This is another vaiṣṇava holiday that should not go unnoticed if we are talking about saṅkīrtana because without Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta’s contribution we wouldn’t even be here. He did not start it, he did not finish it, but such is the beauty of devotee’s service that it is absolutely essential for the full manifestation of Kṛṣṇa’s glory and pastimes. You just can’t have Lord Caitanya’s mission without Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta, or without Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, or without our Śrīla Prabhupāda.
A few words should be said here about that last title – Prabhupāda. In Gauḍiyā Maṭha “Prabhupāda” was Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta but then our ISKCON devotees thought that our “Svāmījī” was a living representation of it and decided to call him that, too. When “Svāmījī” arrived in Māyāpura and saw this banner welcoming him as “Prabhupāda” he commented that his godbrothers wouldn’t like it. I’ve never seen their reaction discussed publicly in ISKCON, I bet it wasn’t favorable and it probably set the tone for all the subsequent interactions. Appropriating the title of you guru is a dangerous thing but our Prabhupāda accepted it and all the bad karma that came with it as a necessary burden. At the end of the day, in ISKCON we think that even “Prabhupāda” doesn’t give him the full honor and want to improve on it by considering other titles like “sampradāya-ācārya”, which is even higher, on par with Madhva himself. “Prabhupāda” withstood the test of time and no one objects to it anymore, they got over it, but when we talk about life of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī and hear this title used by his disciples it immediately stands out and puts us on our toes. We can’t remain indifferent and maybe we shouldn’t.
There’s a lot to be said about Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Prabhupāda (sometimes he is called that, too), but since it’s his departure day we’d better focus on this last pastime in his life. He sensed that it would come from far away, leaving hints in his speeches here and there for years, almost a decade. The famous “fire will burn” prediction about Gauḍiyā Maṭha made in private to our Śrīla Prabhupāda came in 1935, more than a year before his disappearance.
Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta didn’t like what he saw in the future and he knew he had little power to stop it, it was going to happen one way or another. Sometimes people ask why he didn’t stop the rot and why he didn’t straighten out his disciples, why he didn’t make sure that GBC was firmly established and working prior to his leaving. These are all good questions and we know that our Prabhupāda did it right, obviously learning the lesson from GM. It is, however, not true that Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta didn’t do enough himself – that is a wrong expectation from a devotee. We only do what Kṛṣṇa wants us to do and we do not interfere with His plans for the material world. Sometimes He manifests His pastime of saṅkīrtana in full and sometimes He winds it.
That’s why I think Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta knew what was going to happen, he saw the signs, but he did only what is eternally assigned to the spirit soul – glorify the service to the Lord, perform saṅkīrtana. That’s the only thing that can counteract inauspicious influences in our hearts. It might not have been enough to stop material energy from rotting but if his unfortunate disciples kept that message in their hearts then their lives would have become successful despite all the external failures. We do not perform saṅkīrtana to change the world, we perform it to change the souls. The world will keep rotting all throughout the Kali yuga, it’s Lord’s plan and we should let it go, our interest doesn’t lie here.
I’m saying that trying to enact some external decrees enforcing this and that, prohibiting these people from doing this, ordering those people to do that, establishing some structures and notarizing them with mundane authorities is a fool’s errand. We need to save souls, the material nature will cooperate according to Kṛṣṇa’s will, not ours. If Kṛṣṇa wants to destroy something then some fancy piece of paper with a stamp on it is not going to stop Him.
There’s a famous last speech delivered by Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta to his disciples from his deathbed. It was about a week before his leaving and it illustrates this point brilliantly – do not even bother to remember with these mundane concerns and concentrate only on what is truly important. This speech is quite long for the blog so I’ll just leave it here and continue in the next post:
I have upset many persons’ minds. Many might have considered me their enemy, because I was obliged to speak the plain truth of service and devotion toward the Absolute Godhead. I have given them all those troubles only so they might turn their face toward the Personality of Godhead without any desire for gain, and with unalloyed devotion. Surely some day they will be able to understand that.
All of you propagate the message of Rūpa-Raghunātha with supreme enthusiasm. Our ultimate desire is to become dust at the lotus feet of the rūpānugas. All should remain united in following the āśraya-vigraha, for the sake of serving the advaya-jñāna. In this ephemeral sphere you should live somehow or other only for Hari-bhajana. In spite of all dangers, criticisms, and discomforts, do not give up Hari-bhajana. Don’t be disappointed that most people in the world do not accept topics of unduplicitious Kṛṣṇa-sevā. Do not forsake your own bhajana of Kṛṣṇa-kathā-śravaṇa-kīrtana, which is your all in all. With humility like a straw and forbearance like a tree, you should always perform Hari-kīrtana.
Let our bodies, which are like those of aged oxen, be offered into the saṅkīrtana-yajña of Lord Caitanya and His associates. We do not aspire to be any kind of heroes of karma or dharma, but our constitutional position and all in all is to in every birth to become dust at Śrī Rūpa-Raghunātha’s lotus feet. The bhaktivinoda-dhārā will never stop. With all your energy, devote yourself to fulfilling the desire of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura. There are many among you who are well qualified and able workers. We have no other wish whatsoever. Our only motto is:
adadānas tṛṇaṁ dantair idaṁ yāce punaḥ punaḥ
śrīmad-rūpa-padāmbhoja- dhūliḥ syāṁ janma-janmani
Taking a blade of grass between my teeth, I fall down and pray again and again to become dust at Śrīmad Rūpa’s lotus feet, birth after birth.
Certainly there are multiple inconveniences while we are in this mortal domain, but there is no need either to be overwhelmed by them or to try to overcome them. Rather, even during the duration of our present life we must become acquainted with what we shall gain after surpassing all those difficulties, and what shall be the mode of our permanent existence. In this world we are compelled to make decisions regarding objects that evoke our attraction and revulsion, both those that we want and those we do not. Attachment and detachment in this damned existence increase according to the degree that we are separated from Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet. When we are able to transcend the position of attachment and detachment in this world of death and are attracted by the holy name of Godhead, then only can we understand the taste of Kṛṣṇa-sevā-rasa.
At the present time, Kṛṣṇa’s instructions seem highly startling and perplexing. Knowingly or unknowingly, everyone who is considered a human being is more or less struggling to eliminate those invading elements that baffle our perception of our eternal need. Our only requirement is to enter into the kingdom of our eternal necessity, by going beyond dualities. We have no love or hatred toward anyone in this world. All arrangements made herein are but temporary. Therefore that supreme goal is indispensably necessary for everyone in this world. All of you should work unitedly and harmoniously for the same objective of attaining eligibilty for sevā to the original āśraya-vigraha.
May the conceptions of the rūpānugas flow in the world. Let us never feel the slightest dejection while engaged in the seven-tongued flame of saṅkīrtana-yajña. Only if we have undaunted and ever-increasing attachment for it shall we achieve all perfection. Under the guidance of the rūpānugas, all of you should fearlessly and with utmost energy preach Rūpa-Raghunātha-kathā.
Let the import of it simply sink in before offering a commentary. It’s so beautiful as it is that it can be read again and again and even memorized if possible.