Respecting Srila Prabhupada
Posted June 7, 2004
As disciples and followers of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder-Acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, we all have an eternal debt to Srila Prabhupada for his unparalleled sacrifice in freely distributing the mercy of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu all over the word.
Prabhupada did not have to leave the holy village of Vrindavan at the advanced age of 69 to travel by steamship across the Atlantic Ocean, suffering two heart attacks in the process and landing onshore with less than seven dollars in his pocket and with no help from anyone except his beloved Lord Shri Krishna. In spite of his enormous compassion and love for all of Krishna's estranged parts and parcels in this material world, Srila Prabhupada always remained humble and respectful to everyone, including those whom he personally endeavored to help with his personal instructions, hard work and 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)
We may not always understand the actions or statements of Krishna's pure devotees and that is not uncommon or unnatural. After all, we're conditioned souls in this world and our material education and upbringing are often at odds with the ancient conclusions of Vedic literature. At the same time, the scriptures and the bona fide acharyas in disciplic succession from the Lord Himself urge us to be humble and not to always rely upon our material judgment for a complete understanding of everything.
As conditioned souls, we are subject to the four defects of imperfect senses, the ability to commit mistakes, the tendency to cheat others and the propensity to fall into illusion. An aspiring devotee is willing to suspend his complete faith in these tendencies and place his trust in higher spiritual authority from those authorized representatives of the disciplic succession coming down from the Supreme Lord Himself. Without this attitude of surrender, there is no meaning to the word disciple. Of course, Prabhupada never condemned sincere inquiries, saying that doubt is a symptom of intelligence. But along with that doubt there must be an open mind and a respectful attitude:
"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 Krishna is above all criticism." (Bhagavad-gita As It Is, 9.28, Purport)
A pure devotee of Krishna is not an ordinary man of this world. Sometimes it appears this his behavior is on the mundane platform just like the rest of us. But we are always cautioned not to make a foolish mistake in this regard. Therefore Lord Chaitanya clearly warns us for our own spiritual benefit:
"Chaitanya 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)
Even Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself, cautions us accordingly: "The devotee of the Lord does not retaliate against the wrongdoer, but the Lord does not tolerate any mischief done to the devotee by the miscreants. The Lord can excuse a person on his own account, but He excuses no one who has done harm to His devotees." (Bhagavad-gita As It Is, 1.35, Purport)
Prabhupada has warned against the 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 the advances of a threatening feline. Later he wanted to become a dog to save him from the attacks of another dog. Eventually he asked for the boon of becoming a tiger so that he could be saved from an aggressive tiger. Upon receiving this final blessing, he approached the sage who had bestowed these benedictions and boldly declared that he now wanted to eat the very benefactor who had helped him. So the sage then cursed him: "So now again you become a mouse."
Here we learn not to bite the hand that feeds us. Almost every Vaishnava and aspiring Vaishnava in the Western world is ultimately 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."
Let's remember that a disciple has 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)