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“Nowadays we encounter many disillusioned and discouraged devotees, who feel their idealism has been betrayed... Nostalgia, however, is a species of illusion, a yearning for a past that never existed.”

     Vyasapuja offering




Vyasa-puja Homage
By Ravindra Svarupa dasa

namah om visnu-padaya krsna-presthaya bhu-tale
srimate bhaktivedanta svamin iti namine.

namaste sarasvate deve gaura-vani-pracarine
nirvesesa-sunyavadi pascatya-desa-tarine.

Dearest Srila Prabhupada,

Please accept my fallen obeisances at your lotus feet. You are my savior, and I know well the difficulty you underwent to save me:

Guest (1): How many disciples do you now have, sir, in the U.S.? Prabhupada: You cannot expect many disciples, but still, there are two thousand. Because I have got so many conditions and the fact is so difficult to understand, Krsna consciousness. They have forgotten Krsna, they have forgotten God, and I am trying to make them Krsna conscious. It is a very difficult job. I have to shed my blood three tons before I make one convinced in Krsna consciousness. That is my experience. (Room Conversation -- April 18, 1972, Hong Kong)

I saw personally how hard and how tirelessly you labored to create the unified preaching mission, “a worldwide organization under the name and style of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness” (SB 2.4.18, purport). Once in the mid-seventies, a devotee showed me something I was probably not supposed to see: your correspondence files for a few years, filled with all the letters you had received. We had all read the letters you had sent; few knew what you received.

I was shocked by the volume of problems within our movement, by the maya bedeviling your followers, not excluding many leaders like temple presidents, sannyasis, and GBC. It seemed not a day went by without your mail delivering to you setbacks, perplexities, quarrels, and failures. The combination of the world’s resistance and the movement’s weaknesses seemed to present an overwhelmingly fatal obstacle. It was a disillusioning and discouraging few hours of reading for me.

Then during a fretful night, I came to realize I had no right to be discouraged. For you, my leader and master, never showed yourself disheartened or discouraged. You had the quality of a great general who, in the thick of the mortal challenges and painful reverses of pitch battle, remains calm, clear-headed, and fixed single-mindedly upon victory. His very confidence inspires the troops and thereby carries the battle.

I understood then more of your greatness. I realized that I had been foolishly idealistic about ISKCON; for years I had stupidly ignored or disregarded many anomalies that undercut our prevailing ideology that we in ISKCON alone were pure, holy, and could do no wrong. In truth, to great extent we had replaced righteousness with self-righteousness and sanctity with sanctimoniousness.

You knew better; you knew with chilling clarity of vision all the shortcomings and failures of your followers and your institution. You corrected as much as possible and kept on advancing Lord Caitanya’s mission with whatever flawed and imperfect instruments came to your hands. You never quit trying to distribute Lord Caitanya’s mercy just because your means and instruments were defective. The fact is, that as fire is covered by smoke, even a transcendental endeavor must have faults. It will produce good and, inevitably, bad. What we need to know is: in the calculus of this endeavor the good will be eternal; the bad, temporary.

Nowadays we encounter many disillusioned and discouraged devotees, who feel their idealism has been betrayed. Some indulge an intense nostalgia for the “good old days,” for the golden past as opposed to the leaden present. Nostalgia, however, is a species of illusion, a yearning for a past that never existed. They fondly think there was a time when, simply because of your magical presence, everyone was Krishna conscious and enthusiastic and cooperative. I know better. This rosy picture does not acknowledge what you were actually dealing with from the very beginning, your ceaseless daily labor to hold the movement together and moving forward.

Others, forced at last to acknowledge the truth when the nostalgia is dispelled, go from being idealists to cynics. It is an unfortunate tendency in human history that when we realize we have been engaged in something foolish, we rectify it by embracing the exact opposite thing, which is another foolishness. In this way, foolish idealists convert into foolish cynics, managing to bypass altogether actual wisdom.

Certainly we may be tempted to become discouraged and disheartened. However, it is not allowed to us. It is another form of maya. Indeed, I have discovered that whenever we pass a blanket judgment on ISKCON--either in hope or in despair--we are inevitably reporting on ourselves. It seems that here the “I” in ISKCON indicates “I” the speaker. Whenever I find myself becoming disheartened about your mission, overwhelmed by the problems and difficulties, I have learned to recognize this state a warning sign of personal weakness, and I need to mend the fabric of my own spiritual life. When the remedial actions are done on myself, ISKCON at once looks brighter.

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, and you Srila Prabhupada: all have had a vision of a world-wide unified preaching movement, and each has pushed it toward further and further realization, and it is our job to continue. Many have given up on this effort. Some have formed their own enterprises to work separately. Still others spurn “the institution” to cultivate a “higher” practice. For myself, Srila Prabhupada, I confess to being not so bold or enterprising. I admit that I know of no higher practice than to follow your order. Prabhupada, I want only to be true to you and to your mission. Nothing more. Please grant me this request by your mercy.

Hoping to be your everlasting servant,
Ravindra Svarupa dasa

© CHAKRA 14-Sep-1999

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