Vyasa Puja Offerings to Srila Prabhupada
Cover Image for Sri Vyasa Puja Offering 2020
August 13, 2020

Sri Vyasa Puja Offering 2020

Dear Srila Prabhupāda,

Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to you.

There is more to a story than the narrator knows, more rhythm in a poem than the poet is aware of, more music to a song than the composer can hear. Ultimately, the souls of this world express their heartfelt emotions and creative potential with a yearning hope to resonate with the universal story of enduring love that conquers any separation caused by impending death. This longing for a reality beyond the confines of samsāra stirs in the depths of the archetypal world.

Inspiration has always been drawn from our planet, who adorns herself in attire perfectly appropriate for each season and occasion, from springtime flowers to autumn’s crimson foliage. She forever infuses her various cultures with endless exuberance to celebrate the gift of life containing the treasure of a potential relationship with God. Such hope forever resides in our individual and collective remembrance.

By acknowledging and giving voice to the unspoken wonders of God’s creation, we are ushered toward a greater Reality beyond the relative. There, shining forever in the spiritual sky, we are introduced to the Beauty Who is Truth, the Truth Who is Beauty.

The nature of this highest realm is revealed in the Vedas, yet even they are unable to understand the mysteries hidden within their own pages. Srila Vyāsadeva therefore continues to write, either directly or through the ācāryas, to reveal the inner treasure of Vedānta—the pastimes and precepts of the Golden Avatāra, who joyfully declares that Krishna’s Holy Name personifies the essence and goal of all the scriptures.

There is so much more to Srila Vyāsadeva and his representatives than that which they speak about themselves. Therefore, the predecessor is often known more fully through his successors. This was perfectly demonstrated in the offering you wrote to your beloved Guru Mahārāja for his Vyāsa-pūjā in 1935. Srila Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī was so pleased with your words that he shared them with the assembled devotees. One verse in particular clearly reveals the heart of your guru:

Absolute is sentient,

Thou hast proved,

Impersonal calamity

Thou hast moved.

Overcoming impersonalism necessitates addressing its root: our conception of God, which is the basis of our worldview and relationship with everyone and everything within it. The personal feature of Bhagavān, which your Guru Mahārāja was dedicated to exalting, while minimized in empiric epistemology, is essential on the spiritual quest. Your Divine Grace perfectly embodies this legacy of your guru. Our invocation prayers, meant to acknowledge and beseech your guidance, grace, and blessings, further serve to highlight your mission of dispelling the darkness of impersonalism with the brilliance of Lord Caitanya’s vānī.

tad viddhi pranipātena paripraśnena sevayā

“Just try to learn the truth by approaching a bona fide spiritual master.” (Bhagavad-gītā 4.34)

Prior to my second birth with you as my father, I had turned to the only scripture I knew, yearning for a personal understanding of a gracious God. But bereft of the dynamic effects of the guru-paramparā, despite my sincere efforts and prayers I found the Bible very perplexing, both as a dutiful child who love the stories of the Good Book in my Sunday School, and later as a student of theology in a Christian college.

Biblical culture places great significance on names, which are carefully selected to indicate the nature of a person. Understanding someone’s name assists in developing a relationship with them. Yet, according to the Bible, God’s foremost name is too sacred, too powerful, too dangerous, too fearsome to be spoken aloud except under the most exclusive conditions. Instead, He is primarily addressed with formal titles and reverential adjectives. How can a close relationship develop with a God when His intimate name can never be known? How was I to honor the Biblical mandate to praise the Holy Name of the Lord without knowing His confidential name or even being able to freely speak His generic name? Biblical teachings go so far as to warn that to see His face would cause one’s death. How can the most pure, sweet, and innocent sentiments of the soul find fulfillment in a relationship with a vastly distant, faceless, and often fearsome deity?

The notion of divine fecundity within the living, immortal, sacred Word—the seed of creation and first manifestation of Godhead, germinating as the physical forms of material elements—finds expression in the Bible’s opening words, where God speaks: “Let there be light . . .” The Old Testament introduces the Word of God and His form of wisdom as spoken with creation to reveal His hidden design for this world.

Studying the etymological origin of logos—the Word—drew me into a community of theologians, seekers, and philosophers who had also pursued a clear understanding of the concept for millennia. Personally, I felt called to the Gospel of John, knowing intuitively that I needed to pursue the deep truth within his writings. The Apostle John was creative and unconventional in articulating, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” In John’s Gospel the Word is equated with God, who first spoke creation into existence and later incarnates as His representative here on Earth.

John’s perspective was gleaned from the commentaries of those who had come before him. It left rich sustenance to nourish the church fathers who would come after. And yet, for me, the Word of God in the New Testament remained as ambiguous as its parallel, the Name of God in the Old Testament, though they clearly had a significant connection. I became increasingly confused and frustrated as the actual meaning and realization continued to evade my grasp. My attempts to establish a personal relationship with the God of the Bible left me with one clear conclusion: the empiric approach to spiritual truth is helpful mainly insofar as it leads to realizing the crucial need for a spiritual master’s guidance and shelter.

At this critical juncture, the quest for truth becomes synonymous with the search for a bona fide spiritual master. The empiricist accepts, to varying degrees, that seeing is believing. Sri Guru, from his higher perspective, declares that believing is seeing. In other words, submissively hearing from a proper spiritual authority kindles faith, granting us the assurance of all we hope for and the firm vision in what is yet to come.

From the stage of finding, serving, and surrendering to the proper source, the instructions of Sri Guru form the crux of the spiritual quest. The Biblical tradition alludes to the living dynamics of the guru-paramparā in one of the final statements of Jesus: “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear to hear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of Truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth.” (John 16.12)

These words ringing in my ears marked the conclusion of my empiric theological studies. I became vigilant, attentively seeking any intimation of the Spirit of Truth, open to whatever tradition He chose to reveal himself in.

It was only in hearing first about you from your disciples, and later hearing directly from you, that I recognized the voice of the Spirit of Truth within you, who had been guiding me all along to find your shelter and guidance. In your presence, the Word of God, Spirit of Truth, and Holy Name all became perfectly integrated in a most confidential, relational, and personal dynamic. They verily came to life before my eyes and within my heart. Finally, all that I had heard and seen before began to fall into proper place and make perfect sense. It was as if you had me step back far enough to reflect on the larger picture in which God continues to write the script. And you, as ācārya, bring the story to life, integrating the spiritual fruits of wonder, truth, and love with the security of knowing that eternal service is our birthright—an inheritance bequeathed, by Your Divine Grace, even to those of us who are deficient in comprehensive knowledge.

Your commentary on Biblical verses, given from the Vedic view, illuminated all areas of my former uncertainty, granting congruity within the nutshell verse, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” In a conversation in Paris on June 9th, 1974, while discussing these very words, you crystallized vast theological commentaries into one conclusive truth by citing a verse from the Padma Purāna: “Just parallel to this Bible passage I’ll quote one Sanskrit verse from the Vedas. Therefore, it is said, nāma cintāmanih Krishnaś caitanya-rasa-vigrahah / pūrnah śuddho nitya-mukto ’bhinnatvān nāma-nāminoh.” Your translation of this verse at Caitanya-caritāmrita Madhya 17.133 reads, in part, “The holy name of Krishna is transcendentally blissful . . . because the name of Krishna and Krishna Himself are identical.”

The supreme theology revealed by Lord Caitanya, elaborated by the Six Gosvāmīs, and synthesized by yourself explains every word, letter, and verbal root in relation to the Supreme Truth—the Holy Name, who is unique in personifying both the means and the goal of spiritual perfection. Your elaborations on the absolute nature of everything connected with Krishna make it clear as day that, objectively speaking, the Word is the Holy Name.

Subjectively, the Word expands as all the instructions needed for the guidance of disciples under the direction of Sri Guru, the agent and representative of Vyāsa. By the grace and blessings of Sri Guru, the truth of the Vedas is presented comprehensibly in a most personal manner. All of our relationships are thereby uplifted to a more personal nature.

The grace and blessing of Sri Guru are likened to cintāmani dust upon his feet. The influence of that dust purifies the heart, enlightens the consciousness, and fulfills the most cherished desires of the soul. In your presence we experienced firsthand that the Word of God does indeed take human form; that the book Bhāgavata speaks to us in and through the person Bhāgavata, who, for us, is you, Srila Prabhupāda.

You objected to us literally taking the dust of your lotus feet upon our heads, assuring us that we could achieve the same result by sitting and submissively hearing as you spoke from the vyāsāsana. We were like cakora birds, subsisting only on moonlight, nourished by the benediction moon shining in the spiritual sky as you reflected, extended, and revealed it to us. As we heard your narrations with rapt attention, the spiritual world took shape in our consciousness. Your words and deeds revealed the luster and wonder of Vrindāvana to those living in a mere shadow of reality. Indeed, sacred sound is the reality it conveys, above and beyond merely representing the greater reality.

Through your grace, we see this truth manifest in countless ways. In the beginning of your mission there were no buildings, no students, no books. You came to the United States without men or money, equipped only with conviction in Sri Guru’s instructions, an implicit faith in the Holy Name, and Srimad-Bhāgavatam, the literary incarnation of Krishna. By your purely delivering the message of Godhead and chanting Hare Krishna, all of ISKCON manifested. Thus, you offered us a living example of the creative power of the Word.

The Spirit of Truth lives in the immortal nectar of your words and in the echo of your kīrtana. They form the crest jewel of theology, the very fulfillment of the teachings of Lord Caitanya. The Holy Name continues to resound and expand to every town and village by your divine grace. You being the senāpati-bhakta in Lord’s Caitanya’s entourage, the essence of your gift to the world, especially here in the godforsaken Western lands, is the Hare Krishna mahā-mantra, the most confidential hymn of Goloka Vrindāvana, comprised of the most endearing names of the Divine Couple. Their ever-expanding līlā is the original story to which no narration can reach its completion, no poem can convey in full, no melody sung can be concluded. For as soon as Krishna approaches the extent of His glory, it further expands.

Your cintāmani words bless the earth. They made manifest a magnanimous place of pilgrimage in the Western world, a replica of Vrindāvana in the hills of Appalachia. Here, in New Vrindavan, the effects of Sri Dhāma enhance all the nine processes of devotional service for residents and pilgrims alike. Even tourists sense something special when visiting, thereby reaping the benefits of ajñāta-sukriti.

Our only access to vraja-līlā is found through your pastimes and precepts, which are an open book inviting us into its unending story. Your words form the choicest poetry, suitable for sublime truths, articulating and echoing the rhyme of endless spiritual rhythms. Your kīrtana is the hymn of life eternal. You have transformed our lives into a dance as we follow in your footsteps on the path back to home.

The Spirit of Truth is likened to the wind breathing new life into hearts who are open to receiving and serving. Your unfailing influence has touched and transformed countless lives. In your global community, many stories are told in remembrance and glorification of you. These accounts may be very different from one another, some may even seem to conflict. And yet, if we continue our pursuit to serve the Spirit of Truth, our understanding will mature by the many ways your love and compassion have touched and continue to touch countless souls.

By hearing such stories shared, whether through tears or smiles, words or silence, inquiry or explanation, tenderness or boldness, we will gradually overcome impersonalism by the supremely personal touch conveyed in all your words and deeds. We will discern the truth that we can all remain united and empowered, by the influence of a Spirit greater than our own, to overcome the quarrel and hypocrisy so characteristic of this age. We will be reminded that pleasing you is the most important consideration in life. May we all demonstrate our love for you in the cooperation needed to extend your legacy.

Unto you, Srila Prabhupāda, the representative of Vyāsa, who expand and distill the language of śāstra for the understanding and welfare of the world, worship is offered on your appearance day as Sri Vyāsa-pūjā, the Most Blessed Event. As the outward manifestation of Paramātmā, you are the eternal companion, counselor, and comforter of all souls who find shelter in you. May every Vyāsa-pūjā offering express our gratitude more deeply, reveal your heart more clearly, amplify your glories more fully, and bless the world with ongoing remembrance of you.

Your servant,

Varsana Swami