“It is not so easy to be a Shukadeva or a Krishna dasa.”
Dear Bhaktin Shylaja
C/O Srila Prabhupada Awareness team,
Please accept my humble obeisances in remembrance of my Divine Masters.
“We are a group of devotees from South India working with the objective to increase awareness and appreciation of Srila Prabhupada; through His biographies written by your god brothers or god sisters. You are certainly glorious for being one of the rare recipients of Srila Prabhupada’s nectarean association during his physical presence. . . . We started this project in mid-2012, where few of us got together and indexed more than 45 biographies written on Srila Prabhupada by various devotees. . . . we are trying to increase Prabhupada’s glories in this way. Just to keep you posted, we have published your memories in this app as well”
I appreciate the spirit of your kind email and your interest in spreading the glories of His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada via a biography consisting of contributions from his many disciples.
However, I disagree with you and your project on the basis of the following points.
I am not “glorious.” Srila Prabhupada is glorious for he successfully serves his Divine Master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, with such tenacity and dedication that he is a reliable via media by which we can understand the heart and soul of that super-excellent nitya siddha bhakta who embodies the pure precepts of Sri Rupa.
I do not resemble such a glorious person (although Srila Prabhupada afforded me the opportunity to do so by graciously accepting me as his disciple). Your own statements prove the fact. For if I was the glorious person you allude to, I’m sure you would not have published my “memories” without first submitting the “memories” you speak of to me for my approval before publication. Thus, I have no idea what you are referring to as my “memories”, nor do I know whether or not you are presenting them accurately.
In general, I do not care much about biographies.
“Prabhupada: You, you wanted little history of this movement? I have given you. That you can create. Yes. How the movement is going on, you can… But we cannot spoil our time in that way, that I describe the biography of a person.
“Prabhupada: In our books there is no biography of anyone. That biography is not that you… We are interested in the philosophy.
“Author: Well, I, erm…
“Prabhupada: If this… The philosophy, vijnana. It is called vijnana, science. If you want to know what is the science of this movement, we can spare day and night to convince you. But these are superficial. First of all we say that “I am not…, we are not this body.” So why we shall be interested with the history of this body?”
—Conversation with Author — April 1, 1972, Sydney
The simple fact that one has received initiation from Srila Prabhupada, or another maha-bhagavata, does not necessarily mean we should turn to them as reliable sources to convey the transcendental characteristics of such a great soul. “The words or songs of a person not fixed in Vaiṣṇava behavior, not strictly following the rules and regulations and chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra should not be accepted by pure devotees.”
One cannot offer prayers to the Lord with mundane words. One must become spiritually advanced by controlling the mind and senses. Then he can find suitable words to offer in prayers to the Lord. Quoting the following verse from the Padma Purāṇa, Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī forbids us to sing any song not sung by authorized devotees.
śravaṇaṁ naiva kartavyaṁ
sarpocchiṣṭaṁ yathā payaḥ
The words or songs of a person not fixed in Vaiṣṇava behavior, not strictly following the rules and regulations and chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra should not be accepted by pure devotees. The words sātvata-śāstra-vigrahamindicate that the sac-cid-ānanda body of the Lord can never be accepted to be made of māyā. Devotees do not offer prayers to the Lord in an imaginary form. The existence of the Lord’s form is supported by all Vedic literature.
—A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, SB 6.16.33, Purport
There are many cautions similar to the one above warning us away from words that do not come from “a fully unalloyed devotee of the Lord”:
Unless one is a fully unalloyed devotee of the Lord, one should not try to describe the pastimes of Kṛṣṇa in poetry, for it will be only mundane. There are many descriptions of Kṛṣṇa’s Bhagavad-gītā written by persons whose consciousness is mundane and who are not qualified by pure devotion. Although they attempted to write transcendental literature, they could not fully engage even a single devotee in Kṛṣṇa’s service. Such literature is mundane, and therefore, as warned by Śrī Sanātana Gosvāmī, one should not touch it.
—A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, CC Antya 1.211, Purport
I do not know you, nor do I know who else is participating in the collection of biographies you have undertaken. I only know that describing the transcendental characteristics of pure devotees is not a plaything that can be undertaken casually by anyone and everyone.
Recently (Dec. 5) I spoke to this topic while glorifying His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Sundara Govinda Maharaja on the occasion of the anniversary of his appearance. Like you and your team, devotees of Srila Govinda Maharaja proposed I make a contribution to a biography of him which they have begun to produce. During my talk I mentioned that I have been unsatisfied with the biographies I have seen thus far of Srila Prabhupada Swami Maharaja, Srila Saraswati Thakura and their contemporaries.
I also said this: “The best biography I have read of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura is the book Sri Chaitanya’s Teachings, which is a compilation of many of his lectures. If you want to know Srila Saraswati Thakura, read that book and you will come to know him. There he is very nicely presented in his own words as recorded by his secretaries.”
If you want to know Srila Prabhupada, Swami Maharaja, read his books, listen to his recorded conversations and try your best to understand what he is saying. Better still, accept a pure vaishnava as your guru. Dedicate yourself fully to his service. Seek his advice and direction. Following such a pure devotee is the only sure means to know any other vaishnava, for to know a devotee is entirely dependent upon our own purity and spiritual qualification. There is no other way.
I offer this same advice to Srimati Vishakha Devi and others intent on producing a biography of Srila Govinda Maharaja: it is not so easy to accomplish what I think is in your mind to do with your proposed biography of Srila Govinda Maharaja. Srila Krishna dasa’s Sri Chaitanya-charitamrta is not a biography but it is recognized as the preeminent representation of Sriman Mahaprabhu’s life and precepts, even surpassing the composition of Sri Vrndavana dasa Thakura’s Chaitanya Bhagavata. If Sri Vrndavana dasa is the Vyasa of Mahaprabhu’s time (as he has been said to be), then Srila Krishna dasa is the Shukadeva. Sri Shukadeva skimmed the cream from the milk of the Vedas and distributed that for all who would care to have it. Srila Krishna dasa did the same with his representations of Sri Krishna Chaitanya.
The contributors to Srila Krishna dasa Kaviraja Goswami’s great work were not men like me, a fallen soul. They were parshada devotees of Sriman Mahaprabhu such as Murari Gupta and Svarupa Damodara:
ādi-līlā-madhye prabhura yateka carita
sūtra-rūpe murāri gupta karilā grathita
All the pastimes enacted by Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu in His ādi-līlā were recorded in summary form by Murāri Gupta.
prabhura ye śeṣa-līlā svarūpa-dāmodara
sūtra kari’ granthilena granthera bhitara
His later pastimes [the madhya-līlā and antya-līlā] were recorded in the form of notes by His secretary, Svarūpa Dāmodara Gosvāmī, and thus kept within a book.
— CC Ādi 13.15-16
It is not so easy to be a Shukadeva or a Krishna dasa. It is no easier to be a Murari Gupta or Svarupa Damodara. And, need I say it? It is not very easy to be a Vyasa or Vrndavana dasa Thakura.
Certainly I do not wish to discourage anyone from glorifying our Divine Preceptors. We must all do our best to try and satisfy Their Divine Graces with our words, thoughts and deeds. I do, however, advise everyone to take very seriously the following guidance offered by His Divine Grace Srila Sridhara Maharaja. Even a slight deviation from the following instructions can seriously misguide those whose spiritual lives we want so earnestly to nurture via the dissemination of descriptions of the transcendental pastimes of our Divine Guardians, the pure devotees of the Lord.
“So the mundane life of a Vaiṣṇava, not mundane, but similar to mundane, life of a Vaiṣṇava should be dealt very carefully and with some caution. Wherever there is any room for criticism we shall be over cautious to guard that portion, special note, that this is not mundane. Otherwise people will misunderstand in general. There is the possibility. This much I had to say about the Autobiography. Even in the case of the Supreme Authority, Kṛṣṇa, what to speak of the Vaiṣṇava; there’s every possibility that the people will undermine, and some caution must be given there and stress should be there, put upon that point, that this is not mundane, though similar.That whip in the Biography, now and then, and here and there, that should be repeated, that sort of whip, “Don’t take it otherwise, don’t misunderstand.” This sort of warning should be mentioned here and there when dealing with the life of a person divine. That should be used.”
—Srila B.R. Sridhara Maharaja, Conversation dated: 81.03.03.C_81.03.04.A
And here, a more extensive excerpt of that conversation.
Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja: . . . And I can’t shirk about this book. Ke?
Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja: Happy style you have written the book; the style is simple, and accurate, and profound, in a good style the book is being published. Hare Kṛṣṇa. Gaura Haribol.
Dhīra Kṛṣṇa Mahārāja: This volume, number one, it is describing Prabhupāda Swāmī Mahārāja before going to America. It is his life in India before leaving for America.
Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja: Yes. I heard. There I had to say something, and that, aprākṛta and adhokṣaja, two stages of spiritual existence; aprākṛta is a very difficult thing, it is like prākṛta, it bears the similarity with the mundane, but not mundane. Aprākṛta bhaumika, that plane is so comprehensive characteristic it has got that it can accommodate everything what we cannot hope to have sanction from the standpoint of morality even. That also can be harmonised there. So it is a very difficult thing to make general public of generous and religious heart, to understand aprākṛta. Not prākṛta but seems to be prākṛta. The harmonising capacity and duty is of such magnitude that it can harmonise anything imaginable, even immoral things.
But the only criterion is seeking and searching the satisfaction of Kṛṣṇa, none else. Only the centre, and all, and everything, by the spirit of dedication, everything eliminated. Only one aim; satisfaction of Kṛṣṇa, the whole concentration there, and it is adjusted. And little deviation from the satisfaction of Kṛṣṇa, that will make everything topsy turvy.
So the mundane life of a Vaiṣṇava, not mundane, but similar to mundane, life of a Vaiṣṇava should be dealt very carefully and with some caution. Wherever there is any room for criticism we shall be over cautious to guard that portion, special note, that this is not mundane. Otherwise people will misunderstand in general. There is the possibility. This much I had to say about the Autobiography. Even in the case of the Supreme Authority, Kṛṣṇa, what to speak of the Vaiṣṇava; there’s every possibility that the people will undermine, and some caution must be given there and stress should be there, put upon that point, that this is not mundane, though similar.That whip in the Biography, now and then, and here and there, that should be repeated, that sort of whip, “Don’t take it otherwise, don’t misunderstand.” This sort of warning should be mentioned here and there when dealing with the life of a person divine. That should be used.
Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja: Caution, here and there, caution, don’t take it otherwise. Hare Kṛṣṇa. Gaura Haribol. Otherwise there will be room for misunderstanding. Hare Kṛṣṇa. Hare Kṛṣṇa. Gaura Haribol. They’re dying, they’re suffering from disease, they’re eating, they’re going to latrine. Nāvamanyeta karhicit, ācāryaṁ māṁ vijānīyān, nāvamanyeta. Never undermine, nāvamanyeta, never belittle him, though there are so many mundane signs there.
[ācāryaṁ māṁ vijānīyān, nāvamanyeta karhicit
na martya-buddhyāsūyeta, sarva-deva-mayo guruḥ]
[“One should know the Ācārya as Myself and never disrespect him in any way. One should not envy him, thinking him an ordinary man, for he is the representative of all the demigods.”] [Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, 11.17.27] & [Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Ādi-līlā, 1.46]
It is written in Bhāgavatam, ācāryaṁ māṁ vijānīyān, nāvamanyeta, avamanyeta, avamanana, don’t go to insult him by misunderstanding. Nāvamanyeta karhicit na martya-buddhyāsūyeta, your mental conclusion, don’t use there, in the mental plane. The experience of mental plane won’t cover it, screen it, nāvamanyeta karhicit, never allow the mental experience to screen it. Na martya-buddhyāsūyeta, sarva-deva-mayo guruḥ. All the good signs are embodied there, good tendencies, all the high substances of variegated nature of divinity, are present there. We are to show that, sarva-deva-mayo guruḥ. Hare Kṛṣṇa. Hare Kṛṣṇa. That should be kept up, maintained, all through. Gaura Haribol. Gaura Haribol. Gaura Haribol.
The world of experience should be kept underfoot, should be crushed underfoot. The experience, always the hammer must be stricken on the head of the worldly experience. Every now and then the hammer must go on the head of the worldly experience. If you want to enter into the domain of the divine, then experience should be left here. It won’t help you in any way; rather it will draw you from behind. Your knowledge of experience will draw you from behind. Be clear. Liberate yourself from the disease of worldly experience and try to enter the domain of the divinity. Hare Kṛṣṇa. Hare Kṛṣṇa. Gaura Haribol. Gaura Haribol.
And adhokṣaja, that is not under any law. Not only made by you but made by any agent. It is already independent. Everything, the soil, the ways, everything is independent, adhokṣaja. Adhaḥkṛtaṁ indriyajaṁ jñānaṁ yena. Adhokṣaja is the term which is very favourite to Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Here and there, Bhāgavata has always used the word adhokṣaja, the expression, always to remind that akṣajam jñāna, that is the knowledge of experience, keep it always down. Adhaḥkṛtaṁ indriyajaṁ jñānaṁ yena, indriyajaṁ, that is the knowledge of experience that’s drawn through the senses, always keep it below.
The warning, adhokṣaja; unintelligible, unknown and unknowable, only through faith, and regulated faith, not only that faith means blind faith or something like that, but faith has got its real characteristic. So faith proper, that only can enter there – śraddhā: śraddhāmayo ‘yaṁ loka, in Upaniṣad, there is a domain which can only be tackled by śraddhā. And what is that śraddhā? Kṛṣṇe bhakti kaile sarva-karma kṛta haya [Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā, 22.62] If I discharge my duty towards Him, everything is done. That should be the very gist, the life of that attempt, that expression named faith, śraddhā. So if we do that, then it will be aprākṛta otherwise it will be reckoned as the so many epics here.
Hare Kṛṣṇa. Your illustrious Gurudeva had this infallible aim.
Gaura Haribol. Gaura Haribol. Nitāi Gaura. Gaura Haribol. Gaura Haribol. Gaura Haribol.
In Caṇḍīdāsa we found, which meaning is mutilated and turned into the opposite direction by the so called scholarly fellows of the time.
Suna he manase bhai sabhar upe manase satya tara upara nai [?]
The Bengali passage; the general meaning is, “Oh my brother, human beings. You listen to me. Human species is above all, and there is nothing above.”
In Caitanya-caritāmṛta, [Madhya-līlā, 21.101] the parallel, but more clear.
kṛṣṇera yateka khelā, sarvottama nara-līlā, nara-vapu tāhāra svarūpa
[gope-veśa, veṇu-kara nava kiśora, nata-vara, nara līlāra haya anurūpa]
[“Lord Sri Kṛṣṇa has many pastimes, of which His pastimes as a human being are the best. His form as a human being is the Supreme Transcendental Form. In this form, He is a cowherd boy. He carries a flute in His hand, and His youth is new. He is also an expert dancer. All this is just suitable for His pastimes as a human being.”]
Amongst all the pastimes of Kṛṣṇa, His human pastimes is at the zenith, forms the acme, nara-vapu tāhāra svarūpa. It is very akin, very near to human fashion, but not human. We are to strive hard to show it, to maintain this characteristic; humanly but not human. This sort of attempt always be retained, to caution the human mind, they’re not human. Our diligence.
Devotee: If an ordinary man appreciates a great soul as human, but does not understand that he’s actually beyond human, doesn’t he gain benefit, or is that offensive?
Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja: I can’t follow. What does he say?
Dhīra Kṛṣṇa Mahārāja: If a common man, he savours a great Vaiṣṇava, he thinks of him favourably, but he doesn’t understand him as a great Vaiṣṇava…
Devotee: He thinks of him as a great man, but still something as the human kind.
Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja: So really, the necessity of the inner eye to recognise the Vaiṣṇavism. A Vaiṣṇava can understand Vaiṣṇava. An intelligent man can understand the intelligence of others; but an ignorant man cannot detect who is intelligent or who is non intelligent. Intelligence can understand intelligence; so ordinary people will think: “Oh, it is an ordinary man.” But the true Vaiṣṇava, he will understand that he’s a Vaiṣṇava. Not by external endeavour, gesture and posture, but by the standpoint, the angle of vision, by that the Vaiṣṇava can understand Vaiṣṇava. An intelligent man can understand an intelligent man.
Hare Kṛṣṇa. Hare Kṛṣṇa. Gaura Haribol.
[kintu tomāra prema dekhi’ mane anumāni]
mādhavendra-purīra ‘sambandha’ [dhara – jāni]
[“Upon seeing your ecstatic love, I can just imagine that you must have some relationship with Mādhavendra Purī. This is My understanding.”] [Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā, 17.172]
When Mahāprabhu was travelling in Vṛndāvana, He found a person, Sanoḍiyā brāhmaṇa, and He recognised, “Oh, you must have connection with Mādhavendra Purī. Whatever I see in you, it cannot come otherwise. You please express how you have come in connection with Mādhavendra Purī.”
Then he came to explain, “Mādhavendra Purī, he came here, he did this, this, and I got his grace.”
“Yes. Otherwise this thing cannot be detected anywhere.”
Hare Kṛṣṇa. Gaura Haribol.
Satsvarūpa Mahārāja: Should we avoid writing the disappearance of our Śrīla Prabhupāda, or can that be told?
Dhīra Kṛṣṇa Mahārāja: His tirobhute, his disappearance, should Satsvarūpa Mahārāja avoid that, not write so much about that?
Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja: You can do that, but with sufficient caution. About Mahāprabhu, so many tales are going on. “He passed in this way.” Some say, “In that way.” Everything may be true. Like a hypnotist He showed some people, “I am going.” Another section saw, “Oh. He is passing there.” In this way it is His sweet will to show there passing in different ways to different sections, it is possible.So everything is deception of the sense experience. Whatever is done by them, it is super-experience, so it deceives the experience. The knowledge of experience cannot catch, cannot reach up to mark. Hare Kṛṣṇa. Suffering, taking medicine, passing.
Sītā Devī was stolen. And one devotee in the South, he’s fasting, even very indifferent to attend Mahāprabhu, his ________ guest. Mahāprabhu detected, “Why you show so much repenting temperament?”
“I don’t like to live any longer here. I am to hear that Lakṣmī Devī was snatched away by a demon. I want to die rather.”
Then Mahāprabhu solaced him. “Don’t think that way.”
aprākṛta vastu nahe prākṛta-gocara, [veda-purāṇete ei kahe nirantara]
[“Spiritual substance is never within the jurisdiction of the material conception. This is always the verdict of the Vedas and Purāṇas.”] [Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā, 9.194]
Sītā Devī, everything is all consciousness, spiritual body, and the demon with fleshy hand cannot touch Her. The knowledge can be touched by the flesh, the pure above knowledge. Her body is that of conscious substance, not of this fleshy substance. So flesh cannot touch the consciousness, the soul. So why will it be possible the demon to catch? It is all māyā. To teach the māyic people in a māyic form it is delivered. It is served in that way.
End of 81.03.03.C_81.03.04.A
* * * * * * * *
Start of 81.03.04.B
His Divine Grace Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Deva Goswāmī Mahārāja
Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja: …he cannot see, so what is the possibility of touching, even he cannot see, the demon with fleshy eye cannot see Sītā Devī. Not to speak of touching and catching. This is all a show to teach the mundane mind, to take them gradually upwards.
Then Arjuna coming with the Queens of Dvārakā, the dacoits looted them. All mahā-māyā. Keśavatāra, Brahmā told two, one white one black hair, giving to Pṛthivi. “Oh. I give it to you. They will incarnate and will relieve you from all your burden of sin – Keśavatāra. And that was Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma, white and black. This is mentioned in Purāṇa. It is mahāmoy, or what came that merged into Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma. Ke _____________ [?]
Dhīra Kṛṣṇa Mahārāja: He’s taking some pictures.
Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja: Hare Kṛṣṇa. Gaura Haribol. The style of your writing is very taking, touching. I’m impressed to see the style of writing. Hare Kṛṣṇa. Hare Kṛṣṇa. Gaura Haribol. Hare Kṛṣṇa.
I pray this finds you well in health and spirits.
Swami B.K. Giri