by Tamohara dasa
Sometimes devotees say that HDG 108 A.C. Bhakivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada should never be thought of as influenced by anything of this world, including birth place, nationality, etc. For enjoyment's sake, I would like to briefly state that describing Srila Prabhupada within the context of his pastimes, for example, as being a modern Calcutta-raised and well-educated Vaisnava, is quite different from saying that he was materially controlled by any of these circumstances!
Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu appeared in Bengal. He wore the clothes of a Bengali brahmana. He enjoyed nice Bengali-style sweets, studied Bengali language. He excelled at a Bengali school, and took His studies seriously, indeed. Do we say "Bengali scholar Mahaprabhu"? Of course not, it would be offensive, if meant to limit Him. Yet, within His pastimes, this observation is fully correct. Do we serve Mahaprabhu Ukrainian style vegetarian food, nice as it may be? We do not; primarily He eats like a Bengali.
Does this make Him a Bengali? By dint of the fact that His pastime glorifies so many things Bengali, yes. Bengali-ness decorates the form of Mahaprabhu, not that He is necessarily limited by the context. He is not a Bengali, being Godhead, yet in another sense, He very much is, as it is both His body and His pastime. For example, He used to enjoy joking with his associates such as Mukunda and Jagadananda about the amusing odd accents of persons from the other, eastern side of Bengal; so His pastimes take these nuances into account, in fact require them!
Similarly, our Srila Prabhupada loved Bengal, coming from an historic lineage of Bengali Vaisnava brahmanas and pure devotees of Gopala and Nityananda Prabhu, and Sri Sri Radha Krsna. His family line was historically aristocratic, respected, influential, and well-to-do among the Vaisnavas of Bengal. He spoke sophisticatedly, as a well-educated big city lad, and knew well how to approach scientists, religionists of all faiths, and the various cults and Hindu sects, etc. He loved sometimes hot salty kacauris, a very Bengali food, as well as rice and capatis. He was a Gandhian in early years, and his farm and cultural policies reflect this approach to life. I try to purchase only khadi dhoti cloth to this day, in remembrance of his attitudes and in support of the principles of self-dependence!
Definitely, he was a Bengali! Yet truly, he was NOT a Bengali, but an eternally liberated servant of Godhead! Both are correct, but when speaking of his manifest pastimes, we can definitely say he carries the aura and attitudes of his frankly blessed countrymen, like a bracelet around the arm, decorating, but not containing him. Denying this aspect of his human-ness serves no real purpose, and can even be somewhat offensive. In this sense, his is like the Jesus depicted by the Christian mystics; God and yet also Man, the son of man. Having a cultural context appropriate for Srila Prabhupada's purposes of appearance does not make him a conditioned soul or an ordinary material man.
"Everybodys gotta to be Someplace!", was my father's joke to me, as a boy. This applies here, as the eternal Being, Srila Prabhupada, appeared within this worldy rasic context, hence we worship and relish the particular appearance's fragrance, not think like impersonalists and say there is no influence, artificially. We may focus on the aspects of Srila Prabhupada most dear to our individual hearts and understandings. There is no contradiction, unless we impose our own limits, within our minds, upon him, and thus alter or imagine his mood, as opposed to accepting his instructions, example, and inner inspiration as our eternal guide, leader, and well -wisher, as they are, even within the context of being externally a scholarly world-wise Bengali Vaisnava gentleman.