December 2nd, 1975
After a short early morning walk, our party left New Delhi, following the main Agra road as far as the District of Mathurā, a two hour trip. Just before the Vṛndāvana turn-off, Prabhupāda was pleased to see a newly erected sign on the Agra Road advertising our ISKCON Krishna-Balaram International Guest House. As his car turned left onto Chattikara Road, Guṇārṇava dāsa, eagerly waiting at the roadside on a motorcycle, sped ahead to inform the devotees of His Divine Grace’s imminent arrival.
We drove the last few miles down the narrow road, past open fields and roadside trees and bushes, until Vṛndāvana village finally came in sight. It brought a strong feeling of attainment, as if we were arriving home. Vṛndāvana is not an ordinary village. Even a neophyte devotee such as myself can perceive how different its spiritual atmosphere is from anywhere else.
As the spires of our ISKCON temple came into view Śrīla Prabhupāda’s comments on an enchanting description of Mathurā-maṇḍala by Rūpa Gosvāmī in The Nectar of Devotion ran through my mind: “‘I remember the Lord standing by the banks of the Yamunā River, so beautiful amid the kadamba trees, where many birds are chirping in the gardens. And these impressions are always giving me transcendental realization of beauty and bliss.’ This feeling about Mathurā-maṇḍala and Vṛndāvana described by Rūpa Gosvāmī can actually be felt even by nondevotees. The places in the eighty-four-square-mile district of Mathurā are so beautifully situated on the banks of the River Yamunā that anyone who goes there will never want to return to this material world. These statements by Rūpa Gosvāmī are factually realized descriptions of Mathurā and Vṛndāvana. All these qualities prove that Mathurā and Vṛndāvana are situated transcendentally. Otherwise, there would be no possibility of invoking our transcendental sentiments in these places. Such transcendental feelings are aroused immediately and without fail after one arrives in Mathurā or Vṛndāvana.”
By Śrīla Prabhupāda’s mercy we disciples are realizing the truth of these words. Vṛndāvana invokes and inspires extraordinary devotional feeling. Pilgrims flock from all over the country to bathe in the Yamunā’s sanctified waters or simply to spend a day or night within its holy precincts. Especially during auspicious times of the year, tens of thousands of pilgrims crowd Vṛndāvana’s nine-miles-long parikrama path as they circumambulate the entire area. Some repeatedly cover the entire distance over and over again not by walking, but by continually offering daṇḍavats.
And then, apart from the visiting pilgrims, there are the residents of Vṛndāvana: old men and widows who’ve come to live out their last times seeking a release from repeated birth and death rather than a temporary cure for physical ailments. They know that to die in Vṛndāvana means never having to return to this material world again.
There are literally thousands of temples in the greater Vṛndāvana area. They range in size and grandeur from large custom-built structures, with towering domes and elaborate carvings, to simple homes in which traditional family Deities are humbly worshiped. Most famous are those of the six Gosvāmīs, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s intimate followers.
Modern Vṛndāvana has risen and flourished because of the initial efforts of Śrīla Rūpa and Sanātana Gosvāmīs some four hundred years ago. They dedicated their lives to the restoration of the once-hidden sites of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes. Now, by their grace, thousands of pilgrims visit every day, attending temple āratis and festivals that celebrate the pastimes of the Lord.
Following in the footsteps of the Gosvāmīs, Śrīla Prabhupāda’s special contribution is to broadcast the glories of the dhāma, not simply within India, but throughout the entire world.
By providing us with the Krishna-Balaram Temple and Guest House, Prabhupāda is giving us firsthand experience of the holy dhāma’s transcendental nature. As his most elaborate and expensive project to date, in the most important place in the world for all Vaiṣṇavas, Prabhupāda is paying special attention to its development. Especially because none of his disciples have ever managed such a large project, he is taking great care, personally guiding and overseeing the management’s development of the project to assure its success. He is only too aware of the many pitfalls to be avoided here in India. He spent considerable time doing this two months ago, and now he plans to spend the next two weeks to further solidify the high standards he requires.
When the cars pulled up outside the main gates Prabhupāda stepped out to an exuberant welcome. As he moved forward to the temple entrance, I tucked in close behind. It was a completely new and marvelous experience for me, arriving at a temple with Prabhupāda instead of being there to receive and welcome him.
My close friends, Bhagavat Āśraya and Guṇārṇava prabhus, both gave me quizzical looks filled with surprise, perhaps even amazement. A few days ago I had left Vṛndāvana for a one day trip to Delhi and now I was returning as part of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s entourage! But this was only a second’s exchange. Śrīla Prabhupāda again absorbed our full attention, and we hurried to catch up as he entered the temple among a crowd of joyous, chanting disciples.
Prabhupāda took darśana of the Deities, offering his prostrate obeisances before each of the three altars, housing Śrī Śrī Gaura-Nitāi, Śrī Śrī Kṛṣṇa-Balarāma and Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Śyāmasundara. After tasting the caraṇāmṛta, the water that has bathed the Deities, he walked back across the black and white checks of the marble floor to the vyāsāsana, the seat reserved for him in the temple, and accepted guru-pūjā before giving a lecture from the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.
Śrīla Prabhupāda spoke on the Seventh Canto, Sixth Chapter, Verse 1, concerning Prahlāda Mahārāja’s instructions to his school friends. This section of the Bhāgavatam is not yet published, as Śrīla Prabhupāda is still translating it. Thus it is new and exciting to hear.
After the devotees responsively recited the Sanskrit, Harikeśa loudly read the translation. Repeating the verse, Prabhupāda described Prahlāda Mahārāja as our predecessor guru and one of the twelve great authorities, or mahājanas, on the science of bhāgavata-dharma. He explained that although Prahlāda Mahārāja was born the son of a great demon, his life proved that even birth in a sinful family does not bar one from Kṛṣṇa consciousness, a point very relevant to us.
He noted that Prahlāda instructed his friends about bhāgavata- dharma during “tiffin hours,” although only five years old. Kaumāra means “at a young age,” and prajṣo means “sufficiently intelligent.” When one is sufficiently intelligent he follows bhāgavata-dharma, and this is described by Kṛṣṇa in the Bhagavad-gītā as surrender unto Him. Prabhupāda said that Śrī Kṛṣṇa advents once in every four billion years at this very place, Śrī Vṛndāvana-dhāma, just to teach us this. Therefore Vṛndāvana is so valuable.
He summed up the purpose of the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement as teaching that Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme and that there is no one superior to Him. “We are preaching this. In this temple we are asking everyone, ‘Here is Kṛṣṇa. Always think of Kṛṣṇa. Chant Hare Kṛṣṇa. Then you will have to think, Hare Kṛṣṇa.’ Simply by chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra you become a devotee of Kṛṣṇa.”
From his own experience, he pointed out that the results of that devotion are wonderful. “We don’t do any business, but we are spending at least twenty five lakhs [2,500,000] of rupees every month. Kṛṣṇa is supplying. If you remain Kṛṣṇa conscious, fully dependent on Kṛṣṇa, then there will be no scarcity. I started this Kṛṣṇa business with forty rupees. Now we have got forty crores [400,000,000] of rupees and ten thousand men eating prasādam daily. So this is Kṛṣṇa consciousness!”
Everyone cheered, “Jaya!”
Prabhupāda smiled and continued. “As soon as you become Kṛṣṇa conscious, you simply depend on Him and work sincerely, and then Kṛṣṇa will supply everything. For example, in Bombay: now the land is one crore of rupees worth, and when I purchased this land I had, might be, three or four lakhs. I was confident that ‘I shall be able to pay, Kṛṣṇa will give me.’ There was no money. I have got now practical experience that you depend on Kṛṣṇa—there will be no scarcity.”
Finally Prabhupāda pointedly reminded his young audience to get on with the task of becoming Kṛṣṇa conscious now, while we still have the opportunity. “Artha-dam. You do not know when you will die. At any moment you will die. Therefore before your next death, you realize Kṛṣṇa. Artha-dam means even if you live for only a few years, if you take the chance of chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, still you are benefitted. This chanting of Hare Kṛṣṇa is so important that you can always think that ‘Death is coming. Death is at my door. Let me finish my chanting. Let me finish my chanting.’ Always you should think like that, that ‘Death is already coming, so let me chant.’ So this is called bhāgavata-dharma, and the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement means bhāgavata-dharma. So you read Prahlāda Mahārāja’s instructions very nicely and utilize it in your life. Your life will be successful. Thank you very much.”
To the cheers of the devotees Prabhupāda left the temple and disappeared into his quarters with Hansadūta and Harikeśa. I remained outside, feeling happy yet regretful. I had been allowed to travel back to Vṛndāvana with Prabhupāda’s party but only to collect my belongings before going on to Calcutta. I reflected on how even a drop of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s mercy is so sweet and satisfying, yet it leaves you craving for more.
Others were craving Śrīla Prabhupāda’s mercy also. Pṛthu-putra, whom Harikeśa had appointed as my replacement, approached me, expressing his eagerness to take over as Prabhupāda’s masseur. I had foolishly forgotten Śrīla Prabhupāda’s gamchā in the motel bathroom in Kurukṣetra, so I had to go to Loi Bazaar to buy him another. Inviting Pṛthu-putra along, I explained to him what I had learned about massaging Prabhupāda and told him about my experiences in New Delhi and Kurukṣetra as we bumped and bounced our way through the narrow streets on a rickshaw. While at the cloth store I bought myself a new dhotī also.
Pṛthu-putra was as excited as I had been at the prospect of personally serving His Divine Grace. My own feelings of regret at losing the opportunity mingled with a deep sense of gratitude for having had the chance at all, and I resigned myself to whatever my new assignment might bring.
Arriving back at the Mandir, however, something unexpected and wonderful occurred. Harikeśa met us on the porch of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s quarters with an apology. “Sorry Pṛthu. Forget it! Prabhupāda doesn’t want any change!”
My heart leapt and Pṛthu-putra’s fell. Harikeśa looked at me, simultaneously resigned and apologetic. “Śrīla Prabhupāda just told me he doesn’t want to keep changing his servant every five minutes. He said you are doing fine so you’re to continue, at least while he’s here in Vṛndāvana, and he told me that I’m to divide up the duties so that you will have a full day’s engagement.”
I couldn’t believe my good fortune. So far I had only been doing his massage, but now I was being given full responsibilities as Śrīla Prabhupāda’s personal servant, at least while he is here in Vṛndāvana. Not only was I being retained, but I was also getting an increase in service.
Harikeśa appeared a little shame-faced, as he didn’t like the idea of relinquishing the servant’s duties to someone else. He admitted that losing some of his duties had left him feeling uncertain about his future and what Prabhupāda wanted him to do.
Nevertheless, Harikeśa made me feel welcome, and I immediately moved my personal belongings into the small servant’s room. The room was bare, save for a glass cabinet and a solitary line drawing on the wall of Jagannātha Miśra and Śacīdevī with baby Nimāi on her lap. It was signed at the bottom ‘Devahūti dāsī 11/74.’ I felt very privileged to be staying within the sacred precincts of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s personal quarters.
Śrīla Prabhupāda is certainly being very kind, for it seems to me there are many other devotees far more qualified than I, and yet here he is, keeping me on for a few weeks more.
Thus I spent this morning with Harikeśa, as he filled me in on the details of my new service. First, in the bedroom we went through the contents of Prabhupāda’s suitcase. Śrīla Prabhupāda has very few personal possessions: everything he owns fills only half of a large red suitcase. He has three or four sets of cloth—kurtā, luṅgi and kaupīna; a couple of sweaters, a few pairs of socks, gamchā, heavy lined winter coat, chaddar, and some sundries.
A second suitcase holds various electrical devices used for operating his dictaphone and the large reel-to-reel tape recorder to record his morning walks and classes. There are two electric bells on long leads, one of which is immediately set up between his desk and the servant’s room whenever Prabhupāda arrives at a new place. The other is a spare. The servant also uses this suitcase for his own clothing and other belongings. Harikeśa showed me how to pack the suitcases properly for travel both within and outside India. It’s an art in itself.
He revealed the contents of Prabhupāda’s bedroom cupboards, which contain his bed sheets, floor covers, bathing loṭās and towels. His servant doesn’t necessarily handle these items, but he has to give instructions about them to the cleaning crew that comes in every morning when Prabhupāda takes his walk.
He also showed me two large brass buckets Prabhupāda uses for bathing (which require polishing every day) and the straw mat and bottles of oil for massage. After showing me what clean clothes to lay out for Prabhupāda to change into after his bath, he finally left me on my own.
Śrīla Prabhupāda’s servant always has to be readily available. If Prabhupāda rings for anything it’s the servant who responds, not the secretary. Along with giving the two massages, the servant is expected to see that Prabhupāda’s clothes are washed, his rooms cleaned, prasādam is on time and to arrange all the many small items needed to make Prabhupāda’s day go smoothly. The art is to see that Śrīla Prabhupāda is not in any way inconvenienced and can go on with his mission of preaching Kṛṣṇa consciousness undisturbed. Prabhupāda’s secretary, usually a GBC member, takes care of correspondence, requests for appointments with His Divine Grace, travel arrangements, tour schedules, and the like. Harikeśa transcribes Prabhupāda’s translations and nightly revelations and sends them to the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust (BBT) in Los Angeles for editing and publishing. He also cooks for Prabhupāda, although here in Vṛndāvana he has help with this from other devotees.
* * *
At 11:15 a.m. I changed into my gamchā and went into the darśana room where Prabhupāda was sitting at his desk talking with some devotees. He decided to go up on the roof and sit in the sun.
Prabhupāda climbed the covered back stairs without difficulty, coming out into the bright sunlight. After a quick glance of inspection over the side wall, he walked on through the ten-by-twenty-foot room to the open back section.
Prabhupāda changed into his gamchā and sat on the straw mat. As I began to massage him, Hansadūta arrived with the mail. Prabhupāda sometimes replies to his letters at mid-morning, but more often during his massage. Hansadūta read each letter one by one, writing down Śrīla Prabhupāda’s replies exactly as he dictated them.
It is instructive and entertaining to hear various ISKCON reports from all over the world, both the problems and the successes, and to hear Prabhupāda’s responses to them. He is very punctual in answering, always replying within a day or two of receiving a letter. He answers a letter as if the correspondent is there in front of him. His responses are accompanied by all the same facial gestures that mark his conversations—appreciative raising of his brows and widening of his eyes, a slight tip of his head, bright smiles, scolding looks. He gives each letter his full attention and his replies are expressive and personal and always to the point.
Today he dealt with the letters received in New Delhi.
To Kīrtirāja he wrote an encouraging letter, urging him to preach in Poland. He reminded him of Lord Caitanya’s prediction that Kṛṣṇa consciousness will spread to every town and village of the world. Then he expressed his gratitude that so many American and European boys and girls are helping to make this a reality. “It is not bogus like Communism, socialism and so many ‘isms’ going on in the world today, but it is purely spiritual, authorized by Krsna Himself, who spoke this science of life five thousand years ago on the battlefield of Kuruksetra. The battlefield is still there, and you will be happy to know that yesterday we have been at that very spot where Krsna spoke to Arjuna, and we will build a gorgeous Krsna-Arjuna temple there. People will come from all over the world to see it and understand the authority and sublime message of Lord Krsna.” He ended by asking Kīrtirāja to send regular progress reports on his mission.
Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa Swami sent a report on the proposed new Mercedes car. He also enclosed a critical news article from the magazine of a Christian sect, with his reply correcting their misconceptions.
Prabhupāda was pleased by his preaching and told him, “They do not accept the fact of rebirth, and they claim “Awake” so this is nonsense. Your letter was nice. The whole world is in darkness, and we are bringing it to light by preaching Bhagavata-dharma. Thank you for helping me.”
A letter requesting Prabhupāda to accept eleven new candidates for first initiation came from Germany, and he replied to Cakravartī dāsa according to his standard format. “Please accept my blessings. I have accepted the following list of boys and girls as my duly initiated disciples. So you are the president there at Schloss Retterschof, it is your duty to see that the standards of Krsna consciousness are always maintained. Especially chanting sixteen rounds daily, observing the four regulative principles: no meat, fish, eggs, no intoxication, no gambling, and no illicit sex life. The students must all attend morning and evening arati and classes. If we follow this simple program along with regular sankirtana, distributing the books and preaching, then there will be no fall down. Just like if one keeps himself clean and properly nourished by eating regularly, he will not infect disease, but if there is neglect, there is room for infection, he becomes weak and falls prey to disease. So Krsna consciousness is the medicine for the material disease, and chanting Hare Krsna mantra sincerely is the basic ingredient of that medicine.”
In accepting new disciples Śrīla Prabhupāda gives each a spiritual name and a new set of beads. Śrīla Prabhupāda has delegated the task of choosing spiritual names to his secretary. The secretary culls the names from books listing the various names of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa, and they are sent with Prabhupāda’s reply. Prabhupāda has also entrusted his sannyāsīs and some GBCs with the responsibility of chanting the first round of the mahā-mantra on each disciple’s new set of beads. Sometimes he chants on the beads himself before sending them in the mail to the new disciple.
Lastly he replied to a letter from Tuṣṭa Kṛṣṇa Swami in New Zealand. Tuṣṭa Kṛṣṇa Mahārāja belongs to a group of devotees who split away from ISKCON several years ago. They disagreed with certain methods of book distribution and the managerial structure within ISKCON. The leader of this group is a former ISKCON sannyāsī named Siddha-svarūpānanda Goswami. Although members of this group have their own ideas about spreading Kṛṣṇa consciousness, Tuṣṭa Kṛṣṇa Mahārāja writes to Śrīla Prabhupāda regularly.
Tuṣṭa Kṛṣṇa had previously recommended various people for initiation, but before accepting them Prabhupāda wanted to know if Tuṣṭa Kṛṣṇa Mahārāja himself was following. Tuṣṭa Kṛṣṇa’s letter contained positive confirmation and Prabhupāda wrote back, “Every student is expected to become acarya. Acarya means one who knows the scriptural injunctions and follows them practically in life and teaches them to his disciples. I have given you sannyasa with the great hope that in my absence you will preach the cult throughout the world and thus become recognized by Krsna as the most sincere servant of the Lord. So I am pleased you have not deviated from the principles I have taught, and thus, with power of attorney go on preaching Kṛṣṇa consciousness. That will make me very happy as it is confirmed in the Gurv-astaka: ‘yasya prasadat bhagavata prasadah.’ Just by satisfying your spiritual master, who is accepted as the bona fide representative of the Lord, you satisfy Krsna immediately without any doubt.”
Prabhupāda also alluded to Tuṣṭa Kṛṣṇa’s independent mentality, carefully encouraging him to keep him close. “Keep trained very rigidly, and then you are bona fide guru, and you can accept disciples on the same principle. But as a matter of etiquette it is the custom that during the lifetime of your spiritual master you bring the prospective disciples to him, and in his absence or disappearance you can accept disciples without any limitation. This is the law of disciplic succession. I want to see my disciples become bona fide spiritual master and spread Krsna consciousness very widely; that will make me and Krsna very happy.”
He ended each letter with, “I hope this finds you well” and the epithet “Your ever well-wisher, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami.”
Each day after taking dictation, Hansadūta types the letters and later, in the evening, places them on Prabhupāda’s desk. Each one is clipped to an addressed envelope, a carbon copy, whatever enclosures there might be, and the letter being replied to. In the night Prabhupāda reads and signs them. They are mailed the next day.
Toward the end of the massage Akṣayānanda Swami came up to the roof. He requested Prabhupāda to allow Pṛthu-putra to be initiated into the renounced order of life, joining in the ceremony already arranged for two brahmacārīs from the Bombay temple, Lokanātha and Śrīdhara, who are to be awarded sannyāsa tomorrow.
Prabhupāda asked, “Why does he want to be a sannyāsī?” Akṣayānanda replied very simplistically, “To increase his preaching.”
Prabhupāda seemed to find his answer rather trite, so Akṣayānanda Mahārāja assured him that Pṛthu-putra was already living apart from his wife and preaching enthusiastically with the Vṛndāvana saṅkīrtana party.
Prabhupāda was still somewhat skeptical and wanted more confirmation of his worthiness for sannyāsa. He suggested that Pṛthu-putra travel in America with the Rādhā-Dāmodara party under Tamal Krishna Goswami for a year and get trained up, but Akṣayānanda Mahārāja persisted. He said that Pṛthu-putra had been in India for many years and wasn’t thinking of leaving. Because Akṣayānanda Mahārāja attested to his dependability, Prabhupāda finally agreed.
Since the only bathroom was the one attached to his bedroom, Prabhupāda had to go back downstairs to bathe. Sitting on a small wooden stool on the marble floor of his bathroom, he mixed hot and cold water in the brass buckets and began to wash off the oil. Meanwhile, I carefully laid a set of clean clothes on his bed: kurtā, dhotī, and kaupīna. I transferred the four gold buttons from his soiled kurtā and inserted them in the clean one. After taking care of his dirty clothes and the massage paraphernalia, I went to the sitting room.
On his desk Prabhupāda has a very small silver loṭā filled with water, together with a matching spoon and lid. Scooping up some water with the spoon I put it on the lid, and next to this I put a small ball of gopī-candana tilaka clay and a compact mirror.
After dressing, he crossed the black polished sitting room floor covered with thin, white-sheeted cotton mattresses. These serve as seats for his daily visitors. Sitting at his desk he put on his tilaka and then chanted Gāyatrī mantra.
Immediately after Harikeśa came into the side room carrying a full thāli of prasādam. Prabhupāda sat down to eat lunch in peace and solitude, eating slowly and deliberately, occasionally glancing out over the back veranda into the back yard.
After lunch Prabhupāda returned to the room on the roof. Walking through the door he turned and gave me my first direct instruction in my new service. “Now your only business is to stay with me twenty-four hours. You can remain here,” he said, indicating a straw mat outside the door, “and do not leave.” Then he went inside to rest.
I happily sat down, feeling very satisfied to have received my first personal directive from him. And what an instruction! To be with him continuously: who could hope for anything more?
He awoke an hour or so later and sat for a while at his desk reading Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam as I cooled him with a small peacock fan. Feeling fully satisfied performing this menial service, it occurred to me just how simple and sublime spiritual life can be. Only a few short weeks ago I had been busily engaged as the temple commander here in Vṛndāvana, frantically running around from morning until night (and often in the middle of the night). Always active and energetic, I didn’t like to sit idle for even a few minutes. Since first joining the Movement I have had the impression that I wasn’t properly conducting my devotional service unless I was constantly physically active and producing some tangible result. But now here I was, in stark contrast, standing quietly fanning Śrīla Prabhupāda, pouring out a little water into his cup, or patiently guarding his door. It seemingly was so little, but because it was directly pleasing to the spiritual master I could understand it to be just as substantial as any major undertaking in devotional life.
It is extremely pleasurable to be with Prabhupāda during these quiet moments. He is gentle and mild in his manner, and completely fixed and steady in his devotion to Kṛṣṇa. He has tremendous strength and force, but is devoid of passion. His presence is totally dominating without being at all domineering, his mind steady and his senses controlled effortlessly. His intelligence is perfectly clear, and he knows how to act and how others should act in every situation. His presence thus makes spiritual life a reality.
Watching him today, it struck me that he is a living, breathing Bhāgavatam; whatever description of Kṛṣṇa consciousness is in his books, he himself is that. Reading his books brings gradual realization, but what is understood in perhaps several lifetimes of study is revealed on a second-to-second, minute-to-minute, and day-to-day basis in Prabhupāda’s personal association.
I have therefore resolved within myself to learn as much as I can while I have this matchless opportunity to observe him closely. Simply watching Śrīla Prabhupāda in his daily activities—how he deals with devotees, how he responds to different situations, how he preaches, how he manages the worldwide affairs of his ever-expanding society, how he relaxes, how he continually pushes forward the movement of Lord Caitanya, how absolutely every facet of his being is fully Kṛṣṇa conscious—it is quite feasible to understand the full import of the sacred scriptures. By studying and preaching one may make steady advancement, but at least for me, although I have full faith in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, many ideas and principles are still only intellectually perceived, not yet fully realized. But by observing Śrīla Prabhupāda I can see they are a natural, integral part of his very being.
December 3rd, 1975
First thing this morning Prabhupāda complained that during the night someone’s snoring had disturbed him. Prabhupāda translates in his sitting room, which is next to the servants’ room where all three of us sleep. Since Harikeśa has not previously drawn any complaint we concluded that the culprit is either Hansadūta or myself, so we now share a guest house room.
Today I gave Śrīla Prabhupāda a new tilaka mirror. His previous one was a converted powder compact given to him in Japan, with an ivory design on the lid and a mirror inside. The face powder had been removed and replaced with a picture of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa.
In September I had asked a local craftsman to make a new compact as a Vyāsa-pūjā gift for Śrīla Prabhupāda, but I received it just last night, over two months late. It is made of solid silver with a peacock embossed on the bottom and a gold relief depicting Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma in Vṛndāvana forest on the lid. Although it is considerably heavier than the one it replaces, Prabhupāda seemed to like it very much. I was surprised and pleased when he offered me his old one.
* * *
During Śrīla Prabhupāda’s last visit in August and September he spent the three weeks from Janmāṣṭamī through Rādhāṣṭamī painstakingly supervising every aspect of the temple management, and he is continuing to do so on this trip as well. He is personally inspecting the temple, guest house, and restaurant. He ensured that we were maintaining proper standards of Deity worship, such as overseeing the quality of the bhoga offerings and scrutinizing the flowers we purchased for Their Lordship’s garlands. He was aware of the devotees’ attendance at the programs and would speak out whenever our standards of cleanliness and punctuality fell short. He was even concerned with the hired laborers’ attention to their work. The plans for the new gurukula building and many other important features of life in the large and important temple compound all received his concerned attention.
This trip is no different. Most of his disciples here are raw recruits, with little or no experience in managing affairs in India. Therefore Prabhupāda is personally checking on everything—correcting, advising, and sometimes chastising.
Viśāla dāsa got a taste of Prabhupāda’s chastisement this morning. Viśāla is in his mid-thirties, a rotund, early devotee from America. He is likeable and eager to please, but with an eccentrically humble manner that can border on the onerous. Prabhupāda generally receives Viśāla’s overwrought praises with good humor and appreciation, but this morning he decided it wasn’t the time for eulogies.
As Prabhupāda strode out of the front gate for his morning walk, Viśāla emulated the Vedic brāhmaṇas by chanting some verses from the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam in praise of Prabhupāda: “We think that we have met Your Goodness by the will of Providence...”
Gripping the spiral tapered walking stick that Viśāla himself had given him for this year’s Vyāsa-pūjā gift, Prabhupāda poked its silver tip at some puddles in the temple entrance way and interrupted caustically, “It is the grace of Providence you do not see that it is properly cleansed?”
Unexpectedly cut short and somewhat taken aback, Viśāla stammered apologetically, “I...I’m sorry. I will see to that, Your Divine Grace. That is my fault.”
Prabhupāda remained deadpan. “Why there is water? This water means the shoes—dirt; it will be dirty. So you have no eyes to see?”
“I am blind. I’m sorry. I will see that it is cleaned for you.”
“Then become with eyes. Simply praying, what you will do? Do something practical!”
Leaving Viśāla agape he strode strongly off down the road with his amused disciples following.
Harikeśa prabhu perceived some irony in Śrīla Prabhupāda’s remarks. “This is the argument people always throw against us,” he said. “‘Simply praying, what will you do? Do something practical.’ People often criticize the devotees in this way.”
Prabhupāda answered that Kṛṣṇa consciousness is the practical side of yoga. He said that it isn’t a system of simply “pressing the nose.” Kṛṣṇa consciousness is not mere sentiment and an excuse for doing nothing, nor are devotees incapable of real achievement.
He explained that the real problem is that people are not following Kṛṣṇa’s instructions properly. If one practically surrenders to Kṛṣṇa, He makes everything successful.
“Practical,” he said, “means it will be done by Kṛṣṇa. Your only business is to surrender to Kṛṣṇa. You cannot do anything. And as soon as you think, ‘I shall be able to do it,’ then you are a rascal. Immediately you are rascal.”
“So only a fully surrendered soul can do everything perfectly?” Harikeśa asked.
Prabhupāda answered, “He cannot do anything. Everything is to be done by Kṛṣṇa. But he has to apply his intelligence by Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Even if he is intelligent, he cannot do anything.”
Harikeśa added, “Except surrender.”
“Yes. He can surrender, and Kṛṣṇa will do everything. You have to act very sincerely under the direction of Kṛṣṇa, and then the war will be successful, as Arjuna did.”
Harikeśa wanted more clarification. “So imperfect activity is a sign of lack of surrender?”
“Yes,” Prabhupāda said. “You work sincerely, devoutly, and have faith that Kṛṣṇa will save me from all dangers. Rakṣiṣyati iti viśvāsa-pālanam. ‘I have surrendered to Kṛṣṇa sincerely. Now Kṛṣṇa will give me all protection.’ This faith, that is the beginning of devotional life—faith.”
“So is this faith śraddhā or niṣṭha?” Harikeśa asked.
“Śraddhā. Beginning, śraddhā. Then, when he is advanced, then he becomes fixed up. ‘Yes, Kṛṣṇa is protecting me.’”
Prabhupāda walked briskly, occasionally stopping to emphasize a point, sometimes greeting the local residents with “Hare Kṛṣṇa,” and sometimes speaking a little about the surroundings. After exactly half an hour he turned and headed back for the temple.
Upon entering the temple compound Prabhupāda noticed a young Western hippie girl who was staying in the guest house. He cautioned the managers that people in such dress should not be admitted to the guest house simply because they are paying guests. We must use some discretion, otherwise the local residents will consider us no better than our hippie visitors.
Akṣayānanda Mahārāja explained that the hippie girl had agreed to wear a sari when she arrived, but has now reverted to her old dress.
Prabhupāda said “Yes, that is due to habit.”
Akṣayānanda told Prabhupāda that recently one young man had arrived there dressed in a similar way, but after a few days he shaved his head and became a devotee.
Prabhupāda told him that was all right, but meanwhile the temple will become known as a “hippie resort, and the prestige of the temple will be minimized.” Nevertheless, he agreed that we must give everyone a chance to become devotees; but if they do not change their habits after three days they should be asked to leave.
* * *
As his Indian, American and French disciples sat before him, Prabhupāda conducted the fire yajṣa this morning for the sannyāsa initiations of Lokanātha, Śrīdhara and Pṛthu-putra in the temple courtyard. He gave a short talk based on the sannyāsa mantra beginning “etāà sa āsthāya parātma-niṣṭhām, ” from the Caitanya-caritāmṛta. He told them that although they are young men in the midst of the very powerful material energy, if they simply keep full faith in Kṛṣṇa and follow the previous ācāryas they will remain fixed up. He advised them to do this by chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra. He even suggested that as sannyāsīs they should chant extra rounds.
Describing the sannyāsa initiation as the last ceremonial procedure in the varṇāśrama system, and the sannyāsī as the guru of the other social and spiritual divisions, he told them to follow the example of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and preach all over the world.
“Preaching is also not very difficult because you haven’t got to manufacture anything. Everything is there, and it is Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s order. Caitanya Mahāprabhu also took sannyāsa at a very early age, twenty-four years old only. So He has practically shown by His activities how to preach Kṛṣṇa consciousness all over the world. And He gives order to everyone, ‘āmāra ājṣāya guru haṣā tāra’ ei deśa’: ‘In whichever country you may live, it doesn’t matter. Try to deliver them by becoming their guru.’
“And how one becomes guru? That is also very easy. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu says, ‘yāre dekha, tāre kaha ‘kṛṣṇa’-upadeśa’. You haven’t got to manufacture anything. Simply you try to repeat the instruction of Bhagavad-gītā, kṛṣṇa-upadeśa. Not only Bhagavad-gītā, there are many other instructions. Especially Bhagavad-gītā. So if you simply carry the message of Bhagavad-gītā, then you become guru. Don’t manufacture anything. Then it will be spoiled. ‘Man-manā bhava mad-bhakto mad-yājī mām namaskuru.’ You can, everyone can, say this. Kṛṣṇa says, ‘You always think of Me.’ So you can repeat only. You can say to others, ‘My dear Sir, please think of Kṛṣṇa.’ It doesn’t require very much education. Simply just like a peon carry the message, ‘Sir, you always think of Kṛṣṇa.’ Then you become guru.
“If you follow it strictly, you also think of Kṛṣṇa yourself, and you teach others, ‘My dear Sir, my only request is that you think of Kṛṣṇa,’ nobody will kill you. If he doesn’t follow, he will appreciate you, ‘Oh, these sannyāsīs are very nice. They are advising to think of Kṛṣṇa.’ Then you become guru. Simple thing.”
He ended with a reference to the multinational status of his candidates. “This kind of duty was entrusted by Caitanya Mahāprabhu to the Indians. Bhārata-bhūmite haila manuṣya janma yāra janma sārthaka kari’ kara para-upakāra. This is Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s mission, that every Indian should learn what is this Kṛṣṇa consciousness and preach it all over the world. That is His order. But our Indians are not taking care of it. Therefore it doesn’t matter—Indian or European or American. Who will carry the order of Caitanya Mahāprabhu he will be benefitted. He will be glorified. So don’t be hesitant, because the soul is neither Indian or American. ‘Ahaà brahmāsmi.’ Every one of us, we are part and parcel of Kṛṣṇa and our position is Brahman. ‘Brahma-bhūtaḥ prasannātmā.’ So from that platform you go on preaching Kṛṣṇa consciousness. By executing the order of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, you will be glorified, the country will be glorified, the whole world will benefit. Thank you very much.”
One by one the three men came forward in their new dress as sannyāsīs. Bright faced and enthusiastic, they humbly received their tridaṇḍas and the title “Swami” as the entire assembly of devotees loudly cheered, “Haribol. Jaya!” Then everyone threw grains into the sacrificial fire to complete the ceremony.
Afterward the three new sannyāsīs all came into Prabhupāda’s room to receive his blessings. Prabhupāda sat at his desk, next to the fireplace. Giving each a garland, he encouraged them to go out and preach immediately. It clearly delights Prabhupāda to see his disciples commit themselves fully to the service of the Supreme Lord. On the basis of such surrendered disciples he is able to spread Kṛṣṇa consciousness all over the world.
Yet, Prabhupāda is not indiscriminate about awarding sannyāsa. Recently, two boys arrived from Germany, Alanātha and Sucandra, asking permission to take sannyāsa. Prabhupāda discussed their request with Hansadūta, as well as Bhavānanda and Sudāmā Mahārājas, who had just arrived from New York. Prabhupāda indicated that he considered the boys a bit young to accept sannyāsa. He warned them that it is very difficult to remain in the renounced order, especially in the Western countries.
He cited the example of two of his leading disciples, both GBC men, who had fallen victim to māyā after becoming sannyāsīs. Prabhupāda explained, “Māyā is very, very strong. Butter is sure to melt when there is fire.” He artistically gestured, waving his left hand in the air, bringing his right hand to meet it from below. “Even if the butter is here the fire will come. I tried to think of so many ways to keep them separate, but it was not possible. They are spirit soul, of course, but māyā is very strong.”
Bhavānanda and Sudāmā Mahārājas are staying here for a few days before leaving for Bengal. They plan to hire two forty-foot-long boats to travel to all the villages along the Ganges. They want to perform kīrtana, distribute prasādam, and recruit new devotees. Prabhupāda decided that the two German devotees should go with them for further training.
Not everyone is happy to see a new sannyāsī. Since his arrival Hansadūta has also approached Prabhupāda for sannyāsa. But his wife, Himavatī, heard about it in Germany and immediately rushed to Vṛndāvana to voice her objection. She was very upset, but Śrīla Prabhupāda pacified her. Nevertheless, she is still adamantly opposed to her husband taking sannyāsa. Therefore Prabhupāda is not encouraging him to do so. Hansadūta is somewhat confused about what to do and wants Prabhupāda to decided his fate. But Śrīla Prabhupāda won’t give him a direct instruction; he is leaving it to Hansadūta to make the decision.
* * *
This afternoon while Prabhupāda rested upstairs I noticed that the water pot in his room was empty. I thought of taking it downstairs to fill it but was hesitant, since Śrīla Prabhupāda had instructed me not to leave his presence. I got in a quandary: “If Śrīla Prabhupāda wakes up and I’m not here, that will not be good. On the other hand, if he asks for a drink when he wakes up, then he will have to wait.” I wasn’t sure what to do, but decided it was best to wait.
Sure enough, though, the first thing Prabhupāda did when he awoke was to sit at his desk and tell me to fill his glass. I diffidently explained there was no water in the pot and that I would have to go downstairs to get some.
He asked me, “Did you not think about filling it while I slept?”
I explained my dilemma, and Śrīla Prabhupāda tipped his head a little. “Hm, all right,” but his tone indicated it was second best.
From this incident I can understand that although it is essential to follow the instructions of the spiritual master closely, a little intelligence in the application of those instructions is also required. A first-class servant will anticipate the needs of his spiritual master, rather than simply wait to be told everything. One who is expert at pleasing the guru can do many things on his own initiative and still adhere strictly to all instructions. Our intelligence shouldn’t be stereotyped or inflexible.
December 4th, 1975
On the walk this morning Akṣayānanda Swami told Śrīla Prabhupāda that people sometimes ask his opinion about a local bābājī who is building a big temple on the Vṛndāvana-Mathurā road. Looking across the fields we could see it in the far distance. An unfinished edifice as yet, it is reported that it will house various deities in its lower chambers and the bābājī’s personal quarters on top. This man is well known for smoking large quantities of cigarettes, thus earning him the nickname “Pagal Baba.” Pagal means “crazy.” Akṣayānanda said that he answers people’s queries by explaining that our Guru Mahārāja does not approve of us smoking cigarettes.
Invariably they say, “But Pagal Baba smokes.”
Akṣayānanda then responds, “Ah, that’s because he is pagal!” And they agree. Prabhupāda also agreed. He said that our four regulative principles will expose so many persons as frauds.
This led into a lively discussion about the sometimes confusing difference between following in the footsteps of great personalities and imitating them. Akṣayānanda Mahārāja said that many people eat meat because they claim that Lord Rāmacandra did.
Prabhupāda quickly fired back, “Lord Rāmacandra can eat you and the whole universe! Can you do that?” We all laughed. A few words from Prabhupāda exposes the rascals.
As we walked along in the early morning sunshine he clearly defined the difference between Lord Rāma and the ordinary living beings. Then as a final thought he pointed out that Lord Rāmacandra is not offered meat in any temple. So why should anyone claim that because the Lord ate meat, therefore he can? He explained that Kṛṣṇa also ate the Khāṇḍava fire, but He doesn’t say to offer Him fire. He says a little fruit, a flower, some water.
Prabhupāda is expert at exposing the faulty logic of the unscrupulous, who try to justify their lust by misconstruing śāstra and the activities of others with whom they cannot compare. He doesn’t take the short and easy route to defeat them. Rather than say simply that Lord Rāmacandra never ate meat, he chose to explain the more difficult to grasp, but ultimately more relevant, point that there is a vast difference between the incarnations of the Lord and ordinary men. Therefore They should not be imitated, but instead Their instructions followed.
* * *
Class was very interesting, with Prabhupāda continuing with the second verse from Prahlāda’s instructions to his school friends. After chanting the Sanskrit, Harikeśa read out the as yet unedited translation. “In this human form of life there is chance to go back to home, back to Godhead. Therefore every living entity, especially in this human form of life, must be engaged in devotional service. This devotional service is natural because Lord Viṣṇu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the master of the soul, the Supersoul, is the most beloved being of all other living beings.”
Prabhupāda explained that the Vedic literature describes three stages of spiritual development: sambandha—to know our relationship with the Lord, abhidheya—to act accordingly, and prayojana—to attain the purpose for which we establish our relationship. Sambandha-jṣāna means that first we must understand our relationship with God. Without knowing our relationship we cannot act, even on the material platform. He gave several pertinent examples to show how a sense of relationship motivates a person to act. Similarly, unless we know our relationship with God why would we want to serve Him?
Śrīla Prabhupāda also emphasized the need for proper gurukula education. Construction of the gurukula is now underway here in Vṛndāvana, and Prabhupāda has high expectations for it. He said every child should be trained in the principles of bhāgavata-dharma.
“This should be taught to the children. Otherwise when he is engaged in so many nonsense service it will be very difficult to drag him from this false engagement and again establish him in Kṛṣṇa’s service. So when we are children we are not polluted; we should be trained up in bhāgavata-dharma. That is Prahlāda Mahārāja’s subject matter. We are serving. The birds are serving. They have got small kiddies, children. They are picking up food and working very hard and bringing it in the mouth. And the small kiddies, they are chanting, ‘Mother, mother, give me, give me,’ and eat food. There is service. Don’t think that anyone is without service. Everyone is serving. A man is working hard day and night. Why? To give service to the family, to the children, to the wife. The service is going on, but he does not know where to give service. Therefore Kṛṣṇa said, ‘Give Me service. You’ll be happy.’ This is this philosophy, bhāgavata-dharma. Thank you very much.”
* * *
When Prabhupāda returned to his rooms he sat for a few minutes before breakfast, talking about the unfortunate state of the world. Hansadūta and I sat before him. Prabhupāda relaxed, leaning back against the soft bolsters on his seat. He delivered a sharp critique of the leaders of society, the politicians and educators, for misleading people and creating a thoroughly hellish situation for everyone.
He explained how the entire world is becoming increasingly chaotic and demonic, causing suffering to people. He searched for an appropriate word to summarize it. “They have made it a pan...What is that?”
We couldn’t figure out the word he was looking for.
“Pandemonium! Just look it up.”
Prabhupāda’s choice of words seemed a bit quaint to me, but when I read out the definition of pandemonium in the dictionary, I saw that Prabhupāda had used precisely the correct word to convey his point. It said, “Pandemonium: pan-demonic; abode of all demons; any place of lawlessness, violence and uproar; utter confusion.”
We all laughed and Hansadūta and I looked at each other appreciatively. Prabhupāda has a surprising command of the English language. Day by day new aspects of his extraordinary character are revealed, and we are extremely grateful that Kṛṣṇa has sent us such a wonderful spiritual master.
* * *
After lunch Śrīla Prabhupāda went upstairs to take rest, which is his usual routine. Today he had me put his bed, a simple wood-framed cot crisscrossed with thick, wide, cotton strapping and covered with a thin mattress and sheet, outside on the front terrace of his room. He slept peacefully in the sunshine, with the domes of Krishna-Balaram Mandir towering above, benign and protective.
I remained in the small room on the roof. Feeling a little tired, I sat on the edge of what I thought was a spare wood-base bed in one corner of the room. As one of the guest house beds with a sponge mattress, it did not appear that Śrīla Prabhupāda had ever used it. The next thing I knew, Śrīla Prabhupāda was waking me up. Rising after his nap, he had come through the door to find me sound asleep on the bed. He gave me a gentle shake, and I jumped up quite embarrassed and apologetic.
Prabhupāda wasn’t annoyed, but he did comment very kindly, “If you are fatigued, that is all right. You can rest on a mat on the floor, but whatever is the spiritual master’s should never be used.”
Moving over to sit at his desk he asked, “So, what is your name?” Certainly he must have already heard it many times over the last few days, so perhaps it was his way of making me feel more comfortable. It relieved my embarrassment, making me feel that he is getting to know me on a more personal basis.
“‘Arry Sawry, Śrīla Prabhupāda,” I said in my broad Northern English brogue.
“Haree Showree,” Prabhupāda corrected in his elegant Bengali accent. Giving me a warm smile he asked for some water.
December 5th, 1975
It is hard to say when Prabhupāda’s day begins and when it ends, because he never seems to conclude his activities in the way we do. He only rests for a few hours each day, and even that is intermittent.
Śrīla Prabhupāda maintains a remarkably regulated daily routine. While here in Vṛndāvana his schedule is:
6:00 a.m.—Wash, brush teeth, and take Āyurvedic medicine.
6:30–7:30 a.m. —Morning walk.
7:30–8:30 a.m. —Greet the Deities, guru-pūjā, then Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam lecture from the Seventh Canto.
9:00–9:30 a.m. —Breakfast of fruits and chīra.
9:45–11:15 a.m.—Rest on roof for an hour and then meet people (usually by appointment).
11:15–1:15 p.m.—Massage with oil.
1:15–1:45 p.m. —Bathe.
1:45–2:30 p.m. —Lunch prasādam.
2:30–3:00 p.m. —Sit in room or chant japa.
3:00–4:00 p.m. —Rest.
4:00–5:00 p.m. —Meet with specific people or devotees, or chant.
5:00–6:30 p.m. —Give public darśana.
6:30–9:30 p.m. —Meet public or senior devotees, GBC business or just chat.
9:30 p.m.—Take hot milk, massage and rest.
12:00–1:00 a.m.—Rise and translate.
5:00 a.m.—Light rest or japa.
Śrīla Prabhupāda’s typical routine goes something like today.
After his all-night translation work he stopped at maṅgala-ārati time and lay back against the bolsters with his feet up. He slept lightly for a short time.
At six o’clock he went into the bathroom to wash, brush his teeth, and freshen up. He came back and sat for a few minutes as he put on tilaka. When that was completed, he took a reddish Āyurvedic medicinal pellet called Yogendra-rasa. After I had crushed it with a large, roasted cardamom seed and then mixed it with honey in a small oval mortar, he added a little water. He drank the mixture straight from the mortar, scraping up the residue with the pestle, which he then deposited on his tongue with an elegant twist of his fingers.
Then Prabhupāda prepared to leave for his morning walk. Getting up from his desk he stood patiently as I helped him on first with his uttarīya (the saffron top-piece traditionally worn by all sannyāsīs) then with his heavy saffron-colored coat and his woollen hat. I finally hung his bead bag around his neck. All the while he conversed with Hansadūta, Akṣayānanda Swami, and Gopāla Kṛṣṇa.
As he walked toward the door, I rushed ahead to place his cane directly into his hand. I then positioned his shoes so that he could step into them and out of his slippers in one easy movement, all while I was holding the door open. It is somewhat of an art to manage all this without delaying or interrupting Prabhupāda’s steady progress out.
The expectant devotees waiting outside enthusiastically shouted, “Jaya Śrīla Prabhupāda!” as he appeared, offering their obeisances and a garland.
Smiling and modest, he returned their greeting with “Jaya! Hare Kṛṣṇa!” The privileged few who went on the day’s walk gathered closely around him as he made his way up the side of the temple and out the front gate onto Chattikara Road.
Heading west into the countryside beyond the boundary of Vṛndāvana village we walked for exactly half an hour, as far as a solitary house named “Moda Place,” and then back. Prabhupāda’s gait is surprisingly swift and strong, and by the end we were struggling to keep up.
At precisely seven thirty he entered the temple from the side door and waited patiently as the pūjārīs strained to swing back the immense wooden doors on each of the three altars. The conch shells trumpeted their call to the faithful, announcing the imminent appearance of the Deities. The curtains drew back, and the Govindam prayers boomed over the loudspeaker. Śrīla Prabhupāda, followed by all the devotees, offered his prostrate obeisances first to his Guru Mahārāja, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī, and Their Lordships Śrī Śrī Gaura-Nitāi, then to the two moon-like brothers Śrī Śrī Kṛṣṇa-Balarāma, and finally to the brilliant forms of Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Śyāmasundara.
After taking a little caraṇāmṛta, Prabhupāda walked across the black-and-white checkered marble floor and mounted the steps to his carved marble vyāsāsana. As he sat flanked by ornamental lions, the devotees offered guru-pūjā. Chanting the prayers “śrī guru caraṇa padma...,” each devotee came forward to offer a flower to his lotus feet and bow before him. Everyone relished this opportunity to glorify Śrīla Prabhupāda in person. It is a daily act of humble submission, an affirmation of our full commitment to his service and a reminder to our flickering minds that without him we are nothing.
As the kīrtana ended, Harikeśa moved forward to swing the microphone around in front of Prabhupāda’s mouth. Prabhupāda’s voice rang out over the loudspeakers, “Jaya oà viṣṇupāda paramahaàsa parivrājakācārya aṣṭottara-śata śrī śrīmad bhaktisiddhānta sarasvatī gosvāmī mahārāja prabhupāda ki jaya!”
The devotees bowed their heads to the ground in obeisance to the disciplic succession, the Paṣca-tattva, the holy dhāmas, the Vaiṣṇavas, and all the assembled devotees.
Then Harikeśa passed Prabhupāda his karatālas. We sat down to listen and respond to Prabhupāda’s sweet and melodious voice as he glorified Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Mādhava:
“Jaya ra–dha ma–dha–vuhhh, kunjavi ha–ri,
gopī janabal–la–bhaa girivaradha–ri;
jasodanandana brajajana ranjana,
jamuna tii–raaa banacaa–ri.”
His eyes closed in concentration, his face showing the intensity of his meditation on the objects of his love and worship in the groves of Vṛndāvana on the banks of the Yamunā river. He infused new meaning and freshness into the song, though he sings it every day before class. His brass karatālas rang out, quickening the pace, and the devotees’ voices swelled in response. Just as it came to a heart-filling crescendo, the karatālas gave their final three metallic rings, “dung dung dung,” and everyone knelt with their heads to the floor as Prabhupāda recited the prema-dhvāṇīprayers again.
Harikeśa jumped up again, removed Prabhupāda’s karatālas, and quickly hung a small microphone around his neck, the other end of which he connected via a two-way switch to the large reel-to-reel Uher tape recorder that he had carried since the morning walk. He handed Śrīla Prabhupāda the Bhāgavatam, an Indian Sanskrit edition containing the commentaries of different ācāryas that Prabhupāda uses for his evening translation work, already opened to the proper page. He carefully slipped Prabhupāda’s spectacles onto him.
Then Harikeśa sat to lead the devotees in responsive chanting of the Sanskrit verse, loudly reciting the translation before Śrīla Prabhupāda began his lecture. “Prahlāda Mahārāja continued to speak: My dear friends born of demonic families, the happiness which is perceived with reference to the senses can be obtained in any form of life according to one’s past fruitive activities. Such happiness is automatically obtained, as sometimes we obtain distress without any endeavor.”
Harikeśa also wore a neck microphone plugged into the same small box with the two-way switch as Prabhupāda’s. He recorded himself and then threw the switch to record Śrīla Prabhupāda.
Prabhupāda read out the verse: “sukham aindriyakaà daityā deha-yogena dehinām/ sarvatra labhyate daivād yathā duḥkham ayatnataḥ.”
Sometimes speaking with his eyes closed in complete concentration and sometimes opening them, surveying his audience, he propounded the ancient philosophy of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam in the modern context. He quoted other Sanskrit verses profusely, cross-referencing each point with other works, such as the Bhagavad-gītā and the Purāṇas or the Upaniṣads. His explanations are always clear and potent. Śrīla Prabhupāda is amazingly skilled at conveying the most profound and complex philosophical concepts in a way that anyone can easily understand and apply. Having grasped the very essence of life, its meaning and purpose, he can present it for the understanding of both ordinary people and intellectuals.
Punctuating his lecture with analogies and vivid practical examples, he told a story to illustrate that the sense of material enjoyment is the same for all living beings, whether dog, hog, or human being. “There was a prostitute called Lakśahīra, whose charge was one lakh of pieces of diamond. It doesn’t matter, a big diamond or a small diamond; that was her charge. So one man was suffering from leprosy, and he was assisted by his wife, a very faithful wife. So still he was morose. The wife asked the husband, ‘Why you are morose? I am giving you so much service. You are leper, you cannot move. I take you on a basket and carry you. Still you feel unhappy?’
“So he admitted, ‘Yes.’
“‘Oh, what is the cause?’
“‘I want to go to the prostitute Lakśahīra.’
“Just see! He is leper, a poor man, and he is aspiring to have a prostitute who charges one hundred thousand pieces of diamond. So anyway, she was a faithful wife. She wanted to satisfy her husband. Some way or another she arranged. Then when the leper was at the house of the prostitute, the prostitute gave him very nice dishes of food, but everything in two dishes; everything—one in the golden pot and one in the iron pot.
“So while he was eating, he asked the prostitute, ‘Why you have given me in two pots?’
“‘Because I want to know whether you will feel different taste in different pots.’
“So he said, ‘No. I don’t find any difference of taste. The soup in the golden pot, the soup in the iron pot, the taste is the same.’
“‘Then why you have come here?’”
In the same way, Prabhupāda explained about distress. “If a man is a millionaire he still suffers the same distress from typhoid fever as a poor man. Happiness and unhappiness are the same in different pots. This is knowledge.”
From these simple stories he derived a profound conclusion. “This is foolishness. The whole world is going on like that. They are simply trying to taste the same thing in different pot. That’s all. They are not detestful, ‘No sir, I have tasted enough.’ That is called vairāgya-vidyā—no more tasting. ‘It is all the same, either I take in this pot or in that pot.’ Therefore it is said, sukham aindriyakaà, the sense pleasure, whether you enjoy as a dog or a human being or a demigod or as a European or as an American or an Indian—the taste is the same. This is very important. You cannot have a better taste. Better taste is only Kṛṣṇa consciousness. It doesn’t matter in which pot I am in at the present moment. Ahaituky apratihatā. You can taste Kṛṣṇa consciousness without any hesitation, without any check, and without any hindrance.”
After half an hour he brought the class to an end. The devotees shouted, “Jaya, Śrīla Prabhupāda! Śrīla Prabhupāda ki jaya!”
Again Harikeśa sprang into action, deftly removing Śrīla Prabhupāda’s spectacles, the microphone from his neck, the Bhāgavatam, and handing him his cane, all as he stepped down from the vyāsāsana to go out the door.
At the top of the steps leading out onto the path, I waited with his shoes. Slipping into them, Śrīla Prabhupāda walked the hundred yards past the temple, towards the guest house. The devotees followed, dancing and chanting, “Jaya Prabhu-pāda, jaya Prabhu-pāda, jaya Prabhu-pāda, jayaPrabhu-pāda!”
Śrīla Prabhupāda passed through the open veranda into the small secretary’s room and through the door on the right into his sitting room. This is the room that Prabhupāda uses for both giving darśana and working. He propped his cane in the corner next to the door and then slipped out of his outdoor shoes into his slippers. (Prabhupāda never walks barefoot, even inside.) I helped to remove his coat and hat.
Prabhupāda sat for a few minutes looking outside, through the three tall, narrow windows barred with ornamental grill work, into the small tulasī garden with the solitary tree. Surveying his room, he glanced appreciatively at the large shelves displaying copies of his translations of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and Caitanya-caritāmṛta. He requested that we hang his flower garlands on the various beautiful original oil paintings or the photos of Deities and devotees adorning the walls. The garlands were to be left hanging until dry and then removed. He has complained that in the past the devotees cleaning his room have unnecessarily removed the garlands while still fresh.
As soon as his breakfast was served he walked through the other door to his prasādam room. He sat on a seat behind one of the two low wooden tables called choṇkis. On his choṇki was a silver water tumbler, a packet of toothpicks, and a small hand bell to summon his servant, should he want anything else. From this seat Prabhupāda can look over the small back veranda into his enclosed garden. The original painting of Kṛṣṇa taking prasādam in the company of His friends, used for the cover of the first Hare Kṛṣṇa Cookbook, smiled down on Prabhupāda as he took his meal.
Kiśorī dāsī and other ladies prepared Prabhupāda’s breakfast. It consisted of various cut fruits: seedless grapes, guava, banana, orange, pomegranate, and whatever else was freshly available at the market. With this he had a small bowl of fried chīra (flattened rice mixed with peas), another of fried cashew nuts, and a small piece of sandeśa milk sweet. One item is vital to Prabhupāda’s breakfast: ginger soaked in lemon juice. He won’t start breakfast without it, as it stimulates his digestion.
Śrīla Prabhupāda ate little and very slowly, as an act of devotion: prasāda-seva, service, rather than indulging the tongue. When he finished, I cleared his plate and wiped the table as he sat and cleaned his teeth. It surprised me to see that his teeth moved apart when he inserted the wooden pick, but Prabhupāda just laughed about it.
When he finished he held out his open palm for me to tip a little Bhaskar Lavan, an Āyurvedic digestive powder, into. Tilting his head back, he dropped in the powder. Then still maintaining the pose, he poured in some water from the tumbler without touching it to his lips. After washing his mouth and hands in the bathroom he returned to his darśana room.
Sometimes, Prabhupāda sits in his darśana room after breakfast and chats with his servants for a few minutes, usually commenting on the present state of the world. These moments are especially sweet—to be with Prabhupāda as he sits, relaxed and casual, basking in the warmth of his intimate association.
This morning was particularly memorable. The sun was shining brightly through the tall and narrow windows, casting patches of dazzling light on the clean, white sheets on the floor. He sat comfortably in the middle, his legs crossed, right ankle resting on the left knee. His fingers loosely intertwined, he closed his eyes briefly and enjoyed the warmth of the sun as it danced upon his golden form. Seeing the opportunity, Hansadūta, Harikeśa, and I sat on either side of him, just happy to be with him in a quiet moment. He began to reflect on the unfortunate state of the world’s inhabitants. He explained that due to a lack of knowledge about the Supreme Lord people are suffering. Under the false impression of being independent they commit all kinds of sinful acts, not knowing and not caring for the results, foolishly thinking they are free to do as they like. But when the volume of sinful life becomes too great they suffer the consequences in the form of pestilence or war. They think that by politics and meetings they can avoid such things, but that is not possible. They are helpless to prevent them, and therefore they receive their punishment through the three-fold miseries of life. At just the right moment, nature brings the demons together and engages them in war.
To illustrate the point, he gave an amusing but striking example of how māyā works. “In my young days we had one teacher. Whenever there was any misbehavior between the boys, the teacher would stop them and bring them out to the front of the class. He would make them stand face-to-face and each take hold of the ears of the other and on his order make them pull. So the one, he is pulling, and the other is hurting, so he pulls back even harder, and each one is pulling and crying. But they cannot let go because the teacher is ordering, ‘No, you cannot stop. You must go on pulling!’ Similarly, māyā brings together one Churchill and one Hitler. ‘Now, rascal, pull!’ And neither can stop. And the foolish people glorify them.”
The thought of the scene so humored him that even before he finished he began to laugh heartily. His shoulders and belly shook, and his brilliant teeth flashed like pearls in the sun. When Prabhupāda smiles the entire room, even the universe, seems to light up. It’s a Vaikuṇṭha smile that spreads transcendental effulgence everywhere around. Prabhupāda’s mood was so open and congenial it seemed, if just for a moment, that we had joined a picnic with Kṛṣṇa and His cowherd boyfriends, joking and laughing in the forests of Goloka. We laughed with him, glancing at each other in appreciation and wonder as to who this extraordinary personality Śrīla Prabhupāda really is. He is far beyond our comprehension, yet we feel ourselves extremely fortunate to share these intimate moments with him.
It was an entrancing moment, and it occurred to me that Śrīla Prabhupāda must have many friends in the spiritual world with whom he can eternally enjoy happy and carefree days. Yet being extraordinarily merciful he chooses to be here among us. Although the most exalted personality, he appears to like nothing better than to be with his disciples, foolish and neophyte as we are. He gives the impression there is no one in the world he would rather be with and nothing he would rather be doing than sharing whatever he has with us, although we have nothing to give him in return that could possibly be of interest to him. It seems a lopsided relationship, but Prabhupāda doesn’t mind. He is not looking for anything for himself, only to see what he can give us. As a result, we have obtained more than any of us can ever have hoped for.
After chatting with us, Prabhupāda took rest upstairs on a mattress in the sun for about an hour.
He reserved the time from 10:00 a.m. until 11:15 a.m. for special guests and discussed management of the temple with senior devotees. Sometimes he replies his mail during this period also. Today he dealt with a wide range of people and projects. He is negotiating the offer of a gośālā near Mathurā, the opening of a post office in our future gurukula building, and the establishment of a bank branch in the guest house. These arrangements will provide better facilities for the devotees and guests, which will result in the temple becoming a greater focus of local community activity. When more people come, more preaching can go on, the net result being that Kṛṣṇa consciousness will further increase and more souls will be saved from the clutches of material existence.
Prabhupāda confronted a variety of topics in today’s mail, from orchestrating the worldwide production and distribution of his books through the efforts of enthusiastic followers to solving the personal problems of a disciple struggling with māyā to encouraging the newly interested—a university teacher in Copenhagen and a distressed young man in Australia. Everyone received his close personal guidance and attention.
Rāmeśvara, head of the American division of the Book Trust, reported a recent new record in book distribution. In a one-day competition, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Atlanta temples distributed 5,406 hardbound books, with some individual devotees selling over two hundred each. Rāmeśvara’s report was dramatic. “Our men are willing to do anything to please you, and all of them have dedicated their whole lives to distributing these books. Our only desire is that you may kindly bless us with greater and greater desire to distribute these books all over the world until every home has whole libraries of your books. By Your Divine Grace’s blessing we will never stop distributing these books. We are thinking that this is the highest pleasure in all the three worlds.”
Prabhupāda’s response was equally enthusiastic. “Your report of book sales is over-encouraging. You are all becoming very, very dear to my Guru Maharaja. I started this movement by book selling. I was never a beggar for money, but I was writing books and selling. My Guru Maharaja very much liked my writing, and he used to show others in my absence, ‘Just see how nicely he has written, how he has appreciated.’ He encouraged me, and my Godbrothers, they also liked my writing. After I wrote that poem for Vyasa-puja of my Guru Maharaja, they used to call me ‘Poet.’
“Anyway, I was working writing books and publishing BTG alone, but I could not give the thing shape, so I decided to go to the U.S.A., and now you all nice boys and girls have helped me so much. It is all the mercy of Krsna. Thank you very much.”
Yaśodānandana Mahārāja and Acyutānanda Swami are touring South India, and Prabhupāda plans to meet them in Nellore in a few weeks. They are arranging programs for him in a large hall in Madras, where their party has met with a good reception. They also sent a favorable report of their book distribution. They are holding paṇḍalas, making Life Members, and distributing The Scientific Basis of Kṛṣṇa Consciousness, written by Svarūpa Dāmodara, one of Prabhupāda’s disciples.
Although each of their men sells only a few copies of one small book and collects 150 rupees per day, Prabhupāda considers this a good beginning and his expectations are high. “There is tremendous field in India for selling books,” he wrote. “If you continue this effort you will soon compete with America. Gopala Krsna is arranging to print Srimad-Bhagavatam in Hindi, First Canto Vol. 1 15,000 copies, also Bhagavad-gita As It Is. So there is a big field, in India 600,000,000 people. In every home there should be at least one BBT publication, so the field is very big.”
Aja dāsa, the president of Boston temple, has begun holding lectures at local universities, where he distributes prasādam and magazines. The devotees have made applications to teach courses on Kṛṣṇa consciousness in several colleges, and they’ve established a new center in Amherst, a big college town.
Prabhupāda was extremely happy to hear this, for one of his greatest ambitions is to see his books studied seriously in the schools and colleges of the world. He replied, “I am very pleased to note that you are attempting to preach seriously in the schools and colleges. Prahlada Maharaja, a great devotee and authority in our line, said Krsna consciousness should be taught from the very beginning of childhood. The defect of modern education is that the children are taught all nonsense things. They do not receive even the first point of knowledge, that ‘I am pure spirit soul, part and parcel of God.’ This simple fact they have yet to learn, so if you can teach them just this one point it will be a great success, because this is the basic platform of advancing in spiritual understanding. If we want to read and write, then it is essential to learn first of all the ABCs.”
A brahmacārī in England asked for guidance in his service and āśrama after a period of difficulty, and Prabhupāda encouraged him to push on. “From your letter it appears that you are a little confused. This means that the consciousness is not clear, brahma-bhutah prasannatma, na socati na kanksati. The clear stage of consciousness is free from hankering and lamentation. As long as we are on the material platform, bodily conception of life, we will hanker after so many things required for material supremacy. Therefore to clear this cloudy consciousness Caitanya Mahaprabhu has recommended that one should simply chant the holy name of God sincerely and hear it with attention. So chant, dance, take prasadam and be happy. Marriage is not recommended. Are you prepared to get a job, live outside the temple in an apartment, provide the wife with bangles, saris and sex? Better you concentrate on this chanting and hearing process, then teach others and give them prasadam.”
Prabhupāda has attracted the attention of people in all walks of life, and his replies to nondevotees are equally to the point. When Mark Phillips, a young Australian married man, sent a faltering cry of distress, Prabhupāda offered the universal panacea. “Yes, we are eternally related to the Lord as servant, so naturally when we forget our eternal relationship as servants of the supreme master, Krsna, we suffer... . Therefore Krsna advises everyone, in Bhagavad-gītā, to simply surrender to Him and He will take care of us. In Australia we have got our temples; consult the Back to Godhead magazine for the temple nearest you. Please visit the temple and take advantage of the pure, spiritual atmosphere. This will immediately extinguish the burning fire of material suffering in your heart. Meanwhile I humbly request you to chant Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. This chanting will bring you all perfection of life; please try it.”
Dr. Yogi Raj Dev Swarup teaches yoga at the University of Copenhagen and has recently obtained an Indian Government grant to begin a yoga institute in New Delhi. He wrote a letter expressing his appreciation of Prabhupāda’s work and asking how he can help the mission.
Prabhupāda replied, “I thank you very much for your kind appreciation. Because you are a teacher in a respectable university I request you to study some of my books, especially Bhagavad-gītā As It Is. As stated in the Gita, manah samyamya mac-citto, yukta asita mat parah. ‘One should meditate upon Me (Krsna) within the heart and make Me the ultimate goal in life’ (Bg. 6.13-14). Western people are now becoming more and more interested in yoga practice, but unfortunately, because they have no authorized source of information, they are being misled by unauthorized teachers and concocted methods of yoga practice. Actually the astanga-yoga system practiced thousands of years ago is not practical for this age; therefore Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu introduced the chanting of the holy name of God: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
“In all our temples we are doing that and we have more than forty big volumes of authorized books: Srimad-Bhagavatam, Bhagavad-gītā, etc. Intelligent people are accepting this Movement all over the world, so if you are serious about joining this mission then why not study these books, understand the philosophy and teach.”
* * *
Despite his workload, Prabhupāda always adheres to his schedule. At 11:30 a.m. he took his massage, followed by a bath and lunch and then an hour’s rest. I’ve never seen anyone sleep as little as Śrīla Prabhupāda, about three to four hours total, yet he never shows any sign of fatigue.
When he woke around 4:00 p.m. Kiśorī dāsī placed a freshly made garland around his neck, dabbed some freshly ground sandalwood paste on his forehead and temples, and offered him some fresh fruit juice. He then sat at his desk to receive visitors.
At 5:00 p.m. his doors opened for darśana. A steady flow of curious and respectful people, fifty or sixty at a time, continuously packed his room either to sit and watch or to ask questions. He sometimes talked specifically with a particular visitor, not minding if the other fifty listened in, and at other times he spoke generally to all.
I was posted at the door to give out pera, a milk sweet that is a Vṛndāvana specialty. Prabhupāda is particularly insistent that all visitors receive some Kṛṣṇa prasādam, a tangible offering for their spiritual advancement. A discussion of philosophy may be easily forgotten, but prasādam will always act to purify. Prasādam distribution is also in accordance with Vedic etiquette that a guest must always be offered a place to sit and a little refreshment, no matter who he may be. Thus, as always, Śrīla Prabhupāda was the perfect host.
At 6:30 p.m. the temple conch and bells announced evening ārati. Darśana concluded, and Śrīla Prabhupāda sent the devotees and guests over to the temple to chant and see the Deities. Relaxing for a while, he spent the rest of the evening discussing philosophy and matters of practical management, giving advice to his managers and sometimes sitting quietly chanting.
A local devotee, Śrī Viśvambhara Dayal, popularly known as Bhagatjī, arrived at 9:00 p.m. to prepare Śrīla Prabhupāda’s hot milk and hold light discussion on the temple management, gurukula, and other matters.
Śrīla Prabhupāda drinks a glass of hot milk every evening just before taking rest, sometimes supplementing it with a savory like kachori, paraṭhā or fried chīra. He gave the cooks clear instructions how to make each preparation. His milk has to be exactly the right temperature—very hot, so that it can be easily digested, but not so hot that it burns.
One previous evening he demonstrated to me how to bring boiling milk to the right temperature for drinking. Calling for another bowl, he poured the milk from his silver cup from a height of about six inches into the bowl and then back again a few times to aerate the milk and reduce the temperature. When it was just right, he drank it.
The evening massage took more than half an hour. Lately the weather has been cold throughout the night until sunrise. Thus Prabhupāda’s circulation and joints need more attention. I took rest about eleven o’clock.
As we disciples slept, Prabhupāda arose around 11:30 or midnight to begin his most important work of the day, the translation of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and the writing of his transcendental purports. Harikeśa is a light sleeper, and he often awakens as Prabhupāda comes through the servant’s room on his way into the darśana room. Rolling over in his sleeping bag, he offers his obeisances as Śrīla Prabhupāda passes.
Sitting at his desk Prabhupāda chanted japa for an hour or so in complete concentration on the holy names. He prayed to Kṛṣṇa for the ability to serve Him nicely and to present the eternal words of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam in a manner just suitable for the understanding of the entire world, conscious that his work will form the basis for law and order in the next ten thousand years.
Putting aside his japa-mālā he donned his spectacles and clicked on the desk light. He opened the Bhāgavatams at the bookmarks—the large green Varanasi edition with the Sanskrit commentaries of previous ācāryas and the red Bengali one with commentaries by Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura—leaned forward, and studied them intently. The microphone close to his mouth, he flicked on the tape and began his dictation: “Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Seventh Canto, Seventh Chapter, verse twenty-five, purport continued....”
December 6th, 1975
Early this morning Prabhupāda sent for the temple managers and angrily chastised them because we have spent fifty lakhs of rupees to build such a big temple and guest house, yet he cannot get hot water in the cold season. The past few mornings the water has been so cold that he couldn’t even brush his teeth. One after another, Gopāla Kṛṣṇa, Akṣayānanda Swami, Guṇārṇava and Dhanaṣjaya were called. No one seemed to want to take responsibility. Śrīla Prabhupāda demanded to know why. Whenever they offered a feeble excuse or explanation, he abruptly cut them off. It was clear he wanted to hear a plan for rectifying the mistakes, not excuses.
Prabhupāda called for Saurabha dāsa, the Dutch devotee and architect who was responsible for supervising the construction and design of the project, but he could not be found. This only increased Prabhupāda’s exasperation. Holding Saurabha responsible for the mistake, he sharply rebuked him in his absence.
When the devotees assured him that the problem would be fixed immediately Prabhupāda’s mood changed. As quickly as it had arisen, his anger disappeared.
As our spiritual master, Śrīla Prabhupāda is training us in every aspect of devotional service. His praise and criticism are never unreasonable or excessive, but always intended to push us forward in our spiritual progress. He expects us to be conscientious, as attention to the details of our service is the practical manifestation of our seriousness and sincerity. He doesn’t like to hear excuses for tasks undone, and he loathes the bureaucratic mentality that in the West we call “passing the buck.”
He said the British Raj had introduced this mentality, and it has crippled India. He is determined to see that it not get a footing in ISKCON. “I ask you to do something. You ask him. He asks another. And you go away and forget. Business finished. Simply bureaucracy! If I ask you to do something, it is your responsibility, not his. Even if you give it to someone else, you have to see it is properly completed.”
Despite his criticism of the management over the hot water incident, Prabhupāda is very pleased with the service of Saurabha and the other devotees. More than once he has asked me during massage what I thought of the guest house and temple. When I responded with appreciation, he looked over the buildings and said, “Yes, I think he has done very nicely. There is no such building anywhere.” But he is determined not to allow us to become complacent. Now the facility has to be maintained and managed efficiently, and Śrīla Prabhupāda is personally showing us how to do it. As the representative of Kṛṣṇa, he wants to make sure that whatever resources Lord Kṛṣṇa has provided are used correctly without waste. And he is constantly urging us to develop the same sense of responsibility.
* * *
Prabhupāda is especially fond of Prahlāda Mahārāja’s instructions because they are so pertinent to modern society. This morning’s verse in particular emphasized the point that economic development is a waste of time. Śrīla Prabhupāda delivered a crushingly negative appraisal of contemporary society that considers progress only in economic terms. He said that no one can obtain more happiness than they are due by their karma. Just as distress comes without working for it, so happiness also comes. Therefore, we should work only for spiritual advancement.
He told us, “The human life is meant for understanding Kṛṣṇa. Instead of using the energy for understanding Kṛṣṇa, they are spoiling the energy unnecessarily to earn money. This is the modern civilization. The whole Western world, how they are spoiling their life unnecessarily! Prahlāda Mahārāja has begun with the words durlābhaà mānuṣaà janma. This life is very, very important, and after many, many births you have got it.
“Cāṇakya Paṇḍita said, āyuṣaḥ kṣaṇa eko ’pi na labhya svarṇa-koṭibhiḥ. Svarṇa means gold coins, and koṭi means ten millions. So suppose today is sixth December. Now it is seven o’clock in the morning; now passed. Can you bring it back again by paying one crore of gold coins? Hm? ‘Let me get back seven o’clock, sixth December 1975, again?’ No—it is gone forever. So just see the value, that you cannot get back even a moment of your life by paying millions and millions of dollars. How time is valuable! Just calculate.”
As he surveyed the eighty or ninety young men and women who have come here to get the special blessings of serving in the holy dhāma, he warned us to be attentive to our purpose. “There is no guarantee that I am going to take again a human form of life. But there is a little guarantee for the devotee. Guaranteed in this way, that if he unknowingly commits some mistake, then it is guaranteed. And if he knowingly commits mistake, then he is going to be cat or dog. This is the facility. If one purposefully commits mistake and sinful life, ‘Now I am chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, I can do all sinful life. It will become counteracted,’ that rascal will be punished very, very much. Nāmnād balād yasya hi pāpa buddhiḥ. ‘I am living in Vṛndāvana. Oh, it is dhāma. So let me do all nonsense. It will be counteracted.’ They’ll be these cats and dogs and monkeys in Vṛndāvana. Dhāma-aparādha. Of course, Vṛndāvana’s influence will be there, but at least one life he has to become the hog and dog in Vṛndāvana. As you see, there are many dogs, hogs. But still, Vṛndāvana-dhāma is so powerful that next life he will get salvation, even if he has become a dog or hog. But that is not good. Why should we act in such a way that in Vṛndāvana-dhāma we shall commit sinful life and become a cat or dog? We should be careful. You simply dedicate your life to serve Mukunda. Kṛṣṇa’s another name is Mukunda. Muka means liberation. Mukti. So ānanda, the mukty-ānanda, that is real ānanda, liberation. So our business is how to surrender fully unto the lotus feet of Mukunda, mukunda-caraṇambujam, and fully engage in His service. Therefore Prahlāda Mahārāja says, ‘Don’t try for anything else.’”
* * *
Prabhupāda has given Harikeśa a new service. He wants him to write an essay titled “Experimental Knowledge,” explaining the defects of modern science and presenting the scientific basis of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Prabhupāda has been personally coaching him, calling him in regularly to discuss points of logic. He told Harikeśa not to criticize modern science as such but the misuse of it. Science should not be used as a tool to propagate atheistic theories, and false claims must be exposed. Modern scientists are challenging God, and now Prabhupāda as God’s servant and representative is challenging them. “Inventions you can take credit for, but why claim to be God?”
December 7th, 1975
One of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s foremost desires is to develop a first-class gurukula system. He was personally involved in the development of the school in Dallas, ISKCON’s first gurukula, and now here.
Recently in Dallas some difficulties have arisen in complying with local Texas laws regarding dormitories. Jagadīśa dāsa, the GBC for that area, was forced to look for another facility that would conform to government standards. In a previous letter Jagadīśa sent Prabhupāda some information regarding a new site for the school in another city. Prabhupāda approved the idea, but today another letter arrived retracting the proposal because of hostile reactions from the local residents. Jagadīśa proposed that the school remain in Dallas and they just build a new dormitory on the existing site. Prabhupāda encouraged him to stay in Dallas, saying that from the beginning he had considered the facilities there to be ample. He is anxious to see the school firmly established and stable, as he doesn’t want the children’s education disrupted.
Here in Vṛndāvana, Bhagatjī, who lives a few houses away from our āśrama, arranged to purchase land for our gurukula and gave one lakh rupees for building the school. Bhagatjī has also come forward to help manage the temple. Pleased by his efforts, Prabhupāda meets with him almost every day.
On Rādhāṣṭamī, during his last Vṛndāvana visit, Śrīla Prabhupāda laid the foundation stone for thegurukula. Construction of the building on the land next to the temple has already begun. Now he is keenly following developments and regularly discussing the plans.
One of Prabhupāda’s favorite quotes is “child is the father of man,” meaning the future of the world lies with its young. Therefore, good training and education are essential for a peaceful population and trouble-free world. He often expresses his conviction and happiness that the movement he has begun for respiritualizing the world will go on because “the young people of your country have taken it up.”
In this respect, the young Prahlāda Mahārāja’s instructions are particularly important for us. This morning’s Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam verse (7.6.5) spoke precisely on this theme of taking full advantage of one’s youth for spiritual attainment. The translation was, “For this reason, a person who is fully competent to distinguish wrong and right while keeping himself in material existence, bhāvam aśritah, must endeavor for achieving the highest goal of life so long the body is stout and strong and is not embarrassed by the dwindling condition of life.” Śrīla Prabhupāda commented, “Nobody wants to become old man, especially in this winter season. It is very difficult for old men. So, you have to accept jarā and vyādhi. Nobody can escape disease. When I am diseased there is a great struggle how to cure myself, go to the doctor, take good medicine, and so on. But we cannot check the diseased condition. Similarly we cannot check our old age, cannot check our birth, death. Therefore here it is said, kuśalah. Kuśalah means if you actually want benefit, because this kind of struggling has not given you any benefit, tato yateta, then you should endeavor for this. What is that? Kṣemāyā, for your ultimate benefit. And how long? Śarīraà. Puruṣaà yāvan na vipadyeta puṣkalam. So long you are stout and strong you should try how to become free from this bondage of birth, death, old age, and disease. Not that you keep this business set aside, ‘When we shall get old then we shall chant Hare Kṛṣṇa and become Kṛṣṇa conscious.’ That is not the meaning. Immediately.
“Prahlāda Mahārāja said that from the very beginning of life, when kaumāra—a small child, boy—from that age one should begin this bhāgavata life, or Kṛṣṇa consciousness. That is called brahmacārī, to teach brahmācārya from the very beginning of life. And when you are young, then you should work with more vigor and intelligence. At that time brain is very nice. Young man has got all the facilities. The machine is strong. This is a machine. So old machine cannot so work. So it is a great fortune for the young boys and girls of Europe and America that in this young life they are cultivating Kṛṣṇa consciousness. It is a very good fortune.”
There is a quality about Śrīla Prabhupāda that makes him utterly appealing to everyone. He relates perfectly to his youthful disciples although, materially speaking, we are two or three generations apart. Despite the vast difference between our cultural background and spiritual understanding, there are no barriers between us. He is sympathetic and has a seemingly perfect empathy with us. How he is able to relate to us in such a wonderful way was revealed soon after class.
We were talking in his sitting room about growing old, and at one moment Prabhupāda got up from his desk. His eyes shone brightly and he said simply and convincingly, “I am not an old man! I will never grow old!” We all laughed. Prabhupāda is a self-realized soul. He does not identify with his body, and he doesn’t see us as material entities either. He relates to us as one spirit soul relates to another. We are all meant to serve the Supreme. In that sense he does not perceive himself as superior to us, yet he always keeps the formal guru and disciple relationship intact. Prabhupāda’s humble service is to bring us back to Kṛṣṇa, and our humble service to Kṛṣṇa is to serve Śrīla Prabhupāda.
* * *
Prabhupāda derives great inspiration from the life of Prahlāda Mahārāja and often refers to his exemplary behavior when preaching. A recent letter from Yogeścandra dāsa requested Prabhupāda’s blessings for a party of eight men who are to collect funds for the Māyāpur temple. “You always have my blessings,” Prabhupāda replied. “The father always wishes that the son may be more successful than himself. This is the spiritual conception. If one is doing well, then the materialistic persons become envious and try to check his progress. This was actually so with Prahlada Maharaja. He was only five years old, he was preaching Krsna consciousness to his school friends, and the father Hiranyakasipu became so envious that he attempted to kill his five-year-old son in so many ways. Krsna consciousness is just the opposite. If someone is doing well then the attitude of the devotee is to give him all facility to go on and improve more and more.”
December 8th, 1975
Prabhupāda is always concerned about our welfare—not just philosophically, but in many practical ways as well. For example, this morning was very cold; winter is really setting in. He remarked about it on his walk and then asked if the devotees are getting ghee on their capātīs. Akṣayānanda Swami replied that only the guests are given some because it’s expensive and not necessary for the devotees.
But Prabhupāda disagreed. He said that it is necessary in this season. In the cold weather the devotees must have a little extra ghee and grains. He recommended a mix of channa and urad dāls as being both palatable and beneficial—not too little and not too much. “Unnecessary vairāgya,” he said, “there is no need. We don’t approve that. Yuktāhāra-vihārasya. What you require for keeping health—but not to eat too much. But what is absolutely required must be done.”
Śrīla Prabhupāda is quite pleased with Harikeśa’s article, “Experimental Knowledge.” Last night he had him read it aloud. Then this morning as we walked, he asked him to reiterate some points for the other devotees to hear.
He injected some very amusing observations himself. Recalling his trip to South Africa he said there were many factories for chicken killing. “So I suggested that the egg, you can analyze. Find out the chemicals and create one egg. That was my proposal. “Motioning to Harikeśa, he said, “So he is going to create!” We all laughed as Śrīla Prabhupāda continued, “He’ll explain how to create egg from...”
“From chemicals,” Akṣayānanda Swami suggested.
And Jṣāna dāsa added, “And make chicken.”
Then Harikeśa described, “Calcium phosphate and a little sulphur for the yellow. Make some color and cover it in plastic and put it in an incubator, and let a chicken grow.”
“And you eat!” Prabhupāda concluded.
Akṣayānanda Mahārāja thought that would be a great article.
Prabhupāda stopped and said seriously, “My only regret is that these rascals are going as scientists and big men. Simply talk. They cannot create. It is very simple thing. Put some chemicals together, and if you know the chemicals, then why don’t you put it? And incubator put, then you don’t require to kill so many chicken.”
“Actually it’s a wonderful challenge,” Harikeśa agreed. “This big, big scientist, big, big brain...”
But Prabhupāda interrupted, “‘Big, big monkey, big, big belly. Ceylon jumping—melancholy!’ You do not know this? Baro baro bandolel, baro baro peṭ, laṅkā dingate, matakare het!”
We were all laughing as Prabhupāda went on, “This translation was done by one big professor of President’s College, Professor Rowe. So these professors required to learn Bengali, so he translated, ‘Big, big monkey, big, big belly. Ceylon jumping—melancholy!’”
Prabhupāda was extremely humorous, and his descriptive analogies perfectly fit. Scientists are always full of big talk, saying that life comes from matter and that it is just a combination of chemicals. Yet life is occurring everywhere at every moment, and still they can neither say what the combination is, nor can they reproduce it. Similarly, the big monkey companions of Hanumān were full of bravado and boasts, but when it came to jumping across the ocean from India to Lanka they were “melancholy.” Only Hanumān by the grace of Lord Rāma could do it.
Nevertheless, despite his often humorous critiques and sometimes general condemnations of the modern materialistic scientists, Prabhupāda cautioned us that any attempt to preach on a scientific basis must be done expertly. When Alanātha, a European devotee, told him of plans to publish a magazine in Sweden with articles challenging the material scientists, Śrīla Prabhupāda warned him. “Don’t write anything nonsense. It must be very solid. Otherwise you’ll be laughing stock. One must be confident before challenging others. In all stages he must be able to defend himself from the opposing elements. Then such challenge is all right. We are confident that this soul cannot be manufactured by any material combination. Therefore we can challenge. And we can defend ourselves in any stage.”
In class Prabhupāda continued to speak on the same topic. He said that modern civilization means to increase the killing. By scientific advancement modern man has become expert in killing the less fortunate—chickens, cows, babies—and even their own souls. The government is advertising “One, two, three—bas!” advising people to restrict the size of their families to a maximum of three by contraception or abortion. But those who have no control of their senses misuse their lives and everyone else’s. Prabhupāda explained how such people cannot imagine a life without sense gratification, wanting to eat, sleep, and have sex almost unlimitedly.
He recalled how in the early days of ISKCON in New York his neighbors would protest at the morning chanting. “In the beginning, in that Second Avenue 26, when our morning prayer was going on at seven, not very early. And so many other tenants, half-naked, would complain to the landlord. ‘Mr. Judah, what is this going on? What is going on? Stop it! Stop it! Stop!’ So Mr. Judah used to say, ‘No, no, they’ll not stop. I cannot say. You go to the police.’
“So sometimes police were coming to stop us, but we did not stop.”
This brought a laugh to the assembled devotees.
Śrīla Prabhupāda went on, “So ajitātmānah. The human life is meant for gaining victory over the senses. ‘No, better be victimized by the senses.’ This is modern civilization.”
He warned of the danger of becoming too attached to family life, which the Vedas compare to a dark well. He told us that in Vedic civilization it was compulsory that at age fifty one must give it up. Otherwise, one becomes an ātmā-ghāṭam, a killer of the soul.
There are an increasing number of householders and women with children staying in our āśrama now, and many seem to have come here to settle. Living in Vṛndāvana and raising one’s children here is certainly very appealing for any devotee, but Prabhupāda warned us that we must be very careful how we conduct our activities in the holy dhāma. “So those who do not observe these rules and regulations, they are called ajitātmānah, victimized by the senses. Their business is to sleep as much as possible. They are passing their days without any benefit—niṣphalaà, without any result. If one is not serious about the value of this human form of life, he may waste his time by sleeping. But no. If we follow our predecessors, our Gosvāmīs, who were all ministers, they came to Vṛndāvana to practice—what? Nidrāhāra vihārakādi vijitau, to conquer over sleeping, eating, and mating. And coming to Vṛndāvana, if we indulge in that way, then what is the use of coming to Vṛndāvana? Go to hell and live there.”
* * *
Prabhupāda is very eager to begin go-rakṣa, or cow protection. This morning he told Akṣayānanda Swami to construct a shed on our spare land and immediately buy some cows. He sees this program as an essential aspect of our preaching work and is encouraging us to establish it on a worldwide basis.
Then, while hearing this morning’s mail, the topic of cow protection came up again in Rūpānuga’s October monthly GBC report. (All GBC men have to send detailed monthly reports, which His Divine Grace listens to with careful attention.) Rūpānuga mentioned that the cows on our Pennsylvania farm are giving forty-eight pounds of milk a day per cow and have even won some awards.
Pleased with this report, Prabhupāda wrote an encouraging response. “Our cows are happy, therefore they give plenty of milk. Vedic civilization gives protection to all living creatures, especially the cows, because they render such valuable service to the human society in the shape of milk, without which no one can become healthy and strong. In your country the dog is protected and the cow is killed. The dog is passing stool and urine in the street, he is considered best friend of man. And the cow is all pure—stool, urine and milk—but they are taken to the slaughterhouse and killed for food. What kind of civilization is this? Therefore we have to preach against all this nonsense.”
Prabhupāda also asked him for a report on the newly acquired eleven-story building in New York. He is concerned that this large building be correctly managed, as several recent reports have suggested difficulties.
A BBT and zonal report, full of devotional enthusiasm, also arrived from Hridayānanda Goswami, the GBC for South America. He is supervising the production of Prabhupāda’s books in Spanish and Portuguese. He enclosed two new publications: Easy Journey to Other Planets (Portuguese, 50,000 copies) and Elevation to Kṛṣṇa Consciousness (Spanish, 125,000). Bhagavad-gītā Tal Como Es has just gone to the printer. They have assembled a team of translators with the aim of publishing at least one hardbound book per month.
Hridayānanda Mahārāja requested help from the English language BBT in Los Angeles for manpower and loans. He also presented a proposal to produce Prabhupāda’s books as both a standard publication and a “super cheap” version. This will enable them to distribute books profusely even in the poorest South American countries.
Another idea he proposed was for each GBC man to spend at least three months a year in a zone other than his own. He felt that this arrangement would give Prabhupāda relief from the burden of managerial concerns. It also would enable each man to analyze his zone objectively and, by consultation with another GBC member, solve any problems.
Prabhupāda heard the report with great satisfaction and carefully inspected the new books and a photo of Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Madana-gopāla from Mexico. Then he dictated his reply. “Yes, you print all of my books; if you can sell then, why not print? Print as much as possible and store them if necessary. But you must pay regularly the BBT loans; that is not to be neglected.
“Your idea of printing a deluxe edition and an ordinary edition is all right. Everyone should get a book, that is the idea. So do it.
“The idea of GBC changing zones for two-three months of the year is also good. Bring up this point at the Māyāpur meeting and vote on it.”
* * *
Each moment in Śrīla Prabhupāda’s association is instructive. Even in the simplest of dealings his every action is exact and proper. He notices the smallest detail.
In mid-morning, when I entered his room, Prabhupāda noted I was wearing a new cotton dhotī I had purchased several days ago. He commended the thick quality and asked the price. I told him it was only fourteen rupees. He also asked how I purchased it, and I explained that I had a little money saved. He said he thought it was a good bargain and told me to call in Akṣayānanda Swami. When he came in, Prabhupāda told him about my new dhotī and asked him to reimburse me for the money spent. He said that my small savings should be kept for emergency use, and the temple should cover my expenses.
* * *
Over the past few days Prabhupāda has given many small but significant instructions on a variety of issues. For example, a devotee who lost his original beads gave me a new set for Prabhupāda to sanctify by chanting on them. Prabhupāda agreed, but mentioned that this was not really necessary because it is the chanting of the devotee that is sanctified at initiation, not the beads.
During a walk Akṣayānanda Swami told Prabhupāda about a retired gentleman who wants to live in the āśrama. The man is very respectful and even offers his obeisances to the sannyāsīs. Prabhupāda replied, “If a sannyāsī is not offered respect, the punishment is that he must fast for the day. That it is śāstric injunction.” Bhagavat Āśraya asked what the punishment was if one doesn’t fast. Prabhupāda said simply, “You must go to hell!”
An astrological researcher wrote from London asking for Śrīla Prabhupāda’s time and date of birth. Prabhupāda obliged him. “Regarding your question about my birth. I was born September 1, 1896, Tuesday at about 4:00 in the afternoon. My rasi is Mithuna.”
Prabhupāda is always anxious to establish new centers in India and build up those that are already existing. He wrote to Mahāàsa Swami to say that he intends to spend at least one crore rupees in Hyderabad. And he authorized Gaura Govinda Swami to open a center in Orissa. The Vṛndāvana devotees are to check the offer of a temple in Kanpur.
Śrīla Prabhupāda is always flexible. Gargamuni Swami is to come to India with five Mercedes vans and twenty men to begin traveling saṅkīrtana and standing-order distribution to libraries. Although Prabhupāda had requested him to manage the Calcutta temple again, when he heard his new program of selling books he wrote, “Yes! Your present engagement is more important. Managing Calcutta temple is not so important. I am pleased that you are selling my books; this is superior engagement, so please increase it more and more.”
December 9th, 1975
There are problems with the drainage from our guest house. The septic tanks are inadequate, and there is no room to build larger ones. Neither is the local municipality providing sewage lines to this area. Overflow is polluting the back alley, and there have been complaints from local residents. Prabhupāda has had many discussions with Saurabha, Guṇārṇava, and the other managers aimed at finding a solution.
This morning, instead of his regular walk, he went down the side alley and along the Vṛndāvana parikrama path. He came out into an open space of about two acres, said to be the actual Rāman Reti area where Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma played with Their cowherd friends. Walking across the soft sands, he looked around at the barren land. A few of Vṛndāvana’s many peacocks strutted here and there, and a group of green parrots, like a gang of noisy adolescents, squawked and squabbled overhead. A crow cawed loudly from the top of a high tree, and varieties of birds flitted among the surrounding foliage.
Prabhupāda is thinking of purchasing the land to use as drainage for the guest house. He also suggested we turn it into a park. As he walked around he said we should “colonize” the area, similar to our Los Angeles community. He didn’t stay very long, and after a short walk on the road, he returned to the temple.
* * *
Class this morning was longer than usual. Prabhupāda contrasted the genuine renunciation of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, the founder of present-day Vṛndāvana village, with that of some of his modern imitators. Such imposter renunciates simply come to beg capātīs just to sell them in the market in order to buy bidis, a cheap variety of cigarette. Prabhupāda explained that following the rules and regulations of devotional service, vidhi-bhakti, is essential. First there is vidhi-bhakti, then rāga-bhakti, spontaneous service, and at last prema-bhakti, pure love of Godhead. In the beginning stage we have not awakened our natural love for Kṛṣṇa, and therefore we should be careful not to act whimsically. He reminded us that by birth we may be at a disadvantage, but not disqualified.
He explained that progress depends on proper guidance. Then he described the vital role that he was playing as the representative of the Six Gosvāmīs. “So in the beginning, neophyte stage, not that because we have come to Vṛndāvana, immediately we have become advanced. No. Vidhi-bhaktimust be followed—regulative principle—by the injunction of the śāstra and the order of the spiritual master. One who is inquisitive to understand Brahman, he should be given chance. Just like there is a little fire. Fan it. Fanning, fanning, fanning, and it becomes a big fire. So our process is that. We pick up anyone... Caitanya Mahāprabhu has given open declaration--kṛṣṇa-bhajanete nāhi jāti-kulādi-vicāra. Anyone who is desirous of becoming Kṛṣṇa conscious, it is open. Anyone can come.”
Prabhupāda went on to say that although a devotee is naturally enthusiastic to offer this process of purification to everyone, we should not be disappointed if only a few take it up. Nor should we be complacent, now that we have achieved what many consider to be the goal of Kṛṣṇa consciousness itself—residence in the holy dhāma. “Caitanya Mahāprabhu never sat down tightly in Vṛndāvana. He traveled all over India and took so much trouble. So preaching is very important, and you should engage. That will help you. Every one of you should be pure in your activities and try to preach Kṛṣṇa consciousness as far as possible. If you remain pure, then your preaching will be successful and you’ll get encouragement. That is the instruction of all Vaiṣṇavas. Thank you very much.”
* * *
Back in Prabhupāda’s room after breakfast, Hansadūta read out some particularly ecstatic letters from America describing the book distribution. Prabhupāda’s enthusiastic response to them was clear evidence that, as he said in class, he is fanning, fanning, fanning to bring back the fire of spiritual consciousness in the hearts of the conditioned souls. He has declared the entire world an open house for the introduction of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. The letters show just how seriously his disciples are applying themselves to the task.
In a BBT report Rāmeśvara informed Śrīla Prabhupāda that this month they’d printed 350,000 English Bhagavad-gītās, with 500,000 more planned in hardbound. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam Sixth Canto, Part Two was at the printers, and Part Three was in production. A record number of Back to Godheads are also going out.
Rāmeśvara concluded enthusiastically, “Our only desire is to surrender our lives to help publish and distribute millions of Your Divine Grace’s wonderful books. Here in LA they are selling over 200,000 BTGs this month of December, more than even the entire Radha-Damodara party combined. Of course Radha-Damodara is selling more big books than anyone else. Devotees are more enlivened in the USA than I have ever seen for distributing your books. This will be the biggest month ever. Already one million BTGs is not enough for this month.”
Nothing pleases Śrīla Prabhupāda more than hearing how his books are being printed and sold. He wrote back, “You keep your enlivened position. I was just talking to Hansaduta about the good fortune of America that Krsna consciousness is there; and if you can cover the whole America with Krsna consciousness that will be good for the whole world.”
Then Hansadūta prabhu read out an ecstatic report by Uttamaśloka dāsa, the president of the Chicago temple, although it was not directly addressed to Śrīla Prabhupāda. It described the efforts of the devotees in the recent record-breaking, Thanksgiving-day book-distribution competition. Out of 5,000 books sold by the three temples, Chicago, assisted by nine Rādhā-Dāmodara traveling saṅkīrtana party brahmacārīs, sold over 2,000. The letter was written to Rāmeśvara prabhu and sent on. Hansadūta read it out loud as Prabhupāda listened, eyes sometimes wide with amazement and appreciation at the incredible effort and risk his disciples are taking to distribute his books throughout this world of darkness:
“We took the challenge seriously—not that we were puffed up and over confident of victory—for we knew that anything could happen by Lord Caitanya’s mercy. Then the first crew left—16 men and women—they were distributing by about 6:30 a.m. Later a small party went out by about 10:00 a.m. with more books and prasadam, and later on in the day several others came out. Altogether there were about 25 devotees at the airport throughout the day. Sripati and I sort of floated about helping in different ways, like you did. There were the 17 regular distributors plus Tripurari Swami and a couple of weekend regulars and a few more new comers.
“In the first hour and half most of the distributors had done 15 to 25 books, so by the time we got out (about 11:00 a.m.) they had already done about 300–400 books! The mornings are always good. Things were quiet; not too many announcements and no break ups or hassles. We all met together for lunch at 1:00 p.m. and took a preliminary count: over 750 books—we were close to breaking the world’s record half way through the day. By 1:00 p.m. Manusuta dasa had already done 100!!!!!! Praghosa dāsa 80!!!! and Tripurari Swami 70!!!!! Our hairs began to stand on end a little as we speculated about the potential results and everyone was back distributing by 1:30 p.m.
“Basically we distribute two terminals...there is a corridor about 25ft. wide that the people funnel through after coming from the ‘fingers’...All of the passengers come through there on their way to the baggage claim and also on their way to a flight.... We found out from the paper next morning that over 220,000 people came through the airport that day!!!!
“At about 4:00 p.m.... a demon worker of the airlines came up to one devotee and punched him in the face; the men were stunned. Then he went up to another devotee and punched him in the face! The men and karmis began to congregate. Tripurari Swami came running to see what was happening; the demon punched him in the face!!! All of the devotees immediately jumped on the demon and began beating the stool out of him!!!!!!! There was a huge crowd all around and the devotees were shouting for the police to stop this man. There was blood on his face and on the ground. Praghosa’s punch had drawn blood and there were drops of blood on Praghosa’s clothes and drops of perspiration on his face: he was feeling very blissful!!”
Prabhupāda’s eyes opened wide at the description of the fight. “Acchā!” he said in surprise, shaking his head in wonder at the risks his men were taking on his and Kṛṣṇa’s behalf. Hansadūta was laughing and shaking his head in awe and he read on.
“Half the crowd was in our favor and the other half against. The police came in and the demon said that we had given him a book and then taken it back and started a fight. The police arrested the devotees! This is typical of all the incidents—they attack us and we get arrested! Anyway somehow or another, by Krsna’s grace, the devotees were released and back distributing in 20 minutes.
“Around 6:00 p.m. I took a preliminary count...I sat in the phone booth and added the score. As I added my eyebrows began to raise higher and higher! My eyes began to bulge from their sockets!! My mouth dropped open! I was speechless! Tears actually began to flow from my eyes! We had broken 1400 books! I couldn’t believe it; I was stunned and took another count to be sure, and sure enough, it was right. I began to shout in ecstasy ‘Hari Bol, Hari Bol, Hari Bol!’ All the karmis were looking at me through the phone booth with screwed up faces of bewilderment....
“When I got back there had been another incident... A couple of plainclothers (cops) had tried to set up one of the women for an arrest and she tried to get one of the men to help her. One of the men tried to intervene and they arrested him and took him downstairs. Another mother went down to find the girl whom they tried to arrest and when the cops saw her they said “Where’s the other girl?” “I don’t know” she said. “OK, then we’ll arrest you instead!” “Hey, let me go! I didn’t do anything!” Two small scuffles broke out with the two devotees and the police. Another devotee came in to stop it...and the police turned on him and the three of them mercilessly beat him up on the floor in front of many bystanders! One of the policemen’s guns fell out during the scuffle and books were scattered every where. The devotees were then taken to jail downtown (the two men devotees). Of course this knocked at least 100 books off our score.”
Prabhupāda was listening with rapt attention to the whole description, occasionally raising his eyebrows in surprise and shaking his head and smiling in appreciation. He was aglow with obvious pride at the determination of his disciples to sell his books despite all obstacles, and he listened to the entire report, blow by blow.
“While we listened to this incident and took prasadam, a demon who had found three books ripped them up and threw them in our midst. Unaffected, a little tired, but undaunted in their determination, the devotees went back to distribute. Meanwhile a huge blizzard began and traffic started jamming both on the roads and in the air.. At 10:30 p.m. I got a report from Sripati: over 1700 books—we might break 2,000!!!! This is incredible!! Who can imagine the mercy of Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu? All but four of the men were coming back at 11:30 p.m.—Manusuta w/191; Praghosa w/153; Tripurari Swami w/135 and Ranganatha w/120.... The first crew returned in the blizzard by 2:00 a.m. and the four others left about 1:30 or 2:00 a.m. Everyone struggled to get up for mangala arati (the four latecomers didn’t even go to sleep) and after an ecstatic kirtana I ran around to get the final scores...On Thursday we fasted from breakfast and chanted and slept till noon arati when we had a big arati kirtana and after a nice feast!!!!
“Thank you for inspiring us to compete for the mercy of the Spiritual Master. If it weren’t for you we wouldn’t know what to do. All glories to Śrīla Prabhupāda!
Your servant, Uttamasloka dasa.”
Another page carried the totals for each distributor. Two men did over 400 between them: Manusuta set a new individual world’s record with 210 books, Praghoṣa was just behind with 200. Another seven, Tripurāri Swami, Raṅganātha, Romapāda, Buddhimanta, and Preraka prabhus, including two women, Ṣaḍbhuja and Jagaddhatri dāsīs, broke the one-hundred-book mark. The grand total was 2,042 hardbound books.
At the bottom of the list Uttamaśloka added a note to Rāmeśvara: “My humble suggestion and request is that you read this letter and all of its contents to the assembled devotees of New Dvaraka Dhama. Even though it is irregularly composed and full of mistakes and errors, it is still very transcendentally pleasing and will be relished by all.”
At the top of the letter Rāmeśvara had written in large clear capital letters, “THE MOST ECSTATIC SKP NEWSLETTER OF ALL TIME! SHOULD BE READ ALOUD TO ALL OF THE ASSEMBLED DEVOTEES!”
When Hansadūta finished, Śrīla Prabhupāda had a huge smile on his face, clearly pleased and obviously enjoying transcendental ecstasy. He dictated his reply, not to Rāmeśvara but to Uttamaśloka. “Please accept my blessings. I read your sankirtana newsletter with great relish. Europe and America are in great danger, this Hare Krsna movement is enveloping them. The sankirtana devotees are very, very dear to Krsna. Because they are doing the field work of book distribution, Krsna has immediately recognized them as true servants. Just like during the war time, a farm boy or ordinary clerk who goes out to fight for his country on the front, immediately becomes a national hero for his sincere effort. So Krsna immediately recognizes a preacher of Krsna consciousness who takes all risks to deliver his message.
“It is called dhira bratta—determination. These boys and girls are mahatmas—mahatmanas tu mam partha, daivim prakrtim asritah, bhajanty ananya manaso, jnatva bhutadim avyayam:—‘O son of Prtha, those who are not deluded, the great souls, are under the protection of the divine nature. They are fully engaged in devotional service because they know Me as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, original and inexhaustible.’ This verse is applicable here. If these boys were under the material nature they would not take so much risk. They are mahatma, they are real mahatma, not that long beard and saffron cloth mahatma. They are unswerving in their determination, dhira bratta. All glories to the American devotees!
“I hope this letter finds you and all the sankirtana devotees well,
Your ever well-wisher, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami.”
Book distribution is going on enthusiastically all over Europe as well; and devotees there are also taking risks. Yesterday Alanātha told Śrīla Prabhupāda that in some places in Western Europe the devotees are being arrested simply for selling his books. He wanted to know if they should make some secret arrangement for selling. Śrīla Prabhupāda replied, “Why secret? Take permission from the courts.”
Alanātha said that wasn’t possible. Prabhupāda, however, said that if arrested we should use the opportunity to present our case in court. “This is very important book. The government should allow us to sell. Present in court the professors’ opinions, how they are giving standing orders. Why the state should restrain distributing knowledge? Do they want to keep their men in darkness? You have to preach like that.”
Adversity never daunts Prabhupāda. He has firm conviction in his mission, and is prepared to fight to establish Kṛṣṇa consciousness in this God-forsaken world.
Prahlāda Mahārāja’s instructions give daily affirmation that Kṛṣṇa consciousness is the prime necessity of life. Therefore Śrīla Prabhupāda wants to give Kṛṣṇa consciousness freely to as many people in as many places in the world as possible, and distributing transcendental literature is the most effective means. Kṛṣṇa is empowering Śrīla Prabhupāda to write the books. He, in turn, is now investing his energy in inspiring his disciples to distribute them.
* * *
This afternoon I spoke with Harikeśa and Hansadūta Prabhus about my service. Prabhupāda is due to leave in a couple of days for Delhi and Bombay, and Gopāla Kṛṣṇa is constantly reminding me that he wants me to go to Calcutta. I confessed to them that I have become extremely attached to serving Śrīla Prabhupāda, and I am not particularly enthusiastic about going to Calcutta.
Harikeśa has changed his opinion about my being on the party, even to the point of telling Gopāla Kṛṣṇa directly to back off from his idea. He told him that Prabhupāda’s personal party is transcendental to zonal and GBC considerations. Harikeśa advised me, “You should ask Prabhupāda if you can stay with him.”
I told him I was reluctant to bother Śrīla Prabhupāda with personal requests, but he urged me to go ahead. “After all,” he said, “it is directly connected to Śrīla Prabhupāda, so it affects him too. You have nothing to lose. At worst he can only say no.”
I accepted his words as good advice, and tomorrow I will ask Śrīla Prabhupāda personally.
December 10th, 1975
Morning walks are always fascinating. Devotees often bring up controversial subjects just to get Prabhupāda’s reaction. Akṣayānanda Swami initiated the discussion this morning by mentioning a questionable statement made by a senior devotee in a class recently. “I was told by one devotee that the ācārya does not have to be a pure devotee.”
Prabhupāda stopped abruptly. “What?”
“That the ācārya does not have to be a pure devotee.”
Prabhupāda was annoyed. “Who is that rascal? Who said? Who is that rascal? The ācārya does not require to be a pure devotee?”
“Nitāi said it. He said that Lord Brahmā is the ācārya in the Brahmā-sampradāya, but yet he is sometimes afflicted by passion. So therefore it appears that the ācārya does not have to be a pure devotee. So it does not seem right.”
“So who is that rascal? I want to know. Who has said?”
“Nitāi. Nitāi dāsa.”
Prabhupāda was indignant and denounced such a speculative mentality. “He manufactured his idea. Therefore he’s a rascal. Nitāi has become an authority?”
“No, actually he said that he thought...”
“He thought something rascaldom, and he is expressing that. Therefore he is more rascal.”
He walked on again, digging down to the real cause of the comments. “These things are going on. As soon as he reads some books, he becomes an ācārya, whatever rascal he may be.”
“So there’s no doubt that Lord Brahmā is a pure devotee?” Akṣayānanda asked.
“Whatever he may be, he is ācārya,” Prabhupāda answered. Then he stopped again and brought in another example. “Then Kṛṣṇa is also passionate. Kṛṣṇa danced with so many gopīs; therefore He is passionate. These things are to be seen in this way, that ‘Such exalted person, he sometimes becomes passionate, so how much we shall be careful.’ This is the instruction. Then we petty things, petty persons, how much we shall be careful. It is not that ‘Ācārya has become passionate, therefore I shall become passionate. I am strict follower of ācārya.’ These rascals say like this.”
Śrīla Prabhupāda gave a lengthy critique including commenting on various gurus and writers who, unable to understand Lord Kṛṣṇa’s transcendental nature, still want to comment on His words or on the literature that describe Him. They make Him appear an ordinary man, only to imitate Him. There are others who think they can understand Him simply by reading the Gītā or Bhāgavatam, despite Kṛṣṇa’s statement that out of many millions of persons only one may understand Him.
Śrīla Prabhupāda said that a guru, ācārya, is essential for proper realization. He referred to his early morning translation work from verse thirty of the Seventh Chapter of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. “You’ll find in today’s tape that Prahlāda Mahārāja is recommending, ‘Spiritual life begins by guru-śuśruṣaḥ, by serving guru.’ Rūpa Gosvāmī said, ādaugurvāśrayam, ‘The first beginning is to take shelter of the bona fide spiritual master.’ Sad-dharma-pṛcchat: ‘Then inquire from him about the spiritual path.’ Sādhu- mārganugamanam: ‘Follow the previous ācāryas.’ These are the steps. In Bhagavad-gītā Arjuna said, śiṣyas te ’haà śādhi māà, ‘Now I become Your disciple. Teach me.’ And these rascals are more than Arjuna: ‘There is no need of guru.’ Hm? He says, śiṣyas te ’ham. Why? He was already friend. Why he should submit himself as disciple? That is the beginning of spiritual life.”
This conversation eventually led into another controversial subject in which Caitya-guru said, “One Life Member’s wife was very upset. She came to see you with that rascal yogi. He said that the Vedas mention that we can drink, and that women and men have equal rights.” Prabhupāda acknowledged the meeting with a nod of his head.
Caitya-guru went on, “Then as she was also saying the same thing, you answered her: ‘Okay, if woman and men have equal rights, why don’t you beget children in the womb of your husband?’” Prabhupāda smiled as he recalled the incident.
“She was very upset,” Caitya-guru said. “She said, ‘Prabhupāda sometimes says things like that which are unreasonable.’”
Everyone laughed loudly.
“No,” Prabhupāda said. “I said that if you have equal rights, then make some arrangement. Sometimes you become pregnant, sometimes he becomes pregnant. Why there is not right? Equal right?”
Caitya-guru explained, “She told me, ‘Prabhupāda sometimes says these things that we feel all ashamed.’”
“But in speaking spiritual understanding,” Prabhupāda boldly pronounced, “we cannot make any compromise. What to speak of in Mauritius, in Chicago I told.”
Then Prabhupāda related an exchange he had with a stewardess on a plane journey in America. She had taken exception to a TV show in which Prabhupāda had declared that men and women were not equal.
“I think that was the same stewardess,” Harikeśa offered, “who came in the back and asked us why the Swamijī doesn’t like women.”
Prabhupāda was apologetic for the misunderstanding, but he wasn’t about to alter the truth. “No, no. I don’t say that I don’t like women. But I cannot say that equal rights. How can I say? First of all show equal rights—your husband becomes sometimes pregnant, and then you become pregnant, alternately.” Prabhupāda explained that even in Russia, where they had tried to make people equal, still there are managers and workers. So that sort of equality isn’t ever possible.
When Harikeśa mentioned that nowadays there are women senators and ambassadors, Prabhupāda still did not concede that this means equality. “That simply requires education,” he said. “But by nature the woman’s body is different from man’s.”
However, when Caitya-guru took his comments to imply that this difference means that women are subordinate, Prabhupāda corrected him. “Not subordinate, actually. Their occupations are different...That is another mistake. Just like the leg is walking and the head is directing; so although the occupation is different, both of them are important. We require the head and leg also. If simply head is there, if there is no leg, then who’ll walk? This is the understanding. Not equal. Everyone must have his separate duties to serve the whole. That is the arrangement; this is real understanding. The most important part of the body is head, but that does not mean the leg is not important. Leg is important in its work, and head is important in its work. So we require both, head and tail both. Not that simply leg or simply head. But when we make comparative study, we can understand that head is more important than the leg. If you cut your leg, you can live, but if you cut your head, you’ll die. Therefore the conclusion is: head is more important than the leg. Comparative study. Otherwise, head is also required and leg is also required.
“You collect some flowers, nice flowers, and add with it some green foliage, it becomes more beautiful. Simply flower is not so beautiful. When it is arrayed with some green foliage, then it becomes more beautiful. So we have to take in that sense. But comparatively, the flower is more important than the foliage. But the both of them are required.”
Harikeśa added, “The foliage also becomes beautiful because of the flower.”
“Yes, that is God’s creation,” Prabhupāda agreed. “Just like these trees: they are condemned. But still with trees we can make a beautiful garden, and that is very enjoyable. That is God’s arrangement.”
* * *
For an ordinary man, a life void of family affairs is almost unthinkable. Thus, Prahlāda Mahārāja’s instructions to develop detachment from worldly affairs are very difficult to appreciate except by those with a very broad understanding and a genuine desire to seek out the real meaning of life.
Sitting on his āsana during class, the perfect representative of the Gosvāmīs, Śrīla Prabhupāda explained how painless this process can be by simply directing the inherent tendency to form bonds back towards Kṛṣṇa. “This is bhakti process. Not that we have to bring a separate attachment. It has to be cleansed. That is described in the Nārada-paṣcarātra: sarvopādhi-vinirmuktaà tat-paratvena nirmalam, hṛṣīkena hṛṣīkeśa sevanaà bhaktir uttamam. Consciousness is there, attachment is there, but it is being covered by so many designations.... Just like we have got feeling for raising children; attachment, that is attachment.
“So what Mother Yaśodā is doing? She is attached to Kṛṣṇa, and that is Vṛndāvana. The same thing in otherwise: Vṛndāvana life means all attachment to Kṛṣṇa. Mother Yaśodā is attached to Kṛṣṇa, Nanda Mahārāja is attached to Kṛṣṇa, the cowherd boys are attached to Kṛṣṇa, the cows and calves are attached to Kṛṣṇa, Rādhārāṇī is attached to Kṛṣṇa, the trees are attached to Kṛṣṇa, the flowers are attached to Kṛṣṇa, the water is attached to Kṛṣṇa. That is Vṛndāvana. Vṛndāvana means the central attachment is Kṛṣṇa. That is Vṛndāvana.
“So if you can create that central attachment for Kṛṣṇa, then it is Vṛndāvana. Then you can create Vṛndāvana anywhere. Any family, any society, any country—just make the point of attachment Kṛṣṇa, and it is Vṛndāvana. That is required. That is the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement.”
* * *
Immediately after class, as Prabhupāda relaxed in his darśana room waiting for breakfast, Harikeśa asked some questions about Lord Brahmā. He explained that he had read in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam that every living entity upon leaving the spiritual world first falls to the level of Brahmā. He wondered whether that means that each jīva becomes a Lord Brahmā in charge of his own universe, or, as some devotees have interpreted, that he falls to the planet Brahmaloka?
Prabhupāda confirmed that each living being becomes a Lord Brahmā.
A little incredulously I tried to grasp this inconceivable fact. “But that means each and every living being has his own universe?”
Prabhupāda responded rather sharply, “Oh? Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is wrong? You do not think it is possible for Kṛṣṇa to give everyone his own universe? For Kṛṣṇa anything is possible!”
We brought up the statement that at the end of the universe, Lord Brahmā, as a pure devotee and the head of our spiritual lineage, goes back to Godhead. Prabhupāda confirmed that this does not happen to every Brahmā. The living beings begin their entanglement in material life from that status and then fall further down as their material desires increase.
* * *
Today during Prabhupāda’s morning massage on the roof, I tentatively asked if I could continue as his servant. I explained that I had become very attached to personally serving him, and had no specific engagement to return to. Although Gopāla Kṛṣṇa wanted me to go to Calcutta to help manage the temple, I frankly admitted that I had no experience with management in India, and thus I didn’t really feel qualified.
Prabhupāda thought for a moment, and then asked what my educational background was, in particular whether I knew any foreign languages. I confessed to having no talent for learning foreign languages. In fact, it was my worst subject in school.
He listened to what I said, then sent me to call Harikeśa. “So,” he asked Harikeśa, “he wants to remain with me. What do you think?”
“Well, he’s doing very nicely. I think it would be a good thing for you to have a steady servant.”
“What about Nitāi?” (Nitāi is in Bombay renewing his visa and is supposed to rejoin Prabhupāda there.)
Harikeśa was forthright. “Well, Nitāi joined up with us in America. But when we got here, he wanted to leave and stay to develop the gurukula. There’s no guarantee he won’t want to leave again in another few months. But Hari-śauri can remain as your permanent servant and you won’t be disturbed by any more changes.”
Śrīla Prabhupāda tipped his head. “All right.”
I am ecstatic! I can’t believe my good fortune! Three or four weeks ago I was cleaning the temple floors, and now I am to be His Divine Grace’s permanent personal servant. This is solely his mercy, because I have absolutely no qualification. Unlike his previous servants I can’t cook, type, or do anything useful. Yet he’s keeping me on just to purify me. Although I have no particular ability to do any of the servant’s duties, I have tried to do my best to perform whatever menial service Prabhupāda has given me. It seems that because of this service attitude, Prabhupāda is prepared to keep me on.
December 11th, 1975
Prabhupāda always begins his morning walk at dawn when the still, fresh morning air and quiet atmosphere are healthy for both body and mind. Few people are out then; only the occasional bullock or buffalo amble slowly past, straining with heavily loaded carts. The drivers peer with somnambulant curiosity from under thick blankets at the “Western” Vaiṣṇavas struggling to keep up with their master, straining to hear his every word as he enlightens and entertains us with his vision of the world seen through the eyes of śāstra.
Śrīla Prabhupāda always strictly adheres to the authoritative statements of the Vedic literature. Yet, he expertly assesses our particular time, place, and circumstance and delivers the Vedic conclusions in a way that is easy for us to understand and apply. Despite his obvious success in spreading Kṛṣṇa consciousness without any loss of its true potency, there are those who criticize his adaption of the principles of sādhana. These people sometimes confuse the minds of his neophyte disciples with other ideas.
All over India many bābājīs and gurus claim to be authorities on spiritual life, yet they find fault with Prabhupāda’s honest efforts to rescue the fallen conditioned souls.
Here in Vṛndāvana, Śrīla Prabhupāda is especially protective of his vulnerable young disciples, always watching to see that we do not become infected with ideas that will poison our spiritual lives. He strictly forbids us to live outside of the temple, and in the past posed strong opposition to the tendency of some devotees to go off to Rādhā-kuṇḍa to live with a particular bābājī there. He is very much on his guard to see that his spiritual children are not beguiled by envious or ambitious spiritualists. He knows that such people can easily undermine our faith and cause havoc in our spiritual progress. He constantly insists to the temple leaders that they be alert in this regard.
These impediments to our spiritual lives do not always come from non-Gauḍīya-sampradāya elements. Prabhupāda is aware that some of his Godbrothers are less than enthusiastic about his achievements. The natural respect for our spiritual elders we’ve imbibed from him could result in an unsuspecting fraternization with members of their maṭhas. This could leave us vulnerable to subtle impurities, derailing our dependency on Śrīla Prabhupāda. So this is also something he is constantly combating.
During this morning’s walk Akṣayānanda Swami sought śāstric verification for our standards of chanting japa, which some have faulted. “Of course we accept,” he said. “When you tell us to chant sixteen rounds, we accept that figure in perfect faith. You’re the ācārya. But what if we wanted to convince others? Is there any śāstric or Vedic verse we can refer to, to corroborate that at least they must chant sixteen rounds? Or that many number of names?”
“No,” Prabhupāda answered. “In the śāstra it is not said like that...It is said, saṅkhyā-pūrvaka.... You must fix up in numerical strength...whatever you can...But I have fixed up sixteen rounds, because you cannot do.”
Akṣayānanda Swami confirmed, “That’s all we can do.”
Prabhupāda smiled and added, with a touch of irony, “Yes. That also is difficult.”
Akṣayānanda Swami laughed, “Yes.”
Prabhupāda continued, “Otherwise, Haridāsa Ṭhākura was chanting three lakhs. So, that is not possible. You should not imitate, but whatever you fix up you must do. That is wanted.”
“Yes,” Akṣayānanda Swami said. “I was told that in the beginning you asked the first disciples to chant sixty-four rounds?”
Prabhupāda said, “Yes.”
“They were unable,” Akṣayānanda said. To our laughter he added, “Then you asked them to chant thirty-two?”
Prabhupāda grinned. “Hm. Saṅkhyā-pūrvaka-nāma-gāna-natibhiḥ. Saṅkhyā-pūrva, or numerical strength must be there. And you should follow rigidly.”
“So if we are serious and sincere, it means that that sixteen will increase to continuously chanting,” Akṣayānanda Swami said.
“You can do also now,” Prabhupāda said. “It’s not that because I’ve finished sixteen rounds...You can increase. But that sixteen must be finished.”
“Yes,” Akṣayānanda Mahārāja agreed. “What I mean is, that’s to bring us to the platform of chanting constantly. At least we must do that numerical number. If we’re fortunate, we may finally be able to chant constantly day and night.”
“Yes,” Prabhupāda confirmed.
As we walked on, people began to appear here and there, a few at first, the numbers gradually increasing, going about their morning duties in preparation for another bout of daily labor. A few bicyclists passed us, whizzing silently along under self-propulsion, swerving at the last moment to avoid seemingly certain collision. “More dangerous than cars,” Prabhupāda commented.
Śrīla Prabhupāda then initiated a conversation about his favorite subject, materialistic science. He asked whether scientists acknowledge that there is life on the sun globe. Thus a long, animated discussion ensued about the defects of scientific speculation and the inability of the godless scientists to solve the real problems of life—birth, death, disease, and old age.
He walked as far as his halfway mark, a solitary house called “Moda Place”, then returned at the same brisk pace.
The temple bell rang as Prabhupāda entered the compound grounds. He walked across the red flagstones and into the temple to greet Their Lordships Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma and give Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam class. Just before entering the temple door, he summarized modern society. “Hiraṇyakaśipu civilization. And we are presenting Prahlāda civilization. So this is a struggle, but ultimately Prahlāda will come out triumphant and Hiraṇyakaśipu will be killed. Jaya! Hare Kṛṣṇa!”
Prabhupāda seems especially enlivened from his translation work on the history of Prahlāda. Many of his conversations draw graphically from Prahlāda’s teachings. His classes are strong and powerful indictments of everything wrong with the modern world. The small child Prahlāda’s battle and victory against overwhelming odds by his full dependence on Kṛṣṇa is a fit comparison to Prabhupāda’s own single-handed struggle against a world populated with extremely materialistic people.
Today’s verse was from the Seventh Canto, Sixth Chapter, verse nine. “Who is the person who is too much attached to household life on account of being unable to control the senses and who can liberate himself because he is bound up very strongly with the rope of affection for the family, namely wife, children, relatives, etc.?”
After reading out the Sanskrit, Prabhupāda recalled the morning’s conversation and explained the difference between the scientists’ approach to life and that of a devotee. The materialists derive enjoyment from killing, not knowing that this only increases their problems; but the devotees solve all problems and attain happiness by cultivating detachment.
He illustrated this by citing an incident from his early days of preaching in the West. “The examples are here.... Although you are young boys and girls, you have given up so many nonsense things. This is called vairāgya, detachment. Meat eating is the general life of the Europeans and Americans, but at the present moment if someone offers you millions of dollars and he requests you, that you take some meat with me, I think you will deny. This is called vairāgya. I’ve actually seen. Our Gargamuni was sent to his father. I advised him that, ‘Your father has big business; just take it for Kṛṣṇa consciousness.’ So father was very glad, but he offered meat.
“When Gargamuni said, ‘Father, I cannot take meat,’ then the father became angry. He drove him away. Hiraṇyakaśipu father. So Gargamuni came back. The young man, father’s property, he refused to take it. This is vairāgya. And the whole Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement means vairāgya-vidyā, the education of detachment.”
He referred to Śrīla Rūpa and Sanātana Gosvāmīs as examples in recent history of learned and intelligent men who, after having achieved great things materially, practiced the art of detachment to attain the goal of life. “Voluntarily accepting poverty, this is Indian civilization, this is Vedic civilization—not to increase material opulence, but to decrease. The more you decrease, you are civilized. But the Western countries, if you decrease, if you instruct them to decrease this nonsense activities, they’ll say, ‘Oh, this is primitive.’ Primitive. This tendency is present. But actually the primitive civilization—not primitive, that is, very sober civilization—instead of increasing unwanted necessities, decrease it. That is Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.”
Finally, Prabhupāda nicely summed up the meaning of his spiritual movement and the opportunity he is presenting to us by the construction of the Krishna-Balaram Mandir and Guest House. “We are interested to construct a nice temple, but we are not interested to construct a very big skyscraper building. We should live very humbly. Vṛndāvana means everyone is engaged how to keep Kṛṣṇa in comfort. This is Vṛndāvana. Not for personal comfort. The whole Vṛndāvana is engaged, beginning from Mother Yaśodā, Nanda Mahārāja, the young gopīs, and the young cowherd boys; that is Vṛndāvana. Kṛṣṇa is the center. So the more we become engaged with the view to giving Kṛṣṇa the comfortable position, that is our aim of life. Then we can be liberated.”
Prabhupāda’s words are not impractical expressions of idealism. They have the greatest impact because he himself is the very epitome of a Brijvāsī, a resident of the holy dhāma. He lived for years in total poverty, without any care except how to preach. He has built a grand temple, a guest house, an āśrama, and he is still preaching. He goes on expending his energy for Kṛṣṇa’s comfort at the expense of his own, without exhibiting any attachment for sitting down in his spacious quarters in comfortable retirement.
* * *
Harikeśa’s article is taking shape, and he read it out this evening, enlivening Śrīla Prabhupāda and instigating a lively conversation. Prabhupāda’s idea is to show how everything has a single ultimate cause—life. Scientists look for life within chemicals, but find none. Yet life is there, and the chemicals act and react in exact ways for a purpose. So, according to whose purpose? Understanding that, he said, should be the goal of knowledge.
The moon is also one of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s favorite topics. According to the scientists, there is no life on the moon, and they say it is doubtful whether there is life on any other planet in our solar system.
Prabhupāda argued that life is everywhere: on the moon, sun, and every other planet. He said that even on this planet life can be seen everywhere: in water, air, and on land. This is the statement of śāstra. Living beings are not material, but spiritual, and exist in all conditions of matter.
Prabhupāda detailed the progression of material development as described in the Third Canto of the Bhāgavatam. He explained how the individual elements come, one after another, in a systematic chain of cause and effect.
Harikeśa listened attentively in order to incorporate the added information into his work.
“First there is sound,” Prabhupāda explained, “and from sound, ether is generated. Then from ether, air. When there is friction in the air, then fire comes—electricity. When excessive heat is there, then water comes. Just like we see how immediately after the heat of the summer the rainy season comes. From water, earth comes. If we examine a drop of water when it dries up, there is some small deposit.
“All the elements have accompanying characteristics and attributes. In this way, by the influence of time, the elements are generated, one after another. All the bodies of the living beings are made from these elements. So why not fire bodies? The scientists cannot perceive. The defect is theirs, but they judge everything by their own standards of imperfection and advertise this as knowledge.”
December 12th, 1975
There is an old man with white hair and beard who recently moved into the āśrama. When Prabhupāda came out from his front porch to begin his walk, all the devotees offered their obeisances except the old man. He was busy throwing water from a brass loṭā onto the tulasī plants in the small garden in front of Prabhupāda’s house. He wasn’t very conscious of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s presence, and a few devotees felt he was being offensive. Prabhupāda’s mood was different. “This is devotee!” he said, turning to all of us. “Just see how nicely he is watering the tulasī tree. You should all do this.”
Out on the road, Prabhupāda’s thoughts turned to last night’s discussion on Harikeśa’s science article. He had Harikeśa give a brief summary of the premise to his attentive audience.
As the subdued but rising sun cast its long shadows and steadily increased its fiery and brilliant effulgence, Prabhupāda challenged that our own imperfectness leads us to think there is no life on the sun. He described how the Tata Iron and Steel Works appears from a distance as a mass of flame, but that does not mean there are no people there. Similarly, the sun appears to our eyes as a ball of flame, but that does not mean there is no life. The discussion invigorated Prabhupāda and enlivened the devotees, and the exchange continued throughout the walk.
Early morning walking is a very popular form of exercise in a country where people habitually rise at dawn, and Prabhupāda generally greets familiar faces each morning with “Hare Kṛṣṇa!” and “Jaya!” When a couple of local residents approached, he also drew them into the polemic. Presenting his arguments, using the example of the Tata Iron Factory, he solicited their opinions. He encouraged one of them to join in by referring to him as a “bora-bora scientist”, a big-big scientist. After a minute’s conversation they also concluded that śāstra must be correct.
Prabhupāda explained that it ultimately comes down to what authority one follows. Scientists quote the findings of other scientists, and we quote the Bhagavad-gītā. The real problem is that everyone thinks himself independent and ignores Kṛṣṇa’s statement, vāsudevaḥ sarvam iti, that He is everything.
To emphasize the foolishness of the materialistic mentality, Śrīla Prabhupāda made a brilliantly funny imitation of a so-called independent man. “He prefers to be controlled by the laws of nature instead of by Kṛṣṇa. That is his misfortune. He is controlled, but he thinks I am free. That is ignorance. Mūḍhā. Just like I am the state citizen. I am not free. I must work according to the state laws. ‘I don’t care for the government.’ That is my foolishness. You have to care. At home I can say to my wife, ‘I don’t care for government, I don’t care for police.’ But when there is crime, when the police come, then he says, ‘Ohhnn!’” Śrīla Prabhupāda made a sad face, making everyone laugh.
Prabhupāda continued, “There is an example that the murgi, what do you call? Chicken? The male?”
Someone answered, “Cock?”
“Yes. So when in the morning, it is let loose, he says, ‘I don’t care for anywwhawwoone...caawwwcawww.’ Then in the evening when he is pushed into the nest,” Prabhupāda became very subdued and humble as he imitated, “‘Caawcaacaacaaw. Whatever you like you can do. Whatever you like you can do!’”
We all burst out laughing at Śrīla Prabhupāda’s comic impression.
“This is the example, you see. When he’s under arrest,” (imitated a groveling manner). “‘Now sir, whatever you like you can do with me. If you like, you can excuse me.’” Prabhupāda laughed. “And when he’s out...” Then in a loud, boastful voice, “‘I don’t care for anyonnnne...!’ Murgiintelligence. ‘I don’t care for anyone. I am God.’ Murgi logic. Harāv abhaktasya kuto mahad-guṇā manorathenāsati dhāvato bahiḥ; if one is not a devotee his only business is to remain on the mental platform and concoct things. And at the end he thinks that I am God. Concoction. If he’s not a devotee, he has no good qualification. He is simply hovering on the mental platform.”
“The sixteenth chapter describes it very nicely,” I ventured, thinking of a verse in Bhagavad-gītā.
“Yes. Pravṛttià ca nivṛttià ca, janā na vidur āsurāḥ: In which way we have to direct our activities, in which way we shall have to stop our activities—they do not know. Āsura ajana. Because they don’t take direction from God. They make their own way of speculation. Therefore they are animals, or demons. Because they do not take direction during life, therefore at the end Kṛṣṇa comes, mṛtyuḥ sarva-haraś cāham. All mental speculation, creation, is taken away. At death. In Bengal it is said, kṛṣṇa nāma koro vai ar sabe miche palaiba patha nāi yama āche piche: ‘Take to Kṛṣṇa consciousness, don’t try to escape. Because behind you there is Yamarāja!’ He will finish your all concoction.”
* * *
This is Prabhupāda’s last day in Vṛndāvana. Tomorrow he goes to Delhi for several days and then on to Bombay.
He gave his final lecture on Prahlāda Mahārāja’s instructions in Seventh Canto, Sixth Chapter, verse ten. “Money is so dear that one conceives that money is sweeter than honey. And who can give up the desire of accumulating such money, especially in household life? The thieves, the professional soldiers, or the mercantile community try to acquire money by risking the very life.”
He explained the foolishness of the materially attached persons. Everything that a person holds near and dear is in fact the very cause of his suffering, and to maintain his household a person may take on all manner of dangerous occupations, even at the risk of death. This is all going on merely because of sexual urges. He pointed out that those who are brāhmaṇas never take up such a risky life, preferring instead to engage in the peaceful development of spiritual affairs and to live a simple life free from such desires.
In that respect he said that the “hippie” lifestyle of many Western youths was actually an advantage. It simply had to be directed properly. “Therefore I was saying these Europeans, American boys, they prefer to become hippies; that is another process of desirelessness—don’t want. They are coming from rich man’s house, but they don’t want. That is desireless, but it is not properly utilized. Now they have got this opportunity: how to serve Kṛṣṇa. Therefore they are advancing so quickly.”
* * *
During his massage Prabhupāda heard a letter from Jayaśacīnandana dāsa in Los Angeles written on behalf of a group of brahmacārīs. In every ISKCON temple in the world the assembled devotees offer their obeisances to the Deities in the morning as the Govindam prayers loudly play. George Harrison recorded it and Yamunā dāsī sings the mantras.
Disturbed by this custom, Jayaśacīnandana quoted Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura (as well as Śrīla Prabhupāda) that if a brahmacārī hears and is attracted to a woman singing, it is a subtle falldown. “In light of this,” he wrote, “many of the brahmacārīs approached the temple president to see if it would be possible that when the Deities are greeted in the morning that instead of listening to Gurudāsa Mahārāja’s former wife singing the Brahma-saàhitā prayers, we could listen to Your Divine Grace rather than hear a woman sing. He did not want to change the tape because it had been a standard thing in ISKCON since 1970. So requested by many devotees, I am enquiring from Your Divine Grace if we could play a tape recording of you singing instead of a woman when the Deities of Rukmini-Dvarakadisa are greeted in the morning. I am sure that all the devotees would be enlivened to hear you instead of electric guitars, the London symphonic orchestra, etc. etc.”
Śrīla Prabhupāda was not pleased. He said that constantly changing things is “our Western disease.” His reply was short and direct. “No! You have made some discovery. All along you have been hearing the recording of Yamuna dasi, and now you want to change. It is not ordinary singing, it is concert. Many people are singing, so it is not bad. Just like sankirtana, many voices are there—men and women; so it is the same thing, sankirtana. I approve of it. Here in the Krishna-Balaram temple we are hearing the same recording every morning. So if it is good here, why not there?”
* * *
Every day since Prabhupāda has been in Vṛndāvana Bhagatjī has been making capātīs for him. Prabhupāda normally doesn’t see anyone while he eats, but he makes an exception for Bhagatjī, who brings the last capātī in himself. He then sits and chats with Prabhupāda for five or ten minutes before returning to his home.
Today Bhagatjī came with a donation of 53,000 rupees in cash, given on behalf of his mother for the purchase of land for the gurukula. A stone bearing her name as the donor will be placed on the land after its registration. It is a widespread tradition in India to give donations to religious institutions in the name of one’s deceased relatives. Thus they get both material and spiritual benefit in their new birth. Prabhupāda is very happy that Bhagatjī has come forward to help with management of the temple, and he looks to him as an experienced local to guide and train his Western disciples in the intricacies of Indian management.
* * *
Prabhupāda observed his normal program, while we spent most of the day preparing for three months’ travel. He will not be returning until the Gaura Pūrṇimā festival in March. We stored everything not required in his almirah and cupboards, while packing everything else to be ready for our early morning departure. We left his desk paraphernalia, toiletries, and dictaphone. They’ll go in at the last minute.