An appreciation of Srila Prabhupada as a pure representative of Srila Rupa Gosvami.
By Rukmini Vallabha Dasa
Under the guidance of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Srila Rupa Gosvami set the standards for practicing Krishna consciousness, which Srila Prabhupada perfectly taught and exemplified.

To strive and thrive in every walk of life, we need role models. We need them in bhakti because the process is subtle and sublime, the progress is gradual, and the process is obscure among the masses. We need someone to show us the way and push us ahead on the journey to Krishna. The teachings of Srila Rupa Gosvami form the foundation of the philosophy and practices of our Gaudiya Vaishnavism. Let us discuss and reminisce about how Srila Prabhupada embodied and exemplified these precious and pertinent precepts of Rupa Gosvami for practitioners of bhakti-yoga in the modern age.

It is not difficult for us to acquire knowledge of the path of bhakti, but it is difficult to acquire the right intentions, inspiration, intelligence, and intensity to put that knowledge into practice and pursue it throughout our lives. The process of bhakti is considerably foreign to most people today. It is based on a culture and age-old practices that have become greatly obscure. It centers on God, Krishna, whom many consider abstract, surreal, or sensuous. Let us discuss how Srila Prabhupada meticulously overcame these obstacles and made Krishna consciousness accessible and relatable for us.

Srila Prabhupada: Our Much-needed Role Model

Srila Prabhupada presented to us the process of Krishna consciousness in an attractive and appealing way through such means as music and dance, food, drama, festivals, and wisdom. These are naturally attractive and easily approachable for us. Srila Prabhupada offered us a multitude of engagements – cooking, painting, publishing, management, public speaking, singing, and many outreach activities. He made sure everyone was encouraged, appreciated, and filled with a sense of contributing to his Krishna consciousness society.

Srila Prabhupada presented Krishna as the most attractive manifestation of the Absolute Truth. He says in The Science of Self-Realization, “The name Krishna means ‘all-attractive.’ God attracts everyone; that is the definition of God.” He presented Krishna to us as a compassionate God, a loving God, and a caring God. He expertly addressed all the prevalent misconceptions about Krishna. He educated his students on how to remain connected to Krishna all the time through worship, service, and remembrance. He cleared the doubts of his students through his books, lectures, morning walks, conversations, and letters. Above all, Srila Prabhupada himself practiced what he taught, thus radiating relentless conviction and confidence.

Srila Prabhupada lived a life of intense devotion and service. He worked tirelessly and selflessly – writing books, speaking about Krishna, managing a worldwide organization, and guiding his novice students in all aspects of Krishna consciousness. He performed great sacrifices, forgoing physical comfort, minimizing sleep. Despite all this, he remained modest, attributing his success and achievements to Krishna, his spiritual preceptor, and his students. He naturally and constantly exhibited all the traits of a pure and perfect devotee of Krishna. He always walked the talk. He provided us inspiration, education, guidance, and example. He trained students and established a spiritual movement to carry on his love and legacy for us in the future. He lived true to the words with which he closed his letters: “Your ever well-wisher.”

The prime preceptor in the disciplic line of Gaudiya Vaishnavas is Srila Rupa Gosvami, a chief disciple of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, from whom he received the knowledge of the abhidheya (practice) component of devotional service. This knowledge helps us understand the process, practice, and behavior required in devotional service. Based on this knowledge, he compiled two fundamental textbooks for the bhakti practitioners in the line of Gaudiya Vaishnavism: Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu and Upadeshamrita.

After Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s departure from this world, Rupa Gosvami took the responsibility of leading the Gaudiya Vaishnavas. In his original spiritual form, he is Rupa Manjari, the foremost maidservant of Srimati Radharani in Goloka Vrindavana, Lord Krishna’s abode in the spiritual world. Our ultimate aspiration as Gaudiya Vaishnavas is to attain the position of assistants to Rupa Manjari. Thus Srila Rupa Gosvami plays a vital role in connecting us with Radha and Krishna.

The way to earn the grace of Rupa Gosvami is to follow his teachings, which are of prime importance to every Gaudiya Vaishnava. In the preface to his Nectar of Instruction, Srila Prabhupada writes, “The Krishna consciousness movement is conducted under the supervision of Srila Rupa Gosvami.” Srila Prabhupada’s residence in Vrindavan on the premises of the samadhi tomb of Srila Rupa Gosvami attests to his deep mood as a Rupanuga, a loyal follower of Rupa Gosvami.

Let us now discuss how Srila Prabhupada expertly demonstrated to us the way to understand and apply Srila Rupa Gosvami’s teachings in our practice and outreach.

Srila Prabhupada: The Rupanuga Within

One of the most important contributions of Srila Rupa Gosvami is his book Upadeshamrita, a set of eleven concise but crucial instructions for all of us on the path of bhakti-yoga. They educate us on how to develop detachment, spiritual vision, and devotional absorption. Srila Prabhupada painstakingly translated this book into English as The Nectar of Instruction, along with detailed commentary (online at He diligently practiced and demonstrated the detachment described in the first three verses by never accumulating anything for selfish ends and engaging all his wealth, knowledge, and resources in spreading Krishna consciousness. With great regulation and caution, he accumulated only for devotional purposes. He educated us in principles of “simple living and high thinking,” teaching a life of regulation and austerity conducive to our devotional service. He always glorified Krishna and devotional service to Him, never indulging in any type of prajalpa, or frivolous talk. He provided us with a vast amount of bhakti literature to help us desist from useless talk and dovetail our talking propensity in glorifying Krishna and presenting Krishna consciousness to others.

Srila Prabhupada provided us the association of devotees, a lifeline for our Krishna consciousness. He exposed to us the different types of wrong association prevalent in society that can distract us, deviate us, and degrade us.

The proper spiritual outlook is vital for us while practicing and teaching bhakti-yoga. Srila Rupa Gosvami explains various aspects of spiritual outlook in verses four through six of Upadeshamrita. Srila Prabhupada patiently and persistently fanned the spiritual spark in his students and encouraged them in all possible ways. Many had experimented with psychedelic “spirituality” before taking to Krishna consciousness, had been exposed to new-age philosophies and speculations, and had weird conceptions of spirituality and God. Srila Prabhupada patiently answered their sometimes strange questions and carefully and candidly corrected their misconceptions. He unconditionally loved his students, seeing them as lost children of Krishna and as devotees sent by his spiritual master to help him in his service. He systematically and progressively trained them in the right behavior, conduct, and culture.

When Srila Prabhupada’s students fell from the purity standards or committed blunders in administration and resource management, without condemning them he encouraged them to practice Krishna consciousness with more determination and diligence. With affection, Srila Prabhupada often referred to his students in terms such as “you intelligent American and European boys and girls.” In this way he always maintained a spiritual outlook. And he trained his leading disciples to carry forward his same mood of devotee care and compassion.

Whenever Srila Prabhupada met his godbrothers, he had deep devotional interactions filled with the six loving exchanges described in the fourth verse of Upadeshamrita. He was always eager to discuss Krishna consciousness with them, serve them, and take their help in spreading Krishna consciousness. He instituted a culture of respect and Vaishnava etiquette in his International Society for Krishna Consciousness, always encouraging us to have good loving relationships with one another. He urged us to cooperate to carry forward his mission.

The nine processes of devotional service, starting with hearing, chanting, and remembering, form the core of our devotional service. Absorption in these processes is the yardstick of our spiritual advancement. Srila Rupa Gosvami explains the means to attain such absorption in verses seven and eight of Upadeshamrita. Srila Prabhupada, in almost every lecture, letter, and purport, stresses the importance of chanting the holy name with attention and determination. He instructed his leaders that their foremost duty is to ensure that every devotee follows the four regulative principles and chants sixteen rounds daily. He wrote, “The Governing Body Commission’s duty is therefore to see that every member is following the rules and regulations and chanting sixteen rounds regularly on the beads.” (Letter, August 25, 1970) He emphasized that purity is the key and that the means to purity is chanting. He taught us by example the glory of hearing about Krishna. For instance, we learned from his diary that he relished reading Chaitanya-charitamrita during his thirty-seven-day journey to America aboard the Jaladuta. He took his students on annual pilgrimages to Vrindavan and Mayapur so that they could develop an aspiration for the spontaneous devotion of these holy sites, following the mood of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. For the same reason, Srila Prabhupada paused his translation of Srimad-Bhagavatam in 1969 and gave us the book Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Thus we have discussed how Srila Prabhupada exemplified following the instructions of Srila Rupa Gosvami in Upadeshamrita. Now let us discuss how he expertly applied the principles given by Srila Rupa Gosvami in his outreach.

Srila Prabhupada: The Rupanuga Reaching Out

Srila Rupa Gosvami gives an important key to effective relationships in the fourth verse of Upadeshamrita: the six kinds of loving exchanges. People in different modes of nature value different things. For example, people in the mode of ignorance are attracted to gross sensuality. They primarily value gross objects of sense gratification like food, music, and fragrance, so they feel valued when devotees offer them prasadam, kirtana, and incense. Most of the initial students of Srila Prabhupada were from the sixties counterculture. He attracted them through sumptuous prasadam and melodious kirtanas.

People in the mode of passion are attracted to the subtle pleasures of prestige, power, and fame. When devotees offer them gifts and honor, they feel valued, and they reciprocate through monetary contributions and other kinds of help. Srila Prabhupada applied this principle in dealing with life members and other well-wishers. He expertly inspired them and encouraged them to offer donations.

People in the mode of goodness value knowledge and wisdom. If they are given the opportunity for a discussion and sense that they are being heard, they feel valued. Srila Prabhupada expertly engaged scientists and scholars in interesting discussions, arousing their appreciation for and interest in the philosophy and process of Krishna consciousness. In that way, in his outreach he expertly applied the principle of loving exchanges given by Srila Rupa Gosvami and achieved phenomenal success. The success of our Hare Krishna movement today is largely due to this legacy and strategy we consciously or unconsciously inherited from Srila Prabhupada.

Srila Rupa Gosvami used the rasa theory from Bharata Muni’s Natya-shastra to explain the nuances of Krishna’s pastimes with His devotees. The rasa theory was famous in Indian art and drama. By using rasa theory, Rupa Gosvami made Krishna’s pastimes more relatable to and approachable by the intelligentsia of his times. In the same way, Srila Prabhupada used several popular means to present Krishna consciousness in a relatable and accessible form. When space exploration was considered the prime achievement of science and technology, Srila Prabhupada published the book Easy Journey to Other Planets. This book presents the philosophy of Krishna consciousness through interesting and relevant concepts like interplanetary travel and matter and anti-matter. Srila Prabhupada also used the popular event of the moon landing to present Vedic cosmology and the philosophy of Krishna consciousness. He often explained philosophy through simple and practical analogies. This made the philosophy relatable and relevant. This principle given by Srila Prabhupada is the foundation and driving force behind our upcoming Temple of the Vedic Planetarium in Mayapur and the many eco-farms and eco-villages across our Hare Krishna movement.

Srila Rupa Gosvami introduces the concept of yukta-vairagya (engaged renunciation) in his magnum opus Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu. He defines real renunciation as using everything possible in Krishna’s service, with detachment. He condemns rejecting the world based on a material consideration, where one is ignorant of its potential utility in Krishna’s service. He engaged everything of the world in Krishna’s service, from the dictaphone to the airplane, from the printing press for printing books to the flatbed truck for Rathayatra. He writes in his purport to The Nectar of Instruction, text three, “Thus the devotee can understand that since nothing is independent of Krishna’s energy, everything should be dovetailed in His service.” He used whatever was favorable for spreading Krishna consciousness. When Krishna consciousness was presented with an integration of the traditional with the modern – such as prasadam prepared for modern tastes – the presentation was appealing and relevant. His use of modern transport, technology, and communication made his outreach effective and efficient and helped people easily adopt the Vaishnava way of life. If people had to give up their studies, professions, and gadgets to be Krishna conscious, most would not take to the process of Krishna consciousness. While engaging the things of this world in Krishna’s service, Srila Prabhupada always stressed internal purity, obtained through chanting the holy name and following the four regulative principles.

In this way we see that Srila Prabhupada deeply imbibed the mood of Srila Rupa Gosvami and in his own outreach expertly implemented the principles and techniques given by Srila Rupa Gosvami. Srila Prabhupada made it easy for us to learn and live the life of a Rupanuga, the only way to attain the grace of Lord Chaitanya, by whose mercy alone we can attain the shelter of the lotus feet of the divine couple, Radha and Krishna.

Rukmini Vallabha Dasa, a disciple of His Holiness Radhanath Swami, began practicing Krishna consciouness in 2010 and serves full time at ISKCON Pune. He is a research student at Bhaktivedanta Research Center (Mumbai) and blogs at