Appreciating Srila Prabhupada

Recently some friends and I started a Caitanya Caritamrta reading group. The participants, thus far, have all been moms with kids and, this being the summer, the kids come too. So, us being moms and all, our progress is steady but very, very slow. We are still on chapter one of the Adi-lila, entitle The Spiritual Masters.

I have to admit, being an aspiring devotee who has definitely had some “guru issues” over the years, it is–at times–a tough chapter to swallow. But still, I am enjoying it. I am forced to really contemplate things, to put my faith *somewhere* and to try and “go deeper” as the cliche goes.
In general, I am not a fan of gurus. The worship of a human being is a serious thing…what to speak of worshipping him because he is as good as God. In our fledgling religious organizational tradition, guru-ship has become a business. It is how a certain segment of the ISKCON population makes their living and, for them to admit their ordinariness…their flaws and imperfections, would really cut into their lifestyle.
But, I’m not ritvik. I believe that it is possible for pure souls to exist. I believe in the potency of the parampara. I just don’t believe such souls are available a dime a dozen. Also, I believe that we get what we are ready for and that it is possible for someone who is not a pure devotee to inspire, guide and encourage another along their path of spiritual life. 
I’m just not into people misrepresenting themselves.
My understanding of the current GBC position on approving Gurus is not that deep. However, what I have gleaned from my personal experience within ISKCON is that no matter what happens with the relationship between a disciple and their initiating spiritual master, we will always have Srila Prabhupada.
What a relief.
Back in my religious fervor days, this was welcomed news. My relationship with my god-siblings and my guru were strained–to the point that my guru even took away my name, thus un-initiating me. Prabhupada was my only spiritual shelter. He loved me no matter what. He wanted me to be a devotee no matter what. He would not un-intiate me. 
I read his books. Memorized quotes from him out of their original context. I listened attentively to his disciples telling stories about him–how he looked at them, how he smiled at them, how he said this or that or moved his head in such a way.  I prayed to Prabhupada. I sang along with his chanting. 
I began to wonder about what Prabhupada would actually say to *me*. How would Prabhupada actually look at *me*? One devotee would tell me Prabhupada wouldn’t like my dancing in the temple room and another devotee would tell me that was nonsense and that Prabhupada would love that I was dancing ecstatically in the temple room. It kind of made me wonder how much of Prabhupada is real and how much is our own concoction. 
Many devotees claim to know what Prabhupada wanted/wants. It gets very confusing. On top of that, within ISKCON culture, there is a dominant prescribed sentiment one should carry for Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada is the ISKCON Founder-Acarya. True. I am very grateful to Srila Prabhupada for bringing Krishna conscious philosophy to the west. For taking the time, at such an advanced age, to teach the details of cultured living to his disciples.
But I wonder, honestly, how I am expected to emulate the same love and emotion for Srila Prabhupada as his disciples who either met him directly or were around during Prabhupada’s time. Sometimes it seems like ISKCON is a bit of a cult of personality, with Prabhupada at the center. When all the Prabhupada disciples are dead and all the fixed up children of Prabhupada disciples are dead (how many are there even?), then what will the expected sentiment towards Prabhupada be?
I can’t imagine how Prabhupada’s position will ever be diminished; he did such incredible work for Krishna. But I can imagine that future generations of devotees will not have the same raw feeling, despite all the books and DVDs that get produced documenting his extraordinary spiritual position. 
Personally, I need to find a way to connect with Srila Prabhupada, to appreciate him, without being false. And I feel I need to also deepen my appreciation for the other members of our parampara, who’s importance is equal if not greater to Srila Prabhupada’s, for without them the knowledge could not have descended. All this while feeling totally blah in my spiritual life. What a challenge.
I’ve had these realizations about the limits of how deep I am able to go with my relationship with Prabhupada because, although I really respect, admire and believe in the purity of my husband’s guru, Srila Gour Govinda Swami, I just don’t experience Maharaja the way my husband does. I never met him. I don’t know him. My husband had meaningful experiences, which solidified his faith in his guru. But for me…I just haven’t had those experiences. Maybe I’m not looking hard enough.
And then there is my whole family situation. Kids. Kids! I used to be a real religious nut job. I like to say that had I become a Muslim, I would have blown myself up by now. I was the perfect cult member, enthusiastic to a fault. Back in my pure devotee heyday, I surely would have lay my life on the line for Prabhupada or Krishna or whatever freak manager asked me to. These days, I have to say, the only person I would give my life for are my kids. Kids! I love them so. Is it maya? I could care less. I love my kids. Totally. With all my heart. Although sometimes I do ask them to leave me alone. “Leave me alone!”
How many times have we heard that a mother’s love for her kids is the closest feeling we can come to in the material world for that loving feeling for Krishna. And when you are a mother, you totally understand. You understand how it is more pleasurable to love than to be loved. You understand how a tiny pair of underpants or flip-flops or a favorite Matchbox car left lying in the middle of the floor that you almost break your neck on as you wake up to get your whining kid a glass of water in the middle of the night…how it all gives you pleasure.
And with that unit of measure…my love for my kids…I can really see my lack of progress in spiritual life. Because I really feel…to hell with all this! I’m taking care of my kids. I see where my love is directed…kids!  I would put my kids before Srila Prabhupada any day. And I’m sure there is someone out there who will tell me that that is actually loving Srila Prabhupada (with a quote about child worship or whatever to back it up). But it’s kind of like this: I don’t even care about justifying it. I need to do what’s natural. Life can’t be lived based on pulled quotes. 


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10 responses to “Appreciating Srila Prabhupada

  1. Satyavati devi dasi

    Wooo… I really love you, DD.

    Not in the mother/kids way or the guru/disciple way but in the 'geez I really really needed that slap in the face so thanks even though now I look like I've been abused' way.

    You probably know just what I mean.

  2. Ananga-manjari

    Amen! My children are my life. I am grateful for them as my little guides and teachers.

  3. Babhru das

    You are candor itself, Deva, and I think there's much to discuss here. But I want to know who logged on here from Lompoc.

  4. Pandu das

    I never met Srila Prabhupada or knew of the Hare Krishna movement during his manifest pastimes, but he's undoubtedly the one who connected me with Krishna in this life. He revealed Krishna before I ever met another devotee, and when I hear him speak it's like a massage on my heart.

  5. Devadeva Mirel

    satyavati—woo, i really love you, too! wow. didn't mean to hit you too hard. didn't really even mean to hit you. wow, now i'm mental.

    ananga–kids! patience, tolerance, wisdom, austerity, etc…we learn it all from taking care of our kids…if we pay attention.

    babhru prabhu–uh-oh…are you coming from a culture where candor is a good thing?

    i agree..many points to discuss…almost didn't post because i didn't want to give too glib treatment to such a reverential topic. but sometimes it's okay to open the can of worms and not really have a plan. i hope! i'm just striving for honest living…hoping this one principle can help me progress in my spiritual life. that honest cooking.

    pandu–you have to admit, your story is quite extraordinary for someone of our generation. i think it is genuine and terrific. and i think we should all have the courage to be honest with our relationships…no matter what side of the spectrum we are on.

    love to all!

  6. Babhru das

    It's a little hard to say what culture most influences me (heck,I'm from Lompoc, Northern Virginia, Hawaii, the Navy, the university, and much more), but candor is just all right with me. It's sometimes not comfortable, but honesty expressed respectfully helps us grow. Even Srila Prabhupada pointed out that we need to clear doubts. That's a sign of a progressive person, not to mention progressive devotee. If we don't express our misgivings to those we trust, how would we ever stay sane?

  7. Ekendra Dasa

    Oh how I love honesty. You're the shnizz. Thanks for the inspiration.

  8. abrennan

    Rock on Deva, your shnizz is shimmering all the way down the cable and across the wi-fi.

  9. Matthew

    Devadeva, you are such a dork! I was all psyched up to a reading group with you on Nietzsche's Antichrist and you have to get all "I am into Vaishnavism again, but with renewed frankness and honesty" on me. Lame.

  10. Matthew

    One more thing, if I may, my dear lady: I think that generally speaking we (devotees) often have the wrong conception of the self "in bondage", as if it were somewhere else and we are not here right now. That can't be right. I think that the right way to think about it is that we are here now, but simply lack access to much of what we are. We are related to other souls in friendship and love (to some degree, if admittedly, it is not rasa), but we have, unfortunately little access to the real them. To the degree that our real selves come out in our relationships, they may, hopefully blend into eternity.

    But on the radically-displaced-self view (the bad one), which is officially held by the Yoga traditions and often implicitly held by devotees, ordinary morality is nothing but a sham, since there are, strictly speaking, no subjects to transgress, just chunks of prakrti loosely attached to some "sleeping soul" who is not really here right now. All morality is simply instrumental on this view, meant to help us procure liberation, but ultimately indifferent to other people and their status as subjects. We are not kind to others because it is right or decent of us, or because we respect them as subjects. Rather it's "good for preaching" or some other unfortunate way of putting it.

    Moreover, why struggle for liberation on the displaced self view? You are so disconnected from your liberated self that you are like two separate people. Why should I bust my ass for some other guy's benefit?

    I much prefer an "iceberg" model of the self, where we currently have access, however obscured, to the tip of the iceberg of the self, while its hidden and vast depths are often lost to us, though uncoverable through yoga and grace.

    Anyway, I've been thinking about this much lately and your thoughts on loving kids and in being here now. I hoped to chat/talk about this with you personally, but haven't seen you in gchat world lately.

    Sorry for the long post. You can wake up now.


    The Temple Commander

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