Last August 28 we celebrated the 125th anniversary of the birth in this world of my spiritual master. We sang and danced and worshiped him with flower petals.
I have written this article as a tribute to the great teacher who has shown to me and thousands of others the perfection of life.
In this article I refer to him as Srila Prabhupada or simply Prabhupada. His full name is His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
The Proof of the Pudding
I sat in front of my computer, my head in my hands as the demons in my mind attacked:
“It’s time to retire, old man.”
“It’s all too complicated. Too many problems.”
“You can’t deal with it any more. Give up.”
I looked at my computer. I had forgotten to turn it on. I went back to the demons.
“Stop!” I shouted. “Go away!”
The demons came faster. They threw bricks and Molotov cocktails.
“You’ve had your day, you old dinosaur.”
“Go back to the Stone Age, where you came from.”
“You’re all used up, like yesterday’s pizza.”
I slapped the top of my head. “Stop!” I shouted. My voice echoed back and forth through my mind. Then my eye caught Prabhupada’s Bhagavad Gita As It Is. I knew what to do.
“Krishna!” I shouted. “Krishna! Help!”
Suddenly the magic verse rang out:
“O son of Bharata, as the sun alone illuminates all this universe, so does the living entity, one within the body, illuminate the entire body by consciousness.”
The demons ran in panic, even tripped over each other. I took a deep breath and leaned back in my chair.
But You Have Not Gone to the Moon
I call this my magic verse because it always scares away my demons. I had read the Bhagavad-Gita before, but it was only Prabhupada who told me to believe it:
“Similarly, there is a science of God by which you can understand how God appears, disappears, how He acts, how He works. Everything is there, but if you are not interested that does not mean that the science of God is false or there is no such science.”
“You believe that they have gone to moon planet. You have not gone. You have heard from somebody in the newspaper, that’s all. That is your authority. So if you can believe in the newspaper, then I cannot believe in the sastras?”
Yes, but believe there’s only one sun? Everyone will think I’m crazy.
I had this doubt once before, but Prabhupada smashed it with a higher principle. “The Americans will not accept some of these things you are saying,” I said to Prabhupada in 1966.
“I am not going to change the truth for the Americans,” Prabhupada replied.
But how can I doubt the scientists? Can I just push away their stories about the strange things they call quasars and the whirling galaxies bumping into one another and those stars billions of light years away and 500 trillion times brighter than the sun? Astounding!
Ah, but there was one question only Prabhupada could answer:
It was 1965, and I was watching my cat give birth. As soon as each kitten was born, the mother licked the baby’s face right away. It’s because kittens are born wrapped in a membrane, the amniotic sac. The mother must immediately lick it off the newborn’s face to let it start breathing.
Like the Loch Ness Monster
But how did my cat know this? She had never attended a class on birthing, never read a book on it, never asked a doctor.
All right, Mr. Scientist, tell me how she knew. But don’t give me some story about “instinct” unless you can explain it. And you can’t. Because “instinct” is like the Loch Ness monster. Everyone’s heard of it, but no knows if it even exists.
It wasn’t till I read Prabhupada’s Bhagavad Gita As It Is that I found the answer: Krishna residing in the heart of my cat, gave her the inspiration.
But wait! Maybe I thought the galaxies and quasars were astounding, but what Prabhupada taught me leaves the quasars light-years behind. Just imagine! Krsna, the Lord of the universe with all its stars and nebulas, stood by and watched over my little cat and her kittens.
It was Prabhupada who showed me that God is Krishna, the supreme person, and that a person has feelings: “The Absolute is sentient thou hast proved.” And it’s true. Krsna cares about the little guy, even the little guy’s cat.
Prabhupada himself exemplified this compassion. I once asked Prabhupada’s servant why the grass in front of Prabhupada’s house was growing tall when all the neighbors had neatly trimmed lawns. His answer: “Prabhupada said ‘You have given the animals a home. Do not take it away.’”
The Sun Cares About the Little Guy Too
Still don’t believe me? The sun is an example you can see every day, an example of greatness combined with care for the little guy:
“The scriptures say the sun is an eye of Krsna,” said Prabhupada in 1967. “So unless Krsna sees first, we cannot see. We are proud of our so-called eyes, but without the sun our eyes are useless.”
( ros dagos/unsplash)
This talk still shines in my brain after all these years. Could the sunlight really be the seeing power of the sun?
Then the sun sees whatever its light touches, even to the farthest reaches of the universe. How is it, then, that the sun, who looks at the most magnificent mountains and forests and palaces, comes and peeks through the leaves of a tree into my kitchen window and draws delicate patterns of lace on the floor?
And then I wonder, If this light is so powerful it can hit the most distant star and bounce back, how does it let itself be filtered by a few leaves?
Whew! Let the scientist dismiss the sun as a “minor star,” but Prabhupada revealed it to me as the eye of Krsna. And if the sun sees, then it’s alive. Can anyone disprove it? Then please step forward.
As Prabhupada points out, if you can believe in the newspapers, then I can believe in the scriptures. Thank you, Prabhupada. Goodbye, scientist.
One of the first things that impressed me about Prabhupada, in fact, was how effortlessly he could answer any question and speak on any subject—from the biggest: “The material world is one fourth of the Kingdom of God,”—to the tiniest: “If you try to catch a small bug, he will run away because he has free will.”
Here was someone I could follow. Here stood my teacher, scripture in hand. Still today, if I want to know astounding things about the stars and quasars and whirling galaxies, I pick up Prabhupada’s books. They leave the scientist groping in the dark matter of the universe.
And Prabhupada’s books finally answered a question that had throbbed in my brain since childhood.
Why Are There Trees?
The question came one day when I stood on the porch of my house in Chicago, looking over the grass in my backyard. The breeze carried the fragrance of pink and white peonies while a group of robins chirped as they sat on the electric wires. A dragonfly flew past and disappeared into the mighty tree of heaven standing guard at the back gate.
“What is it all about?” I wondered. “Why are there trees and grass and flowers and me? And why can’t anybody can tell me? But someday. . . someday I’ll know.”
And now I know. Because Prabhupada told me to believe the Bhagavad-Gita:
“The living entity in material nature thus follows the ways of life, enjoying the three modes of nature. This is due to his association with that material nature. Thus he meets with good and evil among various species.”
What’s more, I even know why the peonies give off their heady fragrance:
“Everything in the material world has a certain fragrance, as the fragrance in a flower, or in the earth, in water, in fire, in air, etc. The uncontaminated fragrance, the original fragrance, which permeates everything, is [a form of ] Krsna.”
The Proof Is in the Dying
“It sounds nice,” you say, “all this pretty talk about quasars and dragonflies, but where’s the proof? How can I know I’ll be better off?”
Well, my friend, you know the old saying, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” And in Bengal, they go a step farther. They say the proof is in the dying:
“There is a Bengali proverb that everything will be tested at the time of death.”
Of course, I haven’t died yet, at least not this time around. But I came close one night. It was after my fifth heart attack. I was in a hospital bed with wires attached to my body and going into a machine that recorded my heartbeat and my breathing and God knows what else.
Nurses were scurrying in and out, and the place reeked of disinfectant. A bottle of yellow goo hung by my bedside with a long plastic tube ending in a needle stuck into my vein. Yuck!
I would be operated on the next day . . . if I lived through the night. I had just scribbled an impromptu will for my disciples, just in case.
Was I scared? Shouldn’t I be? But was my heart pounding in my chest? No. Did my mouth dry up? Did my face feel hot and flushed? Did my stomach feel queasy? Was I banging my fist on the table and screaming, “Why? Why? Why?”
I Knew What Death Was
Nope. Prabhupada had already told me what death was. It’s in the Bhagavad Gita:
“As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change.”
I turned over in my bed. “Why is it,” I wondered, “Why is it that you can’t get comfortable in a hospital bed no matter how much you squirm and twist?”
As my eyelids closed, drawn together by invisible magnets, I remembered a verse from the second chapter:
“Even a little advancement on this path can save one from the most terrible fear.”
“It’s true,” I thought. “Here is the proof in my own life . . . and maybe death.”
Five days later I went home with a few refurbished arteries. Prabhupada had called me into battle in his army once more. We have worlds to conquer.
I’m only one person, and I haven’t completed the journey. But my godsisters and godbrothers have begun leaving this world, one by one. And none have left in fear. What better proof could anyone want?
All right. . . I know. . . I’m talking too much about myself, as usual. This is supposed to be a tribute to Prabhupada, not to me. But I wanted to show what Praphupada has done for just one little follower. And to think about what he has done for the thousands of others? I can hardly imagine the bigness of it all.
Yeah, but still, I haven’t said all I want to. There’s one more thing:
Dear Srila Prabhupada: Thank you for letting me share with others what you have done for me. Will you let me keep on, life after life? Please?
I love you, Srila Prabhupada.
⁓ Your eternal disciple Umapati Swami
© 2021 Umapati Swami
write to me:firstname.lastname@example.org
Scriptural passages © Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is the teacher who brought Krishna Consciousness from India to the West and then to the rest of the world. He is the founder of the worldwide Hare Krishna Movement as well as the author and compiler of many works of Vedic knowledge. He left this world in 1977.
One of the first American devotees of the Hare Krishna Movement, he became Srila Prabhupada’s disciple in 1966. Since then, he has preached Krishna Consciousness in many countries and is the author of “My Days with Prabhupada,” available from Amazon. Now 84 years old, he has started this blog to share what he has learned.