Commemorating and Celebrating Prabhupada's arrival in America
Shrila Prabhupada's coming to the West is pregnant with deep with meaning and symbolism. It demonstrates the glory of Krishna's pure devotees, and shows the primary way divinity manifests in our lives. Ordinarily, or materially, the Lord is neutral as the indwelling Paramatma or Supersoul. He is awarding every soul's good and bad karma, allowing them to go up to the higher planets [heaven] or down to the hellish ones. However, this is not the Lord's desire. He desires that all souls awaken their eternal love for him, and join together to taste the bliss of their relationship. Although Krishna is not lacking in anything, is self-sufficient, and full in himself, still, at the same time, he wants our love. We are part of him, and although tiny, he loves us, and pines for our welfare and company. Imagine that!
From the spiritual perspective, we are suffering whether we are a Brahma, or great Universal controller, or a human being--either a king or pauper--or an animal, plant or microbe. Every position in the material world is a temporary and thus a false and unnatural one. Krishna knows we can't be happy here, and so do his pure devotees. Therefore Krishna comes himself to reclaim us and also sends his pure devotees, whom Prabhupada's called, "Krishna's mercy incarnations". Krishna is all-merciful, yet he has given the job of mercifully, intimately coming to and delivering the conditioned souls to his devotees. The pure devotee shakes up our world by personally confronting our material consciousness and attachments, while pointing to the spiritual solution of our suffering. Our illusions are sometimes painfully shattered, yet we are given new hope and eternal aspirations. If we can only take up Krishna consciousness in full enthusiasm and faith without being diverted!
Listen to Prabhupada's early lectures in New York in 1966, and hear the urgent pleading in his voice for us to take up Krishna consciousness. He knew its value, and saw practically how people were [are] suffering. Living in the skid row of New York at first, and then in the lower east side, full of intoxicated, somewhat crazy youth, the great need of Krishna consciousness was painfully evident. At the same time, we appreciate that he saw not just our fallen condition, but our hidden, spark-like, spiritual potential which he did his best to fan into a blazing fire.
Somehow to get us to take Prasadum (blessed food), chant the holy name of Krishna, hear the bhakti philosophy, and association with devotees (at the time, it was only him). Any of these things are very powerful spiritual medicine, which can begin to awaken the sleeping soul's spirituality and desire for Krishna. Any service done for Krishna is never lost, so Prabhupada employed so many means to try to give us some standing in bhakti, or divine service to Krishna. This would be our eternal asset. And to do this, he took many risks, and gave us repeated chances, and we stumbled along to learn to walk the spiritual path.
Study Prabhupada's life in preparation for coming to the West and the World as Krishna's ambassador, and his struggle to journey to leave India. He was not a prominent member of his guru's mission. Although his godbrother's wanted him to be more directly involved, his guru Shrila Bhakitsiddhanta Saravati Thakur, commented that someday he would do everything. His guru knew what he would do, but it was not evident to others--only a few. Our Prabhupada's depth of Krishna consciousness and his empowerment to spread it, was apparently hidden, until the time was right. He wasn't affected by any "group think" of an institution, which apparently doubted that Lord Chaitanya's mission could come to the fallen West. He had full faith in his guru, so much so, that his guru's suggestion to print books and preach in English was taken as a divine order. Prabhupada has often referred to this, saying that he was successful because he was selflessly caring out the order of his guru. This is the clue to all of us for our own success in life--selfless service to the order of our guru and Krishna.
Prabhupada's coming to the West represents Krishna coming into our lives--for us who are his disciples, and for future generations as well, like those of you who are now coming to Krishna--or who are wondering if you should. Looking at my life and other devotees lives growing up, who would have been able to discern that we were Krishna's devotees? But Krishna knew, and by the divine arrangement he sent his pure devotee, at our hour of greatest need and receptivity to Krishna consciousness. We had some background in spirituality from our previous births, but that had to be activated by a pure devotee. This is the meaning of Prabhupada's saying that he "made our good fortune". From Prabhupada's perspective, we were sent to help him by the mercy of his guru. And we may think that those we are coming now are doing so by Prabhupada's mercy to help his disciples and keep the mercy of Krishna consciousness alive.
Krishna consciousness lives in the hearts of his faithful pure devotees. Krishna is still making arrangements for the deliverance of forget souls. This faith we should have or pray to obtain. We are not outside of Krishna's heart, but it just has to be uncovered or activated by the association of saints, chanting the holy name, hearing the scriptures, reciting prayers by great devotee as well as our own heartfelt ones, and in general serving the Lord and his devotees. One of those devotees will be our teacher or guru when that time comes when we have sufficient necessity to require one. And any number of them may serve as our siksha or instructing gurus.
I am a very ordinary person and small devotee, yet Krishna came to me, through Prabhupada. So Krishna can save me, he will also make an arrangement for you! Prabhupada is there through his books, recordings, Temples, and devotees. I saw Prabhupada only 6 times, and only very briefly. My main connection to him was through his teachings and his devotees. This still remains the case. So on this anniversary of Prabhupada's coming to the West, we can all study his life and teachings, and pray to really understand what Krishna consciousness is, and to catch the spirit of his message which is the mission of Lord Chaitanya (Krishna incarnation for the times we live in). Somehow to have an urgent necessity for spiritual life, and to see both the limitations of materialism--or a life devoid of God--and the value of loving and serving Krishna.
As an old song teaches us, "Getting to know you, is getting to love you". So the more we know about Krishna, the more we can begin to revive our love for him. And the more we study the lives and teachings of the great devotees like Prabhupada, the more we will appreciate them and their kindness. This is what Krishna consciousness or devotional service is all about, and what Prabhupada came to teach and demonstrate for us. Our mission is to try to follow in his footsteps according to our nature and capacity, while remembering that by the mercy of Guru and Krishna, all things are possible!