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Jagat Guru For The Golden Age

by Narasimha das

I have no qualification to speak about Srila Prabhupada's glories. Yet I will try, because I feel this is the only way to preserve the worldwide institution of Krsna consciousness he so kindly gave. Not everyone will be able to immediately appreciate Srila Prabhupada's unique position. Devotees who understand Srila Prabhupada to some extent and appreciate what he has given, however, should try to inspire others to accept Srila Prabhupada and His instructions as their life and soul. All devotees should try to understand how Srila Prabhupada has provided the best instructions and arrangements for enabling everyone to attain Lord Caitanya's full blessings.

We should all carefully consider, as far as we are able, Srila Prabhupada's position. He accepted a standard of worship never before accorded any Acarya. He not only accepted such worship but institutionalized it. In Vedic history, we find no other example of the literal institutionalization of the injunction that the Sad-Guru is to be worshipped and praised exactly like the Supreme Lord Hari. No other example of guru worship in Vedic culture compares to the daily worship of Srila Prabhupada in ISKCON. In fact, even some of Srila Prabhupada's disciples and Godbrothers have called it "excessive". I will try to give some historical and scriptural insight why Srila Prabhupada's position in Lord Chaitanya's movement should be considered, at least in ISKCON, as unique.

We may assume that if the most important spiritual mission in history is in danger, the Supreme Lord will descend to revive the mission Himself, as He promises in Srimad Bhagavad-gita. Or He will send a Saktyavesa Avatar, a fully empowered associate, to do the work on His behalf. The mission of no other avatar or acarya, other than that of Sri Krishna Chaitanya Himself, can compare with Srila Prabhupada's mission, which reveals the basis for the sankirtana movement and daiva-varnasrama for this yuga. Unlike Lord Chaitanya, Who was constantly assisted by innumerable nitya-siddha associates in the highly cultured and supremely pious land of Gauda Desa, Srila Prabhupada began His mission alone in New York City. He singelhandedly established Lord Caitanya mission worldwide, fulfilling the Supreme Lord's prophecy. Srila Prabhupada gave a very specific sadhana. He said we should meditate on the Spiritual Master immediately upon rising in the morning. Later we attend mangala-arati, which in ISKCON is at least half devoted to Srila Prabhupada personally. On the altar we offer all items to Srila Prabhupada, along with the Deities and our param gurus. Later in the morning we attend Srila Prabhupada's guru-puja--in the temple before the Deities. It was previously unheard of to worship a devotee in front of the Deity. In his Bhaktirasamrta Sindhu, Srila Rupa Goswami counts it as an offense to even praise someone else before the Deity. In all ISKCON temples we offer daily guru-puja for Srila Prabhupada alone. His murti resides on the hundreds of vyasanas all over the world and on the altars in our temples and homes. We sing His personal pranam prayers in all of our temple functions, and all offerings of bhoga are offered to the Lord through Him. It is His books that we study in our daily Srimad-Bhagavatam class and Bhagavad-gita class. His instructions are our life and soul. The entire worldwide Krishna consciousness movement is based on Srila Prabhupada and His instructions. He established the entire conception of Lord Caitanya's mission by Himself when all other preachers were apparently asleep or retired or simply struggling to maintain their local ashrams.

Srila Prabhupada's worship is unique. There is no other example of a Vedic sadhana that puts such great emphasis on the worship of a devotee. Moreover, in the mission of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, spiritual leaders have generally avoided even traditional worship and honor. Yet ISKCON's elaborate guru-puja sadhana is what Srila Prabhupada gave us, and it's undoubtedly unique. I have visited most of the main temples and ashrams of the Vaisnava sampradayas in India, and I have been unable to find an example of guru worship comparable to the worship Srila Prabhupada established for His followers. In bona fide traditions, even Sri Hanuman-ji and Sri Garuda Deva are not accorded such grand and regular worship. (Even the worship of Sri Garuda Deva at Sri Rangam is not part of the daily temple sadhana.)

Srila Prabhupada began his mission at a time when the mission of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and the Vaisnava acaryas appeared lost. He single-handedly revived the mission of prema-bhakti and established it as a worldwide mission at a time when the world tottered on the brink of destruction. The secret of Srila Prabhupada's mission is indicated in the most confidential sastras, like Caitanya Mangala. Srila Prabhupada's appearance is as rare as that of Sri Krsna and Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Srila Prabhupada's appearance was foretold by great acaryas like Locana das Thakura and Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura. Srila Prabhupada's activities were foretold by both Lord Nityananda Prabhu and Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

Advanced devotees understand Srila Prabhupada as the predicted great personality Who descends to establish Krsna consciousness all over the world. (Srila Prabhupada Himself indicated this variously.) Srila Prabhupada is the eternal associate of Sri Krsna and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Although His eternal form (nitya-svarupa) remains a mystery for all who remain influenced by material existence, everyone can appreciate His greatness to some extent. Srila Prabhupada's complete humility, fearlessness, patience, and compassion may have been exhibited perhaps only by Srila Vasudeva Datta and Lord Nityananda.

A reporter once asked Srila Prabhupada how many disciples He had. Srila Prabhupada replied that there is no limit to the number of His disciples. His Divine Grace indicated some people realize they are under His authority and others do not. On this occasion He was speaking in the mood of the Supreme Guru, Lord Nityananda. Who else could answer in this way and not be accused of blasphemy? On another occasion He was asked who would be His successor. He replied that his success was already complete. He clearly indicated there was no need for successors. Still another time, when asked a similar question, His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada said that only Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu could take His place.

In other words, neither the combined efforts of His inexperienced and realized disciples nor the empowered efforts of future acharyas are required to make Srila Prabhupada's mission successful. This is why Srila Prabhupada said His mission is already complete -- it requires no other acharya or avatar to make it successful. Srila Prabhupada said the ISKCON temples might fail, but He expressed absolute conviction that His books and instructions would remain. The Hare Krishna movement will always expand the glories of Lord Caitanya's mission by Srila Prabhupada's mercy and the authority of His instructions.

Among thousands of liberated souls, one may become the Acharya, the Jagat Guru, the Personality of Servitor Godhead, Who is adored by all Vaisnavas (C.c. Adi , C.c. Madhya). Everyone can be happy worshiping Srila Prabhupada as Jagat Guru. To help Kali Yuga conditioned souls, Srila Prabhupada institutionalized his own guru-puja, pranam prayers, murtis, books, and vyasasanas as the permanent standard for worship and study in all ISKCON temples. Other great acaryas, like Srila Ramanujacarya, an avatar of Anantashesa, and Srila Madhvacarya, the param guru of our sampradaya, never instituted themselves in such prominent positions in their movements. Nor did they indicate that their specific missions would create a golden age. Even Srila Rupa Goswami Prabhupada and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada never had permanent vyasasanas or regular guru-pujas in their temples. Srila Prabhupada's actions in this regard are unique. We should carefully consider why He instituted unprecedented worship of His own form and instructions. We should carefully consider the value of His accomplishments and His position as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's saktyavesa-avatara.

It goes against the strict Vaisnava principles given by Srila Rupa Gosvami Prabhupada and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu for devotees to accept formal worship and a high seat, even from their own disciples. This is why Gaudiya Vaisnavas formerly never accepted the position of sannyasa or any formal special status as guru. Gaudiya Vaisnavas practice the principle of ³trinad api sunicena, amanina manadena.² They avoid the official worship and status ordained for sadhus by Vedic tradition. Yet Srila Prabhupada accepted, and even insisted upon, a standard of guru worship unheard of in Vedic history.

Srila Prabhupada more than hinted at the status of His position. Yet it is not the way of Vaisnavas to proclaim their own glory. If they did, others would have license to imitate them and pose as gurus or avatars by self advertisement. Srila Prabhupada revealed His unique position by empowered preaching. To help His dull disciples understand, Srila Prabhupada kindly accepted unprecedented worship, even at the risk of being accused of exceeding tradition. (Most of our guru-puja in ISKCON was revealed by Krsna's arrangement step by step when Srila Prabhuapda accepted the spontaneous offerings of his disciples. For instance: the huge vyasasana thrones, the pictures on the vyasasana, the title "Prabhupada", the daily guru-puja ceremony were all originally ideas of disciples.) It's in our hands now to get the credit for establishing the truth regarding the position of Lord Caitanya's most empowered viceroy, Srila Prabhupada. It's not possible to exaggerate His glories or overemphasize His importance -- He is the Spiritual Master of the Universe. Understanding Srila Prabhupada's position in truth, we should be eager to help everyone accept the incarnation of Lord Caitanya's mercy, in just the way we have.

By worshiping and serving Srila Prabhupada the way He taught us, we naturally develop our eternal relationship with our param gurus, with the associates of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and with Sri Krsna Chaitanya Himself. Srila Prabhupada's specific mission provides the best means to preach Krishna consciousness in this age. Srila Prabhupada is empowered to offer a sadhana that's most effective in helping everyone attain pure love for Sri Krishna. As we have all seen practically, Srila Prabhupada's words are endowed with special potency to awaken souls asleep in Maya's lap. Through Srila Prabhupada, Lord Caitanya has given the world the perfect formula for success in Krsna consciousness. That formula is based on the idea that every member and supporter of Srila Prabhupada's movement should attempt to please Him by becoming servants and representatives of His mission. To more fully appreciate Srila Prabhupada's preaching formula, we need to fully appreciate the significance of Srila Prabhupada Himself.

(Note: None of the above is based on my personal sentiment. To avoid a lengthy treatise and for other reasons, however, I have not included a list of confidential scriptural quotes. I have given stress to evident truths illuminated practically by the sadhana Srila Prabhupada prescribed and specific statements he made regarding himself and his mission.)