Vyasa Puja Offering for the year 2009
My dear Srila Prabhupäda,
Please accept my prostrated obeisances at your lotus feet. All glories to Your Divine Grace! All glories to your causeless mercy!
We have gathered at your lotus feet to glorify you on your appearance day. Today I thought to read a verse from Srimad-Bhagavatam that describes Krishna’s mercy, as bestowed in particular upon the demoness Pütanä. The verse is appropriate because it glorifies the quality of mercifulness, which was so prominent in you, and it suggests to what extent you were willing to give mercy. Even upon a demoness who came to administer poison to Him and kill Him, Krishna bestowed His supreme mercy. In a similar mood, you bestowed your mercy upon people who were lowly and fallen, and you were unreserved in bestowing it upon them.
The verse is from Srimad-Bhägavatam, Canto Three, chapter two: “Remembrance of Lord Krishna”
aho baki yam stana-kala-kutam
jighamsayapayayad apy asadhvi
lebhe gatim dhatry-ucitam tato ’nyam
kam va dayalum saranam vrajema
“Alas, how shall I take shelter of one more merciful than He who granted the position of mother to a she-demon [Pütanä] although she was unfaithful and she prepared deadly poison to be sucked from her breast?” (Srimad-Bhägavatam 3.2.23)
In your purport you write:
Here is an example of the extreme mercy of the Lord, even to His enemy. It is said that a noble man accepts the good qualities of a person of doubtful character, just as one accepts nectar from a stock of poison. In His babyhood [Krishna] was administered deadly poison by Pütanä, a she-demon who tried to kill the wonderful baby. And because she was a demon, it was impossible for her to know that the Supreme Lord, even though playing the part of a baby, was no one less than the same Supreme Personality of Godhead. His value as the Supreme Lord did not diminish upon His becoming a baby to please His devotee Yasodä.
The Lord may assume the form of a baby or a shape other than that of a human being, but it doesn’t make the slightest difference; He is always the same Supreme. A living creature, however powerful he may become by dint of severe penance, can never become equal to the Supreme Lord.
Srila Prabhupäda, you always glorified Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and you instructed everyone to take shelter of Krishna Many people who came in touch with you were struck by this fact. George Harrison, for example, said that so many swamis and gurus tell their followers to surrender to them but that you, Srila Prabhupäda, always said, “Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead; one should surrender to Him.”
Once, a new devotee approached you and said, “Srila Prabhupäda, I can trust you; I can surrender to you. But I can’t trust your representatives. I can’t surrender to them, because I fear they may cheat me.” And you replied, “Don’t surrender to me either. I may also cheat you. Surrender to Krishna”
Your purport concludes:
Lord Krishna accepted the motherhood of Pütanä because she pretended to be an affectionate mother, allowing Krishna to suck her breast. The Lord accepts the least qualification of the living entity and awards him the highest reward. That is the standard of His character. Therefore, who but the Lord can be the ultimate shelter?
Srila Prabhupäda, as aspiring devotees, we still have qualities in common with Pütanä, and so we too are in need of extreme mercy from the Lord—and from Your Divine Grace.
One quality mentioned in the verse is jighamsaya—she acted out of envy. We are in the material world out of envy of Krishna We don’t want to accept Him as the supreme enjoyer; we want to enjoy independent of Him. We are envious of Him, and it is actually envy that keeps us in the material world. Only one who is completely liberated and pure can be free from envy. Sriniväsa Äcärya glorifies the Six Goswamis of Vrindavana as dhirädhira-jana-priyau: They are dear to both the gentle and the ruffians. They are pleasing to everyone because they are not envious of anyone (nirmatsarau), and thus they are worshipable (püjitau). You explained that one who is non-envious is worshipable because one can be non-envious only if he is a pure devotee. Our natural position is to serve Krishna (jivera ‘svarüpa’ haya—Krishnera ‘nitya-däsa’); if we act as anything other than an eternal servant of Krishna, it means that we have not fully realized our actual position and that our original envy of Krishna, which brought us into the material world, is still, to some degree, lingering.
After starting your mission in New York and San Francisco, you suffered a stroke, and after all efforts to recover in America had failed, you decided to return to India to recoup your health. Before your departure, you visited the San Francisco temple. No one had expected you, in your condition, to speak, but you asked for the microphone. You spoke about your mission, how under the order of your spiritual master you had brought Lord Caitanya’s movement to America and how Krishna had kindly sent so many sincere souls. You told the devotees, “I have a few children in India from my family days, but you are my real children. Now I am going to India for a little while.”
One of your early disciples from San Francisco suddenly entered the room. The devotees knew that he wanted to leave Krishna consciousness, that he hadn’t taken his initiation vows seriously, and that he wanted to move on—he didn’t want a spiritual master anymore. The other devotees had tried to discourage him, but he had persisted. Now they were incredulous: how could he do such a thing on the night before your departure?
The devotee, Ravindra-svarüpa, fell to the floor to offer obeisances, but he didn’t rise up. Instead, he began crawling on his hands and knees toward you. This dramatic encounter is vividly described in Srila Prabhupäda-lilamrita:
Ravindra usually had a cavalier manner, enhanced by a handsome face, long tousled hair, and a beard. But now he was wretched and sobbing and crazy. He crawled towards Prabhupäda, who sat but two steps off the floor on the simple redwood dais. Prabhupäda looked at him with compassion: ‘Come here, my boy.’ Ravindra crawled up the steps and placed his bushy head on Prabhupäda’s lap. Moved, the devotees watched as Prabhupäda stroked Ravindra’s head and the boy cried and cried.
“What’s wrong, my son? You don’t have to be so unhappy.”
Ravindra bawled out, “I want . . . ,’ he sobbed, “aah . . . to . . . aah . . . reach God directly! Without anyone in between!”
Prabhupäda continued to pat and stroke the boy’s head: “No, you continue to stay with us if possible. Don’t be a crazy fellow.” Ravindra’s weeping subsided, and Prabhupäda continued, speaking both to Ravindra and to the emotion-struck group in the room. “I am an old man,” he said. “I may die at any moment. But please, you all carry on this sankirtana movement. You have to become humble and tolerant. As Lord Caitanya says, be as humble as a blade of grass and more tolerant than a tree. You must have enthusiasm and patience to push on this Krishna conscious philosophy.”
Suddenly Ravindra’s tears were gone. He jumped up, dejectedly stood, hesitating for a moment, and then hurried out the door, banging it behind him.
Ravindra-svarüpa’s dramatic exit from Krishna consciousness shocked the devotees.
Prabhupäda sat still and continued speaking to them gravely, asking them to stick together and push on the movement, for their own benefit and for others. Whatever they had learned, he said, they should repeat.
They realized, perhaps for the first time, that they were part of a preaching mission, a movement. They . . . had a loving obligation to Swamiji and Krishna
Although Ravindra-svarüpa’s exhibition may have been extreme, in principle he is no different from many of us. We also don’t want anyone between us and Krishna We don’t want to surrender; we want to be Krishna But by your mercy we have been engaged in devotional service and are undertaking the process of purification—chanting the holy names, hearing Srimad-Bhägavatam, associating with devotees, worshiping the Deity, and as far as possible residing in Mathurä, Vrindavana, Mäyäpur, or any temple of Gaura-Nitäi or Rädhä-Krishna
Pütanä was asadhavi, unfaithful. And she pretended to be something that she was not. She was actually a demon, but by her mystic powers she presented herself as a very beautiful woman. Of course, it is not entirely wrong to present oneself as something that one is not. Sometimes, for social reasons, we must, but internally we should remain faithful. The problem is that internally sometimes we become unfaithful (asadhavi). We want to surrender—we decide to surrender—but then we take back our surrender. It happens all the time. We surrender—decide to surrender—and then withdraw our surrender. We are not sure whether we should surrender. We are not sure whether the process will work, whether we will get the result. We are not sure whether we will be successful in our attempt. We are not sure whether Krishna will take care of us. We are not sure our desires will be fulfilled.
Ultimately, it comes down to faith (Shraddha), upon which all progress depends.
‘śraddhā’-śabde–viśvāsa kahe sudṛḍha niścaya
kṛṣṇe bhakti kaile sarva-karma kṛta haya
“Shraddha is confident, firm faith that by rendering transcendental loving service to Krishna one automatically performs all subsidiary activities. Such faith is favorable to the discharge of devotional service.”
(Caitanya-caritamrita, Madhya-lilä 22.62)
Even in your presence devotees did not always understand you. Most of the people who joined you were young, in their late teens or early twenties, and it was years before any of them left his or her body. The first I recall was Jaya Gopäla Däsa, who lost his life in an automobile accident. His young wife was distraught, and you assured her that Jaya Gopäla had gone back to Godhead and that she would join him. One of my godbrothers commented that you had said that just to encourage her.
Then I came across a book called His Divine Grace by Danavir Goswami. Looking through it, I saw a photo of Jaya Gopäla, with the caption: “Srila Prabhupäda stated that Jaya Gopäla was not ready to go back to Godhead but that Krishna made an exception and took him back anyway.” That is causeless mercy—your mercy. Krishna has no interest in anything of the material world. He is interested only in devotees. And it is only because of the mercy of a devotee that Krishna takes interest in someone who is not yet truly a devotee. Why else would Krishna make an exception for us—other than your mercy? Otherwise, who is Jaya Gopäla Däsa—or any of us—to Krishna? It is because of our connection with you that we have any standing in Krishna’s eyes.
Of course, as you always told us, Krishna is the Supersoul. He is in the heart of every living entity as the witness and overseer. And He loves the living entities and accompanies them wherever they go. But He is neutral. He lets them act to fulfill their desires. He doesn’t interfere. However, when a devotee intervenes, Krishna takes special interest. One who has received a devotee’s mercy gets Krishna’s mercy, and that is true for all of us, your followers, now. Otherwise, why should we be engaged in devotional service? We are just conditioned souls who have come into the material world to enjoy, in imitation of Krishna Why should we even be in your temple? We are here by your mercy, and thus we are making the effort to purify our hearts by hearing Srimad-Bhagavatam and chanting the holy names, and thus to become true devotees.
Satsvarüpa Däsa Goswami told me a nice story—a thought or realization that he had had. It relates to your mercy and leads to the conclusion
kam va dayalum saranam vrajema::
“How shall I take shelter of one more merciful?” In other words, “You are so merciful; how can I find anyone more merciful? How can I take shelter of anyone else?”
Sometimes it happens that your followers meet saintly persons outside of ISKCON. One year, Satsvarüpa Mahäräja went to Jagannätha Puri, during the holy month of Purushottama, to spend some time with one such sädhu. But while there, Satsvarüpa Mahäräja felt uncomfortable; he didn’t feel at home in that association. He felt that you created ISKCON to be his home and that he could feel at home only in ISKCON—nowhere else.
Then he went a step further. He imagined a time when he would leave his body and come to the precincts of Krishnaloka and the gatekeeper would ask him, “Who are you?” He suddenly became fearful, thinking that he was taking a gamble by turning himself into a shiksha disciple of that sädhu rather than remaining an exclusive disciple of Your Divine Grace. He wasn’t sure exactly what his relationship with that sädhu was or what that sädhu might say to Krishna on his behalf.
Then he imagined a different sequence. In this one, when the gatekeeper asked, “Who are you?” he would reply, “I am Satsvarüpa Däsa, a disciple of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupäda.” He imagined the gatekeeper going to you and asking, “Satsvarüpa has come to the gate—What should we do?” And he imagined that you would say, “Satsvarüpa? My Satsvarüpa? Call him immediately.”
To me, this provides a striking picture of you and your mercy, and it serves to answer the rhetorical question “How shall I take shelter of one more merciful than he?” For us, there is no one more merciful. There is no need to take shelter of anyone else, and there will be no gain if we leave you to take shelter of anyone else.
Two years ago I had the good fortune to meet your disciple Narayani Dasi again. I hadn’t seen her for many years, and then, at a japa workshop in Houston, I met her again.
During the workshop a devotee asked her, “Shastra says that if you chant a mantra knowing its meaning you get more benefit than by reciting it without knowing its meaning. So, what is the meaning of the Hare Krishna mahä-mantra?” She replied that the mantra is a prayer: “O Krishna, O Radharani, please engage me in Your service. O Lord, O energy of the Lord, please engage me in Your service.” A little later someone else asked the same question. Obviously they were looking for more. And she gave the same answer. She said, “I know that there are other explanations of the meaning, but this is the meaning that Srila Prabhupäda gave, and I’m satisfied with it. I don’t feel any need to pursue the matter further.”
After the last session of the workshop I asked her about that question and her response—“Did you give that answer because it was a general audience and you wanted to stay within Srila Prabhupäda’s direct instructions? Was it because of the circumstances that you gave that answer?” She said, “No, it’s because of me.” She said that sometimes as a teacher at the VIHE she is expected to speak from the commentaries of previous äcäryas, on the Bhagavad-gita or Srimad-Bhägavatam, but that if she sees a difference between what a previous äcärya says and what you say, she can’t present what the previous äcärya says. She told me, “It’s not because of the circumstances or the audience—it’s because of me.” I asked, “Why do you want to repeat only what Srila Prabhupäda said, not what any other äcärya has said?” And she replied, “Because Srila Prabhupäda is more merciful.”
Then she told a story that she had heard. You were giving a talk in which you said that in order to go back home, back to Godhead, one must be cent percent pure, cent percent free of material desires and attachments. When you saw that the devotees were discouraged, you said, “All right, 90%.” Still they were dejected. Then you said, “All right, 80%.” Still they were crestfallen. Then you said, “All right, 75%—but not less.”
After the talk, you commented, “If you just hold on to my lotus feet, I will take you back to Godhead. I have the key to the back door.”
Mother Narayani continued, “Actually, my only qualification to speak or to do anything is my faith in Srila Prabhupäda. I feel that we are not so qualified to go in the front door, so our only hope is to strictly follow Srila Prabhupäda, because he can recommend us to Srimati Radharani and Lord Krishna and open the door for us to enter the spiritual world.”
We, your followers, have already received your mercy, and we are in a position to receive even
more. We just have to follow your instructions. Once, I heard that you had said, “Your qualification is that I give an instruction . . .” I thought the rest of the sentence would be “and you follow it,” but the statement was “Your qualification is that I give you an instruction and you try to follow it.” Not even that we follow it—just that we try to follow it.
(Of course, we must try sincerely and seriously, by all means, with all of our energy and resources, to follow.)
In our japa retreats we emphasize chanting with attention, without offense. We encourage devotees to pronounce each syllable distinctly and hear each syllable attentively. To chant inattentively is an offense. So, I thought of my initiation letter—you sent it to me in Boston from Los Angeles—in which you instructed me to avoid the ten offenses. And I thought, “Oh, my God, that was practically the first instruction I got from Srila Prabhupäda—the one I got when I was initiated—and now, forty years later, I still haven’t been able to follow it, which is another offense: to disobey the orders of the spiritual master.” So I thought, “I am just drowning in offenses.” And then I thought, “I better reread that letter, to try to get some strength and inspiration.” I reread it, and there was the instruction: “You should avoid the ten offenses as far as possible.” You were so merciful—you knew that I couldn’t avoid them completely. So you saved me from the offense of disobeying your order, by writing “as far as possible.”
So that is our qualification, according to you. And that is our hope. If we sincerely try to follow your instructions strictly—if we just hold on to your lotus feet—you will do the rest. You will take us back home, back to Godhead.
And then? As you wrote, “We will have another ISKCON in the spiritual sky.”
And what will we do there? We will engage in the same activities that you gave us here—chanting, dancing, feasting, and discussion of Krishna As you said, “The aim of this Krishna consciousness movement is to enable us to approach Rädhä-Krishna and associate with the Supreme Lord in His sublime pleasure dance . . . to enter into the dancing party of Rädhä-Krishna” And if we are not completely successful in the present lifetime? You wrote,
It is true that the spiritual master remains in the material universe until all of his disciples are transferred to the spiritual sky. . . . Therefore, every student should be very much careful not to commit any offense that will be detrimental to this promotion to the spiritual kingdom, and thereby the spiritual master has to incarnate again to deliver him. This sort of mentality will be a kind of offense to the spiritual master. Out of the ten kinds of offenses, the number-one offense is to disobey the orders of the spiritual master. The instructions given to the disciple by the spiritual master at the time of initiation should be strictly followed. That will make one advance to the spiritual path.
Srila Prabhupäda, I do not want you to have to come back to deliver me, or any of us. I will try my best to follow your instructions, without offense—and depend on your causeless mercy.
Your fallen, eternal servant,