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12 : Śrīla Prabhupāda’s Presentation of Śāstra

Śrīla Prabhupāda did not present śāstra as a dry academic subject to be theorized, discussed, and armchair-philosophized about. Instead of giving abstruse explanations, he spoke and lived the essence of śāstra. He repeatedly emphasized the point of all śāstra: “You are not this body. Surrender to Kṛṣṇa.”

Śrīla Prabhupāda said that by reading his books we get in touch with the previous ācāryas. Indeed, his purports to the śāstra draw on the realization of the previous ācāryas, whose commentaries Prabhupāda consulted before composing his own. A special feature of Prabhupāda’s purports, however, is that he was the first to show how the Bhāgavatam’s principles can be practically applied in human society to effect a major change in the course of world history. Also for the first time ever, he comprehensively presented Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava philosophy, replete with all subtleties and complexities, in a non-Indian language. Thus Prabhupāda’s explanation of Vedic philosophy in simple, clear, and uncomplicated English is an unprecedented achievement in literary history. English is a mleccha-bhāṣā (language of meat-eaters), but Śrīla Prabhupāda purified it. Quoting Prabhupāda’s purports is as authorized as quoting from the original Sanskrit śāstras. The words of the ācāryas are in one sense even more valuable than the original śāstras, because without the ācāryas’ explanations, ordinary people would not be able to understand the meaning of śāstra.

Śrīla Prabhupāda’s lectures were simple, straightforward bhāgavata philosophy. His kīrtanas were also simple, just “Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa”—no showy frills. We prefer Prabhupāda’s singing to any of dozens of styles of melodious kīrtanas. And while there are many accomplished devotee speakers, there is a special attractive quality to Prabhupāda’s lectures. It is not just because of affection for Śrīla Prabhupāda that we prefer to hear him, but also because we feel his intense purity and compassion manifest from his direct link to Kṛṣṇa. We fully trust that his words are infallibly correct and spoken for our upliftment. Prabhupāda is speaking to all, yet we feel that he is talking to us individually and personally as well. Like Śukadeva Gosvāmī, he can enter the heart of everyone. (See SB 1.2.2)

My purports are liked by people because it is presented as practical experience. (Conversation, 28 May 1977)