Srila Prabhupada, Gajendra, the king of the elephants and sannyasa
by Prema Bhakti dasa Adhikari
Posted January 2, 2003

Dear Chakra,

As I was reading Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta, Vol. 6, I came across a very instructive pastime begining on page 194.

I thought your readers might appreciate Prabhupada's wisdom in light of several articles posted regarding the sannyasa order.

Prema Bhakti dasa Adhikari
your servant in Niles, Michigan, USA

From Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta, Vol. 6 p.194
by Satsvarupa dasa Goswami

Hawaii, May 1976

Although Prabhupada had written to the G.B.C. requesting them to solve ISKCON's problems, he continued to keep informed of the problems as his assistants reluctantly reported to him the bad news. One day a telegram arrived from Madhudvisa Swami, a dynamic G.B.C. man in charge of ISKCON in one region of the U.S. Madhuvisa was having serious difficulties remaining strong in Krsna consciousness. In most cases, the difficulties of Prabhupada's disciples were urges toward sensuality. Almost never did disciples turn against Prabhupada, nor did they often reject the philosophical conclusions of Krsna cosnciousness. They simply fell victim to maya's allurements.

Madhudvisa's telegram was a resignation from the G.B.C. Although he wanted to continue in devotional service, he felt forced to resign due to spiritual weakness. The telegram gave no details, but Prabhupada heard rumors that Madhudvisa had had an affair and had left the temple. Prabhupada said that this was his Godbrothers' main argument against Westerners' taking sannyasa: they would not be able to maintain the strict vows. He said that a German Godbrother of his had also caused disruption by his intimate dealings with women.

"What can I do?" Prabhupada said sadly. "I am working with all third-class men - fools and rascals. Things are going on simply by Krsna's mercy." Prabhupada sent a telegram back, asking Madhudvisa to come and speak with him. Although he restrained his emotions, the devotees could see that he was distracted. It was another case of a strong affectionate bond for a son who had rendered wonderful service, a disciple whom he had patiently trained over the years. Again the possibility of Prabhupada's retiring from active management looked doubtful.

Srila Prabhupada said he was trying to engage fools, rascals - anyone - to spread Krsna consciousness. He was unable to find strict followers, but what could be done? If someone fell from sannyasa, he said, then that person could become a grhasta. But no one should go away. Hari-sauri mentioned the Caitanya-caritamrta story of Lord Caitanya and Chota Haridasa. From that story, said Hari-sauri, it appeared to be very difficult for a fallen sannyasi to regain the mercy of Lord Caitanya.

"One who falls from sannyasa," Prabhupada replied, "is called vantasi, one who vomits and then eats it."

"So if they become grhastas again, then how can they get Lord Caitanya's mercy?" asked Hari-sauri.

"If the spiritual master gives the facility and makes the arrangement," said Prabhupada, "then Krsna will accept the arrangement. And later be can again become sannyasa." It had happened before, and Prabhupada mentioned a few cases where he had asked fallen sannyasis to get married and stay in their service. "Of course, it is a shameful position," he said, "but what can be done? My Godbrothers and sannyasis in India criticize me for giving brahmana and sannyasa initiation and installing Deities in the West and allowing women to stay in the temples. But for all that, I am expanding Krsna consciousness. And for all their strictness, they are doing nothing. If I discriminate, then I will again be one alone, as I was in Vrndavana, and 'again become a mouse.'"

"It seems," said Hari-sauri, "that it will take several generations before we can become purified."

"If one is sincere," Prabhupada replied, "he can become purified even within one generation."

That same evening, as Prabhupada prepared to stay up all night translating, he was still thinking of Madhudvisa. Nevertheless, he turned to translating the texts in the chapter called "The Elephant Gajendra's Crisis." The chapter told about the king of elephants, Gajendra, who lived on the heavenly planets. One day Gajendra was bathing in the river along with his wives, when suddenly a crocodile attacked. The crocodile fastened his jaws on Gajendra's leg, and although the elephant was very powerful, he could not release himself from the strong grip of the crocodile while in the water.

"Thereafter," Srila Prabhupada dictated, "because of being pulled into the water and fighting for many long years, the elephant became diminished in his mental, physical, and sensual strength. The crocodile, on the contrary, being an animal of the water, increased in enthusiasm, physical strength, and sensual power."

"I can do it very quickly," Prabhupada had said, "but I have to meditate, how to prepare it for the common man." How to convey the significance of the event, which happened millions of years ago between two animals on a heavenly planet? How to make it clear and understandable, and capture the essence of the significant Sanskrit words and the parampara comments of acaryas like Visvanatha Cakravarti, Sanatana Gosvami, and Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati? In the quiet solitude of his room, Srila Prabhupada began speaking his purport.

"In the fighting between the elephant and the crocodile, the difference was that although the elephant was extremely powerful, he was in a foreign place, in the water. During one thousand years of fighting, he could not get any food, and under the circumstances his bodily strength diminished, and because his bodily strength diminished, his mind also became weak and his senses less powerful. The crocodile, however, being an animal of the water, had no difficulties. He was getting food and was therefore getting mental strength and sensual encouragement. Thus while the elephant became reduced in strength, the crocodile became more and more powerful.

"Now, from this we may take the lesson that in our fight with maya we should not be in a position in which our strength, enthusiasm and senses will be unable to fight vigorously. Our Krsna consciousness movement has actually declared war against the illusory energy, in which all the living entities are rotting in a false understanding of civilization. The soldiers in this Krsna consciousness movement must always possess physical strength, enthusiasm and sensual power. To keep themselves fit, they must therefore place themselves in a normal condition of life.

"What constitutes a normal condition will not be the same for everyone," Prabhupada continued, "and therefore there are divisions of varnasrama - brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya, sudra, brahmacarya, grhastha, vanaprastha and sannyasa. Especially in this age, Kali-yuga, it is advised that no one take sannyasa...

"From this we can understand that in this age the sannyasa- asrama is forbidden because people are not strong. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu showed us an example in taking sannyasa at the age of twenty-four years, but even Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya advised Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to be extremely careful because he had taken sannyasa at an early age. For preaching we give young boys sannyasa, but actually it is being experienced that they are not fit for sannyasa.

"There is no harm, however, if one thinks that he is unfit for sannyasa; if he is very much agitated sexually, he should go to the asrama where sex is allowed, namely the grhastha-asrama. That one has been found to be very weak in one place does not mean that he should stop fighting the crocodile of maya. One should take shelter of the lotus feet of Krsna, as we shall see Gajendra do, and at the same time one can be a grhastha if he is satisfied with sexual indulgence.

"There is no need to give up the fight. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu therefore recommended, sthane sthitah sruti-gatam tanu-van-manobhih. One may stay in whichever asrama is suitable for him; it is not essential that one take sannyasa. If one is sexually agitated, he can enter the grhastha-asrama. But one must continue fighting. For one who is not in a transcendental position, to take sannyasa artificially is a not a very great credit. If sannyasa is not suitable, one may enter the grhastha-asrama and fight maya with great strength. But one should not give up fighting and go away."

From out of his direct confrontation with the forces of illusion, Srila Prabhupada presented his realization. He had taken the case of Madhudvisa, refined it of its temporal aspects, and immortalized it into an instruction for persons everywhere.

Prabhupada's job was to strengthen his disciples so they would not fall. Even if they took to the grhastha-asrama, the crocodile of sense-gratification was still very strong. And illicit sex was the "permanent disease" of the Western people. They were raised on it and addicted to it, and their society promoted it. To change the mentality would be very difficult. Therefore, in addition to writing, Prabhupada would have to continue traveling and preaching to sustain his disciples and make them strong preachers.