In honor of Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance day on Sunday, November 7, 2021.
~by Rukmini Walker
Srila Prabhupada as Vijita-Sad-Guna
One Who Completely Controls the Six Bad Qualities
Srila Prabhupada in his pastimes and dealings with every strata of person in the many cultures he visited, exhibited the most exemplary divine qualities. His life was fully engaged in the service of his beloved Lord Sri Krsna. Sometimes though, his dealings were also misunderstood.
The six bad qualities are described as: lust (kama), anger (krodha), greed (lobha), illusion (moha), madness (mada), and envy (matsarya).
The process of bhakti, as taught by Srila Prabhupada, and those great teachers who came before him in disciplic succession, is the process of transforming lust into love. Iron and gold are both metals, but iron is a base metal, whereas gold is precious, a noble metal.
The transformative practice of bhakti is a mystical alchemical process. By redirecting our base iron-like desires to gratify our own senses by seeking to please the senses of Krsna, those same material senses become uplifted and sanctified as spiritual senses.
Krsna, Who is known as Hrishikesh, is the actual Lord and owner of our senses. By redirecting our intentions and our actions, we can gradually transform our lust into pure love, as the mystics sought to turn iron into gold.
How did Srila Prabhupada exhibit this alchemical transformation? Once he was asked if he could show some miracle. He responded by gesturing toward his Western disciples who were sitting in the room near him. He said, “These are my miracles!”
He explained that our hearts, our actions, and the goals of our lives had been transformed from material addictions and pursuits (lust, or kama) to the goal of trying to love and please Krsna (love, or prema). By his association, by hearing from, and serving such a rare and pure devotee of the Lord, the desires of our hearts were mystically being transformed from iron into gold, from lust into love.
Regarding anger, Hanuman, the perfect exemplar of service to Lord Sri Ram, perfectly deployed his anger in service to his beloved Lord. Hanuman lit the entire city of Lanka on fire in order to chastise the evil king Ravana for abducting Sita Devi, the divine consort and wife of Lord Sri Rama.
On the Battlefield of Kurukshetra, Lord Sri Krsna spoke the seven hundred verses of Bhagavad Gita to incite his dear friend, Arjuna, to fight. Arjuna used his anger against those who were inimical to the divine plan of the Lord, that the righteous Yudhisthira be enthroned as king.
Srila Prabhupada also occasionally exhibited the righteous use of anger. That is, anger engaged in the service of the Lord. Often this was misunderstood.
During the time before Partition, when Gandhi was working for India’s independence from British rule, he regularly held prayer meetings in the evenings. A popular Hindi bhajan called, Vaisnava Janatho was often sung to close those meetings. After the assassination of Gandhi, this bhajan became all the more famous as it regularly played on the radios throughout India.
It begins with the beautiful phrase: “One who is a Vaisnava knows the pain of others…” And closes with the words, “…a Vaisnava has renounced lust and all types of anger.”
Because this bhajan was so well known to Hindi-speaking audiences, sometimes in India, people became alarmed when Srila Prabhupada occasionally exhibited appropriate anger.
Anger can sometimes be deployed by someone in pure consciousness when an offense is committed to the Lord or His devotees, as was exhibited by both Hanuman and Arjuna, in their service to the Lord.
When someone would expound a cheating philosophy, or behavior, or speak to deny the transcendental nature of the Lord, Srila Prabhupada could become like Hanuman’s fire that ravaged the city of Lanka.
One night at a pandal festival in Mumbai, the kirtan had ascended to an ecstatic pitch. The devotees on the stage were all chanting, dancing, and jumping high in the air.
On the following night, one of the organizers, a man standing at the front of the stage was trying to reproduce the previous night’s ecstatic mood by grabbing the feet of the ladies on the stage to force them to jump.
Srila Prabhupada swooped down like a lion, deploying his kartals like a chakra to keep the man from grabbing the feet of the women disciples.
Srila Prabhupada had not become a victim of his anger, nor was he being controlled by anger, as was misunderstood by those who don’t know the heart of a pure Vaisnava. Rather, he expertly mobilized his anger as an astra, a weapon for protecting his women disciples and teaching us all.
Selfish greed, or lobha, for material things must be rejected, in addition to greed of the mind for prestige or position. But intense greed to acquire the treasures of bhakti is the actual price for attaining it. Srila Rupa Goswami has instructed us that if Krsna consciousness is available somewhere, one must purchase it without delay.
Srila Prabhupada took tremendous risks to share Krsna consciousness with the world, at great personal sacrifice and inconvenience. He could spend any amount of money for the glorification of Krsna, but he would not tolerate a single farthing being wasted. He did not remain in Vrndavan, he did not stop at the border of India. He wanted to offer all the people of the world to the lotus feet of his beloved Lord Sri Krsna. One could say that this is the perfect transformation of greed.
Illusion (moha) and madness (mada) must be given up by one on the spiritual path. But sometimes a great mahabhagavat devotee like Srila Prabhupada becomes overwhelmed by spiritual emotions that he is unable to check. Out of deep humility, a realized devotee tries to never exhibit his internal ecstasies. But sometimes…
“…As his heart melts with ecstatic love, he laughs very loudly or cries or shouts. Sometimes he sings and dances like a madman, for he is indifferent to public opinion.” (SB 11.2.40)
Sometimes Srila Prabhupada would dance, to the delight of all those present, sometimes he would be overwhelmed with tears, or his voice would choke up so he was unable to continue speaking.
Once, at the temple in Brooklyn, New York, after gazing at the Deities of Sri Sri Radha Govindaji, as he began to bow before Them, I (as the pujari standing near him) saw tears shoot out of his eyes, like a syringe bathing the congregation on the other side of the room.
Envy (matsarya) causes a person to be unhappy to see others’ good fortune, and to be happy to see others’ failure. Sisupala approached Krsna in envy, but his contact with Krsna purified him. As we try to approach Krsna ourselves, it’s best to not emulate his poisonous mentality.
Srila Prabhupada engaged people of every color, on every continent, from every community in serving Krsna together. The deeply realized equal vision he exemplified and taught us is the best antidote for the disease of envy in the heart.
Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur prays in his Saranagati to the Vaisnava Thakura, like Srila Prabhupada:
O Vaisnava Thakura, O ocean of mercy, be merciful to me, your servant, and purify me by the shade of your lotus feet. Please teach me to control these six bad qualities. I beg you, please be merciful, and with a particle of faith, give me the great treasure of the holy name of Krsna!