It has been more than forty years since I first met Śrīla Prabhupāda, in Paris, in the summer of 1972. From that first meeting to the present day and, I pray, for the remainder of this life, I have considered and will be considering myself his student or “disciple.” As such, I have been trying in my very limited ways to be of service to him and his mission of expanding the family of Krishna-bhaktas, to encourage others in their practice and deepening of their spiritual lives, and to develop “Krishna consciousness” in myself.
In the course of these years I have made occasional attempts to express in writing my thoughts about this amazing Vaiṣṇava whom so many of us came to love and indeed to worship. Of these writings, all that I have been able to gather together during a recent “spring cleaning” of my computer I present here, in hopes they may be of some inspiration for readers.
Perhaps unavoidably, there is an element of autobiography to this book. In addition to “My Memories of Śrīla Prabhupāda” and “A Question to His Divine Grace,” the several Vyāsa-pūjā offerings are, of course, my own expressions of how I wanted to both follow the established protocol of Vyāsa-pūjā offerings, as we had all learned from Prabhupāda, and to also express myself in an authentic, non-formulaic way. I wrote some of these offerings on behalf of a temple or project; others were “for myself.” (I believe I wrote more of these, in years between these provided, but alas, I have not been able to locate them).
In the three plays, I tried to highlight dramatic moments in Śrīla Prabhupāda’s life, based on information I obtained at the time from Satsvarūpa Dāsa Goswami’s Śrīla Prabhupāda Līlāmṛta. The last of these, “A Temple for Kṛṣṇa,” served as my term paper for a course (taught by a Vaiṣṇava scholar, Bharataśreṣṭha Dāsa) in Indian Kāvya at Graduate Theological Union, where I was completing an M.A. in the Study of Religion (1997-98).
The two “letters” to Śrīla Prabhupāda, written years after his departure from this world, were small attempts to express my thoughts at the moment, in a spirit of “giving account” of myself to my preceptor even in his apparent absence. “Challenging Statements” was commissioned by the BBT as part of its “Tough Ones” project to provide online contemporary explanations of “tough” (difficult) aspects of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s teachings or writings.
This collection ends with a small song that I wrote in Bengali, following the trīpadī meter of songs such as those by Narottama Dāsa Ṭhākura.
I pray that my readers may find some bits of inspiration and perhaps cause for reflection in this somewhat haphazard addition to the already considerable literature about Śrīla Prabhupāda. As the number of us who had any direct (however minimal) interaction with him is steadily dwindling, I thought it behooves me to add my small contribution to the record.
Perhaps the main theme of this book is gratitude – a quality or a virtue which one learns, if fortunate, over time, and from those who experience and display gratitude. Certainly I am grateful to Śrīla Prabhupāda for all that he has given me (and one feels that one is never grateful enough), grateful in the first instance for his revealing the centrality of gratitude in a Krishna-bhakta’s life, as he demonstrated in his own perpetual feeling of gratitude to his parents, his divine preceptor, the previous Vaiṣṇava Ācāryas, and Lord Krishna. And as the light of gratitude glows from my eternal preceptor, it flows further in my appreciation of all those persons who have helped me along the spiritual path all these years – including many godbrothers and godsisters, and also my own students in their sincere determination to pursue this spiritual path.