By Chaitanya Charan Das
Our heart is filled with whatever we love the most. As devotees love the Lord the most, we understand that their heart is filled with love for Kṛṣṇa. Yet it remains an esoteric mystery how that love fills and floods their heart, inspiring them to give themselves completely to the Lord, putting aside all other considerations. The more we understand the workings of their heart, the more we can get the inspiration and the direction to make our heart work similarly, even if gradually and incrementally.
We get glimpses into others’ hearts by their words, especially by those of their words spoken from the heart. While all candid words can reveal the heart, poems and songs have a distinct, even unique, potency to express the heart. In this song, we get an intimate picture of the heart of Śrīla Prabhupāda, that great devotee who spread love for Kṛṣṇa all over the world far more than anyone else in modern history. What increases the impact of this poetic outpouring is the setting where it was composed: on the ship that had brought him after a month-long turbulent trip to the coast of America, the land that the world considered most prosperous, the land he saw as spiritually bankrupt, the land he had hoped would be the starter for his vision for the globalization of devotion. Let’s peek into his thoughts while he was all alone, without money or institutional support, with an elderly body battered by two heart attacks.
kṛṣṇa taba puṇya habe bhāi
e-puṇya koribe jabe rādhārāṇī khusī habe
dhruva ati boli tomā tāi
O, brothers, (o brother) The Supreme Lord Krsna will bestow virtue upon you — but He will do this only when Srimati Radharani first becomes pleased with you. This I surely declare to you.
The refrain goes to the heart of the tradition that Śrīla Prabhupāda belonged to and longed to share throughout the world: the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava has sung a song about this lotus honey, comparing himself to the bee: “O my Lord Kṛṣṇa, I beg to offer my prayers unt tradition. He succinctly summarizes three core truths of the tradition:
- The all-attractive ultimate reality, the supreme object of devotion is Kṛṣṇa.
- As the infinite Lord can’t be known by us finite souls, we need his mercy to reach him.
- His mercy is accessed by pleasing his greatest devotee, Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, who is the devotional energy personified and is the most generous bestower of devotion.
Just as the planets revolve around the sun, the consciousness of a Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava revolves around these core truths, as is symbolized by Prabhupāda’s choosing this verse as the refrain that is sung repeatedly.
śrī-siddhānta saraswatī, śacī-suta priya ati,
kṛṣṇa-sebāya jāra tula nāi
sei se mohānta-guru, jagater madhe uru,
kṛṣṇa-bhakti dey ṭhāi ṭhāi
Sri Srimad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, who is very dear to Lord Gauranga, the son of mother Saci, is unparalleled in his service to the Supreme Lord Sri Krsna. He is that great saintly spiritual master, most magnanimous within this universe, who bestows devotion to Krsna in various places throughout the world.
Though Prabhupāda was physically alone in his mission, he never felt lonely because he knew that a glorious lineage backed him. His very first verse reveals his awareness and appreciation for the one whose instruction impelled him on his improbable, if not impossible, mission: his spiritual master Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura. He glorifies his guru for being intimately connected, through love and service, with the founder of their tradition,
Lord Chaitanya, who is the combined divine manifestation of the Divine Couple Radha-Kṛṣṇa. His vision of his guru is futuristic: though his guru’s attempts to spread bhakti globally had met only moderate success till then, Prabhupāda glorifies him as the potent global spreader of devotion, thus expressing his confidence about the unfolding of a future that was still largely invisible.
tāra icchā balavān, pāścātyete ṭhān ṭhān,
hoy jāte gaurāṅger nām
pṛthivīte nagarādi, āsamudra nada nadī,
sakalei loy kṛṣṇa nām
His desire is very powerful, and thus he is causing the Holy Name of Lord Gauranga to spread throughout all the countries of the Western World. In all the cities, towns, and villages on the earth, extending to all the oceans, rivers, and streams, everyone may chant the names of Krsna and Rama.
- The second verse highlights what differentiates devotees from non-devotees: the direction of their desire. Whereas non-devotees desire things for themselves, devotees long to love the Lord and to inspire everyone to love the Lord. The more advanced a devotee, the stronger are their devotionally directed desires. Here, Prabhupāda expresses his faith in the strength of his guru’s divine desire, seeing it as the fuel that will power the global spreading of devotion. His mention of the chanting of the holy names worldwide points to the prophecy that Lord Caitanya had made, a prophecy that had been deemed nonliteral by many in his own tradition for nearly five centuries, a prophecy which he believed would be soon translated into reality.
tāhale ānanda hoy, tabe hoy dig-vijay,
caitanyer kṛpā atiśay
māyā duṣṭa jata duḥkhī, jagate sabāi sukhī,
vaiṣṇaver icchā pūrṇa hoy
Thus, all directions will be conquered by a flood of transcendental ecstasy flowing with the excessive mercy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. When all the miserable living entities that have been corrupted by maya become happy, then the Vaisnava’s desire is fulfilled.
- In the third verse, Śrīla Prabhupāda states the rationale for a devotee’s deep aspiration for a world filled with devotion: the rationale is conviction and compassion. Conviction that people’s distresses, whatever be their specific causes or forms, arose ultimately from disconnection with the source and Lord of everyone. And compassion that reconnecting devotionally with the one Lord of all traditions, the Lord whom he knew as Kṛṣṇa and Caitanya, would not only free them from misery, but also flood them with ecstasy. If the vision of global devotion seemed unrealistic, he points to the mercy of Lord Caitanya, mercy that his tradition often glorified as capable of making the impossible possible, infusing the dumb with eloquence and the crippled with mountain-scaling ability.