By Giriraj Swami
Today is the disappearance day of Srila Rupa Gosvami, a direct disciple of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu whom Mahaprabhu entrusted with the order and the power to present the science of Krishna consciousness in books. All the acharyas in our line after Rupa Gosvami are considered rupanugas, followers of Rupa Gosvami. And much of the Krishna consciousness movement is based on Rupa Gosvami’s teachings and example.
Rupa Gosvami and his older brother, Sanatana Gosvami, were born in a high-class brahman family in South India, but due to circumstances they were forced to engage in the service of Nawab Hussain Shah, a powerful, tyrannical ruler in East India. The brothers were so highly qualified that Sanatana Gosvami was practically the prime minister of the Nawab and Rupa Gosvami the finance minister.
How Rupa and Sanatana came to give up the service of the Nawab is very interesting. One year I taught The Nectar of Devotion, Srila Prabhupada’s summary study of Rupa Gosvami’s Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, at the VIHE (Vrindavan Institute for Higher Education), and immediately after the course I rushed to Mayapur to accompany Radhanath Swami and Sacinandana Swami on parikrama of Gauda-mandala-bhumi, the places in Bengal where Mahaprabhu enacted His pastimes. The first place we visited was Ramakeli, the capital of Nawab Hussain Shah, where Rupa and Sanatana were engaged in service and where they and their third brother, Anupama, and his son, Jiva (later Jiva Gosvami), all saw Mahaprabhu for the first time. The remains of the Nawab’s palace are still there.
Often one specific event will be a turning point in a person’s life, and so it was with Rupa Gosvami. One night, in the middle of a tumultuous storm, with rain, thunder, and lightning, he was running down a slippery path through the trees. Nearby was a cottage, and Rupa Gosvami overheard the husband and wife talking. “Who could that be—going out in the middle of the night in this storm?” one asked. “It could only be Dabira Khasa [Rupa Gosvami’s adopted Muslim name],” the other replied. “He’s a slave to the Nawab. Any time of day or night the Nawab calls him, he goes running.” When Rupa Gosvami heard those words, he resolved to leave the Nawab’s service.
So, he resigned. He was fabulously wealthy, as was Sanatana; he had ten thousand gold coins, which he divided in an exemplary manner, meant to be the ideal for all householders. He gave 50 percent for the service of the Lord and the devotees and 25 percent to relatives, and kept 25 percent in case of personal emergency.
He headed toward Vrindavan, and in the holy city of Prayag (Allahabad) he met Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who, for ten days, at Dasasvamedha-ghata, instructed him in the science of Krishna. Then he proceeded to Vrindavan.
Sanatana Gosvami didn’t directly resign; he knew he couldn’t do that. Instead, he took sick leave and stayed at home with brahmans and Vaishnavas, discussing Srimad-Bhagavatam. The Nawab became agitated: “Where is he? Why isn’t he reporting for his duties?” He sent his physician, but still there was no change. Finally the Nawab went personally and saw that Sanatana Gosvami didn’t want to continue working for him. So he arrested him.
It’s a long story, but eventually Sanatana escaped and Rupa and Sanatana went to Vrindavan and wrote books on Krishna consciousness, excavated the lost holy places of Krishna’s pastimes, and showed devotees how to live in Vrindavan.
Rupa Gosvami has a very special place in our sampradaya because he was instructed directly by the Lord. Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya 19.1) states,
kalena luptam nija-saktim utkah
sancarya rupe vyatanot punah sa
prabhur vidhau prag iva loka-srstim
“Before the creation of this cosmic manifestation, the Lord enlightened the heart of Lord Brahma with the details of the creation and manifested the Vedic knowledge. In exactly the same way, the Lord, being anxious to revive the Vrndavana pastimes of Lord Krsna, impregnated the heart of Rupa Gosvami with spiritual potency. By this potency, Srila Rupa Gosvami could revive the activities of Krsna in Vrndavana, activities almost lost to memory. In this way, He spread Krsna consciousness throughout the world.”
Srila Prabhupada discusses Rupa’s being empowered by Mahaprabhu—what was his qualification. It is very important for us to understand this principle, because we are situated in this lineage, the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya-Vaishnava-sampradaya, and we must understand our relationship with Srila Rupa Gosvami and with Srila Prabhupada and the relationship between Srila Prabhupada and Srila Rupa Gosvami.
ei-mata dasa-dina prayage rahiya
sri-rupe siksa dila sakti sancariya
“For ten days Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu stayed at Prayaga and instructed Rupa Gosvami, empowering him with the necessary potency.” (Cc Madhya 19.135)
Srila Prabhupada begins his purport, “This is a confirmation of the statement krsna-sakti vina nahe tara pravartana,” referring to the following verse:
krsna-sakti vina nahe tara pravartana
“The fundamental religious system in the Age of Kali is the chanting of the holy name of Krsna. Unless empowered by Krsna, one cannot propagate the sankirtana movement.” (Cc Antya 7.11) This verse clearly indicates that Srila Prabhupada was empowered by Krishna or Sri Krishna Chaitanya and thus was able to spread Krishna consciousness all over the world. The same was done by Lord Chaitanya with Rupa Gosvami face to face, heart to heart.
Srila Prabhupada continues the purport, “Unless one is specifically empowered by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, he cannot spread the Krsna consciousness movement. An empowered devotee sees and feels himself to be the lowest of men, for he knows that whatever he does is due to the inspiration given by the Lord in the heart.”
When I first joined the Boston temple, one of the devotees there, Patita-pavana dasa, told me that Srila Prabhupada had said, “We are just like chess pieces on a board, completely under control, and as soon as the Lord moves us one square forward, immediately we think, ‘I am God.’ ” I’ve noticed how true that is of me. If I move a little bit forward in any direction, I immediately think, “Oh, I’m the doer. I’m the controller. I’m the cause.” But here Srila Prabhupada describes the inner mood of a pure devotee or an empowered preacher: he considers himself completely worthless and incapable and that whatever he’s able to do is actually being done by Krishna, by Krishna’s causeless mercy.
Srila Prabhupada continues,
“This is confirmed by Lord Krsna in the Bhagavad-gita (10.10):
tesam satata-yuktanam bhajatam priti-purvakam
dadami buddhi-yogam tam yena mam upayanti te
Sri Krsna says, ‘To those who are constantly devoted to serving Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me.’
“To be empowered by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one has to qualify himself. That means that one must engage twenty-four hours daily in the loving devotional service of the Lord.”
Once, a lady staying in the guesthouse of the Krishna-Balaram temple in Vrindavan was telling people that Krishna had come and spoken to her. When the devotees informed Srila Prabhupada, he replied, “Yes, Krishna can speak to you, but there’s a qualification: tesam satata-yuktanam bhajatam priti-purvakam—one must be constantly engaged in Krishna’s service (satata-yuktanam bhajatam) with love and devotion (priti-purvakam). Was that lady engaged fully in Krishna’s service? No. Still, she was saying that Krishna spoke to her. But He will, if you have the qualification.”
Srila Prabhupada continues, “The material position of a devotee doesn’t matter, because devotional service is not dependent on material considerations.” This is also very important for us, because materially we are not qualified to receive such transcendental knowledge: before meeting Srila Prabhupada, most of us were fallen and sinful.
Srila Prabhupada continues, “In his earlier life, Srila Rupa Gosvami was a government officer and a gåhastha. He was not even a brahmacari or sannyasi. He associated with mlecchas and yavanas, but because he was always eager to serve, he was a qualified recipient for the Lord’s mercy. A sincere devotee can therefore be empowered by the Lord regardless of his situation. In the preceding verse from the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, Srila Rupa Gosvami has described how he was personally empowered by the Lord.”
Rupa and Sanatana Gosvami had adopted the customs of Muslims; they were “almost like Muslims.” They had Muslim’s names—Dabira Khasa and Sakara Mallika—and their habits were like Muslims’.
The preceding verse from the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu (1.1.2) reads,
hrdi yasya preranaya pravartito ’ham varaka-rupo ’pi
tasya hareh pada-kamalam vande caitanya-devasya
“Although I am the lowest of men and have no knowledge, the inspiration to write transcendental literatures about devotional service has been mercifully bestowed upon me. Therefore I am offering my obeisances at the lotus feet of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who has given me the chance to write these books.”
Srila Prabhupada concludes his purport:
“He [Rupa Gosvami] further states in the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu (1.2.187):
iha yasya harer dasye karmana manasa gira
nikhilasv apy avasthasu jivan-muktah sa ucyate
‘A person acting in the service of Krsna with his body, mind, and words is a liberated person even in the material world, although he may be engaged in many so-called material activities.’
“To keep oneself free from material contamination and attain the Lord’s favor, one must be sincerely eager to render service to the Lord. This is the only qualification necessary. As soon as one is favored by the mercy of the spiritual master and the Lord, one is immediately given all the power necessary to write books and propagate the Krsna consciousness movement without being hampered by material considerations.”
Knowing how eager Srila Prabhupada was to render service and how he was actually always engaged in Krishna’s service, we can easily see that he was most qualified to receive the Lord’s empowerment.
Before Srila Prabhupada came to the United States, he made his residence at the Radha-Damodar temple in Vrindavan, and that temple was the location of Srila Rupa Gosvami’s bhajana-kutira, his place of devotional service, and his samadhi. And Srila Prabhupada—there is a beautiful picture of him in his room at the Radha-Damodar temple looking out the lattice window at the samadhi of Rupa Gosvami—was always praying to Rupa Gosvami for the mercy and the power to be able to present Krishna consciousness as ordered by his spiritual master to people in the West and all over the world. Srila Rupa Gosvami assured Srila Prabhupada that, “Yes, you can do this task.” And Srila Prabhupada said that although devotees generally consider Radha-kunda to be the most sacred place in the universe, he considered Srila Rupa Gosvami’s samadhi to be the most sacred place in the universe.
On an esoteric level, let us consider what we often recite:
caksur unmilitam yena
tasmai sri-gurave namah
sthapitam yena bhu-tale
svayam rupah kada mahyam
Sri-caitanya-mano-’bhistam, sthapitam yena bhu-tale means that Rupa Gosvami understood the mission of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and established that mission on earth, and svayam rupah kada mahyam, dadati sva-padantikam: “When will Srila Rupa Gosvami be merciful to me?” That was certainly Srila Prabhupada’s prayer to Srila Rupa Gosvami. In a way, Sri Rupa established Lord Chaitanya’s mission on earth through his writings, but he didn’t actually take the teachings outside of India. Srila Prabhupada was the one who took the mission of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and the books of the gosvamis outside of India, throughout the world, and so he was an extension of both Lord Chaitanya’s and Srila Rupa Gosvami’s mercy who was given the power and the service to establish Mahaprabhu’s mission on earth.
Our immediate predecessor acharyas are glorified as being rupanugas. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura: namo bhaktivinodaya sac-cid-ananda-namine/ gaura-sakti-svarupaya rupanuga-varaya te, and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura also: madhuryojjvala-premadhya-sri-rupanuga-bhaktida. He bestowed bhakti following in the line of Rupa Gosvami. And viruddhapasiddhanta-dhvanta-harine—he would remove any misconceptions that went against the conclusions of Srila Rupa Gosvami.
Srila Prabhupada’s books—Sri Isopanisad, the Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Srimad-Bhagavatam, The Nectar of Devotion, Sri Caitanya-caritamrta—are filled with the instructions of Lord Chaitanya to Rupa Gosvami. The Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu (The Nectar of Devotion) and the Upadesamrta (The Nectar of Instruction) are directly Rupa Gosvami’s works.
One year at the Ratha-yatra in Jagannatha Puri, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was dancing ecstatically, and He began to recite poetry with mundane love lyrics in which the lover was telling the beloved, “You are the same personality who stole away my heart during my youth. In our intimate relationship, I am also the same lover, yet still my mind is not happy here. I am eager to go back to that place on the bank of the Reva under the Vetasi tree. That is my desire.” This was very mysterious—why Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the strictest sannyasi, would be singing mundane love poetry. The only person who knew was Svarupa Damodara Gosvami, Sri Chaitanya’s personal secretary.
After the Ratha-yatra, Rupa Gosvami went to take his bath, but before doing so he composed a verse (in those days they would write on palm leaves—they didn’t have paper) and placed the verse in the thatch of his hut. Later, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu went to meet Rupa Gosvami, and He saw the palm leaf stuck in the thatch. The verse basically echoed the mundane love poetry He had been singing, but in relation to Radha and Krishna, to when They met in Kurukshetra at the time of an eclipse many years after Krishna had left Vrindavan. Her mood was, “You are the same Krishna, and I am the same Radha. We are meeting in the same way that we met in our youth, but instead of the chirping of birds and humming of bees in Vrindavan, with Govardhana Hill and the Yamuna River, there are crowds of people and the pounding of elephants and horses and the rattling of chariots; and instead of You being dressed as a cowherd boy with a peacock feather in Your hair and a flute in Your hand, You are dressed as a royal prince; and instead of being dressed as cowherd boys, Your associates are dressed as military men. How can We enjoy in this atmosphere?” She requested Krishna to return to Vrindavan: “You should come back to Vrindavan. We can relate to You there. We are cowherd girls; You are a cowherd boy. Why are You dressed like this—a military personality?”
So, Lord Chaitanya’s mood in the Ratha-yatra—because transcendentally the Jagannatha temple corresponds to Kurukshetra and in the Ratha-yatra the chariot is pulled to the Gundica temple, which represents Vrindavan—was the mood of Srimati Radharani dragging Krishna back to Vrindavan, and therefore He was singing that love song.
Rupa Gosvami wrote,
priyah so ’yam krsnah saha-cari kuru-ksetra-militas
tathaham sa radha tad idam ubhayoh sangama-sukham
mano me kalindi-pulina-vipinaya sprhayati
“My dear friend, now I have met My very old and dear friend Krsna on this field of Kuruksetra. I am the same Radharani, and now We are meeting together. It is very pleasant, but I would still like to go to the bank of the Yamuna beneath the trees of the forest there. I wish to hear the vibration of His sweet flute playing the fifth note within that forest of Vrndavana.” (Cc Madhya 1.76, Antya 1.79)
When Lord Chaitanya read Rupa Gosvami’s verse to Svarupa Damodara Gosvami, He asked him, “How could Rupa Gosvami have understood My heart?” And Svarupa Damodara replied, “Only by Your mercy. There’s no other way.” He could understand that Lord Chaitanya had given Rupa Gosvami that mercy.
In his purport Srila Prabhupada relates the incident to an experience he had with his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. Srila Prabhupada had written a poem for Srila Bhaktisiddhanta’s Vyasa-puja, and that poem is always included in the Vyasa-puja books that we publish and offer to Srila Prabhupada. Every verse is very meaningful, but there was one in particular that his spiritual master especially appreciated:
Absolute is sentient
Thou hast proved.
Thou hast moved.
And just as Lord Chaitanya asked His confidential secretary, Svarupa Damodara, “How could Rupa Gosvami have understood My mind?” Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura showed Srila Prabhupada’s poem to his intimate devotees. “How could I have known Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura’s mind?” Srila Prabhupada asks. It is, of course, a rhetorical question, but we know the answer.
Srila Prabhupada further describes the confidential thoughts of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. What Rupa Gosvami understood was an esoteric mood of devotional service, but in his purport Srila Prabhupada explains that the confidential mood of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is that Krishna consciousness should be spread all over the world, that books should be published and distributed all over the world, and that therefore this service of preaching Krishna consciousness and publishing and distributing books is confidential service to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu following in the line of Rupa Gosvami.
But does this mean that we are not meant to realize those confidential mellows? No—we are. That is why Chaitanya Mahaprabhu came, and that is why Srila Prabhupada came. But not in an artificial way; instead, by following the process that Srila Prabhupada gave us and adopting the mood that he exemplified—of preaching, of being magnanimous. Rupa Gosvami again prayed to Lord Chaitanya, and it is this prayer that we recite whenever we recite the mangalacarana prayers:
namne gaura-tvise namah
Namo maha-vadanyaya—he is offering his obeisances to the most munificent incarnation of Godhead, even more merciful than Krishna. Krishna is extraordinarily merciful, but this particular form of Krishna is more magnanimous than Krishna in His original form. Namo maha-vadanyaya krsna-prema-pradaya te: because He is giving krsna-prema. So, yes, He is giving that and we are meant to receive it, but through the proper channel and in the right way. Srila Prabhupada emphasized that mood of magnanimity and, quoting that verse, said that just as Lord Chaitanya was magnanimous, his devotees should also be magnanimous, and the leaders, the temple leaders, temple presidents, they should be magnanimous, like Lord Chaitanya.
His Grace Ramesvara dasa had a thought, or a realization, that the mood of the book distributor is like the mood of the gopis, who want to bring other gopis to Krishna. They don’t want to enjoy with Krishna directly; they want to bring others to Krishna. He was saying that the mood of a sankirtana devotee is like that—he is distributing books that will bring people to Krishna. And, following the mood of Lord Chaitanya’s associates, he should approach everyone, without consideration of time, place, or qualification, with the most intense anxiety imaginable, praying to be the Lord’s instrument to get them to take a book that might bring them to Krishna.
And Srila Prabhupada approved of that thought. He wrote, “The explanation given by Ramesvara that sankirtana is Lord Chaitanya’s lila, which he compares to the gopis trying to engage others in Krishna’s service, is the correct understanding.” (Letter dated June 9, 1974) So, what we’re doing—or what we are meant to be doing—is actually on a very high level; it is publishing books, distributing books, speaking about Krishna, bringing people to Krishna. One can do that to the extent that one is empowered. Certainly Srila Prabhupada was empowered to the highest degree, but any sincere servant of Srila Prabhupada will also be empowered, and we see that so many devotees are . . . that’s a very big word, “empowered,” but they are empowered, they are inspired, they are enthusiastic to serve the mission. And that comes especially from that connection with Srila Prabhupada, that flow of power and mercy coming from Lord Chaitanya to Rupa Gosvami to Srila Prabhupada. So we should be worthy, we should be eager to serve, we should be consistently engaged.
As one gets older, the physical inconveniences increase. His Holiness Devamrita Swami visited me for a few days, and at six in the evening he would drink this concoction made of I don’t even know what. One of the devotees brought that drink to Maharaja and said, “This must really be an austerity for you to drink this.” And Maharaja replied, “It is service to Krishna.” And he added, “Srila Prabhupada said that when you are over fifty years old you have to spend more time taking care of your body.”
As one godsister said, “You know you are aging when you go to sleep fine and wake up with a sports injury.” I guess it is Srila Prabhupada’s mercy that toward the end of our japa period in the temple today I saw His Grace Rabindranatha Prabhu pick up some of the flowers that were left on that table from yesterday’s Jhulana-yatra. Like me and others among us, he is getting up there in age, and I could tell that those aches and pains and creaking bones were there, and I was really touched that he picked up the flowers himself. “Wow,” I thought, “we are so blessed to have him here.” And I was thinking about the other older devotees—and of myself. Even though the body becomes problematic, I thought, we should stay as long as we can and help these new devotees—because of that direct touch we had with Srila Prabhupada and how we had imbibed that mood of being ready to do anything for him. It depends on the supreme will, but I felt that we should stay as long as we can and do as much as we can, because what Prabhupada gave us is so precious and we want it to be preserved and passed on.
There is one particularly beautiful verse that describes Rupa Gosvami—Act 9, verse 29 of Caitanya-candrodaya-nataka by Sri Kavi-karnapur. The content is beautiful, and the Sanskrit is beautiful. And, maybe as a coincidence, or as an encouragement for me to read the verse, I just met a devotee whose name, Priya Svarupa dasa (which I’d never heard before), comes from it .
nijanurupe prabhur eka-rupe
tatana rupe sva-vilasa-rupe
“Srila Rupa Gosvami, whose dear friend was Svarupa Damodara, was the exact replica of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and he was very, very dear to the Lord. Being the embodiment of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s ecstatic love, Rupa Gosvami was naturally very beautiful. He very carefully followed the principles enunciated by the Lord, and he was a competent person to explain properly the pastimes of Lord Krsna. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu expanded His mercy to Srila Rupa Gosvami just so he could render service by writing transcendental literatures.”
So, that is our line. Srila Prabhupada was also very beautiful. Once, in the beginning, before ISKCON was founded, he and a few new boys accepted an invitation to Dr. Mishra’s Ananda Ashram in upstate New York. There, Howard (later Hayagriva dasa) had a dream:
“Just before morning, I dream. I dream of devotees clustered about a beautiful golden youth. To see him is to be captivated. His transcendental body radiates an absolute beauty unseen in the world. Stunned, I inquire, ‘Who is he?’ ‘Don’t you know?’ someone says. ‘That’s the Swami.’ I look carefully, but see no resemblance. The youth appears around eighteen, straight out of Vaikuntha [the spiritual world]. ‘If that’s Swamiji,’ I wonder to myself, “why doesn’t he come to earth like that?” A voice somewhere inside me answers: ‘People would follow me for my beauty, not for my teachings.’ ” (Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta 2.2)
Srila Prabhupada ki jaya! Any questions or comments?
Amarendra dasa: I think you are bringing this to another level. These were vicious persons who persecuted and committed many atrocities against the Vaishnavas in Bengal especially. How is it that Rupa and Sanatana Gosvamis ended up in the service of persons who were so offensive to the Vaishnavas?
Giriraj Swami: That is an excellent question. In fact, I have faith in the process of Srimad-Bhagavatam class—that if I miss something in the class someone in the audience will raise a question to bring out the point. And I was tempted to mention it but then thought that if we went into all the details of the history there would be so much to say.
So, if the Nawab was such a horrible tyrant, persecuting and torturing Hindus, how could Rupa and Sanatana serve him? Well, the history is that the Nawab could see that they were extremely qualified but did not want to serve him, so he threatened them that if they didn’t agree to come into his court, into his government, he would kill every Hindu in the state. That’s how bad he was—he could have done it—and so to avoid his wrath, Rupa and Sanatana reluctantly agreed to engage in his service.
Srila Prabhupada has told another story that illustrates why a good person might sometimes serve a bad person. Once, an Indian gentleman complained to Srila Prabhupada in Mayapur that Prabhupada’s disciples were giving preferential treatment to rich people, and Prabhupada replied by telling the story of a poor but chaste and faithful wife whose husband wanted to spend the night with a famous prostitute. The prostitute was so expensive, however, that there was no way the husband could have afforded her, so the wife became a servant of the prostitute, and eventually the prostitute was so pleased with her service that she asked, “What do you want?” And the wife told the prostitute about her husband. So, one might say that the wife was foolish to serve the prostitute so that her husband could enjoy with the prostitute, but the wife was doing it to please her husband. Srila Prabhupada made the point that sometimes we may have to serve low-class people—that you can serve someone not for the sake of serving that person per se but for the sake of pleasing Krishna. And so I guess that could apply to Rupa and Sanatana when they were serving the Nawab Hussain Shah.
Devotee: Srila Prabhupada gave us Srila Rupa Gosvami’s Nectar of Devotion. It came out of India for the first time through Srila Prabhupada. What is the history of the book, and how did it come from Srila Rupa Gosvami through Srila Prabhupada all those years later? How was it protected? Where did it go? How did Srila Prabhupada do that book to give it to us?
Giriraj Swami: If you read Lord Chaitanya’s instructions to Rupa Gosvami, they contain the basic teachings of the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, and Rupa Gosvami elaborated on them. Originally the books were written on palm leaves. Some of those original or early manuscripts are preserved—you can see them—and the center of all of those writings was Vrindavan. That’s where the Six Gosvamis were, and that’s where Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami was, but then, after Mahaprabhu and many of His associates left, Jiva Gosvami became the leader of the Vaishnavas in Vrindavan and ordered that the books should be copied, because they were only in Vrindavan. He sent Narottama dasa Thakura, Srinivasa Acharya, and Syamananda Prabhu—very stalwart devotees—and they took the manuscripts by bullock cart to Bengal, but on the way they were plundered by dacoits who were actually agents of the king. It was a terrible situation, but then Srinivasa Acharya preached to the king, and the king became a Vaishnava and they got all the manuscripts back. And so we consider that this was the first traveling sankirtana party—Narottama and Srinivasa and Syamananda Prabhu taking the manuscripts by bullock cart.
Some of the original manuscripts have been preserved and passed down. And when printing presses came into use, one of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s main services—he did so many services—was to get old manuscripts and publish them in authorized editions; that was part of his mission. And Srila Prabhupada did his summary study—The Nectar of Devotion.
Devotee: Sometimes when we present books to people who are not trained up or don’t have faith in any particular religious group, they ask, “Who wrote the books?” It is sometimes hard to explain to them the value of the authors, and I was thinking that Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s personal associates were not just any ordinary living beings.
Giriraj Swami: As Srila Prabhupada says here, unless you are empowered by Lord Chaitanya you cannot write transcendental literature, and he and our predecessor acharyas were empowered. So these are not ordinary books. Srutakirti Prabhu, who was Prabhupada’s personal servant for many years, mentioned that he had the privilege of seeing Srila Prabhupada when Prabhupada was not on the stage as a world preacher or manager of a worldwide movement, but when he was alone, without anyone to see what he was doing, and he would often read his own books. How many authors read their own books? They write them, and then they are done with them and move on to the next book or the next activity. But Srila Prabhupada’s books are transcendental.
Once, when Srutakirti Prabhu went into Srila Prabhupada’s room, Prabhupada was reading Krsna book. “He had a blissful smile on his face,” Srutakirti later remembered. “He looked directly into my eyes and said, ‘This Krsna book is so wonderful; everything is in this book. If you read this one book, you can become Krishna conscious. You don’t even have to read the whole book—just one story.’ Then he said, ‘You don’t even have to read the whole chapter—just one page!’ Then, ‘You don’t even have to read the whole page—just one line!’ And then he said, ‘You don’t even have to read the whole line—just one word, because Krishna is in every word!’ ” He said similar things to Srutakirti about the Bhagavad-gita As It Is and The Nectar of Devotion—“This book is so nice. Everything is in this book. You don’t have to read so many books. If you just read this one book you can become Krishna conscious.”
And Srila Prabhupada told Nanda Kumar Prabhu, who also served as his personal servant, “You know, when I read my books it’s hard to believe I wrote them. I learn something every time I read them. Actually, I didn’t write them—Krishna wrote them.”
So, yes, these books are alive; they are Krishna and the parampara. When you read them, you are associating with Krishna and the parampara. It is not ordinary ink on paper. And by touching Krishna and His devotees, your life is transformed. We see it; every day there are stories.
Rambhoru dasi: I just wanted to offer my appreciation for your bringing up self-care and taking care of one’s health as service to Krishna. Just a little side note to the younger devotees to take care of themselves, because by the time you get to sixty you can remember that your body is falling apart, and Srila Prabhupada said that taking care of your health is almost as important as chanting because without that you can’t chant and serve. When your health is gone you lose everything. So don’t wait until you are sixty and you are falling apart to start taking care of yourself. It is part of our responsibility as devotees. Thank you so much.
Giriraj Swami: That’s true. Thank you. In the mood of taking care of our bodies in Krishna’s service, we will end the class and honor prasada before it gets too late.
Thank you very much. Hare Krishna.
[A talk by Giriraj Swami on Srila Rupa Gosvami’s disappearance day, August 18, 2013, Los Angeles]