A Beggar or a Giver
Dear Śrīla Prabhupāda, I beg to offer you respects in the form of these words of appreciation and praise, along with my obeisances at your blessed lotuslike feet, at which the masters of loving devotion to the Lord sit.
Recently I was fortunate to spend some days at Govardhana together with a group of devotees visiting (mainly from Europe) Kṛṣṇa’s holy dhāma. We were blessed to circumambulate Govardhana Hill, inspired by the tradition of respecting Girirāja – the King of Mountains – exemplified by Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī making his daily walks around this rocky emblem of Kṛṣṇa’s love for the vraja-vāsīs. We remembered your wish – as the final days of your presence with us approached – to make bullock-cart parikramā of Govardhana, and we prayed for your blessings that we might feel your presence as we made our way with kīrtana along the sandy path in the pleasant February sunlight.
And as we proceeded – now south of Jatipur, now through Rādhā-kuṇḍa town – we encountered and passed by numerous people seeking alms. Some passively sat and patiently waited for a coin or two to drop in their tin bowls as pilgrims passed by; others approached with outstretched hands, spreading an upper garment and urging with a strong voice and persistent pace. One has contrary feelings of wishing there were no beggars to embarrass one with one’s own callousness and simultaneously wishing to give generously to them all if one possibly could, remembering Kṛṣṇa’s order to the vraja-vāsīs to distribute food generously after offering it to Govardhana in the annakūṭa festival.
I also recalled your words, reporting how you had chided some young Indian students at the University of California in Berkeley:
When I was speaking in Berkeley University sometimes in the year 1966, one Indian student stood up, and he said, “Swamiji, what this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement will do? We require now technology.” So I replied, “Yes, you are after technology. So you are a beggar. I am not a beggar. I have come here to give something. That is the difference.
I have come here to give some culture, and you have come to imitate the Western civilization by technology. That is the difference. You’ll remain a beggar, I shall remain a giver.
That is the difference.” (Lecture on Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 1.9.48, Māyāpur, June 14, 1973)
Of course, we can understand that you have given so much more than just “some culture”; you have given the entire expansive and inclusive culture and exacting practice of devotion to Kṛṣṇa.
Your desire, as you once expressed to Bhūrijana Prabhu and Jagattāriṇī Prabhvī (as Bhūrijana Prabhu shared with us at Govardhana), was nothing less than to enable everyone in the universe to become Kṛṣṇa conscious. Such is your spirit of giving.
And yet, the humble nature of your giving is such that it appears as begging. You beg every- one to listen to and accept Lord Kṛṣṇa’s teachings, following Haridāsa Ṭhākura and Nityānanda Prabhu as they implored everyone they met to accept their priceless gift of kṛṣṇa-bhakti.
My prayer on this day commemorating your appearance is that you grant me the requisite determination and humility to remain a beggar in your service, to grasp some sense of the expansiveness of your giving spirit. I pray to be able to go beyond my own limited comprehension of your mission and, thus, to at least try to reciprocate your gift in such ways that others will receive and accept the same. Then I may be blessed to see the Govardhana residents, pilgrims – beggars and all – as Lord Kṛṣṇa’s blessed associates, and I may be able to share the abundance that is embodied in Govardhana – the giver of unlimited joy to Kṛṣṇa and His devotees – with everyone I meet.
Your aspiring, begging servant,
Kṛṣṇa Kṣetra Swami