Prophecies of the Golden Age: Being an instrument in the fight
Lord Caitanya said that His name will be chanted in all towns and villages of the world. Before Srila Prabhupada coming to the west, this seemed something impossible, some kind of poetic exaggeration. Even many of Srila Prabhupada’s own godbrothers had no faith that this could really become true in the literal meaning.
HG Suresvara Prabhu: "When Satsvarupa Maharaja was compiling the Lilamrta -- I was part of the team -- he would assign us to interview people, but he gave himself the assignment of interviewing Sridhara Maharaja, back in the 1980s, before he passed away. So he asked a question to Sridhara Maharaja, he said: It was only our Prabhupada who had this order to go to the west and preach? And Sridhara Maharaja said: "No, no, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta was telling all of us this. That's what he wanted us to do, he wanted to take all over the world."
Because Mahaprabhu had said: Prthivite ache yata nagaradi grama, in every town and village my holy name will be preached. It wasn't happening. That was stated in Caitanya Bhagavata, hundreds of years ago, and nothing was happening. So after these Gaudiya Math leaders came back from Europe, with not much success --they were recalled by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta who was not very pleased with their results-- because they were running up against all these westerners, who were so degraded. Like the history that Bhakti Saranga Maharaja tells, that the Marquess of Zetland in the UK said to him: "Swamiji, can you make me a brahmin?" Oh yes! Just avoid these activities: intoxication, illicit sex, meat eating and gambling. It's very simple. "Impossible!" (laugs). So when the Gaudiya Math people came back to India --they were telling their experiences-- they thought: “How it's possible? Literally, in every town and village?” They thought maybe it was some poetic exaggeration.
So Sridhara Maharaja said: "But then, Swami Maharaja" --that's what they call Prabhupada-- "he actually did! Therefore, saktyavesh!" He did it, he did it! So it's new, we are taking part of history here." (Seminar: Srila Prabhupada our founder acharya)
Yet, we can see that this is coming to pass. Not only in India but everywhere. Nowadays there are so many devotees, even in very small cities or villages, and the number is only increasing. Not necessarily everyone in the world will become a pure devotee, but at least a few pure devotees will be there, even in the smallest cities, as predicted by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. And because of the loud kirtana of these devotees, everybody else will benefit, even the immovable living beings, what to say about human beings.
“On this earth there are many living entities,” the Lord said, “some moving and some not moving. What will happen to the trees, plants, insects and other living entities? How will they be delivered from material bondage?
Haridasa Thakura replied, “My dear Lord, the deliverance of all moving and nonmoving living entities takes place only by Your mercy. You have already granted this mercy and delivered them. You have loudly chanted the Hare Krsna mantra, and everyone, moving or not moving, has benefited by hearing it.
My Lord, the moving entities who have heard Your loud sankirtana have already been delivered from bondage to the material world, and after the nonmoving living entities like trees hear it, there is an echo. Actually, however, it is not an echo: it is the kirtana of the nonmoving living entities. All this, although inconceivable, is possible by Your mercy”. (CC Antya 3.68-71)
There are so many predictions that indicate that this is the plan of the Lord, that the chanting of His holy name will spread everywhere. It means that He has a plan on how to do this. There may be some drawbacks and difficulties, but ultimately it will happen.
HG Hari Sauri Prabhu: “Prabhupada told us, on the train from Allahabad to Kolkata, in 1977, about the importance of this movement. Myself and Rameswara Swami were with Prabhupada in the overnight train, and Prabhupada told us: ‘History will mark this period, how the Krsna consciousness movement saved the world’. We haven't seen that yet, there is a lot more preparation that has to be done, but we are on it. We may not understand that we are changing history, but Krsna has a plan, and ISKCON is very much a part of that plan”. (Class in Moscow, Sri Sri Dayal Nitai Saci Suta Temple, 15 January, 2016)
It’s more or less like in the battle of Kurukshetra. Arjuna was hesitant in the beginning, just like when we say: "Oh, I'm tired, I don't want to go, people are not very receptive, It's too difficult, it's snowing...". But Krsna basically said to him: Arjuna, you may fight or not fight, that's your choice, but the result of the battle is already decided, I already have My plan. Therefore, fight and take the glory:
“With the exception of you [the Pandavas], all the soldiers here on both sides will be slain. Therefore get up. Prepare to fight and win glory. Conquer your enemies and enjoy a flourishing kingdom. They are already put to death by My arrangement, and you, O Savyasaci, can be but an instrument in the fight.
Drona, Bhisma, Jayadratha, Karna and the other great warriors have already been destroyed by Me. Therefore, kill them and do not be disturbed. Simply fight, and you will vanquish your enemies in battle.” (Bg 11.32-34)
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura made several predictions about the spreading of the sankirtana movement. In his article "Nityadharma Suryodoy", published in 1885 in the Sajjana-tosani magazine, he wrote:
“Very soon the unparalleled path of hari-nama sankirtana will be propagated all over the world. Oh, for that day when the fortunate English, French, Russian, German, and American people will take up banners, mridangas, and karatalas and raise kirtana through their streets and towns! When will that day come?”
In a later article, published in 1895, he wrote:
"Sriman Mahaprabhu did not descend with His associates to deliver a certain number of human beings in the land of India, but rather His purpose was to deliver and uplift all living beings in all countries of the world by practicing the eternal religion of all souls".
In his book "Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu: His Life and Precepts" he made another similar prophecy:
"The principle of kirtana, as the future church of the world, invites all classes of men without distinction of caste, creed, or clan to the highest cultivation of the spirit. This church will extend all over the world and take the place of all sectarian churches which exclude outsiders from the precincts of their mosque, church or temple."
About five thousand years ago, at the beginning of the Kali-yuga, Nammalvar, one of the twelve great Vaisnava saints of the Sri Sampradaya predicted the advent of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and the spread of the sankirtana movement in his Tiruvaimoli. These predictions are explained in detail in the book “A Divine Prophecy” by HG Sridhara Srinivasa Prabhu.
“All glories! All glories! All glories to the devotees of the Lord! All the inauspiciousness and curses of the living entities are destroyed, no one is going to hell, Yamaraja has no work anymore, and the ill-effects of Kali-yuga have ceased to exist. I behold something wonderful: all over the world an increasing number of devotees of Kadalvannan (bluish-black complexioned Lord Krsna), sing His names while dancing and playing musical instruments.
I behold! I behold! I behold the visions that are sweet to the eyes. O devotees! Please come and join these enthusiastic devotees. Standing in joy with arms raised they are worshipping Lord Madhava, who wears a Tulasi Garland surrounded by intoxicated bees drinking its nectar. Roaming all over the earth they chant and sing in sweet mellow, the glories and names of Lord Krsna and dance with raised arms in jubilation.
The ill-effects of Kali-yuga have ceased and a new golden age of sankirtana-yajna has begun. The demigods have also joined the movement and the whole world is flooded with love of Godhead. The devotees of Kadalvannan (the complexion of a dark cloud and ocean-hued Lord Vishnu, or Krsna) have entered and occupied every corner of the earth and are singing the name, fame and glories of the Lord with great joy and enchantment.” (Tiruvaimoli 5.2.1-3)
In the Bhavishya Purana (20.71-73) there is another interesting prediction, this one spoken by Lord Jagannatha Himself:
"Lord Jagannatha, the Supreme Lord Sri Hari Himself, spoke these attractive words for the welfare of all: The mlecchas who are born from mixed countries ruled by descendants of Kasyapa (demons) and the sudras will become brahmanas by initiation. They will wear sikas and brahmana threads and will become well versed in the uncontaminated fruit of the Vedas (Srimad Bhagavatam). They will worship Me by the Yajna prescribed by the Lord of Lords, the protector of Saci (Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu)."
Srila Prabhupada was frequently speaking about a golden age of 10,000 years, that started with the advent of Mahaprabhu. In his purport to SB 8.5.23, for example, he wrote:
"When Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu appeared, He ushered in the era for the sankirtana movement. It is also said that for ten thousand years this era will continue. This means that simply by accepting the sankirtana movement and chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, the fallen souls of this Kali-yuga will be delivered. After the Battle of Kuruksetra, at which Bhagavad-gita was spoken, Kali-yuga continues for 432,000 years, of which only 5,000 years have passed. Thus there is still a balance of 427,000 years to come. Of these 427,000 years, the 10,000 years of the sankirtana movement inaugurated by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu 500 years ago provide the opportunity for the fallen souls of Kali-yuga to take to the Krsna consciousness movement, chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra and thus be delivered from the clutches of material existence and return home, back to Godhead."
This period of 10,000 years is mentioned in the prophecies of the Brahma-vaivarta Purana. In the 129th chapter of part 4, there is a conversation between Krsna and Mother Ganga. The Lord is returning to His abode and mother Ganga is raising her concerns:
“Ganges said: O protector, Supreme enjoyer, on your departure for the perfect abode, Goloka, thereafter what will be my situation in the age of kali?
The blessed Lord said: On the earth 5,000 years of kali will be sinful and sinners will deposit their sins in you by bathing. Thereafter by the sight and touch of those who worship me by my mantra, all those sins will be burnt. There will be chanting of the name of Hari and reading of the [Bhagavata] Purana. Reaching such a place, attentively hear.
Sinful reactions including the killing of a brahmana can be nullified by hearing the Purana and chanting of the names of Hari in the manner of devotees. Just as dry grass is burnt by fire, by the embrace of My devotees all sins are burnt. O Ganges, the whole planet will become a pilgrimage sight by the presence of My devotees, even though it had been sinful. In the body of my devotees remains eternally [the purifier]. Mother earth becomes pure by the dust of the feet of my devotees. It will be the same in the case of pilgrimage sights and the whole world. Those intelligent worshipers of my mantra who partake My remnants will purify everything.
They are more dear to Me than My life, who everyday meditate only on Me. The air and fire become pure simply even by their indirect touch. For 10,000 years of kali such devotees of mine will fill the whole planet. After the departure of My devotees there will only be one varna [outcaste]. Devoid of My devotees, the earth will be shackled by kali. Saying this Krishna departed.” (Brahma-vaivarta Purana 4.129.49-60)
There is, however, some controversy about this golden age of 10,000 years, even amongst Vaishnavas. The verses 4.129.49-60 from the Brahma-vaivarta Purana can be translated in slightly different ways, that gives a different meaning. It can be understood that Krsna is saying that there will be devotees for the first 10,000 years of Kali-yuga and that mother Ganga should stay for the first 5,000 years after His disappearance. There are also two verses in the 90th chapter of the Brahma-vaivarta Purana, that state:
"Lord Hari will stay on this earth for ten thousand years of Kali-yuga and along with Him the Puranas, scriptures, and the worship of the demigods will also be present for that duration on this earth. For half that period the Ganga, other holy places, the village temples, and the study of Vedas by learned brahmanas will be present.” (Brahma-vaivarta Purana 4.90.32-33)
There is thus an apparent contradiction with the words from Srila Prabhupada. The first reference speaks about an era of 10,000 years (kaler dasa-sahasrani), but the chronology can be contested. The second reference gives the impression that such ten thousand years are counted from the beginning of Kali-yuga. It sounds especially strange that 5,100 years after the beginning of Kali-yuga, the river Ganges is still present on the planet, which also creates an apparent contradiction between what is predicted and what can be observed in practice.
How these two references can be understood and how they can be reconciled with the words of Srila Prabhupada?
These statements can be harmonized once we consider the different passages of the scriptures that predict the advent of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu (like SB 11.5.32, Bhavishya Purana 20.71-73, etc.). The golden age didn’t start with the beginning of Kali-yuga, but with the advent of Mahaprabhu, five hundred years ago. When the Brahma-vaivarta Purana states that “Lord Hari will stay on this earth for ten thousand years of Kali-yuga”, this describes how He is going to be present in the form of the holy names. During the first half of this period, the Ganges and other holy places are going to be present, and the golden age continues for five thousand years more after their disappearance.
Once we accept that Krsna was present on this earth as Mahaprabhu, 500 years ago, it doesn’t matter if one understands that Brahma-vaivarta Purana 4.129.49-60 means that sinful people will bath in the Ganga for the first 5,000 years and after that will be a golden age of 10,000 years, or if one understands that it means that Ganga will stay for 5,000 years after the disappearance of Krsna (as Mahaprabhu) and there will be devotees for 10,000 years. In both cases, the statements are perfectly in line with the idea we get from Srila Prabhupada.
We are living right now in a transitional period since the disappearance of Mahaprabhu, where the tide of the sankirtana movement is gradually rising, and the world is being inundated. The symptoms of Kali-yuga are still present, but the population of pure devotees is increasing. Soon the tide will turn. Inside the golden age, there is an ascending period (in which we are living right now), and later a slow decline, leading to the remaining years of Kali-yuga (as briefly explained by Srila Prabhupada in his conversation of 13 May 1969 with Allen Ginsberg).
This idea is corroborated in the 11th canto of Srimad Bhagavatam:
"In the Age of Kali, intelligent persons perform congregational chanting to worship the incarnation of Godhead who constantly sings the names of Krsna. Although His complexion is not blackish, He is Krsna Himself. He is accompanied by His associates, servants, weapons and confidential companions." (SB 11.5.32)
"Those who are actually advanced in knowledge are able to appreciate the essential value of this Age of Kali. Such enlightened persons worship Kali-yuga because in this fallen age all perfection of life can easily be achieved by the performance of sankirtana." ( SB 11.5.36)
"Indeed, there is no higher possible gain for embodied souls forced to wander throughout the material world than the Supreme Lord’s sankirtana movement, by which one can attain the supreme peace and free oneself from the cycle of repeated birth and death." (SB 11.5.37)
“My dear King, the inhabitants of Satya-yuga and other ages eagerly desire to take birth in this Age of Kali, since in this age there will be many devotees of the Supreme Lord, Narayana. These devotees will appear in various places but will be especially numerous in South India. O master of men, in the Age of Kali those persons who drink the waters of the holy rivers of Dravida-desa, such as the Tamraparni, Krtamala, Payasvini, the extremely pious Kaveri and the Pratici Mahanadi, will almost all be purehearted devotees of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vasudeva.” (SB 11.5.38-40)
All the auspiciousness of the age of Kali, mentioned in different passages of the scriptures, is connected with the sankirtana movement, that was inaugurated by Mahaprabhu. The first 5,000 years of Kali-yuga where just a preparation, in which humanity fell down into the lowest levels of sinfulness, and a succession of acaryas (Lord Buddha, Shankaracharya, Ramanujacharya, Madhvacharya, etc.) came to give progressively higher levels of understanding, culminating with the advent of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who gave the conclusion.
Because of the sankirtana movement inaugurated by Him, many advanced devotees from other eras will take birth during the golden age to join Mahaprabhu’s movement. Such pure souls are going to take birth everywhere, but especially in South India. We don’t know how many of such pious souls are already walking amongst us, growing-up in devotees families, or waiting for someone to stop them and give them a book, but as they join, their presence is going to help to turn the tide of materialism and help the sankirtana movement to spread around the world. Everything is happening as part of a divine arrangement.
As predicted, the spreading of the sankirtana movement will happen sooner or later, the question is just about who is going to take the credit. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura came, preached, started the Gaudiya Math, opened so many temples, and left instructions to his disciples about how to continue. He gave them the chance, but when he passed away they started to dispute and divide, and the preaching work was hampered. Srila Prabhupada recreated the preaching work of his guru-maharaja in the form of ISKCON and inherited the business of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, all because he was following what his Guru Maharaja had instructed. Due to his faith and surrender, Srila Prabhupada succeeded where others failed. And then he left instructions to his disciples about how to continue. Of course, there were difficulties and problems after Srila Prabhupada departed, but they held together and continued the society, as Srila Prabhupada instructed. That's why despite all the difficulties the preaching is still expanding.
That's actually the main instruction from Srila Prabhupada: to work in a cooperative way and at the same time maintain the principles and the standards. Everybody has difficulties, limitations and so on, but as long as we are sincere, Krsna can keep us engaged and correct us, just like He promises in the Bhagavad-Gita:
"To those who always worship Me with exclusive devotion, to them I carry what they lack, and I preserve what they have" (Bg 9.22).
Whatever good qualities we have He preserves, and whatever is lacking, He helps us to achieve, He brings to us. If we understand that, we can work together and appreciate each other’s good qualities.
It's not that nobody will disagree, it's not like some hippie idea, that everybody will just hold hands and dance around the fire. Everyone is a personality with his personal tastes, therefore there will always be a difference of opinion. Even amongst the gopis, there is divergence: there are left-wing gopis and right-wing gopis. They all love Krsna, but they have different ideas on how to serve Him best. Still, because they all want to please Krsna, ultimately there is no problem. There is no envy or bad feelings.
In the highest sense, to work together we actually just need to be and act as sincere devotees. Usually, problems start when we get into maya, affected by the modes of passion and ignorance, when we start to care about fame, position and so on. The more we practice spiritual life seriously, and the more we dedicate ourselves to spread Krsna consciousness, the fewer problems we have.
In essence, the success of our preaching depends on how we cooperate. If we stop cooperating in ISKCON and it becomes some fragmented mission, with everyone having his small project and trying to do his own thing, someone else will start all over again, and he will get all the mercy. Then we will lose our opportunity to serve Srila Prabhupada.