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disciples and followers of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
In the Orbit of Srila Prabhupada
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19 June 2005, Redwood Valley
At the time of Prabhupada when he was with us, we were all packed up very tight like an elite military unit, like the Green Berets or the Navy Seals--very special forces, very tightly organized, and they have a very intense allegiance and dedication to one another. There is a very tight camaraderie. It was like that in the presence of Prabhupada. He was the commander, and we were directed by him. He would casually instruct us, "You go to Germany", "You go to Japan", "You go to Australia", when we had hardly been off the block. When you grow up in New York City, your block is your world, and if you go to another block, it's like you're in enemy territory. And here was Prabhupada sending us casually, "You go to Germany and preach", "You go to London", "You go to Australia", "You go to Japan", and "Why are you not printing my books?" In this way, under his guidance, under his lotus feet, by simply carrying out his directions, things happened miraculously. Indescribably miraculous, inconceivable. So it grew to become a very prominent phenomenon in his time.
Actually, Prabhupada said 1967 was the beginning, although he came a little earlier. But for one year Prabhupada wandered in New York City. He used to say, "At night, I couldn't sleep. I had insomnia, so I would go out, and I would wander around Times Square in New York, looking at the theatre marquis." In those days, those places were all X-rated burlesque-type shows, and 42nd Street and Time Square, Broadway was infested with the lowest kinds of people. We would call them low-lifers, perverted people. But it was going 24 hours a day, so Prabhupada would wander and wonder, "How will I begin, how will I teach them Krsna Consciousness? If I just suggest these 4 restrictions, no meat eating, no intoxication, no illicit sex, no gambling, they will just tell me, 'Go home'."
So, since those days… since 1977, when Prabhupada left us, and we saw the kind of chaos and disintegration and different kinds of divergences set in, I used to quote, "Our choices were few, and the thought never hit, the one road that we traveled would ever shatter or split. I wish, I wish, I wish in vain, that we could sit simply in that room again." But anyway, the song goes on. It's a Bob Dylan song, but it's very insightful and appropriate, because we never imagined that the tight camaraderie that we enjoyed in and around Srila Prabhupada would ever be disturbed. But it was. Not by anything external; it was actually disturbed by our own shortcomings. Some of you know my own history, and it is not excusable, but it is a fact that those devotees whom Prabhupada had trained so intensely, and who had spent so much time with him in different ways became victims of Maya, and they were derailed or diverted, or in some cases completely extinguished.
So, now after so many years, I actually feel a resurgence in my heart, and being with the devotees who know me, I wanted to say that although this has taken place in so many ways, the fact is we can never give up the goal of Krishna consciousness, which is to become purified in our hearts, so much so that we can actually attain success in the line of devotional service, following in the footsteps of our spiritual master and all the previous Acharyas. We have a great tradition or history of spiritual leaders. Just as in the material world, people are very proud of their military commanders. Back in the last World War there was Patton, there was Macarthur and Eisenhower, and then it goes back to the First World War, then the Civil War. So as devotees of Krishna, we are also at war, in a great conflict with Maya, with illusion. And of course our greatest enemy is our own self. In the Bhagavad-gita Krishna says, "The mind is one's very best friend, and the mind is one's worst enemy. For one who has learned to control his mind it is the best of friends, and for one who has failed to control his mind, it is the worst enemy." Prabhupada said, "In the great march back to home, back to Godhead, it is very thrilling, very exciting, but it is also very dangerous." But that doesn't mean that in the course of the great march, if someone falls or is wounded, he is going to give up the struggle, the great goal of going back home, back to Godhead, and getting out of the cycle of repeated birth and death. No. Krishna says, "For one who does good, My friend, he is never overcome by evil." And in another place in the Bhagavad-gita, Krishna points out that even if a devotee by chance, or even deliberately he is seen to commit the most abominable kind of act, "If he is rightly resolved towards Me [Krishna]", if he is determined, then you have to consider that person saintly. So it is expected that in a great battle or war, there are going to be casualties, and soldiers will fall by the wayside, but that doesn't mean that we are defeated. It means that everyone who is fixed-up in Krishna consciousness will get the opportunity, either in this life or the next life, to take up the mission, to take up the service and make it more perfect.
Some days ago I was invited to the Buddha School, Jim and myself went there and gave a class, and the Dharmaster wanted me to discuss the differences between Krishna consciousness and Buddhist religion. So when I began, I said that I would prefer to discuss the things that are common or similar, and the one thing we focused on was that the Christians are looking to go to heaven, the Buddhists are looking to go to Nirvana, the Muslims are looking to go to some heaven with beautiful damsels, the Krishnas are looking to go to Krishnaloka, and the demons are thinking "We will just evaporate and everything will be finished." So my point was that it really doesn't matter whether you opt for heaven or Nirvana or Krishnaloka; what really is important is that we have to see that one thing is for certain. One thing no one can deny or avoid: everyone is going somewhere. No one will be left standing. Every soldier, or every person--regardless of his religious or spiritual conviction or even an atheistic determination--everyone is going. No one is going to be left. Therefore, the intelligent person has to consider this first: that I am going, I will die, and even before that takes place, I will become old, I will be diseased. Whether I am going to heaven or not is actually a secondary consideration. That is your freedom, your option… whatever attracts you, that's fine. But you cannot avoid THE GOING part. That is fixed for everyone.
As devotees, we have by the grace of Prabhupada come into this great march, a great journey back to home, back to Godhead. When I came to Prabhupada, it was 1967, so it's been 38 years. In the course of 38 years we had euphoric success when Prabhupada was present, beyond our wildest imaginations. And it thrilled the whole world to see Prabhupada's Krishna conscious movement. It was thrilling. He took us to India at one point, and the whole of India was electrified, or I should say spiritualized. It was unbelievable for Indian people, who had been by-passed by the modern world, to see Western devotees with shaved heads, dhotis, mrdungas, kartals, singing, dancing, cooking prasadam. It was the most sensational thing that had happened in the history of India since the independence from British Rule. Everywhere Prabhupada took us, thousands of people would come. Whole towns would close down just to come and greet us. At one town, the Mayor said that even if the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had come, she would not have this kind of reception. There is no way that people would turn out to greet her in this way. It was so sensational. We were invited to meet with the wealthiest and most aristocratic people in the country, and Prabhupada took us. If a person is wealthy in India, he doesn't have a wooden house like we have, which is sort of like a matchbox. Although we're very proud of our homes, they actually are only some plasterboard and wooden beams and a shingled roof. But in India, people who are wealthy have marble homes. Their floors are marble, they eat off silver and gold plates, they have servants. It is not out of the ordinary for a wealthy person to have ten or twenty servants. Anyone who owns a car has a driver that is with that car 24 hours a day--not that he only comes for a couple of hours and drives. No. He is with that car 24 hours a day, keeping it clean and in good running condition, everything. So we were invited to the homes of the wealthiest, most aristocratic people, and they treated us as if we had descended from heaven. It was just unbelievable. And of course, even in America, we were also attracting very prominent people. Prabhupada attracted George Harrison, and George was so enchanted with Prabhupada and the devotees that he bought this fabulous manor, Bhaktivedanta Manor, which was worth maybe a million dollars at the time. We met John Lennon in Montreal. Prabhupada met Alan Ginsberg. And Prabhupada actually lived at the estate of John Lennon for 3 months. John was so taken with Prabhupada that he offered him 5 acres of land on his estate--"Just take it for free." You won't find that in all of the Beatle books, but the fact is that Prabhupada had such close association with the Beatles, especially John Lennon and George Harrison. But Prabhupada was so aloof and so transcendental that one day, when he was walking through the estate, he saw a picture of John and Yoko naked (they were embracing completely naked), and Prabhupada stopped and pointed to it and said, "This is a sign of insanity. We have to leave immediately." The next day, Prabhupada took all of the devotees (there were probably 15 or 16 devotees) and left. Whereas the whole world was clamoring to have access to these famous musicians, Prabhupada was never attached to his own glorification, sense gratification or honor. He was always completely determined to establish Krishna consciousness, or in a broader sense, to revive the original Vedic culture and religion, even to the point where he refused or rejected a fabulous opportunity or offer to be situated there at John Lennon's estate. The devotees had made an appointment for Prabhupada to meet with the Pope, and he asked, "When we meet, what will we discuss? On what points are we going to discuss?" When Prabhupada asked that, the devotees began to hem and haw, because they hadn't thought of it in that way, so Prabhupada said, "Oh, it is only for taking photos?" And the devotees responded, "Yes, Prabhupada", so he said, "Then I am not going. It is useless. We must discuss on the important points." So he rejected that. And when he met Indira Gandhi, he insisted that she should make arrangements so the devotees can come and stay in India without being disturbed by the immigration authorities. Everywhere Prabhupada went, the professors and celebrities came. In London, Donovan came, and George came. He brought Lakshmi Shankar, who had just made a record, "Krishna, Where Are You?" Alan Ginsberg came. Lord Brockway. There was a long list of prominent personalities. So we were all euphoric, seeing our commander squaring off with all the leading persons of the day, who were in Prabhupada's estimation all demons, really. And sometimes he would say, "You're a demon", and those demons would simply laugh and kind of agree. They all were all so totally charmed by Prabhupada. At least for the time being they were in check. They could not exert any power or influence over him.
And of course, being so near to Prabhupada, we all thought that after he went we would do the same, say the same thing, and the same thing would happen. But we were all sorely mistaken, because it was not simply a show that Prabhupada was making. There was something more to Prabhupada, which we, in our nearness or our familiarity with him, had in a way missed or forgotten, or had not carefully factored in. Prabhupada was actually completely transcendental to this world. He was not a person of this world. He was a person coming down from Vaikuntha, down to the mundane world. Bhaktisiddhanta said, "There is an eternally impassable line of demarcation between the savior and the saved. Those who are truly saved know this." So the great blunder that the leading devotees in many cases fell into was: after Prabhupada disappeared, they thought "We are also saviors, we will simply quote and wave and dress like Prabhupada and talk like him, and we will get the same effect." But it was not to be like that. We had to learn the hard way that we are the saved, and he is the savior for all time, and we are always his servants, and he is always our master. So that was the thought that flooded me this morning. Some of the devotees here know me a long time, and it has taken a long time to recover from that colossal mistake, that colossal blunder.
Although the devotees have gone in different directions, we are all coming to the same end. We have to give up this world, this body, all our friends, and all of our belongings, prestige, which we feel we have collected. And at that time, we will be tested--"Wherever and whatever the mind is fixed on at the time of leaving this body, that nature one attains without fail." And actually I'm convinced that the devotees, for the most part, no matter where they are today, they are always thinking of Prabhupada. He used to say, "Once you come into Krishna's orbit, He never lets you go." It's like once you sign up for military service, they never let you go. Even after you have done some service for a month or a year, and you decide, "Oh, this isn't for me", and you go AWOL, absent without leave, they will come and get you. You must do your service. So many devotees Prabhupada drew into his orbit, into the vortex of his transcendental charm and power, and although they have been scattered far and wide by the force of their minds (mind is one's best friend and worst enemy), because their minds are saturated with Prabhupada, that will not go away. It is not a temporary thing, not something whimsical or flimsy, like being attracted by Elvis or Britney Spears or some flim-flam mundane person. Being attracted by Prabhupada is forever and ever. So I am convinced, and have been for a long time, that wherever Prabhupada goes, his devotees follow him and reassemble, like birds who migrate South every year, and then back after the season. Similarly all the devotees in the orbit of Prabhupada's devotional service will migrate to wherever Prabhupada is, again and again, life after life, for all time, until they are perfect.
So there is really no separation, no real time that separates the devotees. They are transcendental. Some of you may have experienced that if you meet a devotee you have not seen for 10 years, it is just like you were in the other room for a few minutes, and you've come back out. I never feel… when I see one of my old godbrothers, I always think that it was only a few minutes ago that I saw him, although it may have been 10 or 15 years. The nature of this world is that it creates obstacles, but it cannot actually check our spiritual life, the progress that we have made, and the relationship with Prabhupada in devotional service. It is not checked by anything material. And Prabhupada would always repeat that whatever happens, even if through force of circumstances, if you are out of the company of devotees or the temple, never stop chanting Hare Krishna. This is the common thread that binds the devotee and keeps him nourished in devotional service. He used to compare the japa beads with an umbilical cord to Krishna, like a child in the womb is nourished by the umbilical cord. By the chanting of the Holy Names, the devotee gets strength and enthusiasm from Krishna, by chanting Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. So, I'm very happy so many devotees came. Thank you very much. Jaya! Hare Krishna.
In the Orbit of Srila Prabhupada/ Inside Nam Hatta
© 2004 - Hansadutta dasa
World Sankirtan Party