Vyasa-puja offering to Srila Prabhupada: Appreciating the empowering breadth of your trust in Krishna
Respected Srila Prabhupada,
Please accept my humble obeisances at your lotus feet. All glories to your divine self.
Every year brings to me deeper appreciation of your unparalleled contributions to enriching my life and the lives of millions all over the world. This year, my enhanced appreciation centered on your extraordinary dedication amidst immense obstacles in Western outreach.
On the suggestion of an erudite follower of yours, I felt inspired to offer at your lotus feet a series of audio-video talks on your life-story, meant especially for new people. To prepare these talks, I started re-reading the Lilamrita. And I started going through the many other biographies of yours that I had read earlier as well as the many insightful biographies that have been recently published.
Initially, I had planned to cover the highlights of your life in ten-fifteen episodes, each of about twenty-five minutes. But after I started speaking, I realized that so many aspects of your life were so inspiring that a dozen or so talks couldn’t do justice to them. Of course, even thousands of talks can’t do full justice to your glories. But given the constraints of time for potential hearers, I have decided to keep the series length around fifty to seventy episodes. I seek your blessings so that through my feeble attempts to glorify you, a fraction of your glories may manifest in the hearts of the hearers.
At the very least, your glories have manifested more in my own heart. While reading the Lilamrita, especially the section about your early days in America, I realized more and more the mountainous challenge you faced there and the sublime dexterity with which you tackled those challenges. I am recognizing that what we can appreciate depends on what we appreciate. Now, by your mercy, I have been to America three times and have interacted with a cross-section of our movement there, ranging from the top leaders, the field preachers and the new people coming for our programs. Through this small first-hand experience, my appreciation of the magnitude of what you accomplished there has increased manifold.
When I go for a program, almost everything is arranged – I just have to speak. Devotees host me, coordinate my travel, organize venues, invite people for the programs and cultivate them thereafter. Prabhupada, in the early days of your outreach in America, you had to arrange all these things – you had practically no assistants. As a solitary preacher, speaking to an audience utterly unfamiliar to bhakti wisdom was just one of your challenges.
I have found being a solitary preacher unnerving. On the few occasions that I have gone alone to a program where no one is a devotee, I reassure myself with the knowledge that I have many friends, well-wishers and guides at my base temple as well as in the global devotee community. But when you went alone to the US, you had no one; you didn’t even have a base temple to start with. Of course, you were eternally based at Krishna’s lotus feet. How intimate a connection you must have with Krishna, how closely you must have felt his presence, how sweetly must he have reciprocated with your dedication by revealing his all-attractiveness in your heart.
When I try to analyze and verbalize the challenge you faced, the metaphor of a doctor comes to mind. As a pre-eminent spiritual doctor, you went to a distant land where people were afflicted with an epidemic of acute materialism that was transmogrifying into atheism, nihilism and hedonism. Amidst that catastrophe, you treated thousands of patients. You also trained many patients to become doctors. Not only that, you even established a hospital where generations of people could be treated and then trained as doctors. I am grateful to be one such servant in the bhakti hospital. In pioneering the bhakti hospital from scratch, you demonstrated your competence, your commitment, your compassion and, perhaps most importantly, your courage.
Treating patients can be risky – what if unexpected complications occur?
Training patients to become doctors is riskier still – what if inexperienced doctors misdiagnose patients?
Entrusting the hospital to trainee-doctors is the riskiest of all – what if they ruin the hospital through misdiagnosis or mismanagement?
And yet you courageously did all these things. You have made us, your followers – your first-generation followers and now your second-generation followers –doctors in your hospital. How could you entrust something you gave your life to establish to us, who are so unqualified to take up such a responsibility?
You entrusted it to us with the same trust with which you started off, when you took the momentous step to board the Jaladuta for traveling at an advanced age to an alien land despite having no money, no followers and no institutional support. You trusted Krishna then, and you trusted Krishna later when he sent souls to assist you.
Once, one of your disciples whom you wanted to entrust the responsibility to preach told you, “I don’t trust myself.” You asked him, “Do you trust me?” When he replied in the affirmative, you said emphatically and endearingly, “I trust you. So, trust yourself because you trust me.”
Srila Prabhupada, your trust in us is the basis of our trust in ourselves.
But still the question begs itself: How could you trust us? My little understanding is that you trusted us because you trusted Krishna and you saw us as souls sent to you by him. You mentioned that you saw your disciples as representatives of your spiritual master. You had the faith that the Lord will send souls in each generation to keep the bhakti legacy alive. And I pray with trust in your trust in Krishna that he make me worthy of your trust. Perhaps the area where this trust is being challenged most nowadays is in the pursuit of balance – when we try to learn how best to balance between fidelity and flexibility while making bhakti wisdom accessible to the contemporary generation that lives in a drastically changed world.
Meditating on your preaching in America gives me the conviction that the more we study your example prayerfully and thoughtfully, the more we will be guided by your grace towards this delicate balance. In your example, you embodied an inconceivable integration of paradoxical attributes: an inspiring blend of faithfulness and resourcefulness, a divine synergy of dependence and determination, and an empowering harmony of specific instructions for implementing and universal guidelines for improvising.
By your mercy, while I am still sick, I assist your servants in treating the sick. But the more I learn about the treatment, the more I appreciate how difficult it is to administer the treatment to others, and even to myself. And the fact that you administered the treatment so expertly in so short a time to so many people is nothing but miraculous – I cannot but marvel at your divine genius.
Falling prostrate at your feet, in profound appreciation and in fervent supplication, this sick soul seeks your mercy for serving constructively in the bhakti hospital,
Chaitanya Charan das