Quo Vadis: Where do we come from?

Manidhara Das
11 Aug 2023

When asked what he was before becoming the leader of the Hare Krsna movement, Srila Prabhupada offered various answers, depending on the person asking. To give an example of a humble preacher, he once said: "A fool. I was a fool, and the proof is that I now have this material body." In more intimate circles, he answered: "I was a medical man who was very pious but who killed snakes to extract poison for medical purposes from them."

We all know that regardless of the circumstances in which Srila Prabhupada appeared, he was an eternally liberated soul, a saktyavesh avatar, a specifically empowered soul to bring conditioned souls to Krsna Consciousness. He proved it by his actions.
Srila Prabhupada did command authority; being a bona fide representative of Krsna's legacy, he didn't demand authority. He wasn't institutionally established and even started for preaching purposes an institution called ISKCON; he always remained a person and not a "symbol" or "idealised figure". Conditioned souls like to keep things impersonal, as it makes them feel unresponsible. The more one understands to be a person, the more one feels the weight of responsibility one has towards others.

Srila Prabhupada once said: „You should never forget where you came from".
This can be understood in two ways. We should never forget that originally we were part of the Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but what Srila Prabhupada also meant was that we should never forget the fallen background we came from or the desastrous condition Srila Prabhupada saved us from. With growing maturity, this understanding is expected to only increase, not decrease. But once again, the conditioned soul is not willing to investigate into the past of those it is dominated by or those it came to worship or follow.

It is only amazing how blindly and eagerly foolishly the conditioned soul lines up with others to become cheated over and over again. It so quickly accepts the momentum without investigating the past. But it is the past that often forms the presence and the karmic imprint we acquired in this and last life prior to joining Krsna Consciosuness. This „mark of the past" is visibly readable for those who want to see it.

Srila Prabhupada came to the West and started his movement in an environment that was totally contradictory to the culture he represented. Placing himself amongst filthy-smelling, confused, and above all intoxicated hippies, he saw only one quality they had in common: they were on the move, searching for new alternatives for conducting their lives. It is this quality that is absolutely essential for spiritual beginners, and it was this quality that Srila Prabhupada valued most. Even though his preaching included everybody, only those who were ready to reject what they were indoctrinated with reaped the result of his message. After all, understanding that we are not this body puts in question whatever we heard and followed in terms of material society, which is entirely bodily-oriented.

These most fortunate souls, even though they were LIFELONG dammaged by LSD and other destructive drugs, were saved by Srila Prabhupadas amazing mercy upon them.
The more they advanced in Krsna consciousness, the more they understood how amazing the process of Krsna Consciousness is and how impossible it is to follow it without the mercy of a spiritual master. The bond of gratitude and true love between them and Srila Prabhupada was the only link towards Krsna they had, as Krsna never accepts service from the conditioned soul directly but induces it to seek authorised guidance in spiritual life instead.

We learned from Srila Prabhupada that life comes from life. But where do all those who claim to be devotees come from? We should never forget that, without Srila Prabhupada's mercy, we would still be forced to follow the karmic pattern we got locked into due to our past deeds. Even now, still operating from our body, the nature of this body in terms of varna and asrama is visible, and there is no need to deny it; we should purify it by dint of devotional service, as we were told by Srila Prabhupada.

But we should never forget that this very same body was once upon a time the vehicle we emerged from to live a more or less sinful life. The body is still here, and we didn't forget the sinful past we had before becoming connected to Krsna consciousness either. Without dwelling on it, we shouldn't forget that past.

There is no offence in investigating the past of those who came to guide us in Krsna Consciousness; there is no offence in knowing where things and persons come from. An honest preacher will never have a problem with that; rather, he welcomes this opportunity to compare his past prior to meeting his spiritual master to the present state, where he is the benefactor of the blessings of the spiritual master and herewith a bona fide representative of his. He rejoices to see the power of his guru, who changed his life. We are only as good as we follow Srila Prabhupada. To the degree we follow karma and our bodily habits, we can be called „bad".

Kama misra bhakti is a state of not completely purified existence where sometimes the pattern of the past becomes visible, and sometimes the wonderful credit we got from Srila Prabhupada becomes visible. We should learn from the sastra to see the difference, and we should not accept things blindly. There is no room for personal cultism in real Krsna Consciousness; everything is based on information from sastra, sadhu, and guru, who is representing sastra and sadhu, meaning foremost the members of guru parampara.

In such an open and honest mood, we can only command the faith of others and not demand it. Of course, MOST conditioned souls desire to be cheated. That is proven throughout the history of mankind, where over and over masses of fools were exited by a man or woman who had seemingly no past, coming like out of nowhere, presenting himself as „the chosen one" without explaining who actually made the choice. Over and over, people vote for the leaders of the lowest quality, only to reject them later, only to be cheated again. We don't have to repeat this same process in Krsna Consciousness; we should investigate where the „authority" comes from and HOW HE IS LIVING now. Many nice and learned words can be said, even by a cheater.
It is his lifestyle that may offer us a hint as to whether he is worthy of our trust or not. How does he maintain his body? How is he serving others? Yes, a preacher means a servant, not a master. It was the overwhelming service of Srila Prabhupada to us that compelled our service to him. As the bond of mutual grattitude increased, so did the power Srila Prabhupada invested in us to preach and turn others towards Krsna Consciousness. In this way, Krsna Consciousness spread.

We should not trust men whose past is covered in mystery and who are not willing to offer clear information about their past. We all have the past, and even if it was the past, it is part of our present lives and the lives of the bodies we lived in before this one.
We should never forget in what amazing way we were saved from our past, which would, under karmic law, form our presence and our future. Srila Prabhupada changed all that, and even though there may be some remnants of the past we may be confronted with, we should fully embrace the presence and future Srila Prabhupada gave us—the presence and future in Krsna Consciousness.

All glories to Srila Prabhupada!