A look at the similarities between a great sage seen throughout the Vedic literature and the greatest preacher of Krsna consciousness in the modern age.
SRI NARADA MUNI, a son of Lord Brahma (the first created being in the universe), is one of the twelve mahajanas, or authorities on Krsna consciousness. Narada's teachings have been introduced to millions of people by the books of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada notes in a purport to the Srimad-Bhagavatam (6.5.22), "The immediate spiritual master is the representative of Narada Muni; there is no difference between the instructions of Narada Muni and those of the present spiritual master." The more we hear about Narada Muni and his servant Srila Prabhupada, the more we see the similarities in the messages and activities of these two transcendental great souls.
In a purport to the sixth canto of the Bhagavatam, Srila Prabhupada points out a similarity between himself and Narada Muni. After Narada had convinced thousands of Prajapati Daksa's sons to renounce family life for full dedication to spiritual life, the outraged Daksa told Narada, "You are a rascal who does not know how to behave toward others. You may travel all over the universe, but I curse you to have no residence anywhere."
Srila Prabhupada comments:
Actually, such a punishment is a boon for a preacher. A preacher is known as parivrajakacarya an acarya, or teacher, who always travels for the benefit of human society. … In the parampara system [disciplic succession] from Narada Muni, I have also been cursed. Although I have many centers that would be suitable places of residence, I cannot stay anywhere, for I have been cursed by the parents of my young disciples. Since the Krsna consciousness movement was started, I have traveled all over the world two or three times a year, and although I am provided comfortable places to stay wherever I go, I cannot stay anywhere for more than three days or a week.
"He Likes to Hear"
Hearing from spiritual teachers is of primary importance in spiritual life, as we see from the lives of both Narada Muni and Srila Prabhupada. As the young son of a maidservant, Narada served devotees and developed faith in hearing their transcendental words: "I could hear them describe the attractive activities of Lord Krsna. And thus listening attentively, my taste for hearing about the Supreme Personality of Godhead increased at every step." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.5.27)
Just before initiating Srila Prabhupada in Allahabad in 1932, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura noted of him, "Yes, he likes to hear … I have marked him. I will accept him as a disciple." Because Srila Prabhupada faithfully heard and repeated the message of his spiritual master and the previous Vaisnava preceptors, he achieved astounding success in spreading Krsna consciousness all over the world.
Sri Narada Muni and Srila Prabhupada are intimate partners in the confidential service of producing and disseminating transcendental literature glorifying the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.5.11) Narada tells Vyasadeva, the compiler of the Vedic literature, "That literature which is full of the descriptions of the name, fame, forms, pastimes, etc., of the Supreme Lord is a different creation, full of transcendental words directed toward bringing about a revolution in the impious lives of this world's misdirected civilization."
In the Padma Purana, Narada vows to Srimati Bhakti Devi, the personification of devotional service, "O beautiful-faced one, there is no other age like Kali-yuga [the present age], because you will be established in every house as well as in the heart of every person." Later in that Purana the sages known as the Kumaras reveal to Narada how bhakti can be established: "As when a lion roars wolves flee in fear, so merely by the sound of the Srimad-Bhagavatam all the vicious qualities of Kali-yuga are destroyed."
In Sri Caitanya Mangala Lord Brahma gives Narada a specific prescription for Kali-yuga: "Narada, no other scripture compares to the Srimad-Bhagavatam, which is completely transcendental. Narada, you should teach the Bhagavatam in order to deliver all living entities."
It was no accident, therefore, that the first hardbound book Srila Prabhupada labored to publish was an English translation of Srimad-Bhagavatam. The Bhagavatam the very book that Narada Muni had urged Vyasadeva to write to purify the fallen souls of this age became Srila Prabhupada's chief weapon to vanquish the wolflike evils of Kali-yuga.
In the Padma Purana Bhakti Devi tells Narada, idam sthanam parityajya videsam gamyate maya: "I will leave this place [Sri Vrndavana] and be carried to foreign lands." Srila Prabhupada wrote his translation and purports to the Bhagavatam in holy Vrndavana- dhama, the divine appearance place of Lord Krsna. Later, Srila Prabhupada took the books on the cargo ship Jaladuta and set sail for America.
Narada Muni compiled the Narada-pancaratra and the Narada Bhakti Sutras and gave pertinent instructions on devotional service in many other important Vaisnava books. Srila Prabhupada has commented that Narada-pancaratra "gives direction to the diseased men of the world how one's present engagement can lead to the path of spiritual emancipation." Thus both Sri Narada and Srila Prabhupada seek to uplift people of all backgrounds, progressively and systematically.
Without Narada Muni's contribution to the Vaisnava literary tradition, the highest Vedic conclusion, or siddhanta, would be far more obscure. And without Srila Prabhupada's books and their massive distribution all over the world, the loss to humanity would be great.
Spreaders of the Holy Name
Throughout the Puranas Narada Muni is seen traveling, playing his divine vina (a stringed instrument) and chanting the holy names of the Lord. Srila Prabhupada personally brought the holy names to New York, London, Russia, Africa, South America, and many other places, and he sent disciples to places he himself did not go.
Deliverers of the Fallen
Just as Narada Muni is famous for transforming a vicious hunter named Mrgari into a gentle devotee, Srila Prabhupada is famous for transforming degraded hippies into effulgent devotees. Just as Narada once tolerated the nakedness and intoxication of the brothers Nalakuvara and Manigriva to bless them with Krsna's audience, Srila Prabhupada tolerated naked hippies at Morning Star Ranch in California to give them Krsna consciousness. Just as Narada extended his mercy to a woman by giving shelter in his asrama to Kayadhu, the mother-to-be of the great devotee Prahlada Maharaja, Srila Prabhupada gave shelter to women in his asramas and accepted them as his disciples.
Through the Narada-pancaratra Narada provides guidance in Deity worship, especially for Kali-yuga, the present degraded age. Srila Prabhupada took inspiration from Narada's book when he started Deity worship in temples all over the world.
In the Padma Purana Sri Narada promises Bhakti Devi, "Hear my vow. If I do not preach your message, subdue all other religions, and make devotional festivals predominant, then I shall not be considered the servant of Lord Krsna." Srila Prabhupada held massive Rathayatra festivals in major cities of the world, giving the most fallen the chance to see Lord Krsna in His Deity form as Lord Jagannatha. Thus he helped Narada Muni fulfill his vow that devotional festivals would rule in Kali-yuga.
Srila Prabhupada established the Deities Sri Sri Rukmini-Dvarakadhisa (Radha-Krsna) in Los Angeles and set standards of Deity worship there for other temples to follow. As a result of Srila Prabhupada's devotion, beautiful Deities of the Lord now grace ISKCON temples all over the world.
Narada Muni, himself a renounced saint, is famous for encouraging many great kings and leaders to renounce their attachments and surrender to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Although Srila Prabhupada received millions of dollars and many opulent properties, he always kept the spirit of vairagya, detachment. He saw that everything belongs to Krsna, so he used everything in Krsna's service.
Narada Muni credited his advancement in Krsna consciousness to his faithful service to devotees. Similarly, Srila Prabhupada felt that whatever success he had attained in spreading Krsna consciousness had come directly from the mercy of his spiritual master. Srila Prabhupada once said that he had asked his spiritual master only one question: "How shall I serve you?"
More than Timing
Throughout the Puranas Narada Muni always seems to arrive at the perfect moment to deliver the perfect message to great souls at moments of doubt or distress.
Some might credit Srila Prabhupada's preaching success to the fact that he came to the West at a time when scores of young people were searching for alternatives to modern materialistic life. In Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta, however, Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami points out that Srila Prabhupada's amazing success was more than circumstantial:
It was not the advent of the jet plane, nor was it happenstance, nor luck, nor even a social or historical phenomenon that enabled Srila Prabhupada to spread Vedic culture from East to West and back again. No. It was the will of Krsna and the sincerity of His servant.
Sri Caitanya-caritamrta reveals how Narada Muni and Srila Prabhupada were able to spread Krsna consciousness krsna-sakti vina nahe tara pravartana: "Unless empowered by Krsna, one cannot propagate the sankirtana movement."
Narada's Intimate Servant
Srila Prabhupada was more than just an obscure or minor servant of Narada and the previous Vaisnava acaryas. By spreading the Hare Krsna maha-mantra all over the world; by seeing to the distribution of millions of books on Krsna in every major language; by inspiring the distribution of perhaps over a billion plates of Krsna-prasadam (food offered to Krsna); by holding devotional festivals such as Rathayatra in major cities of the world; and by transforming thousands of Kali-yuga debauchees into devotees of Krsna, Srila Prabhupada acted as the intimate servant of his spiritual master and Narada Muni.
On several occasions Srila Prabhupada indicated that Narada was pleased and attracted by the hearing and chanting about Krsna taking place in ISKCON. In 1966 the New York devotees rented an expensive auditorium near Carnegie Hall with hopes of attracting influential people, but only seven people showed up. When one of Srila Prabhupada's disciples apologized, mentioning that almost no one had come, Prabhupada raised his eyebrows and said, "No one? You did not see Narada?"
Sarvabhauma Dasa, a disciple of Tamal Krsna Goswami, was initiated in 1982. Based in Texas, he distributes Srila Prabhupada's books and organizes the spreading of Krsna consciousness at street fairs and on college campuses.