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Prabhupada and Nityanandavesa
By Brahma Das
I appreciate the sincere efforts of Eka Buddhi dasa in his article on Chakra to inspire everyone to become dynamic and dedicated in service to Mahaprabhu. ("Did Lord Nityananda Enter the Body of Srila Prabhupada?")
However, in that article, he presented a superficial understanding of Sridhar Maharaja’s glorification of Srila Prabhupada as Shaktavesa Avatar and Nityanandavesa. This understanding he admits came from at best third-hand knowledge of Sridhar Maharaja’s actual words on the subject. Therefore I thought it might be helpful to post those words and elaborate on them in light of revelations from our acharyas.
First of all we all heard from Chaitanya Caritamrta and elsewhere that no one could be successful in preaching Krishna consciousness unless he is empowered by the Lord. In the "Guruvastakam" of Visvanatha Cakravarti we are told that guru is the power of god combined with the dedication of the devotee. There the guru is described as the energy of God: saksad hari, but (kintu) prabhor ya priya eva tasya, he is dear (priya) to God as well.
In this verse Visvanatha Cakravarti describes the guru as an empowered devotee who is dear to God, and as God’s representative he should be treated as such. Of course, it is the power of God experienced through His surrendered devotee that makes one guru, but God is also a devotee of his devotees and therefore the empowered guru is often glorified by Gaudiya acharyas as God and devotee combined.
In Chaitanya-caritamrta, the guru, God, and Vaisnava are differentiated from one another, but there also guru is described as God and devotee combined. Krsnadasa Kaviraja says yadyapi amara guru caitanyera dasa tathapi ja niye ami tanhara prakasa: "Although I know my guru as a devotee of Sri Caitanya, I also know my guru to be a manifestation of him as well."
Shaktavesa avatara also can mean the power of God and devotee combined. Avesa means empowerment and sakti means potency. A saktyavesa avatara is one in whom a particular potency (sakti) of Godhead descends (avatara) to empower (avesa) a devotee for a specific purpose.
Sri Chaitanya told Sanatana Goswami that there are unlimited saktyavesa avataras of Krsna, saktyavesavatara krsnera asankhya ganana. He distinguished two divisions of saktyavesa he called direct (mukhya) and indirect (gauna), saktyavesa dui-rupa ‘mukhya’ ‘gauna’ dekhi. He then describes these two divisions as avataras who are directly empowered and others who represent God indirectly by possessing a vibhuti, or particular power of God, saksat-saktye ‘avatara,’ abhase ‘vibhuti’ likhi.
Sri Chaitanya then informed Sanatana of several types of empowerment and among those mentioned were empowerment to distribute transcendental knowledge—jnana shakti—and empowerment to distribute bhakti—bhakti shakti.
Rupa Goswami also talked about the power of God and devotee combined in his Laghu-bhagavatamrta. There he said:
jnana-sakty-adi-kala ya yatravisto janardanah/
"Whenever the Lord is present in someone by portions of his various potencies, that living entity is invested with special power and is a great soul."
If we consider these words from Mahaprabhu and our Gaudiya acharyas than it is easier to understand Sridhar Maharaja’s glorification of Prabhupada as Shaktavesa avatar and Nityanandavesa.
Srila Sridhar Maharaja said:
"I consider him [Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada] saktyavesa-avatara, and it is confirmed in his writings on his spiritual journey through the Atlantic. How he landed there in America, and the nature of his beginning the movement. His intense degree of dedication to Krsna and dependence, [on Krishna] and how much he made himself empty of any other desire than the order of his gurudeva, quite empty that Krsna came down to help him.
"And it is corroborated that Krsna worked on his behalf. In his poem, ‘Prayer to the Lotus Feet of Krsna,’ we find him pleading with Krsna, ‘My dear Brother, Your good fortune will come to you only when Srimati Radharani becomes pleased with you.’ Seeing his gurudeva, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, as Radharani’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 Krsna in the service of his guru.
"He had completely dedicated himself to the purpose, he was so earnest in his prayer to Krsna that he may discharge the duty that he has been given by his Guru Maharaja, that divine force, power, came down to help him. Otherwise, it is impossible. It is not a thing of the ordinary level that anyone can do—take the highest thing [Krsna consciousness] to the lowest position [fallen souls] so extensively. It cannot but be the divine power, embodied and in a great intensity and magnitude! So, saktyavesa-avatara, I cannot but take him to be so."
And when asked by his disciple what was the avesa (particular type of empowerment) Srila Prabhupada exhibited, Sridhar Maharaja replied Nityanandavesa. The compassionate power of Nitai to deliver the most fallen.
Often we hear devotees glorifying Prabhupada, as Shaktavesa Avatar and I believe it is proper that they do so. To my knowledge Sridhar Maharaja was the first to describe Prabhupada as shaktavesa. He was also the first to describe Prabhupada as Nityanandavesa, which means that the power of Nityananda came through him with great intensity and magnitude.
I hope this explanation of Srila Prabhupada, as Nityanandavesa is helpful and satisfactory to the devotees who love him.
Best wishes to all the disciples and grand-disciples of Prabhupada.
© CHAKRA 8 March 2002
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