His Divine Grace Srila Kirtanananda Swami Bhaktipada — Tribute to a Pure Devotee??
Tribute to a Pure Devotee
The devotees of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness were shocked and dismayed when the senior member of the Society, His Divine Grace Srila Kirtanananda Swami Bhaktipada, was brutally and irrationally attacked, struck on the head, and critically injured. Although he has apparently fully recovered by Lord Krsna’s grace, for several weeks he lay in an intensive care unit of a Pittsburgh hospital, partially paralyzed, lapsing into coma. The members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, together with friends in the lay community, felt great sorrow over this incident and prayed for Srila Kirtanananda Swami’s rapid recovery.
Although attacks and assassination attempts are common in the material world, it may be bewildering to hear of such a thing happening to a saintly person. After all, we know that Lord Krsna gives His devotees special protection. Yet Vedic literatures like the Srimad-Bhagavatam advise against becoming confused or unduly disturbed over incidents such as this attack on Srila Kirtanananda Swami. Sometimes powerful preachers are put into great difficulties while performing their Krsna conscious duty.
Such was the case with Srila Haridasa Thakura, a great saint of fifteenth-century Bengal and a personal associate of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. For refusing to compromise his conviction to distribute pure love of God throughout the land, Haridasa Thakura was arrested by the Muslim ruler and ordered to be beaten in twenty-two marketplaces. Likewise, the exalted transcendentalist Prahlada Maharaja underwent severe torture at the hands of his evil father, Hiranyakasipu; and the five Pandavas, personal associates of Lord Krsna, suffered a long series of painful tribulations. And, of course. Lord Jesus Christ underwent crucifixion for the sake of distributing love of God.
We should not be disturbed on hearing of reverses such as these. Rather, we should understand that these events are part of the plan of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. One who is fixed in God consciousness accepts even enormous reverses as the grace of the Lord, continuing to serve Krsna despite all adverse conditions. Such a devotee knows that at the end of his temporary tribulations in this temporary world, he will return back to Godhead.
We should, however, guard against complacency and against the tendency of taking the saintly person for granted. Familiarity often breeds contempt, and we should take care lest we forget how rare Vaisnavas like Srila Kirtanananda Swami are.
The Vaisnava is the best friend and well-wisher of all living entities. Without discrimination, he freely distributes pure love of God to everyone through the chanting of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. By developing our innate love for Krsna through the chanting of His holy name, we can qualify ourselves to return to the kingdom of God and there enjoy eternal life with Krsna and His associates. By distributing Krsna’s holy name, the Vaisnava thus performs the greatest welfare work in this world. Whereas others may help to temporarily ease the pain and suffering of this world, the Vaisnava’s gift of the holy name releases the sincere chanter from all suffering—now and in the future—and we can experience the original, eternal happiness now dormant within. This is the gift Srila Kirtanananda Swami (and the other Vaisnavas in the Krsna consciousness movement) is freely giving to the world.
Srila Bhaktipada is a truly outstanding leader and teacher of Krsna consciousness. He is especially known for developing New Vrindaban, his monumental tribute to the glories of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder and spiritual master of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. New Vrindaban, near Moundsville, West Virginia, is the home of the world famous Palace of Gold, a beautiful chapel and pilgrimage site devoted to the memory of Srila Prabhupada. Constructed from seventeen varieties of imported and domestic marble and ornamented with gold leaf, the Palace has become an international place of pilgrimage for Indian people from around the world, and it is presently the second largest tourist attraction in the state of West Virginia.
Construction is currently underway on New Vrindaban’s Temple of Understanding. When completed, this temple for the worship of Lord Krsna and His eternal consort, Srimati Radharani, will rise 216 feet in the air. Its seventy thousand tons of granite will make this temple the largest granite structure in the world. With accompanying gardens, fountains, and parks, New Vrindaban is quickly becoming one of the most prominent and important places of religious pilgrimage in the world. New Vrindaban, the largest and most successful Krsna conscious community in America, is a hallmark of Srila Bhaktipada’s pure God-conscious vision.
As Dr. Donald Sills, a Baptist minister and the president of the Coalition for Religious Freedom, affirms, Srila Bhaktipada and the devotees of the New Vrindaban community are building much more than just a temple; they are building “a community that will reach out, not to a handful of neighbors, but will reach out throughout this nation and around the world, and say that people of God can find common ground upon which they can walk and work together. We must put aside theological differences and find that common ground.”
The community spirit among the devotees of New Vrindaban is wonderful. Their dedication to this holy place is a direct and spontaneous expression of their love and faith in Srila Bhaktipada and Srila Prabhupada. As one guest to New Vrindaban recently remarked, “The people here are the happiest, busiest people I have ever met.” Through their enthusiasm to please Krsna and His pure representative, the devotees of New Vrindaban are perfecting their lives.
Srila Kirtanananda Swami, a disciple of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada since the summer of 1966, has disciples of his own around the world—in India, Pakistan, Africa, Canada, and the United States. He is an author of transcendental literature, and his recently published Christ and Krsna has won special favor among scholars. As Klaus Klostermaier, a professor of Religious Studies at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada, has written, “Christ and Krsna . . . is a milestone in interreligious dialogue literature. The concern of the book is not sectarian propaganda but respiritualization of the world, devotion to God and a sane life.” Other books by Srila Bhaktipada include The Song of God, a summary study of the Bhagavad-gita As It Is, and the newly published Eternal Love.—SDG