While on a recent walk with a young devotee through downtown Boston, I found myself standing before the offices of the Atlantic Monthly magazine. The sight of the building evoked in me fond memories of a time fifteen years earlier when, as a missionary for my spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, I had first come to the city to open a temple.
I turned to the devotee standing beside me. "I once spoke with an editor who worked in this building," I said, remembering how naive and brash I had been, expecting the publishers to agree to print an article about the Krsna consciousness movement.
"The Atlantic Monthly does not provide religious coverage," the editor had said. "It's not our editorial policy."
"Well, why not?" I had countered. "This is an important movement. An intellectual magazine should want to cover it." I then offered to write an article myself. Politely, the editor told me that if I expected to publish an article in theAtlantic, I would first have to become a famous author. I didn't pursue the matter further.
"I wonder what would happen if you were to go back there today?" my young companion asked. And I recognized in his question a brashness similar to that of my own youth.
"You mean because I've written Srila Prabhupada's biography and other books, the editors might accept me as a famous writer?" I asked. "No. They're still not concerned with Krsna consciousness or with a Krsna conscious author."
Despite the fact that the doors of the Atlantic Monthly remain shut to me, I am satisfied in my work. To know that I am appreciated by my spiritual master and by Krsna is enough. Rather than trying to become a popular author and satisfy the public at large, I have sought to satisfy my spiritual master and Krsna, and that has given me the greatest satisfaction.
The satisfaction derived from serving Krsna is exemplified fully in the life of my spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, the founder and spiritual master of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. In 1922, when Srila Prabhupada was but twenty-six years old, his spiritual master instructed him to spread Krsna consciousness throughout the world. Despite the fact that his family neither appreciated his life's mission nor offered him support, Srila Prabhupada absorbed himself in thoughts of how to carry out this task.
In 1944, he published and personally distributed the first issue of BACK TO GODHEAD magazine. In 1954, he retired from family life, and from then until 1965, when he journeyed to America to found the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, he struggled in India without assistance to disseminate the teachings of the Vedic literature to whoever would listen. During those eleven years, he continued to publish—though intermittently because of lack of funds—his BACK TO GODHEAD magazine. And in the summer of 1962 he began the principal literary contribution of his life, translating and commenting on the sixty-volume Srimad-Bhagavatam. Late that year, the first volume of the First Canto went to press.
No one was eager to see him writing prolifically, and no one demanded that it be printed. Even when the sales slowed to a trickle, the managers of O.K. Press were not distressed; . . . the pressure was on him to go out and sell as many copies of the first volume as possible. Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta, A Lifetime in Preparation, p. 267)
Despite hardships and the lack of assistance and appreciation, Srila Prabhupada had only an increasing desire to spread Krsna consciousness over the years. How, we might ask, is such determination possible? The answer is that his spiritual master and Krsna were reciprocating with his unflinching struggle to do as he had been instructed.
Bhaktivedanta Swami, by his full engagement in producing theBhagavatam, felt bliss and assurance that Krsna was pleased. He did not, however, intend for the Bhagavatam to be his private affair. . . . Yet he was alone, and he felt exclusive pleasure and satisfaction in serving his guru and Lord Krsna. Thus his transcendental frustration and pleasure mingled, his will strengthened, and he continued alone. (A Lifetime in Preparation, p. 267)
Years later, Srila Prabhupada said that those times he spent struggling alone in India and during his first year in America were actually the best times, because during that period he had no recourse but to depend on Krsna. By depending exclusively on the Lord, one discovers true self-satisfaction, whereas those who constantly need others to reassure them that they are appreciated and are doing well will always meet with frustration and loneliness.
From the life of Srila Prabhupada, we may surmise that to satisfy Krsna is not an easy thing, yet one's efforts to serve Him never go unappreciated. The proper way to render devotional service to Krsna is to surrender fully to the instructions of Krsna's pure representative, the spiritual master. And even when the spiritual master is no longer physically present, the faithful disciple knows in his heart that the spiritual master is pleased and is satisfied by his sincere servant's efforts. As Srila Prabhupada wrote upon completing his translation of the seventeen-volume Sri Caitanya-caritamrta,
If [my spiritual master] were physically present at this time, it would have been a great occasion for jubilation. But even though he is not physically present, I am confident that he is very pleased by this work of translation. (Cc., Antya-lila, Vol.5, pp. 320-321)
Lord Krsna is seated in our hearts as our best friend. He knows the many sufferings we have undergone and which no else can either understand or care about, and He sympathizes with us in those sufferings. He appreciates us, and He knows how nice we are. To appreciate Krsna in return and to please Him is the greatest happiness in life, and it is the greatest source of personal satisfaction. One who has realized this satisfaction is said to be atmarama, self-satisfied. Such a person needs no further support in this world.
The young devotee accompanying me through Boston's streets certainly misjudged the Atlantic's editors. No, the editors at the Atlantic Monthly are not likely to appreciate the work of the devotees of the Krsna consciousness movement. Nevertheless, I am satisfied in knowing that my efforts are being appreciated by my spiritual master and Krsna, and that as a result, others are also coming to experience the complete satisfaction of satisfying the Supreme Personality of Godhead.—SDG