In many cultures, one or two days are set aside each year for honoring mothers and fathers—a day for remembering loving care they showed us and the lessons they taught us throughout our lives. On this day we say “Thank you” for the simple training they gave us in the basic skills like eating, dressing, and mannerly behavior. We take these lessons for granted as we go about our daily routine, and so on these special days we are reminded to honor our father and mother.
In our Śrīla Prabhupāda we have the embodiment of the perfect mother and father, for Śrīla Prabhupāda took us from the ignorance of birth in this material world, gave us rebirth, retrained us so that we would eat, dress, and behave to please Kṛṣṇa, and taught us everything we need to know to make this lifetime successful by advancing towards ananya-bhakti.
It is possible that as the years pass and we daily practice our spiritual-life skills, we may forget how we first heard of Kṛṣṇa, His prasādam, His holy name, and His devotional service. Vyāsa-pūjā is an opportunity to meditate on that extraordinary person who sacrificed his life to give us this precious knowledge.
To our mother or father we may send a card with some touching words, or some roses perhaps. We may gather together with family members and speak of days gone by when we were ignorant and how we now appreciate life’s lessons although at the time we could not understand their importance.
But as I contemplate the meaning of Vyāsa-pūjā, I am drawn to an image of a Vyāsa-pūjā ceremony held for His Divine Grace Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī in 1961. Abhay Charan De is addressing an assembly of Godbrothers, senior to him in age and overt spiritual practice, yet he speaks boldly:
Now all of you are returning here on his order to worship him on his Vyāsa-pūjā day—Srila Prabhupada
All together you are engaged in his worship.
But a festival of flowers and fruits is not the real worship:
One who serves the guru’s message really worships him.
The service of the message is the real transcendental vibration.
Vyāsa-pūjā is our opportunity to remember and honor the exceptional capacity Śrīla Prabhupāda had to flawlessly craft the International Society for Krishna Consciousness and to broadcast Lord Caitanya’s message through out the world
On this day we can remember how he stands far and above all other prabhus. As his own Vyāsa-pūjā offering described the uncommon vision of his Guru Mahārāja, so it describes perfectly his own exceptional foresight.
To see a sense enjoyer’s face is just like drinking poison,
But you, master, are giving your darśana here and far away in foreign lands.
Mlecchas and yavanas are not allowed to enter Hindu temples,
But you, master, make them the chairman and sit them in the assembly.
To cross the ocean is not allowed for Hindus,
But you send your devotees across the ocean.
In Kali-yuga’s cities the guru’s instructions are “forbidden.”
But you remain there anyway with your special purpose in mind.
The devotees want to go to some lonely place to perform their bhajan alone,
But you don’t accept this in your judgment.
Where there is an increase in the measurement of people,
There your preaching work is to be seen.
His one question to his Śrīla Prabhupāda was, “How can I serve you?” And in a letter to a senior disciple in 1976, our Śrīla Prabhupāda himself answers that question.
I am very pleased that you have taken up this mission of spreading the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement all over the world. This is the wish of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, that: yāre dekha, tāre kaha kṛṣṇa-upadeśa: everyone you see or meet, tell him about Krsna; āmāra ājñāya guru hañā tāra ei deśa: and by My command you become a guru and save this land. This was also the mission of my Guru Mahārāja and it is my mission. You will perfect your life if you make it also your mission.
Vyāsa-pūjā is an opportunity to focus on this mission and plan how we will work together to spread His message to every town and village. This day is the first day of 364 others in which we can spread Śrīla Prabhupāda’s glories and rededicate our lives in his service. As individuals and as members of the movement to which he devoted all his energy, we can begin, on Śrīla Prabhupāda’s birth anniversary, Śrī Vyāsa-pūjā, to chart the course and become the force that is destined to shape the world for the next 10,000 years.
With profound insight Śrīla Prabhupāda addressed his Godbrothers in 1961, and in 2003 he continues to instruct us with the same perfect message:
The Vaiṣṇavas are famous for being sympathetic towards others’ suffering,Srila Prabhupada
And that fame will be increased by mature preaching.
If eternally pure devotional service to Kṛṣṇa is awakened in everyone,
Kali will flee of his own accord, crying “Ha! Ha!”
Mahāprabhu’s message is prāniṇām upakārāya:
Act for the welfare of others. This is the storehouse of happiness both now and after death.
So much work has fallen into your hands:
Everyone should join together and do something about it.
The world is simply insurmountable Māyā.
If there were a kingdom of Viṣṇu and Vaiṣṇavas on earth,
Then everyone would be happy, say the saintly persons and sages.
Vyāsa-pūjā is one day, set aside each year, to show our love for Śrīla Vyāsadeva, the śaktyāveśa-avatāra who compiled much of the Vedic literature, and the disciplic succession coming from him. But that is just the beginning. On this day we can cooperate and honor Śrīla Prabhupāda by making a resolution to show him, as he showed his Guru Mahārāja, that our bhakti will be manifest throughout the year in fearless action.
Headmistress of the Vaiṣṇava Academy for Girls, in Alachua Florida, USA.