THERE IS NO END to how much we can be together with Srila Prabhupada through his books. His books are like a tunnel that never comes to an end. We enter deeper and deeper and walk further and further in. They are not a dark tunnel but a tunnel of wonderment and discovery. And unlike tunnels in the material world, this tunnel will lead us into an opening in the spiritual world. It's a good feeling, and it always leaves me satisfied, to know that reading Prabhupada's books means being led by him through the tunnel to meet Krsna.
Something personal happens when we discover that, aside from any official stance we might take, we actually like to read Prabhupada's books. It is so satisfying to feel the security Prabhupada's books offer, and to realize that that security is not available elsewhere. What that feeling amounts to is the knowledge that we can trust everything Prabhupada says about Krsna. We know we are not being cheated.
Prabhupada is the one who can build the conviction and faith our souls are hankering for. Prabhupada preached in the West and presented things in a way that would accommodate our needs. We shouldn't take that lightly. We've been raised in a tradition of empirical knowledge and skepticism, mental speculation, and challenge of authority. Prabhupada was able to penetrate our training. He understood our rascal minds, and he knew how to encourage us. He knew how to give us Krsna. He convinced us to accept the Vedic scriptures. He, or the one who strictly follows him, is the one who can lead us on.
I speak from my own experience. Prabhupada's books not only give me security, they hand me spiritual reality. People following invented spiritual paths may convince themselves that they are in touch with spiritual reality or that any spiritual book is opening up the spiritual world, but they later realize the illusion. Often they find that their lives don't change. Or they find that there are things about their author they can't accept. Eventually they realize that the author is not their spiritual master. He's somehow not the person they are meant to entrust their souls to.
We are all looking for spiritual safety. Personally, I can't place that trust or locate that safety in authors from here and there. I find that it's best to receive the message of Krsna consciousness through the writings of my spiritual master. Recently I heard Prabhupada lecture on this point. He said the disciple has to hear from his or her spiritual master. Then he said, "But even if you [his disciples] were to read the writings of my spiritual master, you would have to do it through me, through my explanations." It's a fortunate person who can read his spiritual master's books and invest all his faith in learning directly from him.
All Vaisnava spiritual masters teach the traditional truths of Krsna consciousness, but each spiritual master conveys those truths person to person, from guru to disciple. In other words, Prabhupada didn't just write books; he became our spiritual master and taught us personally. He is the same spiritual master for whom we cooked, whose lectures we attended, and in whose movement we serve. Nor did he keep us distant from him. We have a loving reciprocation with him. Therefore, his books are not just something we read "among other books." They are our way back to Godhead.
Back to the tunnel image: I know what it means to rise early in the morning and read a section I've read many times. This morning it was Bhagavatam, First Canto, Chapter Six, where Narada Muni gives his final instructions to Srila Vyasadeva. I found purports there that I felt I had never read before. Then I thought, All the previous readings were leading up to this reading and have accumulated into more appreciation than I have ever felt before. Prabhupada's words were opening up to me as reality. He says that a pure devotee, under the guidance of the spiritual master, can accumulate credit in devotional service. When a devotee becomes mature, he goes back to the spiritual world. He doesn't have to come back to this miserable material world. When I'm reading attentively, these "concepts" of hearing faithfully, of developing a spiritual body, of becoming one of the eternal associates of the Lord in the spiritual world all become more real than anything else, more real than the chair I'm sitting in or the desk on which the book is placed. That's what we're all looking for in spiritual reading, and that's what's leading me further and further in.
Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami travels extensively to speak and write about Krsna consciousness. He is the author of more than two dozen books, including a six-volume biography of Srila Prabhupada.