Srila Prabhupada’s Arrival in America

By Giriraj Swami and Sri Prahlada dasa - 13.9 2017

In honor of Srila Prabhupada’s arrival in America, we shall sing the poem he wrote on the ship Jaladuta as he arrived in the Boston harbor.

Song [translation]:

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 such a 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 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 Srimad-Bhagavatam are Your incarnation, and if a sober person repeatedly receives them with submissive aural reception, then he will be able to understand Your message.

9: It is said in 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 the 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, and loving service unto the glorious Lord, who is praised with transcendental songs, is established as an irrevocable fact. At the time loving service is established in the heart, the modes of passion [rajas] 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 the 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 or 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 worlds! 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 engladdened 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 fulfill the real purport of Bhaktivedanta.

Signed–the most unfortunate, insignificant beggar, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, on board the ship Jaladuta, Commonwealth Pier, Boston, Massachusetts, U. S. A. dated 18th of September, 1965

Srila Prabhupada ki jaya!

Sri Prahlada dasa:

Giriraj Maharaja is going to read and comment on certain sections of the song, this prayer by Srila Prabhupada, and he has asked me also to read to a certain point. So we shall read from the introduction to the song, from Songs of the Vaisnava Acaryas:

“On September 17, 1965, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada arrived in Boston on board the ship Jaladuta, carrying within his heart the orders of his spiritual master to spread the teachings of Sri Caitanya beyond the borders of India, throughout the entire world. As he looked upon Boston’s bleak and dirty skyline he could understand the difficulty of this sacred mission and felt great compassion for those godless people. Thus, with perfect humility, he composed this historic prayer in Bengali, praying for the deliverance of the fallen souls.

Verse 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.”

These are very, very strong sentiments Srila Prabhupada is expressing here. First, Krsna is always very kind to His devotee. Srila Prabhupada, in his humility, is calling himself a useless soul and is asking Krsna, “You are so kind, but if You are so kind why have You brought me here to this place? Obviously, You have some plan.”

It is also interesting how Srila Prabhupada sees his coming to America as Krsna’s doing, although he himself had been making so much endeavor–such as cultivating Sumati Morarji to get her to sponsor his journey–to fulfill the mission of his spiritual master and come to the West. He had to convince her. It wasn’t easy. She was reluctant because of Srila Prabhupada’s elderly age and the fact that he didn’t have any friends or relatives in America. So he had to convince her, but still he is saying to Krsna, “I don’t know why you brought me here.” Srila Prabhupada is seeing that it was actually Krsna who made the arrangements and who brought him to the United States.

That is how the devotee sees any experience he has in life: he sees it as Krsna’s mercy. Once, Gaurakisora dasa Babaji Maharaja was begging, doing bhiksa, going door to door in Navadvipa-dhama, and some mischievous young boys started to throw stones at him. He saw the situation in a completely different way than we would–at least than I would.

He said, “He Gopala! If You don’t stop throwing stones at me, I will tell Mother Yasoda.” So, he was seeing it as Krsna. We would see rascal boys misbehaving and would become angry at them and want to correct them, but Gaurakisora dasa Babaji Maharaja’s vision was completely transcendental. “Gopala, why are You throwing these stones at me?” means he sees that Krsna is throwing the stones through these boys, because Krsna is doing everything. He threatens Krsna, “If You don’t stop, I’ll complain to Mother Yasoda,” because in Vrndavana, when Krsna is misbehaving, either pinching babies or stealing butter and yogurt, the Vraja-vasis go and complain to Yasoda-mayi: “Your Kanhaiya, He is misbehaved. Please correct Him.” But then, as narrated in Srimad-Bhagavatam, when they see Krsna’s beautiful face, His sweet smile, they feel so much love and affection for Him that then they tell Mother Yasoda, “It’s okay. He is all right. Don’t worry. Please don’t correct Him. Don’t chastise Him. He is such a nice boy. We were just a little bit overwhelmed, but actually there is nothing to be concerned about.”

Anyway, the principle here is that Srila Prabhupada is seeing this arrangement as Krsna’s. And actually we also have to try to develop that vision, to see Krsna’s plan in everything, to see Krsna’s arrangement in everything–that we have surrendered to Him and so He is taking care of us. Sometimes we may experience setbacks or disappointments, but actually Krsna has some reason for giving them to us. We should try to understand that, and if we do, we’ll never be disappointed in life. We’ll be always happy in Krsna’s mercy, even in adversity.

Srila Prabhupada says, “Why have You brought me here? Whatever the case, do with me as You like.” And this is very much the mood of this song–Prabhupada’s complete surrender: “I am Your instrument. You can use me. You can engage me as you wish. I have no agenda of my own, no personal agenda. My agenda is whatever you desire. I am here to accept your desire as my life and soul, to give everything to please you, to serve you.”

Verse 2: “But I guess You have some business here. Otherwise, why would You bring me to such a terrible place?”

In the beginning he was saying, “You are kind, but then why have You brought me here? Obviously, there is some business. Otherwise, why would You bring me to such a terrible place?”

This is an interesting perspective. In India everyone wants to go to America, because it’s the land of the free and the home of the brave. But here Srila Prabhupada is arriving in America and calling it “a terrible place.” When he was staying in London, there was a famous presenter who had a very popular television show. He would invite different personalities to his show and ask them questions. Actually, he would ask them difficult questions that embarrassed them on the set, and that’s why he was so popular. So, he invited Prabhupada. Knowing this man’s reputation and thinking that he would try to humiliate Prabhupada on the screen, the devotees were reluctant to allow Prabhupada to go. They humbly advised him, “Srila Prabhupada, we don’t think you should go for this.” But Srila Prabhupada replied, “No. It is our duty. We must go.”

So Prabhupada went, and he sat comfortably in the chair. Then the interviewer asked, “In your religion, do you have a concept of hell?” “Yes,” Srila Prabhupada answered, “London is hell.” The interviewer was shocked. He didn’t know how to continue. It wasn’t the expected response. Prabhupada had actually stumped him. There were seconds of silence. Then Prabhupada saved the day. He said, “But it is a great credit to the British people that they have established such a great civilization under such hellish conditions, with hellish weather.” And from then on, the interviewer was very respectful, and Prabhupada actually got to preach. Srila Prabhupada was so expert.

Prabhupada’s view, coming from Goloka Vrndavana, is that this material world is hellish. Whether it is America or England, it’s all the material world and so it’s hellish.

In his poem he has just come from Sri Vrndavana-dhama, Radha-Damodara Mandira, and now he is arriving in Boston: “Why have you brought me to this terrible place?”

Another thing I remember here is Srila Prabhupada’s talk in Gainesville, when he said, “It is so nice to see so many young boys and girls chanting Hare Krsna in this remote corner of the world, so far away from the birthplace of Lord Caitanya.” His perspective was that this was a terrible place and that he was here only for Krsna’s work, only for Krsna’s pleasure, only to fulfill Krsna’s desire: to deliver the conditioned souls–to give them a spark of Krsna consciousness, a ray of bhakti.

Now Prabhupada describes why it is a terrible place:

Verse 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 able to understand it.”

So this is why they cannot understand: everyone is covered by ignorance and passion. The nature of passion is that we become feverish to enjoy material life. We hanker. We make schemes and plans, and then when they are not fulfilled we become disappointed and fall into ignorance, depression, apathy, bewilderment, madness. This is bhoga-tyaga, desire for enjoyment and then so-called renunciation, the “sour grapes” philosophy of the fox that couldn’t reach some grapes: “Anyway, they are sour. Who needs them? Who wants them?” First he is trying so hard to jump and catch them, but when he is not successful, then, “What is it, anyway? They are sour.” He becomes very renounced. So that is our situation in material life, material conditioning. We are constantly fluctuating between these two states of bhoga and tyaga, the desire for enjoyment and then false renunciation. And because of this, it is difficult to develop attachment or attraction for the transcendental message of Vasudeva. We are so absorbed in materialistic life that the message of Vasudeva has no appeal. And so Srila Prabhupada is wondering, “How will I be able to tell them of Krsna? How will I be able to tell them of Sri Vrndavana-dhama and devotional service?”

Not only is it very difficult, but it is almost impossible, and it is a miracle that Srila Prabhupada accomplished what he did. No one else could do it, not even all the other great acaryas who appeared in this world. They taught in Bharata-varsa, in India, where the Lord Himself made His appearance and where the Vedas are generally understood and respected. But that Prabhupada was able to come to this foreign land and instill this sraddha, this faith, within the hearts of the Westerners–it is a great miracle. Bhaktivinoda Thakura envisioned it and endeavored for it himself. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura spoke with Westerners (as did Bhaktivinoda Thakura) and personally sent his disciples to the West to try to do it, and he was maintaining them in London. But it was Srila Prabhupada who was actually successful in performing this miraculous feat. And by reading these songs, we can get a taste or a glimpse of how and why: it was by his surrender to Krsna, his humility, his absolute faith in the instruction of his spiritual master.

When we were in Bombay some years ago, some Sri Vaisnavas came to the Chowpatty Temple. They wanted to speak with somebody, and so they were introduced to me. So, we sat in the temple room and they said, “We have a very important question.”

“Yes. Please. We are not very qualified, but we’ll try to answer.”

They asked, “Who is Prabhupada?”

“Prabhupada is our spiritual master. He took Krsna consciousness to the West and started . . .”

“No, no. We know that. We know about his life and his achievements. But who is he?”

It was a very, very esoteric question. I said, “You should explain a little more what you want to know.”

They explained, “Ramanujacarya–we know that he is Sesa, that he is Laksmana, that he is Balarama. We know. So, Ramanujacarya was able to teach Vaisnavism throughout India, though mainly in Southern India. But your Prabhupada took it all over the world. Who is he?”

I replied, “We can’t answer that question. Once Prabhupada was asked, ‘Who are you?’ and he said, ‘If I told you, you would faint.’ And that is as much as we know. Still, we can understand that he is such an intimate servitor of the Lord that he has fulfilled such an important and confidential service, fulfilling the vision of the acaryas and the plan of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who said, prthivite ache yata nagaradi-grama: ‘In all the villages and towns of the world My name will be chanted.'”

Their next question was, “How did he do it?”

I answered, “You know, he went and chanted . . .”

But they interrupted, “No. That’s the external, but how actually did he do it?–because no one else was able to do it.”

I replied, “Well, this is also a difficult question to answer.” But I suggested that it was by his faith in the words of his spiritual master: Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati gave him the order, and he understood that it was the desire of his spiritual master and of the acaryas and of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and because it was their desire so it would be. Because of that faith and surrender he was able to fulfill the impossible.

Verse 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.”

So, we will conclude here, and Giriraj Maharaja will continue from verse six.

Giriraj Swami:

Verse 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. I wish that You may deliver them.”

Verse 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.”

In reply to the question “How?” Srila Prabhupada answers here, “By Your mercy,” by Krsna’s mercy. But Krsna’s mercy is not the whole answer; it is actually by Srila Prabhupada’s appeal to Krsna for His mercy.

Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura has discussed how the conditioned souls get bhakti. He proves with evidence from the scriptures that one cannot get bhakti by karma or jnana, fruitive activities or mental speculation, or by austerities, charity, mystic perfections, or any other pious acts. He quotes from the Bhagavatam (11.3.31), bhaktya sanjataya bhaktya: bhakti comes from bhakti. But how does bhakti comes from bhakti? What is the actual process?

He says that someone may propose that one gets bhakti by the mercy of Krsna. But Krsna is equal to all. He is the supreme father of all living entities, so He must be equal to all. So we cannot simply say that the cause of bhakti is the mercy of Krsna, because Krsna would bestow bhakti equally on everyone, whereas practically we see that some get bhakti while others do not. Then Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura says, “One could propose that one gets bhakti by the mercy of the devotee.” But again one might argue that the devotee, like the Lord, should be equal to everyone.

Here Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura says that the preacher, the madhyama-bhakta, by nature shows partiality or discretion in distributing mercy, as stated in Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.2.46): prema-maitri-krpopeksa yah karoti sa madhyama–he gives his love to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, makes friendship with devotees, shows mercy to the innocent, and neglects the envious. Thus, giving mercy, specifically to the innocent, is the preacher’s function. Therefore, even though a maha-bhagavata such as Srila Prabhupada in the ultimate sense sees everyone equally, everyone as a servant of Krsna and therefore in no need of mercy, nevertheless, when he takes the position of a preacher and functions as a preacher, he gives mercy to the innocent.

Now, how does he give the mercy? He prays to Krsna to give mercy, and thus it is said that the mercy of Krsna follows the mercy of the devotee.

Here I have my own personal experience: I met Srila Prabhupada in 1969 in Boston, and I was touched by him. I felt that he was the spiritual master I had been looking for. After some time, about three months, the devotees there needed another pujari. In those days one could be a pujari after first initiation. They thought, “He has been here for three months; why not recommend him?” So Satsvarupa Maharaja, as the temple president, recommended me. Srila Prabhupada was in Los Angeles at the time, so I suppose in one sense I was actually initiated in LA, like many of you. From there Srila Prabhupada sent back a letter: “Your initiated name is Giriraj. Giriraj is a name for Govardhana Hill where Krsna used to tend His cows. Sometimes devotees take a stone from Govardhana Hill and worship it as Krsna. So I marked it in your person when I was in Boston, and I prayed to Krsna that this good soul may be aware of the importance of Krsna consciousness.”

What is our qualification? I think that if I look for my qualifications I don’t find any. Our only qualification is that Srila Prabhupada took compassion on us and gave us his mercy: He prayed to Krsna for us, just as he says here in the poem.

So, back to Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura’s discussion. Someone could question, “Why should Krsna listen to the prayers of the devotee? So many people are praying to Krsna; why should Krsna listen especially to the devotee? Is that not also partiality in Krsna?” Here Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura says that of all of Krsna’s qualities, the quality of being affectionate to His devotees, bhakta-vatsalya, is considered the supermost, the emperor that conquers over all the Lord’s other qualities and reconciles all contradictions. So being partial to His devotees is not a fault (dusanam) in Krsna, but it is an ornament (bhusanam)–His most exalted quality. He really has no desire other than to please His devotees. Just as the devotees have no desire other than to please Krsna, Krsna really has no desire other than to please His devotees.

So when a devotee such as Srila Prabhupada prays to Krsna to give mercy to the fallen souls, or to a particular soul, Krsna readily does it. He readily does it to please His devotee.

Years after my initiation, I found the verses that Srila Prabhupada paraphrased here in verses 6 and 7, in “The Prayers of the Personified Vedas” from Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.87.14). The personified Vedas prayed to the Lord, “The fallen souls are under the control of maya, and maya is under Your control. Therefore, if you show them Your mercy, they can be released from the control of maya. We pray that You kindly do so.”

The same verse was quoted by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to Vasudeva Datta. Vasudeva Datta had prayed, “Let all the sinful reactions of all the living entities in the entire universe fall upon me,” and Lord Caitanya became overwhelmed with love for Vasudeva Datta. Lord Caitanya began to tremble and weep out of affection for Vasudeva Datta.

Generally, we wouldn’t accept the sinful reactions of even one living entity. There is the famous story of Valmiki. Valmiki was a thief, but he wasn’t stealing for himself. He was stealing for the sake of his family. Then Narada came and exposed the fallacy of mundane family attachment. He asked Valmiki’s wife, “Your husband is stealing for your sake, not for his sake. You are enjoying because he is stealing for you. Will you at least take some share of the sinful reactions?”

“No! Why should I? He is the one who is doing the stealing. I am not the one.”

So we don’t want to take anyone’s sinful reactions. Just our own sinful reactions are hard enough to tolerate. Yet here Vasudeva Datta is saying he will take the reactions for every living entity in the whole universe. We cannot even conceive of how much suffering he would have to undergo. “Let me suffer in a hellish condition perpetually.” And he spoke without duplicity. Sometimes we may say things to sound good, to say the right thing, to sound like a pure devotee. But Vasudeva Datta was serious. Thus, when Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu heard what he said, His heart melted and He told Vasudeva Datta, “You need not suffer their sinful reactions. By your desire alone they can be liberated. Krsna fulfills the desires of His pure devotees. So by your desire He can liberate them without you accepting their sinful reactions.” And Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu quoted the same verse from “The Prayers of the Personified Vedas”: “O Lord, kindly conquer the nescience of the living entities by Your grace.”

So this is, from one point of view, the secret: In his sincere love and compassion, and in his intimate relationship with Krsna, Srila Prabhupada prayed for us, and Krsna reciprocated.

But again, what is the method by which we get the mercy? Srila Prabhupada wrote, “So I prayed to Krsna that this soul may be aware of the importance of Krsna consciousness.” In other words, we must become aware of the value of Krsna consciousness and then take to the process that Srila Prabhupada gave. Thus we come to the second part of Verse 7: “If You so desire their deliverance, then only will they be able to understand Your message.”

Many people heard Srila Prabhupada’s message, or Krsna’s message, but not all developed faith in the message. The beginning of bhakti is faith (adau sraddha). Thus, when we ask how one gets bhakti, we really mean how one gets sraddha, which is bhakti in its initial stage.

Here “faith” means faith in the words of the scriptures and the words of the spiritual master that glorify and explain the process of bhakti. Therefore Prabhupada, in utter humility, prayed that Krsna make his words suitable, and he also prayed that Krsna enlighten us, or inspire us, with appreciation for His message. Thus Srila Prabhupada, in the mood of utter surrender, really saw that Krsna was doing everything: Krsna was inspiring him to speak, and Krsna was inspiring us to appreciate what he said.

Even we, as servants of Srila Prabhupada, had the same mood–though not to the same degree–when we tried to distribute books. We prayed, “Please inspire me how to approach this person. Please make my words suitable.” We would pray to Krsna–especially while the person was looking at the book and considering whether to buy it–“Please inspire this person to take the book. Please inspire this person to do service.” And that is the mood. That is the mood.

Of course, here Srila Prabhupada is speaking in the mood of compassion, praying for the sake of others, but we can pray even for our own protection. It is not wrong to pray for our own protection. Once, in a lecture at Bhaktivedanta Manor, Srila Prabhupada said, “All of you can fall down, but I cannot fall down.” After the lecture, Srila Prabhupada came before the Deities and was praying, and later one disciple asked him, “Srila Prabhupada, what were you praying?” Srila Prabhupada replied, “I was praying that I may never fall down.” The disciple, astonished, objected, “But Srila Prabhupada, you just said that you cannot fall down.” And Srila Prabhupada explained, “Yes, because I am always praying that I may never fall down, therefore I can never fall down.”

Verse 9 is actually a series of five verses from Srimad-Bhagavatam, and we shall read the translations:

Verse 9: “It is said in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.17): ‘Sri Krsna, the Personality of Godhead, who is the Paramatma [Supersoul] in everyone’s heart and the benefactor of the truthful devotee, cleanses the desire for material enjoyment from the heart of the devotee who relishes his messages, which are in themselves virtuous when properly heard and chanted.”

Earlier, Srila Prabhupada had said, “Because the population is absorbed in material enjoyment, they cannot appreciate the message of Vasudeva.” And now he is saying, “If they hear the message of Vasudeva, the desire for material enjoyment will be cleansed from their hearts.” The idea here is similar to Rupa Gosvami’s verse that says that even though the sweet holy names, forms, qualities, and pastimes of Krsna may be bitter to the diseased conditioned souls, if they take the medicine of the holy names they will be cured of the disease, and then they will be able to relish the sweetness.

“By regularly hearing the Bhagavatam and rendering service unto the pure devotee, all that is troublesome to the heart is practically destroyed, and loving service unto the glorious Lord, who is praised with transcendental songs, is established as an irrevocable fact.” (SB 1.2.18)

So both methods–serving the person bhagavata and reading the book Bhagavata– work, and from the very beginning Srila Prabhupada engaged the devotees in service. One famous example was when the man walked into the storefront at 26 Second Avenue with a roll of toilet paper and offered it to Srila Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada accepted it and said, “He has begun his devotional service.” Once, another person came to the storefront in New York with some Mayavadi leaflets, and Srila Prabhupada accepted them too. Later, when the devotees were distributing prasad, he handed out those leaflets for the guests to use like paper plates. So Prabhupada knew the value of service, and he did whatever he could to engage anyone and everyone in devotional service.

“At that time loving service is established in the heart, and the modes of passion (rajas) and ignorance (tamas) and lust and desire (kama) disappear from the heart.” (SB 1.2.19)

Earlier, Prabhupada had prayed, “People are covered by passion and ignorance; how will they be able to understand Your message?” Now he says that by hearing the book Bhagavata from the person bhagavata and rendering service to the person bhagavata, one will be freed from the lower modes and become established in goodness. Then one will be able to understand the message. “Then the devotee is established in goodness, and becomes happy.”
(SB 1.2.19)

“Thus established in the mode of goodness, the person 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.” (SB
1.2.20-21)

So, Srila Prabhupada prayed to Krsna to give His mercy to us, to make his words suitable and to make us appreciate his message. But then again, we also have to take up the process, and here I think of the example of the person fallen in the well. On his own, he cannot get out of the well. But if someone comes and sends a rope down into the well, he can be delivered. Still, he has to make the effort and hold on to the rope. The mercy of the spiritual master is that he gives us proper instructions, and, if we hold on to the instructions, he will lift us out of the well of material existence and deliver us to the lotus feet of Krsna.

Once, in Bombay, a disciple said to Srila Prabhupada, “Please give me your mercy that I may follow your instructions,” and Srila Prabhupada replied, “It is like you are in a well and I hand down a rope to lift you out of the well and you are praying, ‘O Prabhupada! O Prabhupada! Please make my fingers curl around the rope and hold on.'” Srila Prabhupada explained, “My mercy is that I send down the rope, but you have to hold on to it.” So, Srila Prabhupada’s mercy is that he gives us the instructions. But we have to do our part. Therefore, because both–mercy and effort–are involved, if someone was too far on one side, Srila Prabhupada would emphasize the other side to bring the person to the proper position.

Another time in Bombay, an Indian gentleman came to Srila Prabhupada and said, “Swamiji, Swamiji, please save me. Only you can save me. I am drowning in the ocean of material existence. Please save me. Only you can save me.” And Srila Prabhupada replied, “I cannot save you. But I can give you the method by which you can save yourself. But you have to do the work.” So this is the combination that works: on the one side Srila Prabhupada’s mercy in the form of his instructions and his prayers to Krsna that we can appreciate His mercy and instructions, and on the other side our efforts. But of course, Srila Prabhupada also inspires us to make efforts, and he continues to do so today.

Sri Prahlada dasa:

We also have the example that Yasoda is trying to bind Krsna with ropes but is unsuccessful. The ropes are always two inches too short. She is struggling, taking ropes from all over the house, tying them together, but still the ropes are two inches too short! When Krsna sees the perspiration on her forehead, when He sees that the flowers that were decorating her hair have fallen to the ground and that her hair has become disarrayed, and how she is working so hard to bind Him, He thinks, “Okay, let her bind Me.” And so she finally ties that knot, and Krsna is bound. Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura says that the two inches of rope that were missing represent two things: one is the endeavor of the devotee, and the other is Krsna’s mercy, Krsna’s agreement. When Krsna gives His mercy, and the devotee endeavors to take that mercy, then we are successful in binding Krsna, or achieving Krsna. Of course, that mercy comes to us.

Verse 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.”

The three modes of material nature–sattva, rajas, and tamas–are the constituents of material nature, and the spiritual nature also has three constituents–samvit, sandhini, and hladini, or eternity, knowledge, and bliss (sac-cid-ananda). They translate, in their perverted form in this material nature, as goodness, passion, and ignorance. They are the opposite of transcendence. Because we are covered by these modes of material nature, we cannot appreciate the message of Vasudeva. However, by contacting the pure devotee and hearing that message, these troublesome things in the heart are cleaned away, and then we can appreciate the message of Vasudeva.

Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu says, ceto-darpana marjanam: the cetah, or the consciousness, which is also the heart, is cleaned of all the dust accumulated for years on it. When a mirror has dust covering it, you cannot see yourself in it. You cannot see who you are. But when that dust is cleaned away, you can see yourself. Similarly, when the mirror of the heart is cleaned, we can understand our nature as soul, as servant of Krsna.

Verse 11: “How will I make them understand the 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.”

It is not something mechanical or artificial; one has to become empowered by the Lord. One has to become saktyavesa, an empowered representative of the Lord, and then that dynamic is there. Certainly Srila Prabhupada was empowered by Krsna because of his full dedication, full faith, and full surrender to the Lord. It is not a material phenomenon, that one can represent the Lord and transform the heart of the conditioned soul. It is a transcendental phenomenon.

Giriraj Swami:

Verse 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 fulfill the real purport of Bhaktivedanta.”

Now, bhakti means “devotion” and vedanta means “knowledge.” Actually, veda means “knowledge” and anta means “the end.” So vedanta means “the end of knowledge,” or “the conclusion of all knowledge.” Here Srila Prabhupada is saying, “I am designated as Bhaktivedanta, but I have no bhakti or vedanta. But if You like, You can make me Bhaktivedanta.” And so we come back to Srila Prabhupada’s secret. How did Srila Prabhupada succeed? He says, “I have strong faith in the holy names of Sri Krsna.” Sri Prahlada mentioned Prabhupada’s faith in his spiritual master and in the previous acaryas, and along with such faith comes faith in the process of devotional service and especially in the holy names.

Srila Prabhupada had a godbrother named Akincana Krsnadasa Babaji Maharaja who was always absorbed in hari-nama. In fact, I heard that Srila Prabhupada said he was a paramahamsa. In any case, he was always absorbed in hari-nama. So, once, Krsnadasa Babaji Maharaja met a godbrother . . .

(Now, before I continue with the story I want to give a little preamble about how we should deal with other Vaisnavas or Gaudiya Vaisnavas. We should treat them with respect. Obviously, if they directly or indirectly criticize Srila Prabhupada or Srila Prabhupada’s movement, or attack Srila Prabhupada or his movement, we have to defend Srila Prabhupada. But otherwise, our attitude should be respectful. We should appreciate their service, however big or small it may be. So when I continue the story, you should know that I intend no disrespect for any Vaisnava. I am telling the story just to illustrate Srila Prabhupada’s faith in the holy name and the secret of Srila Prabhupada’s success.)

So, Krsnadasa Babaji met another of Srila Prabhupada’s godbrothers, named Bon Maharaja, who had been sent by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura to England to preach. So Babaji Maharaja asked him, “You went to the West, and Swami Maharaja (our Srila Prabhupada, Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja) also went to the West. You preached the teachings of Sriman Mahaprabhu, and he preached the teachings of Mahaprabhu. You chanted the holy name of Krsna, and he chanted the holy name of Krsna. Yet he was successful, and you were not. Why?” Then Babaji Maharaja himself gave the answer: “Because Swami Maharaja had full faith in the holy names, that if the Westerners just chanted the holy names of Krsna, gradually they would become Krsna conscious, they would become devotees.”

[Break in tape]

Giriraj Swami (continues):

For some time in Calcutta the temple president somehow became absorbed in doing business, in making money for the temple, and the devotees in the temple were sort of neglected. Of course, we were poor–very poor. We couldn’t afford milk. And even if we could, we wouldn’t know what white liquid we might get anyway. It seemed likely to be a combination of buffalo milk, water, and paper. Milkmen used to soak paper in watery milk to add bulk to the liquid. And there was one devotee there named Sudama Vipra. He was really strong. He had tattoos, and he was really strong. But even he was starving. We all were starving. So after the arati, he would get the ghee wicks and squeeze the ghee wicks to try to get a drop or two of ghee out.

We were all just waiting for Srila Prabhupada to come and save us. Srila Prabhupada did come, and different devotees met him and complained, and then Srila Prabhupada called a meeting of all the devotees. He listened very patiently and sympathetically to all of their complaints. At one point the GBC there said, “Srila Prabhupada, I was just trying to execute the will of Your Divine Grace.” And Srila Prabhupada said sarcastically, “Is it My Divine Grace’s will that all the devotees should be disturbed?”

So he was very sympathetic to the devotees. He said that we should have meetings every week and that we should record our resolutions in the minute book and stick to the resolutions. He was very concerned.

But then Srila Prabhupada’s mood changed. He told us that we shouldn’t be too absorbed in these material matters, because the tendency of the conditioned souls is to be engrossed in material things, and if we get too preoccupied and just talk about material things, then we’ll forget Krsna. We won’t talk about Krsna.

Then he told us, “My motto has always been ‘Everything for Krsna and nothing for myself.’ Therefore I never complained.” He said, “I suffered so much for the sake of this movement”–for our sake, really. “I had two heart attacks on the boat on the way to New York. Then in New York City I had a stroke.” And he confided, “Even otherwise, I had headaches and ringing in my ears. . . . You cannot conceive of how much I suffered, and I don’t want to discuss it also. But my motto was always ‘Everything for Krsna and nothing for myself.'” And that is Prabhupada. That is Prabhupada.

Then: “Signed–the most unfortunate, insignificant beggar, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami.”

This poem was first published in Back to Godhead many years ago, by early
1971, which is when I first heard it. A few of us were living in the Sea Palace Hotel in Bombay. We didn’t have any place in Bombay, and Srila Prabhupada had a friend from England named Ramchand Chhabria who owned the Sea Palace Hotel. He was vegetarian and the hotel was vegetarian, and we didn’t have any other place to stay, so Prabhupada sort of arranged for us to stay there. When the magazine came, there were just a few of us–Gurudasa Prabhu, Mother Yamuna, and myself. So we got the magazine, and the first article was the poem. Mother Yamuna read it out loud. And when she came to this–“Signed–the most unfortunate, insignificant beggar, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami”–she burst into tears. She couldn’t contain herself.

So what can we say here?

Srila Prabhupada ki jaya!