Deconstructing the Lilamrta, Part 58

BY: ROCANA DASA - 3.8 2022

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

In recent segments we virtually covered Srila Prabhupada's time in San Francisco. After two and a half months there he decided to return to New York, which opened up a whole new chapter. Today we begin Chapter 4 of Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta, entitled "Our Master Has Not Finished His Work". This chapter deals with the circumstance of Srila Prabhupada's becoming ill. The author goes into great detail as to what transpired during that period, which lasted a few weeks.

I have strong opinions and a personal dislike for the subject of Srila Prabhupada's health as it is typically presented by ISKCON, particularly with respect to narrations of his journey on the Jaladuta, as well as this particular period in New York. While offering introductory statements about who Srila Prabhupada is, devotees often see fit to emphasize the fact that Srila Prabhupada apparently suffered from heart problems, had multiple heart attacks, etc. I cannot for the life of me understand why the situation with his health makes this narrative such a priority in the minds of many devotees, who seem to find it an essential part of the story to share with newcomers to Krsna consciousness.

When Srila Prabhupada left his body, he didn't leave as a result of heart problems. His health is certainly of great significance, however, to those who were in the New York temple at the time when Srila Prabhupada was experiencing those problems. That's evident by the fact that Satsvarupa decided to dedicate an entire chapter of Lilamrta to the topic, setting down the chronological events for us, along with the remembrances of the devotees.

Satsvarupa again doesn't describe himself as the author in this section, but rather speaks about himself in third person. All in all, the minutia presented here is unnecessary. In fact, part of his storyline is that the devotees all got together and speculated as to why this happened with Srila Prabhupada's health. They were trying to conjure up certain angles of vision as they tried to understand what the pastimes of a pure devotee are, as best they can understand them. I'm not going to add to that speculation other than to say that obviously Krsna orchestrated it for His own purposes. We cannot know the Lord's inconceivable and multitudinous reasons why He would do something like this for the spreading of Krsna consciousness, and amplifying Srila Prabhupada's impact on preaching throughout the world.

No doubt these circumstances galvanized those devotees who had first joined in terms of their affection towards Srila Prabhupada, because they got an opportunity to render a lot of personal service. But in the long term, as we have all had a chance to experience and witness, the fact is that this particular set of incidents set a certain degree of precedence in the movement. First of all, Srila Prabhupada instructed the devotees not to take him to the hospital, not to have him injected with needles, etc. Regardless, they did take him to the hospital and he spent some time there. All in all, the hospital stay resulted in little or no positive effect. In fact, Srila Prabhupada's instructions on how to deal with the circumstance, namely to give him daily massages, seemed to be the main contributing factor to his recovery, and that practice took place for the next ten years. As we see, it seemed to have not only worked in terms of getting Srila Prabhupada's health back, but it also contributed to his not being effected by this particular health problem for the entire duration of his lila.

I'm not trying to say that Srila Prabhupada's health issues shouldn't be mentioned in his biography, but I do say that we shouldn't emphasize it or speculate on it, except in the highest possible transcendental terms. No one can understand the activities of the pure devotee, and especially such neophyte devotees. We could never understand what is going on in the mind of Srila Prabhupada, what to speak of how Krsna is utilizing his pure devotee for a particular purpose. When one gets into the kind of details Satsvarupa is trying to provide in Lilamrta, it can easily lead the reader to all sorts of erroneous conclusions. In fact, we can see that the author himself was led to such wrong conclusions, as witnessed by the fact that he spent what I suspect were millions of dollars on medical attention throughout his life, following Srila Prabhupada's departure. Others, like Kirtanananda, did the same thing. Regardless of the example Srila Prabhupada set in this regard, these neophyte devotees did not trust Krsna, but instead put their trust in medical science - at Srila Prabhupada's expense. So whether their justification or rationalization for spending Krsna's money on their own bodily needs was rooted in Satsvarupa's spin and emphasize on these health pastimes of Srila Prabhupada's, I'm not sure, but I can't see how else they could have come to such reasoning.

When Srila Prabhupada did accept maha-samadhi and leave his body, he didn't agree to be subjected to a lot of western type medicines, although Satsvarupa insisted on providing all sorts of details about his hospital stay. So we can see that the emphasize the author placed on the matter is contrary to Srila Prabhupada's mood.

During this period of ill health Srila Prabhupada got all the devotees to start chanting the Nrsimhadeva prayers, and he had us chanting and praying for his recovery throughout the period. If one feels the need to speculate on Srila Prabhupada's health issues, this fact provides a most interesting opportunity for consideration, i.e., did Srila Prabhupada simply take advantage of a situation in order to encourage the devotees to take up worship of Lord Nrsimhadeva? Certainly, these circumstances resulted in a positive effect on the entire movement.

Now that we have the benefit of looking back over time, seeing not only Srila Prabhupada's lila pastimes but also what transpired afterwards, I think we can easily conclude that this particular section of the Lilamrta has had a long-range damaging effect, which should be immediately mitigated by our conscious efforts to eliminate the unnecessary emphasize on Srila Prabhupada's health issues. This is not what's most important about his journey on the Jaladuta, or his time back in New York that is the focus of today's segment on Deconstructing the Lilamrta.