Vyasa Puja offering for the year 2007
Of Whom Shall I Take Shelter But You?
My dear Srila Prabhupäda,
Please accept my prostrated obeisances at your lotus feet. All glories to Your Divine Grace!
I shall begin with a verse from Srimad-Bhägavatam that especially reminds me of you. It is the twenty-third verse of the Third Canto’s second chapter, “Remembrance of Lord Krishna”
aho bakī yaṁ stana-kāla-kūṭaṁ
jighāṁsayāpāyayad apy asādhvī
lebhe gatiṁ dhātry-ucitāṁ tato ’nyaṁ
kaṁ vā dayāluṁ śaraṇaṁ 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?
[Purport by Your Divine Grace:]
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, He 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 Yaçodä. 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. 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?
I thought of this verse because it glorifies your characteristic of being merciful, of seeing the good in others even in the midst of so much other stuff. And it expresses the way we feel: How can we take shelter of anyone else — how could we find one more merciful than you?
We all — at least I speak for myself — come with so much poison in us, and it is your glory and mercy that you could suck up the poison without being affected, and at the same time purify us. The poison is envy. Everyone in the material world is full of envy. We are here in the material world because of envy. Only a pure devotee such as you is free from this poison. In fact, as you told us, if one is free from envy he is liberated, because only a liberated soul can be completely free from envy.
So, we act out of envy (jighäàsayä), and we are unfaithful (asädhvé). Unfaithful: We pretend, like Pütanä, to be selfless servants, but in our own way we are unfaithful. We waver between our determination to serve and our desire to enjoy and exploit, between our determination to help others and our tendency to be selfish and neglect others or even harm them.
There are many similarities between Pütanä and us, but although Pütanä was envious and unfaithful and came to poison Krishna, Krishna did not consider the dark side. He saw the bright side, that she came to render service. “She came to suckle Me just like a mother.” So He took her as His mother and elevated her to that position in the spiritual world; she became His nurse, like a mother, one of the seven kinds of mothers. In the same way, you took the good side of whatever we did and magnified it.
You have explained that there are different grades of devotees. The lowest grade will find a little fault and make a big thing out of it. The next grade will see the good and the bad in a person but give more emphasis to the bad. And the next grade will see the good and the bad and give equal importance to both. But the more advanced devotee, although he or she sees both the good and the bad in a person, gives more emphasis to the good. And the most advanced will find a little good and make a big thing out of it. And that is the way you were. You could see in us that spark of desire to serve, and you would fan it. You were very expert and would protect the little spark. Sometimes if a flame is weak it can be extinguished. If it is dampened it may go out. And if it is blown upon too strongly it can go out. You were very expert at preserving that little spark and fanning it in just the right way to make it grow. And you promised and guaranteed that if we just give this life to Krishna, we will be successful and go back home, back to Godhead.
You always directed us to Krishna You told us that a spiritual master does not say, “Surrender to me; I am God.” Rather, he says, “Surrender to Krishna I am an insignificant servant of God.” So you were unique, at least among the swamis and yogés who came to the West before you or at about the same time. You were unique in that you were always directing us to Krishna: “Do not surrender to me; surrender to Krishna” Once, one of your disciples, Puñöa Krishna Prabhu, said to you, “I trust you and can surrender to you, but I do not trust anyone else. I cannot surrender to anyone else — any representative of yours — because I fear they may cheat me.” You replied, “Do not surrender to me. I will also cheat you. Just surrender to Krishna” Because you were fully surrendered to your spiritual master and Krishna and always directed us to surrender to Krishna, you actually were a perfect servant of Krishna and a transparent medium.
Therefore we had faith that we could surrender to you and that surrender to you was tantamount to surrender to Krishna
The same quality of Krishna’s that is exalted in the verse from the Bhägavatam quoted above — His extreme mercy — was fully manifest in Your Divine Grace. You were truly a transparent medium because you saw the good in us and appealed to the good. And the good in us is in fact us, because as souls, as parts and parcels of Krishna, we are pure. It is just because we are covered by the material body and mind that there is impurity. So you would actually see our true natures as servants of Krishna, eternal servants of Krishna, and you would relate to us as eternal servants of Krishna And that inspired us to act as servants of Krishna
And often, your faith in a person or mercy toward a person brought great results. There was a young man who came to the Boston temple when I was there in 1970. His name was Peter, and Peter was eccentric — to say the least. In the old Boston temple, the front door opened into a hallway and a stairway up to the temple room. When new persons came, practically all they would see was the hallway, unless someone greeted them and directed them to the stairs up to the temple room. So, Peter made his home in the front hallway. He would keep all his books and personal paraphernalia scattered on the floor of the hallway. He would rest his back against the wall and stretch his legs out, completely blocking the hallway. And sometimes he would lie down and sleep in the hallway. He did not respond to normal instructions and thus gained the nickname “Crazy Peter.”
Still, we all knew your mood: you were most merciful. And especially in the early days of the movement in America, we considered that any soul who came to the temple was sent by Krishna and was not ordinary, and we would really do everything we could to encourage the person. But with Peter things came to the stage where we thought that he was causing such a disruption that new people who came would be discouraged from Krishna consciousness.
We thought that
maybe for the larger interest, for the greater good, we should just ask him to go. Satsvarüpa Mahäräja, the temple president, wrote to you and asked if we could ask Peter to leave. And you replied, “What’s the matter, can’t you tolerate?”
Thereafter, you returned to India, and you asked each temple to send one devotee to help you develop the movement there. I was chosen from Boston, and so I went. For years I never heard about Peter, nor did I think much about him. Then, after being in India for many years, I came back to visit the United States. And there, at the Los Angeles temple, during guru-püjä, I saw Peter. I could not believe it. So many years had passed — you had left the planet — and there was Crazy Peter right in the temple room in Los Angeles.
I asked a nearby devotee, “Who is that?” He answered, “Oh, that is Kusakrtha Prabhu.” I thought, “Kusakrtha Prabhu, the Sanskrit genius who is producing translation after translation of Vedic scriptures and the works of the Goswamis and other äcäryas?” We were reading them and reciting prayers from them. His translations were an essential part of our spiritual lives. I thought, “O my God, that is Kusakrtha Prabhu! Crazy Peter has become Kusakrtha Prabhu, the Sanskrit translator!” And then I thought of your mercy. You had protected him. Somehow you wanted to give him a chance to render service, to become Krishna conscious, and he did both.
Another aspect of Your Divine Grace’s faith in us (and in the process of devotional service) was how much responsibility you gave us “young boys and girls.” I joined at the age of twenty-one, and I was already a little older than most. Satsvarüpa Mahäräja was twenty-nine, and to us he seemed like an old man. He even had a job! I hardly knew any peers who had a job. But he had a job and went to work, and he got a paycheck. So, we were really young and inexperienced in the world, yet you gave us tremendous responsibility. Practically any devotee who wanted to go to a new place and open a center, you would encourage, “Go. Do it.” If a householder couple wanted to preach, you would tell them, “Go together and preach. Open a center.” That was your mood.
Your trust inspired us to want to fulfill your trust, to prove that your faith in us was justified. And very few devotees betrayed your trust. One who did was your disciple Gaurasundara Prabhu. Somehow he sold the Hawaii temple and kept the money and disappeared for awhile. But even then, you wanted to bring him back. Once, you were speaking of Gaurasundara’s misdeeds: “He did this; he did that. He was such a rascal—such a rascal. But I like that rascal!” You are so merciful. kaṁ vā dayāluṁ śaraṇaṁ vrajema: “Of whom should I take shelter but him, who is most merciful?” I cannot imagine anyone more merciful than you.
So we take shelter of Your Divine Grace, and we want to take more and more shelter of you. We want to encourage more and more people to take shelter of you, and we want them to take more and more shelter of you.
And how do we take shelter of you? By taking shelter of your instructions, which you have given to us out of your immense love and compassion for us — and out of your deep, personal realization of Krishna consciousness, Krishna-bhakti-rasa. In one of your early letters to me, you wrote:
Now please increase your enthusiasm for pushing on this Krsna consciousness movement and Krsna will inspire you with all intelligence for serving Him, as much as you engage yourself with sincerity and devotion. Therefore, to keep advancing in your spiritual power, always be sure to chant at least the prescribed sixteen rounds of beads daily. This is the fundamental program for advancing more and more in Krsna consciousness.
Today I read your words “more and more,” and I believe that you are saying that our sixteen rounds of japa will carry us step by step to further and further stages of advancement: sädhana-bhakti, bhäva-bhakti, and prema-bhakti, the ultimate goal (Shraddha ratir bhaktir anukramiñyati).
And how do we chant? In your very first letter to me, my initiation letter, you wrote, “With my blessings I am sending herewith your beads, duly chanted upon by me. You should avoid the ten offenses as far as possible, and follow the four regulative principles.” (You also wrote that my beads are my “direct link with Krishna”)
Now, forty years later, I am struggling to chant without offense, to chant with attention. On my own strength, by my own efforts alone, I am sure to fail. I can succeed only by your causeless mercy. And so I pray to you to help me.
ekaki amara, nähi päya bala,
tumi kåpä kori’,shraddha-bindu diyä,
On my own, I find I have no strength to chant the holy name of Lord Hari. Please be merciful by awarding me a particle of faith and giving me the great treasure of the holy name of Krishna [Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Saranagati, “Ohe! Vaisnava Thakura”]
Only by your mercy will I be able to fulfill your desire for us — that we taste Krishna consciousness and distribute it.
And you have given us your mercy. You have given us the process, the instruction to chant and hear, and you have given us the association of your sincere disciples who have faith in and taste for the holy names, and in whose association we can feel inspired to actually chant and hear.
Still, I pray:
kabe ha’be bolo se-dina āmār
(āmār) aparādha ghuci’, śuddha nāme ruci,
kṛpā-bale ha’be hṛdoye sañcār
Please tell me, When will that day be mine — when my offenses will end and a taste for the pure holy name will be infused within my heart by the power of divine grace?
kabe ha’be bolo se-dina āmār
(āmār) aparādha ghuci’, śuddha nāme ruci,
kṛpā-bale ha’be hṛdoye sañcār
When will there be an awakening of compassion for all fallen souls, and when will this Bhaktivinoda, forgetting his own happiness, with a meek heart set out to propagate by humble entreaty the sacred order of Sri Caitanya Mahäprabhu? [Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Saranagati, “Kabe Ha’be Bolo”]
And I am confident that your mercy will prevail. kaṁ vā dayāluṁ śaraṇaṁ vrajema. There is no one more merciful than you.
Your eternal, fallen, crazy servant,