Deconstructing the Lilamrta, Part 51

BY: ROCANA DASA - 18.7 2022

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

Today we begin a new volume of the Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta, Volume 3, which author Satsvarupa titles "Only He Could Lead Them". He starts with a Forward by Dr. Stillson Judah, who did meet Srila Prabhupada on a number of occasions and was favorable from an academic's point of view. However, he definitely has no realization of who Srila Prabhupada is from a spiritual point of view. He never really participated in Krsna consciousness and as such, his Forward amplifies the perception that Satsvarupa himself is giving of who Srila Prabhupada is. Satsvarupa is a little more schizophrenic in this regard. On one hand, he's saying things which make Srila Prabhupada appear to be something other than an ordinary human being -- but he is also trying to describe him as someone who is accessible, and in that he often errs. The underlying message, of course, is that someone/anyone, and particularly Satsvarupa and his Zonal Acaryas, could achieve Srila Prabhupada's level of spirituality and Krsna consciousness in due course of time.

From Dr. Judah's point of view, Srila Prabhupada is obviously an important historical figure and an exceptional personality who achieved extraordinary things. But at the same time, he doesn't even hint at the fact that there's such a thing as a nitya-siddha maha-bhagavata representative of God, or that Srila Prabhupada is on the same spiritual level as Jesus or any great spiritual personality. Of course, he likes to emphasize the phenomenon of Srila Prabhupada going into the real hip areas of both New York and San Francisco, and saving or converting the drug-addicted hippies. In a sense this is true, but it's also a very superficial perception. As a Canadian youth of that era I experienced the whole hippie phenomenon, which had spread throughout the world. At the same time, most of the people that I knew who were involved in the Krsna consciousness movement weren't drug addicted. Yes, they experimented with recreational drugs, but for the most part they were sincere seekers. There were far more of these types joining the movement then there were the drug-addicted variety of hippies.

Satsvarupa goes on to give an introduction, which includes a brief summary of what he's already written in the previous two volumes. His condensed version convinces me that all my previous comments were very accurate. Satsvarupa, the Zonal Acarya sannyasi, presents Srila Prabhupada in a very demeaning way, even though I doubt that at the time, or even today, he thinks of it in that way. He contradicts himself, presenting Srila Prabhupada on one hand to be a pure devotee maha-bhagavata, and on the other hand repeatedly saying that Srila Prabhupada was basically a householder who was attached to family and business, and that it was only that he gradually molded his life to fulfill the orders of his Spiritual Master. Satsvarupa says that it wasn't until his 50's that Srila Prabhupada dedicated himself to writing, but that simply is not true. He was writing throughout practically the entire period covered thus far in Lilamrta, and was writing spiritual content that far surpasses what most of his sannyasi godbrothers were doing.

Satsvarupa again emphasizes the fact that Srila Prabhupada was 'obscure' and 'in poverty'. Even by his own account, this isn't accurate. Yes, Srila Prabhupada chose to write alone outside of a matha, and he chose not to get too involved with his godbrothers because it would interfere with his mission, but that is not 'poverty and obscurity'.

Then Satsvarupa goes on to give us some insight into what we can expect in this particular volume, and the name speaks for itself when he says "only he could lead them". Of course, when the author says "only", he never once mentions the fact that only a nitya-siddha, maha-bhagavata, Sampradaya Acarya could have accomplished what Srila Prabhupada accomplished. That is a fact, and it's the real truth of why only Srila Prabhupada could lead them. Not that Srila Prabhupada was the only one of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur's disciples who was willing to come to America, which is what Satsvarupa states. He also says that Srila Prabhupada came without getting detailed instructions from Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, but he fails to mention the fact that due to his elevated spiritual status, Krsna was in his heart and the level of communication was inconceivable, in that his activities were basically orchestrated by Krsna Himself.

Being a neophyte myself, I can't state definitively how it is that a maha-bhagavata Sampradaya Acarya communicates with Supersoul or with his Spiritual Master, who happens to be the previous Sampradaya Acarya, but we can certainly say that it's not at all the way Satsvarupa is depicting it to be. Krsna was in Srila Prabhupada's heart directing him, and that means Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who is non-different than Supersoul, was directing him. And we know the desire of Lord Caitanya is that Krsna consciousness would be spread throughout the world, and that's exactly what is taking place. That is what Satsvarupa was supposed to be chronicling in this book, but unfortunately, it's not at all what he wrote.

Satsvarupa makes far too much out of the fact that Srila Prabhupada had a heart attack, both on the boat and then again in San Francisco, and that this prompted him to make a journey to Vrindavan. As I've previously mentioned, we should note the significant fact that Srila Prabhupada did not die of a heart attack. In fact, whether or not what he experienced was actually a medical "heart attack" was never medically verified, to my knowledge. Either way, it didn't really matter in the sense that Krsna had arranged for Srila Prabhupada to seemingly get sick. Satsvarupa picks up, to a certain degree, on the fact that this increased the affection, devotion and dedication of the disciples towards Srila Prabhupada, because of course they feared that he was going to die or that he'd go to India and not come back. It motivated them to get more serious about spreading Krsna consciousness throughout the world and pleasing him in that way, and praying to Krsna to have him return, which of course he did.

At the end of this introduction, Satsvarupa does seem to try and project the idea that there's an internal meaning to all of this, but he doesn't tell us what that internal meaning is. Instead, he goes on to tell us what the external circumstances were: that this is a "human story", which is basically all he's telling us - the sentimental, human aspect of the story, which naturally our material minds are most interested in hearing. It's more entertaining to us. But the fact is that Srila Prabhupada himself didn't preach like that. He didn't focus on telling stories, but just preached the philosophy. He always emphasized the philosophy. He condensed the whole Caitanya-caritamrta down into the Teachings of Lord Caitanya. The Srimad-Bhagavatam itself isn't a continual story like the Mahabharata, but is taking the spiritual essence from innumerable stories found in the Vedas and basically extracting the most philosophical essence from them.

So to have Srila Prabhupada's "authorized biography" presented in a story form like this Lilamrta, which is basically more along the lines of the Mahabharata (but far less accurate and inspiring), is a great failure. Satsvarupa is presenting himself to be a great philosopher and scholar, yet all he can do is write these stories, and do little or no preaching. As far as I'm concerned, he just didn't have the realization. He wouldn't have pretended to be a big Zonal Acarya if he had any realization himself. And of course, history has exposed him time and time again as being a puffed-up neophyte, and he's suffered tremendously because of that. Yet to this very day, ISKCON will not admit it, and Satsvarupa himself won't admit it. ISKCON continues to print and distribute this Lilamrta "biography" as if it was sastra, and that is a great offense.