A Hard Sell
by Swarup Das
At a time when the Vietnam War was raging on and the peace movement was growing, Srila Prabhupada arrived in America and presented Bhagavad-gita As It Is, a scripture in which Krishna chastises Arjuna for being a pacifist and tells him to get onto the battlefield and kill.
At the height of the Civil Rights movement and a time when feminism was on the rise, Srila Prabhupada came to teach that spiritually we are all equal but on the bodily platform it just isn't so.
When an entire generation was turning into bohemian hedonists with slogans like, "if it feels good, do it" and "turn on, tune in, drop out" and the battle cry was "sex, drugs and rock n' roll"... Srila Prabhupada introduced bhakti-yoga, a discipline that required followers to give up sex, intoxication, meat eating and gambling. When growing long hair was so in that the musical "Hair" became a nationwide sensation, Srila Prabhupada instructed his followers to shave their heads.
When other swamis, yogis and gurus were coming from India to the West preaching peace and love and we are all one ... Srila Prabhupada called them cheaters, rascals and crows.
When the book "I'm ok, You're ok" came out, Srila Prabhupada remarked, "we say that we are ok, you are not ok."
To say the least, Srila Prabhupada's message was a hard sell given the time, place and circumstances. He was even warned that if he tried to impose such rules and regulations onto Westerners nobody would listen; no one would take him seriously.
Srila Prabhupada saw through all the superficiality and more than anything else he saw that we were dissatisfied. We were unhappy. We wanted change. All the experimenting with communes, drugs and sex and all the protesting and rebelling was due to deep feelings of frustration and hopelessness. He told us that we were intelligent to want something better .. to want happiness and peace ... but we didn't know how to achieve it. He said "I have come to give you the positive alternative."
Srila Prabhupada never compromised. He was innovative and creative and made some adjustments to accommodate and achieve success in the matter of teaching Krishna consciousness ... but he never compromised. He didn't have to. His genuine purity, compassion and love was the force behind the message and which attracted all of us like iron filings to a magnet. We gladly let him turn us hippies into happies .. with (as he would describe) shining faces.
Yes, Prabhupada's message was a hard sell and he came alone to a strange, hostile environment to distribute it as ordered by his guru maharaja. Against all odds he captured our hearts and minds without ever compromising.
All glories to Sri Sri Guru and Gauranga!