We read about all the devotees and the dedication and sincerity that Srila Prabhupada brought out of them during the initial stages of our movement. The question was raised that if some of the most advanced devotees who rendered so much service quit at a later time, what chance do we have? How we can still have hope that we can stick to our commitments to initiation and service if those people who received the association of Srila Prabhupada couldn’t?
Several relevant points come to mind…
- Reliable social science tells us that after a major conversion experience, people often experience a few years of high idealism and selfless dedication. That was certainly the case with Prabhupada’s disciples. Of course there is eternal benefit for all the great service they did, but shastra speaks of bhakti-abhasa, the reflection of bhakti; or rasa-abhasa, the reflection of rasa. The idea is that one may exhibit symptoms like great enthusiasm, austerity, devotion etc, but it may not be a mature stage of bhakti. Hence one may fall.
- Prabhupada always emphasized that association with the external form of the guru is not as important as service in separation. Prabhupada also wrote that “you are not seeing the actual form of the guru,” in the sense that we see the external form. My experience is that those devotees who were primarily attached to Prabhupada’s external manifestation often had more trouble in his absence than those who were firmly attached to serving in separation. Distance can enhance our view of an object. Example: standing on a high mountain, it may appear just like a hill. But if you go a few miles away, you begin to see the majestic dimensions of the mountain. I have often said that some of my disciples, and their disciples, and of course all
devotees in their generations, may see Prabhupada more clearly than I do because they have that advantage of distance in time.
- Ultimately Krishna is equal to all and everybody has a fighting chance to become a pure devotee. Prabhupada used to say, “Don’t think that you cannot achieve the same understanding of the Gita as Arjuna, because you are not personally with Krishna. Spiritually we are with Krishna.” Similarly, spiritually you are with Prabhupada as much as anyone if you love him.