A Personal Tribute to Gopiparanadhana Prabhu
By Krishna-kripa Das
I always like to write something in glorification of devotees I have even a little relationship with when they pass away. I guess I see it as a final service I can render to them. For me I got to know and appreciate Gopiparanadhana Prabhu much more than ever before in late August just this year when I joined the last four days of Indradyumna Swami's Festival of India in Poland. Gopiparanadhana Prabhu would give classes in the mornings to the devotees and answer questions at the festivals in the evenings. I arranged my schedule to attend almost all his question and answer sessions. He would often use the same old analogies that Prabhupada used and that we have heard others use many times, but I felt I appreciated them anew hearing them from him, and that was striking. He was wise and humorous, and he had a refreshing simplicity about him. He also presented spiritual truth in a very nonsectarian way. Once in response to a festival questioner asking what God we worship, he said, “If there is a God, there can only be one.”
In his classes, he shared realizations from his lifetime of devotional practice, such as, “The purpose of this Krishna consciousness movement is to make pure devotees of the Lord. We can come to this movement with mixed motives, but we can expect that Krishna will do everything possible to change our motives. A devotee who wants to advance has to be ready to change.”
I learned details I never knew before like, “Srila Prabhupada later told the editors that the figure of 640 million people killed in the Kurukshetra War was a misprint and should be 6.4 million.”
Discussing King Yudhisthira's lamentation about the deaths on the Battlefield of Kurukshetra, Gopiparanadhana Prabhu said, “What to speak of a pure devotee, a pandit (an ordinary scholar) should not lament for the living or the dead. Death is natural and so is the mixed happiness that we experience in life. A brahmana should not lament. It is the business of sudras to lament and be depressed. If you do so, then you are becoming influenced by the mode of ignorance. If a brahmana finds himself depressed or discouraged, he should get beyond it as soon as possible. And what to speak of a pure devotee, like King Yudhisthira, an eternal servant of Krishna.”
While talking with Gopiparanadhana Prabhu on the Polish tour, I learned he was completing the Tattva-sandarbha, the first of Jiva Goswami's six Sandarbhas. I knew these Sandarbhas were important books in our sampradaya, and I knew also that I would never get around to reading them because of my lifestyle, although they would benefit my spiritual life. The only way I would read them is if I offered to proofread them. Then I would do it as a matter of duty and of service. I told Gopiparanadhana Prabhu that I had proofread the Back to Godhead magazine, Sadaputa Prabhu's books, and the books of Satsvarupa dasa Goswami. I was not competent enough to be the sole proofreader, but I usually caught a few things other people missed, and I offered to read the book. On September 3, he sent it to me saying, “Thank you for offering to read Tattva-sandarbha.” Because of proofreading the BTG and because of being absorbed in Ukraine festival I made little progress on it. However, the day after the festival, September 15, I had a nine-hour bus ride, and I must have spent half the time proofreading Tattva-sandarbha, which has lots of wonderful glorification of Srimad-Bhagavatam in it. I thought of writing Gopiparanadhana Prabhu, and asking if he wanted to see what I had done so far, but on checking my email, I was shocked to find that the person I had spent hours serving that day had left this world, after having all but completed just one of the six Sandarbhas. I liked his association in Poland and looked forward to working with him in future years on the six Sandarbhas, but Krishna had and yet another inconceivable plan. Such is the will of the Lord.
I met Gopiparanadhana Prabhu at the Ukraine festival few years back. During prasadam, I was talking to him about the problem of devotees not pronouncing the Sanskrit properly. He acknowledged the problem, and said, “They should send someone to all the temples to teach the devotees how to properly pronounce the Sanskrit.” I did not ask him who “they” might be.
Once I realized how much his Brhad-bhagavatamrita had made an impression on my mind. For three days I read a hundred pages a day of the final volume, describing Krishna playing with his cowherd boyfriends in the Vrndavana forest. Then over the next week I traveled by train through Germany and Poland, and whenever I would see a forest I would think about Krishna playing with his cowherd boyfriends in the forest of Vrndavana, something I would usually never think of.
One evening on the Polish tour he asked me for something to quench his thirst. All the drink from lunch was finished, so I got some tea for him from our restaurant. I was also thirsty but did not want to ask for any for myself, and I was too cheap to buy any water. Ten minutes later I was at questions and answers hearing Gopiparanadhana Prabhu, and a devotee brought some water for him. I was so thirsty, I thought, “This is Krishna's mercy.” I figured he was not thirsty as he just drank a cup of tea, so I drank some of the water, and kept it in my bag, in case he later became thirsty. The devotee came back and asked where the water was. I gave it to the devotee, and he took the top off and set it next to Gopiparanadhana Prabhu, who drank a little, and set it aside, as far as I know, for the rest of the evening. I felt bad for taking his water, and I apologized the next day. He was very understanding of my situation and did not feel at all offended, and that completely relieved my mind.
I share with you the notes I took on Gopiparanadhana Prabhu's lectures to the Polish tour devotees and his answers to the fortunate souls who inquired from him at the evening festivals. I hope that you might feel some happiness remembering his transcendental wisdom and qualities:
Arjuna had a doubt about fighting before the battle, and King Yudhisthira had doubts afterward. Arjuna was not a coward. In the Adi Purana Arjuna tells Krishna, “Just as
young boys and girls are spontaneously attracted to each other, I am spontaneously attracted to fighting.” But by yogamaya he had doubts about fighting at Kurukshetra. Yudhisthira's victory was so decisive that it was clear to everyone that God must want him to be on the throne. Yet by yogamaya, he was not convinced by Vyasadeva or Krishna Himself that the carnage was justified. Krishna was able to convince Arjuna, but he failed to convince Yudhisthira. This was all because Krishna wanted Yudhisthira to be convinced by Bhismadeva.
The Mahabharata is so long because different historical incidents are cited whenever someone wants to convince someone of something. There over 1,000 chapters in Mahabharata, which has 18 major divisions, the 13th of which contains the Bhagavad-gita. The Ganguli translation into English is alright.
Srila Prabhupada wanted all the Puranas [and some other major Vedic works which I did not write down] translated.
A devotee is glorious because he is willing to do whatever Krishna wants.
The material world is created by God for those who want to imagine they can control and enjoy separately from Him.
If you just do pranayama [breath control] it can take thousands of years to realize God, but if you meditate on the personality of God you can be successful in a few years.
Q: Why do we have different traditions?
A: People look at God in different ways. He is trying to make Himself understood to us, but we have our funny ways of understanding. Whatever religion can develop your love of God is a good religion.
There are higher planets and as you go upward in the universe more of the people know about God.
The famous saying about Gandhi is that he was saint among politicians and a politician among saints.
Yudhisthira's problem is that he was too much in the mode of goodness. Ksatriyas in general do not have difficulty being ruthless.
Bhima was more powerful than 10,000 elephants. Arjuna was the supreme archer. And Krishna was on His side. Thus Yudhisthira become emperor of the world.
Throughout the centuries warriors have had the idea that the winner in a war had the grace of God.
If you cannot memorize the Gita at least memorize the first and last verse. One way to tell the meaning of a book is to know what is said in the beginning and what is said in the end.
Yudhisthira preferred to be in the company of brahmanas studying the scriptures and not on the battlefield. But because Krishna wanted him to rule, for him to renounce the throne would be a big mistake.
Our business is to teach and manifest the principles of religion. Ksatriyas protect religion through their physical strength.
We know what Krishna wants us to do because our guru and the authorities appointed by him tell us. If we accept and listen to guru, sadhu, and sastra, we will always know what Krishna wants.
Q: How to avoid identification with the body?
A: Start thinking about who you really are—a servant of the Lord and the Vaishnavas.
If there is a difference of a opinion between one's diksa guru and one's siksa guru, one should accept one's diksa guru's opinion.
One reason archeologists find only stone tools in strata millions of years is no other material will last that long.
Hare Krishna is a famous prayer in India that has been around for thousands of years.
It makes a big difference if you understand you are eternal and your body is temporary.
Just like if you are on a train and it is crowded and uncomfortable, you can get upset about it, or realize you are only there a couple of hours and tolerate it.
Any religion that can free people from illusion and develop love of God is a good religion.
Just like kids say, “My father is better than your father.” In the same way, foolish people say, “My God is better than your God.”
In some traditions from India they stamp your arms with a hot iron to mark the two points where you get extra arms when you go to the spiritual realm.
On tilaka: In India one who has a serious commitment to some particular path marks his forehead to indicate which spiritual group he belongs to.
Different groups of people require special protection from being exploited, among these are women.
There is less divorce and the families are more stable in India than in Europe.
There are advantages to arranged marriages, one being that a woman does not have to hunt for a husband.
Q: How many wives can a husband have?
A: Ideally no more than one can take care of nicely, but practically it is not socially acceptable to have more than one.
Regarding astrology: If you are determined to do your duty in any situation, then there is no need to consult the signs.
If an astrologer promises you will attain unadulterated happiness if you follow his advice, then abandon him as a cheater.
I did astrology for a while, but I found it frustrating because you could not tell people the whole truth. They only want to hear the good things.
If you enter the service of God, your life becomes transformed, and it does not matter if you are rich or poor or smart or stupid. Our real mission is to find out our individual and eternal relationship with God.
If you just chant Hare Krishna and offer your food to God for one month, without changing any other aspect of your life, you will become spiritually situated.
Self-realization is not artificial, it is uncovering our real nature. Taking help from an expert in spiritual knowledge is required.
Anyone who is interested in being trained up can become a spiritual leader.
According to the Puranas, Buddha is God, but He is teaching atheism, so we offer Him respect as God, but we do not follow His philosophy. Future teachers reintroduced theism.
When God is nicely worshiped, nature is in perfect order, but when He is not worshiped properly, so many anomalies are there.
That Yudhisthira was concerned about the people who were killed to reinstate him on the throne shows that a perfect devotee is not without feeling. The pure devotee does not want only liberation for himself as Prahlada Maharaja says, but is also concerned for others.
Srila Prabhupada said that Socrates was the only real philosopher in the West. Socrates was against the Sophists who used knowledge for persuasion but were not lovers of knowledge for itself.
In the Vedic conception, Gautama Rsi taught there are three kinds of discussion:
(1) Vada—when both sides are looking for the truth
(2) Jalpa—if either side just wants to win, regardless of the truth, but they do not cheat
(3) Vitanda—when either side wants to win so much they are willing to cheat
Yudhisthira is having his moments of doubt, but in the end, he did what Krishna wanted. Similarly we may have our moments, or even years, of doubt, but in the end we have to do what Krishna wants.
Of the gosthyanandi and the bhajanandi, either or both can have pure or mixed motives. If Krishna accepts their service, then that is their perfection.
The gosthyanandi is willing to put aside the pleasure of serving Krishna to go out and share Krishna's message, and because of this additional special quality, he is considered higher. Krishna explains in Bhagavad-gita 18.68–69 that he who explains his message to the devotees is the greatest, and there will not be a greater personality. The gopis confirm this, saying those who spread talks of Krishna are bhuri-da janah [most munificent].
Q: What is the difference between your teaching and Buddhism?
A: Buddhism teaches that nothing is permanent. A chair has no existence but is a temporary energy field. In Krishna consciousness there are souls and God who have eternal existence.
Q: We see the Catholic Church has its problems, and people are leaving. Could you comment on that?
A: It is an age of corruption. I do not want to blame the Catholic Church. All religions have difficulty in this age. It is very difficult to remain pure. Anyone who can do so, we should respect. We have confidence in the practices of chanting the names of God and eating food offered to God which can keep us in a pure state, and we recommend followers of other religions to take this two practices very seriously if they want to maintain purity.
God is all-auspicious and when God is present as His name, all-auspiciousness is there.
These ideas are new to you but are not unfamiliar because we are all souls.
Chemistry can tell how the molecules in the body combine, but it can say nothing about consciousness. Carbon is needed for living bodies, but carbon is not conscious. Consciousness comes from another source.
If you have an appropriate body you can live in any environment.
Nature is so complex that we should wonder where has all the complexity come from.
Q: God is good and all-powerful, then why is there evil in this world.
A: Our explanation is the God does not create the evil. We create it. According to the law of karma, the living entities did something in the past warranting the suffering. We can convince some people to stop causing suffering to others. If people follow the laws of God and are kind to other people, they will become free from karma. We can inoculate the children against polio, but that does not free them from the karma that caused them to get the disease. God is trying to help, but people are stubborn. He sent his son 2000 years ago, and what did they do? They tried to kill him.
The minimal respect we should have for other living beings is that we allow them to live. The modern world has forgotten this because we do not honor the basic commandments of God.
Q: What is consciousness? What about someone who is mentally disturbed?
A: Consciousness is there in the mentally disturbed. It is just disturbed. Consciousness is there when we are asleep, but it is within. Even in a coma, there is still some consciousness. Even in a plant, there is still some consciousness.
When we use our body and mind in ungodly ways, we suffer as a reaction. Sometimes we can see causes within this life, but in other cases, it must be something from a past life.
We can choose to follow the laws of God as they are given in any religion that we select.
Why is suicide wrong? Because it is destroying someone else's property, since ultimately the body belongs to God.
We never made a proper contract for the use of the body for any length of time, and therefore we cannot complain about being kicked out untimely.
Buddhism does not tell about the God or soul, so we are not going to recommend it.
The biggest program with all religions, including Buddhism, is hypocrisy. Although nonviolence is a Buddhist principle, so many Buddhists are eating meat.
Some people think that once the Hare Krishnas get a hold of you cannot get free, but I know for a fact many people have come and gone, so that is not true.
The Koran forbids killing innocent men and women who are bystanders and not fighters. So those who kill innocent people and claim the Koran sanctions it are incorrect.
People are becoming too materialistic. Rather than fighting with each other, religions should unite and face their common enemy—materialism.