Aug 242008

“The spiritual master is always considered either one of the confidential associates of Srimati Radharani or a manifested representation of Srila Nityananda Prabhu.”–Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila, 1.47 purport

My dear Srila Prabhupada,

Please accept my prostrated obeisances at your lotus feet. All glories to Your Divine Grace. All glories to your causeless mercy.

“Lord Nityananda,” as you taught us, “is the original spiritual master.” He is an incarnation of Balarama, the first expansion of Krsna and the first being to perform the functions of a spiritual master–to serve Krsna and give knowledge of Krsna. While acting as a spiritual master, Nityananda manifests His own nature, which is most merciful (nityananda sahaje dayamaya: “Nityananda was by nature very merciful.” [Cc Antya 6.49]). And we think of your mood of compassion, which you demonstrated as you acted as a spiritual master and world acarya, and how close it is to Lord Nityananda’s.

Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami, the author of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, said of Srila Nityananda Prabhu, preme matta nityananda krpa-avatara/uttama, adhama, kichu na kare vicara: “Because He is intoxicated by ecstatic love and is an incarnation of mercy, He does not distinguish between the good and the bad.” Ye age padaye, tare karaye nistara/ataeva nistarila mo-hena duracara: “He delivers all those who fall down before Him. Therefore He has delivered such a sinful and fallen person as me.” (Cc Adi 5.208-209) We pray to be worthy to say the same of you.

Age padaye tare: to bow or fall down before the spiritual master, to surrender to the spiritual master, is the first qualification for any disciple. The Bhagavad-gita instructs, tad viddhi pranipatena pariprasnena sevaya. First, pranipata: you must fall down, surrender, before the spiritual master. And anyone who falls down before you, Srila Prabhupada, even though he or she may be duracara (sinful and fallen), will be delivered. In other words, being duracara is not a disqualification for receiving your mercy, as long as one has the qualification: age padaye tare–one should fall down before you. In other words, one should be humble and sincerely follow your instructions.

How will you deliver them? That is explained by Narottama dasa Thakura:

brajendra-nandana yei, saci-suta hoilo sei,
balarama hoilo nitai
dina-hina yata chilo, hari-name uddharilo,
tara saksi jagai-madhai

“Lord Krsna, the son of the king of Vraja, became Lord Caitanya, the son of Saci, and Balarama became Nitai. The holy name delivered all those souls who were lowly and wretched. The two sinners Jagai and Madhai are evidence of this.” (Prarthana)

Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda came to reclaim the most fallen souls by giving them hari-nama, the holy names of Krsna, to chant. In other words, They deliver people through the process of Krsna consciousness. And by engaging in bhakti-yoga and chanting the holy names of Krsna, the fallen souls gradually awaken their love for Krsna (golokera prema-dhana hari-nama-sankirtana).

Once, in Bombay, an Indian gentleman approached you and cried, “Swamiji, Swamiji, only you can save me. Only you can deliver me. Please be merciful. Please save me.” And you replied, “I cannot save you. You have to save yourself. But I can give you the process by which you can save yourself.” Following Gaura-Nitai, you brought hari-nama with you to deliver the fallen souls. Yet although you offer it to us freely, still, we have to take it.

You gave us detailed instructions on how to chant and achieve the ultimate goal of life, but we have to do our part. Another time in Bombay, a disciple said to you, “Please give me your mercy so that I can follow your instructions.” And you replied, “My mercy is that I have given you my instructions. Now you have to follow them.” And you gave the example that if someone has fallen in a well and a benefactor comes and hands down a rope, the person below cannot pray, “Please make my fingers curl around the rope.” The benefactor has sent down the rope, and he is prepared to pull you up, but you have to hold on to it. You said, “My mercy is that I have given you my instructions. Now you have to follow them.”

You give mercy, but we have to take it. And the qualification for taking it is genuine humility. That is the meaning of pranipata. If we are humble, we will bow down; we will surrender, and submissively follow your instructions.

In the earlier days of the movement, in 1968, after a talk in Seattle, you asked for questions, and a young man remarked, “I feel that as beings we are all more or less equal. So I don’t feel that I have to bow down to anyone.” You replied, “You have diagnosed your own disease. That is the disease of materialism. Everyone is thinking, ‘I want to be master. I don’t want to bow down.'” You continued, “You don’t want to bow down, but you are forced to bow down.” The man admitted that he was subordinate to his boss but maintained that he didn’t want to bow down to anyone spiritually. Your Divine Grace replied, “You are bowing down to everyone. You are bowing down to death, you are bowing down to disease, you are bowing down to old age. You are bowing down to so many things. You are forced.” Once we come to understand this, we can ask ourselves, “Where shall I be happy even by bowing down?” “That,” as you said, “is Krsna. Your bowing down will not be stopped, because you are meant for that. But if you bow down to Krsna and Krsna’s representative, you will be happy.” By bowing down to Krsna and Krsna’s representative, to Nityananda and His representative, to Your Divine Grace, we will be truly happy–if we truly bow down. We will gain eternal happiness (nityananda).

Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami says that anyone who falls down before Nityananda Prabhu–even if he or she is duracara, sinful and fallen–will be delivered. And he gave himself as an example: “He saved even me.” That sentiment arose from his profound humility. The more famous example is Jagai and Madhai. As Narottama dasa Thakura said, Gaura-Nitai have come to deliver all who were lowly and wretched, and the proof is Jagai and Madhai (tara saksi jagai madhai). Now, you, Srila Prabhupada, have delivered thousands of such sinful, fallen souls. And practically, you have admitted it yourself: “Nityananda Prabhu delivered Jagai and Madhai, but a servant of Nityananda Prabhu, by His grace, can deliver many thousands of Jagais and Madhais. That is the special benediction of the disciplic succession. . . . If one is true to Gaura-Nitai’s service in the disciplic succession, he can even excel Nityananda Prabhu’s service.” (Cc Madhya 16.65 purport)

After Jagai and Madhai surrendered to Sri Nityananda Prabhu and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, they promised never to sin again, and with faith they took up the chanting of the holy names. Thereafter, Gaura-Nitai never referred to their sinful pasts. At the time of initiation, we also promise to refrain from sinful activities and to regularly chant the holy names of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. May we remain true to our vows.

Srila Prabhupada, you are an incarnation of mercy (krpa-avatara). And in distributing mercy you did not consider who was good or bad (uttama, adhama), high or low. You saved all who fell down before you. And thus you expanded the merciful mission of Gaura-Nitai. As stated in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Antya 7.11):

kali-kalera dharma’ krsna-nama-sankirtana
krsna-sakti vina nahe tara pravartana

“The fundamental religious system in the Age of Kali is the chanting of the holy name of Krsna. Unless empowered by Krsna, one cannot propagate the sankirtana movement.”

No one in history had ever spread the sankirtana movement like you. You spread it all over the world, which no one else had ever done, to the highest and to the lowest. Thus we conclude that you were empowered, a saktyavesa-avatara. And if we consider further, we may conclude, as one of your godbrothers suggested, that you were empowered specifically by Nityananda Prabhu–to deliver the duracara, the sinful and fallen. And you did that. You were an incarnation of mercy, and you offered krsna-nama to everyone, without discrimination, and you inspired, or induced, people to take it. “He delivers all those who fall down before Him. Therefore He has delivered such a sinful and fallen person as me.”

A dear friend in Mumbai, a leading industrialist as well as a wonderful devotee, Hrishikesh Mafatlal, who was initiated as Krsnacandra dasa, told me that he felt that every devotee should see the footage taken of Srila Prabhupada when he first came to America, to see the people he was preaching to on the Lower East Side of New York and in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. “We cannot imagine the people Srila Prabhupada was preaching to,” he said. “Until you actually see the films, you cannot have any idea.” It is beyond the power of words to describe the people that Your Divine Grace influenced when you first came to America. Just the fact that you came, that you lived amongst them, that you spoke with them, that you invited them and cooked for them, is amazing. (“Them” includes people like me.) And that you induced them to accept Krsna consciousness is beyond human comprehension.

At first you didn’t even have your own place to stay. You were living in different places in New York. At one stage you were living with a young man who seemed to be interested, and you were hopeful that you could train him as a Vaisnava. But one day, on a dose of LSD, he went crazy. He stood before you–he could have done anything–and you ran down the four flights of stairs onto the streets of the Bowery, the worst part of New York, notorious throughout the world. And you didn’t know where to go. You had no place to go.

Then you went to the loft of another young man, Carl Yeargens. Carl was living with his wife in one large room with areas partitioned off for the bedroom and kitchen. Carl was nice. He liked to be with you. He was interested in Indian culture, and you were teaching him Sanskrit. You all were living together, but his wife didn’t very much appreciate having you there all the time. So that became uncomfortable. Then Carl approached Michael Grant, who was later initiated as Mukunda dasa, and they rented a small storefront and apartment for you. But even then you were living among drug-addicted hippies who were most fallen and sinful in their habits and morality. But you did that for us, just to save us.

Later, the poet Allen Ginsberg wrote: “Swami Bhaktivedanta came to USA and went swiftly to the Archetype Spiritual Neighborhood, the New York Lower East Side, and installed intact an ancient perfectly preserved piece of street India. He adorned a storefront as his Ashram and adored Krishna therein and by patience and good humor singing chanting and expounding Sanskrit terminology day by day established Krishna Consciousness in the psychedelic (mind-manifesting) center of America East . . . To choose to attend to the Lower East Side, what kindness and humility and intelligence!”

Of course, a full description of your merciful activities would take volumes and even then would be incomplete. I dare say that even Lord Ananta, with His unlimited heads and tongues, with unlimited time, could not finish speaking about your glories. Still, I shall describe just one small but telling incident.

One of your early disciples from the Lower East Side had come to India, when the movement in India was still quite new. You had centers in Calcutta and Bombay and a small rented place in Delhi. The temple president from Calcutta phoned Bombay and informed your secretary that that early disciple was smoking marijuana (ganja), and asked what he should do. Through your secretary you replied, “Tell that devotee that if he doesn’t stop smoking ganja, I will reject him.” After the phone call, Tamal Krishna Goswami asked you, “Is it true that you would reject him?” You said, “No. I cannot reject anyone.” Then Tamal Krishna Goswami said, “But isn’t there a limit? Don’t you have to draw the line somewhere?” And Your Divine Grace replied, “There is no limit to Lord Nityananda’s mercy.”

That was your mood in giving mercy. You wanted to give everyone the chance to chant the holy name in the association of devotees, in the hope that it would reform and transform them.

Most of the time people don’t want to take the mercy, but somehow or other you convinced them, or induced them, to take it. You said that giving Krsna consciousness to fallen souls in Kali-yuga is like feeding medicine to a horse. It takes six people to feed medicine to a horse: one on each leg, one to hold the jaws open, and one to put the medicine in. That’s how hard it is to get people to take to Krsna consciousness–but you did it. You said that to make one disciple you had to spend gallons of blood, that to deliver one disciple you had to spend hundreds of gallons of blood. And you did. And that is what you wanted us to do too.

In one lecture in Los Angeles, you told us, “To approach Radha and Krsna you need the mercy of Lord Caitanya. And to get the mercy of Lord Caitanya, you need the mercy of Lord Nityananda. And to get the mercy of Lord Nityananda, you have to approach people like Jagai and Madhai.” So we start way down at the bottom, and we end up way up at the top. That is the extreme mercy of Lord Caitanya and Nityananda, which you, Srila Prabhupada, came to give us.

How is it that this highest kind of devotional service–the service of Radha and Krsna–is being offered to the most fallen people in Kali-yuga? Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura answers, “It is like a king who becomes intoxicated, goes into his treasury, takes out his most precious gems, and then goes out on the street and starts giving them away to the poorest people on the road.” How can you explain it? It is his choice. They are his jewels. He can do with them what he wants. And in his intoxicated state he distributes them very freely.

Sri Nityananda Prabhu is intoxicated with love of God. He is an incarnation of mercy, and He delivers anyone who falls down before Him, without considering who is high and who is low, and gives them the highest perfection of love of Godhead, through the mercy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Anyone who gets Nityananda Prabhu’s mercy will get Caitanya’s mercy, and by Lord Caitanya’s mercy will get that most priceless jewel of devotional service, pure love for Krsna, vraja-bhakti. That has all been made possible for us by your mercy, Srila Prabhupada. So we are eternally indebted to you. I cannot express how indebted we are.

naivopayanty apacitim kavayas tavesa
brahmayusapi krtam rddha-mudah smarantah
yo ‘ntar bahis tanu-bhrtam asubham vidhunvann
acarya-caittya-vapusa sva-gatim vyanakti

[As Sri Uddhava said to Sri Krsna]: “O my Lord! Transcendental poets and experts in spiritual science could not fully express their indebtedness to You, even if they were endowed with the prolonged lifetime of Brahma, for You appear in two features–externally as the acarya and internally as the Supersoul–to deliver the embodied living being by directing him how to come to You.” (SB 11.29.6)

Although we can never repay our debt to you, if we have the mood of wanting to repay that debt, then we should follow your merciful example, as you wrote after your Vyasa-puja one year: “If you at all feel indebted to me, then you should preach vigorously like me. That is the proper way to repay me. Of course, no one can repay the debt to the spiritual master, but the spiritual master is very much pleased by such an attitude by the disciple.” We should work together to spread Krsna consciousness, following in your footsteps, in the mood of Lord Nityananda–only by your mercy.

But how can I preach when I don’t really practice? And how can I practice when I haven’t really surrendered? Here too I must pray for your mercy–your causeless mercy–my only hope.

Your duracara servant who refuses to bow down,

Giriraj Swami