Chakra Discussions

He gave us everything

by Swami B.V. Tripurari

Posted October 28, 2003

An address to members of ISKCON on the occasion of the tirobhava mahotsava of Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

I would like to speak to you from my heart about my realization of Srila Prabhupada, especially that which I learned over the last eighteen years that I have been serving him outside of the formal boundaries of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.

I hope you will accept my appreciation of Srila Prabhupada, even though it may speak of a different vision of His Divine Grace than that which you are familiar with. After all, each and every atom of this world may be examined from many, many angles of vision, what then to speak of a person whose every atomic particle of existence is cent percent dedicated to the service of the Supreme Lord.

Just as Krishna is like a bright jewel who shows himself to his devotee in whatever form he sees fit, so his pure devotee, Srila Prabhupada, is a multifaceted personality who shows himself to his followers in many wonderful and diverse ways at the same time.

Let us not limit him to our vision of His Divine Grace. Rather, on this occasion of his disappearance, we might do well to question whether any of us have as of yet ever seen him "as he is." Guru tattva is a vast subject, an elusive tattva. We are humbled in our attempt to say anything about him at all, and to do so requires his grace. Srila Rupa Goswami has said in Ujjvala-nilamani that love, like a snake, moves in a crooked way, aher iva gatih premnah svabhava-kutila bhavet. Hetor ahetos ca, with cause or without cause, sometimes in love differences arise. This is the nature of loving affairs.

Let us think, as on this occasion where there is considerable talk of unity, that the differences between Vaishnavas arise out of love and everything that is spoken is not the whole truth.

Srila Prabhupada said many things about his godbrothers, and they have often been quoted out of context to establish a policy that falls short of unifying all Gaudiya Vaishnavas, which he so desired.

In the last days of his manifest lila, I was present when Akincana Krishnadasa Babaji Maharaja and other of his godbrothers assembled at Srila Prabhupada's bedside. At that time, Srila Prabhupada asked for forgiveness for any offenses he may have committed. Babaji Maharaja was quick to reply, "All you have said was spoken in the service of preaching and in that there is no offense." Prabhupada replied, "Now the war is over. Please try to help them [his disciples]."

For the last eighteen years, I have been trying to realize this vision, an expanded vision of Srila Prabhupada's family. He was a maha-bhagavata; he loved all -- what to speak of his godbrothers -- even while he criticized them.

There is much to gain for all from unification. As far as it is possible, we should strive for it. It was something that Srila Prabhupada held dear. But in order to do so we must learn to be flexible, while at the same time resolute to remain within the philosophical parameters of our Gaudiya

We must broaden our outlook from that of a bhara-vahi Vaishnava to that of a saragrahi Vaishnava. We must become essential Vaishnavas and not merely formal Vaishnavas. We must move from the outer terrain of forms, titles, and corporate and geographical identification to the inner landscape that Vaishnavism is all about.

Where we are in terms of the Brahmanda, the Viraja, Brahmaloka, Vaikuntha, Ayodhya, Dvaraka, and ultimately Goloka, should be our only concern. In this inner world of realization we can find both gradation and the possiblity of unity.

We must leave the kanistha-adhikari conception of Vaishnavism and act as madhyama-adhikaris. We must question and learn to look deeply within ourselves. We must examine the scriptures and the words of our spiritual master in terms of essential meaning. We must become acquainted not merely with the outside, the vapu, of those instructions, but with the vani, or spirit, of the words.

In doing so we challenge our faith with our intellect and, at the risk of losing it, we can strengthen it. Shallow faith is hardly our ideal. No risk, no gain. With sincerity and good guidance our heart can come into harmony with our head resulting in well-reasoned faith, nistha. Proceeding along these lines with humility, tolerance and respect for all, we can arrive at kirtaniya sada hari, uninterrupted kirtana.

Srila Prabhupada was a great Vaishnava. The symptom of the highest devotee is that whoever sees him immediately begins to chant the Holy Name of Krishna. Srila Prabhupada was so great that whoever saw him, or whoever sees his disciples or grand disciples, shouts Hare Krishna. We may not be that kind of Vaishnava, but at least we can learn to appreciate, to smile when we see another Vaishnava, regardless of where he rests at night. Let us be careful, in shouting amar guru jagad-guru, my guru is the best guru, that we do not fall short in this glorification by putting, albeit unconsciously, greater emphasis on amar, "my," than on the jagad-guru. We may be glorifying only ourselves.

Let us remember that we are all moving in this world with our own realization of Srila Prabhupada; we have not captured him in our fist. And we cannot pound our limited realization of him into everyone else's head and expect to realize the desired unity. We must have a generous attitude with one another and with all those who claim their faith in our savior, Sri Caitanya. Love moves in a crooked way. Its ways are wonderful yet difficult to understand. We have gathered to glorify Srila Prabhupada, yet he is not alone. There is a land of Prabhupadas -- in the words of Srila Sridhara Maharaja, "a land of gurus." There we may find the likes of Uddhava, Brahma or Mahadeva in a grain of sand.

We are trying in our service to Srila Prabhupada to approach that plane, but we have no qualification. Our confidence of our success in this attempt should be derived not from our ability to practice but from our realization of the generous nature of that great welfare state. Our guru's generosity is like that of the mother who names her blind son "lotus-eyed." Realizing this generosity, we have some hope.

Let us position ourselves to realize this truth and thus realize Mahaprabhu's vision of humility and tolerance. When He said one should be more humble than a blade of grass, more tolerant than a tree, He was not merely making a poetic statement. When He saw the grass, when He saw the trees, this is what came to His mind. We are seeing grass every day and trees as well, yet we do not read the environment in this way. We must strive for this vision -- Caitanya darshana. We must learn to worship everything by drawing inspiration to serve God and our guru from even the so-called inanimate world, what then to speak of our godbrothers, godsisters, uncles, and cousins, our own family.

A man once told me, "Srila Prabhupada gave us everything. We don1t need anyone else." I replied, "Srila Prabhupada gave us everything; he gave us everyone else." On this I stake my activities for the last eighteen years outside of the formal institution of our gurudeva. And those whom I have met, those who are also part of Srila Prabhupada's family, whatever I have gathered from them I am using in His Divine Grace's service.

This to me is unity in diversity, acintya-bhedabheda. This to me glimpses at the heart of where unity may be found. And, in pursuing this vision, I hope that -- if not today, in some distant future -- you will accept me as your godbrother. By embracing this spirit, by showing our love for him through cooperation, my prayer is that together we will see Srila Prabhupada as he is for the first time in our eternal life.