Deconstructing the Lilamrta, Part 29

BY: ROCANA DASA - 3.6 2022

A critical analysis of the Srila Prabhupada-Lilamrta by Satsvarupa das Goswami.

Today we begin our commentary on Chapter Eleven of Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta, entitled "The Dream Come True". The title for the chapter comes from the opening quote from Srila Prabhupada which, as usual, includes no source citation. We cannot tell in what context the comment was made, but Srila Prabhupada said he was always dreaming of going to New York. The first part of this chapter is about Srila Prabhupada's efforts to have his original Srimad Bhagwatams published and printed, while he was simultaneously writing. This part of Srila Prabhupada's lila is very inspirational for any of his followers. One would assume that in the case of Satsvarupa, the author of Lilamrta, he would have gained a lifetime of direction and inspiration, yet if we look at his life after Srila Prabhupada's disappearance, we see that he didn't do as he claims over and over again Srila Prabhupada was doing -- simply following the orders of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur.

Throughout this section, especially, the author gives Srila Prabhupada's Spiritual Master his full title, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur, whereas with Srila Prabhupada he just uses 'Bhaktivedanta Swami'. He doesn't call him "Srila", or "His Divine Grace", or any of the appropriate honorariums he might have used. Because of the way he presented Srila Prabhupada in this book, it's really no wonder we observe what we do in post-samadhi ISKCON, where so many of Srila Prabhupada's disciples ended up going to his godbrothers. In their own minds, they looked upon Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati with a higher esteem and considered him to be on a more advanced level than Srila Prabhupada. I find this very offensive, and see a direct connection between this unfortunate phenomenon and what Satsvarupa has written in this book.

The way it's described right from the beginning of this chapter, as well as in the previous chapter, Srila Prabhupada was more like a scribe who was simply copying or translating the previous great Acaryas, doing so simply under the order of a great Acarya. Satsvarupa does not present Srila Prabhupada as being himself a great Acarya.

In this part of the chapter we get an amazing amount of detail as to how Srila Prabhupada accomplished the task of having his first three volumes of the Srimad Bhagwatam series printed. This information is obviously the result of a great deal of research that was done on behalf of the author, at the expense of the BBT and Srila Prabhupada's disciples. At this point in time the author and his researchers still had access to many of the personalities who were involved at this particular point in Srila Prabhupada's manifest lila, like the book printers and other personalities who got to experience Srila Prabhupada directly during that time. Now, of course, it would be impossible to review this information with them, because they've all passed away. This is a significant fact, because it means that irregardless of the contamination Lilamrta is filed with, this book will represent the historical footprint of Srila Prabhupada's association with these various personalities. Unfortunately, we will never be able to take what's written here as at face value because so much of the content is spoiled by the author's asiddhantic concepts.

I find that the author put a great deal of emphasis on the financial aspect of Srila Prabhupada's undertaking. In doing so, he continually describes how it was "a great financial strain", and that Srila Prabhupada was "poor", and tried to save every penny he could. While this is unquestionably an admirable quality, we find a complete absence of realization or appreciation of the fact that Srila Prabhupada is a nitya-siddha, empowered by Sri Krsna. He's on a mission on behalf of Krsna, and Krsna is making all these arrangements on his behalf. So these comments about frugality and being poor have to be put in the proper context. In fact, Srila Prabhupada is making all this effort and Krsna reciprocated in that regard. So Srila Prabhupada is actually showing by example how Krsna consciousness should be executed, and how one can come to the higher stages of bhakti by virtue of one's efforts to spread Krsna consciousness in a practical way. Just as Arjuna was serving Lord Krsna and His purpose by fighting, those who are Srila Prabhupada's followers and who really want to make practical advancement in Krsna consciousness should follow in Srila Prabhupada's footsteps. There's no greater example of how to do this than to observe how Srila Prabhupada went about putting together these first volumes of the Srimad Bhagwatam.

We find that Satsvarupa does his usual literary number in this chapter, giving the reader a highly descriptive narrative on what Srila Prabhupada's physical circumstances were - or what the author imagines them to be like. By the time he was writing this book, what it was actually like in Delhi had undoubtedly changed a great deal, being decades after the time Srila Prabhupada had these pastimes there. Regardless, Satsvarupa is describing what it's like for himself or the western disciples when they go into these areas of Delhi where Srila Prabhupada was working at the time. But the way he writes the book, it's as if they're experiencing it, not the way Srila Prabhupada's experiencing. But neophytes can have no idea of what Srila Prabhupada is thinking or whether he was experiencing in the way Satsvarupa chooses to describe it.

The author quotes verbatim from what are obviously taped dialogues the researchers have taken from the various individuals Srila Prabhupada has associated with. These passages are clearly identified in the book. When it comes to Srila Prabhupada, however, unless one is a very careful reader you can't distinguish between Srila Prabhupada and the author, who simply inserts his own ideas and thoughts into quotes from Srila Prabhupada. The quotes he chooses are from the introduction Srila Prabhupada wrote to the Srimad Bhagwatam. Of course, he doesn't quote the entire introduction, but simply uses it to enhance his story.

This also goes for letters that Srila Prabhupada wrote throughout the period while he was getting his Bhagwatams printed and while he went about selling them. In order for him to be able to take 600 volumes of Srimad Bhagwatam with him to America, he had to sell many others in order to pay for the printing. Of course, he went to libraries and government offices to offer his books, arranging to meet very high government officials such as the Vice President and the President of India. In doing so he had various exchanges of correspondence, and it's obvious that Satsvarupa had access to these letters. Not surprisingly, he quotes the letters coming from the government officials, but he doesn't quote Srila Prabhupada's own letters to them. So again, we're left reading the comments of some mundaner while Srila Prabhupada's letters are excluded. Where these letters are, I would love to know. It would be wonderful to be able to read them. But the author chooses not to provide them here, except for the excerpts he weaves in with his own dialogue… as if he and Srila Prabhupada are non-different.

Throughout the book we're made privy to the exact amount of rupees various people gave, and how much Srila Prabhupada spent on trains, paper, and so on. This is all extracted from Srila Prabhupada's accounting, which he meticulously maintained. We should keep in mind the fact that throughout this whole period while Srila Prabhupada was executing his mission, he was so careful not to misuse a single paise. Satsvarupa, on the other hand, was given unlimited access to men and money in order to produce this book, and he didn't have to undergo any austerities whatsoever.

Srila Prabhupada was personally going around to the libraries, etc., and during the ISKCON lila period, Satsvarupa was given the responsibility to go around to all the libraries of the world, distributing Srila Prabhupada's books. Satsvarupa headed up what is now known as the Library Party, which many older devotees gained great notoriety for being a part of. Today you'll find that there isn't such a party, and that ISKCON is not focusing on the sacred duty of making sure Srila Prabhupada's books are in every library in the world. ISKCON and leaders like Satsvarupa have completely abandoned the Library Party. Instead, many of the Library Party people have now become imitation Sampradaya Acaryas, even though Satsvarupa keeps reminding the reader how Srila Prabhupada was "simply following" the orders of his guru. What about them following the orders of their guru?

Srila Prabhupada was doing this work when he was actually physically older than these people are now, years after the Lilamrta was written. As Satsvarupa reminds us over and over again, he was "alone and poor", and so on. Of course, Srila Prabhupada says he's never alone, Krsna's always with him, but Satsvarupa obviously wants us to think that Srila Prabhupada was always "alone and penniless". Instead of actually presenting Srila Prabhupada as he truly is -- a nitya-siddha maha-bhagavata, on a mission from Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu to spread Krsna consciousness throughout the world -- Satsvarupa does not at all present Srila Prabhupada in that light. In many instances in Lilamrta, it's not that Satsvarupa appears to be consciously trying to undermine Srila Prabhupada, but rather he writes the book with an obvious lack of realization. He was also suffering from the contamination he himself was under at that time, thinking himself a big Zonal Acarya - not the humble servant of his Spiritual Master.

Srila Prabhupada is the most recent appearance of a succession of nitya-siddha Sampradaya Acaryas who appeared to execute the mission set down by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Yet throughout Lilamrta, Srila Prabhupada is not at all presented in that way. Consequently, it's no wonder that ISKCON is in the circumstance they're in. The impression Satsvarupa has given in this book is insidiously ingrained in the whole mood in which ISKCON is now being presented. You only have to look at every brief introduction and biography presented by the leadership. It always mentions how poor Srila Prabhupada was, how he had heart attacks, how he struggled, etc., and there's little or no mention of who he really is. This travesty continues on to this day, and it comes directly from this book. As the author, it's no wonder Satsvarupa has suffered so much over all these years. And keep in mind how much money Satsvarupa has spent trying to alleviate his suffering, even though right here in the Lilamrta, he shows how Srila Prabhupada was spending every paise that he had to have the Srimad Bhagwatams printed; he spent hardly anything on himself.

In fact, in Srila Prabhupada's introduction to the 2nd volume of the Bhagwatam he explains how it may appear on the surface that he's acting like a businessman, not a swami, in the way he's going about having his Srimad Bhagwatams produced, and how he organizes the distribution and executes it himself. But he also explains that there's a gulf of difference between him doing this and what other businessmen that he's working with are doing, such as the printers, etc., because he's doing it wholly and solely for Sri Krsna. It's too bad the leaders of what is now passing as Srila Prabhupada's movement don't have the same mentality.