Question: I am very much attracted to this philosophy, the lifestyle, and have never struggled with the four principles, but I have very little attraction to Prabhupada himself. Sometimes I think, if I had my choice, I would choose a different “branch” of bhakti yoga than ISKCON. But, because of my experience, I have such a fondness for ISKCON, despite what I see as its “faults.” How do I rectify this?
Also, do you have any recommendations for books, perhaps written by you or your Godbrothers and Godsisters, that have a bit more “heart” and a bit less “science”? I have read quite a few of Prabhupada’s books, but am looking for some “softer” material to study alongside them.
Hridayananda das Goswami: I will first focus on our relationship with Prabhupada. Actually, we all have to widen our vision of Prabhupada. For example, the admirable fondness you have for ISKCON really is a fondness for Prabhupada. Similarly, when you see something good and beautiful in your dear ISKCON associates, you are really seeing the goodness and beauty of Prabhupada. I am sure all these devotees will happily say that they are Prabhupada’s spiritual creations. I am certainly Prabhupada’s spiritual creation and whatever good I have done comes from his kindness and teachings.
So I suggest that you feel completely free to appreciate Prabhupada in many forms, not only in his personal lectures and books, but also in the devotees, the communities, the dances, the songs, the loving spiritual relationships that actually he inspired. As far as lectures and books are concerned, here is a way to look at them: Prabhupada knew that probably the biggest historical problem in world religions has been the chronic tendency to change, distort or pervert the teachings of the founder. We have spectacular examples of this in Christianity, Buddhism, many forms of Hinduism, and many other places. In his simple, eloquent, and one might say repetitive style of preaching and writing. Prabhupada manifested on earth an immovable theological object that is virtually incorruptible, at least in all the basic points of Krishna’s teachings. So we should be very sympathetic to, and grateful for, Prabhupada’s extraordinary discipline and diligence in guaranteeing that in coming centuries and millennia, the world will always have a pure, incorruptible version of Krishna’s teachings.
There are indeed other Gaudiya branches, but it is Prabhupada who knowingly and lovingly literally sacrificed his life to save us. No one in the west knew or cared about Gaudiya Vaishnavism until Prabhupada risked, and ultimately gave, his life as he tirelessly, selflessly circled the globe, saving and re-saving us. He endured unlimited anxiety and stress as he managed ISKCON in all the world, bore everyone’s burden on his shoulders, stayed up at night worrying about his beloved spiritual children, ignored pain and disease that wracked his body, and did what no other guru or ‘Acarya’ could ever do: he established a global Krishna society to save this poor planet. Strength lies in unity, and for the world’s sake as well, we should serve a united world society for Krishna consciousness.
Further, Krishna Himself revealed the identity of His pure devotee by empowering Prabhupada far beyond, to be honest, all the other ‘Acaryas’ combined. To leave Prabhupada is to turn a blind eye to Krishna’s own revelation of His dearest servant. Of course most of those who abandoned Prabhupada’s mission will claim that they in fact are his true servants. But anyone who knows what Prabhupada said, did, and felt in this regard, will instantly see the absurdity of this claim.
I myself would be nothing of spiritual value without Prabhupada. I suggest you read the many heartfelt biographies written by Prabhupada’s loving servants. There you will find that Prabhupada was most personal, most loving, most loyal, most devoted to all of us. Although it may sometimes appear to a young person today that Prabhupada basically just lectured and wrote books all day, in fact he spent most of every day caring for us, nurturing us with unlimited Krishna conscious affection.
Prabhupada is a pure soul, free of pride, vanity, or envy. If at this point in your spiritual evolution, it is easier for you to experience his kindness and friendship through your devotee friends, then Prabhupada would be very pleased with you.