The Vaishnava calendar in this issue includes anniversary dates for both Srila Prabhupada’s departure from India for America and, slightly less than a year later, his incorporation of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Though penniless when he reached the shores of America, the value of what Prabhupada carried in his heart and mind is priceless. He brought Westerners the gift of a whole new world. He introduced us not only to Lord Krishna, Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and the spiritual world until then only vague notions, at best, for most of us but also to pure devotees of God, great historical personalities we most likely would never have known.
Sometimes I pause to consider how enriched my life has become by meeting, in the pages of the Srimad-Bhagavatam and Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, exalted persons such as Narada Muni, Dhruva Maharaja, Prahlada Maharaja, Kunti Devi, Draupadi, Nityananda Prabhu, Svarupa Damodara, Ramananda Raya. The list goes on and on. Only Srila Prabhupada’s devotion and sacrifice have allowed me to peer into the eternal world of these great devotees and aspire to someday live among them.
The extraordinary spiritual stature of so many of Lord Caitanya’s followers, whose blessed feet touched our planet in recent history, especially amazes me. In this issue’s calendar we find the names of three of the Six Goswamis of Vrindavan, preeminent disciples of Caitanya Mahaprabhu: Rupa Goswami, Sanatana Goswami, and Gopala Bhatta Goswami. From the time of Lord Caitanya’s stay on earth five hundred years ago and through the centuries since, persons like them of the highest spiritual wisdom and devotion have graced the ranks of the Gaudiya Vaishnavas. Their lives are perfect examples of pure devotion to God.
An essential point in Srila Prabhupada’s teachings is the need to associate with pure devotees. While we can’t meet Narada Muni or Sanatana Goswami today, we can enter their company by hearing how they lived and what they taught. With focused attention we can enter their world and let the power of their spiritual devotion transform us. People who insist on blazing their own spiritual trail and who discredit the value of learning from spiritual adepts do so at their own peril. We benefit in many ways when we read the teachings and prayers of great Vaishnavas and hear about their lives. Prabhupada wanted ISKCON to be a place where like-minded persons would congregate to discuss the collective wisdom of his own devotional tradition. Creating ISKCON was also an essential part of his plan to connect a worldwide audience to pure devotees past and present.
Not so long ago, Prabhupada had to brave a month-long ocean voyage to speak to the West. One of the great wonders of our time is the ease with which we can now instantly communicate with people all over the world. Almost as if we were there, we can witness worldwide events as they happen. Similarly, thanks to Srila Prabhupada, through the medium of respectful hearing of transcendental sound we can now access the once foreign world of Radha-Krishna, Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and Their countless associates.
The most important sound is the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, another priceless gift from Srila Prabhupada. He compared it to a code: Crack the code by offenseless chanting, and everything will be revealed.