August 31st, 2021
By Indradyumna Swami
My Dearmost Spiritual Master,
Please accept my most humble obeisances in the dust of your lotus feet.
Today I am praying to the Supreme Lord to find the proper words to glorify you on this special occasion of your 125th appearance day anniversary.
abalam prabhur ipsitonnatim
krta-yatnam sva-yasah-stave ghrni
svayam uddharati stanarthinam
pada-lagnam jananiva balakam
“Wishing to drink from his mother’s breast an infant child clutches his mother’s foot and she kindly picks him up. In the same way when a sincere devotee, although not expert with words, yearns to praise others, the Supreme Lord uplifts and empowers him.”
( Hari-bhakti-vilasa 8.351 )
Srila Prabhupada, the other day a person inquiring about Krsna consciousness asked me if I was happy. When I replied, “Yes, of course I am,” he countered, “But how can you be happy when there’s so much suffering in this world? Everywhere one looks people are unhappy.”
I replied, “Sir, my happiness lies in encouraging people to chant the holy names of Krsna, a time-honored remedy to alleviate all suffering in this world. I’m sure if you tried it you’d be happy too!”
“I can’t do that,” he said bluntly.
“It’s easy,” I said. “Just say, ‘Hare Krsna!’”
“Sorry,” was his only response.
“Well,” I said, “then you’ll just have be satisfied with being one of the unhappy persons you mentioned.”
There was a pause and then suddenly he blurted out, “Alright! Hare Krsna! Hare Krsna! Hare Krsna!”
I waited for a moment and then asked him, “So, how was it?”
He replied, “Well, yeah. It was nice. I felt something different. I’ll give it a go.”
Srila Prabhupada, that conversation reminded me of how you were once walking on a beach in Bombay with some of your disciples and a little girl walking by folded her hands and said to you, “Hare Krsna!” Smiling, you turned to your disciples and commented, “Just see how successful our movement is!”
One disciple asked, “What do you mean by ‘successful’, Srila Prabhupada?”
You replied, “If you taste just one drop of the ocean, you can understand how salty the whole ocean is. Similarly, by this one girl greeting us with ‘Hare Krsna’ we can appreciate how the chanting of the Lord’s holy names has spread around the world.”
Such small triumphs in the spreading of the holy names certainly add to the success of your mission, Srila Prabhupada, but to be perfectly honest, locked down and locked out of my previous services to you as a result of the worldwide pandemic, I miss more than ever the big victories we helped you achieve in days gone by.
I miss seeing thousands of young people loudly chanting the holy names of Krsna at the Polish Woodstock Festival every year.
I miss distributing tens of thousands of plates of prasadam annually to Zulu children in the poor townships of South Africa.
I miss the standing ovations that our theater productions received as we toured the United States.
I miss our festivals along the Baltic Sea coast, where for 30 years running, each summer night, people would leap from their seats during the final kirtan and chant and dance with us in great ecstasy.
I miss our harinam parties in Altay, Dzag, Urgamal, and Hodrogo on the far-western steppes of Mongolia, where each time, literally the whole town would follow us back for a program in a hall.
The list is endless, Srila Prabhupada, but recently I realized I can’t go on forever daydreaming about the past. You said many times that if we are sincere, then there can be no real impediments to spreading the glories of the holy names. I was reminded of this recently while listening to a lecture you gave in London on July 18th, 1973, wherein you said:
“Material impediments cannot check progress in the science of God. We are experiencing that Krsna consciousness does not get checked anywhere. We have got branches all over the world. Any country, there is no language difficulty. Wherever we chant Hare Krsna they join. Even in Africa, they are also chanting Hare Krsna. So, there is no checking this movement.”
Your words had a profound effect on me, which is often the case when I listen to your lectures. I feel you are speaking directly to me.
“The learned say that nectar resides in the ocean, the moon, the lips of a young lady, the abode of serpents and in heaven. But the ocean is salty, the moon wanes, the husbands who drink nectar from the lips of their wives die, snakes provide poison, and one falls down from heaven when the fruits of his virtuous deeds are exhausted. But indeed, nectar is found in the voice of realized saints whose sweet words and instructions lead one to immortality.”
[ The Subhāṣita-ratna-bhāṇḍāgāram ]
Inspired by your words, Srila Prabhupada, the daily chanting of my mantras took on a different tone. I pleaded to be engaged once again in some significant service to your mission.
Narada Muni says to Gopa Kumara in Brhad-bhagavatamrta:
“My dear boy, whatever you desire while chanting your mantra, by its power you will fully achieve. Indeed, you will attain more than your desire.”
[ Sri Brhad-bhagavatamrta 2.1.189 ]
Time passed in this way, and having received no discernable sign from the Lord that He would fulfil my prayer for service to your mission, I suddenly realized how foolish I was to think that I, an aspiring devotee at best, could personally request something from Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. So then I did the right thing: I begged you, my beloved Spiritual Master, to pray to the Lord on my behalf!
In a letter to Mahananda das on April 26th, 1970, you wrote:
“Regarding your questions, are the Spiritual Master and the grand Spiritual Master consciously aware of the prayers of a sincere devotee who prays in love to Them? The answer is that no conscious prayers go in vain. They are transmitted positively. Any prayer you offer to your Spiritual Master and Superior Spiritual Master is conveyed to Krsna. No sincere prayers go in vain.”
So it was no surprise to me, Srila Prabhupada, when one week later, without any additional effort whatsoever on my part, my prayers [ to you! ] were answered.
“The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath.”
[ William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act 4, Scene 1 ]
As I was walking by the prestigious Vrindavan Research Institute, near to our Krsna Balarama Mandir here in Vrindavan with my disciple Visnu-tattva das, he turned to me and said, “Srila Gurudeva, the managers of the institute told me they would like to meet with you. Can I make an appointment?”
I looked at him in disbelief. Since 1973, when I first travelled to Vrindavan, the prestigious institute with all of its thousands of sacred scriptures had mostly been off-limits to anyone except research scholars. I often dreamed of walking into the institute and having darshan of the sastras contained within its walls, which I knew included the original handwritten manuscripts of Srila Rupa Goswami, Srila Jiva Goswami, Narottama das Thakura, Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura and many other great Vaisnava saints, as well.
“It’s under new management now,” Visnu-tattva continued. “They are eager to improve the important work they are doing. I’ve actually been helping them for some time now with cataloguing their vast library.”
Visnu-tattva comes from a well-respected Goswami family in Vrindavan and is pursuing a master’s degree in Sanskrit.
“They know about you, Srila Gurudeva, and are asking for your cooperation with scanning, digitizing, preserving, translating and publishing the 32,000 scriptures in the institute.”
Surprised, I said, “But how in the world do they know me?”
“Through your social media,” he replied. “And they’re aware that you’ve been lecturing about Vrindavan for almost two years based on authentic scriptures.”
I shook my head in disbelief.
“Ok,” I said. “Make an appointment.”
Several days later we met with the head of the institute and his managers for several hours, discussing the dynamics of how we could cooperate.
Afterwards, one of the managers took me on a tour of the institute.
As we walked through numerous rooms encasing the sacred texts, she said, “The previous managers were mainly interested in protecting the valuable manuscripts. But our new management realizes these scriptures were written to be read by the entire world.”
As we sat down to discuss more, she placed an old palm-leaf manuscript in my hands.
“Take this one for example,” she said. “It’s the original Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu by Srila Rupa Goswami. It is over 500 years old. You can see how much it is in need of preservation.”
“Good Lord!” I said softly. “I’m holding one of the most important sastras of our tradition in my hands.”
I could hardly fathom my good fortune. Looking closely at the beautiful handwriting of Srila Rupa Goswami, I remembered a verse from Caitanya-caritamrita:
sri-rupera aksara—yena mukutara panti
prita hana karena prabhu aksarera stuti
“Thus being pleased, Lord Caitanya praised the writing by saying, ‘The handwriting of Rupa Gosvami is just like rows of pearls.’”
[ Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Antya 1.97 ]
Carefully taking the manuscript from my hands, she placed another in front of me.
“Do you know the saint Narottama das Thakura?” she asked.
“Yes, I do,” I replied. “He’s one of my great heroes.”
“That is his book, Prarthana,” she said with a smile. “The original.”
As I very carefully turned each parchment page to inspect the condition of the book, she said, “These treasures need to be treated and preserved for future generations. Would you like to help?”
My eyes became moist and a lump appeared in my throat. I tried my best to convey my consent, but I couldn’t. I finally just blurted out, “Yes! Thank you!”
As she carefully placed the parchment in its box, she noticed a tiny sliver of the manuscript in the corner that had apparently broken off. Handing it to me, she said, “Please accept this as a blessing from your hero. Place it in a kavaca and wear it around your neck.”
At that point, I couldn’t help myself and I burst into tears of gratitude.
Srila Prabhupada, thank you for answering my prayers and entrusting me with a service that I know is very dear to your heart. You yourself carried a number of our previous acaryas’ books everywhere you travelled. Every day you would refer to them as you wrote your Bhaktivedanta purports. I know this for a fact, for I once carried a heavy suitcase of yours filled with those precious scriptures from the London airport to your room in our temple at 7 Bury Place. Huffing and puffing, I placed it at your lotus feet and when I bowed down, you slapped me on the back in firm appreciation and gave me an eternal blessing, saying:
“So much endeavour in this material world, but when I take you home, back to Godhead, everything will be easy and sublime.”
I look forward to that day when you’ll take me home, Srila Prabhupada, but in the meantime I’ll work closely with a team of devotees I am assembling from around the world to help the Vrindavan Research Institute raise funds, as well as catalogue, scan, digitize, preserve, translate and publish all the works—known and unknown—of our previous acaryas. All the while, I will keep your following words close to my heart:
“It is my serious desire to devote the fag end of my life to translating Srimad Bhagavatam and so many other Vaisnava literatures, so by assisting me in this regards you will be performing the highest service to Krsna.”
[ Srila Prabhupada, letter to Hayagriva das, April 27th, 1972 ]
Your eternal servant,