119th Vyasa Puja 2015

Dear Srila Prabhupada,

Please accept my most humble obeisances at the dust of your divine Lotus feet on this most auspicious occasion of your Sri Vyasa-puja. It is the 119th anniversary of your appearance as well as the Golden anniversary of your departure to America. Your incredible journey was no accident. This is undoubtedly a divine arrangement of the Supreme Lord.

In Kolkata, 1922, your Guru Maharaja, HDG Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur singled you out in an assembly of devotees and guests with the words: “ You are an intelligent young man. Why don’t you preach Lord Caitanya’s message in the Western world?” Thus began a chain of events which culminated in the last encounter with your wife when you issued her with the ultimatum, “You have to choose between me or tea. Either the tea goes or I go.” Being finally free from your family obligations, the time had come to solely concentrate on the most important mission. This was to fulfil your Guru Maharaja’s instruction of preaching in the West.

In the business world there is a phrase — “80% of the time for preparation and 20% for execution”. The greater the quality time devoted to preparation, the more effective and successful the execution. Starting in 1922, 80% of your lifetime was dedicated to preparing for this mission and for execution you spent just the last 11 years, the remaining 20%, with us.

You thought of becoming successful in business in order to support your family, but more importantly to assist your Guru Maharaja’s mission. In order to achieve this you moved to Allahabad and together with Dr. Ghosh you opened up Prayag Pharmacy. You generously served your Guru Maharaja’s Gaudiya Math everytime they approached you. Although you travelled extensively throughout north India to promote your business, your mind was constantly engaged in thoughts of your Guru Maharaja’s instructions to you: “Preach in the western world.” This culminated in your Spiritual Master accepting you as a disciple in 1933 in Allahabad. As Abhay Caranaravrinda you started translating and publishing articles. In 1947, the year of India’s independence, the Gaudiya Vaisnava Society honoured you with the title “Bhaktivedanta.” It was in 1950, at the age of fifty-four, Srila Prabhupad, that you retired from married life. In 1952, in Jhansi, you prepared a League of Devotees charter and a year later on 16 May, on the occasion of its launch, you already had the vision of expanding beyond India.

It was this League of Devotees in Jhansi which was the seed that blossomed into ISKCON worldwide. Just recently I was in Jhansi and the devotees there proudly stated that ISKCON had its conception in Jhansi, with its gestation period in Vrndavana and its delivery in New York.

Srila Prabhupad, you then travelled to the holy city of Vrndavana not to retire but to further prepare for your future preaching mission. You lived a simple life in Srila Jiva Goswami’s Radha-Damodara temple and by residing close to the samadhi and bhajan kutir of Srila Rupa Goswami, you prayed that Rupa Goswami would empower you to propagate ”Gaura Vani ” worldwide in the English language. In those days you were translating Srimad Bhagavatam and also publishing Back to Godhead. Although Vrndavana is your  home, on a regular basis you had to take the third class train to Delhi, to get Srimad Bhagavatam printed. Then you would go into the streets of Delhi and personally distribute them. You were reminded of what Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur had mandated you at Radha-kunda, “If you get money, print books”. You did not have much money, but with the little you had, you stoically followed that instruction. So it was here in Vrndavana that you lived for six full years further solidifying your preaching strategy and preparing yourself for the mission. So when you were finally prepared, the key question arose: How would you travel to the West? There were hurdles, humiliation and hours of waiting at Srimati Sumati Moraraji’s office, but Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was not going to let His senapati-bhakta down and arranged your voyage on the “Jaladuta” to America. Srila Prabhupad you were devaduta, the messenger of God, preparing to travel on the Jaladuta. In your diary which later became known as the Jaladuta Diary, you wrote meticulously that you undertook the train journey to Kolkata commencing in Bombay. Srila Prabhupad, you wrote, ” To start for Calcutta by the Calcutta Mail via Nagpur. Starting from Bori-Banrer(?) at 19 hours in the evening. Vide Ticket Dt 24/7/65. Luggage booked. Receipt No. A116695 paid Rs. 12/20.” ISKCON devotees in Nagpur are very proud of the fact that their Prabhupad travelled to “New York via Nagpur”. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of this day in1965, the ISKCON Nagpur devotees are planning a big celebration on 24 July 2015 when the same train arrives at 11 a.m. at Nagpur railway station.

In Kolkata, you embarked upon your journey on the Jaladuta, which departed at 9 a.m. on Friday, 13 August 1965 carrying you as the most precious and significant cargo that would ever land in America. Your personal possessions were only a suitcase, an umbrella and some dry cereal. At Cochin, Kerala where the boat docked overnight, two hundred, three sets of your Srimad Bhagavatam were loaded onto the cargo boat. Srila Prabhupad, some years ago I had the opportunity to visit the Scindia Navigation Company Guesthouse cum Office at Cochin. This was  the place where you had stayed when the boat had docked overnight. We were surprised to meet the very same lady who had cooked for you there way back in 1965. She mentioned that even on the evening of your departure, you had managed to conduct a preaching programme, never failing to seize the opportunity to share Krishna consciousness.

Then, in the middle of the vast Atlantic ocean, on board the Jaladuta, you experienced sea sickness and suffered heart attacks, but Krsna took care of His devaduta by taking charge of the boat. You celebrated Janmastami in the company of the ship’s crew. Beginning with just that one Janmastami in 1965, fifty years later, Janmastami is celebrated by your ISKCON in one hundred and fifty countries worldwide. All glories to you Srila Prabhupad!

Fifty years ago the Bostonians would not have paused for even a moment, but now very many have stopped “absorption in material life” and are following in your footsteps. Now fifty years later, the Commonwealth Pier in Boston will be reverberating with the sound of kirtans, mrdangas and karatals revivifying your arrival in America. The announcement of your arrival in Boston has reached every corner of the world and devotees from all corners of the globe will be eagerly awaiting your arrival on October 3, 2015.

Your first arrival at Boston’s Commonwealth Pier was unannounced and unknown. You had just arrived in a major American city. Captain Arun Pandia requested you to join him for a walk on the streets of Boston. You walked into a busy commercial area and perceived a densely populated city determined to stay the way it was – people working tirelessly towards material happiness. Observing the fast pace of the American lifestyle, you were inspired to write the profound poem “markine bhagavat-dharma” which captures your humble prayers and deep realisations. Srila Prabhupad, it was here on the Jaladuta from Boston to New York that you composed the now famous lines in ISKCON, ”O Lord, I’m just like a puppet in Your hands. So if You have brought me here to dance, then make me dance, make me dance, O Lord, make me dance as You like. I have no devotion, nor do I have any knowledge, but I have strong faith in the holy name of Krsna. I have been designated as Bhaktivedanta, and now, if You like, You can fulfil the real purport of Bhaktivedanta.”

On the 13 July 1966, merely ten months after you arrived in New York, The International Society for Krishna Consciousness was officially founded there, with you Srila Prabhupad naturally, as its Founder-Acarya. And with that the execution of your Guru Maharaja’s instructions and the propagation of Krishna consciousness began.
This year, there is a single most important theme that is being celebrated all pervasively across ISKCON that is your, ISKCON Founder-Acarya’s arrival in America. ISKCON centres worldwide are preparing for major celebrations of this momentous event in the planet’s history, where we will all enthusiastically rejoin and rejoice the transcendental journey of our senapati bhakta – from Kolkata to Allahabad to Jhansi to Vrndavana, to Mumbai,  moving on to Kolkata via Nagpur,then on Jaladuta to Cochin, to Boston and then finally New York.

Srila Prabhupad, in the eleven years that followed, you travelled the globe 14 times. You not only established 108  temples, but breathed life into farm communities, goshalas and Gurukuls. You managed and governed the worldwide Governing Body Commission and established the BBT which continues to print and distribute your books. You wrote and published 70 books, initiated 5000 disciples, wrote 8000 letters, conducted hundreds of public programmes and room conversations.

You attended the festivals in Mayapur and Vrindavan, Ratha-yatras worldwide and an endless number of festivals.  Your presence at all these festivals was ubiquitous. How can we forget those now celebrated daily morning walks complemented with conversations which straddled a range of different topics? These walks took place irrespective of where you were in the world and in spite of the challenging weather conditions.

Srila Prabhupad, the world has been benefitted immensely from all that you did and we are all indebted. I am truly indebted. In fact, the whole world is completely indebted to you.

Once in a meeting with your disciples you were asked the question how we could become free from this debt. Your initial response was that it was not possible. After a pause, you responded: “There is one thing you could do. You do as I did.” Then there was also one of your final instructions, “Your love of me will be shown by how much you co-operate to keep this institution together after I am gone.”

On the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of your departure for the West we pledge to work cooperatively, and to rededicate ourselves with renewed enthusiasm  to protect your institution that you founded and to ensure that your ISKCON continues to flourish all over the world.

Please enable us Srila Prabhupad, and empower us to do as you did.

Your eternal servant,

Lokanath Swami


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