Deconstructing the Lilamrta, Part 77

BY: ROCANA DASA - 13.9 2022

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

Today we continue with Chapter Five of Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta entitled, "A Lot of Ground To Be Covered" -- Gorakhpur, February 10, 1971. Srila Prabhupada went from the Kumbha Mela to Gorakhpur, and one of the reasons he went there was to see Hanuman Prasada Poddar, who was ill at the time. He was the head of Gita Press, and had previously helped Srila Prabhupada in printing his books, so the two had a close relationship.

Mr. Poddar gave Srila Prabhupada permission to use the Krishna Niketan, a property that was formerly his residence, and Srila Prabhupada took advantage of the invitation. The first thing he did was to install the Deities that had been part of the presentation at the Kumbha Mela. They created a temple room, installed the Deities, and began to have a regular program. Of course, all the devotees were used to this by now, and participated. Up until then, they had just been traveling and preaching with Srila Prabhupada. This temple room at Krishna Niketan helped to create the kind of mood or atmosphere that was the basis of Srila Prabhupada's temples, and the movement.

As usual, Satsvarupa has added things that are not necessarily very accurate, such as stating that Srila Prabhupada 'needed a rest'. Throughout Lilamrta, Satsvarupa has basically created a mood like that seen through the eyes of Srila Prabhupada's neophyte disciples. The author writes about Srila Prabhupada in the way that he appeared to his young followers, who basically thought that he was like them, i.e., he got tired, he was lonely, etc., etc. This is so inaccurate that one can hardly comment on it, but it is what we find enshrined here in the Lilamrta.

At this point, in Gorakhpur Srila Prabhupada immediately started a lecture program and invited the locals to come. He commenced speaking on the Sixth Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam, using Sridhar Swami's commentaries. Srila Prabhupada had not yet translated or purported the Sixth Canto of our Srimad Bhagavatam at this time.

Satsvarupa includes various remembrances of the devotees, and as the author, he obviously does not realize, equate, or compare Srila Prabhupada to Sridhar Swami, even though he was doing essentially the very same thing in his preaching: delivering the unadulterated message of the pure Sampradaya. Instead, he includes comments that Srila Prabhupada made when the devotees were together with him in an intimate circumstance, when he was reminiscing about his earlier days in Calcutta. Srila Prabhupada made reference to his Spiritual Master, and of course in that context, Srila Prabhupada was very humble about his achievements and his position in relationship to his Spiritual Master. But rather than taking this as a lesson on how they should treat Srila Prabhupada, the devotees took it literally, and Satsvarupa enshrined it that way in the Lilamrta.

When Srila Prabhupada refers to his Spiritual Master, he says that he was a great scholar and a great preacher, and he himself was instructed to preach Krsna consciousness throughout the world. In this humble mood, he describes himself as the disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati. Not surprisingly, Satsvarupa does not mention that despite his great humility, Srila Prabhupada is actually on the very same elevated platform as his own Spiritual Master, the predecessor Sampradaya Acarya.

Around this time in Gorakhpur, they celebrated the Appearance Day of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur. Srila Prabhupada gave a tribute to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, which was taken without the proper understanding by the devotees. On one hand Satsvarupa is talking about how neophyte they were, yet on the other hand, he's taking their remembrances and realizations and enshrining them here in the LilamrtaI, with no clarification that these are not very mature observations about the pure devotee.

The author is painting a picture of how the devotees saw Gorakhpur, how when the lights went off they'd light candles and Srila Prabhupada would appear very serious. He describes how Srila Prabhupada introduced the chanting of Jaya Radha Madhava before presenting the Srimad Bhagavatam, and that he trained the devotees to also chant this. Of course, this is a very significant pastime. Srila Prabhupada explained the meaning of the verse, which is essentially that Krsna is always enjoying and it's the duty of the devotees to assist Him in this enjoyment. Their enjoyment is assisting Krsna. Krsna is always joyful and He's always looking to play and enjoy, and even though the demons were attacking Him every day, He would, in a joyful mood, simply disperse these demons.

One of the well-known pastimes of Srila Prabhupada's is that when he was chanting Jaya Radha Madhava, he allowed his ecstasy to be exhibited to a limited degree. His eyes flooded with tears, and his body began to tremble, and so on. This, of course, is a pastime of Srila Prabhupada's that has been told many times throughout the movement. Unfortunately, as it's presented here in the Lilamrta by Satsvarupa, we find no explanation of what it means to be on the level of pure devotion that Srila Prabhupada was exhibiting, and how different Srila Prabhupada's level of Krsna consciousness was from his disciples'.

Next we hear about how Srila Prabhupada had been observing one of the women, Kausalya, washing the floor, which she would do during his Srimad Bhagavatam classes. Srila Prabhupada didn't seem to mind, although he did observe that she wasn't doing it properly, the way he would like it done, so he went down and showed her how to do it properly, with all the devotees watching.

We can see that this is a very, very important lesson to be understood by the devotees. Even when Srila Prabhupada was giving his commentaries on Sridhar's purports on Srimad Bhagavatam, he would mention the fact that doing service for Krsna, especially preaching, was on the same level as chanting Hare Krsna and washing the floors for Krsna. Doing something practical for Krsna is of the utmost importance and significance, and cannot be designated as 'different' from other activities. Unfortunately, this very interesting pastime was not understood or embraced, not realized or followed by those in attendance who went on to become the leaders of ISKCON. They instead looked down upon devotees who were doing such 'menial' service, and spoke down to them, and about them. How often have we heard the leaders say in a condescending tone, "What have you done for Krsna, what have you done for Srila Prabhupada?" But here, Srila Prabhupada is saying it's very valuable to just do a humble service, like washing the temple room floor, and that it's the greatest service. So this mood that developed, oh "I'm doing more for Krsna by being a leader, and qualitatively and quantitatively, that's better than what anyone else is doing" - that mood is a significant part of what undermined Srila Prabhupada's message and movement. Pastimes like this one, when he washes the floor, clearly illustrate what he wanted.

According to the Lilamrta, Srila Prabhupada wanted to do three things in Gorakhpur: he wanted to preach to the university students, he wanted to have kirtan and prasadam distribution in the factories, and he wanted people in their homes to embrace Krsna consciousness. When the devotees were getting a little antsy, wanting to get out of such a small, simple scene as Gorakhpur, he told them that he was just waiting to see whether or not these people were going to give him the facility that they were using, and that this would indicate if Krsna wanted them to stay.

Srila Prabhupada's preaching here was mainly defeating Mayavadi philosophy, which was prevalent in gross and subtle ways. It's interesting, too, that during the ceremony Srila Prabhupada had for Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur on his Appearance Day, that he wanted to keep things simple. The devotees wanted to cook a big elaborate feast, but he said no, just make puris and halava, vegetable and chutney, that's what a feast means.

Satsvarupa gives a direct quote from Srila Prabhupada here in the Lilamrta that I have not been able to find elsewhere in transcripts or lectures, wherein Srila Prabhupada explained the whole procedure of how you have to offer everything first to the guru, not directly to Krsna. Of course, he's referring to his Spiritual Master and that we should offer it to him, but the devotees should also have understood that their own Spiritual Master, another Sampradaya Acarya, as right there in their midst. Yet Satsvarupa offers no comments whatsoever about how Srila Prabhupada was trying to instruct them that they should offer first to him, then to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur, and that's how our process works. That is the pure understanding of how everything should be offered.

It's good to actually read this quote, which states that you cannot directly approach Krsna or the predecessor Acarya -- it's not possible. So the predecessor Acarya was Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur, and you can't approach him without approaching Srila Prabhupada. Now how this played out in this particular circumstance is not described in the Lilamrta. Whether the devotees got the realization or not, is not explained here. Satsvarupa just went on to the next episode of Srila Prabhupada visiting Hanuman Prasada Poddar, offering him his respects, and showing him the books he had printed.

Next Satsvarupa decided to insert a quote from an interview done with Mr. Poddar's grandson, who would have been almost ten years younger when this visit occurred. How clear his remembrances were, it's hard to know. Of course, he glorifies Srila Prabhupada for going to the West and preaching.

Srila Prabhupada then went off to Bombay, leaving a few disciples in Gorakhpur. There's no explanation in Lilamrta of how long they stayed or what happened after Srila Prabhupada left. Although the Lilamrta was written 10 years after this, Satsvarupa does not inform us as to what tangible results there were in Gorakhpur.

As Srila Prabhupada departs for Bombay, there's also mention in this section of how Tamal Krishna and Hansadutta were chomping at the bit to get out of Gorakhpur. It was too simple, too mode of goodness for them. They wanted to go to the big city and engage in what Satsvarupa calls "big preaching", which really translates into more comfortable surroundings, more to their liking than what was transpiring in sleepy Gorakhpur.