On this day (13th August), 50 years ago, an unassuming mendicant stepped onto a cargo ship with practically nothing, and set off for America. It was a humble but historic beginning.
Dear Srila Prabhupada,
You were the local sadhu, the unassuming resident of Vrindavana, humbly residing at your simple but tranquil quarters at Radha Damodara Temple. Then you journeyed to the godforsaken Bowery and lived alongside buzzing acidheads, bearded bohemians, ruined alcoholics and disillusioned dropouts. People were shocked at your strategic relocation to the skid row of New York, but in those alien surroundings you were completely at peace. You were always living with Krishna, living with the order of Guru, and therefore everywhere was home for you. Who can understand your consciousness?
You were a streetwise manager, practical and bold, one step ahead, and as sharp as a saw. “In two things never be shy” you often said, “business and eating!” Yet you were simultaneously a complete saint, generous and kind, fanning the spark without calculation and compassionately bringing out the best in others. You extended yourself beyond the call of duty, regardless of mistakes, weakness or deviation. Who can understand your heart?
You unflinchingly called rich industrialists ‘thieves,’ established scientists ‘rascals,’ and influential politicians ‘demoniac.’ Your speech was often harder than a thunderbolt. Yet you embodied deep humility, offered all credit to your guru, and shed tears of gratitude while thanking your disciples for their sincere endeavours to help. You were, without a doubt, softer than a rose. Who can understand your character?
You lived such a public life – thousands of lectures, hours of meetings, streams of interviews and endless conversations. You were followed, recorded and videoed for most hours of the day. In the glaring spotlight, and found to be completely spotless. Yet your internal life was profound beyond comprehension. In the solitude of the morning hours you bathed in the scriptures, availed of the saintly association of our predecessors, and connected so deeply with the holy names of Krishna. You were in constant communion with God. Who can understand your devotion?
You were grave and serious, chaste and uncompromising. You never fell short of conveying the absolute truth, exposing the material phantasmagoria time and time again. Yet at the same time you knew how to laugh, a sense of humour which had an appreciation for Charlie Chaplain sketches and the amusing statements of Birbal. Full of joy, you showed how to practice spiritual life with a smile. Who can understand your shining personality?
The list goes on… forever and ever. The typing stops here, but my mind is still churning the paradoxical facets of your remarkable personality.
Where there is substantial service, sacrifice, seriousness and sincerity… that’s where we meet you. The spiritual master lives forever in his instructions, and the follower lives with him. I’m praying for the day when I’ll wholeheartedly serve you without hesitancy or resistance. No holding back. Then I have the firm conviction you will call me, and I will see you… face to face – the perfection of life. When oh when.