Respecting Srila Prabhupada
As disciples and followers of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krsna Consciousness, we all have an eternal debt to Srila Prabhupada for his unprecedented sacrifice in freely distributing the mercy of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu all over the world.
At great personal inconvenience, Srila Prabhupada left the peaceful and holy village of Vrindavan at the advanced age of 69 to travel by steamship across the Atlantic Ocean, suffering two heart attacks en route to New York City and arriving with less than seven dollars in his pocket and with no help from anyone except his beloved Lord Sri Krsna. Almost immediately upon his arrival after more than 30 days at sea -- traveling by freighter and not by plane or luxury cruiser -- Prabhupada began his preaching work as ordered by his spiritual master, His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. Rather than focus on the wealthy or privileged class of society, Srila Prabhupada -- an educated and scholarly master of the Vedic literatures -- chose to humbly deliver his message to the poorest of the poor in the Bowery and later in the Lower East Side of New York City. In spite of his exalted position as an authorized representative of the highly esteemed Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya-Sampradaya in direct disciplic succession from the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krsna, Srila Prabhupada always remained humble and respectful to everyone -- especially to those whom he endeavored so hard to help with his personal instructions, encouragement and unlimited patience:
"I am very poor and I have nothing to return for your loving service, but I can simply pray to Krishna for your gradual advancement in Krishna Consciousness. I think that is the best blessing which we can have in this material existence." (Srila Prabhupada letter, October 21, 1968)
Due to our upbringing in the western world, we might not always fully comprehend the actions or statements of Krsna's pure devotee; but that is not uncommon or unnatural. After all, we're conditioned souls in this world and our material education and influences are sometimes at odds with the ancient conclusions of Vedic literature. At the same time, the bona fide scriptures and acaryas in disciplic succession from the Supreme Lord urge us to be humble and not to rely solely on our limited conceptions for a comprehensive understanding of all phenomena beyond our material experience.
As conditioned souls, we're all subject to the four defects of material life: (1), imperfect senses (2), the propensity to commit mistakes (3), the tendency to cheat others and (4), the propensity to fall into illusion. However, an aspiring devotee is willing to question his trust in these fallible tendencies and repose his faith in the higher spiritual authority of Krsna's representative in disciplic succession. Without this attitude of surrender and faith, there is no meaning to the word disciple. Of course, Srila Prabhupada never condemned sincere inquiries, often stating that doubt is a symptom of intelligence. But along with that doubt there must be a respectful attitude:
"It is said, therefore, by Vaisnava authorities even the most intelligent person cannot understand the plans and activities of a pure devotee. The exact words are vaisnavera kriya mudra vijne na bujhaya. A person who is thus always engaged in the service of the Lord or is always thinking and planning how to serve the Lord is to be considered completely liberated at present and in the future. His going back home, back to Godhead, is guaranteed. He is above all materialistic criticism, just as Krsna is above all criticism." (Bhagavad-gita As It Is, 9.28, Purport)
A pure devotee of Krsna is not an ordinary man of this world. Sometimes it might appear to our limited sense perception that his behavior is on the mundane platform just like the rest of us. But we are cautioned not to make a foolish mistake in this regard. Therefore Lord Caitanya clearly warns us for our own spiritual benefit:
"Caitanya Mahaprabhu has very strongly recommended that one not commit any offense at the lotus feet of a devotee. Such offenses are compared to a mad elephant because when a mad elephant enters a garden it causes devastation. Therefore one should be extremely careful not to commit offenses at the lotus feet of a pure devotee." (Srimad-Bhagavatam, 9.4.68, Purport)
Prabhupada has also warned against a disciple becoming "over-intelligent." He gave the example of the mouse who requested the blessing of a sage to make him a cat in order to protect him from being harassed by a cat. Later he asked to become a dog to save him from the unwanted attacks of a dog. Finally he desired to become a tiger to avoid being chased by tigers. Upon receiving this final blessing, he approached the sage who had bestowed the benedictions and boldly declared that he now wanted to eat the very benefactor who had helped him. So the sage finally cursed him, punar muniko bhava: "Again you become a mouse."
Here we learn not to bite the hand that feeds us. Almost every Vaisnava and aspiring Vaisnava in the Western world is indebted to Srila Prabhupada, who made the ultimate sacrifice for us all. No matter our personal doubts, at least we can afford him the respect and love that he so rightly earned and so richly deserves in a public forum read by people all over the world. Disrespect clothed in word jugglery can never impress the Lord or his sincere devotees. The test of a real disciple or follower is clearly described in the Svetasvatara Upanisad, 6.8: "Only unto those great souls who have implicit faith both in the Supreme Lord and the spiritual master are all the imports of Vedic knowledge automatically revealed."
Therefore we must always remember that a true disciple and follower is required to pass the test of the spiritual master before achieving the desired results:
"Sometimes Maya may come and try to interfere but we must not falter; we must always follow the chalked-out path laid down by the great acharyas, and in the end you will see." (Srila Prabhupada letter, 25/11/73)
All glories to Srila Prabhupada.