Anniversary of Shrila Prabhupada's Acceptance of Sannyas
The events leading up to my spiritual master Shila Prabhupada's acceptance of sannyas are very instructive and inspiring for his followers. [The Vedic calendar anniversary day was Sept 4th.] Although not everyone should adopt this renounced order, his acceptance of it teaches us many things. For instance, we should be dutiful in all our responsibilities, whether as a married person or single student. At the same time our main responsibility is to our spiritual master in his service to the previous acharyas [holy teachers] who are serving the movement of Lord Chaitanya and Nityananda and Radha Krishna--and sometimes, as in Prabhupada's case, we have to choose between our material and spiritual responsibilities.
In this disciplic line we are encouraged to adopt or develop the mentality of servant of the servant, or "das anu das". This idea is also there in Christianity where Christ tells his followers that the greatest of them shall be the servant of all, so the more of a servant to other devotees we are, the more we will be appreciated by Krishna, and the more we will taste spiritual happiness.
So many things are required to keep body and soul together, and to fulfill what I like to speak of as our "karmic mission" or that type of work which we are meant to do, and need to do to feel satisfied. Another way of speaking about this is we all have a particular destiny to accept and develop in the face of pressures to go in a different way, and we have to use our free will power and effort to do so--this can be a major life test. As aspiring Vaishnava we need to need to discover this, and dutifully carry it out in relationship to Krishna. Then we will be happy on all levels, materially and spiritually.
In order to understand our destiny and calling for Krishna we need to be introspective, prayerful, and look and listen to the course of our life. Hints abound, and they rarely are the heavens opening up, or a Divine voice speaking to us in a commanding voice. We may have a knowing in our heart, and this may mean changing our life's direction, which can be very challenging. Or we may be guided by a devotee who knows us and we feel has our interest at heart. The main thing is be open, and know that our mission may be humble one, though for us it is essential. To follow that direction may be a major life challenge, though if we don't follow it, we will lament.
In Prabhupada's life as a married person, he had a number of dreams of his guru, Shila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur beckoning him to accept sannyas. In his humility Prabhupada revealed to us that he was terrified of this idea. How could he leave his family, but gradually Krishna spoke to him through his life circumstances, and the confirmation of a Godbrother.
In relationship to his married life and acceptance of sannyas Prabhupada quoted a Bhagavatam verse where Krishna says that if he especially favors one, he take away everything, leaving him only his [Krishna's] shelter. Prabhupada's business failed and his family members were not favorable to his preaching desires and efforts. He was dutiful to his family for 30 years, yet now his inner calling to take up the banner of Mahaprabhu [Lord Chaitanya] began increasing.
What was he to do--stick to his family until death? Some would say yes, but Prabhupada was meant for more then only the family interests. Those of us who were saved by his accepting sannyas and coming to America and other parts of the world to preach have a different perspective then his bodily family members. We praise his move and say, "Well done, well done", and "Thank you for dedicating your life to spreading Krishna consciousness--where would we be had you not come?". We can remember the verse by Madhavendra Puri:
"Let the sharp moralist accuse me of being illusioned; I do not mind. Experts in Vedic activities may slander me as being misled, friends and relatives may call me frustrated, my brothers may call me a fool, the wealthy mammonites may point me out as mad, and the learned philosophers may assert that I am much too proud. Still my mind does not budge an inch from the determination to serve the lotus feet of Govinda, though I am unable to do so."
So Prabhupada's acceptance of sannyas can symbolize the necessity of dedicating our life to our spiritual practices and in doing the needful to facilitate this, whether remaining with family or formally renouncing the world. He said that although it appears that he gave up his family, by Krishna's arrangement he now had thousands of children (his disciples) who were so much more favorable to Krishna consciousness. Many of us have seen that what we first gave up for Krishna's service we later gained for his service. Personally I have no plans for sannyas--I believe it is a calling, not for everyone--yet the principle of being attached to Krishna, and thus detached from everything which doesn't foster this is universal for devotees of Krishna.
In addition, what IS for everyone is dedication and determination to be Krishna conscious and to serve Vaishnavas, helping others take up the path as the overflow of our spirituality. We have to see what is favorable and unfavorable for our progressive march toward Krishna, and the specific details will different for everyone. Never-the-less, there will be some combination of the nine processes of devotional service beginning with hearing, chanting and remembering Krishna. Somehow to fix our mind and heart on Krishna, and develop the "serving ego" as opposed to the enjoying ego of the material world. For an advanced devotee there are no problems, only service opportunities, and the world becomes an ocean of joy.
Here is a verse by Shrila Prabodhananda Sarasvati from his Chaitanya-chandramrta 5:
"For a devotee, the pleasure of merging into the existence of Brahman is considered hellish. Similarly, he considers promotion to heavenly planets just another kind of phantasmagoria. The yogis meditate for sense control, but for the devotee the senses appear like serpents with broken teeth. The whole material world appears joyful for a devotee, and even great personalities like Lord Brahma and Lord Indra are considered no better than insects. Such is the position of a devotee who has received but a small glance of the mercy of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Unto this most magnanimous personality I offer my respectful obeisances."
We want to live in the world for the service of our Guru, the Vaishnavas and Lord Chaitanya and Radha-Krishna. This is the example of Prabhupada's whole life, including his taking of the renounced order, sannyas.
We begin with the attitude of tolerating the dualities of the material world like happiness and distress as taught in the Bhagavad-gita. When we are spiritually advanced we will actually welcome the difficulties in life, as they give us an opportunity to remember and take shelter of Krishna--so we can aspire for this realization. This is the standard of our great scripture the Bhagavatam. Though at present it may be beyond our comprehension how we could welcome difficulties, it is possible to understand and put into practice by the mercy of Shri Guru and Gauranga with our sincere spiritual practices. Then we see everything as favorable for Krishna consciousness, and the world as friendly, since we see that behind it is our dear most object of affection, Shri Krishna. I will end with the verse in the Shrimad Bhagatam from Lord Brahma's prayers to Krishna in the 10th Canto which teach us this principle:
"My dear Lord, one who earnestly waits for You to bestow Your causeless mercy upon him, all the while patiently suffering the reactions of his past misdeeds and offering You respectful obeisances with his heart, words and body, is surely eligible for liberation, for it has become his rightful claim." SB 10.14.8