Where Would We Be Without Swamiji?
Srila Prabhupada, the empowered bhakti whirlwind who completely changed the lives of those he touched at 26 Second Avenue, molded himself as a preacher in Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh several years before coming to the West. The people of Jhansi didn't see him as a familyman or businessman, but as a preacher. I like to think of Prabhupada at Dr. Sastri's clinic where he would sometimes sit and talk with the patients, occasionally recommending medicines, but mostly preaching. He sat with Mr. Ramcharan Mitra, the shopkeeper-poet, at his utensils shop and read Caitanya-caritamrta to a group gathered there. And he gave lectures, sometimes several a day at various temples, the Theosophical Society, and in people's homes.
Prabhupada was an experienced preacher. He had no illusions about the people of Jhansi and how far they were prepared to be influenced by him. He saw their shallow devotion and their tendency toward sentimentality. They had invited him to lecture, but they weren't prepared to facilitate a League of Devotees. Prabhupada said to Mr. Mitra, "The whole world is waiting, Mr. Mitra, for our spiritual revolution." His ambition was to make the whole city of Jhansi alive with Krishna consciousness. And from Jhansi, he could reach out with a worldwide movement.
We don't have to do what Prabhupada did and start a worldwide society of devotees; we already have ISKCON. But it's worth noting: We can do what we are doing in ISKCON because our Founder-Acarya left his family and business and went alone to Jhansi. Because he tried to spread Krishna consciousness despite the discouragement of others, and because he persisted, we can now call ourselves devotees. We can claim to be part of that sankirtana spirit that moved Srila Prabhupada to pick us up in the first place, that same spirit that was operating in him even in those early days in Jhansi.
Supposing we hadn’t met him? What would have happened to us? Would we have died prematurely or gone crazy from a drug overdose? At the very least, our lives would have been totally useless. It’s worth considering: If Prabhupada had not come, where would I be today?[ meditations ]