Appreciating Srila Prabhupada’s transcendence in sharing krishna-bhakti (Prabhupada disappearance day meditation)
In acquiring knowledge, it is said that what we can know depends on what we know. On seeing pale fingernails, a layperson sees just the discoloration of the nails, but a doctor sees signs of anemia. As the doctor knows more about the body’s functioning than a layperson, the doctor can come to know more about its possible malfunctioning on seeing symptoms that mean nothing to the uninformed.
Similarly, the more we come to know about bhakti and especially about the challenges of sharing bhakti with others, the more we can appreciate the sacrifice of those who have dedicated their lives for sharing bhakti. And the greatest among the modern sharers of bhakti is our exalted founder-acharya, His Divine Grace A C Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada, whose thirty-ninth disappearance day we are observing today. What he has achieved in terms of attracting millions of people to Krishna’s lotus feet is unparalleled in the history of the world. His contribution was not just what he himself did but also the legacy he created by which his contribution would endure and benedict people generation after generation, for many, many generations to come. His books, his followers, his temples and his movement are all his gifts to us. It is through these gifts of his that we all have the opportunity to relish krishna-bhakti.
Srila Prabhupada’s greatness is oceanic, and I would like to discuss just two small drops in that ocean. Though small, these drops have increased my appreciation of His Divine Grace because I have, by his mercy, got some small realizations by trying to serve Krishna in those areas.
During the last few years, since I started traveling in various parts of the world for sharing bhakti, I have gained increased appreciation of Srila Prabhupada’s capacity to transcend jet-lag and his capacity to transcend his body’s need of sleep for the sake of writing.
Transcending bodily limitations for spiritual purpose
I had heard from Srila Prabhupada’s close associates, especially his personal servants, how Srila Prabhupada was never affected by jet-lag. But the significance of this point didn’t register in me till I found jet-lag afflicting me. When we travel across time zones, the body’s biological clock remains in the time zone we were in earlier, even if the body is now in another time zone. Getting the body’s clock to adjust to the new time zone often takes several days. And during that interim period, our sleep cycles, digestion patterns and other bodily functions get disturbed, even disrupted, thereby adversely affecting our capacity to function effectively. That is the way with most normal human beings.
Srila Prabhupada traveled extensively and tirelessly, his functioning never impeded by jet-lag. Such uninterrupted service is testimony to his absorption in Krishna and in his capacity to transcend a bodily limitation that affects most human beings.
Another way in which Srila Prabhupada transcended his body’s normal limitations has been far more consequential for all of us: his sleeping for just a few hours so that he could write books for us. How difficult such writing can be, I would like to share from an author’s perspective.
As I have many writing commitments – and keep getting many more – many times I have resolved to cut down on my night sleep so that I can wake early and write. Even if I do manage to wake early, I have found that my brain is in no condition to write. On most such occasions, I simply struggle against sleep without doing any constructive writing. And the experience of most authors is similar. Whatever books on writing I have read, therein I have found that writers are unanimous in saying that one needs to sleep adequately to write effectively.
It could be said that any bodily activity requires the body to be sufficiently rested. That’s true, but that requirement of rest is all the more so for an activity like writing because writing is both sedentary and solitary. If while being inadequately rested, we have to do some activity that involves some moving about, that motion helps in fighting off sleep. Similarly, while insufficiently rested, if we need to do some work that involves talking with others, then that conversation too helps in warding off sleep. But when we are doing an activity such as writing that involves neither motion nor conversation, sleep attacks with full force – all the more so when we haven’t given the body its due quota of sleep.
That Srila Prabhupada could reduce his bodily quota of sleep to so little and still write his books – and write books that contain some of the most profound wisdom the world has ever seen – is simply astonishing. It demonstrates that he is in a class of his own, far above even the best of writers.
Beyond artistic expression to spiritual compassion
Another distinctive feature of Srila Prabhupada is his inspiration for writing. All creative artists, including writers, labor to bring their creations to fruition for many reasons. One reason that strongly drives many writers is the thought that that particular work of art will never be produced if they don’t produce it.
Srila Prabhupada’s motivation went far beyond artistic expression to spiritual compassion. He couldn’t tolerate living in a world where Krishna’s glories were not widely available for everyone in the world’s principal language of mainstream communication: English. And he couldn’t tolerate this absence because he could see, through the eyes of scriptural knowledge, that people, by the millions and billions, were suffering because of a lack of spiritual knowledge. So, he strove tirelessly to share spiritual knowledge, specifically the summit of spiritual knowledge in the form of the glories of the highest spiritual reality, Krishna.
Thus, it was Srila Prabhupada’s intolerance towards people’s suffering that enabled him to tolerate and transcend his own body’s needs.
Each day, when after getting adequate rest, I sit down to write, I hope and pray that remembrance of Srila Prabhupada’s sacrifice may fill me with gratitude. He gave me the content to write and he gave up his own comfort so as to lay the foundation of a global movement that provides me the facilities to write comfortably.
Offering my eternally prostrated obeisances to Srila Prabhupada, I beg for his mercy so that I can do my small part in practicing and sharing the bhakti wisdom with which he has enriched the world.