A revolution was taking place when Srila Prabhupada arrived in America in the sixties. Or at least some people thought of it that way. Young people were challenging the status quo in various areas of life. In some ways there was nothing new about young people rebelling. America’s post-war Baby Boomers were doing what the youth of generations before them had done – disagree with their parents. The Baby Boomers were just more serious about it, and they did in fact bring about significant changes in America and the rest of the world.
Still, although the sixties might have won some freedoms and opened some minds, today’s endless list of evils in the world raises doubts about the overall success of that decade.
The word revolution means an overthrow, but it also means a turning that takes a thing back to where it started, as in one revolution of the earth in twenty-four hours. Overall, after the sixties and all the clamor, the world ended up in the same place – predominantly a place where the default position is to believe in material solutions, whether social, political, economic, cultural, psychological, or technological. Whatever the sixties’ revolution gave us, its reliance on solutions drawn from these areas guaranteed failure in the quest to achieve truly meaningful change.
Another word associated with the sixties is radical. Radicals turned peaceful protests into violent ones to insure that “the Establishment” understood the seriousness of their demands. Some radicals proposed doing away with all positions of authority and turning to anarchy.
The word radical comes from the Latin word for root. A truly radical solution goes to the root of the problem. Sixties so-called radicals who promoted anarchy thought they were going as far as they could. Apparently they didn’t know that the only solution that gets to the root of all problems is the spiritual one.
Srila Prabhupada was the true radical revolutionary of the sixties. Accompanying him on his journey to America were two hundred sets of his three-volume translation, with commentary, of the First Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam – a book “full of transcendental words directed toward bringing about a revolution in the impious lives of this world’s misdirected civilization” (Bhagavatam 1.5.11). The millions of words generated during the sixties couldn’t bring about real change. But because the transcendental words of the Bhagavatam go to the root of the problem, it could. The lives of those who accepted its wisdom improved at the deepest level.
In the middle of the sixties – September 17, 1965 – Srila Prabhupada arrived in Boston on board the ship Jaladuta on his way to New York. While in port, he wrote a Bengali poem to Lord Krishna in which he prayed for His blessings to spread Krishna consciousness in America. The poem includes these lines: “The words of Srimad-Bhagavatam are Your incarnation, and if a sober person repeatedly receives it with submissive aural reception, then he will be able to understand Your message.”
Lord Krishna’s essential message, revealed in the Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, and other time-honored books of India, is that each of us is an eternal spiritual being with an unbreakable connection to Krishna, who is God Himself. Having forgotten that connection, we suffer endless problems, ignorant of the solution within easy reach. The glowworms of material solutions can never overcome abject darkness, but the sunlight of the revolutionary books Srila Prabhupada valiantly delivered can light up the world.
– Nagaraja Dasa