November 22, 2002 Sri Vrindaban

November 22nd, 2002

November 22, 2002
Sri Vrindaban

Humbler Than A Blade of Grass

I found out that Dr. Fakir Mohan Prabhu is staying at the Gaura Govinda Seva Ashram–the house next to the japa-kutir (my place). I met Prabhu two years ago at Govardhana. He is a retired chairman of the Department of Sanskrit at Utkal University, a research scholar on Oriyan Vaishnavism, a senior Vaishnava, and the foremost authority on Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur. In fact, he recently rediscovered the original Radha-Madhava deities of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur in Choti, the native place of Bhaktivinoda. He has dedicated himself to restoring that place under the auspices of ISKCON.

Fakir Mohan stays in Vrindaban during the month of Kartik and keeps Sri Sri Radha-Madhava on the altar of our ISKCON temple. He desires that “Their Lordships hear the kirtans of the international devotees” and for “devotees from around the world to have Their audience.”

I went to see Fakir Mohan this morning with Indradyumna Swami. Fakir Mohan literally dived at our feet when he saw us, even though he is 73 years old. He is a lifelong celibate, but has never taken sannyasa. Still, out of etiquette and genuine humility, he reveres all gurus and sannyasis. We were embarrassed to see the care and devotion by which he made a small makeshift asana for us out of a blanket so we could sit comfortably for his class.

He again lectured from the Bhagavatam, 2.9.36, on the glories of the holy name, as he has being doing for the last six years. I didn’t take notes, but I remembered a few points:

  • “Chanting should come first from the heart, then the lips, and then the ears. Then comes rupa, nama, and lila, the Lord’s form, qualities, and pastimes.”
  • “One must chant with sambandha, a relationship with the holy name.”
  • “There are two serious offenses to the holy name: the elephant offense and the lion offense. The elephant offense is criticism of devotees. If you are attacked by a mad elephant nothing can save you except for a lion, for a lion can kill an elephant. Similarly, if you criticize a devotee, only your guru can save you. But if you are attacked by a lion no one can save you. Similarly, the most grievous offense is the lion offense–guru-avajna–to disobey, or disrespect, the guru. If you offend the guru nothing can save you.”

Indradyumna Maharaja introduced Craig to Fakir Mohan just as we were all leaving. Craig is an old high school friend of Maharaja who is visiting India on Maharaja’s request. To our surprise, Fakir Mohan immediately paid his full obeisances to Craig. Craig was naturally also a bit surprised, but visibly moved by Prabhu’s gesture. As Fakir Mohan was getting up, Indradyumna Swami explained, “Craig is my friend from school and he is becoming a devotee!” With a sweeping upward gesture of his right hand, Fakir Mohan declared with conviction, “Then he is better than George Bush, the President of the United States!”

On my way to the temple in the evening I again ran into Fakir Mohan. Whenever he hears of a visiting ISKCON sannyasa, he immediately goes to see them and pays his respects. He had just returned from visiting Sacinananda Swami, but lamented that he couldn’t find Partha Sarathi Prabhu. When I told him that I knew where he was staying, he immediately begged me to take him.

At Partha Sarathi’s room Fakir Mohan sang a beautiful song called “Mangala-gita,” describing the deep separation felt by the residents of Vrindaban for Krishna as He mounted the chariot with Akrura to leave for Mathura. It is such a moving song, but unfortunately, after a short while Partha Sarathi had to excuse himself to see his mother, sister, and other family members who were visiting from England. Fakir Mohan asked Partha Sarathi if he could also please see them, so we all went.

Like most senior ISKCON leaders, Partha Sarathi neglected his parents and practically anything they represented when he joined ISKCON in the early ’70s. That was our mood as the pioneers of the Hare Krishna movement and as its dedicated missionaries. Like most of us, Partha Sarathi is now trying to make up for his past indifference. He told me that he had practically nothing to do with them for 28 years, but had now come to the realization that he should be compassionate to his family and try to give them some appreciation for Krishna consciousness. Although they know practically nothing about what he is doing, they have all become quite favorable during their short visit to Vrindaban.

Partha Sarathi’s mother is a very refined, reserved, and sweet English lady from Oxford. His sister was five years old when he left and is eager to revive her relationship with her brother. His aunt, brother, and sister-in-law are also here. All seem to be favorably overwhelmed by their experience in Vrndaban.

When Partha introduced Fakir Mohan to his mother, again to our astonishment, Fakir Mohan immediately paid his obeisances to her. He then began glorifying Partha Sarathi by quoting verses describing how when someone becomes a devotee “14 generations in the past and 17 generations in the future become liberated.” Afterwards, he paid obeisances to each and every family member. Partha Sarathi was a little embarrassed, so he explained Fakir Mohan’s position as “a distinguished professor, a naisthika brahmacari (a perfect celibate), a research scholar, a sangeetacarya (master of classical Indian singing), and an exalted saint.”

“Yes,” Fakir Mohan responded, “it is our etiquette to offer respect, but it is not just etiquette.” He paused for just a moment, and then said with an utmost conviction, “It is not just etiquette. We feel it.”

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