Deconstructing the Lilamrta, Part 32

BY: ROCANA DASA - 7.6 2022

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

Today we begin Chapter Two of Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta Vol. 2, "Butler Pennsylvania: The First Testing Ground". The first part of this chapter I found quite pleasing. It's primarily comprised of transcriptions of interviews that were taken with Sally Agarwal and her husband Gopal and a professor from the college, along with an interesting article that was published in the Butler newspaper.

The chapter begins with a letter that Srila Prabhupada wrote to Sumati Morari, the Scandia Steamship owner. Of course, anything Srila Prabhupada writes is very transcendental, and this is no exception.

I find it very striking that Gopal Agarwal's wife is an American, and it's obvious that her husband hasn't really introduced her to the Indian lifestyle. He himself had become very westernized and the couple ate meat, smoked cigarettes, and did what most Americans did, especially during that time period. Regardless, Srila Prabhupada did not at all disturb them or their lives, but very quickly endeared himself to them. In fact, the things Sally Agarwal has to say about Srila Prabhupada I find much more inspiring than what we hear from the author of Lilamrta, who mainly just describes the physical circumstances Srila Prabhupada was experiencing at the time, like his bus trip to Pennsylvania, what the scenery was like, what the Pittsburgh steel mills were like, etc.

Sally Agarwal, on the other hand, describes how Srila Prabhupada was just like a magic person, and that she quickly became very attached to him -- he was just so transcendental. She had absolutely no way of understanding Srila Prabhupada's spiritual potency and position as a pure devotee of Krsna. Satsvarupa, on the other hand, is supposedly a senior disciple who had years of experience and exposure to the philosophy. Yet Sally Agarwal expresses more affection for Srila Prabhupada than we hear from Satsvarupa.

One can only wonder why Satsvarupa did not take the opportunity to comment on what Mrs. Agarwal had to say, enlightening his readers as to why it was that everyone in that situation found Srila Prabhupada so pleasing, and were so comfortable with him.

Sally Agarwal pointed out that Srila Prabhupada never tried to convert anybody, and he never chastised people for eating meat or smoking. He just took every opportunity to preach the philosophy in a non-threatening way. She explained how humorous he was, how he was so kind to her children, and completely unobtrusive. This, of course, is a symptom of a pure devotee -- yet never once does Satsvarupa explain that fact to the reader.

Here we see that Srila Prabhupada, without any seeming adjustment to his own life, remains so transcendental to the circumstances. He kept a daily routine, cooking prasadam in the morning, and when the husband came home for lunch he offered him prasadam. In short order, Srila Prabhupada was feeding everyone a nice feast at noon. Then he would go back to his room at the YMCA and write. In the evening he would come back to the Agarwals, where all their friends started coming every evening to hear him preach. And by Krsna's arrangement he was being invited to the universities to give classes. This is such a tremendous example for anyone who aspires to be his follower - it's an example of what it is to be a pure devotee. Just like a drop of water on a lotus, Srila Prabhupada stayed totally transcendental to everything; he never became disturbed, frustrated, or unhappy.

Of all the material I've read about Srila Prabhupada in Lilamrta thus far, this material has been the least agitating to my mind. Satsvarupa had very little to do with the message, as it all came from the impressions and comments of those who were associating with Srila Prabhupada at the time. In fact, there were pages and pages of the interviews that some devotees had with Sally Agarwal, because it appears that Srila Prabhupada associated with her more than anyone at the time. She was at home with the children, and he was in their home a lot cooking, chanting, and preaching. It's obvious by what she said that she was not put out by Srila Prabhupada in the least, and that she loved having his association. And this is from someone who had absolutely no understanding of the philosophy. She didn't understand a thing about Krsna consciousness or Srila Prabhupada, and yet the lasting impression that he made on her was very profound. Only someone on Srila Prabhupada's level could ever affect people like that, in such a lasting way. We have to keep in mind that this interview happened some 15 years or so after Srila Prabhupada arrived and the Agarwals experienced his association.

Another interesting part I found was about Professor Allen Larsen, who describes the classes Srila Prabhupada gave at the university. He got a similar impression, and was very affected by Srila Prabhupada and having his association.

Satsvarupa also included a return letter that Srila Prabhupada received from Sumati Morari. Satsvarupa's interpretation of this is that Srila Prabhupada was somehow inspired by this letter so much that it encouraged him to stay in America longer than he had anticipated, because he only had a two-month visa. Of course, this was not at all Srila Prabhupada's thinking, and neither was it Krsna's, obviously.

I find myself very much moved by this particular chapter, for the reasons I've stated, and I suggest others read this particular chapter, because it really gives you insight into the potency of a pure devotee. The way that Srila Prabhupada affected these people was an example of how the potency of association with the pure devotee can transform people's lives. And of course, Srila Prabhupada's pastimes from here on in says it all.

In the next chapter, Satsvarupa goes back to his "struggling alone" concept. We'll get to that next time. I almost hate to go on to what is primarily a Satsvarupa version of Srila Prabhupada compared to the version I just got from these complete strangers and essentially non-devotees, namely Sally Agarwal and the professor.