Monthly Archives: October 2008

The Miracle of a Vaishnava Part I

The following is an excerpt from Ravindra Svarupa dasa’s Vyasa Puja homage to Shrila Prabhupada in 1997.

We are all agreed that Shrila Prabhupada was a miracle: someone supernatural who entered in our mundane affairs and altered the normal course of nature. The laws of nature—our karmic destiny, and, by extension, the destiny of the world—have been broken.

It is essential to the nature of that miracle that it keep on going, perpetuate after Shrila Prabhupada’s physical departure. After all, the miracle of Prabhupada lies precisely in his supernatural ability to create similarly miraculous persons. He was a devotee who could make others into devotees, who could in turn make others into devotees and so on and on.

The archetypical Vaishnava miracle is thus beyond your ordinary wonder-working: It’s miracle is to miraculously create more miracle-creators. The Vaishnava miracle is one that perpetually grows.

Consequently, those of use who aspire to be the heirs of Shrila Prabhupada need to make this our study: How does this miracle come to be made? It is our obligation to be able to answer, scientifically, these questions : How did Shrila Prabhupada come to be a miracle-creator? And how do we do the same?

Miracles are mysterious because, according to Prabhupada, miracle means simply that “you don’t know how it is done.” So miracles are typically surrounded by secrets. Thaumaturges guard their secrets in order to bedazzle the many. But Prabhupada abhorred mystification. He kept nothing back. He gave away his secret.

In 1968, while speaking in Los Angeles on the anniversary of the disappearance of his guru-maharaja, Prabhupada looked at the rows of American faces lifted up to hear him, and he was lead to contemplate a miracle: how, by the will of Krishna—not the ordinary course of karma—the spiritual master and the disciple come together:

I was born in a different family; my Guru Maharaja was born in a different family. Who knew that I will come to his protection? Who knew that I would come in America? Who knew that you American boys will come to me? These are all Krishna’s arrangement. We cannot understand how things are taking place.

But then, Srila Prabhupada goes on to explain how, by the grace of Krishna, the miracle of his presence in Los Angeles came about. This is Prabhupada’s “course in miracles.”

In 1936—today is ninth December, 1968—that means thirty-two years ago, in Bombay, I was then doing some business: All of a sudden—perhaps on this date, sometimes between ninth or tenth of December (at that time, Guru Maharaja was indisposed little, and he was staying at Jagannatha Puri, on the seashore)—so, 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?”

So the seed of the miracle is the desire to serve. Discontent with his occupation in business, feeling himself incapacitated by the obligations of his ashrama, on an impulse (“all of a sudden”) Prabhupada wrote his guru-maharaja with a plea, a cry from the heart. He felt himself locked in a position which made proper service impossible, yet still the desire to do it was there. So he confessed his desire and his frustration to his spiritual master.

Prabhupada continues:

So 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 thirty-first of December—that means just after writing this letter a fortnight before his departure—he passed away. But I took that order of my spiritual master very seriously, but I did not think that I’ll have to do such and such thing. I was at that time a householder. But this is the arrangement of Krishna. If we strictly try to serve the spiritual master, his order, then Krishna will give us all facilities. That is the secret. Although there was no possibility—I never thought—

It was a startling, an unexpected, an incongruous, an entirely improbable order. Prabhupada took it “very seriously” nonetheless, even though he could not envision any concrete circumstances in which it could be realized. He was then doing business in Bombay, entangled in household and commercial affairs, so the order seemed remote from reality. At the same time, it was the last direct communication he received from his spiritual master. That gave it even more weight. So he understood he must take it seriously, even though he was initially baffled. How in the world will it happen? As it turns out, it happened by a miraculous, divine intervention: “the arrangement of Krishna” Prabhupada says.

Yet something more is still required. For what prompts Krishna to make such an arrangement? The seriousness of the disciple. “If we strictly try to serve the spiritual master, his order, then Krishna will give us all facilities. That is the secret.”

Now Prabhupada goes to tell us how—again by Krishna’s arrangement—he learned this secret:

Although there was no possibility—I never thought—But I took it little seriously by studying a commentary by Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura on the Bhagavad-gita. In the Bhagavad-gita there is the verse, vyavasayatmika-buddhir ekeha kuru-nandana. In connection with that verse, 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.

Here is the immediate source of Prabhupada’s inspiration. The realization he acquired from reading Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura’s commentary on Bhagavad-gita 2.41 became the cornerstone of his life and achievement, the only secret of his success. Again and again, Prabhupada directly and indirectly refers to this defining moment of his life, when he was granted the realization to make the firm commitment that, come what may, he would make the order of his spiritual master his life and soul. Because of that commitment alone, Krishna has brought him to America and given him success:

So 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. So there is little foothold of this movement.

Now Prabhupada requests his followers to enact the same commitment to his order that he has evinced to that that of his guru-maharaja:

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, that at least to some extent you have understood the essence of Krishna consciousness movement. You should try to push it on.

“Execute his will” is a play on words. The expression means, of course, to carry out the order of someone, but it is also the formal legal term to refer to the process by which a person’s assets legally become those of his heirs. By his commitment to execute Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati’s will, Shrila Prabhupada inherited from him his specific potency to spread Krishna consciousness. On this occasion Shrila Prabhupada is now making his will: “I shall also request you to execute the same order through my will. I am an old man.” By his will, Prabhupada has made us his heirs. He gives us the instructions which, if we accept them as our life and soul, will transfer to us the same potency to make people devotees of Krishna.

What specifically are those instructions? Prabhupada is very clear:

. . . . at least to some extent you have understood the essence of Krishna 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
patitanaà pavanebhyo vaisnavebhyo namo namah

A Vaishnava, or devotee of Lord, his life is dedicated for the benefit of the people. You know—most of you belong to Christian community—how Lord Jesus Christ, he said that for your sinful activities he has sacrificed himself. That is the determination of devotee of the Lord. They don’t care for personal comforts. Because they love Krishna or God, therefore they love all living entities because all living entities are in relationship with Krishna. So similarly you should learn. This Krishna consciousness movement means to become Vaishnava and feel for the suffering humanity.

And what does “feel for suffering humanity” concretely mean?

So to feel for the suffering humanity—there are different angles of vision. Somebody is thinking of the suffering of the humanity from the bodily conception of life. Somebody is trying to open a hospital to give relief to the diseased condition. Somebody is trying to distribute foodstuff in poverty-stricken countries or places. These things are certainly very nice, but actual suffering of the humanity is due to lack of Krishna consciousness. These bodily sufferings: they are temporary; neither they can be checked by the laws of nature. Suppose if you give some distribution of foodstuff in some poverty-stricken country, that does not mean that this help makes solution of the whole problem. The real beneficial work is to invoke every person to Krishna consciousness.

In short, Prabhupada’s order to all of us is: Become a Vaishnava yourself, and make other people Vaishnavas. Not all of us have received some specific, tailor-made order from our spiritual master, and we may feel that we have failed to receive the spiritual master’s gift, that we may have been left out of his will.  That is not so. Here Prabhupada very clearly delivers his order to every one of us. It has two parts. One, we should become Krishna conscious, and two, we should give Krishna consciousness to others. Our full commitment, our single-minded intelligence dedicated to this order will itself make the order achieve fructification by the will of Krishna.

—To Be Continued—

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