Chaitanya Mahaprabhu showed how one can find joy by celebrating the divine pastimes of Lord Krishna: PM Modi  


Prime Minister Narendra Modi being felicitated with a memento of Acharya Srila Prabhupada at Bharat Mandapam in New Delhi on Thursday (ANI)

Narendra Modi

English rendering of the Prime Minister’s address at 150th anniversary of Srila Prabhupada on February 8. 2024, in New Delhi

Today, on the auspicious occasion of the 150th birth anniversary of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Prabhupada, the same vigour resonates within Bharat Mandapam. We envisioned this building to embody both Bharat’s contemporary prowess and ancient values. Just a few months ago, this venue showcased the potential of New India during the G-20 Summit. And today, it is our honour to host the ‘World Vaishnav Convention’ here. This exemplifies the essence of New India—a harmonious blend of development and heritage, where modernity coexists with pride in our cultural identity.

It is indeed a great honour for me to be amidst all the revered sages like you in this sacred gathering. I consider myself blessed to have had the opportunity to interact closely with several of you, having been in your company on numerous occasions. With immense respect, I bow down at the feet of Lord Krishna in the spirit of ‘Krishnam Vande Jagadgurum’. I offer my heartfelt tributes to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Prabhupada Ji. On this auspicious occasion of his 150th birth anniversary, I extend my heartfelt wishes to all followers of Srila Prabhupada. Today, I also had the privilege of unveiling a postal stamp and a commemorative coin in memory of Srila Prabhupada, and I extend my congratulations to all of you for this milestone as well.

We commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Prabhupada Goswami ji at a time when, just a few days ago, the centuries-old dream of a grand Ram temple has been realized. The joy and enthusiasm evident on your faces today, I believe, also encompasses the happiness of Ram Lalla being enshrined. This monumental event has been accomplished solely through the devotion and blessings of the sages.

Today, we effortlessly grasp the essence of God’s love, Krishna’s divine play, and the essence of devotion in our lives. All that is a result of the role played by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu epitomised love for Krishna, making spirituality and spiritual practices accessible and uncomplicated for ordinary people. He taught us that God can be realized not only through renunciation but also through joy.

Allow me to share my personal experience. Having been raised in these traditions, there was a distinct phase in my life where I found myself at a juncture where despite being immersed in bhajans and kirtans, I felt disconnected somehow. I used to sit in a corner and listen but I felt this distance. One day, a multitude of thoughts arose within me, questioning this distance or disconnectedness. What was holding me back? I realized that I was living it but not connecting with it. It was then that I decided to actively participate in the bhajans and kirtans, and as I began clapping and joining in, and I found myself completely absorbed. I experienced the transformative power inherent in Chaitanya Prabhu’s tradition. People thought that the PM was merely applauding. This PM was, in fact, a devotee of God engrossed in the divine ecstasy.

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu demonstrated how one can find joy by celebrating the divine pastimes of Lord Krishna in our lives. Many seekers today directly experience the pinnacle of spirituality through Sankirtan, bhajan, songs, and dance. I have encountered individuals who relish this experience firsthand. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu also elucidated the beauty of Shri Krishna’s divine play and underscored its significance in understanding life’s purpose. Hence, the same reverence devotees hold for texts like Bhagwat is also extended to Chaitanya Charitamrita and Bhaktamal.

Divine figures like Chaitanya Mahaprabhu perpetuate their mission in various forms according to the need of the era. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Prabhupada epitomized this continuity. At every juncture of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta ji’s life, we witness the journey from Sadhana to Siddhi, from material to spiritual pursuits. At under the age of 10, Prabhupada ji memorized the entire Gita. During adolescence, alongside modern education, he delved into Sanskrit, grammar, Vedas, and Vedangas. He expounded texts like Surya Siddhanta in astrological mathematics and earned the title of Siddhant Saraswati. By the age of 24, he had established a Sanskrit school. Throughout his life, Swami ji authored over 100 books, penned hundreds of articles, and provided guidance to lakhs. Thus, he integrated the paths of knowledge and devotion into his life’s ethos. Through the hymn ‘Vaishnav Jan To Tene Kahiye, Peer Parai Jaane Re’, Srila Prabhupada Swami propagated Gandhiji’s Vaishnav spirit of non-violence and love, both in the country and abroad.

I hail from Gujarat, a region synonymous with Vaishnav sentiments. While Lord Krishna incarnated in Mathura, he expanded his divine activities in Dwarka. Renowned Krishna devotee like Meerabai was born in Rajasthan but was drawn to Gujarat to be in union with Shri Krishna. Numerous Vaishnav saints share a special bond with Gujarat and Dwarka. Gujarat’s poet-saint Narsinh Mehta also hails from this region. Hence, the connection with Shri Krishna and the tradition of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is an inherent aspect of my life.

I joined you all during the centenary celebrations of Gaudiya Math in 2016. At that time, I elaborated on Bharat’s spiritual consciousness. When a society distances itself from its roots, it tends to forget its capabilities. The most significant repercussion is the development of an inferiority complex regarding our good qualities and strengths. Even essential philosophies like Bhakti in Indian tradition have not been immune to this trend. The young individuals present here can relate to this phenomenon. When it comes to devotion, some perceive it as contradictory to logic and modernity. However, devotion to God is a profound philosophy bestowed upon us by our sages. Devotion embodies hope and confidence, not despair or fear. It has the power to infuse consciousness amidst attachment and renunciation. Bhakti, as described by Shri Krishna on the battlefield in the 12th chapter of the Gita, is a great yoga that empowers individuals like Arjuna to stand against injustice. Therefore, devotion signifies determination, not defeat.

Our aim is not to triumph over others but to conquer ourselves, fighting not for personal gain but for humanity, embodying the spirit of ‘Dharmakshetre Kurukshetre’. This sentiment is deeply ingrained in our culture and heritage. Hence, Bharat has never engaged in territorial expansion through aggression. The ideological assaults by those unfamiliar with this profound philosophy have influenced our psyche to some extent. Yet, we owe a debt of gratitude to saints like Srila Prabhupada, who re-instilled crores of people with the proud spirit of devotion and the resolve for ‘freedom from the mentality of slavery’ in this ‘Azadi Ka Amritkaal’.

Many learned saints of the Bhakti path grace us with their presence today. You are all well-versed in the path of devotion. The contributions of our Bhakti saints and the role of the Bhakti movement in the freedom struggle have been invaluable. During every challenging period in Bharat, great saints or Acharyas have emerged to guide the nation. In the midst of the medieval era’s hardships, when defeat enveloped Bharat in despair, the saints of the Bhakti movement taught us the mantra ‘Haare ko Harinam’, ‘Haare ko Harinam’. They emphasized surrendering only to the Supreme Being. Amidst centuries of plunder-induced poverty, these saints advocated protecting our values through a life of renunciation and resilience. They re-instilled confidence that sacrificing everything to uphold truth inevitably extinguishes falsehood. Only truth prevails – ‘Satyamev Jayate’. Thus, the freedom movement gained immense strength from luminaries like Swami Vivekananda and Srila Swami Prabhupada. Notable figures like Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and Mahamana Malviya sought spiritual guidance from Prabhupada Swami, enhancing the movement’s vigour.

Through Bhakti Yoga, we derive the confidence to transcend mortality even amidst sacrifices. Hence, our sages proclaim – ‘Amrit-Swarupa Cha’, meaning devotion is akin to nectar. Today, with this conviction, crores of countrymen have entered the ‘Amritkaal’ fueled by patriotism. In this ‘Amritkaal’, we are committed to elevating Bharat to the status of a developed nation. We progress with the nation as our deity, guided by the vision of ‘Dev Se Desh’. Our diversity is our strength, emanating from every corner of the land, constituting our energy, our vigour, and our consciousness.

Gathered here in such large numbers, you all hail from diverse states and regions, each with its unique language, dialect, and lifestyle. Yet, a shared ethos effortlessly unites us all. Lord Shri Krishna imparts the wisdom –।, signifying that the same divine essence resides within all beings as their soul. This belief, manifested through the concepts of ‘Nar Se Narayan’ and ‘Jiva Se Shiva’, is deeply ingrained in Bharat’s psyche. Hence, our mantra of unity in diversity is so simple, so pervasive that it leaves no room for division. A single utterance of ‘Hare Krishna’ bridges hearts and minds. For the world, a nation may be a political construct, but for India, ‘Ek Bharat, Shreshtha Bharat’ is a spiritual conviction.

The life of Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Goswami serves as an exemplar before us. Born in Puri, he received initiation (Diksha) in the Ramanujacharya Ji tradition of the South and propagated the legacy of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Establishing his Mutt in Bengal, he drew constant inspiration from the spiritual and intellectual energy inherent to the land. Bengal is the birthplace of saints like Ramakrishna Paramhansa and national icons like Swami Vivekananda. The same land has produced luminaries such as Sri Aurobindo and Guru Rabindranath Tagore, who championed national movements with a saintly fervour. Social reformer Raja Rammohan Roy also was from Bengal. Bengal was the ‘Karma-bhumi’ of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and his disciples like Prabhupada, whose influence has catalysed a global movement of love and devotion.

Today, Bharat’s pace and progress are being lauded globally. We stand shoulder to shoulder with developed nations in modern infrastructure and cutting-edge services, often surpassing even major developed countries in various domains. We are seen more in leadership roles. Simultaneously, Bharat’s Yoga is permeating homes worldwide. The world’s confidence in our Ayurveda and naturopathy is on the rise. Presidents, Prime Ministers, and delegates from numerous nations visit to witness our ancient temples. How did this rapid transformation occur? It’s the energy of our youth! Today’s Indian youth combine knowledge and research, proudly embracing our culture. They understand the significance of both spirituality and entrepreneurship. Therefore, there has been a surge in the youth population regarding visits to pilgrimage places like Kashi and Ayodhya.

With such aware youth, it’s natural for our nation to embark on missions like Chandrayaan and at the same time embellish ‘Chandrashekhar Mahadev Dham’. When the youngsters lead, we land rovers on the moon, preserving tradition by using names like ‘Shivshakti’. Vande Bharat trains will traverse the nation, rejuvenating places like Vrindavan, Mathura, and Ayodhya. I’m pleased to announce the commencement of the exquisite Ganga Ghat construction in Mayapur, Bengal, under the Namami Gange scheme.

With the blessings of the sages, this journey of development and heritage will continue for the next 25 years, fostering a developed Bharat and paving the way for global welfare through spirituality. With this aspiration, Hare Krishna to all! Thank you very much!

This is the approximate translation and abridged version of Prime Minister’s speech. The original speech was delivered in Hindi. Courtesy: PIB

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