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The Necessity of Reading Srila Prabhupada’s Books to Keep Him in the Center



Vyasa-puja Offering 2017

Letting Srila Prabhupada Speak for Himself

nama om visnu-padaya krsna-presthaya bhu-tale

srimate bhaktivedanta-svamin iti namine

namas te särasvate deve gaura-vani-pracarine


My dearest Srila Prabhupada,

Please accept my humble obeisances and my deepest gratitude to you for giving the world your brilliant translations of and purports to the most elevated of Vedic literatures. You have munificently given humanity access to confidential knowledge of the Absolute Truth, the intimate personal desires of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and His loving dealings with His eternal associates. You have made possible the awakening of love for Krishna and pure devotional service to His lotus feet, the goal of human life, within the heart of anyone in any part of the world who simply agrees to hear submissively with faith your transcendental ecstasies as you glorify the Lord and the process of pure devotional service in your Bhaktivedanta Purports.

Srila Prabhupäda, my offering to you on this auspicious day of your appearance is a kind of sequel to my previous two years’ offerings in which I glorified the daily reading of your books, especially out loud, and shared the happiness I’ve been feeling in doing so with devotees, many of whom have written or visited me since I wrote those offerings to say that their lives have changed permanently by reading your books out loud every day.

Last year I mentioned the survey taken at the 2016 ILS, the sanga of ISKCON’s second tier leaders held biyearly in Mayapur. The results of the survey confirmed my observation that many leaders are not reading your books, a fact that inspired the themes of my offerings in 2015 and 2016.

This year I attended the third biyearly meeting of ISKCON’s top tier leaders called the SGGS, the sanga of sannyasis, gurus, and members of the GBC. The facilitators of this three-day event, Gopala Bhatta Dasa, Vraja Véharé Dasa, and Kaunteya Dasa were able to distill the thoughts of the more than eighty attendees down to what the attendees felt were the three most important issues to get right if your movement is to be passed on to the next generation in tact as you desired. The three issues were:

1. Reading your books,

2. Substance before form,

3. The quality of our leadership.

I was very happy to hear these conclusions and couldn’t help but see a connection between the second two and the first – the proper and sufficient reading of your books. Interestingly, I learned recently from Dravida Prabhu, concerning your use of the words “sufficient” and “sufficiently,” that you often intend an archaic meaning, roughly “abundant, lavish” and “abundantly, lavishly,” respectively. So when you say, “My disciples should read my books sufficiently,” you likely mean we should read them a lot!

My question is: Without the ongoing support of your association in the form of the careful reading your books, how can we as leaders give spiritual substance or quality leadership to the devotees as we work together to improve ISKCON?

Srila Prabhupada, on this auspicious day of your appearance in this world, please allow me to beg your mercy. I’m convinced that you are personally present in your books. You yourself made statements such as: “I will never die. I will live forever in my books;” and “If you want to know me, read my books.” The more I read your books the closer I feel to you. Your presence is palpable.

For example, as I write this I’m convalescing from a two-week savage fever that put me in a hospital. I got out of the hospital just a week ago. As I was taking a break from writing due to weakness, and as I was wondering about my condition, I came upon this purport in my daily reading:

Sometimes if one is liberated from the material world but has no shelter at the lotus feet of Krsna, one falls down to the material world again. Liberation is like a state of convalescence, in which one is free from a fever but is still not healthy. Even in the stage of convalescence, if one is not very careful, one may have a relapse. Similarly, liberation does not offer as much security as the shelter of the lotus feet of Krsna.

How’s that for personal reciprocation! Unlimited thanks to you, Srila Prabhupada, for confirming so nicely that you are fully present in your books!

I propose that if we as leaders read your books properly ourselves, not only with the intention of learning more, making our classes and seminars more substantial, informative, professional, and so on, but also with the intention of spending quality time with you personally, we will be more apt to learn from you how to be the devotees you want us to be – how to follow in the footsteps of the great personalities manifest in the sound of Srimad-Bhagavatam and Sri Caitanya-caritamrta. And if we then teach the devotees under our care to do the same by reading your words out loud to them – letting you speak for yourself, letting you give them direction how to think, feel, will, and interact on the spiritual plane, regardless of their position in the social structure – the spiritual purity of your movement will be secure.

What’s more, exemplars of all types of pure Vaisnavas – from the original kings and great sages, to aristocratic brahmanas and wealthy vaisyas and landholders, to simple mendicant renunciants, in ancient times and more recent times – all live within the pages of Srimad-Bhagavatam and Sri Caitanya-caritamrta. And they are just waiting to give us their sanga and teach us how to deal with one another in genuine loving exchanges under all circumstances.

Srila Prabhupada, in the ocean of your nectarean translations and commentaries, you’ve given us everything. It’s up to us to mine the jewels of wisdom contained in your books, to learn proper behavior and attitudes, to reform our own characters accordingly, and then to become exemplars ourselves in your mood – in your line of authority.

Haridasa Thakura replied, “My dear Lord, do not be in anxiety. Do not be unhappy to see the condition of the yavanas in material existence.

Purport: These words of Haridasa Thakura are just befitting a devotee who has dedicated his life and soul to the service of the Lord. When the Lord is unhappy because of the condition of the fallen souls, the devotee consoles Him, saying, “My dear Lord, do not be in anxiety.” This is service. Everyone should adopt the cause of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to try to relieve Him from the anxiety He feels. This is actually service to the Lord. One who tries to relieve Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s anxiety for the fallen souls is certainly a most dear and confidential devotee of the Lord. To blaspheme such a devotee who is trying his best to spread the cult of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is the greatest offense. One who does so is simply awaiting punishment for his envy. (Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Antya-lila 3.52)

Srila Prabhupada, in this age of seminars and high tech methods of communicating through varieties of media, the crying need for all of us to hear directly your divine instructions is becoming more and more urgent.

Please bless me that I can be an instrument to spread this understanding for the spiritual maintenance and the proliferation of your ISKCON, the only hope for suffering humanity.

Hare Krishna

Your humble servant,

Kesava Bharati Dasa Goswami

Vyasa-Puja Offering 2016

nama om visnu-padaya krsna-prestaya bhutale

srimate bhaktivedanta-svamin iti namine

namas te sarasvate deve gaura-vani-pracarine


My dearest Srila Prabhupada,

Please accept my prostrated obeisances in the dust of your lotus feet, dust that will perpetually uplift the world through your Bhaktivedanta purports.

Srila Prabhupada, at this year’s ISKCON Leadership Sanga (ILS)—which was an impressive kick-off to the 50th anniversary celebrations of your incorporating ISKCON— we learned many things about how your movement has progressed since you incorporated it in 1966, especially in terms of the increased numbers of devotees and centers that distribute throughout the world the holy names of Krsna, knowledge of Krsna’s absolute nature and transcendental pastimes in the form of your books, and, of course, Krsna’s prasada, the remnants of food offered to Him in devotional service.

When you departed in 1977, there were 108 temples and other projects distributing Krsna consciousness on every continent. Now there are more than 600. Representing those centers, 1200 leaders gathered in Mayapur to attend seminars and plenary sessions to discuss how better to serve your mission. It was inspiring just to see that many leaders gathered together and to witness their sincere efforts to learn how to improve in all aspects of organizing, maintaining, and expanding your movement.

Finally, at the last plenary session, a survey was taken to find out how much the leaders were reading your books. Of the 1200 registered leaders, 700 attended that last plenary session. Of those 700, only 250 filled out the survey forms. Those 250 devotees had been in devotional service for an average of 19 years. The results of the survey showed that the average number of times the 250 leaders had read the Bhagavad-gita As It Is was 4; the first Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.8; Sri Caitanya-caritamrta 0.9. I couldn’t help but wonder what those numbers would have been had all 1200 attendees filled out the forms.

Srila Prabhupada, in 1974, during ISKCON San Francisco’s Ratha-yatra festival, I was among the book distributors who were privileged to meet you in your darsana room. Your first words to us were, “Are you reading my books?” You went on to stress that you are writing your books for us to read, not just to distribute. Needless to say, that instruction, coming as it did directly from your mouth to our ears, was seared into my heart.

As our founder-acarya you taught us by example how important it is to read your books. For example, later that same year, on October 1st, you wrote this to Hansadutta:

We read the scriptures again and again, and it is still fresh. When there is time, I go on reading my own books.

You obviously saw a trend, Srila Prabhupada. As our efforts intensify to increase the numbers of books published and distributed, devotees made, and preaching centers opened, the general tendency is for our own reading of your books to decline.

During the forty-four years I’ve been reading your books, I’ve witnessed leaders empowered by you to spread Krsna consciousness gradually reduce their reading of your books as their management duties intensified. And I’ve even seen leaders fall away from Krsna consciousness when their reading finally stopped, thus fulfilling your own prophecy:

All the devotees connected with the Krsna consciousness movement must read all the books that have been translated (the Caitanya-caritamrta, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Bhagavad-gita, and others); otherwise, after some time, they will simply eat, sleep and fall down from their position. Thus they will miss the opportunity to attain an eternal, blissful life of transcendental pleasure. (Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila 25.278, purport)

How important, then, are the instructions found in your purports to the successful execution of our devotional service? How essential is it that we hear submissively and sufficiently to learn how to deal with the inevitable problems that arise as we attempt to spread Krsna consciousness? The fact is that we can’t know how to think, feel, will, or act properly in Krsna consciousness without hearing and applying the merciful guidance you freely give in your Bhaktivedanta purports.

I propose that of all the methods we as leaders employ to solve the inevitable problems, individual and collective, that naturally arise as your movement expands, the most effective method is to systematically hear out loud to ourselves, or with others, your purports, especially to Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Srimad-Bhagavatam, and Sri Caitanya-caritamrta.

But doesn’t the morning program, hearing one verse a day along with one of your purports satisfy the prerequisite of constantly reading your books?

I submit that your strong statement to us that day in San Francisco, and the many others you made after that day to the same effect, were clearly meant to inspire us to read your books outside of the morning program as well.

As I write this offering, tensions among devotees in different parts of your movement have flared up, Srila Prabhupada, as they did even in your physical presence. This can only mean that there is an ongoing and crying need for all the leaders of your movement not only to read your books themselves but also to stress the reading of your books and to read them with the devotees under their care.

Here is a sample of the profound guidance you give us in your books, guidance that if followed sincerely and carefully will greatly help to mitigate whatever obstacles we confront daily in the heat of our busy devotional lives.

It is especially mentioned here that one should be very inquisitive to hear with open ears from the authorized source of the bona fide spiritual master. How is one to receive? One should receive the transcendental message by aural reception. The word karna-randhraih means “through the holes of the ears.” The favor of the spiritual master is not received through any other part of the body but the ears.” (Bhagavatam 3.22.7, purport)

One should be very careful to receive the message from the spiritual master through the ears and execute it faithfully. That will make one’s life successful. (Bhagavatam 3.22.7 purport)

To hear and explain them is more important than reading them. One can assimilate the knowledge of the revealed scriptures only by hearing and explaining. (Bhagavatam 1.1.6, purport)

And you further stress how to judge whether the hearing is being done properly by measuring its effect:

A devotee should always see that his Vaisnava qualities increase with the advancement of his Krsna consciousness. A devotee should be blameless because any offense by the devotee is a scar on the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The devotee’s duty is to be always conscious in his dealings with others, especially with another devotee of the Lord. (Bhagavatam 3.16.5, purport)

Herein lies the secret to improving our dealings with one another and, by the cooperative spirit that results from such amicable dealings, to solve seemingly intractable problems.

Over the past two years, Srila Prabhupada, since I made the vow to hear your books systematically out loud rather than read them silently, I’ve found renewed spiritual strength and enthusiasm. And whenever devotees join me, they tell me that they relish the same phenomenon.

Regarding leadership, in regard to Svayambhuva Manu, you write:

It is especially mentioned here, visnoh kurvato bruvatah kathah. When he talked, he talked only of Krsna and Visnu, the Personality of Godhead…For the entire duration of his life – 4,320,000 x 71 years – Manu engaged in Krsna consciousness by chanting, hearing, talking about, and meditating upon Krsna. Therefore his life was not wasted, nor did it become stale. (Bhagavatam 3.22.35, purport)

Srila Prabhupada, you came, lived among us, and showed us how not to waste valuable time, even while managing complex situations, for in all circumstances you taught us by example how to manage even the most difficult of affairs by constantly referring to examples of personalities and events chronicled in your books.

Like students who rise at the sound of a bell rung in the school or cultural institution to finish their morning duties and sit down to study the Vedas, everyone is sleeping in the darkness of Kali-yuga. And when they hear the call of a great acarya, the people take to the study of the Vedas to acquire actual knowledge. (Bhagavatam 10.20.9, purport)

You often said that if our minds are disturbed while chanting japa, we should chant louder. Applying the same principle, I’ve found that since I made the vow to read your books out loud that my mind stays more absorbed and also finds more easily solutions as I counsel devotees.

Srila Prabhupäda, on this most sacred day of your appearance, in the special year of the 50th anniversary of your incorporating your ISKCON, I renew my vow to continue to read out loud your books every day, at least 41 pages, to myself and to whomever I’m with, for the rest of my life.

Please give me the strength to fulfill this vow and to continue to assist you in spreading Lord Caitanya’s sankirtana movement.

Your eternal son and servant,

Kesava Bharati Dasa Goswami

Vyasa-puja Offering 2015

Dearest Srila Prabhupada,

O my eternal master, my spiritual father, my best friend! I offer my heartfelt obeisance and loving service to you.

This past year, inspired by my dear friend and god brother Vaisesika Prabhu, I made a vow to read out loud forty-one pages of your Srimad-Bhagavatam every day. Remembering how you stressed the reading of your books as an essential part of our sadhana, for your pleasure I started from the preface on 6 September 2014; and today, 14 April 2015, I reached the twentieth chapter of Canto Nine. Indeed, one who reads forty-one pages every day will finish the entire Bhagavatam in just one year.

As easy, simple, and obvious as this practice seems, the result of doing it has surprised me. It has offered me a striking reminder of how profound your association is and how readily available you are through your books.

In June 1977, you spoke these stirring words:

Whatever I have wanted to say, I have said in my books. If I live, I will say something more. If you want to know me, read my books.[1]

I was fortunate to be in your room in Vrndavana and to hear you speak the following words, just a few days before you departed from this world:

Just go on discussing Srimad-Bhagavatam among yourselves and everything will remain clear.

This past Karttika, we who yearly gather in Govardhana to celebrate that holiest of months—by reading your books out loud for five hours a day—came across the same thought enshrined in one of the final purports you dictated during those last days:

Thus the more we read Srmad-Bhagavatam, the more its knowledge becomes clear. Each and every verse is transcendental.[2]

Is it any wonder then that by reading forty-one pages of the Bhagavatam every day I am going through a kind of revival in my consciousness? Is it any wonder that I am realizing more and more, even after forty-three years of practicing Krsna consciousness, how essential associating with you directly—by systematically reading your books, especially Srimad-Bhagavatam—is to our progressive spiritual lives, individually and collectively?

It had been more than sixteen years since I’d systematically read the whole Bhagavatam with your purports. Of course, I’ve always read your books, especially the Gita, and memorized a few of the verses therein. And my service during those sixteen years of editing Gopéparäëadhana Prabhu’s translations and commentaries, and Sivarama Swami’s writings, kept me in constant contact with your books as I cross-referenced and checked the writing for fidelity to your teachings, and so on. As a result of all that, I never felt any spiritual lacking.

But when I again began systematically reading the Srimad-Bhagavatam in the mood of associating with you out of gratitude, something wonderful happened. It felt as if clouds were parting and rays of sunshine were entering my heart. I now feel renewed like a wide-eyed new devotee. In this way, you have made it clear to me that you are pleased.

Now I have made my full commitment to use whatever energy I have left in my old age to help devotees I meet revive their taste for reading your books and to teach new people coming into your society to become fixed in the basics of Krsna consciousness, especially in reading your books out loud.

In the places I visit regularly, I have noticed a disconcerting trend: many devotees are losing their taste for reading your books and are relaxing the basics they first learned when they joined your movement.

Some older and mature devotees are concentrating on the higher topics included in your books, and understandably so after forty years of seriously practicing bhakti-yoga. But partly as a result, I’ve also noticed that new devotees tend to be brought into higher topics prematurely, before they are fixed in the basics. Anyone who regularly hears your recorded material and reads your books knows without doubt the tremendous sacrifice you made for us all by sticking to the basics in your daily teachings the entire time you were physically with us.

Furthermore, in this material world time causes everyone to forget. No matter who we are, then, if we, as your disciples and followers, don’t continue to read your books sufficiently and properly, the results, both individually and collectively, will be catastrophic to your movement in the long run.

Thus, you yourself write:

All the devotees connected with the Krsna consciousness movement must read all the books that have been translated (the Caitanya-caritamrta, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Bhagavad-gita, and others); otherwise, after some time, they will simply eat, sleep and fall down from their position. Thus they will miss the opportunity to attain an eternal, blissful life of transcendental pleasure. [3]

This purport, coming as it does at the end of the Madhya-lila of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, speaks volumes about the need for all devotees, neophyte or advanced, to continue to hear the basics of Krsna consciousness, for those basics are sprinkled throughout the foundational scriptures you translated, from beginning to end. We must read them all continuously for the maintenance of our own consciousness and for the empowerment to spread Krsna consciousness and to properly represent you.

You also state in your preface to Srimad-Bhagavatam:

The only qualification one needs to study this great book of transcendental knowledge is to proceed step by step cautiously and not jump forward haphazardly as with an ordinary book. It should be gone through chapter by chapter, one after another. The reading matter is so arranged with its original Sanskrit text, its English transliteration, synonyms, translation and purports so that one is sure to become a God-realized soul at the end of finishing the first nine cantos. [4]

Now, after forty-three years of practice, I’ve once again gone from the beginning of Srimad-Bhagavatam deep into Canto Nine. And what have I found in this canto, just before the Bhagavatam enters Sri Krsna’s pastimes?: The story of the he-goat and she-goat told by Maharaja Yayati to his wife Devayani! That we are not this body, that sex life is the basic principle of material existence, that happiness here in this material world is nothing but a horse egg, that the energies of the Lord are all-powerful and insurmountable by the limited strength of our intelligence and senses, all such sobering reality checks are drilled into our consciousness in a singular way in the Bhagavatam by all the great personalities present in its pages and by the sparkling elucidations of your masterful purports.

You gave yourself to the world, Srila Prabhupada, through your Bhaktivedanta purports. Your purports teach us how to think for ourselves spiritually so that we can choose to become completely dependent on the will of the Supreme Lord. The spiritual training you give there is unique in the history of the world.

Is it any wonder then that you emphasized so strongly the importance of hearing and distributing your books? This was your transcendental plot: to uplift human society, to re-spiritualize it by the mass distribution of your books.

You therefore define your books in terms of kirtana:

These books I have recorded and chanted and they are transcribed. It is spoken kirtana. So book distribution is also chanting. These are not ordinary books. It is recorded chanting. Anyone who reads, he is hearing.[5]

I want to live in the Bhagavatam, to make the Bhagavatam my home, and to bring others into this transcendental abode. As Srila Sanatana Gosvami prays:



ha na munca kadacin mam

premna hrt-kanthayah sphura

O [Srimad-Bhagavatam] bestower of saintliness to the unsaintly, O exalter of the most fallen, please never leave me. Always appear in my heart and my voice with pure love. [6]

This desire of mine will be possible to attain only by your causeless mercy, Srila Prabhupada. So on this auspicious day of your appearance, I fall at your lotus feet and beg you to be kind to this fallen soul so that he can assist you in your mission with his full energy.

Hare Krishna

Your aspiring servant,

Kesava Bharati Dasa Goswami

[1] TKG’s Diary: Prabhupada’s Final Days, 9 June 1977.

[2] Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.13.54, purport.

[3] Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila 25.278.

[4] Srimad-Bhagavatam, preface.

[5] Letter to Rupanuga Dasa, 19 October, 1974.

[6] Sri Krsna-lila-stava 416.

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Comment by suman hazra on January 12, 2018 at 8:27pm

Jai Srila Prabhupada

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