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MAHAPRABHU AS PRABHUPADA
In the western Vaisnava community it is often assumed that the title 'Prabhupdda' only refers to Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Svami Prabhupada. There are however many Vaisnavas in the West and in other places in the world who are disciples of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta SarasvatI Thakura or who are the disciples of the disciples of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Gosvami and for them the title Prabhupdda refers to SarasvatI Thakura.Prabhupdda is not a title applicable only to Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Svami Prabhupada or even to only Srila Bhaktisiddhanta SarasvatI Gosvami Prabhupada. Nor is the title Prabhupada simply a nondescript or generic term applicable to any and all spiritual masters. Since the title Prabhupdda has been accepted by so few bona-fide Gaudlya Vaisnava dcdryas it must indeed indicate a title for a spiritual master of exceptional status and transcendental qualifications.If we examine the etymological and the ontological meaning of the title Prabhupdda we will ultimately come to the conclusion that the title Prabhupdda indicates one who represents the deepest flow of the Gaudlya sampraddya in terms of rdgdnugd-bhakti and rupdnugd-bhajana, the most dignified conception of service to Godhead in spontaneous divine love.In the classical Gaudlya sampraddya there were only a few personalities to have been recognized with the title Prabhupdda such as; Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta SvamI Prabhupada, Srila Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta SarasvatI Thakura, Srila Jlva Gosvami Prabhupada, Srila Rupa Gosvami Prabhupada, Sri Prabhupada Advaita Acarya, Sri Prabhupada Nityananda Avadhuta and Sri Prabhupada krishna Caitanya Mahaprabhu. The later being the original Prabhupada.
kasi-mis'ra kahe, ami bada bhagyavan
mora gme 'prabh.u-pade.ra habe avasthana
"When KasI Misra heard the proposal, he said, 'I am very fortunate that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the Lord of all prabhus, will stay at my home."(Cc. Madhya 10. 23~)Regarding this verse Srila Bhaktisiddhanta SarasvatI comments: "Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself, Sri krishna, and all His servants address Him as Prabhupada. This means that there are many prabhus taking shelter under His lotus feet."It is clear from the above verse and statement of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta that Mahaprabhu was also known as Prabhupada. There were many masters, Gosvdmis, (controllers of the senses) such as Raya Ramananda, Svariipa Damodara, Govinda Dasa, Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya, Rupa Gosvami, Sanatana Gosvami, Raghunatha Dasa and many others who took shelter at the Lord's lotus feet.Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta SvamI Prabhupada has commented in his purport to the above verse as follows"The pure Vaisnava is addressed as prabhu, and this address is an etiquette observed between Vaisnavas. When many prabhus remain under the shelter of the lotus feet of another prabhu, the address Prabhupdda is given. Sri Nityananda Prabhu and Sri Advaita Prabhu are also addressed as Prabhupdda. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Sri Advaita Prabhu and Sri Nityananda Prabhu are all visnu-tattva, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Visnu. Therefore, all living entities are under Their lotus feet. Lord Visnu is the eternal Lord of everyone, and the representative of Lord Visnu is the Lord's confidential servant. Such a person acts as the spiritual master for neophyte Vaisnavas; therefore the spiritual master is as respectable as Sri krishna Caitanya or Lord Visnu Himself. For this reason the spiritual master is addressed as Om Visnupdda or Prabhupdda. The dcdrya, the spiritual master, is generally respected by others as Sripdda, and the initiated Vaisnavas are addressed as Prabhu. Prabhu, Prabhupdda and Visnupdda are described in revealed scriptures like Srimad'Bhdgavatam, Caitanya-caritdmrta and Caitanya-bhdgavata. In this regard, these scriptures present evidence accepted by unalloyed devotees.One can say that all personalities in the visnu-tattva can be addressed as Prabhupada due to Their being the shelter of all living beings. Yet in regard to Srila Rupa Gosvami Prabhupada and those personalities who have held the title Prabhupdda since that time, we note in them a special characteristic, they understood the confidential heart of Mahaprabhu.
When Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was living at Purl, Srlla Rupa Gosvami composed a verse and after writing it on a palm leaf, he went to bathe in the ocean. At that time Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu visited the residence of Rupa Gosvami and saw the verse written on the leaf:
priyah so 'yam krishnah sahacari kuru-ksetra-miUtas
tathaham sa radha tad idam ubhayoh sangama'Sukham
mono me kaunax-pulina-vipinaya spmayati
"My dear friend, now I have met My very old and dear friend krishna on this field of Kuruksetra. I am the same Radharani and now We are meeting together. It is very pleasant, but I would still like to go to the bank of the Yamuna beneath the trees of the forest there. I wish to hear the vibration of His sweet flute playing the fifth note within the forest of Vrndavana." (Cc. Antya 1. 79)Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu read this verse and was overwhelmed by ecstatic love. When Rupa Gosvami returned, Mahaprabhu slapped him mildly and said, "My heart is very confidential. How did you know My mind in this way?" After saying this Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu firmly embraced Rupa Gosvami.Mahaprabhu then inquired from Svarupa Damodara, "How could Rupa have understood My heart?" Svarupa Damodara replied, "I can understand that You have already bestowed Your causeless mercy upon him, otherwise it would not be possible for Rupa to have understood Your mind." Thereupon, Mahaprabhu was very pleased and requested Svarupa Damodara to kindly give further instruction to Rupa Gosvami in the matter of transcendental mellows, rasa-tattva.
CUTTING THE JUNGLE OF MISCONCEPTION
After sometime, Mahaprabhu again visited Rupa Gosvami accompanied by Svarupa Damodara, Ramananda Raya and others. Mahaprabhu requested Rupa Gosvami to read a number of the verses that he had composed. Being very humble and shy by nature Rupa Gosvami remained silent. Svarupa Damodara then read the previous verse compiled by Rupa which was so much liked by Mahaprabhu and also the verse:
tunde tandavini ratim vitanute tundavali'labdhaye
karna-kroda-kadambini ghatayate karnarbudebhyah spmdm
cetah'prdngarw'sangini vijayate sarvendriydndm krtim
no jane janita kiyadbhir amrtaih krsneti vama'dvayi
"I do not know how much nectar the two syllables 'krynd have produced. When the Holy Name of krishna is chanted, it appears to dance within the mouth. We then desire many, many mouths. When that Name enters the holes of the ears, we desire many millions of ears. And when the Holy Name dances in the courtyard of the heart, it conquers the activities of the mind, and therefore all the senses become inert." (Cc. Antya 1. 99)Hearing these verses compiled by Rupa Gosvami all the Vaisnavas became jubilant. Ramananda Raya especially showed interest in what Rupa Gosvami had written. Being very pleased with him, Ramananda Raya began to praise the qualities of Rupa Gosvami as if He had a thousand mouths. Ramananda Raya said, "This is not a poetic presentation; it is a continuous shower of nectar. Indeed, it is the essence of all ultimate realizations. The wonderful descriptions of Rupa Gosvami are superb arrangements to express transcendental loving affairs of Radha and krishna. Hearing these verses will plunge the heart and ears of everyone into a whirlpool of supreme transcendental bliss.The significance of the praises of Rupa GosvamI offered by Svarupa Damodara and Ramananda Raya are considerably more meaningful when, we take into account the identity of these personalities in the ontological hierarchy of the spiritual world. According to krishna Dasa Kaviraja GosvamI, the author of Caitanya-caritdmrta, Ramananda Raya was the gopi in krishna-lild named Visakha and Svarupa Damodara was the gopi named Lalita-sakhl. Both Lalita and Visakha are eternally the very intimate associates of Srimati Radharanl. Lalita and Visakha are considered the personal expansions of the serving mood of Srimati Radharanl, thus they are the two chief assistants in the madhurya love affairs between Radha and krishna.Directly serving under Lalita-sakhl in the madhurya-rasa are the manjaris, the younger cowherd girls.
This manjari group of servitors mainly consists of new recruits to the madhurya'rasa and due to their young age they have been given the most sacred type of pure service to Radha and krishna. Our acaryas have recommended that we should conceive of the manjari class most respectfully and attentively.When Radha and krishna are in secrecy, in a private place, the older sakhis do not like to approach the Divine Couple at that time for fear of causing a slight disturbance. Radha and krishna may feel some shyness in the presence of the older sakhis at that time. But the younger gopis, the manjaris, can enter there without disturbing the free mixing of Radha and krishna. This manjari group of servitors in the madhurya-rasa is headed by the gopi named Rupa Manjari. To perform their service, the manjaris, headed by Rupa Manjari, sometimes go to that place where Radha and krishna are intimately engaged in divine love dalliances. Such a high and intimate scope of service is available to no other group of servitors than that of the manjaris. Rupa Manjari who leads this manjari group has appeared in Gaura-lild as Srila Rupa GosvamI and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has given him the supreme position as head of the Gaudlya sampraddya (rupanuga sampraddya).Our fiksd-guru, Srila Bhakti Raksaka Srldhara Deva GosvamI Maharaja, used to say, "The camp, the sampraddya of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, is known as the rupanuga-sampraddya. There, our fate and our fortune is located. Now we have to conduct ourselves in such a way that naturally we can connect with that highest, purest spiritual conception, from here. We must not allow ourselves to be satisfied with anything less than this highest ideal. That should be the highest goal of our life.So, the real meaning ofrupdnugd-bhajana is nothing less than that; the highest ideal of the highest spiritual conception. Following in the footsteps of Srila Rupa GosvamI; ever desiring his mercy; falling prostrate at his lotus feet and praying again and again and again to be accepted as a speck of dust at his lotus feet, to be enlisted in his group of servitors. That is rupdnugd-bhajana. That is what it means to be a follower of Srila Rupa GosvamI. That is what it means to hold the title Prabhupdda.This conception has been expressed most perfectly in a song by Narottama Dasa Thakura called 'Sri Rupa Manjari-pada'. This song is the topmost bhajana sung by the followers of the rupanuga line.
sri-rupa-manjari-pada, sei mora sampada
sei mor bhajana-pujana
sei mora prdna-dhana, sei mora abharana,
sei mor jivanera jivana
sei mora rasa-nidhi, sei mora vancha-siddhi,
sei mor vedera dharama
sei brata, sei tapa, sei mora mantra'japa,
sei mor dharama karama
anukida habe vidhi, se-pade hoibe siddhi,
nirakhibo e dui nayane
se rupa-mddTwri-ras'i, pvdna'kuvalaya'Sas'i,
praphullita habe nisi'dine
tuwa adarsana-ahi, garale jarah dehi,
ciro'dirw. tdpita jivana
ha ha ritpa koro day a, deho more pada<hayd,
narottama loilo sarana
"The feet of Sri Rupa Manjari (Rupa Gosvaml's eternal form as a gopi of Vraja) are my real wealth. They are the object of my bhajana and puja. They are the treasure of my heart, and they are my ornaments and the life of my life.They are the reservoirs of all rasa for me and the fulfillment of all my desires. They are the conclusion of the religion of the Vedas for me and are the goal of all my vows, austerities, and the chanting of my mantra. They are the purpose of all my religious activities.By the power of those feet my activities will become favorable to devotion, spiritual perfection will be achieved, and with these two eyes I will be able to actually see. The exquisite beauty of Sri Rupa Manjari's divine feet will shine like the brilliant moon upon the lotus of my heart both day and night, thus giving relief to my afflicted soul.By the venom of the snake of separation from you, my soul has wasted away and my life is ever afflicted and distressed. O Rupa Manjari, please be merciful and give me the shade of your lotus feet. Narottama Dasa has taken refuge.The conclusion is that, although etymologically Prabhupada means a spiritual master at who's feet many qualified personalities have taken shelter —it must be that the ontological meaning of Prabhupada is one who knows the heart of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, one who knows how to extract the internal moods of devotional service, unnatojivala-rasa, from the lotus feet of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu just as a bumble bee extracts nectar from the lotus flower.Additionally, without being a follower and obedient servant of the internal flow of devotional service, unnatojjvala-rasa, enunciated by Srlla Rupa GosvamI one cannot be a true follower of Prabhupada.All aspiring candidates for devotional service (our humble self included) should try to enter into the deep and mysterious meanings of krsndnusilanam, bhaktir-uttama in the line of Rupa GosvamI. That is the real essence of the teaching of Prabhupada Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.