July 1974: CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – Arrival, Temple Programs, Interview, Rathayatra
Tripurari Swami: The Chicago O’Hare Airport was a place where we distributed a lot of books, and we were there day in and day out. And some of the people who were also there day in and day out, the employees, they didn’t appreciate our presence there; and some of them were antagonistic even, and some of them on occasion caused bodily harm to some of the devotees who were distributing Prabhupada’s books. In retrospect, I can understand why they were agitated and why we irked them to the extent that we did; but they, of course, had no access to our motivation and what we were really about. In my mind, it was an awkward place for Prabhupada to be coming. There were so many books that had been distributed there and it was auspicious in that regard but, in ISKCON terminology, there were demons there also. So Prabhupada got off the plane and I’m thinking, “I’ve got to protect Prabhupada. Who knows? One of these crazy guys here could run up and throw something at him,” or who knows what because they had done things like that to his disciples. So I was standing next to Prabhupada and protecting him from the crowd in my mind. We were walking towards the door to go out onto the curb and the access funneled down, and to go through the door only one person could go through. Here I was preoccupied with this idea that I’m going to protect Prabhupada and get him through the door safely, and Prabhupada just went like this with his left arm when I was standing on his left side. The next thing I could remember, I was at the back of the crowd, everybody was in front of me, and Prabhupada was in the car and the devotees were ushering him off to the temple. It was very mystical to me because I thought, “Oh, here I was thinking I’m protecting the spiritual master, and he’s showing ‘I’m protected by Krishna’ and ‘I could protect you also.’”
Tamal Krishna Goswami: In Chicago, the airport there is called O’Hare International Airport, and it’s spelled O-H-A-R-E. So Prabhupada told his leading book distributor, Tripurari Maharaj, “Go to the airport manager and tell them that they should rename the airport O Hare Krishna International Airport.” And this was an airport in which our book distributors were so aggressively distributing books that every day there was confrontation between the guards at the airport and the book distributors. So the management of that airport hated us, and still Prabhupada made his best book distributor go to the manager. And Tripurari Maharaj went there and said to him very seriously, “You should rename your airport O Hare Krishna International Airport.” Why did Prabhupada do this? Was he trying to have fun with his disciple? Prabhupada, he took every possible opportunity to somehow push forward the idea of Krishna consciousness. His idea was that everything belonged to Krishna, everything. He saw everything as really meant to be glorifying Krishna.
Dravinaksa das: In order to help prepare for Prabhupada’s arrival, Govardhan, president of Detroit, and the brahmacaris went ahead to Chicago to help fix the temple up a little bit. We had a real crack cleaning crew for Detroit. Govardhan hated dirt. The Detroit temple was always spotless; it had white floors, white staircases. So we came there and I remember the doors flying open in the vans, floor machines coming out, and everybody got to work and scrubbed the place down, made it really clean. We built a little desk and a seat for Prabhupada. His desk was a sheet of plywood and some four by fours; I built it. They had a room for Prabhupada, a very simple room – just a bed, a chair, a desk. He lived very, very simply there.
Udayananda das: I got to wait outside of Srila Prabhupada’s door because I was his bodyguard. And every time Prabhupada came out the door and I would offer my obeisances, his foot would come down right by my face and then it would go. I thought I wanted to get the dust of the lotus feet of the pure devotee because we had just started the Guru Puja program every morning a few months before that and we were praying, “The lotus feet of the spiritual master are the only way by which we can attain pure devotional service. I bow down to his lotus feet with great awe and reverence. By his grace, one can cross the ocean of material suffering and attain the mercy of Krishna.” So I thought, “I need those lotus feet. I have to have those lotus feet on my head.” But being near Prabhupada was quite an intimidating experience. So they asked to have initiations. They brought us into the room and I was in such a state, I didn’t know what he was saying or what I was doing, but I was just very conscientious that I was with a pure devotee of the Lord. As a matter of fact, when I walked into the room…and this was the only time I was probably alone with Srila Prabhupada…I walked in the room, I offered my obeisances, and when I stood up, his eyes were fixed right on my eyes and just for a second I looked into his eyes. And the most incredible thing that ever happened to me with another human being occurred at that moment in that I had this overwhelming realization that he knew everything about me, and I felt so shameful. I felt like “I do not deserve to be in the room with this personality, and also there’s no sense in trying to be pretentious because he knows anyways. So don’t try to pretend to be something that you’re not.” But those eyes, it wasn’t like looking at me like “You are such a fallen soul,” but it was this look of infinite compassion and almost like he understood my suffering. All of this happened in a mega-second, and then I couldn’t look any longer and I looked down. But I knew, “You must bare your soul to the spiritual master, there’s no sense in trying to pretend because you can’t cheat the maha-bhagavat.” So then Prabhupada gave me the Gayatri mantra and then he said, “So, are you chanting your 16 rounds?” I said, “Yes, Srila Prabhupada.” He said, “And are you preaching Krishna consciousness?” I said, “Yes, Srila Prabhupada, I’m a sankirtan devotee. I go out on book distribution every day.” Then he said, “Always preach Krishna consciousness.” Then I said, “Thank you, Srila Prabhupada,” and he said, “OK.” Then I had to muster up all the courage that I had within my being, because I was thinking of those lotus feet and they were just sitting on the vyasasana. Prabhupada had his dhoti pulled up to his knees and his feet were right there and I said, “Srila Prabhupada?” He said, “Yes?” I said, “Srila Prabhupada, could I touch your lotus feet?” He looked at me and he smiled and he said, “That is not necessary.” I said, “Jaya, Srila Prabhupada,” and I offered my obeisances. I went out, and I felt so stupid. I couldn’t believe I asked that question. It was so trite. So I went out and I told Sura, and Vaish was there and Praghosa and they all cracked up and they said, “Udaya, you are such a nerd! I can’t believe you did that!”
Sri Govinda das: The first temple in Chicago was on Halstead Street. It was a storefront, and that was run by first Rudra das and his wife and then later Bahulasva. That temple closed. At that time, I was temple president in Cleveland. Bhagavan decided to centralize his zone, so he closed the temple in Chicago and pulled all the different leaders back to Detroit for meetings to try to determine how things would be managed. I kept saying, “How can we neglect Chicago? Chicago is the biggest city in the zone. We can’t close Chicago.” Then one day Bhagavan just slammed his fist down and said, “Damn it, Govinda, just go to Chicago!” So we went with a couple of brahmacaris. Then we were collecting and doing some preaching. Then the traveling rock group was disbanded by Prabhupada, and they came to Chicago. So we had a lot more people there, and searching around we came upon this former YMCA building.
Sundararupa das: We were in the old YMCA, actually it was the old black YMCA from segregated times, and it was a rather run-down building when we got it and we had done a lot of renovations. So one of the main things we did that year was totally redo the gymnasium into a beautiful big temple room with side balconies and a huge altar. Actually Sri Govinda was the inspiration behind the aesthetics of it, and I had organized the work. When Prabhupada arrived and first sat on the vyasasana there and looked at it all, which for the time I think devotees will remember it was quite gorgeous, Srila Prabhupada said, “Only devotees could do this.”
Bhakti Tirtha Swami: There was a special darshan Prabhupada gave us, just the Library Party, in Chicago with Satsvarupa Maharaj. It was when we had first started the work in America, and we were eager to tell Prabhupada about the success. But we were mostly wanting to hear from Prabhupada how he wanted us to proceed. It was a whole new experience getting these academics to take the books. So we came in with pens and paper and ready to take lots of instructions from Prabhupada. We shared what we had done so far, asked for guidance, and Srila Prabhupada just simply said, “You do your best, and Krishna will help you,” and that was it. At first we were stunned, we were waiting for him to say more. Then we realized, “Oh, this is a message. Srila Prabhupada is letting us know that he wants it to be done and that if we just try to do our best, Krishna will give us the intelligence what to do and how to do it.” It was a message that stuck with me for a long time. When I’m dealing with complex situations, I realize that it doesn’t really have to be approached in such a complex way, that somehow if we can just do our best then Krishna will compensate.
Suresvara das: So during the Guru Puja, I remember some brahmacaris, they had developed a kind of boogying, doing rock dancing. This was going on during Guru Puja, and all of a sudden Prabhupada, like a conductor, like a maestro, he stopped the Guru Puja cold in an instant and we were all frozen in place. Then Prabhupada gestures to the picture of the Panca Tattva in the distance and how their arms are upraised and he says, “Dance, dance like Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.” So we were all corrected because we were all getting into disco dancing, twisting and boogaloo and shingaling and whatever.
Urmila dasi: The first time that I ever saw Prabhupada was in the morning. He was sitting on the vyasasana at the Chicago temple. He was giving a lecture about how we all want to see God but we can’t even see a little piece of God, the soul. Otherwise, why would we be crying when some relative has died? And if we haven’t seen a piece of God, how can we think that we can see God? I was standing right near the vyasasana, maybe two feet away, and fanning Prabhupada with a peacock feather fan all during the lecture, and I was simultaneously very happy and very disappointed. I was very happy because I realized that hearing Prabhupada there on the vyasasana was no different than hearing a tape recording of him. All that time I’d been listening to Prabhupada lectures on tapes, I’d been with him hearing him, and I felt so happy and so satisfied. But I had wanted something different. I hadn’t wanted it to be just the same as a tape recording. I had wanted to get to know Prabhupada the person. A few hours later, my father, my husband and I went into Prabhupada’s room; and right before, Prabhupada was speaking to a reporter, which is what you’re seeing here. He was very much joking, very congenial, very relaxed. Right after the reporters left, then my father and my husband and I were introduced. At that point, Prabhupada leaned back on the cushion and he had one of his legs up, and his dhoti was such that you could see his calves and his lotus feet. I remember thinking how soft his skin was, it looked like the skin of a baby. As the conversation began to unfold, I realized that here Krishna was fulfilling my desire to get to see Prabhupada as an individual person. When I was listening to him on the vyasasana, I was seeing him as the guru, as the acharya, and here I was seeing him as Prabhupada the individual person. It was very, very sweet. This was the first time also that my father had met Srila Prabhupada. My father had been coming to the temple periodically since I joined. First he introduced himself but Prabhupada thought that my husband was my father’s son, and then he understood that it was the daughter. He said, “Do you have any sons?” My father said, “No, only daughters.” Prabhupada said, “Oh, only daughters.” Then my father said, “I’m coming to this temple not because I want to see Krishna but because I want to see my daughter and my son-in-law. Is that all right?” Prabhupada said, “Yes. They are loving Krishna.” And I was thinking, “I don’t love Krishna.” He said, “Chanting and dancing are symptoms of loving Krishna, and they are loving Krishna and you are loving them. So two things that are equal to the same thing are equal to each other.” Then my father said, “But I’m a Jew, and is it really all right that I come to the temple even though I’m Jewish?” Prabhupada said, “Yes. There can be many planes going through Chicago, but they have to know they are going through Chicago. Otherwise, what is the meaning of many planes? So there can be many religions, but they have to know what is the goal. The goal is to know God and to love Him. If you know that the goal is to know God and to love Him, then there can be many religions.” After we walked out, my father turned to me and said, “Now I know why you’ve come to this Hare Krishna movement. That is a genuine holy man.”
Suhotra Swami: After the Radha-Damodar Party I went to the BBT Library Party, and we had the good fortune to have a darshan with Srila Prabhupada in Chicago. Mostly, of course, Satsvarupa Maharaj, Mahabuddhi, Ganashyam, they had many points that they were taking up with Srila Prabhupada, and I was sitting on the edge of things. But I had one question in my mind, and I waited for my chance. Then when there was a little lull, I raised my hand and Prabhupada called on me. My concern was often the professors wanted to know if these books will tell us about the ancient technology of Vedic India because at that time a book had come out by Erich von Daniken called Chariots of the Gods and there was reference in there to the Mahabharata and Puranas, that there were vimanas or airplanes or flying saucers, whatever they were, described in these ancient Sanskrit texts. So I wanted to hear Prabhupada, what he would say about this. I said, “Srila Prabhupada, many times the professors I meet, they ask me about Vedic technology,” and Prabhupada hardly let those words get out of my mouth before he rapped the table with his knuckles and he just said very shortly, “Vedic technology means Sri Guru Parampara,” and that’s all he said. But it was such a profound statement for me. It was an immediate instruction because, of course, I was asking the question impelled by all kinds of speculations going on in my mind. I had actually read that book Chariots of the Gods just to find out more what these professors were talking about. So my mind had been drifting in orbit, and Prabhupada just brought me right down to earth. “Vedic technology means Sri Guru Parampara,” and I meditated on that. That’s been a very important sutra in my life since that time. One thing is that you think about technology in the modern sense and it’s the motive force behind this Western civilization and the culture that is associated with that, which has really covered the earth. So technology is the dynamic force of civilization. We know that the Vedic civilization once covered the earth. India was once in the position that America is in now as being the leading country that all other countries emulated, and how it got to that position was because of following Sri Guru Parampara. And that is the key to how again Vedic culture can spread all over the world and become synonymous with civilization. Now when people think of civilization they look to America or they look to Western Europe, they think that’s where civilization is. But actually real civilization is Vedic civilization, and the key to that is Sri Guru Parampara as Prabhupada said.
Atmaram das: We went to Chicago to take Prabhupada darshan and have his association again. He immediately recognized us. He said, “Oh, I see you before in Detroit.” We told Prabhupada, “We are very thankful you have remembered us. We are fallen souls, we have no qualifications.” Then again there was a gathering with the devotees. There was one question that we said, “Prabhupada, where do we serve you best?” So Prabhupada says, “You can become Krishna conscious anywhere.” But then immediately he said, “Sun is the most brightest in India.” What that means to me is that I can be more Krishna conscious in better way in India in comparison to any other place. Then Prabhupada also said at that time that “You have a good Krishna conscious background and also good material education. So you should give this Krishna conscious knowledge in an educational institutional manner.” So we were meditating how to do it. He told us twice – in Chicago as well as last time he came, that is my exact memory, in 1976 in Los Angeles. He said, “I told you in Chicago to start educational institution.” But we were not in a position immediately at that time to come to India. So we started a little educational place, a Sunday School, for the children of Indian origin; and we had 60 children coming to our place, and we were educating them in Krishna consciousness. Today we are running Bhaktivedanta Vidyalaya. So it’s an educational institution, as Prabhupada said, and we have 300 children studying, boys and girls, and it’s a residential school. Krishna consciousness is taught from Mangala-aratik till Bhagavatam class like any other our temple program. And these are all karmi parents’ children, these are not devotee children. As it is said in Isopanisad, sloka 11, that you can learn this Krishna consciousness and material education side by side. And also in 9th Chapter, raja-vidya raja-guhyam, pavitram idam uttamam, pratyaksavagamam dharmyam, susukham kartum avyayam. In purport, Prabhupada says there are all kinds of educational institutions all over the world, but there is no Krishna conscious educational institution or university. So according to the authority of sastra, sadhu and guru, whatever this Bhaktivedanta Vidyalaya English School is doing is confirmed with Prabhupada’s instruction and his writings.
Udayananda das: I remember the kirtans were very ecstatic at this time. There were several hundred devotees there, and they were doing Guru Puja and everyone was dancing in ecstasy. But there was this lane, Prabhupada always kept an open lane between the men and the women so that he had a perfect direct view towards the Deities. So sometimes when the kirtan started to become very ecstatic, the devotees started to dance into the middle lane and Prabhupada started to wave his hand like “Move out of the way. I love my devotees, but I want to see my Lord.” So I oftentimes go to temples and there’s Prabhupada sitting on the vyasasana and devotees are dancing, blocking the view of Prabhupada to the Deities. We should always understand that Prabhupada is with us, and we shouldn’t commit guru-aparadha by putting our back either to Prabhupada or blocking Prabhupada’s vision to Radha and Krishna.
Jagadisa das: Prabhupada had traveled to Chicago with Brahmananda on the airplane, and Brahmananda was reading Time magazine and the Time magazine feature article was “Crime – why and what to do?” So Prabhupada got inspired by the idea that we could help to solve the crime problems in America with our program. So when he arrived in Chicago, he asked us to arrange for him to meet some people in the government so he could talk to them about this idea. So he met with the mayor of Evanston and he met with some police lieutenant, I think Mosley was his name, I remember that. Then there was this old abandoned school in Chicago, in Evanston actually north of Chicago, and Prabhupada asked us to propose to the government that they give us that school and help us fix it up to take in prisoners from the penal system and give them a program where we would feed them prasadam and engage them in kirtan and some other things during the day but a kind of rehabilitation program based on Krishna consciousness. And Prabhupada was serious about it. He wanted me to go to the mayor of Evanston and propose this, and I did. The mayor was friendly, but he said that that was the building that they had in mind for their new City Hall. So he didn’t think it was likely that he could get the Council to approve it for our proposed purpose. I pursued it a little bit, and we found some other properties that we looked at. But we couldn’t get anyone to donate any facility and we didn’t have the money to buy any place, so we had to drop the idea.
Suresvara das: We were all waiting for Prabhupada to come to the carts on State Street. Finally Srila Prabhupada rides up in a Volkswagen, gets out, and without any hesitation just bows down on the filthy street in front of Lord Jagannatha. And that really struck me because I had been thinking in my mind, “I’m not going to bow down in the street.” But Prabhupada didn’t hesitate, he just bowed down right there in front of Lord Jagannatha. Then he gets on the cart, and Prabhupada is riding on the cart below and myself and a few others are riding up top. And we have the blissful engagement of throwing flowers and bags of prasadam – it might have been peanuts and raisins, something like that – off into the throng as we were going down State Street toward the Civic Center. Then it occurred to me that Srila Prabhupada has come to Chicago now and this is 81 years after the first Indian swami had come to America, and that was Vivekananda, the famous Vivekananda who came and was preaching “daridra Narayan” philosophy. At that time, Vivekananda, who had been invited by clergy for the World Parliament of Religions in 1893, he was saying, “What is all this talk of God? I see so many Gods loitering before me in the street, daridra Narayan, poor Narayan.” In other words, everybody is God. Mayavada. So finally 81 years later here is a pure devotee, a Vaishnava, who has come to Chicago, and I was thinking in my mind, “I wonder what Srila Prabhupada is going to say when he gets to the Civic Center because this is very historic actually. Finally the Vaishnava siddhanta is coming to Chicago after all these years.” So we get to the Civic Center, and there aren’t that many people there surprisingly as I remember it. But without hesitation, as soon as Srila Prabhupada took the microphone he said, “In the Vedanta Sutra it is said janmadyasya yatah, the Absolute Truth is that from Whom everything emanates.” So he was establishing that everything comes from a person. So I was really smiling, “I’ll bet Srila Prabhupada was thinking of this.” So that was wonderful.
Sankirtan das: When Prabhupada arrived, there were actually two newspaper articles that came out about the devotees. One of them was very favorable, but it didn’t mention Hare Krishna too often; and the other article was highly unfavorable, it was very critical and sarcastic of the devotees. It was written actually by a Chicago columnist who won a Pulitzer Prize. His name was Mike Royko. Royko was known for his biting cynicism. He wrote this article, but practically every other sentence he was mentioning Hare Krishna. He had even parts of the Hare Krishna mantra within the article. Prabhupada said, “This man is chanting Hare Krishna,” and he was much more appreciative of the critical article because it mentioned Hare Krishna more than he was of the favorable article.
Dravinaksa das: Our little crew of armed guards drove in a car behind him. And on the way to the airport, Prabhupada’s car pulled off, he had to use the bathroom at a gas station, and there was a fruit stand near there. So we were all brahmacaris, we didn’t have any money, we begged some fruit. When we got to the airport, Prabhupada had a special lounge set aside. So Sudama was cutting up the fruit and giving some to Prabhupada and distributing it to the devotees. Then Kirtanananda Maharaj came and brought some sweets from New Vrindavan for Prabhupada. Prabhupada liked them very much. While we were waiting for the flight, Prabhupada laid down on one of the benches there to take a little nap, and Jagadisa was reading out loud from the Bhagavatam. Jagadisa had a particular voice which would cure insomnia in any situation, so everybody immediately fell asleep. Jagadisa stopped reading and looked up, and Prabhupada lifted his head up and said, “I am listening.” So he continued reading.
July 1974: AIRPLANE FLIGHT – From Chicago to San Francisco
Vaikunthanath das: I was accompanying Prabhupada as his typist, and we had flown in from Hawaii and we stopped in Chicago and San Francisco. On one of the flights, I was sitting next to Prabhupada and he said, “Vaikunthanath, may I borrow your Bhagavad-gita?” I gave him my Bhagavad-gita, which, of course, was his Bhagavad-gita, and he opened it up and began to read it. But he took note of the fact that I had had it hardbound in India, and at that time there was a gold embosser who would print the devotee’s name on the cover. So it had a big “Vaikunthanath and Saradiya,” which came out much larger than I had expected. I remember Prabhupada took note of my name and Saradiya’s name on the cover but didn’t say anything and began to read, and I remember I was a little embarrassed. I said, “What is my name doing on there? That’s Prabhupada’s book.” Prabhupada sat there and read his Bhagavad-gita for some time and then went back to chanting japa. Prabhupada would either read or chant or maybe talk a little on the airplane, but mostly he was just absorbed in chanting.
Yadubara das: We were traveling with Srila Prabhupada and, of course, on the flight we were trying to get some shots, as you see here. The most memorable part of that trip was getting off the plane. I was walking behind Srila Prabhupada going from the plane to the terminal. You could hear the kirtan, but you couldn’t see the devotees until we came around the bend and then saw literally devotee upon devotee stacked on top of each other, big beaming smiles on devotees’ faces, but that’s all you see. You couldn’t see beyond that. It was a solid wall of devotees. What an arrival.
July 1974: SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – Arrival, Rathayatra, TV Interview
Bhakti Visrambha Madhava Swami: When Prabhupada arrived in San Francisco for the Rathayatra Festival, I remember that all the devotees were extremely excited. So they were running and dashing down the concourses, and there was a huge crowd of devotees. I remember Tulasi das turned around and yelled at us all that “Why don’t you act dignified? We’re in an airport, behave yourselves!” Then when Prabhupada came, I remember there was a big array of sannyasis that were surrounding Srila Prabhupada and all the devotees were chanting in kirtan. Me and a godbrother named Sridhar Prabhu…he was one of the original VJ raiders on Radha-Damodar Party, very brahminically minded…and so he was standing with me and he was thinking, “Is there any hope that we’ll be able to get close to Srila Prabhupada at all? Look at the hundreds of devotees. What is our chance?” All of a sudden we got out of the terminal building, and Srila Prabhupada was standing on the sidewalk waiting for the car to come by to pick him up. And somehow or another we were jostled and shoved by the crowd and all of a sudden we were right there, me and Sridhar, practically behind Srila Prabhupada’s shoes. So I was gasping for breath, and we offered obeisances at his feet and I asked Sridhar, “Should I touch them? What would happen if I touched Srila Prabhupada’s foot?” I thought. I reached my index finger forward very gingerly and I touched the back of his shoe, and then I pulled it away like it was going to be an electric shock or something like that. Such a shy boy, I wasn’t even 18 at the time. I didn’t even disturb him, he didn’t even look at me or didn’t even notice it. We were so scared. It was the first time I saw Srila Prabhupada.
Bhakta das: The Rathayatra seemed like it had gone downhill because my first Rathayatra was 1970, which was the first one with three huge chariots and that was a huge festival. Then ’71 became smaller, and ’72 it was smaller, and ’73 it was still smaller and Srila Prabhupada hadn’t come. Then in April of 1974, I was sent to San Francisco to serve as the temple president. At that time, Madhudvisa had come to get a new visa for Australia and, of course, Jayananda was in San Francisco. Madhudvisa was very encouraging to expand the Rathayatra, turn it into a wonderful festival with a fair-like atmosphere and a real chance to broaden the preaching of Krishna consciousness. So he was a big inspiration. Of course, Jayananda was there and was very eager to do the practical work. Due to those two people’s inspiration, we started trying to visualize how Rathayatra could be expanded and improved and how we could get Srila Prabhupada to come back again. So we got the idea to make not just the parade but to have a fair at the end of the parade where we’d exhibit all aspects of Krishna consciousness from Deity worship and prasadam and books and also try to turn the festival into something that was economically viable, not just a huge expenditure, and try to find ways to promote the Rathayatra to the public in new ways. I hired a professional public relations firm, a man named Reid Turner, and I think we paid $2,000 to him to help promote and publicize the Rathayatra. Maybe that was the best thing I ever did because the amount of publicity this man got for free through Public Service Radio and donations of billboards and donations of space on all the trains and buses, it was just phenomenal. As a result, that year a huge amount of people came to the festival. Of course, Srila Prabhupada came. He wasn’t in the United States hardly at all in those years, just coming once a year for a few weeks touring. So most of the disciples hardly got to see him. So I’ll never forget in ’74 roughly a thousand disciples came from all over the United States to greet Srila Prabhupada. I remember on the morning of the Rathayatra it was cold and it was damp and it was foggy, and we got out to the Golden Gate Park and it was nobody there. My heart was pounding and my head was spinning. I’m thinking, “Lord, we’ve spent all this money, this huge effort to make this a nice festival, and now You’re giving us this miserable weather.” I remember Srila Prabhupada arriving. When he got on the chariot…he sat on Subhadra’s chariot…and when he touched the vyasasana, that moment the sun burst out and all the fog was gone. And all of a sudden thousands of people, it’s like they came out of the trees and the bushes, and this ecstatic kirtan started. It was so miraculous. It was like an effulgence came off of him that dissipated the darkness.
Srila Prabhupada: And this Krishna consciousness movement is meant for educating people in this great science. So we have published already about 20 books, 400 pages each, to elaborate the science of Krishna consciousness. So the scientists, the philosophers, they can also understand by reading our books.
Danavir Goswami: In San Francisco when Bhakta das was president up there, he organized a special worship program for Prabhupada to raise funds. It was auctioned off, these different services like bathing his feet with milk or water or honey. Temple presidents could bid and whoever bid the most got to do that service for Prabhupada, and at the end all the money would be given to Prabhupada as a donation. So at that time, I had a little bit of money from an inheritance, small inheritance, and one especially I wanted to win was bathing his feet with honey because I thought that that one would take longer so I would be able to get more time serving Prabhupada touching his feet than the other substances. So I won that one. And while I was pouring the honey over Prabhupada’s feet, I’m trying to stretch it out as long as possible and Prabhupada said, “Hurry up.” So I had to go faster. Prabhupada wasn’t enjoying being worshiped as we might think that we would enjoy being worshiped and we’d like to drag it out as long as possible, but he was doing it as a service.
Raghunath das: Prabhupada was riding on Subhadra’s cart, and I was riding on the cart behind him, Balarama’s cart. And my duty was to lower the canopy when we came under low bridges…it was all designed by Jayananda…and then raise it back up again, and it took three or four guys to do it. So at one point we were riding along in the parade, there were no bridges coming or anything, and Prabhupada was on the cart in front of me, and he was looking out over the thousands of people that had come for the parade and it was all quite a scene. At one point, I felt that Prabhupada was looking at me. Even though he was so far away, somehow or other I felt that he was looking directly at me. When that happened, I felt that he could see not only my person but he could see directly into my soul and he could see everything about me, my desires, whatever there was to see in my soul. I could even feel that he could see that I had stashed some laddus in my coat pocket that I was wearing that I had stolen from the prasadam bin that they had for the festival. At that moment I actually waved to him with my right hand, and Prabhupada immediately waved back as if to confirm that “Yes, I am seeing you, I am looking.” Prabhupada had that way of communicating. Even though we were so far away, he could reciprocate in such a positive way.
Rukmini dasi: This was in Berkeley. It was right around the time of the Rathayatra. We were all sitting in Prabhupada’s room, and Baradraj pulled a copy of Teachings of Lord Caitanya off of the shelf and he said, “Prabhupada, usually we see Lord Caitanya depicted as having very long hair.” And Prabhupada said, “Yes, Caitanya Mahaprabhu, He was hippie.” So he said, “Yes, Caitanya Mahaprabhu, He was hippie,” and everyone really started to laugh because he was detecting the mentality of the question. He said, “Therefore, He has come to save you. He was hippie, so He has come to save you.” But because of his Bengali accent, it was difficult to understand whether he was saying “save you.” The “s,” it’s a slightly “sh” in Bengali pronunciation. So people were thinking, “Is he saying ‘save you’ or is he saying ‘shave you’?” So Prabhupada immediately picked up on that and he said, “Yes, He has come to save you and shave you. Caitanya Mahaprabhu has come to save you and shave you,” and he kept repeating it. It was so funny.
Tripurari Swami: Lord Jagannatha is the Lord of the Universe, that is what His name means. Rathayatra is about dragging Him off His throne. Sometimes the ropes that pull the chariot are compared to the hearts of the gopis because He is being pulled by their affection and the affection of the inhabitants of Vrindavan from His lordly status in Dwaraka, where He appears four-handed and so forth, down to becoming accessible to the common people. And you can’t get any more common than cowherds, villagers, unsophisticated, uneducated people. So they’re dragging Him down off the throne and in doing so they are making Him accessible to the common people, and Jagannatha is becoming accessible during a Rathayatra. You can’t go in unless you are of a certain birth; and besides that, you can’t go and touch Him and serve Him directly. But during Rathayatra, anyone can serve Him. Even ordinary people will sometimes be brought up onto the cart and allowed to embrace Balarama or Jagannatha. So it is very much the case that Prabhupada, as an inhabitant of Vrindavan, was bringing the Lord of the Universe out beyond the wildest expectations. Even the people of Jagannatha Puri, who acknowledge this is His day to come out and give association to the people, couldn’t imagine that He would appear on the other side of the ocean giving darshan to people who didn’t even know what it was about. As you can see in the film, so many people came, so many common people from all over San Francisco used to gather in those days. And just wondering, Prabhupada just wondering, “How this is all happening to me? Why this is happening?” So unassuming. “Why me? I don’t know, but I have to honor it, it’s happening.” That was his mood. His whole mood of the Western success was celebrating the mission of Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur taking hold unexpectedly in this foreign land. Sridhar Maharaj once told us that Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur on more than one occasion expressed a desire to spend a decade in America preaching. This was before America became the prominent country in the world, before World War II when England was still the prominent country and, therefore, he sent emissary to England. But he had apparently a vision that America would become the most dominant country in the world, and he had a desire for going and spending 10 years to preach in America. After telling us that, Sridhar Maharaj said, “And through Swami Maharaj, your Prabhupada, he got 10 years plus 2. Twelve years I consider Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur lived in him.” What could be a greater tribute to how well one has served their guru than that?
Kaumadaki dasi: Srila Prabhupada sat on Subhadra’s cart, and so I walked beside that cart because I wanted to have Srila Prabhupada’s darshan as much as possible. He was so happy and radiant. And partway along the route he raised up his hand and stopped the procession for a short time, and thousands of people stopped just because Srila Prabhupada raised his right hand.
Hridayananda Goswami: Prabhupada at a certain point indicated that he had to go relieve himself. And so they simply stopped the cart and he got down and began to walk into the forest, which, of course, in India that’s what anyone would do. So the devotees thought it was some kind of ceremony so they all started following him, dozens of devotees started marching over there. Prabhupada just laughed. He turned around and laughed and held his hand up and said, “No, you all stay here.”
Kaumadaki dasi: Then when he was ready to go again, he made a gesture with his right hand like “onward, forward,” and all of a sudden all the carts started moving again. Thousands of people just started moving. It was so wonderful. It was the most wonderful feeling to be anywhere near Srila Prabhupada.
Vatsala das: My friend Vatsara, he came to visit me in San Francisco, and we started going to different spiritual communities. By this time, I had kind of accepted this spiritual master, Swami Satchidananda. I didn’t really know that much about him, but I had read Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita and I said, “Geez, I need a spiritual master.” But I didn’t really think of the author of that Bhagavad-gita, Prabhupada – the old one with the blue Vishnu on the cover. So anyway, we went to this group and that group and he said, “Well, let’s go to the Hare Krishnas.” I said, “Oh, I’ve been there,” because I had been there for a Sunday Feast, and I was kind of a yogi and this and that and the devotees are running around here and there. I said, “It’s a little bit…there’s running around too much for me.” So I said, “You go ahead.” So he went, and he spent the whole day there. And he came back and he talked about, “God, I went there and I met this guy, the garbage man, and he was so far out, he told me all this stuff,” and he was going on and on and on. It turns out that that was Jayananda. He spent the whole day with Jayananda, emptying the garbage and going here and going there. So he said, “They’re having another program in the evening,” and so I said, “OK, I’ll go with you.” So we went and that was it. The next day we went out and bought cloth for dhotis and cloth for saris and beads; and by the time we got back home, we had decided we’re going to shave up. So we shaved up and we shaved up the kids, and then we showed up at the temple the next day. All the devotees said, “What are you doing? You can’t do that!” Anyway, we said, “Here we are, we’re doing it.” So it was from this association with Jayananda that we became devotees. So me being a practical, mechanically minded person, I naturally fell in with Jayananda because he was always doing something, fixing a car or… We’d go out and work, and I was kind of like Jayananda’s right-hand man at that time. We’d be out working on the carts and stuff like that, or going to pick stuff up to bring back for the carts, or at the temple preparing something for Rathayatra. Prabhupada came and, like I said, Jayananda’s mood was that “What are we going to gain really by going to see Prabhupada? He wanted this service done.” So that was better than being in Prabhupada’s presence. That was more satisfying to Prabhupada and, therefore, it would be more satisfying to us. So we did that. Jayananda, of course, didn’t say that and then run off and go be with Prabhupada. Actually after Rathayatra, later that day Jayananda finally went over to go see Prabhupada, and he wasn’t there two minutes and he fell asleep. Prabhupada made some comment, I think, about Jayananda sleeping, some nice comment how he’s worked so hard and now he’s sleeping.
Srila Prabhupada: People follow, imitate Americans. I am traveling all over the world. Everywhere I see they are trying to manufacture the skyscraper building, imitating your country. So if you kindly become Krishna conscious and chant and dance in ecstasy devotional love of God, the whole world will follow you and it will be Vaikuntha, there will be no more trouble. Thank you very much.
Padyavali dasi: Prabhupada went onstage. Vishnujan was on the corner of the stage, Bahudak was in front of Prabhupada. Behind Bahudak from the crowd there’s a hand sticking up, that’s my hand. I was standing there with Vishnujan’s mother and Vishnujan’s sister, and I had been explaining to his mother what the harmonium is and the mridanga and how popular and how well-loved Vishnujan was in the movement and how much we appreciated his singing, that he actually was the best. She was very proud of her son. Prabhupada, after he finished his short lecture, he started to throw the roses from the stage. I was hoping that Vishnujan’s mother would catch something, and Prabhupada threw the whole bunch of roses and she caught it.
Visakha dasi: When Prabhupada went on the stage at the end of the procession, I also tried to go on the stage. But some person who I didn’t know stopped me and said that no women were allowed on the stage. So I tried to reason with him, saying that I was authorized by the BBT trustees and they had paid for my fare and my film, but this person was adamant. So I left the stage and I went to the middle of the field behind the huge assembly of devotees and guests, and I sat down in an empty chair there. A short time later I looked and, to my surprise, Srila Prabhupada had gotten up off the vyasasana and was raising his arms in the air and beginning to dance. So I immediately climbed on the chair and began to take photographs, and it turned out that I could not have found a better position to be in than that very one where I was. So I’m grateful to this person, who apparently was an obstacle but in fact was a great help in my service.
Hridayananda Goswami: I actually had a premonition that something amazing is about to happen, and then it did. Prabhupada got up, began dancing, jumping up and down. And as he danced and held out his arms, he stretched out his arms toward the crowd, he began turning as he danced from side to side in stages. And we could see Prabhupada showering blessings on the people, it was practically visible. There are many pictures, there are many photographs, there are these extraordinarily ecstatic expressions on the faces of the devotees. It truly was a mystical spiritual experience. I personally am always more inclined toward philosophy and spiritual logic than just esoteric mystical things, but this was miraculous. It was truly miraculous. You could see Prabhupada showering blessings on the people.
Kaumadaki dasi: Then he left the stage and went back to the temple, and we kept dancing and chanting until the sun went down. We felt lighter than air. We were so joyful and so happy to be dancing and chanting with Srila Prabhupada. It was the most wonderful, joyous event.
Praghosa das: We were out in the crowd serving prasadam, and there was a kirtan on the stage. There were a lot of people sitting in rows and we were serving, but there were also a lot of people behind the rows standing facing the stage listening. At a certain point in time, the crowd was chanting and they became visibly stirred, roaring. Everybody’s hands were up in the air and all the devotees that were serving the prasadam, we all... “What’s going on?” We look at them, and then we turned around and looked back at the stage and Srila Prabhupada was on the stage with his hands up in the air, and he was jumping up and down with a big smile on his face. It was almost like a transference of incredible happiness just shot through the crowd, and everybody simultaneously in that moment became surcharged with mercy really, Prabhupada’s mercy. He gave everyone mercy. Clearly he was so happy to see everyone celebrating Rathayatra.
Prajapati das: This is a Bhagavad-gita dance. Krishna is played by Satarupa, Arjuna by Anasuya, and the sage by Jambhavati. We took the 108 principal verses or danceable verses from the Bhagavad-gita, and I narrated it while they performed it using ballet and Bharat Natyam to tell the story of the Bhagavad-gita. Prabhupada saw this in the Los Angeles temple, liked it very much. So we did perform it in India in 1975 and 1977. He also liked the system of having a narrator speaking and the actors or dancers acting it out. He said, “That way you can go to any country in the world and have the narration in whatever language the people understand, and the performers can act out the dance.” He very much encouraged us in this utilizing fine arts for spreading Krishna consciousness. One morning walk he said, “Yes, whoever is an artist, let them dance only, let them paint only, let them…whatever their art is, they should do that for Krishna.”
Yadubara das: When we heard Srila Prabhupada was to be interviewed at a TV station in San Francisco, we tagged along hoping to be able to film him. So we showed up at the TV station and asked the producer if it was all right to set up our 16 mm camera and shoot, and he said, “Why not?” He was very obliging. I was surprised actually. During the interview, you’ll hear a thumping sound as Srila Prabhupada is speaking; and that’s his hand, as you can see in the visual, going up and down thumping on the table. Unfortunately, we had placed our microphone right next to his hand. We didn’t pick a very good place for the mike. As we were shooting, we could hear that thumping and, of course, we couldn’t really stop the interview.
Srila Prabhupada: Thank you very much.
Interviewer: You founded the Hare Krishna Movement some seven years ago in 1968, did you not?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Interviewer: In a capsule, what is the Movement?
Srila Prabhupada: The movement is to awaken God consciousness of the human being. The human being is distinct…distinguished from the animals that the animals cannot understand what is God. And if the human being also does not understand what is God, then he is animal.
Interviewer: I see. And so your Movement is to bring about an understanding of God among human beings.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Interviewer: And “Hare Krishna” means what?
Srila Prabhupada: “Hare Krishna” means addressing the energy of God. “Hare” means the energy of God, and “Krishna” means God.
Interviewer: OK. You were here yesterday to attend your annual festival that was held here in Golden Gate Park, and we were there too. And, in fact, here it is. A few thousand people came out to hear it. How many people are now disciples of the Krishna consciousness movement?
Srila Prabhupada: Dedicated life, about ten thousand.
Interviewer: About ten thousand dedicated ones.
Srila Prabhupada: In the Western world.
Interviewer: Your Grace, is there any significance at all in the shaved head? Why are heads shaved?
Srila Prabhupada: We keep ourselves very clean, that’s all.
Interviewer: Oh, it’s just a cleanliness thing.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Interviewer: Is there any significance in the color of the robes?
Srila Prabhupada: At least at the present moment, people think that by keeping long hair he becomes very beautiful.
Interviewer: I see.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. So we are against that.
Interviewer: Just as simple as that. Is there any significance in the yellow robes?
Srila Prabhupada: Yellow robe is the dress those who are dedicated.
Interviewer: It could very well have been a blue robe, it’s just something that was arrived at.
Srila Prabhupada: This saffron.
Interviewer: Your Grace, why do you feel that so many people are pulling away from the traditional religions in this country such as Christianity and so forth and going for the…trying to understand the Eastern religions? We hear a lot of swamis and gurus and other type of yogi and so forth. Why do you feel that people are pulling away from the traditional Christian standards here?
Srila Prabhupada: But we see that the Christian churches, especially I have seen in London, mostly closed. People are not interested or the Christian leaders, they cannot make them interested.
Interviewer: Why? Did Christianity fail the people, which is why they’re turning to other things?
Srila Prabhupada: I think so.
Interviewer: You say that Hare Krishna consciousness pretty much takes the Absolute Truths from the Bible, the Koran, the Torah and the Vedic.
Srila Prabhupada: Everywhere.
Srila Prabhupada: Religion means to understand God.
Interviewer: I understand. But do you feel that in getting truths from various places like the Bible and the Koran and so forth, don’t you run into conflicts at all or contradictions in those particular philosophies?
Srila Prabhupada: No, I don’t find any conflict because the ultimate goal is God. So you have to understand God and try to love Him. So you can go through any religious process. If the goal is attained that you understand what is God and you try to love Him, then your life is perfect.
Interviewer: Why do we see so many of your followers chanting almost all the time?
Srila Prabhupada: Chanting means to keep association with God always.
Interviewer: So you have to audibly chant Hare Krishna?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. This is transcendental vibration. Just like a radio message. If you keep contact with the radio message, then you know everything what is going on outside. Similarly, this transcendental sound, Hare Krishna, if you chant, then you keep connection with God directly.
Interviewer: Thank you very much, Your Divine Grace. It’s been our privilege to talk with you and to meet you.
Srila Prabhupada: Thank you very much.
Interviewer: And I hope that we can see you again when you return.
Srila Prabhupada: Hare Krishna.
Interviewer: We’ll be back with more news in just a moment.
July 1974: LONDON, ENGLAND – Rathayatra
Mokshalakshmi dasi: Rathayatra 1974, London. In one way it was very different to most Rathayatras because there were three palanquins instead of what we previously had, one large chariot. There was some problem in the 1973 Rathayatra with health and safety. So we had these three palanquins, which in one sense was a little disappointing because the 1973 Rathayatra was such an exceptional occurrence because Srila Prabhupada had come to that Rathayatra and he danced all the way from Marble Arch down Park Avenue right down to Trafalgar Square. And I’m talking dancing here, arms raised, jumping up and down. To watch Prabhupada doing that was just the most amazing spectacle you could ever see. It was truly wonderful. So 1974 wasn’t quite of that caliber in that we didn’t have the large cart, we had the three palanquins which were carried shoulder height, and Srila Prabhupada wasn’t there. But it was very ecstatic because it was Rathayatra and Lord Jagannatha was out wandering in the streets of London. We took the same route so we could remember when Prabhupada was with us, which was really nice. And, of course, the kirtan was ecstatic. You can see in the video Revatinandan Swami is leading some fantastic kirtan as he’d been doing in the ’73 one when Prabhupada was dancing. So in that way, some really wonderful memories. That’s me in the blue sari with the yellow cardigan, just to prove I was there. And look, the hair’s beautifully tied back. I’ve had the same hairstyle for almost 40 years now because that’s what Prabhupada wanted and that’s what we’ve done, we’ve always tried to do what Prabhupada wanted.
July 1974: DALLAS, TEXAS – Arrival, Interview, Temple Program
Vrindavan das: Right now I’m looking at this beautiful footage of Srila Prabhupada’s arrival at Dallas Airport in 1974. I was 7 years old at the time, and I remember how excited we were. By this time, I think this was my fifth time maybe of getting to see Prabhupada. And from my experience at that time, the movement was so wonderful, it was going so well and, especially as a child, that was the universe for us, that was it. Prabhupada’s coming was the greatest event going on in the whole history of the planet, that was the vibe. So I remember we all got ready, we go to the airport and we were waiting for Prabhupada. Then he finally shows up and there’s huge kirtan, and then there was such a joyous feeling.
Rajendranandana das: I drove a bus to the Dallas Airport with all the children. It seemed like I was the only one that had the experience of driving that big a vehicle. We got there, and we were all waiting expectantly. I had never met my spiritual master before. The excitement was so high. Finally someone said, “Ah, he’s coming!” The kirtan is going uproariously, I remember that, and then we all hit the deck. Then when I got up, it was like Srila Prabhupada was parting the Red Sea, that was the feeling that I had. I was crying in ecstasy, finally getting to see my spiritual master. Even before seeing him, you could feel the wave of his presence coming down this long corridor. It was overwhelming.
Vrindavan das: They had a room set up for Prabhupada to greet the media people. So then we all go in there and it was set up really luxuriously, and there was lots of prasadam and flowers. Prabhupada sat down, and then the media people started asking him questions. That’s a famous one where they ask, “Well, what is a hippie?” One thing I noticed even as a kid was the way our teachers had a way of making us look down on karmis and people who weren’t devotees. So we always had this feeling, “Oh, once we see Prabhupada interacting with these people, they’re either going to fully surrender or he’s going to smash them and show them what fools they were.” So first I noticed how charming he was to everyone. He really knew how to bring out the best in the people and want them to feel positive about meeting him, and I really noticed that. He didn’t smash them and get heavy with them. He actually would win them over through charm. He would get them to laugh, he’d get them to feel good and comfortable around him, and I really, really admired that, especially because our teachers were kind of young guys and they didn’t have much life experience so they had a real heavy mentality. So when we would see Prabhupada, we were always waiting for him to do that to people, but I never saw him like that. He was always wonderful, charming, and he would reinforce the sincerity and the genuineness in the people that came to see him. I have to admit too, I remember feeling a little surprised, “How come these people that just got this wonderful exchange with Prabhupada didn’t immediately run to the temple and follow us and shave up or put on a sari or anything?”
Sivarama Swami: We were in Dallas, and as traveling sankirtan we’d come all the way down from Montreal. It was probably just after Mardi Gras. We went out to the airport. We missed Prabhupada when he arrived. By the time we got to the temple, there was Guru Puja going on. Up until then I’d never seen Prabhupada in person, and that was after six years of being involved in Krishna consciousness. When I saw Prabhupada, I related to him as a moving picture of Prabhupada. He looked like Prabhupada in the picture who is moving. That was my impression at that time, that Prabhupada was actually nondifferent than his picture.
Rupa Vilasa das: There was a discussion. Prabhupada was talking about Vedanta, and he was saying that the Mayavadis couldn’t understand Vedanta. Then he began to question us, why couldn’t they understand? He was specifically mentioning Ramakrishna and other famous Mayavadis. He said, “Why couldn’t he understand?” So then Brahmananda replied, “Naham prakasah sarvasya yoga-maya,” that verse from Bhagavad-gita, and Prabhupada wasn’t satisfied with that answer. Then someone else gave another answer, but he wasn’t satisfied with that either. Then finally Dayananda sat bolt upright and he said, “They cannot understand because they haven’t got Bhaktivedanta.” So Prabhupada smiled and said, “Here is the answer.” And it was such a nice answer on two levels. One, that they didn’t have Prabhupada; and on the other level, they didn’t have any bhakti. So how could they understand the end of truth? So Prabhupada was really happy with that answer, and I remember I felt like all of us were slightly envious that Dayananda had come up with this fabulous answer.
Rajendranandana das: Bali Mardan came with his wife; and Prabhupada in private made some comments, why he had given up sannyasa for this particular lady because she wasn’t who she had been said to be and she wasn’t all that attractive. But Prabhupada received them very nicely, and he was so encouraging. I thought that was very, very instructive how somebody had some difficulty but Srila Prabhupada never forgot the service that they had rendered. And his love for those who surrendered their lives to him and helped him, certainly these special souls that helped him extensively in the early days, his gratitude was boundless. As we heard later on in the 8th Canto, that one may have difficulty in one ashram, the ashram wasn’t the main thing. Wherever one would find strength, one should situate oneself in those circumstances so that one could continue in one’s Krishna consciousness.
Vinode Vani dasi: The Dallas temple was quite involved in studying Bhagavad-gita, and we would have a verse for the day and that would be chanted before every part of the morning program. It would be chanted before the prasadam prayer. As a group we would recite the verse, and the idea is that by the end of the day pretty much you knew the verse. In this way, we were quickly learning entire chapters of Bhagavad-gita. So we were quite proud of ourselves, and there used to be a prize. If you could chant an entire chapter of Bhagavad-gita without making so many mistakes, you would get a maha plate; and that was a really big deal. So when Srila Prabhupada came, we were very proud of our accomplishments. So we brought the entire temple in and all the children, and we started the recitation of Bhagavad-gita from Chapter 1, verse 1; and I think by that time we could get through 10, 12 chapters in unison as a temple. It was a very ecstatic feeling to be chanting like that. But at the end Prabhupada just stopped us cold, and he pointed to one of the children and said, “So what does this particular verse mean?” And, of course, we were not so expert in being able to give the meaning for the verse. And Prabhupada stressed upon us that as nice as it was that we were chanting the Bhagavad-gita in Sanskrit, it would actually be more important to know the meaning.
Krishna Kumari dasi: Because I had some educational background, I was sent to Dallas. I had the unique situation of being drop loaded as a new devotee into a situation as a teacher. So while I was taking care of the children, they actually taught me Krishna consciousness. They were my bhakta leaders. Their Krishna consciousness was completely genuine. So those principles that I learned from them, like full dependence on Krishna and turning to Krishna at every moment, are what have kept me in service to Srila Prabhupada’s movement all these years.
Reporter #1: I think this is the first school, isn’t it, in the United States to be established? Why was Dallas particularly chosen for the school?
Srila Prabhupada: It was Krishna’s choice.
Reporter: Krishna’s choice. He chose Dallas.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, we got a nice house and we accepted it. So it was Krishna’s choice.
Woman reporter: Where does the national or the international Krishna organization get its funds? From simply donations? They’ve been criticized occasionally for being very wealthy.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that is our reputation. Even in Indian Parliament this question was raised that these Hare Krishna fabulously rich, where they get money? Somebody suspected we are getting bribes from American government.
Woman reporter: The Krishna religion teaches that women are to be subservient to men always. Why?
Devotee: The Krishna religion teaches that women should be subservient, should be subordinate to men. She is asking why.
Srila Prabhupada: Well, not should be, they are by nature.
Sankirtan das: It seemed that Prabhupada enjoyed creating some controversy where the media would pick up on that controversy because he knew that the media thrived on controversy. So I think he was using the men 64 ounce brain capacity and the women 36 ounce brain capacity as a way to kind of playfully stir up some controversy about the Hare Krishna movement. And then he knew that people would be talking about it, and it was a way that Prabhupada, just like an uncle might tease the children of his son and pinch them or make fun of them, I think Prabhupada often played the role of the elderly uncle making fun or teasing in various situations. But ultimately, before Prabhupada left Chicago, he did tell the devotees that the women who join this movement are just as intelligent as the men are.
Jnanagamya das: One of Prabhupada’s lectures there at the temple someone asked, “What is it like to be in the position you’re in?” It seemed like the question was addressed, “What is it like to be the guru?” or “What is it like to be in your exalted position and have so many people worshiping you?” and so forth. He just said, “I am never afraid.” It was amazing. You could have heard a pin drop for about 30 seconds there, it was completely quiet.
Rajendranandana das: So we greeted his car there. It was a very short distance from the curb of the street to the temple, but we greeted him throwing flowers. Then he went into the temple and offered his respects to Radha-Kalachandji. If he spent any time in the temple at all, he hardly said anything, very short. “Glad to be here, glad to see the children again.” And he went up into his room, where he was passing out rasgullas.
Bimala dasi: Everyone started dispersing and going back to their respective places, the classroom or the…I was taking my son home. All of a sudden, one of Prabhupada’s servants came running through the building saying, “Prabhupada wants to see all the children.” It was such a terrific surprise, and the mothers got their babies. He said, “Everybody, all the children,” because at first we were thinking it was just the schoolchildren. We all came up and he said, “Prabhupada has rasgullas for all the children.” So everyone started lining up, and Prabhupada gave a rasgulla to each child. The kids, all they’ve seen is pictures of Prabhupada, they’ve heard stories of Prabhupada, they learned the obeisances to Prabhupada; but here he was, and they were just awestruck. My heart was so filled because having a child I knew how he’s reaching them on such a personal level, and he even asked for the babies. Jagadisa, he would say something about each child to Prabhupada, “This is so-and-so,” and he would say a thing about him. When I brought Iswara Puri up he said, “And this is Iswara Puri, he is Mandaleswara’s son. He’s a rascal.” Prabhupada just laughed, and then he gave him the rasgulla. Then he drops it. I picked it up and gave it back to him. Years later we saw this footage and Ish told me, “When I dropped that rasgulla, you picked it up for me. That’s been the story of my life. I’m dropping Krishna consciousness, and you’re always picking it up and giving it back to me.”
Dayananda das: I specifically remember a meeting in which some of the teachers asked Prabhupada’s advice about teaching. At that time, I seem to remember there were two camps. One camp really wanted to be very loving to the students, they somehow wanted to control the students through affection or through love, and then another camp of teachers wanted to be very strict with the students. I remember very clearly that Prabhupada said that we needed to communicate affection to the students. I can’t remember the precise words that Prabhupada used, but I remember very clearly getting the message from Prabhupada that the teacher needs to have real affection for the student and he needs to be able to communicate that affection to the student. Otherwise how will the student take what the teacher is giving? There may certainly be discipline, but this real affection coming from the teacher to the student has to be there. The other thing that happened before I arrived there was that Prabhupada had visited a couple of years prior to this visit and he wrote a letter in which he said, “If the students are beaten or if the stick is used on the students, I will use the stick on the teacher.” So my understanding of that was always that the teachers should not consider themselves the highest authority and they shouldn’t misuse their position as teachers and they should always be mindful of the fact that they are answerable to a higher authority, and that whatever they administer to the students that they certainly will have to either enjoy or suffer themselves in the future. Also, what’s prominent in my mind is that Prabhupada always loved children. Before, during and after my gurukula experience, I always remember Prabhupada being very affectionate to children and to anyone who was in the dependent situation.
Raghunath das: I was recognized as being something of a hyperactive, a little bit out of control, difficult-to-deal-with kid. My first remembrance of Prabhupada was the wave of utter and absolute thrill and excitement that I experienced seeing him, which even as a boy took me by surprise. When Prabhupada came around, it really transformed me. You took one glance at Prabhupada and you were there, and you could step right into it. It was more than tangible, you ate it, and it would last about as long as I was in Prabhupada’s company. After about an hour, I would start losing it and start acting 7 or 8 years old again. It really seemed everyone was very harsh in comparison to what Prabhupada was about. So as soon as Prabhupada would come, we would get nice clothes and we would get new bedding and the prasadam was really good and the harshness of the discipline went way down, which is the opposite of if you have a military superior officer coming through. Then what happens is the discipline gets more and more severe and strict. Here it seemed to happen that when Prabhupada came around, people lightened up a little bit. They seemed to become a little bit more blissful and respectful and sweet.
Karnamrita dasi: I remember being in New Vrindavan with Prabhupada the first time, I must have been 2 or 3 years old. The Deities would open, we’d be standing in front of Vrindavan Chandra, and I would be dancing and holding Prabhupada’s hand. You zone in on small little details, and the detail I remember was holding his hand and I would stop dancing because I would start rubbing the palm of his hand because it was so soft. The softness of Prabhupada’s hand reminds me of the way that I feel about Prabhupada. After a while, he’d let go of my hand and he’d motion for me to dance and jump up and down. He’d begin smiling and making me jump higher and more and more. After the kirtans, Prabhupada would go and sit down on his vyasasana. Everyone was sitting and listening to class, and I’d run out to the garden and pick a flower and run back in and pay obeisances in front of Prabhupada and hand it to him, pay obeisances, run back out, pick a flower, run back in, pay obeisances. I kept doing this all through the class, and Prabhupada never said anything. For me, I didn’t have that fear of Prabhupada. You could tell that he would let you come close to him and hold his hand, and he’d encourage you to dance. Then when I got older I was in Dallas gurukula, and I must have been 5, maybe 6. Jagadisa Maharaj would be standing there introducing each of us as we walked in the room, what our name was, who our parents were, what temple we were from, and Prabhupada would give us a rasgulla sweet. I remember for some reason we went through quite quickly, but there was a couple of children where Prabhupada would ask more questions about them. By that time, I had learned that Prabhupada was someone really special, and I was nervous. They were asking questions about me when I was there and I thought, “Hurry up, hurry up, this is making me nervous!” So I came back from Dallas gurukula to New Vrindavan in 1976, and that was the last year that I saw Prabhupada. I didn’t go down and hold his hands at that age, and I didn’t go down and offer flowers like I did when I was small. I used to sing in the temple, and at one point Prabhupada had asked me to sing. I came inside the room and I sang the first verse of Samsara Dava, and he said, “Keep singing.” Some other people came in and started talking, but I left the room. My mother had always wanted me to sing. It came up later on that I liked singing, but Prabhupada had asked me to keep singing that day that I went into his room.
Ambarisa das: I paid my obeisances, and Atulananda was there. He gave me Prabhupada’s garland. So I was really nervous. And as soon as I got up, I looked at Srila Prabhupada, who was sitting behind his desk. The first thing he said, “So you are Henry Ford’s great-grandson?” and I said, “Yes, Srila Prabhupada.” Then he said to me in a very grave voice, “So where is he now?” So I was a little stunned. My immediate reaction was, “Well, he’s dead,” but then I was thinking that this wasn’t really what Prabhupada was talking about. He was saying where is his soul now, which I didn’t have a really good answer for. So then Prabhupada spoke for a little while, and he was saying something along the lines that Henry Ford was such a famous man. He said, “Now you should become just as famous for being a devotee.”
Rupa Vilasa das: There was a teacher who I had been cultivating. He was teaching in the public schools, and he had won the award for being the best teacher in the county and he was interested in Krishna consciousness. But he had somewhat of a disaster in his life because he had doubled as a bus driver and on Valentine’s Day one of the children he had let off the bus had crawled under the bus to retrieve a Valentine and he had run over this child and killed it, not knowing the child was there. So he wanted to meet Prabhupada, but at the same time he was in distress. So I asked Prabhupada if he could see him and he said, “Yes, bring him this evening at seven.” I explained to Prabhupada that he had this concern because he was being sued by the parents. So Prabhupada began to ask him so many questions to get all the details of the story, and I was kind of surprised. “Did you have insurance? Did you look both ways?” He was asking almost like his attorney, asking him all the particulars of the case. Then after he had heard everything, Prabhupada said, “It’s all right. No court of law will hold you responsible for this. You did everything you were supposed to do.” Then this boy was completely relieved. It was then that Prabhupada actually began to seriously preach to him, and he began to tell us a story about Wernher von Braun, the V-2 rocket scientist from Germany that had come over to help develop the missile program in this country. Apparently Wernher von Braun and an assembly of scientists had stated that he thought the whole purpose of science is to prove the existence of God. So Prabhupada was making arrangements that some devotees would bring him copies of his books. Then he began to explain how the universe was like a machine and that God was ultimately the driver of the machine. So then I got excited. I said, “Prabhupada, this is wonderful. He’s such a famous person. If he becomes a devotee, then…” and he cut me off. He said, “We are not interested in speaking to him because he is a famous person.” He said, “We are interested in speaking to him because he has come to the right point. That is our interest.” So he immediately corrected me that he wasn’t cultivating the man because he was famous or that he could do something for us, but rather because he had actually come to this serious point of inquiry.
Krishna Kumari dasi: One time when we had a big ceremony in the temple, the little girls that you see here…I had many of them, over 20, and they all had to behave properly and it was a bit of a chore to do it. One of them started crying, and I actually had to take her out of the temple room and put her in a classroom. Then later after Srila Prabhupada finished his program in the temple room, he was headed to his own quarters and usually he went directly to his quarters. But instead he stopped in front of one classroom, the classroom that I’d put the child in, and there was no way that he could see through the door to see that there was anyone in the classroom. It was a solid door. But he opened that door particularly; and when he opened it, it bumped right into the child who had fallen asleep in back of the door. Then she quickly got up and paid her obeisances, and I’ll never forget that compassionate look on his face seeing this child’s tear-streaked face and rumpled clothing from laying on the floor. She sat up with her hands folded, and he touched her head. And that one gesture of Srila Prabhupada giving love to this child who I’d had to have removed because of her behavior taught me more than anything because Srila Prabhupada was so warm and so personal. Then I realized that if I’m following in his footsteps, I better at least try to become a little like that myself.
Rupa Vilasa das: There was a garden off to the side of the temple that had been made quite a nice place with a little fountain and a lot of Tulasi plants, and he used to have evening darshans out there and the devotees would read from Krsna Book. At one point, Brahmananda was reading from the Krsna Book the kidnapping of Rukmini. And in the middle of the story in the part where Krishna actually grabs Rukmini and makes off with her, Prabhupada suddenly sat upright and his eyes got very big, he said, “Yes! And as they were driving away, she was driving the chariot!” and he made this gesture like holding the reins. “She was driving the chariot. Not that she was just some weak woman not able to do anything. She was actually driving the chariot.” Because he got so excited about that, I went and looked it up in the Krsna Book to see if there were any details like that, but there weren’t any. So apparently he had some kind of inside track on this particular pastime.
Garuda das: Prabhupada chanting in the temple room in front of Radha-Kalachandji. I’ll never forget this. Prabhupada got into chanting the Maha Mantra over and over and over, and the devotees absolutely went wild. It didn’t start off wild. It started off as normal chanting, we were all sitting down. But it got to a point where it was building up to such a fervor, everyone was running back and forth between Radha-Kalachandji and Prabhupada at the other end because it’s a big temple room. We went back and forth, and it seemed like it went on for an ecstatic eternity. Then at one point, I stopped and looked at Prabhupada chanting, over on the side so I wouldn’t get trampled because it was a rather wild group. But I remember looking at Prabhupada and I said, “This is the whole reason he has come, simply to chant the Holy Names.” I have this picture in my mind of Prabhupada chanting. I’d like to die with that picture.
July 1974: NEW VRINDAVAN, WEST VIRGINIA – Walk, Darshan, Initiation
Varsana Swami: Prabhupada went for a morning walk in Talavan. Prabhupada came out in this open field; and as soon as he stepped out of the woods and onto the field, he stopped and looked at the devotees. He had a serious concern in his countenance and he asked, “Why are these fields fallow, and why aren’t there any men working these fields and where is the oxen?” And that really impressed me. I was the only one farming at that time. I didn’t say anything, but it really touched me that Prabhupada was attentive to what was being done in the agricultural realm. He had an awareness of the importance of an agrarian culture, not just for the sake of having your own food if and when the economy fails and all that, but for the sake of, as he explains, living off nature’s gifts as a matter of relationships where everything and everyone is assisting everyone and everything else in serving Krishna. And that kind of spirit fosters an appreciation for everyone and everything, which also fosters more appreciation of the designer of this whole perfect arrangement. And also seeing food as more than food and water as more than water, but sacraments. I had been doing farm work and conservation work all my life, and I had seen the plight of the American farmer from 1950 on. I saw the introduction of tractors and how they displaced the draft animals, from which came overproduction of food, from which came government paying the farmers more for not growing than they get for the crops, from the farms all going under, being bought up by the big exploitive farmers. I saw this whole syndrome. And then I saw by this concern, and it wasn’t just a question, you could see on his face a serious concern that this would befall the devotees in New Vrindavan because he was aware of this whole tendency and syndrome. His terminology, like defining the tractor as the killer of the bull. If you’re not seeing yourself as dependent on the land and dependent on the oxen, then you’re not going to have the proper appreciation, you’re not going to have cow protection on the level of what he defined as the cows are jolly. They’re not jolly unless they’re contributing to society. So seeing these things that Prabhupada would pick up on gave me such an appreciation of the depth of his wisdom and the integrity of his understanding of all aspects of spiritual life.
Soma das: In the summer of ’73 is when they started work on Srila Prabhupada’s Palace. I came in August, and right away I started working up at the Palace. So when Prabhupada came in ’74… There had been correspondence with Kirtanananda Maharaj and Srila Prabhupada about the Palace, and Prabhupada kept on saying he was very anxious to come see the Palace. Me and my godbrother, Gostha-bihari, we were the only two people that were working on the Palace at that time. It was just some concrete blocks, there was no roof, it was mostly just a mud floor. I think they had just started to lay marble in one room and they only had two pieces of marble down, and the rest…it was just a construction site, nothing at all really to look at. Prabhupada, he got out of the car, and I remember he had a big smile on his face. Kirtanananda Maharaj was showing him around the Palace and saying, “This is where the Deity room will be, and from your study you’ll be able to look at the Deities. And this will be your bedroom and your bathroom,” and Prabhupada was smiling, beaming. He was taking his cane and poking it on the walls and he poked the doorjamb, making sure things were solid. There was a pile of cement that just had some plastic over it, and Prabhupada said, “You should cover this better.” Me and Gostha-bihari were there. We thought, “Why did he say that? It’s perfectly covered with plastic.” And it wasn’t until a week after Prabhupada had left that when we opened it up, when it had rained some water had gotten in and ruined some of the bags. Prabhupada was so alert, he’d notice things like that. Then Bali Mardan prabhu said, “Srila Prabhupada, in the Krsna Book it says that Krishna’s palace was illuminated with the jewels on the wall.” Prabhupada lifted his cane up and waved it towards the devotees and he said, “These devotees are my jewels.”
Srutakirti das: I rejoined Prabhupada in New Vrindavan in 1974. I was away for six months, and that’s when I had gotten married. So now I was a grihastha. This one day the secretary starts reading this letter, and it’s from one of Prabhupada’s disciples and he’s the temple president and he’s married. In the letter, he asked Prabhupada if it’s OK if he gets a divorce and remarries. In the same paragraph he asked this question. So I’m just rubbing Prabhupada’s back and listening, and Prabhupada gave his permission. He said, “Yes, that’s OK.” So as soon as he said it, I couldn’t understand how Prabhupada had given that answer. I had been with him for a long time, listened to so many classes and Prabhupada speaking about Vedic society and marriage and no divorce; and when he said that, I became confused. Of course, I didn’t say anything, it wasn’t my position to speak. I knew Prabhupada…what he said was correct, but I didn’t understand it. It was probably the only time where I felt like that, that I just didn’t understand Prabhupada’s answer. Every evening I would give Prabhupada massage as well. So that evening I was actually so troubled that I thought, “I’m going to say something. I have to ask Prabhupada why he had said that.” I was at the foot of his bed, and I was rubbing his legs and rubbing his feet; and Prabhupada is lying down in bed just so peaceful, which was a little troublesome because you don’t want to say anything. But it was bothering me that much that I did. So finally, “Prabhupada, you remember during massage today that devotee sent a letter and he asked you if it was OK to get a divorce,” and I couldn’t even say “and get remarried.” As soon as I said it, “get a divorce,” Prabhupada said, “Yes, I told him it was all right.” I said, “Yes, Prabhupada, that’s why I’m asking because you always say that no divorce, there is no question of divorce. Once one is married, they stay together. But you told him it was OK.” Prabhupada said, “Yes, in your country these things are going on, very common.” Again, I had thought a lot about what I wanted to say to him. So as soon as he said that, I said, “Yes, but also in our country meat-eating is common and intoxication is common, but these things are forbidden for us.” Then he changed his tone and he became more serious. “Yes,” he said. “If I tell him no, still he is going to get a divorce and get remarried. So if I tell him yes, then the offense is not so great.” As soon as he said it, I could hear it in his voice and, of course, immediately I could understand Prabhupada’s compassion for everyone, for all of us. And it’s that quality that I got to see all the time with Prabhupada being with him outside of the temple room, where he would always speak from the Vedas and the sastra and always spoke the Absolute Truth. But as he dealt with us, Prabhupada was very kind and very compassionate. So I felt very happy. Of course, now as years go by you can see Prabhupada’s compassion more and more.
Advaita das: The walk took place down toward Viola in a very, very secluded place. Driving there, it was a magical moment for me. There is a straight run, which is unusual on this road, and if you look off to your right there is a beautiful valley. On this particular morning, that valley was completely filled with fog, so much so that the ridge tops in the distance all looked like tiny islands floating out in a beautiful white ocean; and the sunrise was coming up behind those islands, a beautiful bright orange sun. As I looked out at that spot, I thought it was the most beautiful morning scene that I had ever seen in my life. I’ve lived in the community here for 35 years, and I have never seen the beauty of that morning when Srila Prabhupada was here.
Mahadevi dasi: The sweets were huge and thick and so creamy, and we wanted to be able to give these sweets to Prabhupada, who was going to visit a Prabhupada hut. The devotees there had made these little small huts made from straw and cow dung. So we were all running behind the men on the walk. So when Prabhupada was actually going in the hut, we stayed to the side and we got this plate all nicely made with a huge stack of maha sweets. And then we had tucked our poems around the plate so that Prabhupada could read these poems and letters later on. They were all from the sankirtan matajis there on the party. So we were standing beside one of the windows and I was thinking, “Oh, Prabhupada’s going to give them all out, and I’m not going to get one.” So as if he just read my heart, he looked directly at me and pointed his finger and held up the milk sweet that he had just bitten and it was passed through these devotees right to me. I was shaking and I could barely put the sweet in my mouth because I couldn’t believe that how did Prabhupada know that I was feeling that if I couldn’t have his personal association, maybe I could just have some connection with him. So this was his way of giving me a moment of his association.
Candramauli Swami: When the word got back that certain persons had been chosen to go with Kirtanananda to meet Prabhupada at the airport and I wasn’t the one, so I was quite unhappy, very unhappy. I was devastated. But I decided, “OK, I can’t go, but let me cook for Prabhupada.” So I started to make the pera. While I was cooking it, I was playing one tape of Baradraj. He sings so beautifully, and I was feeling separation from Prabhupada. So I was crying and cooking at the same time, which really doesn’t work so good. So I had finished the pera, and then I looked at it and I realized that this doesn’t look like good pera. The texture was off, the color was off. So I thought, “I can’t offer this to Prabhupada, so let me offer what I had made for the Deities,” they were nice. So I put that aside. Then Radhanath brahmacari, he was going around collecting the milk sweets and all the other sweets. So rather than taking the ones that I had set aside for Prabhupada, he took the other ones. So when I came back, I realized what happened. I said, “Oh, God.” I was thinking, “Prabhupada’s not even going to look at them, they’re so bad.” Then the next day Kirtanananda…he hardly ever talked to me because he was always busy doing so many things…he made a point to come and see me, and he was incredulous. He looked at me and he said, “You know, I saw Prabhupada do something that I have never seen him do before. He ate three of your pera, one after another.”
Badrinarayana das: There were some sankirtan devotees who were bathing in a stream they thought was on our property, and it was some other guy’s property; and they were arrested in their kaupins or gamchas and taken to jail, and they spent the night in jail. They went before the judge the next day, and the judge took one look at them and said, “Why have you arrested them? These are Swami’s men!” and immediately let them go. I remember that same judge came to see Srila Prabhupada. And even though he was a judge, he was in overalls or blue jeans or whatever it was, he was very casually dressed, and boots. He came right up and he dropped right on Prabhupada’s lap a big grocery bag. Prabhupada looked into the bag and looked up, and it was vegetables from the garden. The man had brought Prabhupada a sack of tomatoes and squash, and Prabhupada said, “This is love when someone brings you something from their garden.” And the man was completely charmed by Prabhupada.
Narada Muni das: I remember at one darshan Srila Prabhupada pulled out a letter that had recently been received from a very, very important personality in India, and Srila Prabhupada gave the letter to his secretary to read. He read the letter, and in this letter the person was glorifying Srila Prabhupada for his translations of all the Vedic literatures and appreciating how profound they were and how they were obviously dictated by the Supreme Lord Himself because this could not have been done by any ordinary jiva, any ordinary living being, but someone who is really empowered. I remember Srila Prabhupada’s beaming smile. It was very innocent. Srila Prabhupada was always so…in many ways he was so childlike and innocent. He just smiled and, of course, we all said, “Jaya Srila Prabhupada! Jaya Srila Prabhupada!”
Gopalasyapriya dasi: This one evening all the sankirtan women were allowed to go and have darshan and sit out in the front yard. I can’t even remember what he was talking about, but then there was a lull and it was quiet and everyone was just sitting there. And he was looking at me and he asked, “Are you all right?” I didn’t quite think he was talking to me because there was no reason for him to ask me anything like that. He said it a few times. He looked at me again and said, “Are you all right?” Then I finally said, “Are you talking to me?” And he said, “Such a thin cloth. Haven’t you got a cloth?” because it was kind of chilly and most of the devotees had chadars and sweaters and things. He asked if I needed a cloth, and I don’t know what I said, something like “Well, I had one but not with me.” Then he started talking to Kuladri, who was right there next to him, and told him that “You must find out if they have everything they need. The women need to be protected.” He said, “They will not ask. You must ask them once a month and make sure that they are having everything they need.” I remember afterwards a few of the devotees were crying and feeling like he was so observant and concerned and he really does care about all of us.
July 1974: BROOKLYN, NEW YORK – Walk, Temple at Henry Street
Daivisakti dasi: We were invited to go on a morning walk with Prabhupada, Mahara and myself, because we were the top book distributors amongst the ladies. So we got to go to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, and it was Brahmananda, Hridayananda Swami, Bali Mardan. So Prabhupada was saying to them, “I had a dream, and I dreamt that we had a boat and I traveled with 25 sannyasis and 25 brahmacaris all over the world in this boat.” Then Bali Mardan said, “I have some boating experience,” and Brahmananda said, “Yeah, I also have some boating experience. Maybe we can go with you, Prabhupada.” So they were laughing that they would like to go with Prabhupada on that boat to travel all over the world and in each port have sankirtan.
Samika Rsi das: I was doing my surgical residency in Rochester, New York. The devotees were coming to us from the Buffalo temple, and we heard that Srila Prabhupada would be coming for a day in New York City. So we drove to New York City almost 300 miles and went to Henry Street temple in New York City. Srila Prabhupada was there. We listened to his class, and then we were escorted to his darshan room. Afterwards I asked Srila Prabhupada a question, that “I have been chanting for a couple years, but my mind goes hither and thither when I chant. How I could curb my mind?” Srila Prabhupada told me that “You concentrate on the Holy Name and go on chanting, and by the power of the Holy Name you will be able to overcome your wandering mind.” So I took that instruction and I applied that instruction to some extent, and there was a definite improvement in my chanting because of that instruction.
February 1975: CARACAS, VENEZUELA – Conversation, Walk, Departure address
Virabahu das: This is one of the first darshans that Prabhupada gave in Caracas. Prabhupada took great pleasure in discussing with the lawyer…Bolivar Barrios, that’s his name…which is that man that you see there. He was a young man. Actually he already passed away, that lawyer. He would pose all these questions, challenges of our philosophy, and Prabhupada would be very keen in replying to him.
Jagat-caksur das: So the first devotees who went to preach to Venezuela, they were from America and Canada, and from Canada was Hanuman Goswami at the time. He went to preach to the university, and he didn’t know that most of the students were Communist and Marxist. So he started to preach against atheism and Communism, and a big discussion happened and the students became very disturbed by his opinion. So they became so disturbed that they decided to hang him up. He was practically speaking running for his life. So this lawyer, his name is Bolivar, he was passing through with his car through the university, and he saw an orange-robed man running and so many people behind him shouting very angrily at him. So he stopped his car and opened the door. So the devotee, he ran and jumped in the car, and in this way he practically speaking saved the devotee’s life. My feeling is that because of that, he continued to have a relationship with the devotees and finally even with Srila Prabhupada himself. Actually, he was going every day to the morning walks with Prabhupada. One day he could not come for some urgent business. Prabhupada, as soon as he walked out of the car, asked for him, “Where is the lawyer?”
Virabahu das: One interesting point I notice over and over is how Prabhupada has his own train of thought. It’s so unexpected. He doesn’t follow your train of thought. You are expecting something from him and… For example, I told him how even the scientists, they acknowledge that whatever is created from Krishna is even better, although they don’t say it’s created from Krishna, but everything that comes from nature is better. So I told him, “They say that this body is the most perfect machine.” But Prabhupada even didn’t accept that and said, “Where is perfection?” I said, “But it’s the most perfect machine. Not that it’s perfect, but it’s the most perfect machine.” But Prabhupada said, “Where is perfection? If it’s perfect, then why are we dying?” You see how Prabhupada took it from another angle.
Jagat-caksur das: One question the lawyer asked during the morning walk was “Ancient South America before the Spanish went there, many things are similar to Vedic culture. Why there are so many similarities?” Prabhupada told him that actually in previous ages all the planet was following Vedic culture and that gradually filled it up. “Only in India a small amount of that culture is still there,” Prabhupada said, “but practically speaking, all over the world it has vanished.” Then Prabhupada told us about how Lord Ramacandra was taken to Brazil, to the Amazon. That was by Ravana’s capital, Ravana’s brother. Prabhupada said that Ravana’s soldiers took Him through a tunnel 8,000 miles from Sri Lanka to Brazil with the idea to sacrifice Ramacandra in front of Goddess Kali. So Ramacandra told them, “I am a prince, I don’t know how to bow down. You have to show Me how to do it.” So the demoniac soldiers bowed down and Ramacandra took advantage, take the sword and chop off their heads. And interestingly, near the ISKCON farm in Brazil there is a town called Hanuman, a very ancient town; and the original name of Brazil is Pindorama. So Rama’s name is there and Hanuman’s name is there even now. Another interesting question that the lawyer asked was about food shortage in the world. He said what our movement proposed to solve this problem. Prabhupada pointed to a tree and there was a small bird eating a fruit on a branch, and he told the lawyer, “You see that tree? You see that bird? Krishna is feeding this bird. Krishna is feeding all the living entities. So there is no scarcity of food. The only scarcity in this world is lack of God consciousness or Krishna consciousness, and we are trying to give people. Especially if the leaders take it up, then all this artificial problem of food shortage will be solved immediately.” Then Hridayananda Maharaj said, “Oh, Prabhupada, we have also our food relief in Mayapur. This can be done also here in South America.” Prabhupada said, “Why not? But it should be prasad, not ordinary food, because if you give them ordinary food they will become more lusty, more materialistic. It should be prasad.”
Srutakirti: We were on an airplane from Mexico City to Caracas and Prabhupada started taking his puffed rice, puffed rice and peanuts. He ate for about 10 minutes or so, and then he just looked and said, “OK.” So I moved the puffed rice over and I gave half to Paramahamsa, the other half I had in front of me. After a few minutes, there was this stewardess, she was walking down the aisle and she stops right in front of us and she reached over, put her hand in my plate and grabbed a handful of puffed rice and threw it in her mouth. She says, “Oh, this is wonderful. What is it?” I said, “Puffed rice.” She said, “Why are you eating this?” I said, “We have our own diet and we’re vegetarian.” She said, “Oh, is there anything else I can get you?” I looked at Prabhupada and he looked at me, he said, “Hot milk.” She said, “Fine.” So after about 10 minutes she comes back with three plates. She left and I turned to Prabhupada, I said, “Prabhupada, that’s amazing, isn’t it?” Prabhupada said, “No, women, they have a natural propensity to serve.” Of course, I was thinking it was amazing that she took Prabhupada’s mahaprasadam right off of my plate. Somehow or other, she got what all of us were mad after was Prabhupada’s remnants. So when I travel, it’s always one of my favorite stories. One day I was giving class and I told this story, and after class a devotee boy came up to me and he said, “That’s an amazing story. Can I tell you a sankirtan story?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “We would go out to the villages far from all the cities in Brazil in different places. You have to go by four-wheel drive. One day we were in the rain forest really far away from everywhere, and we found this village and we did our Harinam. Then we began going door to door to distribute books. Then I went to this one house and I knocked on the door and a woman answered and tried to distribute books. As soon as she saw me, I was in dhoti and kurta, and she invited me in. I went in, and I started seeing that there were pictures of Krishna on the wall and she had an altar, she had Deities,” and he was so surprised. Then he said, “You’re a devotee,” and she said, “Yes, yes. It’s so wonderful to see a devotee here.” And he said, “How did you become a devotee?” She said, “Well, the first time I met devotees was I met Prabhupada on an airplane. I was a stewardess.” So this was the woman. It was 10 years later from that time after she took the mahaprasadam. Then she met devotees again and got a book, and that was it. That was the beginning of her spiritual life. Just seeing what Prabhupada has done, it’s mind-boggling to understand how Prabhupada has made devotees, and it just goes on and on.
Havi das: When Prabhupada arrived in Caracas, we were extremely happy. We greeted him with flowers. We escorted him to his vyasasana, and I had the task to wash his feet. Nobody had instructed me how to do this. I just saw the ingredients, the yogurt and the milk and the ghee and honey and so on and water. So I concluded that I should go from thick to thin, and I started with the honey. The first thing I did was I took Prabhupada’s socks off and I touched his feet, and it was really, really soft. This is the softest skin I have ever touched. I started to pour the honey and then the yogurt and then the ghee and milk, like that. Then I started to massage his feet, even between his toes. Consciously I wanted to alleviate his tensions, but that was not accepted. Nitai Prabhu and Paramahamsa and other devotees were shouting at me, “Havi, Havi, what are you doing?” This is not what I was supposed to do. I was a little afraid that I was committing some offense or some mistake, and I slowly lifted my head towards Srila Prabhupada and Srila Prabhupada nodded his head as if to say, “You go on, you go on, no problem.” In any case, all the ingredients were there in this stainless steel bowl, and I started to spray everybody with caranamrita, with this nectar of Prabhupada’s feet. Everybody was in ecstasy. We were jumping up and down. I did four or five rounds of this, everybody was practically wet, and I took the remnants to the kitchen. Then a wild idea came into my mind and I drank the whole thing, two glasses of that blessed liquid. I remember I jumped up and down just by myself at the kitchen, nobody saw me. I was the happiest soul alive.
Jagajivan das: Prabhupada actually cried when he looked at the Deities of Gaura-Nitai. This was during a lecture. He was saying how he was very touched that Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai had come so far away from the Holy Dham. Latin devotees are generally very emotional. So when Prabhupada started crying, it was very touching for all of us. Then some girl got up at one point and she said, “You know, there’s maya here in this temple.” So Prabhupada told her, “If you know there’s someplace where maya is not, let us go there immediately.
February - March 1975: ATLANTA, GEORGIA – Arrival, Walk, Temple activities, Departure
Carudesna das: When Prabhupada arrived at the airport, it was a very ecstatic moment for me because I saw the Atlanta airport as being a place where Prabhupada performed his pastimes. I always connected book distribution with Prabhupada performing his pastimes because I knew that that service meant so much to him, and I always felt his presence when I was distributing books. And having him in the airport, the place where at one time more books were distributed than any other place on this planet, was very ecstatic because to me it was the dham and there he was in that place. It was overwhelming, and I was so ecstatic.
Balavanta das: In order to let the devotees get to the temple first, I took a long route. So we drove through this excellent neighborhood and then came to the temple. The devotees had already arrived and there was this ocean of devotees all in complete ecstasy with their hands reaching up to Vaikuntha, and Srila Prabhupada just beamed from ear to ear, just beamed. You could feel it in the car, you could feel the ecstatic energy emanating from him. So as the car pulled up to the temple, Prabhupada got out and no one’s feet were on the ground. It was like the part of the Bhagavatam where it describes in Maharaj Yudhisthira’s kingdom no one felt anxiety, no one felt the pain of hunger or thirst or separation from relatives or all these things that we are constantly disturbed by. At that time, no one felt it. You did not feel the pain of being in the material world. It was Vaikuntha. Srila Prabhupada was the conductor of the orchestra, and we were all members of the orchestra playing our different parts.
Devamrita Swami: In Atlanta, Prabhupada began his lectures not by singing Jaya Radha-Madhava but by singing parama koruna, pahu dui jana, nitai gauracandra in a very slow, moving melody. The temple was not large so it provided an intimate setting, and there Prabhupada gave one particular lecture which I’ll always remember. The lecture only lasted three minutes. I was sitting right in front of him, and he began to explain how Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda are so merciful: “They are giving Krishna although no one knows who is Krishna.” And he urged, “Take shelter of Lord Caitanya.” As he was speaking like that, his voice full of wonder and devotion, just two minutes into the lecture his voice began to crack. And as I sat in front of him, I saw the tears shoot from his eyes like coming from a syringe. Then Prabhupada stopped speaking and without another word climbed off the vyasasana and left, and devotees who were with him when he went to his quarters said he didn’t speak at all about what had happened.
Bhakti Visrambha Madhava Swami: On Monday morning, Tamal Krishna Maharaj took all of us, about 80 devotees…there were three bus parties who had converged on Atlanta…to see Srila Prabhupada. We all went into Prabhupada’s room. Prabhupada started to lean against his bolster and he spoke about brahmacari life and he said, “My Guru Maharaj, Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur, loved this brahmacari life.” He said, “You can sleep anywhere. But if you get married, then you have to get apartment and so much trouble.” So when those three words came out of his mouth, my jaw dropped. I was shocked. I thought, “He’s trying to save us. He’s trying to save us.” Then his smile went off his lips, he became grave, and his eyes became deep and he said, “So the senses will bite. They will demand satisfaction,” he said. Then he pointed his finger at us, “But you preach,” and he put his hand up, “and you pray to Krishna, and Krishna can make this itching sensation go away,” and he flipped his hand. But then his hand went like this, “Ah, but if it does not go away,” and he pointed in the back of the room were standing Gadi das and Aja das, “then like them, you can take.” He did not insist that we remain brahmacari. “But my Guru Maharaj very much liked this brahmacari life,” and that’s how he ended his talk. As soon as he ended it that way, I thought, “That’s it, no more questions. That’s what I’m going to do.” I was completely convinced. And the crux of his conversation was “Preach!” That was the most impressionable thing of my entire devotional life.
Bhakti Swarup Damodar Swami: When Prabhupada saw Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai, he named this New Panihati Dham. Then also I presented an outline of a book, Life and Its Origin, about 12 to 14 chapters in this book. Srila Prabhupada approved all of them, and then Prabhupada said, “But it should have one more chapter in this book.” That title was “Original Life is Lord Krishna.” Then I requested Prabhupada, “Prabhupada, will you please write that?” Prabhupada said, “Yes, I will write for your book.” We were supposed to write that book together, but it has not still come out yet. I am preparing and praying Prabhupada’s mercy. What I’m wanting to do is get the compilations from Prabhupada’s writings and then try to put it together, that section, “Original Life is Lord Krishna.”
Chris Murray: We know that when one goes to see the spiritual master, one should have an offering. So we found a wonderful old photograph of his Guru Maharaj and we put it in a frame, and Kim beautifully decorated it with pearls and gold paint. It was quite attractive. So he had entered the room and was sitting at the end of the room, and on either side were all the senior devotees and sannyasis. Prabhupada looked to his disciples and he said, “Where is my Guru Maharaj?” There was no photograph of his guru in the room. I didn’t realize that this was Bhaktisiddhanta’s Appearance Day. And at that very moment I walked up to him, approached him and handed him a picture of his Guru Maharaj. Prabhupada put his hands in a namaste pose and bowed his head a little to me in gratitude. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to be able to present something to Srila Prabhupada. He was always so gracious to me. He always treated me with such affection and respect. I was not qualified for anything, yet he always gave me everything.
Carudesna das: After Prabhupada arrived, he had darshan and I was invited to come up. I had my son with me and I walked in and Prabhupada said, “Who is this?” I said, “This is my son.” He said, “This is a very nice boy. I want you to take care of him and take care of your family.” I was thinking more about book distribution because that was my service. At the time in the movement, family life was not something that we really thought about. So later on, my son and daughter were put into prison. It was when that happened I went back to that and I heard that clear from Prabhupada, “Take care of your son, take care of your family,” and I realized that I had failed in that effort. So for five years I did some soul searching. I wanted to really understand the true meaning of family. So I felt inspired to try to establish an organization to deal with the issue of family. The organization that I’ve established, it’s called “Save the Family Foundation.” The first thing that we try to do is establish the fact that God has to be the center; and if God is in the center, then there is a foundation on which to build the family. I’ve been able to do that, and now my son and daughter are doing very well. They’re living productive lives. Going back to Prabhupada’s instruction that the way to really please my spiritual master is to take care of my son and take care of my family, so I’ve dedicated myself to that mission.
Titiksa dasi: When he offered aratik to Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, I was looking from a great distance and all I could see was an ocean of saffron and dandas. Being in a woman’s body, I was so frustrated because I knew I wasn’t going to get to see Prabhupada offer the puja, and I was Gaura-Nitai’s pujari. So there’s a window right beside where Prabhupada was, and I ran around the outside of the building and stood in the window so that I was facing Prabhupada and I could see every expression, everything he did. And there were other women, they joined me. Then after he would offer the aratik paraphernalia to Bhaktisiddhanta, he would turn and he would offer right to us in the window. As he was offering the conch shell with the water in it, Prabhupada was looking for the bowl to pour the water in. He looked over at Balavanta and said, “Bowl, bowl,” and Balavanta put his hands up in the air and said, “Haribol! Haribol!” I thought, “Oh, no! He wants a bowl!” Prabhupada, you could see that he was a little perplexed, “What am I going to do with this water?” So he turned and he poured it all over Tulasi-devi. Balavanta said that Prabhupada asked him, “Who has dressed the Deities?” He said, “Titiksa,” and he said, “Very nice.” So when Balavanta told me, at least I can take that with me, that I pleased him at least once.
March 1975: CALCUTTA, INDIA – Walk at Victoria Memorial
Srutakirti das: Once in Calcutta we were driving back from somewhere and we went past this one park, and Prabhupada pointed to it and he said, “See that park? When I was a boy, I used to play football there.” Then he laughed and he said, “I was the goalie because they didn’t have to run around, and I didn’t like to run around so much so I became the goalie.” Calcutta was such an interesting place to be in because it was Prabhupada’s home through his childhood. He had such an amazing memory going way back.
March 1975: MANGO GROVE, WEST BENGAL – En route from Calcutta to Mayapur
Srutakirti das: I remember the first time going to Mayapur with Prabhupada. It was just one carload of devotees. It was just Prabhupada, myself, his secretary and…or maybe two cars, then a few other devotees. We prepared prasadam and stopped at the mango grove, and it grew into a really big ritual here with dozens of devotees. But it started out very simply. It was a very beautiful place and it was nice, it was the halfway point on the way to Mayapur. The first time I went to Mayapur with Prabhupada, there was just a thatched roof goshala where Prabhupada stayed. So things changed quite rapidly, and this also changed from just a few devotees into a caravan of vehicles headed to Mayapur. But, again, the principle of it was always the same; and Prabhupada taking prasadam, still that same consciousness was there. Prabhupada sat quietly and honored prasadam.
March – April 1975: MAYAPUR, INDIA – Gaura Purnima Festival
Anuttama das: 1975 was the first year that everyone practically who was a devotee for some time got to go to India. They had an initial first festival in ’74, and it was more or less the senior devotees, leaders, temple presidents; but ’75 was open to everyone. All the devotees went together on the same plane, leaving out of New York. We all sat together. The middle section was all devotees, New York devotees and the other cities nearby. During the flight, we would have kirtan because we loved kirtan. The devotees would get in the aisles of the plane and we’d be jumping and chanting, and the plane would start to move back and forth. And the captain had to make an announcement, “Please take your seats, you’re disturbing the plane.” Prasadam was provided by the temple. We all brought packaged prasadam. When we stopped in London, the London devotees all met us at the airport and brought us more prasadam. And this was Radha-Londonisvara prasadam, and that was very special because most of us had never been to Europe before. Then we arrived in Calcutta and I remember them saying that this was the first 747 to land in Calcutta Dum Dum Airport, and it was half full of devotees. It was an Air India flight because I remember on the inside of the plane they had the depictions of the Rasa-lila as the decorations on the walls, Krishna and the gopis, and the stewardesses all wore saris. Everything was new, everything was fresh. We were all very happy because we were in the holy land and everything was transcendental. The Ganges was there, the birthplace of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the center of ISKCON. Prabhupada’s desire was to have Mayapur as the world headquarters. And to be with all the senior devotees, all the sannyasis, to be with Srila Prabhupada. Most of us had come from smaller temples. A lot of temples were 10, 15 devotees. I was in New York, we had a lot of devotees, but a lot of temples were small. So to be with this many devotees was very special. And nonstop classes with Prabhupada, going to special holy places, bathing in the Ganges, reading the Caitanya-caritamrta for the first time, this was like a trip to the spiritual world. It was something very special.
Jayapataka Swami: Srila Prabhupada, when he would come, it was such a momentous occasion for everybody. The devotees would be waiting and waiting, and he would come in a caravan of cars. I remember that sometimes there would be lookouts on the top of the building watching to see when Prabhupada was coming. Then when they could see him, his car coming around the corner from a distance, they’d set off a firecracker. Then everybody would know that Prabhupada was coming and start blowing conches and running. When the news came, sometimes the devotees would run out several hundred meters from the temple to receive Srila Prabhupada and then walk with him in a huge kirtan and then accompany Prabhupada all the way to the temple.
Saudamani dasi: It was announced what time he was arriving and that we should all go down to the gate to greet him, and I’d never seen the temple so beautiful as they had it ready for Prabhupada’s arrival. Every morning halfway through japa, just before the greeting of the Deities, they would clear everybody out and then they would clean it really nice. But the day that Prabhupada was arriving, I remember that Bhavananda had put whole banana trees on either side of the Deity room with Radha-Madhava and Mahaprabhu. It was incredibly aesthetically beautiful. It was so clean. Then, of course, Prabhupada didn’t arrive on time. There were some communication problems. Finally they heard somewhere where Prabhupada had stopped and a new time he would arrive. When he arrived, you saw all the cars coming up the road. Of course, there was always a problem for the ladies. The men were always really pushy about being up in front, and I remember always wanting to be a little closer without getting in and having a fistfight or something like that. But when Prabhupada arrived and he came in, I remember the car behind, Pisima was in it. So she came in. I never knew her or met her, and I wasn’t even sure who she was. Then someone told me who she was. I noticed how after Prabhupada offered obeisances to the Deities, everyone crowded down around the vyasasana. But Pisima came in and she went up by the Deities and settled herself, and she was opening her bag and getting little things there. So I went over and sat there and thought, “Well, this is very nice. I’m right here, here’s the Deities, I can actually see Prabhupada, and I have no problem because I’m under a speaker so I can hear him.” So it really made the whole rest of the visit in Mayapur peaceful for me because it wasn’t really necessary to physically get in a fight or something to try to squish right up next to him. Actually it was a nice position, and I actually then got an appreciation of seeing Prabhupada surrounded by all the devotees. So I always liked that, just appreciating seeing him happily surrounded by the devotees.
Jananivasa das: The best time of the day was actually when Prabhupada came for the morning program. He would go out for a morning walk, and Prabhupada would always come back exactly the same time for darshan. It’s quite difficult. Oftentimes he went down to the Ganga, he went over to the Jalangi side across all the rough grounds and everything where there’s no proper roads. But somehow or another, he would always come back exactly at the same time. The temple would be completely clean. No one would be allowed in the temple before Prabhupada came. No one could step foot on the marble after it had been cleaned. They would have flowers outside the gate showering when Prabhupada came. Then Srila Prabhupada would come in and he would walk towards Radha-Madhava, and he would come and take darshan and look at Radha-Madhava. Sometimes he would say different things. One time he said that “Radha-Madhava, They are dancing.” Another time he said, “You see how Radharani, She is holding her right hand out with Her thumb and the forefinger touched, She is offering a tambula pan.” Sometimes you see Radharani, she has got Her palm held out forward giving benediction, blessing. He said, “When Radharani is holding this, offering this pan to Krishna, Krishna can never leave Her.”
Srutakirti das: There was a big conversation that one morning walk about World War III. So the devotees, everyone got real close and started probing, and Prabhupada said the war would start between India and Pakistan. Then Prabhupada said after the war the preaching would be very good. The devotees were saying, “What should we do? Should we start the farm?” Prabhupada was saying yes and he said, “But we don’t care.” He looked up into the sky and he said, “We’ll just look up and when we see the bomb, ‘Here comes Krishna.’” The same thing in Mayapur when the snake was there. He said, “We don’t care. If Krishna wants to save you, no one can kill you. If Krishna wants to kill you, no one can save you.” So he didn’t express any concern on our part but it was in reference to preaching, how the war would affect preaching and how it would be better after the war, not that we were afraid of the war or death. But one walk, when we used to walk in these little single files along the little paths between the paddies, we said something to the effect like “Prabhupada, how do we understand that the spiritual master knows everything?” Prabhupada said, “No one can know everything. Only Krishna knows everything, but the spiritual master knows whatever Krishna wants him to know.” Then he also said, “The spiritual master knows everything that his spiritual master has given him. So in that sense he knows everything, but only Krishna knows everything.”
Achyutananda das: I’ll tell you this. From the time I met him in the Lower East Side until his passing, he didn’t make a single mistake. And he once said something like this about his guru. He said, “Even when he was wrong he was right.” Every step advanced the Society. I had to take a running leap across a rice paddy ditch, and Prabhupada once did it in one step. And we looked at each other, “How did he do that? How did he do that?” One thing, when Prabhupada came to the marble Mayapur temple, he praised Bhavananda. He said, “Thank you for keeping everything very clean. Management means just keep everything clean.”
Visakha dasi: In 1975, I was in Mayapur for the festivities, and I had the privilege of filming Srila Prabhupada when he circumambulated Radha-Madhava and rang the bell with all the devotees dancing around him and also on his morning walks. At one point, I filmed him from behind from Prabhupada’s point of view as he approached the temple. In this service, I only felt support from Srila Prabhupada. I never felt that he in any way disapproved of what I was doing but rather that he approved of it and actually encouraged it. So I took this as Prabhupada’s personal mood towards the women, not just me but towards women generally in spiritual life. There was only encouragement, enthusiasm and appreciation of our service. So in that way I felt personally protected, and also I think all the women in Prabhupada’s society felt this protection and encouragement from Prabhupada.
Tripurari Swami: When Prabhupada would ring that bell, everyone would go wild. It was if it was a confirmation that we were doing the right thing by performing kirtan in Mayapur. Whenever Prabhupada would do something a little out of the ordinary – move, dance, express the ecstasy that we could feel that he was about – that kind of external confirmation of it would drive the devotees mad.
Vatsala das: That one morning as Prabhupada used to circumambulate the Deities and ring the bell and the big kirtan party would go around, the whole mood was pretty ecstatic that particular morning. I don’t know who was leading kirtan or what, but Prabhupada was very blissful. He’d go around, he’d ring the bell with the kirtan, and the kids were dancing like mad out in front. Then he’d go around and he’d ring the next bell, and then he’d come around in front of the Deities. So I said, “Geez, I’m not going to fight these crowds, so I’m going to wait right here by this pillar in front of the Deities. And then when Prabhupada comes around, then I’ll be there to see him.” So sure enough, here comes Prabhupada around and Brahmananda is there. So Prabhupada stops in front of the Deities, and he starts looking at the Deities a little bit. Then he folds his hands in obeisances and does a 360, turns around, and the kirtan is going and going. Then finally Prabhupada all of a sudden lifts his arms up and starts dancing, and everybody just went through the roof at that time. Very similar to that Rathayatra when Prabhupada got up off the vyasasana and started to dance and everybody just went wild. I remember seeing a reflection off of Brahmananda, some kind of golden reflection that must have been Prabhupada. But it’s amazing how just seeing Prabhupada was so enlivening, so special.
Jananivasa das: From where I was sitting, I used to see Prabhupada when they put chandan on his head. It would all go kind of white, his forehead, and he was sitting there and he was such an aristocratic person. I just couldn’t picture or think of what kind of person he was. He looked so like a king, like a very aristocratic person. I couldn’t put it in words. Then one time one devotee came up to me and said, “You know what I’ve just read? The spiritual master is the sum total of all the demigods.” I said, “Wow, yeah! That’s exactly how I’m seeing Prabhupada.” That fits his description, that as a pure devotee of Krishna he is competent to be in the position of preaching to everyone, even demigods. He is the sum total of all the demigods.” And the devotees, they would offer chamaras to Prabhupada, and those chamaras would change color. They would be multicolored. They would be red, blue, yellow as they were going up and down. Where I was sitting, from my angle of vision I could see that. Many, many times, many days, not only one time. And even I asked another devotee one time. I said, “Can you see what I’m seeing? Is the chamara changing color?” We were looking and he said, “Yeah, it is.” But it would actually be multicolored. I don’t know if it was some trick of light or anything, but somehow or another those chamaras were changing colors.
Ajamila das: After we constructed the Lotus Building, Srila Prabhupada became aware that the devotees were very much disturbed by all the excessive cinema music that was coming from over in Nabadwip and from Swarup Ganj. They had their ghetto blasters over there with their big huge loudspeakers, and it was driving us all crazy. It was really disturbing us. So Jayapataka Maharaj and Bhavananda mentioned this to Srila Prabhupada, and Prabhupada said, “Blast them back. You should blast them back.” So Jayapataka Maharaj and Bhavananda put these huge big speakers on each corner of the Lotus Building, massive big things, and we played Prabhupada’s bhajans and our own kirtans; and we really blasted them because it’s better that we listen to our music than their music. If we were going to get blasted, we might as well get blasted by our own music rather than get blasted by all their cinema music, mundane stuff. So they started to respect the fact that we were here then, and I think some kind of a truce came up. But there was a big sound war going on there in the early days.
Anuttama das: During the day, we would go on parikramas. Achyutananda Swami was leading the parikrama in each place and explaining about the importance of all of the holy places in Mayapur, and we would all come down Bhaktisiddhanta Road to the various spots and temples. For most of us, this was our first visit to India, certainly my first visit. I remember some devotees telling me, “This is the dust that Lord Caitanya walked on! This is cintamani, this is nondifferent from the spiritual world,” and that realization was unique to all of us. Prabhupada was always the center of the festival. We all came to India to see Prabhupada. Prabhupada wanted us all to come to Mayapur every year. He felt that it was very important for us as this was the birthplace of the Hare Krishna movement. The managers were very concerned that we didn’t spend too much time in India because they wanted us to come back and do sankirtan and run the temples and to preach in the West. The idea was to come to India and to get recharged and enlivened and go back and preach in the West.
Praghosa das: I went into Prabhupada’s room, and I wanted to personally say to Srila Prabhupada, “Thank you for bringing us to Mayapur.” So in the darshan, we’re all sitting there listening; and when it was over, everybody offered their obeisances. So I stayed down on the floor longer and offered my obeisances very, very slowly so that when I stood up, pretty much everybody was out of the room. So I walk forward to Prabhupada sitting at his desk, and he was going to drink some water. I stepped forward and I said, “Srila Prabhupada,” and he was just about to drink and he said, “Yes?” I said, “I just wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you for bringing us all here to Mayapur.” Prabhupada sipped a little water and he said, “Oh, I have not brought you. Caitanya Mahaprabhu and my Guru Maharaj, they have brought you.” He said, “Mayapur, Vrindavan, this is your home. The West, that is for preaching.” Then he drank some water. When he stopped drinking the water, he looked back at me and he smiled and he said, “Or for sense gratification.” He said, “So you come every year, take inspiration here in the holy dham, and then go back to the West and preach vigorously. And then come back again and take inspiration.”
Bhavananda das: One day on the veranda outside his room at Mayapur, Prabhupada was saying to us, “You have all been sent by Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur to help me in spreading this mission.” I said, “Srila Prabhupada, how can that be? We were born into the most low kinds of families, raised on meat and all sorts of abominable things. How could we have been sent by Bhaktisiddhanta Thakur?” Prabhupada looked at me and he said, “That was only superficial. When you heard the Holy Name, you immediately came running.”
Rasajna dasi: In Los Angeles, Srila Prabhupada had told us that we should come to the Mayapur festival to perform five Krishna-lila and five Caitanya-lila. And we were to collect as much as we could individually to pay for the trip, and whatever we couldn’t collect he would pay from his trust. So we rehearsed every day. Then we got to Mayapur. We performed, and there was some complaint from the sannyasis of having women performing. I think Satarupa was playing Krishna. So there was a little bit of upset, and the performances were stopped. We didn’t know quite what to make of that. It was a very difficult period because we thought, “Why doesn’t Prabhupada just tell them that we’re doing it anyway?” Most of us just accepted it, but there was one of the members that had a really hard time accepting that and ended up leaving. One thing that I had learned up to that point, that sometimes Srila Prabhupada would make a decision that I couldn’t understand, and I learned that the best thing to do is to think, “Well, I don’t understand it now, but maybe in the future I’ll understand it.” So just to be able to understand the fact that I don’t know everything. With my rebellious nature it was tough, but I did it.
Sruti Rupa dasi: When I was cooking for Prabhupada, every day after he would finish eating, all the remnants, I’d put them all on a big thali and I’d walk the three floors of the Lotus Building that the Deities were in. Everybody knew at that time of day that his remnants were coming out, so everyone would just hang out on the verandahs talking. And the interesting thing was everybody was so picky: “No, no, no, give me this. No, no, no, I don’t want that, give me that.” And this went on every single day, picking and choosing what they wanted. So I literally hated it, and it took me over an hour to distribute this. One day after weeks of doing this, Prabhupada said to me, “When you distribute my remnants, I want you to take everything and mix it.” I didn’t say a word to him about how I was annoyed or bothered. So he said mix it. I kneaded it like bread. I poured them all in and I mixed the shukta, the sweet rice, the dal, everything, and then I went around. After two days of this, it’d be a ghost town. I’d be finished within five minutes, walking all the floors. So I’d go back and I’d eat the entire plate, and it was absolutely like heaven. I loved it. I don’t care if it was sweet rice with shukta, I mean it was heavenly. And then after a few days, Prabhupada, I was clearing his plates at lunch he looked at me, he’s picking his teeth and sitting there. He goes, “So, you are mixing?” I said, “Yes, Srila Prabhupada. This is a very good system.” He said, “OK.”
Gopati das: I was very young at the time. I joined the temple at the age of 16 and with my parent’s blessings, which was pretty unusual at the time. With their funding, I managed to attend the first four Mayapur festivals, the large ones, from 1974 to 1977. And as a young brahmacari, we all wanted to be with Srila Prabhupada as much as possible, that was the ideal; but there was a real conflict there because of the service that we had. Many times, especially those of us who worked behind the scenes in the kitchen and the services like pujaris and things like that had these responsibilities which meant we weren’t able to take part in all the fun stuff of the festivals. We were really integrated into the mechanism of what made the festivals happen in the first place. But what we discovered, the association with Srila Prabhupada was in everything that we did. He had created the whole festival. Everything about being there was in some form manifested by his desire. All the different interactions with the public, the interactions amongst devotees, we were all there for the same purpose. So what I felt was that just by being there and just by participating that it was fulfilling, it was something that was part of fulfilling Srila Prabhupada’s greater mission. And as a result of that, it was incredible. It was actually a life-changing experience for me, and it gave me something that I’ve kept with me my whole life as far as perspective and direction.
Kalakantha das: Prabhupada was speaking in the Bhagavatam class one morning. At a certain point in the lecture, he went into this kind of ecstatic trance. He was clearly very alert. It wasn’t that he appeared in any way to be dozing. His eyes were just closed, and he appeared to be ruminating very deeply. But he was silent for a long time, and everybody in the temple room was dead silent. It was a very, very poignant moment where everyone was in utter state of attention and nothing was being said. Everybody was just waiting for Prabhupada to do something, and nobody dared make a sound. After what seemed like much longer but was probably a minute or two, Hansadutta started chanting nama om visnu-padaya and broke the moment, and Prabhupada shook his head and indicated to go on chanting.
Srutakirti das: So then Prabhupada went up to his room, and then this big argument started downstairs and outside Prabhupada’s quarters with the different devotees. They were all speculating on what the proper etiquette was when your spiritual master goes into ecstasy on the vyasasana. Some devotees were saying we should have just sat there and waited for him to open his eyes again, and others said, “No, we should chant Hare Krishna. Chanting Hare Krishna is always proper.” So anyway, it went on and disagreement was there. So then we just had Prabhupada. Do we go to Prabhupada and ask him? You could always get the final answer. We could fight and fight, and no one would ever agree. Brahmananda was his secretary at the time, so we went into Prabhupada’s room and he said, “Prabhupada, do you know downstairs this morning when you went into ecstasy on the vyasasana?” Prabhupada was just looking and he said, “We were wondering what’s the proper thing to do when you do that.” And Prabhupada got all shy and humble and said, “I don’t do that very often.” He said, “No, no, Prabhupada, it’s all right. But when you do it, what should we do? Should we just sit there and wait for you, or should we start kirtan, should we start chanting?” Prabhupada said, “You can chant Hare Krishna,” and that was it. We were so silly. It would have been nice just to sit there even if it was an hour. It would have been wonderful because when Prabhupada went into ecstasy, you couldn’t help but on some level feel ecstatic symptoms yourself. Just knowing Prabhupada was in ecstasy like that, had gone inward like that, was enough to make you feel some bliss. So sitting and watching was nice.
Annada dasi: There was an incident with Siddhaswarupa in Mayapur, and the devotees were reporting to Prabhupada about something that had happened. So Srila Prabhupada said words to the effect that “I consider that if he has come from so far away to see me, there must be some love there.” And he said, “Krishna’s love is unconditional, that no matter what you do, still I love you.” He said, “His love is like the father’s love for the son. No matter what the son does, the father always loves him.” So Prabhupada was always accepting and always willing to forgive. That was a unique quality about Srila Prabhupada, that he had no animosity or enmity towards anyone at all.
Bhavananda das: Prabhupada was walking down the road from the Lotus Building to the front gate, and we had planted some banana trees and one of the banana trees was turning yellow. Prabhupada stopped and looked at it, and he looked at me and he said, “When you are head of the ashram, you are responsible for feeding all the residents of the ashram. This tree needs water.” He said, “Plants live on water, that’s their food. So you are responsible not just for the human residents but all the residents.” He said, “You make sure that this tree receives water.”
BV Padmanabha Swami: I remember that every morning Srila Prabhupada was lecturing on the first 14 slokas of the Caitanya-caritamrta, and that first chapter and that first volume had just recently been released. So Srila Prabhupada was now lecturing so wonderfully on the mood and pastimes of Mahaprabhu and the sankirtan movement. I can remember on one occasion, on one day, he was saying that this Krishna consciousness movement, now we have just a few gurus. But in the future there will be hundreds of gurus, and then there will be thousands of gurus. As he was declaring this, then all the devotees were cheering, all the hundreds of devotees there were cheering, “Jaya Prabhupada! Jaya Prabhupada!” But those first 14 days in Mayapur with Srila Prabhupada, oh, it was such an opportunity that I can never, never forget.
Mahamaya dasi: In Mayapur, we never bought any flowers. We used flowers for the Deities and for Prabhupada’s garland from the flowers in the garden. And we didn’t pick them ahead of time, we picked them that morning. The little girls who were 10 years old or so, there were three or four of them, they’d go out right after Mangala-aratik even if it was dark, because in the wintertime it would be dark after Mangala-aratik, and they would pick the flowers. Then they would bring them back to the temple and they’d make the garlands. And Prabhupada’s garland, they would really make a nice garland. It was thick and very long. Sometimes they made them down to Prabhupada’s knees. It was hard for him to walk with such a long garland. One of their habits was that they would take the petals that were left over after making all the garlands for the Deities and for Prabhupada and they would sprinkle them on Prabhupada’s shoes, which were right outside the doorway. So one day the little girls told us ladies, “Be there when Prabhupada leaves the temple room. You’re going to see something fun.” So we were outside the door when Prabhupada came out, and a servant would always help Prabhupada on with his shoes. This particular day he started walking and the flower petals normally would fall off his shoes when he took a few steps, but they weren’t going anywhere. Prabhupada looked down at his foot and shook one foot a little bit and put that foot down, then he picked up the other foot and shook it, and there were still flowers on his shoes. And the little girls were cracking up, they thought it was so funny. They had actually made little garlands and tied them around the toe of Prabhupada’s shoe. So then he started laughing too. It was really comical, and Prabhupada was such a good sport. He had such a great sense of humor. So he thought it was really funny that they played this innocent joke.
BV Padmanabha Swami: I remember one evening the Manipuri dancers came to perform in front of all the devotees and Srila Prabhupada, and this is perhaps even the very first time that I think Swarup Damodar Maharaj had organized. They were performing a kind of rasa-lila dance. Now, Prabhupada was sitting and watching this in the temple room and he was surrounded by many sannyasis and, of course, there were many, many brahmacaris as well during that time. And we were watching this dance performance where there were very beautiful decorated young ladies who were dancing and performing the rasa-lila dance depicting the beautiful moods of the gopis. Prabhupada gave a short talk after this. He was mentioning how Caitanya Mahaprabhu would never actually look, He was very, very strict; and especially He was very strict with his renunciate devotees, that they should not associate with the opposite sex. I think Srila Prabhupada was making this point because he could understand and see that this was an unusual experience for a lot of the renunciate devotees who were there, and perhaps it was a bit of a test for them. So Prabhupada mentioned like this. And he said, “But at the same time, we appreciate very much. We are very thankful that these dancers have come. They are very good devotees of Krishna, and this tradition is a very old tradition in their country. They are very, very expert at depicting the rasa-lila dance of Radha and Krishna.”
Satadhanya das: The Congress government was in power in West Bengal. I was very much interfacing with the VIPs, ministers and others; and the Education Minister, one Mritunjay Banerjee, I invited him to Mayapur when Prabhupada was there. I told Prabhupada just before I brought him in, “I have brought the Education Minister of West Bengal, and he’s here. Can he come in and speak to you?” Prabhupada said, “Yes, bring him in.” I brought him in and he kind of gave his shrug obeisances, and Prabhupada bade him to sit down right in front of his desk there in his room. Then I said, “Srila Prabhupada, this is the Honorable Minister of Education for West Bengal.” Then the man looked at Prabhupada, and then Prabhupada just looked at him and said nothing to the point where I flinched, I was embarrassed. I thought maybe he didn’t hear me. So I said, “Srila Prabhupada, this is the Education Minister of West Bengal.” And then Prabhupada looked at the man and he said, “That is not education.” I almost died. Then Prabhupada fell silent again, and then a few words were said. Then it was all over, I took him out. Prabhupada, of course, gave a couple of qualifying sentences to say what is real education is understanding the difference between the body or matter and the soul and explained a little to the fellow that this education should also be distributed. Sometimes Prabhupada just could pin a guy, who he was, and it wasn’t simply worth it to go beyond that point.
Prabhav das: Srila Prabhupada wrote this book called Gitar Gan, the Bhagavad-gita Srila Prabhupada wrote in Bengali poetry. It’s a very nice book. Prabhupada wanted the gurukula boys to learn these verses and sing while we are walking to the temple in the line, especially morning time and evening time. He wanted us to actually learn all the verses, and I was one of the boys that knew the whole Gitar Gan by heart. So there was a time when my teachers arranged with Prabhupada that some of our boys sing this to him individually, chapter by chapter. So I studied very hard, and I was called in to sing to him one chapter. I sang to him a whole chapter. There were some other boys as well, but individually we came. So that’s one of the things that pleased Prabhupada very much because Prabhupada would always smile and then he would give us a coconut laddu. His smile made us more happy and enthusiastic to learn more the next time he came.
Ajamila das: On Gaura Purnima day at about 11:30 in Srila Prabhupada’s room in the Lotus Building, there were about five other devotees who got brahmana initiation as well. Padmalocana was one of them. Before going in to see Srila Prabhupada, I was thinking that this is my chance to ask Srila Prabhupada some questions. And underneath it I was thinking that perhaps I can also show him that I’ve got some intelligent questions, that I’m a thoughtful devotee. I wanted to show him that I had some intelligence basically. That’s why I thought, “I must bring up this question, that question,” and so on and so forth. But I really wanted to know the answers to the questions as well. So that was how I was thinking. When I walked through that door and I saw Srila Prabhupada, my mind went completely blank, completely. I thought, “Krishna, what’s happening to my brain?” I had forgotten everything. Because normally I’m quite talkative, I can talk, but Krishna completely took away all my talking ability, completely. Srila Prabhupada motioned me to come over and he says, “Recite this mantra after me.” So I recited, went through all the Gayatri mantras with him. Then I thought, “Now is my time to ask the questions,” and still I couldn’t think of anything, not anything. I thought, “If I do try to think of something, I’m going to look really stupid.” So I just said, “Thank you very much, Srila Prabhupada,” and I walked out. Then the next devotee walked in. Then I went straight down to the Ganges and I chanted my first Gayatri mantra, and it was such an experience that first Gayatri mantra that I chanted at the edge of the Ganges. As I was studying Prabhupada’s books later, I came across one statement by Srila Prabhupada where he says that “If a disciple presents himself anything other than a fool before his spiritual master, then he goes to hell.” Because here I was, I was actually trying to present myself as not being a fool, foolishly. But Krishna saved me because Krishna completely blanked me.
Saudamani dasi: Prabhupada’s Gaura Purnima lecture that year went right to my heart. You know how you have that experience that even though there’s a whole crowd, the whole temple room was filled with devotees, that nevertheless he’s speaking directly to you. Because of what I had gone through in the festival and attempts about Deities and things that are my own story, I felt that the questions were answered. Prabhupada said, “People are trying to worship Radha and Krishna.” He said, “I was walking in Calcutta and I saw in a bookstore there was a picture of Radharani on the cover of Bhagavad-gita, on the cover by Herself.” And then he said how actually Radharani is not even mentioned in Bhagavad-gita. Not only was it a picture of Radharani, it had Her in a very unchaste way with Her hair hanging and with no one, no Krishna. That was the cover of Bhagavad-gita. He said, “People want to worship Radha and Krishna, but they don’t even know who Krishna is.” Then he said, “It’s not possible to worship Radha and Krishna until first you know who Krishna is. And if you want to worship Krishna, then first you have to understand Lord Caitanya. And don’t think that you can worship Lord Caitanya without first worshiping Nityananda.” And then he said, “And don’t think that you can worship Nityananda until first you follow in the footsteps of the Six Goswamis.” He would continue on, there were intervals. Then he said, “And don’t think that you can ever follow in the footsteps of the Six Goswamis until first you follow the order of the spiritual master.” Although we had by writing gotten permission to see about purchasing Radha-Krishna Deities…this was the idea, coming to India…and I remember sitting in the audience and feeling like Prabhupada personally in a most direct but nevertheless compassionate way just put me in my place. “First you must follow the order of the spiritual master.” And being put in my place was so ecstatic because it meant that I actually had a place in Prabhupada’s movement. I felt like the tiniest little dot of a space because that’s how squished down I had been put. So after that, I felt I belonged finally. That was the most ecstatic lecture that I had ever heard.
Jagaddhatri dasi: It was Gaura Purnima evening, early evening, and the moon was rising. So Lord Caitanya’s moon was rising. We were walking close to the mandir and we glanced up, and there was Srila Prabhupada outside of his quarters and he had his arms on the balcony. His head was resting on the back of his hands, and he was just watching the moon rise. We immediately paid our obeisances, but it was so beautiful to see him looking at Lord Caitanya’s moon in Mayapur.