Chakra Discussions

"Prabhupada was never furious or angry"

by Siddhajana das

Posted November 2, 2004

I have noticed many times, in Srila Prabhupada's pastimes, when he was not pleased by a certain activity or results of orders given by him, many devotees describing him using the words "furious" or "anger". They may say something like "Srila Prabhupada became furious" or "Srila Prabhupada was furious" upon hearing such and such. A pure devotee can never be described in any way by using the word "furious" or "anger."

The English dictionaries define "furious" as "extremely angry", "violent", "full of fury", "raging', "frantic", "eager", "uproarious". It comes from the root word "fury", which the dictionaries described as "fierce passion", "wild anger" "rage", "impetuosity on battle"; capitalized, it also means "a snake-haired goddess or avenging deity".

The word "furious" is obviously a word which describes the mode of ignorance and passion, concerning anger. Without using better descriptions of Srila Prabhupada, concerning the lesser intelligence of some of his disciples, or their foolishness in certain activities, to describe Srila Prabhupada as becoming furious is very offensive to a pure devotee or to a devotee who has long given up the three modes of material nature, goodness, passion and ignorance. It has never made any sense to me. It therefore misleads new followers as well.

Why would Srila Prabhupada lose his temper because a devotee acted foolishly? If a teacher became furious upon hearing something a student did wrongly, because of lack of intelligence or misunderstanding of a principle or subject matter, and that teacher became violently angry, or frantic or uproarious, it means that teacher has lost his temper. In today's terminology, he has lost his cool. Can this phenomenon describe His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada at any time? It cannot. Never and never. Therefore it is a wrong word ever to describe Srila Prabhupada.

Even if Srila Prabhupada raised his voice above the normal in response to a foolish activity done by a disciple, he would have never become violent or full of rage with his disciples. Better words to describe such occasions would be "disappointed", "worried", "grave" or "serious". But never "furious".

I therefore take objection to articles describing His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktvedanta Swami Prabhupada, as "he became furious". It is wrong and should be stopped. It gives the wrong impression of a mahabhagavata devotee. A pure devotee never becomes angry in the sense of a materialistic "loss of temper" or "furious" way. He may become upset or disappointed in his disciples acting foolishly despite all instructions. He would have become worried as to the stupidity of his disciples.

Srila Prabhupada always reminded his disciples to pray only for intelligence. Therefore how can he demonstrate intelligence by becoming furious or a sense of showing ignorance due to anger? It cannot add up. It was never "fury" or "anger" on his part. If it's anything, he became sad and disappointed in his disciples when they showed their misunderstanding or foolishness in any way. Sadness and disappointment can also produce a rising of the voice. When someone learns of something which disappoints or makes one sad, one's voice level can be heightened as compared to his normal mode. It may be an exclamation of sadness and disappointment on Srila Prabhupada's part. He may have even shed tears due to the stupidity of his disciples. But they were not tears produced by anger.

Here are some examples where some devotees used the words "furious" or "angry" and "yelling" when the words should be "disappointed" or "upset" to describe Srila Prabhupada's mood at a particular event, where a disciple or disciples acted foolishly in some way. Try interchanging the words "furious" and "angry" with "disappointed or upset," which still brings home the mood of Srila Prabhupada upon the foolishness of his disciples. It is never anger or furious. The examples were pulled out of the Internet merely by placing the search for "Srila Prabhupada was furious".

"Furious" about wasted flowers and cloth

Daily they would make a beautiful arrangement for the vase. It was a good size and could hold a large amount of flowers. One day we came back from the morning walk a little earlier then usual. As soon as Srila Prabhupada walked into his room he noticed that the vase was not on his desk. He looked at me and asked, "Where is the vase?" I said, "Well, probably they took it into the kitchen to put fresh flowers in it." Now he was somewhat angry, and getting angrier with each sentence. "Why?" he said, "The flowers in it were fine. Why do they change these flowers every day? Why are they so wasteful? Who is this person doing this? Tell them to change them only when they go bad. You should never take the flowers out of this room until they are dwindling. It is not necessary. This is just wasteful. Where is the vase? Go find it immediately!"

I hurriedly left his room. Actually, I was eager to leave. It was not fun for me to be around Srila Prabhupada when he was yelling, even if it wasn't me who was the object. Fortunately the vase was in the temple kitchen. I told the devotees, "You had better stop changing these flowers every day. Srila Prabhupada said it is very bad. Make sure this vase is never out of his room." Arriving in his sitting room with a beautiful new arrangement did not seem to appease him. I put the vase down on his desk and offered obeisances wishing I could just keep my head floor. "Just do it when it is necessary," he shouted. "They shouldn't be wasting so much on flowers. They shouldn't be wasting so much money, every day- changing. This is your custom in America, simply wasting."

He gave the following example. Due to his disciples' conditioning, it is one he gave many times. "In your country if you have some cloth, if there is something extra, instead of just folding it under you will cut it off and throw away. This is your process here in America. In India if there is something left they will fold it over and sew. Whatever goes wrong, you solve it with money. In this way it appears very good. You make some accident, then because you have money you can cover it over very quickly. It is not that you are very capable of doing anything but because money is there you make everything look very good. With money you can cover over all of your deficiencies."

"Furious" over revering one's guru

Srila Prabhupada said something similar to the above when ISKCON Press published one of his books listing the author as "A. C. Bhaktivedanta." Srila Prabhupada was furious with them for not using his whole title.

"Furious" over correcting book errors

Srila Prabhupada did not want his books to be changed. (Not one "jot" or "tittle.") At least when Srila Prabhupada was on the planet, He was there to give his authorisation to a change or not, and we know there were times that Srila Prabhupada was furious when a particular change was brought to his attention which did not have his personal authorisation.

There are many more of such articles. None of the articles were ever seen by Srila Prabhupada himself. Therefore Srila Prabhupada never corrected the use of the words "anger" and "furious" in them.

The fact is Srila Prabhupada's mood upon hearing of the foolishness or stubbornness would not have caused him to become "violently angry", which to me is the foremost meaning of the word furious. The word itself contains the meaning of anger in a very externalized way.

How can a mahabhagavata spiritual master on the one hand, teach his disciples to give up anger and lust, two things Krsna Himself says in Bhagavad-gita are the cause of existence in the material world, and on the other hand show fury or anger? It is a wrong interpretation used by devotees in some of their articles. It should never be accepted that Srila Prabhupada became angry or furious about anything. The better interpretation is that he became upset and/or disappointed that, after giving so much lectures and training, his disciples would still do idiotic activities. His purpose was to teach his disciples and not to destroy them.

The connotations of the words "anger" and "furious," because they contain the mode of ignorance or the destructive nature of material energy, would have run contrary to pure vaisnava siddhanta, that the spiritual master can correct his disciples without the use of the three modes of material nature. He uses the cit, samvit and hladini potencies; in other words, he uses transcendental nature to teach and correct his disciples, never material nature, and the modes of ignorance and passion.