Srila Prabhupada – the leader who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way (Vyasa Puja Offering 2013)
Dear Srila Prabhupada,
Please accept my humble obeisances at your lotus feet. All glories to your divine self.
On this sacred day of your appearance, I meditate on how you are the most exemplary leader – a leader who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.
1. Knows the way:
All of us conditioned souls are lost in the darkness of material existence not knowing the way to our wellbeing. In fact, as the ominous clouds of Kali yuga thicken and darken, we can’t see the way to even our material well being, what to speak of our spiritual well being.
Amidst such dense darkness, few are the enlightened souls, the pure devotees, who know the way. Pure devotees are rare in all ages, but all the more so in this age of Kali. Even amongst such pure devotees, you were special for you were distinctively empowered to fulfill the prediction of Lord Chaitanya that his holy name will be propagated in every town and village of the world.
You knew the way because you descended from the spiritual world on the instruction of Krishna. But to show us by example how the way is to be known, you enacted the pastime of establishing a connection with the parampara. You attentively heard from your spiritual master with such fierce one-pointedness that it attracted his attention and appreciation. As an enterprising businessman, you had a demanding traveling schedule, yet you grabbed every opportunity to pore over the books of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati and the previous acharyas. And when you wrote your commentaries on the sacred scriptures you didn’t rely only on your years of committed practice and concomitant realizations; you also painstakingly referred to the works of the previous acharyas.
That you knew the way is seen not only through the extraordinary knowledge manifest in your books and the exceptional proficiency with which you produced them till your last breath. It is also seen through how you went the way and showed the way.
2. Goes the way:
Srila Prabhupada, you went all the way showing how to face all the inevitable challenges of material existence, challenges that become multiplied for those who declare war against Maya by preaching the glories of Krishna.
You were empowered by Krishna, no doubt, but that empowerment didn’t mean that you didn’t have to encounter and counter formidable challenges. Your empowerment didn’t cause those problems to magically disappear; it meant that you magically persevered, no matter how many and how massive the problems. This magical perseverance came from your pure devotion to Krishna – pure devotion that manifested as your unbreakable determination to carry out the instruction of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, whatever the obstacles and reversals.
You went the way by living your life as a householder who while diligently executing family responsibilities also seized every opportunity to assist in spreading your spiritual master’s mission.
And you went the way by accepting the renounced order not to retire for a peaceful life in idyllic Vrindavana but to recoup for launching a frontal attack on the headquarters of Maya. The attack that you singlehandedly launched has no parallel in world history. When battling against one of the most formidable formations of the forces of illusion – the proud and prosperous materialistic edifice of the West, what were the chances of success for a solitary old man, penniless and friendless, weak and sick due to two deadly heart attacks?
But you were not solitary; your unflinching will to serve connected you with Krishna’s supreme will to bless. And mission impossible became transformed into mission unstoppable.
You went the way not just by travelling all alone to America but also by going in advanced old age around the globe fourteen times to make the ignorant enlightened, the unfortunate fortunate, the joyless joyful.
And you went all the way by demonstrating how to pass the final exam of death. You endured gracefully and gratefully a prolonged sickness so agonizing and mortifying that it could easily have broken the spirit of most people. Your spirit was made of supremely stern stuff, stuff that nothing could break. Even when your body had practically no physical strength to speak, you kept speaking into a dictaphone held right next to your lips, blessing us with your precious Bhaktivedanta purports.
By your selfless and tireless sacrifice, you have gone the way, a way whose roughness and toughness we can’t even understand, leave alone retrace.
Thankfully, we don’t have to retrace that way because you have by your sweat and blood given us an easier way. That way is the opportunity to practice devotional service in the safety and sanctity of the Krishna consciousness movement that you gave as your enduring legacy for many generations of devotees.
3. Shows the way:
You have shown us the way through your actions and your words.
In your actions, you expertly blended preservation with adaptation, uncompromisingly preserving the substance of our exalted Gaudiya tradition while also unhesitatingly adapting its form to increase its accessibility.
As regards preservation, you didn’t compromise when asking for the demanding commitment of chanting sixteen round daily as essential for the transformation of our consciousness; you didn’t compromise while insisting on adherence to the four regulative principles; you didn’t compromise in pointing out the errors of popular spiritual teachers who misrepresented the Gita’s message.
As regards adaptation, you didn’t hesitate to convert storefronts that had been drug dens into temples; you didn’t hesitate to use the wood from an ordinary American tree as the material for the first Deity of Jagannatha in ISKCON; you didn’t hesitate to entrust untrained Australian devotees with the responsibility of worshiping the newly installed Deities.
Through your words as manifest in your books, you have given us the essence of the Vedic literature. Your books are the result of your enormous personal sacrifice, waking up early in the morning after just a few hours of sleep. Throughout the day, you would speak about Krishna with those who came to meet you. And in the night, you spoke about Krishna with everyone, even those whom space and time kept away from your personal association. Through your books, you inspired and empowered not only devotees who were living in the remotest corners of the world but also devotees who have come and will come in many subsequent generations.
Srila Prabhupada, our most eloquent words can’t be enough to delineate even a fraction of your glories. Yet how can we not glorify you, the great soul who has rescued us from the folly and futility of a life without Krishna?
The best glorification we can offer you is not through words but through actions – through our dedication to the mission of preaching that you said is our family business. All glories to the merciful mission of Krishna that you presented and represented, that you protected and propagated, that you loved and lived.
I consider it my greatest fortune to have some small role in this mission of compassion. Falling at your merciful feet, I beg for your mercy so that I can play my part in sharing Krishna’s message of love – and play that part faithfully, sensitively and vigorously.
Srila Prabhupada ki jaya.
Your unworthy servant
Chaitanya Charan das