HH Lokanath Swami Maharaja’s 105th Vyasa-Puja Offering to Srila Prabhupada


Dear Srila Prabhupada,

Please accept my most humble obeisances. All glories to Your Divine Grace!
This year I missed the Gaura-Purnima festival for the first time in twenty-eight years. Just before leaving Mayapur, I spoke with Jayapataka Maharaja. He asked, “How can you leave, Maharaja? How have you become so stone-hearted?” This is his thirty-first year at the Gaura-purnima festival. He has imbibed your spirit of participation in the festival. Your spirit is embodied in the reply you made to Pusta Krsna Swami, who asked you whether you weren’t tired after so many busy days conducting the 1976 Mayapur festival. You said, “What ‘tired’? So many people are coming and hearing about Krsna. When you’re preaching, you feel refreshed.”

While riding away from Mayapur after the GBC meetings, I felt bad about leaving early. My only consolation was that I was on my way to Jagannatha Puri to make the final revisions on my new bookFestivals, which is subtitled “Prabhupada at the Mayapur-Vrndavana Festivals.” This book glorifies the festivals you established and attended. I interviewed about 100 devotees to collect remembrances of those festivals. This book is coming out today, on your Vyasa-puja day, as my offering to your lotus feet.

While working on the book in Puri, I saw a number of my god-brothers there, also absent from Mayapur festival. One of them, on his way to the Mayapur festival, said to me, “I see so many devotees here. Isn’t the festival enlivening anymore?” Pancaratna Prabhu also felt that our participation in the festivals is below standard. I quote him in my book as saying, “Srila Prabhupada set the standard for his leaders to follow by his regular attendance at the Mayapur festivals. He went to great lengths to enliven and inspire the devotees. In Mayapur he made himself available to the devotees – and not just for a few days. He would be there the whole time, going on walks, giving classes and darsanas, and overseeing the GBC meetings.”

These festivals are one of your legacies, and we senior devotees and leaders cannot ignore it. You used to be the first to arrive at the festivals and the last to leave. Dropping whatever you were doing, you would travel to Mayapur from wherever you were in the world.

Attending the Mayapur-Vrndavana festivals is a principle of bhajanaand sadhana. You integrated this bhajana into the ISKCON devotees’s yearly sadhana, but somehow we have become deviated or distracted from attending the festivals. As a result, we do not derive the benefits, and the movement is the loser. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura said about the Vaisnava, “He lives forever through his divine instructions, and his followers live with him.” Because we are not following your instructions regarding the festivals, we are not getting the benefit of associating with your instructions. What we need to do is revive the festivals and keep them going the way you wanted. Working on my book in Puri was like revisiting those days with you at the festivals. This topic has been a meditation for me during the past few years, as I sorted through the interviews and the other materials to paint a picture of those festival times. We have fallen short of the spirit of those days when you were present, and it hurts to see how the festivals have deteriorated. The Vrndavana festival is even weaker than the Mayapur festival because more leaders skip it, though the devotees are still into it. We are not doing it the way you did it. To out my book together I interviewed dozens and dozens of devotees, and they all concluded there was a really high spirit in those days. Everyone practically fought to get to the festivals. No one wanted to miss that once-in-a-year opportunity.

Most of our second-generation devotees do not know what they are missing. They did not experience the early festivals. So your disciples who lead the movement have an obligation to maintain and re-enact the festivals. “Do as I did,” you often said. You also said that the leaders should think of the world first and their local areas second. The Mayapur-Vrndavana festival is an opportunity to put this instruction into practice. Devotees from all over the world come to India, where we can serve one another, associate with one another, and inspire one another. The ISKCON body will get healthier by following this principle.

Still, in many ways things have improved. The primitive accommodations and substandard prasadam are things of the past. During your Centennial year, 2,000 devotees attended the festivals. Annual parikramas are now being conducted in Mayapur and Vrndavana by the traditional method – walking – just as your spiritual master did them. The Mayapur Institute of Higher Education (MIHE) conducts seminars to facilitate the hearing, chanting, and education of the devotees.

On this auspicious occasion, I dedicate my book to you, and pray that it may create a higher awareness of the significance of these festivals. I hope it educates and inspires our leaders and readers in general to attend the festivals and thereby preserve and renew these festivals, which you personally developed.

Your eternal servant,
Lokanath Swami.



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