m ukam karoti vacalam
pangum langhayate girim
yat-krpa tam aham vande
By the mercy of the guru, even a dumb man can become the greatest orator, and even a lame man can cross mountains.- Sri Caitanya Caritamrta, Madhya Lila, chapter 17 text 80
At Srila Prabhupada’s birth, it was predicted that when he reached the age of seventy, he would cross the ocean and become a great exponent of religion, and open one-hundred and eight temples.
Sure enough, sixty-nine years later, on the 13th of August, 1965, Srila Prabhupada boarded the cargo ship Jaladuta with only a few possessions and a trunk of books, and embarked on his mission to spread the teachings of Sri Krishna Caitanya all over the world, as instructed by his spiritual master.
On the 17th of September, 1965, A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada arrived in Boston’s Commonwealth Pier, after thirty-five dreadful long days at sea. Just after arriving at the harbor, Srila Prabhupada composed a heartfelt poem in Bengali, and speaks about his first impressions of the West. He writes:
My dear Lord Krishna, You are so kind upon this useless soul, but I do not know why You have brought me here. Now You can do whatever You like with me.
But I guess You have some business here, otherwise why would You bring me to this terrible place?
Most of the population here is covered by the material modes of ignorance and passion. Absorbed in material life, they think themselves very happy and satisfied, and therefore they have no taste for the transcendental message of Vasudeva. I do not know how they will be able to understand it.
But I know Your causeless mercy can make everything possible, because You are the most expert mystic.
How will they understand the mellows of devotional service? O Lord, I am simply praying for Your mercy so that I will be able to convince them about Your message.
All living entities have become under the control of the illusory energy by Your will, and therefore, if You like, by Your will they can also be released from the clutches of illusion.
I wish that You may deliver them. Therefore if You so desire their deliverance, then only will they be able to understand Your message.
The words of the Srimad Bhagavatam are Your incarnation, and if a sober person repeatedly receives them with submissive aural reception, then he will be able to understand Your message…
…How will I make them understand this message of Krishna consciousness? I am very unfortunate, unqualified, and the most fallen. Therefore I am seeking Your benediction so that I can convince them, for I am powerless to do so on my own.
Somehow or other, O Lord, You have brought me here to speak about You. Now, my Lord, it is up to You to make me a success or failure as You like.
O spiritual master of all the worlds! I can simply repeat Your message, so if You like You can make my power of speaking suitable for their understanding.
Only by Your causeless mercy will my words become pure. I am sure that when this transcendental message penetrates their hearts they will certainly feel engladdened and thus become liberated from all unhappy conditions of life.
O Lord, I am just like a puppet in Your hands. So if You have brought me here to dance, then make me dance, make me dance. O Lord, make me dance as You like.
I have no devotion, nor do I have any knowledge, but I have strong faith in the holy name of Krishna. I have been designated as Bhaktivedanta, and now, if You like, You can fulfill the real purport of Bhaktivedanta.
Signed—the most unfortunate, insignificant beggar
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami,
on board the ship Jaladuta, Commonwealth Pier,
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
dated 18th of September, 1965
After such a difficult journey and after seeing the degraded condition of the Western civilization, Srila Prabhupada had every reason to want to go back to Vrindavan. But he pushed on. Despite having just endured two heart attacks, having minimal possessions, and being virtually alone in an unknown country with no one to help or support him, he never gave up . He was practically alone. Only the instructions of his spiritual master, and faith in Sri Krishna allowed him to continue on his long journey.
Remembering Srila Prabhupada, Bhavananda Prabhu recalls:
Prabhupada [said]:”…Originally, I did not want to come here.” He was not talking about coming to America, but to this world. He said, “Krishna asked, ‘I want you to write those books. Come down and write those books.'” Prabhupada said to Krishna, “But I don’t want to go to the material world.” Krishna said, “Don’t worry. I’ll take care of everything. You write those books.” That was the first and only time that I’ve ever heard or read where Prabhupada actually spoke about Krishna speaking to him and how he didn’t want to go. When he spoke in that way the atmosphere was like nothing I’ve ever experienced.
We can recall, from the Brhat Bhagavatamrta, how after his long, long journey to Goloka Vrndavan, Gopa Kumara was then sent back to the material world to save a brahmana. In a similar way, Srila Prabhupada was also sent to the material world, but not just to deliver one brahmana, but to deliver the entire world.
Such is the greatness of His Divine Grace.
Srila Prabhupada ki Jai!