Article by Upendranath Dasa
“REACH IN ENGLISH”: Base on Srila Prabhupada’s Lecture on Srila Bhakti-siddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada’s Appearance Day, Los Angeles February 7, 1969
Srila Prabhupada Meets His Spritual Maste & How I Met Srila Prabhupada
So, in Calcutta Guru Maharaja started in 1918. And, I think, in 1922, when I was young man, one of my friends, he took me to Guru Maharaja. That was my first meeting. And, of course, he was speaking to everyone, but he found me as something. So immediately after my meeting, he said this, that,
“Why don’t you preach this Caitanya’s cult in the Western countries?”
That is a memorable day. Of course, I did not know that I will have to do it.
I talked with him in so many ways:
“Who will hear your Caitanya’s message? We are dependent country.”
At that time, I was Gandhi’s devotee. In 1920 I gave up my educational career, and joined this Congress Movement. Because Gandhi’s program was to boycott the university education, and the British law court, so we took this opportunity and gave up education. You, see? (chuckles)
So, then Dr. Bose, he was my father’s friend. So, he asked,
“What this Abhaya is doing?”
And my sister told him,
“Oh, he has appeared in the B.A. examination, but he is not doing anything.”
So, Dr. Bose was my father’s friend. So, he appointed me the manager of his laboratory. I did not know anything; still, he appointed me. So that was in 1921. In 1920 I gave up my education. Of course, I was married in 1918, and I got my first child in 1921.
So, in 1922, when I saw my Guru Maharaja, and when I was convinced about his argument, and mode of presentation, I was so much struck with wonder. I could understand that,
“Here is the proper person who can give real religious idea.”
That I appreciated at that time. And at that time, I thought,
“This great personality is asking me to preach. I would have immediately joined, but now I am married. It will be injustice.”
(Comment: You can skip this if you so desire, it is your choice. Nevertheless, I am making this comment, to make sure you understand what Srila Prabhupada just said. Please believe me! I just want to make a convincing argument, that will back up the content of my comments, with “Evidence”. Evidence, which is defined by Sastra.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura wrote in Jaiva-dharma, Chapter 13, Pramana (Evidence) & Prameya (fundamental truths):
“In the first verse of Dasa-mula, the Vedas are accepted as the sole evidence (pramana); whereas the other pramanas, such as pratyaksa (direct perception), are accepted as evidence only when they follow the Vedas. However, philosophies such as nyaya and sankhya have accepted further types of evidence.
Well-versed readers of the Puranas have accepted eight types of pramana:
- Pratyaksa (direct perception),
- Aanumana (inference based on generalized experience),
- Upamana (analogy),
- Sabda (revealed knowledge),
- Aitihya (traditional instruction),
- Arthapatti (inference from circumstances),
- Sambhava (speculation),
- anupalabdhi (understanding something by its non-perception).
Why are there so many opinions regarding pramana?
If direct perception and inference based on experience are not counted among the perfect pramanas, how is it possible to get real understanding?
Kindly enlighten me.”
“Pratyaksa and other types of evidence depend on the senses, but since the senses of the conditioned jiva are always subject to bhrama (illusion), pramada (error), vipralipsa (cheating), and karanapatava (imperfection of the senses), how can the knowledge acquired through the senses be factual and faultless? T
he fully independent possessor of all potencies, Sri Bhagavan Himself, personally manifested as perfect Vedic knowledge within the pure hearts of great maharsis and saintly acaryas who were situated in full samadhi.
Therefore, the Vedas, which are the embodiment of svatah-siddha-jnana (self-manifest, pure knowledge) are always faultless and fully dependable as evidence.”
“Please help me to understand clearly each of the terms bhrama, pramada, vipralipsa and karanapatava.
Bhrama (illusion) is the baddha-jiva’s false impression of reality resulting from faulty knowledge gathered through imperfect senses. For example, in the desert, the rays of the sun sometimes produce a mirage, which creates the impression of water.
This fault of making errors and mistakes is called pramada. Since the material intelligence of the baddha jiva is by nature limited, mistakes are inevitably present in whatever siddhanta his limited intelligence discerns in relation to the unlimited para-tattva.
Vipralipsa is the cheating propensity. This is manifest when one, whose intelligence is limited by time and space, is suspicious and reluctant to believe in the activities and authority of Krishna, who is far beyond time and space.
Our senses are imperfect and ineffective, and this is known as karanapatava. Because of this, we cannot avoid making mistakes in everyday circumstances. For example, when we see an object suddenly, we may mistake it for something else and draw faulty conclusions.”
“Do pratyaksa and other pramanas have no value at all as evidence?”
“What means do we have to gain knowledge of this material sphere, except through direct perception and other pramanas? Nonetheless, they can never give knowledge about the spiritual world (cit-jagat), for they cannot enter into it. That is why the Vedas are certainly the one and only pramana for gaining knowledge about the cit-jagat. The evidence gained from pratyaksa and other pramanas is only worth considering when it follows the guidelines of the self-evident Vedic knowledge; otherwise, its evidence can be discarded.
That is why the self-evident Vedas are the only evidence.
Pratyaksa and other pramanas can also be accepted as evidence, but only if they are in pursuance of the Vedas.”
This reference from Jaiva-dharma, will be our guide, that will insure, that what I want to say, about what Srila Prabhupada just said, I need to say it and be able to back it up with evidence. As you will see, I may not have perfect evidence from the Vedas, but I will at least have evidence, that in pursuit of the Vedas; and that is considered “Evidence”.
In the following, I will be using “direct perception”, “inference based on generalized experience”, “analogy”, and “inference from circumstance”.
Srila Prabhupada speaks English with an Indian accent, which was caused by his education in India. I am talking about the kind of English, as spoken in the USA. Verses English as spoken by Indians. It simply is not the same at all levels.
Both of them use the same English alphabet, and basic grammar. Nevertheless, the English language is not rigid; it is fantastically very flexible. I have experience in transcribing work by an Indian Sanskrit scholar, educated in a USA University, and one of India’s most prestigious Universities, and his Sanskrit education was conducted at another prestigious Institute in Vrindavan. Nevertheless, this scholar, extremely more educated than myself, he simply spoke and wrote English differently than I. But because the intended audience of the book, is English, as spoken by the so-called Western Developed Nations of the West, editing was required. The content did not change, only the grammar, and style. If the intended audience was English speaking Indians, editing of the authors manuscript, would have been done by Indians.
It is evident, in Srila Prabhupada’s Purports, that such editing was done, The content did not change, the editors only removed the Indian Accent, so to speak, and made it sound like an USA accent.
One example: The word “the”, was not used often; only very little. So, I was inserting the word “the”, quite often, when I was transcribing, what was written on paper, into a MS Word Doc on a mini-lap-top computer. The book was being written by an Indian, but it was being edited, in the style that is familiar to the English-speaking public in the USA, and Europe.
In 1971, never in my life of 25 years, did I ever imagine what I was about to experience. I only had contact with devotees, back in 1968, after I returned from the Vietnam War. I met them on a sidewalk Sankirtana on Hollywood Blvd, in which I acted “demonically” towards the devotees. I was very offensive, used extremely foul language, to a young devotee who approached me. I screamed at him,
“Get the F*** out of face, you weird mother f*****”.”, crazy son of a b****.”
I was so hostile, and loud that it scared this young devotee, as he jumped back in fear. My wife pulled me back, and said,
“Stop that, these are actually very nice people.”
My other contact, was when I was a student at LACC, where I experienced a Sankirtana party of around 15 to 20 devotees, each and every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, in front of the Arch-Ways and steps, where after all classes are over for the day; at 3 pm; masses of students would pass under these Arches that lead to the parking lot. I experienced this Sankritan for a year and a half. At first, I just ignored them, and walked passed them. Eventually, I started to stop in front of them, and listen to the kirtana; and eventually, I started to sway back and forth, with the rhythm. However, when they approached me, I would walk away.
I transferred to UCLA, and on the first day of the first trimester, I met the devotees again; but this meeting was going to be special, and I did not know it.
In the Bhagavad-gita 7.16 4, Krishna says,
“O best among the Bharatas, four kinds of pious men begin to render devotional service unto Me—the distressed, the desire of wealth, the inquisitive, and he who is searching for knowledge of the Absolute.”
Though, I was born in a poor 90 percent Indigenes Indian (Yaqui-Aztec), Mexican Family; good fortune, was going to happen this particular week; and I had no clue as what was going to happen on my first day of University education, what to speak of later that week. Of course, this is all in-hind-sight; but it is my personal experience.
I was at the check out counter, of the UCLA book store, which was on the right side and first floor of this beautifully architectured library, overlooking a large area covered with grass, trees, and walkways in all directions; a place to just hang-out.
I noticed these two books at the check-out counter of the book store. One of the books, my wife had told me that this Krishna Book, her best friend and her, would take LSD, and read the stories for hours at a time. The other book, was very difference, one was in English with a title of KRSNA, and the other one Bhagavad-gita As It Is, had all some kind of strange script, all these ‘wiggly’ curves. I naturally became confused, and did not buy any of them.
As you walk out of the book store, you have to walk down, for about 20 feet, on a slopping sidewalk, that goes West. Then you have to turn “Right”, and you go down another sloping sidewalk, for about 90 feet.
Before I continue with this story, I have to tell you another story. I have to explain, my first ever encounter with the Holy Name, in this life time. Back in my child hood, in 1952 to 1954, there was TV serial adventure show, playing every week, by the name “Ramar of the Jungle.” They made a total of 52 episodes. There was about a doctor from the USA and his similar educated partner. His nick-name was “Ramar”, however, every time they would call his mane, it sounded like “Rama”.
At school the next day, my friends and I were saying, because he was kind of like a hero to us.
“Did you see Rama of the Jungle last night?”
“Yea, do you remember when Rama throws that spear, and it went so far, and it stuck on the bad guys back.”
“Yes, Rama is far-out.”
“I want to be like Rama.”
There were 2 kinds of episodes, those in Africa, and those in India.
In the India episodes, when Ramar needed wisdom to solve the problem he was trying to solve, he would go into the forest, and in a secluded place he would stop and wait for a while, the then suddenly, POOF! All where around him,
“A big round cloud, with light coming from the back of the cloud, and floating about 3 feet above the ground, appeared”
“Right in the middle of this cloud was a n old man with a long white beard, sitting cross legged, dressed in white with a turbine on his head.”
As this white cloud appeared, there was this music, that I have never ever heard. In hind-sight, I remember, a Vina, tabla, harmonium, and cartels; playing a soft melody.
I may have called out the Holy Name of “Rama”, I estimate at least, 52 episodes times 3 utterances of “Rama” for each episode, giving at total of aroud156 time?
When I lived in Vrindavan, my God Brother Mahanidhi Swami, told me he had the same experience.
Now we can get back to the story of my first day of my UCLA education.
The only way I can say this, is to exactly repeat my experience.
As I started to exit the book store entrance, I started to hear this music as I have described, that I heard back in the 1950’s. The sound, sounded like it was coming from my right, so I walked down the first side walk, could only then turn right and I headed to main walkway which was, like I said, about 90 feet away.
As I walked down that side walk, I was very peacefully, listening to the soothing music, with my ears; while at the same time wonder who was playing this music.
So, when I reached the large walk way, I now I would have to look left or right to see where this music was coming from; for it was definitely not coming from in front of me.
I get to the “T” intersection, I turn my head and looked to my Left, in the Western direction, and it was obvious that the music was not coming from that direction. So, I in my mind, I thought that I would surely see who is playing that music, when I would turn my head to the Right,
I twisted my head to the Right, AND THE MUSIC STOP.
I did not hear any music what so ever, all I could see up the walk way, about 150 feet in the distance, were 2 devotees, standing underneath a big tree, and they were talking to this one student. There was also a few other students, who were looking and listening to the conversation.
I wanted to know who and what these two devotees, dressed in robes are. So, I approached this one devotee, I asked him for his name, and he said it was “Madhukantha Dasa”. So, I said to him,
“I just heard some music, where you playing this music some how on portable tape player?”, and he said “No”. I then said,
“I just heard that older gentleman, talking to a Christian, and I determined that your associate was talking about ‘God’.”
“Anyways, at the Book Store, I noticed one of your books was in English, and the other one was in English too, but had a script of some language I have never seen before. So, which of these books, should I buy, so that I can read and understand who you people are”
He then replied,
“No! leaves those two books there for someone else. Here is a card, inviting you to our Sunday Feast; and here is our address, where you can come any time, and purchase the books, at our book store that contains other books, and thing. Go buy a book there, and if you come, at 7 am, there is a lecture you can hear.”
So, I said I would come, on Tuesday or Thursday, when I do not have classes. So, one day I went, and when I arrived, I looked for Madhukantha, and when I found him, he then introduced me to this one young devotee, who introduced himself as “Rameswara”. He was then a bramachari, before he became a “Go-dasa”. Madhukantha told him that I wanted to buy some books. That caused this bramachari, to express a lot of enthusiasm, chanting “Jai”, “Hari-bol”, as he pulled out his key chain, and opened the door to the book-store. He convinced me to buy several books. I walked out, clutching to my chest, the Bhagavad-gita, the two big Krishna Books, the Teachings of Lord Caitanya, and Nectar of Devotion, 3 packs of Incense, and 2 posters, which were rolled up nice and tight with rubber bands.
He had no bags to put all this stuff in, so I had to clutch everything close to my chest, tight and nicely organized, so that I could walk back to my car that was parked on the curb in front of the Temple.
As I was leaving, this young lady, passed by, and noticed that I was leaving, and she said,
“Prabhu! The class is in the Temple Room over there.”
I then thought,
“Oh yes, that devotee, told me there would be a lecture, so let me go hear this lecture and I will find out what these people are all about.”
So, I proceed to the Temple room, which was behind two sets of double doors, separated by a small room, that on the left there was a door, and on the right, a bathroom (I did not know then), and a narrow hall way.
Be hind the double door leading into the Temple (which I did not know anything about any kind of temple in Los Angeles): I was hearing drums, cymbals and singing, and as I approached the doors, the music stopped, and I could then hear loudly, “Jai”. “Jai”, and “Jai” over and over, every 3 or so seconds.
In Bhagavad-gita 7.16 Lord Krishna says,
“O best among the Bharatas, four kinds of pious men begin to render devotional service unto Me—the distressed, the desire of wealth, the inquisitive, and he who is searching for knowledge of the Absolute.”
I was not in need of wealth, nonetheless becoming wealthy, I could go with that.
But the other 3 kinds of human conditions were certainly there. Moreover, at the time “the distressed” was a big-time situation for me. My wife, had left me, and went away, to live with her lover, in the mountains of Northern California, where he had a Cannabis Farm. So, you might say, this circumstance, was what is called the “kicker”; an unexpected and often unpleasant discovery or turn of events. I had been suffering this experience so much, that many nights before, I would wake up, and cry, and beat on my bed, shouting out,
“Why God! Why is this happening to me! Why God, Why!”
And in front of the bed, pinned to the door of the bedroom, was a poster of this man with folded hands, praying to a little boy, and this cow pouring milk on the head of this bluish colored boy. Of course, at that time, I did not know anything about this poster that my wife had put on the bedroom door.
Previously, I asked her who these persons on the poster are. She told me, that she did not know, and had bought it in a head-shop on Hollywood Blvd. At that time, I did not know why I replied the way I did, but I said to her,
“Oh! That man looks like a king, and that little boy, well I think he is an Alien from outer space, and He controls this Planet Earth.”
All that history as I have explained, brought me to the point in time, when I push the doors open, and what I saw with my eyes, kind of shocked me.
My right eye, could see this old man, sitting on a lounge seat, that was on a raised platform made of marble, and he was murmuring some phrases, in a language I have never heard before.
My left eye, had a vision that caused me to feel “fear”; it was the face of Lord Jaganath, and His big round Eyes.
I am not shy, to say that my mind said at that moment “WTF”.
Right there and then, I actually, thought that I was about to enter an Alien Space Ship. So, I looked around and down at the door jams, like you can do when you board an airplane, and was satisfied, that they were real, so I then looked and stared at that old man to my right. And as I gazed at him, wondering, who is this old man? Srila Prabhupada, turned and looked at me, and with the forefinger of his right hand, he motioned to me, to come and sit in front of him. So, I walked around, devotees who were chanting something softly, as they were prostrated in front of this old man. I did not even know he was an Indian from India. I made my way up to the front of this old man, and I sat down.
I Looked at him very attentively, and listened to each and every word, that he spoke in English. Eventfully, the lecture finished, and as I was walking out the double doors, this devotee with a white robe, (later on I understood this devotee what the biggest book distributer they had), came up to me and said,
“So, what did you think about the lecture; it was so much nectar, right!”
Not wanting to show my ignorance, I said a lie,
“Oh Yes, that was a great lecture, really interesting, I hope to hear more.”
However, my mind said something else,
“Hey, I did not understand any thing he said, because of his accent, I could not understand the English words he used, that were mixed with some other language, which confused me even more. I did not understand what he was talking about at all; his English with his Indian accent made it sound, at least to me, like a foreign language.”
This devotee, then invites me upstairs to have breakfast with the devotees.
It was early in the morning, I had gotten up at 5 am to drive across Los Angeles from the northern suburb, called La Canada Flintridge. And I was really, hungry; so, my mind said,
Hence, I when up to that room and sat down, and had a wonderful breakfast, at which I ate for the first time in my life a substance they called “Yogurt”. I found it wonderful, and the cream of wheat was so sweet, along with a banana, an apple, and an orange.
After breakfast, It was like all the devotees disappeared as they finished their breakfast. Therefore, I proceeded to the front of this big building with tall fat round pillars, with several step-in front. I sat down, and I started to read the English Introduction to Bhagavad-gita, which was written by this old man, I just heard speak in English, and I could not get past his accent.
But that English, I read in the Introduction, made me understand what these people were all about, and I also could understand, that this is what I have been searching for.
Hence, I believe, that a study, of this lecture Srila Prabhupada once gave, has a very significant aspect.
Srila Prabhupada spoke the English language, the way that he was taught English, in the schools that he went to, and the college he went to also. The education Srila Prabhupada had was the best India had at that time; and we can actually thank the British Ruler, who was Queen Victoria. India was the Jewel of the British Empire. She made it possible, for Srila Prabhupada to learn the English language.
Srila Prabhupada stated two reasons that caused him to be convinced about Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada being a genuine sadhu:
(1) His argument,
(2) The mode of presentation.
Then he said,
“he was so much struck with wonder”.
What is important is that Srila Prabhupada is emphasizing, his guru’s “mode of presentation”, which will be explained later.
END OF COMMENT)
Of course, I thought like that, in that way. Of course, Guru Maharaja did not say anything, that,
“You give up your family life.”
No, never said. He simply gave the idea. So, I thought that,
“It would have been better if I was not married.”