July 1972: MAYAPUR, INDIA – Construction of Lotus building, Plowing with ox
Bhavananda das: This is the beginning of the construction of the first guest house at Mayapur. That was what you call the Lotus building. It was designed in Calcutta by an architect named Mr. Gujarati, who lived on the other side of the pukur from Albert Road. He designed that nice building and showed it to Prabhupada and he said, “Yes, this is a nice building.” He said, “Build it.” And this man, Mr. Gujarati, he had lines in his forehead and Prabhupada said, “Oh, you have natural tilak. It’s a very good sign.” We were still living up front in the straw house. We lived up in that straw house for a long time, even when the Deities were in this temple on the ground floor. That would be the summer because that’s Kalbaishakh season with those big cyclones. It would be so hot, and then these huge black clouds would come up, and then it would just be this heavy downpour, and then you’d have some freshness for a few days.
July 1972: AMSTERDAM, HOLLAND – Arrival
Prithu das: When Prabhupada came to Amsterdam, that was the time I met him the first time. So Prabhupada just came out of Immigration, and he saw me and he waved. It was very ecstatic. I fell to the ground, paid my obeisances, and I laughed and I cried and I had so many emotions at the same time, which was extraordinary. Normally you either laugh or you either cry, but you don’t have these emotions at the same time. Then he came to the temple and he gave a lecture; and the amazing thing of the lecture was prior to that I could not understand Prabhupada’s broad Indian dialect at all, particularly since English is not my first language. But the amazing thing was that as soon as he started talking, I could understand every single word, which was quite remarkable. I couldn’t believe it. Later I put on a tape and I listened to it and there it was, I understood every single word. It was kind of a miracle.
August – September 1972: NEW VRINDAVAN, WEST VIRGINIA – Bhagavat Dharma Discourses
Hridayananda Goswami: It was held in the late summer, of course, in August, and many nondevotees came, many young people, students. So just the scope of it, the dimension, and the number of devotees, number of nondevotees, it was a landmark event. Everyone that was there felt it to be so and even Prabhupada, that something new and greater was occurring.
Radhanath Swami: Srila Prabhupada was to come to New Vrindavan to conduct what he entitled the Bhagavat Dharma Discourses. He was going to speak from Srimad-Bhagavatam for seven days. The devotees at New Vrindavan, under the guidance of Kirtanananda Maharaj, were very, very enthusiastic to prepare the community for his arrival. They worked hard cutting down trees to construct a big pandal on the top of a mountain, the highest mountain of the area. That was to be the place where Srila Prabhupada would speak. Also, the devotees painted and renovated the house that Prabhupada was going to stay in, did so much landscaping, and especially they were working on building a brand new temple for Sri Sri Radha-Vrindavan Chandra, which was to be inaugurated on the night of Janmastami by Srila Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada drove in a black Lincoln Continental into the New Vrindavan property. There was ecstatic kirtan as devotees welcomed him.
Krishna Kumari dasi: One thing that really made an impression on me at that festival was the loving concern by the sannyasis and senior disciples of Srila Prabhupada for all of us, preaching to us lovingly. We all sat together and ate prasadam. You could walk up to anyone and ask a question, and they would take the time to answer you and give you association. The feeling that we were a family and there was Srila Prabhupada, he was our father. We all felt sheltered, we all felt protected. It was like a resurgence of energy and rededication. We all went back to our temples completely refreshed and rejuvenated and ready for whatever austerities we had to perform.
Radhanath Swami: Devotees, with very, very deep enthusiasm, stood and sat all around him very closely as he spoke his welcoming address, thanking the devotees for their hard work and their efforts and giving a basic message of Krishna consciousness. Srila Prabhupada, through his words and through his smile while sitting there on that vyasasana under a tree at Bahulaban, satisfied everyone’s hearts. All of the hard work and intensive labor that was offered by the devotees over the previous several months was completely fulfilled. It all bore fruit when Srila Prabhupada smiled upon us and expressed his satisfaction to be with us at New Vrindavan again.
Prafullamukhi dasi: Cooking for the Deities and doing the aratiks, that was my service. So one time Srila Prabhupada was there when I did the aratik. I had a wonderful realization. I turned around…I was dirty because I’d been cooking all day and then they pushed me onto the altar, and I was totally embarrassed. But I turned around to offer incense to Srila Prabhupada and I realized that he was always there on the vyasasana, that it was absolutely no different. And I still feel like that, that he’s present, even though it would be nice to be able to see him more clearly. So he was staying in the small house at Madhavan, and I was standing outside and he came out. I suspect he came out to pass urine, which I realized years later but I didn’t know it at the time, and I was just standing there. He came out and I didn’t pay obeisances, I couldn’t say anything, I just stood there like a deer in the headlights of a car and was totally terrified. But it was a wonderful thing because he smiled. He was so gracious. He smiled and made me feel so at ease and not like I had done something stupid or that I was somehow lacking. He was so kind. He just stood there with me for a while, and then he smiled and turned around and went back in the building. He has always been kind to me like that because I’m very shy and I don’t ever put myself forward, so he would put himself out for me. I had experiences like that with him where he would reassure me. That’s what I felt like.
Radhanath Swami: Devotees from New York and various other centers brought vanloads of bhoga for the festival. There was a kitchen set up right on the top of the mountain in the most primitive conditions. With oil barrels they made stoves and many dozens and dozens of devotees volunteered cutting vegetables, cooking with smoke billowing up into people’s eyes. But it was such a beautiful sight seeing devotees from all over America working together in these very primitive forests of New Vrindavan, preparing prasad for Srila Prabhupada’s Vyasa-puja feast.
Hridayananda Goswami: One time Prabhupada was sitting taking massage, and then right in front of Prabhupada these two little kittens were wrestling and they actually rolled right onto Prabhupada’s lap. So among the various zealous misconceptions that plagued us in our early days, one that we had is that animals were so contaminated that it’s horrible to even touch them. I was appalled that these two kittens…they were cute, but they just rolled right onto Prabhupada’s lap and I was thinking, “Oh, my God, an animal touched Prabhupada.” But to my surprise, Prabhupada just started petting them. And Prabhupada said two things. He said, “Look, even here there is love.” What I immediately understood from that was that our original love for Krishna is so strong that even in the body of an animal or a cat, it still manifests in some way. Then Prabhupada said, “If I put my head in your lap and you cut my throat, that is the greatest sin.” He said the greatest sin is that if someone trusts you and takes shelter of you and then you betray them and cause them harm. It can be parents toward a child, it can be a man protecting a woman, any situation where someone has sincerely trusted us and depends on us and then we betray them.
Varsana Swami: This was such a unique altar arrangement here because it had Radha-Damodar in the center, Jagannatha on the side, and Prabhupada on the left. You’re used to having the picture of Prabhupada on the left, but we had Prabhupada in person on the left next to the Deities. I’d never seen that before, that you had an altar where Prabhupada was sitting next to the Deities in person. So that was real special. Then I remember after the Vyasa-puja ceremony it was time for the feast. They didn’t close the curtains on the altar. I don’t remember ever taking feast where they didn’t close the curtains on the altar. So this whole sequence of events and then just looking around at that whole hillside, it was a panoramic scene of buses and vans and tents and devotees and cows all over the meadows. It was just like a chapter of Krsna Book come to life. I think it was the same day, and I was down at the barn and I was watching the Volkswagen go up the hillside. The cows were all over that hillside, and they were decorated just like it’s described in Krsna Bookwith patterns made from different minerals, all different colors and different patterns. And when Prabhupada looked out of the Volkswagen, he smiled like I’ve never seen him smile except in that picture in the Lilamrtawhen Brij stood up for the first time and he was just beaming, as Sally Agarwal described it, that oceanic smile. When Prabhupada looked out at the cows decorated like that and he smiled like that, that little episode is just one remembrance of how sweet the whole occasion was.
Armarendra das: A devotee asked Prabhupada, “What does it mean to have love for the spiritual master? What does love of the guru mean?” So I was thinking Prabhupada would say you have all these feelings in your heart and you feel this and you feel that, and that’s what I was expecting to hear. And Prabhupada said, “Love for the guru means you have taken initiation, you have made vow to the spiritual master and taken fire sacrifice. You keep your vow, that is love.” When I heard that, again that was one of those statements that Prabhupada would make where all the devotees were just taken completely by surprise. Prabhupada’s definition of love, that it was not a feeling at all but keeping our vow that we made to him when we got initiated and that is how we show whether we really have love or not.
Suresvara das: The next day was Vyasa-puja and Srila Prabhupada, being very sensitive to the time, place and circumstance, gave this wonderful Vyasa-puja address to describe the spiritual master and why the spiritual master is being offered so much honor and homage on this day because, after all, there were many people there, scholars and journalists, etc., who were not familiar with this etiquette. So Srila Prabhupada said, “Krishna is very big, He’s a very big person.” And Prabhupada said, “Just like in this material world, if you want to please or even see a big man, it is very difficult to do.” He often used Ford and Rockefeller. So he said, “Just like Mr. Ford, if you want to please Mr. Ford, it’s very hard or even to see him is very hard. But if you happen to see Mr. Ford walking his dog and you give Mr. Ford’s dog a two-cent lozenge,” Prabhupada used the word lozenge, “then Mr. Ford is very easily pleased.” So Prabhupada said, “I am the dog of God. It is very difficult to approach Krishna. But if you simply please His dog, Krishna will be pleased.”
Sankirtan das: On the day of Prabhupada’s arrival, they needed volunteers to fix up the house where Prabhupada was staying, and I went up to help. There was, of course, a frenzy of activity, just as there always is just before Prabhupada comes in any temple, and it was an amazing sight to behold. Finally Prabhupada arrives and all of these sannyasis come with him, and there’s about 8 or 10 sannyasis and they all file into the house. There’s a few devotees hovering by the door, and Prabhupada sees us over there by the door and everybody else is inside the house – the big guns in the movement, so to speak. And Prabhupada motions that we should also come inside. So the devotees who were outside the door, they’re sitting on the front row right in front of Prabhupada and Prabhupada is talking about developing New Vrindavan. One thing I remember he said is that New Vrindavan is nondifferent than Vrindavan in India, and he also mentioned that Tulasi is the spiritual barometer for a temple. Then just out of nowhere he looks right at me and he asks, “Are you trying to understand the philosophy?” So I was so dumbfounded that Prabhupada was talking to me, I couldn’t even say a word. I was totally in a state of shock. But what I did appreciate is the way Prabhupada phrased that question: “Are you trying to understand the philosophy?” That if someone just makes an endeavor to understand, that’s sufficient. Prabhupada will be pleased just by somebody making an endeavor to try to understand. Whether they understand or not, that’s another matter. But just to try to understand the philosophy.
Satyanarayan das: Bharadraj was leading and after the kirtan started getting a little more lively, Vishnujan Maharaj took over the lead. Vishnujan kept lovingly singing the Maha-Mantra, all the devotees were starting to rock side to side, and then Srila Prabhupada, he closed his eyes and he was starting to hit the kartals together with more and more force. At one point, which seemed to be the perfect crescendo of the chanting of Vishnujan, everyone was shocked when Srila Prabhupada interrupted Vishnujan and took over the kirtan. That had not been seen before. Prabhupada seemed to be in such an ecstatic mood that he had no choice but to take over the kirtan. And at that moment, everyone went absolutely mad. There was a rush toward the stage, and I was right in front of Prabhupada and we were crushed into the stage and everyone’s arms…it looked like a thousand arms were outstretched to Srila Prabhupada. People started to cry. Srila Prabhupada’s chanting was so beautiful, it’s almost like the sky opened up, love of God came down and it poured over all of us because at one point people could…they were crying so much that they just started to whimper and gasp. I’ve never been to a kirtan like that before in my life and never since, and I think I cried for about an hour after that.
Suresvara das: The day wore on and we were fasting and chanting, and then nighttime fell and the midnight arati. And after fasting and chanting, everybody is ready to break fast. But Srila Prabhupada has the devotees open up Krsna Book because now he wants to hear about Krishna, it’s the appearance of Lord Krishna. So Prabhupada sits up straight and his eyes are open and he’s all ready to hear, and we’re all ready to eat basically. So Krishna’s pastimes are being read. Now it’s twelve-thirty, quarter to one, one o’clock.
Jayadvaita Swami: And everyone in the room except for Prabhupada is gradually being overcome by the forces of sleep. We finished the first chapter and then it continued into the second chapter and the prayers by the demigods for Lord Krishna in the womb, fairly weighty philosophical topics, and you would see these dandas nodding like divining rods. They were like crossed swords crossing in the aisle as the sannyasis bearing them would gradually be falling asleep. Then the rods would again split apart from one another as the sannyasis would jerk themselves awake, and then the rods would gradually descend again as the devotees holding them descended towards sleep.
Raghunath das: But Prabhupada was very staunch, he was there listening very intently. And at one point, I remember looking around the room and everyone in the room was asleep except for Prabhupada at one point. It was really incredible. I was watching Prabhupada very carefully to see if he was going to fall asleep; and at one point Prabhupada looked like he was starting to nod, and he just leaned forward ever so slightly and immediately caught himself and sat back up straight and with his right hand he made a chopping motion like “No, I won’t fall asleep.” And from that moment on, he was sitting there listening in rapt attention.
Vrindavanesvari dasi: Then suddenly it’s pitch black. The power had gone out. So I was thinking, “What is Srila Prabhupada’s expression going to be when the lights come back on? Is he going to be upset? What is he thinking about?” It seemed like a very long time that the power was off. And when the lights came back on, Prabhupada had this huge ear-to-ear grin on his face and the words that he said were: “So now Krishna is sitting on the lap of Mother Yasoda. I think you are all tired, so we can stop here.” And all the devotees started roaring.
Radhanath Swami: I remember Gayatri and several other of ISKCON’s best bakers spending several days to cook a gigantic cake for Srila Prabhupada’s Vyasa-puja. It was the most enormous cake I ever saw in my entire life, and they were cooking everything on this very, very simple makeshift wood oven. The fuel was wood, and they made the oven out of some sort of big cans, barrels. They would just make a little piece at a time, a little piece at a time, and as the days went on they were stacking it up and it ended up a huge, glorious, incredible cake. They brought it all the way up on the hill – many devotees had to carry it – and then they offered it to Srila Prabhupada. And as Srila Prabhupada was eating it, it became prasad. So within moments devotees gathered around the cake for remnants, and they practically dove into that cake. Within a matter of seconds, this gigantic cake disappeared.
October – November 1972: VRINDAVAN, INDIA – Lectures on “Nectar of Devotion” at Radha Damodar Temple
Srutakirti das: This was a really glorious return for him to Vrindavan. He really enjoyed his disciples being there, and Prabhupada was really excited about going back there. I became his servant a month before, and he had it planned out and he would give little ideas of what his plan was. And that’s what he said, he would be speaking in English because it was for his disciples, he said, not that he was going to speak in Hindi to the local inhabitants of Braj but he wanted to speak to his disciples and he was training them up in Krishna consciousness.
Visakha dasi: We lived in Kesi Ghat by the banks of the Yamuna, and every morning we would attend mangal arati in Kesi Ghat. And after that, Achyutananda Swami would take a sankirtan party and we’d go all the way to Raman Reti, where the Krishna-Balarama Temple was under construction. And then we’d walk back along the parikrama path that followed the Jamuna River and go to the Radha Damodar Temple in time to meet Srila Prabhupada there. Prabhupada would lead us in the Jaya Radha-Madhava prayers, and then he would speak on Srimad-Bhagavatam, First Canto, Chapter 2, “Divinity and Divine Service.” And although we had heard what he was saying before, it was the basic Krishna conscious philosophy, in that atmosphere it had tremendous impact. I can’t imagine how fortunate we were, that small group of us, to be in the most auspicious place, Vrindavan, and then within Vrindavan in such an auspicious place where the Goswamis used to sit together. And to be there at such an auspicious time, Karttika, with Krishna’s pure representative, Srila Prabhupada. It was simply Srila Prabhupada’s kindness upon us that he made this arrangement to impress upon us this incredible philosophy of Krishna consciousness – so powerful, so important, so profound. So it was an incredible month, and a month that I will remember my entire life. Certainly, it moved me very deeply.
Dinanath das: Once we were walking in Vrindavan along the road and it was just a couple of us, and all of a sudden out of the blue Prabhupada just stops. And he turned around and he looked at me straight in the face and he said, “So Dinanath, you will become a pure devotee?” Simultaneously it was a question but it was a directive too. He was inquiring, but at the same time he was giving me a directive. And I immediately answered, I said, “Yes, Srila Prabhupada.” Then about a day later we were walking again the same way. He stops again, turns and looks at me and he says to me, “Don’t change anything,” turns back around and keeps walking.
Yasodanandan das: Prabhupada’s room at the Radha-Damodar temple, you can see behind, there were these little holes that let the wind come through and you can actually see behind in the courtyard. So Shyamasundar’s daughter, Saraswati, was there, and she was pulling on the shirt of a little Bengali gentleman and she was telling the gentleman, “Who is Krishna? Do you know who is Krishna?” And the gentleman had this amused look on his face. Saraswati may have been 4 or 5 years old at the time, she was very young. Prabhupada was looking and we were looking, and the man was amused that this little girl would ask him that. Then she told him, “Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and you should surrender to Him.” And Prabhupada said, “Just see, she is a guru. She is preaching about Krishna.”
Narayani dasi: We were all sick with fever and dysentery because the conditions were very austere. I remember Visakha and I, we used to prefer to just jump in the Jamuna River even though it was completely pitch dark and we couldn’t see anything, we couldn’t touch the bottom, rather than go in the bathroom, which was slimy and indescribable. So then Prabhupada would give lectures in the morning on Bhagavatam and in the evening on Nectar of Devotion. At that time, the courtyard was just dust and there was a lot of, I remember, rubble around. To me the temple looked like it was bombed out. We couldn’t even tell it was a temple, the front of it, it was all crumbling, and the inside there was rubble everywhere in the courtyard and it was dust. But actually I prefer the dust because it was the original dust where the Six Goswamis sat. And Prabhupada did mention in his lecture how the Six Goswamis used to sit in that very courtyard discussing Bhagavatam, and Jiva Goswami would be sitting and writing his commentaries and another one would be singing the verses. So we were sitting in that same place hearing Prabhupada discuss Bhagavatam. And then after the evening Nectar of Devotion, Prabhupada would have darshan in his room. At that time, he would just talk very informally. I remember him warning us not to associate with the babajis. And he talked about markat vairagya, that the monkey has many wives. He’s vegetarian and he’s renounced, but he has many wives. So the babajis are like that, he told us. He said we shouldn’t associate with them.
November 1972: HYDERABAD, INDIA – Pandal program
Anandamaya das: This pandal was organized for Srila Prabhupada after the Vrindavan meetings where Srila Prabhupada spoke on Nectar of Devotion in Rupa Goswami’s samadhi. So immediately afterwards we came to Hyderabad. This place was exhibition grounds in the center of Hyderabad city, and for about 10 days Prabhupada gave lectures morning and evening. These Deities are Radha-Madhava. That must be in the morning session, starting by kirtan. So there were quite a good number of devotees, maybe at least 50. It was very successful. That was the most successful program of Srila Prabhupada in Hyderabad. Every day not less than 5,000, sometimes 10,000 used to come, especially in the evenings—and morning, one or two thousand. It was the beginning of our mission in Hyderabad, and all the most important people attended as chief guests. There was a committee also formed of some of the most important businessmen. So they were very impressed by this program. One gentleman, Mr. G. Pulla Reddy, was having a sweet shop in Hyderabad. He came forward to donate a piece of land measuring about 950 square yards in the center of the city, and now ISKCON Hyderabad is situated there. At that time in Hyderabad, there had not been any rain for at least one year. During the last monsoon, there was no rain. But during our program there, in the last two or three days the rain started and Prabhupada mentioned this is due to our kirtan. It also came in newspapers that the sankirtan is bringing rain.
Srutadev das: So I was greeting the Deities and offering to the Deities, and Prabhupada came up and paid his obeisances to the Deities and then walked back to give his morning class. I had always been trained that you never leave the Deities alone. So even though I wanted to go listen to Prabhupada, I felt as the pujari it was my duty to stay there. So I was staying there, and about 30 seconds later Bhavananda comes running back down to where I was and said, “Oh, you are here? Good. Prabhupada wanted to make sure someone was with the Deities.” So that really struck me that here everybody is chanting, “Jaya Prabhupada! Jaya Prabhupada!” and he’s going up, getting flower garlands, getting worshiped, but he was thinking, “Oh, is somebody with Radha and Krishna?” That was really nice, both to see that Prabhupada was thinking like that and then to feel that I had understood Prabhupada in that way. So one morning Prabhupada gave a lecture, and after the lecture one Indian gentleman came up to Prabhupada. He had just purchased a small book, one of these small Krishna Consciousness Topmost Yoga System was out, and he asked Prabhupada to autograph it. So I was standing right next to Prabhupada, and Prabhupada smiled and said yes. So the gentleman handed him a pen and Prabhupada autographed the book. So then another gentleman, seeing the opportunity, took a book and asked Prabhupada to autograph it and Prabhupada autographed it. So I was standing right next to Prabhupada. So another man, the third man, he pulls out of his pocket a little notepad and with a pen and he asked Prabhupada for his autograph. Prabhupada looked at him and smiled and said, “No book, no autograph.”
Dinanath das: We were in Hyderabad. At this time, I was torn between making my commitment to maintaining brahmacari and considering even going to sannyasa and thinking about marriage. I knew in my heart that the time wasn’t right and I was young, but my spirit wanted it. It wanted to live a renounced life, but my body and my mind wasn’t ready, mature enough for it. So it was tearing my being in different directions. So I couldn’t sleep one night. So I got up and I walked down this building we were staying in, and I walked down the hallway and peeked my head in Prabhupada’s room. It was about eleven o’clock at night. I peeked my head in and I saw Prabhupada walking, pacing back and forth, up and down. So I wormed in, slid in and offered my obeisances. He was walking and he looked over at me and waved to me, “Get up, come.” So as he’s walking, he brings me over to him and we’re walking side by side, back and forth, and he’s “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna.” So he says, “Yes?” So I said, “Prabhupada, I’m thinking about going to Hrisikesh.” He just became silent, he was listening, and he gave me a chance to explain. He didn’t ask anything. I said, “I’m thinking about going to Hrisikesh to live as a brahmacari, to go and live in an ashram, not to be around any women and things and I can dedicate myself to brahmacari life.” So after explaining my heart and everything to him, he stopped and it was like time turned still and the earth stopped. He just looked at me dead in the face and the eyes and he said, “Please don’t do that. I wasted 12 years simply sitting in Vrindavan.” He said, “Just tell everybody you meet about Krishna.” At that point, I felt my problem was solved. I didn’t know what I was going to do personally, but my problem was solved and I bowed down. I said, “Thank you, Prabhupada.” He started walking again, and I went and took rest.
Madhavananda das: Palika and Yamuna and Malati, in the kitchen they were preparing prasadam for Srila Prabhupada and I was in the front room, and then Srila Prabhupada was in another interior room on the ground floor behind his desk. His servant brought in a sadhu from South India, and he sat down in Srila Prabhupada’s room but I didn’t hear any conversation going on between them. Why aren’t they speaking to each other? Then all of a sudden I heard a huge verbal argument, and they were screaming at each other at the top of their lungs in Hindi. All of a sudden I was really concerned, what’s going on? Then all of a sudden this guy storms out of the house. And for the next two weeks, Srila Prabhupada was so grave and if you listen to those lectures, he’s talking about catur-varnyam maya srstam, guna-karma-vibhagasah, Krishna has established a natural system of varna and ashram – brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya, sudra. It is something that happens within society naturally, and people are judged to be in one of these categories – brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya, sudra – by their qualities and by the work that they do. Never in this verse does Krishna mention anything about birth. So we found out later on that what this argument was about was this guy was coming in and saying, “You can’t do this. You can’t take mlecchas and yavanas from the West, meat-eaters, and convert them into brahmanas, give them the sacred thread, give them the sannyasa tridandi.” Of course, this argument had been presented in different ways to his acharya, his Guru Maharaj, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta. So this was a fight that was going on for a long time, and Srila Prabhupada in the next two weeks quoted all the different verses from all the different shastras explaining that Krishna consciousness is a universal movement, it is not just for India, it includes the entire world.
Bhavananda das: They wanted devotees to come down from Calcutta and Mayapur for a pandal because they had no devotees there. So I took Radha-Madhava from here and that other Lord Chaitanya that Tarun Kanti Ghosh had made for us, and we went down and set up the pandal there. Prabhupada was looking at the Deities and he turned to me and he said, “Is that Radha-Madhava?” I said, “Oh, yes, Prabhupada, we brought Them from Mayapur.” “Anyway,” he said, “you should not take from Mayapur, but what’s done is done. When you take Them back, They are to stay there forever.”
December 1972: BOMBAY, INDIA – Initiation at Juhu temple, Pandal program at Cross Maidan (January 1973)
Haridas: This day I was working in the kitchen under the supervision of Panchadravida Swami, cleaning and all the details, and it’s already after nine in the morning and nobody came for prasad. So I asked Maharaj why nobody is coming for prasad. So he said, “In the temple there is a fire sacrifice.” I said, “What is fire sacrifice?” He said, “Prabhupada is giving initiation. After that they will come.” I said, “What is initiation?” So I was anxious to come and see what is a fire sacrifice and the initiation. I don’t know anything about that. Maybe that was three or four weeks I was there. So he said, “OK, you can go for 10 minutes. There’s a lot of work to do in the kitchen.” So I came and I stood in that side of the corner, watching what is going on. Then Prabhupada saw me and he said, “You come and sit down for initiation.” Then Prabhupada asked me many questions during that initiation. First he gave me the beads, then he said, “What is your name?” I said, “My name is Sekhar Kumar, but Giriraj Swami and everybody call me Haridas.” He said, “OK, keep that name, but you must follow the teaching of Haridas.” Then he asked me, “Do you follow four principles?” Because I don’t understand, I said no. Then Giriraj Swami said, “Haridas, those not eating meat, not fish, not drinking and so on.” I said, “Yeah, yeah, those I know, those I follow.” Then he gave me the beads, and then he sent me back. He said, “Now you go to kitchen and start working.” The fire sacrifice is still not over. And when I go on back to kitchen to work and Panchadravida Maharaj got angry at me, he said, “What took long time?” He sent me for 10 minutes. I said, “I just got the initiation.” He said, “Then what you are doing? Go back there!” So I came back again, and that was a climax of the fire sacrifice.
Yasodanandan das: In 1972 in December, Srila Prabhupada went to the house of one Vaisnava gentleman named Karttikeya Mahadevia. This particular gentleman had some very nice apartment, luxurious apartment, fronting the ocean. So Srila Prabhupada went to his place and stayed there, it was pretty spacious quarters. Quite a few devotees every night would come there. So we went to see Srila Prabhupada. We had come back from a trip to South India. We had gone to Madurai, Coimbatore, Bangalore, several places, and Prabhupada said, “Someday I want to go there and see.” So Prabhupada said, “You please make arrangements to take me there someday.” I said, “OK, Prabhupada.” Then we told Prabhupada, “Well, Prabhupada, we’ve been to some place in Coimbatore and we worked really hard and we were going to so many places and we were trying to make Life Members, but we could hardly make any Life Members. And we went to some other place and we hardly did anything, we just sat in the room and chanted, and we ended up making 20 Life Members. So we don’t understand this.” Prabhupada said, “You don’t understand because you’re too attached to the result.” Then Prabhupada quoted that verse from Bhagavad-gita, karmany evadhikaras te ma phalesu kadacana, that you do your duty but don’t be attached to the result. And Prabhupada said, “You leave the result to Krishna.” Prabhupada said, “You leave the result to Krishna, act sincerely, and if you’re very sincere, Krishna Himself personally will see that you become successful.” And Prabhupada said, “But you have to understand this is not simply about an amount of money. You do the service and Krishna will judge, Krishna will decide.” Then Prabhupada said, “My Guru Maharaj one time told me that even if there is not so many people, we can preach to the wall. That doesn’t matter, we can preach to the wall.” Prabhupada said, “You just go on preaching, that’s all. You just be sincere, preach, and Krishna will make it successful.”
Visakha dasi: The last day of the pandal was a Sunday, and more people attended than ever before. There were tens of thousands of people in the huge pandal. Prabhupada lectured very strongly from the vyasasana. And then when he finished, the kirtan began as it did every evening. This kirtan was especially enthusiastic. And then at one point he got up off the vyasasana and went before the Deities clapping, and then he started to circumambulate the Deities with a very light step. He went around once, and then he went around a second time and then a third time. And when he came before the Deities, very gracefully he put his arms in the air and he began to dance. It was almost as if he was weightless, he danced so effortlessly, and everyone was electrified by this. Everyone in the audience was riveted on Srila Prabhupada dancing before the Deities. At that point I was in the audience, I was photographing the pandal program, and it felt as if all the sinful reactions of all those people suddenly lifted. It was an extraordinary feeling. There was such a lightness there. It’s stated in the Nectar of Devotion that if you clap your hands in kirtan, then the sinful reactions leave you just like birds leaving a tree when there’s a sudden noise, they all fly off together. And that’s what it felt like. There was this burden of karma lifting all at one time.
February 1973: SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – Arrival
Caru das: In spite of all the stories of Prabhupada, I, who had been an English major in college and read a lot of fiction, had always had an idea of there being a dichotomy between the author and his works. So I just always had this keen-ness to meet Prabhupada, the author of this book, the Bhagavad-gita, and other ones that were coming out. When Prabhupada came to Australia, what struck me was that whether Prabhupada was speaking before an audience of six, seven hundred people or whether he was just in a room alone with me, he was basically speaking the Bhagavatamand the Gita. He was the Gitaand the Bhagavatam. You might think that someone would have a public persona but then when they get back home, there might be other topics of conversation. But he would preach just as strongly to me as the only other person in the room as he would in the huge rented hall with a large crowd. That inspired me to launch a very, very deep study of Srila Prabhupada’s books. And I think because I did that and continue to do it to this day, I’ve never faltered in my faith in Krishna consciousness.
Srila Prabhupada: We are selling about 25 to 30 thousand of these books daily.
February – March 1973: JAKARTA, INDONESIA – Programs
Ram Bharwani: Actually I didn’t know about this movement till Mr. Dalani came to my office. He was our neighbor, and he came asking whether I could make arrangement for Swamiji’s stay in Jakarta. So I immediately told him, “OK.” At that time, there were not many hotels. So I offered to give our own building. We started to make preparation. We moved to another house and gave the whole building to Swamiji in Gena Trading. So this was our house actually. We had a shop down, office, and we were living upstairs on the second and third floor. And Swamiji’s room was my room, my bedroom. So I was very happy that he could stay in my bedroom and bless it.
Amogha das: This is at the VIP part of the airport in Jakarta. So we had this special area booked for greeting of Srila Prabhupada, and there are representatives of the Hindu Indian community and the Hindu Bali, means the Balinese Hindu community but living in Jakarta, they call themselves Hindu Bali. So you have a selection of representatives greeting Srila Prabhupada and presenting talks. The vyasasana, we got a frame welded together which could be unbolted; and when it comes apart, you can stack it on top of a car or a vehicle. So this vyasasana appears here and also at Thakurdas Watwani’s house and at the National Administration Building lecture because we were disassembling it and moving it everywhere.
Aravindaksi dasi: When I was in the high school, this was about a year before Srila Prabhupada came to Jakarta. The devotees came to the school auditorium, and they did a massive kirtan whereby I was impressed and more curious to find out about them because it was the first time I was seeing Americans doing something like Hindu kirtan. Although I already had some little background about my own religion from my parents, but this was something different. After they did kirtan, I tried to find out where they were staying, who they were. In fact, I found out that they were staying not far away from the school where I was going, it was Gandhi School, and I went to visit them; and ever since, I always attended their morning kirtans plus the lectures, and I even went in the evening time. We had a small children’s club that they started, and I was chosen as the president. So our activities were to make dramas from the Krsna Book. I was asked to be vegetarian. I was not vegetarian. So Amogha das said, “You cannot help us in cooking until and unless you yourself become vegetarian.” I asked them how long it would take me to become vegetarian first and then help you. So he said, “At least a month. You have to prove to us that you have no tea, no coffee, no onions, no meat-eating.” I actually started doing that, and soon after that I started chanting.
Ram Bharwani: I remember I brought my car and drove him in my car, and that car I kept with me for a long, long time. I didn’t want to sell it till it really broke down. So I thought since he had sat in the car, so I didn’t want to sell it. But finally the car was getting old and giving a lot of trouble, I had to sell it away.
Aravindaksi dasi: That made my mother very, very angry because she was seeing that I was becoming more and more Krishna conscious, and she was finding it difficult to cook separately for me. She even tried to make it hard for me, “You have to eat what I prepare or not at all.” So when I was really hungry, I had to go in the kitchen and cook myself. After I did that, my mother, I guess, felt pity about it and she started cooking actually for me. After a while, only Amogha das stayed and it was then that he saw my perhaps…this is what he said, that “I see some sincerity in you, and do you want to see Srila Prabhupada?” I said, “I do, but it sounds so impossible. Can we ask Srila Prabhupada to come here, all the way?” Then he said, “Yes, why not? Because Srila Prabhupada always makes trips around the world, and soon he might come to Malaysia and he will go to Australia. And looking at the position of Indonesia, it’s somewhere in between and we could ask him to stop by for a few days.” So I said, “How would I do that?” And he said, “Well, just write sincerely to him, I will help you out, and I will send it to him. Srila Prabhupada always answers all the letters that come to him.” I actually made a letter, but it was modified by Amogha das on how to put the words like “please accept my humble obeisances” in the beginning. I did not know anything about that. Soon after that the letter was sent. In hardly 10 days to 15 days, I got a reply from Srila Prabhupada. It was a full page that he wrote. It was a very long letter, “My blessings are for you and if you have sincerely invited me, if Krishna decides I could stop by for a few days.” He did ask in his letter about how many devotees are there, do you chant regularly, do you have programs regularly, what are your activities. He did ask about “I hope you are keeping well” and “I would like to come and preach to the people there.” He did not stress so much on the Indians, but at that time there were more Indian devotees than the local ones.
Amogha das: So this is at the house of Thakurdas Watwani. He had some pictures of Krishna posters that he had bought from us, in the hallway. And in this room where all the assembly is sitting, there were these big huge paintings – one of Sai Baba, maybe Shiva, but none of Krishna. Srila Prabhupada gave the lecture in Hindi. In the questions and answers session, one man got up who was from Arya Samaj. And Arya Samaj are very atheistic, they deny the Bhagavad-gita, they deny so many things, that Krishna has a form, that God has a form. So this man actually argued with Prabhupada, kept arguing. Then Prabhupada, he called him something; and I remember the whole audience was shocked, but we couldn’t really understand because it was in Hindi. As we know, devotees don’t tolerate people who blaspheme Krishna in that way. After the meeting, they wanted to invite Prabhupada into the next room to eat. I said to Srila Prabhupada, “They’d like you to come into the next room for some prasadam,” and Prabhupada said, “We can go now?” I said, “Oh, yes, Srila Prabhupada, we could go now, but actually they’d like you to go into the next room and have some prasadam.” And he said, “We can go now?” So I knew he wanted go so I said, “Yes, Srila Prabhupada, we can go.” So we went out to the car and left, and they got very upset. But then the other thing is, which is seen in other times in history, that the disciple can take some blame instead of someone blaming the guru. So everyone blamed me for escorting Prabhupada out of the situation there and said it was all my fault, that Prabhupada didn’t leave but I misdirected or misorganized. So in that way I guess it’s good because instead of criticizing a pure devotee, they just criticized myself.
Aravindaksi dasi: This is my sister and me. We were at the exhibition for the book sale. My mother changed a lot after seeing Srila Prabhupada. In fact, she told me that when she had a personal conversation with Srila Prabhupada, she had requested within her heart from Krishna to show whether this Swamiji who is sitting in front of me is actually a true swami and an honest man, and she saw some light coming from Srila Prabhupada’s eyes, some glitter, where she was very, very satisfied. And she told me about this incident after coming out from the conversation with Srila Prabhupada. In fact, after that I also joined the conversation with her and with Srila Prabhupada, and it was a very, very personal conversation where he had sat back comfortably and discussed about the old India times and they were exchanging their own experiences. When seeing that, in fact I was like looking at a sister and a brother talking to each other. He told me about how during his young days he used to see his parents cook rice in the hot sand. And I said, “Srila Prabhupada, it’s impossible to cook rice in hot sand without fire.” And he had laughed and he said, “Yes, what do you know because you are born in the modern age. Why don’t you believe me?” he said. I had to laugh and I said, “Of course, Srila Prabhupada. If you say so and if you’ve seen it, then it must be true.” Then suddenly he asked us, “So are there papadams here? What food do you eat?” We told him, both of us, that we cook Indian food, we get all kinds of vegetables here. “It’s almost like India,” my mother told him. And he asked about papadams again, and then I said, “Oh, Srila Prabhupada, we get giant papadams.” And he began to converse in Hindi with my mother and he said, “Is she saying the truth, there are giant papadams? What do you mean by giant papadams?” Then my mother told him they are double the size of Indian papadams. Then he said, “Who makes them?” And I had to explain to him, “Srila Prabhupada, we have cooks. In most of the Indian homes, we have local cooks who we train up.” “Oh, so you train the cooks and they sell back to you the papadams?” I had to laugh at that and I said, “Yes, Srila Prabhupada, because when they stop working and they get a little older, then they go back to their villages and start some business and they end up making papadams.” “So they learn from you and they sell it back to you,” he said. I said, “Yes, Srila Prabhupada.” So we had taken Srila Prabhupada some of the papadams and given it to him. The other stories that he was discussing with my mom was how the Pakistanis, even Muslim, used to stay as neighbors with the Hindus in peace. He said, “We were staying even with one wall between us.” And my mother had mentioned that there were windows even in the walls, that we could exchange sometimes food and other things that we cooked. There was a lot of conversation between them in Hindi. But he had also at that time told my mother, “So you should read my books.” And my mother told him, “I don’t read and write. I am illiterate.” And he said, “But you can speak Hindi and you can speak Indonesian. So you should learn English.” And my mother told him, “I’m too old.” He said, “It’s never too old to learn.” And she said to him, “But Srila Prabhupada, I have read Mahabharata and Ramayanaall my life.” And he said, “They are very different from my books, and it’s very important that you understand what you read because there are so many translations and they are very, very misleading.” She had Ramayanaand Mahabharatain Sindhi language. In fact, she used to get up very early in the morning, and even since childhood I used to hear her recite those books. So I guess that was the effect on me, that I came to know about Krishna consciousness. Every morning we used to hear her read those books. This is the gathering at the Lembaga Administrasi Negara, it’s an auditorium beside the president’s palace in Jakarta. This is his first day lecture. Kirtans were held and a very strong lecture, which was in fact recorded. All the lectures were, in fact, recorded. I had the opportunity of being with Srila Prabhupada every minute from the morning walks that he had around the place that he stayed. During the first day, we went around Pasar Baru area. And he had, in fact, stopped by at one shop that had words written “Toko India.” “Does toko mean shop?” I said, “Yes.” And he said, “That’s Indian person’s shop?” I said, “Yes.” And miraculously, at that moment when we looked up, there was an Indian lady folding her hands and paying her obeisances to Srila Prabhupada. It was an odd time for Indians to get up at that time. That day he had seen also a vegetable vendor. We could never pace up with Srila Prabhupada because his walks were very, very brisk and very fast despite his age, I was quite surprised, and we were always left behind. So only Amogha das used to walk by his side. So when he saw this vegetable vendor, in fact he had to wait for me to catch up with him. Then he went ahead and asked, “Are those corns for sale?” And I said, “Yes, Srila Prabhupada.” He said, “Could you bargain with him and buy some for my breakfast today morning?” So I said, “Yes, Srila Prabhupada.” And he said, “Do you know how to put them on fire with tamarind, salt and with chili powder?” I said, “Yes, Srila Prabhupada.” “Can you prepare them for me today?” I said, “Yes.” So I bought some, and we took them back to the place where he was staying. There I had no coal fire, so all I could do was put some salt and chili powder. I had no tamarind, nothing else. I had put a little butter on it, and I had to bake it on a gas stove. When I had prepared one, he was already insisting, “Where is the corn?” Amogha das took it up to him. I had to rush and prepare those corns. I think he had about three or four that morning. Amogha das was quite surprised because it’s very, very seldom that Srila Prabhupada eats corn. I was told later on from some other devotees that he said, “That’s food for animals.” The next morning, in fact, we had gone to a very large park, and Srila Prabhupada always took his morning walks very early in the morning so that park was in fact not opened. We were going to go inside the park to park the car, but the guard would not allow Srila Prabhupada to take his walk in that park. I had gone down to the guard to ask and tell him that this is a priest coming from India and he usually takes his morning walks and if he would permit us to just take a morning walk, and the guard totally refused. So all Srila Prabhupada did was open his window, look at the guard and said, “What has happened?” And the guard looking at Srila Prabhupada just was hypnotized and immediately opened the gate for Srila Prabhupada to go in. It was like a miracle, and we were all surprised.
Amogha das: The upstairs level of Gena Trading, and this is where Prabhupada would meet guests or the Minister of Hindu-Buddhist Religion and family members.
Ram Bharwani: This is our house, family gathering. Yes, this is our family now. This is my wife. She had just given birth to a boy baby. He told us to ask whatever we wanted. I don’t remember, but it was quite interesting. We were very impressed, and he blessed all of us. I remember one question, he asked me whether I believed in God. I told him, “Of course I believe in God.” But he kept on asking from me, “Do you believe in God?” This is my son.
Amogha das: When Prabhupada arrived…he arrived and he stayed in his room, and we were outside. Then we were all resting because it was quite an event for us, and Prabhupada only rested about a half hour after an international flight. Then Prabhupada, we heard him going around the whole room, quite a large room he was in, switching all the lights on and off, testing all the latches, everything, all the switches and different things around the room. It was interesting.
The next section is from Srila Prabhupada at the Hindu Bali Temple at Rawamangun. Then they have a band, I think it’s called a gamelan, it’s a kind of music that plays percussion and gongs and different instruments. It’s quite unusual. It’s an undescribable, unique sound that band has. When Srila Prabhupada arrived, they sat down all together and chanted the first line of the Gayatri Mantra out loud together. That’s what they do. They sit and slowly chant the first line of Gayatri Mantra. In Srila Prabhupada’s talk, he talks about the Gayatri Mantra and the meaning of Gayatri. They played their own music to greet Srila Prabhupada. But also when he sang Jaya Radha-Madhava, which he would always sing before speaking, he directed them to play along with him as he sang Jaya Radha-Madhava. But their band plays in very minor keys, and it was quite an amazing sound to hear Prabhupada chanting Jaya Radha-Madhava and them playing those instruments at the same time. It was very unique. Then they walked Prabhupada around the outside. They have an outdoor altar with a very high structure with a chair at the top, an empty chair, and then all these carvings of beings. They bring offerings and they invite Lord Brahma, whoever they want to worship, to sit there. But Srila Prabhupada said they should have Radha and Krishna up there.
Aravindaksi dasi: “Is it possible for only one person to be initiated?” Then Amogha das said, “Krishna consciousness believes in quality than in quantity, and I have spoken to Srila Prabhupada and said that there is only one sincere devotee that I see worth getting an initiation from you and he has agreed.” So I myself, I had gone inside the room and he had chanted on the beads. After chanting I had asked him the question, “Srila Prabhupada, what can I do? What is my duty after this? Do I have to leave my home and come and stay at the temple?” He said, “No, it’s not necessary. Krishna consciousness means you have to change your consciousness. It does not matter where you stay. You just have to chant and remember Krishna all the time. That is Krishna consciousness.” Then I said, “What is my duty?” He said, “If you speak Sindhi, then preach to the Indian ladies. Read my books, chant and be happy.”
March 1973: MAYAPUR, INDIA – Gaura Purnima Festival
Yadubara das: As a filmmaker, it was exciting time. This was my first 16 mm film, shot with a borrowed camera and 10 three-minute loads of film, and what better subject than Srila Prabhupada and the devotees in Mayapur during Gaura Purnima.
Jayapataka Swami: When the devotees came to Mayapur, then Prabhupada took us out on parikrama. He took us to the different temples and showed us Lord Chaitanya’s historical pastime places. Then he wanted us to go out every year. So here we’re going to Srivasangan, where the original sankirtan party was held, and we are dancing very enthusiastically at the place of the original kirtan in the garden of Srivasa. Prabhupada wanted the devotees to be engaged. In those days there wasn’t so much interaction between ISKCON and the Gaudiya Maths, but once a year we could go and visit Lord Chaitanya’s places and that was the amount of interaction that we had.
Dinadayadri dasi: There was a palpable consciousness that this was the fulfillment of Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur’s prophecy that the devotees from the East and the West would meet in the birthplace of Lord Chaitanya and perform harinam sankirtan. And this was it and there was an awareness, and the kirtan was beyond words.
Jayapataka Swami: This is the birthplace temple. Originally the birthplace temple was actually a grass hut because Lord Chaitanya was born in a grass hut. Then they changed it to a concrete replica of a grass hut, and Prabhupada expressed his dissatisfaction that they couldn’t have maintained…it would have been nice to maintain it in it’s pristine form.
Mayapur was a cowshed and a cement go-down and a construction site, and the devotees were staying in tents. It was very austere. This is the Lotus Building, the first building. Prabhupada was very much involved in the whole construction. Every time he came, he wanted to see what was happening. He would go on a tour of the building and see how it was going. He was personally sending the money for paying for the construction. He would get donations, and he would send it. When the building was partially finished, then we already started to live in it.
Jananivas das: Radha-Madhava were in the bhajan kutir. Then we built this little shed just to the side of the bhajan kutir where the arati is going on. There was a lot of people there because that was the Gaura Purnima Festival, but previously no one was coming to Mayapur. The whole of ’72 practically nobody came. More or less I knew everybody that was walking down that road, and there were no visitors, they were all just local people. One time I saw some people walking down and I thought, “Oh, these are not local people,” because you could tell by their dress. So then they actually came in the property and I thought, “Oh, they’re coming in for darshan.” I thought I would get a Back to Godhead and see if I can give them a Back to Godheadwhen they come. So I ran in the bhajan kutir and got a Back to Godhead, and I come out and Prabhupada was already standing there. He had come out in the bhajan kutir also, and he was just standing in front of the Deities. Then he looked at me and he said, “Why you are not here? You see the guests are coming and there’s no one here.” The first people who have been in about a couple of weeks. He said, “No one is here. People are coming. You should be here.” I said, “I just went to get a Back to Godhead, Prabhupada, and I just came out.” Then he was looking at me and he seemed to be saying, “What are you making all these excuses for?” He was smiling. I remember the first time I gave Prabhupada caranamrita there, and my hand was shaking uncontrollably. I was looking at my hand and I was thinking, “Why is it happening like this?” It never happened before like that, it was really uncontrollably shaking. He just looked at me and smiled, and he took the caranamrita. Another time Prabhupada was sitting in the bhajan kutir just in the outside under the veranda with one of his godbrothers, Damodar Maharaj, and I went and I offered him caranamrita. He was just sitting there, the sun was shining, and he just put his head back and he opened his mouth and he let me pour the caranamrita into his mouth. Then Damodar Maharaj, his godbrother, did the same thing. He just put his head back and opened his mouth, and I was pouring caranamrita. It was a strange experience because Prabhupada, he was our lord and master, the big father figure, protector and everything, and then he’s acting like a little baby and you have to feed him. It was a new experience that I had with Prabhupada.
Srutakirti das: Prabhupada really liked Mayapur. He seemed really relaxed in Mayapur when we would come. I remember the one time we went up to his quarters when he first got there and, of course, I’d follow him in, setting everything up, and he was just looking out his window. The windows, of course, were on each side of his room. So he walked in his front door and he just looked out his window, and then it was just stretches of fields everywhere. It was wide open and very tranquil, very peaceful, and he would just chant and look out there. One time he turned and he just looked at me and he smiled and he said, “So Srutakirti Maharaj, you like it here in Mayapur?” I said, “Yes, Prabhupada, very much.” The way his quarters were set up there, they had the padding across the entire room. So sometimes you could go in there in the middle of the day and Prabhupada would be lying on the floor and he’d have his feet over the big bolster pillows that were against the walls. He would move one out a little bit so he’d have his legs hanging over the bolster pillow, and he’d just be relaxing. His morning walk was always right outside his room. As soon as he’d go down the steps, he was already on his walk. He also always knew everything – who was around, who wasn’t around, who was missing the walk – because sometimes if he was going out, he’d get down to the bottom of the stairs and he would ask where is such and such, where is this devotee, where is that devotee. One time he asked…I don’t know who it was… he said, “Where is this devotee?” Someone said, “Oh, he’s sick, Prabhupada.” Prabhupada kind of chuckled and I said, “Yes, Prabhupada, I think he has morning sickness,” and then Prabhupada laughed. He said, “Yes, that is the difficulty.” He expected everyone to be up in the morning. He never ever minimized that. He always did the opposite, even with the people that traveled with him because we were the ones affected too by that so-called jet lag as we traveled around, but he wasn’t interested in hearing about it.
Jayapataka Swami: Prabhupada was so happy that we had cows. He said, “This is very auspicious.” He said, “If the cows are grazing on the land where we’re going to build the temple, then by passing cow dung and walking over the land it’s going to make it very auspicious for the temple.” Prabhupada wanted us to feed the local villagers. So even before we had a building, we had a big pot for cooking and distributing prasadam. Prabhupada used to go on walks, and he liked to walk along the pathways in between the fields. He called these the little highways. As he would be walking, then the villagers would offer him respect and pay obeisances. It was a very informal, friendly environment with all the local villagers. Prabhupada would walk out in the fields and then he would look and say, “Here there will be a spiritual city one day.”
Sankarshan das: I have seen that Prabhupada morning walking time, one villager, he is taking some subji, vegetables, to nearby market. Then Prabhupada stopped suddenly and he says, “Where you are going?” “I have to sell these vegetable to the market.” Then Prabhupada says, “Why not you are giving to the temple? You can serve Radha-Govinda by giving your vegetables.” Then he has agreed. He purchased all the vegetables, big bucket he purchased, and he told Jayapataka. Then Jayapataka paid his amount. He told that vegetable man, “Please you come every day and talk with the temple manager and give subji, fresh vegetables to the Radha-Govinda.” He has all the time mind to give fresh flowers, fresh vegetables, fresh fruits. I have seen also sometimes in Calcutta somebody purchased not fresh fruits. So he was very annoyed, “Why you do not buy the fresh fruits for Radha-Govinda?” So I have seen same thing, fresh vegetables he likes to offer Krishna.
Panchadravida Swami: Prabhupada was going on a walk, and he called me because he said he wanted me to take the part of the material scientist. Then I said to him, “All right. Speaking as a scientist, we will not argue whether a soul exists or not. We’ll just take it as a given that a soul exists. So my question to you is that we will create the right properties in our laboratory and in our test tubes so that your Krishna will send a soul into a test tube. Is that premise accepted by you? Is that acceptable?” Because I was thinking if I can get Prabhupada to say yes, then I’ll say that “Then we have created life.” And then Prabhupada just said, “You rascal scientist. You will not tell Krishna where He has to send a soul.”
Jananivas das: Prabhupada sometimes used to go for a morning walk there on the Ganges. It used to take about almost 20 minutes to walk there. At that time, it was way, way over the other side. One time actually they all took bath there. They were all sannyasis, or at least brahmacaris and sannyasis, and Prabhupada said, “You can take a bath if you like.” They said, “But Prabhupada, we didn’t bring any gamchhas.” “It is OK, no one is around. You can go in your kaupina.” So everybody jumped in the Ganga, and Prabhupada went in also. He had a gamchha, his servant brought him a gamchha, and he also went in. Then they started fighting, splashing and everything like that, and Prabhupada said that “This is OK.” He said, “Lord Chaitanya, He was also doing this.” Then someone started to splash Prabhupada, Madhudvisa Maharaj I believe – mildly in a playful way, but he was giving little splashes with his hand. But Prabhupada said, “Don’t become too familiar with your guru.” He reprimanded him and Guru Kripa. They were pouring water on Prabhupada’s head with their hands, chanting cintamani-prakara-sadmasu…chanting Cintamani prayers. Another time he said, “If you build a road from our ashram to the Ganga, a nice road, I will come every morning for a walk here.” Another time he said, “Be careful because the Ganga could come and take away all of our property.” For several years the Ganga was constantly changing course. Then the course was diverted right over to the property. But then the government took action, they made some proper embankments there with bricks. But it came very, very close, right up to the road. But now it’s gone back to a steady course, which is a very good symptom because in the Navadvipa-dhama Mahatmyait’s predicted that for several hundred years, about 400 years, the Ganga will constantly do this actually, flood the whole area. And then after 400 years, Bhaktivinode Thakur mentions, “Then she will go back to a steady course again.” Then he said, “Many, many bathing ghats will be built on the Ganga, and many, many temples will be built, and many household dwellings will come up. And there will be, of course, the Adbhuta Mandir, a very astonishing temple will rise from which service to Lord Chaitanya will spread all over the world.” So now we’re seeing this. Now the Ganga is more or less settled. There are permanent ghats being made – ISKCON has made one, Madhava Maharaj has made a permanent ghat. And there’s hundreds and hundreds of dwelling places now all over the place. We have our grihastha-para. Then just outside the master plan of our project there’s so many houses. And the community members also of the Chaitanya Math and Yoga Pith Gaudiya Math, they are also building little houses. There’s hundreds of little houses. It’s all protected by Nityananda Prabhu. So these are good signs.
Jayapataka Swami: One day was Govardhan Puja, and we built a big mountain of rice and we fed many people. The people took their leaf plates after taking prasadam, and then they threw them behind the building. Then Prabhupada was living up on the second floor, and we were sitting in the room together. Then he heard dogs barking and kids shouting. So then he got up and walked back on the veranda behind his room. Then he looked over and he saw that there was this big pile of leaf plates of people that had eaten their meal and there was little scraps on the plates. So then there were some very poor children with sticks in their hand fighting off some very hungry dogs, trying to get the scraps of food that people hadn’t finished eating on their plate. When Prabhupada saw how these children were so hungry that they had to eat the things that people threw away and how they were fighting with the dogs to get these scraps of food, tears swelled in his eyes and he said, “We have to see that nobody goes hungry within a 10-mile radius. The temple is the house of God. God is everyone’s father, Krishna is everyone’s father. So in the presence of the father, the son doesn’t go hungry. So we have to make an arrangement that people get fed.” And so that was the inspiration for regular prasadam distribution.
Ajamil das: I remember one time watching Srila Prabhupada while all the people from the villages were out taking prasadam. He would go to the little window in the hut and then look out and watch them. Then I would remember the verse catur-vidha-sri-bhgavat-prasada, that the spiritual master is very satisfied if he sees the devotees taking prasadam. And he looked very happy, he looked very satisfied.
Jayapataka Swami: Prabhupada was trying to involve his godbrothers and work cooperatively with them. Especially he made a lot of effort with Bhakti Rakshak Sridhar Maharaja because they were very old friends. He used to come and visit Prabhupada in his house and stay at the guest house. So he was inviting him to come even to the West and see the temples, see how the preaching was going on. But he declined, he said it was too far. So he invited him to come over to Mayapur. So he agreed to come. So then Prabhupada had him share a seat on the vyasasana with him, and he was very accommodating and loving to him.
Jananivas das: Prabhupada invited all of his godbrothers to come, and they were all coming one at a time or two at a time throughout that whole morning. He spoke to everyone, and he said exactly the same thing to everyone. He said, “We are having some success in our preaching, and so we have some good facilities now. And you are all experienced preachers, you have been trained by our Prabhupada.” He said, “So I have all these buses coming.” It was that time when they were bringing all those Mercedes buses. He said, “I have many buses. So I can give you all a bus and I will give you men, and you just go out and preach. And if you have any problem in your temple of maintenance, I will also give you men for your temples to help you maintain in the temple.” He said, “There’s only one condition – that you distribute my books. My books are to be distributed on these parties. But you will lead, you will preach.” Unfortunately, not one of them accepted his offer, and Prabhupada really tried to get them to work together again.
March 1973: CALCUTTA, INDIA – Walks at Ganges & Victoria Memorial, Radha Govinda Mandir at Harrison Road
Gargamuni das: Walking along the Hoogli. The Hoogli is the Ganges River, which I really enjoyed because Prabhupada would stop sometimes and have intimate moments where he would look at the water and you could just imagine that Prabhupada sailed down that water when he left. He left from Calcutta so that’s the place, and now he’s back here again with his disciples.
Srutakirti das: In Calcutta there were so many parks Prabhupada would walk in. Back in the day when Prabhupada was growing up, he said Calcutta was their model city of what they wanted to create in India. They have many beautiful parks. Every few blocks there was another park. Of course, when we were there in the ‘70s, they looked a bit different than they did. But he said it was a beautiful city. That was their model, he said, of what they wanted to accomplish in India everywhere, and they did it in Calcutta.
Padmalocan das: Prabhupada used to take his morning walk quite often in a little park just around the corner to the temple. I think it’s called Deshapriya Park, and there was a lake in the middle of that park. So Prabhupada would walk around that lake a few times. So on this one occasion, quite a large number of devotees came for the walk, maybe as many as 40. Prabhupada was walking around, not saying anything, just walking around the park. And he would come back to the starting point where there was a little gate, which we would go through, and then he would set off again. Prabhupada wasn’t speaking anything, he was chanting japa. So after about four times around I was noticing that many devotees were dropping off and going back to the temple for one reason or another. He went on a couple more times around the park, he was going on quite a while. So I was still following on, and it got down to the point where there was about six of us left and we’re going around. Suddenly Prabhupada stopped and turned around, looked at us and he said, “Oh, all the others have given up. Just see how easily we give up.” Then he was very silent and turned around and started walking again, and we followed him. Then when he came back to the gate, we went back to the temple.
Madhavananda das: I was in Srila Prabhupada’s room with him in Calcutta. I was the temple president there, so I got access to Srila Prabhupada. So I went in and one day I was just there with him alone, and for some reason I asked this question. I don’t know why, but I did. I said, “Srila Prabhupada, when you leave us, who will succeed you?” And he said, “That will be revealed to you.” Then he looked at me and he said, “You will become guru.” Then he said, “I want all of my disciples to become guru.” And then he said, “Yare dekha, tare kaha ‘krsna’-upadesa, amara ajnaya guru hana tara ei desa,” which is the verse that Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu spoke to the South Indian brahmana. I think it was Venkata Bhatta. When he left South India and he was lamenting, “What am I to do?” And Lord Chaitanya said, “Whoever you see, tell them about Krishna. Whoever you speak to, tell them about the instructions of Krishna given in the Srimad-Bhagavatamand the Bhagavad-gita. And on My order, you deliver this land.” So Prabhupada quoted that verse and he said, “This is how this Krishna consciousness movement will be spread.”
Gargamuni das: I was one of the few foreigners who learned how to drive in India, mainly because I drove our vans. I don’t think there were very many others who drove Prabhupada in India. Prabhupada usually had a driver. But anyway, we drove and Yadubara, one day he accompanied us with Rupanuga. It was just Rupanuga, me and you. There were very few of us so there was no talking or conversations, but it was the best morning walk because of the area where we were in Calcutta. This was Prabhupada’s home town.
Malati dasi: It was a little bewildering. There were all these neon flowers, neon decorations, plastic flowers, lots of electrical cords tangled and dangled. I remember at one point the devotion that was there, it hit me. What was going on was pure devotion to these Deities and that this family had been absorbed in devotion to these Deities for centuries and that Prabhupada was absorbed in devotion for these Deities. So suddenly the picture changed. Then I remember they sat us down and they were serving us prasad. It was a beautiful Bengali feast and it was served on banana leaves with such respect for Srila Prabhupada, and their respect for Prabhupada was transferred to us. They were very…Prabhupada would use the word “aristocratic.” They were very aristocratic, and their affection to Srila Prabhupada was definitely apparent as was his towards them.
Bhavananda das: At the Radha-Govinda Temple, Prabhupada’s childhood temple in north Calcutta, Prabhupada did a series of lectures in the evening. The Mullik family, which was the family he was related to who owned the temple and one of the great zamindar families of Bengal during the time of the British Raj, they lived across the street and, of course, Prabhupada was raised in their house. They all came to the program. The whole atmosphere…it was like Prabhupada was the grandfather or the great-grandfather, and they were so respectful. The way they came in, their heads were always covered, the way the women bowed down, the men were nicely dressed and standing in the background, and everyone was very attentive to Prabhupada because he was their relative who was now world famous. Prabhupada’s mood at this meeting was very familial, he was very gentle with everyone, it was just like family. There was a very loving side to the whole relationship between him and the Mullik family. And, of course, those Deities, Radha-Govinda, were Prabhupada’s childhood Deities. This was the temple where he played as a child, where he had his Rathayatra Festival, and he worshiped these beautiful Deities that they have there still, Radha-Govinda. They are the Deities that Prabhupada said called him back to India. You know in the ‘60s, he went back to India. He said, “Radha-Govinda have called me back,” and that’s when he started all his major Indian preaching.
Narayani dasi: Prabhupada came to Calcutta with Pradyumna in 1973 April, and Pradyumna came up to me and said, “How would you like to come with Prabhupada and type Chaitanya-caritamrta?” He says, “OK, tomorrow we’re going to Mayapur. So you have to learn how to read Bengali, and then you can come with Prabhupada.” I said, “OK, no problem.” So he gave me a Bengali book, I learned how to read Bengali, and I was off with Prabhupada the next day. We never thought anything was impossible, that if Prabhupada wanted us to do something, then impossible is a word in a fool’s dictionary. So yeah, no problem, I learned to read Bengali and I got to go with Prabhupada.
Nanda Kumar das: In Calcutta, it was a challenging place for us, something about the temple, at least at one period. Everyone was sick, everybody had dysentery, and the service…there wasn’t enough people to do the basic service. So it was a challenge. Bhanu Swami was there, and Bhanu Swami as I remember is a naistika-brahmacari. And through all of this, he never got sick, he never lost his focus, he remained active. And when others were down in their attitude, consciousness, he was never affected by it. At one point, he was the only person who was well and up serving. Prabhupada made note one day and he said, “Just see, this is the value of brahmacarya. Because he is brahmacari, he is able to circumvent all the challenges of the world and continue steady in his service. This is the value of brahmacarya.”
Dinadayadri dasi: I got to have a private darshan with Srila Prabhupada. Of course, his servant was in the room and myself and Prabhupada. When I first came before him with what I thought was this huge life-ending problem—my whole consciousness absorbed in being in anxiety about this problem—all of a sudden when I got in there the whole problem just shrunk down to the size of the water in the hoof print of a calf. This huge unsolvable anxiety just became insignificant. And there I was, totally embarrassed. All of a sudden it didn’t seem like something that you should bother Prabhupada with, and I was so embarrassed. But here I am, I had disturbed him. At that time, Prabhupada communicated something to me. You’ve probably heard from other devotees how sometimes Prabhupada would communicate without speaking. Prabhupada became a mirror and I think that’s a guru’s function, to be like a mirror to the disciple. He was like a mirror. He was showing me my spiritual situation, and I had this really esoteric, internal vision for a few seconds of myself being this brilliant diamond-like spiritual spark within my heart but I was covered over with mounds and heaps and heaps of dirt. And I also had a vision of Srila Prabhupada sitting there, the same brilliant spiritual spark only completely clear of any covering. He communicated to me with that vision that I was just like him but I was covered, and that all I needed to do was to follow his instructions and I would become completely uncovered like him. That was such an intense realization, and I thought, “Oh, how can I bring up my petty mundane problem?” But like I said, after I’d gone and disturbed him and he was sitting there expecting, then I did it, I blurted it out. The most significant thing about that whole experience was that internal mirror-like vision that he gave me of myself and himself.
Dhristadyumna das: Winter of 1973, Vishnujana Swami’s bus had burned down somewhere in America; and while Karandhar and the BBT were building him a new bus, he came to sail down the Ganges and do harinam sankirtan and prasadam distribution and he had a slide show to show in these villages. Vishnujana was amazing doing kirtan through the villages. People were asking us to take their children with us, and they were just in shock. We’d have a program every night with a big slide show and show them London Rathayatra and San Francisco Rathayatra. They were blown away that their Hinduism was actually spreading all over the world. Because we were the first Western Hindus they had ever seen, and it wasn’t just that we were a handful. We represented this movement with temples and festivals all over the world. So, of course, who was the person responsible for all this is Prabhupada. The villagers were enormously impressed. Anyway, we sailed down the Ganges for 40 days and nights, and we got stopped in northern Bengal by a huge dam called Farakka Barrage. So then we took trips down to Calcutta, where we met Prabhupada. So we had some kind of little camera with us, but somebody had a shaky hand and it all came out looking like ghostly images. So we didn’t have anything to show Prabhupada. But when we were reporting in the room about it, Vishnujana Swami said that we had distributed 500 sets of japa beads. And Prabhupada looked very concerned and said, “You cannot do that. Now they think you are their guru.” So he was a little upset that we didn’t know these subtleties of Indian culture, that if you give someone beads and tell them to chant Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, you’ve just given them Harinam initiation and that’s how they see it. So I think there must be a lot of villages along the Ganges where they have this memory of this bronze god from the West who looked like Lord Chaitanya and gave them initiation.
Narayani dasi: Srila Prabhupada, one time he singled me out in one of the darshans. He said to me, “Oh, my sister tells me you speak Bhagavatam very nicely.” So when he said that, I didn’t know what to say because I never spoke Bhagavatam, what to speak of nicely. So I was just completely bewildered and puzzled why he said that. But then it was in Calcutta that I had been reading Krsna Bookin front of Pisima because it was Janmastami in 1972 and what we had to do, all the devotees were reading Krsna Bookfrom morning till night. So when it was my turn to read, I was reading Rasa-lila and she was my only audience. There were hardly any people then. There was nobody in the temple in Calcutta in those days. So she was about the only one sitting in front of me, and I was reading in English and she didn’t know a word of English. But I was being real dramatic, “Krishna left the gopis and they were crying,” and then she was crying and crying and crying although she didn’t know any English. So she understood the mood of it, and then she must have told Prabhupada that I speak Bhagavatam. But now 30 years later I thought about what Prabhupada said, and in Prabhupada’s lifetime I never spoke Bhagavatam. And even for 27 years since when I was a devotee, I never spoke Bhagavatam. But now I’m speaking Bhagavatam. Just this year when I was speaking Bhagavatamat VIHE [Vrindavan Institute for Higher Education], it struck me that Prabhupada’s words came true even though I didn’t understand, “What is he talking about?” But then I thought, “Wow, a pure devotee’s words must be true,” that it has to happen. And even though I had no plan of ever speaking Bhagavatam, but it happened anyway by Krishna’s arrangement.
Madhavananda das: We were in Prabhupada’s room in Calcutta, and Nanda Kumar brought in a letter for him to sign. Prabhupada looked at the letter, two-page letter, looked it over and then grabbed the pen and goes “A” and then “C” and then this big “Bhaktivedanta” and then big capital “Swami.” There was a Life Member there and I was there looking at this, and we looked at each other when we saw the signature. And Prabhupada noticed it and he looked at the Life Member and he said, “Yes. When I was at Scottish Church’s College in Calcutta, my professor witnessed my signature also and he said, ‘Ah, that is a royal signature.’”
April 1973: BROOKLYN, NEW YORK, Henry Street Temple – Arrival, Lecture, Translating Chaitanya-caritamrta
Rasajna dasi: So we went to greet Srila Prabhupada at the airport and this is, of course, the very first time I ever saw him so I was a little anxious. I remember they rolled out a long red carpet, and I remember my first impression. For some reason I had expected him to be very tall, I don’t know why, and I remember thinking, “Oh, he’s so short.” But there was something so very regal about his carriage. Then he went to sit down on the dais. They had actually brought a little wooden dais for him to sit on because there was going to be an interview. It was a television interview. First there was, of course, the kirtan. And then everyone sat down and, of course, all the people in the airport in the background wondering, “What’s going on here?” So I was just mesmerized watching him. It was like watching a performance for me, a solo performance on the stage. He sat down with the greatest of elegancy and ease. Someone offered him a silver goblet of water, and I remember him holding it up and the stream of water flowed like a fountain right in his mouth. It was just so elegant and I just thought, “Wow!” Being in the theater profession for some years, I thought, “Boy, that person really has a lot of grace to be able to do that in front of all these people, everybody’s eyes on him, with not even a string of nervousness or tension or anything like that.” Then they offered him a plate of fruit, and he very delicately picked up a piece of fruit and just popped it in his mouth and sat there and chewed it. Everyone was watching him and no discomfort, no nervousness or anxiety, he just finished eating that little piece of fruit. Then he was looking around one after the other at the faces, very peacefully and quietly really looking, taking all the time that he wanted to. I was just, from a material standpoint, completely impressed.
Hari Puja dasi: One time I purposefully brought Prabhupada’s vases of flowers back to his altar late because I knew that he would be arriving. So I was the only one left in his quarters, and I had dared to do that because I thought that was a good chance for me to meet Prabhupada face to face. So I came late with the flowers, returning them to his altar just as he was walking into his sitting room. So I placed them on the altar and then paid my obeisances. Srila Prabhupada was still standing, he hadn’t sat down behind his desk, and he said, “And what is your name?” I told him my name was Hari Puja and that I had just gotten second initiation and I thanked him, and he shook his head like he did side to side and he said, “Thank you.” Then I left, and I was very happy that I got to talk to Srila Prabhupada face to face. The next day in his lecture, I can’t remember it but the idea was that Prabhupada had mentioned that even a sincere flower girl can make progress and go back to Godhead. So, of course, I was thinking that he was recognizing me.
Devamrita Swami: I had just graduated from Yale University. I had been living in the temple for three weeks but I was always afraid that my ex-fiancée, who I had just ended the engagement a few weeks ago by slipping away to live in the temple…I was always afraid she’d come to the temple and drag me out. So I prayed to Sri Sri Radha-Govinda, “Please, Krishna, get me out of this one and I promise You, never again.” A few weeks later Prabhupada came, and I was sitting in front of him as he gave a Sunday Feast lecture and Prabhupada began to roar with great transcendental strength that “If you are optimistic about material life you’re an animal. If you’re a human being, you must be pessimistic.” While he was roaring like that, I felt this tap on my shoulder and I looked – there she was right behind me. So all this was going on right in front of Prabhupada. So I looked at her, and Prabhupada continued to roar. I didn’t bat an eye, and I just turned right back and looked at Prabhupada. I could see out of the corner of my eye that she was about to burst out crying in the middle of the temple room like, “What’s going on here? Here’s my dearly beloved, and now he doesn’t even blink an eye at me. He’s just totally absorbed in this person.” So she left, and Prabhupada went on to explain with less fire, “Material life, yes, everything is pessimistic. But in Krishna consciousness, everything is optimistic.” So after that, I remember the kirtan we had for the Deities and I remember dancing in ecstasy, thanking Krishna, “I’m free! I’m free! Prabhupada did it! I’m free! I’m free!”
Jayadvaita Swami: One time I was on a walk with Prabhupada in Brooklyn, and it was one of those walks where Prabhupada would drive to his destination and then walk and then come back. As we were coming around the corner, just in front of the temple Prabhupada saw that there was a boy who was mailing a letter. But he was a small boy and so he couldn’t reach the box, and his father was picking him up and the boy was dropping the letter in the box. Prabhupada saw this, and he just became absorbed in seeing it. Of course, how long does it take to mail a letter? It’s only a few moments. But Prabhupada just became absorbed and, again, it seemed like it was so much time. His eyes became very wide and became sparkly, and he seemed as if he were remembering something. I was thinking, “What is Prabhupada thinking of – something from his childhood or what?” Then the scene ended and Prabhupada said, “The little boy, by his own strength he cannot do. But the affectionate father, when he helps, then it is possible.”
Rasajna dasi: We were going to do a performance for him the first evening of “Krishna Kidnaps Rukmini,” but I really felt that he could see into me, there was nothing that I could hide. Then I was thinking, “Oh, my God! I’m going to be playing the part of Princess Rukmini, who is an expansion of the Goddess of Fortune, and it’s ridiculous. What am I doing? It’s just going to be a farce!” But anyway, it was planned and the show must go on. So there I was and the scene opens with myself sitting on the floor by myself writing the letter to Krishna, and I could feel my right knee beginning to shake out of nervousness. Then I remembered something my director said. He said, “Whatever comes up for you, just use it in the part, find some way to integrate it into the role.” Then I just realized, “Well, she probably was in a very anxious state. Here she was to be married to someone she didn’t want to be married to, and she was totally anxious.” Also I noticed as my eyes went up, even though you don’t really look at anybody, you still have a feeling. As my eyes passed Srila Prabhupada sitting there and moved up, this ease came over me. It was like he put this blessing on me or something, and I forgot everything and I just became Rukmini and was able to play with total abandon, just totally get into the part. Then we finished, and there was grand applause and everything. We went down to the dressing room, and I was completely drenched with sweat. We were waiting, just taking our makeup off and so forth. Then Srutakirti came in and started telling us everything that Prabhupada said, and it was real excited. He said, “Prabhupada said, ‘This is better than reading my books. It’s better than reading my books because it sticks in the mind because you have a vision.’” And he said, “Seeing these is like windows to the spiritual world. So people just don’t hear it, but they actually have an experience.” Then I got the wonderful compliment when he said, “Rukmini, she was the best.” I thought, “After all that anxiety I went through, and then he was actually pleased.” Then, of course, there was a little part of me that thought, “Well, he’s just saying that because he knows I need to hear it.” But then I also understood when you use whatever talent you have in Krishna’s service, that is the best. So it didn’t matter whatever I was thinking. He actually wanted us to go with him and travel with him all over the world. I think his next destination was Africa. He wanted to take us with him and he said, “There should always be kirtan, lecture, performance and prasad.” It just didn’t work out at that time, but I realized the importance of cultural events in the presentation of Krishna consciousness that Prabhupada really wanted.
Balai dasi: When Srila Prabhupada was working on some of the chapters of Chaitanya-caritamrta, we had a recording device. It was big, it was several feet wide. So Srila Prabhupada would dictate Chaitanya-caritamrtaand as soon as he was finished, Pradyumna would bring it up to me and I would immediately transcribe it using this big contraption. We didn’t have a Dictaphone. I would just use the foot pedal, starting and stopping it and starting and stopping it. But we did it right away as soon as Srila Prabhupada was finished with it, and then Pradyumna would bring Srila Prabhupada the transcription back. And Srila Prabhupada said that he was so encouraged because I was doing it so fast that it made him start doing two tapes a day. That is my very best memory ever.
Balavanta das: I was in Atlanta. It was summertime, I remember that, and I was walking up the street and a devotee opened the window and stuck his head out and yelled at the top of his lungs, “Balavanta, Prabhupada’s on the phone!” which was just the shock of my life. So I ran with wings on my feet up and got the phone. It wasn’t actually Prabhupada on the phone, it was his secretary on the phone at his request, Prabhupada was in the room, and the secretary said, “Prabhupada wants to know if you can come to New York right away.” I said, “Of course.” So I dropped everything and went and got on the plane and flew to New York, and Prabhupada wanted to discuss politics. Actually what happened is I wrote to him and suggested that I could run for mayor of Atlanta, it would be a good preaching platform, and he wrote back with the most overwhelming enthusiasm I’d ever experienced. I took one step to him, he took a hundred steps to me. But the broad discussion, all I remember is basically he said, “So what do they say about our program?” I said, “Prabhupada, they say it is not practical.” He says, “Yes, it is not practical because they will not accept it. If they would accept it, it would be very practical.” I remember one devotee, we were discussing the In God We Trust Party and the devotee said, “Prabhupada, when we take over the government, we’ll outlaw all these religions.” Prabhupada said, “No, why? We only want to see that they are following their religion.” Srila Prabhupada was not for one religion taking over the government. He fully supported freedom of religion. In fact, he made it clear many times and told us that this is not a religion. This is a process of spiritual realization which is applicable to any religion. So he made it very clear that in terms of politics we’re not interested in changing people’s religion or taking over the government for one religion as opposed to another religion. We just would like to see that the leaders of human society are enlightened personalities, whatever religion they come from, and the Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatamand the chanting of Hare Krishna facilitates that process.
Pariksit das: When Prabhupada would come to the temple in New York, one of the first things that he would like to do was to speak with the artists and see what paintings had been done. Because his translation was such an important part of his service to his spiritual master, he was always very enthusiastic to see what progress we were making. On one occasion, we were all sitting in his quarters and the walls of his quarters were lined with the paintings, and that was one of my favorite times. Maybe there were 8 or 10 of us that were working doing the paintings for Bhagavatam at the time, and we had the opportunity just to sit with him and to discuss each individual painting and he would make suggestions on them and corrections. Whenever I was painting, I was always listening to Prabhupada – either listening to Prabhupada chanting or Prabhupada’s lectures. From the time I went into the Art Department in the morning to the time I left, I always was listening to Prabhupada. Sometimes I would be sitting there painting or just meditating on what I was going to be painting, and I would think how fortunate I was just to be able to hear Prabhupada and just wishing that the whole world could hear the way I could hear and have that experience. I remember one time I was doing a drawing of Lord Chaitanya. It was a drawing for the painting for Chaitanya-caritamrtaof Lord Chaitanya dancing in front of the Rathayatra cart, and all of a sudden I felt that I wasn’t doing the drawing. I realized the drawing was being done by some power other than me and that my hand was being guided.
Tosan Krishna das: I remember when Srila Prabhupada came to Henry Street, and we were so happy with everything the way it was going. We thought we had reached such a pinnacle in our development. And Srila Prabhupada said, “Yes, everything is very nice here. Now go back to Manhattan.” He said, “Brooklyn sounds like a poor man’s temple.” So he sent Shyamasundar, who happened to be traveling with him at the time, back into Manhattan and he started looking for buildings, and Shyamasundar started realizing we’re talking about millions of dollars here. Anyways, we were left with the task after they left, and we started collecting happily for this monumental move. We were collecting and collecting over a period of months and then even over a year. It was a joyous crusade. But at one point, we were a little wary if possibly the money that was being collected would be diverted into maybe other activities. So luckily one day we got a call from Srila Prabhupada, and he ordered that all the money we had collected all be sent to India and that we could start collecting again for a New York temple. Some devotees, I don’t know how they all felt about it. I was elated. I knew that Srila Prabhupada was specifically—almost as if to say sticking out his hand—reaching out and saying, “Give me the money,” and we were in effect putting it right into his hands. So we felt really good about that. And it turned out that all these wonderful devotees, their energies went toward the purchase of the Juhu property in Bombay—all the New York temple money purchased that—and the extra money that was left over built the Lotus Building, the first temple building in the Sri Dham Mayapur complex.
July 1973: LONDON, ENGLAND – Rathayatra
Srutakirti das: Of course, this Rathayatra became very famous because Prabhupada never sat in his vyasasana which was there and walked and danced the entire way. What was the amazing thing was just days before and weeks before he had been very ill, he was in Mayapur and Calcutta, and he asked the leaders what he should do because he was being invited to the Rathayatra in London. He was also being invited, I believe, to Australia to rest and recuperate from his illness. I remember he told them, which he would do sometimes, he said, “Talk amongst yourselves and tell me what you think.” I remember massaging him that day when he said that and he said to me, “So, what do you think? Should I go to London for the Rathayatra, or should I go to Australia and rest?” I had been with Prabhupada about a year, so I already had an idea that he was going to go to the Rathayatra. That’s what Prabhupada did, he preached. There was no possibility of him passing up such a big opportunity for preaching, and I said that. I said, “Well, if you go to London, there will be thousands of people there at the Rathayatra Festival that you can preach to. And, of course, if you go to Australia, that won’t be there.” He just said, “Yes, that’s right.” So then later on in the afternoon, he called everyone in and he told them. He said, “We’re going to London to Rathayatra.”
Shyamasundar das: I picked Prabhupada up at Heathrow Airport in a helicopter and flew him in to the front lawn. He landed in a helicopter. The entire trip from the airport it was storming, and this little helicopter—I think it was two passengers, just Prabhupada and I—it was moving really abruptly. I was getting sick. It was like being in the inside of a basketball or something, rotating. I looked over at Prabhupada thinking, “Oh, my God, he must be getting ill,” and he was just as calm as could be, just enjoying the ride. We were just skimming over the treetops at a very high speed, and we landed there on the lawn. Prabhupada used to say to people, “I have arrived in a helicopter.”
Ramadevi dasi: So we just ran back around to the lawn where they were going to land and yelled to everyone that he was coming because at the manor there are two small air fields nearby. So there was actually quite of lot of small planes and noise from the sky, and maybe it hadn’t been noticed. So we ran around telling everyone, and just a few seconds later the helicopter landed. I don’t know if it had been raining or what, but the grass was very wet and we were running towards the helicopter and the pilot of the helicopter was flipping out because the blades were still turning. I was just so eager to get there to see Prabhupada again, and I just went flying. I don’t know if I tripped or slipped or what, but I went face down on the grass. We could see Prabhupada, just his head, through the window of the door. When he came out he looked quite shaken, and I heard afterwards that Prabhupada said, “I never want to travel this way again.”
Shyamasundar das: So when he arrived, we were very worried that he wasn’t feeling well. Here we are pulling up to the beginning of the parade. I’m driving the car and Prabhupada is getting out. I continued in this car through the whole parade following the cart in case Prabhupada needed to be taken to rest somewhere. Here he is arrived from Calcutta overnight on the plane, he hasn’t rested at all. So we figured either he can sit on the cart for a while and then get off and we’ll put him in the car and take him somewhere to rest, but he surprised us all and never even got up on the cart to sit. He danced and walked the entire distance for hours on a hot July day in London, muggy day. Then at the end he sat up on the lions at Trafalgar Square and talked and preached strongly. What an effort. Our efforts pale by comparison.
Maha Vishnu Swami: My uncle left me ten thousand pounds in a will, which was a lot of money in those days, ’73. So there I was, I was a brahmacari and I was initiated. But then all of a sudden Shyamasundar, the GBC, said, “Maha Vishnu, we want to put you in charge of Rathayatra.” So then I thought, “Well, let me spend it on the Rathayatra Festival.” So there I was, I was spending like water. I was arranging for a big pandal in Trafalgar Square, publicity on all the buses in London, paying for a film to be made. I was walking around with the bills hanging out of my pocket.
Malati dasi: As the procession began, all of a sudden the sun bursts through. So it had been a very gloomy-looking day, suddenly the sun was just shining on the whole affair and Prabhupada took his coat off. And I’m right by Srila Prabhupada, you can see in that picture, I’m right there. I just put my arms out and he put his coat on my arms. Somehow or other, Krishna let me be right by Srila Prabhupada during the whole procession.
Srutakirti das: This was a victory for Prabhupada, this Rathayatra going right down the main byways there in London to Trafalgar Square. Prabhupada saw to it that it was a very grand event, and he just danced and walked the entire way even though he was going to go recuperate somewhere from his illness because he was supposedly weak.
Mokshalakshmi dasi: During the parade itself, I was in the crowd distributing some of these magazines and suddenly all the hairs on my body just stood on end. I felt so different. I turned around to look behind me, and right behind me was Srila Prabhupada dancing. So I felt Srila Prabhupada before I saw him. That’s how strong of a personality he was.
Srutakirti das: The bobbies, I guess they could see that I was his assistant, his servant, and they said to me, “You have to tell your leader to sit down because he is making too much of a commotion in the streets. We need to get order in the streets.” They didn’t like…they considered it very disorderly, all this dancing around. I ignored them once because I thought, “I can’t say anything to Prabhupada.” So then they kept coming up to me. This one officer kept saying, “You have to tell him, you have to tell him.” So finally I went up to Prabhupada, and he was just like this as he was dancing around and walking. I went up to him from behind, and I tapped him on the shoulder. He turned around and looked at me and I said, “Prabhupada, they’re saying you have to sit down in your seat,” and he paid no attention at all and he just spun back around and continued to dance. So I just shrugged my shoulders. I went back up to the bobby and I said, “If you want him to stop, you tell him because he won’t listen to me.” So then he didn’t go up, and then they just let it go on.
Maha Vishnu Swami: When those kirtans started to get going… I was supposed to be directing the parade because I was in charge of the whole thing. Then all the senior devotees were surrounding Prabhupada in these huge kirtans, and I couldn’t do anything about it. They were all senior to me, I was just a junior devotee, and then the police kept coming up to me and saying, “When he jumps up and down and he looks at Jagannatha on the Rathayatra cart, then you’re stopping all the traffic in London. Please do something!” But what could I do?
Srutadev das: Finally at one point he motions to us, and he wanted all the kirtan devotees to come down off the Rathayatra cart. He said, “Come on down!” So we came down and had kirtan with Prabhupada right down there on the street. Everyone came off the cart. Then we were holding hands and keeping a circle around Prabhupada to keep from anyone bumping into Srila Prabhupada, and it wasn’t until actually later on when the Chaitanya-caritamrta was translated by Srila Prabhupada that we realized that this was all the same as in Chaitanya-caritamrta.
Ranchor das: We spent weeks advertising the Rathayatra this year. We called it “London Summer Festival” and we had stickers made, orange circular stickers, and we stuck them on every available surface – the lampposts, shop windows. Somebody went on all the underground trains and stuck them on all the doors of the underground trains, and the whole of London was just covered in the things. We were surprised actually that more people didn’t come. We thought there would be a hundred thousand.
Ramadevi dasi: Everyone directed Prabhupada towards the vyasasana and he looked at it, then he looked around, and then he just shook his head a little and started to walk. Then when everyone realized that Prabhupada was going to walk in front of the cart with everybody else, it was like a wave went through the devotees as they heard that this was happening. Everyone started to dance. It was quite amazing that there was this seemingly very small old man in the middle of these tall, young, strong Western men, and he was completely directing them. Just with a flick of his finger they would lift off the ground and dance and spin and do whatever. The number of mridangas that were being played and the vigor that they were being played with… It wasn’t that the kirtan was particularly fast, but the way everyone was playing the mridangas, their hearts were in their hands the way they were playing them to please Prabhupada with the kirtan. From time to time, he would actually start dancing, jumping off the ground himself with his arms raised. And when that happened, the devotees just went wild and it was as if we were flying. There was no ground beneath our feet, there was no time, no space, no nothing. There was just pure joy and happiness and Prabhupada.
At some points when he would look at Lord Jagannatha, it was the face of a man in love, the way he looked at Jagannatha. Sometimes the Rathayatra cart would fall behind the kirtan party by quite a distance. So Prabhupada would stop the kirtan party in one spot and wait for the cart to catch up. He would sometimes raise his hands as if he was beckoning to Lord Jagannatha to come; and once the cart caught right up to the party, then he’d move on again. The walk from Marble Arch to Trafalgar Square, if you were just walking it without dancing or whatever, it takes at least a half an hour just to walk normally. But the Rathayatra procession lasts for about two-and-a-half hours.
Bhakti Chaitanya Swami: During the Rathayatra, when we turned from Picadilly to go down Haymarket towards Trafalgar Square, then the Rathayatra cart began to go out of control and the braking system was not working properly so it was starting to accelerate down the hill. The devotees were blissfully unaware of what was going on, but the police could see that this was happening and the police started to get into anxiety. So I remember one policeman approached one of the devotees in a mood of great concern, asking, “Who’s in charge here? Who’s in control?” And the devotee turned around and said, “Krishna is in control,” and went back to the kirtan.
Malati dasi: When we arrived at Trafalgar Square, at one point Srila Prabhupada looked around and he saw a small street and he started to go down it. This wasn’t on the procession route. The whole procession starts to follow him. He was looking for a place to pass urine, and Lord Jagannatha and the whole procession was going right along with him.
Srutakirti das: This was another one of these events, very special events, like the opening of the temple in Vrindavan. This was conquering London. He conquered the British, Prabhupada. We knew what he was when he was young when he first met his spiritual master, right? He was into the Gandhi movement, he wasn’t into British rule. So now he came and took over Britain. That’s what he did. It was right back in their face. These are special triumphs, I think, that Prabhupada really, really enjoyed.
Hansadutta das: This festival, we had made a lot of promises to the authorities regarding how we would conduct ourselves, things we would and wouldn’t do. So we had set up these tents. This is the one, with those yellow tents. In order to secure these tents with the lines you can see that come from them, we just drilled holes into the cement and drove iron stakes, pegs in there, which was a total no-no for the authorities. But anyway, the festival went off, it was really sensational with so many people. Prabhupada was very pleased, there was no doubt about it. But the following year they absolutely would not give us any leeway for performing a festival. It took some time for them to regain their trust in us.
Shyamasundar das: There he is in Trafalgar Square, the center of the British Empire, thousands and thousands of people. This was Prabhupada’s triumphant moment, looking out at thousands of people chanting Hare Krishna in Trafalgar Square.
Maha Vishnu Swami: I came down to Trafalgar Square to see the arrangements there. Everything was fantastic. We hired these beautiful palm trees, it was like India. It was a beautiful day, but I was totally exhausted by that time. I couldn’t focus on what was going on really, it just happened. Whatever happened happened, and it did happen and Prabhupada was very pleased. In the Chaitanya-caritamrta, it says the Rathayatra cart seemed to be higher than Mount Meru. Then Prabhupada writes in the purport, “There was a gorgeous Rathayatra Festival in London in 1973. The Guardiannewspaper reported that the Rathayatra car seemed to be higher than Nelson’s column.” And he put that in the purport of Chaitanya-caritamrta. But then it’s in the Conversationsbooks that Shyamasundar said to Prabhupada that “One devotee, Maha Vishnu, he received some money from his aunt…” actually it wasn’t my aunt, it was my uncle “…which paid for the Rathayatra Festival.” And Prabhupada said, “He has spent his aunt’s money well.”
Ramadevi dasi: The overwhelming memory of that festival is the dance, the dancing that defied logic because you just kept going and going and going, and just wanted more and more and more, and just wanted it to last forever.
Malati dasi: I just felt like I had received so much mercy that day from Srila Prabhupada. And then after he spoke, he wanted to go back. So we went to Bury Place, Shyamasundar drove, I also went. He was so happy. He was very happy with the Rathayatra. He was very pleased that day. And he started talking about transcendental competition between the gopis. He said, “Not like this mundane competition, ‘Oh, you are doing better than me? Let me smash you.’ No. ‘You are serving so nicely. Let me try to imitate.’” He said, “In this way, ever-increasing. Ever-increasing transcendental bliss.”
Sarvamangala dasi: I had volunteered to stay back to look after Radha-Londonisvara, and I was feeling a bit like I was missing out on seeing Prabhupada. But he came back earlier than the devotees, I think he was with Shyamasundar. They came in the temple room door and there was Prabhupada, and the servant went downstairs to get something for him. He went to take darshan of the Deities and so I got to take Prabhupada’s slippers off, and I remember having his lotus feet on my hands and feeling conscious how rough my hands seemed for his beautiful soft feet. But it was really lovely to touch Prabhupada’s feet, and it was a really special moment because there was no one there and somehow Krishna had created that little moment in time when I got to be with Prabhupada.