Remembering Śrīla Prabhupāda in Separation on His Appearance Day
by Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja
Praying for Mercy on the Occasion of Vyāsa-pūjā
māyā-jāla chuṭe, pāya kṛṣṇera caraṇa
Only by simultaneously performing guru-sevā and kṛṣṇa-bhajana does a bound jīva become liberated from the web of māyā and attain the lotus feet of Śrī Kṛṣṇa.
These words from Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta are echoed in the following statement: “By performing śrī vyāsa-pūjā, one simultaneously serves guru and Kṛṣṇa.” [From the vyāsa-pūjā offering of a disciple of Śrīla Prabhupāda, published in the weekly Gauḍīya, Year 4, Issue 26, p. 590] Hence, the regulation to perform vyāsa-pūjā on the appearance day of jagad-guru Śrīla Prabhupāda, who is most worshipful, is established according to the teachings of the Gauḍīya ācāryas.
On this occasion of vyāsa-pūjā, I have been ordered to serve this spiritual magazine, which is like one of Śrīla Gurudeva’s bodily limbs. I fully realize my complete incapacity to do so, and am therefore calculating my misfortune. Those who are guru-dāsa, honourable servants of śrī guru, are my sole well-wishers, able to deliver me from this calamity. To remain under their guidance is the pinnacle of service to śrī guru. I therefore offer my sincere prostrated obeisances at the lotus feet of all of the servitors of Śrīla Gurudeva.
Regarding them to be my fellow Godbrothers and dealing with them in a mood of friendship, or sakhya, I have differed with them. But now, after Śrīla Prabhupāda’s disappearance, I realize in the core of my heart just what I have done, and am thus condemning my life. O servitors of Śrī Guru, it is you who are the true worshippers of vyāsa-pūjā. Please bestow your merciful glance upon me. Please do not neglect me upon seeing my worthlessness, but kindly engage me in dāsya, or servitude, through glorification of Śrī Guru and Gaurāṅga. This is my heartfelt prayer at your lotus feet.
The Svarūpa, or Embodiment, of Śrīla Gurudeva
Following in the footsteps of Śrī Vyāsa and Vaiyāsaki (Śrī Śukadeva), the servitors of śrī guru have informed me about Śrī Gurudeva through scriptural statements such as “gaura-jana-saṅga kara gaurāṅga baliyā – associate with the followers of Gaura, knowing them to be non-different from Gaurāṅga”; “ācāryaṁ māṁ vijānīyāt – know the ācārya to be My own self”; and “sākṣād-dharitvena samasta śāstraiḥ – all scriptures concur that śrī guru is Hari Himself”. At the same time, however, the servitors of śrī guru have instructed me to consider him as the dearest associate of Hari – kinto prabhor yaḥ priya eva tasya.
In Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Ādi-līlā 1.45), Śrīla Kavirāja Gosvāmī has also elucidated the position of śrī guru by saying, “guru kṛṣṇa-rūpa hana śāstrera pramāṇe – all śāstras corroborate that Śrī Guru is non-different from Kṛṣṇa.” He continues, “guru-rūpe kṛṣṇa kṛpā karena bhakta-gaṇe – in the form of guru, Śrī Kṛṣṇa bestows mercy upon His devotees.”
Accordingly, the statements of the mahājanas and the examples provided in the scriptures establish clearly that śrī guru is the svarūpa, or embodiment, of Bhagavān. In the same way, I acknowledge the servitors of śrī guru as non-different from Bhagavān also, and consider them my śikṣā-gurus. In Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Ādi-līlā 1.47), Śrīla Kavirāja Gosvāmī has said, “śikṣā-guruke ta’ jāni kṛṣṇera svarūpa – one should know the śikṣā-guru to be the svarūpa, or embodiment, of Śrī Kṛṣṇa.”
O eternal servitors of śrī guru, the sole reason you have appeared in this material world is to deliver those like me, the lowest of mankind, who have fallen in the mire of sin. Although I have heard your transcendental teachings about the supra-mundane nature of Śrīla Gurudeva, my conception of him as a mortal being has not dimmed even slightly. Delusion and malice are the root cause of this.
Vāṇī-kīrtana – Śrīla Prabhupāda’s Innermost Desire
Vāṇī, or sound, is received through one sensory organ only – the ears. In other words, the other four senses are impotent to receive it. It is impossible to approach an object that lies beyond the senses, through the medium of the senses. Indeed, we attain auspiciousness to the extent we are able to limit the involvement of the senses. This is precisely why śravaṇa (hearing) and kīrtana (chanting) are considered superior to the other limbs of bhakti.
If my mentality of considering śrī guru to be a mere mortal has not vanished after hearing the kīrtana of transcendental instructions from your lotus mouths, then my performance of the limbs of bhakti executed through the other senses is futile also. What doubt can there be about this? In the present age, every limb of bhakti needs to be performed in conjunction with kīrtana. Although limbs of bhakti other than śravaṇa and kīrtana exist, they do not bestow the highest result without kīrtana. Therefore, by the boundless mercy of you all, I have been able to understand that kīrtana is independent and the topmost sādhana.
Only bhakti characterized by śravaṇa and kīrtana con-stitutes preaching and is bhāgvata-mata, the mano’bhīṣṭa of Śrī Caitanya, whereas bhakti that involves the construction of maṭhas and temples, service to the deities (arcana) and so on, is pāñcarātrika-mata (the system of formal deity worship). You have allowed me to understand that the sole ontological reason for Śrīla Prabhupāda’s appearance was to preach the conceptions of the bhāgavat-paramparā.
Kīrtana is the sole fruit of kīrtana. Kīrtana alone is sevā, and kīrtana is also prema. Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī has written in his Krama-sandarbha: “yadyapyanyā bhaktiḥ kalauḥ kartavya tada kīrtanākhya bhakti-samyogenaiva ityuktam – in Kali-yuga, the limbs of bhakti other than kīrtana are also to be performed, but only in conjunction with kīrtana.”
Śrīla Prabhupāda has himself said, “Let there be representatives of the pāñcarātrika process. Let the temples be constructed and the deities worshipped. But those who belong to the better class, the higher class, engage in preaching activities. To propagate vaikuṇṭha-nāma everywhere is the most cherished desire of Mahāprabhu. ... Our preaching process should be like this. Let pamphlets be printed profusely; it does not matter whether or not the maṭhas and temples are erected.”
Even in his final instructions, Śrīla Prabhupāda specifically cautioned us: “We have not come to this world as masons to deal with stone or wood. We are the peons of Śrī Caitanyadeva’s message.” Let people practise any one or several of the limbs of bhakti independently of kīrtana: we shall practise only kīrtanākhyā-bhakti, as instructed by Śrīla Prabhupāda.
One Must “Present One’s Ears” to Hear the Vāṇī
Because I maintained the conception that Śrīla Prabhupāda was an ordinary human being, none of his words ever entered my ears. Therefore, he would often say, “First prepare your ears (develop transcendental śraddhā). By doing so, you will attain the qualification to hear the siddhānta of the Bhāgavata.”
Now I realize in the core of my heart the essence of this instruction. Although I remained by Śrīla Prabhupāda for about eighteen years (till 1937), his teachings on what is ultimately beneficial and what is temporarily pleasing (śreyaḥ and preyaḥ), on following and mere imitation (anusaraṇa and anukaraṇa), on what is real and what is fake (asala and nakala), on ontology and morphology, on spirituality and ordinary conduct (pāramārthika and vyavahārika), and on associating with a transcendental personality’s form and teachings (vapu and vāṇī), as embodied by the Gauḍīya magazine, did not enter my ears, nor could I realize the difference between these categories.
Therefore, I pray to the servitors of Śrī Guru to help me first ‘present my ears’. Until I ready my ears for this purpose, I will be the subject of the statement “upadeśo hi murkhānam prakopaya na śāntaye – instructions given to fools serve only to anger them, not pacify them.”
The Transcendental Body of Śrīla Prabhupāda
Due to my misfortune, I never became qualified to perceive the body of Śrīla Prabhupāda as a transcendental, eternal deity full of knowledge and bliss – although you all educated me on this repeatedly. Upon noting my mundane conception of him, Śrīla Prabhupāda would, from time to time, sweetly and knowingly enact being ill. Endowed with wicked intelligence, I would approach to serve him, trying to touch his body with my material hands, etc.; but remaining autonomous, he would at once present his illusory form (māyā-deha) and captivate my demoniac propensity [to ‘serve’ him for my own interest].
In reality the transcendental body of Śrīla Prabhupāda cannot be diseased or possess any abnormality – but at that time I could not understand this even slightly. How can I, a complete sense enjoyer (kāmī) and a yogī, like Rāvaṇa, touch anything other than māyā – in other words, the illusory Sītā? Where is the qualification to touch Sītā, the embodiment of the transcendental potency (cit-śakti), who is Lakṣmī, residing on the lap of Śrī Rāma?
I could not realize anything about the transcendental nature of Śrīla Prabhupāda, having been cheated of his real mercy – and thus I have been deprived forever. Such is the result of not allowing his fully conscious words to enter my ears. This indeed is my extreme misfortune.
Disappearance Pastime of the Ācārya
Śrīla Prabhupāda observed that a wicked person like me, who egotistically considered himself to be his servant, had started brimming with such arrogance that at every step and every moment he was intent on usurping Śrīla Prabhupāda’s position, regarding himself to be equal to him. At that time, Śrīla Prabhupāda decided to teach a lesson to a sinful person like me, who is eternally conditioned and whose mentality is harder than stone, non-combustible like mica and dry like fire, by suddenly manifesting an extremely unbearable pastime that was harder than a thunderbolt and had even more burning power than fire.
In 1936, just before concealing his manifest pastimes, Śrīla Prabhupāda was residing at Puruṣottama Maṭha atop Caṭaka-parvata in his appearance place, Śrī Purī-dhāma. Observing my reluctance to follow his instructions, he said to me, ‘‘No one understands and accepts my message anymore. There is therefore no use for me to remain in this world; it is best that I leave.” At that time, I was unable to understand his compassionate intention and protested. And to my great misfortune, he unexpectedly struck me with this thunderbolt at dawn on Thursday, 1st January 1937.
Śrīla Prabhupāda saw me as a sense enjoyer and an ahaṅgraha-upāsaka, one who identifies himself with his object of worship. To bestow upon me the teaching of bhakti-rasa endowed with renunciation (vairāgya-yuga bhakti-rasa), he many times expressed his desire for me to accept the renounced order of life (sannyāsa); but because of my misfortune, I could not accept it at that time. Therefore, to teach me renunciation, which can destroy my mentality of identifying myself with the body and the attachment to anything related to the body, he enacted his disappearance pastime.
Words of Consolation at the Time of His Departure
To console me, the dear most associates of guru have acquainted me with the statements of Śrī Śukadeva, the son of Vyāsa, in the thirty-first chapter of the Eleventh Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, which recount Śrī Hari’s departure:
māyā-viḍambanam avehi yathā naṭasya
sṛṣṭvātmanedam anuviśya vihṛtya cānte
saṁhṛtya cātma-mahinoparataḥ sa āste
O King, you should apprehend that a stage actor remains unchanged, even though while on stage before his audience he accepts various roles in which he enacts birth and death. Similarly, the acts of Kṛṣṇa, the Supersoul of all, in which He takes birth and disappears in the Yadu dynasty, may resemble the birth and death of embodied beings, but this is simply an act of His illusory potency. In reality the Supreme Personality, Bhagavān Himself, has created this universe and entered it as its Supersoul, to enact His divine play. Again, at the time of destruction, He annihilates and winds up the entire creation within Himself, and then passively situates Himself in His own transcendental glory.
The eternal form of the ācāryadeva is composed of knowledge and bliss and remains constitutionally unchangeable – just like a dramatic performer [who appears to go through various transformations during his performance, but remains the same unaltered person]. On the stage of this world, the ācāryadeva merely acts out birth, death and so forth, all of which we can perceive using our knowledge-acquiring senses. The birth and death of an ordinary living entity is filled with pain and suffering, but the appearance and disappearance of the spiritual conscious form of the atimartya ācārya, who is beyond the control of the material nature, is full of joy. To astonish his audience, a magician may use a weapon to execute a person standing before him. An ignorant child cries upon seeing this, but those who know better understand that the killing is merely an illusion and do not lament for the person ‘slain’.
While the unbearable disappearance pastime of the ācārya is like a stage act, an ignorant person like me who does not comprehend this cannot be consoled. Thus, I perceive his disappearance pastime, which is full of joy, to be extremely painful and heart-rending. Thus, while the servants of śrī guru are feeling true separation, I am lamenting like a śūdra.
I have heard from you all that viraha, separation, enhances the elegance of service; and when anything that stimulates remembrance of one’s object of worship appears on the path of one’s vision, it progressively makes one’s attachment for that object unflinching. Separation looks to enhance the highest pleasure of one’s worshipful object.
In the state of lamentation, however, the bound jīva becomes bewildered, and thus inactive: his energy and capacity disappear and he becomes afflicted by grief. Due to the absence of service, one cannot see in him any transformation akin to an enhancement of joy. Thus, I – like an ignorant fool, a śūdra – have become overwhelmed by lamentation. I am unable to discover any enthusiasm within. “Hṛṣīkeṇa hṛṣīkeśa-sevanaṁ... – to serve the master of the senses with my senses” has become a formidable task for me.
The Ācārya’s Affection For His Devotees
On the appearance day of Śrīla Prabhupāda, all that stirs in my mind is the account of his disappearance. That is why I am experiencing grief at a time of joy. Seeing my misery, the embodiment of auspiciousness, Śrīla Prabhupāda, in order to inspire me, exhibits his appearance day each year soon after the day of his disappearance. With the hope of again having his darśana through you, his dear-most associates, I have presented myself at your lotus feet. When one is deprived of meeting, the intense pain of separation is relieved only by death. Therefore, to console his devotees’ affliction caused by separation, Śrīla Prabhupāda has shown his mercy by manifesting his appearance pastime shortly after that of his disappearance. This is the distinctive quality of his tremendous compassion and bhakta-vatsalya, which I am unable to properly express in words.
The Ācārya’s Arrival in Śrī Dhāma
Śrīla Prabhupāda doubted that we would heed his instructions. Full of natural pride in his eternal identity, he adopted a grave and silent mood, intending to come to the bank of his ever-dear Śrī Rādhā-kuṇḍa. Understanding his inner intention, the Vaiṣṇavas, as Viṣṇudūtas, carried him on their heads and placed him in an especially well-decorated chariot that had many compartments (a metaphor for the special train that carried his body). As Śrīla Prabhupāda entered the largest and most exquisite compartment with his dearest servants, other servants followed, entering their respective chambers.
That Goloka chariot on the Earth planet had come for Śrīla Prabhupāda, Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s dearest, and it now travelled at high speed and, without interruption, reached Śrī Kṛṣṇa-dhāma (a metaphor for Kṛṣṇanagara, near Navadvīpa) in the blink of an eye. The raṇa-kṣetra, or battlefield (a metaphor for Raṇa-ghāṭa, the place of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s maternal home where he had spent his early childhood), is where the battle between knowledge and realization (vidya and vedana) took place. As the driver stopped here, Śrīla Prabhupāda, the ācārya, reminded me of his childhood pastime of acquiring knowledge, even though he was inherently possessed of realized knowledge. Like Badhva Ṛṣi, he apprised me of many things, without actually speaking. [Vāskali, the disciple of Badhva Ṛṣi, inquired from his teacher three times about the nature of brahma. By maintaining silence, Badhva Ṛṣi satisfied his enquiry. Since brahma lies beyond material words, silence was the appropriate response to his question. Similarly, Śrīla Prabhupāda spoke to Śrīla Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja through his silence – and reminded him of the teaching that the material ears have no power at all to grasp the divine instructions of śrī guru.]
At that time, I could not understand anything he was saying to me, due to my ignorance; but I fully realized that any attempt to hear the vāṇī, or divine instructions, from the personification of transcendental vāṇī using one’s material ears is futile.
Travelling from Kṛṣṇa-dhāma, the embodiment of śrī-vāṇī, Śrīla Sarasvatī Prabhu, reached Gaura-dhāma, which is non-different from Kṛṣṇa-dhāma. There, at Śrī Svānanda-sukhada-kuñja he met with Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura to inform him of his arrival. From there he went to the bank of Śrī Rādhā-kuṇḍa, which was manifested by the ācārya of Śrī Caitanya Maṭha on the premises of Candraśekhara Ācārya-bhavana at Śrī-Dhāma Māyāpura, where he met with Śrīla Gaura-kiśora dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja.
Nearby, on the bank of the kuṇḍa in Sevā-kuñja, he was decorated with flowers, garlands, sandalwood paste and various other ingredients collected by this degraded person. After this unfortunate person beautified his bodily lustre (lāvaṇya) [This refers to the placing of salt around his body.] Śrīla Prabhupāda situated himself in samādhi as the dear most associate of Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Madana-mohana. To give me the eligibility to render service to the Divine Couple under his guidance, he took up residence there forever. I now pray to the servants of Gurudeva that they may mercifully bestow upon me a fraction of the qualification needed to serve Gurupāda-padma in fulfilling his most cherished desire.
namaste gaura-vāṇī śrī-mūrtaye dīna-tāriṇe
rūpānuga-virudhāpa siddhānta-dhvānta-hāriṇe õ
Translated from the ‘Prabandhāvalī’ of Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja
(First published in Rays of The Harmonist No.16, Kārttika 2006)