Let me offer my most respectful and humble obeisances to the lotus feet of my spiritual master, His Divine Grace Śrī Jagat-Guru Oṁ Viṣṇupāda Paramahaṁsa Śrī Śrīmad A. C. Bhaktivedānta Swami Prabhupāda.
Let me also offer my most respectful and humble obeisances to all of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s eternal servants, paraphernalia, and pastimes. By the boundless mercy of His Divine Grace, vast numbers of conditioned souls are being drawn to the lotus feet of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Govinda.
I humbly bow my head in the dust of the lotus feet of Śrīla Prabhupāda and sincerely pray that he will accept me as one of his eternal servitor associates.
The disciples of Śrīla Prabhupāda worship His Divine Grace as the dear-most servant of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī in the line of Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī. I must therefore beg forgiveness at the lotus feet of Śrīla Prabhupāda and before all of you, the listeners and readers, for any fault or offence that I have committed in my attempt to glorify His Divine Grace.
sarva-vaiṣṇavera pā’ye kari namaskāra
ithe aparādha kichu nahuka āmāra
“I offer my respects unto all the Vaiṣṇavas, so I may not make offences to them.” (Caitanya-bhāgavata, Ādi-khaṇḍa 1.87)
We shall always remember Śrīla Prabhupāda, our eternal father, as the empowered representative of the most glorious and beautiful Queen of Śrī Vṛndāvana, Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, and we shall forever aspire for the shelter of his lotus feet. What follows are eight transcendental remembrances of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedānta Swami Prabhupāda’s manifest pastimes in Śrī Caitanyadeva’s ongoing saṅkīrtana-līlā, all of which point to his eternal service in the camp of Śrī Rādhā.
HIS BIRTH – An Eternal Resident of Goloka Vṛndāvana
It was Nandotsava, the day after Janmāṣṭamī, the advent day of Lord Kṛṣṇa, when Śrīla Prabhupāda appeared in this world in a small village on the outskirts of Calcutta. It was a very auspicious day and all the people in the three worlds were engaged in a wonderful festival celebrating the birth of Śrī Kṛṣṇa-candra, who had advented at Śrī Vṛndāvana-dhāma almost five thousand years before. At this auspicious time, Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, the Queen of Vṛndāvana, called Her dear servant and said, “Please go to earth and give them Kṛṣṇa’s mercy.” Thus Her own servant was sent to this world to spread Kṛṣṇa consciousness in every town and village. Who else but the dear-most servant of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī could be worthy of such a task?
The same year as Śrīla Prabhupāda’s appearance (1896), Śrīla Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda’s introductory book in English, Śrī Caitanya: His Life and Precepts, appeared at McGill University in Canada. This was the first book about Śrī Caitanya to reach Western shores. Shortly after that, Bhaktivinoda also predicted that a great soul would soon come to fulfil Śrī Caitanya’s prediction from Caitanya-bhāgavata:
pṛthivīte āche yadi nagarādi-grāma
sarvatra pracāra haibe mora nāma
“In every town and village of the world, My Holy Name will be sung.” (Caitanya-bhāgavata, Antya-khaṇḍa. 4.126)
That Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda’s first publication came to the West in the same year that Śrīla Prabhupāda appeared in this world as ‘the ambassador to fulfil the prediction of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’ is felt in the hearts of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s eternal servants as an eternal transcendental truth.
Śrīla Prabhupāda is always situated in eternal pastimes of the divine couple Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Govinda in the transcendental realm of Goloka Vṛndāvana. Thus the place of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s appearance in this mundane world is considered non-different from Goloka Vṛndāvana.
It is stated in the 17th Chapter of Caitanya-bhāgavata that in order to teach others how to be a faithful disciple of Śrī Guru, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu showed the example by visiting the birthplace of Īśvara Purī at Kumārahaṭṭa and collected some earth from his birth-site. This Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu kept very carefully and He used to eat a small portion of it daily. Let us therefore eternally worship the auspicious day and the auspicious place where Śrīla Prabhupāda manifest his humble appearance in this world.
HIS FATHER – A Pure Devotee of Kṛṣṇa
Gaura-mohana De, a pure devotee of K ṛṣṇa, desired the very best for his son. “Please bless him,” he used to say, whenever holy men visited his home. “Please bless my son that he will become a great devotee of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī.”
Śrīla Prabhupāda said, “My father also trained me and instructed me to his best capacity, and he prayed for me that Rādhārāṇī may be pleased upon me, and I think by my father’s blessings and grace, I may have come to this position, and I have gotten into relationship with His Divine Grace Oṁ Viṣṇupāda Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī Mahārāja also by his mercy. So it is Kṛṣṇa’s grace that I got a good father and also a good spiritual master.”
What else did Gaura-mohana desire for his son? “He should learn to play mṛdaṅga very nicely and he should engage in the worship of Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Govinda.”
Śrīla Prabhupāda’s father made all these arrangements: mṛdaṅga lessons and Deities of Rādhā-Govinda for Śrīla Prabhupāda’s childhood worship. In due course of time, everything became wonderfully manifest in Śrīla Prabhupāda, as per his father’s transcendental desires.
What wonderful arrangements the Lord makes for his pure devotees! Let the holy remembrance of Śrī Gaura-mohana De, the father of Śrīla Prabhupāda and a pure devotee of Kṛṣṇa, be ever present in our thoughts.
HIS GURU – My Guru Mahārāja was a Vaikuntha Man
Śrīla Prabhupāda said, “The ideas I imbibed from my father in my childhood days were later on solidified by my spiritual master, the eternal father, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura.” Who was Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, the spiritual master of our beloved spiritual master? The eternal ego of Śrīla Sarasvatī Ṭhākura is disclosed here in these two beautiful prayers by Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Deva Gosvāmī Mahārāja:
su-vicāraka iva jīvaka iti sādhubhir-uditam
śubhadodaya-divase vṛṣa-ravijā nija-dayitam
praṇamāmi ca caraṇāntika-paricāraka-sahitam
“O Dayita Dāsa, your divine personality exists within the spiritual realm, and your manner of movement is quite gentle while your divine figure fondly engages in the Lord’s śṛṅgāra-rasa pastimes. In addition, your external appearance radiates the prestige of a dignified renunciate – far superior to any class of demigod – and possesses the intelligence of a pure devotee. Every aspect of your distinct personality is exactly parallel with those magnificent devotees Śrīla Sanātana, Śrīla Raghunātha Dāsa, and Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī. Due to your wonderful and precise judgement, the devotees have declared that you are the life-image of Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī. On your auspicious appearance day, I humbly offer my respects unto the tips of your lotus toes in the association of your favourite servitors. O Gurudeva, you are the dear-most object of King Vṛṣabhānu’s daughter, Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī.” (Śrī Dayita Dāsa Praṇati-pañcakam 3)
nīte yasmin niśānte nayana-jala-bharaiḥ snāta-gātrārbudānāṁ
ucchair utkrośatāṁ śrī-vṛṣa-kapi-sutayā-dhīrayā svīya-goṣṭhīm
pṛthivī gāḍhāndhakārair-hṛta-nayana-maṇīvāvṛta yena hīnā
yatrāsau tatra śighraṁ kṛpaṇa-nayana he nīyatāṁ kiṅkaro ‘yam
“At the close of night, early morn, there were thousands of devotees freshly bathed and loudly wailing, their eyes overflowing with sorrowful tears of hopelessness. Śrīmatī Rādhikā, that radiantly beautiful Queen of Vraja and daughter of King Vṛṣabhānu, had summoned Her intimate servant Śrī Dayita Dāsa to return to Her divine camp, their personal family. Now in the absence of Nayana-maṇi-mañjarī, the earth planet has been vacuumed into the deepest, vacant darkness. Oh! With no further delay, kindly accept this fallen soul as your servant. O Dayita Dāsa, I am hoping against hope to be embraced within the fold of your divine company.” (Śrī Dayita Dāsa Daśakam 1)
Let the transcendental memory of Śrīla Prabhupāda as the eternal servant of the servant of Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Govinda become our exclusive meditation and bhajana.
HIS GURU’S INSTRUCTIONS – Rādhā-kuṇḍa – Print Books!
Śrīla Prabhupāda often spoke about the instructions of his Guru Mahārāja to preach and publish Kṛṣṇa conscious literature. Śrīla Prabhupāda was especially fond of mentioning the story of how he received his most important instructions from Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura at Śrī Rādhā-kuṇḍa. Śrīla Prabhupāda recalled that at the time, Śrīla Sarasvatī Ṭhākura was feeling some dissatisfaction in regards to some disciples competing over who would live in which rooms in the newly constructed temple in Calcutta.
While walking along the banks of Rādhā-kuṇḍa, the place of the most intimate pastimes of Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Govinda, Śrīla Sarasvatī Ṭhākura revealed his mind. “I think it would be better to sell this temple and the marble and print books.” Then, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura turned to Śrīla Prabhupāda and said, “If you ever get money, print books.”
Śrīla Prabhupāda told this story many times and he would usually add these words: “And so, I am doing. Printing books is our first business. Print books and distribute them all over the world and Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura and Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu will bless you.”
With great humility, Śrīla Prabhupāda used to say that his only qualification was that he had firm faith, guru-niṣṭhā, in the order of his spiritual master.
The ultimate conception of the spiritual master in the Gauḍīya sampradāya is that the guru is the representative of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. Śrīla Prabhupāda saw his Guru Mahārāja, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, in that way and that is the standard that we must adopt if we wish to enter deeply within the ocean of Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
Let us always worship the holiest of holy places, Śrī Rādhā-kuṇḍa, and let us always remember the instructions of Śrī Rādhā to Her most confidential servant at that most holy place.
HIS PLACE OF BHAJANA – The Rādhā-Dāmodara Temple
Once, in Vṛndāvana, Śrīla Prabhupāda informed a small group of his devotees of something very sublime, “I live eternally in my rooms at the Rādhā-Dāmodara temple.” The real substance of this statement is, of course, only fully known to Śrīla Prabhupāda himself, but we can feel with our heart that this clearly indicates that Śrīla Prabhupāda is an eternal member of the camp of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī.
In his small rooms overlooking the samādhi of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, Śrīla Prabhupāda used to execute his daily bhajana of chanting the Holy Name of Kṛṣṇa and writing the Bhaktivedānta purports in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam. Śrīla Prabhupāda also informed us that, “I got inspiration for going to the West simply by performing my bhajana and praying before the samādhi of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī.” There he performed his bhajana and sang daily Narottama Dāsa Ṭhākura’s song, Śrī Rūpa-mañjarī-pada. It is in this song that we find the highest aspiration of the followers of the rūpānuga sampradāya in the service of Śrī Rādhā.
The Rādhā-Dāmodara Temple is located within the rasa-maṇḍala of Śrī Vṛndāvana-dhāma and it occupies a most exalted position as the place of highly confidential līlā of Śrī Śrī Rādhā- Govinda. It was here also that the renowned devotee, Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī prepared transcendental literature on the science of Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
Dāmodara generally refers to Kṛṣṇa being bound with the ropes of love of Mother Yaśodā, but there is another meaning of Dāmodara which is known only to the followers of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Dāmodara means bound by the love and affection of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. So great is Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī’s love for Kṛṣṇa, that She has captured Kṛṣṇa and bound Her Lord making Him Her exclusive property and servitor.
The Rādhā-Dāmodara Temple now stands at that place where Lord Kṛṣṇa became a slave to the love of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, where He bowed to Her holy feet in rādhā-pada-sevā, and this also is the eternal place of service and bhajana of Śrīla Prabhupāda.
Let us always remember the Rādhā-Dāmodara Temple, the place of holy bhajana of Śrīla Prabhupāda and let us never forget his most exalted position as a servant of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī in the camp of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī.
HIS ARRIVAL – You Will Obtain Your Good Fortune
When the Jaladūta was crossing the Atlantic Ocean en route to Boston Harbor on September 13th 1965, Śrīla Prabhupāda composed a beautiful prayer in his native Bengali language. The refrain appeals to Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who is bound by Rādhārāṇī’s love.
kṛṣṇa taba puṇya habe bhāi e-puṇya karibe
yabe rādhārāṇī khuśi habe dhruva ati bali tomā tāi
Commenting on Śrīla Prabhupāda’s poem, Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja once said:
“I consider him to be a śaktyāveśa-avatāra and this is confirmed in his writings on his spiritual journey through the Atlantic. How he arrived in America, the nature of his beginning the movement, his intense degree of dependence and dedication to Kṛṣṇa, and how much he made himself empty of any other desire than the order of his Gurudeva corroborate that Kṛṣṇa came down to help him. In his poem, Prayer to the Lotus Feet of Kṛṣṇa, we find him pleading with Kṛṣṇa, “My dear brother, Your good fortune will come to You only when Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī becomes pleased with You.” Seeing his Gurudeva, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, as Rādhārāṇī’s delegation and his order as Her divine service, he humbly submitted that he did not feel himself worthy or fit to discharge the divine service – so he enlisted Kṛṣṇa in the service of his guru. He had completely dedicated himself to the purpose; he was so earnest in his prayer to Kṛṣṇa that divine force came down to help him. Otherwise, it is impossible. It is not an ordinary thing that anyone can do, rather the highest thing was extensively taken down to the lowest position, to the fallen souls. It cannot but be the divine power, embodied and in a great intensity and magnitude! So, śaktyāveśa-avatāra, I cannot but take him to be so.”
The longest journey begins with the first step and certainly any and all progress in Kṛṣṇa consciousness begins by first approaching Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. Just as all the planets revolve around the pole star, Dhruvaloka, so divine service revolves around Śrī Rādhā. Therefore, with emphasis (dhruva) Prabhupāda wrote, dhruva ati bali tomā tāi, emphatically imploring Kṛṣṇa, “You will only be happy if Rādhārāṇī is pleased; therefore, You must help me to do Her service.”
It is the desire of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī to spread Kṛṣṇa consciousness all over the world and it is the desire of Śrī Kṛṣṇa to spread the glories of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī amongst the surrendered souls. Both these elements are present in the very beginning of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s attempt to start the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement in the Western world.
Once, Śrīla Prabhupāda commented that, “Kṛṣṇa alone is not so beautiful.” The meaning is that without Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī at His side, Kṛṣṇa is incomplete. The ultimate truth is that Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa are together eternally. They actually never separate even for a moment. Just as Kṛṣṇa never takes even one step out of Vṛndāvana, similarly, Kṛṣṇa never leaves the side of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī even for a moment. The Two are eternally united.
The pure devotees of Kṛṣṇa never desire to enjoy separately with Kṛṣṇa – rather they eternally desire to serve the Divine Couple, Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa by attending to all Their needs and transcendental necessities.
Let us always remember the lotus feet of our divine master, His Divine Grace, who has obtained the greatest fortune from the Supreme Lord Kṛṣṇa by the grace of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī and who is eternally engaged in Their most intimate service.
HIS MESSAGE, A MATCHLESS GIFT – We Have Come Here to Receive the Greatest Gift
The matchless gift that His Divine Grace so graciously gave to his disciples, followers, and ultimately to the whole world, is nicely expressed by Śrīla Raghunātha Dāsa Gosvāmī in the following prayer to his spiritual master. What we find expressed here by Śrīla Raghunātha Dāsa Gosvāmī is truly the essence of the mission of His Divine Grace and the most refined understanding of the substance of our Gauḍīya sampradāya.
nāma-śreṣṭhaṁ manum api śacī-putram atra svarūpaṁ
rūpaṁ tasyāgrajam uru-purīṁ māthurīṁ goṣṭavātīm
rādhā-kuṇḍaṁ giri-varam aho rādhikā-mādhavāśāṁ
prāpto yasya prathita-kṛpayā śrī guruṁ taṁ nato ‘smi
Here, Dāsa Gosvāmī prays to his Gurudeva and if we can understand the things represented in this verse, we can say that we have understood Śrīla Prabhupāda’s message. By the grace of His Divine Grace, we have received the highest conception of the Holy Name of Kṛṣṇa and the shelter of Śrī Caitanya. Śrī Caitanya’s personal secretary, Svarūpa Dāmodara, is none other than Śrī Lalitā-sakhī, the closest friend of Śrī Rādhā, who canvasses widely on Her behalf. By Śrīla Prabhupāda’s grace, we have come to her shelter and also the shelter of Śrī Rūpa and Sanātana Gosvāmīs. By their grace, we can become acquainted with our eternal place of service at Govardhana and sometimes be called to Rādhā-kuṇḍa in the service of Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Mādhava.
Let us always remember the lotus feet of His Divine Grace, who is the giver of the matchless gift of eternal joy in the hearts of his surrendered servants and who is a torchlight of inspiration to all members of the Gauḍīya sampradāya in the matter of spreading Kṛṣṇa consciousness all over the world.
HIS DEPARTURE – Govardhana and Kārttika
After preaching Kṛṣṇa consciousness around the world fifteen times in only twelve years, His Divine Grace eventually returned to Śrī Vṛndāvana-dhāma where he manifest his final pastimes before our eyes and gave us his last instructions.
His Divine Grace showed us many things by his personal example and inspired us to continue preaching this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement all over the world. Then in the month of Kārttika a few days before Govardhana-pūjā, His Divine Grace suddenly manifested a strong desire to go to Govardhana Hill. It came as a shock to all the devotees as they could not tolerate the idea of His Divine Grace making such an arduous journey. Then, with the help of Kṛṣṇa Dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja, Śrīla Prabhupāda’s desire was relaxed, at least from the external point of view.
What was His Divine Grace teaching us, or what did he actually express by telling us that he wanted to go to Govardhana Hill? It was not simply the Govardhana Hill that can be reached by either car or bullock cart to which His Divine Grace desired to go. It was the infinite play of his eternal Lord in the service of Śrī Rādhā at Govardhana to which he desired to return. As Dāsa Gosvāmī realised when Śrī Caitanya gave him the govardhana-śilā and guñjā-mālā, “Mahāprabhu has given me a place at Govardhana in the service of Śrī Rādhikā,” so His Divine Grace instructed us about these truths through his disappearance.
Kārttika is the most revered time of year in Vṛndāvana because it represents the month of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, and Śrī Govardhana Hill is the place of unlimited eternal, intimate pastimes of the Divine Couple Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Govinda. His Divine Grace was being called to return to those wonderful pastimes of divine love.
The days and moments passed and the devotees stood by helplessly – then suddenly the only meaning in our poor lives disappeared from our sight. Our most beloved guide, master, father, and friend had returned to the side of his most worshipful Lord – simultaneously, he had entered our hearts forever. The devotees shed an ocean of tears, yet to this day we have not extinguished the fire of separation felt for his affectionate and reassuring presence. How shall we maintain our lives now?
His Divine Grace expressed his inner desire to go to Govardhana Hill and he chose the time of Kārttika, the month of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, for his departure from this world. Thus, he has shown us the way and he has drawn the whole world to Govardhana Hill and the Kārttika festival. We have understood this by our practical experience as thousands of devotees from all over the world celebrate Kārttika in Vṛndāvana and circumambulate Govardhana Hill every year.
Let us always remember our Divine Master, His Divine Grace, as an eternal servant and resident of the eternal pastimes of Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Govinda and let us carry the impression of his lotus feet and his instructions in the core of our hearts and continue on, as he so strongly desired, to become pure devotees and to spread the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement to every corner of the world.
Everything is possible by the will of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa, and His Divine Grace is also always present before us. His Divine Grace has given us the assurance and blessing that, through his instructions he will be by our side at every moment. May we all be blessed with his everlasting memory and his transcendental association via faith, surrender and transcendental loving service.