Deconstructing the Lilamrta, Part 30

BY: ROCANA DASA - 3.6 2022

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

Today we continue our commentary on chapter eleven of Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta, entitled "The Dream Come True".

Satsvarupa describes how Srila Prabhupada had organized the Janmastami festival at the Sri Sri Radha Damodar Temple, where he was staying. Srila Prabhupada arranged to have the Governor of Uttar Pradesh attend, so we can see the type of people that Srila Prabhupada influenced and readily communicated with. He goes on to say how Srila Prabhupada had everything very well organized. He had made up even a bhajan book and the program was very successful, with large crowds.

In typical fashion, Satsvarupa describes it by saying 'they sang songs to Lord Krsna and took prasada', instead of explaining that these so-called songs were great Vaisnava bhajans composed by our Sampradaya Acaryas. Srila Prabhupada gave a nice lecture, but we don't have any excerpts from the lecture. What we do have is almost a full page transcription of an interview that was given by the professional kirtan group leader. He was basically describing what the scene was, according to his memory. Srila Prabhupada impressed him, of course, as he impressed everyone. We don't know for sure if Satsvarupa had the transcript for Srila Prabhupada's lecture, although there are indications he did. Either way, the content of the particular dialogue he provided from the kirtan leader, compared to the dialogue of Srila Prabhupada's lecture, is inconceivably different and less satisfying. The transcript of the musician Bhattacarya's comments didn't even mention Srila Prabhupada's lecture. Like Satsvarupa, however, the Bhattacarya does mention that he thought Srila Prabhupada was "simple and poor".

Satsvarupa continues on with his mantra about Srila Prabhupada being poor: no money of his own, etc. He says how wonderful it was that 40 years before, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur first asked a young householder from Calcutta, and that finally 'Abhay Caran' managed to get away from his family responsibilities, which was a 'big obstacle' for him, and was at last free to travel. But being penniless, he couldn't fulfill this goal right away. What Satsvarupa does not explain is how Krsna was supplying Srila Prabhupada with everything, and that Krsna was orchestrating this pastime of a nitya-siddha paramahamsa devotee. Instead, Satsvarupa characterizes Srila Prabhupada as simply being 'lucky', or 'persistent'.

Then he goes on to explain all the ways that Srila Prabhupada tried to get enough money to accomplish the goal of coming to America. He did this initially by selling his books in various places, like book fairs and trying to get government agencies to buy books and distribute them.

By Krsna's arrangement, a gentleman from Mathura named Agarwal said he'd arrange to get Srila Prabhupada a sponsor through his son in America. So that particular part of the puzzle was transcendentally taken care of, by Krsna's arrangement.

Srila Prabhupada still had to get his passport, visa, P-form and travel fare together, and he systematically went about achieving all these goals. In doing so he went to Bombay to talk to Mrs. Morarji. As Satsvarupa tells the story of how Srila Prabhupada went there, he states that Srila Prabhupada was 'gray-haired and determined'. We know that Srila Prabhupada always shaved his head, so I think to call him a 'grey-haired swami' is unnecessary.

Of course, Satsvarupa has to describe how Sumati Morarji spoke to Srila Prabhupada, claiming that he's too old to go to America. Regardless, she said she'd give him the ticket so long as he got the P-form, which is India's equivalent of a visa to exit the country. While he was going about doing all this he stayed at the Scindia colony, a housing project the shipping company had established for its employees.

The devotees obtained some interviews with some of the residents at this complex who knew Srila Prabhupada while he was staying there, and excerpts of these interviews were included in the book. Satsvarupa weaves into them his part of the story, filling in the blanks, and he shares with the reader comments such as how Srila Prabhupada "would sit quietly, perhaps feeling morose". And of course, he had to go on some more about the fact that Srila Prabhupada had no money.

Mrs. Morarji was very perceptive herself of Srila Prabhupada's spiritual potency, and she arranged to have her driver come and pick Srila Prabhupada up and take him to her home, where he would recite Srimad Bhagavatam and lecture to her.

There is one excerpt provided (which is rare) wherein Srila Prabhupada is describing his circumstances there. Again, the passage is given without any reference to date or source of the dialogue, so we're not sure if it's complete or whether it even is Srila Prabhupada's original statement.

Satsvarupa also inserts comments by a Mr. Chocksi, the Secretary of Mrs. Morarji. He included comments from this person such as "he was hot tempered" and "He used to get angry at me for the delays." Of course, this is just his perception of Srila Prabhupada, which is given to the interviewer after a long period of time had elapsed. One also has to assume that as a conditioned soul, the passage is only relatively accurate in description, or likely much less so in its spiritual significance.

The story goes on to explain that once all the hurdles in Bombay were overcome, Srila Prabhupada had to travel by train to Calcutta to catch the Jaladuta. When he reached Calcutta he couldn't go to his home, unlike so many of his sannyasi disciples today who maintain a close relationship with parents, siblings, and so on. Srila Prabhupada refused to have anything to do with his family, exemplifying the sannyasa asrama.

Again the picture is painted of Srila Prabhupada being poor, as he went to stay with the very same person who sang the bhajans, Bhattacarya. This, according to excerpts from Bhattacarya himself. We are left to assume that he's completely truthful here. The reader should also keep in mind that by the time this Lilamrta was being researched and written, Srila Prabhupada had become very famous. He had already accepted maha-samadhi by the time all these people were interviewed, so by now they realized how potent Srila Prabhupada was, and how famous he had become. Naturally that would tend to impact how they depicted themselves in relation to Srila Prabhupada. So ultimately the question is, are we getting an accurate picture? And if not, what is the purpose if the content is not true and accurate?

Satsvarupa explains how Srila Prabhupada was taking the remaining books with him to America that he hadn't distributed. In his standard mood, Satsvarupa says that "the very thought of the books gave him confidence". So Srila Prabhupada needed to have some confidence?! Satsvarupa repeats it, saying that when the time came for Srila Prabhupada to leave, "he needed that confidence". He also writes, "To be poor and unknown in India was one thing… But in American it would be different", and that Srila Prabhupada was "concerned" about the fact that he might die away from Vrindavan.

Finally, we get a nice quote from Srila Prabhupada, which is very inspiring:

"With what great difficulty I got out of the country! Some way or other, by Krsna's grace, I got out so I could spread the Krsna consciousness movement all over the world. Otherwise, to remain in India - it was not possible. I wanted to start a movement in India, but I was not at all encouraged."

The final quote in this chapter is from Mr. Bhattacarya, who took Srila Prabhupada down to the dock where the Jaladuta was moored. In this dialogue, he is essentially reflecting what Satsvarupa has been saying. Both of them being conditioned souls, this narrative is just how it would have appeared to them. But if you accept that Srila Prabhupada is a maha-bhagavata nitya-siddha, then you cannot accept that "He was alone. A lone fighter. No friends, no supporter, no disciple, nobody."

But not only his friend Bhattacharya was there to see him depart… Sri Krsna was there to watch Srila Prabhupada's departure on the Jaladuta.

And that ends not only this chapter, but Volume I of the Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta.