Monthly Archives: October 2008

Three Architects of Lord Chaitanya’s Movement

The following is an excerpt from Ravindra Svarupa dasa’s 1995 Vyasa Puja homage to Shrila Prabhupada.

The triumph of the modernized West binds the world more and more together by means of continually improving technologies of transport and communication. When traditional cultures and civilizations gathered within the prodigious octopus-grasp of Modernity, they began to intermingle and interpenetrate, even as Modernity engaged in dissolving and digesting their ancient substances. This event set the stage and prepared the means for the “breakout” of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s movement, for its setting forth into the world from its maternal home, India.

To retrofit Lord Chaitanya’s movement for its setting forth became the task of three empowered spiritual architects and renovators of three generations: Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada, and Shrila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. When finally the story of the progressive achievement of these three geniuses is fully told, it will form an epic narration, a saga of spiritual adventure to place on the shelf beside the Ramayana and Mahabharata. It will fascinate the world for centuries to come. I can only give the barest hint here.

Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura:

He rescued Lord Chaitanya’s movement. Bhaktivinoda Thakura had the power to discriminate the genuine flowering creeper of Lord Chaitanya’s movement, which was nearly lost among the rank growths of well-established weeds of various apasampradayas. These mimics displayed perversities that had brought Lord Chaitanya’s very name into international disrepute. Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura uncovered, rejuvenated, propagated, and defended the authentic teachings and practices of Lord Chaitanya.

Moreover, Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura profoundly grasped both the challenge and the opportunity presented by the world-dominance of the modern West. He studied Western thinkers and confronted their ideas with the teachings of Lord Chaitanya. He envisioned the movement of Lord Caitanya acting on a global scale. In this way Bhaktivinoda Thakura effected the intellectual transfer of Lord Chaitanya’s movement into a radically new cultural context. He did this because, above all, he was possessed by an unrelenting drive to deliver pure Krishna consciousness to all people, by all means, and at any cost.

Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada:

He inherited from his father, Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, the same drive to preach. He was animated by his father’s realization of how Krishna consciousness could—and would—spread throughout the world. Therefore, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada gave concrete form to the vision of Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura by creating the Gaudiya Matha as a practical instrument for active preaching in the world.

In so doing, he became a religious revolutionary. His father had uncovered the authentic Krishna consciousness movement in the shape of a religion of reclusive, maha-bhagavata babajis. Now his son transferred the elixir of this authentic Krishna consciousness into a new container. He transposed a religion on the platform of maha-bhagavatas to one on the platform of madhyama-adhikaris and thus produced an active preaching mission directed toward all people, whatever their class, caste, or cultural level. This entailed practical adjustments in sadhana and ritual. It was a transformation, but it was, as they say in philosophy, salve veritate: it preserved truth. The established groups of compromised, parochial, or merely complaisant Gaudiya Vaishnavas naturally could not see this. They criticized Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada. He took them on. He challenged all the apasampradayas and defeated them.

He embraced the most practical means of spreading Krishna consciousness. Book distribution was the foremost of his endeavors to engage modern technologies, especially of transport and communications, for preaching. Modern, secular things should not be rejected if they can be used in furthering Lord Chaitanya’s mission. To drive the point home, he drove up to Radha-kunda, the holiest of holies, in a Jaguar sedan, scandalizing the scandalous babajis there.

He also had the insight to realize that for a unified preaching institution to operate effectively in the modern world, on a global scale, and in a stable and enduring manner, it needed to be managed in the modern way, by a board of directors, rather than in the more traditional manner of a sole autocratic acharya. Unfortunately, the failure of his leading disciples in the Gaudiya Matha to understand this point led to the disintegration of the Mission after Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati’s disappearance.

Shrila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, our spiritual master and founder-acharya:

All of Shrila Prabhupada’s achievements demonstrably rest on one prime quality: He fully embraced his spiritual master’s order and made it his “life and soul.” As a consequence, Shrila Prabhupada was given the confidence, courage, and stamina to take that great leap of faith. All alone he crossed the dark waters and brought Lord Chaitanya’s movement to America. In reciprocation, Krishna sent thousands of lost souls to him to save. It was hard work; it was suffering: “I have to shed my blood three tons to make one convinced in Krishna consciousness. That is my experience … especially these Europeans and Americans.” Shrila Prabhupada shed his blood endlessly.

Shrila Prabhupada was empowered with the vision, the knowledge, and the compassion to fulfill the innermost desires of Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. He worked only for twelve years, with crude and unmalleable material (us, his disciples), and yet the whole world heard the Hare Krishna mantra, and the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad-Bhagavatam found their way into every nook and corner of the globe. Carrying Lord Chaitanya’s mission as far as he was able, Shrila Prabhupada broke new ground practically every day; consequently, he was challenged repeatedly to make the correct decision. At stake was the vital issue: how to preserve and perpetuate unchanged the teachings of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in unprecedented circumstances. By virtue of his faithful following, Shrila Prabhupada was given the intelligence to meet these challenges.

He worked hard to set up his preaching institution, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, formed carefully after the directions of his Guru Maharaja. He set up and trained a Governing Body to continue ISKCON after him. He called ISKCON his body, and it indeed continues after him, still animated by his indwelling, ever-watchful spirit. He will remain thus with us as long as we ourselves make his order our own life and soul.

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During my initial encounter with Krishna consciousness, I was puzzled, and then troubled, by the absence of any consideration of “rights”—human rights, civil rights—in the social teachings of Shrila Prabhupada, who took great pains to elucidate an ideal “Vedic society.” It seemed to me that rights ought to be a central concern of this or any other social ideal.

Moreover, the social order he extolled as exemplary—indeed as divinely ordained—was unapologetically hierarchical. All the more need for rights, I thought. Isn’t respect for rights the greatest safeguard against the abuse of power?

My typical American education had glorified the eighteenth century discovery of “the rights of man” as a supreme achievement of Enlightenment thinking. To that revolutionary historical breakthrough we owed that bold assertion in our “Declaration of Independence” every school child was made to memorize: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The polity promoted in Bhagavatam could hardly be more different from that advocated by the so-called Enlightenment. One of its foremost ideologues, the philosopher Denis Diderot, said: “Mankind will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.” Bhagavatam, in contrast, teaches that a society lead by priests and kings best facilitates human freedom.

Bhagavatam at once challenged my received ideas. It would require me to unlearn a great deal—the consensual reality I had unquestionably accepted with uncritical faith. Reposing my faith in Bhagavatam, on the other hand, could hardly be uncritical. And so came my misgiving concerning rights.

As it happened, my first readings of Bhagavatam were confined to the second canto, which, in 1969 and 70, ISKCON Press published serially, chapter by chapter, in thin paperbacks. The volumes of the first canto, published in India and trunked to America by Prabhupada himself, were long sold out. Only after I moved into the Philadelphia ashram, in January of 71, was I able to read the temple’s copy of the first canto. I discovered a crudely bound work, printed on cheap paper, each page bristling with typos. It was written in Prabhupada’s idiomatic, “babu English,” yet his distinctive voice—not yet editorially planed and sanded like the second canto—spoke out all the more powerfully.

It was here I encountered a text that resolved all my worry about rights. In the fourth verse of chapter twelve, I read about the exemplary King Yudhisthira, who cared for all of thoses born in his kingdom. Prabhupada comments:

Herein the word ‘Prajah‘ is significant. The etymological import of the word is that which is born. On the earth there are many species of life from the aquatics up to the perfect human beings and all are known as ‘Prajas. . . . . As such the Praja is used in a broader sense than it is now used. The King is meant for all living beings namely the aquatics, plants, trees, the reptiles, the birds, the animals and the man. Every one of them is a part and parcel of the Supreme Lord (B. G. 14/4), and the King being the representative of the Supreme Lord, he is duty-bound to give proper protection to every one of them. It is not like the presidents and dictators of the demoralised system of administration where the lower animals are given no protection while the higher animals are given so called protection. But this is a great science which can be learnt only by one who has learnt the science of Krishna as already refered to above by us.

The king, as God’s representative, is “duty-bound to give proper protection to every one of them.” I gave some thought to this idea: The king is the head of state, the government. And all living beings, even the animals, are citizens. This means that they have (as we would put it today) civil rights. And the government must guarantee those rights.

In 1971, the idea of animal rights was “way out there,” a notion of the lunatic fringe. Yet this highly radical extension of civil rights to animals was contained within Prabhupada’s exposition of monarchism—a most conservative political philosophy, to say the least. Bhagavatam was destroying the standard conservative-liberal typology.

From that moment I understood that modern, enlightened “rights” were no innovation; they had somehow been implicit in the entirely old fashioned, conservative, pre-enlightenment idea of duty.

A few years later, browsing a used book store,  I happened to pick up a volume by the French theologian Simone Weil. I’d learned about this extraordinary person—”a modern saint”—in a graduate religion course, and I was curious to know more.

The book, translated from the French as The Need for Roots, opens on the first page with a brilliant and penetrating discussion about rights and obligations (or duties); it grealy helped me to understand Prabhupada’s Bhagavatam.

Simone Weil begins:

The notion of obligations comes before that of rights, which is subordinate and relative to the former. A right is not effectual by itself, but only in relation to the obligation to which is corresponds, the effective exercise of a right springing not from the individual who possesses it, but from other men who consider themselves as being under a certain obligation toward him. Recognition of an obligation makes it effectual. An obligation which goes unrecognized by anybody loses none of the full force of its existence. A right which goes unrecognized by anybody is not worth very much.

To say that a king like Yudhisthira has duties or obligations toward the living being in his realm is another way of asserting that those subjects have rights. But Weil asserts here that it is better to think in terms of obligations than of rights. Why? Because the idea of rights is subordinate to and depends upon the idea of an obligation. I may assert that I have some right, but that recognition becomes effective only if some others recognize that they have obligations toward me. So it is better to be concerned with obligations.

Moreover, an obligation remains in force even if it is unacknowledged. An unrecognized right by itself has no force. It gains force only when the corresponding obligation is recognized.

Weil continues her analysis, showing that the difference between rights and duties is simply a difference of point of view:

It makes nonsense to say that men have, on the one hand, rights, and on the other hand, obligations. Such words only express differences in point of view. The actual relationship between the two is as between object and subject. A man, considered in isolation, only has duties, among which are certain duties toward himself. Other men, seen from his point of view, only have rights. He, in his turn, has rights, when seen from the point of view of other men, who recognize that they have obligations toward him. A man left alone in the universe would have no rights whatever, but he would have obligations.

Imagine, for instance, the relationship between a good master and a good servant in Vedic culture, or, for that matter, in medieval Europe. There will be no talk of rights; there are no labor unions, no social security system. Still, just as the servant has duties toward his master, the master has obligations toward the servant. The master, having received years of faithful service, knows he is obliged to care for his servant in sickness, in the infirmity of old age, in death. The servant has, in effect,  all the rights promised by modern “cradle to grave socialism.” But in this case, both master and servant know their obligations, and neither has to ask for his rights.

Weil goes on to point out an important difference between obligations and rights. The former are absolute, or unconditioned, and the latter relative and conditioned:

The notion of rights, being of an objective order, is inseparable from the notions of existence and reality. This becomes apparent when the obligation descends to the realm of fact; consequently, it always involves to a certain extent the taking into account of actual given states and particular situations. Rights are always found to be related to certain conditions. Obligations alone remain independent of conditions. They belong to a realm situated above all conditions, because it is situated above this world.

The sense of obligation is expressed in English by the verbal formula “ought to.” In Sanskrit, there is a special verbal form, called vidhi-lin, that conveys injunctions, that is to say, what was enjoined or directed by Vedic authority. Weil understands that obligations are unconditional. They derive from a transcendent realm.

She continues:

The men of 1789 did not recognize the existence of such a realm. All they recognized was one on the human plane. That is why they started off with the idea of rights. But at the same time they wanted to postulate absolute principles. This contradiction caused them to tumble into a confusion of language and ideas which is largely responsible for the present political and social confusion. The realm of what is eternal, universal, unconditioned is other than the one conditioned by facts, and different ideas hold sway there, ones which are related to the most secret recesses of the human soul.

“The men of 1789” are the architects of the French Revolution. Since they rejected divine injunctions, they had to forgo talk of duties or obligations. They could adduce only the cognate “rights.” Those they could simply assert, without grounding or foundation. Yet, as Weil has pointed out, “rights” by themselves are impotent. To be effective, they require someone else to accept the corresponding obligations.

It is a commonplace in philosophy that it is not possible to derive an “ought” from an “is.” They are two different realms. “Ought” requires an authority. Ultimately, I will argue, an absolute one.  For a person becomes an authority only by being authorized by another. Hence there emerges a sequence of authorizing agents that can only end—where? If the chain has an anchor, a foundation, it ends with the unique self-authorizing authorizer of all others. In other words, God.

Or, of course, with a god-surrogate, an imitator. Your idol du jour.

In the Bhagavatam, the kshatriya kings are guided by the brahmanas, those who are able to know transcendence and who have the skill to apply that knowledge correctly to concete affairs.  In such a society, people are trained from childhood in a culture of obligation.

The results may surprise us.

If we search though Bhagavatam for statements of the obligations of a king, for instance, we discover a citizenry with far more rights that most of us have today.

For example, Prabhupada writes in the purport to Bhagavatam 4.17.12

It is the duty of the king to see that everyone in the social orders—brahmana, kshatriya, vaishya and shudra—is fully employed in the state. Just as it is the duty of the brahmanas to elect a proper king, it is the duty of the king to see that all the varnasbrahmana, kshatriya, vaishya and shudra—are fully engaged in their respective occupational duties. It is here indicated that although the people were allowed to perform their duties, they were still unemployed. . . . . When the people are perplexed in this way, they should approach the head of government, and the president or king should take immediate action to mitigate the distress of the people.

In other words, everyone has a right to full employment. If people cannot find work, then the state is obliged to arrange for their employment.

Bhagavatam (1.14.41, purport) speaks of the rights of those who are weak, diseased, or old or otherwise helpless:

The brahmanas, who are always engaged in researching knowledge for the society’s welfare work, both materially and spiritually, deserve the protection of the king in all respects. Similarly, the children of the state, the cow, the diseased person, the woman and the old man specifically require the protection of the state or a kshatriya king. If such living beings do not get protection by the kshatriya, or the royal order, or by the state, it is certainly shameful for the kshatriya or the state.

Bhagavatam recognizes (5.15.7, purport) even a universal right to happiness:

As a representative of the Supreme Lord, the king had the duty to protect the citizens in a perfect way so that they would not be anxious for food and protection and so that they would be jubilant.

Of course, governments today do not represent the Lord, nor are the citizens jubilant.

In the eighteenth century, Europe was completing the turn from a God-centered to a human-centered world view. With the triumph of humanism, obligations lost their force, and talk of rights began.

After so many years of humanism, we still hear that the most basic of human rights—food, clothing, shelter, physical security, health—go scandalously unfulfilled in most places in the world.

And the rights of the mute, nonhuman populace are only beginning to be acknowledged.

Yet, for all the handwringing over rights, there is precious little action.  Simone Weil put her finger on the problem: “A right is not effectual by itself, but only in relation to the obligation to which is corresponds.”

Thus, to be effective in bringing about full social justice to human and animals alike we must return to the culture of obligations. Shrila Prabhupada’s presentation of Bhagavatam is intended to effect that return.

We should now recognize that the only way to go forward is by going back. We progress by returning.


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The Miracle of a Vaishnava Part II

The following is part II of the essay, The Miracle of a Vaishnava, originally published in 1997 as part of Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu’s Vyasa Puja homage for Shrila Prabhupada. Part I can be found here.

In a lecture on Shrimad Bhagavatam 1.2.11 given in Vrindavana on October 22, 1972, Prabhupada again refers to Visvanatha Cakravarti’s commentary on Bhagavad Gita 2.41. Prabhupada begins by telling us we should act so that we will attract Krishna’s attention. How to do that? The answer: Serve Krishna by following His representative, the spiritual master. Anyone who does that thereby becomes himself a representative of Krishna. And how is that? One simply has to transmit the message of Krishna without any adulteration. This leads Prabhupada to cite Caitanya Caritamrta, Madhya 7.128:

Just like Caitanya Mahaprabhu said, amara ajnaya guru hana, “You become a spiritual master under My order.” So if you carry out the order of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Krishna, then you become guru. Amara ajnaya guru hana. Unfortunately, we do not wish to carry out order of the acaryas. We manufacture our own ways. We have got practical experience how a great institution was lost by whimsical ways. Without carrying out the order of the spiritual master, they manufactured something and the whole thing was lost.

Let us reflect on this passage. Here, Prabhupada cites amara anjaya guru hana as conveying the essential qualification for becoming a spiritual master: to obey the order of the acharyas. When Prabhupada remarks, “Unfortunately, we do not wish to carry out order of the acaryas. We manufacture our own ways,” he is alluding to Srimad Bhagavatam 4.18.5: “A foolish person who manufactures his own ways and means through mental speculation and does not recognize the authority of the sages who lay down unimpeachable directions is simply unsuccessful again and again in his attempts.” To illustrate the failure that attends disobedience to the order of the acharya, Prabhupada then refers to the break-up of the Gaudiya Matha (“a great institution was lost”) after Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura’s departure.

As we have seen, in his lecture on the anniversary of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura’s departure, Prabhupada had invoked Visvanatha Cakravarti’s direction as the key to his success. Now, he will go on to cite the neglect of that same direction in explaining the the failure of other disciples of his Guru Maharaja:

Therefore Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura stresses very much on the words of the spiritual master. Vyavasayatmika buddhir ekeha kuru-nandana. If you stick to the order of spiritual master, without caring for your own convenience or inconvenience, then you become perfect.

yasya deve para bhaktir yatha deve tatha gurau
tasyaite kathita hy arthah prakasante mahatmanah

This is the confirmation of all authorities. We have to carry out very faithfully the order of the bona fide representative of Krishna. Then our life is successful. Then we can understand Krishna in truth.

In the above passage, Prabhupada alluded to Shrimad Bhagavatam 4.18.5 itself. In his purport to that text, Shrila Prabhupada brings Visvanatha Cakravarti’s direction and Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s together in a way that further elucidates the potency of strictly following the spiritual master’s order:

At the present moment it has become fashionable to disobey the unimpeachable directions given by the acaryas and liberated souls of the past. Presently people are so fallen that they cannot distinguish between a liberated soul and a conditioned soul. A conditioned soul is hampered by four defects: he is sure to commit mistakes, he is sure to become illusioned, he has a tendency to cheat others, and his senses are imperfect. Consequently we have to take direction from liberated persons.

Prabhupada is going to tell us how to discriminate between a liberated and a conditioned soul, so that we can know from whom we should take directions. In fact, he tells us that ISKCON is guided by Krishna through such liberated souls:

This Krishna consciousness movement directly receives instructions from the Supreme Personality of Godhead via persons who are strictly following His instructions.

This sentence contains two surprises. First: Prabhupada says that our movement is “directly” receiving instruction from Krishna “via” other persons. This is paradoxical on the face of it. Since Prabhupada would not state an absurdity, we have to conclude that although Krishna’s instructions may come via the medium of another agent, the instructions are nevertheless direct and unmediated. In other words, the proper medium is entirely transparent to Krishna (and the previous acharya as well) so that the intermediary is not really so. The question about how a disciple of Prabhupada’s disciple can have a relation directly with Shrila Prabhupada is answered herein.

Second: Since the previous sentence enjoins that one has to take direction from liberated souls, we are primed to expect this sentence to end “via persons who are liberated.” Prabhupada upsets that expectation by saying “via persons who are strictly following his instructions.” The next sentence addresses this subversion of our expectatons:

Although a follower may not be a liberated person, if he follows the supreme, liberated Personality of Godhead, his actions are naturally liberated from the contamination of the material nature. Lord Caitanya therefore says: “By My order you may become a spiritual master.” One can immediately become a spiritual master by having full faith in the transcendental words of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and by following His instructions.

It is a clumsy error to interpret this passage as implying that a bona-fide spiritual master may be a conditioned soul. Rather, this passages tells us what “liberated” effectively means: it means to strictly follow the orders of the spiritual master.
Prabhupada makes this even clearer in his purport to Shrimad Bhagavatam 4.20.13, a verse that quotes the orders given to Prithu Maharaja directly by Lord Vishnu. Prabhupada remarks:

One has to execute the order of Lord Visnu, whether receiving it directly from Him or from His bona fide representative, the spiritual master. Arjuna fought the Battle of Kuruksetra under the direct order of the Supreme personality of Godhead, Krsna. Similarly, here Prthu Maharaja is also being given orders by Lord Visnu regarding the execution of his duty. We have to stick to the principles stated in the Bhagavad-gita. Vyavasayatmika buddhih: every man’s duty is to receive orders from Lord Krsna or from His bona fide representative and take these orders as his life and soul, without personal considerations. Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura states that one should not care very much whether he is going to be liberated or not, but he should simply execute the direct order received from the spiritual master. If one sticks to the principle of abiding by the order of the spiritual master, he will always remain in a liberated position.

Our concern should therefore be single: stick to the order of the spiritual master. That principle is sufficient of itself to answer the questions of securing liberation and direct guidance from the Lord. Prabhupada makes this point with equal directness in his purport to Shrimad Bhagavatam 4.24.15:

This is the secret of success. After being initiated and receiving the orders of the spiritual master, the disciple should unhesitatingly think about the instructions or orders of the spiritual master and should not allow himself to be disturbed by anything else. This is also the verdict of Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, who, while explaining a verse of Bhagavad-gita (vyavasayatmika buddhir ekeha kuru-nandana, Bg. 2.41), points out that the order of the spiritual master is the life substance of the disciple. The disciple should not consider whether he is going back home, back to Godhead; his first business should be to execute the order of his spiritual master. Thus a disciple should always meditate on the order of the spiritual master, and that is perfectional meditation. Not only should he meditate upon that order, but he should find out the means by which he can perfectly worship and execute it.

If we look back at Prabhupada’s various presentations of Visvanatha Cakravarti’s understanding of vyavasayatmika buddhi we find that the instruction that we should simply fix our entire attention on the spiritual master’s order and forget all personal considerations becomes explicated in greater and greater depth: “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. “ And: “If you stick to the order of spiritual master, without caring for your own convenience or inconvenience, then you become perfect.” And then: “Although a follower may not be a liberated person, if he follows the supreme, liberated Personality of Godhead, his actions are naturally liberated from the contamination of the material nature.” And again: “Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura states that one should not care very much whether he is going to be liberated or not, but he should simply execute the direct order received from the spiritual master. If one sticks to the principle of abiding by the order of the spiritual master, he will always remain in a liberated position.” And in the last purport: “The disciple should not consider whether he is going back home, back to Godhead; his first business should be to execute the order of his spiritual master.”

Following the order of the spiritual master is the same as attaining not only liberation but also the direct association with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. We should therefore fix our attention exclusively on that order: all success is thereby obtained. Prabhupada makes this brilliantly clear when he explicitly discusses how the disciples should keep faith with the spiritual master after the master’s physical departure. Prabhupada says (S.Bh. 4.28.47, p.):

The disciple and spiritual master are never separated because the spiritual master always keeps company with the disciple as long as the disciple follows strictly the instructions of the spiritual master. This is called the association of vani (words). Physical presence is called vapuh. As long as the spiritual master is physically present, the disciple should serve the physical body of the spiritual master, and when the spiritual master is no longer physically existing, the disciple should serve the instructions of the spiritual master.

This vani-seva is further explain in the purport to S.Bh. 4.28.51:

When one becomes serious to follow the mission of the spiritual master, his resolution is tantamount to seeing the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As explained before, this means meeting the Supreme Personality of Godhead in the instruction of the spiritual master. This is technically called vani-seva. Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura states in his Bhagavad-gita commentary on the verse vyavasayatmika buddhir ekeha kuru-nandana (Bg. 2.41) that one should serve the words of the spiritual master. The disciple must stick to whatever the spiritual master orders. Simply by following on that line, one sees the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Prabhupada goes on to say that there may be different ways of associating with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. “Nonetheless,” he continues

if one sticks to the principles enunciated by the spiritual master, somehow or other he is in association with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Since the Lord is in the heart, He can advise a sincere disciple from within. This is also confirmed in Bhagavad-gita (10.10):

tesam satata-yuktanam bhajataà priti-purvakam
dadami buddhi-yogam tam yena mam upayanti te

“To those who are constantly devoted and worship Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me.”

In conclusion, if a disciple is very serious to execute the mission of the spiritual master, he immediately associates with the Supreme Personality of Godhead by vani or vapuh. This is the only secret of success in seeing the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Instead of being eager to see the Lord in some bush of Vrndavana while at the same time engaging in sense gratification, if one instead sticks to the principle of following the words of the spiritual master, he will see the Supreme Lord without difficulty.

Srila Bilvamangala Thakura has therefore said:

bhaktis tvayi sthiratara bhagavan yadi syad
daivena nah phalati divya-kisora-murtih
muktih svayam mukulitanjali sevate ’sman
dharmartha-kama-gatayah samaya-pratiksah

“If I am engaged in devotional service unto You, my dear Lord, then very easily can I perceive Your presence everywhere. And as far as liberation is concerned, I think that liberation stands at my door with folded hands, waiting to serve me—and all material conveniences of dharma [religiosity], artha [economic development] and kama [sense gratification] stand with her.” (Krsna-karnamrta 107) If one is very highly advanced in devotional service, he will have no difficulty in seeing the Supreme Personality of Godhead. If one engages in the service of the spiritual master, he not only sees the Supreme Personality of Godhead but attains liberation. As far as material conveniences are concerned, they automatically come, just as the maidservants of a queen follow the queen wherever she goes. Liberation is no problem for the pure devotee, and all material conveniences are simply awaiting him at all stages of life.

In conclusion, it is our duty—we are so ordered on highest authority—to perpetuate the miracle of Shrila Prabhupada, just as Prabhupada perpetuated the miracle of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. Prabhupada has given us everything we need to do that, patiently and clearly spelled out to us “the only secret of success.” Now let us resolve to take that priceless gift to heart, cherish it and nurture it. Let us make his order or life and soul, and let us live our lives solely for the sake of others. We owe this to Prabhupada for what he has done for us.

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