Deconstructing the Lilamrta, Part 34

BY: ROCANA DASA - 13.6 2022

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

We ended our comments on the third chapter of Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta, Volume II, entitled "Struggling Alone" by mentioning that Srila Prabhupada was attempting to find the capital needed to acquire a property. He was intent on using this property for his preaching work and he had written to various people in order to interest them in coming up with the necessary funds.

Both this chapter and the next, entitled "It Will not Be Possible to Assist You", have chapter titles that I find very inappropriate.

The way that Satsvarupa lays out the chapter is that he presents the content chronologically according to the dates of various pieces of correspondence. For example, we have the dates where Srila Prabhupada sent out letters to Sumati Morarji and another big industrialist, Sir Padampat Singahia, who was the Director of the JK Organization in India. What Satsvarupa chooses to do in this section is consistent with his previous modus operandi: he dissects the letters into sections, inserting his own comments. So we can't be certain if we're getting the whole letter or part of the letter, and it appears that Satsvarupa adds his own words just to add more content, or so he can make some comment on the material. Not only are his comments not very philosophical, but where he does touch on philosophy, it's incorrect philosophy. For example, in one paragraph we read:

"But Srila Prabhupada did not judge beforehand who would serve Krsna's mission and who would not. He was fully surrendered and fully dependent on Krsna, and in obedience to his spiritual master he would approach everyone, without discrimination, to ask for help."

In other words, Satsvarupa is inferring that Srila Prabhupada was, from his point of view, wasting his time in writing to some of these people. Of course, this is from the perspective of one of the first disciples who, by Krsna's arrangement, helped to fulfill the prophecy of spreading Krsna consciousness throughout the world by using another means, other than the avenue Srila Prabhupada was pursuing at that particular point in time of trying to get people from India to come up with the money. But as we all know, the manpower and money came via the American devotees' efforts on account of their surrender and cooperation with Srila Prabhupada.

So we're basically told here by Satsvarupa that Srila Prabhupada was spinning his wheels, so to speak. As I see it, this is not the right perspective. Srila Prabhupada was showing us that pure devotees of Krsna are always, in a very practical way, trying to serve Krsna with whatever facility they have at their disposal, that Krsna has given them. In fact, the letters that are inserted in the book are fascinating in the way that they depict Srila Prabhupada directing his preaching towards the person he's writing to. Although he has woven some preaching into the letter, it is very much directed to the person and is very practical, without compromising or unduly flattering the person he's addressing.

At the end of the "Struggling Alone" chapter we find the final story. Satsvarupa divides his chapters into different sections, separated by asterisks. The last section is comprised primarily of an interview with Daoud Haroon, who's describing a lecture he attended that Srila Prabhupada gave at the Tagore Society. Mr. Haroon, a Muslim, gives his impressions of how things transpired. I found what Mr. Haroon had to say to be far more insightful than what the author himself states in the book in terms of depicting Srila Prabhupada. Mr. Haroon better depicts Srila Prabhupada as a nitya-siddha, maha-bhagavata than Satsvarupa does, describing his behaviour, mood, and message in the lecture in a way that is indicative of someone on an extremely advanced level of Krsna consciousness.

What struck me was the fact that Srila Prabhupada immediately made contact with and gave a very favourable impression to Mr. Haroon, and then immediately engaged him in Krsna's service by asking him to not only watch over his books while he lectured, but to sell the books after the lecture. Mr. Haroon observed Srila Prabhupada interacting with the persons who approached him afterwards. One of the observations he made was that people were approaching Srila Prabhupada looking for a guru, which is just what we find today with our preaching. People have this concept that they need a guru, and they can just approach someone who is obviously presenting themselves as a guru, and they'll be instantly accepted by this guru if they just ask. We hear many accounts of persons who approach ISKCON diksa gurus and Gaudiya Matha gurus, and without even interviewing the person, the guru immediately tells them he'll initiate them on the spot. But here, Srila Prabhupada put these people off, saying: "You will know. There's no pressure." He suggested that they first read his books.

As I've stated in the past, these interviews took place over ten years after the actual event the individuals are remembering. Still, Srila Prabhupada made an indelible impression on these persons, and they remember fascinating details of what transpired during their encounters with a pure devotee of Krsna. Of course, they had no idea what being a 'pure devotee' means, and it's obvious that the people who were interviewing them didn't preach to them on this point prior to the interviews. The stories they relate indicate that they didn't understand what had transpired in their life or on their spiritual sojourn -- that they were eternally blessed by the opportunity Krsna gave them.

In our next segment we'll hear from another interview where Srila Prabhupada stated that he was never alone and that he never felt alone, even though to a mundaner it may look like he's alone. Obviously Satsvarupa is trying to make us envision Srila Prabhupada to be struggling and alone throughout his Lilamrta. In fact, in a conversation that I was recently listening to, one of the disciples said to Srila Prabhupada, 'well, you said that you were actually happier before you had disciples'. Srila Prabhupada agreed and said 'yes, I was, because at that time no one was finding fault with me'. He said it in a joking way and everyone laughed, but the message was there.