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Srila Prabhupada Letters

Letters answered by Srila Prabhupada

How does bhava turn into prema?

Prahladananda Swami: Once I wrote Prabhupada a letter and asked him, "How does bhava turn into prema?" I had been reading the Bhakti-rasamrita-sindu by Bon Maharaj. Srila Prabhupada had told Rupanuga Prabhu that we should only read the purports but not the translations in that book. The purports were by Srila Jiva Goswami or Vishvanath Chakravarti Thakur. Rupanuga didn't like me reading that book, but I'd stay up at night and read it secretly. I thought that it would give me some special realizations. After a while I was convinced that I was on the stage of bhava, and it was just a question of time before it turned into prema. That's why I asked Srila Prabhupada about how bhava turns into prema. He wrote me a one-page response on preaching, which surprised me.

Srila Prabhupada wrote, "I've heard that you're all going out in Buffalo. This is very good. You should all go out, chant Hare Krishna all around Buffalo, distribute Bhagavad-gita, and preach about Bhagavad-gita as much as possible. The boys and girls in your country generally are good souls - that's why they've taken birth in such a nice country. Just like here, in San Francisco, we've had Ratha-yatra, and ten thousand boys and girls were dancing and chanting in full transcendental ecstasy. I've heard that in just two weeks in New York they've distributed three thousand Back to Godheads, and that in Buffalo, you're also distributing Back to Godheads very nicely. Please continue in this way and your success in life is assured. As Krishna sees that you are working seriously to bring His other children back to the spiritual kingdom, then He will bestow all of His blessings upon you. Krishna is never ungrateful for our efforts to serve Him, rest assured. Regarding your question, 'How does bhava turn into prema?' there is no need to trouble yourself over such advanced questions at the present time. Shortly I will be publishing The Nectar of Devotion, and that will be explained there. As far as the fifty dollars you sent me, I find no enclosed money in your letter. Do you know where it is?"

So at once I realized that Prabhupada was quite sensitive. Instead of answering my question directly, he answered it in another way. It was not the answer that I expected, but if I actually wanted these advanced stages of Krishna consciousness, the method was going out and distributing Prabhupada's books and chanting Hare Krishna in the street. That would gradually give me what I was looking for.

Reference: Srila Prabhupada-Remembrances - Siddhanta Dasa

He clearly gave us much room to toddle along

Kanchanbala: When I first started going to the temple I had just turned 16 and was still in high school. I was interested right away and wanted to know more and more about Swamiji (that's how we addressed Srila Prabhupada in those days). I also wanted to tell Srila Prabhupada everything I did. I told him that I was living at home (far from the temple) and that my mother wouldn't let me go to the temple. But I had an altar, and I offered prasadam and everything that I thought was beautiful to Krishna. I was into natural, earthy things, so I put cattails, moss, and bark on my altar. I wrote Srila Prabhupada a six-page letter telling him everything I was doing. I wanted to be totally honest, to lay it all out to him exactly: how I went out to school, did my homework, chanted on the subway, and so forth. 

He wrote back accepting everything I was doing, saying, "My sincere blessings for you for your nice prosecution of Krishna consciousness. Whatever you are doing at the present moment is approved by me, and I think on account of your becoming a sincere soul, Krishna is dictating from within and you are doing things so nicely." It was so encouraging, especially as the years went by and I gradually realized the standard of devotional service and Deity worship in the temples Prabhupada established. I remember one devotee asked Srila Prabhupada, "Have you told us all the rules and regulations?" Prabhupada said, "If I told you everything, you'd faint." He clearly gave us much room to toddle along. 

Reference: Srila Prabhupada-Remembrances - Siddhanta Dasa

Once having surrendered it can never be withdrawn

Ramesvara : In 1974 I was reporting to Bali Mardan and to Srila Prabhupada, as there were some issues at that time where I didn't feel comfortable with the requests that I was getting out of our New York branch of the BBT. It got to such a discomfort level that I wrote a letter to Srila Prabhupada stating that I couldn't follow the orders I was getting. I knew that it was my duty to follow these directions but I told Prabhupada that I thought they would negatively affect BBT money and that I would have to resign. I didn't realize that some other senior devotees had written to Srila Prabhupada and were discussing this situation. 

Prabhupada wrote back saying, "We'll discuss your situation at the Mayapur festival in 1975, but I hope by then that you will come to your sound condition of mind, because this request to resign is insane." Prabhupada wrote, "There is no such thing in spiritual life as resignation. Once having surrendered, it can never be withdrawn.

I'll never forget those words. Only one other time did I fail to follow that statement to my great regret. Since that time, by Prabhupada's mercy, I've been slightly reawakened from my comatose condition and I am able to pray that he'll let me serve him again. Now I am trying to repent. I fully regret it and I'm begging for him to let me come back and serve him again. But that is the order: "Once having surrendered it can never be withdrawn.

Reference: Srila Prabhupada-Remembrances - Siddhanta Dasa

Srila Prabhupada, India's National Hero

Visakha : While I was up on the top of this building living there under my mosquito net and a little piece of wood, I wrote an article called "Srila Prabhupada, India's National Hero." I sent him this magazine, and he wrote me a letter back. I could read that letter because it has very broad implications. He says here, "I am in due receipt of your letter from Bombay dated May 24th, 1972, along with a very nice article 'Prabhupada, India's National Hero.' I am very grateful to you for your kind words about me, but I do not think that I have done anything but I am only delivering the best message as it is. Actually anyone who is a sincere devotee of Krishna and who is rendering service by preaching his message is to be considered as hero. So you are all heroes of your country and your humanity. Hero means someone who others want to follow as an example of the best type of person. So you all become like that, perfect examples of Krishna consciousness, heroes and heroines, and preach the message exactly as I have taught it to you very seriously and being fully convinced, then others will automatically come forward and join us. We shall all be like one great army of heroes for Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

Reference: ISKCON Juhu, 25th Anniversary

Our purity is our strength

Yogeshvara : Sometime in 1972 or '73, I thought Prabhupada would appreciate it if I showed a little humor, so I made an announcement for the Krishna Yoga Club in the New York University student newspaper. It was a cartoon showing a cool guy with dark glasses on. In the next frame, he was completely laid out on the floor with swarms of students streaming over him holding a flying sign saying, "Krishna Yoga Club opens today.

Srila Prabhupada sent me a letter saying, "I don't think you need to distract yourself for such cartoons. Our strength is our purity, and this kind of approach has made things seem less important and less serious than they really are. We don't need to go out of our way to attract public attention and appeal to anyone on some other basis. Our purity is our strength.

To be chastised by the spiritual master is a great blessing. I've carried that incident with me all these years, and it's influenced everything I've done since. 

Reference: Srila Prabhupada-Remembrances - Siddhanta Dasa

At least follow those three instructions every day

Sama Priya : In a letter Prabhupada told me to worship Lord Chaitanya in my home, to chant at least sixteen rounds, and to read his books every day. Then maya would never touch me. Prabhupada told me that if I always remained in the fire of Krishna consciousness, then my spiritual master would pray to Krishna for my spiritual advancement. So in my life I try to at least follow those three instructions every day. 

Reference: Srila Prabhupada-Remembrances - Siddhanta Dasa

Deity worship means to be very clean

Rukmini : The pujaris in Los Angeles had a beautiful and high standard of Deity worship that didn't exist anywhere else in the society. So, after being trained in Los Angeles, when I returned to Boston, where they didn't have this nice standard, trying to introduce it was difficult. 

One night I had a dream that all the temple devotees were lying on the floor arguing with each other, "In New York we do it like this." "Well, in Boston we do it like this." "Well, in Montreal we do it like this." Then the curtains closed and the Deities were gone. This dream upset and traumatized me and I wrote a letter to Prabhupada lamenting about how unacceptable our Deity worship must be. I wrote, "I think we've been very negligent in our standard of Deity worship and now I had this dream that the Deities disappeared. And I know that you said that without bhava, Deity worship is just like idol worship.

Prabhupada wrote a pragmatic letter back with a list of many items of cleanliness. He wrote, "Deity worship means to be very clean. You should try to bathe twice daily. The Deities should never be approached without having bathed first and changed to clean cloths after passing stool, etc. Keep teeth brushed after each meal, fingernails clean and trim. Be sure that your hands are clean before touching anything on the altar or the Deities. And cleanse the Deity room, altar and floor daily thoroughly. Shine the various arati paraphernalia after arati. This is described in the booklet for pujaris written by Silavati Dasi. The idea is summit cleanliness - that will satisfy Krishna. Regarding your dream, it is a great blessing to you that Krishna warned you. So you should never be negligent. Always be careful, then in due course you will feel bhava." That was very nice. 

Reference: Srila Prabhupada-Remembrances - Siddhanta Dasa

There was never a moment when I was ever forgetful of Krsna

Tamal Krishna Goswami : Prabhupada wrote me in a letter, "Throughout my life I had so many opportunities for sense gratification, but Krishna always saved me. I never knew what is meat-eating, gambling, intoxication or illicit sex.

He wrote, "There was never a moment when I was ever forgetful of Krishna." He actually wrote that in a letter to me. He said, "There was never a moment when I was ever forgetful of Krishna.

Reference: Srila Prabhupada-Remembrances - Siddhanta Dasa

One can't be independent and at the same time become devotee

Jayadvaita : One of the earliest devotees was named Rayarama. He joined before Satsvarupa Maharaj and many of the others, and he was impressive and dedicated to helping Srila Prabhupada. He and Hayagriva were the first editors of Back to Godhead, and he was the original editor for Teachings of Lord Chaitanya. Rayarama knew the philosophy better than anyone, at least in New York, because he was practically the only devotee who'd read all the books, and he used to be terrifyingly good in answering questions. Hippies and others would come and he would speak with them expertly. 

I was typing in Rayarama's office, but in 1968 or early 1969, after I'd been around for a few months, Rayarama left the Society. Then in 1971, when we were at Henry Street and ISKCON Press was on Tiffany Place, he showed up at the Press. He said that he wanted to come back, and he wrote a letter to Srila Prabhupada that, "I want to do some service, I want to join again." I thought Srila Prabhupada would be happy if such a long-lost devotee returned to the Society. However, from Rayarama's letter to him, Prabhupada detected that his materialistic mentality was still there. 

Srila Prabhupada wrote, "I welcome you for your coming back to our Society and you are feeling very nicely for the association of devotees." And then Prabhupada explained, "Devotee means who are following the regulative principles. One cannot be independent and at the same time become a devotee, because all devotional activities are based on surrender. So in the association of devotees we learn this important item - how to surrender, but if we keep our independence and try to become devotees, that is not possible... If you want to live with us you must accept temple life, namely cleanly shaven head, observing the regulative principles, decorating the body with tilak, etc. You know all these things. As far as your editorial work is concerned, I welcome your good service but if you do not follow temple life and Deity worship, it will set a bad example." Prabhupada ended his letter with, "To associate with me you are always welcome but not with your independence. That will not help me or you.

I think Srila Prabhupada knew that his letter meant Rayarama would say, "Well, then I can't join." But Prabhupada laid it on the line, "If you want to join and surrender, then you are welcome back full-heartedly. But if you want to join but not really join, if you want to join but keep a separate mentality, to have your own agenda, then why do it? Why cheat?" Rayarama left, and we never saw him again. 

Reference: Srila Prabhupada-Remembrances - Siddhanta Dasa

We want to make Krishna famous, not ourselves.

Mahatma : When I was temple president in Vancouver, I thought that we should form a rock band so that we could influence young people. I imagined us converting people to Krishna consciousness, distributing books, and making money at concerts. I wrote Prabhupada a letter saying, "Rock stars influence young people. They can change what people think. What if we start a rock band, try to become famous, and then preach?" Prabhupada wrote back, "This trying to become famous is all phantasmagoria. You'll never become famous. This is totally impractical. Why have you been trying for it? We don't want to become famous ourselves. We want to make Krishna famous. If you want to do music, then use your musical abilities to lead ecstatic kirtans in the Vancouver temple. But don't try to become famous yourself.

When I wrote to Prabhupada, I wasn't thinking of becoming famous. I was thinking that if we became famous we could use that for preaching. But before I was a devotee I had a strong desire to become a famous musician. It was very clear that Prabhupada saw that. If that wasn't one of my motives when I wrote to him, it certainly would have become my motive or I would have been aversely influenced by fame. Prabhupada knew exactly where I was at. After that, I totally forgot my formerly strong desire to become famous. 

Reference: A Transcendental Diary Volume 3 - Hari Sauri Dasa