There are certain priceless treasures that I keep close to my heart as I travel and preach around the world. Things that give me great inspiration; like the holy names, my beloved deities, instructions that Srila Prabhupada gave me and certain special items like a bead from Srila Jiva Goswami’s japa-mala and a small piece of cloth from Lord Caitanya Maharaprabhu. I also carry the following 1994 Vyasa Puja offering of Sivarama Swami everywhere I go.
I must have read it hundreds of times… and each time I read it I cry. For me, it reveals the essence of Lord Caitanya’s samkirtan movement and the heart of my spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada. Some of you may have read it and others not. In either case, it’s a masterpiece and can be read again and again.
Dear Śrīla Prabhupāda,
Please accept my humble obeisances at your divine lotus feet. All glories to you on the celebration of your appearance day.
While planning a composition for your offering, I was attending to my regular correspondence. One letter stood out among the others. I enclose it here, translated into English, for your pleasure.
Dear Śivarāma Swami,
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Śrīla Prabhupāda. I hope you do not mind my writing to you. I have never written to a spiritual master before. You do not know me. My name is Bhaktin Dora and I live in Pecs (Hungary). I am 14 years old, and I live at home with my mother and older sister.
In 1992 I went to the Hare Kṛṣṇa Festival with a friend. I was not very interested, but I enjoyed the chanting and dancing at the end. After it was over I bought a book, The Science of Self-Realization. I do not know why, generally I never read, I think it was because of the chanting.
I took the book home and cannot remember what happened to it. One day my mother found it and was very angry with me. She thought that I was reading this kind of thing. You see our family members are all very strict Catholics. They thought Kṛṣṇa consciousness was some kind of “brainwashing.” Actually I wasn’t reading my book, I had forgotten all about it. Somehow it just “appeared.” Anyway my mother was going to throw it away.
My grandmother who is 68 was in the kitchen at that time. She lives in the apartment upstairs. She came in and took the book. She looked at it and scolded me in a very heavy way. I thought that would be the end of it. I did not mind so much as I was in a lot of māyā at the time.
About a week later I overheard a conversation between my mother and grandmother. Granny was saying that this was not some ordinary book. She said that what Prabhupāda was saying is what Jesus Christ said and that Kṛṣṇa is God. I was very surprised. She said that we should listen to what Prabhupāda said and chant Hare Kṛṣṇa because that was the religion for this age. There was a lot talk about how Christianity was no more, and no one was following the Bible, but what Prabhupāda said was pure and perfect.
Things really took a turn from there. One day my grandmother visited the nāma-haṭṭa center here and began to chant on beads. She also began to buy Prabhupāda’s books one by one. She was spending all her pension on buying what she called t he “beautiful, holy Bhāgavatam.” Sometimes she could only afford to eat potatoes, but she kept buying the books. The devotees even came to her flat and helped her set up an altar. When I went upstairs they had taken all the pictures down, and there were Kṛṣṇa pictures everywhere.
That was really the beginning. One night granny had a dream about Prabhupāda. Something really happened to her then. I don’t know what it was, but she began to get very enthusiastic. Next she began to get the whole family involved. I mean, not just me and my mother and sister, but her two sons, their wives and six children as well as her brothers, sisters and relatives. Before she used to carry a Bible with her and quote Jesus Christ. Now she has a Bhagavad-gītā and quotes “the good Lord Prabhupāda.” She became a veritable transcendental terror. Everyone in the family has to chant at least one round a day. In addition granny made everyone become a vegetarian including my dog Sikra, and we offer our food to a picture of Prabhupāda and Lord Caitanya.
Now I am also getting out of māyā and chanting and reading a little also. Where I go to school my friends inquire about Kṛṣṇa, as they know I am a devotee. The whole family goes to the nāma-haṭṭa, all sixteen of us. During the Christmas Marathon we all tried to distribute Prabhupāda’s books. Even granny would take books with her to the market and sell them to the vendors. Everyone is afraid of her because she is fearless. They all think she has gone crazy, but she does not care.
Now she is saving to go to Budapest to see the newly installed Deities. She has heard that Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityānanda “came” to Hungary and are being worshiped there by the devotees. She says she wants to see God just once in this life.
At this year’s Hare Kṛṣṇa festival, you were speaking to the guests after the kīrtana. You must remember my grandmother because she came and sat right beside you and asked so many questions. At the end when you stood to leave, she even kissed your hand, remember? I also wanted to ask a question, but I was shy. Could I please ask you now? I hope you do not mind, Mahārāja.
I want to know what kind of man Śrīla Prabhupāda was. He must be so dear to Kṛṣṇa to have spread this message all over the world. What are these books that changed my family so much? How is it possible that he can speak so powerfully through them? You must feel very fortunate to be his disciple. How great a man he is. Sometimes when my granny chants in front of a picture of Kṛṣṇa she cries. How does Prabhupāda do that? I want to cry like that too. Granny dreams of Prabhupāda, and sometimes she talks to his picture. Although it says on the cover of the book that he passed away, is Prabhupāda really dead, or is he still alive? Do you think I can meet him some day?
I am sorry that I have gone on so. I would like to be a good devotee one day and help you and Prabhupāda spread Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Please could you answer my questions?
Śrīla Prabhupāda, what is this brand of mercy that you gave this old lady I just barely met, that you never gave to me? She never met you, never saw devotees, she is not even initiated by you. What is this kindness that you bestow upon her, that you do not give me, “your fortunate disciple?”
What am I referring to? It is just this. After having come in contact with you for just a few months, what inspiration did you give this granny in that dream? What did you move in her heart that made her change her life in its final days? That made her turn against the current of banality and tradition and strike out alone to change her world. No sympathy, no association, no institutional support. Boldness I do not possess, changes I do not have the strength to make.
Śrīla Prabhupāda, I want to know what is that you say to her from your picture when she talks to you? I have so many pictures. You do not speak to me through them.
Although I worship Deities daily, I continue to see Them as made of marble and wood. How is it this old lady has the conviction that God has “come” to her country? Why have you not given such vision to me? Where did she get the conviction that a pilgrimage to the city capital would yield the final goal of her life?
One last thing, Śrīla Prabhupāda, how is it that when Dora’s granny chants in front of a picture she cries? How do you do it? I want to cry like that too. When will you give me that mercy?
Śrīla Prabhupāda, this is one letter, from one girl who came in contact with you. How many millions of such souls are there who have yet to write, who are directly experiencing your mercy daily, who read your books with implicit faith, whom you talk to in dreams and pictures, whose lives you change abruptly and reward with tears when chanting the holy names?
How many people cross the boundaries of rules and regulations by the strong boat of your mercy and practice and taste Kṛṣṇa consciousness in a realm beyond logic and argument? I think these people are meeting you every day. How will I acquire their good fortune? When will you one day bestow some of this special mercy upon me that you give to them?
If I am not to acquire it directly, even after begging for it, then I will serve such souls who have reached your mission. I will offer them prasādam, give them your books and show them how to practice. I will chant with them. Thus I can hope to gain a new perspective of your greatness, even though I may never fully understand it.
Your insignificant servant,