January 16, 2005 Bombay This

January 16th, 2005

January 16, 2005

This is my last day in Bombay. I have been here for almost a week. Although most have heard so much about the success of Chowpatty, when you come it is always so much better than what you’ve heard. I won’t go into the details. Better to visit yourself.

It did give me an insight into the success of a preaching institution. Here they very much stress humble service to the devotees. It makes sense as a foundational principle of a preaching movement. Obviously the primary success of any spiritual mission is the spiritual transformation of its members. That means to become gradually free from false ego by the mission’s practices. Almost by definition that’s a problem.

To attract new members and then to facilitate them, a successful mission also entails a substantial increase to its resources. Unfortunately, it is natural for the conditioned soul to use what they acquire for sense gratification. With the “success” of any mission comes an allurement to the material platform, especially for its leaders. Thus success, expansion, often leads to failure, material consciousness. As the Supreme Lord is compassion to His devotees, He may not give a spiritual movement the success of sustained expansion, unless its members cultivate true humility.

Of course, there is not an absolute correlation. There are pure devotees who lead simple missions and less pure ones who lead big ones. The way Krishna deals with His sincere devotees and the lessons He chooses to teach through them is inconceivable. It is a fact, though, that before Krishna gives ISKCON “the world”, or even a small part of it, our devotees will have to be more and more in the mood of humble servants. A short story came to mind in this regard:

I remember in 1971 visiting the Brooklyn temple on Henry Street for lunch. It was an impressive scene. The devotees were observably dedicated and disciplined. I especially remember so many young, bright and dynamic brahmacari’s.

And the devotees had the highest standard in taking prasadam. It was very well cooked and equally well served. They were listening in silence and with attention to a taped lecture from a morning class.

I still vividly remember a single statement from that lecture attributed to Srila Prabhupada. I don’t know why it struck me so powerfully:

“If all my devotees became Krishna consciousness, then like Arjuna, we could take over the world in eighteen days [the duration of the battle
of Kuruksetra].”

Lesson from Chowpatty: To fill Srila Prabhupada’s legacy we have to become humbler than a blade of grass so that we can be trusted with a success that will sustain.

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