I would like to say a few things about Śrīla Prabhupāda. Today I thought of three things in particular regarding His Divine Grace – his mission, his highest ideal and his achievements. Each one of these subjects could indeed be the topic of a book.
His mission is the mission of all Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas, particularly those who are the followers of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura in these modern times. Recently, on Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja’s Vyāsa-Pūjā, we mentioned the name Śrī Caitanya Sārasvata – Śrī Caitanya means Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya Mahāprabhu, and sārasvata means ‘from Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura.’ This is our line of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism. Our Guru Mahārāja’s mission is the mission of all those Vaiṣṇavas from the time of Caitanya Mahāprabhu down to Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, and those who have followed in his footsteps.
Our Guru Mahārāja’s ideals are also the highest ideals of all Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas. When we begin in this life, we may have some sukṛti from our previous lives. Those who are born in India are accredited with some great sukṛti. Once, Prabhupāda said that an ant in India is more fortunate than a human born in another country. That same week he also said that a rickshaw-wallah in Vṛndāvana is superior to the president of the United States. If you speak to a few of the older rickshaw-wallahs and if you have a chance to meet the president of the United States, you will understand this point. Whoever is born in India has some sukṛti and they begin from there. Those who are born in foreign countries have no sukṛti and we must begin from that stage. But regardless of where we begin, very few, if any of us, are born with a high ideal in mind. Within Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism there is an extremely high ideal and this is exemplified in the lives of great ācāryas since the time of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Thus, our Guru Mahārāja’s high ideal is the same ideal shared by all bona-fide Vaiṣṇavas.
Thus, his mission and ideal is the same as other Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas, but as far as his achievements are concerned it could be said that it is possible only in dreams. Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja said, “Swami Mahārāja has done a miracle.” What is a miracle? A miracle is something beyond our capabilities, something which is beyond ordinary human strength. Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja also said, “The Divine came down through him and worked through him. Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu personally lived within him. Nityānanda Prabhu lived within the body of Swami Mahārāja and danced a miracle for twelve years all over the world.” In regards to Śrīla Prabhupāda’s achievements, I have also heard many of our friends and well-wishers in the Gauḍīya Maṭha quote this verse:
pṛthivīte āche yadi nagarādi-grāma
sarvatra pracāra haibe mora nāma
“In every town and village of the world, My Holy Name will be sung.” (Caitanya-bhāgavata, Antya-khaṇḍa. 4.126)
We cannot conceive how this happened. How will the Holy Name of Kṛṣṇa be sung in every town and village of the world? Have you ever been to Khartoum in Sudan, Addis Ababa in Ethiopia or Uganda? Have you ever been to a remote village in Chile? You can go to any place on the globe nowadays and the name of Kṛṣṇa will be there to greet you. Some people say that ‘Hare Kṛṣṇa’ has become ‘a household word,’ but actually the name of Kṛṣṇa is not a household word – it is a divine sound. In the 1970’s I went to the ancient city of Oman in North Africa. When we got off the plane, the baggage handler looked at me and said, “Hare Kṛṣṇa!” We thought we were bringing the Holy Name there, but that fellow had been to London and seen the devotees there, so when he saw us he remembered, “Oh, Hare Kṛṣṇa people.” From the remote aborigine villages of Africa to Trafalgar Square in London, to Times Square in New York – all around the world the Name of Kṛṣṇa is there. That is to Śrīla Prabhupāda’s credit. Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja used to say, “We are so proud of what Swami Mahārāja has done. We are so proud. We could not think how it will happen. He has done a miracle.”
It seems that there is an intrinsic characteristic within Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism since time immemorial, that whenever there is an ācārya, past or present, there is a controversy surrounding him. It seems that is inherent from the spiritual world. There is even controversy within the eternal līlā of Kṛṣṇa in Vṛndāvana – the vātsalya-rasa section has some complaint about the mādhurya section. Maybe such controversies stem from there, or maybe they simple come due to the nature of this world, which is always filled with controversy. Nonetheless, we see that in the lives of so many great personalities, some controversy surrounds them. One of the reasons is because the contribution of an ācārya breaks the norm. We have an expression in modern English – ‘a wake-up call.’ It is like an alarm going off. The plane of this world is sedentary – it always wants to slow us down. Śrīla Prabhupāda used to say that if a sannyāsī stays in one place, he will become expert in eating and sleeping. That is the nature of this world. We settle down and become fixed in our ways. The nature of this world always goes down, not up. Those whom we mark as ācāryas make major contributions. They are doing something to wake up, not just the masses of ignorant people, but they are often times shaking the devotees also. Thus, whenever a great personality appears in our midst, it seems like there is always some controversy surrounding him and our Guru Mahārāja was no exception to that. Controversy means complaint, but this is not a new thing. There are certain sections here in Vṛndāvana who claim that Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura was not initiated, therefore everything after him is useless! That propaganda was made sixty years ago and it was passed down within their little groups. Nowadays, people our age or even younger make the same claims. They will fight and we will defeat them! At present, there are devotees in various missions all over the world – all that is due to Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda.
Our Guru Mahārāja carried the dignity of the Gauḍīya Maṭha and the Gauḍīya sampradāya all over the world, and so that it would be known and there would be no mistake about it, he ordered that the logo of the Gauḍīya Maṭha should be painted on both sides of the gate at his headquarters in Māyāpura. We are Gauḍīya Maṭha, and anyone who thinks otherwise is both blind and foolish. Our Guru Mahārāja carried what he had been given by the order of Śrīla Sarasvatī Ṭhākura. In this contemporary world, everything begins with Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura. Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas wearing saffron cloth began with Sarasvatī Ṭhākura; carrying the sannyāsa-daṇḍa started with Sarasvatī Ṭhākura – so many things that we do in this preaching mission was started by him, and his followers are carrying this far and wide – both in India and abroad.
We do not think that our Guru Mahārāja is the only preacher, but we must say that his contribution in these modern times was something that other could only dream about. It was unthinkable how it would happen. Even in his own dreams, he could not actually conceive how it would happen! However, he was always very positive. When he had absolutely nothing but the cloth that he wore and a few books, one man in New York asked him, “Do you have any mission?” Śrīla Prabhupāda told, “Yes, I have temples all over the world in many countries – they are just not manifest yet.” But that was not simply a statement – he knew. Why? He had guru-niṣṭhā. He had prema also, and he had faith in the order of his guru. He knew, “I am here on the order of Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, therefore all success will come to me.” He had that conviction and I have seen it. He used to say, “My Guru Mahārāja is always by my side.”
Once, I asked Śrīla Bhakti Pramoda Purī Mahārāja, “Is there any tape recording of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura?” He looked at me as if I were a fool and said, “Bābā, Sarasvatī Ṭhākura is always present with us.” We are thinking that we must have a tape machine to find him, but those disciples who have faith, know that he is with them always. Similarly, if we have faith in our Guru Mahārāja, his presence and his blessings are always with us and the potency to succeed in following his order is also there. With sincerity we must try to follow that and we may be successful by his grace.
(From a lecture given on Śrīla Prabhupāda’s disappearance day, in Vṛndāvana, on November 7th, 1994)