(A small child offers a flower to Srila Prabhupada)
Over the years I've received numerous messages from readers expressing their dismay that they didn't have a chance to see and serve Srila Prabhupada while he was physically present on the planet. My reply has always been that Srila Prabhupada is not limited by time and space like an ordinary conditioned soul and he can reciprocate with anyone who sincerely prays to him and follows his instructions to the best of one's individual capacity. Srila Prabhupada has made this abundantly clear in his books and letters which have been quoted on this website many times.
"As far as my blessing is concerned, it does not require my physical presence. If you are chanting Hare Krishna there, and following my instructions, reading the books, taking only Krishna prasadam etc., then there is no question of your not receiving the blessings of Lord Chaitanya, whose mission I am humbly trying to push on."
(Srila Prabhupada Letter, June 30, 1974)
Prabhupada has assured us that he is present in his pictures and words, so there is no reason to feel that one has missed the chance to have a relationship with Srila Prabhupada. He is still with us. We simply have to invite Prabhupada into our hearts and worship him with love and devotion. Someone may think that "I'm not a big devotee," or "I'm not talented enough," or "I don't understand the philosophy," or "I'm too sick or old," or whatever; but there are no material impediments to devotional service.
"To prosecute Krishna Consciousness there is no limitation, no material impediment can stop progress of Krishna Consciousness. That is the symptom of spiritual life. Spiritual life doesn't depend on material conditions."
(Srila Prabhupada Letter, February 13, 1968)
Just as Krishna doesn't demand anything complicated or fancy -- only a leaf, a flower, fruit or water -- Srila Prabhupada is the same. He wants our love and not a big show.
I'll always remember the endearing story I once heard while living in the Montreal temple in the '70s about a new devotee who spoke aloud his Vyasa-Puja offering to Srila Prabhupada when Prabhupada was there in 1968. In a faltering voice the young bhakta said that all he wanted in life was to roll chapatis and listen to Prabhupada's lecture tapes in the kitchen. Srila Prabhupada was visibly moved with tears in his eyes and said, "Thank you very much" in a choked voice. This simple-hearted devotee had pleased the spiritual master with his sincere offering. (This story has been confirmed by Yamuna dasi.) As Prabhupada has said, there is no big or small in Krishna consciousness.
"Actually in our movement there is no such thing as big or small. Everyone is a devotee."
(Srila Prabhupada Letter, September 19, 1974)
It's important to note that Srila Prabhupada is equal to everyone. No one has a monopoly on Prabhupada's mercy and no one owns Srila Prabhupada. His blessings are available to one and all. Prabhupada used to say that when we have finished eating a meal, we don't need a certificate from anyone saying that we are full. We know it ourselves. Similarly, when we make the connection with Srila Prabhupada there is no room for doubt or uncertainty. We know it ourselves. Thankfully, Srila Prabhupada's mercy is still available. We just have to reach out and take it.
"Actually the mercy of the bona fide spiritual master is there equally for everyone. Just like the sun is shining equally everywhere, yet there are those who refuse to come out completely into the light."
(Srila Prabhupada Letter, March 30, 1971)
Prabhupada is the master at whose feet all other masters sit. Srila Prabhupada's service to Guru and Krishna is unparalleled and therefore he is worshipable by all living entities. In fact, Krishna wants His pure devotee glorified and so it's our duty to honor and serve him as best as possible. The more we serve Prabhupada, the more joyful we become because Krishna is pleased. In this way, we'll live with Srila Prabhupada forever.
"Please always try to remember me by my teachings and we shall always be together. Just like I have written in the first publications of Srimad-Bhagwatam, 'The Spiritual Master lives forever by His divine instruction, and the disciple lives with him.' Because I have always served my Guru Maharaj and followed His teachings, I am now even never separated from Him. Sometimes Maya may come and try to interfere but we must not falter, we must always follow the chalked out path layed down by the great acharyas, and in the end you will see."
(Srila Prabhupada Letter, November 25, 1973)
All glories to Srila Prabhupada.