The editors of Back to Godhead welcome correspondence pertaining to the subject matter of Krsna consciousness. All letters will be personally replied, and correspondence of special interest will be published regularly.
My dear Srila Prabhupada,
Please accept the most humble obeisances of this very fallen soul who is seeking shelter at your lotus feet. If you can recall, I met you with Sriman Bhagavan dasa Adhikari in New York recently when you left for London. Every moment of those precious few moments that I had with you is inscribed in my mind, and that will be my life breath throughout the rest of my life. Undoubtedly it was thc most important event in my life so far because you have given me new vision, new concepts of life which are all on the absolute platform. As a matter of fact, you have given me a new birth, and I have now become a true dvija [twice-born person]. Yes, when I saw you with these eyes and talked to you with this tongue, that was the perfection of these eyes and this tongue. At that time, I was overtaken by the most auspicious moment: I was in a different world and could not tell you everything that was in my heart. I felt so small against you—like a three-month-old baby extending her hand to a smiling, all-loving grandmother. This was one of the rare moments when one feels small but happier, more secure and more blissful—like Arjuna when he sees Krsna’s universal form and says:
namo namas te ‘stu sahasra-krtvah
punas ca bhuyo ‘pi namo namas te
namah purastad atha prsthatas te
namo ‘stu te sarvata eva sarva
“I offer my respectful obeisances unto You a thousand times, and again and yet again! Obeisances from the front, from behind and from all sides.” (Bg. 11.39-40) I felt exactly the same.
I started for Detroit immediately after I saw you, and all the time I was thinking that Krsna was so unjustly kind to me that even though I was so wretched and fallen He directed me towards your disciples first, then to you through your books, and finally to you personally. Now, since I know what it means to have a human form of life and I know the real purpose of this rare human form, I feel like I was a beggar on the street and all of a sudden the all-merciful Lord made me a billionaire overnight. When I told you about my desire to start a center in my home town, Surat, some time in the future, you were so kind that you asked me to do something more than that—to try to build a temple. I have now only one ambition in my life, and I pray to Krsna to stick to it. I wrote to my parents about my meeting with you in New York, and they are extremely happy. I have also asked them to chant and read Bhagavad-gitaand Srimad-Bhagavatam regularly. It won’t take them long to get used to it.
I was born in Surat to a very devotionally inclined mother. As a child, I was exceptionally faithful, offering aratrikas every morning just after taking bath and singing nice Sanskrit verses and offering nice prayers to the Lord. Since I was born in a brahmana family, everything was auspicious around the house. There was a big parijata tree and a big tulasi plant. The whole street used to gather at our house to collect the fragrant parijata flowers which were scattered all over the ground. My mother, though very intelligent, never went to school to learn the whole philosophy in detail. Still, she knew what she was doing, and I was following her. I remember that whenever I did something nonsensical as a child she used to tell me that this human birth, and that too as a brahmana, is so rare that if I didn’t behave well I would glide down to degraded conditions. At that time I was too young to understand it properly, and her knowledge was also limited. As I grew older, I was given the sacred thread in a very pompous ceremony. My lower middle class father spent two thousand rupees for that.
When all these things come to my eyes, they make me feel good today, but at the same time I feel shameful because very shortly after that I got trapped into the clutches of maya. I was given the brahmana thread, but I did not realize its potency and the potency of the Gayatri mantra because they were not given by a bona fide acarya [spiritual master]. When I went to college away from home, I forgot all that I was doing at home. Everyone in the college was a lot worse than me, and I started thinking that real advancement was to wear nice clothes, to go to movies every weekend, read nonsensical literature and talk about politics and movie stars. I wanted that, and Krsna gave it to me. I always thought I was very intelligent because I could speak nicely on these matters. I aspired for physical luxuries like a car, money, a nice house, etc. In short, I was exposed to all the evils of Western civilization, and I adopted thern wholeheartedly. All this time, even though grossly immersed in a materialistic way of thinking, I was missing something (which I 1ater realized when I got that “something”). A lot of times I did ask, “Who am I?” and “What am I doing all these things for?” But there was no Prabhupada to answer at that time, and again I would get lost in the same pattern. Then, with the same crazy ideas, I came to this country and got a master’s degree in civil engineering and got a job, and I had the things I wanted to have. But I was not a bit happier, and before seven months, before I could get entangled in the American way of life, I met the devotees at the temple. My first visit to the temple and reading the preface of Bhagavad-gita As It Is were enough to bring me on the right track. I started chanting, and my life started changing. Ever since then, I have been advancing. I am still a long way from deserving your mercy or Krsna’s mercy, but I am getting it anyway. For me, this is so incredible that I just can’t express my gratitude to you. I wrote this long story to give you a realistic picture of what is happening in the present India. The land where the Supreme Personality of Godhead appeared and displayed His pastimes is being completely ruined. The people are still innocent, but they are being misled, as you say. I am sure that when they recognize you and ISKCON, it won’t take them long to tell the difference between the milk and the water.
It is so unfortunate that in most parts of India we know very little about Lord Caitanya. All I knew was that He was a very great devotee; I knew very little about His pastimes and sankirtana movement. Now, when I realize the truth, I understand that in this ” Kali-yuga” [Age of Quarrel], when all other yogic processes but bhakti-yoga are simply invalid, no one can put a step forward on the path of self-realization without understanding Lord Caitanya. Krsna is so merciful that He personally appeared to teach us how to love Him and how to go back to Him to live an eternal and blissful life. Certainly, Caitanya is Krsna’s mercy incarnation. O Prabhupada, who says that Caitanya is not present now? He is living within you. I had read about great devotees and Vaisnavas before, but you are the most merciful of all Vaisnavas. No one in history has elevated such fallen and wretched people as you have. You have not just made “brahmanas“out of “sudras,” because in India sudras did not eat cows but were just born in low families. But you have practically made Vaisnavas out of “dogs.” I say this because I was one of them. There is a lot of talk about mystic yogis, but no one ever has been a more powerful mystic than you because you have penetrated through the hearts of people and changed their consciousness entirely. I was listening to one of your tapes the other day and heard you say that a great Vaisnava poet wrote, “O Vaisnava, let me be a dog at your doorstep.” You are not just a Vaisnava, nor am I that poet. I don’t know what I deserve to be at your lotus feet—a fragrant flower or probably a dust atom. Whatever, now I am a surrendered soul unto you because I am convinced that through you and only through you can I understand a little about Krsna and develop a little love for my Lord. O Prabhupada, please come to my dreams some time with Lord Caitanya and His sankirtana party. Please glance at this fallen soul through your transcendental mercy.
I do not deserve any reply from you. However, if somehow or other, I can know that you read my feelings. I will be most gratified and encouraged. You are the deliverer of Krsna. You can give me the vision to have a quick single glance of my Lord. That will be enough for this lifetime.
Eternally at your lotus feet,
Janakkumar R. Joshi
ISKCON Los Angeles
Editor’s note: In reply to this letter, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada agreed to accept Janakkumar Joshi as a disciple, and he was later initiated into Krsna consciousness during a week-long festival in New Vrndavana, ISKCON’s transcendental village community.