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Srila Prabhupada Letters

Letters answered by Srila Prabhupada

The highest realization is to save yourself

Bhaktadas: At the end of a Christmas Marathon in 1973 or '74, Rameshvara sent Prabhupada enormous book distribution scores. Srila Prabhupada wrote back, "Congratulations on selling so many books. This is very nice, and I'm very pleased." But in the final sentence, he wrote, "The highest realization is to save yourself."

That sentence was like a sledgehammer in my heart, because most of us were thinking, "We're saved, and we're saving others." But here he was telling us that the highest thing is to save ourselves. I felt that we had become like Christians, thinking, "I'm saved by the blood of Jesus, and these people are all heathens. We're going to save them."

I felt that we'd become puffed up and intoxicated by ourselves. The words in that letter always stayed with me.

Reference: Srila Prabhupada Remembrances - Siddhanta Dasa

Srila Prabhupada's simple desire for us to work harmoniously

Pusta Krishna: Buddhimanta was tall, big, bright-faced, and appeared somewhat crazed. He was an imposing figure begging for money on the streets, and he was collecting a lot of it in a way that devotees had never done before. I had some difference of opinion about how money should be collected, and I made it known that I thought a monk shouldn't act in the way Buddhimanta was acting. This was a point of contention between Bali Mardan and me. Bali Mardan called Srila Prabhupada and talked to Shyamasundar, objecting to my objecting to the way that they were collecting money.

In response Srila Prabhupada wrote a very instructive letter. He didn't criticize either of us. He didn't say, "You are right," and, "You are wrong." That wasn't his concern at all, which tells something of his character. His concern was that we work together as a family. He wanted all of us to get along despite our different ideas about engaging in devotional service. Srila Prabhupada's simple desire for us to work harmoniously is something that's taken me a long time to understand.

Reference: Srila Prabhupada Remembrances - Siddhanta Dasa

Maintaining ourselves by book distribution

Lokanath Swami: One time, while we were on the way to Mayapur with his bullock cart sankirtan, I wrote to Prabhupada hinting that we needed financial help to maintain the program. Prabhupada responded by sending me a letter with big sankirtan scores showing how many books were being distributed.

He said that this is how we maintain our institution, by book distribution, and that I also had to do this. He said that outside help was not healthy. If my program was to be appreciated by the public, their appreciation should be practical. They should help by assisting me. Otherwise it was just lip service. In this way he encouraged us to increase book distribution in our bullock cart sankirtan program.

Reference: Srila Prabhupada Remembrances - Siddhanta Dasa

Sell books by preaching, not by cheating.

Bhaktadas: In the middle of 1972, there was no plainclothes sankirtana. Everything was straight saris, dhotis, tilak, and, "Here, we're from Hare Krishna, please read a book about Krishna." Around that time, Srila Prabhupada wrote me a letter saying, "Make sure that you sell books by preaching, not by cheating." I was taken aback by this. I said, "What does he mean? He's written 'cheating.' What are we doing?"

I wrote and asked, "Srila Prabhupada you mentioned, 'Sell books by preaching, not by cheating.' What do you mean?" He replied that if you act with the consciousness that Krishna is the Supreme Proprietor, the only Enjoyer, and the dear most Friend of all living beings, then you are not cheating. But if you act in any other consciousness, you are cheating.

He didn't specifically say that we were lying on sankirtana to collect money and distribute books. But my understanding was that as Supersoul, Krishna is within us and within all others, and when we're on sankirtana we should be trying to please Him.

Reference: Srila Prabhupada Remembrances - Siddhanta Dasa

Book distributors with non-devotional clothing

Gopavrindapal: We were some of the first book distributors to begin wearing pants and a skullcap. Kirtanananda was upset by this nondevotional clothing, while Karandhar thought, "What the heck. It works." They were both approaching Prabhupada by letter in an attempt to influence him to their own view. To encourage me, Karandhar would show me the letters that were coming to him and explain the letters that Prabhupada was sending to Kirtanananda.

In the letters to Karandhar, it was quite clear that Prabhupada's mood was "whatever is going to maximize our effect." One of Kirtanananda's arguments was, "They dress like hippies when they go out." Prabhupada responded, "They shouldn't dress like hippies. but that doesn't mean that they can't dress like they are non-devotees." As far as I heard that was the last word. From that point on, we regularly distributed books and approached the public in non-devotional clothing.

Reference: Srila Prabhupada Remembrances - Siddhanta Dasa

Someday I will show you India on foot

Yamuna: As early as 1967, I wanted to go to Vrindavan. I always had an attraction to Vrindavan. One morning I was walking right next to Srila Prabhupada when he stopped, put his cane out to lean on, and said, "You have received a letter from Achyutananada? He wants some men to join his party in Lucknow."

I immediately popped up and said, "I'd like to go, Srila Prabhupada. May Gurudas and I go?" He said, "Yes. We can arrange that. We will start an American House in Lucknow." Then he walked a little further and said, "No. You should not go now." He turned around and said, "Someday I will take you to India, and I will show you India on foot."

From that moment I was waiting for that day, and three years later, on October 4, 1970, Srila Prabhupada's party of American and European devotees landed in Bombay. Our party had arrived in Calcutta via Tokyo just a few days earlier. From October 4th to the time Srila Prabhupada left India in the spring of 1971, he showed us many places on foot, literally walking through the streets with us.

Reference: Srila Prabhupada-Remembrances - Siddhanta Dasa

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