July 1975: AIRPLANE FLIGHT – Philadelphia to San Francisco
Visakha dasi: I was on the flight between Philadelphia and Berkeley with Srila Prabhupada when the captain of the jet came out of the cockpit. He sat down next to Prabhupada, and the two of them had a very animated, joyful discussion. I could see Prabhupada was relishing the conversation. So I was filming this, and I was curious what they were discussing. But, of course, I couldn’t hear it, and I was too shy to ask Prabhupada what did he talk about after it was over. So I resigned myself that I guess I wouldn’t know. But it turned out that when Prabhupada arrived in Berkeley, during his arrival address he mentioned the conversation and he said the captain was very intelligent and he asked several questions. One of the questions was, “If God is all good, then why is there evil in the world?” Prabhupada said, “For God there is no evil, there is only good.” And he gave the analogy, “Just as my back is as important to me as my chest, if there is pain in my back I take care of that, I don’t ignore it thinking that the chest is more important. So evil is like the back of God and it’s not different from His front, which is compared to goodness.” Then the captain asked, “If everything is good from God’s point of view, how can there be evil?” and Prabhupada gave another example. He said, “It’s like the sun. On the body of the sun there is no shadow. We create shadow by turning our back to the sun. So similarly, evil means when we turn away from God.” So then the captain asked a third question. He said, “How is it possible to attain peace?” And Prabhupada said, “To attain peace, we have to understand that God is the supreme proprietor, the supreme enjoyer and the supreme friend.”
Harikesa das: There was another time with captains in airplanes also I can tell you about. We were between Bombay and Calcutta and the pilot invited us into the cabin, and even when we landed we just stayed there. We didn’t even have seat belts on or anything, we just flew right into Calcutta. The pilot was showing everything to Prabhupada about the controls and how he flew the plane. Then Prabhupada turned to me and he said, “It’s just like typing. After a while you learn how to move your fingers,” because the pilot was going this and that and moving his fingers everywhere and switching switches. They switch switches a lot up there, they’re not just sitting there, they’re really doing things. He was watching him and he turned to me and said, “You can learn how to fly.” I said, “Me fly? I’m afraid of heights.”
July 1975: BERKELEY & SAN FRANCISCO – Walk at the University of California, Berkeley Temple, San Francisco Rathayatra
Yadubara das: I had attended the University of California here at Berkeley in the early ’60s, and I remember there was so much anxiety with student rebellions and riots and the drug scene was exploding at the time. Most students, including myself, were just dissatisfied and bewildered. Regularly students were committing suicide by jumping off the clock tower we see in the background. When Srila Prabhupada was informed about this, his response put my whole university experience into perspective. He told the story of the Himalayas giving birth. So many people gathered at a cave at base of these huge mountains and then waited for days, and finally the mountains rumbled and the people only saw some rats run out of the cave. Everyone laughed, and then Bahulasva told Prabhupada that I had graduated from this university. Brahmananda said, “Oh, poor Yadubara,” and I stepped forward and said, “Yes, Srila Prabhupada, I am one of those rats.”
Bada Haridas: I joined the Los Angeles temple in 1975, and the day that I joined I put what seemed like about a hundred devotees on the back of a flatbed truck covered with a tarp and we all drove to San Francisco for Rathayatra. I was a new bhakta. I wasn’t shaved up yet, I had long hair and a beard. I didn’t really know much at all. So we were engaged helping to set up the festival, and we slept under the main stage. The next day in the morning we drove over to the Berkeley temple for greeting of the Deities. Prabhupada came out around that same time, and all the devotees paid their obeisances. I remember the first time I saw Srila Prabhupada. When he came out…I guess a lot of devotees have said this, but it was really like the room just lit up from his presence, although he was pretty slight in stature. But this amazing effulgence came from him, and I remember thinking, “Boy, this person is really powerful.” Then I thought, “I hope he’s good because anyone with that kind of potency, it would be pretty scary if he wasn’t.” Of course, I found out he was more than good later on.
Caru das: I’m sitting in the temple room, Prabhupada is sitting on the vyasasana, he’s being interviewed by the news media. The question is, “What will happen to your movement when you die?” Before the words were out of his mouth, it was so lightning quick, Prabhupada was saying, “I will never die” right back at the guy. And we were… And then Prabhupada explained himself: “I will live forever in my books.”
Devamrita Swami: This was in the middle of the inconceivable marathon. So Ramesvara had arranged that the BBT staff were on a special bus that arrives right before the Rathayatra and takes off right after. I remember I would look at Prabhupada and kept staring at him and praying, “How can I be of some service to you?” because I was feeling that I was just useless and missing out on all the nectar and not having anything to do for Lord Chaitanya’s mission. Here I was working on the book marathon, but still those were my sentiments. I was lost in the crowd and just looking up at Prabhupada and praying like that very emphatically from my heart. And I’ll never forget all of a sudden, amidst hundreds upon hundreds of devotees, Prabhupada suddenly looked in my direction and looked straight at me and I was so shocked. He looked straight at me and fixed his eyes straight on me, I had no doubt what was going on. And I was just stunned, “He actually hears, he actually knows what’s going on in my heart.”
Bhakta das: Jayananda had said these wheels of the chariots are all wearing out and they’re dangerous, they’re too big and they’re too heavy, and we need to replace them. He wanted to make steel wheels with the spokes. So he had this welder making new wheels, and the night before the Rathayatra we went and put new wheels on Jagannatha’s chariot and Balarama’s chariot, not on Subhadra’s chariot. Her chariot was relatively easy to navigate compared to the other two. So we pulled the chariots, testing the new wheels, and there was no problem. The next morning, of course, the parade starts, and as soon as we started pulling the chariots these new wheels collapsed. Instead of being round, they became octagons. Between each spoke, the steel collapsed. So the chariots were bouncing, and I was horrified because the vibration was so intense. Fortunately, Srila Prabhupada was on Subhadra’s cart. But what was remarkable is that I had written Srila Prabhupada and told him that we were making new wheels, and he had written me back and said, “The old wheels are fine. Don’t change anything. This is your American disease.” But by the time we’d gotten the letter, the old wheels had already been thrown away and the new wheels were done. So Jayananda reassured me, he said, “No, no, there is no problem.” But then it was like Prabhupada’s words had to be fulfilled. So as soon as that parade started, the new wheels collapsed and I could hear Prabhupada’s voice say, “Stick with the old wheels.”
Devamrita Swami: The other thing that I remember is upon arrival at the festival site, Radhaballabha, who was in charge of the production at that point, brought Prabhupada a stack of books which had just been printed because this was during the inconceivable marathon so some books had already started to come out. Prabhupada took those books, and I’ll never forget what I saw. He was on the stage seated on his vyasasana and I was down below seated on the grass, and I saw Prabhupada just light up like the moon in the sky upon getting those books in his hand. I’ll never forget that. Then I remember him lecturing and I remember him saying, “I have given this example so many times. You water the tree at the root, all the branches blossom. You put the food in the mouth, the whole body is energized.” I remember at that moment I finally caught it. It finally dawned on me the utter simplicity yet profundity of Krishna consciousness and bhakti-yoga: simply by satisfying Krishna, all purposes are fulfilled.
July 1975: SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA – Temple Program, Program at Balboa Park
Tulasi das: On the way down from L.A. to San Diego, Jayatirtha was falling asleep driving. So Prabhupada wouldn’t let him drive anymore. So Jayatirtha got me to drive him, a one-hour drive. But, of course, in those days none of us slept much. So I remember I’m driving, I’m about halfway down. I look in the back, Prabhupada, his head was tilted back and he was asleep. A few minutes later, I think it was Brahmananda sitting beside him, he was asleep. Jayatirtha sitting shotgun, I looked over at him a few minutes later, he was asleep. I was going through all these things to keep my eyes open, and I was pinching myself and doing all this stuff. I was falling asleep with my eyes open, and all of a sudden I heard this…and Prabhupada starts a kirtan. Then gradually all the others woke up in the car and we had this really nice kirtan, the four of us in the car, and he led the kirtan.
Bhakta das: Srila Prabhupada went on a tour of the temple, and I walked with him. He, of course, went to the temple room first and offered his obeisances. I never forget, he walked in every room, he was inspecting everywhere, and the last room he went in was the sankirtan room where all of his books were stored. When he saw his books were being taken care of and respected, he was so pleased he grabbed me in his arms and he embraced me and he said, “Thank you very much, thank you very much.” And I fell at his feet offering dandavats and said, “Thank you, Srila Prabhupada.” That was the fulfillment of all desires, to see Srila Prabhupada smile at me.
Jayadvaita Swami: San Diego is a beautiful place where the sun always shines. They had a very large poster that used to be displayed in Los Angeles, a billboard, showing a man on a golf course with the green grass and the blue sky. The caption was, “Just another beautiful day in San Diego.” So that’s San Diego, a place where it’s perpetually beautiful and the people are perpetually mellow and life is perpetually wonderful. Prabhupada arrives on a beautiful summer day to address the people who had gathered for the Hare Krishna Festival in Balboa Park, and they’re basking in the sun and they’re these young demigods with bronze chests and beautiful blonde hair hanging down from their aristocratic beautiful faces. And Prabhupada gives this lecture about this rotten material body, and it was just so perfect. It was the dart in the hearts of these conditioned souls misidentifying themselves with the material nature.
Devamrita Swami: Prabhupada was starting off speaking about one subject, and then a hippie interrupted him, “I want sex!” And Prabhupada changed the whole subject of the lecture and began to explain in detail the grihastha regulative principles for having children. It was quite astonishing, telling the hippie, “You can have, but this is the way you have it.” Then after he spoke, there was this wonderful kirtan.
August 1975: DETROIT, MICHIGAN – Arrival, Temple Program, Hall Programs
Ambarisa das: There is Govardhan, he’s the temple president. I had actually just taken initiation in June, so this is a month later. I was actually here when Prabhupada came in, but I’m not here because I’m out at the curb with the car. We had a nice white Lincoln Continental that we got from Ford Motor Company. We filled it will marigolds, it was just chock-a-block full with marigolds. Then when Srila Prabhupada came out, I offered my obeisances to him and held the door open. And he gave me a nice pat on the shoulder, I always remember that, and got in and we took off for the temple. I was Srila Prabhupada’s driver for his whole visit in Detroit. When you drive from the airport into the city, you pass Ford Motor Company, it’s on both sides of the road as you’re coming in, and there’s actually this big tire that’s been there for years. It came from the World’s Fair, I think. In 1964, they had a World’s Fair and they had a Goodyear exhibit. So they brought this huge tire. So we’re passing this big huge tire and Prabhupada says…Srila Prabhupada had a great sense of humor…he said, “Oh, this is the presiding deity of Detroit.” Then we drove a little farther and…here’s the car here, there I am. So we drove a little farther, and we passed Ford Motor Company on the left and on the right – World Headquarters Ford Motor Company it said. So Brahmananda said, “Is this where you work?” And Prabhupada said in his very deep voice, “No, he is the proprietor.” So we all had a good laugh at that, and then we proceeded on to the temple. We were still at the temple on Jefferson. The temple on Jefferson is in a historic neighborhood, Indian Village it’s called, and we would go out to Belle Isle to go for a morning walk. It’s a park near the temple on Jefferson, so we would go out there and park and then walk around. It was my job to find the proper route. And no matter what route I ever came up with, we would always run into a bunch of rowdy people because it’s a city park so the caliber of people in there was not so great. There would be some people that had been there all night who’d come rolling out of the bushes. But Prabhupada was very merciful, and I think he enjoyed walking there. The devotees had built Prabhupada a palanquin because the temple room was on the third floor. So they had built a palanquin to carry Prabhupada up to the top, and he took one look at it and waved his hand and said, “No, no,” because it didn’t look very safe. We would come back to the temple room for greeting of the Deities, and there’s Radha-Kunjabehari, jaya. Govardhan was such a perfectionist that They were never ready by the time we got back. So we’d be standing out in front of the curtain with Prabhupada, I could hear Govardhan screaming in the back, “Forget it! Forget it! Just get the curtain open on time!” But he always did such a nice job dressing the Deities. I think Radha-Kunjabehari were famous for Their opulence and also the opulent prasadam and milk sweets that you got. We used to steal the Mangala-arati sweets after Mangala-arati and go into Govardhan’s office and eat them.
Mahatma das: Prabhupada came to greet the Deities, and he sat on the vyasasana and nobody was doing Guru Puja. I had never done Guru Puja before for Srila Prabhupada, and I’m not the type of person that jumps in on things. I always tend to let other people do it. But I was right next to the vyasasana, so Brahmananda came and pushed me over to the arati tray. So that was the first and last time I was able to offer Guru Puja for Prabhupada. The experience I had was that it was like there was no puja going on and Prabhupada was sitting in a room by himself. There were probably close to 200 devotees in the kirtan glorifying Prabhupada and I was worshiping him, but the way Prabhupada was taking it was as if none of that was going on. I didn’t see any what we could say relish of being in that position or any kind of desire or inclination to take advantage of that position. It was as if nothing was going on in the room. I was doing the puja and he was looking, he would look around. He observed what’s going on with the devotees, more that he was looking after them, and this glorification is going on and he’s just taking it in for our benefit.
Dravinaksha das: Summer of ’75, we were on one of the Radha-Damodar buses. Adi Kesava was the head of the bus, and we decided to follow Prabhupada around as much as we could. So we came to Detroit. The temple room was up in the attic. We converted the attic to a temple – Abhirama, myself, some other devotees. Nobody knew how to do drywall taping at the time. So we had put all this drywall up; and when we were trying to figure out what to do, a young man showed up. “What do you do?” “I do drywall taping.” So he stayed, taped the whole temple room, stayed when Prabhupada came and then left, just like that. Krishna sent someone to help us out. Some gentleman had come to see Prabhupada; and he was someone who knew all the big auto barons and the history of Detroit, and he discussed that with Prabhupada. He seemed to be very happy just to meet a great personality like Prabhupada. Prabhupada didn’t preach to him, just listened to what he said. He was very cordial. I was sitting in the room, a brahmacari, and I thought Prabhupada was supposed to preach to everybody, but Prabhupada didn’t preach to him at all. Prabhupada was just very nice and cordial, listened, asked a few questions. And I realized later that Prabhupada is a good judge of time and circumstance. This person wasn’t into anything about spiritual life. He just like to meet great people, famous people, and he came and met Prabhupada, the most famous person.
Ambarisa das: We did some programs also at the University of Michigan. Because I was the driver, I wanted to get Prabhupada as close to the door as I could. So one time I drove through these bushes and over the grass to get Srila Prabhupada to the door of the auditorium. Brahmananda was sitting in the back, he was saying, “You can’t do that just because you’re a Ford.” I said, “No, it’s not because of that. Because I have Prabhupada in the back seat, I feel I can bend the rules a little bit to try to get him as close to the door as possible.” Prabhupada was laughing, he thought it was funny. But we had some nice programs at the University of Michigan. Prabhupada was on his world tour, but at the same time we were getting ready to buy a new temple. Govardhan had gone out and scouted around and had found what is now the Bhaktivedanta Cultural Center, this historic mansion, the Fisher Mansion, which was in this very, very dilapidated part of town, East Jefferson it’s called. It was ghetto and just horrible, but the property itself was quite nice and it was being sold. So we took Srila Prabhupada over there. The man who owned it owned an alarm company, so he had rigged the whole house up to test his alarms. And he had dogs and carpeting, and it was really muchi. So I was not all that impressed because it was dark and oppressive and it was just scary, it was a scary place. I was not all that impressed by it. But we walked into the ballroom that Mr. Fisher used to have his parties in, and at the far end of the ballroom were three arches behind which the orchestra used to sit to play for the people when they came to the dance. So Srila Prabhupada saw these three arches and he said, “Oh, Krishna has made this house for us.” So we walked around and looked at the mansion, here, there, and Prabhupada asked what they were asking. They were asking $350,000 and Srila Prabhupada said, just to us, not to the realtor, “Every room is worth $350,000.” Then as we were walking out Govardhan said, “How do you like this house, Srila Prabhupada?” And Prabhupada said, “Who would not like?” So Govardhan…I don’t know why he said it, he said, “Well, Ambarisa doesn’t like it,” because I had expressed some reservations about it. I was a new devotee and I said, “Prabhupada, it’s maya.” When you’re new, you think you know a lot more than you actually do. So Prabhupada said, “Yes, Krishna is maya too. This can be utilized for Krishna’s service too.” Prabhupada saw everything as being able to be utilized in Krishna’s service, this principle of yukta-vairagya, which I didn’t know very much about then. Also, Prabhupada said if Krishna comes here the neighborhood would change, because I had expressed some reservations, “This is a high crime neighborhood.” Actually the first carjacking in the United States took place there. So I had some reservations about crime and what was going to happen to the devotees, etc., and Prabhupada said, “You just bring Krishna here and distribute prasadam, then everything will change.” I just surrendered. So we decided that we would make an offer for the house. So the next day Govardhan, myself and Srila Prabhupada, we went back to the house, back to the Fisher Mansion, and we had a meeting out by the pool with the real estate lady, our broker, and the owner of the house. We all sat down, and the first thing that Srila Prabhupada said was “We are mendicants, so we would like it if you would give us this house.” So the real estate lady, she almost fell in the pool because she saw her commission fly out the window. And the owner of the house, his jaw dropped because…I could tell what was going on in his head, that he was looking at Prabhupada and thinking, “Well, maybe he’s a mendicant, but this guy over here,” looking at me, “definitely no, he’s not a mendicant,” because he knew who I was. So anyway, he said, “No, I’m sorry, I can’t do that.” He was asking $350,000, and Srila Prabhupada agreed to pay $300,000. So we got this beautiful historic mansion with all this work that really can’t be replicated. That house, to replace it would cost probably 5 or 10 million dollars. So we got it for $300,000. So everybody was happy. Lekhasravanti, she was Walter Reuther’s daughter, and she basically surrendered everything. She gave everything she had to buy this house, and whatever she couldn’t cover I covered. So it was about 50-50. She was very surrendered, and I really commend her for that because she sacrificed everything for Prabhupada. That night I remember the real estate lady, she was a middle-aged Polish woman, and her friend came over to congratulate Prabhupada that they had accepted the offer. So they came up to Prabhupada’s room. Both of them were intoxicated, so they were rolling around on the pillows in front of Prabhupada’s desk. But he was so jolly because he was happy that we had purchased this house, and he was so kind to these old ladies. That was Prabhupada’s nature was that he could see everybody’s spiritual identity, and he was very merciful to them. So we ended up purchasing the house, and that was a momentous occasion during that trip. We had our grand opening in 1983, I think it was. And since that time, there has been redevelopment all around the whole mansion, and people have told us actually that the reason they came in there and put money into the area was because the Fisher Mansion was there and was being maintained so nicely by the devotees. So Srila Prabhupada could see past, present and future and could see that this was going to be very successful and become a very famous place. But it was really wonderful to have Prabhupada there, I remember it very sweetly. Of course, I had my personal service driving Prabhupada around, it was very nice just after having been initiated. I’ll always remember that trip.
BB Govinda Swami: Prabhupada spoke, and then Prabhupada went to the airport. We all went to the airport with Prabhupada, and I decided I had to get close to Prabhupada and I had to get a glimpse or something from Prabhupada. So many devotees were there, and Prabhupada was walking through the corridors up to the lounge where he would take his flight from. I remember I pushed my way through the devotees and I came right up next to Prabhupada and I was thinking, “Now here I am, the most fortunate person in the world, I’m walking next to Prabhupada.” And I remember just so casually he turned and he looked at me, and he just gave me this look that turned me into dust. It wasn’t any special effort for him. But he just looked at me and the way he looked at me, it made me realize that I was really nothing. Then something interesting happened. This one nondevotee gentleman, he pushed his way right through the crowd and he pushed himself right up in front of Prabhupada. More or less he just stood right in Prabhupada’s path, and he looked up and he said, “Swami, I’ve got a question for you.” Prabhupada smiled very charmingly and he said, “What’s your question?” The man said, “If I were to give you a million dollars right now, what would you do?” Prabhupada smiled and he said, “Oh, that’s a very easy question.” He said, “I would print books and I would build beautiful temples for Krishna.” Then the man just said, “Thank you very much, Swami,” he turned and he walked off.
October 1975: MAURITIUS – Arrival, Lecture, Room Conversation, Walk
Brahmananda das: Prabhupada was always traveling economy class. So I got the bright idea that Prabhupada should travel first class. So we were going to Mauritius from Bombay. So I arranged for them to get first class seating for Prabhupada and his servant, and the rest of the party they would fly economy. As it was, Prabhupada had me sit with him in first class. So we were sitting there, and there is this huge seat. And then they come around to serve the meals, they have this trolley. And on the trolley is a big side of beef, and they’re carving it to order. This is the luxury. Then they come around with the bar with champagne and wine and liquor, and everybody is drinking. So then Prabhupada asked for prasadam they had packed, so we made a plate for Prabhupada. And the flight attendants, they saw all the nice prasadam, they were curious as to what these things were. And Prabhupada just ate a very little bit. Then he said, “Give to the flight attendants,” because they were expressing interest. So we started giving them things and they loved it, they thought this was great. They admitted that this food was much better. After we handed, Prabhupada called me in and said, “What is the value of flying first class? I don’t require a big seat, we don’t eat their food, we don’t drink their drinks, and you’re paying twice the amount. What is the use?”
Sriniketana das: Srila Prabhupada is at the airport in the VIP lounge sitting next to Gowtam Teelock, who was our greatest well-wisher in Mauritius at that time, and another gentleman who is a member of Parliament. Mr. Teelock also is a member of Parliament. They were very eager to meet Srila Prabhupada at the airport. Actually Mauritius is a little different from most other countries in the sense that it’s one of the only countries in the world, like Nepal, India, governed by Indian Hindu majorities. So Srila Prabhupada knew about this. So he was specifically keen to come because he had heard some good reports about Mauritius when he was in India. And there was an invitation letter from the Prime Minister, Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, who invited Prabhupada to come and visit the island and grace it by his presence. So it was very special.
Srila Prabhupada: Therefore, I am trying to introduce this Krishna consciousness all over the world without any distinction of caste, creed, color. God is for everyone.
Bhargava das: Mauritius was developed by two devotees. It’s a small island off the east coast of Africa. Prabhupada said some very profound things in Mauritius. He was very serious with the young people who came to visit him. He didn’t like the idea of dependence on a cash crop. Sugarcane was the cash crop. His comment to those young people was “The first duty of a nation is to become self-sufficient.” And that was an extremely profound statement because if you look at the world situation and you look at so many of the trouble spots, it’s all about trying to exploit somebody else’s natural resources – like America and Europe trying to exploit the oil resources of other areas. And if each country would take that seriously, becoming self-sufficient, you wouldn’t have these major conflicts going on in the world. So when Prabhupada said that, it was extremely profound. When one of them asked, “What is your movement doing to help the world?” he said, “We’re taking animals and turning them into human beings,” and then he gave a very fiery lecture. Then at the end he told Brahmananda, “Take the tape of this and send it to Back to Godhead, and they should make an article out of this. The title of the article should be ‘First you make them human, then you talk about United Nations.’”
Prabhanu das: We were in Zambia in a little ashram, four of us sitting around. And one devotee there, his name was Bivakara, he was in the World Atlas looking at Africa and populations and whatnot, and he saw this little island out there in the middle of the Indian Ocean. He said, “Oh, look, it’s about 850,000 people,” and more than half of them were Hindus. So Chayavana Maharaja and Paramesvari das, they went to India for the Mayapur festival. And on their way back, they stopped in Mauritius and they felt that it was a very nice place. So Bivakara and I went to Mauritius, and we began things there. We went there Prabhupada style. We went there with a trunk of books and more or less no money and an invitation to someone’s house. That’s how we began. The people took an immediate interest in us, I think, just because we were a novelty, but the preaching really took off after Srila Prabhupada came. It’s amazing to see the potency. He only stayed really a few days and he inspired so many people, and the long-lasting effect of his presence is incalculable to me. I remember he was speaking so enthusiastically to a few boys that were coming, and they were talking about making that country the first Krishna conscious country. And I’m sitting there thinking, “This is never going to happen.” But Srila Prabhupada, he could see it. His devotion was so great that he literally influenced thousands of people even though he only met a few.
Sriniketana das: The interesting thing about the place where we were staying was that it was in an area that was mostly populated by Creole population, means Christians of African descent, and obviously they have never heard of Hare Krishna because it was such a new thing at that time. But when they heard a swami, a saintly person, was coming to reside in their neighborhood and that there were going to be daily lectures in the evening, so many people came – so many ladies, young men and all types of people, not only Hindus came. Actually I would think the majority were non-Hindus, and they were all interested.
Brahmananda das: This house for Prabhupada to stay was given by Mr. Madhvani, who actually was the sugar king of Uganda, Madhvani Sugar Mills. We found out that Mauritius doesn’t have a sugar refinery, that actually the sugarcane is crushed into juice and then that’s shipped to England and it’s refined in England. Then Mauritius has to buy sugar from England, although it’s growing all the sugarcane. So Prabhupada was telling them, “Why are you providing sugar for the British for their tea cups? Just so that you get money, and then with the money you buy electronic goods. You have to import everything because you’re not making anything.” And even food was imported. So Prabhupada said, “Instead of growing sugarcane you should be growing your own food, be self-sufficient in food. But you’re just being exploited.” It goes back to the colonial times and the British Empire. Prabhupada didn’t approve of cash crop. He approved of food crop. So this was something revolutionary, nobody ever told them this, and he told it also to the government officials that he met. This was part of the Krishna Consciousness Movement, to be self-sufficient, be self-sufficient in food. So Prabhupada had been invited by the Prime Minister, Mr. Ramgoolam. So Prabhupada came. But then after arriving, the Prime Minister had some sudden engagements and he had to postpone his meeting with Prabhupada.
Pusta Krishna das (reading): “Krishna is full of all opulences, and renunciation is one of them. There are many instances of such renunciation, for Krishna is the master of renunciation. The fight was actually between Duryodhana and Yudhisthira. Arjuna was fighting on behalf of his elder brother, Yudhisthira. Because Krishna and Arjuna were on the side of Yudhisthira, Yudhisthira's victory was certain. The battle was to decide who would rule the world, and Sanjaya predicted that the power would be transferred to Yudhisthira. It is also predicted here that Yudhisthira, after gaining victory in this battle, would flourish more and more because he was not only righteous and pious, but he was a strict moralist. He never spoke a lie during his life. There are many less intelligent persons who take Bhagavad-gita to be a discussion of topics between two friends in a battlefield. But such a book cannot be scripture. Some may protest that Krishna incited Arjuna to fight, which is immoral, but the reality of the situation is clearly stated: Bhagavad-gita is the supreme instruction in morality. The supreme instruction of morality is stated in the Ninth Chapter.”
Sriniketana das: So on one morning walk, we’re going along the beach. It was very intimate because very few devotees were there and Prabhupada was very relaxed. In one place, Prabhupada was sitting on the bench, Pusta Krishna Maharaja put his chadar so that Prabhupada would be comfortable, and all the devotees were sitting down on the sand. Next to the bench there was capsules of Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, cigarettes butts and all kind of wrappers. And then he said, “What is all this Pepsi-Cola, Coca-Cola? We don’t use all this. What is the necessity of this Pepsi-Cola, Coca-Cola? In our ashram, we don’t have any of this and we are all very happy anyway. In this way,” he said, “they manufacture all kinds of things, and they make advertisement so that people will consume. In this way, they are misleading society into sense gratification. And because the people want sense gratification, they will purchase endlessly until finally they get sick of all this junk food and garbage.”
Pusta Krishna das (reading): “Surrender unto Krishna in devotional service in full Krishna consciousness is the most confidential instruction and is the essence of the 18th Chapter.”
Srila Prabhupada: Because the body is born in America, therefore he is thinking “American.”
Sriniketana das: One of the first things we arranged was a press conference. That’s what we are seeing here. Prominent reporters from the television, the newspapers were invited to come and meet Srila Prabhupada and put their questions. 1975 was a time when the country was not very developed and people were not very enlightened on spiritual subjects. The population of the country consisting in the majority of Hindus, they were used more to Lord Shiva’s worship and Ramayana. So to have Krishna being propagated was rather unusual. I remember when we came we brought the Bhagavad-gita, and most people had just heard about the Bhagavad-gita but very few people had the Bhagavad-gita actually at home. So there was such a big demand for the Bhagavad-gita As It Is that we couldn’t supply because the yatra was not in any way up to the standard to import books from Los Angeles or anything like that. But we did take orders, and after some time we were able to get the books in and distribute them to the people. So you will see the questions are rather simple. People here are generally quite accepting swamis, priests and other saintly persons without having to challenge. Out of their cultural upbringing, they won’t challenge him like a Western reporter would probably challenge him. We have recorded another exchange between the reporter and Prabhupada. The reporter is asking, “Do you think, Swamiji, that man can become perfect?” Prabhupada says that “That is the chance of a human being. Therefore, in the human society there are schools, colleges, education, culture, and not in the animal society. Humans can be made into perfect beings, not the animals. So if mankind is denied proper education, that is the greatest harm. Humans have got the opportunity for spiritual education, but the authorities are not giving them that opportunity. They are imperfect, and they are taking advice from the imperfect. Therefore, it is very difficult for them to understand because they do not take advice from the perfect person, Krishna. Apasyatam atma-tattvam, they cannot see. Without guidance from the Supreme Person, nothing can be properly managed.” Then the reporter puts another question: “Do you mean that perfection is to become God or to become a perfect man?” Prabhupada says, “Man never becomes God.” Then the reporter said, “What does perfection mean?” Prabhupada says, “Perfect means to become godly.” So this was very significant. Being also permeated by the impersonalist aspect of spirituality and by false teachings of swamis and preachers and other type of persons, they also had the idea maybe that if you become perfect you become God. But Prabhupada very clearly put it, “Man cannot become God. The best he can become godly.”
Srila Prabhupada: There are degrees of light. There is sunlight and there is this light. You cannot compare this light with the sunlight. Light comes from everywhere, but that does not mean the sunlight and this light is the same. First of all you understand this. You have question about the light. First of all you understand there are degrees of light. You cannot say this light and the sunlight is the same.
Reporter: By this you mean that those who adopt the life by the teachings coming from the Koran or from the Bible is a lesser life than…?
Srila Prabhupada: That is your business to study. But we give you the idea that light comes from everywhere. There is one glowworm. That light is also light, and the sunlight is also light. You cannot think that the glowworm’s light and the sunlight is the same. Now it is your business to see which is glowworm light and which is sunlight. That is your business. Let them say all nonsense, what can I say? Every nonsense will speak something nonsense, how can I check it? There are so many nonsenses, therefore we are trying to make all these nonsense into human being. That is our program. So long he is all nonsense, he will go on speaking nonsense. What can I do?
Reporter #2: Swamiji, one thing I want to know. This sloka, from where you have quoted this sloka sravanam kirtanam?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, it is in the Third Chapter of Twelfth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam. Have you got all the Bhagavatas? Twelfth Canto?
Devotee: We don’t have that canto.
Srila Prabhupada: So you can note it.
Prabhanu das: We would rotate. Some of us would stay back and clean Prabhupada’s room or do personal services. So one day when I went on the walk, we were out approaching the beach and in the distance a sugarcane truck goes by with four or five workers in the back of the truck. They saw us and in a mocking way they said, “Hare Krishna, Hare Rama!” They weren’t nasty or anything, they were happy-go-lucky guys. And one of the devotees said, “Oh, Prabhupada, what happens to someone who chants Hare Krishna like that?” Prabhupada said in a very deep and most serious and convinced way, “They are liberated.” So when he said that, it reminded me of that verse in the First Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam. It says, “Living entities who are in the meshes of birth and death can be freed immediately simply by chanting the name of Krishna, which is feared by fear personified.” So I thought of those men and how Prabhupada said, “They are liberated.” But I’m sure they just took off and went to the sugarcane field and cut down some sugarcane and threw it in the truck, and went and ate some lunch and went home and watched TV. Hard to see how they are liberated. But Prabhupada had that conviction, and that conviction is confirmed in sastra. And we also have that kind of faith that Prabhupada doesn’t just see things theoretically, but he sees through his realization. There was another thing that really struck me when we were on the beach, and I saw him do it also on the beach in Bombay, that total strangers would come up to him and he would greet them and just beam at them. It’s hard to describe in a way, like he’s known him forever and it’s his best friend. But it was so disarming to see how much friendliness could come out of one person to a total stranger. From his angle, he could see everyone as part of God. He lives that or experiences that – again, it’s not just theoretical – and it comes out. And when you see it in his person, it’s very astonishing.
Harikesa das: We were going from Mauritius to South Africa so we needed to have yellow fever shots, and Prabhupada had never had one in his whole life because he would never take any shots. But you could not go to a doctor and just have him stamp the card, you actually had to get the shot and actually have them sign that you got the shot. So Prabhupada refused to get the shot and he said, “Somehow or another get me that card,” and then he had this little smile on his face. So then I said to Pusta Krishna, “OK, let’s go.” Then he said, “What are we going to do?” I said, “We’re going to get the shots ourselves and do something.” He said, “Ah.” So we went downtown and Pusta Krishna takes Prabhupada’s card for shots, and he gets the shot and when the man asks him for his name he says, “Bhaktivedanta Swami.” And then he asked him for date of birth. So then Pusta Krishna says, “I forgot.” And the man said, “You forgot?” Then at that time I’m sitting just two rows up and saying, “Oh, God, we’re in trouble now.” So all of a sudden I start chanting, “Hare Krishna!” I’m chanting and I’m doing this ecstasy thing. And the guy is looking around, he said, “What’s going on?” He says, “You don’t remember?” And Pusta Krishna says, “I can’t remember anything anymore. It’s so confusing, all this chanting, I don’t remember anything anymore,” and I’m just going on and on and on making a whole scene. Finally the guy said, “Well, when you remember, write it on the card.” He said, “Yeah, I sure will.” Then we went back and we wrote in 1896. We told Prabhupada what we did, and he was laughing and laughing.
Brahmananda das: If someone should offer something with meat, we will reject it immediately.
Srila Prabhupada: We do not take meats in the airplane. We take our meals with us. Although we pay for that first class, and still we do not. They offer and “Give us some fruit, that’s all.”
Brahmananda das: Coming here on Air India, the stewardess was very surprised why we weren’t… They had so much nice elaborate meals prepared, but we don’t take these things.
Srila Prabhupada: Nobody is interested in spiritual life. Therefore, no customer is coming. We go to sell our books there.
Man: Have you had a significant impact on the American society?
Srila Prabhupada: What is that?
Man: Have you had a significant impact on the American society? The values that you preach, have they influenced Americans to a certain degree?
Brahmananda das: Oh, yes. You can go in America, any country, any city, and everyone will know Hare Krishna. We are getting…
Man: That’s not what I mean. What I mean is have Americans started to be less violent, for instance. Or have they started to be less egoistical. Or have they started to be less…
Brahmananda das: Well, not unless they follow our movement. But those who have followed our movement… Recently there was one study that was published by a very eminent sociologist in America from the University of California, the Union Theological Center, and he stated in that book that the members of this movement, formerly they were drug-addicted hippies and now they have become servants of Krishna and humanity, loving servants. So he has given proof through intensive interviews that one who follows…joins this movement, dramatically his life becomes changed.
Srila Prabhupada: He is a big professor, and his books are being sold in higher circle.
Srila Prabhupada: …another superior energy. What is that superior energy? Jiva-bhutam maha-baho, yayedam dharyate jagat.
Sriniketana das: On the Saturday of the week when he stayed with us, we had made a public program. We didn’t know anybody, we had just come to the island a few months before. And Mr. Teelock requested the government list of 500 VIPs that they have when they do their functions, and we just sent out invitations to all of them. They were Muslims, Christians, anybody. And we made the buffet-style prasadam. Srila Prabhupada was sitting under the veranda, and invitees were sitting out under the sky as we can see here on the film. Srila Prabhupada was lecturing from the verse sa vai pumsam paro dharmo because there were Muslims in there, there were Christians in there, there were Tamils, and there were all types of…the whole section of Mauritian population was actually represented by this. There was the High Commissioner of India, there was the High Commissioner of England, there was the Minister of Youth and Sports, there were prominent lawyers, there were swamis, there was one swami there from the Kabir Panth, there were Amadya Muslims there, it was a very cosmopolitan gathering. And Srila Prabhupada chose that verse that what is the purpose of religion. Any religion that is bona fide brings its practitioner to the level of love of God. This is the only test of a bona fide religion. So he was going on with this point, and finally at the end of the lecture he was asking for questions. We were expecting some fiery questions, maybe the Muslims or the Christians would put some challenging questions. No. It was actually one gentleman who received Prabhupada at the airport who was a member of Parliament. He was a proprietor of a newspaper called Mauritius Times, and he challenged Prabhupada. He was saying, “How can a person who has just heard from God speaking about the Absolute Truth, how the next moment he can break down and be completely devastated by some event that had happened?” And we didn’t know what he was going on about. But actually what he was talking about was Arjuna, having just been taught by Krishna the Bhagavad-Gita, and when Abhimanyu was killed Arjuna was devastated because of the death of his son. That was the basic point that he was going on about. “How can he act in such a ridiculous way?” So Prabhupada said, “What are you talking ridiculous? Explain yourself.” Then the man again he was going on with this point that anyone who has heard from God, if He’s actually God, how can he act in such a way as Arjuna did. And he called it…the man called this ridiculous. So Prabhupada was actually smashing him very strongly. Prabhupada said, “Just like theoretically we understand that the body is not killed. Still, when my son dies, I become affected. That is temporary. Everyone becomes disturbed. But that does not mean he stops doing his work. What was the final conclusion? He did not leave the war field because his son Abhimanyu was killed. He didn’t say, ‘No, I don’t want to fight.’ He was affected for the time being, that is only natural. But finally he concluded and said, ‘Karisye vacanam tava, nasto mohah smrtir labdha. My illusion is now over, and I shall fight.’ That is the right conclusion.” So Prabhupada just devastated him, and finally he had no more to say. Then the next question was by another Hindu gentleman who was trying to point out the defects when God comes down like in yada yada hi dharmasya, he was mentioning that verse, that the Hindu community is taking this, “OK, so we can just wait. There is a decline of religion and God will come down and He will protect us,” and that has created a big amount of fatalism in the Hindu society. So Prabhupada said, “What is fatalism?” Then Brahmananda said, “Pessimism, downcast, discouraged.” Prabhupada said, “No, it’s not like this.” And the man kept insisting on Hindu, India. Prabhupada said, “Why do you talk India? Why do you talk Hindu? Bhagavad-gita is not for Hindus, Bhagavad-gita is for everyone. Krishna is God of everyone. Why do you bring Hindu?” And the man said, “It says yada yada hi dharmasya, glanir bhavati bharata. ‘Whenever there is a decline of religion, I will come.’” Then Prabhupada got angry and he said, “It doesn’t say yada yada hi hindu dharmasya, glanir bhavati bharata. It says yada yada hi dharmasya, it doesn’t mention anything about Hindu. So stop with this Hindu.” But the man kept insisting. And finally he said, “Yes, I maintain it has created fatalism,” and then the argument stopped there. Finally the British High Commissioner spoke up. He said, “I have listened to your talk, and everything seems to be beyond any doubt. Everything seems very clear-cut.” So Prabhupada thanked him. He said, “Thank you very much. You are American?” He said, “No, no, no, I am Scottish.” He said, “Yes, in Scotland also we have our centers. Therefore,” Prabhupada said, “it appeals more to the Western countries because it’s very clear-cut.” So then the talk ended and finally prasadam was distributed, and everyone was very, very satisfied.
Srila Prabhupada: You are dependent on food grains, on rice, wheat, dal. Why? Why this attempt? You first of all grow your own eatables. And if there is time and if your population has got sufficient food grains, then you can try to grow other fruits and vegetables for exporting. The first necessity is that you should be self-sufficient. That is God’s arrangement. Everywhere there is sufficient land to produce food grains.
Brahmananda das: The Prime Minister sent his personal limousine with an army officer as a driver for Prabhupada’s personal use and Prabhupada, in the afternoon, he would go for rides. We were driving. I was sitting next to Srila Prabhupada, Pusta Krishna was in the front, and the roads were very narrow. And the sugarcane is very thick, and when you’re making turns you can’t see. We made one turn and head-on collision, just like that. There was no warning, nothing. It was a Volkswagen Beetle, a couple, a man and a woman. They were driving on the wrong side of the road. They were actually tourists from South Africa, they didn’t know which side to drive on, and it was bad. The driver was unconscious. Pusta, his head went through the windscreen. Prabhupada was bleeding on his leg, his dhoti was torn.
Harikesa das: So then when they didn’t come back for about an hour-and-a-half or two hours even, I was just going crazy, pacing up and down. We had no telephone. I was the only one there. And then finally when they drove up, I run out and say, “What’s going on?” Nobody said a word. Then Brahmananda said, “There’s been an accident,” he was bleeding. So then Prabhupada told me to make lye and turmeric, take lye and turmeric and mix them together with some heat and then to put that on. Prabhupada had it on his head and his neck, and I had to massage him for many hours at night because he had such a headache, he got such a bash in the head. He thought that could have been the end. He said it was Krishna’s arrangement. If he hadn’t put the cane in front of him, he would have been dead. Prabhupada, just before the accident happened, had just taken his cane and he was leaning on it. And when the accident happened, he didn’t fly through the front of the car. It was a heavy situation, it was a real car accident. The car of the Prime Minister was destroyed. The car of the other person was totally destroyed.
Pusta Krishna das: When we arrived back at the house, we went into Srila Prabhupada’s sitting room and Srila Prabhupada personally took that paste that Harikesa had made and smeared it on the areas we were in pain. Then he asked us to have a kirtan, and I led one kirtan. And he asked Harikesa to read something from the books. He picked up the Caitanya-caritamrta and simply opened the book, and he opened it to the first page of the disappearance of Haridas Thakur. And so we read from Caitanya-caritamrta for a while. After the accident, Brahmananda Prabhu and myself were really sore. The next morning we were hobbling around, and Srila Prabhupada took the walk on the beach as if nothing had happened. Brahmananda Prabhu and myself, we looked at each other and commented how resilient Srila Prabhupada is compared to us. On that morning walk, Srila Prabhupada commented how no one is safe in this world. People will drive long distances, living very far away from their work, and in so doing they risk death because of the fact that they have to travel so far.
Srila Prabhupada: You try to understand Krishna. Then you will have not to accept any more material body. Simple thing.
Sriniketana das: On one morning walk, one young man came along. His name was Ramoo, and he was a nursing officer in the government. He was animating the conversation with Srila Prabhupada to such an extent that practically he monopolized the whole morning walk, and what happened afterwards is very unusual. We were coming into the house, and normally after morning walk…of course, there was no Deities so we would do Guru Puja, and then we gave the Bhagavatam class. But this morning Srila Prabhupada came right off the morning walk, sat on his vyasasana, and the Guru Puja paraphernalia was already there and someone was waiting; but he kept on talking to this gentleman, and they were going back and forth. This man was proposing that “We will go to the villages and we will do kirtan. We put up a small tent and then, Swamiji,” he said, “you could come, you give the lecture.” Prabhupada would say, “But they don’t understand English.” He said, “No, but we can translate.” “No, no, I will speak in Hindi,” Prabhupada said. So it was going on like this, and Prabhupada became more and more enthusiastic. Finally at the conclusion, it was getting late, Prabhupada made the most outstanding comment. He said, “Yes, if you do organize, I shall stay. Param vijayate sri-krsna-sankirtanam. Sri Krsna Sankirtan is so powerful that it will conquer, it will be victorious. So I am very glad to meet you. You do this program, and if you like I shall come back after one week and do. Utilize me in this way, I shall be very glad.” Can you imagine Prabhupada saying “utilize me in this way”? So this is actually Prabhupada’s greatness. When there was preaching to be done, he was always there. He was always ready to preach. He came to Mauritius for what? Because he was invited by the Prime Minister to come and see if Krishna consciousness could be spread. There was not much facility, there was nothing he could do at the present moment except enliven the devotees to carry on the mission, and that’s what he definitely did. And when he talked to this man, we all became so inspired that we just wanted to go out. So the spirit of preaching has been implanted by Srila Prabhupada in the Mauritian yatra, and up to this day there are so many programs going on every day in the villages that every village has devotees residing there and having satsangs, having Rathayatras, having Harinam processions, and this was Prabhupada’s mercy. He could see the great potential of this Mauritius island, and it was said that Mauritius could be the first Krishna conscious country in the world. After Srila Prabhupada’s visit, there was a very nice article in Back To Godhead magazine, which I would like to read: “Srila Prabhupada proposed that an ideal state based on the instruction of Bhagavad-gita be set up in Mauritius. ‘In a big state, especially in a highly industrialized state, it would not be possible. But in a small state like Mauritius, you can make it happen. In Vedic days, people lived strictly according to the principles of Bhagavad-gita. They made the test and proved that the principles are true. So you just have to follow what is already there. You simply have to accept the Vedic authority.’”
October 1975: DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA – Programs
Pusta Krishna das: Many hundreds of people would come to greet Srila Prabhupada at the airport. Riddha Prabhu, who was born in South Africa and who had lived in London, garlanded Srila Prabhupada, and the Hindu community in Durban received him with so much affection.
Riddha das: This venue is one of the most prime locations on Srila Prabhupada’s 19-day tour of South Africa, 7th of October, 1975, in the evening. It was a grand colonial building called the Durban City Hall. It seated at least 2,000 people including the balcony, and it was full to the maximum. It was 90 percent Indians.
Pusta Krishna das: We had advertised profusely throughout Durban. We had brown-colored posters with pictures of Srila Prabhupada on them. And the people of Durban who were unwilling to accept that Srila Prabhupada had come to preach in South Africa had been tearing posters down, and we kept putting them up. The evening of the program came and we entered through the main entrance, and almost in unison when Srila Prabhupada entered they all stood up. We had kirtan, and then Srila Prabhupada gave his lecture from the first verse of the Srimad Bhagavad-gita: dharma-ksetre kuru-ksetre, samaveta yuyutsavah. I remember that very simple lecture. I felt as if Srila Prabhupada was re-teaching the culture of Krishna consciousness to the Indian people of South Africa, who had been living under apartheid for so long and who had been deprived of the glory of their own culture by virtue of that oppressive regime. It was a very wonderful program.
Riddha das: I was in charge of selling books, and the books were flying out. We must have sold at least two or three thousand dollars worth of books. That was the most amazing thing about traveling with Srila Prabhupada. For the next 19 days, wherever Srila Prabhupada went his books would automatically fly out.
Harikesa das: The most interesting part of this series of lectures was that there were many white people in the audience amongst all these predominantly Indian or Asian nationality people; and some of them were highly learned, some of them were very sophisticated people, which was a breakthrough in South Africa at that time. Of course, now it’s quite different. Many of these people were respectfully dealing with Prabhupada, who used to laugh all the time about being a second-class citizen there. But he had a very good reception there. Professors from the university used to come and talk to him, and they were quite respectful. Except they brought him to one panel where they were arguing about different forms of religiosity, and Prabhupada was very annoyed. He didn’t really want to be in a panel where there was a debate like that, where everybody’s point of view was equal. He wanted to present rather than have to sit there and listen to these other people who really didn’t know what they were talking about.
Pusta Krishna das: During the time in South Africa, Srila Prabhupada welcomed all of the guests very sweetly. Professor Olivier from one of the Indian universities in Durban befriended him, and I recall seeing him once again at Srila Prabhupada’s 100th birthday centennial celebration in Calcutta. The programs in South Africa involved both Durban and Pietermaritzburg. It was during the trip to Pietermaritzburg by car that Srila Prabhupada amused us with one concept. On the highway, he looked off into the distance on the left and right sides and there were long white buildings and he asked, “What are these buildings?” We replied that these were chicken factories for food and for slaughter. Srila Prabhupada said, “Why they bother raising chickens? Let them take and make one eggshell, and they can put something in it and make a chicken.” It was very thought-provoking. Of course, he was alluding to the fact that life comes from life. People cannot make chickens, and they are neglecting the essential essence of what life is.
Partha Sarathi Das Goswami: I was 18 years old. I come from a town called Oxford in England, and I had always been searching for something a little more in life but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I watched a documentary film on English TV called “Panorama,” and they covered three religious sects. They interviewed the Guru Maharajis, who in those days was quite popular, and an Islamic sect of Sufism, and then they had a part about the Hare Krishna devotees in London. So I was most impressed with the devotees, and at that point I started to search for spiritual life. I remember that evening I went out for a walk with my dog, and I started singing Hare Krishna in the fields. So that provoked an inquiry on my part into spiritual life. I used to go to the biggest bookshop in the world in Oxford, it’s called Blackwell’s, and I used to go through the religious section of the Bhagavad-gitas. So one day, February, I was walking on the streets and I bumped into one devotee. Actually it was Prabhavisnu Maharaja, who sold me a ticket to a program they were doing in the Town Hall that evening. So I went to that program, and I became very enlightened. I bought an Isopanisad, and I very carefully studied it for about a month. Then I decided to visit the temple in London, early ’73 around about March. So I went a few times, and then consequently I joined the movement in London. And I was doing books every day. I think that’s what we all did in those days. Then Pusta Krishna Swami, he came through and he was looking for devotees with English passports for South Africa, and I was canvassed. So then I found myself going to South Africa. I was a very young devotee. I’d been in the movement two years. Of course, now as the years go by, you appreciate Srila Prabhupada and his contribution a lot more. He was very keen to preach. South Africa is tucked away very much at the bottom of Africa, and also apartheid so it’s a little dangerous. But Prabhupada was still willing to come. Actually he originally wanted to come in 1972. So I saw his compassionate nature, wanting to come to a very distant country and then trying to nourish his followers. He liked the programs we had, and he said if we had organized more he would have stayed longer. This also inspired me because in 1977 I started similar types of programs, pandal-type programs, which actually attracted hundreds and thousands of devotees. So that initial training I had with Prabhupada when he went to seven or eight large programs… I was actually not only the pujari and not only the gardener, I was also in charge of the programs – putting up the vyasasana, decorating it, making sure there were no pins left on his cushion, organizing the PA system, being the first one there and being the last one to go, and also organizing the film projector. We used to show the “Hare Krishna People” film, that first film that ever came out. So that was like preparation for 15 years of pandal programs, which attracted so many people. So again Prabhupada was pointing me in a certain direction.
October 1975: JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA – Arrival, Temple Programs, Walk
Riddha das: The next sequence we have here is Srila Prabhupada arriving in Jan Smuts Airport, Johannesburg, at midday on the 14th of October. Outside we had a rented yellow Mercedes car, and a South African policeman opened the door and saluted Srila Prabhupada. Johannesburg was much more relaxed. And then once Srila Prabhupada arrived at the Yeoville temple in Johannesburg, there was a full house of devotees and a few trusted Life Members. Obviously, we couldn’t invite hundreds and hundreds of people because it was a small place. Apartheid was still in full force. Mr. Parekh, he secured the visa for Srila Prabhupada, which took many years.
Pusta Krishna das: We took Srila Prabhupada to our temple in Yeoville, which is a suburb of Johannesburg, and there Srila Prabhupada met a whole other group of Hindus that helped us and also our first temple which really was a temple in the true sense of the word. We had opened one temple in Cape Town, but we were really struggling at the time and I had asked Srila Prabhupada if we could close this temple and just do traveling sankirtan and sell books and introduce people to Krishna consciousness in a wider way because we didn’t feel that we were making the kind of progress in Cape Town that we had wanted. Srila Prabhupada had said it would be fine for us to close the Cape Town temple and to do traveling sankirtan. So we had gone back to Durban, and from there several of the bhaktas from the Nairobi temple had come down to help us. We learned how they had been having big programs in Nairobi amongst the Indian community, and they really stimulated us to start a really wonderful traveling sankirtan program whereby we went from town to town throughout South Africa having at least 1,500 people per program and really introducing Krishna Consciousness in such a wonderful way to the Indian community there. We also did preaching programs regularly at the Western universities, and so we had developed a very nice preaching mission in South Africa. When Srila Prabhupada came to the temple in Yeoville, we had programs every morning at the temple and we had programs at Witwatersrand University and also in Pretoria.
Partha Sarathi Das Goswami: It was in Johannesburg and it was an afternoon darshan, and Prabhupada was speaking in a general way to about one dozen devotees. There was a Jewish lawyer there also. Then Prabhupada quoted the verse kamasya nendriya-pritir labho jiveta yavata, which is Bhagavatam 1, 2, verse number 10, and then looked directly at me, I was sitting in front of Prabhupada, and said, “Find that verse,” and then there was silence. I started shaking, I started sweating profusely because languages is my worst subject. So I was in complete anxiety. There you can see me performing arati by Prabhupada’s mercy. So I really didn’t think I would find the right verse. I was handed a Bhagavatam by Pusta Krishna Swami, and I started trying to recall that verse. I had only been a devotee for two years so I was still trying to assimilate the Bhagavad-Gita, I hadn’t quite gone to Bhagavatam. But I did remember the third line that Prabhupada said, jivasya tattva-jijnasa, it sort of rhymes. So I looked that up in the Index and there it was. So then I read it, and that was pleasing to Prabhupada. Then Prabhupada continued speaking. So what I understood from this exchange was that Prabhupada was demonstrating to his disciples the importance of reading his books, which we know also. So consequently, I memorized that verse and, of course, many other verses in the Bhagavatam and the Bhagavad-gita. Prabhupada was always stressing how important his books were. A few days later we actually presented Prabhupada the Fifth Canto Volume 1 and Volume 2 in his room, and there is a very famous wonderful photograph taken by Bhargava prabhu of Prabhupada smiling and looking at the pictures. And that Fifth Canto Volume 2 is the hellish planets. Then he told Harikesa, who at that time was a brahmacari, “They think these books are only for selling, but actually they are for reading. I give you permission to read these books 24 hours a day.” Of course, Prabhupada was making a point. We can’t neglect the mission, but we must also read and understand the siddhanta.
Bhargava das: Prabhupada really didn’t like being photographed, but he accepted it because it was useful for the publications. And he didn’t like being photographed when he was speaking, and he told me a number of times that it broke his train of thought. But I was very impulsive and very romantic, so I liked these shots where Prabhupada was speaking and he’d use his hands, these speaking mudras. At first I was using a Canon single lens reflex camera, and it’s kind of noisy. So he said, “No more ‘cut cut’ while I’m speaking.” Then later on when I was able to get a Leica camera, which doesn’t have the mirror that flops up, it has a much quieter shutter noise. And then when I photographed Prabhupada while he was speaking, he said, “No more ‘ch ch’ while I’m speaking.” So he could tell the difference between the cameras. He had a very refined sense of smell and a very refined sense of hearing. In South Africa, I set up a whole bunch of lights and I was photographing Prabhupada, and it irritated him because it was in a small room and I went overboard with all these flashes. I wanted to get really beautiful saturated color and everything bright. But I wasn’t discreet enough, and he got angry at me. Then the next day he got his books. These were joyous moments for Prabhupada, when he’d see the Bhagavatam manifest in book form. He was opening his books and he was looking at them, and he touched them with such delicate touch that you could see it wasn’t his book and he was just so happy that the Bhagavatams were coming out into the world. Because it was such a nice moment, I really wanted to catch some photos of it. I had a high-powered battery that didn’t really need any recharging on the flash, it was like an old press photographer’s unit, and I just fired off probably six or seven frames one after another. And from the day before and that day, it really irritated Prabhupada. So I said to Prabhupada, “Prabhupada, I’m such a fool.” He said, “If you are a fool, then go away. That is my order.” So I took it very seriously. I walked out of his room and then I put my camera down, and I went out of the temple at about six o’clock in the evening. As I was walking I was thinking, “Should I commit suicide? Should I drown myself in the Triveni? Should I exile myself here to South Africa and just do humble service?” Then about ten o’clock my mind cleared and I thought, “Prabhupada would never excommunicate me for taking too many pictures.” Then I got really embarrassed and I called up the temple, and I was out in the suburbs somewhere. I had walked for about four straight hours. They came and picked me up, and the next day I came back and they told me, “Prabhupada wants to see you.” This was the only time I didn’t want to see Prabhupada. I went into Prabhupada’s room and he said, “How come you didn’t come to the engagement?” I said, “Well, Prabhupada, I thought you said I shouldn’t come.” And he said, “I never said you shouldn’t come. But even if I said you shouldn’t come, still you should have come.” And the whole thing was just too emotional for me. I thought I had put Prabhupada through so much trouble just disappearing like that. Prabhupada spoke at Wits University for two nights in a row in Joburg, and the second night I went but I just took a few snaps from a distance with a long lens. This photographer who was an Indian man who photographed for the devotees down there, he was a Life Member, and he came up to me and he said, “Are you all right? Prabhupada was asking, ‘Where is Bhargava? Where is Bhargava?’” I had mixed emotions after I heard that. I was very happy that Prabhupada cared about me that much, but at the same time I felt very bad that he had to worry about me. After that, I was very standoffish about photographing him.
Pusta Krishna das: In South Africa, we did much of our early engagements with the Gujarati community. They had been very, very good to us. They allowed us to use one house along the northern coast above Durban, the Soni family. Champak Soni and his father were very, very good to us, and there were so many others who were just so remarkable and helpful to the early preaching efforts there. But in any case, we had done very little work with the South Indian communities that had really been segregated for the most part from the Gujarati community by virtue of their separate living places. The South Indians were a much poorer community in general, and the Chatsworth area, which was distant from Durban, was where they congregated. I remember the first time we went there in our van and got out on the streets and started doing sankirtan. We were such an oddity there because they had never seen anything like that. And even though they had some connection with Hinduism, they really had very little if any connection with the sankirtan movement or the chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra. When Srila Prabhupada had his program in Chatsworth, it was really the first time that a very large program had taken place. And that later came to be the place where the very large and wonderful temple manifested in Chatsworth many years later.
Tulasi das: Jayatirtha sent me to South Africa in 1977. What a gift. Hadn’t a clue what South Africa was. Anyhow, I went there in January. I just had been married. My son was born that year, and we had a farm with maybe 15 devotees. Prabhupada had been to South Africa with Pusta Krishna and they had done all these really marvelous festivals all over the country, and the place was high potential. So we took an old barn or work shed and organized the devotees, and I went out on sankirtan and we raised all kinds of money and built a temple and got big Gaura-Nitai Deities at Mayapur that year. So it was only six months, we had this enormous festival where Partha Sarathi…what a brilliant preacher, Partha Sarathi. He would preach all over the Indian community, he organized all the…we had 20,000 people come out for this festival. And Ranjit, he was my right-hand man and like my scribe. He would write letters. So he and I, we wrote Prabhupada and sent pictures of the opening and everything for Janmastami. When Prabhupada was…that was near the end. And when Prabhupada was in bed, they read the letter to him and showed him the pictures. And Prabhupada said when he thought of devotees like me, his heart swelled with pride.
Bhargava das: I had come into South Africa in disguise. I had a shaved head, and I had to wear a cut-down woman’s wig and a safari suit that was two sizes too big. That’s all I could muster together before I left for South Africa from Mauritius. They would allow South African devotees to preach, but they didn’t like foreign devotees coming in because they saw them as potential agitators against the apartheid program. So I came in this way, and somehow or another I got through Immigration. It was a great miracle. Somebody had lost their passport, and they held everybody up for so long that they finally let everybody through without hassling too much. Anyway, when we were leaving the country, I left in a separate car and they asked us to wear these clothes that we had worn to disguise ourselves. So I went through Customs and Immigration in these clothes, and they didn’t care so much as we were leaving the country. So I went through ahead of Prabhupada, he didn’t see me in this outfit. And as I was waiting in the waiting room, Prabhupada came in. When I turned around, he looked at me and he saw me in this outfit and he bent over in a belly laugh laughing. I had never seen Prabhupada laugh like that. Then the laugh turned into a chuckle. And I knew he was laughing at how ridiculous I looked but at the same time, when it turned into a light chuckle, it was like the laughter was on two levels. The first level was how ridiculous I looked in that outfit. The other one was somehow he knew who I was spiritually, he could see my spiritual identity, and he was laughing at the material predicament I had gotten myself in in the material world, getting a material body. But it was done with affection, and it was a very touching moment. Anyway, I got Prabhupada to laugh, so that was nice.
October 1975: NAIROBI, KENYA – Initiation, Program
Brahmananda das: In Kenya, the Indians, they donated everything. I actually didn’t have to spend any money. Food and flowers and car, gasoline, because the Indians, they did all the commercial activity. I literally could just go to any store and whatever I wanted I could take. Prabhupada, when he came once he asked me am I keeping accounts. I said, “No, Prabhupada.” He said, “Oh, why you are not keeping?” I said, “Because I’m not spending anything.” He said, “Oh, that’s perfect accounting.” When I first came to Africa, I was afraid to preach to the Africans. I had been arrested in Turkey previously for having Harinam on the street. I had a bad experience in these other countries, these other cultures. So when Prabhupada came, he saw I was preaching only to the Indians. He didn’t like it at all and he said, “If you do not preach to the Africans, then I will do it.” And then he arranged with some Indian leaders to get a hall in an African area, and he told the devotees to just throw open the doors and have kirtan. They did that, and immediately the hall filled up with hundreds and hundreds of people. Prabhupada was just insistent on preaching to the Africans. He didn’t want any discrimination. Preaching should be done to the indigenous people, not just the Indians. “Indians, Europeans and Africans dancing together,” that was his final instruction to me.
Suci dasi: Prabhupada had an accident in Mauritius, and he’d injured his leg. I heard he liked yellow roses, so I picked a yellow rose and gave it to him. So on his morning walk, he was smelling the rose all the way to the park and when he was sitting in the park and all the way back again. Prabhupada was sitting in a gazebo in the park, and I remember when the sun came up Prabhupada looked so beautiful sitting there with the sun coming up behind him. That was really nice. Prabhupada was sitting in the airport waiting to take his flight, and a few of us were sitting around him. There was a German couple and they had a little baby, and the baby started to crawl towards Prabhupada’s feet. Prabhupada had slippers on, and the baby started to suck Prabhupada’s toes. They tried to take him off but Prabhupada said, “No, no, leave him.” So this baby got such mercy, and Prabhupada must have gone on the airplane with wet toes.
Brahmananda das: Prabhupada was naming the temples at this time: New Nabadwip and New Dwaraka, New Hastinapur. So I asked Prabhupada to name Nairobi temple. I thought I would get some nice…New Vrindavan, whatever. Prabhupada named the temple Kirata-suddhi. Kirata comes from the Bhagavatam, that verse of Pulinda, Pulkasa, the Khasa, all the you might say non-Vedic races. Kirata is the aborigine. But they can also be purified by the pure devotee, prabhavishnu. And Kirata-suddhi means “the place for purifying the aborigines.” I really couldn’t put that on the sign on the front gate. But this is what Prabhupada wanted for Africa was preaching to the Africans.
Yashma Bakshi: My school was quite near the temple, about 10 minutes, so I had GCSE O‑Levels at that time, at 16. I used to get dropped off early because I had to study, and then I used to come to the temple for seven o’clock Prabhupada puja. So every day I used to go to the temple as many days Prabhupada was there. So then I used to see Prabhupada sitting on the vyasasana, and we used to throw flowers. And then I used to be dancing and leaping up in the sky, and Prabhupada smiled at me. I wasn’t shy or anything like stay at the back, I was just there in the front. So then once Prabhupada threw a flower at me also, it was a really close bond. Then there was a big program, a very huge program, and so many Indian people were there in the outdoor. They had the marquee and all. I went with my friends, so we were right at the back. Then I wanted to stay, but they wanted to get back. So many people, but I wanted to pay obeisances. So I went right at the back near Prabhupada’s vyasasana. So Prabhupada was looking ahead. I had some flowers I had picked from the garden, and then I was thinking, “Shall I just leave them on the side?” Prabhupada didn’t turn, so I was feeling a little hurt that I wanted for him to acknowledge that I have come. But still Prabhupada was looking in the front, and they were getting late. So I said, “OK, I’ll just leave them on the armrest and go.” So as I was about to just leave them, Prabhupada immediately turned, he looked at me, smiled and took the flowers from my hand. So it was really nice. Then one other time me and my brother, we used to go. Prasadam room was there, and then you had to go see Prabhupada’s room. So we would just go and sit there, and then the other devotees they’d say, “Oh, Prabhupada is very busy, you can’t see him.” But we’d just keep sitting. And then when the door used to open and Prabhupada used to see us sitting, he used to call us, “Come, come,” like that. So we used to go, pay obeisances, then Prabhupada used to give us prasad. So it was very, very nice. Once I remember particularly I went to see Prabhupada when he was leaving and I said, “Prabhupada-ji, please bless me with your personal service.” Then Prabhupada-ji said, “Sadi ke bada,” that after marriage. And I said, “Sadi ke? Why does one have to get married?” Then Prabhupada said, “For asra, for shelter.” And I said, “But why can’t I have your shelter? Because I would like to render some personal service to you.” Then Prabhupada kept quiet. Then I said, “Why can’t I have your shelter?” It was like daughter-father, very close bond, it was just very natural. I wasn’t feeling like I shouldn’t say this. I just said, “Why not? Why can’t I have your shelter?” in Hindi. “Apka asra hi hai?” That’s what I said, “Don’t I have your shelter?” Then he just kept quiet. Then I asked him again, and then he said, “Han hai,” “Yes, you have.” Then I paid my obeisances, and that’s the last time I saw Prabhupada. But it was so nice. I can never forget. It happened so many years ago, I can still relate to it like it happened yesterday. Small, small things, but they keep you going in this material world. I have so much strength in life because of these small associations with Prabhupada.
March 1976: MAYAPUR, INDIA – Gaura Purnima Festival, Temple Programs, Initiation, Walks
Chaitanya Chandra das: I was getting up early most of the time probably just because of jet lag, but I didn’t think about it as jet lag back in those days. I got up early and was circumambulating the temple. It must have been around three, three-thirty in the morning. I used to chant very, very loud. The second time around Hari Sauri prabhu leaned over the balcony and yelled down to me, “Hey, prabhu, you’re chanting too loud, it’s disturbing Prabhupada’s translations.” So I was immediately shocked, thinking, “Oh, no, I’ve offended Prabhupada!” That was the last thing I wanted to do, come there and offend the spiritual master. So I was in really anxiety the whole morning. Then Mangala-arati came, and they made the announcements. So Bhavananda Maharaja at the time was saying, “Somebody was chanting so loud their japa that it disturbed Prabhupada’s translations.” So that made my anxiety multiply. So then Prabhupada was giving class, and he was speaking on Nrsinghadev and Prahlada Maharaja. I think that particular verse was the verse where Prahlada was sitting on Lord Nrsinghadev’s lap and Nrsinghadev was patting Prahlada Maharaja on the head. Prabhupada was saying how chanting Hare Krishna is the same as when Nrsinghadev patted Prahlada Maharaja on the head and touched him and purified him. When we chant Hare Krishna, Krishna is dancing on our tongues. And he was looking from one side to the other. He finally came around to my side where I was standing and he looked me right in the eyes, and I felt this transcendental potency from Prabhupada come and just bathe me and cleanse me of all that anxiety. And as he was looking at me, he was speaking that “Do not think that the Hare Krishna mantra is a material sound vibration. It’s not. It’s spiritual, it’s perfect.” But I took it that I was chanting too loud, not really understanding the potency of the Holy Name, that I needed to really deepen my understanding of chanting. So then when he looked at me, it was just so amazing. It was like a forgiving type of glance, and the effect was definitely forgiving because I felt purified. It wasn’t like he took offense or anything. He just looked and purified me and gave me a little instruction within the general instruction of the class. So it was wonderful.
Jananivasa das: Srila Prabhupada was actually always anxious about getting people to be attracted to Mayapur. He said Mayapur should be connected by road, by water, by air and rail. These connections to Mayapur should be made. And he often used to say, “We have a nice temple here, so why no one is coming?” He would often express his concern like that. On one occasion I heard him before he gave Bhagavatam class, he said, “Why no one is coming? We have nice temple, nice facility. Why no one is here?” Then later on more people started coming. Srila Prabhupada used to often sit in the evening at four or five o’clock, he would sit on the second floor of the Lotus Building on the veranda. He used to look over towards the main gate and he would see all the people coming, and he was happy to see that gradually more and more people were coming as the years were coming on. But he had big ideas for expanding. He always had big ideas.
Jagat Guru Swami: There were a lot of plans being made for world preaching, and at that time the first contingency of devotees was assigned to go to China, first attempt at China. So it was really a big year, and Srila Prabhupada was in very exceptional spirits. And when you came around him, you were brought towards that plane of Krishna consciousness where nothing could be better, the days couldn’t be better, your life couldn’t be better. And at this particular festival, that experience was at its optimum. Of course, there is the footage of Srila Prabhupada ringing that bell on the side of the Deities and circumambulating with the devotees and raising his hand up for the devotees to jump. And when he would do that, it was such an ecstatic, emotional moment and everyone seemed to become filled with that…what sometimes is described as that indescribable joy of Krishna consciousness just due to his association. So for everybody who came to the festival, it was a most wonderful experience. Then gradually the day of Gaura Purnima did arrive, and there was that initiation. One by one, Srila Prabhupada would call the devotees. When it finally came to the sannyasis, he would call them and he would give them their danda and he would announce where they would be preaching. So there were seven of us and everyone, one by one, when they received their beads or their thread or their danda, Srila Prabhupada had this exceptional smile on his face of satisfaction, and particularly when it came to the sannyasis because the sannyasis are the symbol of the preaching endeavor of the sankirtan movement – the dress, their lifestyle, everything symbolizes that endeavor to take Krishna consciousness throughout the world to every town and village. Although every man, woman and child in the Krishna consciousness movement is engaged in that, the sannyasis are at the forefront and they are the symbol of that endeavor. They are there on call 24 hours a day for that purpose, and Srila Prabhupada expected of them leadership in that role, particularly of preaching and spreading the sankirtan movement. Some years earlier he had expressed a desire that “I would like an army, I want an army of sannyasis.” So it was a couple of years before I heard that, and I thought, “Oh, I would like to join that army.” So that was seven new sannyasis on that day. That was a big step forward in building that preaching army. So he was very, very happy, very pleased about that.
Dhristadyumna das: There was some controversy at the time about the Radha-Damodar Party, and that culminated in Tamal Krishna Maharaja accepting an assignment to China. He had asked that I accompany him, and Prabhupada had approved. So then that next morning for the sannyasa initiation there was Guru Puja, and I got to lead it. I was playing mridanga and I was jumping up and down and leading everyone around in circumambulation parikrama of the temple, and Prabhupada would stop and play the bell every time he got by the Deities. So then later on that morning Tamal said, “I want to go up and talk to Prabhupada about China.” So we went up, and we went through his room to the back. He was sitting on the mat, Hari Sauri was massaging him with oil, and Prabhupada looked up and Tamal said, “Srila Prabhupada…” And Srila Prabhupada looked past him at me and said, “If you lead kirtan like that, the whole world will follow.”
Krishna das Kaviraj das: I was seated with Laxminath Prabhu, and we were seated on a bench on the balcony just beside the stairs on the Lotus Building on the first floor. We were chanting our japa, it was during the japa period in the morning, and I imagine that the person who was in charge of cleaning Srila Prabhupada’s room was unavailable for some reason. So a devotee came running down the stairs, and there was another devotee sitting at the other end of the bench. So this prabhu came down and asked him first, “Prabhu, we need somebody to clean Srila Prabhupada’s room. Could you come up and clean his room?” And the devotee answered, “I have to finish my rounds.” And Laxminath and I couldn’t believe what we had just heard because in those days there wasn’t much to do in Mayapur besides chant rounds so you had all day. So we just looked at each other, “We’ll do it! We’ll do it!” So we jumped up, we ran up the stairs, and we helped this devotee. We got to make Srila Prabhupada’s bed that he had slept in that night, we swept his room, and we were able to get a nice big dustpan full of dust from the lotus feet of Srila Prabhupada. And not missing an opportunity, we hung our heads over the balcony and we poured the dust over both of our heads and really massaged it in, and we felt ourselves to be the most fortunate people on the planet.
Yasodanandan das: Everybody was talking about this one devotee named Ananta Rama Shastri. He was a Vaishnava. He was a great Sanskrit scholar. The title Shastri is a title that’s given to people who have received some degrees in Sanskrit learning, and he could literally read Sanskrit just like we read English and he could speak Sanskrit. So when Prabhupada heard about him, he brought him to his room and he was preaching to him. At one point, Prabhupada wanted him to come and assist him to translate some of the Sanskrit purports of the acharyas. Not that Prabhupada needed help, but he was trying to engage him. So every night Prabhupada told this devotee…they would go around the Mayapur temple with cow dung and some incense and conch shell, and they would chant the Purusha Sukta and take this cow dung and incense to chase the mosquitoes with this devotee chanting Sanskrit. And Prabhupada was very happy with that, they would go to all the floors. And also every morning this devotee, before the Bhagavatam class, would chant certain Sanskrit hymns. He had composed a Bhaktivedanta Stotram or hymns of praise to Prabhupada. It was very melodious and very sweet, and Prabhupada wanted the devotees to learn a few verses from that. Prabhupada said, “These verses should be taught to the gurukula children and to the devotees.” There was one, krsnaika-ceta mada-moha-vinasa-karin, there are four or five prayers. The entire Stotram was 23 verses, but it was six specific prayers that Prabhupada wanted the devotees to learn. What happened is several months later when I went to Vrindavan, we taught some of these Sanskrit prayers to the gurukula children and we chanted them in front of Prabhupada, and Prabhupada was very happy with that. But those particular prayers were a major contribution that Prabhupada greatly appreciated and wanted that introduced, and some devotees still chant those.
Dayananda das: I spent a month as Prabhupada’s servant prior to the ’76 Mayapur festival. I had been studying Sanskrit, so I knew quite a few verses. And one of my favorite verses, if not my favorite verse, is kecit kevalaya bhaktya vasudeva-parayanah, agham dhunvanti kartsnyena niharam iva bhaskarah, which means that for the unalloyed devotee, Krishna dispels the sins just like the sun dispels the fog. So we were walking on the roof of Mayapur and in the morning in Mayapur, for anybody who has visited Mayapur, they’ve probably seen the fog that hangs over all the rice paddies. Bengal is this wonderfully lush country and Mayapur is this flat, flat country where you can see for miles, but sometimes there is this fog that lingers over the top of the rice paddies and sometimes it can be incredibly beautiful. The sun is coming up so you can see the action of the sun clearing the fog, and it’s just incredible, the whole scenery. So one time Prabhupada was walking on his morning walk, and he stopped and he paused and looked out over this panorama and indicated with a sweep of his hand the sun. And then he said, “Kecit kevalaya bhaktya vasudeva-parayanah,” the first line from this verse indicating that Krishna is like the sun Who dispels the fog of our sins. It was an incredible, wonderful experience.
Revatinandan das: Vishnujan had asked Prabhupada on a morning walk on the roof of the building, “How was Chota Haridas delivered by committing suicide after his offense?” So Vishnujan had been thinking about that question probably for days. He said, “Srila Prabhupada, can I ask a question?” and his voice cracked while he said it, and I looked up because his voice was so emotional. Prabhupada looked at him and he said, “Yes.” Then he asked him that question. Then Prabhupada said something to the effect that “Yes, if a sannyasi does that, if he has illicit sex, then it is better that he kill himself,” and while he was talking Vishnujan looked away, he looked off to the side. Then Prabhupada said, “But that is an exemplary punishment, it is not meant to be taken literally,” and he stopped and walked on. And Vishnujan never heard the last part of the answer. Something happened, and he was feeling very guilty and bad about it. I marked, “That’s why he’s been different since I saw him on the way from New York.” He was pale and he was staring off into space and he looked completely distant and detached from his surroundings, and I had never seen him like that in years. He was always energetic, enthusiastic, had a lot of effulgence, and he was busy. I grew up with him. We played in Grandma’s back yard from the time we were a year old together. He and I had a significant thing. We lived in the same house in the Haight-Ashbury, he joined six months before I did. If it hadn’t been for him, I probably never would have become a devotee. The last thing Vishnujan said to me was, “Whatever you do, try to do something beautiful for Prabhupada.” I told him, “I do.” Anyway, I don’t see Vishnujan again until the walk. After he asked that question I marked, “He’s thinking about suicide! You have to talk to him, he didn’t hear the end of the answer.” So I’m thinking, “As soon as I get a chance, I’m going to talk to him.” By the time the crowd dispersed and we got down to the morning program, which was right afterward, I didn’t see Vishnujan at the program. He disappeared. I never set eyes on him again. I never got a chance to talk to him.
Kaumadaki dasi: Most of the visiting women were asked to help in the kitchen cutting vegetables for the daily cooking. So I would go down and cut vegetables, but at a certain time I knew was the time when Srila Prabhupada was coming back from his morning walk. So I would desert my post and run down to the main gate and see Srila Prabhupada coming with a small group of devotees across the fields. The morning sun in Mayapur is very warm, and it has a golden radiant look. This beautiful morning sun would shine on Srila Prabhupada’s face, and he looked especially beautiful in the morning sun.
Nandi dasi: I made my way to the veranda outside of his quarters, and there I saw a long line of devotees. I was told they were all waiting to get into darshan, but I sat down anyway and waited. Then someone from inside the darshan room came out and said, “There is room for one more person to go in,” and I immediately stood up and said, “Me! Me! I want to see Srila Prabhupada!” So he said, “OK, you.” And all of those devotees who had been waiting longer than me, I walked past them and in to see Srila Prabhupada. I had these bananas. I felt so lucky. So I walked in the door, and there was Prabhupada sitting behind his little desk and I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know if proper etiquette was to offer my obeisances first and then give him the bananas or to give him the bananas and then offer my obeisances. I was very confused. I looked at Srila Prabhupada and he smiled at me and I felt, “Oh, he knows me.” I knew that he could see that I was very confused and didn’t know what to do, and the smile was not only of welcome but it was some amusement also to see me in such a state. But I felt like he was looking at me and no one else but me and he was welcoming me as his daughter, and he was so happy to see me, that it had been a long, long time and we were finally seeing each other again. That’s how I felt, that it was a great distance, a great time had elapsed and we were once again united. I don’t remember if I offered my obeisances or gave the bananas first. The next thing I remember is I was making my way to the back of the room, where I sat and listened to him speak. Truly I don’t remember anything that was said in that darshan, but I was happy just to be there in his presence and to hear him speaking.
Kaumudaki dasi: It was just so beautiful in Mayapur, the wheat fields and the rice fields and the banana trees and the birds flying. One day I went with a small group of people down to the Ganges, and we went out into the water and sat down and bathed in the Ganges. And I had another moment of that pure clarity that I had the first time I saw Srila Prabhupada, just total peace, total clarity. You could see that the Ganges had silt in it and stuff like debris floating by, but that was only the outer, the visible things. There was a sensation or an experience of transcendence, and it was wonderful.
Bhakti Tirtha Swami: At the Mayapur festival, Prabhupada had called in the leaders to his room and he requested that they would pray for me and give their blessings, that I was pioneering and taking great risk in the Communist countries distributing his books to people who he never thought would actually take them. And he was so happy that not only were they scholars, but they were behind the Iron Curtain and they were so favorable. And knowing that we were risking maybe our lives or could be put in jail, then Prabhupada asked the leaders that they give their blessings, that they make special prayers for Ghanashyam. So one or two of the leaders mentioned that “Prabhupada, all that is needed is your prayers. You are Krishna’s special servant.” But Prabhupada distinctly said, “No, you give your prayers and you give blessings because Krishna, He will respond to the prayers of the devotees.” And this was an example of Prabhupada’s humility and is also, I think, an example of him encouraging us that we need to be always thinking about the welfare of each other, work as a team in trying to offer our service to him and to Krishna.
Jayapataka Swami: I remember we were walking one time and Prabhupada said, “You build the buildings and people will come and stay here, you will get plenty of guests.” Some people expressed how are they going to come when it was such a remote place. And Prabhupada said, “No, people will come here. You will see, so many people will come.” And now Mayapur is packed with tens of thousands of people every day – twenty-five, thirty thousand people on the weekends in the winter. Big festive days, over a hundred thousand. Initially there was nobody, it was very quiet in the early ’70s, and now it has become very active just as Prabhupada predicted. He had the vision. I remember one time he was walking with so many GBCs and he turned to one and then the other, and he would tell them how he was depending on one or the other to build a big temple in Mayapur. He was trying to inspire them to fulfill his mission. After telling them that they should do it, how he was depending on them, then he also told that he was depending on me. We knew it was a team effort and it was going to require many devotees’ cooperation to pull it off, building a spiritual city here and temple of the Vedic planetarium which will propagate the message of Lord Chaitanya all over the world, fulfilling the desire of the previous acharyas.
March 1976: NEW DELHI, INDIA – Program at Ramlila Grounds
Tejiyas das: The Ramlila Grounds festival, it was an interesting event that after one of the programs Srila Prabhupada came into the back. And this was a normal thing after the program where Prabhupada would go into the room and sit down, have a glass of water, sometimes talk with us. So I was alone with Srila Prabhupada and he turned to me and asked, “What did you think of the kirtan?” And I said I thought it was OK. Prabhupada said, “No. There was clanging and banging. Kirtan should be sweet and melodious.” So he said, “Come, let us go to the ashram and have kirtan.” So myself, Srila Prabhupada, Baradraj and Prabhupada’s servant, the four of us went in a car to the ashram and went to Prabhupada’s room. Baradraj got a harmonium. We sat down. Baradraj played the harmonium and led, and I believe Prabhupada also sang. It probably exceeded one hour. And then Prabhupada nodded that the kirtan could stop and turned to me and said, “So? Sweet and melodious.”
March 1976: ALIGARH, INDIA – Program
Hari Sauri das: On March the 30th, we traveled down to Aligarh. Aligarh is a city of about 300,000. It’s mainly Muslim, but we had a Life Member there. His name was Surendra Kumar Saigal. He had a big house there like an estate, and he was the owner of the Tiger Lock company. Prabhupada stayed at Surendra Kumar Saigal’s house. He was a nice man, and his wife actually was a worshiper of Krishna. When we went to the house, she took us into a small Deity room that they had and they had a very nice Deity of Krishna. She used to do some simple puja every day. Prabhupada liked it and encouraged her, but he told her that she should buy a Deity of Radharani. He told her, “Why keep Krishna alone?” So they had arranged a program in a big open area in Aligarh, I think it was called the Press Colony Grounds. Then in the evening, we drove out to the Press Colony Grounds. The devotees had already been there for about a half-hour or so and because it was during the festival period, of course there were a lot of devotees and they were doing a very, very lively kirtan. You can see from these pictures that they were very enthusiastic, jumping and dancing. And when Srila Prabhupada came, of course, they became very exuberant because a lot of the devotees only saw Prabhupada once a year. And for many of them, to have the experience of doing a pandal program in India with a huge crowd – there was probably about 7,000 people that turned out for it – it was a very wonderful experience for them. So they were naturally very enthusiastic in their chanting and dancing. When Prabhupada came, he also seemed to become very enthused by the presence of the devotees and the size of the crowd. So you can see he is on the vyasasana there. He is very happy playing his kartals. He is chanting along with the devotees. The lecture that Prabhupada gave was all about chanting the Holy Name. He quoted this verse that “If you just chant the Holy Name of Krishna even once, it will destroy more sins than you can commit in a whole lifetime.” So he was really encouraging the crowd, “These are my disciples. You can see how they’ve been transformed by the chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra. So you all take up this chanting as well.” But the program, interestingly enough, had been organized by a friend of Mr. Saigal’s who was the head of the Rama Tirtha Mission. Rama Tirtha is a well-known Mayavadi, and this man got swept up with the excitement of having all these Western devotees coming. So he had arranged for all the pandal. There was this very wonderful silver vyasasana that Prabhupada is sitting on there, and it was a very nice arrangement – big area, nice stage and everything. After we had had the pandal, then, of course, we stayed at Saigal’s house. Then the next day in the morning, we went from Aligarh to Vrindavan. So before Prabhupada left Aligarh, this man from the Rama Tirtha Mission came and he presented Srila Prabhupada with a set of three books, compilations of some lectures that had been given by Rama Tirtha Swami. So Prabhupada was very cordial, he thanked the man, but practically he didn’t pay any attention to the books at all. He didn’t even touch them. And then the man, he had a couple of minutes and then he went off. So then Prabhupada got up and he walked out. He didn’t take the books with him, he didn’t even look at them. So I had a squint inside one of the books. When I opened it up, I looked at one of the lectures, a lecture he had delivered to some Westerners. So it started off with the words “Myself in the form of ladies and gentlemen…” All Mayavadi all the way through. Prabhupada just shook his head, and then we left. So then we went off to Vrindavan.
April 1976: VRINDAVAN, INDIA – Initiation
Ranjit das: After entering the room for initiation into the Gayatri mantra, I offered my respects to Srila Prabhupada. And when I got up I cried out, “Jaya, Srila Prabhupada!” at which Srila Prabhupada responded, “Jaya, Srila Prabhupada!” At first I was a little taken aback, but in a split second I realized that this was Srila Prabhupada offering respect to his spiritual master. This was a lesson to me that a spiritual master never accepts gifts or praise or any kind of respect on his own behalf but always on behalf of his spiritual master, and then the spiritual master in turn passes this on to his, and in this way things are offered ultimately to Krishna Himself.
Rupa Vilasa das: Prabhupada used to come down to the temple in the evenings, late afternoon, early evening, and give darshan to the devotees. Sometimes he would speak. Sometimes he would have others speak. For instance, he had Bhakti Prem Yogi read from his translation of Prabhupada’s Srimad-Bhagavatam into Hindi, and then he would give corrections and comments on the translation. Later on in 1976 when he became more ill, he used to be brought in his palanquin chair and he would sit under the tamal tree. The devotees would all gather around him. The sannyasis would be flanking him close by, and then everyone else would sit around. Then he would see the Deities, and then he would sit under the tree and there would be kirtan – usually mostly just kirtan, not much in the way of speaking. Different devotees would lead kirtan. Especially this Bengali devotee, Sachidananda, used to lead. Prabhupada liked his kirtan very much. Sachidananda’s grandmother was a disciple of Bhaktivinoda Thakur, so he had kind of a Gaudiya lineage. But on one occasion a devotee who was a kind of flamboyant devotee, flamboyant dressing and fancied himself a great kirtan singer, at one point he decided he was going to lead the kirtan for Prabhupada in the courtyard. And he began with this tremendous flourish, very elaborate, intricate mridanga beat, and began singing in this exquisite style. Prabhupada immediately looked disgruntled and waved his hand that he didn’t want him to chant, and he pointed to one of the gurukula students. Now, the particular boy he pointed to, his name was Kapila, he didn’t have much of a clue how to play a mridanga, but he wailed on it pretty enthusiastically. So he began to chant, and he became completely red in the face and he was just chanting. From the material point of view it sounded awful, but Prabhupada was clapping his hands and smiling and encouraging and appreciating. But Prabhupada detected some pride or arrogance or something like that in this devotee who was leading and wanted to instruct him. And he didn’t instruct him by directly confronting him but just by choosing someone to chant who for sure was chanting with tremendous sincerity, from the core of his heart he was trying to please Prabhupada. Because of his attitude, Prabhupada was pleased. So it was an instructive incident that he was showing that it was the devotion that he was interested in and not the flamboyant putting on a show kind of mood.
April 1976: MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – Arrival
Atitaguna dasi: Somebody said to me, “Service in separation is better. So stay back and do the sandalwood paste for Prabhupada, and you will get so much benefit.” And I said to the person, “If there’s so much benefit staying back doing the sandalwood paste for Prabhupada, why don’t you stay back?” So then we both got in a car and went to the airport. At the airport, there were many doors that Srila Prabhupada could come out of and somebody said, “It must be down here.” So we were down there and we were all chanting and dancing, it was absolutely ecstatic. And then all of a sudden someone looked around and said, “Haribol Prabhupada!” So he came out of one of the doors that we didn’t expect him to, and I was more than surprised and I didn’t realize how effulgent he would be. I was absolutely flabbergasted.
Gurukripa das: When Srila Prabhupada arrived, there were newspaper reporters and they wanted an interview. So we went into the VIP room at the airport. The first question they asked him, “Swamiji, you were here last year, and again you’ve come this year. Why have you come again to Melbourne this year?” Prabhupada said, “I would not need to come here if you were not dogs and hogs.” Then he explained that this Krishna consciousness separates the human beings from the hogs and dogs. So the newspaper headline read the next day: “Swamiji has come to hound us.”
Sabhapati das: Gurukripa Swami was the GBC at that time, and Hari Sauri Prabhu was Srila Prabhupada’s servant on that visit. Of course, Hari Sauri prabhu joined in the Melbourne temple some years before. So each evening Srila Prabhupada gave Bhagavad-gita class and a kirtan was held, and the public were invited to come along to the lecture. So I remember each evening Gurukripa would lead a very, very ecstatic kirtan, and Prabhupada would sit and watch the kirtan each evening. We used to run up and down the whole temple room and jump. Each time we would go to one end we would all do a big jump, and then we would run down to the other end in front of the Deities and jump before Them. One night we were going on like this for about 15 minutes and Prabhupada was sitting there and he was so happy, and every time we’d jump he would motion with his hands like this. So he was in ecstasy to see the wonderful spirit of the kirtan. When Gurukripa Prabhu went to his room one evening and came back, he told us how Prabhupada thought that our kirtans were very wonderful.
Gurukripa das: Going back to the Melbourne temple, and I’m sitting next to Srila Prabhupada in the back. And as we were driving, there was a tape playing. He told me, “This means that the waves of mercy from Lord Nityananda throw one down into the ocean of love of Godhead.” He was smiling sitting there. It was very nice.
June 1976: LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – Arrival, Temple Program, Walk, Recording at Golden Avatar Studio
Jadurani dasi: Soon after Prabhupada’s arrival, Radhaballabha revealed to Prabhupada a big problem that was going on in the L.A. temple at that time. A group of men and women which was called the Gopi Bhava Club…that is, they were seeing some Radha Kunda babajis who are still prevalent up till today, and they were learning from them a misunderstanding of Srimad-Bhagavatam and Caitanya-caritamrta. Caitanya-caritamrta would say things in Prabhupada’s own translations and commentaries like “regulative principles are an impediment in the execution of spontaneous love.” So they would take it that regulative principles are an impediment to them, imagining that they are on the platform of spontaneous love and not realizing that without regulations they only have material life. So they were trying to pretend…imagine that they were already gopis and giving up their regulative principles and having illicit sex and getting pregnant. So this was brought up to Srila Prabhupada, and Prabhupada became very, very angry and began talking about this subject in many different venues. He said, “For a neophyte to try and understand Radha and Krishna’s pastimes is like a very little baby trying to understand sex life. If he tries to do things by his baby mind, his whole life will be ruined.” And then Prabhupada made many statements in class about it. Then on June 11th, we were able to have one of our very rare art meetings with him; and present were Pariksit, Muralidhara, Jayarama, Caruhasa, Dhriti, Dhirga and myself. That was the Art Department at that time. So then Jayarama showed his picture and Prabhupada said, “Why do you do the same picture all the time? Why do you always do Radha-Krishna? Why don’t you do a different picture?” Then when Caruhasa showed his picture, which was some meeting of Radha and Krishna, Prabhupada began to condemn the sahajiyas. He said, “Why do you imagine some pastime of Krishna? It’s like you are thinking that Krishna is some playboy and He has so many girlfriends, and then you are imagining, ‘Oh, now I understand Krishna. I can control Krishna and make Him as I like. Now I am perfect.’” So he is seeing that even the devotees who weren’t in the Gopi Bhava Club, we all had some tinge of that sahajiya and impersonalism. Therefore, he is nirvisesa-sunyavadi-pascatya-desa-tarine. And he explained that we should understand the words of Sri Jiva Goswami, who said that Krishna is transcendental and would never have anything to do with material energy. He said, “Radha-Krishna’s intimate pastimes are not for being explained by the neophytes. How can those engaged in illicit sex and smoking bidis think that they are understanding and having any relationship and what to speak of becoming the gopis? If we misunderstand Radha and Krishna from a wrong person and by our own imagination, then we will think that Radha and Krishna are a similar debauchery and we’ll use that so-called debauchery of Radha and Krishna, which is pure, to support our own illicit activities.” So then Ramesvara said to him, “But they think that they are becoming purified by this.” So Prabhupada said, “Not purified, but putrefied.” So Pariksit asked Prabhupada at the art meeting, “So should we just stick to painting the First and Second Cantos, which are Krishna’s two lotus feet?” So Prabhupada said, “No, go on painting these upper cantos, and by painting you will become purified and qualified.”
Partha das: What I remember most of that time was the first time I physically saw Prabhupada, and I was very much moved by the magnitude of his presence. It was almost indescribable. It was just like the sun rising. It was such a powerful experience seeing Prabhupada and feeling his presence. So I took first initiation in the L.A. temple, and at our initiation ceremony was one elderly gentleman from Vancouver whose initiated name was Prabhu das, who passed away several years ago. When he went up to get his beads from Srila Prabhupada, Srila Prabhupada actually held his hand for a moment. Also, when Prabhupada was asking him the principles, it was kind of interesting that this gentleman, sometimes he had a bit of a weakness and he would go out behind the garage behind the temple and smoke a cigarette. And when Prabhupada asked him the principles, Prabhu das said, “No intoxication.” Prabhupada said, “This means no smoking.”
Indrapramad das: There were many devotees trailing Prabhupada and also there were seven or eight devotees to Prabhupada’s left and also seven or eight devotees to Prabhupada’s right, and I was the last devotee on the right. This was just about the closest I had ever been to Prabhupada other than being in a class, and I was in this mood of just being happy to be in the presence of my spiritual master. I didn’t have to ask any questions, everything was already answered. And in that mood, the questions that were being asked of Prabhupada by all the big guns, it appeared to me like they were just trying to hear themselves speak and I was thinking, “Why don’t they just be happy to be in the presence of their spiritual master?” And just as I was thinking that thought, Prabhupada finished answering a question and he stuck his head out and looked down the line and looked right at me and said, “Is that all right?” Of course, I was flabbergasted and I realized that Prabhupada had read my mind and he was acknowledging my sentiment. And, of course, wherever Prabhupada looks, everybody looks in the same way; and they’re all turning their attention to me wondering, “Why is Prabhupada talking to him? He wasn’t part of the conversation.” All I could do was squeak out, “Yes, Prabhupada.” That was my moment with Prabhupada that was personal, and no one else knew what had happened.
Hridayananda Goswami: Prabhupada had sent me to be GBC of Latin America in 1974, and in less than two years, by December of 1975, somehow things had gone well. We had printed books in Latin America, actually became the world sankirtan champion. And up to that time, no one had ever defeated Radha-Damodar. So it was a big upset, no one expected it. So then in ’76, I was there and Tamal Krishna Goswami was there. So we were walking with Prabhupada, and Prabhupada, he enjoyed this competition. So he was egging us on or just in a very playful, affectionate way. There I was with Tamal Krishna, we were on either side of Prabhupada. So Prabhupada said, “So, no one could defeat Radha-Damodar, but now Latin America has defeated you.” And then he was laughing, and he stopped and said, “I like this competition.” I remember we were walking on Venice Beach, and sometimes a wave suddenly comes up faster and higher than you expected. And one such wave came, we were all walking. Prabhupada had the best reflexes of anyone there, and he just scampered up the sand like a child and laughing just like a young boy. Another time we had arrived in Venice Beach, we had walked, and were back in the parking lot. So whenever Prabhupada got back to the parking lot, he would stamp his feet on the ground to get the sand off. So as we were stamping our feet, two big dogs came. They looked more like small horses. They were these huge dogs, and they started barking at us. Brahmananda was there and all these other big sannyasis, no one moved. So Prabhupada stepped forward with his cane and chased the dogs away, “Hut! Hut!” Abhaya Charanaravinda, fearless.
Pranada dasi: I had been anticipating his visit for some time and was very keen on getting some kind of exchange with Srila Prabhupada. Initially, as a book distributor, I was told that the ladies book distribution party was going to go on one of the morning walks. But as so many devotees wanted to go on the morning walk, it was more and more evident that that wasn’t going to happen. So I had heard that Srila Prabhupada liked it when the ladies oodled like they do in Bengal. So I decided that I could make an offering of oodling for Srila Prabhupada the moment that he came into the temple room for greeting of the Deities, and I was going to oodle for three long times all the way to Gaura-Nitai’s altar. So it so happened that, of course, when Srila Prabhupada came out, everyone hit the floor saying their obeisances and I was this single young lady in the balcony oodling at the top of my lungs by myself. By the time he got in front of Jagannatha’s altar, he tilted his head a little bit as he was listening to me oodling, questioning what I might be doing, and his brow furrowed a little bit. And by the time he got to the middle of Rukmini and Dwarakadisa’s altar, he just broke into this huge smile and he whisked his head up in the direction of the balcony and he offered me back this huge smile of acceptance, shook his hands in pranams a little bit with his cane, and then kind of nodded his head and proceeded over to Gaura-Nitai’s altar. So that was the perfection of my little service I was able to offer to Srila Prabhupada.
Haripuja dasi: Srila Prabhupada gave cookies as usual. When there were extra cookies, then the men up front would start reaching out. Prabhupada would give out as many cookies as he had, and Manmohini brought a gallon glass jar of gulabjamons. So then Srila Prabhupada, after he ran out of cookies, he handed out all the gulabjamons. And he was looking on both sides of the steps on his vyasasana for whatever edible items people had brought him, and he handed them out. And the excitement in the temple room was just growing and growing because Prabhupada was really reciprocating with everyone’s desire to receive something. So then he handed all the flowers out that were on the vyasasana, and then he started to pull the flowers that were pinned as decorations on the vyasasana and he handed those flowers out. He was even throwing things up toward the balcony, where most of the women were standing. To me it was like a transcendental ballgame, and Srila Prabhupada was using the flowers as little balls to play with his friends. And little did I know that actually that would be the last visit and the last time that we would have that personal reciprocation with Srila Prabhupada.
Navadwip das: I had heard that Prabhupada once in Hawaii was walking along Waikiki and he was noticing that although there were a lot of palm trees along the street, when he looked up there wasn’t any coconuts. So Prabhupada inquired about “Why aren’t there coconuts up in these coconut trees?” So the devotees told him, “Well, Prabhupada, the city feels that the coconuts may fall from the tree and hit one of the tourists on the head, so they removed all the coconuts.” Then Prabhupada said that “This is foolishness. Coconuts, they have eyes and they can see and they will not fall on anybody’s head.” So I’m in Prabhupada’s room, and all of a sudden this story that I had heard popped into my mind. So when there was a little pause, I told Prabhupada that story and I asked him if it was true. Then Prabhupada, with his eyes very wide, leaned back and put his hand up and said, “Yes, that is a fact that coconuts, they have eyes and they will not fall on people’s heads.”
Hridayananda Goswami: I remember when Prabhupada called us all in emergency GBC meeting to Los Angeles because of the umbrella corporation. There was an attempt to centralize management, to make one corporation for all the ISKCON temples, an umbrella corporation. Jayatirtha was very enthusiastic to do this and Prabhupada was saying he didn’t want it, and Jayatirtha wasn’t really listening. So Prabhupada called on an emergency basis that all the GBC should come to L.A., and so we all came to L.A. I remember being in Prabhupada’s room and Prabhupada telling Jayatirtha, “We’re not going to do this,” and Jayatirtha was so upset he burst into tears and just ran out. And I remember then we had to actually preach to Ramesvara. Ramesvara was much more calm about it and he wasn’t that emotional about it, but he was just frankly saying, “I don’t understand why Prabhupada is doing this.” And, of course, it turned out Prabhupada was perfectly right because with all the legal cases we’ve had, if it had been one corporation it would have ruined everything. So Prabhupada was absolutely right. But Prabhupada, with an upward motion with his hands, he said, “This umbrella will go like this,” like an umbrella that suddenly flips up and stops being an umbrella.
Krishna Kanti das: It was his first time in our studio. All our previous recordings were done in his room. And a lot of the devotees showed up, which made it a little more complicated because of all the extra energy. I requested Prabhupada to chant the Hare Krishna mantra because we had had him doing all these bhajans but we never really had any recording other than the original Happening record from New York in 1966 with Prabhupada leading Hare Krishna. So he accommodated me for about two or three minutes and then stopped the kirtan, and then went and did some other Vaishnava bhajan.
Mangalananda das: Krishna Kanti was the main recorder, and I was his helper. We were back in the room listening to the recording as we were starting to get it set up, and the kartal players were…there were maybe four of them, and they were very enthusiastic. But unfortunately, the kartals were so loud that they were just overwhelming Prabhupada’s voice. We can always hear kartals, it’s Prabhupada that we wanted to hear. So I came out to tell Prabhupada that we can’t have these kartals because we won’t be able to hear him. I was so intimidated. I said some things to him and I can’t remember what I said, but I was trying to be as delicate as I could. And finally he said, “You are the experts. Do whatever.”
Krishna Kanti das: We tried to do the recording, and we stopped because the mridanga player couldn’t play properly the way Prabhupada liked it. So he was there showing us how to play mridanga. But most people would try to follow Prabhupada rather than keep a steady beat for Prabhupada to follow. And then I told him that we had the technology that he could overdub it later, which is what we had normally done on all the recordings up in his room. Whenever I recorded with him in L.A., as soon as the recording would end he would always say, “And so how long is it?” He would always want to know how long the recording was. There was never a retake, it was always one take.
Mangalananda das: Prabhupada had finished playing and he stood up, and I went out and spoke to him and said, “Prabhupada, I wanted to play something for you.” He sat back down and he said, “Go ahead.” When I put the lyrics down in front of him, “Bhagavad-gita,” “You’re Not That Body” and I think “Time for Going Home” from the Change of Heart that we were going to record…this is before we had funding for it, we were just putting it together. So he looked at them, and then we played portions of the songs. Then he just looked at me and he said, “So what is this for?” I said, “Well, we want to make an album to distribute to glorify Krishna and teach the philosophy.” I said, “Some of the big men say that it’s maya.” That’s when he said, “Just let the cows moo.” That’s what he told me. He said, “Just do this, it will be successful.” Then shortly after, we spoke to this gentleman and got a loan for $5,000 to do the album. Then we lined up different people and did that. I felt that it was blessed, everything was happening so easily. Then the gentleman heard the album and he said, “Don’t even worry about paying me back.” He said, “This is beautiful.” So that was nice. Prabhupada heard it later and he really liked it, and he said, “This could be played before the Deities.” So that made me feel good.
Srila Prabhupada: My father wanted me to become like this, know everything what is going on. He never wanted me to be a worldly man earning money. He never wanted. There was some arrangement for my going to England after my college education to become barrister. My father refused, “No. My son is not going to be a mleccha.”
Krishna Kanti das: We ended up having Prabhupada play the mridanga himself overdubbed with headphones, and that’s what we did. There it is. He would listen to the track that he had done with harmonium and singing with kartals. Listening to that on headphones, he would then play the mridanga himself. And many times when I watched him overdub mridanga up in his room, I was always amazed at how beautiful he played and how lucky I was to be in the room. I’d be the only one there watching him play mridanga so expertly. He had a touch, a golden touch.
Mangalananda das: I believe that microphone was the microphone that George Harrison sang “My Sweet Lord” on. It was donated to Krishna Kanti, which is impressive to the material world. What’s more impressive is that Prabhupada sang Hare Krishna into the microphone. And I don’t even know who has that microphone now. That should be in some kind of museum somewhere. There was a plate of sweetballs and fruit that was brought in for Prabhupada. At one point, he picked up an orange and ate it. And then when Prabhupada finally left, everybody bombarded the plate. So by the time I got there, everything was gone but the orange. So I took that, and I still have it. I never thought I’d see it again. Wow. And it still tastes nice. It’s very orangey. I have it wrapped up, it’s on the altar.
Revatinandan das: While he was being massaged by Hari Sauri, I asked him if he was aware that Vishnujan Maharaja had probably committed suicide. Prabhupada suddenly looked up at me with concern and said, “Why do you think that?” And I asked him if he could remember a few months previously in Mayapur when Vishnujan had asked him, “How has Chota Haridas been delivered by committing suicide after his offense?” I recounted that story to Prabhupada including roughly what Prabhupada had said. After I finished, Prabhupada looked at Hari Sauri and he said, “Do you think he did that?” and Hari Sauri shrugs his shoulders. Prabhupada put his head down and said, “He might have done that.”
Nanda Kumar das: One night I went up with warm milk for him, and as soon as I opened the door there was a different energy that felt innocent and childlike. I went over and put it down on his desk, and he had his wire rim glasses on, he was reading Krsna Book. He looked up at me, very childlike he said, “You know, when I read this book I learn things. I can’t believe I wrote it.” Then he said, “Actually I didn’t write it, Krishna wrote it.” So then he put his glasses down, and the mood was very sweet. After I had taken the plate out, I came back in to turn his bed down and he came over to get in bed. I had never tucked him in bed before, I had always left the room and he was doing something. So he got in and he curled up and I pulled the covers up over him, and the whole thing was just so…I don’t know what you would call it. It was almost like a parental rasa, somehow tucking in, and he just looked up and smiled and put his head to the pillow.
Pranada dasi: Srila Prabhupada decided to see the new movie that Visakha and Yadubara prabhu made called “Spiritual Frontier” about New Vrindavan, and Kirtanananda Swami flew out to look at that movie with him. So one evening it was being shown in the temple room. Prabhupada sat on his vyasasana, and we proceeded to view this wonderful movie of the New Vrindavan community and what was happening there. Prabhupada liked it very much. About midway there was a close-up of a wok with a puri being cooked and it puffed up, and Prabhupada leaned over to Tamal Krishna Maharaja and said, “I would like one of those puris.” But then at the end of the movie he was glorifying Kirtanananda Swami and the work that he had been doing in New Vrindavan, and he was so pleased. He said, “I bless Kirtanananda Swami to go back to Godhead in this life,” and all the devotees broke out in this cheer. Then in his magnanimity and his big heart he said, “What Kirtanananda?” And he took his right hand and he placed it in the direction of Kirtanananda, which was the corner on the left, and then he started sweeping it across the heads of all the devotees in the temple room and he said, “I bless all of you to go back to Godhead.” Then as his hand was moving, I remember feeling like, “Oh, Srila Prabhupada, please make sure your hand comes all the way this way,” because it was all the way to the far right up in the balcony. And he did, it was a majestic movement blessing all these devotees back to Godhead, and we all just broke into this huge cheer, “Jaya Srila Prabhupada!” We were assured to definitely go back to Godhead by the mercy of the pure devotee.
June 1976: NEW VRINDAVAN, WEST VIRGINIA – Temple Program
Kuladri das: I was the temple president at New Vrindavan for so many years, and Prabhupada had a vision for a pilgrimage site in North America and a farm community. So he never emphasized book distribution to us. He explained to me that, especially at the end when I was with him in Bombay and in Vrindavan just before he left, that the second half of his movement would be dramatically different than the first half. The emergency tactics that he used to distribute books and give young people sannyasa and open as many temples as possible, he wanted places like New Vrindavan to establish the culture of Krishna consciousness with colleges, grihastha lifestyle, all of the things to demonstrate the philosophy that he was so careful to present in his books. So he right up to the end was telling me that the farm communities were so important for the second half, and the vision would be so different than when his movement got started in the Western world.
July 1976: POTOMAC, MARYLAND – Walk, Temple Program, Initiation
Laxmivan das: The biggest event that happened was on the 10th anniversary of the incorporation of ISKCON. I remember sitting almost right in front of Srila Prabhupada. He was talking about that we should spread the Krishna consciousness movement and we should make it our most important purpose in our life, and he said, “Take example from my life. It is not pride, but take example from my life. I was a householder without any qualification, but my Guru Maharaja asked me to preach in the Western countries. So I thought, ‘Let me try.’” So when he said “Let me try,” all the devotees cheered because, of course, he had been so successful. It was a landmark that ISKCON had survived, flourished past that magical 10-year mark, and so now it was officially a success.
Mohan Gopal das: I was a street vendor back in ’76, and an old man gave me a Back to Godhead magazine. So after reading the magazine, I wanted to get more books. So I called the temple and when I went out there, I met a devotee by the name of Lokaguru and told him that I’d like to get some books. I bought the whole collection, and so I was invited to come there the first part of July when Srila Prabhupada was supposed to visit. So for the last two days that he was there I came. When I first saw him, he was walking in the temple and they were playing “Govinda.” That was the first time I ever heard anything like that, and to this day that’s my favorite song. It was the most beautiful sound, and he would go down and pay his obeisances. To me, I said, “That looks so cool.” I’d never seen anything like that. So I just wished I could be like that. Then he gave a lecture and he was passing out prasad, so that was my first lecture that I ever heard was from Srila Prabhupada. When he was handing out cookies, the devotees pushed me up front and he personally handed me the cookie. So that was my first experience with prasadam. Then Prabhupada was chanting and the devotees were dancing, and they were jumping like jack rabbits. They were touching the ceiling it looked like. I’d never seen anything like that. So after that experience, I knew that it was something very special. Before that I had spent a whole month in June reading the Bhagavad-gita, and I read it at my vendor stand every day. It was in June, it was warm, so I’d sit outside my stand on Georgia Avenue. Each day…it took me 30 days to read, and on the 30th day I had it completed. I started on June 1st on my birthday, so it was like a rebirth for me. I read it for 30 days and I couldn’t stop, couldn’t put it down, and a whole transformation just came over me – the way I was seeing things, the way I was responding to life. It was the answer to all my questions that I had ever since I was a small child. But then actually seeing the devotees and associating with Prabhupada, it put a spark of service in my heart, and ever since then I’ve been somehow connected with the devotees.
Aindra das: Prabhupada came out to go from his quarters, which was up on the hill, down to the temple for greeting the Deities in the morning. So there was supposed to be some kind of a kirtan to usher him down to the temple. Somehow or other I had a mridanga in my hands, and I’m not a mridanga player either really. I remember when I first joined I would play this “bing-bing-bong-bong-bing-bing-flap-flap, bing-bing-bong-bong-bing-bing-flap-flap.” That was the first mridanga beat that I knew. And then there was, bing-kading-bonk, bing-kading-bonk, like that, simple beat. So I was playing one of those beats, and they had me leading the kirtan. I was just chanting the simple Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, and I was walking right next to Srila Prabhupada. And as I was chanting away at the top of my lungs trying to do the best I could, Srila Prabhupada turns to me with a smile and kind of cocked his head back a little bit, looking at me with approval, and he said, “Jaya.” That’s the only word Prabhupada ever directly said to me, yet that one jaya stuck with me. It was not just a jaya to me, but it was a jaya in relationship to my endeavor to do sankirtan, to sing the Holy Name, Hare Krishna, for the rest of my life.
Palaka das: People from all over America were coming to celebrate the Fourth of July, and that was our Bicentennial so that was a big to-do. But everyone was very excited because we were taking Srila Prabhupada down to Washington, D.C. We were going to give him a grand tour of the city, and at the same time at the end of the tour we were going to go and watch the fireworks. So after the Sunday Feast, there was a caravan of devotees. We brought the kartals and mridangas, and then Prabhupada was in the International Harvester. As we were entering through the George Washington Parkway, because there were so many people coming into town it was becoming gridlock and people were literally abandoning their cars and walking into the city. So Srila Prabhupada instructed us to have a kirtan. So we opened the side of the van, and we started this wonderful kirtan. I specifically remember there was this one couple. It was a hot July day so they weren’t wearing hardly anything and they were both holding cans of beer in their hand, but they were dancing to the kirtan. And Srila Prabhupada commented. Prabhupada said their spiritual life had just begun. Later on Srila Prabhupada commented again on that couple in either a letter or a talk with Rupanuga, how nice it was to see that American couple dancing to our kirtan. So I always took that as an important message of how merciful Srila Prabhupada was and how powerful and merciful Lord Chaitanya is through the Holy Name and through kirtan.
Praghosa das: I didn’t get a chance to go to any of the darshans. I would be at the morning program with Srila Prabhupada, the class, the kirtan, but then I’d go on sankirtan. So the second to the last day, I came back from the airport that night. All the way back from the airport I was just absorbed in praying to Krishna that He could make some arrangement that I could actually get some association with Srila Prabhupada. So I came back that night and I was walking into the temple, and I had a recollection of some small incident that took place in my youth. You could actually feel the Supersoul say, “Hey, just like that run up the hill.” So I just dropped my sankirtan bag like a person possessed, and I just started running up the hill. I got to the top of the hill, and I could hear Srila Prabhupada’s voice but I didn’t know where he was. But it turned out he was inside the pool area. When I came around the front, Srila Prabhupada was actually coming out and there was a little streetlamp. And when Prabhupada stepped out of the darkness into the light, I just ran up and offered my full obeisances right at his feet. So then I looked up and I folded my palms and I said, “Jaya Srila Prabhupada,” and Srila Prabhupada said, “Hare Krishna.” Hari Sauri said, “Srila Prabhupada, these are the airport sankirtan devotees. They’ve just come back from the airport.” Prabhupada looked at me and said, “Oh, you are just arriving now?” I said, “Yes, Srila Prabhupada.” Prabhupada said, “Long day. So how was the success?” I said, “Well, myself and Vaisesika Prabhu, between us we distributed 135 books.” Then Prabhupada stuck his hand up in the air and he said, “Ah, victory,” just like that. So we walked and we got to the steps to go up to the house, and Prabhupada said, “So, you don’t want to come in?” I said, “Oh, yes, Srila Prabhupada,” and I stepped out of my shoes immediately. I just followed behind him. He sat down on a sofa, and I sat down on the floor right in front of him. He looked at me and he said, “So tell me about the book distribution.” So I started telling him different things. I said, “I met one boy from Fort Jackson, South Carolina. It’s a military base. He holds a class, 10 to 12 soldiers come every week and read your Bhagavad-gita together.” Prabhupada said, “Our Gita?” And I said, “Your Gita, Srila Prabhupada.” He was bobbing his head, smiling really big. Then he looked over at the devotees and he said, “Just see.” That’s all he said, “Just see.” So then he said, “You stay here in Washington?” I said, “No, Srila Prabhupada, I stay in New York.” Then Prabhupada said, “Ah, New York. I also stayed in New York. I began in New York.” Like I didn’t know. And Prabhupada said, “You are coming to New York for the Rathayatra?” And I said, “Srila Prabhupada, I wouldn’t miss that for anything.” He smiled and he said, “Rathayatra in New York City on Fifth Avenue, the most important street in the most important city in the most important country in the world. It has been my dream always to have Rathayatra in New York.” Then he said to me, “So it’s late. You have not taken prasad?” I said, “No, Srila Prabhupada, I just came back from the airport.” He said, “You are not hungry?” At the moment prasadam was the furthest thing from my mind, I didn’t think of food at all. But I immediately said, “Oh, yes, Srila Prabhupada, I’m hungry.” And Prabhupada said, “Oh, then we have to get you some prasadam.” So he said, “Call Palika.” She opens the door and she pops her head in and she says, “Yes, Srila Prabhupada?” Prabhupada looks up and he says, “You have any prasadam?” And she said, “Srila Prabhupada, we don’t have any prasadam, we just have ice cream.” Then Prabhupada looks and he says, “Hmm, ice cream.” He looks at me and he says, “Do you like ice cream?” And I said, “Yes, Srila Prabhupada, I love ice cream.” And Prabhupada said, “So bring some ice cream.” When she brought it in, Prabhupada said, “What flavor?” She said, “Mango.” Prabhupada looked at me and he says, “Mango.” He’s talking to me like a child, it was blissful. And then he asked this devotee Subuddhi where he was stationed, Subuddhi Raya. Subuddhi said, “Well, I’m in New York now, Srila Prabhupada, but I was formerly with Gargamuni in India.” Prabhupada said, “Ah, Gargamuni, library party.” He said, “Yes, Srila Prabhupada.” He said, “So how was that?” And Subuddhi launched into sort of a negative description of his experience with that party, that they didn’t have much time for sadhana, the morning program was weak. He said three sentences like that and Prabhupada just cut him off and he said, “Anyway, they’re doing good work.” Then he looked straight back at me and never entertained the discussion anymore. Finally he said, “All right, thank you very much. Book distribution ki jaya.” I offered my obeisances and I stood up and I said, “Thank you so much, Srila Prabhupada, and thank you for allowing me to serve you by distributing your books.” And Prabhupada said, “I thank you and my Guru Maharaja thanks you.” The thing that has sustained me more than anything is those few moments where Prabhupada would say to you, “Thank you very much,” and he acknowledged your trying to give him service from your heart. That was the most profound thing for me.