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Chapter Seven

Nellore, Andhra Pradesh

January 3rd, 1976

In the early morning Śrīla Prabhupāda, Tamal Krishna Mahārāja, Harikeśa, and I boarded a train heading north to Nellore, a small city in the state of Andhra Pradesh. The local Madras devotees saw us off at the station with a rousing kīrtana. The clamor alerted some of the other passengers to Prabhupāda’s presence, and several men hovered around the carriage, peering in with great interest. We shut the door and relaxed in the quiet privacy of the first-class compartment.

“First class” is a misnomer, as the compartment was a bit uncomfortable and dirty, with soot from the steam engine speckled throughout. The only advantage was the privacy of the cabin. Still, Prabhupāda said he preferred to travel by train rather than plane; there is more room and a satisfyingly sedate pace.

We carried with us some fruit and other prasādam for breakfast. After Prabhupāda ate, we enjoyed the remnants while he took a little rest, stretching out along the seat, which devotees had covered with clean white sheets.

Tamal Krishna Mahārāja went out to wash and swiftly shut the door behind him. When he came back he sidled through the half-open entry and again quickly shut it. “There are three men hanging around in the corridor hoping to see Prabhupāda,” he said, answering our quizzical looks. “They’ll just come in and ask some nonsense and disturb him, so don’t let them in.”  People in India are often eager to ask for blessings from holy men, but unfortunately they rarely have any serious spiritual intent. There are also many sādhus accustomed to offering such meaningless āśīrvāda, or blessings.

Śrīla Prabhupāda refers to this kind of sādhu as an āśīrvāda-mahārāja. Usually they give a wave of the hand, a nod, and exchange a few polite words. There is no spiritual discussion, no transmission of knowledge, and no transformation. Yet both parties are satisfied with this giving and receiving of they know not what—‘āśīrvādas.’ From our understanding of Prabhupāda’s teachings, such intangible exchanges are of no practical value. Naturally, as Prabhupāda’s servants, we don’t like to see his time wasted with such blessing-seekers.

When Harikeśa and I went out of the compartment, the curious men were still there. On our return, despite our obvious reluctance to let them in, they strained to see past us, knowing that if they caught Prabhupāda’s eye, etiquette would oblige him to let them in. Prabhupāda was awake, eye-contact was made, and he instructed us to let them in. The three filed in and sat opposite, smiling and pleased at having evaded the secretaries of someone they knew was a great spiritual leader and holy man.

Thus we all sat: we three somewhat irritated by this polite infringement on Prabhupāda’s precious time, they three ignoring us, eager to have his darśana, and Śrīla Prabhupāda, as always, a warm and cordial host. Not at all inconvenienced, Prabhupāda received them courteously, asking them a few polite questions: what their names were, where they came from, what they did, and the like. Then he looked directly into their faces and asked, “So, what is it that I can do for you?”

“Swamiji, we just wanted to get your blessings.”

“What is that blessing?”

This answer took them by surprise. No one had ever asked them what kind of blessings.

Caught off guard, one of them replied, “Well Swamiji, I have this pain in my knee... ”

We almost groaned out loud and the man, becoming embarrassed, hastily added, “And for our families also... ”

Strike two.

“Ah, and of course we want to do good to others... ”

As he trailed off into confused silence, Prabhupāda indicated his three disciples with shaved heads, śikhāskurtāsdhotīs, and tulasī beads. He told them, “This is my blessing. These boys have given up everything for Kṛṣṇa’s service and to chant Hare Kṛṣṇa. Are you prepared to accept such a blessing?”

At first there was no reply. They were stunned; all kinds of wild thoughts seemed to run through their heads and across their faces. Then, before they could become the beneficiaries of this blessing, they hurriedly stood. One stammered, “Well, actually Swamiji, at the moment we have so many duties with the family and all, this kind of life of a sannyāsī, for us it is not possible... ” With profuse apologies and many thanks they beat a hasty retreat. We laughed as Prabhupāda sat smiling and shook his head.

“This is the problem. They simply take a sādhu as some means for avoiding paying the doctor’s bill, that’s all. Āśīrvāda-mahārāja. They are not serious for spiritual life.”

People have no appreciation of a real mahātmā.

* * *

After a three-and-a-half-hour journey the train pulled into the modest Nellore railway station.

The sannyāsīs and devotees from Madras had all traveled ahead on the road. Together with a very large and eager group of local residents, they gave Śrīla Prabhupāda a tumultuous welcome. The devotees have been preaching in Nellore for several weeks, making many Life Members and preparing for Śrīla Prabhupāda’s visit; thus many people were anxiously awaiting his arrival.

Prabhupāda got down from the carriage first, followed by Tamal Krishna and Harikeśa. The huge crowd on the platform promptly swallowed him up.

When I finally struggled out of the carriage carrying two suitcases, a shoulder bag, and the bag with the tiffin and cooker, I was amazed to see, through a jam of sweating bodies, Śrīla Prabhupāda just about to disappear under a huge wreath of marigolds. He was patiently standing, hands held together in traditional praṇāma, while fifty or sixty people lined up to place garlands around his neck. I dropped the cases and barged through. By the time I reached him the flowers were just beginning to rise above the top of his ears. Harikeśa and Tamal Krishna Mahārāja stood immobilized to the side, looking somewhat overwhelmed by the whole affair.

Stopping the chain of presentation for a moment, I removed all the garlands but two. They were so heavy that I had difficulty lifting them, but Śrīla Prabhupāda had stood very patiently to allow everyone to come forward and drape their offerings around his neck. He was visibly relieved when I removed the garlands. Then as the rest of the crowd moved up one at a time and offered their garlands I immediately removed them, never allowing more than two or three to accumulate at once.

When everyone had made their offering, Prabhupāda walked out to the waiting car, followed by chanting devotees and mobbed by the enthusiastic residents of Nellore.

Harikeśa came up to me and demanded to know where the suitcases were.

“Oh, no! I left them on the platform!” I had forgotten all about them in my rush to aid Śrīla Prabhupāda, and I earned another acerbic rebuke from Harikeśa for my foolishness. Fortunately, when the crowd cleared, the suitcases were still where I had left them. Harikeśa did admit, however, that I had acted correctly and promptly where he had failed regarding Prabhupāda’s personal situation.

Śrīla Prabhupāda was extremely pleased by the whole reception. However, the arrival at our lodgings was a different story.

Turning off into a side road next to the Tirupati Tirumali Devastānams Kalyānam Maṇḍapam on the southern outskirts just off National Highway 5, we came to the main gates of an enclosed estate. It is owned by our hosts, two sisters, Sujathamma Rebala and Subhaprada Kattamanchi, members of the former royal family of the area. Prabhupāda has been invited to stay with them for the next five days.

The estate is divided into two sections of seven and two acres, all surrounded by a ten foot-high wall. The sisters are donating both parcels of land to ISKCON. We plan to construct a temple on the smaller plot, and it is to inaugurate this work that Śrīla Prabhupāda has come. He is going to install the foundation stone tomorrow.

The two-acre plot is completely undeveloped and rather barren, except for a small house at the back where Acyutānanda and Yaśodānandana Swamis’ party is staying. The seven-acre plot has a large bungalow for its main residence, separate servants’ quarters, a couple of small out-houses, and partially cultivated gardens with some flowers, bottle palm trees, and vegetable patches. This larger acreage will be donated on the demise of the sisters.

Getting out of the car at the main gate Prabhupāda was met by the sisters. Together we all walked the short distance down the drive to the main house. The driveway ended in a small circle with a fountain in the middle at the front of the house. At the side of this, out in the open, we passed a small bust of Kṛṣṇa with a cow. We also noted tulasī plants growing here and there along the garden borders.

Because of our plan to establish a temple here, Mahāàsa Swami said that many people in Nellore have given their support and have become life members. The local newspaper has featured an article describing the activities of ISKCON, showing pictures of the devotees performing street saṅkīrtana and conducting paṇḍāl programs.

A large paṇḍāl has been arranged in the city center for the next few days, with Śrīla Prabhupāda as the center of attraction.

The two sisters’ reception of Prabhupāda was cordial, but there was a distinct coolness in their temperament, which we all noticed. They gave him a small but pleasant room with a grilled-in veranda. We servants were shown to a room directly above him on the roof. Śrīla Prabhupāda immediately got ready for his massage.

As we sat on the veranda and I began to apply the oil to his head, we heard a familiar clucking noise across the pathway. “What is that?” Prabhupāda asked.

I looked out through the grilled window and saw a hen coop. “It’s chickens, Śrīla Prabhupāda.”

“Oh. Then that means?”

“Well, it means that at least they are eating eggs,” I said, trying to be optimistic.

“Call Harikeśa.”

Harikeśa came in, visibly disturbed. “Śrīla Prabhupāda, these people are meat-eaters!”

“Oh. Then you must cook separately. You cannot cook in their kitchen. Do not use any of their pots or utensils.”

“Śrīla Prabhupāda, there’s something wrong here. These people are crazy!” Harikeśa complained.

Prabhupāda bridled, “They are crazy, or you are crazy?”

Being extremely intelligent, on occasion Harikeśa’s reactions to a situation tend to be overly intense. On such occasions, Prabhupāda has to help him properly channel his mental energy. Harikeśa is completely dedicated to following Prabhupāda’s guidance, and a few quick words are usually sufficient to correct him. Yet in this instance he persisted.

“Well, crazy I may be,” he conceded, “but there is definitely something strange going on. It’s almost as if these people don’t want us here. They invited us, but they are almost unfriendly towards us.”

Prabhupāda accepted his observation; our reception by the sisters had been decidedly muted, in contrast to the enthusiasm at the railway station. But he gave them the benefit of the doubt. “We are their guests,” he said, “so we should deal with them politely. They may not yet be familiar with Kṛṣṇa consciousness, but they are offering the land for the temple, and things should improve when they engage in service to Kṛṣṇa.”

In a discussion this afternoon the subject came up again, for we had all noticed the oddly cool attitude of our hosts, as if we were merely necessary inconveniences.

Prabhupāda asked Mahāàsa Swami for the deed of the gift of land, but it wasn’t available. Mahāàsa thought it was with Gopāla Kṛṣṇa, and Gopāla thought Mahāàsa had it. Prabhupāda was a little annoyed at their incompetence. He instructed them to bring the deed as soon as possible so that he could check it.

Apart from this, Śrīla Prabhupāda maintained his usual congenial mood and schedule. Tamal Krishna Mahārāja had brought some mail from America with him that he had read out when he first arrived but still needed replying to.

Prabhupāda was enlivened to hear a letter Rāmeśvara wrote two weeks before the Christmas marathon. Rāmeśvara reported that three new airports had been legally opened for book distribution and that our lawyers were working on opening several more, thus giving great facility for increasing book sales.

He also had a question about the system of book distribution Prabhupāda recently approved for the Rādhā-Dāmodara party, by which devotees could hand out big books for nominal sums, provided they covered the costs from other donations. Rāmeśvara wanted to know if the temples could also adopt this method, for previously big books had only been given to people who donated at least three or four dollars. The Rādhā-Dāmodara traveling saṅkīrtana party ordered 50,000 books for December alone, and Rāmeśvara thought that distribution would increase tremendously if the temples could also adopt this system.

Finally, he described the enthusiasm for book distribution sweeping the American temples. “This month there is terrific competition between Tamal Krishna Goswami and Jayatirtha Prabhu [GBC for Los Angeles] to be the outstanding zones for the month. Here in New Dvaraka we are breaking all records and out-distributing everyone in BTG distribution. Just this past weekend (two days) we sold thirty thousand BTGs in Los Angeles alone! Everyone at the BBT including myself is going on book distribution two days per week for the competition, and we are planning to sell 100,000 BTGs in L.A. in just six days between December 19th-24th. In this way book distribution is going on nicely in America, and our warehouse is exhausted to ship so many books out to the SKP parties day and night. Anyway, in Los Angeles, never before in history have so many transcendental literatures been distributed in one city in so short a period of time. Our goal for this month is to sell at least 200,000 BTGs and 12,000 big books all in Los Angeles. By your divine blessings, we would like to be able to increase these figures even more, and become absorbed in book distribution day and night without stopping. Everyone agrees that to distribute your books is the highest pleasure and even the demigods may take birth here just to be able to distribute your books and taste this great pleasure.”

He concluded his letter by saying, “I hope you are well and enjoying the book distribution results. I have never seen the devotees in America work so hard to please you as now, by their book selling.”

Prabhupāda was enlivened to hear the enthusiastic report, especially since he already knew of the success of the marathon. In the past he had deliberately promoted a competition between temples in book distribution, and he teased Tamal Krishna Mahārāja as he dictated his reply to Rāmeśvara.

“Regarding the suggestion for book selling, the point is that the temples must pay the cost of printing. Then they may sell for whatever price they like.

“The transcendental competition is nice. If Jayatirtha Prabhu defeats Tamal Krishna Maharaja, then Tamal will have heart failure. Go on selling books. My Guru Maharaja was very much anxious about selling books and preaching, so you are pleasing him by this bombastic flood of books all over the world. Thank you.”

He also added a note of approval and precaution on the new Bhāgavatam printing. “The new Sixth Canto Bhagavatams are very nice. Yes, actually they are worshipable Deities. Be careful that our books do not appear like Bible printing. Sometimes the Christians also put gold gilding on their books, but people are adverse to purchasing Bibles. Neither our books should be given free, there must be some remuneration, otherwise it will be like Bible selling.”

Unlike most authors, Śrīla Prabhupāda’s enthusiasm about the tremendous increase in sales of his books does not derive from personal pride or hope for an increase in his own sense gratification from the income. They are Kṛṣṇa’s books, and he is Kṛṣṇa’s servant; therefore the profits are also Kṛṣṇa’s.

An increase in book distribution means greater numbers of people potentially  attracted to Kṛṣṇa consciousness. However, despite the liberality of his mood in contacting as many persons as possible through wide distribution, he wants his books to be properly appreciated, and he knows that something easily obtained is also easily given up.

Along with the mail from America, there were letters from other parts of the world. One man in South India wrote about his interest in God consciousness and his eagerness to read Prabhupāda’s books. He had read an article describing Prabhupāda’s activities. “Recently I read an article about you—how you were a rich industrialist, how you, to fulfil the wishes of your Guru to preach devotion to Kṛṣṇa in the Western countries, renounced worldly life and how you translated Srimad-Bhagavatam into English in waste papers and how you went to America by Scindia ship and how you sat in the New York square and began to sing ‘Hare Krsna’ and lectured the gift of Srimad Bhagavad-gita and how the small gathering around you has grown to the present state with 112 centers throughout the world. It seems that God has chosen you to be an instrument in His Divine hands to bring a change for the good in the millions of hearts thirsting for peace and happiness, love and freedom in the spiritual sphere.” However, he then went on to say he had no money even for postage, so he was requesting the Bhāgavatam as a gift.

Prabhupāda tactfully replied, “Thank you for your kind appreciation of our Society’s activities and of my humble effort on behalf of Lord Kṛṣṇa.

“Regarding your request for some books, the best thing will be if you ask some able person to buy them for you. Or you may ask for the fare to come to Madras and live with the devotees of our Movement. The address in Madras is 50, Aspiran Gardens, 2nd Street, Kilpauk, Madras 10. If you live with our men following our program then you will also get an opportunity to read all our books.”

Trivikrama Swami wrote from Japan concerning his troubled relationship with Gurukṛpa Swami. He also had a question about the supposed American moon landings.

Prabhupāda replied to Trivikrama Mahārāja in the same mood in which he had spoken to Gurukṛpa Swami. He wants the devotees to learn responsible management and cooperation. He is not at all in favor of making immediate changes whenever a problem arises. He advised to refer such questions to the annual GBC meeting in March at Māyāpur.

Prabhupāda also replied to his confusion about the moon landings. “Regarding the ‘dust’ supposedly brought from the moon, that dust can be gotten anywhere. It has already been openly admitted that the same dust is available on this earth planet. These astronauts and scientists are all bluffing. But Srila Vyasadeva is the correct authority. Just study Srimad-Bhagavatam carefully with full faith in Krsna and Guru and all knowledge will be revealed.”

* * *

There was no program this evening, so Tamal Krishna Goswami, Harikeśa, and I gathered in Prabhupāda’s room and chatted with him for a short while before having a kīrtana and a reading from his books.

We talked about book distribution. Tamal Krishna complimented Śrīla Prabhupāda: “I don’t think there has ever been a personality who has given such a great gift to the Western world as yourself, Prabhupāda.”

Prabhupāda modestly acknowledged his tribute. “Yes, actually that is the fact. But let them appreciate, that’s all.”

“The thing is,” Tamal said, “it seems to me, that we are flooding so many books that they must become Kṛṣṇa conscious.”

Prabhupāda gave a big grin and chuckled. “Yes, they have no alternative than to read these books!”  

Tamal Krishna explained that almost every day when our men go out they meet people who already have our books. “Supposing each man meets in a day one thousand or five hundred people—always, without a doubt, at least one or two of the people he meets already have another book, and they are taking a second or third book. Many of them have two or three volumes of Caitanya-caritāmṛta or Bhāgavatam. And although they may not read it, their children are reading it.”

Prabhupāda agreed, “Somebody is reading.”    

“Oh, yes,” Tamal replied. “I made a study. I asked the men in our party when they were all gathered to raise their hand if they had received a book before joining our party. Every single one of them had received a book before joining the movement, without exception. They were attracted through reading a book or a magazine.”

When we chanted, several of the house servants sat by the door. The sisters also came, attracted by the kīrtana. After about half an hour we stopped. Prabhupāda had Tamal Krishna Mahārāja read from Śrī Īśopaniṣad. By the time he had finished reading we were alone again.

January 4th, 1976

Early in the morning Śrīla Prabhupāda called us into his room, wanting to know why the other devotees had not risen by four o’clock for maṅgala-ārati and kīrtana. He was annoyed by our indolence and said, “If our habits are not changed then what is the use of spending so much money?”

Outside, cocks crowed in the dawn, and inside Prabhupāda relaxed after a night of intense concentration and writing, his beads clicking in his hand and his mind keen and alert.

When Harikeśa and I entered the room, eager to share the quiet intimacy of the early morning hours with him, Prabhupāda and Tamal Krishna Mahārāja were already absorbed in a discussion about the foolishness of thinking oneself to be independent.

At Prabhupāda’s request Tamal filled us in on the details of their talk. “In no way can anyone say that they’re independent,” Tamal reiterated. “There is no possibility. At every moment one is dependent. And if anyone says they aren’t, they are simply foolish rascals. We have to challenge everyone in the world on this point: ‘You cannot be independent.’” He continued, “Politicians like Indira think that they are independent. Prabhupāda was saying that Mujibul Rehman fought so hard for his country’s independence, Bangladesh. But when the soldiers came, they killed him and every single family member in one hour, not sparing anyone. He thought he was independent, he thought his country had become independent. But in one hour it was all wiped away.”

Prabhupāda entered the discussion in a challenging mood, “So where is your independence? What is the answer? At any moment you have to die. Even Mujibul Rehman or Mussolini or big, big Napoleon. Everyone. He was given horse urine to drink, Napoleon. Such a great hero, but he had to drink horse urine as reaction of his atrocities. Hitler committed suicide and finished himself. Mussolini was forced to be killed, Gandhi was killed. And they are fighting for independence... . So where is your independence? If you are thinking independently and doing things independently, then is it not foolishness?...  

“Suppose within the prison walls, if you want to do things independently, is it possible? You’ll be put into further sufferings as soon as you violate the rules and regulation of the jail. Just like they are independently trying to avoid pregnancy, and the same man who has killed his own child, or same mother, he is being killed within the womb. Prakṛteḥ kriyamāṇāni. Nature will not tolerate this. In India still these things are not happening because they are not so advanced to use all these contraceptive method. But in Europe, America, it has become a common affair to kill the child within the womb.”

Tamal Krishna Mahārāja pointed out that it was starting in India also.

Prabhupāda made a wry face. “Yes, gradually. As soon as you kill, then you must be killed. This law is there, life for life. So where is your independence? Independence means you are inviting more sufferings, that’s all. You go on, declare your independence. We are the only sane men. We have accepted that we have no independence. So we have to convince the people. Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is very scientific. You are foolishly rascal. You are trying to be independent. That is not possible. Kṛṣṇa is asking to surrender. You do that.”

Prabhupāda made it clear that the root cause of all suffering is this mood of independence from God. “Discuss all these things amongst yourselves and preach and inform these rascals, so-called civilized scientists and philosophers. That is preaching. We have to present the truth in such a way that they will be convinced.”

Changing subjects, Śrīla Prabhupāda gave his appraisal of the mentality of our hosts. Having seen the figurine of Kṛṣṇa in the garden and the surrounding tulasī trees, I had thought that perhaps the two sisters did have some genuine interest in Kṛṣṇa, but Prabhupāda saw it differently.

“I have seen in Calcutta one statue of Sir Asutosa Mukherji. So in the morning, on the day of the birth anniversary, the municipal sweepers with their brush, they will rub it to cleanse the solidly stuck up crow’s stool with water. Then in the evening, big, big men will come, gather, and offer him garland one after another, just like they were offering me. In the morning it is brushed with the sweeper’s street brush, and in the evening it is offered garland. I have seen it. Here also I see that she has kept Kṛṣṇa’s mūrti outside. It is aparādha.”

Tamal Krishna said that he didn’t think that the sisters were Kṛṣṇa bhaktas at all.

I mentioned that during a short tour of the property I was pleased to see many tulasī plants in the garden. But then I felt shocked when I came upon a chest-high pedestal holding a tulasī plant cut into the shape of a suspiciously familiar bird. “Even that tulasī tree around the corner. They have clipped to shape it, cut all the branches,” I told him.

“They have no guidance,” Prabhupāda said.

Tamal recalled the previous evening. “Last night when we were reading, they all left. When you mentioned the regulative principles—stressing no meat, crabs, fish, eggs—they all got up and walked out.”

Prabhupāda questioned Harikeśa again about the cooking. “You said that the same cooking place will have to do, where they are cooking meat?”

Harikeśa reassured him, “They’re not cooking it now.”

Living in someone else’s house is difficult when the family members are non-Vaiṣṇava. When preaching in India devotees are often obliged to stay in the homes of Life Members, their bad habits tolerated in order to broadcast the message of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. However, Tamal Krishna told Prabhupāda that when Gargamuni Swami returns to India, he doesn’t want to do that anymore. He said, “He is determined that he will not eat in anyone’s home.”

Prabhupāda approved. “That is very good.”

“Not only that, but he’s not going to sleep in anyone’s home either. They want to camp out by the riversides.”

“Very good idea.”

“He says that from reading your books it is very clear that Caitanya Mahāprabhu was very careful, strict, to only eat prasādam cooked by proper persons.”

“No, purchase from Jagannātha temple. People would come to offer Him prasādam. So what is the cost of the prasādam, that was taken and He purchased. Formerly, the system was there was no hotel, but there were temples. You go and you can purchase very cheap price. I went with my father in my childhood in a place. My father would never take food at anyone’s house or in the hotel. He will find out some temple and pay them and take prasādam. Still there are many temples. So I was about ten years old at that time, say, seventy years ago. So he paid two annas to the pūjārī, and he gave us so much. It can be eaten by five, six men. Kicharī, vegetables, varieties. So much. Two annas.”

Tamal Krishna mentioned his experience visiting a temple in Navadvīpa. “They had an arrangement like this. At least a hundred people were taking, respectable people. That temple’s very big. Of course, I don’t know how bona fide the people who speak at night are, but every night there are speakers with many people coming. I was very impressed by it. Nice rooms for people to stay upstairs, very active, always being cleansed.”

Śrīla Prabhupāda was impressed by Tamal Krishna’s description. “That is temple. So we have so many examples. Introduce this.”

* * *

Prabhupāda took a longer walk this morning because there was no temple program to attend. He walked around the grounds, and then to a nearby lake.

Mr. Keshavalal Triveri, who had attended his lectures in Madras, joined us. Pleased to see him, Śrīla Prabhupāda immediately engaged him in further discussion on the central theme of his Madras lectures and this early morning’s conversation—the false spirit of independence.

Mr. Triveri was in full agreement and complimented Śrīla Prabhupāda on his lectures. “For the first time,” he said, “I am able to explain to my friends that the true status of the soul is ātmā, not param-ātmābrāhmaṇa but not para-brāhmaṇa.”

In the course of the discussion Acyutānanda Swami quoted one of the favorite scriptural references from the Īśopaniṣad that the Māyāvādīs use to declare themselves as God. They say that the words from the Sixteenth Verse, so ’ham asmi, “I am that”, mean that the living being is the same as God.

Prabhupāda refuted his argument with a revealing analogy. “Asmi means ‘It is my energy.’ If I say that I am ISKCON, what is the wrong there? Because I have created this; therefore I say ISKCON means I. I am ISKCON. So what is the wrong there? It is like that. By energy of Kṛṣṇa, everything has come out. Therefore it says, ‘I am this, I am this, I am this, I am this.’”

Having the opportunity to closely observe Śrīla Prabhupāda’s daily involvement in the affairs of ISKCON has helped me to understand just how apropos this analogy is. He has created ISKCON, he is sustaining it, and, when difficulties arise due to the ineptness of his disciples, he fully supports it.

Mr. Triveri told him about a recent negative incident he had experienced with one svāmī. The svāmī had publicly condemned ISKCON and Śrīla Prabhupāda’s preaching activities. The svāmī had read aloud to the public on Janmāṣṭamī day an adverse newspaper article concerning the devotees in Japan. He declared that ISKCON was not a bona-fide sampradāya and should be avoided.

Śrīla Prabhupāda strongly defended his ISKCON’s worldwide efforts to spread Kṛṣṇa consciousness. He advised Mr. Triveri how to deal with such criticism, “Doṣam icchanti pāmarāḥMakṣikā bhramarā icchanti... Makṣikā, these ordinary flies, they find out where is sore, and the bhramarā[bee], he finds out where is honey. Similarly, doṣam icchanti pāmarāḥ. And the Bhaktivedanta Swami is doing preaching all over the world. That has not come to his eyes. He has come to the Japanese incident.”

Mr. Triveri said that he had told the man that in a big organization there might be some such incidents.

But Prabhupāda said, “No. Why did you not say, ‘You are such a pāmara [low minded or sinful] that this thing has come to your notice and not other thing’?... Just try to understand what is the mentality of these rascals that ‘The good things do not come to your notice.’ If something is bad, ‘Oh, here is... ’ You see. Pāmarāḥ doṣam icchanti guṇam icchanti paṇḍitāḥ. Saj-janā guṇam icchanti doṣam icchanti pāmarāḥ. That means they are not even a Vaiṣṇava. You see? Vaiṣṇava means paramo nirmatsarāṇāà. Even one has got some fault; a Vaiṣṇava does not see that. He takes the good qualities. But they are not even Vaiṣṇava. The mission of Caitanya Mahāprabhu is being preached all over the world—that does not come to their attention. Some Japanese newspaper has written something—it has come immediately. He’s a lowest of the mankind. You can say that ‘Why this thing has come prominent to your eyes and not the other thing?’”

Mr. Triveri said, “No, I did say in my own way, though I did not quote this, that ‘You are a pāmara.’”

And Prabhupāda confidently said, “Yes, you can say now that, ‘That day I forgot to say that you are a pāmara. So I have come to say that you are a pāmara. I forgot it. Excuse me, I forgot it. So you are pāmara.’”

Mr. Triveri agreed. “As a matter of fact, it is so.” And then he added, speaking as the svāmī in question might respond, “And for that, the apology is, ‘No, no, I do realize that lot of work is being done about that... ’”

Prabhupāda completed the apology: “‘But because I am pāmara, I am finding out this fault.’”

Mr. Triveri added another anecdote to illustrate the kind of negative response our Society is getting. “One gosvāmī, when I said, ‘Well, this is a movement which I very much like and like also to join,’ then he said that—because I am conducting Gītā Bhavān founded by him—he said, ‘No, no, no, no. We as a matter of fact we champion that cause. But afterwards, when we realized that it is not sampradāyic, we have given it up... After all, we are qualified. Those mlecchas [meat-eaters]... ’”

Prabhupāda interjected abruptly. “Nobody cares for you. You are so qualified that nobody cares for you... If they are mlecchas, then you are nārakī [resident of hell]. It is said, vaiṣṇave jāti-buddhir.... nārakī. Anyone who considers in terms of caste a Vaiṣṇava, he’s a nārakī. Everyone knows that he is European, he is American, but because he is Vaiṣṇava, one should not see like that, ‘mleccha.’ If he sees, then he’s nārakī.”

Yaśodānandana Swami said it proved that they have no faith in the holy names, because the hari-nāma purifies everything.

Prabhupāda readily agreed. “This rascal says the Nāma has no... See. We have to meet simply rascals all over. The so-called religionists, so-called svāmīs, so-called yogis, so-called politicians. You see? Simply we have to meet with all rascals.”

“This Mahārāja showing that article on Kṛṣṇa-jayantī day,” Mr. Triveri continued, “reading out to the entire audience. That was a rubbish.”

“So what is the wrong there?” Prabhupāda asked. “What was the wrong?”

“He said that, ‘This movement has got these black sheep and they have been banned in Japan. Everywhere they will be banned.’”

“But there is something in Japan which is banned,” Prabhupāda explained. “But what you have got in Japan?”

“Nothing.”

Yaśodānandana added, “First of all, we are not even banned in Japan. The center is still there.”

Prabhupāda said, “No, no, that’s all right. Banned means we had something. But what proof you have got that you have done something in Japan? So it is better. Just like one man said that ‘I have lost fifty thousand this year.’ His friend said, ‘You are still fortunate because you had fifty thousand. But I have no fifty paisā even!’”

Mr. Triveri was encouraged. “So there is something. Here nothing.”

“Prabhupāda,” Bhāvabhūti said, “they said that if Caitanya Mahāprabhu wanted Kṛṣṇa consciousness in the Western countries, why didn’t He go there Himself? That’s what they told us.”

Prabhupāda answered, “So he left the credit for me!”

The devotees all cheered. “Jaya! Haribol!

“He loves His devotee more than Himself,” Śrīla Prabhupāda said.

Then Harikeśa asked, “Why didn’t Kṛṣṇa kill everybody at the Battle of Kurukṣetra?”

“Yes!” Prabhupāda enthusiastically replied, “Kṛṣṇa, by His simple desire He could kill. He said therefore, bhaviṣyatvānPṛthivīte āche yata nagarādi grāma sarvatra pracāra haibe. He [Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu] is leaving the task for somebody else.”

* * *

When preparing Śrīla Prabhupāda’s lunch yesterday, I discovered that the only salt available came in large crystalline lumps that had to be broken and crushed. Because this was somewhat troublesome, I spent half an hour making enough for the following few days, and put the small stone bowl containing the salt on Prabhupāda’s choṇki. I assumed that Prabhupāda would take as much as he wanted from the stock and leave the rest for future use.

During breakfast, however, Prabhupāda dipped pieces of fruit directly into the bowl rather than taking some salt from it onto his plate and leaving the rest. When I cleaned up afterwards I left the salt bowl on the table, thinking it would be all right to use it for other meals.

Though conversing with the other devotees, Śrīla Prabhupāda, as observant as ever, noticed what I did and immediately rebuked me. Calling me a yavana he complained about our Western eating habit of saving remnants of food. “There is no taste, no vitamin, and still they eat.”

Harikeśa asked if it would be all right if I kept the salt in the pot, and then put some on the plate when Prabhupāda took his prasādam.

“I do not know whether it is all right, but it is not all right that you eat and keep it. This is not all right.”

Yaśodānandana explained, “He keeps the salt in a separate bowl. When you require it, he will give you only as much as you require.”

Prabhupāda said, “Yes, that is nice.”

“That’s why the bowl is there,” I explained. “That’s what I intended to do, but I have to keep it away from the table.”

Prabhupāda said, “The principle should be that you should not leave remnants of food. As soon as it is used, it should not be used more. Otherwise it is not possible to give up. Paraà dṛṣṭvā nivartate. ‘I am eating something not very superior, but if I get the chance of eating something superior then I give up this inferior.’”

* * *

At 10:30 a.m. Prabhupāda went to the two-acre plot, where a simple paṇḍāl had been erected in the center. His vyāsāsana had been brought from Madras and was nicely decorated with flowers. In front of a small but enthusiastic crowd he performed the foundation-stone ceremony for the new temple.

The guest of honor, Śrī B. Gopāla Reddy, a former governor of Uttar Pradesh and, historically, the second chief minister of Andra Pradesh, presented Prabhupāda with a very large and colorful garland. Mr. Reddy gave a short speech, followed by Mahāàsa Swami and then Acyutānanda Swami. At last Śrīla Prabhupāda spoke.

After these preliminaries Prabhupāda got off the vyāsāsana and climbed down into a big hole in the ground with Acyutānanda. A water pot with a coconut on top was placed at the bottom of the hole along with auspicious items such as amṛta and flowers, as well as gold, silver, and copper coins. Then Prabhupāda broke a coconut and poured the water over it all, with the sannyāsīs following suit. Prabhupāda climbed back out and with a short speech unveiled a carved marble commemoration plaque. Finally he went back in the hole and laid a few bricks with cement.

With the foundation proceedings over, he happily initiated eleven new Indian disciples from Mahāàsa Swami’s party, distributing chanting beads and new names before returning to the house, leaving the sannyāsīs to complete the ceremony with a fire sacrifice.

* * *

Encouraging news of book distribution continues to pour in, to the great pleasure of His Divine Grace.

Hridayānanda Goswami reported progress in the Spanish and Portuguese language translations. “Everything is going on nicely in my zone. In Caracas some men are now selling one hundred Srimad Bhagavatams daily, and in one week-end the Caracas temple has sold sixteen hundred Bhagavatams and four thousand BTGs. We are now composing the Bhagavad-gita Como Ele E (Portuguese) for distribution in Brazil and Portugal, and it will go to the printer in about two or three months. I think that I am supposed to be your secretary for February, so I hope you will not mind my foolish presence. Actually, I just want to surrender unto You completely; everything is simply causing me pain except surrendering unto You. You are so great that I cannot conceive the extent of your glories. Please let me remain as a dog outside your door... ”

Prabhupāda listened carefully smiling at the news, humbly appreciative of his disciple’s glorification. He replied, “I am glad to learn that everything is going nicely in your zone. In South America the people are not so rich nor so enlightened as their North American neighbors, but they are very nice people and somewhat pious and that is their credit. Now just try to deliver Śrī Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s message to them. As you are doing, go on publishing books, more and more, in Spanish and Portuguese.

“It is very good that you have concentrated all the production of Spanish and Portuguese literature to Los Angeles. Please thank all of the devotees of the Spanish BBT for the beautiful edition of Bhagavad-gita As It Is. This book publishing was the most important work of my Guru Maharaja and he ordered me to continue in the Western world. So I am very much indebted to all of you who are helping me to carry out the order of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami. Please see that all of our books are translated as nicely as this edition of Bhagavad-gita As It Is.

“Jagadisa prabhu also is thinking to come as my GBC secretary for the month of February. If you come in February I have no objection, I can have three dozen secretaries. If your business will not suffer, you are welcome anytime. I wish to remain with all my disciples together, but we have to do preaching work and therefore have to remain separate. But actually there is no question of separation for one engaged in Lord Kṛṣṇa’s service... . ”

Prabhupāda’s comment about his desire to be with his disciples was neither flattery nor hyperbole. It has become quite apparent to me that Śrīla Prabhupāda truly enjoys associating with his disciples. He seems to thrive on it. Indeed, he never seems happier than when he is sitting or walking with his disciples and discussing the philosophy and activities of the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. He is such a wonderful and remarkably merciful person that although we are helpless fools, he actually wants to be with us. His transcendental nature constantly amazes me.

* * *

For the next few evenings Śrīla Prabhupāda is to lecture at a paṇḍāl held on the grounds of the Śrī Rebala Lakshminarasa Reddy Public Hall, on Nellore’s main street. The hall was a gift to the town by the same family that we are staying with.

At the rear the hall has an open area of about an acre, with a large, brick, stage-like platform built onto a back wall. It is over this that the colorful paṇḍāl has been erected.

The devotees have made adequate preparations with fresh flower garlands, an effective sound system, and a giant painting hanging above the back of the vyāsāsana depicting Lord Caitanya dancing and chanting with the animals in the forest of Jhārikhaṇḍa. A large aśvattha (ragi) tree overshadows the whole setup with its auspicious presence.

This evening a large crowd of about 6,000 people were gathered, eager to see and hear the sādhu who has been converting Westerners into followers of Vedic culture. Over the past few weeks they have seen the devotees perform kīrtana on the main streets of their town. Tonight they listened quietly and with full attention as Śrīla Prabhupāda lectured from the newly received Sixth Canto, Volume One, of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Śrī Kalaprapūrna Marupuru Kodandarami Reddy, a local poet and author, sitting respectfully at Śrīla Prabhupāda’s feet, translated his English speech into Telegu.

The topic of the lecture was prāyaścitta, or atonement for sinful acts. Śrīla Prabhupāda prescribed the chanting of the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra as the best means to counteract and remove sinful desires.

He related the story of a devotee of Lord Caitanya who after being sprinkled with water by the Nawab Hussein Shah was considered to have been converted into a Muslim. When the devotee asked a local brāhmaṇa what atonement he should perform, he was told to drink a kilogram of molten lead, while another brāhmaṇa recommended the same amount of hot ghee. Finally the devotee went to Lord Caitanya, who advised him to retire from family life, go to Vṛndāvana and chant Hare Kṛṣṇa.

In his summary Prabhupāda once again indicated his Western disciples as practical evidence of the holy name’s efficacy. “So this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is the thoroughly wholesale process of cleansing the mind. If we perform this Kṛṣṇa saṅkīrtana then immediately the core of the heart, which is filled up with all dirty things, will be cleansed.

“For example, you can see practically all my disciples present here. They are coming from Western countries: Europe, America, or even in India—Parsis and other, Mohammedans, they are coming. But they are now pure, cleansed of the dirty things. In this Movement throughout the whole world there are at least ten to twelve thousand devotees like that, and before this life they were all addicted to all kinds of sinful life. Now they are not committing the four pillars of sinful life. Therefore our request is that you take up this chanting method. It is very easy: Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare.”

He also added a caution. “But one thing we must be very careful of, that we should not commit again sinful life. If you chant Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra you become free immediately from all sinful reaction, but if you commit again sinful life, that is your responsibility. Among the ten kinds of offenses one is very grievous. Nāmnād balād yasya hi pāpa-buddhiḥ—if one thinks that ‘I am chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, therefore whatever sinful acts I am doing, it is becoming counteracted.’ Don’t commit the mistake of the elephant that takes bath thoroughly and again throw dust on your body.”

The audience appeared greatly satisfied with the lecture. Afterward the devotees requested Śrīla Prabhupāda to remain on stage to make a presentation of gifts to various gentlemen who had become Life Members during the day’s preaching. As they came forward one-by-one, Acyutānanda Swami announced their names to the crowd, and everyone clapped as each man received a set of books from Śrīla Prabhupāda’s own hand.

On the way back to the house Śrīla Prabhupāda told us that it is very good to tell a story in the middle of a talk. He explained that in Kali-yuga people are less intelligent, so the Bhāgavatam is ideal for this age because it gives instruction by way of stories.

January 5th, 1976

On their preaching tour in the South, Acyutānanda and Yaśodānandana Swamis have met an assortment of spiritual practitioners who have their own interpretations and twists on traditional Vedic siddhānta. Now they are taking full advantage of Prabhupāda’s association to get definitive answers to the challenges they regularly face.

On the walk this morning they played the role of impersonalists and challenged Prabhupāda with a barrage of Māyāvādī arguments. Yet, no matter how hard they tried, they couldn’t defeat the Vaiṣṇava exegesis with which Prabhupāda countered all their arguments.

Śrī G. Gopāla Reddy, the president of the local Rotary Club, also accompanied Śrīla Prabhupāda on the morning walk. He is the secretary of a committee that Mahāàsa Swami has formed for the new temple. The committee has been very active in making new ISKCON life members and obtaining pledges for construction work. Prabhupāda was happy to see him and thanked him for his efforts. Upon noticing a colony of bhaṇgis, or “untouchables,” Mr. Reddy mentioned that the government was distributing land to them. He asked whether ISKCON was engaged in any sort of social welfare work, because many people have asked him what our Society did to benefit others.

Prabhupāda replied by asking him what he considered the best social welfare.

When Mr. Reddy said serving the poor and the natives, Prabhupāda told him, “Everyone is poor. Who is rich? First of all find out: Who is rich?” Śrīla Prabhupāda went on to explain how everyone is poor because each of us must suffer disease, old age, and death. Adjustment of a person’s material condition can be done by anyone, but ISKCON was established for a different purpose. “These things are being done by so many other people, and we are doing something which is ultimate. The hospital gives some medicine when there is some disease, but that does not mean there will be no disease. Can they guarantee that, ‘I give you this medicine—no more disease?’ We are giving that medicine—that no more disease. That is the best social work. As soon as you give up this body—tyaktvā dehaà punar janma naiti—you’ll have no more birth. And if you have no more birth, there will be no more death. And if you have no more birth, then there will be no more disease. This is our prescription. Tyaktvā dehaà punar janma naiti māà eti. Not that he is finished; he goes back to home, back to Godhead. This is our program.”

On the way back to the house a companion of Mr. Reddy asked Śrīla Prabhupāda how to meditate. Although most people in India are familiar with the concept of mediation, or have even practiced some form of it themselves, the actual purpose of meditation is rarely understood. The man’s lack of knowledge became apparent when he explained that he thought the goal of meditation was to make the mind silent.

Prabhupāda immediately corrected him, saying that it is not possible to silence the mind. He recounted a recent Back to Godhead article where a woman disciple had analyzed the fallacy of the idea. Prabhupāda had greatly enjoyed the article in which the girl described how she had read in a book that meditation means “to free the mind of all thoughts.” So she considered, “How can I be without thoughts? I will think of being ‘without thoughts,’ and that is a thought.” Therefore she concluded it was bogus, and she threw away the meditation book.

Prabhupāda said the point is to think of God. This alone is the real goal of meditation—there is nothing higher. If one is a rascal and has nothing beneficial to say, then it is good if he is silent. Otherwise the Bhagavad-gītā never advises silent meditation. Kṛṣṇa says, satataà kīrtayanto māà. He never said that ‘You become silent.’ Where is? Can you show me any verse in the Bhagavad-gītā? Can you show me any verse where Kṛṣṇa has advised that you become silent? Or the mind is vacant? Where are these things?  

Man-manā bhava mad-bhakto: ‘The mind should be absorbed in My thought,’ man-manā. That is recommended. Where does He say that ‘Make your mind vacant and think of nonsense’? He never says. And where does He say that you become silent? He never says. Ya idaà paramaà guhyaà mad-bhakteṣv abhidhāsyatina ca tasmān manuṣyeṣu kaścin me priya-kṛttamaḥ[Bg. 18.68–69]: ‘Anyone who speaks about this Bhagavad-gītā, he is my dearmost friend,’ He said. So why one should be silent? Our ultimate aim is how to become dearmost to Kṛṣṇa, and He never says that ‘You become silent.’ Rather, He recommends that ‘You always be engaged in glorifying Me.’ Where is the ‘silent’? These are all manufactured by these rascals. Meditation and silence, these are not recommended in the Bhagavad-gītā.”

After the morning walk the sannyāsīs have been coming into Prabhupāda’s room for a few minutes, eager for as much association with him as they can get. As he relaxed behind his desk waiting for breakfast he told them our preaching will go on only if we have spiritual strength. “We may have external strength,” he said, “but success will only come if we have spiritual strength. Preaching programs will work only if there is purity.” Citing the example of one of his leading Godbrothers in the Gaudiya Matha, he pointed out that he had all kinds of material facility—money, maṭhas, etc. But what had he done for spreading Kṛṣṇa consciousness? He explained that simply amassing material wealth will not bring spiritual success, nor does it signify success. He gave the example of milk touched by a serpent: It looks like milk, but it is spoiled.

“How do we keep our spiritual strength?” Prabhupāda asked. We can keep our spiritual strength by being very strict Vaiṣṇavas, he told us: by strictly following the principles and not giving any consideration whatsoever to māyā’s allurements. Māyā is always trying to weaken us, he said, but if we think only of Kṛṣṇa we will have spiritual strength; if we think of something else then we will have no transcendental potency. As always, Śrīla Prabhupāda emphasized that we must remain strictly regulated and chant all our rounds every day.

* * *

All GBC members are required to send in monthly reports to Śrīla Prabhupāda. Satsvarūpa Mahārāja sent his for the month of December from Santa Cruz, California. He is in charge of the Library Party, selling standing orders of Prabhupāda’s books to universities in the U.S. and Europe. He and his group have been remarkably successful. They are now trying to approach public libraries, and he outlined his strategy in his letter. He also reported that many extremely favorable book reviews have been received from professors. He wrote, “They are praising your books in language more exalted than any of us disciples can praise!! The reviews from Oxford are from some of the biggest linguistic authorities in the world. All these amazing reviews are certainly one of the most important services of the Library Party.”

As well as library canvassing, his party has also been preaching in the Santa Cruz area, where many young people reside. In a spirit of cooperation with the West Coast GBC, Jayatīrtha, he had allowed one of his party, Cāru, to become president of the Berkeley temple. He hoped to leave another man in Santa Cruz to help with the preaching there. “I think we GBC should try more to help each other in the different zones and not take a sectarian spirit only for ‘our zone,’ especially when the zones are nearby.”

He has over 100 preaching engagements alone in Texas colleges during January and February and asked if he could carry small Gaura-Nitāi Deities onto the campuses.

He also wrote about his own growing interest in Prabhupāda’s books. “I am becoming more and more drawn to read the many books you have published. Since there are so many books, and since I am, as a sannyasi and a GBC, constantly being called to lecture and answer questions, I take it as a special responsibility. I have therefore, been trying to read at least three hours a day and more whenever possible, although I try not to neglect management duties. In your books and tapes I receive the greatest solace. Is this amount of time spent in reading excessive?”

Finally he said that they are researching the possibility of having favorable scholars make recommendations for Prabhupāda to receive the Nobel prize for literature.

Prabhupāda was happy to hear Satsvarūpa’s lengthy report. He was especially pleased with their success in making standing orders and with the idea of placing his books in public libraries, which he said would be a “great victory.” He also considered the book reviews very important. In fact, his secretary always carries a file with all the latest reviews, which Prabhupāda shows to visitors at every opportunity.

He also appreciated Satsvarūpa’s spirit of cooperation and told him, “Everything should be done cooperatively. ‘Our’ and ‘yours’ are material conceptions and have no place in our Krsna consciousness movement. If the members of our movement are unable to cooperate, it will be very difficult to spread the mission of Lord Caitanya.”

He did not approve of taking Deities into classrooms, lest the students think us fanatics, and instead recommended a large picture of Gaura-Nitāi.

As for Satsvarūpa’s reading schedule, Prabhupāda approved wholeheartedly. “Yes, as a sannyasi and GBC your first duty is to read my books. Otherwise how will you preach? In order to remain steadily fixed in Krsna consciousness there must be a sound philosophical understanding. Otherwise it will become only sentiment. Whenever you find time please read my books. Shortly we shall be introducing the system of examinations for those students who are ready for second initiation as well as sannyasa. According to the degree, devotees will be expected to read and assimilate our different books.

“Our first business is this book distribution. There is no need of any other business. If book distribution is managed properly, pushed on with great enthusiasm and determination and at the same time if our men keep spiritually strong, then the whole world will become Krsna conscious.”

Rādhāballabha dāsa sent a letter from Los Angeles requesting Śrīla Prabhupāda’s advice about the new printing standard for Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.

Prabhupāda’s main concern is practicality. He advised him that the first consideration was cost-effectiveness. He doesn’t want the price unnecessarily increased. Scholarly appreciation is important, but more important is Kṛṣṇa consciousness actually being put into practice.

Similarly he sees The Nectar of Instruction as a book of great worth because of its practical value. The devotees have been thinking it primarily a book for distribution within ISKCON, thus the small printing. Prabhupāda, however, sees it as having a far wider audience.

He expressed the same sentiment to Rādhāballabha that he impressed upon Tamal Krishna Mahārāja a few days earlier. “The Nectar of Instruction has come out very nice. It is very important and must be immediately read by all the devotees. In the near future we shall introduce the Bhakti-sastri examination for second initiation, and this shall be one of the required books of study. Anyone who reads it will immediately understand what Krsna consciousness is. Some minister in Bombay recently asked me how to create morality among the students, because the students are all vagabonds. If this book is introduced for study in the schools and colleges it will give a clear idea of what morality actually is. It is a most important book.”

Prabhupāda is also closely supervising revisions of his books and has approved of correcting printing and editorial mistakes in earlier editions. Rādhāballabha mentioned that on Harikeśa’s advice the BBT has postponed reprinting the First Canto of the Bhāgavatam because Prabhupāda was apparently not pleased with the standard of correction.

Prabhupāda confirmed this. “I will have to see personally what are the mistakes in the synonyms and also how you intend to correct them. I was not satisfied with the corrections that were made before. I saw some changes which I did not approve. Nitai may correct whatever mistakes are there, but the corrected material must be sent to me for final approval. So reprinting the volumes will have to wait until the mistakes are corrected and approved by me.”

In another package Jadurāṇī dāsī, chief BBT artist, sent some sketches of proposed paintings for an upcoming Bhāgavatam production. Śrīla Prabhupāda regularly receives sketches from the artists before allowing them to paint any scenes, but during the recent Caitanya-caritāmṛta production marathon he permitted them to paint without his prior approval for the sake of expediency. Now that all seventeen volumes are out, the pressure is off, and he confirmed his desire to revert to the previous arrangement.

Being with Prabhupāda is like being at Action Central. It is exciting and educational to observe how he attentively oversees every aspect of ISKCON’s development and preaching, especially anything connected with book production and distribution.

* * *

Later in the day Prabhupāda visited the Raṅganātha Temple here in Nellore. This impressive building was founded in A.D. 1070 on the bank of the River Pennar, sometimes called the Penarkini, by the Śrī Vaiṣṇavas, the followers of Rāmānujācārya. It is home to a very large Deity of Raṅganātha, Lord Garbhodakaśāyī Viṣṇu.

We entered the temple compound through a massive 110-year-old gopuram, an edifice similar to a temple dome. It is about ninety-five feet high and covered with dioramas of hundreds of Viṣṇu avatāras. After passing through its high-arched gateway we walked across a small courtyard surrounded by private residences, entering the original walled compound of the temple proper.

Prabhupāda was warmly received by a small crowd of local dignitaries and priests. It was wonderful to see them honor him with pomp and ceremony. After being draped with a newly woven cloth, he was led around the temple precincts preceded by a shenai band. The band included a nadaswaram, which is a six-foot-long shenai. Its exotic wail traditionally announces the presence of an auspicious guest. There was also a thavil, a double-headed drum played atone end with a stick and slapped by the player’s metal-ringed fingers at the other, producing staccato rhythms.

High above Prabhupāda’s head the white silken canopy of an eight-foot-wide ceremonial umbrella offered shade, while simultaneously marking the position to inquisitive bystanders of the most important person present.

Proceeding down the left side of the inner courtyard Prabhupāda was taken first to a small shrine of Raṅga-nāyakī-devi, the four-handed seated Deity form of Lakṣmīdevi.

He was led next into a multi-mirrored room used for various festivals. Built in the 1930s, a gazebo structure stood in the center, its four columns covered in mirrors. The gazebo’s ceiling had a painting of baby Kṛṣṇa sucking His toe. Beneath it, there was a sitting place for the Deity.

On the gazebo’s four corners hung large glass bowls for use as candle holders. The walls of the entire room were mirrored to a height of eight feet, the rest of the walls being decorated with various colorful paintings of Viṣṇu and kṛṣṇa-līlā. The main ceiling was covered with paintings of the Daśāvatāras.

Our guides explained that the mirrored room was built to enable people to see the Deity from anywhere in the room.

From there Prabhupāda was led into the main temple, its interior very majestic and imposing. Uneven floors of black stone and colored ceramic tiles accentuated its antiquity. Beams of solid rock running across the tops of about eighty or ninety equally substantial pillars supported the low, stone-slab ceiling. The pillars were spaced so closely together I got the impression of having ventured into a maze.

There was a squat, claustrophobic feel to the nave, and the lack of natural light in the inner chamber made me feel very insignificant indeed.

After a parikrama of the Deity room, the pūjārīs finally led Prabhupāda into the sanctum-sanctorium. We walked first through an ancient portal flanked by six-feet-high mūrtis of the Vaikuṇṭha guardians Jaya and Vijaya. Then we passed under a small carving of Gaja-Lakṣmī, Lakṣmī flanked by two elephants pouring water on her. We passed thick, heavy doors adorned with at least thirty or forty heavy brass bells hanging from large metal rings. Inside, a final arch of tarnished silver bore the symbols of the Śrī Vaiṣṇava sampradāya: Garuḍa, lotus, tilaka, conch, and Hanuman. Ornamental snakes coiled around either side of the arch’s underside.

Passing through this archway to the innermost recess we finally came upon a ten-feet-long Deity of Garbhodakaśāyī Viṣṇu, lying resplendent on His back on His couch of Ananta Śeṣa. He wore a high-peaked silver helmet, and His long arms and lotus feet were covered with silver. Lakṣmī sat on a lotus flower on His chest. Overall, His appearance was extremely impressive.

On the back wall, rising from the Lord’s navel, Lord Brahmā perched upon his lotus. At Lord Viṣṇu’s lotus feet stood Śrī- and Bhū-devis, His eternal consorts. Standing in front of the main Deities was the utsava mūrti (festival Deity) of Raṅganātha Swami. This was flanked by twenty-six-inch-high, beautifully formed Deities of Śrī and Bhū.

As Prabhupāda stepped inside the Deity room we also pressed in close behind, eager to have the opportunity of the Lord’s intimate darśana. Prabhupāda stood silently as the pūjārī made a simple offering to the Lord by waving a plate of burning camphor and coconut before the Deities. The pūjārī then distributed the blessings of the Supreme Lord by placing a helmet with miniature shoes of Viṣṇu on the top of it, first on Prabhupāda’s head and then on ours.

We left the central temple, crossing to the other side of the compound where Śrīla Prabhupāda was shown yet another small house divided into two chambers. One room housed various palanquins for the use of the utsava Deities. Especially impressive was a golden palanquin built in the shape of Garuḍa. There were others in the shapes of a swan, celestial serpent, an elephant, and a lion. The other, inner chamber, contained a shrine in which reposed Deities of seventeen Alwars (personal forms of the paraphernalia of Viṣṇu) beginning with Rāmānujācārya.

After seeing all the Deities, Prabhupāda was given a seat of honor in a covered section of temple enclosure. We were then invited to perform kīrtana, and all the locals joyfully joined in. A few minutes later our hosts served us an excellent feast. It was done so quickly and efficiently that Prabhupāda afterward commented that their management had been first-class. He said he wanted us to learn how to manage things as nicely. It was an enjoyable visit, and Prabhupāda was highly pleased.

As we returned in the car, however, Tamal Krishna Mahārāja sounded a bleak note. He mentioned that the temple was now in government hands, even though the Rāmanujites were looking after it. Every temple in Andhra Pradesh has been taken over by the government. The takeover scheme was originally meant to usurp the revenue collected by Śrī Bālajī, the famous Deity at Tirupati, Who is said to receive at least one lakh of rupees every day in donations from pious visitors. Mahārāja said that he thought the long-term strategy was to allow the temples to become gradually run down, and then to close them. Prabhupāda seemed to agree.

* * *

The evening program was very good, and again it was a maximum capacity turnout. Prabhupāda continued his previous night’s topic about atonement, with the next two verses from the Sixth Canto.

“Mahārāja Parīkṣit said, ‘One may know that sinful activity is injurious for him because he actually sees that a criminal is punished by the government and rebuked by the people in general and because he hears from the scriptures and learned scholars that one is thrown into a hellish condition in the next life for committing sinful acts. Nevertheless, in spite of such knowledge one is forced to commit sins again and again, even after performing acts of atonement. Therefore what is the value of such atonement?

“‘Sometimes one who is very alert so as not to commit sinful acts is victimized by sinful life again. I therefore consider this process of repeated sinning and atoning to be useless. It is like bathing of an elephant, for an elephant cleanses itself by taking a full bath, but then throws dust over its head and body as soon as it returns to the land.’”

The second śloka describing the bathing of the elephant is a favorite of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s. He gave a wonderfully fluent lecture to his spellbound audience explaining how only the process of devotional service can fully eradicate the desires that lead a person to commit sinful acts. To illustrate this point he told the story of Mṛgāri the hunter who had formerly taken great pleasure in half-killing animals but, after meeting the great saint Nārada Muni and becoming a Vaiṣṇava, was reluctant to even step on an ant.

Although he stressed the performance of tapasya as a necessity for spiritual advancement he also acknowledged that in this age concessions were required, and given. “Tapasya means beginning with brahmācārya, celibacy. We have given the meaning of tapasya: austerity or voluntary rejection of material enjoyment. ‘I do not like to do something because it is not pleasing to me, but for the sake of advancement in spiritual life I must have it.’ Now one may say that ‘If I give up all these things which I am habituated to, there will be some painful condition.’ So therefore Bhagavad-gītāhas recommended to tolerate, even though it is painful. It is not at all painful, but for those who are trying to practice, in the beginning it may be painful. Bhagavān, Kṛṣṇa, is advising that even it is painful, you must do it and tolerate it. Sometimes to cure our disease, for example a fever, we have to swallow very bitter quinine pills. But Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, considering the people of this age, Kali-yuga, He knew that people will not be able to tolerate even such little pain for advancing in spiritual life, so He therefore recommended harer nāma harer nāma harer nāmaiva kevalam/ kalau nāsty eva nāsty eva nāsty eva gatir anyathā.”

The evening ended with another presentation of books to new life members. As the devotees showed a film and chanted, Prabhupāda returned by car to the house.

January 6th, 1976

On the morning walk there was some discussion about the Tirupati temple, which houses Bālajī, the richest Deity in India. Prabhupāda suggested that Mahāàsa Swami approach the managers of the temple for a grant to build our temple here in Nellore. Mahāàsa explained that in recent years the management of Tirupati, along with that of all the temples in the state, had been taken over by the government.

This led to a long discussion whether our ISKCON temples could also be taken over. If they could, it would be on the basis of their being “Hindu” temples. So Śrīla Prabhupāda, in order to avoid any government interference, suggested that we register the temples as American property. Apart from that, he said we are not Hindu. The word Hindu isn’t in the Bhagavad-gītā, and the teachings of Bhagavad-gītā are for everyone, not just Hindus. Śrīla Prabhupāda strongly emphasized this point and even said that we could go to court to prove we are not Hindus.

After the morning walk the sannyāsīs gathered in Śrīla Prabhupāda’s room. Yaśodānandana Mahārāja showed him what he said was a Dvārakā-śīlā, a brown-and-white-freckled stone, and asked if it was all right to worship.

“It can be used as paper weight,” Prabhupāda said, unimpressed.

When Yaśodānandana Swami mentioned that some temples worshipped the Dvārakā-śīlā along with the Śālagrāma-śīlā, Prabhupāda was dismissive. “That’s all right, but we have no such instruction.”

Prabhupāda called in Harikeśa, and had everyone sit while Harikeśa read some of his Dialectic Spiritualism. Last night he had read to Prabhupāda for forty-five minutes, and Prabhupāda was very pleased. Prabhupāda said that the article should immediately be printed in BTG, as well as be sent to Hansadūta for printing in German and Russian.

Harikeśa used many relevant examples to disprove the theories of Lenin and Engels, most of them given by Śrīla Prabhupāda over the last few weeks, along with some of his own. He completely disproved their theory of idealistic materialism, showing it to be an illogical, nonsensical notion.

Encouraging further debate on the subject, Prabhupāda said that there could be no question of a “dialectic” in discussions between materialists, because all parties involved were imperfect. He challenged us that if they are indeed imperfect, what is the value of their discussion? He gave an example to illustrate the point. “If children discuss some serious subject matter, what is the value? They are all children in the cradle of nature, that’s all. Therefore prakṛteḥ kriyamāṇāni. Just like children, ‘Ha! Sit down here.’ He has to sit down. Then where is his freedom to discuss? Prakṛtisays that ‘You sit down here. Don’t go there!’ He has to accept. Then what is the value of discussion?”

Harikeśa continued to read aloud, explaining how food production is dependent on God. Acyutānanda Swami pointed out that in Russia they don’t have enough grains, yet the Communists like to accuse the religionists of withholding food to control the population.

Prabhupāda asked why they are having grain shortages, and I recalled that in the newspapers they had reported insufficient rainfall in the Eastern-bloc countries, forcing them to buy elsewhere.

“Then?” he inquired, and promptly answered his own question. “Then you have to depend on rain, and when we say, parjanyād anna-sambhavaḥ. And yajṣād bhavati parjanyah. That means, rascal, you take one side, ardha-kukkuti-nyāya. Cut the chicken in half, and separate the mouth—it is expensive—and keep the rear side. You get eggs.” He laughed heartily at the foolishness of trying to grow grains without making the necessary sacrifice. “So this is ardha-kukkuti-nyāya. The rascal does not know that if you separate the mouth, there will be no egg.”

* * *

Later in the morning Prabhupāda called in Tamal Krishna Goswami to formulate a plan he has been discussing over the last couple of days to raise the standards of the brāhmaṇas in ISKCON. He expressed concern that many of our men are not familiar with our books. Especially here in India the smārta-brāhmaṇas sometimes criticize us for our lack of scriptural understanding. He wants the level of ISKCON education improved and then tested by a system of examinations, recognition being given to those who pass the different exams by the awarding of titles. Prabhupāda said that if a man can’t pass at least the Bhakti-śāstrī exam, the first level, he must be understood to be low class. The other morning he said that all potential second initiates should be tested to this standard, otherwise they couldn’t be awarded the sacred thread.

He is very serious about implementing this system. He instructed Tamal Krishna Mahārāja to immediately send out a letter to all the GBCs so they can discuss how to start this program at the upcoming meeting in Māyāpur.

Later Tamal Krishna read the letter he’d composed out for Prabhupāda’s approval.

“To all Governing Body Commissioners

Re: Examinations for awarding titles of Bhaktisastri, Bhaktibaibhava, Bhaktivedanta and Bhaktisarvabhouma. Your response is requested immediately by Śrīla Prabhupāda.

Dear Prabhus,

Please accept my most humble obeisances. Śrīla Prabhupāda has requested me to write you in regard to the above examinations which he wishes to institute. Here in India many persons often criticize our sannyasis and brahmanas as being unqualified due to insufficient knowledge of the scriptures. Factually, there are numerous instances when our sannyasis and brahmanas have fallen down often due to insufficient understanding of the philosophy. This should not be a point of criticism nor a reason for fall down, since Śrīla Prabhupāda has mercifully made the most essential scriptures available to us in his books. The problem is that not all the devotees are carefully studying the books, the result being a fall down or at least unsteadiness.

“His Divine Grace therefore wishes to institute examinations to be given to all prospective candidates for sannyasa and brahmana initiation. In addition he wishes that all present sannyasis and brahmanas also pass the examination. Awarding of these titles will be based upon the following books:

Bhaktisastri—Bhagavad-gita, Nectar of Devotion, Nectar of Instruction, Isopanisad, Easy Journey to Other Planets, and all other small paper backs, as well as Arcana-paddhati (a book to be compiled by Nitai prabhu based on Hari-bhakti-vilasa on Deity worship)

Bhaktibaibhava —All the above plus the first six cantos of Srimad-Bhagavatam

Bhaktivedanta—All the above plus cantos 7 through 12 of Srimad-Bhagavatam

Bhaktisarvabhouma—All the above plus the entire Caitanya- caritamrta.

“Anyone wishing to be initiated as a brahmana will have to pass the Bhaktisastri exam, and anyone wishing to take sannyasa will have to pass the Bhaktibaibhava examination as well. This will prevent our Society from degrading to the level of so many other institutions where, in order to maintain the temple, they have accepted all third class men as brahmanas. Any sannyasis or brahmanas already initiated who fail to pass the exams will be considered low class or less qualified. Anyone wishing to be second initiated will sit for examination once a year at Mayapur. Answers will be in essay form and authoritative quotations will be given a bigger score. During the exams books may not be consulted.

“Śrīla Prabhupāda wishes to begin this program at this year’s Mayapur meeting. He requests that you all send your opinions and comments here immediately so that everything may be prepared in time.”

Śrīla Prabhupāda endorsed it with his signature at the bottom and it was duly sent out.

An interesting letter arrived today from Dīna-dayal dāsa, a brahmacārī who has just opened a new center in Pireaus, the port of Athens, Greece. He related how Kṛṣṇa helped him as soon as he arrived in Athens. “The first day I arrived in Athens I went to a small guest house. The owner of the house, an elderly woman of about sixty, happily invited me in and gave me a room without question. Later she said that Lord Kṛṣṇa had sent me to her. I put some tilaka on her head and she brought a murti of Lord Visnu out and we offered some incense to Lord Visnu. A few days later I told her I was leaving and she said I could stay without charge if I wanted, and she invited me to come with her to her metaphysics group of about forty people. The teacher of the group asked me to speak and I told them about you, Lord Caitanya, and Lord Krnsa. Everyone chanted Hare Krnsa, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, and they were interested in your books and Back to Godhead.”

Dīna-dayal also enclosed a Greek newspaper article describing his activities. He pointed out that it included Kṛṣṇa’s name four times, as well as Śrīla Prabhupāda’s. He was attracting guests by offering free English lessons, which he conducted using Kṛṣṇa book as the basic text. The article also mentioned a program of free food distribution for the poor.

Śrīla Prabhupāda was pleased to hear of Dīna-dayal’s pioneering activities and sent him letter, commending him and encouraging him further. “Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu desires that in every city, town and village Krsna consciousness should be preached. Therefore I left Vrindavana to come to your country. And now you have left your country also on behalf of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, therefore your life is glorious. May Krsna bless you that your preaching attempt becomes successful. As soon as a devotee endeavors to serve Krsna, Krsna immediately wants to help that devotee. Krsna will certainly protect and maintain you. You are an intelligent, sincere boy, so try to introduce this Movement to the people of Greece. Everyone in the world is suffering. Despite so many attempts on the part of the Governments and planning commissions of the world, still the suffering continues. People are thinking that by more education, hospitals, food and so many other things they will become happy. But we actually have the ingredient which alone can make them satisfied—Krsna consciousness. So please deliver Krsna to everyone you meet; instruct them in the philosophy of Bhagavad-gita As It Is. If it is possible to get our books translated into Greek that will be very helpful for your preaching. In the meantime as you are preaching to intelligent persons such as the lawyer you met, they will be able to read English, so you can give them our English books.”

Prabhupāda approved of his idea to introduce Kṛṣṇa consciousness through the medium of teaching English based on the Kṛṣṇa book, coupled with chanting and prasādam distribution. At the end of the letter Prabhupāda emphasized the actual requirement for successful preaching. “The important thing is that you behave nicely, chant all your rounds and follow strictly the regulative principles. Example is better than precept. These spiritual practices are our actual strength.”

Akṣayānanda Swami sent some information about his recent preaching in Kanpur, where the Vṛndāvana devotees held a series of paṇḍāl programs. He reported good attendance and publicity. Their presence had also inspired some local men to help us acquire land for a center. “I beg to inform you,” he wrote, “that Sri R.N. Bhargava, of Nath Opticians, 18/53, The Mall, Kanpur, our Life Patron Member, is offering us fifteen acres of land in Kanpur at a place called Katri Corner.”

He gave a detailed description of the land and its location. Although the site is a little remote and undeveloped, it was offered for ISKCON’s unconditional usage. He also described another piece of land that might be available for lease near the Kailash Temple in Kanpur. However, the conditions on this property are not clear because of litigation between the brothers that own it. Finally, he reported that several devotees have arrived in Vṛndāvana from the West to help with the Deity cooking and pūjārī work at Krishna-Balaram Mandir.

In India it is not uncommon to receive gifts of land, but the intentions behind such offerings are not always completely genuine. Śrīla Prabhupāda appreciated Mr. Bhargava’s offer because there were no strings attached. “Regarding the land of Sri R. N. Bhargava,” he wrote, “since he is offering it to us for our unconditional use, why not take it? If there is possibility of developing the land, then we can take it.” Nevertheless he showed more interest in the centrally located property, even though it could only be leased. He wrote, “That land would be the most ideal for establishing our center in Kanpur.”

And as always, he expressed his concern about the land we already had. “I am glad to know that new men are coming to help with the activities in Vrndavana temple. The kitchen department should be very clean and things should not be wasted. This is the first consideration. Yesterday we have visited a very old and famous Ranganatha Temple here in Nellore. Everything is being managed very nicely, and there are very nice arrangements for those who come for darsana. Sosimilarly our temple in Vrndavana must be managed expertly that everyone who comes is given caranamrita and prasadam of the Deity.”

* * *

In the early evening Prabhupāda held darśana about half an hour for some guests. They wanted to know why no intelligent, well-educated Indians are coming forward to join ISKCON and why only the Westerners are taking it up when it isn’t even their culture.

Prabhupāda told them the Indians are too attached to family life, and he cited the example of M.K. Gandhi. This greatly surprised the guests, as Gandhi is generally revered throughout India as a great renunciate. How could he be an example of an attached person?

Prabhupāda skillfully broadened their perspective by explaining that Gandhi had been so attached to the concept of being Indian that he had to die before giving it up. He explained that this is the gṛhamedhī concept—identification with, and attachment to, one’s own body, the immediate expansions of the body, and the greater expansion, one’s nation. Whether the attachment is immediate or extended, the mentality of bodily identification is the same.

The guests nodded appreciatively as they began to perceive that only Kṛṣṇa consciousness can give real detachment. They could understand that it is not the property of India, but a universal principle that has nothing to do with nationality.

Prabhupāda went on to say that the one advantage Westerners have is that they are generally not as attached to their families as Indians. But lacking a positive alternative, they end up as hippies. “Now,” he said, “I am offering something positive, and so many men are coming.”   

* * *

Prabhupāda continued his evening paṇḍāl lecture series from the Sixth Canto:

kecit kevalayā bhaktyā vasudeva-parāyaṇāḥ 

 aghaà dhunvanti kārtsnyena  nīhāram iva bhāskaraḥ. [SB 6.1.15] 

“Only a rare person who has adopted complete, unalloyed devotional service to Kṛṣṇa can uproot the weeds of sinful actions with no possibility that they will revive. He can do this simply by discharging devotional service, just as the sun can immediately dissipate fog by its rays.”

He stressed that kecit means “somebody,” not just anybody. It does not refer to the karmīsjṣānis, and yogis but to those situated on the platform of anyābhilāṣitā-śūnyaà, the mood of pure devotional service to Kṛṣṇa. He told the packed audience that they should begin devotional service in the recommended way, by hearing from an authorized source. This in turn will enable them to perform kīrtana and preach. And by hearing and speaking about the Supreme, Lord Kṛṣṇa can be conquered.

He ended his long lecture with the same message of encouragement that seems to characterize his Indian preaching tours. “Our miserable condition of life is due to our material attraction or pāpa, impious activities. Here it is confirmed kevalayā bhaktyā, aghaà dhunvanti kārtsnyena: totally you can kill all reaction of sinful activities. And a very good example is given here—nīhāram iva bhāskaraḥNīhāra means fog. In the fog you cannot see what is there in your front. But as soon as there is sunrise, immediately fog is dissipated. If you come to Kṛṣṇa consciousness, the light is there. Therefore the darkness of life is dissipated.

“So this Movement is giving the chance to everyone. It doesn’t mean for any particular nation, particular country, or particular person. For everyone. Caitanya Mahāprabhu said, ‘All over the world, in every village and every town, this message will be spread,’ and that is being done now. So it is a great Movement. I request you all to join wholeheartedly. Thank you very much. Hare Kṛṣṇa.”

Each night there is an increasing number of gentlemen coming on stage to receive books from Prabhupāda. The devotees go out preaching during the day, and Prabhupāda’s presence has greatly enhanced the life membership enrollments. There is a great deal of enthusiasm on the part of the local people, so the future looks promising for preaching in Nellore.

January 7th, 1976

On the walk this morning Acyutānanda Swami made Prabhupāda laugh when he humorously described his meetings with a few well-known svāmīs and sādhus.

As they walked, the conversation sobered when Śrīla Prabhupāda condemned the mentality of exploiting nature for personal sense gratification. “Prahlāda Mahārāja said tat prayāsaà na kartavyam: ‘This kind of endeavor you should not do, exploitation,’ unnecessarily trying for developing economic condition. The modern civilization is: ‘Exploit nature and materially be opulent.’”

Yaśodānandana said, “It has been seen everywhere we travel that there is plenty of rice, there is plenty of food growing, but the government is advertising that there is scarcity of food. Yet there is plenty growing everywhere.”

“And reduce population, kill it,” Prabhupāda added. “Hiraṇyakaśipu was doing that.”

“Birth control?” Acyutānanda wondered.

“Yes,” Prabhupāda said. “Prajāpati. He stopped Prajāpatis to beget children.”

As the walk progressed the devotees questioned him on a variety of topics. In India the multiplicity of religious thought and ritual sometimes puzzles inexperienced devotees. Having Śrīla Prabhupāda personally present is a good opportunity to clear up any confusion.

One devotee asked Prabhupāda about a particular type of Durgā worship he had come across in South India. He said that a Life Member in Bangalore told him that worship of Śānti Durgā was in the mode of goodness. He wanted some clarification.

Acyutānanda offered his understanding that sattva-guṇa is also māyā.

Prabhupāda said, “From Brahma-saàhitā we understand, sṛṣṭi-sthiti-pralaya. The pralaya [destruction] is amaṅgala, and sṛṣṭi [creation] is maṅgalaSthiti [maintenance] is also maṅgala. So Gaurī has got three functions, Durgā.”

Ānandamoya, a French devotee stationed in Hyderabad, wanted to clarify what seemed an apparent contradiction concerning the falling down of devotees and the eternal nature of devotional service. He asked, “A devotee who has tasted the nectar of the lotus feet of the Lord can never forget it. Does it mean that his journey in the material world is about to finish?”

Prabhupāda didn’t answer himself. Instead he said, “Answer, somebody.”

Mahāàsa replied, “He falls due to certain offenses, but afterwards, by the mercy of a pure devotee, he comes back. Because he has tasted the nectar of devotional service, he may try to enjoy the material world for some time. But afterwards, he will be fed up again and come back.”

“There’s a statement in the Bhagavad-gītā that if one is engaged in the service of the Lord, even if he falls down, he is to be considered saintly,” Tamal Krishna said.

Prabhupāda agreed. “Yes, if it is accidental. If it is purposefully, then he is not saintly; then he is offender.”

Another devotee wasn’t certain what “accidentally” actually meant. Prabhupāda elaborated. “Accident. He had former habit and unknowingly he has done something wrong. That is accident. That is explained by Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura. Not purposefully doing wrong. That is aparādhaNāmnād balād yasya hi pāpa-buddhiḥ.”

Acyutānanda Mahrāja asked about two sets of Deities, one within ISKCON and another elsewhere. At our New Delhi center the Deities are called Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Pārtha-sārathi. Since Pārtha-sārathī means ‘the chariot driver of Arjuna’ he wanted to know how Rādhārāṇī, who is only present in Vṛndāvana-līlā, could be included when Kṛṣṇa is in that role.

Prabhupāda answered, “When Kṛṣṇa is Pārtha-sārathi, Rādhā is out of Him? Does it mean? Rādhā kṛṣṇa-praṇaya-vikṛtir hlādinī śaktir. When He is fighting, the hlādinī śakti is there. It is not manifest.”

The other set of Deities Acyutānanda Swami had seen were of Rādhā, Rukmiṇī, and Kṛṣṇa together. “So won’t Kṛṣṇa feel embarrassed to stand between Rādhā and Rukmiṇī at the same time?”

Prabhupāda laughed. “Why? Why embarrassed? Two sides? One side, Rādhā... ”

“Yes. One side Rādhā, one side Rukmiṇī.” Acyutānanda said.

Tamal Krishna asked, “Is that bona fide, Prabhupāda?”

“Yes,” Prabhupāda said. “I don’t find any fault.”

Acyutānanda, however, wanted to be certain. “It’s not rasābhāsa?”

So Prabhupāda went on to say, “Not rasābhāsa. But it is not mentioned in anywhere. This is mental concoction... they should not have done like that.”

Acyutānanda also asked about the clay which devotees use to anoint themselves with tilaka. “The gopī-candana comes from the lake where they say the gopīs drowned themselves, and that it is near Dvārakā. Is that a true story?”

Prabhupāda was noncommittal. “Maybe they might have gone.”

In his room after the walk Prabhupāda continued talking about the Māyāvādīs, especially one in South India who has attracted many followers by displaying magic.

At one point Acyutānanda Swami said he heard one of his followers criticize us, saying that we were bookworms.

Prabhupāda immediately responded, making us all laugh, “And he is stool worm! He will become this in his next life for cheating so many people!”

* * *

Just after breakfast some reporters from the local press came for an interview. The conversation soon came to the subject of Gandhi’s nonviolent movement, which he tried to establish on the basis of the Bhagavad-gītā.

Again, there were surprised looks and new-found realizations when Prabhupāda deftly revealed how Gandhi had spoiled the Gītā by trying to derive the philosophy of non-violence from it. He explained how in practical terms Gandhi could not establish non-violence because he himself was shot dead. Therefore his whole movement was a failure. He went on to argue that apart from that, how could a politician be nonviolent? In the Bhagavad-gītā Arjuna was explicitly instructed by Kṛṣṇa to be violent. He told him to fight and to arm himself with the weapon of knowledge. So how could Gandhi construe a message of non-violence from the Gītā? Prabhupāda concluded that Gandhi unfortunately had no knowledge.

The pressmen, won over by Śrīla Prabhupāda’s charming demeanor and brilliant responses, left well satisfied and impressed by their meeting.

* * *

Even in remote Nellore the mail is being delivered, and Prabhupāda continues to provide resolutions to problems, general and personal, great and small, throughout ISKCON.

One letter came from Brahmānanda Swami in Nairobi. He was formerly Prabhupāda’s permanent secretary, but since he was also the GBC for Africa, Prabhupāda sent him back there in November to deal with some disturbances.

Brahmānanda reported that some irresponsible devotees had caused difficulties, damaging our reputation among the Indians, especially in Mombasa. This caused a great strain because we depend on the Indians for financial support. As such, the temple has fallen into debt.

Although Śrīla Prabhupāda had inquired when Brahmānanda would be able to take up his secretarial duties again, Brahmānanda asked to remain in Africa. “I think that we should return to our decision at Mayapur last year, that every month a different GBC secretary remains with Your Divine Grace to handle the correspondence and to be in your association. Syamasundara was your secretary and out of his zone for so long, and his zone deteriorated. So I do not think that any GBC, including myself, can remain away from his zone for any lengthy period and expect things to just go on, especially in regards to the spiritual standards. So I request that I will remain here until the Mayapur festival time.”

Tamal Krishna also confirmed to Prabhupāda that the situation in Africa is not at all good. The devotees are living on donations of rice because no money is coming in from the Life Membership Program. Prabhupāda declared that the feckless men who have caused the difficulty should not be given responsible positions again. He described them as “simply loafer class.”  

He also blamed Brahmānanda Swami for not keeping a check on his zone. “This is the business of GBC,” he said, “to see that things go on nicely and to check bad influences.” But he gladly noted Brahmānanda’s sense of responsibility, and he shared a little news of his current preaching. “As you report that things have deteriorated in Africa, you can stay there if necessary... . The first business is that the GBC must see to the management of their zones. Still, I require a permanent secretary. In addition, one GBC man may come and go.

“Here we have been given a nice piece of land measuring nine acres. The local people are very enthusiastic, and the plan is to construct a Radha-Krsna Temple complex.”

Several letters came in from the South Seas area. Upendra wrote from Hawaii explaining that after having left us in New Delhi filled with enthusiasm to preach, he was refused entry into Fiji because of insufficient funds. He then was put back on board the very same aircraft and immediately flown back to Hawaii. Now he wanted to know how and where to proceed.

Apart from this, he also posed some philosophical questions that clearly illustrate what Śrīla Prabhupāda commented on yesterday: the need to elevate the standard of the devotees’ knowledge by systematic study of his publications. “There are times when I take all my relationships within ISKCON and the pleasures and difficulties as something like a dream only. I am reminded of the time you explained to me that there is no reality in this world save and except the Divine Name and service to Him. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam I have also read that all this having to do with past, present and future is a dream only. I am understanding ‘Yes, even these relations as my wife, my children or my friends or close Godbrothers in Krsna consciousness, ISKCON, are as like sticks meeting in a stream, to be separated in time but with the same end of Krsna bhakti, back to Home or the Ocean.’ That they are still part of these past, present and future of the measuring temperament, though the devotional service and sentiments therein are eternally developing or lasting. It was raised that ‘No, our relationships formed here in ISKCON with one another are eternal in themselves in addition to the service. That ISKCON and we members as we are known now shall be known there... . All this I was unable to support scripturally and lest I make an offense and direct error I place this before you.

“This previous question is no doubt the result of my unexercised mind in Krsna consciousness, which brings me to: So long these years as your weak disciple I kept the anchor of sense gratification not pulled up and so my ‘rowing’ was strenuous and appears to have gotten me nowhere with little result. Now again preaching I find myself heavily unstudied in your books and feel incompetent. After so long with bad habits and many fall-downs I know that the renewed attempt will be more difficult. Kindly advise me specifically in this connection... . After having committed so many offenses and spending years not studying your books what is my position and what is the hope for me?”

Prabhupāda replied clearly to dispel his confusion, and as always was full of encouragement for pushing forward the preaching mission. “As to your question concerning whether relationships between devotees are eternal, the answer is ‘yes.’ This is confirmed by Sri Narottama dasa Thakura: ‘cakhudana dilo yei, janme janme prabhu sei’, he is my lord birth after birth. In this way you have to understand, by studying carefully the philosophy. We have got so many books now and I want all of my disciples to read them carefully. Soon we shall be instituting Bhaktisastri examinations and all brahmanas will have to pass. So utilize whatever time you find to make a thorough study of my books. Then all your questions will be answered.”

Madhudviṣa Swami also wrote from Fiji, explaining some managerial problems confronting him. The Society in Fiji is being organized mainly by Mr. Deoji Punja and his family, and gradually others are becoming involved. In legally registering ISKCON Madhudviṣa wants to make sure that all trustees are conforming to Prabhupāda’s standards, following the regulative principles and chanting sixteen rounds daily. Mr. Punja is adhering to the principles, but one or two of the other present trustees are not, although they are very favorable and have given large donations. He requested Prabhupāda to ask them personally to stand down in favor of Deoji’s brother, Karsanji.

Prabhupāda knows it is a sensitive issue. The impetus for the establishment of ISKCON Fiji arose originally from Deoji’s and his brother’s enthusiasm to invite Prabhupāda there. Prabhupāda does not want to act in a way that might strike people as arbitrary. Thus he advised Madhudviṣa to arrange everything locally, with a consensus of agreement. “If any of the trustees are to be dropped, this has to be discussed between the trustees themselves. These are all important men and we should be careful lest they become offended. If I say something it will not look well. If some of the trustees are not abiding by the principles or not chanting sixteen rounds, then they should be induced by the other trustees who are following, to step down. I think you can follow what I mean.”

From New Zealand a new devotee named Ralph asked Prabhupāda to clarify whether it is proper to attend lectures and kīrtanas held by the two renegade sannyāsīs Siddha Svarūpānanda Goswami and Tuṣṭa Kṛṣṇa Swami. He has heard conflicting reports but is personally attached to their association, while at the same time regularly attending the ISKCON temple’s morning program. Since the possibility of initiation is approaching for him and several devotees in New Zealand, he wanted Prabhupāda to clarify finally what the proper attitude should be.

Śrīla Prabhupāda obliged. “There is no reason why you cannot associate with any of my disciples, providing that they adhere to our principles. As long as Siddha Svarupa Maharaja and Tusta Krsna Maharaja act as sannyasis, i.e., dress in dhoti, keep shave headed with sikha, follow strictly the rules and regulations, and preach from my books, I have no objection. Sometimes there will be a little misunderstanding between Godbrothers, that is even going on amongst liberated souls. What is important is that everyone must engage in Krsna’s service under the direction of the spiritual master.”

Happily, not every letter reported problems. Bṛṣākapi, the president of ISKCON Washington, D.C., sent a cheerful narrative, along with photos, about a fifteen acre property they’ve purchased, “in the wealthiest county in America, in the wealthiest city in the county, Potomac, Maryland. It seems to be Krsna’s desire that we have this property, for without His special mercy we would have never been able to afford it.

“The total purchase price is $657,000, financed $30,000 down and 30 years to pay at 9% interest. Payments for the first ten years with no interest at $3,000 per month. At ten years we will owe $297,000. This balance will be financed over 20 years at 9% interest for $2,300 per month.”

Smiling, Prabhupāda raised his eyebrows at the figures mentioned. Such news indicates ISKCON’s increasing prosperity, and the bestowal of Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s special mercy.

Bṛṣākapi made two specific requests. “We are located only forty minutes by airplane flight from New York City, and because this is the capital of America, we pray you will bless this city with your presence. When you come we will try to make arrangements for you to meet with the President of America, senators, congressmen and other important people.

“As you know, we have installed here already 40" Gaura-Nitai Deities and 25" Radha-Krsna. We have not yet installed Lord Jagannatha, Lady Subhadra and Lord Balarama Deities. I was reading in the newsletter that you would be installing Sita Rama, Laksman and Hanumanji Deities at the new temple in Bombay, and we were wondering if we should install Sita Rama, Laksman and Hanuman in Washington D.C. the capital of America, since Lord Ramacandra is the perfect king.”  

Moreover, he reported a boom in book distribution, the D.C. temple selling over 300 big books and 2,000 BTGs daily on the streets and in the airports. He also enclosed a list of devotees for initiation and a declaration of their love and commitment.

Prabhupāda was very happy to hear such news and pleased to oblige his requests. “I am very pleased that we have now got such a wonderful property in the nation’s capital, Washington D.C. The photos show that there is good opportunity to develop it into a very important center. And since you say that it is in a most aristocratic location, it is certainly Krsna’s mercy. If you can make arrangements for me to meet the President, I shall surely go.

“As far as your desire to have Sita Rama Deities, it is a good idea, but you should wait for some time. First see that you have sufficient brahmanas who are very well trained and qualified, then you can consider to install Sita, Rama, Laksman and Hanuman. They are the ideal King and it will be very suitable that They reign over the capital of America. Now you have got Gaura-Nitai Deities, so you can go ahead and get Prabhupāda and Bhaktisiddhanta Deities immediately. Guru and Gauranga worship is standard for all our temples.”

In accepting his new disciples, especially the brāhmaṇas, his concern over raising the standards again showed. “Enclosed are the sacred threads for the brahmanas. They should be allowed to hear the Gayatri mantra through the right ear from the tape recording. Brahmana means to be very clean—inside by chanting the Lord’s glories and outside by regular bathing. Teach everyone by your personal example. Also you must see that the brahmanas are given sufficient time to read the books. Soon we shall be introducing the Bhaktisastri examination, which all brahmanas will be expected to pass. It will be based on Bhagavad-gita, N.O.D., Nectar of Instruction, Isopanisad, and the small paperback books like Easy Journey. A brahmana should be a pandita.”

* * *

After much delay and frequent requests, now nearly at the end of Prabhupāda’s stay in Nellore, the deed of gift for the two parcels of land has finally been produced. But it is a “gift” with many conditions. Scrutiny of the fine print revealed several dubious clauses. Prabhupāda sat at his desk as Gopāla Kṛṣṇa and Mahāàsa read out the details. One clause insisted that on the two-acre plot, a temple, a comparative religious studies library, and a meditation hall be built.

Prabhupāda shook his head. He said that as far as we are concerned, we have no use for such things. A temple with the Deities of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa is sufficient because They are the only objects of our meditation. Moreover, the Vedic knowledge is complete, so what is the need for comparison?

Other conditions were more explicit. They declared that if the project is not completed within three years, then the land and whatever stands on it will be turned over to another charitable organization, such as a certain mission based in Calcutta.

As for the seven-acre plot of land on which the house and gardens stand, the document stated that if ISKCON did not take possession and utilize it fully within one year of the death of the sisters, then it will also be turned over to “some suitable charitable organization.” The same mission in Calcutta was named.

Everyone agreed. It seemed clear there was some kind of plan to have ISKCON begin development of the land. Then by some ploy its timely completion will be prevented, thus giving reason to have it seized and handed over to this Calcutta mission. It would not be difficult to thwart any building project by somehow or another cutting off the supply of cement, which the government controls and rations.

With this information many pieces of the puzzle now fell into place. This Calcutta mission is also well known as the murgi (chicken) mission because its members keep large chicken farms and are known meat-eaters. These two sisters raise chickens and eat meat. This mission also has a consistent formula for the layout of their āśramas—a temple, a comparative studies library, and a meditation hall.

Even the planting of the tulasī bushes, which we had taken as a sign of devotion to Kṛṣṇa, took on new meaning considering these revelations. There are two kinds of tulasī trees, one with green leaves, and one with blue leaves; the green being named after Lord Rāma, and the blue after Lord Kṛṣṇa. Inspecting the garden on our first day here, I had noticed many tulasī bushes planted in an alternating sequence—green, blue, green, blue—Rāma Kṛṣṇa, Rāma Kṛṣṇa. I also recalled the tulasī bush in the pot that had been trimmed into the shape of a large bird—no doubt now that it is a chicken.

There was the mūrti of Gopāla Kṛṣṇa placed outside, exposed to the elements. And the strange, withdrawn reception we received upon arrival. Now it was obvious to us all that our hosts were definitely not devotees of Kṛṣṇa.

Analyzing their ulterior motives, Prabhupāda pointed out that ISKCON is one of the only organizations in India with the manpower and money to initiate large projects like the one proposed here. People are steadily losing interest in other missions, and this particular Calcutta mission is reportedly experiencing considerable difficulty with dwindling membership and income. It seems clear, therefore, that ISKCON is being set up to give a strong start to the project, only to be removed later by what now has shown itself to be a deceptive legal manoeuvre. Who the villains of this piece of trickery are is not clear, but Śrīla Prabhupāda did say that, being widows, the sisters would have been easy targets for unscrupulous so-called spiritualists with no interest in regulated spiritual practice. Still, he wasn’t blaming anyone, but some action must be taken to protect our interest.

Prabhupāda decided our course of action. Mahāàsa Swami is to meet with the sisters and explain to them that a gift is something given unconditionally; that the donation of land should be in the spirit of Bhagavad-gītā 17.20: “That gift which is given out of duty, at the proper time and place, to a worthy person, and without expectation of return, is considered to be charity in the mode of goodness.”

He said that if they refuse to give it unconditionally, then we should politely back out and withdraw from the project.

* * *

Late in the afternoon Śrīla Prabhupāda went to the local Rotary Club, where a special meeting was convened in his honor. Mr. G. Gopāla Reddy, the gentleman who accompanied Śrīla Prabhupāda on his morning walks, and the current president of the club, received him warmly, lauding his worldwide preaching efforts.

Then, to a small but attentive audience he delivered a well-rounded lecture on the general philosophy of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Describing his Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement as “a tiny little attempt” to convince people about God, he asked them all to heed the advice of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. “Therefore Caitanya Mahāprabhu says that His mission is especially to the Indians, those who are born in India. Āmāra ājṣāya guru haṣā tāra ei deśa. This instruction was given when Caitanya Mahāprabhu was traveling in South India. ‘If you want to help Me, then you become a guru under My instruction. You become a guru.’

“‘Sir, I have no education. I am not a brāhmaṇa. I am this, I am that. How can I become guru?’

“So Caitanya Mahāprabhu says, āmāra ajṣāya guru haṣā tāra ei deśa. ‘Where you are living, you just try to deliver them. But you become a guru.’

“‘How I shall become?’

Yāre dekha tāre kaha kṛṣṇa-upadeśa: ‘Simply you instruct what Kṛṣṇa has said, that’s all. Then you become guru. You don’t require any other qualification.’”

Alluding to the spread of the British Empire, he contrasted the motives of its representatives with that of Śrī Caitanya’s. “India’s mission is not that we colonize in another country and exploit them and bring money and become a ‘Lord.’ No. India’s mission is how to revive Kṛṣṇa consciousness throughout the whole world. That is India’s mission. Revive your Kṛṣṇa consciousness, be fixed up in Kṛṣṇa, and then distribute this knowledge. This is Indian mission.”

He finished to polite applause. He was invited afterward to pose for a photograph, the leading members of the Rotary club lining up in back, and Prabhupāda, the sannyāsīs from our camp and myself all sitting in front. It felt somehow special and historic to be part of an official photo with Śrīla Prabhupāda.

* * *

This evening’s paṇḍāl lecture was the last. Tomorrow Prabhupāda returns to Madras and then goes on to Bombay.

The open courtyard was once again filled to capacity with thousands of attentive men and women sitting quiet and absorbed, as Prabhupāda concluded his series on the Sixth Canto of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. He then made his presentations to the new Life Members in what has become a nightly ritual.

Prabhupāda is very happy and satisfied with the trip—apart from the peculiarities of the land offer.

January 8th, 1976

Before leaving to catch the train to Madras, the two sisters came to see Prabhupāda in his room. He thanked them for their hospitality. Without directly bringing up the strange conditions put upon the deed of gift, he preached to them very positively that they should try to become real devotees of Kṛṣṇa.

He had me read out to them the Gītā verse concerning charity in the mode of goodness. He emphasized that one should not expect any reward or gain; this was the criterion for activity in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. He encouraged them to try to rise to this standard. Even though the sisters appeared to be involved in a surreptitious scheme to take advantage of him, Prabhupāda still tried to uplift them and give them his mercy. They had invited him to their home, and therefore he wanted to do some good for them. They listened, but what he said drew very little response from them, apart from obligatory acceptance of his thanks for the stay. Everyone in our party was glad to leave. It was unpleasant living in such close proximity with people who made us feel unwelcome and who ate meat.

* * *

The train ride to Madras was pleasant. This Nellore trip has given me my first opportunity to journey with Śrīla Prabhupāda on a train, and we were all happy to see him enjoy the trip. It was without strain and much more comfortable than flying, which he tends to dislike.

Śravaṇānanda and Bhāvabhūti prabhus were waiting at the station to pick us up. They arranged a shenai band to greet Prabhupāda at the station and with great fanfare escorted him to a waiting car. This time they arranged for Prabhupāda to stay in our own center in Aspiran Gardens, a nice house in a pleasant suburb.

Prabhupāda liked it. He had a quick tour, and when Śravaṇānanda and Bhāvabhūti mentioned that they were thinking of getting another place, he told them to stay where they are. He noted some small bushes with curry leaves growing, as well as some drumsticks, a long, thin beanlike vegetable that he likes very much. He requested Harikeśa to use them in making his lunch.

* * *

I shaved Śrīla Prabhupāda’s head for him as we sat out on the small ground-floor front veranda, and then he heard his mail. Tamal Krishna Mahārāja informed him that the telegram sent to Australia from Bombay stating that Prabhupāda was unable to attend Ratha-yātrā had been returned undelivered. Prabhupāda considered what to do. He said that he would go to Australia if Madhudviṣa Mahārāja had already made arrangements. Since they may have advertised that Prabhupāda would be present, he didn’t want to spoil the event. Yet, this will certainly pose a big difficulty, because Prabhupāda is still not well enough to endure such a long plane ride.

Another travel quandary arose when Tamal Krishna Mahārāja discovered that our plane to Bombay was to depart in mid-evening. Prabhupāda never travels on Thursday afternoons, especially between 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., for he considers these hours inauspicious for travel. On a previous visit to Australia to open the new Melbourne temple in May 1975, Śrīla Prabhupāda delayed his departure from Perth to Melbourne for one day to avoid traveling on a Thursday afternoon. He was prepared to do the same today. But after some discussion he finally decided to take the late flight, thus avoiding the most inauspicious hours while still keeping his schedule.

We left in the Mercedes in mid-evening, Prabhupāda observing all the little roadside shacks selling bananas and varieties of fruits and vegetables. He told us that in South India people are still pious, still mainly vegetarian. He also recalled Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s preaching in the South and indicated that he was well pleased with the programs the devotees had arranged for him and the reception he received.

As a final touch, Śravaṇānanda had arranged through a Life Member to have the car drive right onto the airport tarmac, right up to the plane. Thus at about nine o’clock we flew out, arriving in Bombay late at night.