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A Picture Says a Thousand Words

On Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings we all took turns speaking from Prabhupada’s unpublished Bhagavad-gita manuscript, and we also took turns giving the morning Srimad-Bhagavatam class. When my turn was a day or two away, I picked up the Bhagavatam to prepare. Although Prabhupada had given me a set of these books at the time of initiation, I had never before really taken the time to properly read them. After lunch, wearing as usual my dungarees and a long-sleeve turtleneck shirt, I sat down against the wall, drew my knees up, looked at the reddish brown book, and I again gazed at the cover.
Technically the art work was far from expert and there were no clear
highlights and shadows, but it didn’t matter at all. What mattered was that it was a picture of the sum of all existence.

Covering most of the top half of the page was an aerial view of an open lotus flower, with large, deep pink petals. When I saw the number one on one of the petals, I looked for a moment on the inside flap, read that this was Krsnaloka, the abode of Godhead, and turned back to the front. Inside the lotus was Radha and Krsna dancing to the tune of Krsna’s flute. Beside Them stood one very white cow, and behind them sat another. On the yellow-green grass at Their feet was the almost symbolic shape of a large lotus, and other smaller lotuses and other flowers grew around Them. On both sides of the Divine Couple were winding trees and vines, which looked like they had twinkling stars for leaves and flowers. I then became interested in the background, where there was a smaller Krsna sitting with Radha’s friends, the spiritual milkmaids. Without the need of words, the picture showed that Krsna could be in more than one place at a time, enjoying with His different associates. On the other side of Radha and Krsna I noticed a white temple, and in front of the temple were other very small figures—Lord Caitanya and His dancing party— in their own section of Krsna loka.

Outside the lotus was a number two, and I again looked inside at the cover flap. This was the brahmajyoti, the rays of spiritual effulgence emanating from Krsna’s planet. It was the conscious, spiritual outer space. The picture showed this effulgence as hundreds of dazzling yellow rays on a blue background, and it looked almost electric. Within the rays there were planets, in each planet a four-armed Visnu form, and under each Visnu His name was written. “These are the same twenty-four names and forms that Prabhupada asked me to paint a month ago,” I mused. They were number three—and the inside flap said they were the innumerable spiritual planets called Vaikunthas, each predominated by a Narayana manifestation of Krsna.

In the right hand corner was a larger circle. Was it a bigger Vaikuntha? A universe? A galaxy? I looked at the inside flap, to learn that it was the mahatattva, the sum total of matter. Within the maha-tattva was Krsna’s expansion as Maha Visnu, breathing in and out universes; and in one of those bubble-like universes was another Visnu—Garbadaksayi Visnu—sitting with Laksmi, the Goddess of Fortune. They were number six. And number seven showed the various planets of that bubble-like universe, with the sun almost in the middle. “What an amazing book cover,” I thought, “The sum total of all things!’ Though I could not properly appreciate its greatness, I was still overwhelmed.

I then opened the book as the afternoon light streamed in both through the large storefront window and the windows behind Prabhupada's dais, and I felt as though just by opening it, I was being given an invitation to enter into a celestial realm. The book felt alive—conscious. The loosely stitched binding and almost newspaper-quality paper intrigued me; it looked ancient. On the copyright page I read: “Published in 12pt times face type for The League of Devotees. Copyright 1962.” On the same page, Prabhupada’s place of residence before he came to America—Sri Radha-Damodara temple in Sevakunja, Vrndavana, and also his office in Chippiwada, Delhi were listed. I tried unsuccessfully to imagine what those places might have been like. Turning the next page carefully, I read the purport to text one:

“It is said in the Sruti mantras that the All-perfect Lord threw a glance over the matter and thus He created all living beings. The living beings are parts and parcels of the Lord and He impregnates the vast material nature with the seeds of spiritual sparks, and thus the creative energies are set in motion for so many wonderful creations.

“One atheist friend argued that God is no more expert than the manufacturer of a subtle watch, which moves by the delicate machineries. We had to reply the atheist friend that God is still a greater mechanic than the watch-maker in the sense that He creates one machine in duplicate male and female forms. The male and female forms of different grades of machinery go on producing innumerable quantities of similar machines without further attention of God. If a machine could manufacture such a set of duplicate machines to produce further machines without any attention of the original manufacturer, then of course a man could surpass the intelligence of God. But that is not possible. Each and every one of the imperfect machines has to be handled individually by the mechanic, and therefore nobody can be more intelligent or equally intelligent like God. God’s other name is therefore called as Asamaurdha. Nobody is equal or greater than Him.”

It was mystifying, and I reprimanded myself for not reading it carefully months earlier. I would have lost myself for hours in this book, but Rupanuga called to me, interrupting my preoccupation. The experience was so full of pleasure that I looked up sheepishly, feeling almost as though I were doing something wrong, and he had caught me in the act.


Copyright 2001-2002 Jadurani/Syamarani dasi.
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