Deconstructing the Lilamrta, Part 55

BY: ROCANA DASA - 28.7 2022

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

Today we begin Volume 3, Chapter Two of Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta, entitled "The Price Affair". This entire chapter is very interesting and revealing, not so much in terms of Srila Prabhupada, who always shines like a brilliant sun, but in terms of the insight it provides into the devotees who were involved in "The Price Affair".

The scenario was that Srila Prabhupada was in San Francisco preaching, and at the same time was writing daily to the devotees in New York, keeping them going and enthusiastic. But the one affair they were engaged in that was way over their heads was the acquisition of a new temple. Now by Krsna's causeless arrangement and mercy, the devotees had close to $10,000 in savings, and their overhead was being met by Brahmananda and Satsvarupa's monthly paychecks.

Not surprisingly, the devotees were neophytes and babes in the woods, as we all were when first joining. Now that we have the benefit of many years of hindsight, we can say without hesitation that some of the worst managers in Srila Prabhupada's ISKCON lila period were involved in these early pastimes. As time progressed from this point of the story onward, this became more and more obvious to everyone.

Satsvarupa, who was directly involved in this circumstance, tells it from his own perspective, essentially putting all the blame on Brahmananda. The two of them were in charge of the temple and they were making joint decisions regarding their relationship with a businessman named Mr. Price. The businessman was conning them, basically. Not surprisingly, before he left, Srila Prabhupada already 'had his number', and didn't trust him. Srila Prabhupada warned the devotees about dealing with him, but Brahmananda, and I'm sure Satsvarupa too, were enamored by this guy. Mr. Price totally suckered them in because he cut the profile of being a big, successful businessman. He knew how to push the right buttons with these young men.

Without Srila Prabhupada's permission, Brahmananda got sucked into giving this guy $1,000. Keep in mind that this is back in the 1960's, and that thousand dollars represented a lot more then than it does now, especially under the circumstances the devotees were living in. It's interesting to note that Satsvarupa dedicates almost a whole chapter to their dealings with Mr. Price. Looking back over ISKCON history, however, we see that even though it was a significant amount of money, from a relative point of view, if it wasn't for Srila Prabhupada this Mr. Price would have suckered them into giving a lot more money. In fact, he would have cleaned them out.

Those devotees who like to adamantly state that Srila Prabhupada is 'still alive', and ISKCON should just go along as if that were the assumption, are fools. This is just one of innumerable circumstances where Srila Prabhupada stepped in and saved not only the money, but the movement. It was his ability to function in the real world and his perception about who was a devotee and who was basically a demon that saved the day, and was a great contributing factor in the amazing expansion of Krsna consciousness during that period, when Srila Prabhupada was directly overseeing of the movement. Of course, he is still with us in his vani legacy, but there is no replacing his actual physical presence with us to guide and solve problems, hands-on.

The letters that Satsvarupa drew on and included in this chapter are definitely worth reading by those who want to understand Srila Prabhupada, and how multi-faceted and completely expert he was in all aspects of Krsna consciousness, and spreading it throughout the world. But you have to keep in mind when you're reading this chapter that Satsvarupa is telling the story strictly from his own perspective. You can be sure that the reality of his managerial expertise is not accurately represented in this chapter.

Overall, the amount of money that has been squandered, wasted, misdirected, and mismanaged by ISKCON leaders since the time of the Price Affair is just inconceivable. The thousand dollars that Satsvarupa and Brahmananda lost at this point in time is nothing in comparison to what is going on today. It was simply an indication of what was to come in the future, especially after Srila Prabhupada departed. That said, even the loss of a thousand dollars in this one incident could have seriously impacted the growth of Krsna consciousness at that time, had Srila Prabhupada not stepped in and emphatically instructed Brahmananda and all the other devotees, through personal letters, not to give this man any more money. The way the story is told by Satsvarupa, Brahmananda had a hard time surrendering to Srila Prabhupada's instructions. He was really enamored by this personality, and the guy played him like a musical instrument.

I don't believe that this situation deserved all the print that Satsvarupa gives the story, and in my mind it wasn't worth all the detail, except as it pertains to Srila Prabhupada. Because Satsvarupa is writing the book and trying to feature himself in the stories, he keeps referring to himself in third person, as if he's some sort of disembodied agent… almost as if it's not that he's the author, but that he's some supersoul-type personality. Of course, nobody has ever really challenged this. Any anybody who thinks that a writer in his position could possibly be unbiased and transcendental is a complete fool -- especially now that we know who this person Satsvarupa is. We now know who all these personalities from the early days are. It's just absolutely phenomenal how Srila Prabhupada used them - used all of us foolish neophytes -- to spread Krsna consciousness in the way that he did back then. It's simply an indication that Supersoul and Srila Prabhupada were spreading Krsna consciousness. And when I say Supersoul, I mean Krsna in the hearts of these individuals. Through his pure devotee, He was not only orchestrating but saving the day, saving the movement from our contamination and ignorance.

So this chapter is just like most of the Lilamrta - interesting to read the content as it pertains to Srila Prabhupada, but something to be taken at face value in all other respects. Reading it in the way that the author intended it to be consumed is a dangerous thing. Satsvarupa certainly does not want us to look at him and his history, and then read this Lilamrta with that reality and perspective in mind. Instead, everyone is expected to read the Lilamrta in the way that Satsvarupa wrote it thirty years ago, when he was riding high in his own mind during the Zonal Acarya period. It's been a long way down, from there.