Question: I have seen in the composition, Prabhupāda Līlā-Smaraṇa-Maṅgala Stotram that you seem to have indicated that Śrīla A.C. Bhaktivedānta Swami Prabhupāda was in mādhurya-rasa. However, we have also heard from other great souls quoting Śrīla B. R. Śrīdhara Deva Gosvāmī Mahārāja that Śrīla Prabhupāda has shown an affinity for sakhya-rasa. This apparently has been shown in his prayer written on the Jaladūta while he was on his way to the western world. So my question is, being an admirer of Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja, how do you harmonise your opinion about the rasa of your Guru Mahārāja with that indicated by Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja?
Narasiṅgha Mahārāja: Whatever Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja has spoken, we should take upon our head. After the departure of Śrīla Prabhupāda, it is appropriate that we should accept the direction of Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja. These very same words were uttered almost verbatim about Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja by Śrīla Prabhupāda in a letter to Śrīpāda Bhakti Sundara Govinda Mahārāja. So to accept Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja’s opinion is natural for anyone who knows anything about his higher subjective realisations and his intimate relationship with our Śrīla Prabhupāda.
When Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja heard the recitation of the poem composed by our Guru Mahārāja, Prayer to the Lotus Feet of Kṛṣṇa, he commented that there was indeed a strong indication of our Śrīla Prabhupāda being in sakhya-rasa. Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja said:
“He has expressed himself, his eternal position, the acme of his aspiration. In Vṛndāvana he has established Balarāma and Kṛṣṇa and Nitāi-Gaura, and he is saying like that, Nitāi- Gaura are Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma. It is almost clear that he comes from that group. And now he is again there.”
Such a statement by Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja is not to be taken lightly. Even so, a short time later some of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s disciples raised an objection to Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja referring to Śrīla Prabhupāda as being in sakhya-rasa. Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja was shocked by the immaturity of those devotees. The consideration of rasa was obviously not a topic that those disciples were familiar with. Indeed, their harshness in dealing with Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja reflected their extreme neophyte state of Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
At that time, Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja said that because of the special empowerment of Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu, our Guru Mahārāja may have couched his mādhurya tendencies in deference to Him.
The idea given by Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja was that it is possible that our Guru Mahārāja was in mādhurya-rasa, but out of deference to Śrī Nityānanda, by whose potency he was influenced for his preaching campaign, Śrīla Prabhupāda may have veiled his mādhurya sentiments. Therefore, some of the sakhya influence of Nityānanda Prabhu was shown outwardly, keeping mādhurya in the background. It was not unthinkable for Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja to say such a thing – that our Guru Mahārāja was outwardly showing sakhya influence and keeping his mādhurya sentiments in the background. It is certainly not unreasonable.
To be a follower of Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja does indeed mean to adhere to his instructions and opinions. His instruction was that through the process of śaraṇāgati (surrender), one should come to know the plane of eternal truth in the core of one’s heart (anurāga).
Some devotees may be in favour of our Guru Mahārāja in sakhya-rasa, while others may favour him in mādhurya-rasa. To establish a right and a wrong in this matter, however, may not be as black and white as some would like it to be. The truth is subjective – as He wishes us to see Him, so we shall see Him.
In the life of our Guru Mahārāja, there were innumerable indications that he was connected to kṛṣṇa-līlā in mādhurya-rasa. We have tried to show practically through these indications, how Śrīla Prabhupāda is very dear to Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. Only a portion of those indications have been recounted in the song, Prabhupāda Līlā-Smaraṇa-Maṅgala Stotram. Those were as follows:
(1) That Śrīla Prabhupāda’s father, praying to the Vaiṣṇava sādhus, asked for their blessings that his son become the servant of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī.
(2) That Śrīla Prabhupāda took mantra-dīkṣā (initiation) from Śrīla Sarasvatī Ṭhākura (Śrī Vārṣabhānavi-devī Dayitā Dāsa, also known as Nayanamaṇi-mañjarī in his siddha-rūpa).
(3) That Śrīla Prabhupāda received his most cherished instructions to print books from his guru while they strolled along the banks of Śrī Rādhā-kuṇḍa (the most sacred place of pilgrimage for the followers of Śrī Śrī Rūpa-Raghunātha).
(4) That Śrīla Prabhupāda’s chosen place of bhajana in Vṛndāvana was just behind the samādhi of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī (Rūpa-mañjarī).
(5) That Śrīla Prabhupāda after completing his world preaching mission returned to Vṛndāvana and selected Kārttika month (the month non-different from Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī) as the time of his departure and his entrance into the eternal līlās of the Lord.
(6) And finally, Śrīla Prabhupāda manifested a great desire, just a few days before his pastime of departure, to go to Govardhana Hill, the eternal place of residence of the followers of Śrī Rūpa and Raghunātha Dāsa. These, and other indications of Śrīla Prabhupāda being the dear most servant of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, were expressed in Prabhupāda Līlā-Smaraṇa-Maṅgala Stotram.
It may be said that one cannot judge the rasa of a particular devotee simply by his external movements or place of residence etc. However, such a statement may be taken as only partially true. Otherwise Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas would not choose the holy dhāmas such as Vṛndāvana, Navadvīpa and Jagannātha Purī as their preferred places of residence and bhajana. The prakaṭa-līlā (external movement) of the pure devotee is not necessarily devoid of aprakaṭa-bhāva ( one’s internal feelings of love for Kṛṣṇa). Although the movements of the pure Vaiṣṇava are certainly deeply mysterious and not easily understood, nonetheless they may give us some perspective on the level of their intimacy with the Supreme Lord.
Further biographical information that has not been mentioned in the Prabhupāda Līlā-Smaraṇa-Maṅgala Stotram indicating the intimacy of Śrīla Prabhupāda in Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa līla is as follows:
(1) When choosing to establish his mission (The League of Devotees) at Jhansi, Śrīla Prabhupāda chose a building known as Rādhā-Smaraka (Rādhā Memorial) to set up his offices.
(2) When Śrīla Prabhupāda went to Delhi for printing his Back To Godhead magazine, he chose a residence at the Chippiwada Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa temple.
(3) When choosing a printing press to begin the publication of his life’s work Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, Śrīla Prabhupāda chose the Rādhā Press in Delhi.
(4) When introducing his disciples to the worship of Śrī Guru, Śrīla Prabhupāda requested us to daily sing the Gurvāṣṭakam, the prayers to the spiritual master composed by Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura, in which the spiritual master is glorified as a servant of the Divine Couple in mādhyura-rasa (nikuñja-yūno rati-keli-siddhyai).
(5) Before every class, Śrīla Prabhupāda would sing Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s song, jaya rādhā-mādhava jaya-kuñja-vihari.
In any case, we have many such remembrances of our Divine Master which have unfolded in our heart so as to impel us to contemplate him as a follower of Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī and an eternal member of the intimate circle of mādhurya-rasa. We feel proudly in our heart that Śrīla Prabhupāda was the confidential representative of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī who was especially empowered by Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu to spread Kṛṣṇa consciousness all over the world. As Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja has said:
“If we raise our head a little higher and look up, then we shall find Rādhārāṇī and Gurudeva. It is Rādhārāṇī who is instrumental in accomplishing the function of Gurudeva from behind. The source of grace for the guru is coming from the original source of service and love. Sākṣād dharitvena samasta śāstraiḥ – we are asked to see Gurudeva not as opaque but as transparent, to such a degree that through him the highest conception of service, the first conception of service can be seen. It can be obtained there. If we are earnest, then we shall find the highest link from the original source. We are requested not to see guru as limited in his ordinary personification, but as the transparent mediator of the highest function in his line. If only our vision is deep, we can see that according to the depth of our śraddhā, our vision, guru-tattva is very particular, very noble, very broad, wide and very deep.”
In summary, we may conclude that our Guru Mahārāja, Śrīla A. C. Bhaktivedānta Swami Prabhupāda is in mādhurya-rasa simply because he saw his guru as Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. His guru is Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. This was also confirmed by Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja on several occasions as follows:
“Swami Mahārāja has clearly written that his guru is Rādhārāṇī. It is there – “Kṛṣṇa, Rādhārāṇī will be pleased if You help me in this campaign” – e-puṇya karibe yabe rādhārāṇī khuśi habe dhruva ati bali tomā tāi. So he has admitted that his guru is Rādhārāṇī. So we aspire after the service of Rādhārāṇī under the direction of Śrī Rūpa and other devotees, not committing any wrong.
“In general rasa, general service of Kṛṣṇa, he preached in the West. Though he knew and admitted that, “My guru is Rādhārāṇī. Rādhārāṇī, my gurudeva, has ordered me to preach in the west, and Kṛṣṇa, my friend, You are to help me, because Rādhārāṇī will be satisfied, my Gurudeva. Your bigness is also like that. So, You must come to help me.”
Certainly Śrīla Prabhupāda will forgive us if we have overstepped our boundaries in endeavouring to serve him with our full heart’s love and devotion.
We offer our humble apologies to anyone and everyone if we have made any offence in following our heartfelt intuition and pray that you will kindly forgive us.