Kind (Kripalu), Compassionate (karuna), Magnanimous (vadanya) & works for the welfare of everyone (sarva-upakaraka)
By the time Srila A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada passed away in 1977, he had already established 108 temples across six continents. These temples are a shelter for those who want to learn, preach and practice the science of devotion unto the Supreme Lord. He inaugurated the Rathayatra festival of Lord Jagannatha in major cities across the globe. He had initiated more than 5000 disciples and launched the ISKCON life membership program enrolling thousands of members. He encircled the globe fourteen times in these 10 years. He established major centers in Vrindavan, Bombay and Mayapur. He established the ‘Bhaktivedanta Swami Charity Trust’ to unearth and renovate the holy places of Lord Chaitanya’s pastimes. He founded the BBT (Bhaktivedanta Book Trust) in 1972. He wrote approximately seventy books on the science of Krishna consciousness, sleeping only a few hours per day. These books continue to be an inspiration for devotees all over the world. Dozens of prominent scholars and educators from leading universities highly praised his work. Srila Prabhupada was magnanimous in the truest sense of the word, as his gifts to the world were unlimited and filled with tremendous spiritual value. In Chaitanya Mangala, Locana Das Thakura quotes Lord Chaitanya predicting that if the sinful people, giving up their religious principles, travelled to far off lands, His empowered commander in chief (senapati bhakta), would go there in due time to deliver them as well. Srila Prabhupada was the commander in chief of Lord Chaitanya. Another of Lord Chaitanya’s prediction that in every town and village of this world, the chanting of His holy name would become heard, came to pass through the pastimes of Srila A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (prthibite ache yata nagaradi grama,sarvatra prachar haibe mora nama).
Humble & without false prestige (amani)
Srila A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada never took any credit for his accomplishments. Though he was instrumental in propagating the message of Lord Chaitanya all over the world, yet he stayed humble which is reflected through his prayers – “Although my Guru Maharaja had ordered me to accomplish this mission, I am not worthy or fit to do it. I am very fallen and insignificant. Therefore, O Lord, now I am begging for Your mercy so that I may become worthy, for You are the wisest and most experienced of all” (Prayer to Krishna’s lotus feet, on board the ship Jaladuta, September 13, 1965). In another of his letters, he credits the success of his movement to his spiritual master Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakura – “Practically there is no credit for me, if there is any credit it goes to my Spiritual Master, Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Prabhupada, who is helping me by sending so many good souls like you in this movement. Whatever is being done, it is due to His Divine Grace only. So my business is just to carry out His order…”. (Srila Prabhupada Letter, March 26, 1969)
Akrta-droha (does not quarrel)
When Srila A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada first met his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, he was a supporter of Mahatma Gandhi’s effort to liberate India from the clutches of British rule. During that meeting, the two engaged in a conversation in which Srila Prabhupada expressed his viewpoint concerning this political subject. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta defeated Srila Prabhupada’s opinion, using sound logic and scriptural evidence by proving that Krishna consciousness alone could rid India, as well as the rest of the world, from all sorts of material suffering. He concluded that Krishna consciousness was too significant to wait for any political outcome. Because Srila Prabhupada was not defiant, he surrendered very graciously to his spiritual master’s accurate conclusion and accepted him as his spiritual guide. From this enlightening pastime, we can understand how a pure devotee of Lord Krishna is never defiant, and how we must always conduct ourselves in the presence of genuinely advanced Vaishnavas if we want to rise to the platform of transcendence.
Truthful (satya-sara) & Steady, fixed (sthira)
By the late 1960s, a generation of young men and women had grown exhausted of a social system that stifled their development in a network of lying, deception, and exploitation. At that time, Srila A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada arrived on the scene, boldly preaching the message of Lord Krishna. He spoke truthfully, never altering the pure message in cowardly deference to the time and circumstance, to attract followers, fame, or money. In an atmosphere seething with the fumes of unrestricted sense gratification, Srila Prabhupada presented a process of spiritual life that was based on personal sacrifice and purification of the senses. Because of his sincere presentation of Lord Krishna’s message, and his shining example of spiritual perfection, people gradually began to understand what he was saying and received the message with great pleasure. Such was the powerful effect of Srila Prabhupada’s truthfulness.
Srila A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada despite failing for forty years of his life, did not lose hope. Though he was greatly criticized by his family members for possessing a keen spiritual interest, he did not give up his intense desire to serve the mission of his spiritual master. In the process, he had to abandon his wife and children, live without proper facilities, travel all alone to the west on a cargo ship in which he suffered from several heart attacks (he was 70 years old at that time), etc. As a result of his sacrifice, millions across the world today have the opportunity to lead a Krishna-conscious life.
Equal to Everyone (sama)
Srila A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada exhibited this sublime characteristic of a pure devotee and is, therefore, an ideal representative of Lord Nityananda, who desired to flood the entire universe with the ecstatic love of Godhead. Srila Prabhupada was continually engaged in distributing Lord Nityananda’s mercy to everyone, regardless of their caste, creed, gender, ethnicity, or background, and he humbly requested his disciples to assist him in this service. During one of the early lectures given in the storefront temple on the lower east side of New York City, a derelict came reeling through the front door, approached the lecture dais, handed Srila Prabhupada a roll of tissue paper, and then left. Despite this odd behavior by the derelict, Srila Prabhupada, because he was equal to everyone, did not take any offense; rather, he took note of the spark of devotion coming through and expressed his appreciation, saying, “Just see, he has just begun his devotional service.”
A Vaishnava, who in words, deeds, and mind is completely surrendered unto Krishna and serves his spiritual master to the best of his ability is always faultless. Srila A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada was similarly free from the four faults found in the conditioned souls, namely, the tendencies to commit mistakes, to be in illusion, to cheat others, and possessing imperfect senses. Because Srila Prabhupada performed all of his devotional activities in a mood of consummate surrender to the desires of Lord Krishna, his activities were supervised by the personal hand of the Supreme Lord and were consequently free from any defects. His freedom from illusion was borne out by the fact that, by his preaching work, hundreds and thousands of souls were enlightened with spiritual knowledge. His readiness to sacrifice his personal comfort for the service of humanity displayed his complete freedom from the tendency to cheat others; and finally, his eyes being tinged with the love of Godhead, were fully spiritual and free from defect, as were the rest of his senses, which were always engaged in the transcendental loving service of Lord Krishna.
Srila Prabhupada’s mild demeanor was another very attractive feature of his divine personality. In this material world it is generally seen that when a person attains a position of high authority, he becomes maddened with false prestige and loses all traces of mildness in his behavior. Thus, he becomes a source of concern for his subordinates and for all those with whom he associates. Srila Prabhupada, however, never displayed the quality of false pride and always maintained a mild nature, with which everyone felt at ease. Srila Prabhupada’s mild demeanor attracted everyone towards him. Whether it be the famous musicians of Beetles, government officials, the poor people on the streets of India, or be it little children – all of them respected Srila Prabhupada and looked up to him.
In 1969, the first Rathayatra festival of Europe was organized in London. The devotees wrote to Srila Prabhupada before the Ratha Yatra festival explaining their first-class promotion and propaganda to attract people to participate in large numbers. They were expecting tens of thousands of them. There were posters, newspaper articles, and invitations on a grand scale. However, just before the commencement of the Rathayatra, the wheel of the Ratha cart broke. As a result, the chariot collapsed and it was a disaster. So Gurudas Prabhu, who was one of the leading managers of the festival, wrote a letter to Srila Prabhupada conveying to him of what had happened. He felt that he had disappointed his Guru and the tens of thousands of people who had come for the festival. But Srila Prabhupada was very peaceful amidst the whole chaos. He replied back explaining that the incident had occurred not due to any misfortune but instead due to bad engineering. In that letter, he emphasized that from the engineering point of view there must have been too much weight on the chariot, without the capacity of the wheel to support it. Therefore the wheel broke. He instructed the devotees to learn from their mistakes and taught them how whatever they do in Krishna consciousness must be based on a very firm platform. He cheered up the devotees asking them not to feel disheartened. Instead, he instructed them to focus on their next Ratha-yatra and do it again with utmost enthusiasm.
Desireless (akama), Without material possessions (akincana), Indifferent to material acquisitions (aniha) & Without inebriation (apramatta)
During his years spent in Vrindavana preparing for his eventual journey to the west, Srila A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada lived very simply in a little room situated within the courtyard of the Radha-Damodara temple. A small cot, a writing table, and a few other amenities were there to assist him in his Deity service and translation work. Staying indifferent to his material comforts he would instead focus on his exalted spiritual surroundings. He considered his new residence favorable for his writing as it was here that the exalted previous acharyas of our sampradaya, (Sri Jiva Goswami, Rupa Goswami, etc) used to gather and discuss transcendental subjects. Srila Prabhupada would seek blessings from their samadhis every day. After preaching vigorously in the west for many years, Srila Prabhupada was presented by Lord Krishna with an unlimited measure of opulence. Despite having access to this vast storehouse, Srila Prabhupada never claimed any of it as his own, using every penny in the service of Lord Krishna, and carrying all of his personal paraphernalia from one place to the other in a small suitcase about the size of a tote bag.
Srila A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada exhibited cleanliness, both internally and externally. His heart and mind were continually submerged in the sanctifying waters of love of Godhead and his body was always engaged in the Supreme Lord’s pure devotional service. Srila Prabhupada’s cleanliness was so profound and far-reaching that not only was he himself perfect, but he also purified the lives of thousands of men and women who had previously possessed no proper concept of internal (spiritual) or external (bodily) cleanliness.
Self-Controlled (Free from lust, anger, greed, illusion, madness and envy)
Srila A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada was very forgiving. He readily forgave others’ offenses and never gave up on anyone. Srila Prabhupada had a disciple named Chaita Guru, who was a Sikh by birth. Chaita Guru used to drive Giriraj Swami and Tamal Krishna Goswami around Bombay to make Life Members and raise money to construct the Vrindavan temple. Later Chaita Guru left the shelter of devotees and practiced other spiritual paths. But Srila Prabhupada never gave up on Chaita Guru. Even when he started living with a mystic Yogi on Juhu beach to learn the art of passing a coin into one ear and pass it out through the other ear, Srila Prabhupada was hopeful. When Tamal Krishna Goswami asked Srila Prabhupada about Chaita Guru, he replied, ‘You do not know about Lord Nityananda’s mercy. Because there is no limit to Lord Nityananda’s mercy and compassion, no end to His forgiveness’. Later on, Chaita Guru indeed come back and surrendered to Srila Prabhupada and Prabhupada even granted him sannyasa initiation. Prabhupada was very forgiving and an ideal representative of Lord Nityananda.
Exclusively surrendered to Krishna (Krishnaika Sarana)
Srila A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada had long desired to travel to the west and preach the science of Krishna consciousness. His spiritual master Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura had instructed him to do so. Srila Prabhupada was willing to sacrifice everything to serve Lord Krishna. He was sixty-nine years of age when he set foot on the deck of ‘Jaladuta’, a cargo ship that was scheduled to set sail from Calcutta to New York on August 13th, 1965. Srila Prabhupada boarded ‘Jaladuta’ only with a suitcase, an umbrella, and a supply of dry cereals in his possession. His main luggage consisted of several trunks of books that were being handled separately. He depended exclusively on Lord Krishna. There was no one on the shore to bid him goodbye – no friends, no supporter, no disciple. He was completely alone. Only Mr. Sisir Bhattacharya, a friend whom he had met a year before at the Governor’s home in Lucknow, and Vrindavana Chandra, his son, were there to bid him goodbye. But Srila Prabhupada was very enthusiastic. Finally, by the mercy of his spiritual master, it was happening. The thirty-five-day journey was intense. Srila Prabhupada suffered greatly from seasickness, dizziness, and vomiting. It got worse with time. In the course of his journey, he suffered from two heart attacks. He prayed to Sri Krishna intensely. He understood that with one more heart attack, he could pass away from this world. Lord Krishna then appeared in his dream and he saw the supreme Lord rowing his ship. He assured Prabhupada of His protection and asked him not to grieve. The violent heart attacks did not recur. The Atlantic ocean became calmer than usual. The captain of the ship admitted that he had never seen the Atlantic so calm in his entire career. Srila Prabhupada wrote in his diary that if the Atlantic had shown its usual face then perhaps he would have died in the ship. But Lord Krishna had taken charge and the calmness of the waters was His mercy.
Does not eat more than required (mita-bhuk)
Although Srila Prabhupada was served the most opulent prasadam, often presented to him in grand amounts by his loving disciples, he never exploited this luxury, accepting only very small portions and distributing the rest to the devotees. As a rule, one in the renounced order of life is forbidden from eating delicious foodstuffs, as this might drag him into the material whirlpool and thus ruin his spiritual advancement. Srila Prabhupada, however, because of his exalted spiritual status, was never adversely affected by these culinary delights graced upon him by Lord Krishna. He always sustained full spiritual potency and complete dedication to pleasing the transcendental senses of the Lord.
Srila Prabhupada was poetic, not only in the literary sense, as evidenced by his beautiful poems glorifying his spiritual master and Lord Krishna, but in every aspect of his personality as well. His gesturing, walking, talking, singing, smiling, dancing, and arcana were all performed with an extremely natural poetic grace, befitting a swan-like pure devotee of Lord Krishna. The poems that he had composed including those that were written on board the Jaladuta, are laden with the most profound spiritual emotions of an illustrious Vaishnava.
When Srila Prabhupada arrived on the shores of America in 1965, he faced the tremendous challenge of preaching Krishna consciousness to a civilization of stubborn sense gratifiers. The principles of Krishna consciousness which are based on austerity, sacrifice, spiritual discipline, and selfless service unto the Supreme Lord are opposed to the selfish notion of ‘I and Mine’. Srila Prabhupada demonstrated his expertise by tailoring his presentation of Krishna consciousness perfectly according to time, place, and circumstance. He offered a spiritual program that the common man could easily follow and presented it in such an attractive and palatable fashion that all sincere souls were spontaneously attracted.
Grave (gambhira), Friend (maitra), Silent (Mauni)
A Vaishnava is always relishing the transcendental mellows of the pastimes of Sri Radha and Krishna. He is always contemplating upon the glories of the Lord. He knows that the material world is temporary and that material existence can come to an abrupt end at any point in time. So a devotee is never overwhelmed or carried away and is always focused on his eternal journey back home, back to Godhead. Hence a devotee is always grave, silent, and serious about his spiritual life. He is a friend of everyone. Srila Prabhupada accepted thousands of disciples, and due to their inevitable transgressions, he had to tolerate a great deal of grief. Despite this, he never withdrew his mercy and friendship, humbly referring to himself as their ever well-wisher. Such a friendship is the rarest of treasures to be found anywhere, and it behooves us all to appreciate, revere, and guard it as our life’s dearest wealth.