When Srila Prabhupada’s disciple Mahamaya Devi Dasi published her memoirs about her spiritual master in the year 2000, she titled the book Srila Prabhupada Is Coming! The exclamation point aptly captures the devotees’ mood whenever Prabhupada visited any of the temples his disciples were opening around the world under his direction. Srila Prabhupada was the exalted devotee of God who had inspired us to change our (often quite decadent) lives and steadfastly pursue the highest spiritual goals. We knew that seeing Lord Krishna’s pure representative was a gift rarely received even after millions of births in the material world. And, of course, we loved Srila Prabhupada for his charm, wit, grace, power, knowledge, gravity – and the host of other divine qualities he embodied in his unique style as the exemplar of what we were striving for.
Srila Prabhupada knew that his disciples, most of them young in age and in spiritual life, faced many challenges in sticking to the spiritual practices he prescribed and in trying to give Krishna consciousness to others. Therefore, despite the obvious sacrifices required, in his old age he traveled constantly to encourage and inspire his disciples.
While the benefits of a visit from Srila Prabhupada are undeniable, we should understand Prabhupada’s teachings regarding spiritual contact. From the earliest days of the Hare Krishna movement, he taught his disciples about the absolute nature of spiritual association. For example, he wrote in a 1967 letter, “Never think that I am absent from you. Physical presence is not essential; therefore presence by message (or hearing) is real touch. Lord Krishna is present by His message, which was delivered 5,000 years ago.”
A profound implication of this point is that Srila Prabhupada is fully present in his teachings. The challenge for us is to realize that truth. In principle, our enthusiasm to associate with him through his teachings – readily available through various media – can be as spontaneous as it was for his disciples about to receive a rare visit from him.
As Prabhupada points out in the letter I cited, Lord Krishna is also present in His teachings. That means we can have His company whenever we want it. Krishna is also present in His holy names. When we chant Hare Krishna, we are in the company of Radha and Krishna. As forgetful souls, we need to repeatedly remind ourselves of that reality. Whenever we read Prabhupada’s books or chant the holy names, we can think, “Krishna is coming! I’m going to spend some time with Radha and Krishna and Prabhupada and so many other residents of the spiritual world. How exciting! How fortunate I am!”
Ideally, because we can chant Hare Krishna anytime, anywhere, in our minds if not out loud, we can always be aware that Krishna is right there with us. But our busy lives distract us from that awareness. Therefore, we need to dedicate time every day to nurturing it.
We conditioned souls in the early stages of Krishna consciousness struggle against the power of the material energy. But the struggle gets much easier when one is inspired. So, whether we’re entering the temple or the sacred space we’ve created in our home, we can remind ourselves that the same fountain of inspiration Prabhupada brought to his disciples around the world is still available to us in the abundant spiritual resources he left behind.