December 16th, 1975
Delhi airport was filled with its usual bustle, and while Hansadūta and Harikeśa dealt with the baggage and other formalities, Śrīla Prabhupāda sat calmly in the boarding area. As he waited, a friendly Bengali gentleman, Mr. Chaudhuri, talked with him for some time. It pleased Prabhupāda to discover that the man worked in the West Bengal Department of Development and Planning.
Mr. Chaudhuri spoke enthusiastically and appreciatively about Śrīla Prabhupāda’s worldwide missionary work. He offered to help in any way he could, so Prabhupāda wrote down his name and address.
At 6 a.m. the party, along with the Ph.D. candidate, flew out.
I booked myself on the next flight out at 10:00 a.m. I had a little money saved, just enough for the fare, and by midday I too was in Bombay.
Hare Kṛṣṇa Land
Juhu Beach, Bombay
Hare Kṛṣṇa Land at Juhu Beach is only about half an hour drive from the airport—six rupees by taxi. The site is very impressive. Situated in the heart of exclusive Juhu, only a minute from the beach, it covers more than four acres, with half a dozen three-storied apartment buildings spaciously dotted among the many swaying palm trees.
It surprised me to find that the “temple,” at the front of the land, is merely a simple shelter—a small brick Deity room and a darśana area barely large enough to hold fifty people. It is completely open on three sides, covered with a flimsy tin roof balanced on thin iron poles.
Nevertheless, the worshipable Deities Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Rāsabihārī are beautifully dressed and meticulously cared for, despite the inadequate facilities.
I am surprised to discover that nondevotees occupy many apartments on our property, several of them even meat-eaters. When Śrīla Prabhupāda obtained the land, six occupied buildings were already there, and according to Indian law their tenancies can’t be terminated. Devotees are gradually using those few flats vacated by former tenants.
Śrīla Prabhupāda has arranged to have the third floor built on the top of each building to provide living quarters for his disciples. That work has just been completed, and the foundation is now being laid for the new temple complex. Some used materials left over from the Vṛndāvana temple construction have being trucked in.
A devotee directed me to Śrīla Prabhupāda’s quarters in a building at the back of the land. After climbing several flights of steep steps to the top floor, I entered the open reception room door at the same moment His Divine Grace entered from the other side. He had just taken his massage.
“Oh, so you are here!” he said in mild surprise as I offered my obeisances. “All right, very good!” he remarked, disappearing into the bathroom.
Nitāi appeared next; he had just given Prabhupāda his massage. “Oh, you’re here! Okay, I don’t mind. I’d rather develop the gurukula in Vṛndāvana anyway.”
Then Harikeśa came in, also surprised to see me. I found out later that when my ticket was handed over to Mr. Singh, everyone had considered my tenure with the party at an end. They assumed that Nitāi would rejoin the party as Prabhupāda’s servant. Apparently I was the only one who had not realized it.
But Prabhupāda was pleased that I came. He sent me to find Girirāja, the temple president, and instructed him to repay me the full cost of my airfare. He advised me that I should keep my own money for emergency uses.
* * *
Yesterday Prabhupāda gave Hansadūta permission to buy a bus and start a traveling saṅkīrtana party in India. He suggested that they carry Śrī Śrī Gaura-Nitāi in a box. Then wherever they stop, they should take Their Lordships out, sit under a tree, and hold kīrtana. Prabhupāda assured him that many people would come. Afterwards prasādam could be distributed and a discourse held.
“Do it immediately!” Prabhupāda told him enthusiastically. He went on to explain that he had planned to do this, “But somehow I came to the West; it was Kṛṣṇa’s arrangement. Now the Americans are doing.”
Hansadūta thus busied himself today investigating prices both here and in Europe for a suitable vehicle.
December 17th, 1975
It was a little chilly this morning, and while getting ready for the morning walk Prabhupāda noticed that I was shivering. I was wearing only a kurtā. He called me into his room and gave me a lightly embroidered chaddar. It had been given to him in Delhi, and he had worn it a few times. I was surprised. It was indeed a special honor. His Divine Grace’s thoughtfulness and concern are completely endearing.
Harikeśa was also surprised, or perhaps shocked would be more apt, when he saw it draped around my shoulders. He asked me, “Why are you wearing Prabhupāda’s chaddar?”
“I didn’t have anything warm to wear so Prabhupāda gave it to me,” I explained.
In an admonishing tone he said, “There’s a standing rule that the servants should never ask the spiritual master for anything.”
But when I told him that Prabhupāda had just given it to me without my saying anything, he immediately softened, appreciating Śrīla Prabhupāda’s kindness. I value his good advice nonetheless. Harikeśa prabhu is excellent association for me because of his complete dedication to pleasing Śrīla Prabhupāda.
* * *
Prabhupāda takes his walks along a beach only half a mile from the temple. He leaves at six-thirty and returns an hour later for Deity darśana.
Dr. Patel usually meets him on the beach. He’s short, stocky, and always barefoot. With his raucous laugh Dr. Patel seems terribly full of himself; nevertheless, he has developed an attraction for Prabhupāda’s association.
He obviously holds Prabhupāda in great respect, although it isn’t always the humble and submissive sort that the devotees cultivate. He knows some Sanskrit and has studied Prabhupāda’s Bhāgavatam; this makes for lively conversation on both topical and philosophical matters. Dr. Patel is known among the devotees for expressing strong, and generally tainted, opinions, although he cushions them with good humor, ultimately agreeing with Śrīla Prabhupāda’s pure and unbiased spiritual vision.
This morning they talked briefly about human civilization. Dr. Patel blamed the spoiling of modern civilization on the atheistic communist philosophers: Marx, Hegel, and Engels.
Śrīla Prabhupāda didn’t agree. “Everyone is manufacturing his own ideas,” he said, “including Indian leaders like Mohandas Gandhi and others. But if people take to the movement of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, the country will change for the better overnight.”
As our small group walked along, the Arabian Sea’s waves mildly lapped at our feet. By seven o’clock hundreds of people were walking and exercising up and down the flat sandy shore. Occasional sounds of jets boomed overhead as planes arrived and departed from the nearby Santa Cruz airport. Various vendors gradually set up along the hotel fronts, selling dabs (green coconuts), tea, bidis, and the like.
Several gentlemen came forward to offer their praṇāmas to Prabhupāda. He responded with, “Hare Kṛṣṇa! Jaya!”
Dr. Patel introduced one such admirer as a renowned poet from Dvārakā. His name was Bethai, meaning “coming from the Dvārakā-bet.” Dr. Patel mentioned that Mr. Bethai only wrote poems about God.
Prabhupāda good-naturedly quoted a Bengali poem that wherever one finds himself he should neither perform religious acts nor sinful ones; he should simply always remember the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa.
This prompted Dr. Patel to voice a complaint about how our pūjārīs dress the temple Deities. “Sir, lotus feet. These people are actually putting such a long varga [dress]. I am trying to see the lotus feet of God here, arcā-vigraha. Well, I am unable. Instruct them to put up the varga a little, so that we can have darśana of His sacred feet. Please tell them. Too long vargas, you simply can’t see anything.”
Girirāja patiently explained that the Deities’ feet can always be seen throughout the day; but when They wear Their night clothes, Their feet are not visible. Since Dr. Patel only comes early in the morning, while the Deities are in still in Their night outfit, he never gets to see Kṛṣṇa’s feet.
There seems to be a mild acrimony in Dr. Patel’s dealings with the devotees. He behaves as if he ought to be given some special entitlement by us as a learned and elderly person, and he tries to play off his relationship with Śrīla Prabhupāda to extract some special attention.
At any rate, in this instance, Prabhupāda didn’t take the matter too seriously. His mind was working in a different way. Whether the Lord’s feet were visible or not, he was content that after the long hard struggle to establish the temple on Hare Kṛṣṇa Land, Their Lordships were still with us. Prabhupāda’s response to Dr. Patel’s complaint was thus full of gratitude and appreciation. “How He [Kṛṣṇa] sat tight to call everyone to come and see? Hm? The municipality came to drive Him away!”
For several years Prabhupāda has fought on Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Rāsabihārī’s behalf. The previous owner tried to cheat Prabhupāda of the land, while the municipality had presented severe objections to establishing a temple. At one time they had even half-demolished the Deities’ temporary shelter. They burned the roof support poles with oxyacetylene torches and carried the protesting devotees off in a police truck. They even went so far as to begin ripping off the Deity room’s roof with Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Rāsabihārī still inside! Only a last second intervention by a few favorable people in local government prevented the total destruction.
Returning to the temple we observed the regular program of greeting Their Lordships, guru-pūjā, and class. Then Prabhupāda retired to his quarters for the day.
* * *
During mail time, as Prabhupāda relaxed up on the roof, he dictated a letter to Jayapatāka Swami in Māyāpur. He enclosed an introductory letter for him to meet Mr. Chaudhuri, the gentleman we met at the airport yesterday. Seeing that meeting as Kṛṣṇa’s arrangement, Prabhupāda requested Jayapatāka to visit him personally with prasādam and flowers and to invite him to Māyāpur. He wants Jayapatākā to try to enlist his help in getting the government to acquire land for our ISKCON Māyāpur development scheme. He also suggested Mr. Chaudhuri might be able to help Jayapatāka Mahārāja, an American, with his application for Indian citizenship.
A letter from Mahāàsa Swami included a progress report on Hyderabad, where another new temple is steadily being built. Work has already begun on raising the dome. The project is costing 75,000 rupees per month, which the devotees are collecting throughout South India. Mahāàsa also reported four small books—Śrī Īśopaniṣad, Rājavidyā, Perfection of Yoga and Matchless Gifts—have been translated into Telegu.
Śrīla Prabhupāda was most happy to hear about a small bullock cart traveling saṅkīrtana party. Mahāàsa wrote, “The bullock cart party (only three devotees) were very successful on their second attempt. They collected lots of rice, distributed prasadam and small literatures, evening programs, and sleeping under a different tree everyday. They are thrilled and so enthusiastic. They love this kind of preaching work. Now I am giving them a portable sound system and more equipment and one more devotee and sending them immediately to a massive voyage on bullock cart all the way to the Mayapur festival!”
Prabhupāda replied enthusiastically, “Naturally the sankirtana men traveling with the bullock carts are blissful. It is Lord Caitanya’s engagement. Lord Caitanya personally traveled all over India for six years. His program was simply kirtana and prasadam distribution. Lord Caitanya never spoke philosophy in public. When He met big scholars like Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya he spoke philosophy, otherwise for the mass of people, kirtana and prasadam distribution. So continue this program, it is very pleasing to Lord Caitanya.”
Prabhupāda also received a long letter from Svarūpa Dāmodara dāsa, who holds a Ph.D. in organic chemistry. Svarūpa Dāmodara listed seven major contradictions between the statements of modern astronomers and the Bhāgavatam. He wants to present a clear and direct challenge to modern scientists, but because the Bhāgavatam statements are so brief, he asked for further information on Vedic astronomy. He especially asked about the distances to the sun and moon.
He also presented a comparative chart about the days of the week. He wrote, “According to Encyclopedia Americana, the system of the days of the week, based on the seven planets and their ruling demigods, originated in Europe near the beginning of the Christian era. However, from the Bhagavatam we know that this cannot be true. It has been since the time of the Vedas.” His chart revealed this clearly.
The seriousness of his disciple’s approach to this problem pleased Prabhupāda. He replied, “This scientific book should be done very carefully, so that people in general may not be misled by the over-intelligent scientists. There are so many contradictory things, but we have our authority and they have their authority. Our knowledge is from Vedic scriptures, which we accept as definite and without any mistake. A modern scientist believes that there was no civilization before three thousand years. Our Bhagavatam was spoken by Sukadeva Gosvami five thousand years ago, and he is explaining as I have heard it from authority. So we have got parampara system for millions of years. If there was no civilization before three thousand years, then how this subject matter of knowledge could be discussed? How could it be received through parampara system? So there is contradiction certainly. But the statement that there was no civilization three thousand years ago can be adjusted by the conviction that there was civilization millions and millions of years ago.”
Prabhupāda advised Svarūpa Dāmodara to consult “any learned astronomer” for astronomical information. In particular he mentioned that Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī had been extremely learned in that field.
“The main point,” he stressed, “is to prove that life comes from life and not from matter. If we prove this one principle, so many other issues can be brought forward for serious consideration. The scientists’ knowledge is imperfect and therefore always changing, but Vedic knowledge is perfect and never changeable.”
Prabhupāda mentioned the example in the Vedas of the agni-pok germ. It lives within fire, even though scientists say life cannot exist there. He said, “There are so many contradictions, but we have our own defense. Why should we blindly accept imperfect scientists? The word ‘progress’ is used when there is imperfection in the beginning. So this regular changing of standard of knowledge in the name of progress proves that they are always imperfect. It is a fact they are imperfect because they gather knowledge with imperfect senses. At any rate, we cannot deviate from Vedic knowledge.”
Prabhupāda ended his letter requesting him to come to the Māyāpur festival because afterwards he hopes to visit Manipur, Svarūpa Dāmodara’s birthplace.
There was also news from a Gujarati devotee, Jaśomatīnandana, who has been in Ahmedabad for the past few days organizing a new ISKCON center. He has arranged for Śrīla Prabhupāda to lecture at programs in several nearby villages and towns. The King of Sanand has even invited Prabhupāda to stay in the palace. The Yuvrāj, the king’s son who recently became a Life Patron, plans to host Prabhupāda and up to twelve devotees with a big parade when he arrives.
Prabhupāda approved, and is scheduled to fly to Ahmedabad on the morning of December 25th.
* * *
In the evening Prabhupāda had an engagement at the home of Mrs. Gopi Kumara Birla and her son, Ashoka. She had invited friends from many of the leading business families in Bombay. The Birlas are possibly the richest, and one of the most influential, families in India. Girirāja had previously suggested to her several possible topics for the evening’s discussion, and she has chosen “How to Become Successful in Life.”
The Birlas had set up an āsana on a side lawn of their large, opulent estate. Next to it, on a table, the devotees placed a shrine with small brass Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa Deities.
Śrīla Prabhupāda arrived in the Birla’s white Mercedes. He immediately noticed that his seat was placed higher than that of the Deities. So he had the devotees remove the base of the āsana, making his seat lower.
Then, above the muted clamor of Bombay’s evening traffic, Prabhupāda addressed his attentive audience on the evening’s topic. “Rādhārāṇī and Durgā, both of them are the prakṛtis of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but one prakṛti is meant for controlling this material world and the other prakṛti is meant for blessing the spiritual world.
“Rādhārāṇī, the name has come from the word ārādhyate. Arādha means worshiping, beginning from Rādhārāṇī and her expansion Lakṣmī in Vaikuṇṭha. Here we worship Mother Lakṣmījī, the goddess of fortune, to receive some favor, but in the Vaikuṇṭha world there are many hundreds of thousands of Lakṣmīs, and with great respect they are engaged in serving the Supreme Lord.
“So, we being expansions of the spiritual Lakṣmī, or Rādhārāṇī, our duty is to serve Rādhārāṇī, and through Rādhārāṇī serve Kṛṣṇa. This is Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. We are missing this point. That instead of learning from Rādhārāṇī how to serve Kṛṣṇa, we are being controlled by the other prakṛti, material energy, Durgā, with weapons in her ten hands. This is our position.”
Prabhupāda possesses a unique ability to link anyone from any walk of life to the common goal of spiritual attainment. His preaching is always perfectly suitable for the time, place and circumstance. To the leaders of this wealthy business community he thus offered a pertinent example.
“In this material world they do not know what is the aim of life. Everyone is very much expert to see his interest. Two businessmen, they are agreeing; but everyone is trying to see his personal interest first. This is called svārtha-gatià. That is natural. But Prahlāda Mahārāja says, na te viduḥ svārtha-gatià hi viṣṇuà. Unfortunately, these materialistic persons they do not know what is real interest. The real interest is Viṣṇu, how to serve Viṣṇu.”
Prabhupāda came directly to the keynote of his address. “The subject matter was how to become successful in life. Kṛṣṇa comes to instruct this simple truth—that you are being controlled by the material energy. You give up this business, you be controlled by the spiritual energy, and your life is successful. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu has said jīvera ‘svarūpa’ haya—kṛṣṇera ‘nitya-dāsa’. But our disease is, instead of becoming dāsa we are trying to become the master of the prakṛti. This is called the materialistic way of life. So that will not make us happy at any stage of our life. The success of the human form of life is to understand this: our relationship with God. And we should act in relationship with God. Then our success of life will be achieved. This is the main purpose of Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement.”
The Birla family have become equally famous for both their religious interests and business ventures, with Birla temples prominent in most Indian major cities. Śrīla Prabhupāda took the evening’s opportunity to invite the family to expand from the merely religious to practicing a full transcendental life. “That is Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s mission,” he said. “He wished especially Indians to take this job of preaching the teachings of Bhagavad-gītā all over the world. The mission is they must be very, very merciful to all outsiders. That is India’s mission. They are in darkness, tamasi, bring them in the light: tamasī mā jyotir gamaḥ. This attempt has been done by us individually with teeny effort but it is becoming successful. But every one of us should become completely aware of this Movement and take this mission.”
Śrīla Prabhupāda’s speech was direct and frank. “Kṛṣṇa said, ‘You just offer a little flower and water to Me.’ If you think that, ‘We have got money, the money is for my enjoyment, and Kṛṣṇa may be offered a little water and flower,’ that is cheating. That is not good. According to your position you must worship. This is wanted. To become very big businessman is not ordinary thing; it requires tapasya, very great labor, brain, yat tapasyasi. But the result, Kṛṣṇa says, kuruṣva mad-arpaṇam. He’s asking, ‘Give it to Me.’ So there is no harm to become very big businessman, earning money. That is all right. But you give it to Kṛṣṇa. Then in any position you can remain Kṛṣṇa conscious. And if you remain Kṛṣṇa conscious, then you will understand Kṛṣṇa.”
Winding up his lecture, Prabhupāda asked for questions several times, but got no response.
Girirāja, whose lawyer father had once offered him a million dollars to give up Kṛṣṇa Consciousness, spoke up. “The process of hearing and then asking questions is the way to clarify our understanding, just like Kṛṣṇa and Arjuna. So actually we must have some questions in our minds, otherwise we would all immediately surrender to Kṛṣṇa.”
Prabhupāda agreed, “Yes, either you surrender to Kṛṣṇa, or clear it by question.”
Still, there was no response. So the lecture ended, and while other devotees showed a film on the lawn, Śrīla Prabhupāda and a small group of us were invited inside to take prasādam.
Ashoka Birla, who had donated three lakhs of rupees for construction of the ISKCON Vṛndāvana center, expressed his happiness at the evening’s program. Then Mrs. Birla and her brother-in-law, Brijratan Mohta, led us upstairs in the lift to a large and beautifully furnished dining room.
Sitting at the head of a long and highly polished mahogany table, Śrīla Prabhupāda chatted congenially with his hosts, complimenting them on the delicious meal and answering a variety of questions.
After a cordial departure, we finally arrived back at the temple by eleven o’clock. It was a successful preaching engagement, but on the way back Prabhupāda mentioned to Girirāja, “That no questions were asked after the lecture indicated a lack of interest on the part of the guests.”
December 18th, 1975
Kīrtanānanda Swami, one of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s first disciples and a GBC member, arrived very early this morning from America. He gave a brief report on New Vrindaban, our ISKCON farm community in West Virginia. He distributed some delicious mahā-prasādam from Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Vṛndāvanacandra.
Prabhupāda asked about Kīrtanānanda’s health, and Mahārāja explained that he has been suffering due to some paralysis in his left arm. Prabhupāda didn’t register much concern, telling him not to worry. He said we should expect the body to give us trouble. We must simply take shelter of the holy names of the Lord.
Kīrtanānanda Mahārāja inquired with some concern how he can improve his ability to remember Sanskrit verses. Prabhupāda almost chided him for asking. He said that because he is a devotee, as long as he speaks the philosophy and chants Hare Kṛṣṇa, these other things are not of such great concern.
Kīrtanānanda Mahārāja has come via New York, and his report on the management of the new temple building there was not encouraging. He said that the project lacked a strong leader and that the financial situation was difficult. Prabhupāda immediately suggested that Madhudviṣa Swami, the GBC for Australia, could go and take charge. Coincidentally, this morning Prabhupāda received a telegram from Madhudviṣa inviting him to the Melbourne Ratha-yātrā on January 10th, 1976.
* * *
During this morning’s walk, with Dr. Patel accompanying us, Śrīla Prabhupāda considerably broadened our perspectives by explaining the real standard of education and its relationship to culture. To describe an educated man he quoted Cāṇakya Paṇḍita, “Mātṛvat para-dāreṣu: he sees every woman as mother, except his own wife. And para-dravyeṣu loṣṭavat: and other’s property, possessions, just like garbage. And ātmavat sarva-bhūteṣu: and feeling for everyone as he himself is feeling the pains and pleasures. If one has attained this stage, then he is considered educated.”
Progressing along the soft sands in the pleasant cool of the new dawn, Prabhupāda strongly emphasized that real education is to become upādhi-less (free from material designations). With his razor-sharp intelligence, so finely honed on the strap of Vedic knowledge and insight, Prabhupāda exposed the leaders of the world as devoid of true education. He quickly chopped down to size two popular Indian politicians often held in high regard by the masses.
“What is education?” he challenged. “Bhagavad-gītā says you are not this body. That is the beginning of education. Now education means be nationalist, and drive away and bark. Even in our country, Mahātmā Gandhi was also infected, ‘Quit India! Quit India!’”
“He did not mean quit India,” Dr. Patel offered. “He meant you quit your matter of ruling. I mean actually...”
But Prabhupāda insisted, “It was his exact word, ‘Quit India!’ As soon as you think ‘You are my enemy, he is my friend,’ then there is no education, that’s all. This is standard of education: Sama-darśinaḥ. Kṛṣṇa says, ‘Arjuna, you are rascal. It is not the business of the paṇḍita to think like that!’ He never thought that the Kauravas were the enemy, no. That is not the fact. It is duty to fight the just cause. That was His instruction.”
“Mr. Nehru said Kṛṣṇa was the greatest warmonger,” Dr. Patel said.
“And he is a rascal,” Prabhupāda retorted.
Dr. Patel laughed. “He was saying so. He thought himself to be a very big man.”
“That is āsuric position,” Prabhupāda said. “‘Who is like me?’ And bhakta, Caitanya Mahāprabhu is teaching: tṛṇād api sunīcena taror api sahiṣṇunā—this is education. Therefore Kṛṣṇa has spoken of these people as mūḍha. ‘No, they have credit, they have passed so many examination.’ Māyayāpahṛta-jṣānā. This kind of education has no value because they are forgetting the real point of education.”
The conversation went on with Śrīla Prabhupāda criticizing the sāṅkhya philosophers who believe that creation comes about by chance.
Dr. Patel questioned, “But sir, this sāṅkhya philosophy also believes in Vedas.”
“No, no,” Prabhupāda corrected. “Sāṅkhya philosophy by the original Kapila. And this later sāṅkhya philosophy...”
“...is from another rascal!” Dr. Patel completed.
“Yes! Now you have learned!” Prabhupāda exclaimed.
Everyone laughed loudly, enjoying the education of Dr. Patel. Through Śrīla Prabhupāda’s association he is learning the art of good discrimination and giving up his pseudo liberalism. By Śrīla Prabhupāda’s grace he is beginning to understand that not everyone has something worthy to say or hear. A large part of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s appeal is his impartiality. His objective statements are irrefutably sensible and logical.
“The real problem,” Śrīla Prabhupāda went on to explain, “is that people are not interested in hearing from the Gītā and Bhāgavatam, although these literatures explain the essence of all knowledge. This subject matter becomes palatable by association, but without the association of devotees no one becomes interested in them. Even though we are giving daily lectures, still it is not palatable for the ordinary man.”
Dr. Patel jokingly attributed this to Śrīla Prabhupāda’s strong preaching tactics. “You fire them!” he said, laughing his loud, discordant laugh.
Prabhupāda again showed his personal neutrality. If he speaks critically it is not due to passion or prejudice. “How can I say anything which is not spoken by Kṛṣṇa? We have got this test: if anyone has no interest in Kṛṣṇa, he must be with these groups, that’s all—duṣkṛtina, mūḍha, or narādhama. And Caitanya Mahāprabhu says yāre dekha tāre kaha kṛṣṇa upadeśa. So how can I violate? Both ways, I cannot violate. Caitanya Mahāprabhu said that you simply speak what Kṛṣṇa has said. And Kṛṣṇa said that anyone who is not Kṛṣṇa consciousness, he is a rascal, he is a most sinful man, he is the lowest of mankind. So why shall I not say? It is not firing, it is telling the truth.”
Then he laughed with Dr. Patel. “But I am not loser. I do not make any compromise. All these, my students, ask. I never made any compromise. But still they understand, and they are with me.... In Los Angeles so many scientists used to come. So after talking with them I used to say, ‘You are demon! You are rascal!’ And they tolerated.”
Smiling, Prabhupāda recalled how they had remained afterwards for two hours talking and taking prasādam. “They were happy that I found them demons and rascals!”
One devotee suggested that the lack of questions at last night’s program was due to the completeness of Prabhupāda’s lecture.
“Yes,” Dr. Patel said, “it is very difficult to put question to you. You mow the opposition down very badly!”
Everyone laughed in agreement.
When we returned to the temple after the morning walk Prabhupāda looked around the building site. He immediately noticed that a heap of timber brought by lorry from Vṛndāvana was lying unused. Prabhupāda is expert in using everything for Kṛṣṇa; and because he sees everything as Kṛṣṇa’s possession he hates to see anything wasted. He questioned Saurabha closely about it, making sure he understood that it must be utilized.
Dr. Patel expressed his satisfaction at how quickly the construction of the temple is progressing, but Prabhupāda thinks it is going too slowly. He personally questions every aspect of the design, labor arrangements, quality, and so on. He is continually advising how everything should be done.
* * *
Another report on book distribution in America arrived today. Mid-morning Hansadūta read out a letter from Tamal Krishna Goswami. Tamal Krishna wrote that the Rādhā-Dāmodara Traveling Saṅkīrtana bus parties (RDTSKP) are now distributing 50,000 hardbound books per month. The book-distribution figures from RDTSKP and the airport distributors amazed Śrīla Prabhupāda.
Tamal Krishna Mahārāja reported that November’s sales were 25,000 Caitanya-caritāmṛtas and 112,000 Back to Godheads, with collections totaling some $120,000. This month they were ordering 50,000 big books, an amount they hope to maintain regularly. One distributor, Paṣca-tattva, sold 311 books in one day, a new world’s record.
Tamal Krishna Goswami said that the party was donating $5,000 per month to the Dallas gurukula and another $12,000 per year to the ISKCON Food Relief program. He has also bought two large diesel powered trailers and plans to tour the country, holding Ratha-yātrā festivals. At the end, he requested permission to be Śrīla Prabhupāda’s personal secretary for January.
Prabhupāda’s response was one of complete satisfaction. He has a high regard for the activities of the all-brahmacārī RDTSKP and sent an enthusiastic reply, “Your letter is very, very encouraging to me. I do not know how you are selling so many books. There is no instance in history where religious books were sold with such enthusiasm and success. Is there any such history? The Christians have spread their teachings all over the world, and they have got only one book, so we have got already forty big books published in English. Therefore if we distribute as you are distributing, we cannot even imagine the result. Your program is very nice; please continue more and more....Your idea for holding Jagannatha festivals in the big cities is approved by me, do it. Yes, you come in January.”
When Kīrtanānanda Swami had first arrived he reported that sometimes books distributed in America were being ripped up by antagonists.
Prabhupāda took the bright side and compared the distribution to hot sugarcane juice: too hot to take and too sweet to resist. Whether one admires them or not, his books are potent, which makes them irresistible. Prabhupāda’s optimism about the effect of massive book distribution is not unfounded. Almost daily he receives positive evidence of how people’s lives are being changed by reading his books.
Stephen Knapp, a bhakta from Colorado, sent a long letter thanking Prabhupāda for having saved him from material life. “This letter could be, and no doubt is, the most important that I could ever write to anyone. I have associated with you, Srila Prabhupada, through your books for so long now that you have knocked my material motivation from under me. My mind may still have the desires, but by associating with you I no longer see any sense to struggle with material nature to try to satisfy my mind. I read your Bhagavad-gita, the small edition, four years ago, and since then I’ve continued to get more and more of your books...
“I have associated with you for so long through your books that you have already answered my questions and now I am indebted to you by service for giving me this spiritual knowledge. But even though I have no talents or value I pray that you will accept my service to you.”
He also enclosed a well-written philosophic poem of a dozen verses, glorifying Śrīla Prabhupāda. Prabhupāda listened to a few of them:
“Into this world of darkness where everyone is so confused
with its society of cheaters and the cheated who end up so abused,
in this huge slaughterhouse where everyone is unwillingly forced to die,
and living entities, in all bodies, in their distress do cry,
the spiritual master arrives to give the solution to all our problems
and miseries, this spiritual knowledge is the only way to solve them.
And seeing this, I simply pray,
“My dear Lord, please just give me the company of Your devotees.
“In this age when atheists in society become so prominent,
sitting in their temporary and false prestige the fools remain obstinate,
only to be defeated by the laws of nature and suffer the pains of death,
they’re engaged in so many activities but are simply dying with each breath.
The spiritual master takes it upon himself to show the fools for what they are,
and teaches us to attain eternal life while still situated right where we are.
And seeing this, I simply pray,
‘My dear Lord, please just give me the company of Your devotees.’”
“The materialists who are so engaged in their temporary pleasure
work so hard to enjoy wasting away in their time of leisure.
To work so hard for that which lasts so short of a time,
working under the perishable conceptions of ‘I’, ‘Me’ and ‘Mine.’
To learn technology so they can more perfectly eat, sleep, and have sex,
like dull-headed animals, they have no concern for any spiritual progress.
And seeing this, I simply pray,
‘My dear Lord, please just give me the company of Your devotees.’”
Even with such glorification Prabhupāda doesn’t take any personal credit, neither does he take these accomplishments for granted. Letters like these only increase his desire to promote Kṛṣṇa consciousness throughout the world. He is the life and soul of the devotees, always unerringly directing our attention to Kṛṣṇa.
He replied to Steven Knapp, “So to develop attraction for Krsna is not difficult. You simply have to hear about Krsna, His activities, His name, His form, and His teaching in Bhagavad-gita. Naturally you will develop love for Krsna, because we are all part and parcel of Krsna. The beginning process is to chant Hare Krsna, follow the four regulative principles, and associate with devotees, and eat prasadam of Krsna. I think you are now living in the temple of Krsna, so these things will be very easy for you to practice.”
Prabhupāda’s books are not only attracting people from non-Vedic cultures; they are also reclaiming those misled by false presentations of it. From Germany an Indian devotee, Tulasī, wrote to thank him for giving real understanding of the Bhagavad-gītā. Originally brought up to worship Kṛṣṇa in the Guruvayor temple in Kerala, he later drifted away from spiritual practices. Then he met the devotees in Berlin and read Prabhupāda’s books. Now he is living in the Schloss-Rettershof temple near Frankfurt.
He wrote, “As a youngster when I read Bhagavad-gita first time, I was always feeling that Sri Krsna’s instructions of devotional service had been purposely covered up by the so-called philosophers and yogis. I felt in those days that probably I am not competent enough to understand Bhagavad-gita. Today I realize Krsna’s eternal servant (Your Divine Grace) alone has the right to translate and give a purport to that great Upanisad. My humble obeisances at your lotus feet....
“Guide me so that I can preach the message to the other Indians who go abroad for the sake of foreign qualifications and degrees. How shameful? There is no equivalent knowledge anywhere in the world [other than] what our Acaryas gave us. And you are the only devotee of Kṛṣṇa who can imbibe this feeling to our millions of people.
“Meanwhile I heard your assessment on Mahatma Gandhi’s life and policy. I must definitely fall at your feet the moment when I see you because you have shown us how dependence on Krsna, than surrendering to countrymen and nation, would have made India a Rama Rajya.”
Prabhupāda stressed that Kṛṣṇa Consciousness, the gift of Caitanya Mahāprabhu, is particularly the natural birth-right of those born in India. The lack of committed response from the intelligent class of men here disappoints Śrīla Prabhupāda. India has become diverted from its real business by what Prabhupāda often calls its “mis-leaders.” In pursuit of material advancement they are swiftly leading the populace away from the Vedic culture.
Yet, Prabhupāda hopes to reawaken the natural spiritual yearning of the Indian people. Then, by their example, the course of the world can be changed. Therefore, it always pleases Śrīla Prabhupāda when an educated Indian takes up the saṅkīrtana-yajṣa of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.
He gave the boy all encouragement. “I can understand from your letter that you are very intelligent. Generally Indian people are not taking up this Movement, although it is their original culture. They are now in favor of economic and technological advancement, which can never do any good to the people in general. After all, a living being lives by the grace of God. We cannot eat nuts and bolts, however nicely they may be manufactured....
“So if we want to be happy in this life and the next we have to worship Visnu. What Gandhi did to satisfy Visnu? He was trying to satisfy his country, and his country killed him. He manufactured so many things which were never found in Bhagavad-gita.... Krsna was personally instructing Arjuna to fight, and Gandhi took Bhagavad-gita and preached non-violence. So what was his understanding? At the end of his life he frankly said, ‘I don’t believe there was ever such a historical person as Krsna.’ So what did Gandhi know about Bhagavad-gita?
“My only credit is that I have presented Bhagavad-gita as it is, without any speculation or interpretation. Therefore for the first time in the history of the world people are accepting it and living practically according to the principles of Bhagavad-gita.
“I understand that you are translating Bhagavad-gita As It Is into Malayalam language. Hansaduta has spoken to me about you. Please send me a sample, and we will see about its publication and distribution in India. Maybe in the future you will like to come to India and help preach this message to your countrymen.”
December 19th, 1975
Prabhupāda’s quarters here are simple, clean, and functional with barely any furniture. The floor is a “crazy- paved” style of either white ceramic tiles or marble chips. Only in his darśana room does he have the traditional sheet-covered mattresses to provide seating for guests, and there is a simple āsana and a desk and a bookcase.
This morning at about five o’clock I was sitting on the bare floor of the front reception room, trying to chant my japa. Prabhupāda came out to brush his teeth in the sink, but I failed to notice because I was nodding asleep as I chanted.
He wasn’t angry, but he told me, “Do not sit while you are chanting. Sitting means sleeping.”
Being Śrīla Prabhupāda’s servant, I sometimes find it difficult to chant good rounds, because I am expected to remain on call in the room adjacent to his throughout the day. I have had to learn to chant almost silently so as not to disturb him, and this makes it harder to be attentive. Previous secretaries and servants have also had trouble chanting properly due to the demands of the engagement.
* * *
Out on the beach in the fresh morning sea air Prabhupāda described how swiftly human beings can descend into animalism when spiritual culture is lost. He recalled that in the concentration camps during World War II people were forced to eat their own stool.
Dr. Patel admitted that as an honorary Colonel for the British he knew that they had a regulation allowing soldiers to drink their urine. “But,” he said, “they were not allowed to eat stool.”
Prabhupāda shook his head in wonder. “Just see, ‘I am making law. You can drink urine.’ Just see!” He turned to us, his eyes wide open, as everyone laughed incredulously.
Dr. Patel offered his medical opinion that urine has many properties essential to the body, and therefore isn’t so bad.
“So you are advising your patients to go and drink?” Prabhupāda asked.
“No, I don’t say. But that is not so bad because it convinced the hormones...”
Prabhupāda broke out laughing, and Dr. Patel became annoyed.
“It does convince the hormones. I mean, it has been analyzed like that, scientifically. It is not to be joked about!”
Prabhupāda proffered some humorous agreement, “Ne. It is analyzed. And stool is full of hydrophosphates.”
The devotees were all laughing by now, and Dr. Patel became a little indignant. “Our Mr. Desai, Morarjī, who lost his premiership of India, he is drinking his own urine.”
“Acchā! Why?” Prabhupāda asked.
Ignoring Prabhupāda’s response, Dr. Patel continued, “And look at him! He’s so, I mean, so absolutely healthy. I mean it is...we should not laugh about it, but there is something right in it.”
“No, no. I don’t laugh; I am surprised!”
Prabhupāda decided to save Dr. Patel from further embarrassment. He moved on, proceeding at a steady pace down the flat sands, changing the subject to speak about the good fortune of taking birth in India.
Dr. Patel, now again at ease, verified the benefits of such a birth by citing the example of his mother who died while gazing at a picture of Lord Kṛṣṇa.
Śrīla Prabhupāda also recalled an incident of an old man in Delhi who requested a picture of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa a few minutes before his death. He died just as it was placed before him.
Dr. Patel mentioned that his mother had also chanted Bhaja Govinda as she died.
Prabhupāda turned to the devotees and remarked appreciatively, “Oh! Just see. Govinda.”
Unfortunately, nowadays many Indians are leaving behind their spiritual tradition, in pursuit of modern materialistic advancement. Śravaṇānanda said that one well-known “spiritual mission” in Madras had a slogan above a school playing field entrance that read like an epitaph to Vedic education: “The playing of football will bring one closer to heaven than the study of the Gītā.”
He said they had refused to rent the field to ISKCON devotees for a program. They were told that the cricket season was coming up soon, and the school did not want the turf to be ruined. Officials frankly said that they did not have time for spiritual training, only physical.
The rapid decline of spiritual culture is especially visible here, where Bombayaites seem especially intent on imitating Western culture. Śrīla Prabhupāda commented, “A person born in a brāhmaṇa family, he is claiming ‘I am brāhmaṇa.’ Similarly, even though born in Aryan family, without any culture they are claiming, ‘I am Aryan.’
“Kṛṣṇa observed it in Arjuna, and therefore he chastised him, ‘This kind of proposal is anārya-juṣṭam, from the non-Aryans. You are forgetting your duty.’ That is the beginning of loss of culture. A small beginning, it creates havoc.
“Yuddha—everything must be religious. Why yuddha? Your ordinary living must be also religious. Otherwise, animal. Animal also lives. But if you don’t live religiously, that is animal. If you live like human being, that human being means dharma. We cannot expect any dharma in the animal society. It is meant for the humans. Cāṇakya Paṇḍita says that a flower without smell and a man without education—the same thing. A flower without smell, similarly, a man without education.”
Like an old flower that has lost its fragrance, this city in particular has become a veritable bastion of materialistic consciousness. Evidence of cultural imposition abounds. At the beach, big hotels stand brazenly as crass reminders that modern Indian society is swiftly degenerating, becoming increasingly dedicated to sensuality.
That Śrīla Prabhupāda has had to fight so strenuously with the Bombay municipality simply to build a Kṛṣṇa temple at Juhu is disturbing testimony. Three hundred years of British colonial rule has systematically re-educated the Indian people into thinking that the simple and natural God-conscious way of life they once enjoyed is backward and primitive. Bombay is obviously the one place in India that has achieved graduate status in the school of materialism.
Yet, now Westerners are coming here to study and adopt a culture India is trying so hard to lose. By the strength of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s love for Kṛṣṇa and his profound knowledge, he is reversing this trend.
Dr. Patel is one of the few who truly appreciate Śrīla Prabhupāda’s contribution. Despite his brash exterior he is always keen to inquire.
“Sir, what is the distinction between a culture and an education?”
Prabhupāda answered, “Culture means human being. Just like Cāṇakya Paṇḍita says, mātṛvat para-dāreṣu para-dravyeṣu loṣṭavat ātmavat sarva-bhūteṣu yaḥ paśyati sa paṇḍitaḥ. This is culture. To see every woman as mother. The modern meaning of education is rubbish, to learn ABCDE. This is not education. Without culture, what is the meaning of education?”
“So culture is the background for education?” Dr. Patel asked.
“Yes. Education is required to help culture. Not that you take degrees from the university and remain a dog. That is not education. Here is education.... First of all learn how to see every woman as your mother. There the culture begins. And they are, from the very beginning of the college school life, they are learning how to entice one girl. This is education.”
Dr. Patel said, “They are following the so-called advanced countries.”
But Prabhupāda answered, “Advanced means Freud’s philosophy, sex philosophy. This is their education. So how you can expect them to learn? It is not possible. From the very beginning there is no culture, animal culture. Just like dogs— as soon as he finds another female dog he wants to have sex. This is education.”
“One friend of mine told me that this culture is vulture’s culture,” Dr. Patel said.
“Yes. Not vultures,” Prabhupāda clarified. “It is called hog civilization. The hogs, they eat anything and they have sex with anyone.... Culture means human life; otherwise, dog’s life.... Amānitvam, first of all you have to learn how to become humble. And here all the people, they are educated how to become proud. What is education? And this culture cannot be maintained unless one is God conscious. Harāv abhaktasya kuto mahad-guṇā, there cannot be any culture for a godless person, that is not possible. And, yasyāsti bhaktir bhagavaty akiṣcanā. Just like these European and American boys are offering obeisances to the guru; this is culture. Why he has learned this culture? Because he has become Kṛṣṇa conscious. Therefore, yasyāsti bhaktir bhagavaty akiṣcanā sarvair guṇais tatra samāsate surāḥ. If you make one devotee of Kṛṣṇa, then all culture will automatically come. One thing. Hare Kṛṣṇa.”
* * *
Good news came this morning from South India. Hansadūta brought a letter from Acyutānanda and Yaśodānandana Swamis who have been visiting prominent Madhvācārya-sampradāya maṭhas throughout Mysore and Mangalore. Their ability to defeat Māyāvādī philosophy so impressed the leaders of the Admar and Pejavara maṭhas that they were given letters of recommendation introducing them as bona fide Vaiṣṇavas and praising Śrīla Prabhupāda and his books. As a result, three schools in that area took full sets of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books. They have also enlisted twelve Patron Members.
Now in Mangalore, they intend to join Prabhupāda in Nellore, Andra Pradesh, on January 3rd.
Prabhupāda is extremely encouraged and pleased to see his senior disciples preaching so capably and gaining acceptance for ISKCON by their philosophical knowledge. He wrote to them, “Sankirtana will always be appreciated, because it is the special blessings of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu on the people of this fallen age of Kali-yuga. Sukadeva Gosvami says this age is an ocean of faults. But there is one boon: in this age one gets the same result as was achieved in former ages through elaborate temple worship, costly sacrifices, or introspective meditation, simply by chanting the Holy Name of the Lord. It is for this reason only that this Hare Krsna Movement has spread so quickly all over the world.”
* * *
At the end of a full day Prabhupāda likes to relax. Sometimes he is reflective, making pithy observations about society and the condition of the world. That was his mood tonight.
After I set up the mosquito net over his bed, he lay down. I climbed inside also, sitting cross legged at his side, gently massaging his hips, legs, and feet.
Prabhupāda talked briefly about Freud. He said that producing such a complicated philosophy and writing volumes of books just to understand sexual attraction, which is there naturally even in the pigs, is like bringing a cannon to kill a mosquito. “Big philosophy,” he said, “is not required for these things.”
December 20th, 1975
Prabhupāda is not feeling well; swelling in his legs, feet, and hands trouble him. To see his body puffed with fluid is very disturbing. Nevertheless, he went on his walk, continuing with the education of Dr. Patel and the other devotees.
This morning Prabhupāda stressed that one must hear from a bona fide guru if he desires to become knowledgeable in spiritual life. He condemned charlatan gurus who misrepresent the process of yoga and tell people that one can be one’s own guru simply by “looking within.”
“If there is no need of guru,” Prabhupāda said sharply, “why are they writing books to tell people? As soon as you tell someone something, that is guru.”
As we walked back to greet Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Rāsabihārī, the sound of children’s voices singing traditional Hindi songs loudly rang out from the playground of the junior school across the road. This scene reinforced the point that Śrīla Prabhupāda emphasized during the morning walk—everyone must learn from another qualified authority.
Dr. Patel said, “Guru is necessity right from the birth. The first guru is the mother.”
Prabhupāda answered, “And these rascals, they preach like that: ‘There is no need of guru.’”
“They are rascals, Sir.”
“Yes,” Prabhupāda agreed. “Simply rascals. Rascal means he does not know the thing and he still preaches. That’s a rascal. Guru must be there. There are many, they say like that, ‘There is no need of guru.’”
When one visitor asked if some effort was required to obtain a guru, Prabhupāda gave his confirmation. “Yes. Therefore Kṛṣṇa says, tad viddhi praṇipātena. Praṇipāt means you have to surrender. When you submit somewhere, you must test and then submit. That is sad-guru.”
“They say, sir,” Dr. Patel said, “that if you are very sincere then the sad-guru comes automatically to you...as you have come to us.”
Prabhupāda answered, “Yes. Because Kṛṣṇa is there. If He sees somebody is actually serious to understand Him.... Therefore Dhruva Mahārāja, he did not make any guru, but with fervent desire he went, ‘Yes, I shall find out Kṛṣṇa.’ Mother said, ‘Kṛṣṇa can be found in the forest.’ He went to the forest and began according to his own way. Then Kṛṣṇa sent Nārada Muni: ‘This boy is very serious; go and give him real mantra.’ That is Caitanya Mahāprabhu, guru kṛṣṇa kṛpayā pāya bhakti lātā bīja. Two things required, guru and Kṛṣṇa.”
* * *
During his massage I pressed gently on Prabhupāda’s foot with my thumb to show him the swelling. It left an indentation for several minutes. Prabhupāda said this is due to uremia, a toxic condition caused by waste products in the blood normally eliminated in the urine. It makes it very difficult for him to climb the steps to his apartment when returning from the temple. Yet, he tolerates the inconvenience without complaint and dismissed the sight of the dent with a smile and a shake of his head.
* * *
Despite not feeling well, Śrīla Prabhupāda went to an outside engagement in the evening. It was held on the twenty-first floor of a block of flats, the home of a wealthy and influential Life Member.
Although it was not well attended and Prabhupāda’s lecture was constantly interrupted by noisy children, he spoke strongly for forty-five minutes on Bhagavad-gītā (7.1). He emphasized the need to hear from the right source—Kṛṣṇa. As usual in preaching to a mainly Indian audience, Śrīla Prabhupāda kept to the central theme of dharma—real religion, what it constitutes, and the duty of those who have the good fortune to understand it.
It was late when we left, and after a long drive home, Prabhupāda revealed that he felt too ill to continue going out on so many programs. He said that he wants at least one week of complete rest. He will not even take morning walks. And he wants to eat only fruits, milk, and kicchari. He looks exhausted and frail, but we are unable to help in any useful way.
Arrangements are being made to go to Australia for the Ratha-yātrā on January 10th, but our plans might have to change due to Prabhupāda’s ill health. Moreover, some difficulty has arisen regarding Prabhupāda’s visa.
December 21st, 1975
There was no morning walk today. Missing Prabhupāda on the beach, Dr. Patel arrived at his apartment with his son. He took a cardiograph reading and gave Prabhupāda some pills. His diagnosis is high blood pressure.
Prabhupāda rested. He didn’t take breakfast, and then ate only a morsel at lunch, complaining of dizziness from the medicine. He remarked that modern drugs are medicines for the demons. Prabhupāda rarely goes to a doctor, although if by some arrangement one comes to him, he doesn’t refuse their help. Disease has to be treated, of course, but as far as he is concerned, chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa is the best cure.
In the evening he felt better and ate some guava, three paraṭhās, and a sabjī Harikeśa cooked for him.
As part of his cure Prabhupāda told us that for at least one week he wants to be free of appointments and visitors. Harikeśa is doubtful that we will be able to enforce this rule. Prabhupāda is too enthusiastic to stop preaching and too kind to turn away unexpected visitors.
December 22nd, 1975
Today is Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura’s disappearance day. Śrīla Prabhupāda is feeling a little stronger, but the morning walk was again canceled.
He fasted until noon, when there was a huge feast for the devotees. They made many, many preparations, and samples of everything were brought to Prabhupāda. He was pleased and took small tastings of each preparation.
* * *
Shortly after Prabhupāda retired for his morning nap, Dr. Patel came unannounced up to the apartment with two friends. Having heard that Prabhupāda was still not well, he had brought some medicine.
However, I had to refuse him entry to Prabhupāda’s bedroom. It is a standing rule that no one may wake Prabhupāda for any reason. Nor is there ever a need, as Prabhupāda never misses any appointments; and he rises at almost exactly the same times every day, as if by his own built-in alarm clock. Unfortunately, the doctor became rather upset and embarrassed in front of his friends at being made to wait. He didn’t like being stopped by Prabhupāda’s young servant. He even refused my request to wait in the sitting room. When the tactic of raising his voice in protest failed to rouse Śrīla Prabhupāda in the next room, he left the medicine, departing in a huff.
His show of anger doesn’t disturb me. I feel secure in the knowledge that I have done the right thing and acted according to Śrīla Prabhupāda’s desire.
* * *
As Harikeśa predicted, in the afternoon Prabhupāda decided to receive some visitors, despite his statement yesterday that he wanted a week’s complete rest.
One of the visitors was a disciple of a well-known impersonalist. The lady unabashedly glorified her guru and began spouting his philosophy. Perhaps the disappearance day of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s own Guru Mahārāja was not the best time for her to have come. Prabhupāda immediately countered nearly every comment she made. Using sharp logic and common sense he did not hesitate to point out the defects of her Svāmī’s philosophy. He especially attacked the Svāmī’s commentary on the Gītā. A typical Māyāvādī, this guru is well-known for having said that the word kṛṣṇameans “dark.” According to him, dark means “unknown,” and therefore the Absolute is unknowable, that is to say, impersonal.
“If dark is unknown,” Prabhupāda said, “or if Kṛṣṇa is unknown, then why does he [her guru] bother to comment on Kṛṣṇa’s words in the Gītā? Why does he comment on that which he does not know? Therefore only the bhakta, only the devotee, can comment on the Bhagavad-gītā, not others. Because Kṛṣṇa says bhaktyā mām abhijānāti yāvān yaś cāsmi tattvataḥ, ‘to the devotees I am known.’”
After the lady left Prabhupāda told us that her Svāmī is also well-known for having affairs with his secretaries and wealthy widow followers.
* * *
Despite his health, Prabhupāda still received his mail. A very encouraging letter arrived from Hridayānanda Goswami. He reported that the devotees in Sao Paulo, Brazil have purchased a bus for $40,000 and are fitting it as a traveling temple. With Śrī Śrī Gaura-Nitāi installed they plan to tour the country.
He also submitted three poems for Prabhupāda’s approval. The first two described painful entanglement in material life. The third was a plea for release, and some of its stanzas went:
“Oh, Your Lordship Krsna, please hear me!
Your devotee’s calling, so sadly.
He forgot Your Lotus feet.
Now he’s lost he’s met defeat.
O Greatest of Persons, please see me!
Your devotee’s falling, so badly.
To enjoy this world, he tried,
Now let it be rectified!
O please, Radharani, take pity!
A devotee’s trapped in the city!
The nine gates are robbing him,
Take pity! He’s near the end.”
Prabhupāda heard them appreciatively and replied, “The poem is very nice. However, one should not think of himself as a devotee. Poem three should read:
“Your servant’s calling so sadly”
“Your servant’s falling so badly”
“A servant’s trapped in the city”
“One cannot call himself a devotee, but servant he can call himself always. Your bus program sounds nice, it is approved by me.”
After signing the typed letter, he added in his own hand at the bottom, “Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu presented Himself as patitam kinkaram mam visame bhavambudhau. Kinkaram means servant.”
Gurudāsa Swami, one of the first devotees in San Francisco and one of the original householders to begin preaching in London, sent an enthusiastic letter from America about his preaching activities and his new-found freedom since recently taking sannyāsa.
Prabhupāda was very satisfied to hear that he is whole-heartedly engaged in Kṛṣṇa’s service, free from distraction. He wrote back encouraging him to go on and added what he described to us as his new slogan, “I always say, ‘Man is good, and woman is also good. But when they combine, then they become bad.’ Before there was so much difficulty. But now you are doing well, and Yamuna dasi is also doing well, and I am very pleased with your work. Please continue like this and keep me informed.”
* * *
In the evening Prabhupāda went down to the temple for a special program including puṣpāṣjali, the offering of flowers to his Guru Mahārāja. The audience was not large; a small core of active life members, friends and well-wishers of ISKCON who have become attracted by Śrīla Prabhupāda and his pure and direct preaching, impressed by the results of Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
Śrīla Prabhupāda sat on a cushion on the floor in front of the Deities and next to the vyāsāsana, which bore a small picture of his Guru Mahārāja. He lectured enthusiastically, showing no sign of discomfort from his illness. It was an especially good talk. He humbly presented the eternal message of devotional service as he has received it from his spiritual master.
Having spent the afternoon discussing the svāmī to whom the Bhagavad-gītā and Kṛṣṇa was “unknown”, and speaking as the representative of one to whom the Lord most surely is known, he lectured on a verse that gave Kṛṣṇa Himself the final say: Bhagavad-gītā Chapter Sixteen, verse seven. “There are two kinds of men,” Prabhupāda said, “asura and daiva. All throughout the whole universe, there are two classes of men. One who knows his relationship with God, he is called daiva. And one who does not know, just like animal, they are called asura. There is no particular caste or creed, that here is a caste of asura, caste of daiva. No. Anyone who knows what is God and his relationship with God, sambandha, and then works according to that relation and achieves the goal of life, he is called daiva, or devatā. And one who does not know this, what is the goal of life, what is God, what is my relationship with God, he is asura.”
Prabhupāda explained that one is understood to be asura or devatā according to which path they are following—pravṛtti or nivṛtti. “Loke vyavāyāmiṣa-madya-sevā nityā hi jantor. Every living entity has got this tendency. Vyavāya, means sex life; āmiṣa, meat eating, and madya, liquor. Natural tendency. Therefore the country where these things are indulged in without any restriction, that is asura. This is especially in the Western countries, and now we have also learned in India. Either Hindus or Musselman, drinking was a sin; now we have got very easily available liquor. Every door there is a shop, and every door there is a meat shop. So India, there was a time that they were all devatās; now we are imitating the asuras. On the other hand, the boys and girls from the āsuric countries, they are becoming devotees, devatā. So there is no exclusive right for a country to become a devatā or a demon. A demon can be turned into the devatā and devatā can be turned into demon provided he follows this pravṛtti and nivṛtti....
“So Kṛṣṇa has described everything in the Bhagavad-gītā. And today, this night, we are trying to explain the mission of Kṛṣṇa, because the same mission is being carried out by us beginning from Brahmā. And today is a special day, the disappearance day of my Guru Mahārāja, Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī. This Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is so beneficial that He wants to benefit the whole human society, how to stop this process of repetition of birth, death, old age, and disease. My Guru Mahārāja also came for this purpose, and we are also trying to follow his footsteps. And we are teaching our disciples to do the same thing. This is not a new movement, or some invented ‘ism.’ It is old, at least four or five thousand years, what Kṛṣṇa spoke. The other followers also spoke the same thing, and we are also speaking the same thing. It is up to you to take advantage of it or not. Thank you very much.”
After Prabhupāda’s lecture, we all stood around the vyāsāsana, before the picture of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī. We responsively recited the praṇāma-mantras following the lead of Lokanātha Swami and offered flowers. Afterwards we had a lively kīrtana and guru-pūjā before Prabhupāda returned upstairs.
With great satisfaction he took some mahā-prasādam that had been offered this evening to his Guru Mahārāja. He also had Harikeśa make some kachoris. To see him eat heartily is a good sign that his health is improving.
December 23rd, 1975
Śrīla Prabhupāda is feeling stronger, and the swelling in his body has gone down because of the diuretic pills Dr. Patel supplied yesterday. But Prabhupāda didn’t take all the pills prescribed. After taking a half tablet, as soon as he got the desired effect, he stopped taking the medication.
He resumed his morning exercise, walking down to Juhu Beach as usual.
Prabhupāda asked Saurabha about a dentist interested in opening a clinic in the new temple compound. Saurabha explained that the man had seen the floor plan, which includes a room for medical use, and immediately proposed that he use it to give free treatment to the devotees.
Prabhupāda did not approve. “No, there will be no medical service in the building.”
Lokanātha Swami asked if medical facilities should be set up on another part of the land.
Prabhupāda replied, “That we shall do at our convenience. It is not very urgent. When there is spare room, then. Medical service is to cure the material disease, this temporary headache and stomachache. There are so many medical services for these things, but where is the medical service for curing bhava-roga, material disease? That is wanted. Medical service does not give any guarantee that there will be no more disease. Our service is to guarantee that there will be no more birth, death, old age, and disease. That is the difference.”
Pausing for a moment, he recalled his recent trip to Africa. “In Mauritius I was suffering so much from dental pain. I never went to the dentist; I invented my medicine and it cured.”
Everyone smiled in admiration. Prabhupāda seems to know nearly everything. He was referring to his own toothpaste recipe: a combination of ground mustard seed, salt, calcium carbonate, eucalyptus oil, camphor, menthol, and oil of wintergreen. Many devotees are now eagerly making it for themselves, and Prabhupāda asked if they like it.
He grinned when Harikeśa assured him, “Oh yes! The best!” Lokanātha Swami voiced what we all felt, “You are perfect in all respects. You are your own doctor.”
Prabhupāda humbly responded, “I am not doctor, but I created many doctors.”
We then met up with Dr. Patel, walking in the opposite direction. He stopped to offer his praṇāmas, but he said he wouldn’t walk on with us. He was still miffed about being turned away yesterday morning. He obviously decided to register his complaint with a boycott. He told Prabhupāda how offended he was at being refused admittance.
Although I had given Prabhupāda the medicine, I hadn’t informed him about the fuss Dr. Patel made at not being able to see him. Prabhupāda heard his grievance, and without jumping to any conclusions, gently inquired what the reason might be that he was denied admittance. I explained that Dr. Patel had arrived when he was taking his morning rest, so I did not want to disturb him. Prabhupāda indicated his approval of my action. Yet he also discreetly pacified the doctor.
When Lokanātha invited him to join us, the doctor declined, preferring to continue with his friends. Although we missed the usual lively debate, without Dr. Patel to monopolize the conversation the devotees had more opportunity to ask questions.
We had a long discussion about the relationship between Lord Viṣṇu and Lord Śiva. At one point the famous battle between Bāṇāsura and Kṛṣṇa was mentioned, where the ultimate weapons of Lord Śiva and Lord Viṣṇu were pitched against each other. The śiva-jvāra produced intense heat, but the viṣṇu-jvāra, which generated intense cold, was the victor.
An Indian devotee said that when Prabhupāda was very ill in Vṛndāvana with a high fever he had prayed that the viṣṇu-jvāra might reduce his fever. “So we were just reading the Bhāgavatam when you were sick. Anybody suffering from fever means you read such and such a portion. So it should come down.”
It seemed like a nice sentiment, but from Prabhupāda’s pure devotional viewpoint it wasn’t acceptable. “No, Viṣṇu should not be utilized for curing your fever. That is not bhakti. That is business.”
Kīrtanānanda Swami asked, “Can a disciple invoke Lord Viṣṇu’s help for serving his spiritual master?”
Śrīla Prabhupāda replied more enthusiastically. He also revealed something of his internal mood in his struggle to establish the Bombay temple. “Hm! That is nice. That is for curing Viṣṇu’s representative. When we were in danger, there was so much obstruction for constructing the temple, and we prayed to Kṛṣṇa that it should be stopped. We prayed to Kṛṣṇa, ‘Please give your protection.’ That is for Viṣṇu’s purpose.”
As we walked along the firm sand near the water’s edge we suddenly found ourselves caught in a small cul-de-sac formed by the incoming tide. The flux of the waves revealed a shining object imbedded in the sand, glinting in the sunlight like a valuable gem. Lokanātha ran over to see. It was a piece of broken glass.
Everyone laughed as Prabhupāda declared, “That is called māyā! The light is here, but it appears light is there. This is called māyā. The real world is the spiritual world and here it is simply reflection, but we are taking this is real world.”
* * *
After greeting Their Lordships Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Rāsabihārī and receiving guru-pūjā, Śrīla Prabhupāda took a tour of the building site. The foundation work has begun and some of it is already completed. He made a thorough inspection—questioning, advising, and discussing the overall plans with Saurabha.
He seems satisfied with the progress and proud that the building will be unique in this area of Bombay. It was a long, hard struggle to get the land, hold onto it, and finally obtain the permission to build.
Now, with the same determination and strong desire, Śrīla Prabhupāda is pushing on the building effort. This will be the biggest temple and āśrama complex in ISKCON to date, and he wants to offer it to Their Lordships Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Rāsabihārī.
December 24th, 1975
This is Śrīla Prabhupāda’s final day in Bombay. He is scheduled to go to Gujarat tomorrow.
Dr. Patel joined us again on the beach, his good humor restored. The doctor had previously extolled the value of experimentation in the search for truth, so Prabhupāda took it up as today’s theme. He challenged Dr. Patel why the truth should be the subject of experimentation. “If one knows the truth,” he said, “there is no question of experiment.” As usual, after some debate, Dr. Patel concurred.
Prabhupāda emphasized the principle that although the method of searching for the truth may be experimented with, the truth itself is not subject to experimentation.
As we headed back toward the temple, we observed men and women on Juhu Beach going through their daily routines, vigorously swinging their arms and legs, bending and stretching in imitation of the Western mania for exercise. In Bombay especially, Indians are obviously becoming more and more interested in their bodies and less and less interested in their souls.
Lokanātha Swami asked what it is that creates the attraction between men and women, since all bodies are made of the same ingredients.
Prabhupāda gave an elaborate reply. “You want to be attracted. God has made in such a way that both of them are attractive to one another. That’s all. You want to be attracted; therefore woman is made attractive. And the woman wants to be attracted; man is attractive. This is nature’s arrangement so that you may be bound up by this attraction. You are already bound up, and by this attraction you will be more tightly bound up. Puàsaḥ striyā mithunī-bhāvam etaà. The whole material attraction means a man’s attraction for woman and a woman’s attraction for man. But when they are seeking, where is woman? Where is woman? Where is woman? And the woman is seeking. They come here to make this business. And when they are actually attracted or united, then this bondage will become more tight.
“Therefore, the Vedic civilization is how to slacken it, and ultimately by force, separation, sannyāsa. Because unless they are separated, there cannot be any spiritual advancement. That is the whole process. Their unity is bondage. I have written a letter, that man is good, woman is good, and when they are united, they are bad!”
Prabhupāda laughed. “Both of them are bad. And the material world is taking this is the best thing. But actually that is not. Man is good, because he is part and parcel of God. And woman is good, part and parcel of God. But when they unite, they become bad.”
Lokanātha Mahārāja asked whether gṛhasthas could make spiritual advancement.
Prabhupāda replied candidly, “That advancement is not very solid. But there is advancement, but it is not very solid.”
“They say we want to come together to serve the Lord, is that excuse or is that...?”
Prabhupāda broke into a smile. “Together they go to hell!” He explained that ultimately the spirit of detachment must be there, no matter what the external dress. If a householder is working only for Kṛṣṇa, then he is also a sannyāsī.
* * *
Later in the day a telegram arrived from Rādhāballabha, the Los Angeles BBT book production manager. He informed Śrīla Prabhupāda that on the disappearance of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura they had offered the latest volume of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.
Prabhupāda telegraphed a reply, “Thank you. Be blessed. My Guru Maharaja will be very much pleased upon you and all other workers on the holy occasion of his disappearance day.”
* * *
I spent the day packing and preparing for tomorrow’s trip. Several village programs have been arranged, and Śrīla Prabhupāda is very enthusiastic. He stressed the importance of preaching in the villages, telling Hansadūta, Harikeśa and me that he had a long cherished desire to preach from village to village in India. Prior to coming to the West he was unable to do it, but now he is getting the opportunity to fulfill his desire.