Prākṛta-rasa Āraṇya Chedinī – Cutting the Jungle of Misconception
Chapter 10 – The Golden Age
‘The Golden Age’ was written by Śrīla Narasiṅgha Mahārāja in response to over-zealous devotees claiming that Śrīla Prabhupāda had been predicted in the Vedic literature and in particular, in Caitanya-maṅgala by Locana Dāsa Ṭhākura.
Devotee: In an article entitled Śrīla Prabhupāda: The Founder-ācārya of the Golden Age, it is constantly emphasized that the formation of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s institution is the beginning of the Golden Age of Kali-yuga, and Śrīla Prabhupāda is the ācārya for the Golden Age. Furthermore, the phrase, “For ten thousand years my books will guide the world,” is often repeated. Are we to regard such statements as authoritative for all Vaiṣṇavas, or could the author have been carried away by his own sentiments? Is Śrīla Prabhupāda (A. C. Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Prabhupāda) the ācārya for the Golden Age?
Narasiṅgha Mahārāja: I think that the author has been carried away by his own sentiments. In the manuscript of reference, many statements are out of context, or rather statements are made with the bias of āmāra guru jagat-guru, ‘my guru is jagat-guru.’ Such statements have no universal application, however well intended their author.
In any event, the phrase attributed to Śrīla Prabhupāda, “For ten thousand years my books will guide the world,” is actually not verifiable. He may or he may not have said it. Obviously, some devotees think that he did, otherwise they would not quote it. But it is not mentioned in any of the main writings, books, lectures, letters, room conversations, morning walks and so forth which have been recorded and preserved in the archives of our Guru Mahārāja. Therefore, we do not accept such hearsay as an absolute or authoritative statement. There are 484 references by Śrīla Prabhupāda in the Veda-Base Folio to “my books.” None of them includes the famous quote about the 10,000 years, even remotely. In the Prabhupāda Līlāmṛta we find the quote. Satsvarūpa Mahārāja writes: “One day in the car he had said, “My books will be the law-books for human society for the next ten thousand years.” It is not mentioned where Śrīla Prabhupāda said this, or when, or who was present.
Nevertheless, let us consider the possible truth of the statement, for surely it has its validity in transcendental arrangements. What were Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books in the first place? Were his books his own creation, or were they something else? Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books were for the most part translations of, and commentaries on the already existing books written by such empowered personalities as Śrīla Vyāsadeva, Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī, and Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī.
Śrīla Prabhupāda did not take credit for his own writing, but rather took pains repeatedly to proclaim that he was following in the footsteps of the previous ācāryas. In fact, the Bhaktivedānta Purports are so much in line with the purports of previous ācāryas that, in many cases, one could say they are translations of those of previous ācāryas. Indeed they are, but one would never know it unless one took the trouble to examine the texts of the previous ācāryas. In a recorded room conversation, Feb 26, 1973 Śrīla Prabhupāda says: “They are not my books. I am simply translating.”
The intimate relation between the Bhaktivedānta Purports and those of the previous ācāryas is the true glory of Śrīla Prabhupāda. He did not add anything or take anything away; he simply repeated the words of previous ācāryas. Therefore, how could the previous ācāryas be any less important? We should remember that Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu said that anyone who does not recognize his ‘svāmī’ is a prostitute. Mahāprabhu made this statement as an admonishment to Vallabhācārya, who failed to recognize the importance of Śrīdhara Svāmī, the original commentator on Śrīmad Bhāgavatam.
Śrīla Vyāsadeva was directly empowered by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and the mature product of the samādhi (meditation) of Vyāsadeva was Śrīmad Bhāgavatam. We find also that Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī was directly empowered by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu to distribute bhakti-rasa throughout the world, and he was specifically instructed to write books on the science of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Actually, it is Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī who heads our sampradāya. He is the ācārya of our sampradāya.
śrī-caitanya-mano-bhiṣṭaṁ sthāpitaṁ yena bhū-tale
svayaṁ rūpaḥ kadā māhyaṁ dadāti sva-padāntikam
“When will Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī Prabhupāda, who has established within this material world the mission to fulfill the desire of Śrī Caitanyadeva, give me shelter under his lotus feet.”
Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī established the mission of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu in this world, and thus it is he (Śrī Rūpa) who is the actual ācārya for the period of the Golden Age. Hence, all members of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s saṅkīrtana movement are called ‘rūpānugās,’ the followers of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī.
mahāprabhu śrī-caitanya, rādhā-kṛṣṇa nahe anya
“Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, Who is the undivided form of Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa, is very dear to the followers of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī.” (Śrīla Sarasvatī Ṭhākura)
The test of a genuine disciple lies in how well he has understood the purpose of the spiritual master. It is surprising, even alarming, that some devotees ignore the fact that the goal of being a disciple of Śrīla Prabhupāda is to become a rūpānugā. This is confirmed in the Bhaktivedānta Purport to Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya 19.132) as follows:
“That was Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī’s opinion, and he specifically told his disciples to write books. He actually preferred to publish books rather than establish temples. Temple construction is meant for the general populace and neophyte devotees, but the business of advanced and empowered devotees is to write books, publish them and distribute them widely. According to Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, distributing literature is like playing on a great mṛdaṅga. Consequently we always request members of the International Society for Kṛṣṇa Consciousness to publish as many books as possible and distribute them widely throughout the world. By thus following in the footsteps of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, one can become a ‘rūpānugā’ devotee.”
Ironically some pretenders who claim to be great ācāryas decry the saṅkīrtana movement by saying that the distribution of transcendental literature is only karma-yoga. Such persons are kaniṣṭha-adhikāris (the lowest type of devotees) who have no real knowledge of what it means to be a rūpānugā.
The Six Gosvāmīs (headed by Śrī Rūpa) scrutinizingly studied all the revealed scriptures with the aim of establishing eternal religious principles for the benefit of all human beings. Śrīnivāsa Ācārya establishes this conclusion, as follows:
lokānāṁ hita-kāriṇau tri-bhuvane mānyau śaraṇyākarau
vande rūpa-sanātanau raghu-yugau śrī-jīva-gopālakau
“I offer my respectful obeisances unto the Six Gosvāmīs, who are very expert in scrutinizing all the revealed scriptures with the aim of establishing eternal religious principles for the benefit of all human beings. Thus they are honored all over the three worlds, and they are worth taking shelter of because they are absorbed in the mood of the gopīs and are engaged in the transcendental loving service of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa.” (Íaḍ Gosvāmyaṣṭakam, text 2)
Therefore it must be concluded that the books of the Six Gosvāmīs are indeed intended to guide the world. Śrīla Prabhupāda’s translations and commentary on them must also be of the same quality —‘my books will guide the world.’
A similar position is held by Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī, in that he was empowered to write the Caitanya-caritāmṛta.
more ājña karilā sabe karuṇā kariyā
tāṅ-sabāra bole likhi nirlajja ha-iyā
“By their mercy, all these devotees ordered me to write of the last pastimes of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Because of their order only, although I am shameless, I have attempted to write this Caitanya-caritāmṛta.” (Cc. Ādi, 8.72)
In the Caitanya-caritāmṛta we also find mention that Vṛndāvana Dāsa Ṭhākura was the Vyāsadeva of Caitanya-līlā, and therefore no intelligent devotee could possibly dismiss the writings of Vṛndāvana Dāsa Ṭhākura as nonessential. Actually, without being empowered by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, no one can write transcendental literature. And the fact is that the Gauḍīya sampradāya has a great number of such literatures, written by empowered personalities. It is the super excellent characteristic of the Gauḍīya sampradāya that it has the greatest collection of transcendental literatures the world has ever known. All such literatures are meant to guide the world.
kali-kālera dharma kṛṣṇa-nāma-saṅkīrtana
kṛṣṇa-śakti vinā nahe tāra pravartana
“The fundamental religious system in the age of Kali is chanting of the Holy Name of Kṛṣṇa. Unless empowered by Kṛṣṇa, one cannot propagate the saṅkīrtana movement.” (Cc. Antya-līlā, 7.11)
It is a most glaring defect in certain sections of contemporary Vaiṣṇava society that some devotees want to replace Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, who was appointed as the ācārya of our sampradāya by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, with Śrīla Prabhupāda. Discounting the contribution of all ācāryas and missions since the time of Śrī Caitanya, some persons declare that Śrīla Prabhupāda’s coming to the West marks the beginning of the Golden Age. It is a foolish proposal and Śrīla Prabhupāda would certainly not sanction such inappropriate conclusions.
It is a fact that during Śrīla Prabhupāda’s lifetime, his society did perform wonderful service to Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s saṅkīrtana movement. This is to the eternal credit of all those souls who participated. Yet pride seems to have been the greatest enemy of many of those souls who once served the lotus feet of Śrīla Prabhupāda, and who once received the blessings of Mahāprabhu on their humble heads. It is truly unfortunate that, in the two and a half decades since the disappearance of Śrīla Prabhupāda, some proud and arrogant disciples have brought about more disgrace to Śrīla Prabhupāda, to his movement, and to the Gauḍīya sampradāya than fell upon the whole of Vaiṣṇavism during the past 5,000 years. It is sad, it is unfortunate, but it is true. And all in the name of society consciousness!
There is indeed a Golden Age within the age of Kali-yuga, but that age began with Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and the advent of His saṅkīrtana movement, and not with the forming of any institution in modern times. There is no monopoly on the saṅkīrtana movement by any institution; the paramparā itself retains all rights. Whosoever takes up the saṅkīrtana movement will prosper spiritually, and whosoever deviates from the principles of pure devotion will reap a harvest of mixed results.
In the Brahma-vaivarta Purāṇa we find mention of a 10,000 year period in which Vaiṣṇavism and the cult of Śrī Caitanya will flourish in the world. Afterwards, darkness and ignorance will consume the world.
In the Brahma-vaivarta Purāṇa the Supreme Personality of Godhead, while speaking to Gaṅgā-devī, describes the dawn of the Golden Age, by first mentioning those who worship the Lord by mantra. This reference to those who chant mantras as the central focus of their worship indicates Śrī Rāmānuja and Madhvaite brāhmaṇas.
man-mantropāsakas-pārṣad bhasmi-bhūtāni tatkṣanāt
bhaviṣyanti darśanāccha snānādeva hi jāhnavī
“Thereafter O Jāhnavī, by the sight and touch of those who worship Me by My mantra, all those sins will be burnt.” (Text 51)
Mantra refers to gāyatrī and other mantras, but not to the Holy Name of Kṛṣṇa (nāma).
Next, the Brahma-vaivarta Purāṇa directly indicates the advent of the Golden Age inaugurated by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu with the performance of hari-nāma-saṅkīrtana (the chanting of the Holy Name) and the recitation of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam.
harer-nāmāni yatraiva purāṇāni bhavanti hi
tatra gatvā sāvadhānam ābhiḥ sārddham ca srośyasi
“There will be chanting of the Name of Hari and reading of the (Bhāgavata) Purāṇa. Reaching such a place, attentively hear.” (Text 52)
It is strongly indicated that even the most sinful persons will become Vaiṣṇavas by the chanting of the Holy Names, and due to the presence of such purified Vaiṣṇavas, the whole planet will become a place of pilgrimage.
tathāpi vaiṣṇavā loke pāpāni pāpināmapi
pṛthivyāṁ yāni tīrthāni pūṇyānyāpi ca jāhnavī
“O Jāhnavī, the whole planet will become a pilgrimage site by the presence of Vaiṣṇavas, even though they had previously been sinful.” (Text 55)
Such a blissful condition is then predicted to last ten thousand years.
kaler daśa-sahasrāṇi mad bhaktaḥ samti bhū-tale
eka-varṇa bhaviṣyanti mad bhakteṣu gateṣu ca
“For 10,000 years of Kali-yuga, such devotees of Mine will fill the whole planet. After the departure of My devotees there will only be one varṇa (outcaste).” (Text 59)
mad bhakta-śūnya pṛthivī kali-grastā bhaviṣyati
etasminnaṅtare tatra kṛṣṇa-dehādvinir gataḥ
“Devoid of My devotees, the earth will be shackled by Kali. Saying this, Kṛṣṇa departed.” (Text 60)
Śrīla Prabhupāda mentioned this same concept of the ten-thousand year period of the Golden Age in his Bhāgavatam commentary (Bhaktivedānta Purports) canto 8, chapter 5, text 23, as follows:
“When Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu appeared He ushered in the era for this saṅkīrtana movement. It is also said that for ten thousand years this era will continue. This means that simply by accepting the saṅkīrtana movement and chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra, the fallen souls of Kali-yuga will be delivered. The ten thousand years of the saṅkīrtana movement inaugurated by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu 500 years ago provide the opportunity for the fallen souls of Kali-yuga to take to the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement.”
The fact that there will be devotees of the saṅkīrtana movement spread throughout the planet is also an indication that there must be someone, or several personalities, who will spread the Holy Name around the world.
pṛthivīte āche yata nagarādi-grāma
sarvatra pracāra haibe mora nāma
“In as many towns and villages as there are on the surface of the earth, My Holy Names will be preached.” (Caitanya-bhāgavata, 4.126 )
It is a fact that Śrīla Prabhupāda was the one who conducted a preaching mission beyond the borders of India, which marveled the Vaiṣṇava world. Many of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s godbrothers remarked, ‘We could not imagine how the prophecy of Mahāprabhu was to be fulfilled.’ The godbrothers were simply wonder-struck that ‘Svāmī Mahārāja’ (Śrīla Prabhupāda) had done it! Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja commented, “It is wonderful that Kṛṣṇa always acts through someone. Svāmī Mahārāja has done a miracle! We are happy, we are glad, and we are proud.”
Śrīla Locana Dāsa Ṭhākura mentions, in the beginning of his book Śrī Caitanya-maṅgala, that in the future there will appear a sena-pati (a great general), who would cause an inundation of Kṛṣṇa consciousness throughout the world. In the opinion of many devotees, that personality was Śrīla Prabhupāda, A. C. Bhaktivedānta Svāmī. Yet it is doubtful that Śrīla Prabhupāda would agree with them, as he always considered himself a humble servant of his Guru Mahārāja, Śrīla Sarasvatī Ṭhākura.
Indeed Śrīla Prabhupāda was a humble servant of his guru, and this is simply one amongst his many qualifications. This is the reason why he was chosen and empowered by guru and Kṛṣṇa to perform the service to the saṅkīrtana movement that he accomplished.
However, greatly learned scholars and pure devotees of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, who know the purport of the scriptures, have understood the sena-pati in Caitanya-maṅgala to refer to Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura. Between 1918 and 1936, Sarasvatī Ṭhākura caused a wave of Kṛṣṇa consciousness to swell up in Bengal that would indeed inundate the whole world. The sound of the kīrtana raised by Sarasvatī Ṭhākura conquered all the ten directions, silencing the atheist non-believers, the impersonalist speculators, and the imitationist sahajiyā sections of pseudo-Vaiṣṇavas.
Sarasvatī Ṭhākura orchestrated a great preaching movement for eighteen years, awarding the triple staff of renunciation to his disciples and then sending these sannyāsīs to preach throughout India, and eventually to western countries. Before passing away from this world, Sarasvatī Ṭhākura commented that he desired to spend at least ten years preaching Kṛṣṇa consciousness in the western countries. Sarasvatī Ṭhākura was unable to do this before his disappearance in 1936. However, through his intimate disciple, Śrīla A. C. Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Prabhupāda, Sarasvatī Ṭhākura’s last desire for preaching Kṛṣṇa consciousness in the west was fulfilled. Śrīla A. C. Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Prabhupāda continued the work of the sena-pati foretold by Locana Dāsa Ṭhākura and Sarasvatī Ṭhākura’s numerous disciples and grand disciples carry on the same work up to the present day.
Some persons might object that we do not concede that Śrīla A. C. Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Prabhupāda is the sena-pati spoken of in Caitanya-maṅgala. Such an objection shows a lack of understanding of the guru-paramparā and of the position of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura in contemporary society and in aprākṛta-līlā, the eternal pastimes of the Supreme Lord.
Sarasvatī Ṭhākura appeared in this world by the prayer of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, who implored the Supreme Lord Jagannātha to send His personal representative to fulfill the prophecy of Mahāprabhu that the Holy Name would be spread in every town and village. Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura prayed for the Supreme Lord to send such a personality from among His eternal associates. In response, Sarasvatī Ṭhākura appeared as the fourth son of Bhaktivinoda.
Devotees often overlook this ecstatic piece of transcendental knowledge (mentioned above) when trying to establish the greatness of Śrīla Prabhupāda. We should remember that the greatness of Śrīla Prabhupāda does not reside in our concocted ideas. Certainly, it does not reside in putting Śrīla Prabhupāda in the position of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī (the sampradāya-ācārya), or in the position of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura (the sena-pati who appeared in this world as a direct response to the prayer of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura). Such concocted attempts at glorifying Śrīla Prabhupāda fail miserably, due to being tainted with the kaniṣṭha mentality of āmāra guru jagat-guru, my guru is jagat-guru.
The actual greatness of Śrīla Prabhupāda is beyond challenge. Yet he reserves the right of proper disclosure, the right to reveal his eternal identity to those who are free from envy. What Śrīla Prabhupāda did in this world is written in eternal history. Yet to separate him from the very root of his greatness in an attempt to glorify him, denotes a lack of real transcendental vision of His Divine Grace. Such kaniṣṭha disciples are all too often found to be in the category of guru-bhogī (one who tries to enjoy the property and mission of the guru), rather than in the position of guru-sevaka (one who serves the vision of the guru).
The greatness of Śrīla Prabhupāda is not understood or expressed by the methods of concoction or sentimental exaggeration. The transcendental position of His Divine Grace can only be realized when one attempts to see how Śrīla Prabhupāda was accepted (connected) in the paramparā of great masters, and what qualifications earned him that illustrious position. The bona-fide disciple earns this right of divine vision of the guru through a lifetime of service and dedication at the lotus feet of the spiritual master, and not by any amount of mundane speculation. There is no other way to the truth than this.