Chapter 118: Kṛṣṇa and Arjuna on the Chariot; One must surrender everything!

Śrīla Prabhupāda Uvāca 118
Kṛṣṇa and Arjuna on the Chariot; One must surrender everything!

February 25, 1975, ISKCON Miami

Śrīla Prabhupāda arrived in Miami after a wonderful two weeks in Mexico City and Caracas, Venezuela. He stayed in a cottage adjacent to the temple. The cottage was normally the residence of a householder couple. There were posters of devotional paintings from Śrīla Prabhupāda's books on the walls. As Śrīla Prabhupāda and I walked into the house he noticed a particular poster on the wall. Kṛṣṇa was sitting on the chariot and Arjuna was standing behind Him with his left hand holding his forehead. Arjuna looked as if he was in a great deal of distress (Plate 5, Bhagavad Gītā As It Is).

Śrīla Prabhupāda began laughing.

"Yes, this picture," he said. "I like this picture very much. This picture is very instructive."

Unaware of any correlation to my own situation in life, I naively inquired, "What is that Śrīla Prabhupāda?"

Knowing me completely, he replied, "Well, Kṛṣṇa is saying to Arjuna, 'You must give up everything.' He is telling Arjuna, 'Give up all your family. You must kill them. You must kill your family members.' So this is the point. One has to be ready to give up everything for Kṛṣṇa and do what Kṛṣṇa desires. You must be prepared to give up a wife, children, everything. One has to be ready to kill their relatives if Kṛṣṇa desires, what to speak of giving them up. If Kṛṣṇa wants, you kill your relatives. This is a devotee. A devotee is prepared to kill their relatives for Kṛṣṇa. So, at this point, Arjuna is ready. He is having to accept. Then everything is all right. As devotees, we must be able to give up all of these family relationships."

At this point I became overwhelmed with my own internal turmoil since I still considered myself a newlywed with a wonderful baby boy. I was just embarking on family life, certainly not ready to give them up, much less kill them. This point of surrender was so extreme. I just gave in to the fact that I couldn't yet understand. Burdened by my own ignorance, I looked down at the ground and quietly responded, "Yes, Śrīla Prabhupāda."

After explaining the picture, Śrīla Prabhupāda continued into the cottage. I began to unpack his suitcase while considering his valuable instruction. I longed for the comfort of family attachment. I was tormented with the fact that I left my infant son and young wife.

The way His Divine Grace explained Arjuna's dilemma was completely objective. Śrīla Prabhupāda was so expert. He was not telling me to leave my family. He was gently persuading me to come to my own conclusion. There was no indication in his voice that this was my predicament. Yet, it was obvious to me that this was my exact predicament. I was attached and determined to stay with my family. Śrīla Prabhupāda philosophically prepared me to make the important decision that was to come in the near future.

I had enlisted in Śrīla Prabhupāda's army. Instead of Uncle Sam on the billboard, Prabhupāda pointed, saying, "Kṛṣṇa wants you!" We were at war with maya. Śrīla Prabhupāda, our commander and chief, called upon us to implement emergency measures. As volunteer warriors, this required great personal sacrifice. We could choose frontline preaching work or be involved in behind the scenes support. In my case it involved personally serving Śrīla Prabhupāda and for many others it involved long hours of sankirtan.

Somewhat weary from battling maya, I became aware that the war was never over. Somehow or other, I realized that making one stab at surrendering to Kṛṣṇa was not enough. The magical panacea of mitigating all stress through instant, total Kṛṣṇa consciousness no longer seemed possible for me. I could make the wonderful choice of staying properly situated at the lotus feet of Śrīla Prabhupāda, but it didn't mean my mind would be willing to be taken hostage by my intelligence. My intelligence battled daily with my rebellious mind. In the past, this struggle caused my body to succumb to illness.

I was secure in the fact that my family was being provided for at the Hawaii Temple. It wasn't as if I had abandoned them. I was just called away on a tour of eminent duty. I had only been with Śrīla Prabhupāda for two weeks after leaving Hawaii. I took comfort knowing that when His Divine Grace left the United States, I would be back in the loving arms of my family. After all, the agreement made with Paramahāmsa Swami, Prabhupāda's secretary, was that Nanda Kumar would be Śrīla Prabhupāda's servant while touring India. I was very attached to this arrangement.

However, Śrīla Prabhupāda seemed to be preparing me for more transcendental loving service by instructing me on a much different level. He was giving me the opportunity to surrender to Kṛṣṇa and stay with him as his personal servant. It appeared that he was telling me I should give up my attachment to my family and continue to be his personal servant. He didn't say anything more about it while he stayed in Miami. Out of apprehension, I certainly didn't mention it again.

Always cent percent Kṛṣṇa conscious, Śrīla Prabhupāda continued to teach us how to surrender to Kṛṣṇa and declare war on maya. I, on the other hand, was not Kṛṣṇa conscious. I had glimpses, but no real vision. It was hard for me to always stay in the fire of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. It was hard to stay on the front line. I was tired and in need of some relief, some sense gratification. I needed a quick fix. I needed something for the pain brought on by denying my senses. My addiction to independent pleasure raged. Although, I very much relished being with Śrīla Prabhupāda, my senses always churned. I was always looking for some way to pacify them. It didn't matter where we were. I was always eager to go to the next temple. Unable to be at peace, I always promised myself that satisfaction was just around the corner. So, I was always ready to be on the move.

Somehow or other, despite my transient nature, Śrīla Prabhupāda was satisfied with me as his servant. This is an important fact. Śrīla Prabhupāda was satisfied with whatever Kṛṣṇa provided. Fortunately, he did not give up on me. In spite of all of my many flaws, he never told me to leave his personal service and do something else. He allowed me to stay at his lotus feet and render intimate service, no matter how disturbed my mind was. I took solace massaging the soft lotus feet of His Divine Grace and became peaceful.

My loving master, you are very compassionate. You always encouraged me in the sweetest possible way to stay under your care and perform devotional service. I was so unfortunate that I was unable to surrender to your desire. There is not one day that goes by that I do not lament my foolish behavior. I pray that someday I will get the chance to once again rub your lotus feet. If it happens, I hope to remember how easily I gave up such a covetable service, so that I will never again let go of those soft, golden lotus feet.