The weapon for waging the world’s most formidable spiritual war (Srila Prabhupada Vyasa-puja Offering 2014)
Dear Srila Prabhupada,
Please accept my humble obeisances at your lotus feet. All glories to your divine self.
Among the many things that inspire me about you, the most inspiring in recent times has been your song “Markine Bhagavata-dharma.” This song composed as a prayerful request to your beloved Lord Krishna reveals not just the intimacy of your devotion to him. It also reveals the strategy you planned to use for waging on his behalf a war of the kind that had rarely, if ever, been fought before by a spiritual commander.
You had embarked at an advanced age, utterly alone and practically penniless, for sharing the spiritual wisdom of Krishna with the materialistic culture of the West – that too at its headquarters, America. In this mission, you were like a warrior set to single-handedly take on a formidable army, as did Arjuna at Virata. Your war was in a sense much tougher because you were confronting the opponent on its home turf – a territory physically, culturally and intellectually foreign to you.
For a warrior on any battle, the key possession, the thing to which one’s thoughts go repeatedly, is one’s most potent weapon. So, naturally as you approached the American coastline, your thoughts went to your most important weapon, what you considered your trump card. This song reveals that spiritual game-changer: the process of hearing about Krishna.
Hearing is what the whole song centers on, literally and conceptually. Literally, you placed at its center the Sanskrit Bhagavatam verses (1.2.17-21) that delineate how hearing works. Conceptually, you analyze in the preceding and succeeding Bengali verses that you composed the obstacles to that process and the ways to overcome them. The primary obstacle to the working of the process (vaasudeb-katha ruchi nahe se prasanna) that you apprehended was the predominance of the modes of passion and ignorance in the minds of your audience (rajas tamo gune era sabaai aacchanna).
The way you envisioned the obstacles reveals your deep shastra-chakshu. You did not dwell on the many obvious obstacles that would have intimidated a lesser mortal: the intellectual unfamiliarity of the message, the cultural strangeness of the messenger, the probable unintelligibility of an Indian accent and so forth. You knew about these obstacles, but you didn’t consider them noteworthy. The only noteworthy obstacle for you was the universal obstacle, as revealed by scripture, to understanding krishna-katha: the predominance of the lower modes.
And your apprehension of the obstacle formed the foundation of your prayer. You didn’t pray for a smooth landing or a warm reception or even for life’s basic necessities. None of these were guaranteed as you were going to be received by an utter stranger at the request of a person who was at best your casual acquaintance. You were going to live with strangers, but this song reveals that you were living with Krishna. You had complete faith that he would be with you always, no matter how much stranger your living conditions might become.
To your beloved Lord you prayed not for any material necessity, but for the removal of the main obstacle to your spiritual mission. You prayed that Krishna use his matchless mystical potency (sakal-i sambhava hoya tumi se kautuki) to make the message comprehensible to your audience. You beseeched the universal spiritual master (akhila jagat-guru) to ornament your speech (bacana se aamaar alankrita koribaar) so that it would become attractive to them.
And how wonderfully Krishna ornamented your message as it attracted over the next eleven years millions, inspiring them to dedicate their lives for seeking and serving him.
Among the many ornaments that adorned your krishna-katha, the most endearing and disarming was your compassion. You were tirelessly and fearlessly concerned for everyone, all of whom you saw as potential recipients of krishna-katha. It was this concern that made you speak krishna-katha all day while there were people ready to hear. And it was that same compassion that made you speak almost all night while the world slept. Though the audience slumbered, you persevered, preparing books that they could read when they woke physically and spiritually. The krishna-katha that emanated from the innermost core of your heart settled in the deepest recesses of the hearts of millions of sincere seekers, transforming forever their activities and their destinies.
Thus, the transmission of krishna-katha formed the crux of your war strategy. And you never changed this strategy even as your mission spread incredibly all over the globe, encountering seemingly insurmountable obstacles and scaling apparently unreachable peaks. In one of the last messages that you gave us before you departed from mortal vision, you quoted from the same section of the Bhagavatam, emphasizing the potency of hearing in association and urging us to seek protection in that potency.
Srila Prabhupada, I am forever grateful to you for not just sharing krishna-katha so courageously and vigorously, but also for inspiring your followers to do the same and for setting up ISKCON for doing so. I was most fortunate to be introduced to krishna-katha by your disciples and grand-disciples in a culture that cherished the tradition of hearing – and encouraged the asking of questions to address individual hearer’s needs. Over the last two decades, I have heard thousands of classes and asked thousands of questions – and I will continue to do so for the rest of my life, as I relish the timeless nectar-treasure that you brought to the world.
At the same time, I feel acutely and urgently the weight of your standing order to all your followers that they share what they have received. By your mercy, by the guidance of my spiritual mentors, and due to my own physical limitations, I have over the last few years realized the Internet universe to be my most promising guru-datta-desha – an eminently fertile field for sowing the seeds of krishna-katha. ISKCON’s presence on the Internet is still underdeveloped. Though we have a good amount of devotional content, very little of it is customized to systematically groom online seekers.
Through my fledgling attempts at playing the digital brihat-mridanga, I have been making small inroads in this vast terrain, answering over seventeen hundred questions from hundreds of people from various parts of the world. And in what I hope will be a pleasing service rendered over the course of the last year, I helped prepare ISKCON’s first fully online version of the Bhakti-shastri course – the course that you considered foundational for serious devotees.
Given the fast-paced life of today, I have also tried to make krishna-katha, specifically the wisdom of the Bhagavad-gita, accessible through fresh daily meditations. Similar reflections on the Bible take its message daily to millions through the Internet, but no such reflections on the Gita were available – a gap that I felt inspired to fill. In 300-word reflections that can be read in two-three minutes, I try to explain the Gita’s relevance in the contemporary context.
Past writers in our tradition have glorified Krishna poetically and artistically in the prevalent languages of their times such as Sanskrit or Bengali. I attempt to follow in their illustrious footsteps in my insignificant way by doing the same in English. I endeavor to ornament each Gita-daily article with literary devices so as to make the krishna-katha more memorable and relishable.
Writing Gita-daily is my humble attempt to expand to the digital and the literary arena on a daily basis the tradition of transmission of krishna-katha that you established through ISKCON’s daily classes. I am immensely grateful to have been able to glorify the Gita daily for nearly three years now.
I pray earnestly and fervently for mercy and intelligence so that I can continue to receive, relish and share krishna-katha for the rest of my life.
Seeking your mercy to stay immersed eternally in Krishna’s message of love,
Chaitanya Charan das