Vyasa Puja offering for the year 2015

My dear Srila Prabhupada,

Please accept my prostrated obeisances in the dust of your divine lotus feet. All glories to Your Divine Loving Grace and to your auspicious arrival in America.

At this time your devotees and admirers are reflecting upon your momentous departure from India and your historic arrival in America some fifty years ago. What could have motivated you to make that historic journey—and how could you have succeeded in your impossible mission?

In Los Angeles in 1968, on the disappearance day of your Guru Maharaj, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, you explained your commission:

“Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Maharaja . . . underwent very severe penances for starting this worldwide movement. That was his mission. In 1896, Bhaktivinoda Thakura wanted to introduce this Krsna consciousness movement by sending the book Shree Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, His Life and Precepts. Fortunately, that year was my birth year, and by Krsna’s arrangement, we came in contact. . . . Who knew that I would come to his protection? Who knew that I would come to America? Who knew that you American boys would come to me? These are all Krsna’s arrangement. We cannot understand how things are taking place.

“Thirty-two years ago in Bombay, sometime around the 9th or 10th of December—Guru Maharaja was indisposed, and he was staying in Jagannatha Puri, on the seashore—I wrote him a letter: ‘My dear master, your other disciples—brahmacari, sannyasi—they are rendering you direct service. And I am a householder. I cannot live with you; I cannot serve you nicely. So I do not know—How can I serve you?’ Simply an idea—I was thinking of serving him: ‘How can I serve him seriously?’ The reply was dated 13 December 1936. In that letter he wrote, ‘My dear such and such, I am very glad to receive your letter. I think you should try to push our movement in English.’ That was his writing. ‘And that will do good to you and to the people who will help you.’ That was his instruction. And then in 1936, on the 31st of December—that means just a fortnight after writing this letter—he passed away.

“I took that order of my spiritual master very seriously, but I did not think that I’d have to do such and such thing. I was at that time a householder. But this is the arrangement of Krsna. If we strictly try to serve the spiritual master, his order, then Krsna will give us all facilities. That is the secret. Although there was no possibility, I never thought, but I took it a little seriously by studying a commentary by Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura on the Bhagavad-gita. In connection with the verse vyavasayatmika-buddhir ekeha kuru-nandana[Bg 2.41], Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura gives his commentary that we should take up the words from the spiritual master as our life and soul. We should try to carry out the instruction, the specific instruction of the spiritual master, very rigidly, without caring for our personal benefit or loss.”

To prepare for your departure to America, you engaged in intense sadhana and prayer to receive the mercy and power to execute your service, as recounted by the pujari at Sri Advaita Acarya’s house in Santipura. He came to your Mayapur Candrodaya Mandira carrying a copy of the Back to Godhead article about you entitled “A Lifetime in Preparation” and related the following account:

“Just recently an amazing realization occurred to me that I wanted to share with devotees everywhere. I have been the pujari and sevaite at the house of Advaita Acarya for many years. I was also there back in the 1940s and ’50s. At that time, I noticed that one grhastha Bengali devotee used to come to the temple quite regularly. He was dressed in a white khadi dhoti and kurta, and he always came alone. He would sit at the back of the mandira without speaking, and he would chant hari-nama on his mala very quietly and deeply. I noticed that he came on the weekends, usually once every month or two in a regular way. After chanting there for many hours, he would always thank me when he left. His presence was profound, and I became attracted to him. Since his devotions were solitary, I never spoke to disturb him. Sometimes I happened to notice that while he was chanting, his eyes would be full of tears and his voice would be choked up.

“Then for a very long time he did not come. However, I distinctly recall that in August of 1965 I saw a saffron-clothed sannyasi sitting in the back of the mandira. In a moment I recognized him to be my old friend from before. Again he sat for a long time chanting Hare Krsna. I could see his beads moving, his eyes closed in concentrated devotion. He was weeping unabashedly, even more than he used to while he took the holy name. Finally, as evening came, he paid his dandavata pranama for a long time. When he arose he came up to me and again thanked me for my seva here at Advaita Bhavan. I asked him, ‘Who are you? I remember you from so long ago.’

“He replied, ‘My name is Abhaya Caranaravinda Bhaktivedanta Swami. I am an unworthy disciple of His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Srila Prabhupada, my divine master. I have been coming here for such a long time because my gurudeva has given me an impossible mission. His desire was for me to go across the ocean to the Western countries and spread the sublime teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. There are countless souls there who have never heard of Sri Sri Radha-Krsna, and so they are suffering greatly. I have not known how this mission of his will be successful, so I have been coming here to this special house of Advaita Acarya, where He, Nityananda Prabhu, and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu would gather together to plan the sankirtana movement. It was here that They launched the inundation of love of God that swept India and continues to this day. Thus, I have been praying very earnestly here that They will all give me Their mercy, that somehow They will empower me and guide me. I want to satisfy my gurudeva’sdesire, but I am feeling unqualified to do this.’

“As he was speaking to me, I saw tears falling down on his cheeks again. Then he continued, ‘Tomorrow I am leaving for Calcutta to go on a ship across the ocean to America. I do not know what will befall me there, but I am praying most earnestly here for help.’ Then he very humbly asked me for my blessings. I was indeed moved by this Vaisnava’s sincerity and determination as I watched him depart upon his journey.

“It was a few years later that I began noticing, for the first time, white Vaisnavas coming to Advaita Bhavan. They were wearing dhotis and saris and chanting on tulasi-mala. I never spoke to any of them, but then one of them gave me this Back to Godhead magazine from America. As I was looking at the photographs, suddenly I recognized a painting of the founder-acarya who had brought Krsna consciousness to the West. It was a picture of my friend Bhaktivedanta Swami, who had come and prayed here so many times before. Then I realized that he had actually accomplished that impossible mission of his gurudeva. I saw that it was indeed he, starting alone and without pretense, who had accomplished this glorious miracle against all odds.

“As soon as I saw this, I came here to his temple in Mayapur to tell you this information. I know that he has gone from this world now, but I thought perhaps you might want to know this story about your and my beloved Srila Prabhupada.”

In your talk on your guru maharaja’s disappearance day, you asked us to continue his mission—your predecessor’s mission—in the same spirit. “I tried a little bit in that spirit, so he has given me all facilities to serve him. Things have come to this stage, that in this old age I have come to your country, and you are also taking this movement seriously, trying to understand it. We have got some books now. There is a little foothold of this movement. So on this occasion of my spiritual master’s departure, as I am trying to execute his will, similarly, I shall also request you to execute the same order through my will. I am an old man; I can also pass away at any moment. That is nature’s law. Nobody can check it. So that is not very astonishing. But my appeal to you on this auspicious day of the departure of my guru maharaja is that at least to some extent you have understood the essence of this Krsna consciousness movement, you should try to push it on. People are suffering for want of this consciousness.

“As we daily pray about devotees,

vancha-kalpatarubhyas ca
krpa-sindhubhya eva ca
patitanam pavanebhyo
vaisnavebhyo namo namah

[“I offer my respectful obeisances unto all the Vaisnava devotees of the Lord. They can fulfill the desires of everyone, just like desire trees, and they are full of compassion for the fallen souls.”] A Vaisnava, or devotee of the Lord, his life is dedicated for the benefit of the people. You know—most of you belong to the Christian community—how Lord Jesus Christ said that for your sinful activities he has sacrificed himself. That is the determination of a devotee of the Lord. They don’t care for personal comforts. Because they love Krsna, or God, therefore they love all living entities, because all living entities are in relationship with Krsna. So similarly you should learn. This Krsna consciousness movement means to become Vaisnava and feel for the suffering humanity.”

* * *

To prepare us, his followers, to continue his mission, Srila Prabhupada taught us and nurtured us and cared for us selflessly. Once, in Calcutta, he found the temple in quite a bad state due to its being poor and the president’s having become preoccupied with a temple incense business. The president was spending most of his time in his office taking care of the business with one devotee who was his salesman, and he was neglecting the other devotees, who really had no one else to look after them. We were really poor in those days, and the devotees were living under very austere conditions. For instance, we never had milk or ghee—just rice, dal, and simple boiled vegetables. One devotee, Sudama Vipra, had a big, strong body, and he was feeling undernourished. So after aratis, after the fire had gone out from the ghee lamps, he would take the wicks and squeeze what little ghee was left on their ends onto chapatis or other prasada.

When Srila Prabhupada arrived, many devotees went to him to complain about the situation. And he was concerned. After hearing complaints from so many devotees, he finally called a meeting. Practically all the devotees in the temple came to Srila Prabhupada’s room, and he listened sympathetically to what each had to say; he was really concerned and wanted to improve things. So, he made a system. He named certain leaders and said that they should get together every week and discuss the problems and that whatever they decided they should write down in a book of minutes and all sign it and then do what they had agreed.

But then Srila Prabhupada’s mood seemed to change, and he said, “Actually, we shouldn’t become too involved in such matters, because our real business is to hear and chant about Krsna, and if we become too absorbed in making material arrangements, we will forget our real business of Krsna consciousness.” He said that it is our tendency to discuss mundane topics and that we should be careful and try to minimize the mundane talks and focus on hearing and chanting about Krsna.

Then Srila Prabhupada said that he never complained, because his policy was, “Everything for Krsna; nothing for myself.” He mentioned how he had suffered in so many ways in the course of establishing the Krsna consciousness movement; he had struggled to get passage to America and then on the way suffered two heart attacks at sea, and even when he got to America he had suffered in so many ways—he had buzzing in his ears and his head. “I cannot even describe how much I suffered,” he said. “Nor do I want to.” But he had never complained.

“Everything for Krsna; nothing for myself.” That is why, as a service to Krsna, Srila Prabhupada was serving us—because his ultimate goal was to bring us back to our eternal relationship with Krsna and engage us in His service. Essentially, he was bathing us, feeding us, and dressing us—teaching us how to live as human beings so that ultimately he could bring us to the position where he could offer us for Krsna’s service.

He asked for only one thing—that we continue his mission.

In my case, he asked that I write.

In Gorakhpur, Sri Hanuman Prasad Poddar, the renowned head of the Gita Press, had invited Srila Prabhupada and the devotees to stay at Shri Krishna Niketan, his large palatial estate and former residence.

There Srila Prabhupada received the latest issue of Back to Godhead, which included an article I had written in Boston before I had left for India—“The Genuine Spiritual Master.” It was the first I had written. Srila Prabhupada was very encouraged by the article and called for me.

“I saw your article in Back to Godhead,” he said. “It was very nice. You should write. This is your first business. Go on writing. We require many, many such articles about Krsna consciousness. So you should devote yourself to writing.”

“I will try,” I replied. “But why are you are asking me? I have no special qualification.”

“We require many to do this work,” he said, “and we need you also. So you travel with me and I will guide you. You come and stay with me.”

As it happened, I never got to travel with Srila Prabhupada and be personally guided by him in writing, but the instruction remained.

Then, years later, on the night that Srila Prabhupada finally succeeded in getting the Juhu land, after the signing of the documents and the sharing of prasada, he reclined back on the bolsters of his asana and remarked, “It was a good fight!” And then he added, “Someone should write a book about it.” So I always had it in my mind to write such a book, by the grace of Srila Prabhupada.

Later, in a conversation in June 1977, he reiterated his desire that the book be written:

Tamal Krishna: You always came out victorious—always. I have never seen you defeated. In Bombay it was absolutely impossible. It seemed to be impossible.
Prabhupada: Nobody encouraged—not a single man. Who could see that such a big project would come up?
Tamal Krishna: Only you could see that—you and Radha-Rasabihari. I was . . .
Prabhupada: Still, I was determined: “No, this place is very nice.”
Tamal Krishna: They should write a book about that.
Prabhupada: Yes, it is worth writing, history.

Srila Prabhupada, for a fallen soul like me, such a task is impossible. I lack intense sadhana and prayer, I lack faith and surrender, I lack experience and confidence, and I lack humility and purity. But I remember what you wrote when you arrived in America in September 1965, on board the Jaladuta at Boston’s Commonwealth Pier:

“I am very unfortunate, unqualified, and the most fallen. Therefore I am seeking Your benediction . . .

“Somehow or other, O Lord, You have brought me here to speak about You. Now, my Lord, it is up to You to make me a success or failure as You like.

“O spiritual master of all the worlds! I can simply repeat Your message, so if You like You can make my power of speaking suitable . . .

“Only by Your causeless mercy will my words become pure. . . .

“O Lord, I am just like a puppet in Your hands. So if You have brought me here to dance, then make me dance, make me dance, O Lord, make me dance as You like.”

Also, Srila Prabhupada, I depend on the mercy and support of your sincere disciples and followers, and I pray to them as well.

durgame pathi me ’ndhasya
skhalat-pada-gater muhuh
sva-krpa-yasti-danena
santah santv avalambanam

“My path is very difficult. I am blind, and my feet are slipping again and again. Therefore, may the saints help me by granting me the stick of their mercy as my support.” (Cc Antya 1.2)

 

I am sure that your and their mercy will bring all success.

Your eternal, hopeful servant,
Giriraj Swami