Deconstructing the Lilamrta, Part 59

BY: ROCANA DASA - 4.8 2022

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

We have now completed chapter four, Volume III of Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta, "Our Master Has Not Finished His Work". This entire chapter is essentially devoted to Srila Prabhupada's illness in New York. At the end of the chapter, Srila Prabhupada leaves the hospital. We get a very detailed presentation of exactly how this transpired, primarily based on the theme that the doctors didn't want Srila Prabhupada to leave but he insisted on leaving. Brahmananda and his brother Gargamuni removed Srila Prabhupada against the wishes of the medical staff. This is their version of how everything transpired.

We have to keep in mind that the dramatic perpetuation of stories like this helps the early devotees to maintain their part of the legend. As I often pointed out, prior to the Lilamrta being written and throughout Srila Prabhupada's ISKCON lila period, these stories were circulated, told and re-told by devotees throughout the movement. By the time the Lilamrta was put together, many of these stories had been virtually carved in stone. Of course, by that time Srila Prabhupada was not present to verify or respond to the stories and thus the storytellers could virtually get away with saying anything, as long as the chronological order was intact. Of course Satsvarupa, the author, was part of this whole drama and like the others, he gained great notoriety by having an opportunity to share in a very familial mood of association with Srila Prabhupada. I don't hold it against these early devotees because they were somewhat privileged, but at the same time I recognize that they've learned to feed off each other. We simply have to understand these Lilamrta stories for what they actually are - that is the whole point.

As the reader knows, my theme is that Srila Prabhupada is a Sampradaya Acarya -- a topmost member of the guru-parampara numbering only 32 back to the time of Lord Brahma. As such, neophyte devotees can never truly understand a devotee as advanced as Srila Prabhupada. The way that the devotees saw him, which is what we're experiencing throughout the pages of Lilamrta, is very sentimental and as such, unrealized. This is well illustrated by one of the stories told about how Srila Prabhupada had Jadurani paint a picture of him based on a photograph that he brought from India. The devotees are very familiar with this image of Srila Prabhupada, standing with his danda in front of a white sheet, looking very sober. Jadurani remarked to Srila Prabhupada that he seemed very unhappy, but Srila Prabhupada said with great emphasis that no, this was actually a moment of ecstasy. So this goes to show that the way the devotees were seeing Srila Prabhupada, for example while he was in this temporary state of physical illness, was not likely to be very accurate. In fact, he was essentially always in ecstasy.

Of course, the author of Lilamrta captured certain external events that indicated how advanced and transcendental Srila Prabhupada really was, such as the fact that as soon as he had enough energy stored up in his material body, he would again begin preaching very forcefully. This amazed the devotees, but they would say things like 'we forgot that Srila Prabhupada was 72 years old'. Of course, we're supposed to see everybody as a spirit soul, including ourselves what to speak of Srila Prabhupada. He lived nearly ten years longer and during that period worked tirelessly and preached strongly until near the very end.

Satsvarupa interjects his usual quotations in and amongst the transcriptions of interviews with other devotees. He tells about the pastime when he wanted to know if it was alright to wear leather shoes and Srila Prabhupada said no. In telling this, Satsvarupa comments that because Srila Prabhupada said this to him, he then personally had a lifetime commitment not to wear leather shoes. Yet we see that the main philosophical points that Srila Prabhupada stated about every aspect of devotional life -- especially about disciples, initiation, sannyasa, etc. - these points Satsvarupa totally forgot about and wasn't committed to it. So in a sense, whether it's he or the other devotees in these pastimes - Kirtanananda, Gaurasundar, Govinda dasi, Gargamuni, Brahmananda or Jadurani -- every one of them practically has not followed Srila Prabhupada's teachings. In fact, it's interesting to note that Satsvarupa and Jadurani were "an item" back then. I don't know if they were actually married at this point in this story, and Satsvarupa avoids mentioning that aspect of the story. Of course, now we know about his infatuation with another woman, which began when she was already married. Regardless, he took sannyasa essentially so he could gain more power and prestige in the movement. And he abandoned Jadurani, who has now taken shelter of B.V. Narayana (taking the new name, Shyamarani), and has made it her business to essentially undermine Srila Prabhupada's position as the Sampradaya Acarya. Having been abandoned by Satsvarupa, she has now "fallen in love" with B.V. Narayana. So we have a very interesting soap opera drama here.

When reading Lilamrta, if one is able to understand the history and accept it for what it is in the context of more recent circumstances in ISKCON, you can see how pathetic the situation really is. The Lilamrta author's personal situation was reflected in a '2007 editorial', wherein he yet again… finally… truthfully (maybe) revealed his whole dilemma of sexual falldown and dishonesty. This situation not only put his disciples in a great dilemma, but also the GBC and all of ISKCON.

This Lilamrta is truly the elephant in the living room. Even today, there is no mention or discussion, what to speak of a committee to deal with the fact that Satsvarupa has created this book, and those in ISKCON are essentially obliged to consider it a 100% accurate depiction of the Founder-Acarya. Obviously it isn't, because no biographer of the great Sampradaya Acaryas has ever ended up like Satsvarupa.