Founder Acharya His Divine Grace
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

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COMING OF AGE #14 – Faith and the Impossible
By Yudhisthira Dasa   |  Apr 02, 2024

In the 1970s, Srila Prabhupada pushed his book publishing arm (BBT – Bhaktivedanta Book Trust) to produce the Chaitanya Caritamrita 17-volume transcendental treatise in just two months. This included all the proofreading, manual typesetting (without computers), layout, and much, much more. The first reaction of his young 20-something disciples was that it was impossible, triggering Prabhupada to famously state that “impossible is a word in the fool’s dictionary.” In 24-hour shifts, with Srila Prabhupada’s inspiration and transcendental determination, they miraculously completed more than 11,000 verses with extensive commentaries. The rest is history.

The first time I saw Srila Prabhupada was in early June of 1975. Within seconds, I was 100% on board. A year later, I offered my first flower to Srila Prabhupada in the ISKCON temple in Honolulu. I had a total out-of-body experience that still gives me goosebumps almost 50 years later. This was also “impossible” in the material sense. Things don’t work this way in the world unless there is “magic” in the air. Most would say this would never happen to them. I was just a “normal” 21-year-old who quickly learned that material normality is vastly overrated. Listening to Prabhupada disciples over the years, I see that each has their own unique story. Each fits into the realm of the unexpected, bordering on the impossible in terms of dramatically changing someone’s purpose and goals in life.

Those without this experience mostly have trouble accepting this conversion experience, which occurred during Srila Prabhupada’s physical presence in the Western world outside of India. To put it simply, he changed the lives of millions. Again, the rest is history.

Should we be surprised that with a bit of faith and humility, along with the grace of the Lord, the impossible can occur? Just one example of “surprising and impossible” in the material world is the existence of walking fish. A child was told this story, and at first thought it was fictional: “There was a fish who was told he could walk on land. Occasionally, there was a sighting of a fish here or there that could fly, so why not walk on land? Of course, this fish had trouble believing it, but since some of his fish friends seemed to be convinced, he went along. Apparently, he had to have firm faith and believe he could learn to walk on land for this ability to manifest. So, he practiced every day, walking along the bottom of the sea. Yet he still had doubts. After all, whenever he got near the surface and was brave enough to stick his head out of the water, he couldn’t even breathe! He knew, at the very least, that without faith and confidence, he would never be able to walk on land.”

While you may think a walking fish is pure fiction, it’s not. There is a “Mexican Walking Fish” (Axolotls) that walks underwater on the bottoms of lakes and marshlands near Mexico City. More “impossible” is a species known as Mudskippers that actually use their fins to walk on land. Now, was the first Mudskipper inspired from within to try to walk on land, or was evolution the guiding hand of the Supreme? It doesn’t really matter. But it does get us thinking about what is possible and what is not.

Now, unlike this fish, who would need to transition to another form of fish to accomplish the “impossible” task of producing the 11,000 verse Caitanya Caritamrita in 60 days, in the human form of life, we have free will and can open doors to the impossible we never knew existed. So, what holds us back from deepening our faith in the impossible? It is said that “discipline always bridges the gap between goals and accomplishments.” This is where faith and practice come into play. Suppose our goal is to become Krishna or God-conscious 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In that case, practice is essential, just like in unlimited fields of activity in “normal” life. What we get out of our activities depends on what we put in. Like cooking, without good ingredients, how can something taste good? Like a musical or athletic career, without dedicated and committed practice, what can be accomplished?

So, what about most of us? Unfortunately, at this time in the four “Yuga” cycles of the material worlds (Kali-yuga), we are said to generally be lazy, short-lived, and not very intelligent. However, we also have unlimited opportunities due to God’s love and kindness. One primary recent example has been the appearance of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the Golden Avatar, only 500 years ago. Krishna knew that, increasingly, in today’s world, our mindset is to seek out quick fixes and find shortcuts. Today, this manifests in fast food restaurants, summary notes for sale on Amazon for college courses, and much more.

We are taught that there are three modes of nature (goodness, passion, and ignorance). We also know that we are each unique individuals, so plugging into what can become a “cookie cutter” regimen (spiritual practice or anything else) can be challenging and create nearly irreconcilable inner conflict for many. Srila Prabhupada was and is a superstar. Forget the fleeting stars of the Olympic games. Srila Prabhupada wins transcendental gold medals every day, day after day. How is that possible? Firm faith through practice and training. With faith, the impossible becomes possible.

Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of ISKCON or ISKCON News.