Although the pandemic has shut down the whole world but the devotees’ zeal to continue practicing Krishna consciousness hasn’t diminished. Janmashtami was celebrated with great fanfare by the devotees at home. And after Janmashtami was the 124th Vyasa Puja celebration of Srila Prabhupada which is very dear to all the devotees of Iskcon. In fact, we all are eternally indebted to him for revealing us the supreme reality that we all belong to Krishna.
Srila Prabhupada rules the heart of millions of people
Alexander, the Great, conquered the world with the weapons of mass destruction but Srila Prabhupada conquered the hearts of millions of people all over the world with the weapon of the holy names.
Who was the best conqueror? Alexander or Srila Prabhupada? Alexander is today alive only the pages of history books. But Srila Prabhupada is present in the hearts of millions of people. Alexander after leaving this world was unsure of his destination but Srila Prabhupada was always with Krishna, is now also with Krishna and will forever be with Krishna. So, the answer is obvious.
Srila Prabhupada came to take us to our eternal home
Srila Prabhupada appeared in this world to take us back to the abode of Krishna, which is our eternal home, which is free from all kinds of sufferings and which is filled with unlimited transcendental pleasures.
He is our supreme well-wisher and will continue to remain so for eternity. So, whenever his appearance day comes devotees’ heart gets filled with gratitude and they want to celebrate it in a big way.
Srila Prabhupada’s appearance day was celebrated next day of Janmashtami in the temple and by all the grihasta devotees at home.
But the temple authorities decided to again have a special celebration on 1st Sep.
Significance of 1st Sep
Why 1st Sep?
Because as per English calendar Srila Prabhupada appeared on 1st September.
And as per Vedic calendar, Srila Prabhupada appeared next day after Janmashtami.
It was decided that through zoom all the devotees will come together and celebrate the festival.
The best way to celebrate the festival is to glorify Srila Prabhupada, offer our prayers to him, seek his blessings, and thank him for bringing joy in our lives.
Devotees expressed their deep love while making offerings
The program started in the evening at 5 pm IST. We connected to zoom. There were brahmacharis from Iskcon Kolkata temple and Iskcon Goshala, which is in New Town, grihasta devotees which included both prabhujis and matajis.
After a short kirtan, devotees started making their offerings. Some spoke extempore and some had already prepared it beforehand and read it.
Devotees shared their joy, their sorrow, their challenges, and their intense desire to continue practicing Krishna Consciousness. They were speaking from their hearts.
While hearing offerings of other devotees, I was wondering what will I say when my turn will come?
When I got an opportunity, I made my offering.
But I felt that I did not speak from the bottom of my heart. Because of material conditioning I am still not able to realize the sacrifices which Srila Prabhupada made for people like me.
In my offering I said to Prabhupada that “You taught us how to be engaged in Krishna Consciousness 24hours a day.” And during this pandemic when we are forced to stay at home, I can fully experience it. Many of my office colleagues, friends, neighbors, relatives say that they are getting mentally disturbed because of lockdown. They feel frustrated. One person said that these days he is losing his temper quite often. And it is natural. In the history of humankind never such a situation came when the entire world was shutdown.
But for devotees this is not such a big problem.
Because there are so many positive spiritual engagements available.
How to remain always engaged in Krishna’s service?
From the time we get up in the morning (around 4 am) to the time we go to bed (around 10 pm), we have so many things to do.
- As soon as we get up, we take bath.
- We then have to clean the altar and do Mangala Arati.
- Mangal Arati is followed by Narasimha Arati, Tulasi arati and Guru Puja.
- Then we chant the Hare Krishna Mahamantra on beads. Chanting takes around 1.5 hours to 2 hours. Devotees who chant fast can finish in 1.5 hours and some may take 2 hours.
- After that we have to cook breakfast for Krishna. While cooking we hear lectures of Srila Prabhupada or of our spiritual master or of some senior devotees or we can hear kirtan.
- After breakfast, we read Srila Prabhupada’s books like Srimad Bhagavatam, Bhagavad Gita, Chaitanya Charitrmrta.
- By the time we complete all this it is almost 9:30 am. So, the entire morning goes in spiritual activity.
- In the noon again we prepare lunch for Krishna. If we get time, then we do arati of the Lord in the afternoon.
- Then evening time is for gaur arati.
- We also work on plans for preaching. During this period devotees have come with many innovative ideas to preach. Iskcon NewTown Kolkata Facebook page was started during this period. It already has 11,000 followers. Recently HG Anant Bhagavan Prabhu who manages the Facebook page and other social media accounts was discussing with me how to preach to those people who visit our Facebook page. So, devotees are exploring so many avenues to spread Krishna Consciousness.
- While being engaged in devotional activity, we also have one important service. And that is our office work. The job which we have is Krishna’s gift to us and we have to do our work with utmost sincerity and seriousness. As a devotee we should follow the footsteps of Bhaktivinoda Thakura and do our work efficiently. I have to work for 9 hours daily. Along with our work it is also important to enhance our skills by doing certification courses and by doing trainings.
- And if we get some extra time then we can read more & hear more. The more we hear about Krishna and read about Krishna, the more we get purified. And it brings more joy in our life.
- In fact, there is no limit to hearing and reading. And no limit to chanting too. Prabhupada asked us to chant minimum of 16 rounds. And HG Radheshyam Prabhu, President Iskcon Pune, in many of his classes emphasizes that as much as possible we should try to chant more number of rounds.
So, there is no time to waste.
I am practically seeing how devotees are completely engaged in devotional activities throughout the day. It inspires me a lot. In the spiritual world this is what we will be doing. Always serving Krishna. And this life is a preparation for that life.
In this lockdown I am learning how to cook for Krishna. Cooking was big no for me. In fact, I hated to get inside the kitchen. But somehow, I dragged myself in the kitchen and now I am trying to learn new recipes which can be offered to Krishna. And one good advantage of cooking is that while cooking we can hear lectures which enhances our knowledge about devotional life.
Glorifying Prabhupada is like showing a lamp to the sun
Srila Prabhupada gave a direction to our life. He taught us how to lead a happy life. So, all the devotees are so grateful to Prabhupda. They have given their hearts to him. For lesser mortal like me it is not possible to glorify Prabhupada properly.
Glorifying Prabhupada is like showing a lamp to the sun.
After my offering, HG Acharyaratna Prabhu sent me a private message on zoom messenger that my offering was thoughtful. I know devotees praise us for whatever little we do and, in their praise,, there is also a hidden message which we should understand. So, I think I should be thoughtful more while contemplating on the glories of Srila Prabhupada, contemplating about his sacrifices and contemplating about his struggle to spread Krishna Consciousness throughout the world.
HG Acharyaratna Prabhu read the offerings of the GBCs of Kolkata – HH Jayapataka Swami Maharaj, HH Bhakti Charu Swami Maharaj and HH Radhanath Swami Maharaj.
We all know that HH Bhakti Charu Swami Maharaj has left to serve Srila Prabhupada in the spiritual world. But before leaving this world he wrote his offering. His offering was so wonderful. As usual he poured his entire heart into it and expressed his deep desire to serve the instructions of Srila Prabhupada.
HH Jayapataka Swami Maharaj shares pastimes of Prabhupada in Kolkata
One of the best parts of the ceremony was reserved for the last. And it was the class of HH Jayapataka Swami Maharaj. Maharaj in detail spoke how Prabhupada after establishing Iskcon in the west, established the first temple of Iskcon in India in Kolkata. Maharaj narrated many pastimes with Prabhupada in Kolkata. It is so amazing that almost after 50 years, Maharaj remembers the details so clearly. This shows that he constantly meditates on the days he spent with Prabhupada.
Maharaj said that when Srila Prabhupada was in Kolkata then thousands of people used to come for his programs in 1970s. It was the time when communism was expanding in West Bengal. And communists do not like spiritual people, they propagate atheism. They are also known for resorting to violence. someone sent a letter to Prabhupada that either you leave Kolkata or be ready to die. Prabhupada remained unperturbed. When the police came to know about the letter, they told not to worry.
Maharaj also said there is a small deity of Radha Govinda which Prabhupada personally used to worship. And that deity is still in Kolkata temple. This was exciting for the devotees. They will have an opportunity to serve the personal deity of Prabhupada.
Srila Prabhupada risked his life to save the suffering souls
HG Dayaram Prabhu, President of Iskcon Kolkata, in his offering highlighted a very important point. He said that we all know that Prabhupada went all alone to the west at the age of around 70 years with no money on a cargo ship to spread Krishna Consciousness. During the journey, he had two heart attacks and he was almost about to die, but Krishna intervened and asked Prabhupada to continue his journey so that he can deliver millions of suffering souls.
He said that we have heard this story so many times that today many of us take it casually. We may not understand the seriousness of it. We may not realize that what extraordinary risk he took for all of us. Going all alone with no support to an alien land was suicidal.
In fact, Sumati Morarjee who reluctantly allowed Prabhupada to travel on her Jaldutta cargo ship had bluntly said, “You are going to die there.”
Srila Prabhupada was fearless and determined
If we pause for a moment and reflect on it then we can understand how fearless and determined Prabhupada was.
Within India only if we have to travel then we make so many arrangements. We make sure about the place where we are going to stay. We make sure that we have sufficient amount of money with us. We call and check the person where we are going to stay multiple times.
When I was going to UK then I carried around 2000 pounds with me in cash. I spoke to the person where I was going to stay multiple times. Took multiple printouts of the address. Had also taken address of other office colleagues so that if one option does not work then I can opt for other. Took a sim card of UK from a friend who had recently returned from UK. And had all the important numbers with me. But still I was worried.
And Prabhupada had no such options. He had only one address. And he had not ever seen or spoken with the person in whose home he was going to stay. And he did not have any money to stay in a hotel or any guest house.
What if the host would have not been able to come to pick him up because of some emergencies?
He would have no place to go. He would have no other option but to spend his days on street without food and proper winter cloth. In US, nobody would have understood that he is a sadhu and would have treated him like that.
He would have died because of cold and hunger in US on the road.
And this is why Sumati Morarjee said that you are going to die there. It was so true.
And what was the need for him to do all these things. Because his guru had told him to go and preach in the west. But this instruction was given to many. But not all took it that seriously. But Prabhupada had complete faith in the orders of his spiritual master.
Like Shabari Prabhupada had complete faith in his guru
When Shabari was told by his guru to stay at a place because Lord Rama will come, then she believed him. And when her guru told her that you will get an opportunity to serve the Lord then she immediately began making all the preparations. When this instruction was given to her then she was a little girl. And the guru did not tell him when Lord Rama will come. And she even did not ask her guru. “If my spiritual master has said that the Lord will come then he will come.” So, every morning she used to clean the place with the water from the nearby pond, decorate the place with forest flowers and pick berries for the Lord. Chanting and meditating on the Lord she used to wait for entire day for the Lord. But the Lord did not come. Next day again in the morning she used to make all the preparation and would wait for Rama. And again, the next day she used to make the same preparations.
For how long Shabari waited for the Lord?
One day? Two day? Three day? One week? Two weeks? One month? Two months? Three months? One year? Two years?
No. She waited for the Lord for several decades. When she had got the instruction, she was a little girl and when Lord finally came to meet her, she had become an old day.
But while waiting, did she lose her enthusiasm? No. Did she become impatient? No. Did she become morose? No. Because she had firm faith in the orders of his guru.
And finally, Lord Rama came to meet her. She was overwhelmed with joy.
It is said that by the time Lord Rama came to her cottage she was not able to see properly because of old age. And so, when she used to pluck berries for the Lord, she was not able to identify the best berry. So, when she was serving the Lord then she used to taste it to make sure the Lord Rama is getting the best berry.
Like Shabari, Srila Prabhupada had complete faith in the orders of his spiritual master. He had complete faith in the words of Lord Chaitanya.
Prabhupada had complete faith in Lord Chaitanya’s words
He did not have any doubt. In fact, he would answer convincingly to anyone who questioned his journey.
So, when someone asked him why you are going to west?
His prompt reply used to be, “My guru asked me to share this knowledge with the western people, so I am going?
But who would listen?
I am not sure but since my guru has said then for sure there will be people who will listen to me.
But what can you do all alone? You are old? You are penniless?
Yes, but my guru said me to go. I should have gone earlier. And now I am already around 70. I should not delay any further.
But why west? Why not just preach in India?
Because Indians are imitating the west. If the western people become devotees of Krishna, then Indians too will start practicing Krishna Consciousness seriously. And why should western people be deprived of Krishna? Krishna is not an Indian God or Hindu God. He is the Supreme Lord of the Hindus, Muslims, Christians., Sikhs, Parsis, atheists, agnostics, male, female. He is the Lord of the entire universe. Some know this fact. Some do not know this fact.
But how will you survive there all alone? You may die?
We never die. We just change our body which is an external covering. And I am the servant of Krishna. Krishna knows what is best for me. As long as he wants me to serve on this earthly planet, I will serve here. And when Krishna will ask me to go and serve somewhere else, I will go there. Wherever I will go I will be with Krishna.
What about your food, clothing, and shelter?
Krishna arranges these things for all. Even for birds and animals. And although man thinks that they have made their own houses, but this is actually given to them by Krishna. Krishna will make all arrangements for me.
But who will listen?
Lord Chaitanya said that his name will be chanted in all the towns and villages of this world. So, there are already people ready to take up Krishna Consciousness. I just have to go and tell them about Krishna & Lord Chaitanya. They will immediately begin practicing devotional life.
But why did it not happen till now?
Because Lord Chaitanya wants me to do it. He could have done it on his own as he is the Supreme Lord, an incarnation of Krishna. But as a loving father he wanted to get this done by me. And so, I am going.
So, Srila Prabhupada went. And the rest is history.
The best gift to Prabhupada
Prabhupada was born in Kolkata and he left to preach to the whole world from Kolkata. So, Kolkata is so special for all the devotees.
Those of us who are staying in Kolkata have a great opportunity to serve Prabhupada. One of the desires of Prabhupada was to build a magnificent temple of Krishna in Kolkata. And the devotees have taken a big initiative to build the temple. We all can be part of this wonderful project. This human life is so rare. We have an opportunity to make our life perfect by living as per the guidelines of Prabhupada. This is the best gift we can give to him.