Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura's Meetings with Prominent Personalities
ŚRĪ MADANA-MOHANA MALAVIYA
Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda initiated the publishing of a spiritual daily newspaper named Dainika Nadīyā Prakāśa. My śikṣā-guru, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Pramoda Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja (then known as Śrī Prāṇavānanda Brahmacārī) was given the responsibility of editing the newspaper, in which transcendental and ever-fresh essays related to the spiritual world were published. It was from him that I heard about the following pastime of Śrīla Prabhupāda.
Once, Śrī Madana-mohana Malaviya, the founder of the world-famous Banaras Hindu University in Vārāṇasī, Uttar Pradesh, while speaking with Śrīla Prabhupāda at Śrī Gauḍīya Maṭha in Bāgbāzār, Kolkata, asked him with astonishment, “For how long will you be able to run this Dainika Nadīyā Prakāśa? From where will you obtain the great number of spiritual articles needed to keep it in print every day?”
Śrīla Prabhupāda replied, “Your astonishment pales in comparison to the astonishment I feel in seeing that you, a person regarded as foremost among the best scholars of India, is expressing wonder about these concerns. This material creation is merely the reflection of a quarter of the transcendental creation.
“Across the globe, countless newspapers are published every day in different languages, and this earth planet is only one part of the fourteen-fold planetary system, which belongs to just one of the innumerable brahmāṇḍas in the material creation. Therefore, why would you be astonished about the daily publishing of but one newspaper, the Dainika Nadīyā Prakāśa, which focuses on the transcendental spiritual world? In fact, we have enough transcendental content about the spiritual realm to publish numerous daily newspapers from now until forever.”
Because a scholar can very easily detect implied meanings, Śrī Madana-mohana Malaviya was extremely pleased to hear Śrīla Prabhupāda’s assertion that because the spiritual world is unlimited by nature, the reservoir of transcendental subject matters from which the paper could draw would be similarly unlimited.
Śrī Madana-mohana Malaviya inquired from Śrīla Prabhupāda, “We see in the Gauḍīya Maṭha that people of all varṇas and āśramas (social and spiritual orders) are being awarded dīkṣā. Men born in non-brāhmaṇa families are being awarded the upanayana thread reserved for brāhmaṇas, and all are rendering services to Bhagavān—such as arcana (Deity worship), cooking and studying scriptures—that are traditionally performed only by those born in brāhmaṇa families. There are also many other unconventional principles adopted here in the maṭha. Is this not a violation of varṇāśrama-dharma and the scriptural injunctions?”
Śrīla Prabhupāda replied, “Just as the soul and the body are related to each other, so too are bhagavad-prema (transcendental love for Bhagavān) and varṇāśrama-dharma connected. Although it is the soul and not this material body that is the main object of our attention, the body cannot be altogether neglected, especially in the conditioned stage of life. Similarly, although our foremost objective is to attain bhagavad-prema, it is not sensible to be completely indifferent toward varṇāśrama-dharma, especially while in the conditioned stage.
“It is daiva (divine) varṇāśrama-dharma that has been established in the scriptures, and not adaiva (worldly) varṇāśrama-dharma. The latter considers birth in a brāhmaṇa family to be the qualification for being a brāhmaṇa, irrespective of whether he possesses the qualities of a brāhmaṇa or engages in activities befitting one. To the contrary, in daiva-varṇāśrama-dharma, a person’s varṇa and āśrama are based on the qualities he exhibits and the activities in which he engages. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (7.11.35) states:
yasya yal lakṣaṇaṁ proktaṁ
yad anyatrāpi dṛśyeta
tat tenaiva vinirdiśet
A person should be considered to belong to the social order for which he possesses characteristics, even if he has appeared in a different caste.
“Also, Śrī Kṛṣṇa says in Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā (4.13):
cātur-varṇyaṁ mayā sṛṣṭaṁ
The fourfold system of social orders was created by Me according to the divisions of guṇa (quality) and karma (work).
“Both of the above verses endorse only the principles of daiva-varṇāśrama-dharma. It was purely due to their respective qualities and activities that out of Śrī Ṛṣabhadeva’s one hundred sons, eighty-one sons were known as ritualistic brāhmaṇas, nine sons were known as the kṣatriya proprietors of the nine islands, nine sons were known as practitioners of bhakti yoga, and one son, Śrī Bharata, was known as a mahā-bhāgavata, or a great, transcendental personality beyond the realm of the four varṇas and āśramas.”
After listening to Śrīla Prabhupāda’s deeply insightful views on daiva-varṇāśrama-dharma, Śrī Madana-mohana Malaviya sincerely accepted them in his heart and said, “The viewpoint of Śrī Gauḍīya Maṭha has opened my eyes. Though I too have studied Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā, I had never been acquainted with the wonderful revelations you have presented just now.”
Before departing, Śrī Madana-mohana Malaviya invited Śrīla Prabhupāda to visit Banaras Hindu University
When their preaching of Śrīman Mahāprabhu’s message brought them to Kāśi (Vārāṇasī), Śrīla Prabhupāda and his disciples were invited by the Vice Chancellor of Banaras Hindu University for a visit. Śrīla Prabhupāda accepted the invitation, and there he addressed a large gathering comprised of the University’s founder, management committee members, professors and students.
When Śrīla Prabhupāda finished his speech, the Vice Chancellor approached him and said, “I had difficulty following your address, and I am sure others also found your terminology quite perplexing. If you would have expressed your views in simpler language, it would have been easier for everyone to have followed them perfectly.”
Śrīla Prabhupāda replied, “It would better if you could advise the University’s students and faculty to elevate their own level of understanding. Why are you requesting me to lower the standard of my address? That we are even hearing about the difficulty the students and faculty of Banaras Hindu University had in comprehending the simplest teachings of the Vedic scriptures is disgraceful.”
Śrīla Prabhupāda’s ideology was so exalted that it was difficult for even the highly learned professors of Banaras Hindu University to properly understand it.
ŚRĪ RABINDRANATH TAGORE
During the time Śrīla Prabhupāda was considering sending a few of his disciples to foreign countries to spread the message of Śrīman Mahāprabhu, he met with Śrī Rabindranath Tagore, the world-renowned author and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, to inquire about his visit to the West to receive the Nobel Prize. Śrīla Prabhupāda enquired, “In your opinion, to which Western country should our Gauḍīya Maṭha preachers first be sent to spread the message of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu?”
Śrī Rabindranath Tagore replied, “None. It is unadvisable to send preachers to any western countries at this moment. Many unscrupulous people who earlier visited these places to preach Vedic dharma have tarnished the image of Indian saints. As a result, the people of the Western countries have lost faith in sādhus.”
After further discussion on the matter, Śrīla Prabhupāda briefly introduced him to the ideology of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, which is the doctrine of the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas. Śrī Rabindranath Tagore, being captivated and moved by Śrīla Prabhupāda’s presentation of Gauḍīya philosophy, said, “It is only if you yourself visit the Western countries that great success in preaching will be assured. Everybody will certainly greet you with honor.”
Śrīla Prabhupāda replied, “I will send persons who are just as qualified as me.”
During the conversation, while referring to pseudo Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas, Śrīla Prabhupāda used the term prakṛta-sahajiyā. Upon hearing this term, Śrī Rabindranath Tagore said, “I have never come across this term in my life; I have not seen this term anywhere in the dictionary.”
Śrīla Prabhupāda explained, “The word sahajiyā is a highly sacred term. It refers to those truly pure devotees of Śrī Kṛṣṇa whose hearts are filled with a spontaneous, unconditional love and affection for Him that does not depend on the statements of scriptures that glorify Him as Bhagavān. Examples of such exalted, eternally perfect devotees are the residents of Vraja, like Śrī Nanda, Śrī Yaśodā, Śrī Rādhārāṇī and others. Nowadays, many unqualified conditioned souls try to imitate the moods of these great, liberated personalities by deceitfully imposing such moods on their own character. Therefore, I use this word prakṛta-sahajiyā to refer to such persons, because nowadays, the prostitution of words, or the gross misrepresentation or concoction of the true meaning of words, to support one’s vested interests has become common practice. These days, the vast majority of people are incapable of understanding the actual imports of words, and so perversions of terminology often remain unchecked.”
The underlying message in this account is that the words of Śrīla Prabhupāda did not belong to this material world, but rather to the transcendental world. He often used terms that were unknown even to the most famous and admirable scholars of society.
ŚRĪ SUBHAS CHANDRA BOSE
My śikṣā-guru, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Śaraṇa Trivikrama Gosvāmī Mahārāja once related to me the account of when Śrī Subhas Chandra Bose, the famous freedom fighter of India, came to Śrī Gauḍīya Maṭha along with many distinguished personalities to meet Śrīla Prabhupāda Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura.
During their meeting, Śrī Subhas Chandra Bose told Śrīla Prabhupāda, “Having taken a vow to free our motherland from foreign rule, I have declared a slogan throughout the country: ‘Give me your blood and I promise you freedom.’ I have recently come to know that many young men have taken your shelter. Please entrust some of these men to me, so that they may fight for the freedom of this country.” In reply, Śrīla Prabhupāda asked him, “Have you read Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā?”
Śrī Subhas Chandra Bose replied, “Yes, I have.”
Śrīla Prabhupāda further inquired, “Do you remember this verse:
yaṁ yaṁ vāpi smaran bhāvaṁ
tyajaty ante kalevaram
taṁ tam evaiti kaunteya
Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā (8.6)
O son of Kuntī, without fail, a person attains the state of being he remembers at the time he gives up the body.
“Then you must definitely believe in reincarnation.”
“Of course I do,” Śrī Subhas Chandra Bose answered. “Which Hindu in this world does not believe in reincarnation?”
Śrīla Prabhupāda then asked him, “If incidentally you happen to die today and are born in England in your next life, will you continue to fight for India’s freedom, or will you fight to maintain dominance over India?”
Śrī Subhas Chandra Bose replied, “I understand your point, but we must certainly think about the freedom of our motherland.”
To this, Śrīla Prabhupāda said, “You are concerned merely for the temporary, worldly freedom and liberation of a few persons who at the moment happen to possess the material designation of being Indian. I, however, am concerned about the liberation of not only the whole human race, but of every living entity in this world from the bondage of this material world.”
Śrī Subhas Chandra Bose replied, “I have never heard anything like this before. Before meeting you, nobody had ever described to me such meaningful explanations of the teachings of the Gītā. But I fear I have come a bit too far in my struggle for freedom to look back.” Saying this, Śrī Subhas Chandra Bose left the maṭha without making any further requests for Śrīla Prabhupāda to provide him with men to fight for India’s independence.