The Disappearance Day of
Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada
(from the book Shri Prabandhavali by Shri Shrimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja)
Today is the anniversary of the day of separation from nitya-lila pravista om vishnupada astottara-shata Shri Shrimad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Prabhupada. It is the day of pancami, and he also appeared on pancami. He took birth in the home of Bhaktivinoda Thakura, who is an eternal associate of both Shri Krishna and Shri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Just as the sage Bhagiratha brought the Ganga to this world, Bhaktivinoda Thakura was the great personality who brought the current of bhakti to this world in the modern era. When the so-called gosvamis were making a business out of bhakti while engaging in varieties of worldly enjoyment, when in the name of Mahaprabhu so many kinds of bogus philosophies were prevalent, such as sakhi-beki, smarta-jati, sahajiya, etc. – at that time Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura came. After that, Prabhupada appeared in the form of his son, Bimala Prasada. If these two great personalities had not appeared, then shuddha-bhakti would not exist in the world today. And from the time that they disappeared, society began reverting back to its previous condition. At first there were thirteen known sahajiya cults, then our Guru Maharaja, Shrila Bhakti Prajnana Keshava Gosvami, counted thirty-nine. And how many there are now, no one knows.
I am also seeing how things are gradually changing. We saw how renounced the devotees were before. For instance, we never used to see socks on the feet of any Vaishnava, and we never saw devotees wearing such sweaters and cadaras as we do now. They only wore the bare necessities of clothing and a cheap blanket, even as they attended mangala-arati in the morning cold. It is only after the disappearance of Prabhupada that devotees can be seen to wear these other things. They would live with such simplicity, eating only shak, rice and a thin dahl, but in comparison to them, just look at the way we are living! And I speak for myself also – their knowledge, their renunciation and their spiritual conception were of such a high standard that in comparison to them we are so inferior.
The period between Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura and Bhaktivinoda Thakura was an age of darkness for Gaudiya Vaishnavism. Living at that time were some real Vaishnavas who performed real bhajana, but mostly, just as we still see sometimes today, the so-called Vaishnavas only performed rituals for wages. When someone would die, people would call the Gaudiya Vaishnava babajis, who would come and chant some ceremonial kirtana and perform other rituals for wages. And there was so much misconduct in their behaviour. Seeing this, Bhaktivinoda Thakura thought, “These people are Vaishnavas? The conception of Mahaprabhu has completely vanished. What can be done?” He was very worried. Bhaktivinoda Thakura endeavoured to his utmost, but changes did not come about in his lifetime to the degree that he would have liked. He went from town to town and village to village inaugurating the nama-hatta. In each village he would assemble four or five of the religious men, form a committee and hold programmes for harinama-kirtana on Sundays. Gradually it spread from one village to the next, but overall his preaching was limited to Navadvipa, Calcutta and the rest of Bengal.
He published the magazine Sajjana-toshani, and through its medium he gradually published Shri Caitanya-caritamrita and other books in instalments. He made a circle of devotees, and also revealed Navadvipa-dhama through his writings, although the scholars of society and the sahajiyas didn’t accept his ideology. Then Prabhupada appeared in Puri. Because Bhaktivinoda Thakura was a district magistrate, he would be transferred here and there, but he would always keep Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu and Caitanya-caritamrita with him and explain them to his son. Prabhupada received so much instruction from him, but we should understand that Prabhupada is an eternally liberated soul; there was no one in the world like him. Without being educated in school or college he learned all subjects very quickly and became a great scholar in Sanskrit. His English was so high that even professors of English could not understand it. I have been told by some learned Western devotees that when reading his Brahma-samhita, they must repeatedly consult the dictionary. And his Bengali was also of such a high standard that even eminent scholars found it difficult to follow. He said that spiritual language should be like that; it shouldn’t be so simple to understand. As one progresses spiritually by remaining in the company of Vaishnavas, he will be able to understand spiritual vernacular.
At the age of seven or eight, Prabhupada began worshipping a deity of Kurmadeva, and Bhaktivinoda Thakura gave him the maha-mantra and other mantras for his puja. At the age of eighteen, all of the scholars of astronomy in Bengal gave him the title “Sarasvati”. After that he attended college but quarrelled with the professors, saying, “Will I learn from you, or teach you?” When he abandoned his studies, Bhaktivinoda Thakura and other family members became concerned, so they took him to Puri where he began studying at Satasana Äshrama, which is where Svarupa Damodara and Raghunatha dasa Gosvami had lived. Vaishnavas used to regularly meet there, and now Shrila Siddhanti Maharaja has a matha at that very place. There Prabhupada began giving readings from Caitanya-caritamrita. Present there were some babajis who considered themselves rasika, and when they heard Prabhupada’s explanations, they became inimical to him. Seeing this, Bhaktivinoda Thakura took him away from there and had him begin teaching the son of the king of Tripura.
Prabhupada had a great library of Vaishnava literature, and having read through it thoroughly, he began teaching the son of the king in such a way that the boy accepted a chanting mala and began wearing tilaka. He became detached from the world, and gradually, hearing hari-katha became his sole interest. Seeing this, the queen became very annoyed and said to the king, “This boy will become useless! Then, after your demise, what will happen? Who will make offerings to our departed souls? He will become a renunciate, and everything will be ruined! Quickly get rid of this teacher. Give him four hundred rupees to go – we don’t need money, we need a son!” That was approximately one hundred years ago, so you can imagine how much four hundred rupees was worth then. The queen put so much pressure on her husband that in the end he approached Prabhupada and very humbly said, “It is a matter of great unhappiness that our family members are not in favour of you; they are afraid that the boy will take up bhakti and become a renunciate. I consider that it has been our great good fortune to have met a person like you and had our son educated by you, but the others don’t understand.” The king approached Bhaktivinoda Thakura and offered the money to him, but without accepting it they left there.
Then Bhaktivinoda Thakura started a homeopathic shop. When the shop was unsuccessful, he thought, “I was not made to run a shop anyway,” and he went and purchased some land in Mayapura. After locating the birthplace of Mahaprabhu, he installed deities there of Gaura, Vishnupriya and Lakshmipriya, as well as small Radha-Krishna murtis. After Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s disappearance, Prabhupada was determined to follow the Navadvipa-dhama parikrama that his father had written, and to attract people he invited great kirtana performers to attend. He set up a large tent, thousands of people came for the parikrama, and there the katha of shuddha-bhagavad-bhakti commenced.
Gradually, qualified youths of only sixteen, seventeen and eighteen years, whose hearts were soft and pure, came forward, and Prabhupada made them into brahmacharis and sannyasis. With great ease he was able to train them, but those who were over fifty years old, like parrots could not be taught anything new. Then devotees like our Guru Maharaja, Bon Maharaja, Bhakti Pradipa Tirtha Maharaja, Bhakti Vilasa Tirtha Maharaja, Aranya Maharaja and Narahari Prabhu came. In the beginning there in Mayapura, Narahari Prabhu would offer arati while Prabhupada played the hand-held gong, and gradually the preaching started. The convention of tridandi-sannyasa was established, and the result is that today the name and conception of Caitanya Mahaprabhu are being vigorously preached. Within eleven years, from 1926–37, preaching was spread everywhere, but before that, so much time was spent in merely setting the foundation. Prabhupada published many magazines – daily, weekly, monthly – in the Sanskrit, Bengali, Hindi, Orissan, English and Assamese languages, and very easily we have all inherited the fruit of his endeavour. He established the Gaudiya line very strictly with great endeavour, and there were so many difficulties in his preaching campaign that we cannot even imagine them. There was so much opposition to Prabhupada’s preaching at that time that his disciples were not even allowed to enter the mandiras in Vrindavana or Navadvipa.
Prabhupada began culturing the creeper of devotion by cutting off all of the unnecessary branches and sub-branches. How? First of all he revised the guru-parampara. He said that we are of Mahaprabhu’s line, and he removed the names of those who were not fully perfected. After establishing the names of Brahma, Narada and Vyasa, he went straight to Madhva. Prabhupada accepted the names of those from whom the people of this world would get the most benefit, and mostly they were brahmacaris. For the most part he didn’t accept the names of those who had been grihasthas for a long time. After Madhva, he recognised some special personalities, and then he went to the name of Madhavendra Puri. Everyone accepts him, and then from him there is Ishvara Puri, Svarupa Damodara, the Six Gosvamis, and then Krishnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami. At this point some had divided into the lines of Nityananda Prabhu, Advaita Äcarya, Gadadhara Pandita, Vakreshvara Pandita, Lokanatha Gosvami and others, but Prabhupada said, “We accept in our line those who are fully perfected souls, who know the correct siddhanta and who are rasika, wherever they are.” In this way all of the various lines were represented in our parampara in one place or another.
There are so many lines of disciplic succession, but Prabhupada said that we will recognise the guru-parampara, not the disciplic succession. The guru-parampara is composed solely of those who were bhagavata-gurus, even if they made no disciples and there is therefore no direct disciplic line coming from them. Some of them may not have initiated any disciples at all, but still they are jagad-gurus. In this way, with all-pervading vision he collected all the mahajanas and made what is known as the bhagavata-parampara or guru-parampara.
After the departure of Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, so many familial disciplic lines arose, but Prabhupada ignored them and gave recognition to Baladeva Vidyabhushana, and then Jagannatha dasa Babaji. He accepted only those in whom he detected the real spiritual siddhanta. Simply receiving the mantra in one’s ear and wearing a dhoti or other cloth given by the guru does not qualify one as the guru’s successor. Bhaktivinoda Thakura did not receive any mantra from Jagannatha dasa Babaji Maharaja, so how was he his disciple? He was a disciple of his conception: his feelings towards Krishna, his conception of rasa and his conception of tattva. This is a disciple. Most people can’t understand this, but being able to see with such insight, Prabhupada declared this to be our line. Gaura-kishora dasa Babaji Maharaja was also not an initiated disciple of Bhaktivinoda Thakura, but he embraced all of Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s sentiments and conceptions, and due to this his name appears next in the succession. At this point, all of the babajis said, “Whose disciple is Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati? Who gave him sannyasa? Why doesn’t he wear the same cloth as Sanatana Gosvami did? In our sampradaya, after Nityananda Prabhu and Svarupa Damodara, everyone wore white cloth, but we see that he wears saffron cloth and has accepted a danda. How can he do this?” But what relation does wearing either orange or white cloth have with bhakti? Is there any relation?
kiba vipra, kiba nyasi, shudra kene naya
yei krishna-tattva-vetta, sei ‘guru’ haya
Shri Caitanya-caritamrita (Madhya-lila 8.128)
Whether one is a brahmana, a sannyasi or a sudra, if he knows krishna-tattva, then he is a guru, so what to speak of being a Vaishnava? Prabhupada was thinking, “We are not qualified to accept the dress that was worn by such great personalities as Rupa, Sanatana, Jiva and Krishnadasa Kaviraja. We will remain in the ordinary dress of sannyasis and will not accept the dress of paramahamsa-babajis. Remaining within the varnashrama system as brahmacharis and sannyasis, we will keep the ideal of that paramahamsa dress above our heads. Otherwise, if we accept that dress and commit sinful activities, it will be aparadha at the feet of Rupa and Sanatana.” Some babajis criticised him for training brahmacharis and giving them the sacred thread, but our Guru Maharaja said that those babajis were all fools, like animals. They wore paramahamsa dress and gave the elevated gopi-mantra to anyone and everyone who came, yet Prabhupada was only training brahmacharis and giving them instructions on how to control the senses – so which is correct? First Prabhupada wanted us to understand what is siddhanta, i.e. jiva-tattva, maya-tattva and bhagavat-tattva, and how to avoid maya in the forms of kanaka (wealth), kamini (women) and pratistha (prestige) – these are the beginning instructions. Gopi-bhava is very elevated; first we must understand that “I am krishna-dasa” and begin taking harinama. But these babajis immediately give their conception of gopi-bhava to whoever approaches them; then they all chant “I am a gopi, I am a gopi” and in this way create a disturbance in society.
Every morning in our matha we sing the song in which Prabhupada established the bhagavata-parampara: krishna haite catur-mukha... In his composing of this song, he accepted all of the great, perfected personalities from different lines and declared, “This is the line of Gaura.” If Prabhupada had not come, then today would the name of Mahaprabhu and talks from Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam be found anywhere? Here in Mathura, in Vraja and everywhere else, gaura-kirtana and hari-katha are still going on and have not vanished. Therefore the world will forever remain indebted to Prabhupada for his preaching. He never approached wealthy people, but he would take one paisa from each person he met. And our Guru Maharaja did the same. Although he was from a wealthy family, he would take a wooden box with a slot in it into the market and also onto the trains, trams and buses. He would speak with people from all classes, and in this way the preaching spread in all directions. We should also engage in such a pure form of preaching, and not just remain idle after hearing this. As if giving an injection, you should all encourage others to start taking harinama and hearing this conception, whether you are a man or lady, married or unmarried. And don’t think that because one is not educated he cannot do it. Did Haridasa Thakura have any college degree? Did Raghunatha dasa Gosvami and others? But their activities were first class, and their conceptions were extremely high.
We are regularly hearing tattva from scriptures such as Shrimad-Bhagavatam and Brihad-bhagavatamrita, but how will others also get the opportunity to hear it? After hearing it we should take it to many other people, and this is the duty of each and every one of us. With great love we should take harinama and encourage others to chant it. We should hear siddhanta ourselves and then help others to understand it; that will give Prabhupada great pleasure. To the very end of his life Prabhupada said, “We are mere labourers; we are the peons of bhagavat-katha.” He never made himself a permanent living situation in an opulent temple, but always kept moving. These days we do things a little differently, but we should always try to follow not only Prabhupada’s philosophical conception but the ideal he showed through his own behaviour as well.
These ideas serve as the very foundation of bhakti, and if this foundation is not established, then we will fall from hearing the higher levels of katha. For instance, Bhaktivinoda Thakura has written a song entitled Vibhavari Shesha, which includes lines such as:
nama-sudha-rasa, gao krishna-yasha,
rakho vacana mana mora
Shri Krishna is the life of the Yamuna, He is always engaged in amorous pastimes and He is the moon of the gopis’ hearts. Sing the glories of He whose name is pure rasa – O mind, always remember these words.
In our matha we sing this every day, and there is certainly some benefit in it, but do we understand the complete bhava contained within it? Nothing remains outside these lines – not the rasa-lila, not the Bhramara-gita, not the Venu-gita, nothing. Everything is there, and all of the previous lines of this song are similarly saturated with both rasa and tattva. Phula-shara-yojaka kama – what is the meaning? The complete kama-gayatri has come here. Shara means an arrow, an arrow of kama (desire) which Krishna places on His bow. How many of these arrows does Krishna have? Five: His sidelong glances and His eyebrows, cheeks, nose and smile. So tell me, is there anything remaining outside these lines?
Helping the people of the world to understand these topics is the real task of the guru-parampara – those who are conversant with rasa, the diksha- and shiksha-gurus. If we examine one line of this song after another, then for so many days so many lectures could be given, and our hearts would become full of rasa and divine bliss upon hearing their full meaning. So much bhava has been put into each word by Bhaktivinoda Thakura, and it is the same with the compositions of Narottama Thakura and Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura. To understand what our acharyas have given, great intelligence and bhava are required. And if we have such a bhava in our hearts by which we can understand the poetry and the special characteristics of acharyas like Prabhupada, then wherever we may go, it will always remain with us.
In explaining the line param vijayate shri-krishna-sankirtanam from the first verse of Mahaprabhu’s Shikshastaka, Prabhupada wrote that this is the Gaudiya Matha’s mode of worship. There are three stages: the beginning stage of sadhana, the intermediate stage of bhava, and the final attainment produced by that bhava, which is called prema. Sadhana is that practice by which shuddha-sattva-bhava arises, and if it does not arise, what one is practising cannot be called sadhana. We can all examine ourselves and see if we are practising the sadhana that makes bhava arise or not. Are the symptoms there, or not? We may not even have the proper aim in our sadhana. If someone is striking a match, what is his aim? To obtain a flame; and if after striking one match a flame is not obtained, then he will take another match and try again. Our endeavour to reach the sadhya (final attainment) through the practice of sadhana is like that. Kshud-anuvritti (spiritual “hunger”), tusti (satisfaction) and pusti (strength) – these three things should appear, and if they don’t, then we are not really practising sadhana and cannot be called real sadhakas. Whatever we do should be done with this vision: “By performing this activity, bhava for Krishna will arise.” Is the match producing a flame or not? If we see that our sadhana is producing attachment for material results such as pratistha, then we are moving in the wrong direction. Therefore we should understand this point well: the sole aim of kirtana is to make bhava arise.
Ceto-darpana-marjanam: in our practice of nama-sankirtana, have our minds become purified or not? Are our minds going towards wealth, material enjoyment and prestige? Do we consider material enjoyment to be poisonous or favourable to us? Material enjoyment is poison. Haridasa Thakura was taking harinama in a solitary place when a very beautiful woman approached him and said, “Prabhu, you will no longer have to cook for yourself. You won’t have to fetch water, and I will also serve your tulasi plant. You can just chant harinama all day and I will perform all of your tasks. And if you become fatigued, I will massage your feet.” But did Haridasa Thakura accept her?
All types of material enjoyment should be understood to be poison, whether one is a man or a woman. If we consider things like luxurious food and accommodation to be favourable to us, then the mirror of the mind will not be cleansed and the reflection of one’s own spiritual form will not be visible. The mirror should be made pure; there should be no dust or anything on it. We should be able to see what is our illusory body, what is our spiritual body and what all of our faults are; but it is our great misfortune that instead we only see others’ faults. The first type of contamination affecting our minds is thinking that we are the material body. We are eternal servants of Krishna, but the most prevalent dust on the mirror of the mind is thinking that we are the material body. Endeavouring for the happiness of the body is dust on the mirror, or contamination on our minds.
There are so many anarthas: swarupa-bhrama (bewilderment concerning one’s actual form and nature), asat-trishna (desire for temporary things), hridaya-daurbalya (weakness of heart) and aparadha (offences). Besides these, described in Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura’s Madhurya-kadambini, are utsahamayi (false confidence), ghanatarala (sporadic endeavour), vyudha-vikalpa (indecision), vishaya-sangara (combat with the senses), niyamakshama (inability to uphold vows) and taranga-rangini (delighting in the material facilities produced by devotion).
Then there are four types of aparadha: dushkritottha (arising from previous sins), sukritottha (arising from previous piety), aparadhottha (arising from offences in chanting) and bhaktyuttha (arising from imperfect service). When all of these are eradicated, then our real selves, the atma, will reflect in the mirror of the mind; but for now our vision is distorted. We consider the pain and happiness of the material body to be our own, and our worldly relations and worldly loss and gain to be related to our very selves. Bhava-maha-davagni-nirvapanam: this is the forest fire of material existence in which we are time and again taking birth.
When the mirror of the mind is purified, then this great fire will be extinguished and we will progress along the path of sadhana for uttama-bhakti, that devotion which is free from any tendencies towards karma or jnana. That devotion will be klesha-ghni, that which burns away so many types of difficulties. It will not happen all at once, but gradually. First there is shraddha, then nistha, and then we will move towards ruci and asakti when our anarthas will have been mostly eradicated. However, those anarthas may still exist in root form. One may shave his head, but has even one hair completely disappeared? Its roots are still there, and hair will again appear after a couple of days. In the same way, when we have reached the stage of asakti, only the roots of anarthas will remain; externally they will not be visible. If a favourable environment is given to them – that is, if we keep bad company or offend a Vaishnava – then they will reappear. But upon reaching the stage of bhava, they will be finished forever.
Then there is shubhada, which is of many varieties. In the worldly sense, shubha means having wealth, good progeny, position, fame and knowledge, and keeping the body healthy so that the effects of old age will not come prematurely. But what is real shubha? Having ruci for the name and lila-katha of Bhagavan and for the limbs of bhagavad-bhajana-sadhana. Having eagerness for these things is shubha, and that shubha is the lotus flower described by the words shreyaù-kairava-candrika-vitaranam. If the rays of the moon fall upon it, it will bloom purely and without blemishes. How will such pure bhakti arise in the heart? The shakti of harinama is like the rays of the moon which make the lotus of the heart gradually bloom, taking it through the stages of nistha, ruci, asakti and bhava. When it fully blossoms, that is the stage of prema. But for the shakti of harinama to act in this way, our interest must be drawn away from material life. In the same way as two swords will not remain together in one scabbard, maya and bhakti will not remain together in one’s heart.
Vidya-vadhu-jivanam: nama-sankirtana is the very life of vidya-vadhu. Vidya is that by which we can know jiva-tattva, maya-tattva, and ultimately Krishna; it does not mean knowledge of mundane science or how to make money. Real vidya is bhakti and ultimately assumes the form of the vadhu, or consort, of Krishna. First there is sadhana-bhakti, then bhava-bhakti, and finally prema-bhakti. After entering prema-bhakti, one’s devotion develops through the stages of sneha, mana, pranaya, raga, anuraga, bhava and finally mahabhava. The embodiment of mahabhava is Shrimati Radhika, who is the vadhu, or consort, of Krishna. Over and above the sandhini-shakti, the samvit- and hladini-shaktis fully manifest as radha-bhava. This is vidya-vadhu, and if even one ray of this transcendental potency enters into our hearts, it is called bhava.
Änandambudhi-vardhanam prati-padam: if we are chanting harinama with this bhava, then with every step we will experience increasing ananda, divine joy. In the maha-mantra, there is krishna-nama and also Hare, which means She who attracts Krishna away to the kunja, Shrimati Radhika. This bhava is so deep that it has no end, and this is the nama, so saturated with rasa, that Caitanya Mahaprabhu brought to this world. When we chant the maha-mantra with this bhava, then every step will submerge us deeper into the ocean of divine bliss. Purnamritasvadanam – what is purnamrita, the complete nectar? Prema, and one will perpetually relish it. Absorbed in chanting the name in this way, our acharyas such as Jayadeva Gosvami, Sanatana Gosvami and Bhaktivinoda Thakura could envision divine pastimes and compose such nectarean literatures. And sarvatma-snapanam – one will never desire to resurface from that ocean of nectar where there is not even a trace of maya, meaning that they have entered into swarupa-siddhi. This is the explanation of the first verse of Mahaprabhu’s Shikshastaka given by Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada, whose return to Shri Radha-Krishna’s eternal pastimes we are commemorating on this day.