June 11th, 1976
We had a momentary scare about an hour into the flight. The plane suddenly lost altitude, causing a dramatic change in cabin pressure. Passengers gasped in shock. My eyes whirled around in my head as I became dizzy and a little alarmed. I instinctively looked to Prabhupāda, but he simply smiled at me, somewhat amused by it all. Apart from this, the trip was uneventful and our plane touched down at 7:50 p.m. after a four-hour flight.
Fifty or sixty devotees led by Satsvarūpa dāsa Goswami, Mādhavānanda dāsa, the temple president, and Śrutakīrti dāsa, Prabhupāda’s former personal servant, greeted Śrīla Prabhupāda at the airport. Although the reception was smaller than that in Los Angeles, it did not lack in enthusiasm. The devotees danced, jumped and chanted all around Prabhupāda as he made his way out to the waiting cars.
ISKCON Devasadhana Mandira
383 Lenox Avenue, Detroit
Prabhupāda went straight into the temple room to have darśana of the Deities. As we walked across the marble floor I marveled at the opulence of the place. One could hardly have custom-built a more beautiful residence for the Deities, so fitting are its appointments.
As the curtains opened Śrīla Prabhupāda lay prostrate before the exquisite spiritual forms of Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kuñjavihārī and their lordships Jagannātha, Baladeva and Subhadrā. After accepting a few drops of caraṇāmṛta he walked to the back of the temple and mounted his vyāsāsana.
He gave a short arrival address, reminding the devotees that no matter what material opulence one has, unless used in the service of Kṛṣṇa, it cannot be enjoyed. He told us that by constitution we are parts of the Supreme Lord, and by chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare we are praying to Him to please be engaged in His service. If we do not worship God, he said, then we worship dog; everyone has to serve someone, we cannot avoid the fact that we are servants. He explained that this is an educational movement, not a faith. Faith can be changed, but we cannot deny the fact that we are servants of Kṛṣṇa. So we should serve Kṛṣṇa if we want to be happy.
After fifteen minutes he finished his talk and went up to his quarters to take rest.
June 12th, 1976
The temple complex consists of an extraordinary mansion built in the 1920s at an original cost of about three million dollars. It stands on several acres of land on the bank of a canal leading off Lake St. Clair. It had been built and owned by Lawrence Fisher, a famous American car body manufacturer (“Body by Fisher”), and was intended as a rather inspired imitation of Louis XIV’s grandiose palace in Versailles, France. Originally many of Fisher’s friends had also built similar mansions along the river bank, but that was in far better days. As the owners moved out, many were vandalized. The Fisher mansion is one of the few remaining.
The neighborhood immediately surrounding our temple is very depressed, most of it a ghetto populated by poor black families. The houses are very run down, some unfit for human occupation, and the district has a reputation for a high crime rate. When the property was up for sale last year no one would buy it because of the neighborhood, but not caring for this Prabhupāda said that we can live anywhere.
The asking price was $350,000. Prabhupāda personally dealt with the realty agent, sealing the purchase himself. Typically Prabhupāda began by preaching about the value of his mission and asked the owner to give us the place. The man declined, of course, but jumped at Prabhupāda’s offer of $300,000 in cash. Prabhupāda told us that at the time he had no money and no idea where it would come from, but nevertheless he made the offer because he saw the place as an ideal center for Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Kṛṣṇa thus reciprocated and sent the necessary funds by way of two of his disciples from prominent Detroit families: Ambarīṣa dāsa, the great-grandson of Henry Ford, and Lekhāśravantī dasi, the daughter of Walter Reuther, a big Detroit union leader who died some time ago. Prabhupāda said that it had been specially kept for us by Kṛṣṇa.
In the morning Prabhupāda took a half-hour stroll around the grounds. There are about four acres of lawns and gardens divided by stone walkways and nicely trimmed privet hedges. Next to the main house is a swimming pool with changing rooms now converted into a garden shed. Many varieties of trees and flowers are all around. The entire property is enclosed on two sides by a very high wall, with a regal front entrance barred by huge wrought-iron gates. On a third side a fence separates it from some unused land, and the remaining side is open to the canal.
* * *
Śrīla Prabhupāda decided to continue on with the story of Ajāmila, and so class took up with Canto Six, Chapter One, verse forty-six. The Yamadūtas described that the actions of the three modes of nature can be observed by the three distinct varieties of feelings, states of consciousness and actions of the living beings.
Prabhupāda again referred to the “overlapping” effect caused by contact with the modes of nature. “So the point is that although he [Ajāmila] was born in a brahmāṇa family, he was being trained up as a pure brahmāṇa, but he fell down to the modes of ignorance. Therefore one has to surpass the platform of goodness also. There are many cases, very good boy, all of a, falls sudden. In our Society, you have seen very nice boy, doing nicely, all of a sudden, finished. So that is possible.”
He elaborated on this and told us the way to overcome it. “So if we understand this central point, that Kṛṣṇa is the root of everything, then we are successful in life. Otherwise, it is not. People are missing this point, that Kṛṣṇa is the center. If any way we act, making Kṛṣṇa in the center, you may draw many thousands of circles, it will not overlap. It will not overlap. To become Kṛṣṇa conscious means not to remain within this guṇa-vaicitrya, the varieties of material color, or material guṇas. Above that. Center Kṛṣṇa. Make center Kṛṣṇa. Then whatever you do, it will be perfect. Make Kṛṣṇa center. It doesn’t matter whether I’m a businessman or professional man, or engineer, doctor, there are so many varieties, or a mendicant or brahmacārī, gṛhastha, never mind. Make Kṛṣṇa the center.”
* * *
Right after class Prabhupāda took a complete tour of the large and opulent mansion. He began on the ground floor at the far end near a side gate and small guard house. A large six-car garage, all tiled in blue, is being utilized as the brahmacārī-āśrama. Next to that he saw a boat well, big enough to dock three or four boats, enabling one to sail into the house from the canal. Its interior is covered throughout with small, one-inch tiles arranged in mosaic patterns.
Going into the main entrance in the center of the building he walked through an impressive, tiled vestibule into what was once a marble-floored ballroom. This is now the beautiful temple room. Two floors high, it has a slightly domed ceiling painted blue and white, resembling the sky with clouds. Hidden lights produce a soft glow to imitate the dawn. Decorative columns, mirrored archways and sculpted, artificially turreted windows run down each side to give an amazingly realistic impression of a Venetian street. On the inside of the entrance there is a small mezzanine floor, under which the devotees have placed Śrīla Prabhupāda’s vyāsāsana. At the far end a ready-built alcove behind three archways houses the Deities and another archway leads through the back of the Deity room to a small paraphernalia area. Above the Deities there is another mezzanine floor with an area sectioned off for Tulasī-devī. Prabhupāda commented that the only drawbacks were that the temple room is a little small and it was not good that people were walking above the Deities.
He went through some doors out through the side of the hallway, and into another smaller twin-boat well. A vacant room and a mini-bowling alley at basement level completed the ground floor facilities.
Grasping the wood and wrought-iron bannister, Prabhupāda ascended the grand staircase to the left of the main entry, carefully inspecting the highly decorative bas-reliefs covering the walls. At the top he came out onto a large open landing, and then he entered through a solid oak door into an astonishing library room. It has a two-story wooden book repository covering one entire wall and the remaining walls are covered with tooled leather rather than paper or paint.
This library connects into a huge main lounge decorated with ornamental stone fireplaces so large that one can almost walk into them. The high ceiling is crossed by thick, square, hand-painted wooden beams. Śrīla Prabhupāda looked around and suggested that this might be a suitable alternative to the present temple room because the Deities would not have anyone walking above Them. Off to the side, elaborate hand-carved, wood-filigree swing doors, led us into the music room. The main entry of this then took us back out onto the landing.
Every fitting in the house was especially handcrafted from the finest materials in the world by the best artisans from all over Europe. The devotees have enhanced all this with paintings of Kṛṣṇa placed throughout.
On the opposite side of the landing Prabhupāda entered a lavish marble and carved-wood dining room. From there he walked down a wide passageway leading past the temple mezzanine to his own quarters.
Prabhupāda’s quarters are elegant, consisting of a single large room with a slightly domed ceiling which has opulently decorated ridges running up from the corners to meet in its center. A portion of the wooden floor is raised at one end, and screened off to serve as his bedroom. French doors, which, like every window in the mansion, are made of leaded glass, open onto a veranda overlooking the canal. Prabhupāda’s room is directly above the large boat well.
Ensuite there is a roomy, marble-tiled bathroom. Apart from a full-size bath, there is a separate shower (which Prabhupāda does not use, preferring instead his own brass buckets). This has not one, but seven adjustable nozzles, one on top and three down each side. A spacious walk-in wardrobe completes the facility.
The devotees have set it up nicely for Prabhupāda’s use, even to laying clean white sheets over the thick carpet, Indian style. However, just after moving in last night, Prabhupāda walked around a little, chanting japa, and stepped on a pin. It didn’t pierce his foot but it was dangerously exposed. In their efforts to please him and create a homely situation the devotees had laid the sheets down but foolishly tacked the joins with pins. Prabhupāda shook his head at this lack of common sense and had me remove them all.
Almost every room in the house has been decorated with real gold paint. The room next to Prabhupāda’s, which has been reserved for his servants’ use, is typical. What to speak of the rest of the place, the bathroom ceiling is gold-leafed, as are the soap dishes, toilet roll-holders, and towel racks. All this is set against a background of black tiles.
Śrīla Prabhupāda was very pleased to see that the devotees are caring for the building and not allowing it to deteriorate. Even one room, he said, is worth the entire purchase price. He did note, however, that many fittings that were here last year when he purchased the place, such as crystal chandeliers, and even a large boat, are now missing. Mādhavānanda explained that due to the devotees’ inexperience the agent sold them separately. In fact, our own lawyer had bought the boat for himself.
Despite this, Prabhupāda regards this as the best facility yet in the Movement and sees tremendous potential in it for attracting people to Lord Kṛṣṇa.
* * *
Lokanātha Swami sent a very enthusiastic letter from Himachal Pradesh. He is currently heading up the bus party while Haṁsadūta Swami is in Germany getting more men, vehicles and supplies for their Indian preaching. They are traveling with twenty-four men, ten of whom are Indian. He reported that some new Indian boys have joined the party, which was something of a revelation for Lokanātha. He described his program as very simple.
“There is chanting, dancing, distributing Your literature, distributing prasada and encourage [sic] and inspire young Indians to join Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s World Travelling Sankirtana Movement. And, Srila Prabhupada, the results are wonderful. By Your grace in the last only two weeks we got 6 young Indian boys to join our sankirtana party. We are finding great pleasure to pick up young men and fix them at Your lotus feet.
“In India our devotees were engaged in making money so far. Preachers at our temples and travelling groups had not tried sincerely to enrol young men and train them as devotees. You explained to me how there is great need of young Indians to join us and train them to become responsible devotees. And now here is the opportunity for me to get these boys and take care of them. This is simply Your mercy Srila Prabhupada. Now I could promise You with confidence that all over India young men are just waiting for us to pick them up. So far my godbrothers used to tell me that it was not possible to make devotees in India, but now You are revealing to us, that this is not a fact.”
Over one thousand people per night are attending their programs which include bhajanas, ārati, a lecture, a film show and prasādam distribution. He was so enthusiastic that he invited Śrīla Prabhupāda to participate.
“When You come back to India we all men on our party like to invite You to travel with us and grace our party and guide these fallen men to rectify their mistake in presenting the Krsna Consious [sic] Movement As It Is.
“Srila Prabhupada, kindly save this rotting child of Yours.”
Prabhupāda was happy to hear from him and encouraged him. “I am very glad to see that you are enthusiastically pushing forward with this preaching work and the young Indians are coming forward to join our sankirtan party. It is very encouraging to me. Anyone who has life he can preach, so go on very enthusiastically and there will be all facility given by Lord Krishna.”
He also promised to participate. “I shall surely try to travel with your buses. It is a very nice program and I want to see it go on very enthusiastically.”
Another letter came from Mahāṁsa Swami in Hyderabad. He proposed having the Deity installation and temple opening conducted by brahmāṇas from the Rāmānuja-sampradāya rather than by the same paṇḍitas who did the ceremonies at the opening of our temple in Vṛndāvana. He is also working on getting a large parcel of land transfered into an ISKCON-controlled trust. The land is being donated by the Badruka family in Hyderabad and the arrangement is to have six trustees from ISKCON and four from their family.
He also asked permission to terminate our involvement with the two ladies we had visited in January in Nellore. “I think it is better to drop it. That lady has flipped out. If you agree I’ll go and in a nice and quiet way I’ll wind up the idea of a center.”
He reported that four manuscripts in Telugu language were ready for printing and the devotees are regularly bringing out the Hare Krishna Explosion, their Kṛṣṇa conscious newspaper, which is being received with appreciation by our life members. As soon as the monsoon ends he plans to send out four bullock cart parties to sell books and preach in all the towns and villages. His only regret was that he could not go out himself because he is too tied up with construction and management.
Śrīla Prabhupāda approved the plan to bring in the Rāmānuja paṇḍitas. “The Vrindaban pandits were useless. But one thing. Along with the pandits, our men should also join in.”
Prabhupāda was happy to bring the espisode in Nellore to a close. “Concerning the Nellore project, it will automatically be dropped. Simply forget it, and there is no need to go there. Let them rather drop it instead of we dropping it. Let them say, you are not doing anything so we drop it.”
He gave his approval for the bullock cart saṅkīrtana, telling him this plan was “very important.” Prabhupāda told him to wait for a GBC meeting to be held in New York when they would decide the names of the trustees for the land. In the meantime he instructed him to have the land put into the ISKCON Trust.
* * *
In the early evening Lekhāśravantī brought in Mr. Jackie Vaughn, a black member of the House of Representatives for the State of Michigan. Prabhupāda, whose voice was a little thick due to a cold, began their conversation by declaring that “Kṛṣṇa is black and we worship Him!” As they laughed he added, “Yes, He is also from your community.”
He quickly established a friendly rapport with Mr. Vaughn. He explained that actually there is no question of black and white. “Kṛṣṇa consciousness is above the skin—the soul is there. Either he’s black or white or yellow, it doesn’t matter. Dehino ’smin yathā dehe. This is the first education, that do not take the body, but the living force within the body. That is important; we have to understand that. We are talking from that platform.”
As the muffled strains of the evening ārati filtered into the room from the temple below, Prabhupāda informed him of the practicality of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. He pointed out that the devotees are all living here together under the same roof, blacks and whites, with no problem, because everyone is happy to serve Kṛṣṇa.
Congressman Vaughn was a soft-spoken gentleman with a real concern for the welfare of others. He told Śrīla Prabhupāda that in his work he was trying to do more for people, especially the poor.
“Everyone tries. That is not a particular job for you,” Prabhupāda told him, and he explained that to perform real welfare activity required real knowledge. “Everyone is trying; the cats and dogs, they are also trying. The cat also very much anxious to give protection to the cubs, innocent, helpless. The dog also giving. The birds, they’re bringing food for the offspring, and as soon as the mother comes, they become very much engladdened, ‘Oh, here is food, here is food.’ So this kind of sentiment is there even in the cats, dogs, animals, birds, beasts. That is natural. But we do not know how to do actual welfare activity. Somebody’s engaged with his family. Somebody is engaged with his own body. This is only development of consciousness.
“The animals, they are interested with the body, himself. The human being, they are interested with the extension of the body. Just like I am alone. Now when I become young man, then I have got my wife, then my interest is also for my wife. The wife’s interest is for the husband. In this way, children, then interest extended, husband, wife, children. This is family-wise. Then little advancement, of the society. Little advancement, community. Just like in your country, the sense of black community, white community. Then, above that, for the nation. When there is war between America and other nation, then you black and white people forget the small interest for national interest. You advance to fight, to lay down your life. So in this way we can make progress, but such progress is not perfection.”
He used a many times quoted example from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam to give Mr. Vaughn a sense of focus that would include everyone and everything in his welfare activity. “Just like there is tree, and the whole tree is full of branches, twigs and leaves and flowers and fruits. So somebody is watering the fruit, somebody is watering the leaf, somebody is watering the branches, somebody the twigs, but everyone is improper. One who is watering the root, he’s perfect. He knows how to do things. If you water the root of the tree, it will go to the twigs, it will go to the leaves, it will go to the fruit, it will go to the flower. One who does not know the root, however he might be working very diligently for the poor humanity or community or society, they will never be successful to gain the result—peace and prosperity. They are forgetting the root. And root is God. So they must put water in the root. Then it will be all right; otherwise, it will be all failure. The history of the world is like that. They are trying for the nation, for the society, for the community, and for the family, but everything has become unsuccessful.”
Mr. Vaughn, who sat in a chair facing Prabhupāda’s desk, nodded to affirm his understanding. “I suppose we could use the same analogy for black and white getting together. Oft times, we all become impatient because the progress appears to be so very, very slow.”
“Slow, but sure, that is wanted,” Prabhupāda told him. “If you are slow, it is not bad, but it must be sure. But if you become very busy without any surety, then what is this? Simply waste of time.”
Prabhupāda was talking beyond current efforts to achieve inter-racial, inter-community and international harmony, which he has always regarded as useless. “Slow but sure. Sure. So what we are proposing, that is sure success. And all other things, they are very busy, but no success. This is the difference. So what is the use of that business if you are going to be failure? We see from the history these attempts have always been failure. Now this man who constructed this house, he never thought that I shall come here to preach Kṛṣṇa consciousness. So his attempt is failure.”
Mr. Vaughn added, “Neither did he envision I would come here to hear you.”
Prabhupāda laughed, appreciating his quick intelligence, and went on to expand his point. “So these small affairs, they’ll be failure. Whatever they are busy now in the material world, everything will be failure. And Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, if you execute a little bit of it, it can save you from the greatest danger.” Prabhupāda told him that even though the American government is giving so much money to suffering people, still the suffering continues with no improvement. “Why?” he asked him. “What is the cause? What is the answer?”
Mr. Vaughn’s answer was a bit vague. “We are not making first things first.”
Prabhupāda however was very quick to pick up on his remark and bring it into focus. “That means whatever we do, we do in ignorance. You do not know what is the first thing or what to do first. That we are correcting. Here is the first thing: Pour water in the root. We are correcting—Kṛṣṇa, or God; then everything will be all right, otherwise failure. Now you American people you write, ‘In God We Trust.’ But if I ask you, ‘What is God?’ you cannot reply. Then how do you trust in God? Blindly. If we trust in God, we must know that God is actually the only trustworthy person. Then if I put my trust in Him, that is sensible. But if I do not know what is God, no idea, and if we simply write, ‘In God We Trust,’ what is this? This is slogan. But actually people are becoming godless. In schools, colleges, they are prohibiting, ‘Don’t talk of God.’ Do they not?”
Mr. Vaughn agreed. Prabhupāda told him that it was hypocrisy to say, “In God we Trust” and then forbid any talk of God in the educational system. People should be taught practically how to trust in God. “If we say that in God we trust, then we must know what is God, whether actually we can put our faith and trust in Him, whether He is trustworthy, what is that God. This science should be introduced. There is science; we are preaching that science. Our Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement means to teach Kṛṣṇa science, science of God. So the government should take up, American government, and cooperate with us. Teach the people the science of God. Then it will be a great, benevolent welfare activity. Simply giving their money to the poor, to the needy, will not help them.”
Congressman Vaughn, while sincerely agreeing with what Prabhupāda was saying, didn’t seem to quite see the practicality of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. He began to say that there was an immediate need.
But Prabhupāda cut in, offering him a stark example of the failure of such thinking. “Immediate, you can think like that, but there is no benefit, immediate or belated. There is no actual benefit. The unmarried girls are given this welfare, but still they are killing their children. Becoming more and more involved in sinful activities.”
“As a lawmaker, I would like to change that whole, what we call, vicious cycle.”
“You can change,” Śrīla Prabhupāda told him, “but if you do not change for the real good, then time will come, another change, another change. That is going on. Just like in Russia they wanted to change. They brought in revolution. But what is changed? They are still begging grains from America. So what is the use of that change? If you have to beg from other country for your food, then what is the benefit of such change? So this is going on. One thing established, and again it is changed. That is described in the śāstra: punaḥ punaś carvita-carvaṇānām—chewing the chewed. Like sugarcane. One has taken the juice by chewing and thrown it in the street, and somebody again takes it and chews it, what he will get? It is already chewed.
“Big, big empires, big, big society, big, big nation. That Hitler, he wanted to make something big. Napoleon wanted to make something big. Nothing big has been done. Where is Napoleon? Where is Hitler? So these are all temporary attempts. It is sure to be failure. Because they do not know how to do things. That is the defect. They are simply imagining, concoction. Here is a practical and sure proposal in the Bhagavad-gītā. God comes and He’s giving personal instruction, that ‘Do things like this.’ Your economic problem, your political problem, your social problem, everything . . . You ask any question, any problem, the answer is there, perfect. Why people should not take this perfect answer to all problems? That is intelligence.
“Experiment we have made so many materially. They have all failed. We were under British rule. So where is that British rule now? And before that, there was Roman Empire, Carthagian Empire, Egyptian Empire, so many, Mogul Empire, now your American Empire. But these things will not help.”
This is an American election year and Mr. Vaughn seemed all too aware of the truth of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s words. “Every one of our presidential candidates is continuing to talk in the same vein, promising and promising all of a temporary nature of a solution to our problems.”
“Solution is here,” Prabhupāda assured him. “Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. You take this Movement after studying it scrutinizingly. You’ll find, ‘Yes, this is the only Movement for solution of all problems.’”
Mr. Vaughn again expressed his appreciation for what Prabhupāda was telling him, but still he was stuck in seeing how to apply it. “As a lawmaker for the State of Michigan, every day I’m struggling. I know what you’re saying. I would like to. And then my surrounding is what they call much more practical.”
“No, it is also practical. We do not propose anything which is impractical,” Prabhupāda told him. “What do you think in our Movement is impractical? I have given you a practical example that you are paying so much money to the suffering women, especially who have got children but no husband. But what is the result? They’re not satisfied. They’re still committing sinful activities. Giving money is no solution. That is practical. And here, the same girl, I do not give her any money, but by Kṛṣṇa consciousness, they’re satisfied. It is practical. So therefore people should be enlightened with Kṛṣṇa consciousness, then problems will be solved. Otherwise, even you give him some money, that money will be spent and no satisfaction. This is failure.
“Our monetary problem . . . Actually, we have no monetary problem. Kṛṣṇa has given us money. Our expenditure is more than, I think, $200,000 daily. But we are getting money. We have no money, but still we can sit down in such a nice palace. This is practical. So money is not problem. The problem is godlessness. So as soon as there is godlessness, there will be different types of suffering.”
Prabhupāda told him that our institution is already set up, but great good could come to the country if the government was willing to cooperate with us. “A certain number of students must be trained up scientifically what is the meaning of God; that will be very much beneficial to the state or to the country. We can give solution for any problem. ‘We’ means Kṛṣṇa. We are simply preaching Kṛṣṇa’s message. Kṛṣṇa means God.” He again offered Mr. Vaughn a means to connect with Kṛṣṇa consciousness, just in case he was still feeling it to be a foreign concept. “Kṛṣṇa means ‘black’ also. ‘Kṛṣṇa,’ this word, means ‘black’ also.”
“Black is beautiful?” Mr. Vaughn inquired.
“Why not?” Prabhupāda said. “He’s the most beautiful. Otherwise, why people are attracted? There is a verse in the Brahmā-saṁhitā: kandarpa-koṭī-kamanīya-viśeṣa-śobhaṁ . . . barhāvataṁsam asitāmbuda-sundarāṅgam. He has got one peacock feather on His head and He’s blackish, but wonderfully beautiful. These words are used. Kandarpa-koṭī-kamanīya. He’s so beautiful that thousands of Cupids cannot be compared with His beauty. Cupid is understood to be the most beautiful person within this universe. You know Cupid? Yes. He enchants by beauty. But Kṛṣṇa’s beauty is so great that millions of Cupids cannot be compared with Him. It is a question of attraction. It is not a question of black and white. Attraction. So unless Kṛṣṇa is beautiful, why He has got so many millions of devotees?”
Then he very cleverly linked one analogy to the other, and his descriptive wit had everyone laughing as he offered his appraisal of how public services really work.
“His blackness is compared with the black cloud. Asita-ambuda, ambuda means the cloud. The black cloud is full of water. When there is black cloud in the sky, you can be sure that the rain is going to fall down, not the white cloud. White cloud means no water. Is it not? So you understand this philosophy and add water to the suffering humanity. They are suffering in the burning, blazing fire of material existence. So blazing fire can be extinguished when the water falls from the sky, not by your fire brigade. When there is blazing fire in the forest, it is beyond your control. You cannot get there, fire brigade. So these small attempts of fire brigade are useless to extinguish the blazing fire of this material existence. The water must come from the cloud. That is by Kṛṣṇa’s grace. You have no control over the cloud. But that water wanted. Not your fire brigade water when there is all around blazing fire.
“The small fire brigade, it can vibrate very loudly—dung, dung, dung—I’m going to, going to . . . ’ but they’ll go when everything finished. That is practical. I have seen in India. There was a fire in a house, and they came late, when the business is finished. And still they’re insisting, ‘We shall pour some water.’ ”
Everyone laughed as he narrated the scene. “Everyone asked them, that ‘What is the use of?’ ‘No, this is our system.’ The house is burnt into ashes, and they are looking the formality, ‘Yes, we must put some water.’ So that they can write in their books, ‘Here we attended the fire and we have . . . ’ ”
With a big grin he shook his head. “This cheating is going on. In every problem, this kind of cheating is going on—official, that’s all. The same example, you ask to the charity taker of welfare activities. The fire is going on, but officially the government satisfied, ‘Yes, we are pouring water.’ So what is the use of pouring water if the fire is going on? But officially, that’s all. The house is burnt into ashes, but we are satisfied that our fire brigade man has poured some water, that’s all. They do not know that they cannot do any benefit to anyone by this imperfect process.
“If the whole money of the government is given to us, we can show result within six months how it is beneficial. Will the government give us money? Actually, people do not want to trust in God. That is the real fact. At the present moment, nobody has got any idea of God nor faith in God. What do you think?”
“It’s true,” Mr. Vaughn agreed. “Very little faith. ‘In God We Trust,’ your original statement.”
I mentioned the letter to the President’s secretary that Śrīla Prabhupāda wrote from Hawaii in May. Prabhupāda had Mādhavānanda prabhu read it out to Congressman Vaughn. ” ‘Personal Secretary to the President, Office of the President of the United States, White House, Washington, D. C. Dear Sir: On your new two-dollar note it is stated ‘In God We Trust’ and directly beneath, ‘Declaration of Independence, 1776.’ On the two-hundredth anniversary of this occasion, why not begin teaching the science of God as described in the Vedic literatures, like the Srimad-Bhagavatam, which is authorized and appreciated by all learned professors in the universities throughout the whole world? This Krsna consciousness movement is going on since 1966 throughout the whole world, especially in the United States of America. It is a great fortune for the American people that they trust in God. Why shouldn’t this spiritual education be given to the American people in an organized way? The whole world is going down and becoming godless. If the American people, who trust in God constitutionally, take this movement seriously, it will be a great service to the human society. We are prepared to cooperate in this connection if the American government takes it very seriously. Awaiting your reply with interest. Yours sincerely, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami.’ Dated May 9th.”
Mr. Vaughn asked if there had been any reply. We informed him that not to date, and Prabhupāda asked him why he thought they were not replying.
“I suppose you were asking too much,” Mr. Vaughn said.
“Too much? So am I wrong? I’m not asking for money.”
Mr. Vaughn assured him there was nothing wrong with his request, offering his opinion why there was no response. “You are doing away with our approach to dealing with problems. As you pointed out so well, it’s always piecemeal, of a temporary nature. I do it in Lansing—we have a problem, we patch it up, of a temporary nature. We talk to do this, as a quick answer, solution, and we go away feeling better, that we have at least made, as we say, a step in the right direction. Next year, we’ll be back with the same problem. I have this problem. Monday I’ll go back to the State Capital . . . ”
“That is explained,” Prabhupāda told him. “Daivī hy eṣā guṇa-mayī mama māyā duratyayā. We think, ‘Now this problem is solved,’ but actually it is not solved; it has created another problem. Therefore this word is used, daivī hy eṣā guṇa-mayī mama māyā duratyayā. The problems are so great that you cannot solve it.”
“Each year it mounts,” Mr. Vaughn agreed. “It’s getting larger and larger, almost impossible to solve. Each year we say, ‘This year is worse than any year in the history.’ ”
Turning to the rest of us Prabhupada said, “See, this is the experienced government officer’s statement. Therefore the word is used, duratyayā. What is the meaning. . . .
I read out the translation. “Very difficult to overcome.”
Mr. Vaughn humbly submitted that he added to what he called this “delinquency” by each day coming up with temporary solutions to the problems.
“So you kindly give little attention to this Movement; it will solve all the problems,” Prabhupāda advised him. “You have read some of our books?”
Mr. Vaughn said he had, and Prabhupāda told him that the answers to all problems could be found in the Bhagavad-gītā. The unfortunate thing is that no one is taking it. They prefer to create their own imperfect solutions.
“I’m struggling,” admitted Mr. Vaughn.
“Everyone is struggling,” Prabhupāda said. “Just like you pour water on the leaf of the tree, and still it will fall down. He’s perplexed that ‘I am giving water to the leaf every day. How is it that it is dying?’ But he never thinks that ‘I have not done properly; therefore the leaf is dying.’ He does not know what is the proper way. So things, if they are not done properly, it will not produce the desired result. That is going on.”
Mr. Vaughn expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to speak with Śrīla Prabhupāda, and told him that he felt very fortunate to have met him.
Bringing a congenial meeting to its close, Prabhupāda asked him to visit the temple regularly and see the Deities. That, he said, would give him “so many inspirations.”
June 13th, 1976
Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Dāmodara arrived in Their bus this morning. Many devotees from Chicago, Ann Arbor, Toronto, St. Louis and Boston have come.
* * *
Driving out for the morning walk the city appeared dirty and unkempt, with factories almost everywhere making tires, car wheels and other components for the automobile industry.
Ambarīṣa prabhu, a native of Detroit, accompanied Prabhupāda. As we drove along, we noticed a big construction going up near the city center on a site by the waterside. One of the devotees said that the new development, called the Renaissance Center, is being financed by Ambarīṣa’s uncle, Henry Ford II, in hopes of reviving the decaying city. He told Śrīla Prabhupāda that Ambarīṣa’s uncle was making a “billion dollar project.”
Prabhupāda’s immediate response was, “Why not at Māyāpur?”
We walked around a park on Belle Isle in East Detroit, but it was quite depressing—dirty, overgrown and little used, with a dried-up lake bed and a fancy-looking building that turned out to be a casino. Across the Detroit River we could see Canada.
Dhṛṣṭadyumna Swami is now in charge of the Rādhā-Dāmodara Party and he briefly reported to Śrīla Prabhupāda on their activities. The men have practically doubled their book selling and collections since their return from India. Śrīla Prabhupāda was pleased indeed to hear the news.
Satsvarūpa Mahārāja and his traveling party also accompanied His Divine Grace and as we walked he asked a question. “Sometimes devotees think that when Lord Kapila teaches there is devotional service in ignorance and in passion and in goodness, that that may mean your own disciples too. But then some devotees say, ‘No, we’re above that designation. It’s not mixed devotional service, even though we’re neophytes.’ ”
“If you voluntarily do not follow, then you fall down. That is in ignorance,” Śrīla Prabhupāda replied.
Makhanlāl prabhu, the president of St. Louis temple, joined in. “So where that is described in the Third Canto, Part Four, where it is described about devotional service in ignorance, passion and goodness and so forth, that has nothing to do with your disciples then?”
“Who is my disciple?” Prabhupāda asked him. “First of all let him follow strictly the disciplined rules.”
“As long as one is following, then he is . . . ” Makhanlāl said, tailing off to let Prabhupāda complete the statement.
“Then he is all right,” Prabhupāda said
“Above those lower levels?”
“Oh, yes,” Prabhupāda affirmed. “Otherwise, why there is need of regulative principles? He is immediately liberated. If he thinks that, ‘Because I have taken to, I am liberated,’ then why the rules and regulations?”
“But as long as he follows the rules and regulations,” Makhanlāl continued, “he comes to the brahmā-bhūta platform, immediately?”
“Yes. Bhagavad-gītā it is said, māṁ ca yo ’vyabhicāreṇa—unalloyed. Bhakti-yogena sevate, then he’s liberated. If it is vyabhicāreṇa, sometimes falls down, sometimes . . . then it is within sattva-guṇa, rajo-guṇa, tamo-guṇa. The word is māṁ ca yo avyabhicāreṇa bhakti-yogena—pure bhakti.”
“Without any falldown,” I repeated.
Makhanlāl sought a further definition. “Falldown means deviation from the orders of the spiritual master.”
“Yes,” Prabhupāda told us. “That is vyabhicāreṇa, that is not avyabhicāreṇa. If you are subjected to the attraction of māyā, that is vyabhicāreṇa.”
“If somebody is following the instructions, but if there’s attraction for māyā . . . ” Makhanlāl asked.
Prabhupāda shook his head. “That cannot be. Maybe in the beginning due to past habits, but that must be nil very soon. Otherwise he’s not following. Just like fan switched off may move for a little, but not that it will go on moving. Must stop. Switch is off. And if it is going on, then the switch is not yet off.”
* * *
Arriving back at the temple, Śrīla Prabhupāda accepted Satsvarūpa Mahārāja’s invitation to visit his mobile temple. Satsvarūpa informed Prabhupāda that they also have another five vans, three of which the Library Party use for their college and university preaching, and the other two are for fund raising to support the Library Party devotees. Altogether he has about twenty men on his program, including the newly joined Eugene, the ex-priest from Los Angeles. He moves from city to city visiting temples and devotees in his GBC zone as he does university programs.
Śrīla Prabhupāda stepped inside the twenty-eight foot long caravan-style vehicle. He sat for a few minutes on a cushion on a raised portion just behind the driver’s seat as Satsvarūpa Mahārāja informed him of its facilities. The van is complete with a shower, toilet and kitchen and has racks for Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books and tapes. Śrī Śrī Gaura-Nitāi were installed less than a month ago.
The pūjārī opened the altar curtains to reveal Their Lordships and Śrīla Prabhupāda immediately offered his full prostrated obeisances, much to everyone’s surprise and pleasure. In three minutes the visit was over, and accompanied by a lively kīrtana party Prabhupāda entered the temple for the rest of the morning program.
* * *
“Just as springtime in the present indicates the nature of springtimes in the past and future, so this life of happiness, distress or a mixture of both gives evidence concerning the religious and irreligious activities of one’s past and future lives.”
Speaking from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 6.1.47, Śrīla Prabhupāda continued to emphasize the need for human beings to improve the quality of their lives by contact with the higher mode of goodness. He included an oblique comment on yesterday’s meeting with Congressman Vaughn, declaring that solutions to life’s difficulties rest with those in charge. “Human endeavor should be how to increase the sattva-guṇa quality of the man. That is the duty of all guardians. State, king, government, everyone should. If you do not make such attempt to elevate your dependent towards the sattva-guṇa platform, simply lamenting, what will do good to you? ‘Our position is this, now it is uncontrollable, the things are going bad, there are problems.’ Yes, problem must be there. Because the aim of life should be known. They do not know. The modern civilization they do not know what is the aim of life, how life is going on, eternally, how it is implicated, how to entangle. So many things are there, it is a great science. So the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is trying to establish this science. Our real mission is how the human society will be happy.”
He stressed that it is the duty of all saintly persons, he told us, to deliver the message of Kṛṣṇa consciousness for the welfare of the citizens. The six Gosvāmīs of Vṛndāvana were extraordinarily qualified personalities, highly placed officials and influential men, who all worked for this purpose. Prabhupāda cited the example of Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī, the nephew of Rūpa Gosvāmī. “In the learned circles, still, in Bengal, they say such a big scholar and philosopher, there was none; and nobody expects a similar philosopher and learned scholar in the future. He was such a big personality, Jīva Gosvāmī. Big, big Māyāvādīs, they were afraid of Jīva Gosvāmī’s logic and argument to establish the Vaiṣṇava philosophy. So this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is for very intelligent, high-class, fortunate persons. Because they are going to guide the destiny of the human society.”
Then he urged his young audience to follow in the footsteps of our spiritual predecessors. “Just like Caitanya Mahāprabhu therefore asked to ‘Take this mission and go village to village, town to town, and spread My mission’—pṛthivīte āche yata nagarādi-grāma/ sarvatra pracāra haibe mora nāma. So you young Americans, you have taken a very great mission, and the system we have introduced, to go in the vans, buses and village to village, town to town. And if you keep strictly on the principles and chant Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra, then your mission will be successful. There is no doubt about it.”
One-by-one, he described all the good qualities of a saintly person as they are given by Lord Kapiladeva, and he urged us to be attentive to the task of purifying our lives. The Yamadūtas had described the stages of past, present and future and, Prabhupāda said, it was possible to know one’s past life and one’s future through astrological literatures like Bhṛgu-saṁhitā. But even without this, by the mercy of Lord Caitanya, we could still know what the results of our actions will be both now and in the future. “The future of this Kali-yuga, as it will advance—Kali-yuga . . . We have only passed five thousand years and the miserable condition, situation, will degrade more and more, more and more. So if you have to take again birth in this material world, then we’ll have to suffer more and more. Best thing is that let us finish our business of Kṛṣṇa consciousness and go back to home, back to Godhead so that we haven’t got to come again to this nonsense material world. That is wanted. Yad gatvā na nivartante tad dhāma paramaṁ mama. This should be the aim of life. That we are not going to take advantage of this so-called advance of material civilization. We have no business. We should make it a determination that we have enough of this material civilization, we are not any more concerned about it. We are interested in Kṛṣṇa, how to go back to home, back to Godhead, Kṛṣṇa.”
In warning us to beware of the pitfall of attraction to women, he gave an interesting definition of “man” and “woman.” “Everyone is after woman. Woman or men—it is not that woman means the form of woman and man is the form of man. Woman means ‘enjoyable’ and man means ‘enjoyer.’ So here in this material world everyone is enjoyer. Not only the man thinks, ‘I shall enjoy the woman,’ the woman thinks, ‘I shall enjoy the man.’ The spirit is now to become enjoyer. Therefore sometimes the living entity is described as puruṣa [controller]. Actually every living entity is prakṛti [controlled].”
* * *
Some Sunday Feast guests came to visit with Prabhupāda. One was a mother and son. The boy had been living in the temple but then left. In fact, the mother seemed more interested than her son in Kṛṣṇa consciousness and excited to meet His Divine Grace. Despite having four children she is regularly reading and has finished the first five cantos of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. She is also chanting. She told Śrīla Prabhupāda that she had already met him, but not in the physical sense. “It’s really great. I had a dream about you, Prabhupāda. And I dreamed . . . This is a dream that’s coming true. But you didn’t acknowledge me because I didn’t say ‘Kṛṣṇa.’ ”
Prabhupāda laughed as she went on, nervous but excited to be able to tell him her story. “And then when I gave in, you did, and you asked me what I knew about Kṛṣṇa, and I didn’t answer you because I didn’t want to display my ignorance.”
Śrīla Prabhupāda was smiling broadly and he congratulated her. “Very good. You chant Hare Kṛṣṇa and be one of our members. Your son is also very good. Mother good, son good. According to our Indian estimate, son acquires the quality of mother, and the daughter acquires the quality of the father.”
She said that her son looked ten years younger when he lived at the temple.
Prabhupāda smiled and recalled a priest who had once asked why his disciples were so bright-faced. He said it was because they are spiritually enlightened. “That is the cause of brightness. And materially involved—moroseness.”
He preached to them for a while, condemning modern civilization which passes off belief as knowledge. He explained that if people are kept in ignorance there can be no question of happiness. He said the blame for the lack of real enlightenment in society and the resultant problems which keep people morose lay first with the Christian priests who have failed to explain everything philosophically. “So advanced Westerners, they are now educated in science philosophy, they are not attracted with these dogmatic views. So to remain in ignorance is animal life. To be enlightened is human life. And the topmost enlightenment is to understand God and to love Him.”
He went on to lay further blame on the philosophers and scientists—the new leaders of society. “Unfortunately, there is no education to know what is God, and what to speak of loving Him. This is modern civilization—a civilization of ignorance. They do not know what is what. Simply speculating, wasting time, talking all nonsense. This is going on in the name of education, but actually they are in ignorance. They do not know what is what. They are reading so many philosophical speculation, horrible condition of the so-called philosopher, scientist. Simply ‘I believe,’ ‘In this believe, that believe.’ That is creating chaotic condition. You believe some way, I believe something, he believes something. What is the profit? Chaos.
“So all these philosophers, scientists, they believe ‘I believe,’ as if his belief will be a doctrine. Why he believes like that? People also accept like that. Nobody questions that when a person says, ‘I believe,’ that means he is not in perfect knowledge. But in Vedic śāstra, there is no question of belief. This is the fact.”
He then advanced what is becoming an oft repeated philosophical theme of this tour—the Earth as mother, God as father and the living beings as their offspring. “So here is definitive knowledge, in our Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. There’s no question of ‘I believe’ or ‘You believe.’ No. What you are, your belief? You may believe wrongly. You are not perfect. If you have got imperfect senses, then what is the use of your belief? If the child says, ‘Oh, there is no father. I have never seen my father,’ does it mean there is no father? Because you are child, because you have got mother, there must be father, you believe or not believe. So these rascals say, ‘I don’t believe in God.’ Why? As it is inevitable—the mother is there, the child is there—there must be father. You may not know him, but you can know him through your mother. But must be father. There is no question of, ‘I don’t believe there is father. Similarly, these rascals nowadays, they say, ‘We don’t believe in God.’ You believe or not believe, God is there. Who cares for your believe or not believe? The same way: the mother is there, the child is there; there must be father. There is no argument.”
Quoting from Bhagavad-gītā 14.4 he repeated the explanation he gave in Los Angeles of how material nature is considered the mother because so many living beings come from her. Addressing himself directly to his two visitors he told them, “The mother means wherefrom one comes. He’s your child because his body has come from your body; everyone knows it. So every living being is coming out of this earth in different forms. Now if it is established, the mother is the earth and everything that is coming out of mother, they are children, then where is father? Is it not the next inquiry? Suppose unknown man comes to him, ‘Where is your father?’ So who is the father? And father says, ahaṁ bīja-pradaḥ pitā: ‘I am father.’ Finished. Father is God. God has created this earth. He has impregnated the earth with the living entities, and they are coming out. Where is the difficulty?”
Satsvarūpa Mahārāja said that the scholars only take the idea of the earth being our mother in a symbolic way. Prabhupāda refuted this, again giving practical examples of the nuturing role of the mother, and how this is the actual relationship we find between nature and the living beings. It is natural then to ask who the father is. He concluded with some strong words. “They are so dull-headed that they have no even common sense, and they’re passing as philosopher, politician and scientist, big leader, big rascal. This is going on, this is going on. And big, big rascals, they have taken the leadership of the world, and the world is in chaos, chaotic condition, everyone is unhappy, suffering.”
The mother, although having a little difficulty understanding Śrīla Prabhupāda’s accent, listened carefully and tried to follow his logic. The boy, however, simply sat, long-haired and slightly bemused, not understanding anything Prabhupāda said. He was very sentimental and seemed to be in another mental arena altogether. When he did speak it wasn’t of any relevance at all to what Śrīla Prabhupāda had said.
“My heart has been captivated by the person that first introduced me to you, George Harrison, and . . . ”
“George Harrison? Oh. You came with him?” Śrīla Prabhupāda innocently asked.
The boy explained. “I first became interested several years back in what you were writing when I, especially when I began to see the tie with what he was singing. And now, the music he’s doing right now reflects what I am looking for myself.”
Satsvarūpa Mahārāja said that the boy was more a follower of George than Prabhupāda.
Out of respect for Śrīla Prabhupāda, the boy didn’t want to have to make such a distinction. “I see the two of you as not . . . I see both of you standing together; I don’t see you apart. That’s why I’m here right now.”
Prabhupāda smiled. He could understand the boy wasn’t too philosophically inclined, so he was congenial, offering him encouragement through his own interests. “Thank you. This boy [George] is also nice. He comes to me. He offers me. He has given one great big estate in London. He financed my first Kṛṣṇa book. It required nineteen thousand dollars. So I asked him, that ‘I have no money. If you can pay, I can print.’ So he gave immediately. I have admitted. You have seen my Kṛṣṇa book? Show him.”
The boy smiled. “Oh, yes. I feel that I am personally in debt to him as well as being in debt to you at this point in my life.”
Referring to George once more Prabhupāda repeated. “He’s a good boy.”
Mādhavānanda prabhu reminded Śrīla Prabhupāda that many Indian guests were waiting to see him. Most did not come on a regular basis, but because of Prabhupāda’s presence today’s attendance was much higher. So the mother and her son took their leave. The boy was honest and appreciative of the chance to meet Śrīla Prabhupāda personally, even though he admitted his inability to take full advantage of the opportunity. “I don’t understand you, but accept my humble obeisances please, anyway.”
After they had gone Prabhupāda continued to criticize the atheistic scientists as we waited for the next guests. “Now produce life. Where is that science? Simply talking. ‘Yes, we shall do. We are trying.’ Nonsense, trying. What is the use of trying? It is already there. God sent egg through the chicken; it will produce life. So why you are wasting your time in this way? Rather, try to understand the person who has got such a brain that within this chemical composition there is life. You cannot do it; therefore you are inferior. Somebody has done it. Even if you say, ‘Nature has done it,’ nature is then powerful. You are not even to the level of nature, what to speak of God. Nature is only one of the energies of God. You cannot understand even the energy. How you will understand the energetic?”
“It’s difficult to understand how they could possibly say that there’s no intelligence,” I observed.
“Therefore we say these are all rascals,” he said with finality. “Therefore generally I say this is a very strong word, but that is the only word to be used for them—rascals, simply rascals. We have no business with them that we have to flatter. ‘No, no, sir,’ you have to be saying ‘a great scientist.’ We say, ‘You are rascals.’ That’s all. Straight, blunt. Four annas worth!”
* * *
Four or five hundred guests came for the feast, mainly from Detroit’s Indian community. Numerous boats glided past the back of the property on the canal throughout the day, and many of their occupants waved with delight at the sight of the devotees. One boat actually pulled over to our small dock to find out what was going on.
Prabhupāda was very pleased and suggested that the devotees make a diorama display and distribute prasādam. He said this will attract many people. He wants a large sign on the river bank to advertise his books and to invite people in. Prabhupāda sees great potential for preaching here. Originally the devotees had not wanted to bring him out to see the place because the neighborhood is so bad, but Śrīla Prabhupāda told them simply to hold kīrtana and that would solve any problems.
“Therefore on the first day of seeing,” he told us, “I closed the transaction. ‘Now agreed, I will give you cash, three hundred thousand.’ He immediately agreed. Verbally, your transaction was finished on my first meeting. Then it was done. It was kept for us by Kṛṣṇa. Otherwise, you could not touch this property, it is so valuable property. Everything is done just like it is temple— the Deity hall.”
We had to agree; it couldn’t be better.
* * *
Although the official date for Lord Jagannātha’s bathing festival was yesterday, the devotees had decided to hold it this evening because it is Sunday. Śrīla Prabhupāda, though, said it was too late, and told them to wait until tomorrow morning.
* * *
Śrīla Prabhupāda sent for Satsvarūpa Mahārāja late in the evening, at about ten o’clock. He suggested that Mahārāja write a book on the theme that all endeavor is a failure without Kṛṣṇa. Their discussion lasted nearly an hour. Satsvarūpa Mahārāja has already completed his work on a new book for use in colleges called Readings in Vedic Literature and it is expected to come out this year.
June 14th, 1976
Śrīla Prabhupāda took his morning walk on Belle Isle again. As we walked a boat sounded a loud blast on its horn. One of the devotees, who seemed to know about things nautical, complimented Śrīla Prabhupāda. “The captain of that boat must know that you’re here on the island today, because those whistles that he just blew were salutes. It’s a master salute from the best man to the best man. He must know that you are here.”
Prabhupāda smiled at his disciple’s sentiment and all the devotees cheered, “Jaya! Haribol!”
* * *
The verse for class described Lord Yamarāja as omniscient. He resides in his own abode or in everyone’s heart like the Paramātmā, and mentally observes the past activities of a living entity and thus understands how the living entity will act in future lives.
Prabhupāda told us that many great saintly persons and others possess this ability to know past, present and future. Yesterday in his meeting with the mother and son he refuted the argument his old school professor had presented against the idea of karma—that there are no witnesses. Now he elaborated on the role of Yamarāja as the ultimate witness and judge of the sinful living beings.
“Just like yesterday I told you that there is an astrological system; immediately they will speak what I was in my previous life, what I am now and what will be my future life. So Yamarāja is not ordinary person. He is given in charge, he is also one out of twelve authorities about religious performances. So he knows everything even from within his mind, what this person was in the past, because everything is going on exactly on the rulings of the material nature. It cannot be changed. This is called destiny. So destiny cannot be changed. With the insight of destiny Yamarāja can understand what was this man previously, what is his position now and what he’s going to become in future. Anumīmāṁsate ’pūrvaṁ. Apūrvam means that which is not yet in vision. Future. So therefore he can give judgment within a second. After death those who are sinful they are taken to Yamarāja.”
To elaborate on how Yamarāja gets such an ability Śrīla Prabhupāda read out his own purport. “ ‘One should not consider Yamarāja an ordinary living being. He’s as good as Lord Brahmā. He has the complete cooperation of the Supreme Lord, who is situated in everyone’s heart and therefore by the grace of the Supersoul he can see the past, present and future of a living being from within. The word anumīmāṁsate means that he can decide in consultation with the Supersoul. Anu means ‘following.’ The actual decisions concerning the next lives of the living entities are made by the Supersoul and they are carried out by Yamarāja.
“So actual witness is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.”
* * *
The devotees celebrated Lord Jagannātha’s Snāna-yātrā this morning, and despite its coming a day or two late it was very joyful.
* * *
Before Prabhupāda’s massage Ambarīṣa and Śrutakīrti prabhus came to discuss their proposed restaurant in Boston. Ambarīṣa plans to spend $250,000 to make it first-class. They showed pictures of the site in a very prominent part of the city just one block from the ISKCON temple on Commonwealth Avenue. Its front portion juts out onto the pavement and has glass walls all around. Ambarīṣa told Prabhupāda that the real estate agent gets fifty calls of inquiry a day, it is such a good location. It was already under construction as a restaurant, but the previous owner ran out of money and received many objections. Śrutakīrti said the neighbors objected to the smell of meat cooking and the serving of alcohol and so we are the only ones practically that can use the place. They expect to serve a thousand people a week, charging eight dollars for a large main meal and three dollars for a snack. Ambarīṣa estimated an income of half a million dollars per year—all of which would go to Śrīla Prabhupāda he said with a laugh.
Śrutakīrti will be the manager of the restaurant, and they are hoping to be open by October this year. They discussed several possible names for it because they felt to be openly Hare Kṛṣṇa would not be acceptable. They were already using the name “Sankīrtana.”
Prabhupāda laughed at what he called “Hare Kṛṣṇa phobia.” He told them that previously a devotee from Bombay, Haridāsa, had gone to Moscow and was chanting in the street. When he was asked what he was doing, he told them, “This is a cinema song.” For the restaurant’s name, Prabhupāda settled for Govinda’s, as in Hawaii.
Ambarīṣa asked if they should offer the food on the altar at the temple because it is so close by. Prabhupāda said it would be all right at the restaurant. But he added, “They must know they are eating prasādam.”
Ambarīṣa has given the Boston temple the down payment for the house next door and this will be used to house the people who work in the restaurant as well as members of the Bhaktivedanta Institute, who may be based there. He has also provided fifty thousand dollars to refurbish the temple with tiled floors and a beautiful onyx altar. Another project planned for this summer is Boston’s first Ratha-yātrā, which Ambarīṣa said will go down to Commonwealth Pier in honor of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s landing there when he first came from India.
Śrīla Prabhupāda chuckled and asked if the “A-P” store was still there. “Yes, that I saw first. I remember.”
As I stood in my gamchā ready for Śrīla Prabhupāda’s massage, Śrutakīrti told him that I looked as though I could give a very good massage.
To my embarrassment and everyone else’s amusement, Prabhupāda replied with good-humored sarcasm, “Mmm. Hari-śauri’s defect is he cannot cook. Otherwise, he is your duplicate. Except cooking. He knows very good cooking!”
Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa Mahārāja chimed in that I knew how to eat, but then Prabhupāda switched the mood. “A young man must eat. Why one should be like me?”
* * *
Eugene Stansky was granted an interview. He had some questions to ask, and he wanted Prabhupāda’s approval for a writing project he is planning. He said he was very happy about traveling with Satsvarūpa Mahārāja’s party.
Prabhupāda preached to him about the unfortunate condition of people in this age. We had been discussing the same topic before Eugene came in, and Prabhupāda had Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa Swami retell Eugene a short anecdote he had told us: A capitalist and a worker went before the Goddess of Fortune. The capitalist asked that he get enough money for one day’s work to enable him to live for six months. When the worker came forward, he asked that he would spend every day the same money that the capitalist would spend in six months.”
Prabhupāda explained the meaning. “ ‘I shall get that money every day and I shall spend it.’ So this worker class, there is no culture. You may pay them heavy amount of money, but they will spend it and remain a poor man. Because he has no culture.”
He pointed that although equal rights had been given to everyone in America, still, the black population in general lives in a poverty-stricken state. He said this is due to a lack of culture. “So this civilization will not endure. If there is no culture, simply by money you cannot maintain a standard of civilization. That is not possible. Now the American leaders they are thinking, ‘Let us have money, then everything . . . ’ Of course, by money you are covering all the defects of the social culture. But this will not endure. Day will come and everything will be exposed. Therefore culture required.”
He explained that even without money, if family life was stable, if there was no quarrel between man and wife, then life is very nice. But if the husband and wife fight, then life becomes hell. “So the principle is the husband honestly tries to earn livelihood, and at home the wife should be so intelligent that whatever money the husband has earned, she’ll manage. She’ll not demand, ‘Bring money, bring money, bring money. Otherwise it cannot be . . . ’ Then the home will be happy. So where is that training?”
Eugene felt that even among the educated classes in the United States there is no culture, no cultural roots.
Prabhupāda agreed with him. “No, no culture. There is no culture. There is no standard social life. Simply hodgepodge. So this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is the only hope to bring everything in proper order. Everything is explained in the Bhagavad-gītā. So America is the leading nation of the world. If you work on the principle of Bhagavad-gītā and train up your people, it will be ideal state and example for the whole world. At least a certain section of the American population should be ideal. That will also do. We cannot expect cent percent will take Kṛṣṇa consciousness. That is not needed. But if there is one section of the people ideal, that will be followed. We want to create that section, our Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement.”
Eugene asked if he could keep a daily log of his activities for the year, with the aim of writing a book explaining the transition from Roman Catholic priesthood to Kṛṣṇa consciousness. It would be written, he told Prabhupāda, for the college student, with a basis of solid philosophical principles rather than mere sentiment. “I think this would open up the door to all of the colleges and universities across the country.”
Prabhupāda was enthusiastic. Eugene is a Ph.D. and has joined us not out of sentiment or whim, but by solidly understanding our philosophy. The chance to penetrate the universities appealed to Prabhupāda and he mentioned recent successes in Hamburg where his books have been accepted as texts for learning Sanskrit. He encouraged Eugene to do it. “So you have kindly come to join us. You study our philosophy very minutely and then try to do something for the suffering humanity. The saintly persons, at least in Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s movement, they are not meant for idle life. They are always busy for the welfare of the whole human society. This is the sign of saintly person. They are misguided and they are suffering, and it is the duty of the saintly person to give them instruction, education, how they can become really happy and make their life successful. This is saintly person. A saintly person doesn’t mean to live at other’s expenditure and do all nonsense things. This is not saintly person.”
When Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa asked Eugene how he liked being with the devotees (who are probably a generation younger than him) he expressed his full satisfaction with their association. He said their enthusiasm and complete surrender were what had impressed him when he joined.
Śrīla Prabhupāda confirmed that as their qualification. “Yasya deve parā bhaktir yathā deve tathā gurau. That is the secret of success. If one has got unflinching faith in his spiritual master and Kṛṣṇa, then he’s successful. Two things. Guru-kṛṣṇa-kṛpāya pāya bhakti-latā-bīja. So if the guru is false, then how they can keep their faith? That will be broken. Our process is very simple. There is no difficulty.”
* * *
In the evening Prabhupāda sat in the garden, choosing a spot under a tree on the top of a bank that sloped to the water’s edge. It was surrounded by flowers and trees, and there were seven peacocks dancing and strutting in the gardens. One called from the treetops just above and behind Śrīla Prabhupāda, attracting his attention. With Prabhupāda present it seemed just like Vṛndāvana. He said that he considered this our best center, especially with its waterside aspect. He enjoyed it so much that he sat for three hours on the multi-colored satin pillows, chanting on his new large tulasī beads and commenting on various philosophical and social issues.
Satsvarūpa Mahārāja, Dhṛṣṭadyumna Swami, Mādhavānanda prabhu and Jayādvaita prabhu all informed and entertained His Divine Grace with stories of their preaching in the colleges and airports. Śrīla Prabhupāda was relaxed, leaning back against the pillows, smiling, commenting and enjoying his disciples’ exploits.
At one point a dark-featured, quiet-mannered devotee came to join our little party. Mādhavānanda introduced him to Śrīla Prabhupāda. “This is our biggest book distributor of the men—Pañca-tattva dāsa. One day in the airport he distributed three hundred Śrīmad-Bhāgavatams.That is the record.”
Prabhupāda’s eyes lit up with surprise and appreciation. “Hardbound Śrīmad-Bhāgavatams?”
“Yes,” Panca-tattva said modestly, a bit shy in front of his spiritual master.
“How did you sell so many?” Prabhupāda asked. “Unless you have got supernatural power.”
“Kṛṣṇa empowered him,” Mādhavānanda said.
“Actually, it is not . . . It is uncommon,” Prabhupāda assured us.
Mādhavānanda told Śrīla Prabhupāda, “Sometimes the karmī salesmen, they stand around to watch us distribute books. Because they are so amazed at our techniques of sale and distribution, they want to learn.”
Jayādvaita confirmed his statement. “They become very respectful. They don’t know anything about our philosophy, but they see how nicely we . . . ”
“Good salesmen,” Prabhupāda said.
“Yes. And sometimes they even offer jobs to the devotee,” Mādhavānanda continued. “That ‘You come and work for me. You will be salesman for my . . . ’ ”
“ ‘And what nonsense book you have got?’ ” Prabhupāda rejoined with a big smile, causing laughter all around. “ ‘We are going to stop your sales.’ Tell them. ‘Instead of helping you for selling your books, we are going to stop all these nonsense books. That is our mission.’ Tad vāyasaṁ tīrtham. That is explained in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Na yad vacaś citra-padaṁ harer yaśo . . . pragṛṇīta karhicit tad vāyasaṁ tīrtham uśanti mānasā. That verse, that however nicely it is written metaphor, poetic ornaments and very good language, grammatical set-up, and so on, so on. So that, although it is very nicely written from literary point of view, but because it does not contain any glorification of Kṛṣṇa, it is just like the spot where the crows take pleasure. Crows. The crows means they go the nasty place where all nasty things are thrown. They take pleasure there. So all these other literatures, they are meant for the crows. And this literature is meant for the swan, paramahaṁsa, white swans. So it is not the bodily color. It means those who are advanced in their development of life, consciousness, it is meant for them. It is not for the crows, who are still eating all nasty things in the garbage. Crows, they do that. And the big swans, they will like water like this, garden like this. Even in the lower animals, there is difference between the crow’s society and swan’s society.”
Prabhupāda enjoyed his evening’s respite so much he stayed out until 9:00 P.M. When I mentioned the time, suggesting it was getting late, he was reluctant to go back in. “It may be ten o’clock,” he said, full of good humor. “What is the difference when here and there?” He laughed. “Just like a blind man, he’s sleeping, now his son is getting, ‘Please rise, it is now morning.’ So he said, ‘For me, morning and evening is the same thing. I am blind.’ Kebā rātra kebā din. ‘For me, there is no difference between day and night, because I cannot see anything.’ ”
June 15th, 1976
Before going on his walk Prabhupāda complained of a toothache, but still he went to Belle Isle. Today there were even some deer in the park, including a beautiful antlered white buck.
As we walked Prabhupāda told us that last night he had translated a section from the Eighth Canto which stated that in a battle between the demigods and the demons, fighting was so ferocious that blood was sprinkled as high as the sun planet. The moon was not mentioned and Prabhupāda said that this was further evidence that the sun is closer to earth than the moon.
He again asked the devotees why they have sun-day as the first day of the week and then moon-day, in every culture. Adressing Ambarīṣa prabhu as “Ambarīṣa Mahārāja,” he teased him a little, asking him what he thought. Ambarīṣa said he definitely accepts Śrīla Prabhupāda’s statements, although he wondered where the scientists had gone.
Satsvarūpa Mahārāja told Prabhupāda that sometimes when they preach in the colleges the question of the moon landing comes up. “People in the classes, when the students say that that they do not see God, there is no proof for God, I give that argument you give. I say, ‘Well, I am a common layman, I have no proof that we’ve actually gone to the moon. At least I haven’t gone to the moon. Show me right away that you can prove it me.’ They say, ‘Well, we have rocks, they brought back rocks.’ ‘I don’t believe that they are from the moon.’ They are astonished that we could actually doubt.”
Everybody laughed. Śrīla Prabhupāda has repeatedly used the moon issue as a kind of litmus test on whether the devotees really accept the Vedas or are still conditioned by the propaganda they hear in school and through the news media. Śrīla Prabhupāda has broken our faith in modern science, there is no doubt. But still it seems that many devotees are struggling to find a clear understanding on this particular issue.
On another topic someone said that they had met a German man in Houston who claimed to be the grandson of a disciple of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s Guru Mahārāja, Śrīla Bhatkisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura. Satsvarūpa doubted the authenticity of his claim, but Śrīla Prabhupāda confirmed that he did have two German Godbrothers—Sadānanda with whom he was very friendly, and another—Ban something, whose full name he could not remember.
As we approached the car, Ambarīṣa ran fifty yards ahead to open the door for Prabhupāda. Watching him trot down the road, barefoot, with saffron-colored dhotī and kurtā, Prabhupādaturned to us with a smile. “Just see, he’s a rich man’s son, but he’s walking without shoes just like a sādhu. He’s doing menial service for a poor Indian.”
* * *
After the regular morning program Śrīla Prabhupāda presided over the installation of Śrī Śrī Gaura-Nitāi. Then he awarded eighteen first and eighteen second initiations. Pradyumna conducted the fire yajña. The sacrificial arena was set up in the center of the temple, with Prabhupāda’s vyāsāsana at one end and the Deities at the other. The whole place was decorated with festoons and flags atop long poles. Flowers formed a decorative fringe along the back of the vyāsāsana.
Prabhupāda got annoyed with Pradyumna because he didn’t have a copy of the prayers from the Brahmā-saṁhitā, which Prabhupāda said must be chanted when the Deity is installed. Prabhupāda said Pradyumna has so many books (he travels with a whole trunk full) and is supposed to be a paṇḍita, but when he has to do something practical he is missing precisely what is required. Prabhupāda himself led the devotees in a word-by-word responsive chanting of twenty-six of the verses, as well as the opening verses of the Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Ādi-līlā. As he did this, Pradyumna performed the bathing ceremony of Their Lordships accompanied by the blast of conches and the ringing of bells.
As the Deities were placed on the altar and dressed behind closed curtains for Their first darśana, everyone gathered around the vyāsāsana. Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa called out the names of the candidates, and the new first initiates came forward one-by-one to receive their new spiritual names and japa beads. Several men came forward who were not shaved up. This caused Prabhupāda to stop the proceedings to inquire why. He is not in favor of giving initiation to anyone who has not shaven his head. The men explained that they were still working at outside jobs, so he relented; but he said they should keep it short and respectable. In between giving out the beads Prabhupāda loudly chanted japa along with the devotees, creating a vibrant, transcendental atmosphere surcharged with the holy names. Unusually, Śrīla Prabhupāda stayed for the whole yajña, only returning to his rooms after the fire ceremony.
* * *
Some mail came in from India, one from Gopāla Kṛṣṇa prabhu, and one from Bhāvabhūti prabhu in Madras.
When Prabhupāda visited Madras in January he had authorized Bhāvabhūti and Śravaṇānanda prabhus to look for a suitable site to build a temple on. He later instructed Mahāṁsa Swami to pull up the foundation stone in Nellore and send it to Madras. Bhāvabhūti reported that he has found some suitable sites in Madras. He also said that over the last four years over two lakhs of rupees have been collected in Madras, but were sent to Bombay. He wanted to know if the money could be returned for purchasing the land. He also wondered if, as an alternative, Prabhupāda was interested in buying a complete estate which, at a cost of eight to ten lakhs, could immediately provide facility for a temple, guesthouse and āśrama. Because of the receptiveness during Śrīla Prabhupāda’s visit in January he felt sure a major project in Madras would attract as big a response as our Bombay center and would be the key to conquering South India. He ended by saying that he was prepared to dedicate his life to the project.
Prabhupāda was not so enthusiastic to start something new, at least not until Bombay and Hyderabad are finished. Mahāṁsa Swami is asking for more money to complete his project, and in his last letter he suggested that we not start any more projects like the Nellore one because we don’t have the manpower to run them. Prabhupāda is inclined to this view. He told Bhāvabhūti that he had no objection to money being returned to Madras, but only after the other projects are complete. He had other objections as well. “But, where is the local devotees who are coming? You are all foreigners, so how long it will go on? Madras especially they are losing interest in Deity worship. Sometimes the political party is insulting. These atheists class of men who have done this, they should be converted into theism by preaching Bhagavad-gita.
“So now there are three GBCs in India and they can consult and make a program how to finance the various programs including the Madras development.”
Gopāla Kṛṣṇa’s letter detailed a proposal for exchanging our books with Russian-printed English books for sale in India. Getting foreign exchange in the communist countries is very difficult. Most of the libraries and universities, although wanting our books, cannot pay for them except by way of book exchange, so Gopāla wanted to know if this was acceptable.
Prabhupāda replied that it could be done only if the books we receive from Russia are sellable in India. He told Gopāla to investigate the Indian market and see which Russian books are in demand and then try to arrange to get those books in the exchange. He also suggested an alternative. “If there is no customer for Russian books in India, then let the Russians take order for specific books and we can send them some of our books free of charge. That will prove that the Russians are actually poor.”
* * *
On the invitation of Lekhāśravantī dāsi, Mr. George Gullen, the President of Wayne State University, came to meet with Śrīla Prabhupāda after his afternoon nap. A tall, stout, bespectacled man in his late forties or early fifties, he listened with genuine respect as Śrīla Prabhupāda explained the basic tenets of Bhāgavata philosophy.
In speaking with his visitors Śrīla Prabhupāda often begins by making a statement on the basic concept of our philosophy, that the soul is different from matter, and then asks his guest what his opinion is. In this way he immediately engages their mind and intelligence while leading them directly into the subject of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Thus he told Mr. Gullen that there are two things, matter and spirit, the knowledge of which is essential for human society. He expressed regret that people were very interested in matter but completely ignorant of the spiritual, and then he asked Mr. Gullen what he thought.
“I think we’re caught up terribly in matters that are not of the spirit. We’re terribly caught up in materialistic things,” Mr. Gullen said.
Prabhupāda stressed that the body is only temporary; it is the soul that is important because it is eternal. But he said that this education was lacking.
Mr. Gullen agreed with him. “Yes, this is true. My father was a Christian minister all of his life, and he had very deep beliefs about the spiritual matters. He felt very strongly, as you do, that the body was temporary and that his spirit would find its way into some other form of life, and he believed very strongly in life after human death, very much so. He believed in a matter he called ‘cosmic consciousness,’ in which the spirit had far greater powers than physical powers. He had similar kinds of beliefs that you do. I have some beliefs myself that the human body being quite temporary, that years are not long for it, that there must be more to life than just the physical side.”
Mr. Gullen showed great personal interest but admitted that public schools definitely lacked any attempt to teach about spiritual life, mainly because teachers simply did not know much about it.
Prabhupāda was pleased to note a man of his stature expressing such a frank admission of inadequacy in his field of work. Picking up on his apparent willingness to learn, he requested him to pursue the subject more. “Yes. Now whether still we shall remain in ignorance or we shall learn this science and teach, that is Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. It is not a sectarian religious movement. No, it is not that. This is science, scientific. So leading personalities like you, teachers, professors and other leading men, they should try to understand what is this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement and join. It is for the human society, it is not for a certain section.”
Mr. Gullen was genuinely responsive to the idea. “I would like very much to know more about these matters myself, personally.”
“So kindly do that. You are little interested. So we are receiving orders from all universities, colleges, of our books. You have seen our books?” Prabhupāda gestured to the large wooden rack opposite his seat next to the door. “These are our books.”
Satsvarūpa informed both Śrīla Prabhupāda and his guest that Wayne State University had already taken standing orders.
“Ah, we have also given. That is very nice,” Prabhupāda said, pleased with the work of his Library Party. “So every person, responsible person, he should learn this science and introduce, so that the opportunity a human being has got, that must be utilized.”
Mr. Gullen warmed to Śrīla Prabhupāda, obviously holding a great deal of respect for him as a spiritual leader. “I have an interest in these matters, and I want to know more about yours, very much so. I will see that I get your literature and read it.”
Prabhupāda encouraged him further, expertly using the little personal information he had been given about Mr. Gullen to give him a psychological boost. “Your father was also interested. That means naturally you have got some instinct from father, hereditary instinct. That is natural. So we want that. In the Bhagavad-gītā there is a verse. . . . ”
I was at the ready with the Gītā and I read out loud verse twenty one from the third chapter: yad yad ācarati śreṣṭhas tat tad evetaro janaḥ/sa yat pramāṇaṁ kurute lokas tad anuvartate. “Whatever action is performed by a great man, common men follow in his footsteps. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.”
Prabhupāda had me read out the whole purport. Mr. Gullen listened carefully, appreciating what he heard. “Very good, very good, I believe all that. Every word. The people need leadership, inspiration that they can follow with their whole heart.”
Prabhupāda emphasized the need for good examples from leaders and offered his own efforts in setting up ISKCON as a paradigm. “There must be practice, that we are teaching. That simply not theoretical, but practical. Here in our institute, we teach all the students practically how to become God conscious. Theoretical knowledge will not help us. There must be practical behavior. They are rising early in the morning, attending maṅgala-ārati, then having class, Bhagavad-gītā, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, chanting, in this way, twenty-four hours engaged. It is not fifteen minutes recreation. No. Twenty-four hours program.”
“I think this is good for the world,” Mr. Gullen told him. “I think the world needs it very much so.”
Unfortunately Mr. Gullen had to leave early due to prior commitments, but he promised to read Prabhupāda’s books and enjoyed some prasādam before going.
* * *
Ṛddha dāsa, who with Jagat Guru Swami and several others had left Vṛndāvana in April with Śrīla Prabhupāda’s blessings to go preaching in South Africa, sent an optimistic report of their activities there. After distributing about five thousand books in Johannesburg, they moved on to Durban where they are now occupying a vacant cottage owned by a life member. It is right on the seashore and twenty minutes from the city. His description invoked pleasant images of a three-acre plot with palm trees, sea, sand and a lotus-filled pond.
They met with the director of the university, Professor Oliver, who met Śrīla Prabhupāda on his trip there last year. Although he is a European, the university is for Indians only. Śrīla Prabhupāda had suggested that he set up a department for Hindu studies, and he took it seriously. Ṛddha said Professor Oliver is favorable and has expressed a desire to help them establish their place as a yoga retreat where students can go to learn Kṛṣṇa consciousness. “He [Oliver] indicated that he had to select one of two men as he has been holding it off for some time and has been worried about employing a Bogus Teacher. He did indicate that I should come back to the University to help him select a suitable candidate. He realises the purity of our Svarūpa Dāmodara. If by Krsna’s grace, he will allow our Svarūpa Dāmodara to come and fill the post as Professor of Religion, it would be to our advantage if he could have a personal interview.”
Ṛddha also gave the names of several new devotees for initiation, among them Bhaktin Nadira, who he said was the first South African-born Indian to join us.
Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa Mahārāja showed Śrīla Prabhupāda a newspaper Ṛddha prabhu had enclosed. It was produced in Durban for the Indian population, which is about half a million strong. He read two articles aloud. “The man who is said to expose fraudulent practices amongst miracle workers is Dr. Abraham T. Kavoor, who recently held a spell-binding magic show at the Bangalore Town Hall to debunk the miracles of god-men. He claimed that several of the tricks demonstrated had, in fact, been learned from persons who had duped the public that they could perform miracles and other extraordinary acts. And this, he believed, would lead to an attempt on his life. ‘I am not afraid of gods. They don’t exist. But I am afraid of god-men, because they are alive. They have thugs as agents. If a good man like Gandhi could be assassinated, what keeps a Kavoor from suffering the same fate?’ Addressing a press conference, Dr. Kavoor implied that an attempt might be made on his life if he tried to expose the fraudulent practice by god-men because this would involve a physical search of the persons involved. Hence his insistence that his investigation would have to be preceded by their permission. To date, he said, he had written six registered letters to Satya Sai Baba issuing his famous challenge, but had no reply from him as yet. Asked how he produced ash and other objects out of nowhere, Dr. Kavoor indicated that one of the methods was by concealing the objects to be materialized inside his coat. The rest was pure sleight of hand. Photographs of him [Sai Baba] exposing his coat have been published both in the national and international press, he said. Reporting that hatha-yogi L. S. Lal had confessed to him that his much-vaunted show of walking on water had been pure trick designed to make some money, Dr. Kavoor said, ‘How long can the government of India tolerate such hoaxers who claim to have supernatural powers and exploit the ordinary men?’ ”
Śrīla Prabhupāda of course, has always complained about cheaters duping the innocent public and he told Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa to file the article for future use. “You keep this. We shall have to show to the Indian government authorities.”
Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa read on. “ ‘Just as it has dealt with black marketeers and smugglers, it is high time the government took immediate action to round up all those who claim supernatural powers.’ While he was happy that Bangalore University has already established a committee to investigate miracles and superstitions, he cautioned them to be very careful, as even the scientists were not infallible.”
The second article was highly complimentary to ISKCON, and in particular mentioned how we are celebrating Ratha-yātrā in many cities of the world. It reported that the local Durban branch of ISKCON hoped to put on Ratha-yātrā in the near future.
Prabhupāda was very pleased to hear both pieces because he said that the bogus yogis like Sai Baba should be exposed. “Factually, these rascals are creating magic jugglery. Even during the time of Kṛṣṇa such rascals were there. Paundraka. So Kṛṣṇa was present, He immediately cut off his head. They should be immediately cut off their head, rascals. Yes. That is the only punishment for them.”
Since Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa is the GBC for South Africa, Prabhupāda urged him to initiate Ratha-yātrā in Durban because the large Indian population and the favorable response the devotees are getting would ensure a huge success.
Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa Mahārāja was a bit doubtful; he had already advised the devotees to wait because there are so few in the yātrā.
But Prabhupāda still asked him to do it. He said they could easily manage it with help from the Indian population. As far as worshiping the Deities is concerned, they already have some worship going on. “If you are worshiping Nitāi-Gaura, along with Jagannātha, where is the difficulty?”
“We only have two brahmāṇas in South Africa,” Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa explained.
“No, one brahmāṇa, half brahmāṇa will do. Only one hand will do,” Prabhupāda told him. He said that they could start off as they had in San Francisco, with an open-backed truck. Then when Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa asked permission to have it in January, which is summer there, Prabhupāda approved and added that this would give them time to build a full size rāthā.
As far as the university posting was concerned, Śrīla Prabhupāda was very positive about the fact that his disciple was on the short list. “Svarūpa Dāmodara must be the best candidate. Others, what they’ll know about it? All other Ph.D.s, they are simply rubber-stamped. Actually they have no knowledge. Svarūpa Dāmodara has solid knowledge; he has learned from us. Therefore he’s writing all these books. He has rejected his so-called scientific knowledge. He has completely understood that so-called scientific knowledge is bogus, it has no solid background. Now he’s writing books on this.”
He recalled the section he translated last night from the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam about the dust from the fight of the demigods rising to the sun and not the moon. Once more repeating that all over the world every culture has the same order of days, he challenged Satsvarūpa Mahārāja to raise a plausible objection to his claim that this means the sun is nearer than the moon to the earth.
“Well, just because Sunday comes before Monday, that is an interpretation to say therefore the sun is nearer than the moon,” Satsvarūpa said. “Sunday may be the first day of the week and then Monday, but that doesn’t mean the sun is closer than the moon, just because Sunday is the first day of the week.”
“No, why this arrangement?” Prabhupāda said. “There must be some arrangement in planetary system. Just like first, second, third, fourth, fifth, like that. Therefore, Sunday is first. Not whimsically. Suppose there is a system, first, second, third, fourth. So according to that, the dates are there. Not whimsically you first of all bring Saturn or first of all bring Jupiter. Not like that. You cannot do that. Why shall you do that?”
Prabhupāda surveyed the room’s occupants. “Therefore we are sitting, now, she’s first, he’s second, you are . . . like that. Not that although she is sitting there, he can be blocked here. No. . . . It is of course a very simple question, but it has got some intelligence. We must get some intelligent answer. Ordinary answer will not do. And so far, you know I have questioned so many persons, and they have not replied. Svarūpa Dāmodara has not replied.”
“He backed down from the challenge,” Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa Mahārāja said.
Prabhupāda went on. “Now you all together make this Vedic Planetarium very nice, so that people will come and see. From the description of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam you prepare thisVedic Planetarium.”
He turned to Ambarīṣa prabhu. “How do you like this idea, Vedic Planetarium?”
“It seems like a very nice idea.”
Prabhupāda laughed. “You also like? So finance this project, Vedic Planetarium.”
“Where will this be?” Ambarīṣa asked him.
“Mayapur. My idea is to attract people of the whole world to Mayapur.”
* * *
In the early evening, despite the somewhat inclement weather, Prabhupāda decided to go outside to his spot under the trees on the river bank. He enjoyed sitting amidst the trees, looking out over the canal with the peacocks’ calls echoing through the trees and over the water. Even though it lightly rained he did not mind. He had me read out the second chapter of Bhagavad-gītā, chanting on his beads as everyone gathered around. I got as far as verse six and the rain intensified. When I asked him if he wanted to go in, he just laughed. “Let it rain!” he said, grinning at all the devotees. But it got worse, so we repaired to the outside veranda. We set up Prabhupāda’s seat and multi-colored cushions against the stucco wall and perhaps twenty-five or thirty devotees crowded around, sitting cross-legged at his feet on the dark brown ceramic tiles.
Jayādvaita prabhu took up the reading where I left off. He began on the purport to verse seven: “By nature’s own way the complete system of material activities is a source of perplexity for everyone. In every step there is perplexity, and therefore it behooves one to approach a bona fide spiritual master who can give one proper guidance for executing the purpose of life. All Vedic literatures advise us to approach a bona fide spiritual master to get free from the perplexities of life, which happen without our desire.”
Prabhupāda stopped him. “Now you can discuss among yourselves whether you have approached such spiritual master who can guide you, give proper guidance.”
Dhṛṣṭadyumna Mahārāja and I both volunteered statements that because we are getting relief from material existence, we do indeed have a bona fide spiritual master; Prabhupāda is definitely solving all our perplexities of life.
Prabhupāda accepted our words and Jayādvaita read on. “He is a miserly man who does not solve the problems of life as a human and who thus quits this world like the cats and dogs, without understanding the science of self-realization. This human form of life is a most valuable asset for the living entity, who can utilize it for solving the problems of life; therefore, one who does not utilize this opportunity properly is a miser. On the other hand, there is the brahmāna . . . ”
Prabhupāda cut in. “People are so uneducated, they do not know even what are the problems of life. What generally people think the problems of life?”
“How to get more money, how to get more sense gratification,” I suggested. “That’s the main problem.”
Śrīla Prabhupāda laughed. “Your America has got so much money. Has it solved all the problems? Our Ambarīṣa Mahārāja will answer.”
“What is the question, Śrīla Prabhupāda?”
“Question is that your forefathers and fathers have got so much money, whether it has solved the problems of life?”
“No,” Ambarīṣa stated with certainty. “It hasn’t solved any of their problems. It has multiplied them.”
Prabhupāda smiled in appreciation of his disciple. “He is the best . . . He could have personally owned this palace and lived very luxuriously. He has got the means. But he did not like that. He gave it to the Vaiṣṇavas. So money cannot solve the problems. That is not possible.”
* * *
At about 7:30 Lekhāśravantī brought two Catholic priests, Monseigneur Clement Kern, who is very prominent in the local area, and the Reverend Edward L. Scheuerman, who runs the church across the street. Prabhupāda remained out on the veranda with all the devotees and they sat opposite him on wooden benches. They were both friendly and pleased to meet Prabhupāda.
Prabhupāda opened up the conversation by observing that nowadays people are not interested in God. The priests agreed, although Monseigneur Kern noted that, as with our Movement, there is a new phenomena within the Christian church called the Charismatic movement which is attracting many young people.
Śrīla Prabhupāda asked Jayādvaita prabhu to explain why young men and women were coming to his Movement. Jayādvaita, who is Jewish by birth, told the priests that Śrīla Prabhupāda was giving us information not just that God is great, but how God is great—what His name is, what His form is, what His world is. Generally, he told them, there’s no specific information on these things, but through the Vedic literature we can understand them.
Monseigneur Kern gave a considered reply. “I suppose that theology, study of God, is quite specific. Now whether would that information be given to groups—yes, I think so. We would speak of God as revealing Himself to us in very many ways. And therefore a group as large as this . . . For example, tonight, Tuesday, there would be meetings of young people, Roman Catholics—and probably Protestants too, but I’m just thinking of Roman Catholic young people—who would be praying very earnestly and searching for God’s revelation to them through their friends, neighbors and their own experience of God. I’m not familiar with the Charismatic movement yet, so I’m only speaking in great generalities.”
Dhṛṣṭadyumna, who had once contemplated becoming a Christian monk, spoke up. “The difficulty I have found by my personal experience with these groups is that it couldn’t give me a concrete enough realization, neither a whole, practical lifestyle by which I could stay on the platform of God realization. You can go to the meeting, but then when you go out in the society you’re forced to act in so many sinful ways because of the conditioning and the advertising and the force of pressure in the society. I lived in a Trappist monastery in Spencer, Massachusetts, with the monks there, and there was still that gap between how I could not only fulfill my own spiritual life there, but also how to help others in theirs, without losing my purity. And that I’ve been able to find in this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, because it gives you a twenty-four-hour a day program to remain in God consciousness.”
Prabhupāda took up from Dhṛṣṭadyumna’s lead-in, quoting from Bhagavad-gītā 7.28. He said it was not possible to have an experience of God if one remained sinful, and therefore there was a need in human society to train people how to be sinless. “We have to teach people how to refrain from sinful activities. Then, when he’s pure, then God will reveal. If we keep them in sinful life, at the same time we want to preach them, it will not be possible. In the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam it is said that those who are animal killer, they cannot understand about God. So if in the human society unnecessary animal killing is encouraged, he will never be able to understand what is God. The greatest sinful activity, paśu-ghna. So in human society, unnecessarily animal killing is going on. So they are entangled in sinful activities; therefore they are unable to understand what is God.”
He went on to speak of the need for training at least one group of people to come to the first-class standard of a brahmāṇa.
Monseigneur Kern, who spoke in a measured, slightly sing-song tone, seemed mainly concerned about the poor, needy and disabled. Prabhupāda however, told him that this type of work is not so important. “You have to accept it. But as far as possible we can give them help. That is not the question. Question is, those who are not handicapped, they are rotting without education, without enlightenment by keeping themselves as fourth-class, fifth-class men. Why not train them to become first-class men? That is the point. If one is blind, you cannot give him eyes. If one is lame, you cannot give him leg. That is beyond your ability. That is another thing; we shall deal with them later on. First of all, those who are born as human beings, why should you keep them as third-class, fourth-class men?”
He told them that we cannot expect that everyone will become first-class, but there must be at least one class of man who is peaceful and self-controlled. “If there is a first-class man on the head of the society, then everything will be done properly.”
The priests found many parallels in the teachings of Jesus with what Prabhupāda said. Reverend Scheuerman especially was enlivened and asked if Prabhupāda had some plan or some thoughts in the way in which we and they could mutually cooperate.
“Oh, yes. There is plan,” Prabhupāda assured him. “Now suppose if I say, ‘Let us create some peaceful man,’ so who will disagree with this? I don’t say everyone will be peaceful, but some of them can be trained up. Some of them can be trained up courageous in battle. We have to select by practical psychology what is the tendency. Similarly we should divide, . . . ”
“In other words, you would utilize practical psychology in the selection of people for the various levels?” Reverend Scheuerman asked.
“Yes. Just like I have already said that to keep your body in order you require to keep the head, the hands, the belly and the legs in order. Otherwise, there will be disorder. The present position of the whole human society is in disorder.”
Reverend Scheuerman understood the broad reform of human society that Śrīla Prabhupāda was proposing, but Monseigneur Kern thought of it as elitism. His concern, as Reverend Scheuerman presented it on his behalf, was for the poor, the downtrodden, those who suffer and those who are deprived.
Prabhupāda was frank with him. He said it was imagination to think that one can change that—there will always be a richer class, a middle class and a poor class in human society. Before coming to America he had thought that everyone here was rich. But after arriving he saw there were so many bums lying on the street. In London he had also seen so many hippies lying in the parks with the police moving them on. So simply having money will not change any thing.
He said by good intelligence we can solve the problem of food. Daily we are feeding a thousand men in Māyāpur, and in Detroit many local people are coming to eat with the devotees. But, he told his visitors, a man is really poor if he is in ignorance. “We are not simply supplying food. Anyone who is coming, he is getting spiritual education. Not that it is a free hotel. No. It is not that. We give them spiritual education. You come here, you take your shelter, you take your food and learn how to be first-class man. That is our program. Don’t be implicated in sinful activities. Be God conscious and live here with us comfortably, take your food. We have got this nice palace.”
Reverend Scheuerman said he thought that Prabhupāda’s program had a great appeal for many young people because of its Eastern origins.
Prabhupāda was quick to correct him. “It is not Eastern, Western. It is the life. Just like to become peaceful, is it Eastern or Western? Peaceful is peaceful. Why do you bring Eastern?”
“No, but the way in which, the method in which . . . is it Eastern? This is not to say it is bad; it is good too. There are many traditions . . . ”
“No, I mean to say, it we look for Eastern, Western, then it becomes sectarian. But it is for all. If you teach a person to become peaceful, it is not the question of Eastern and Western. It is meant for everyone.”
Reverend Scheuerman nodded in agreement. “Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers; they shall see God.’ Yes.”
“That’s right,” Prabhupāda told him. “So why should you say that it is Eastern or Western?”
“Well your methodology, much of your personal vocabulary, your garb, is from the East.”
“It is not personal. It may be said that in Eastern countries or in India these things are very much appreciated and developed. That is another thing. But the thing as it is, it is neither Eastern or Western.”
“Oh, good. I grant it that the principles that you are utilizing are general and universal. Granted.”
Prabhupāda had Dhṛṣṭadyumna Mahārāja read from the eighteenth chapter of Bhagavad-gītā, and he one-by-one described the various qualities of the brahmāṇa. He emphasized that the main program is to train people in one of the four natural divisions of human society.
The priests were interested in where Śrīla Prabhupāda intended to do his teaching and who would do it. Prabhupāda explained that as some men were trained to the first-class standard then they in turn would train others; it was not one man’s task. “The thing is that I have established so many centers. So I have to go from one center to another just to encourage them. Otherwise I am old enough. I am eighty years. So traveling is not very good job for me, but still I do it just to encourage them.”
“Your lines of authority then come from you, or is it an elective authority?” Monseigneur Kern inquired.
“Everything is work on higher authority. I have got my secretaries. I have got about twenty secretaries who are in charge of some group of temples.”
“I see. And you appoint the secretaries then who are in charge of the groups, each local group.”
“Yes. I try to manage as far as possible, but I’m not getting any government’s cooperation. It is all my personal endeavor.”
Reverend Scheuerman showed particular interest in the talk of training. “Do you hope to acquire school buildings for teaching school?”
“Yes, why not? If there is arrangement for financing such school we can start, very nice.”
Monseigneur Kern revealed the thinking of his companion. “Father would sell you a fine school.”
Reverend Scheuerman laughed. “We have a building that will be available shortly if you want to start a school.”
It seemed so typical of the state of the Church. Śrīla Prabhupāda has many times pointed out (even at the start of this conversation) that many of our centers were formerly churches—Los Angeles, Melbourne, Toronto—the Church could not maintain them but we are filling them up. He laughed along with the priests and encouraged them.
“So let us cooperate.”
Reverend Scheuerman agreed. “Let us cooperate. And your teachers. There’s no question that the kind of thing you’re talking about here is needed.”
It was a long session and of the two guests, Reverend Scheuerman was sharpest and most alert to the points Śrīla Prabhupāda made. He followed Prabhupāda’s reasoning closely and seemed to agree with everything he said. At the end Prabhupāda had the devotees present them with flower garlands and mahā-prasādam just off the altar. Reverend Scheuerman was clearly enlivened by his meeting and genuinely appreciative of Śrīla Prabhupāda and the devotees. As he prepared to leave he told Prabhupāda, “I feel very much like one of the disciples, so to speak, coming with the master, and it’s a great privilege to be able to join this circle this evening.” The devotees all cheered, and the priests left wreathed in smiles and laden with sweets.
After their exit Jayādvaita prabhu commented to Śrīla Prabhupāda that the priests liked to be in the role of his disciples.
“If you remain to your principles,” Prabhupāda told him, “you can make the whole world your disciple.”
He quoted the first verse from Śrī Upadeśāmṛta. “You’ll be accepted. We don’t speak Eastern–Western. We speak for everywhere. Or Christian or Hindu. We never speak like that. I think I never said like that, that: ‘Our Eastern people think like that, Hindus think . . . ’ I never said. Why shall I say? It is for everyone. If you do not become peaceful, that is your business. But when I say, ‘You become peaceful,’ that is meant for everyone.”
It was late and Prabhupāda decided to retire. The devotees followed him to the stairs, chanting, “Jaya Prabhupāda” all the way.
* * *
Settling in his room, Prabhupāda asked for Pālikā. I was very happy when he asked her to make chīra the same way that I cook it. Although I have failed as a cook, Prabhupāda does occasionally ask me to make chīra, usually in the evenings. He likes it, so I am not a total loss.
Pālikā went downstairs to the kitchen and Prabhupāda laid on his bed behind the wooden screen. I stood at his side, gently massaging his legs and feet. Now that I have the cassette recorder it is easy to keep it handy by my side to record any brief comments or discussions he may have with me as he rests. Sometimes he immediately closes his eyes and goes into a slumber, but at other times he chats, sometimes on the day’s events, but more often just offering practical little insights, reflections about the world at large and the condition of human society.
These gentle interludes, with the lights dimmed, silence all round, and His Divine Grace completely at ease, are special. Although I am with him practically all day, every day, and I hear him preach for many hours—on the walk, during class, in darśanas, doing the mail—still, there are some moments that have a wonderful aspect of intimacy. They seem to bestow upon one the status of a confidant; I say “seem to” because in actuality Prabhupāda just says the same things he says in public or to a group of disciples. There is no difference between the “public Prabhupāda” and the “private Prabhupāda.” But the mood, the ambience, is different—a little softer, a little more relaxed—the end of a full day’s preaching, Kṛṣṇa’s warrior taking a deserved break before pushing relentlessly ahead again. And now I can try to capture this on tape, not only for myself, but for all others.
Tonight he talked a little more than usual. When I mentioned how enlivened Reverend Scheuerman had become, Prabhupāda smiled. “He wanted to become student,” he said with a quiet chuckle.
“Yes,” I agreed. “He was becoming very enthusiastic. He was very enlivened. Anyone with a little intelligence, as soon as you begin to speak to them, immediately they become so much enlivened. He’s obviously . . . He’s had some idea about organization and whatever, but he’s never seen it practiced. And now he’s come here and seen it practical.”
“Yes. This is practical training,” Prabhupāda told me. “That is wanted. Simply theoretical knowledge . . . That is helpful, but training, that is the greatest need, that we have to create a set of first-class men. Then the world will be all right. That is an attempt of the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, to make first class, ideal. Why they’ll be attracted? They are seeing that ‘The priests are doing the same thing as we are doing.’ So how they will be attracted? Therefore Christianity is failing. They are also having the meat, illicit sex, drunkard, and they’re priest.”
I agreed. “They’ve watered down so much, there’s no value left to what they’re doing. They’re exactly the same as a man in the street, except he says he believes in God and the man on the street says he doesn’t believe. And they have no ability to convince a man that God exists. They have no scientific knowledge or whatever.”
“Simply by the position: ‘I am Cardinal,’ ‘I am Pope,’ ‘I am priest,’ ‘I am that.’ How long it will go on?”
I said I thought it could not go on much longer. “Just the fact that there’s so many divisions now of Christianity, that this man was speaking about this Charismatic movement. Now this is the young people. They’re feeling a need for God, so they’re trying to express it through another concocted form of Christianity. But that will also be a failure.”
Prabhupāda was humble and reflective. He gave a little yawn. “So let us try. Honestly, that’s all.”
He asked about our travel to Toronto. It reminded me that one of the devotees had told us that the priest selling that church had declared he would rather burn it down than sell to us. Prabhupāda had visited last year and given the devotees the go ahead for the purchase, so he knew the details. “Ah, yes. It was sold to somebody else. But because it is an old church, the government municipality would not allow to break it. Then the man who purchased, he was obliged to sell to us.”
“That’s an exact duplicate of the situation that happened in Melbourne,” I told him. “That place was sold to a property developer, and then the National Trust put a classification on it, so he was not able to break it down, and neither could he utilize the extra space in the yard for building flats, because the council would not allow him. So then we . . . Originally they would not sell to us.”
Śrīla Prabhupāda chuckled. “Same thing here. Nobody would purchase it on account of this black quarter. Nobody was ready to purchase.”
“It seems Kṛṣṇa is saving some very nice places for us.”
“That is Kṛṣṇa’s trick,” Prabhupāda said. He lay resting for a few seconds and then recalled his earlier exchange with the priests. “Everyone talks of the ‘We Eastern, we believe in this,’ and ‘We Western, we believe in this.’ You remain peaceful, everyone. Everyone is thinking like this. We have no such thing, Eastern, Western. It is fact. For everyone it is good. Eastern, Western, we don’t take. Several times, this question . . . I spoke in the American Embassy in Calcutta. They gave me the subject matter, ‘East and West.’ So I, in the beginning, I began to speak that we have no such duality, East and West.”
Then he decided he preferred samosā to the chīra, so I ran off downstairs to inform Pālikā, leaving him to rest before his evening writing began.
June 16th, 1976
Although Prabhupāda didn’t talk much on his walk he did discuss the Christians a little. Whenever Christianity comes up, Prabhupāda inevitably focuses on meat-eating. It was one of the first things he mentioned in his discussion with the priests last night. He has said many times that unless a person understands the wrongness of this activity he can never understand God.
Thus, when I told him that their whole philosophy is that no one can be sinless except Christ, he said, “That’s all right, then why don’t you follow Christ? Christ says, ‘Thou shall not kill,’ then why do you interpret? ‘Christ ate meat, therefore we shall open slaughterhouse.’ This is rascaldom. Because maybe somewhere he has eaten fish, therefore, ‘By following in his footsteps, we shall open slaughterhouse and kill thousands of animals daily.’ ”
I said a common idea among them is that the Ten Commandments are simply an ideal that no one can follow. Prabhupāda quickly replied, “Then you go to hell!”
* * *
In his last class in Detroit, on Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 6.1.50, Prabhupāda gave a powerful lecture speaking strongly on the need to control the senses, especially the mind. The verse was an analysis of the soul’s deep involvement in the material world. “Above the five senses of perception, the five working senses and the five objects of the senses is the mind, which is the sixteenth element. Above the mind is the seventeenth element, the soul, the living being himself, who, in cooperation with the other sixteen, enjoys the material world alone. The living being enjoys three kinds of situations, namely happy, distressful and mixed.”
Prabhupāda told us of the essential role of the spiritual master. “This is business of guru, to engage. How the arms can be engaged. You can engage your arms for decorating the Deity, for sewing the clothing, dress, garland. Voice in speaking about Kṛṣṇa, eyes to see Kṛṣṇa, how nicely decorated, come to the temple. For coming to the temple your legs will be used. And after coming to the temple, your tongue will be used. Chant Hare Kṛṣṇa, take prasādam. In this way, if we engage all our senses in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, then we are victorious. Otherwise, it is not possible.”
Śrīla Prabhupāda often has a wonderful turn of phrase, his words perfectly descriptive of his subject matter and giving immediate realization. Thus, when he described our situation as being “covered by the network of the senses,” it seemed exactly right, an encapsulated vision of the soul’s entanglement.
He said the key to release lay in what we think. “Just like a nationalist, a family man, he is doing always something for the welfare of the family. Or for the welfare of the society. Or a big, big nationalist, leaders. Why they become big leaders? Why they are worshiped? Because they are thinking always of the nation, of the community; that is good. But a Vaiṣṇava is not only thinking of the community or society or family, he is thinking of all living entities. That is Vaiṣṇava. Lokānāṁ hita-kāriṇau, all planets; that is Vaiṣṇava. They are not thinking for a particular . . . Kṛṣṇa includes everything. If you think of Kṛṣṇa, then automatically you’ll think of everything. The same process, watering the root. Why we are preaching? Why, what was the necessity to come in the Western country? No. Kṛṣṇa wants, Caitanya Mahāprabhu wants. Therefore a devotee goes from town to town, village to village. Pṛthivīte āche yata nagarādi grāma. This is Vaiṣṇava. He is thinking for everyone. Because it is a fact, without Kṛṣṇa consciousness everyone is suffering. Therefore preaching is so important.”
He said a devotee is not defined by appearance. “Devotee means not with four hands or four legs, no. The hands, legs are the same. But his mode of thinking different. That’s all. That is devotee. Devotee does not depend on the country, color or religion or circumstance. Devotee means the mind. Anyone who is always thinking of Kṛṣṇa, he is devotee. That is the first qualification of devotee.”
And how we deal with the mind decides whether we are conditioned or liberated. “Generally, we are controlled by the mind. That is the position of our conditional life. Baddha-jīva, mukta-jīva. Conditioned soul and liberated soul. What is the difference? Conditioned soul means who is becoming conditioned by the mind or controlled by the mind. And liberated soul means who is not conditioned by the mind. Mind says, ‘Why not smoke one cigarette.’ And when you’ll be able to say, ‘No cigarette!’ then you’ve controlled the mind. Mind will say always for some sense gratification. But when you control the mind, then you are liberated person. Therefore the svāmī, svāmī means controller or gosvāmī. Svāmī does not mean you simply stamp over your name ‘Svāmī.’ No, svāmī means the controller of the mind. He is not controlled by the mind, he controls the mind. Gosvāmī. Go means ‘senses’ and svāmī means ‘master.’ When you are able to control your senses, then you are a gosvāmī or svāmī, the same thing. Otherwise, godāsa. Dāsa means ‘servant.’ Everyone in this material world, he’s godāsa. Means servant of the mind, servant of the senses. Everyone. He may be very big man, but he’s servant of the senses. So spiritual advancement means that at the present moment we are all servants of the senses or of the mind. Mind is the master of the senses, central point. Therefore if you can control the mind, then you can control the senses.”
Being the most formidable sense to control, if one gains mastery over the tongue, he can control all the other senses. He gave a practical example how the tongue can cause large-scale havoc, obviously thinking about his previous meeting with the priests. “Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura said, tār madhye jihvā ati, lobhamoy sudurmati tā’ke jetā koṭhina saṁsāre. Of all the senses, the tongue is the strongest enemy, always proposing, ‘Eat this, eat this, eat this, eat this, eat this.’ Just see, for tongue one person eats a little bit of beef only, not much. A piece of beef. But for the satisfaction of the senses, thousands of innocent animals are being killed. Just see. They cannot control this. A bit of beef. They cannot control. We are prohibiting, no meat-eating. So this is controlling the sense. Because unless you bring the senses under control, there is no question of spiritual advancement.”
If we at least theoretically understand our true position, he told us, then our duty changes. And when we come to the stage of practice, then we become purified. At that point we reach the stage of bhakti. “Bhakti actually begins after liberation. Nivṛtta-tarṣair upagīyamānāt. Nivṛtta means one who has ceased tṛṣṇā. Tṛṣṇā means aspiration. We have got so many aspirations. So this transcendental life, or chanting of Hare Kṛṣṇa, is the means for the liberated person. This chanting is the medicine for our conditioned stage. Nivṛtta-tarṣair upagīyamānād, bhavauṣādhac chrotra-mano-’bhirāmāt/ ka uttama-śloka-guṇānuvādāt, puman vijrajyeta vinā paśu-ghnāt. Paśu-ghna, animal killer. Paśu-ghna has two meanings. One who is killing himself, he’s paśu-ghna; and one who is killing animals, he is also paśu-ghna. Therefore meat-eating is prohibited. If you remain a killer of animals, then you cannot be purified. That is essential. No meat-eating.
“You cannot stop the activities of the senses. That is not possible. Because I am living being. If the sense activities are stopped, then where is my life? I’m finished. So that cannot be. This is impossible. The Buddha philosophy is stop the activities of the senses, nirvāṇa. That is not possible. Stop means you stop material activities. A child, he is simply doing all nonsense and creating some disturbance. The same boy, when he’s engaged in reading and writing, going to school, he’s a good boy. Similarly, you cannot stop the activities of your senses, but when you engage your senses in the activities of Kṛṣṇa, that is perfection of life. Thank you very much.”
As he stepped down from his vyāsāsana the devotees struck up a rousing kīrtana. Viśākhā dāsī came forward, inviting him to come outside to the front of the building. There she had set up his sitting room āsana ready for a group photo for BTG using the mansion as an impressive back drop.
Prabhupāda happily obliged and sat patiently chanting on his beads until everyone was in place. All the men gathered around the back and sides, and the ladies congregated above and behind on the first floor outside veranda. Prabhupāda looked resplendent, sitting on his flower-bedecked āsana, the pure devotee whom the śāstra declares to be the sum total of all the demigods, perfectly at home in Devasadana Mandira, the home of the demigods.
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We were all packed and ready to leave for the airport. Prabhupāda was just about to get up from his sitting place when Dhṛṣṭadyumna Swami appeared at the door in some anxiety. He delivered a message from Tamal Krishna Goswami that the Berkeley and Washington D. C. temple presidents had banned the Rādhā-Dāmodara buses and men from attending the San Francisco Ratha-yātrā parade, and the bicentennial Independence Day celebrations on July 4th in the capital.
Prabhupāda’s response was instant. Delivered with a great deal of disdain he said, “So long they are engaged in sinful activity, this fighting spirit will continue!” He ordered Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa Mahārāja to contact the appropriate GBC men and have the decisions reversed. “What does it matter who distributes the books so long they get distributed?” He inquired who was in charge of the Berkeley temple. When I informed him, he condemned the man’s behavior as that of a “crazy eccentric.”
It is His Divine Grace’s one great anxiety that things may be ruined by fighting among devotees, just as the unity of his spiritual master’s Gaudiya Matha organization was demolished by internal politics and factioning. He has said several times that his main purpose in traveling is to encourage everyone and to see that things go on nicely, that they may not become spoiled.
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A large crowd of devotees accompanied Śrīla Prabhupāda to the airport. His Divine Grace held an impromptu darśana in the waiting lounge until boarding time, and then we flew to Toronto at 5:45 p.m. in the evening.