Deconstructing the Lilamrta, Part 28

BY: ROCANA DASA - 2.6 2022

A critical analysis of the Srila Prabhupada-Lilamrta by Satsvarupa das Goswami.

Today we conclude Chapter 10 of Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta, entitled "This Momentous Hour of Need". This final section begins in February 1961, on Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur's Vyasa-puja day. Srila Prabhupada was gathered together with many of his godbrothers, including some of the senior swamis. He himself had taken sannyasa not long before this time.

Satsvarupa writes about how Srila Prabhupada's sannyasi godbrothers, and the fact that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati's movement had fractionalized. For the most part, the godbrothers were just living in their own mathas, making no plans, and with no vision towards worldwide preaching.

I personally get a great deal of inspiration from this section, because the very thing Satsvarupa is describing, and what Srila Prabhupada is saying in his Vyasa-puja offering, is in the same mood and very similar words as what I've been trying, in my limited way, to say in many of my writings. Following Srila Prabhupada, I'm trying to straightforwardly state the truth about the circumstances and mood amongst my godbrothers who, from an external point of view, are senior to me.

Needless to say, there is an ocean of difference between my godbrothers and myself compared to Srila Prabhupada, who is the Sampradaya Acarya and a pure devotee, nitya-siddha, although he wasn't recognized as such by his godbrothers. In the eyes of his godbrothers he was simply a junior godbrother, but he had the nerve to write a Vyasa-puja offering which even Satsvarupa describes as an explosion rather than a eulogy. [The Lilamrta version of Srila Prabhupada's Vyasa-puja offering is somewhat different from the version that Krishna.org published in 2003.]

"Even now, my Godbrothers, you return here on the order of our master, and together we engage in this puja.

But simply a festival of flowers and fruits does not constitute worship. The one who serves the message of the guru really worships him…

Oh, shame! My dear brothers, aren't you embarrassed? In the matter of businessmen you increase your disciples.

Our master said to preach! Let the neophytes remain inside the temples and simply ring the bells…

But just take a good look at the terrible situation that has arisen. Everyone has become a sense enjoyer and has given up preaching…

From the seas, across the earth, penetrate the universal shell; come together and preach this Krsna consciousness.

Then our master's service will be in proper order. Make your promise today. Give up all your politics and diplomacy."

While I could never write anything as elevated and poetic as Srila Prabhupada has written in this eulogy, I hope that the same mood is there when I attempt to tell the truth about what I see going on around me. Of course, at the time Satsvarupa wrote this I would never have dared to do what I'm doing now. During the Zonal Acarya period if there was even a hint of criticism, you would be immediately thrown out. Some of my senior godbrothers during that time met just such a fate.

Satsvarupa had no way of knowing at the time that he'd end up in a far worse spiritual condition than even Srila Prabhupada's godbrothers, who at least maintained the principles and were strict sannyasis. We know what happened to most of the Zonal Acaryas, on the other hand.

I suppose that in the future when anyone asks me why I write the way I do, I can simply point to this section of the Lilamrta and say this is why - because I'm following in the footsteps of my Spiritual Master. I'm saying the same things he said. Here are a few more select lines from Srila Prabhupada's famous Vyasa-puja offering:

"When will that day come when a temple will be established in every house in every corner of the world?

When will the high-court judge be a Gaudiya Vaisnava with tilaka beautifully decorating his forehead?

When will a Vaisnava winning votes be elected president of the land and preaching be spread everywhere?"

Of course, Satsvarupa doesn't present the whole poem by Srila Prabhupada intact, but rather presents it in pieces, interspersed with his own commentary. In fact, I'm not sure if he's even included the entire poem. He does, however, fill up page after page with his own speculations about what Srila Prabhupada was thinking and doing, what was going on at the time, etc.

As is presented here, Srila Prabhupada moved his residence into the Radha Damodar temple where he was next to Srila Rupa Goswami's samadhi. Here, he begins to write his Srimad Bhagwatams.

Satsvarupa explains that Srila Prabhupada heard about a conference that was taking place in Japan and he saw that as a good preaching opportunity. He made all sorts of arrangements to be included as one of the presenters, in what was called the International Foundation for Cultural Harmony. He conceived of a particular way of presenting the Srimad Bhagavatam, which he entitled the Light of the Bhagavata. Tamal Krishna Goswami later picked-up on this idea and produced a book along the same theme. There were supposed to be 50 pictures and commentaries in this book of Srila Prabhupada's. His presentation enthused the organizers, and on top of that Srila Prabhupada quickly produced a 20,000 word manuscript. We don't know if Satsvarupa had access to that manuscript, but he doesn't include any of it here.

The author then spends a lot of time describing all the efforts Srila Prabhupada went through to get the necessary funds to attend this conference, and all the persons and government officials he approached, to no avail. Personally I find all the details surrounding this to be secondary to the manuscript itself, which we don't have the benefit of reading. Satsvarupa does manage to include various fundraising letters Srila Prabhupada wrote for the conference. This fits into a recurring theme for Satsvarupa, who is always reminding us of how "poor" Srila Prabhupada was.

After his attempts prove to be unsuccessful, Satsvarupa goes on to describe the circumstances surrounding Srila Prabhupada's Vrindavan residence at the Radha Damodar temple. This is obviously an incredibly auspicious circumstance, and one that would indicate to anyone with any spiritual insight that Srila Prabhupada was, and is, a maha-bhagavata paramahamsa. This is an extraordinary set of circumstances that is indicative of his spiritual position. Of course, Satsvarupa doesn't bother mentioning that part. Instead he goes on, page after page, giving us his detailed description of what Srila Prabhupada's day was like. Of course, this is not based on anything but the author's own speculation. There's no reference I'm aware of where Srila Prabhupada went into this kind of detail as to what was going on in his life at that time, on a moment-by-moment basis, yet Satsvarupa gives the impression that he was walking beside Srila Prabhupada and was privy to every detail.

As is the case throughout the entire Lilamrta, there are little drops of urine in the vat of milk. Here, the author is stating that Srila Prabhupada is "gathering inspiration", that he's "poor", "alone", and that the weather was "intolerably hot". From a sastric point of view Srila Prabhupada was in ecstasy the entire time, as one can personally experience when reading the purports to his Srimad Bhagwatam, 1st canto, 1st volume. By reading, we can not only understand that this is coming straight from the spiritual platform, we also see there's no indication Srila Prabhupada was suffering in any way while he was writing it.

Satsvarupa chooses to end this chapter by stating that Srila Prabhupada was writing the Srimad Bhagavatam "by the inspiration of his guru" and "on the order of his guru", giving the impression that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati was playing a more significant role than Srila Prabhupada himself. He ends by saying "He must become a perfectly equipped instrument of his masters. And if they desired, they would send him."

As if Srila Prabhupada wasn't already a perfectly equipped master.