April 26th, 1976
With three hours time difference and three hours travel, it was 10:00 P.M. when our Air New Zealand flight touched down in Auckland. There at the airport to greet Śrīla Prabhupāda were fifty or sixty jubilantly chanting devotees with drums, karatālas and guitars. It was quite a heterogeneous crowd, most of them from Tuṣṭa Kṛṣṇa Swami’s group. The local ISKCON temple has only about twelve men and women. On the way to the temple cars and vans packed with excited devotees sped ahead, waving, smiling and shouting “Jaya Prabhupāda!” as they passed.
ISKCON Śrī Śrī Rādhā Giridhārī Temple
67 Gribblehurst Road, Mount Eden
The Auckland temple is a large, two-story suburban house with a spacious garden and scattered fruit trees. The property was originally purchased by Tuṣṭa Kṛṣṇa Swami, before he and the entire population of the temple abandoned it to go their own way in 1973.
The devotees were already lining the pathway when we arrived and they all eagerly squeezed in behind Śrīla Prabhupāda after he entered the building. It was too late to have darśana of the Deities, so Śrīla Prabhupāda went straight to his quarters on the upper floor. As many devotees as possible crowded into his small room, and Prabhupāda happily preached to his eager audience for a short while. He complimented the devotees on their enthusiastic spirit and emphasized the valuable opportunity the human form of life brings. He read the second and third ślokas of the newly published The Nectar of Instruction, briefly explaining, point by point, the six things necessary for spiritual advancement, as well as the six things to avoid. He requested all the devotees to read it, telling them that it contains all the information necessary for attaining perfection in spiritual life. Prabhupāda took a little purī and sabjī as everyone looked on and then had me distribute his remnants, along with some sweets Tuṣṭa Kṛṣṇa’s men had made on their farm. When I finished, Prabhupāda, as kind and thoughtful as ever, asked me if I had taken anything. I shook my head. “So, you also take,” he said with a loving smile. It was shortly before midnight when the devotees left his room.
Temple president Yaśomatīnandana dāsa, a tall, lean brahmacārī from Australia, remained behind for a few minutes to ask if Gaura-Nitāi and Jagannātha deities could be formally installed.
Prabhupāda looked at him quizzically and asked why.
Obviously not expecting that Prabhupāda would ask him why, Yaśomatīnandana appeared a little flustered. He said that since this is Lord Caitanya’s saṅkīrtana movement, it would be nice to worship Gaura-Nitāi. He also said that the Jagannātha deities they presently worship are so small They can hardly been seen. Would it be all right if they installed larger Deities, he asked, and drop the little Deities into the sea? Yaśomatīnandana’s question and tone of voice was somewhat ambiguous. It wasn’t clear whether he felt the yātrā needed the Deities and he was therefore asking for Prabhupāda’s formal approval, or whether he wanted Prabhupāda to decide if they really needed Them or not.
Prabhupāda became irritated and said to the sannyāsīs present, “He does not understand the value of the Deity.”
Yaśomatīnandana became confused and so asked, well, should they continue to worship the small ones, and just bring the larger ones out for Ratha-yātrā?
Now Prabhupāda became annoyed. “Just see,” he said. “He thinks They are dolls!” Looking slightly disgusted he shook his head. But despite his vexation, he concluded the conversation by saying that he would think about it more.
April 27th, 1976
For his morning walk the devotees took Prabhupāda out to the Domain, a local park with small ponds, walkways, and various statues. One depicted a Viking warrior on horseback blowing a horn. Yaśomatīnandana asked if the Vikings were kṣatriyas.
“No,” Prabhupāda said. “The kṣatriyas fought on religious principles. They were noble warriors, not murderers.”
“What about the modern soldiers?” Yaśomatīnandana inquired. “Do they go to the heavenly planets when they die on the battlefield?”
Prabhupāda shook his head. “They are simply demons fighting demons for economic reasons. How can they go to heaven? They go to hell—both sides.”
* * *
Prabhupāda was scheduled to give initiation to seven new disciples this morning. Thus when we arrived back the small temple room was already bedecked with colorful decorations and an unusual fire pit. Instead of using bricks for the outer walls, the devotees had placed a dozen smooth boulders taken from the garden all around the earthen base. It added a more natural ambience to the proceedings.
When Śrīla Prabhupāda greeted the Deities he saw that provisions had been made on the altar for the proposed two new sets of Deities. Three simple, wooden, dome-shaped canopies perched on slender, polished-wood columns, stood side by side, with the beautiful forms of Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Giridhārī beneath the center one. Under the right side dome, there was an empty base, ready to receive Śrī Śrī Gaura-Nitāi; on the opposite side the tiny forms of Lord Jagannātha and His brother and sister stood before a larger base for the bigger Deities. After Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa Swami informed Prabhupāda that the devotees had already purchased the Deities and had made preparations for Their worship, Śrīla Prabhupāda decided that the installation ceremony could take place. However, it was too short notice to combine the installation with the initiations and so there will be a second fire yajña tomorrow.
Immediately after guru-pūjā and a short lecture, Prabhupāda initiated seven new disciples, including some of Tuṣṭa Kṛṣṇa Swami’s men. In view of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s remarks to Tuṣṭa Kṛṣṇa Mahārāja in Melbourne, Tuṣṭa Kṛṣṇa made sure they shaved their heads for the occasion.
* * *
A reporter from the Herald newspaper conducted a half an hour interview with Śrīla Prabhupāda after breakfast. He asked the usual questions: how many followers do you have? How many centers? When Prabhupāda told him he started the Movement on the orders of his Guru Mahārāja, the reporter mistakenly thought he was talking about one of the Māyāvādī gurus, who calls himself Guru Maharaji. So he asked Prabhupāda what he thought about him.
Prabhupāda candidly told him that only the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is presenting the authorized Vedic culture. Other gurus are presenting sentiment only. And anyone who claims to be God is “simply bogus!”
Apparently some local city officials are trying to ban the devotees from chanting in the street. The reporter mentioned this, and Tuṣṭa Kṛṣṇa confirmed that there had indeed been some publicity in one or two other cities—some favorable and some unfavorable.
Prabhupāda was pleased, because he said that if there is agitation against chanting, it is also good. Even if they say that Hare Kṛṣṇa is bad, that is also good, because at least they will have chanted Hare Kṛṣṇa. Prabhupāda told the devotees they will become triumphant if they continue to chant and distribute books.
But he cautioned them as well. “They think Hare Kṛṣṇa movement is disturbing, a rascal civilization. So let us try our best, what can be done? You also are helping in this Movement, so don’t spoil the Movement by manufacturing ideas. Don’t do that. Go on in the standard way, keep yourself pure. Then the movement is sure to be successful. But if you want to spoil it by being whimsical, then what can be done? It will be spoiled. If you manufacture whims and disagree and fight amongst yourself, then it will be another edition of these so-called movements. It will lose the spiritual strength. Always remember it. Don’t make it an ordinary musical vibration. It is a different thing, spiritual. So mantra is not ordinary sound vibration. We have to keep the mantra in potency, by offenseless chanting, by remaining pure. If you pollute the mantra, then it will lose its effect.”
Tuṣṭa Kṛṣṇa informed Śrīla Prabhupāda that they have decided to build a temple on their farm and to install Deities. Prabhupāda was pleased to hear this. He told him that he should build hundreds of such temples all around the country and revolutionize the entire civilization.
* * *
Prabhupāda still found time in his hectic schedule to reply to the letter given to him by the young woman in Melbourne who gave him the gold necklace. Her letter was a moving testimony to the power of association. “I could never describe the joy that I now feel after realizing what Krishna consciousness is all about; and what is more, having been so honored to have Your Divine Grace in our presence. We are so fortunate that with Krishna’s mercy you have come to Melbourne to teach us and inspire us. I am so happy that at last in my heart I have accepted Krishna and accepted Your Divine Grace as our enlightened spiritual master. Only now I understand why the devotees dance like that. It is so wonderful to have realized that we have been so lucky to have the opportunity to come to God consciousness and to be able to pay our obeisances and prayers. . . .”
She went on to ask for advice because unfortunately her husband is a meat-eater and inimical to the devotees and will not allow her to take their six-month-old child to the temple.
Śrīla Prabhupāda was very sympathetic, but didn’t advise her to do anything radical. Rather, he recommended she remain in her present situation and take shelter of Lord Kṛṣṇa. He said that by always chanting the mahā-mantra, and by going to the temple as much as possible, Kṛṣṇa would offer her all protection and make all suitable arrangements for her to be engaged in His service.
He also sent a long letter to Svarūpa Dāmodara dāsa, explaining the structure of the universe. He instructed him to collaborate with our other Ph.D.s and study the Fifth Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam to construct a model for the Vedic Planetarium in Māyāpur. “My final decision is that the universe is just like a tree, with root upwards. Just as a tree has branches and leaves so the universe is also composed of planets which are fixed up in the tree like the leaves, flowers, fruits, etc., of the tree. The pivot is the Pole Star, and the whole tree is rotating on this pivot. Mount Sumeru is the center, trunk, and is like a steep hill, like the Alps Mountains which also have very high peaks. I have seen in Switzerland one mountain peak which was so high that it penetrated through the clouds. The tree is turning and therefore, all the branches and leaves turn with the tree. The planets have their fixed orbits, but still they are turning with the turning of the great tree. There are pathways leading from one planet to another made of gold, copper, etc., and these are like the branches. Distances are also described in the Fifth Canto how far one planet is from another.
“We can see that at night, how the whole planetary system is turning around, the Pole Star being the pivot. Each planet has its orbit fixed, but the sun is moving up and down, north and south. It is not that we shall accept the theory that the sun is fixed up and the others are all going around the sun. That is not correct. Even the seventh star is rotating once around the Pole Star in each twenty-four hours. The whole universe is just like a big tree, that is a fact. I do not think that the modern astronomers have any such idea that the whole universe is like a big tree. The planets which are full of living entities are one after another, one above the other. The relative positions of the planets is fixed up but the whole thing is turning. The sun is going north and south, it has its own orbit below the moon. So now you all Ph.D.s must carefully study the details of the Fifth Canto and make a working model of the universe. If we can explain the passing seasons, eclipses, phases of the moon, passing of day and night, etc., then it will be very powerful propaganda.
“I am sending this letter to you, and you can make photocopies of it and send to our other Ph.D.s and begin serious research into the matter in detail. But one thing, I am convinced that the universe is just like a great tree as described therein.”
* * *
Since there are so few devotees at this temple, I got my first chance to cook for His Divine Grace today. I completely blew it—much to Śrīla Prabhupāda’s disappointment and my own mortification. Using the cooker required much more expertise than I thought. It seemed so easy when I watched Śrīla Prabhupāda make his meal in Bombay. I had everything prepared before the massage. I remembered to stop at the right time to put the cooker on the stove. But when I went back at the end of the massage, everything had turned to mush. I had left the flame on too high and the vegetables, rice, and dāl were all way overcooked. With no time to prepare anything else, I had to serve it as it was.
Needless to say, Śrīla Prabhupāda was not happy. He could not understand how I could have made such a mess, and he told me bluntly that I had no brain; I was too dull to learn, he said. Because there was nothing else available, he ate it, but it was a disaster that I don’t hope to repeat.
* * *
There seems to be something going on concerning Madhudviṣa Swami, the former GBC for this region. In the afternoon, while Śrīla Prabhupāda was resting, Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa Swami interrupted a conversation between Yaśomatīnandana prabhu and myself to question him about Madhudviṣa’s previous activities, particularly during a three day period last year when Madhudviṣa apparently “disappeared” on a visit to Fiji. Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa wouldn’t reveal his purpose behind the questions, but it seemed to be linked to the private meeting Gurukṛpa Mahārāja and he had with Prabhupāda when we first arrived in Melbourne.
* * *
Prabhupāda gave an evening lecture from the Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā 20.98–102, describing the story of Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī to a packed audience in the narrow temple room. He made a special point of saying that when Sanātana approached Caitanya Mahāprabhu in Benares the first thing he did was shave off his beard and hair. “This is one of the items of our movement,” he said. “If one wants to be initiated, he must be clean-shaven.” Most of those in attendance were Tuṣṭa Kṛṣṇa Mahārāja’s men and most were not shaven-headed.
After his formal lecture, Prabhupāda remained in the temple room until 9:30 P.M. to give a general darśana, and everyone came forward to present gifts. One by one they heaped his vyāsāsana with boxes of dried fruit, cellophane-wrapped presents, fruit, homemade scarves and woolen hats, socks, and various other items. Prabhupāda sat satisfied and happy, giving them all the benediction of his wonderful smile and encouraging words. At least while he is here the differences between the two groups of devotees seem to have been put aside. Prabhupāda is the master of all and in his presence the mood is friendly and devotional.
April 28th, 1976
Because of a very tight schedule Prabhupāda skipped his usual walk and took a short massage at 5:30 A.M. followed by his bath. Then after donning fresh, clean silk garments, he went down into the temple room to install the new brass mūrtis of Śrī Śrī Gaura-Nitāi and some very beautiful deities of their lordships Jagannātha, Baladeva, and Subhadrā. These latter were expertly carved by a local boy, Bhakta Barrie Jennions.
The ceremony went quite smoothly despite the fairly apparent state of disorganization among the temple devotees. They ran rather frantically around setting up the fire yajña, preparing the feast, and readying the altar while Tuṣṭa Kṛṣṇa’s followers chanted with their guitars and instruments. Prabhupāda remained on his vyāsāsana, a simple but impressive, high, marble-covered brick base, with a clover-shaped, marble back, all built on to the rear wall. The devotees sat before him and crowded along the sides and in the door of the narrow room. Prabhupāda watched benignly as Gurukṛpa Swami bathed the transcendental forms of the Lord, chanted the disciplic praṇāmamantras and performed the fire ceremony.
There were some minor glitches. When the Deities were bathed some of the paint on Lord Jagannātha’s face began to run, and when the altar curtains opened for the deities’ first darśana, Gaura-Nitāi were not wearing crowns. Śrīla Prabhupāda immediately had the curtains closed and reopened when They were properly dressed. He didn’t complain too strongly though. It was evident the devotees were doing their best, and Prabhupāda didn’t want to squelch their enthusiasm. Prabhupāda himself performed the first ārati while the devotees held a jubilant kīrtana.
After returning upstairs and taking breakfast prasādam, he held a last small meeting with Tuṣṭa Kṛṣṇa Swami, Yaśomatīnandana dāsa, and Gurukṛpa Mahārāja before leaving for Fiji. As the three of them sat before him he turned to Yaśomatīnandana and said, “So you stay here and take care of these people. There are some good prospects amongst them.” He also told him that now that the larger Jagannātha deities were installed, he must hold Ratha-yātrā. His final instruction to Tuṣṭa Kṛṣṇa Swami was that he should build a temple, install Deities, and train his men to brahminical standards. He wants him to bring his men up to the standard of worship as done by the devotees in Melbourne.
* * *
There was a big send-off at the airport. As we waited for our flight, Śrīla Prabhupāda sat serenely and stately as the entire assembly of devotees settled in a large semicircle on the floor in front of him. An atmosphere of blissful tranquillity seemed to envelop the gathering as everyone took a last darśana of His Divine Grace. Hari Rāma dāsa, a former rock-group member now with Tuṣṭa, began to play his guitar and chant Hare Kṛṣṇa to a gentle lilting melody. Gurukṛpa Swami began to play karatālas softly as accompaniment. Prabhupāda, however, stopped him, allowing the boy to sing solo for a few minutes, as he listened with obvious pleasure. Smiling broadly, Prabhupāda gave him his garland. In this way he encouraged Tuṣṭa’s men to continue their chanting, knowing that as long as they did this, even if they never agree to cooperate with ISKCON, they will continue to be purified and make spiritual advancement. He is their spiritual master and wants to keep them somehow connected.
When the time came to depart, everyone followed His Divine Grace right to the boarding gate door, chanting all the way. Our plane departed for Nandi, Fiji, at 11:00 A.M.