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08 : Ācārya All the Way

Ācārya all the way.” That’s what Guru-kṛpā said about Śrīla Prabhupāda in his final days, showing us how to be fully Kṛṣṇa conscious in the worst of health, and teaching how a pure devotee prepares for and meets death.

From the moment Prabhupāda entered our lives till the moment of his departure, he was constantly teaching. He taught by words and action alike. “Example is better than precept,” he said. One aspect of Prabhupāda’s greatness was that he was not attached to the trappings of greatness. He could get down from the vyāsāsana to show his disciples how to clean the floor. He used to say, “Do the needful,” and was ever ready to do the same himself.

As an expert ācārya, Śrīla Prabhupāda could answer everyone’s questions fully yet simply in a few words. His answers were presented with clarity and logic, exactly according to śāstra. Most importantly, he knew everyone’s heart and responded accordingly; a person’s sincere enquiry was always met with answers that satisfied not only the intellect but also the heart.

Prabhupāda wanted that Kṛṣṇa be served properly and that devotees do everything correctly. He was concerned with details. He did not let slackness go unchecked. He saw laziness and carelessness as signs of lack of bhakti. He chastised devotees for standing with their backs to the Deities, and for innumerable other apparently minor faults. If he detected any nondevotional spirit in a devotee, he would deftly excise it.

Hundreds of incidents demonstrate how Prabhupāda is “ācārya all the way.” Here are just a few:

In a crowd of devotees, Śrīla Prabhupāda held a door open for a mother with a child in a pram. (From Prabhupāda Nectar)

Prabhupāda cooked a perfect chapati even when “the flour is no good, the stove is no good.” (Told by Harikeśa Dāsa)

He taught his disciples how to worship him on Vyāsa-pūjā day. (Śrīla Prabhupāda-līlāmṛta, Ch. 31)

He refused to eat for several days when lodged in the house of a meat-eater, even though his host was one of the richest and most influential men in the country. (Śrīla Prabhupāda-līlāmṛta, Ch. 34)

He pushed everyone to work hard for Kṛṣṇa, and he himself worked harder than anyone else.

As the ācārya of book distribution, having just received a box of newly printed Kṛṣṇa books at Ratha-yātrā, Śrīla Prabhupāda immediately sold them off to the crowd. (Śrīla Prabhupāda-līlāmṛta, Ch. 45)

Prabhupāda took an icy, pre-dawn bath under a hand pump at Kumbha-melā just to teach his disciples not to miss maṅgala-ārati, even in the cold. (Śrīla Prabhupāda-līlāmṛta, Ch. 33)