As they were at the right time in the right place, Srila Prabhupada’s disciples were offered a unique opportunity to hear from and speak to Srila Prabhupada directly; Srila Prabhupada’s disciples are unique. If they truly used this unique momentum to come into the association of the most intimate servant of the Supreme Lord, will be clearly demonstrated to the degree they are serving His vani, His instructions how to conduct and spread Krsna consciousness.
Ideally the Vaisnava etiquette commands respect to senior Vaisnavas….provided one is senior in knowledge, realization and…one is indeed a Vaisnava. They are enough of old fools in this world.
To be Srila Prabhupada’s disciple is not a blanco cheque with open credit. As any valid credit card must be backed up by valid currency, so to be a Srila Prabhupada’s disciple must be authorized by His Divine Grace. It is not a ritualistic automatic status; it is a challenge to qualify oneself in Srila Prabhupada’s eyes. A man trying to pay with an invalid credit card will have to soon or later face the fact that he is bankrupt.
To demand respect and worship on grounds of being initiated 40 years earlier is as deviant as are the members of the corrupt cast system who demand to be accepted according the status dictated by their birth. The qualification is the defining factor, not the place and the time of the ones birth.
Ideally a senior Vaisnava should be truly senior, but seekers of Truth derive his identification from the sastra and not from circumstantial evidence. An so aspiring Srila Prabhupada’s disciple may be recognized on basis of his fascination about and dedication to the mission of his spiritual master and not on basis of his fancy vocabulary, number of admirers or his institutional status.
Those who are sincere at heart, based in sastric evidence and intuitively inspired from the heart, seek Srila Prabhupada’s mercy by following His instructions. Motivated by the mission statement Srila Prabhupada left behind. They will automatically desire to be part of His book-prasadam and Holy Name distribution in any way they can.
Only then they can claim to be truly Srila Prabhupada’s disciples regardless of the time they live in.
It may be easy, but not very palatable, to document this text with examples of deviating disciples of Srila Prabhupada from the past and from the presence, but it is far more inspiring to look towards examples of those, even new bhaktas, who are embracing Srila Prabhupada’s mission whole heartily.
P.S. To illustrate this point further, here is an exchange I had some years ago with one of my very gentle godbrothers.
His suggestion was as follows:
“How come that gurus of disciples in good standing are falling down and their disciples obviously keep on going with increasing strength in Krsna consciousness….
…and disciples of gurus in good standing are falling down despite the desperate attempt of their spiritual masters to safe them?”
An interesting observation.
The conclusions my godbrother arrived at was that there is another force, far more powerful as the bond between a spiritual master and disciple only, and that is Srila Prabhupada’s ISKCON, His movement, which is carrying the potency of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Those who surrender to Srila Parabhupada’s ISKCON, will thrive, those who deviate will perish.
And so I remember many years ago two sannyasis sitting in front of me in the lecture in Sridham Mayapur, hearing the fiery presentation of another sannyasi. He proclaimed loudly:”Srila Prabhupada is ISKCON..and ISKCON is Srila Prabhupada!”
Then I heard one of the sannyasis sitting in front of me whispering into the ear of the other one:”Let’s hope so”.
And so we can only strive hard to make the word ISKCON truly identical with Srila Prabhupada. We have long way to go.