1988 Increasingly Aware of Your Presence
He reasons ill who says that Vaiṣṇava die
When thou are living still in sound.
Vaiṣṇava die to live and living
Spread the holy name around.
It was the spring of 1978, the first Gaura-Pūrṇimā festival after your disappearance. I had gone early to Vṛndāvana, somehow expecting that you would still be there. How could you not be there? In the warm winter afternoon we walked to the little hut in the temple courtyard which they said was your Samādhi. Offering obeisances, I was overwhelmed with a mixture of emotions, inappropriate to describe here. I felt in turmoil, your absence a conclusive reality. My last hope was gone.
That evening you came to me in a dream. We were walking together around Kṛṣṇa-Balarāma Mandira in the early morning hours. No words were exchanged; the only sound was the constant tapping of your cane as you walked, head held high. I was in anxiety, thinking that you were going somewhere. When you sat by the generator house I sat at your feet, and you emanated a wonderful security of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Then you smiled in a reassuring and all-knowing way, your eyes moist. I felt relieved. But then the thought of your separation overwhelmed me and I began to cry. With your lotus hand you rubbed my head repeatedly in a kindly way saying, “Do not worry, everything will be all right.” And as I sat there sobbing, you continued to repeat, “Everything will be all right.”
I felt assured by your instructions. Your association gave me strength. Time has passed. Now ten years later I am amazed how you have become the focal point of my existence. In the dedication to Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, you state, “To Śrīla Prabhupāda Bhaktisiddhānta Gosvāmī Mahārāja. He lives forever by his divine instructions, and the follower lives with him.”
I do not claim to be a follower: I am trying to be one. But even in my neophyte condition I have become increasingly aware of your presence. In numerous ways I am experiencing “living with you,” and even as I write this offering I am amazed.
When you were here it took little endeavor. A letter, at most an airplane ticket, and the reassurance that in any issue you were there, easily accessible, the ultimate guide and authority. Yet in your physical absence your association is no less sublime, no less real.
Being forced to depend on your instructions and your unmanifest features, am I learning to become more aware of you? It appears that my relationship with you is becoming deeper and more mature, for I am forced to see and hear you in places I did not notice before.
While chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra I remember you, seated on your vyāsāsana, your deep and resonant voice. Sometimes I feel very blissful. But this is only by your causeless mercy. Kṛṣṇa is nondifferent from His form as sound. And you have delivered that sound to me, enduring countless hardships leaving Vṛndāvana. Every name I vibrate is by your grace, so you are nondifferent from the name.
Every morning I pray to you. Please let me chant this holy name purely. My anarthas appear insurmountable. By the knowledge and service you have given us, we may be released from their clutches and be able to really say “Kṛṣṇa.” When will that day come?
In my waking hours how many times do I offer your praṇāmas: namo oṁ viṣṇupādāya kṛṣṇa-preṣṭhāya bhū-tale…..? Occasionally I hear what I am saying. You are so dear to Lord Kṛṣṇa, delivering the world from impersonalism and voidism. And if I offer my obeisances with heartfelt devotion, are you not there to accept my prayers? Śrīmate bhaktivedanta-svāmin iti nāmine.
Sitting in a solitary room, reading Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam—every word is your meditation, and if I meditate on every word then certainly I am with you. You said, “If you want to know me, read my books.” So I am reading, studying, memorizing, trying to serve your ecstasies through the transcendental process. What greater association, what greater bliss is there than becoming absorbed in your sound? I know that you are there in your instructions for lost humanity, guiding them home, back to Godhead. Floundering, I am groping through the maze of my material desires, trying to achieve your lotus feet. Everything is there—Bhagavat-gīā, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Nectar of Devotion, such wonderful books!
In 1980 you allowed me to begin assisting you in your worship of Gaura-Nitāi. How could I realize such good fortune? Every day you awake Their Lordships, dress Them, feed Them, and put Them to sleep. I am simply your menial servant. As I meditate on Their service, it is only as your humble assistant. You have delivered the lotus feet of Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityānanda to such a fallen wretch as me. By your grace now I have the opportunity to travel with “the Lord in the box.” No doubt this has saved me from great tribulation. Twenty-four hours a day. They are my constant companions, as are you.
Although I am a recluse and irresponsible, through your transcendental arrangement you are forcing me to accept more responsibility. I came to England to travel and preach from college to college. I had my plan, but what was yours?
I organized saṅkīrtana, manages temples, counseled orphans, made mistakes, swept up shards of shattered gurus, perspired profusely, amazed all the while. How was all this going on? National Secretary? Not me! GBC! Why not someone else? Akhaṇḍadhī Prabhu was murmuring in the background, and Kṛṣṇa Dāsa Swami would not give in. When I opened my eyes to see if they had gone, I found myself sitting through long, hot, arduous hours at Śrīdhāma Māyāpur trying to follow in your footsteps and “do as you did” with my other GBC Godbrothers. How did I ever get there? Only by your transcendental tricks.
I certainly did not want to accept disciples. Why take the risk? Why accept the karma? Do I need the extra burden? Let me wait a few more years. Back and forth, yes, no, maybe. Somehow you have forced me to accept the responsibility. Once again, through the directive of my Godbrothers, I feel your transcendental association. Bhāgavata Āśraya Prabhu yelled at me and told me I was giving him a headache being on the mental platform. I felt that you were yelling at me. “Why are you so selfish? You are not the doer. It is on my behalf.” Sitting on the other side of the fire, handing over tulasī beads, I say, “Your name is Rūpa Raghunātha Dāsa. “ I can only depend on you. What is my qualification? I know what I am. Unless I connect them with you, what is my value? And now in this service, always thinking of you, how to deliver you to those disciples, this is my service to them. Forcing me to depend on you, they have also become my guru.
Earlier, when we sat around the table in Brussels, Girirāja Mahārāja chastised everyone for all the money wasted on this international structure. I felt like you were chastising and reprimanding me. I had a sinking feeling in my stomach, very hopeless and penitent, because I knew you were displeased. There was no doubting that.
And what I did not hear from my Godbrothers I heard from your other followers. Although they were junior to me in years, I heard you speaking through them. “We want managerial accountability.” “Enough of heavy-handed dealings.” “No absolute promises or infallible daydreams.” “Inspiration, purity, kindness.” The voices echoed in my head day and night. Kṛṣṇatīrtha told me, “You ostracize those who don’t agree to work with you.”
The pressure was almost unbearable. It was like when you said to double it, and I could not understand how to do it. I knew, however, that there was no way to avoid it. I know that I have to change and there is no backing down, no alternative, not within Kṛṣṇa consciousness. I feel your association forcing and guiding me through other devotees.
And you are still guiding and directing things. What are we doing? We are trying to understand your plan, as you are unfolding it day by day. There is the Manor campaign. Who would have understood the developments? The opportunities which appear to be manifesting are certainly not our doing. If you are not organizing things, who is? As you said, “I have created these big projects just to engage my leaders.” Are you not continuing to engage us by creating more big projects so that we will become more absorbed in Kṛṣṇa’s service and not get distracted by sense gratification, using our temples for eating, sleeping and opulent living? In the burden of that service is your loving glance. “Accept headaches for Kṛṣṇa’s service.” But such headaches are bearable only if you give us your constant reassurance.
When I came before Rādhā-Londonīśvara I think of you and how you kidnapped Them. Like Kṛṣṇa kidnapped Rukminī. You installed Them, your personal Deities, the first Deities of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa to come and accept your service. Rādhā-Londonīśvara and Rādhā-Gokulānanda, the bliss of New Gokula. Bhaktivedanta Manor, the place where you walked, talked and lived. The atmosphere in your rooms is so overpowering that even the most stone-hearted atheists are impressed when they enter. We live in your houses, serve your Deities, listen to your footsteps on the stairs and for your voice: “Who has left the lights on?” Śrīla Prabhupāda, you are the challenge in Kṛṣṇa consciousness and you are the opportunity. You are the enthusiasm that reaches its pinnacle at our Christmas marathon, and you are that satisfied feeling when we hear that we have distributed almost a million books this year. As the Supersoul is always there to give us direction and guidance, so I always hear your voice in the back of my mind, “Fifty percent to the BBT and build a great temple in London. A set of books in everyone’s home and everyone chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa. At least we can work together cooperatively.”
What I have recalled here are but a few realizations, some thoughts of how I am increasingly aware of your presence. Śrīla Prabhupāda, thank you very much for your reassurance. Although it is not proper to dwell on it, thank you for reassuring me in these dreams, when you left, when I took sannyāsa, when I was despondent and when I accepted disciples. Thank you for guiding me through my Godbrothers and your other followers. Thank you for your books, through which I can hear your transcendental knowledge. Thank you for your tapes, your morning walks and lectures, your voice ringing clear in the air, each and every word saturated with love for Kṛṣṇa, everything perfect. Thank you for allowing me to chant the holy name. Thank you for the service you have given me of preaching Kṛṣṇa consciousness in England and serving Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityānanda.
Sometimes in my mind’s eye, I dream of Bhagavat Āśraya, Akhaṇḍadhī, Keśava Bhāratī, Balabhadra and all the others falling at your feet. You are resplendent at always, sitting, casually leaning back on a cushion. We place before you a few morsels of service for your satisfaction. For you we have constructed these temples; for you we have distributed so many books; here these devotees are chanting; here is Kṛṣṇa consciousness being fulfilled in the way that you desired. Then with that reassurance that only comes when you are pleased, we feel overwhelmed when you smile at us and say, “Thank you very much. This is very nice.” We are trying to cooperate together, because you are the adhesive bond of love which keeps us struggling on against all odds.
Śrīla Prabhupāda, you are always accessible. In my pitiful groping I am trying to find you like a blind man grasping for a wall. You are my ultimate friend, my shelter, my worshipful Deity and my source of inspiration. You are the ultimate goal of all my services. I have no hope that I can please Kṛṣṇa or ever love Him, but I am constantly obsessed by the thought of trying to please you.
I often feel alone and frightened. The odds seem so overwhelming. Can I make it? Can I lead others to you? Will we win the campaign? Will we build a temple? You are the doubtless and fearless way of success. As my eyes open I am starting to understand that, if I stay at your lotus feet, everything will be all right, because with you everything is always all right. In 1975 we sat at the airport in Dallas. The devotees were sitting at your lotus feet and you were chanting japa. No one said anything; we just chanted. I felt a material energy recede, and there was an inconceivable atmosphere of peace-no anxiety. “Now I am in Vaikuṇṭha.” Yes, in your association there is no need to worry. Everything is always all right.”
So I pray on this day that I may become increasingly aware of you, both in waking and sleeping; and that I may at all times, in all places and always, remain a tiny servant at your lotus feet.