17 Sep Vyasa Puja Message N° 2
Sent in by BCEC (Bhaktivedanta College of Education and Culture) (South Africa)
Sri Vyasa Puja Message HH Bhakti Charu Swami September 2010
In Iskcon it has become a custom to celebrate a spiritual master’s birthday as Vyasa-puja, which is actually a bona fide system. Srila Prabhupada introduced it. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur also conducted that or allowed his disciples to celebrate his Vyasa-puja. In the Gaudiya Vaisnava Society, especially in our line, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur’s line this culture is very prevalent. It is natural that on the day of the spiritual master’s appearance the disciples will celebrate his birthday as Vyasa-puja – the worship of Vyasadeva.
However when I started to give initiation that was in 1988 by that time quite a few spiritual masters in Iskcon had spiritual difficulties. Therefore I was very worried, rather afraid to accept a grand worship but at the same time in Iskcon it is a custom that a guru’s birthday is celebrated by the disciples as Vyasa-puja. So I was considering what to do about that but then it occurred to me that my date of birth according to English calculation is on the 17th September and that is the day when Srila Prabhupada arrived in the United States. So I got a good reason or opportunity to celebrate that day as Srila Prabhupada’s arrival in America, which actually was the beginning of preaching or beginning of Iskcon you can say. Srila Prabhupada’s going to America started off the unfolding of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s plan and manifestation of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s prediction that Krishna consciousness movement would spread in every town and village all over the world. So taking that advantage I started to celebrate Srila Prabhupada’s memorial festival on that day.
With the passing of time I started to notice that disciples do tend to make a grand festivity out of that day. So with the passing of time I became even more emphatic about making this as Srila Prabhupada’s Vyasa-puja and trying to reduce the celebration of my birthday as much as possible. And at the same time I also want to tell everybody or I want to remind everybody that as a spiritual master I am functioning in Iskcon as Srila Prabhupada’s representative. In Iskcon I have become a spiritual master only when the society mainly the GBC body gave me the responsibility or approved me as a spiritual master. That is why I am functioning as a spiritual master. I am not functioning as a spiritual master on my own right. I am actually functioning as a part of Iskcon’s structure. Just as in Iskcon temple we need temple presidents and the GBCs and so forth similarly in Iskcon the initiating spiritual master is a role that we are playing.
In normal condition what would happen is that a spiritual master would have his own asrama and in that asrama he trains his disciples and in that asrama he is the guru, the main authority, the main head of the institution whereas in Iskcon we are not really functioning in that way. In Iskcon we are actually function as representatives of Srila Prabhupada because Iskcon is Srila Prabhupada’s asrama and Srila Prabhupada will always be the head of this asrama. No one is going to inherit Srila Prabhupada’s legacy in that way as the institution. We will always function as Prabhupada’s representatives. And personally I feel very strongly and many other leading devotees also feel that way – that Srila Prabhupada is the acarya of Iskcon. As the founder acarya, as the founding acarya of this institution Srila Prabhupada is THE guru of all the devotees of all time. And we are simply representing Srila Prabhupada and taking care of the devotees who are coming to the institution, coming to the movement with a view to make spiritual advancement. Our responsibility is to take care of them, guide them and lead the to Srila Prabhupada’s lotus feet through Srila Prabhupada’s siksa. The Iskcon movement has been founded on Srila Prabhupada’s siksa where Srila Prabhupada’s books are the basis. We all whether we are guru or not, we all guide the devotees through Srila Prabhupada’s teachings. In the morning we give Bhagavatam class based on Srila Prabhupada’s books. In the evening we given Bhagavad-gita classes based on Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita. Whatever we do in Iskcon has to be founded on Srila Prabhupada’s books, Srila Prabhupada’s instructions.
So in this way I try to remind at least my disciples, my followers that instead of making a big fanfare about my appearance on this planet let us celebrate this as Srila Prabhupada’s memorial festival to express our gratitude to Srila Prabhupada. It is because of him that we have found this path and it is by his mercy in the form of his teachings and in the form of his wonderful arrangement that we are getting an opportunity to make spiritual advancement and eventually become engaged in Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s sankirtana movement without any other motivation besides pure devotional service. Thank you very much. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!