Srila Prabhupada: “So there are two phases, prakata and aprakata, appearance and disappearance. So we have nothing to lament on account of disappearance because Krsna and Krsna's devotee... Not only devotees, even the nondevotees, nobody disappears." (Srila Bhaktisiddhanta’s Disappearance Day - LA, Dec 13/73)
For the devotee of Krishna, appearance and disappearance is the same thing. Every soul is eternal, but the great devotees are sat-cid-ananda before, during, and after their earthy pastimes. They are full of knowledge and bliss before they appear, they have the same consciousness while in an earthy body, and after they leave that body, they are still in prema consciousness. Ordinary souls are in ignorance before and after the occupancy of a material body, but this is not the case for Vaisnavas. Most of us don’t know where we were before birth, and don’t know what exactly will happen after death. But for the acharya, and the faithful devotee, death is like easily walking through a door into Vaikuntha.
Srila Prabhupada and the previous acharyas are always approachable by sincere souls:
Srila Prabhupada: “Vaisnava is always thinking himself helpless, helpless. And begging help from the previous acarya.” Bhagavad-gita 1.20 and- “The whole process is that we should always pray for the mercy of the superior acaryas and keep company with pure devotees. Then it will be easier for us to advance in Krsna consciousness and receive the mercy of Lord Caitanya and Lord Krsna.” (purport of song by Narottama dasa Thakura)
Even though great acharyas disappear, sometimes they give special re-appearance in personal forms:
O.B.L. Kapoor: "Prabhupada used to practice sadhana there. Even after their disappearance, the siddha (perfected) souls have a double personality, so to say. In one form they live in Golok Vrindavan, celestial Vrindavan. In another form they live in this world, in the form they used to live before as a sadhaka. Sometimes they also give darsan to their disciples. Nobody has gone anywhere else. Everybody is here. All the great souls are still here. If your heart is pure, you can have their darsan. Nobody has gone anywhere, everybody is here. It has been recorded that Jiva and Rupa Goswamis have given darsan to several devotees." (Prabhupada at Radha-Damodara 11)
Great acharyas appear to Srila Prabhupada, in dream and in vision:
Gopal Ghosh: "That is where Prabhupada got the idea for ISKCON. It is where Prabhupada did his own personal bhajan. and there many times he told me that Rupa and Jiva Goswamis appeared to him in dreams. (PRD 11: "My Eternal Residence")
A disciple and former personal servant of Srila Prabhupada said that Srila Rupa Gosvami once appeared to Srila Prabhupada while he was staying at the Radha-Damodara temple in Vrndavana. Before coming to America in 1965, Srila Prabhupada lived here as a renounced sannyasi chanting Hari Nama, praying to Radha-Damodara and the Gosvamis, and translating the Srimad Bhagavatam into English. One day while honoring maha-prasadam, Srila Prabhupada was looking out of the window at the samadhi of Sri Rupa Gosvami. Suddenly, Sri Rupa Gosvami appeared before Srila Prabhupada and spoke these most encouraging words:
"Maharaja, don't worry about anything. Go ahead and travel to the West and preach. Just preach the message of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and the chanting of Hare Krishna. You'll be successful. I guarantee because I will be right with you all the time." (GVSV: Darsana Stories)
One of the most famous and amazing re-appearance darshans of past acharyas, ever recorded in the written documents of Vaisnava history, was at the Kheturi festival organized by Narottam Das Thakur, in the early 1500’s.
This is accepted by Gaudiya Vaishnavas as an objective fact for a number of reasons, not least of which may be the miraculous occurrence that has been documented by all biographers of the period: Mahaprabhu and all His associates, many of whom had left the mortal world more than fifty years earlier, personally appeared at the Kheturi festival and danced at the height of Narottam's blessed kirtan. Thousands of attending devotees bore witness to this sacred event. The author of Bhakti-ratnakara incredulously asks, "Who can describe the incomparable happiness of the devotees when in the midst of the kirtan the munificent Shri Chaitanya and His associates descended for the pleasure of His devotees? Like a flash of lightning in the middle of a mass of beautiful clouds, Shri Chaitanya Himself appeared within the multitude of His followers." According to the Prema-vilas, Mahaprabhu appeared with Nityananda Prabhu, Shri Adwaita, Gadadhar, Shrivas Thakur, Haridas Thakur, Swarup Damodar, Rupa-Sanatan, and many others. Who, indeed, can imagine the heightened bhava as Jahnava saw her departed husband in the midst of the kirtan? Who can imagine the feeling of Adwaita Acharya's sons when they saw their father singing and dancing as if he were a young man? How did Shrivas Thakur's brothers stop themselves from crying when they saw Shrivas himself dancing in front of Mahaprabhu, just as they remembered him? In fact, they could not control themselves and were carried away by the ecstasy of being reunited with the Lord and His associates. By experiencing Vipralambha-bhava (intense separation) they were all to experience sambhoga, or divine union. (VS > The Lord Descends)
Why and how the great acharyas are sent directly from the spiritual world:
Gaudiya Vaisnavas therefore worship Srila Gurudeva (the spiritual master) in the light of his being the servitor of the Personality of Godhead. In all the ancient literatures of devotional service and in the more recent songs of Srila Narottama dasa Thakura, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and other unalloyed Vaisnavas, the spiritual master is always considered either one of the confidential associates of Srimati Radharani or a manifested representation of Srila Nityananda Prabhu. (CC Adi 1.47P)
And prominent acharyas are manjaris- In their pure spiritual forms as maidservant manjaris, the six Goswamis plus Lokanatha and Krishna das Kaviraj Goswamis comprise the inner circle of manjaris. Since Lord Chaitanya's time, all the Gaudiya Vaisnava acaryas, in their spiritual manjari forms, serve Lalita, Visakha, and Radha-Shyamasundar under the direction of Sri Rupa Manjari (Rupa Goswami). The spiritual forms of the prominent Gaudiya Vaisnava acaryas are listed here: 1. Rupa Goswami - Rupa Manjari, 2. Jiva Goswami - Vilas Manjari, 3. Sanatana Goswami - Labanga Manjari, 4. Raghunatha das Goswami - Rati, Rasa Manjari, 5. Raghunatha Bhatta Goswami - Raga Manjari, 6. Gopala Bhatta Goswami - Guna, Ananga Manjari, 7. Krishna das Kaviraj - Kasturi Manjari 8. Lokanath Goswami - Manjulali Manjari, 9. Narottama das Thakur - Camak Manjari, 10. Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakur - Vinoda Manjari, 11. Jagannath das Babaji - Rasika Manjari, 12. Bhaktivinoda Thakur -Kamala Manjari, 13. Gaurakisor das Babaji - Guna Manjari, 14. Bhaktisiddhanta - Nayana Manjari.
In the Teachings of Lord Caitanya, Srila Prabhupada describes the manjaris:
"It is very difficult to express the manjaris' dealings with Krishna because they have no desire to mix with Krishna or enjoy Him personally. Rather, they are always ready to help Radharani associate with Krishna. Their affection for Krishna and Radharani is so pure that they are simply satisfied when Radha and Krishna are together. Indeed their transcendental pleasure is in seeing Radha and Krishna united. The actual form of Radharani is just like a creeper embracing the tree of Krishna, and the damsels of Vraja, the associates of Radharani, are just like the leaves and flowers of that creeper." (TLC p. 331)
At the present time, the spiritual form of Srila Prabhupada is unknown, but from his activities, writings, and lectures we can understand that he is a very dear and confidential associate of Sri Rupa Goswami. (PRD 6: Sannyasa Years at Radha-Damodara)
We do not know for certain what Srila Prabhupada’s eternal spiritual identity is, but we can know for certain that Srila Prabhupada is a confidential associate of Srila Rupa Gosvami, and serves him in a similar way like the other prominent acharyas, who are manjaris. Srila Prabhupada said in later years that he “received great inspiration from Rupa Goswami, and that the plans for the Krishna consciousness movement were formulated during his years at Radha-Damodara.” He gave us a hint of his Swarupa identity with Lord Krishna in his poem “Prayer to the Lotus Feet of Lord Krishna,” written on board the Jaladuta when he crossed the ocean – “O dear friend, in Your company I will experience great joy once again. In the early morning I will wander about the cowherd pastures and fields. Running and frolicking in the many forests of Vraja, I will roll on the ground in spiritual ecstasy. Oh when will that day be mine?” (JD 8.1: Prayer unto the Lotus Feet of Krsna)
Lord Krishna sends His representative from the spiritual world:
Krsna is the father of all living entities. He is not happy that all these souls in the material world are rotting like hogs. Therefore He sends His representatives. In the case of Lord Jesus Christ, Krsna sent His son. Lord Jesus claimed to be the son of God. Everyone is a son of God, but this son was an especially favorite son, and he was sent to a particular place to reclaim the conditioned souls back home, back to Godhead. (SC 10: The Next Life: It's Up to Us)
Srila Prabhupada confirms that Lord Krishna personally sends His special and confidential servants to this material world to reclaim the conditioned souls and bring them back to Godhead. Most all of the great acharyas in our parampara are eternal associates of Lord Krishna, personally sent to this earth by Him, as seen in the above information that the recent acharyas are maidservant manjaris to the six Gosvamis and Krishna dasa Kaviraja in their original manjari forms, under the direction of Sri Rupa Manjari.
Lord Caitanya sends his great devotee, Srila Prabhupada:
Lochan Das Thakur, in his Chaitanya Mangal, predicted that a sena-pati, or a "great general," would come and accomplish this mission. This was Srila Prabhupada. Also, Bhaktivinode Thakur, in an article entitled "Nityananda Suryodoy," which was published in the 1800s, in his Sajjana-toshani magazine -- he predicted that soon a time is coming when the chanting of Krishna's name will be heard in England, France, Russia, Germany, and America. Srila Prabhupada brought this to fruition. There is also one document from the fifteenth century. It is called the Bhagavat Mahatmya. In this book, Narada, the great sage, has a conversation with bhakti personified. In the course of this conversation, bhakti says, idam sthanam parityajya videsham gamyate maya. Literally, this means: "I will leave this country, India, and go abroad!" The same text informs us that this personified bhakti will go to South India and then leave to go abroad after staying in Vrindavan. This is exactly what Prabhupada did. (OS 6: Chapter Six)
Here we have sastra authority that Srila Prabhupada was directly sent to this world by Lord Caitanya, and Srila Prabhupada was Lord Caitanya’s sena-pati great general. Also, in the Brahma-vivarta Purana, Lord Vishnu told Mother Ganges to not worry about the many sins of Kali-Yuga, because He will send His devotee to spread the sankritan movement all over the world. Srila Prabhupada told his disciples, “never was there a time when I did not know Krishna.”
A disciple writes:
You yourself once declared to some disciples, "never was there a time when I did not know Krsna." Who can estimate your glories, and what fool would dare to compare himself to you? You have descended to fulfill the prophecy of Lord Caitanya that this chanting of Hare Krsna would resound in every town and village in the world. You have delivered to this world in its darkest hour over fifty large books on the science of God, which are the framework for ISKCON and the law books for mankind for the next ten thousand years. (Vyasa puja 1984, Vancouver)
We should press upon all new devotees the extreme importance of never entertaining the thought that the great acharyas in our parampara are like ordinary human beings. Such an offensive mentality is described as naraka, or hellish. And we should never even slightly think that Srila Prabhupada was just another guru, but we should be firm in conviction, from sastra, that he is the sena-pati great general of Lord Caitanya’s sankirtan movement, sent by Lord Caitanya Himself, that he is jagat guru of the world, and he was sent to the western world by bhakti personified, as said in the Bhagavat Mahatmya. It is the duty of all devotees who follow in Srila Prabhupada’s legacy to inform everyone of Srila Prabhupada’s exalted status of founder-acharya and Lord Caitanya’s sena-pati great general guru for everyone in his movement.
Without spiritual master you cannot be
Madhudvisa: I was referring to a living spiritual master.
Prabhupada: Spiritual master is not the question of... Spiritual master is eternal. Spiritual master is eternal. So your question is without spiritual master. Without spiritual master you cannot be, at any stage of your life. You may accept this spiritual master or that spiritual master. That is a different thing. But you have to accept. … So any case, you have to follow a spiritual master. There cannot be the question without spiritual master. Is that clear? (Lecture - Seattle, October 2, 1968)
Vaikunthanatha dasa was once in anxiety about the fate of jiva souls who happened to get a book, but lived too far from the temples and devotees, and he asked Srila Prabhupada what was the fate of such people. Srila Prabhupada answered, “when they read the book, and accept it, then they are already initiated.” This shows how any sincere soul, in any remote corner of the world, can never be without a spiritual master, no matter what the situation is. Their sincerity will get them a book, and Srila Prabhupada’s book will initiate them into spiritual life, providing they are sincere. The definitive meaning of the word ‘initiate’ is to start something [spiritual life] into motion. We tend to think it means only the process of a fire yagna, but it is actually the initiation of divya-jnana, or transcendental spiritual knowledge injected into the heart by the pure devotee representative of Lord Krishna, and the fire yagna is an official and usually necessary procedure. In the above cases though, it is said by Srila Prabhupada that initiation is already there for sincere people who cannot come to the temple.
Srila Prabhupada and the great acharyas can bless unlimited souls in countless ways.
Mahanidhi Swami writes his book, 'Gaudiya Vaisnava Samadhis in Vrndavana':
“The author believes that at any time, at any place, and in unlimited ways a nitya-siddha mahabhagavata Vaisnava, who has entered Radha-Krishna's nitya-Vraja-lila, can bless, inspire, and instruct a sincere and faithful spiritual aspirant. The Supreme Lord Krishna invests His krpa-sakti (mercy potency) within His devotee. Without the devotee no one can receive the mercy of God. As rays of light expand from the radiant sun, the Lord's mercy expands as a living vibration from the heart of pure devotee who is saturated with love of God. The mercy vibrates in their hearts, in their thoughts, words, actions, in their bodies and in their bones. Therefore, one's consciousness becomes purified by any contact with a pure Vaisnava.” (GVSV: Differences in Potency)
This eloquent passage impresses upon us the fact that Srila Prabhupada is blessing countless jiva souls every day by his words and books and his pictures and murtis. We see this often in our temple in New Vrindavan, where so many people come and see the murti form of Srila Prabhupada sitting on his Vyasana. They are blessed by his murti, his books, and devotees telling them the pastimes of Srila Prabhupada. The continual blessing to countless souls by Srila Prabhupada is going on all over the world, every minute of the day.
Great acharyas continue to be saviors in the movement of which they are the founder-acharya.
There are many gurus, guru is one, yet the great acharya, such as Srila Prabhupada, continue to give more spiritual enlightenment than other gurus, because Srila Prabhupada left so many books and recorded conversations. And he left us so many stories of his life, which unlimited souls will read about, or hear from the continuing disciples of his movement. This is the same with other great acharyas, like the six Gosvamis, and Sri Ramanuja and Sri Madhva, and so on.
Lokanatha Swami has explained that “some or maybe all of the problems that arose in our movement after Srila Prabhupada left have their origin in our not properly understanding this position of founder-acharya.” There is a scripture from the Sri-sampradaya called Prappanamrta Tapana explains that a founder-acarya is know by five symptoms: first, he is udharika, which means that he is the savior of everyone. The Prappanamrta Tapana goes on to explain that those who come after the founder-acarya in the disciplic succession, who act as spiritual masters, are upakarika, his helpers. They are never to be equated, even after hundreds of generations, with the founder-acarya. Establishing a relationship with a spiritual master in the line of Srila Prabhupada first of all means establishing a relationship with him as founder-acarya. Ramanuja and Madhva continue to be udharika acharya for their movements, and so it is proper for Srila Prabhupada to be udharika, or continuing savior for his movement. Several gurus of our society agree with this, and they feel themselves to be upakarikas, or helper gurus for Srila Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada also reinforces this concept with the terminology he used for different kinds of guru, such as monitor gurus, officiating acharyas, and ritvik-acharyas and deputy gurus.
Great acharyas are just as powerful after disappearance:
The great acharya perpetually gives the essential spiritual inspiration to the new spiritual aspirants, and becomes their ultimate spiritual shelter, and this is the case in the Madhva and Ramanua lines, and in Srila Prabhupada’s movement as well. Some devotees say that the great acharya cannot be the perpetual savior of his institution for generations to come, but the act of saving souls is the function of the guru who injects divya-jnana, or transcendental knowledge into the heart of the disciple. This is how some people are initiated and saved, as Srila Prabhupada explained above, even though they cannot come to the temple. There is the prerogative of the great acharya of his time, that he adjusts to time and circumstance. Just like we don’t know what happened in the previous Kali-yugas. We don’t know how the situation was adjusted in the previous Kali-yuga by that prominent acharya at that time. We do know the symptoms of Kali through Srila Prabhupada’s books, that there will be many pretender gurus and swamis and bogus incarnations of god appearing in Kali to take advantage of the weak conditioned souls. So we don’t know the necessity of adjustment to the times that a great acharya will make. If a great acharya in the dark age of Kali wants to continue a line of representatives, helper gurus to represent himself as the main guru who gives transcendental knowledge to all disciples, this is his power of attorney from Krishna to make such adjustments.
Since the material world is constantly changing, Krishna often sends His representative to make adjustments according to time and circumstance. This is seen with all the great acharyas, even with Jesus Christ, they all did some amazing adjustment to the climate of the times they were in. And since such great acharyas are always naturally humble, they never declare themselves to be founder acharya, but people can easily see their position through their extraordinary activities. Srila Prabhupada says in this account, “It is a fact that no one can preach Caitanya Mahaprabhu's message without receiving the special mercy of the Lord. This is known to every Vaisnava.” [Madhya 14.21] And often the contemporaries of the great acharya will deny his true status, just like in the Gaudiya Matha, Srila Prabhupada was not accepted as the next acharya by most of his godbrothers. But his success and activities prove, without at doubt, his true self-effulgence, and the confirms the fact that Lord Caitanya Himself sent His great devotee Srila Prabhupada to push on this sankirtan movement.
When a reporter once queried Prabhupada about his successor, Srila Prabhupada, sounding like the personification of the voice of eternity, boomed forth, "I shall never die. I will live forever in my books."
So, the conclusion is that Srila Prabhupada is perpetually available to all the conditioned souls in this movement, in the form of his murti and his books and audio CD’s and tapes, and he is still the living guru, present in his personal sadhaka form in Vrndavan, and he is the prominent acharya of his movement being the perpetual savior for all devotees in his movement, being the prime giver of spiritual knowledge into the hearts of all devotees who join his movement, just as Ramanuja and Madhva are still the savior gurus of their perspective movements. Many of our gurus here in Iskcon agree with this concept, and they feel themselves to be upakarika or helper gurus of Srila Prabhupada, and that he is taking all of us back to Godhead.