April 6, 2009 by acarya-dasa
Back in the days when I used to take drugs,
I thought about spiritual advancement a lot.
I wasn’t alone, and still I am not, but
in the company of my good old friend Vaisnava Thakura Prabhu.
At that time, his name was Wilfried and my name was Alex.
We were really exhausted after so many years of hard endeavor
to enjoy on the material platform. I used to make electronic
music in our former home in Austria, and we went to electronic
music parties, touching the limits of our ability to enjoy,
hiding behind the masks of illusory material identities, and
always searching, trying to find out who we really were and
how we could become happy
Mistaking the mind, which is an invisible material
element, as spiritual, we tried to explore its depths.
To enhance the process of mental speculation
and that of subtle perception of reality, we took drugs like
Ecstasy, LSD, magic mushrooms, speed, and pot. We both experienced
pretty much everything within the scope of the possible, from
seemingly godly visions to the complete madness of the mind.
We integrated meditation practices in our sessions, but even
when we seemed to experience some kind of elevated consciousness,
the illusion was of no endurance. But now, having been enabled
by the perfect guidance and mercy of my spiritual master Srila
Prabhupada to experience spiritual happiness by the chanting
of the Hare Krsna mated-mantra, I can see the clear contrast
between this ecstatic, ever-increasing, unending happiness
and the dull, limited, and short-lived fiascos of drug realities.
After roughly five years of these fiascos,
having reached the ages of twenty and twenty-one, Vaisnava
Thakura and I, being thoroughly disappointed, and seeing that
we had not made any spiritual advancement at all, realized
that without following a bona fide spiritual discipline, no
one can reap the fruit of spiritual advancement, namely self-realization
and God-realization. Such a spiritual discipline has to be
practiced under the expert guidance of the most exalted and
perfect person, the spiritual master.
Exactly such a highly elevated spiritual personality
graced us by his association. It is said in the Vedic literature
that only a fortunate living entity gets this most valuable
association, which, even if had for a moment only, can give
one all perfection.
The story goes like this. While serving as a
social worker, I found a book of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta
Swami Prabhupada, entitled Sri Isopanisad. Shortly after finding
Srila Prabhupada’s book, my friend Wilfried and I were
guided to the next one, Bhakti-Yoga–the Path of Spiritual
Life (translated into German). Krsna, or God, seated in the
core of the heart of all living entities, guides them according
to their work and desire, and so He kindly guided us to the
shelter of our spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada.
It is interesting, because just prior to that,
I had started to talk to God, realizing that I am fully dependent
on nature and thanking Him for His kind arrangement to maintain
my body. Both of us had also started at that time to engage
in mantra meditation. We were chanting "Rama, Rama." It is
a holy name of Krsna, but at that time we did not know.
I remember our reading spiritually oriented
books, including Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramahamsa
Yogananda, and volumes about Buddhism. I was also reading
a book called Babaji–Teachings and Prophecies,
about a hermit who claimed to be an incarnation of Siva. Not
really being aware of who God is, I didn’t know whom
to surrender to, Siva or Krsna, but after a long meditation
on both of them, I just felt attracted by Krsna’s beauty.
However, Srila Prabhupada convinced us to
take up the path of purification: the chanting of Hare
Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare
Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare and a diet consisting
only of foodstuffs which are offered to Sri Krsna first.
Around that time we came into contact with
the modern ISKCON institution whose address was printed in
the books. Some members of the organization invited us to
participate in an annual festival at a farm community in Germany.
We decided to go and stayed there for four days. We, myself
especially, had some contact with one of the "new gurus" there.
Having the strong impression in mind that the philosophy we
heard from Srila Prabhupada and the scenes we saw were not
matching, I started to research the topic.
I must have been on the Internet for three months
before I came to the conclusion: Srila Prabhupada’s
presentation of the philosophy is correct and practical, but
after his physical departure in 1977, the formal institution
deviated from the guidelines given by His Divine Grace. I
discovered that there are many people being voted in as spiritual
masters, having neither the qualification to act in that capacity
nor the authorization of the founder of the movement, Srila
Prabhupada. Clearly distinguished from the materially motivated
pretenders, Srila Prabhupada is the bona fide spiritual master
and the pure devotee of the Supreme Lord, actually possessing
all the transcendental good qualities from Krsna Himself.
He has set up a system in which he continues to accept new
devotees of the Krsna consciousness movement as his direct
initiates. Understanding ourselves as being encouraged by
Srila Prabhupada to become his direct disciples, we became
desirous to associate with like-minded persons, and soon Krsna
kindly fulfilled our desire.
By that time we were regularly chanting some
rounds on our beads, offering foodstuffs to Krsna, and making
our first preaching attempts, such as distributing Srila Prabhupada’s
"Peace Formula" essay at a concert. We also introduced our
friends to Krsna consciousness and had congregational chanting
of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra at their homes. Seeing that
we did not know too much about the practical aspects of
Krsna consciousness, we felt the desire to be trained.
Then one day over the Internet, a young disciple
of Srila Prabhupada invited and inspired us to come to India
to be trained up in this scientific process. Being convinced
by Srila Prabhupada about the truth of the scriptural injunction
that service to Krsna is the highest obligation, we gave up
our worldly duties of job and home and went to India. Nimai
Pandita Prabhu, the devotee in India, became our dear friend.
We also got to know many other new and old disciples of Srila
Prabhupada as we organized festivals and traveled extensively.
We visited many, many holy places in both North and South
India, experiencing a living spiritual culture and its purifying
effects. Enlivened by the atmosphere and the continuous practice
of dynamic spiritual life, we actually made advancement on
the path, especially my pure-hearted friend Vaisnava Thakura,
who progressed rapidly under the loving guidance of His Divine
Srila Prabhupada is amazing; for he can reform
the most wicked into servants of God, Krsna. That is the special
qualification of a pure devotee–that he comes to purify
the whole world. And factually it is taking place. Srila Prabhupada
made us give up our hippie lifestyle and accept the regulative
principles of devotional service, which are no meat-eating,
no illicit sex life, no intoxication, no gambling, and the
chanting of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra daily. He has the power
to reform low-class men into high-grade characters, first-class
men. This can be practically seen in my good friend and so
many others who strictly follow the instructions and bona
fide teachings of His Divine Grace rigidly. Such a change
of heart effected by the bona fide spiritual master makes
one free from all anxiety and enables one to be in touch with
Krsna, which is in itself the perfection of life. And because
of all of this, we are now out on the streets meeting you
and others to give what we got, the opportunity to become
familiar again with our true spiritual nature.
Since then we have traveled from India to Germany
to North America, with stays in New York, Montreal, West Virginia,
North Carolina, Miami, Washington, D.C., New Orleans, and
other places with our devotee friends, trying to inspire people
to come to Krsna consciousness in their own individual way,
reaching the fulfillment of their spiritual desire to have
eternal, blissful life of full consciousness.