourable one
for serving Him.
Anyone could see, he was a great 'Vaisnava brahmin' of the highest character, but when necessity called for it he did not hesitate to involve himself in day to day management to ensure that his preaching mission, his life's mission to fulfil the order of his 'Guru Maharaja', went on, which ordinarily someone who was thinking himself to be a 'sannyasi' or a big big 'guru' doesn't seem to do. In fact on numerous occasions he said that he would do anything to assist in the preaching mission of his 'guru maharaj'. One such instant that come to mind was with a 'sankirtan' - book distributor who required something on a shelf, and asked Srila Prabhupad if he could stand on his bed to reach it. The devotee was immediately told that for preaching you can stand on my head.
On an arrival address Srila Prabhupada spoke about the caste system in India. He defined the four social castes, and then especially glorified the 'brahmins'. Thinking they had found a loop-hole in his spotless character, a reporter poised a subtle challenging question. "So what caste are you?" The humble reply, "I'm a fifth class, servant of the other four!", startled everyone there.
From time to time fundamental, fanatical and other poorly informed groups; deprogrammers etc., published books in which they found fault with Srila Prabhupada's fledgling and 'newly converted' disciples, yet none to my knowledge were so brave, or so foolish as to find fault with him, the pure surrendered devotee of the Lord.
Now we are seeing the fruits of Srila Prabhupada's selfless surrender, but according to some, one in the renounced order of life should not cross a small ocean. And if one is thinking himself as a material designation such as a 'sannyasi', then as Sripad Rajendra Tirtha inferred to Jayadharma Tirtha (Vijayadhvaj Tirtha), surely it is better that one doesn't go anywhere least he become contaminated, but for pure Vaisnavas there is a higher principle. H.H. Sri Bannajee Govindacharya gives his support to such selfless preaching to further the 'dharma'.
However, June 1971., saw Srila Prabhupad visiting Moscow the seat of communistic atheism, and plants the seed of Krsna consciousness there, by which we see today, the fruits of many temples, and tens of thousands of devotees have emerged.
In 1972 Srila Prabhupada began the Vedic system of primary and secondary education in the West by founding the ' Bhaktivedanta Swami gurukula' school in Dallas, Texas. Since then many more have been developed around the world.
In March 1972 he performs the consecration, and cornerstone
laying ceremony ('Deva Grharambha') at Hare Krishna Land his newly established
and threatened project in Juhu, Bombay.
Just after this still in March 1972., he aquires land in Raman Reti, Sri Vrindavan Dham, and conducts the cornerstone laying ceremony there also.
Following a vigorous 12 year preaching tour which took him fourteen times around the world, and to six continents. Yet his 'sadhana' of taking rest early, and rising at midnight to write through the night afforded his prolific quality literary output.
At the Rathyatra in London July 1973., even at a very
advanced age of 77-78 he dances ecstatically the full length of the procession
course from Hyde Park Corner to Trafalgar Square, for at least an hour
and a distance of about 3-4 kilometres (around 2 miles).
Srila Prabhupada was so ecstatic that even the devotees who were seated on Lord Jagannath's cart, Revatinandan Maharaj leading wonderful kirtans, they were told to come down off the cart and join the fun. They did, and by the time the Rathyatra reached Picadilly Circus Srila Prabhupada was dancing and jumping, clean off the ground.
On November 10th 1974., Srila Prabhupada completes his mammoth commentary on Sri Caitanya Caritamrta with elaborate translations and purports.
April 20th 1975., he organises to bring local 'brahmin' priests to accompany his ecstatically jubilant disciples as functionary priests under his instruction to perform the 'Avahan' and Grand Opening of the newly completed Sri Sri Krishna-Balaram Mandir, in Vrindavan.
On April 20th 1975 Srila Prabhupad meets with Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi.
1975, also marks a great scientific achievement for Srila Prabhupad. He founds the 'Bhaktivedanta Institute', the scientific branch of Iskcon headed by a group of his disciples from the scientific community, now dedicated to Srila Prabhupada's mission of proving that 'Life Comes From Life'. Thus smashing former atheistic, rationalistic, Darwinistic theories of 'Material Evolution'.
"One time in Mayapura, we had just completed that four-storey
building, and Srila Prabhupada was very happy to be there. Of course he
had a place to sit, so now we could lay down.
He was taking 'prasad'. There was a big feast that day for the opening of the temple, and [after] he was taking, and he heard all this noise in the back. He got up and looked out of the [window in the] back. He called all the G.B.C.'s immediately come, .....call Bhavananda, Jayapataka........everyone (everyone laughs). Also......, he used to call......., all of a sudden. 'Call everyone!' so everyone was called, they all run.....! .......and there he was looking, ........and there in the back, there was a ditch about 50 feet from the wall of the temple where all the leaf plates from the feast had been thrown. ......And there, there was about 15 local children, who were fighting off the dogs and taking the plates. You know, how devotees, .....they get a little piece of uncooked 'puri', and throw it back on the plate, or there's a little bit of chutney juice.......! anyway the children were taking the plates and licking them, and taking the little half 'puris', and whatever they could get and eating that. And Srila Prabhupada was looking, 'Just look at how they are eating this, they must be so hungry. They must be so hungry! We must feed them!'
"Then Srila Prabhupada started crying and said, 'This is Krishna's house, Krishna is the father of everyone, if you want to make 'real temple' then you must make arrangement.......anyone within a 10 kilometre circumference, that they near go hungry. Then this is Krishna's house - in the presence of the father the child will never go hungry. Immediately make arrangements to distribute 'prasadam'.' And that's the beginning of Iskcon Food Relief (the fore-runner of 'Food For Life')."(Jayapataka dasa Goswami. 29th August 1979. Bhaktivedanta Manor, London.)
Srila Prabhupada's mission was so necessary. I, for one,
would not be here writing this if it were not for his compassion for the
fallen conditioned souls, such as myself, who somehow, or another had fallen
into this material pool, and were suffering like anything there. This is
not some esoteric poetry or exaggerated 'arthavadic' statement on my part,
I mean suffering LIKE ANYTHING.
Srila Prabhupada, by his mercy and on the order of his spiritual master Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, came to smash the philosophies of impersonalism and voidism. Not only are pure Vaisnavas crossing a small watery ocean like a calf's hoof-print, but are successfully crossing the ocean of birth and death, and enabling many thousands of souls in this world to do the same. On the order of 'guru' and Krsna, "..therefore, the Madhwa Sampradaya is successfully spreading all over the universe"(A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in his purport to the verse Srimad Bhagavatam 1:9:7. page 75.).
Like all of the predecessor 'Acaryas' we need to remember,
relish and give thanks to such a devoted and pure soul as Srila Prabhupada.
To enable this mission to be established Prabhupada nearly sacrificed his very life on the journey across the treacherous Atlantic Ocean that remitted two heart attacks, but this humble pure devotee's love for the Lord changed everything. The Lord even appeared in a dream to Srila Prabhupada, in a boat full with many incarnations, saying they would protect their lonely ambassador. The captain of the Jaladuta (the ship on which Prabhupada left India) said that it was the smoothest voyage he had ever had, and asked Prabhupada to come with him on the return to guarantee another smooth Atlantic voyage.
To capture the mood of Srila Prabhupada we have included the English translation of the Bengali prayer that he wrote on his arrival at Commonwealth Pier on September 17th 1965, Boston, U.S.A.
One should try to picture the scene, looking at the seat of western materialism where he had come to fulfil the order of his spiritual master. The intensity of standing on the battle field overlooking the armies assembled, or ready to embark upon one's allotted "sankirtan spot" ('prabhu datta desha') prepared with intent, meditative, observant, dependant, and where to start? Srila Prabhupada, on board the ship Jaladuta, carrying within his heart the order of his spiritual master to spread the teachings of Sri Caitanya, the wisdom of the 'Acaryas', beyond the borders of India throughout the entire world, oversaw his purpose. As he looked out upon Bostons' bleak and dirty skyline he could understand the difficulty of this sacred mission for these Godless people. Thus, with perfect humility, he composed this historic prayer, praying for the deliverance of all the fallen souls.
1. " My dear Lord Krsna, You are so kind upon this useless soul, but I do not know why You have brought me here. Now you can do whatever you like with me.
2. But I guess You have some business here, otherwise why would You bring me to this terrible place?
3. Most of the population here is covered by the material modes of ignorance and passion. Absorbed in material life, they think themselves very happy and satisfied and therefore they have no taste for the transcendental message of Vasudeva. I do not know how they will be able to understand it.
4. But I know Your causeless mercy can make everything possible because You are the most expert mystic.
5. How will they understand the mellows of devotional service? O Lord, I am simply praying for Your mercy so that I will be able to convince them about Your message.
6. All living entities have come under the control of the illusory energy by Your will, and therefore, if you like, by Your will they can also be released from the clutches of illusion.
7. I wish that You may deliver them. Therefore, if You so desire their deliverance, then only will they be able to understand Your message.
8. The words of the Srimad Bhagavatam are Your incarnation, and if a sober person repeatedly receives it with submissive aural reception, then he will be able to understand Your message.
9. It is said in the Srimad Bhagavatam (1:2:17-21.): "Sri Krsna, the Personality of Godhead, who is the Paramatma (Supersoul) in everyone's heart and the benefactor of the truthful devotee, cleanses desire for material enjoyment from the heart of the devotee who relishes His messages, which are in themselves virtuous when properly heard and chanted. By regularly hearing the Bhagavatam and rendering service unto the pure devotee, all that is troublesome to the heart is practically destroyed to nil and loving service unto the glorious Lord, Who is praised with transcendental songs, is established in the heart, the modes of passion ('raja') and ignorance ('tamas') and lust and desire ('kama') disappear from the heart. Then the devotee is established in goodness and he becomes happy. Thus established in the mode of goodness, the man rejuvenated by loving service to the Lord gains liberation from material association ('mukti') and comes to know scientifically of the Personality of Godhead. Thus the knots of the heart and all misgivings are cut to pieces. The chain of fruitive actions ('karma') is terminated when one sees the Self as master."
10. He will become liberated from the influence of the modes of ignorance and passion and thus all inauspicious things accumulated in the core of the heart will disappear.
11. How will I make them understand this message of Krsna consciousness? I am very unfortunate, unqualified, and the most fallen. Therefore I am seeking Your benediction so that I can convince them, for I am powerless to do so on my own.
12. Somehow of other, O Lord, You have brought me here to speak about You. Now, My Lord, it is up to You to make me a success or failure as You like.
13. O spiritual master of all the world! I can simply repeat Your message, so if you like You can make my power of speaking suitable for their understanding.
14. Only by Your causeless mercy will my words become pure. I am sure that when this transcendental message penetrates their hearts they will certainly feel gladdened and thus become liberated from all unhappy conditions of life.
15. O Lord, I am just like a puppet in Your hands. So if You have brought me here to dance, then make me dance, make me dance, O Lord make me dance as You like.
16. I have no devotion, nor do I have any knowledge,
but I have strong faith in the Holy Name of Krsna. I have been designated
as Bhaktivedanta, and now if You like You can fulfil the real purport of
(Signed - the most unfortunate, insignificant beggar A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, on board the ship Jaladuta, Commonwealth Pier, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A., 18 September 1965.)
Arriving with only forty rupees in his pocket and a trunk full of Canto One of the Srimad Bhagavatam in three parts, Srila Prabhupada, the ambassador for the priceless truth of ancient India, the panacea, that makes lame men walk and blind men see, was about to embark on his mission that we have seen, has changed the face of the whole earth. Srila Prabhupada relied completely on Krsna, sitting down beneath a tree in Tomkins Square Park. The 'Yuga Dharma' was put to the test - "Just chant 'Hare Krsna' and your life will be sublime." Srila Prabhupada's faith in 'guru' and Krsna gave everyone who came in contact with his message the living purport to devotional life.
On the Jaladuta ship in mid-Atlantic, suffering heart attacks, Srila Prabhupada composed the following prayers knowing how, by the order and desire of Lord Sri Caitanya and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, everything would go on.
Sitting on a park bench in New York City, Prabhupada,
in conversation with an acquaintance said, "We have so many temples, so
many devotees, so many books..... There is just some time separating us."
And it became a fact. By Srila Prabhupada's humility, fathomless faith
and determination to satisfy guru, the parampara and Krsna, to save all
the fallen souls suffering due to ignorance in this materialistic age of
Kali, his years of intense study and writing had given Krsna a perfect
instrument to work with.
When success came, as was his visualisation, with so many devotees, so many books and so many temples, Srila Prabhupada remained all the time meek and humble.
In a letter of 1968 Srila Prabhupada wrote: "Personally, I am a nonentity; I have come here on the order of my Spiritual Master, and He has kindly sent all you boys (and girls) to assist me. So whatever is being done, there is no credit for me, but all the credit goes to my spiritual master, because He has arranged everything, and I am simply to abide by His order."(A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad. Letter, 68:10:34 Book Ref No.).
Srila 'Prabhupada': The master at who's feet other masters
sit, never ever utilised any facility for sense gratification. His purity
and true renunciation was, and is, admired by all. Even sometimes persons
would criticise Srila Prabhupada's followers due to our deep conditioning,
not coming to the standard Srila Prabhupada had set, but still no honest
man could criticise Srila Prabhupada. He is still cherished in the memories
of millions for his perfect Vaisnava qualities, more tolerant than a tree,
humbler than a blade of grass, and always offering respect to others. Even
he would glorify his disciples for their helping him, though the disciples
knew it was by Srila Prabhupada's mercy that they were even there. Kindling
the smallest flames of devotion, the perfect 'hotri' set the entire world
ablaze with Krsna Consciousness.
If any think they can do as, or better than he, I challenge you to do it. Talk is cheap, achievements take surrender, and if by the Lord's mercy you too are successful, then wonderful, we all benefit the more! Please only speak to glorify who is worthy.
In just twelve short years he initiated many thousands of disciples, established temples in every major city in the world, and travelled extensively twelve times around the world in as many years. He established the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, which is now one of the biggest book publishing houses in the world which distributes transcendental literatures at a rate unparalleled. In every university, library, school, and many millions of houses there are now to be found the transcendental time bombs of Vedic wisdom - Bhagavad Gita As It Is, Sri Ishopanishad, Bhaktirasamrta Sindhu (Nectar of Devotion), Srimad Bhagavatam, Sri Caitanya Caritamrta, and hundreds of small books and booklets on spiritual life.
All the great 'acaryas' made commentaries on the Vedanta Sutra, and our Srila Prabhupada also mentioned that he had this planned. Actually if one studies Srila Prabhupada's life and instructions on how to take up spiritual life, one will realise how the person "Bhagavata" and the scripture "Bhagavata" are non-different 'saksad dharitvena samasta sastraih'........!
Every word that Srila Prabhupada spoke came as a translation of a verse with crystallised realisations in the form of the Bhaktivedanta purports. If one reads the purports of the previous 'acaryas' which the faithful surrendered soul Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami echoed, one can see that he embellished the words of all the pure 'Vaisnava acaryas' in our line. What he actually did was virtually gave up his own ideas, and even speech patterns, to assimilate and simply deliver the word of the previous authorities, in a pure and presentable manner. He used his intelligence properly to present it. That to my understanding is real self surrender. This is why Krsna empowers such devotees, for Srila Prabhupada had no other interest but to spread the pure teachings of the Brahma Madhwa Gaudiya Sampradaya to all who could take it. Every action that he made, every 'mudra', gesture told of the ageless culture coming down from the Lord. If you doubt this, study his life. Srila Prabhupada may not have formally written Vedanta Sutra, but his life was the living Bhakti-Vedanta-Sutra, and therefore must be accepted along with all the great 'Vaisnava acaryas' like Narada, Srila Vyasadeva, Acarya Madhwa, Sri Caitanya, the Goswamis, Baladeva Vidyabhusana, Srila Bhaktivinoda and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura. Earnestly studying the commentaries of the great 'acaryas', Srila Prabhupada preached their glories constantly.
Srila Prabhupada states in his purport to Caitanya Caritamrta, Adi Lila (7:21.) that "All the codes of the Vedanta Sutra need not be examined here however, since we intend to present the Vedanta Sutra in a separate volume." I suggest, that He was that volume personified. Actually if one takes the time to read the purports of these verses of the 7th chapter of Adi Lila of Sri Caitanya Caritamrta, one will easily understand the purport to the stanza the person "Bhagavata" and the book "Bhagavata" are one and the same. Srila Prabhupada is a living example of the Vedanta Sutras. Sacrificing everything for the mission of the Lord, barely sleeping at night, he would stay up translating and writing his purports, then daily giving lectures, going on walks and having room discussions with his disciples and guests. Whatever way one looks at this, the conclusion must be that Srila Prabhupada is definitely the bona-fide representative of the Brahma-Madhwa-Gaudiya Sampradaya. As all the acaryas have left their commentary on Vedanta Sutra, all complimenting the original author, and the supporting commentaries by great acaryas like Madhwa, so Srila Prabhupada left his for us in the modern age, in the form of his life, the Bhakti-Vedanta Sutra.
On his last journey around the world stopping at London's
Bhaktivedanta Manor, I, for a very short time, had the great good fortune
of being able to see His Divine Grace and have but a few "exchanges". At
this time I accepted His Divine Grace as the Lord of my life, my spiritual
master, not officially, but within my heart. This, no one can deny me.
Thus Srila Prabhupada has changed my life, and feeling so indebted, I humbly
dedicate this book to His Divine Grace, in his centennial year (1896-1996),
and who is an epitaph of the "Legacy of Sripad Ananda Tirtha, Madhwacarya,
Bhagavatpad", - Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, for if it had
not been for him, I have no idea of where I would be now, or my future.
Nor would you be reading this book!
At this time his physical health had been poor for a while now, and virtually his body had ceased to work. In London when he came in August, we were all so excited to see him. And after delays at the airport, which gave way to prolonged ecstatic 'kirtan' by devotees from all over Europe (England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, Holland, etc.) up to the point when his car came through the "Manor Gates" and up to the reception room door. But we were shocked at his emaciated appearance, it was heart rending. Yet, his eyes, sparkling behind tinted glasses told of a different situation. They were penetrating, warm and smiling, reaching out and touching the very core of each of us.
Watching his devotion to Sri Sri Radha Gokulananda was touchingly memorable, and his 'traditional' visit to Radha Londoniswara via Radha-Bankabihari's (an old friend from Vrindavan's Deity, who lives in London) even in such a condition. .......and Janmastami and Vyasa-puja there at the Manor.
A few months after his visit to London, after giving up
eating, sleeping etc., only subsisting on the Deity's 'caranamrta', he
now returned to his beloved home, Vrindavana.
The concerned devotees consulted astrologers on Srila Prabhupada's request with a view to gaining insight as to when this condition would pass. Everything indicated that this could be the time of Srila Prabhupada's disappearance. Although some said that if he were to survive this difficult time for his body, he would carry it on for a few more years. One astrologer suggested, 'maha-mrtyum jaya-japa' and 'havan', to which Srila Prabhupada responded, "So this 'japa', 'maha-mantra japa' and 'bhagavat-path', that I am doing". 'Srimad Bhagavatam-patha'. So either read 'bhagavat' or chant 'Hare Krishna', and let me lie down like this, that's all, as it is going on. Huh?(A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. October 14th 1977. Room Conversation.)
In his humility Srila Prabhupada requested many of his godbrothers to come, and those who could not come, he sent telegrams asking for their forgiveness of any offences that he may have committed while trying to push on, and fulfil the preaching mission of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur Prabhupada. Humbly Srila Prabhupada requested like this, and the loving devotees surrounding his bedside, carried out his every wish. Many godbrothers came, sharing treasured moments together, knowing Srila Prabhupada's nature, and heart's desire, and intent - there was no question of any offence being taken.
As a complete philosophy, a full and rich culture, a way of life, and a way to death, and beyond, the 'acaryas' like Srila Prabhupad have left a wealth of practical guidance, up to the last that we can take advantage of to help us advance.
Some things as eternal truths, some to be applied according to 'time, place and circumstance'. Nothing was left untouched, no mysteries, or controversies. The chaste 'Prabhupadanuga' followers recognise this, look for what he has left, and resolve, and push on his movement, as he did himself.
One dear friend of Srila Prabhupada’s came to see him,
Niskinchina Krsna dasa babaji maharaj:
Krsna dasa Babaji: It is wonderful that he is speaking so nicely, with full sense.
Bhakti-caru: He's saying that it's wonderful that you are in full consciousness.
Prabhupada: He doesn't expect this consciousness in this condition. Therefore he is astonished. Actually, physically--finished, everything. So wherefrom the voice coming and wherefrom intelligence coming? That he is astonished...
(Venue: Srila Prabhupada's house, Sri Krishna Balarama Mandir, Vrindavana. Date: 3rd November 1977 [11 days before Srila Prabhupada departed] SRILA PRABHUPADA KI JAYA! )
Srila Prabhupad residing in the holy Dham of Sri Vrindavan,
on Monday November 14th, 1977, at 7:30 pm., which fell upon the Caturthi
of the Gaura (Sukla) Paksa, Mula nakshatra, gave up this mortal frame surrounded
by loving disciples engaged in 'Harinam-sankirtan', the congregational
chanting of the Holy Name.
Translating Srimad Bhagavatam up until the very last breath, in a peaceful condition, and with the Holy Name on his tongue, Srila Prabhupada passed from this world in Sri Vrndavana Dhama to rejoin his worshipful Lords Sri Sri Nitai Gaura, Sri Sri Krsna Balarama, and Sri Sri Radhe Syamasundara in Their eternal abode.
(Poem by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura)
Before Srila Prabhupada's departure he instructed his leading disciples to continue his mission and to follow his instructions. He also said that all of us would show our love for him by how we co-operate together to continue what he had established. Now, on Srila Prabhupada's order, under his managerial authority, the Governing Body Commission, and due to the need of devotees to accept a personal guide, mentor or a spiritual master coming in a pure line of disciplic succession, many advanced devotees have accepted the "love burden" of assisting Srila Prabhupada to push on the preaching in various wonderful ways. Many devotees in all the 'sampradayas' have commented that the reason for the success of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness around the world is because of the way the whole society is based on 'Guru Bhakti', love and appreciation for the spiritual master, primarily Srila Prabhupada, by whose mercy we have come to know of this wonderful tradition of the 'Guru Parampara'. Actually this love has been awakened and invoked by him, unconsciously it lay dormant in the hearts of thousands of Jivas prior to his coming, as smoke covers a pure fire. Practically this love and devotion can be felt by anyone simply by the slightest observation of the devotees in I.S.K.C.O.N., from the new devotee to the veteran. Everything that makes Iskcon the dynamic arm of this 'parampara' is coming, being embellished by Srila Prabhupada and the 'bhakti' that he showed for his 'Guru Maharaj', 'om visnupad paramahamsa parivrajakacarya astottara sat Sri Srimad Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Prabhupada' who we mentioned just before.
The Governing Body Commission under the auspices of Srila Prabhupada continues to make available the process of disciplic succession by sanctioning the initiation of those desirous of spiritual life into the 'Brahma-Madhwa-Gaudiya Sampradaya', giving good association and re-establishing the wandering souls to our Lord and master's lotus feet, Lord Sri Krsna. Meditating on the 'tattwa' of 'Guru' the disciple knows that "he lives forever and his followers live with him."
Before his departure Srila Prabhupad selected a number of devotees to help continue his mission after his disappearance - who undertook the love burden to spread the message of the sampradaya
As with all facets of this complex line nothing is without
it's seeming controversy - as His Divine Grace selected eleven of his prominent
disciples from different zonal areas around the world he gave instructions
to them to initiate disciples on his behalf 'henceforth'. Some devotees
of the time took the 'henceforth' to mean 'henceforth for time immemorial'
(the 'Rtviks'), while others took it to mean 'henceforth until circumstances
change' ('Zonal Acaryas'). It's interesting to note that both carry many
valid points of 'acara', and at the same time both have their short-comings.
The 'Ritvik line' makes valid objectives to the point to show that Srila Prabhupad knew exactly what he was doing in selecting the original eleven disciples, with options to expand those numbers more to initiate disciples on his behalf as his disciples, through brahminical 'Ritvik representatives or priests'. The Ritviks make the stern point that to this day there's no conclusive evidence either in tape form, written form, etc., to state that anything other than the 'ritvik' system that Srila Prabhupad implemented was to follow. Thus their understanding of 'henceforth' is that of 'henceforth from this time on to time immemorial'. The followers of the 'Ritvik' philosophy point out how many of these original eleven, and others later selected have fallen down from spiritual practices, and many have gone away from devotional service all together. Consequently over the years the presentation has always been somewhat of a negative response to a challenge facing the society of 'appointed gurus' falling away, and compromising spiritual practices, and principles. Yet at the same time emphasising the impeccable life's example of Srila Prabhupad.
While it appears to be true that the 'Zonal Acarya's did seem to have 'appointed' themselves as successors to His Divine Grace with the help of some elements from the Gaudiya Math. There appeared to be a necessity, who else was going to push on the society after the spiritual master’s demise? Looking around for help, they gained advice from Sridhar maharaj, one of Srila Prabhupada’s godbrothers. The 'zonal acaryas' comprised of many of the most prominent disciples of Srila Prabhupad who formed the Governing Body Commission (GBC), and who over the years have desperately, and faithfully tried to maintain the mission of His Divine Grace under his directive. This was the best that we had to offer, what else really could such young and inexperienced devotees do? They tried and did their level best, with what they had. They were young immature, and prone to making mistakes – alone without the personal guide who they had so dearly relied upon.
The 'Ritviks' continue to accuse the GBC posthumous successors of abusing the privileges of 'guru-ship', while the GBC bans any devotee who aligns himself to 'ritvik' from any temple, function, etc., within Iskcon.
Personally, I can see valid points on both sides, and at the same time fear somewhat for the consequences of as Srila Prabhupad graphically depicted the scenario regarding two brothers who try to serve the 'father' by giving him relief from his fatigue, via massage. As each of the sons stand either side of the father one reaches across and tries to negatively draw attention to the other by pinching the body of the father on the side of the other brother. When the father chastises that son, the son vindictively then makes his point by pinching the side of the father where the other brother is. This pinching and blaspheming backwards and forwards goes on, and it may be true that both have a case. However, neither bring fulfilment to the father while this pinching and punching goes on over his body. In such a case all that hapens is those involved lose sight of the actual goal - bringing satisfaction to the father - HDG.
Some (both the 'staunch Ritviks' and the 'Zonal Acaryas') say flushing out 'the culprits' on either side (all 'Ritviks' and the 'deviant Zonal Acarya') will solve the problem, some (Z.A.'s) say just to suppress those who speak out will solve the problem, some say to leave the problem alone and just positively preach pure Krishna consciousness will eclipse the problem - "become part of the solution", etc. The fact of the matter remains that the unadulterated teaching of His Divine Grace have to prevail and be taught in the line of guru parampara, and that is the reason why I’m bothering to spend time on this.
Conclusion to this section:
In the theme of "United we stand, divided we fall", and in his usual foresightedness Srila Prabhupad said that nothing can harm our society from outside, it can only be harmed from within.
If one will recognise and accept the other for the devotion and sincerity that they have, and work toward carrying what each lacks, there may again come a united mission. The biggest threat to that is the aggression with which each party preaches against the other. There's so much still to be done, while there's so much that can also be apparently "undone" by 'aparadha'/offences committed.
The bottom line is that we work in co-operation under the sanction of Srila Prabhupada’s order and under the manergerial direction of the GBC, his representative. Having that faith that he is still the Ever Well Wishing father of this society the direction is shown which way to go.
Sure mistakes have been made, they were made in days of yore also, so what. Whilst so bound in these bodies there is that tendency to make mistakes. The wonder of the mechanisms of the guru parampara is that with guru, shastra, and sadhu, even if a mistake does occur it canbe recitifed. That is why the three must always be there, and not just sadhu, just dogmatic shastra, or only the words of guru.
We have it in some's eyes that the mission of Srila A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad is still being pushed on by a few 'Ritvik' initiating priests until an 'acarya' of clear distinction ('nitya siddha / nitya mukta', 'Nitya suri') appears to take up the baton from where Srila Prabhupada left off.
However, this was not this vision of Srila Prabhupad, nor the vision of the previous acaryas. He quite clearly state how it is to be:
"So we have got this message from Krsna, from Caitanya Mahaprabhu, from the six Gosvamis, later on, Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Bhaktisiddhanta Thakura. And we are trying our bit also to distribute this knowledge. Now, tenth, eleventh, twelfth. My guru-maharaja is tenth from Caitanya Mahaprabhu, I am eleventh, you are the twelfth." (A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. 18 May, 1972. Los Angeles, arrival lecture.)
Satsvarupa: But then, in the event that some present GBC
member leaves, either leaves...
Prabhupada: Another should be elected.
Satsvarupa: By the votes of the present GBC. Then our next question concerns initiations in the future, particularly at that time when you're no longer with us. We want to know how first and second initiation would be conducted.
Prabhupada: Yes. I shall recommend some of you. After this is settled up, I shall recommend some of you to act as officiating acaryas.
Tamala Krsna: Is that called 'rtvik-acarya'?
Prabhupada: 'Rtvik', yes.
Satsvarupa: Then what is the relationship of that person who gives the initiation and the...
Prabhupada: He's 'guru'. He's 'guru'.
Satsvarupa: But he does it on your behalf.
Prabhupada: Yes. That is formality. Because in my presence one should not become 'guru', so on my behalf, on my order... 'Amara ajnaya guru hana'. Be actually 'guru', but by my order.
Satsvarupa: So they may also be considered your disciples.
Prabhupada: Yes, they are disciples. Why consider? Who?
Tamala Krsna: No, he's asking that these 'rtvik-acaryas', they're officiating, giving 'diksa'. Their... The people who they give 'diksa' to, whose disciple are they?
Prabhupada: They're his disciple.
Tamala Krsna: They're his disciple.
Prabhupada: Who is initiating. He is grand-disciple.
Tamala Krsna: That's clear.
Satsvarupa: Then we have a question concer...
Prabhupada: When I order, "You become 'guru'," he becomes regular 'guru'. That's all. He becomes disciple of my disciple. That's it.(A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad. 28th May 1977. Discussion with GBC's.)
The "official GBC" version is that as many 'Acaryas' were appointed, the GBC can allow further disciples of His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada, who are willing to give 'diksa' initiation to others to further the sampradaya "On His Order".
In the Sri Sampradaya the Acaryas are described as belonging to one of two categories;
1. 'anuvrtti-prasanna-åcarya' - those who have to
be sought out and persuaded with much perseverance to impart their knowledge.
It is only after rigorous testing that they consent to teach. They
stress the point that most of the Acaryas prior to Ramanuja were of this
2. 'kripa-måtra-prasanna-Acarya' - these Acaryas teach their disciples out of compassion for their ignorant plight and are constantly seeking an opportunity to impart their knowledge, and are willing to teach anyone who will but listen. Sripad Ramanuja and most of the Acaryas who came after him are of this class.
How I see it, is that of what has been done in days gone
by, as mentioned earlier in this Parampara chapter. There are often great
Acaryas who are the life and soul of the line for generations to come,
yet still each disciple has a 'guru', a direct link living to the parampara
line. A few practical examples are here; Srila Visvanath Chakravarthi Thakur
who took Narottham Das Thakur as his life and soul, yet he had his initiating
'guru' nonetheless. In more recent times Srila Baladev Vidyabhusana had
his initiating 'guru' in Radha Damodardev Goswami, but his time was spent
learning and serving the great Vishvanath Chakravarti Thakur. After Baladev
Vidyabhusana his disciples carried on the line down through Uddhava das
babaji and Madhusudan das babaji to Bhagavat das babaji who was considered
a great 'bhajananadi'. Srila Bhagavat das babaji maharaj was recognised
as the pure link to the mission of Lord Caitanyas' legacy - had a few disciples
among them Gaura Kishora das babaji and Jagannath das babaji. Srila Jagannath
das babaji maharaj, was the one who Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur took tutelage
from. Yet Bhaktivinoda Thakur had his own initiating 'guru', as we mentioned
earlier in Bipin Bihari Goswami. Sripad Ananda Tirtha - Madhwacarya himself
who we have mentioned, and will mention later in is life story, took Srila
Vyasa as his life and soul, yet held Sri Acyutapreksha (Acyutaprajna) as
his 'guru' and paid all respect accordingly.
We all have our relationship with God (Krishna), and we have come to know Him by the grace of His representitive. For me that may be one person for you it may be another, it is a question of faith. As the old saying goes, when the disciple is ready the 'guru' appears. If we offer our respects to all Vaishnavas (and keep the sacridity of what Vaishnavism is), treating them all as our 'gurus' we will not come to harm. If we take shelter of devotees who it is obvious are inspired by 'guru' and Krishna, what harm can come to us??? If we are directly linked through practical service to the mission of 'guru' and Krishna, according to 'Goswami viddhi' initiation is a mere formality.
The mood of the Brahma-Madhwa-Gaudiya sampradaya has always been that of following the instructions of persons who know what spiritual life is, who can practically give direction by personal example, so that we can become trained in the development of our original spiritual qualities, which are the only entrance fees we can pay to return back home back to Godhead.
At the end of his life the great Acarya of the Sri sampradaya,
Sri Ramanuja Acarya entrusted the care of the Srivaishnava community to
74 pontiffs ('simhåsanådhipatis'). Their function was to continue
the great work of proselytizing, initiating and preaching. These pontiffs
established the 74 Mutts or monasteries all over South India which are
attached to one or other of the principle Vishnu temples.
Following Ramanuja there were two exceptionally great Acaryas; Vedånta Desika (c 1268) & Pillai Lokåcarya (c 1213) In the 14th century there arose a schism between the disciples of these two teachers. This resulted into two factions; the Vadagalais (Northerners) following the teachings of Vedanta Desika with their center at Kanchipuram, and the Tengalais (Southerners) with their center at Srirangam. Some of those lines are dynamic, and some of them are now likened to family 'gurus', some appear to have vanished, stopping when the last of the line passed away.
I'm not here to say who is correct; and I'm really not interested which elitist club, or revolutionary idealist club is best, or which one to belong to, or how long we should fight among ourselves. I've already done that in the introductory chapter. Misidentification is what brings most of us here to this world - 'Vaishnava sanga / Vaishnava-acara' is what returns us to our normative position. I'm just reporting how things have developed and evolved as the 'sampradaya' continues it's journey collecting and uplifting fallen conditioned souls to return them/us "Back to Home Back To Godhead". The pure 'parampara' in time will resolve any discrepancies which appear, as they have done from time immemorial.
"As already stated, Brahma is the original spiritual master for the universe, and since he was initiated by the Lord Himself, the message of Srimad-Bhagavatam is coming down by disciplic succession, and in order to receive the real message of Srimad-Bhagavatam ONE SHOULD APPROACH THE CURRENT LINK, OR SPIRITUAL MASTER, IN THE CHAIN OF DISCIPLIC SUCCESSION. After being initiated by the proper spiritual master in that chain of succession, one should engage himself in the discharge of tapasya in the execution of devotional service." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.9.7, purport)
Now contrary to this teaching of Srila Prabhupada on the parampara, ritvikists try to convince us that Srila Prabhupada remains the current link in the chain of disciplic succession, thus putting a new meaning on the word “current” after his disappearance.
In the sampradaya sometimes disruptions have occurred,
spaces in time and circumstance where it may even appear that the material
energy has infiltrated, or even pervades. Let it be understood clearly
that this is not as it appears. The purity and direction of the line always
exists, just as in an active fire the active principle of fire is intrinsicly
there. The care of the fire is under the directive of the Lord at all times.
Those of us with less than perfect vison sometimes only see embers, smoke
or ash - thus mistakenly thinking we are the doers, and providers get burned.
As the pure lineage coming from the Lord is never spoiled entirely despite the smoke like, ashen characterisitcs being displayed at any time by individuals claiming to be in the line are soon revealed. Just like Arjuna, we too have teleological free will to be part of Lord Krishna's team and become empowered by His Divine nature, and be free to act on His behalf. Or we try to act based on the affections, inclination and disinclinations of what we, or our "friends" and relatives may want or like us to do.
"Personal" (or separated individualistic tendencies) based on such affections and inclinations for sense gratification ( even the so-called seeming comforts of fluffy modern liberalism ) have no place in the sampradaya. Thus judging one's own performance by the resultant attraction, rememberance, and absorption in the aims and mission of the parampara, we declare ourselves part of it, or not.
As far as cheating, misrepresentation, or deviations go, those of us with defective material senses would be best off not to try to judge. The Lord has His plan, it has come down through the branches of ages. So many have become inclined to follow over the span of material time. Some of those eternally, some for what appears some fragment of time, some longer, some shorter.
As gems, crystals and glass all come from the earth, and all potential for attraction appears somewhat equilateral in their glisening exterior - under the eye of the gemologist all are not equal or one. So many of us in our immaturity found and still find ourselves having to analyse the quality and density of such stones. Although for us personaly it may help through analysis to find what is material and what is spiritual by nature reflecting our own motive and intent. As gemology students we would be best off keeping our analysis to gems in our own possession, than those in others possession, to assess market value.
The bona-fide 'guru parampara' is in itself self eminant, as the sun and other luminaries naturally enlighten. When the sun is in the sky I have no purpose in pointing it out to you, it is apparent to all. In this way 'Guru' is not self appointed, but is/are/can be appointed by those qualified 'spiritual gemologists' recognising the unalloyed devotion and spiritual qualities and qualification - and that's all. Education, ambition, longevity or inclination have little to do with it.
'yasya prasadad bhagavat prasado yasya aprasada nah gati kuto'pi' by the mercy of the 'guru' one can achieve the lotus feet of Sri Krsna, without that mercy, that goal cannot be attained.