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Homage to Shrila Prabhupada, in the presence of his followers

Karnamrita Das

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Someone asked me to share my Vyasa-puja (as the appearance day of one's guru is called in Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition) offering. While I didn't write a formal one this year, and mainly recalled the times I spent with him, I looked up an old offering I wrote on behalf of the Baltimore temple in 1998, and found it still expressing my deep feelings, though today, with even more urgency, not only for ISKCON devotees, but for all those who follow the teachings of Shri Chaitanya. Like my last "blog" on the modes of nature, this entry is rather long, but I hope you will keep with it, and that you will find it relevant. It expresses my hopes and prayers for deep and meaningful devotee relationships and the spirit of cooperation and understanding based on the teachings of our guru(s), saintly person's input (sadhu), while confirmed by Vedic scriptures (shastas) and one's purified heart.

Dear Srila Prabhupada,

Please accept our humble obeisances at your lotus feet, O great savior of the fallen souls. All glories to you and your divine mission, which we have been entrusted to carry out!

Though there are many holy days to inspire us, today is a day like no other. This anniversary day of your appearance in this world also reminds us of your appearance into our lives, as well as who we have become because of you. Though we follow the bhakti path imperfectly, somehow we are in Krsna's loving network. How amazing! Amazing grace! If you had not compassionately, valiantly, and determinedly come to the West, where would we be today? Upon what would the foundation of our lives rest? What standard would we use to evaluate the value or use of anything? Where would our consciousness be and in what direction would we be going? After our body's demise, what would be our ultimate destination -- the sum total of our life's endeavor and thought? We can only shudder to think!

For many of us, overcome as we were with miseries, you were our last hope. The only other option was death -- even nonexistence seemed better then living a pointless life. You literally saved us from being lost due to the desperation and frustration of this Kali age! How important it is to remind ourselves of this fact! O Prabhupada, please help us remember the unhappiness of our life without Krsna so we can always feel grateful and humble, and so we can appreciate how you gave us new life, real love, spiritual light, eternal wisdom, The true goal, and our eternal service! We are in your eternal debt for saving us! Let all the devotees join together today to tell their stories, and in loving friendship let us encourage one another to go forward to serve you and Lord Krsna as we are able. Let us come together and pray for each other, for our families, our temples, all the leaders, for whoever we feel has offended us or whomever we have offended, for ISKCON, and for the whole planet. Let us look at our successes and areas that we need to work on.

On this anniversary of your appearance, we pray that you will be pleased by our offering to you as we endeavor to call for unity and love between all the devotees despite differences. We do this by attempting to look at ways we push each other away and are diverted from Krsna consciousness. We pray that by looking at ourselves in problem areas, your Society can be truly united and function in the broadminded and loving capacity you intended. We pray for the intelligence to do this, and pray that our endeavor will be welcomed by you, as well as by all the devotees, and that it will be taken in the spirit of service to you and for creating unity among the devotees.

O Prabhupada, you teach us what unity is in the Srimad-Bhagavatam:

"Disunity between individual souls is so strong within this material world that even in a society of Krsna consciousness, members sometimes appear disunited due to their having different opinions and leaning toward material things. Actually, in Krsna consciousness there cannot be two opinions. There is only one goal: to serve Krsna to one's best ability. If there is some disagreement over service, such disagreement is to be taken as spiritual." [Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.30.8, purport]
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Let all the devotees help each other advance and realize unity through service to Sri Guru and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu! O Gurudeva, we don't want to offend but rather to "upend" whatever keeps us from our mission of advancing in and spreading Krsna consciousness. Charity does begin at home. If we are to influence the world, we need to have our own house in order and live what we preach. Dear devotee physicians, let us heal ourselves. That is our real service and offering to Srila Prabhupada. Let each of us purge ourselves of whatever keeps us away from Krsna and whatever mentalities cause us to offend and criticize the Vaisnavas. The cure for the ills of any society always begins with each individual.

Dear Srila Prabhupada, when our brothers or sisters stumble, fall, or become emotionally wounded, let us have the compassion and love to try to understand their position and reach out our hand to help them. The worst thing is to ignore or belittle. That almost insures they will stay casualties.

Our experience is that as soon as we criticize or condemn, we put "them" outside our heart and our compassion, pushing them away. "They" become an object, divorced from us, and we lose our sense of being connected. We are all brothers and sisters of the same family of Krsna. One of your stated purposes of ISKCON, dear spiritual father, is to bring the members closer to Krsna and each other. Please bless us with the desire and will to accomplish this.

Dear Srila Prabhupada, please let us realize that karmically what we do to others we truly do to ourselves. It is Krsna's perfect law that we will be on the receiving end of every thought and deed we give out. Therefore please bless us to be very careful how we deal with others, looking first at the condition of our own heart and consciousness before we speak or act. After all, if I "have a problem" with someone, the difficulty is really with me and how I respond. The problems we have in our relationships with others -- the way we react to them -- teach us volumes about what we need to work on to advance or what needs to be purified or "healed" within us.

Our relationship problems can be compared to the coming together of rough stones in a river. The friction smoothes and polishes the stones. Actually, our conflicts with others may help us the most to advance. By your mercy, dear Prabhupada, let us welcome them as a wake-up call exposing our shortcomings and humbling us. Please let us appreciate the importance of devotee association and other devotees' difficulties. Where would we be without devotees? How could we live, and who would we go to for shelter?

Dear Srila Prabhupada, help us understand that seeing anyone only externally is dangerous, since the true position of the person's heart may not be visible. Certainly you don't want us to be sentimentalists (though we all need a good dose of love in all our dealings), and through scripture we must see how the modes are working, yet the fact is that in the short term it is not possible to tell who will be in what position in the long term.

Sometimes we require a "dark night of the soul" or a "bottoming out" before we are able begin to really surrender to the Lord. We must allow for that. Today's fallen souls may be tomorrow's saints, while those who appear advanced today may stumble tomorrow. O devotees, haven't we seen this so many times? Where would we be if Srila Prabhupada had seen us only externally? He saw our potential, that covered spark of spirituality. He saw us and sees us as we truly are. O Gurudeva, let us have that spiritual vision!
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Dear Srila Prabhupada, please let kindness, love, compassion, empathy, and understanding reign supreme in our hearts. Their application may bring a person "back" (did they really leave?) much faster then our stark presentation of "the truth." The medicine of Krsna consciousness must be administered expertly and on an individualized basis. As you, dear master, so often demonstrated, truly, one size doesn't fit all. Though we devotees all share the same philosophy, we are all very different, and we may practice Krsna consciousness differently. O Prabhupada, you gave us the real standard for unity and compassion: "Real unity is advancing in Krsna consciousness....In the Kali-yuga you cannot strictly follow, neither I can strictly follow. If I criticize you, if you criticize me, then we go far away from Krsna consciousness" (Morning Walk, 10 March 1976). Dear Srila Prabhupada, let us understand that we need to embrace "unity in diversity" if we are to be broadminded and not fanatics or impersonalists.

The spiritual world is full of wonderful variety and differences in the "oneness" of service to Krsna. "Each and every one of the sons of King Pracinabarhisat was an individual soul, but they were united in offering transcendental service to the Lord. The unity of individual souls attempting to satisfy the Supreme Lord or rendering service to the Lord is real unity" (Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.30.8, purport). Please, dear Gurudeva, bless us to have this unity with all the devotees.

Dear Srila Prabhupada, because you loved us and were beyond material duality, even your chastisement was like nectar. "The highest development of Krsna consciousness understanding will be when you are able to give anyone the truth but in such a manner that they will respond in a positive way." (Letter to Sankarsana dasa, 13 December 1971). Dear Prabhupada, please bless us to radiate unconditional love, happiness, and encouragement to attract everyone to Krsna.

O Prabhupada, nowadays, in this time of factionalism of devotees, some of us see more in common with, or are more favorable to, other religions or spiritual paths than with devotees of Krsna with different views. People who look at our Websites on the Internet wonder why we have so much disagreement. If we are encouraged and enthused by our understanding, that is wonderful, yet if another is encouraged and enthused by a different flavor of Krsna consciousness, should we not be glad? Does everyone have to be just like us?

Dear Srila Prabhupada, though we strive to follow your standard as we understand it, please let us to have transcendental equanimity. We can remain faithful to our understanding yet be inspired by others who are engaging in service according to their faith and convictions. Let us have that much respect for each other. "So if I find simply fault with you, and if you find fault with me, then it will be factional, and our real business will be hampered" (Morning Walk, 10 March 1976).

As you know, Srila Prabhupada, some devotees may not come back to the standard of spiritual practices they formerly embraced, or we may have some heated differences, or they may be in a different camp then we are. Regardless, Srila Prabhupada, please bless us to see them as deserving of our love, prayers, and encouragement on their spiritual journey. They are not aliens -- they are devotees -- and in this world how rare they are!
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Dear Srila Prabhupada, please let us be convinced that we truly need each other in all our differences. Our differences let us look at what we really stand for and deeply believe. "They should always chant the Hare Krsna mantra, then everything will be adjusted. Otherwise, it is not possible to advance. We shall be complicated with details only. This is called niyamagraha" (Morning Walk, 10 March 1976). Thank you, dear Prabhupada, for challenges to work through, for through them we can make more advancement. Thank you also for your books and instructions. Please let us become free from false pride.

Dear Srila Prabhupada, please let us all acknowledge that when we come to the path of Krsna consciousness in the material world, we can't help bringing our "stuff" -- our misconceptions and conditioning -- into our practice of Krsna consciousness. We sometimes follow your instructions or style without understanding your true spirit or the rationale behind your actions. Certain instructions we may not really, deeply understand (or even have faith in), nor may we know how to apply all your instructions in different circumstances. Dear Prabhupada, let us not only preserve the structure of ISKCON but the content and spiritual purpose that form its true foundation.

O Srila Prabhupada, please inspire us to be careful what we do in the name of "preserving what Prabhupada gave us" or in "saving ISKCON" (very emotionally charged ideas), so that we don't become self-righteous in believing we know definitely what you would do in every situation. We have to endeavor to see the true Krsna conscious perspective, praying to understand, while acting with caution, humility, and love.

You certainly showed your ocean of mercy in all your dealings with your "problem" disciples, or with those whom others labeled problems.** Good intentions without insight and real compassion can lead us on the wrong path. O divine master, please lead us on the right path!

O Prabhupada, with all the benefits of having a formal way to associate with devotees, institutional living can certainly complicate our personal practice of Krsna consciousness and test our real advancement. Though we attempt to make ISKCON flourish as our service to you, we don't want to become known as a society of law enforcers or quarrelers but a society of lovers of God, who demonstrate this love by our behavior (even with those with whom we disagree). This is who we truly are. Please dear Prabhupada, help us exemplify ideal character and true compassion, and help us be as liberal-minded as you.
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Dear Srila Prabhupada, as soon as we have a project or a home to take charge of and become a leader or head of the household, we have special challenges. There is a tendency to adopt the material vision of defense and see in terms of friends and enemies. Our false ego can rear its ugly head and bring us into a "black and white" consciousness, where there is only one way (our way) to serve. Whether we are in charge of a temple, a zone, or a house, this vision makes it very difficult to understand other points of view and creates divisions and cliques.

The Krishna Consciousness Movement is for training men to be independently thoughtful and competent in all types of departments of knowledge and action, not for making bureaucracy. Once there is bureaucracy the whole thing will be spoiled. There must be always individual striving and work and responsibility, competitive spirit, not that one shall dominate and distribute benefits to the others and they do nothing but beg from you and you provide. [Letter to Karandhara, 22 December 1972]

O Prabhupada, please bless us to become pure devotees with spiritual vision, as you desire!

Dear Srila Prabhupada, for real unity every devotee's input and assistance is vitally important. To illicit that support, the proper climate or mentality must be established in each temple and in the heart of every leader and devotee. We must be able to listen to each other with respect. Dear divine master, please give us the desire to really listen to each other and help us stop habitually criticizing or condemning (which is just like cursing) each other or holding grudges. Let us start praying for each other's welfare -- especially those we differ with.

Dear Srila Prabhupada, please let us not underestimate the power of combined prayer to rectify a mentality or situation. We remember how you engaged all your disciples in praying for you when you were ill. The prayers of the devotees are powerful. After all, ours is a movement of prayer for service and mercy. Our thoughts and intentions toward others are vitally important for our own advancement and others' welfare. Our inner life is the root of our actions and future.

Dear Srila Prabhupada, let us come up with novel ways to create unity. Unity is possible by your mercy, Srila Prabhupada, and with our faith and constant endeavor. Unity is more difficult than disunity (which is like the air in Kali-yuga) but far more satisfying and pleasing to Sri Guru and Sri Gaurangadeva. Whatever effort it takes to create unity, it is well worth it, because we know that our love for you will be shown by how we cooperate.

Dear Srila Prabhupada, please help us truly respect and honor every person, especially every devotee who has ever rendered service, including ourselves. It is really amazing how we can be so kind to nondevotees in preaching yet sometimes so cruel and hard-hearted with devotees we disagree with or feel offended by. Without forgiveness, love, kindness, and mercy, how can we expect Krsna to find our heart a fit place in which to dwell? O Gurudeva, let our hearts become purified, and let us hear and act upon the Lord's guidance.

Dear Srila Prabhupada, please bless us to look for the best in every devotee, seeking points of agreement, not emphasizing the differences, knowing that we tend to notice what we focus on. Let us be able to step back to gain perspective on our problems and differences or find an impartial person who can. Sometimes we are too close to our problems to have an objective view. This is why we need to create an atmosphere of openness and sharing, so that we can gain new perspectives and solutions from those not embroiled in controversies. The "silent majority" has much to offer. O beloved Prabhupada, as always, though especially now, we need your help, blessings, and illuminating guidance.
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Dear Srila Prabhupada, you are the moonlike beacon that illuminates our mirrorlike hearts according to how much dust has been removed by the holy name and devotional service. The fire of the Lord's light shines through you, setting our hearts ablaze. Our responsibility is to be keepers of the flame of devotion, shining that light to benefit the world and to illuminate the most auspicious spiritual path for everyone. However, if we are too busy arguing with and criticizing one another, our light will be eclipsed and your mission spoiled.

Dear Srila Prabhupada, let the power of love and devotion for you and our dear Lords Sri Sri Radha-Krsna uncover what pushes us away from one another, and let that power thus create unity of purpose, bringing us all together to work at spreading the chanting of the holy names, despite our differences!

Let us, by your grace, become uncommonly good souls. "Among the uncommonly good souls there are still gradations, and the best good soul is one who accepts an insignificant asset of a person and magnifies that good quality" (Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.4.12 purport).

Let our purified, compassionate hearts, spiritual vision, combined prayers, and endeavors for unity be our constant offering to you.

Your spiritual family in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. [1998]
(written by Karnamrta dasa)

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