April 1975: VRINDAVAN, INDIA – Walk, Deity Installation at Krishna Balarama Temple, Initiation
Gunarnava das: My first involvement is when I met Prabhupada in England in Bury Place. I was a very young, very new devotee, and I was all freshened up ready to go into the evening aratik and Prabhupada wanted to see me. So I went up to his room. I was feeling very, very nervous and Prabhupada says, “I want you to go to Vrindavan to help build a temple. We want to build a Krishna Balarama temple.” So I went with a devotee called Smarahari. We came to India on a one-way ticket. We arrived in Vrindavan, Smarahari went to Mayapur to serve there, I stayed on in Vrindavan. Things were very slow in the beginning. There were no funds. There was not even a concept for the temple, no design. And, of course, the key ingredient, no cement. So you would think, “Well, how is it going to happen? How is Krishna going to help us fulfill Prabhupada’s desire?” So Guru Kripa Maharaj, he was given the task of going to Japan with his collecting party, the Nama Hatta, and they would work very, very, very hard and bring a lot of money back to Prabhupada. That was the beginning of real progress in the building of the Krishna Balarama Mandir.
Srutakirti das: As the opening was approaching, Prabhupada was on top of every detail that was going on; and he put what he considered all his best men in charge of all the different areas. They were all his GBCs and they were all the different administrators at that temple in charge of prasadam distribution, greeting guests, cleaning the temple. Whatever it was, they were just his assistants. And, of course, this was Vrindavan, so Prabhupada wanted everything done first class. I remember him ringing the bell so many times during the day to get this GBC, get this one, get that one, going back, and he would be checking up to make sure that they were doing everything properly. And even receiving all of his disciples, there was nothing that escaped Prabhupada’s vision, his perception. I remember him saying that all the devotees, they have to have nice facility to stay. They should have this to eat. They have to have cow’s milk, not buffalo milk. Every detail Prabhupada covered. It wasn’t just the installation ceremony. That also, he was taking care of that, but it was all the different details. He was always giving us the guidance. But it was clear that Vrindavan was his temple. He wanted to make that statement. It was very important that everything was done properly in Vrindavan.
Ravindra Swarupa das: We had gotten local brahmanas to install the Deities because Prabhupada said that without them doing it, the people wouldn’t think the Deities were really installed. This is Prabhupada at the installation. So at one point in the ceremony, they had to bring Prabhupada out. I guess he was the yajnamana or the sponsor of the sacrifice, and he had to participate in some of the rituals. You just notice how Prabhupada sits here, quite…I don’t know what to say…submissively enduring the ritual of the brahmanas. He also ordered that there be a 24-hour kirtan, and he told the devotees that the kirtan is actually installing the Deities. But they were quite elaborate, the rituals. You see how they do their coconuts up, the real style. Pradyumna was busy taking notes.
Gunarnava das: I’ve never seen a person draw something without having to erase anything. I remember him, Surabhi, he had these pencils in his pocket, and he said to me one morning, “Gunarnava, I’m going to do the artist’s conception. I’m going to draw the Krishna Balarama Mandir for the first time.” I remember we were staying in these little straw-roofed huts, very, very humble dwellings. He had a desk and a drawing board and an A3 sketch pad, and he opened it up and he started sketching and his pencil never stopped. He didn’t rub anything out, and it just manifested on this paper. When he showed Srila Prabhupada that design, Srila Prabhupada beamed. I was in the room. Srila Prabhupada said, “This is wonderful,” and he was so proud of it, and he was showing some guests that were also there in the room. He said, “Ohhhhh, this is going to be the Krishna Balarama Mandir.”
Srutakirti das: Prabhupada was responsible for everything, and he pushed everyone to do as much as they could do and sometimes beyond our own limits. I remember Surabhi, who was in charge of it all, had to undergo a lot of chastisement. I would be getting Surabhi so many times towards the end of it, the last week, and I don’t know how much sleep he was getting. I know it wasn’t very much. Prabhupada would say, “Call Surabhi,” and he would tell him that this was wrong and that was wrong, and it was very intense.
Surabhi das: In all those two years that all these temples were built, two or three years, there was always this pressure on time. It had to be done quickly, everything had to be done so fast. And there were always delays, and that was a kind of a disappointment. I really did my best, I tried my best. And I think at times there was an ego thing in me that I would feel that it couldn’t be faster, but I could see that Prabhupada disagreed with me. These were moments that you could probably make a lot of spiritual advancement because you’ve really got to face yourself, you’ve got to accept the fact that no, it is too slow even though I could have had millions of reasons why including there was no money, including the electricity went down, there were blackouts. Whatever I would come up with, it would not register on Prabhupada, he would not accept that. It was “Now I have to surrender.” So this was my battle of surrender. It was always “There is a way to do it faster,” and then you have to find that out.
Rasajna dasi: I remember when all the Deities were standing…They weren’t on the altar yet, They were on the ground with Their blindfolds on, and there was this opulent sort of hut built in the courtyard with fruits and coconuts and this whole thing. Srila Prabhupada was over talking to a few brahmanas that were over on the side, and I’ll never forget this vision. It was as though he was calling on Krishna to come and enter into the forms of the Deities, and there was this stream of light coming down and his hands were up like this and the other people were just standing there with their palms folded. He was saying something, I couldn’t hear him because I was on the other side, but I saw that beautiful vision. Then they continued with the installation of the Deities.
Baradraj das: I went to Jaipur, where the Deities were being carved, and I supervised the carving of the Deities, especially Prabhupada because the carvers, they were working from photographs, often not very good. So the man who was carving Prabhupada was having a really hard time. He was so frustrated because I kept trying to show him things and point out certain things on the photograph of Prabhupada, and they had to actually redo the whole carving at one point because some spot came up on Prabhupada’s head. The sculptor finally said, “Now you do it,” and he left, because I watched him so I started learning a little bit. So I took over for a little while. Finally the day came when all the Deities were finished, and I brought the Deities to Vrindavan on a train and then a tonga, then I took a rickshaw. This was early in the morning, 3:00 a.m. or something. Just as I started entering the outskirts of Vrindavan with all the Deities in Their crates, all the peacocks started crying. The hair on my head stood up from that sound. It was an amazing experience.
Gunarnava das: Nothing would stand in Prabhupada’s way. This temple had to open as soon as possible, and there were many obstructions. You live in Vrindavan, you try and get things done, everything is magnified a hundred times. So if there is an obstruction, it’s a big one, it’s a hundred times more obstructive than anywhere else in the world. But finally through great endeavor the day arrived.
Tejiyas das: M. Chenna Reddy was the governor of Uttar Pradesh. He comes from Andhra Pradesh originally, and Prabhupada had some contacts with him. He was also a Life Member. Prabhupada had very specifically invited him. That was very important to Srila Prabhupada, that the governor come for the opening, and he was establishing the credibility of our movement. Prabhupada was such a gracious host that even though he was very sick at that time, Prabhupada somehow or other completely shed all of his illness and was acting in every way as if he had had absolutely no illness. And then later in the evening he was not well again. But Prabhupada would completely ignore his physical condition.
Gunagrahi Swami: The first aratik was going to take place, and I was in the temple room and the temple room was packed with people. And you know how it is in India, everyone was shoving each other one way. It was like an ocean of people going from one direction to the other, and somehow or other I found myself right in the middle and the curtains opened. I had no idea that Prabhupada was going to offer the first aratik, and it was so wonderful watching Srila Prabhupada as he was offering the articles. He was offering them with such love and simplicity.
Tripurari Swami: When the curtains opened up, I was right in front of the Krishna Balarama altar, and I was so filled with ananda just thinking of the triumph of Prabhupada and all that went into it. So thinking of that, tears were pouring out of my eyes and I just wanted to stand there and watch Prabhupada in his moment of glory and relish it.
Visakha dasi: There was just one person between me and a clear view of Srila Prabhupada, and that was Tripurari Swami. So I was standing behind him, and I did everything I could think of. I held my camera in front of him, I tapped him on the shoulder, but he was just fixated on Prabhupada offering the aratik.
Tripurari Swami: Visakha wanted to take a picture, and I was blocking the view. So she’s tapping me on the shoulder, which a lady wouldn’t normally do that in ISKCON, and I was a sannyasi at the time on top of it, a new sannyasi. I was hearing her, but I wasn’t listening.
Visakha dasi: He remained fixed in his position and, in fact, just ignored me. So I become a little bit desperate, and I put my mouth next to his ear because the kirtan was very loud and I said loudly, “If you stand there, then you can see Srila Prabhupada offering the aratik. But if you let me stand there, then the whole world will see Srila Prabhupada offering the aratik.”
Tripurari Swami: So she got to me and I stepped out of the way, and she took the very famous picture.
Mokshalakshmi dasi: There is one part towards the end of the aratik, he’s offering Them the peacock fan. And as he looks out to offer it to the devotees, the smile on his face is unbelievable. It was like one who had conquered the earth. He’d done it, he’d installed Krishna and Balarama in Vrindavan, and you could just read his face – it was full of bliss, full of happiness.
Annada dasi: When Srila Prabhupada gave the lecture on the day of Their installation, he gave the lecture in Hindi so it would have been directed to the local guests. And he was begging forgiveness from all the personalities there for any offenses, and that struck me.
Jayadvaita Swami: There were days of speeches by different godbrothers and learned men of Vrindavan. In particular, I remember there was one speech given by Nrsingha Ballabha Goswami where Nrsingha Ballabha Goswami gave extensive scriptural evidence of how persons who are not members of the Vedic culture could be elevated to the platform of brahmanas and Vaisnavas, and Prabhupada was quite pleased with that speech. It was given in Hindi, but Prabhupada gave a summary afterwards.
Mokshalakshmi dasi: The other thing I’ll never forget is the quantity of pink rose petals, and there was this abundance of pink rose petals that were actually up to our ankles on the floor. It was so special. After Mangala-aratik, we were all making garlands for Krishna and Balarama; and one day there were lots of broken flowers left that couldn’t be used for the garlands. So I had them all in this sheet that we’d been using on top of the floor to make them in, and I took them and I showered them over Srila Prabhupada from the balcony in the guesthouse. Then he gave this instruction that we shouldn’t waste the flowers. Srila Prabhupada was very conscious, in India particularly, of wasting the money. He knew how to protect the flowers so they’d stay fresh for longer. He told us to wrap them in damp cloths and hang them in a cold place. He knew everything about flowers it seemed to us. But also he didn’t want us to waste. Even though practically speaking the flowers couldn’t be used, he still wanted to teach us not to waste; and he considered that showering flowers on him like the demigods in the heavenly planets was a waste of flowers. So I never did that again.
Surabhi das: The Vrindavan project was actually the very first real temple in ISKCON. This established Prabhupada so much in Vrindavan. I think he felt very good about that. Because actually Bombay was started earlier, but it was stopped because of the court cases. I think at that time he was trying to get Bombay first, and then everything was blocked there. And Mayapur was a long-term project, it wasn’t so urgent. And then Vrindavan became priority. So it only took about two years to build Vrindavan, less than two years. Most ashrams and temples, they were very slow. When money came there, they would build something. And ours went very fast, very quickly done, and that was the same with Bombay actually. Of course, Vrindavan had beautiful buildings, very classic buildings, but the standards were not very high in most of them. They were sort of run down a little bit, they were dark inside, and they didn’t have much life actually. Then this one was so clean and fresh and lively and everything was beautiful in there, and that’s what people felt also when they would come to the temple. It sort of woke up Vrindavan.
Kalakantha das: There was a parade. We had quite an elaborate procession through the streets of Vrindavan. There was an elephant, there was a shenai band, and all the devotees doing kirtan. It was quite a commotion with all of this procession going through. Prabhupada seemed to be very beaming and happy. He was walking at the head of the procession, which, now that I think of it, it must have been quite funny for the people who knew him from before and here he is with an elephant, a shenai band, and all these Western disciples walking through the streets where he had walked so many times as a sadhu. We walked quite a ways. It seemed like a very, very long walk through the city.
Vishalini dasi: The procession, it was like something out of the Bhagavatam – decorated cows and bulls, brass bands, drums, kirtan parties, thousands of people. Residents came out of their homes, their businesses as Prabhupada walked by, offering him water, flowers and similar gifts. I remember that day I heard that Prabhupada wasn’t well. The devotees wanted him to sit on a palanquin, it was a very long procession, but he refused. He walked the whole way.
Kesava Bharati Goswami: They had a rath because that’s the tradition. There’s a rath and the spiritual master rides on the rath, and then there’s a procession. There were hundreds of devotees, and at one point Prabhupada decided he wanted to get off the rath and walk with us. So when he did that, everyone wanted to come and touch Prabhupada’s feet at the same time, especially the Indian-bodied people who had come to the festival. So immediately…I think it was Tamal Krishna Maharaj, he was there…he organized us into human chains. We locked arms on either side of Prabhupada. So we went along the procession like that, keeping people from crushing Prabhupada. During that procession, at times we would be farther away from Prabhupada and at times we would be closer to Prabhupada. The farther away you got from Prabhupada, it was like being in a hurricane. It was just chaos. And as we came closer to Prabhupada, it got calmer and calmer and calmer until when we were right next to Prabhupada, it was like we were in the eye of a hurricane. It was so calm and serene, and Prabhupada was emanating this ecstasy. It was a very stark realization of the consciousness that the empowered pure devotee had. He could change the atmosphere, not just in a room where everything was organized perfectly, but he could change the atmosphere anywhere.
Brahmananda das: Prabhupada designed the Krishna and Balarama Deities, the mudra. He made a drawing and gave it to Baradraj to have it made in Jaipur. There is no Krishna Balarama Deity like this with Balarama resting His arm on Krishna’s shoulders. There is no Deity like that, Prabhupada made that design. And then he would joke about it, “Who is stronger, Krishna or Balarama?” Bala means strength, He is the strong one. And everyone would say “Balarama.” Then Prabhupada said, “Then why Balarama is resting on Krishna? This means Krishna is stronger.”
Vaisesika das: So the bank was right under the guesthouse. That’s actually where Prabhupada’s room is now, where we have Bhagavad-gita class. They opened a bank and all the devotees crowded in, and Prabhupada was inside and he was inaugurating the bank and he told this joke. I was craning through the little screen window to hear what he was saying and he said, “So one man heard that money attracts money. So he went into the bank and he put his money on the counter, and the teller took his money and put it in the till and said, ‘Yes? Can I help you?’ The man said, ‘Well, I heard that money attracts money, so put my money in there,’ and he said, ‘Yes, but our money has attracted your money.’” Prabhupada laughed and everyone laughed, and that was his joke that he told.
Srutakirti das: There was one morning walk after the installation, and the temple was beautiful and it looked so beautiful. Tamal Krishna Maharaj was there and he said, “Prabhupada, Surabhi has really done a wonderful job.” Prabhupada chuckled and he said, “Yes, everyone is saying Surabhi has done so nice, but all I do is chastise him. But that’s my duty, I’m his spiritual master.” And when he said that, all the ideas I had about…oh, I used to think, “Poor Surabhi,” and you just could understand. Prabhupada was always pushing us; and if we were able to handle that and deal with it, you could make so much advancement in Krishna consciousness because with this pushing always came a lot of blessings. Whatever we could do was because of Prabhupada’s blessings.
Jayadvaita Swami: The next day I was on Prabhupada’s morning walk on what was then Chatikara Road, which at that time, of course, was really just a dusty road through a largely uninhabited, undeveloped region of Vrindavan with woods and fields on both sides. Prabhupada that morning was again very much pleased. He had worked so hard to establish the temple and install the Deities, and now it had come off. Prabhupada recalled how he had pushed the devotees. He said, “I was practically whipping them.” Then he began telling how Krishna was flattering Balarama that “My dear brother, all of these trees are bending down to offer You their obeisances. And these bees, they are all great sages who are coming to You for Your association.” In that way, he began describing that pastime. Then he said how Gaura-Nitai and Krishna Balarama are nondifferent, there is no difference between Krishna and Balarama and Gaura-Nitai. He said, “So if you ever have any difficulty, you can go before Gaura-Nitai or Krishna Balarama and say, ‘Sir, this is the problem,’ and They will do the needful.”
Tripurari Swami: It was a wonderful victory for Prabhupada, the opening of the Krishna Balarama temple, a great triumph over many obstacles. In all of the temples in India, the principal temples that Prabhupada opened – Mayapur, Vrindavan and Bombay – he struggled. In Mayapur, he struggled with his own godbrothers. In Bombay, of course, he struggled with the tenants and the municipality. And in Vrindavan, he struggled with the Goswamis. So all of them were a great victory. But I think Vrindavan was the greatest victory, and it was the homeland of Prabhupada. As he said, “My place of worship is Mayapur, my office is Bombay, and my home is Vrindavan.” So it was a great triumph, and we all felt it. From there he built a bridge across the whole ocean to the whole rest of the world, that people could easily walk over that and enter into Vrindavan. He gave life to the whole of Vrindavan actually, enthusiasm for Krishna-bhakti, even those who had opposed him in some way recognizing, “Yes, you are a hometown boy and you’ve made us famous all over the world, and you’ve brought Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s mission everywhere.” It was formally really recognized by the town of Vrindavan. I remember at that time there were six brahmana boys that were initiated from brahmana families in the Braj. It was a big thing for a brahmana boy to be initiated by Prabhupada and be in a movement where they would eat chapatis cooked by persons born in the West and so forth. It was a huge triumph for Vaisnavism over religion, experiential spiritual life over religion, Vaisnavism over brahmanism, one of the causes that Prabhupada championed his whole life.
Rasajna dasi: We were on the list for second initiation in Vrindavan. So that was very exciting because the first initiation that we had in Los Angeles, Srila Prabhupada wasn’t able to be there and we were initiated by his older disciples on his behalf at the time. But this time we were getting personally second initiation from Srila Prabhupada, so that was very exciting. We had the ceremony, and then we lined up outside his quarters and were to go in one by one to get the Gayatri mantra. I didn’t have a lot of money at the time, so I didn’t really have any money to offer. So I went and got a big papaya and I thought, “I’ll offer him a fruit that he can have for breakfast or something.” I remember going in. I offered my obeisances and I was extremely nervous, didn’t know what I was supposed to say or anything. I just said, “Jaya Srila Prabhupada!” Then he was sitting on the other side of his desk with his knee propped up. It was very warm already in April, and he had on his sannyasi top. He patted the floor beside him like saying, “Come on over here,” like calling his little dog. So I went scampering over and was sitting right next to him, and I remember being really nervous but I wanted to be sure that I pronounced the Sanskrit nicely. Maybe I was even a little proud because Jayadvaita once had told me that my pronunciation was very nice in Sanskrit, probably from my German background. So he would point to one word after the other and I would repeat, and I was trying to do it really nice. I have to impress my teacher. I felt so foolish, arrogant and foolish all at the same time. Then he says, “Do you know how to count?” I said, “Yes, I’ve been watching the devotees for the past years doing their Gayatri.” I thought, “Gee, I should really have an intelligent question to ask,” but, of course, I couldn’t think of anything, I was just dumbfounded. But I remember feeling so much kindness and love, just so simple and practical, and I paid my obeisances and left.
Prabhav das: This is early morning after the morning program. I was very amazed to get initiated on that day, and Prabhupada actually turned to Bhavananda and he said, “This boy actually is too young to be initiated.” I was only 9, and he didn’t say anything. So Prabhupada looked at him and says, “Never mind.” Then he asked what are the principles, and I wanted to tell Prabhupada the regulative principles in English. I was studying them during the initiation ceremony. So I told him two of the principles in English, and the other two I got stuck. My teacher, Prabhas Prabhu, he was behind Prabhupada, he was trying to encourage me. He said, “Don’t worry. Tell him in Bengali the other two.” This is me. If you look carefully, I don’t have a sikha because the barber in Mayapur a couple days before I arrived in Vrindavan, he by mistake cut all the hair off. I didn’t have any sikha. All the devotees have sikha and they were making fun of me, that I look like a Mayavadi, and Bhavananda fired the barber because he forgot to save me a sikha. Anyway, Prabhupada didn’t mind, he didn’t say anything, and Prabhupada was quite pleased at that time. He saw in my face that I was trying to tell him the regulative principles in English to please him, and he smiled and he gave me the beads.
Bhima das: The installation of the Deities was on Rama Naumi, and then the initiation ceremony took place on Balarama’s Rasa Purnima, April 21st, which was five or six days later. After the Hyderabad pandal, we were headed from Hyderabad to the opening of the Krishna Balarama Mandir and a whole bogie was reserved for the devotees. So it was all just devotees on the train. There was one Indian sadhu sitting on his suitcase by the bathroom, and he didn’t really mix with any of the other devotees…mostly they were just Western devotees, a few Indian devotees like Haridas…and I was really wondering whether he was part of our group or not. He was very quiet and very patiently sat on his suitcase by the bathroom the whole way to Vrindavan. Then during the festival, although there was a moratorium on sannyasa, the devotees had gone to Srila Prabhupada and asked if Tripurari could take sannyasa and Prabhupada said yes. They said, “When?” and he said, “He can take now.” So along with Tripurari one other devotee took sannyasa, and his name was Gour Govinda. Then when he was there, I saw that this is the same devotee that was sitting very quietly by the bathroom coming from Hyderabad to Vrindavan.
Urvasi devi dasi: I was serving at the Montreal temple, Canada, and there were a lot of devotees going to India. And before we left, I went back home to Los Angeles, where my parents live, to give them a visit. As I was leaving there, my mother asked me out of the blue, she said, “Is there something I can give to you to take to your spiritual master?” I was really taken aback by that question and I said, “Oh, that’s so nice.” I said, “I don’t know. What would you like to give him?” She said, “I could make him some guava jam,” because we had fruit trees at the property. So I told her that would be really nice. So she made the guava jam, and she wrote on there “For Srila Prabhupada.” When I was in Vrindavan, I went up to Srila Prabhupada’s quarters and handed it through to one of his servants and that was that. Then I found out for two days that Prabhupada’s servant was looking for me. He had remembered what I looked like, but he didn’t know my name. Finally he found me, and he said that Srila Prabhupada really loved the jam and he wanted my mother’s name and address because Srila Prabhupada wanted to write her a thank-you letter. There it was, all these devotees, huge event, the opening of the temple, the installation of the Deities, and Srila Prabhupada was so concerned to write a thank-you letter. So my parents received the letter from Srila Prabhupada and he was thanking my mom so nicely for this guava jam, and he told her that it was his favorite jam and that his mother used to make guava jam for him. Then he went on to say that “Do not worry about your daughter. I am taking care of her. She is nicely engaged in the Lord’s service.” It was just a really sweet letter. It’s so amazing that Srila Prabhupada took that time to recognize that little gift from my mother in amongst so much activity going on and so many devotees.
Dhananjaya das: Here Prabhupada is giving Bhagavad-gita class. He actually wanted Bhagavad-gita class to be held in the courtyard. There was one Indian who joined. His name was Prem Yogi, and he told him that he should give class in Hindi every evening. Then there was also an Indian couple, Pranav and his wife, Vanamali, and he told him that he should also give Hindi class and his wife should sing bhajans. Then Pranav said, “Actually my wife is more intelligent than me. Better that she gives the class. She speaks from Bhagavad-gita.” Prabhupada said, “That’s all right. If she can do that, she can give the class.” These people here, these are students from Nepal, and Prabhupada wanted them to chant the Purusha Sukta every day. This is the Hindi teacher. Prabhupada wanted us to learn Hindi. One morning I tried to demonstrate my Hindi. So I said, “Prabhupada, I am learning from this teacher,” and he said, “So what have you learned?” I said, “Ek balak chata he,” which means “one boy is walking.” Then Prabhupada said, “Do you know how to say in Hindi two boys are walking?” I said, “No,” and then he laughed. He said, “You will never learn Hindi.” So I took that as an instruction.
Yamuna dasi: This tree was a place of pilgrimage for Gaudiya Vaisnavas long before the Krishna Balarama Mandir was constructed in Vrindavan. In the early 1970s, there were purported to be very few tamal trees in Vrindavan, one at Rasatali and one at the samadhi of Rupa Goswami in Radha-Damodar. So when Srila Prabhupada noted that the land had a tamal tree on it, he was very, very pleased. There is an interesting pastime about this tree. Long before Srila Prabhupada sat under this tree as we are witnessing in this footage, he envisioned himself sitting under this tree and looking at the Deities of Krishna Balarama. He said, “We will have kirtan under this tree.” And he said, “This tree should be worshiped. And the soil under the tree, a teaspoon of it should be taken and mixed with sand and water from the Yamuna River, and then with a coconut husk you should clean the aratik paraphernalia in our temple with his holy substance.” This is a very sacred place for us, and let us pray that not only now but in the future Srila Prabhupada’s wish will be fulfilled and Gaudiya Vaisnavas will be able to worship this sacred tree in this sacred location for many, many more years to come.
Gunarnava das: The next step, the next key component was the establishing of the goshala. Krishna Balarama now need to drink milk, just like They did five thousand years ago when They were herding Nanda Maharaj’s hundred thousand cows. So Prabhupada called me into his room and he says, “I’d like you to establish a goshala. Krishna Balarama need milk, and my disciples need to maintain health and vitality,” because in those days in Vrindavan, basically the milk that we were drinking was either watered down buffalo milk or very watered down God-knows-what milk. So that was important. So what do I do? Prabhupada has told me to start a goshala. I didn’t have any money. I didn’t really know how to begin. So I had this Seiko watch on my wrist and I thought, “Right, I’ll sell my Seiko watch.” Then Bhagatji, one older Indian gentleman that Prabhupada regarded as his right-hand man in India…and Bhagatji helped me incredibly over so many years in my service to Srila Prabhupada…so he took me to Govardhan market, where there would be a monthly cow auction. And from the proceeds of selling my Seiko watch…I think we got about eight or nine hundred rupees in those days for it…I was able to purchase two cows, and that’s how the goshala started. And the goshala started simultaneously with the construction of the gurukula, the boy’s gurukula ashram, which also Prabhupada asked me to oversee the construction of that building.
Vishvadevi dasi: After everyone had darshan when the Deities opened in the morning for Mangala-aratik, then they went to their respective altars. The women had Radha and Krishna, and the men had Krishna Balarama and Gaura-Nitai. When in Mangala-aratik having darshan, at some point I turned around and then there was Prabhupada with two or three other devotees with him, one secretary or something. But all I know is that it was amazing to turn around and Prabhupada is standing…you know how there are some steps. So he could not see very much, I suppose, being down from those steps and having the women standing, turning our back to him, not knowing he was here obviously. I found out from Upendra afterwards that he was there for almost 10 minutes. Somebody was going to come to tell us to move; but when they tried to do that, Prabhupada said to just leave it. Here is Prabhupada probably not seeing very much, and he just stood there with all our backs to him. And had I not turned around and seen him, no one would have moved away. It touched me.
May 1975: KURUKSHETRA, INDIA – Bhagavad Gita Conference
Brahmananda das: Prabhupada was invited to this convention of sadhus, so we all went. Of course, the whole thing was in Hindi. The first order of business, out of respect for Prabhupada, they voted Prabhupada to be the president of the convention. Of course, everyone had a chance to speak, but that also meant that the president would speak last. So Prabhupada had to sit…there were the Mauna people who don’t speak, they use chalkboards to write, and the Jains with their mouths covered, and then all the Mayavadis and the yogis and paramahamsas and everyone, they were talking, and then Prabhupada. I don’t know how he sat through all of this stuff. Then finally at the end, they asked Prabhupada to speak. And Prabhupada, he spoke in Hindi but, oh, he was so animated and he was quoting slokas, and you could tell he was giving them the sauce. From the slokas we could understand, “Bhagavatam kicks out cheating religion.” They were all quiet, they couldn’t say anything. Of course, in the end then Prabhupada said, “What is the use of these conventions? They talk about unity and peace, but they’ll never achieve it. They all have their own idea. Unless they surrender to Krishna, how can there be any unity?”
Srutakirti das: After he spoke, Prabhupada said, “Let’s go.” Right away he sat down and he said, “So, did you understand what I was saying?” We said, “A little bit, Prabhupada.” He said, “Yes. I told them everyone is speaking so many things but not once did anyone mention Krishna, Who is the speaker of Bhagavad-gita, as being the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” He said, “So all of your activities here will be useless. You won’t accomplish anything.” So he was still going on in the car. Prabhupada was a defender of Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. So he just told them all off, and then he got in the car and he left. I remember on the way back, we headed back to Delhi and there was a big typhoon and it was pouring rain and trees were blowing down in front of us and behind us. It was like all hell broke loose after Prabhupada left this assembly.
May 1975: NEW DELHI, INDIA – Life Member’s house, Program
Annada dasi: Towards the end of the darshan at the Delhi temple, he sat next to his harmonium and played a few melodies of the Hare Krishna mantra and chanted. And then he pushed the harmonium away and he said, “This is the way to please Krishna, to chant the Hare Krishna mantra in different melodies.” During Srimad-Bhagavatam class, in that lecture he was talking about hogs, dogs, camels and asses; and my parents came to that particular lecture. My father’s response after that was, “What kind of lecture was that? He was just talking about hogs, dogs, camels and asses.” Prabhupada gave us just what we needed to hear, but we’re not always willing to accept. But it was very interesting. He was talking about grihamedhi life and hogs, dogs, camels and asses. No “Radhe, Radhe” or intimate pastimes or anything like that. When you look back now, it’s so much clearer how his preaching was medicinal on the level that we needed to hear these things, and we still need to hear these things. He is giving the right medicine, the right dose at the right time. Not like a quack who will give you something that you like to take but it doesn’t actually do the job.
May 1975: MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – Arrival & activities in room, Walk, Srimad Bhagavatam lectures, Room conversations, Initiation & Deity installation, Departure
Madhudvisa das: There are all the devotees. You can see Prabhupada after arriving, 10 hours on the plane, 12 hours, sometimes 15-hour flight, he was always fresh and spry. Navayauvana, Krishna is Navayauvana. So Prabhupada was the servant of the ever-fresh Krishna, so he was always spry himself too. Prabhupada is weighted down with the flowers. There were never too many flowers. Prabhupada would distribute the flowers. There he is, from material calculation an old man, walking with the young, spry, enthusiastic devotees. This was a great scene. Prabhupada felt comfortable in the presence of all the young enthusiastic devotees. He didn’t feel out of place. Srila Prabhupada would only come to Australia once a year, which was quite good considering the remoteness of the country. But Prabhupada came to Australia six different times.
This is a good picture. On the right is the temple, and on the left is the Prabhupada House. Beautiful yellow and white, we painted the whole house. Up on the top it said “Prabhupada House.” There’s a widow’s walk on the top where they could look out onto the ocean, and there’s Prabhupada walking in. This old house was about a hundred years old, a Victorian house, a historical house. It was the first house in the whole neighborhood that was built by this rich man. All the details about it you can get from Kurma’s book, The Great Transcendental Adventure by Kurma das, the cook. The whole house was redone and we made it very elaborate, ebony wood and the drapes and the walls and the floors were all done over and the chandelier. Prabhupada walked in, he looked around and he said, “All this is for me?” And we said, “Yes, Prabhupada, this is Prabhupada House, your house.” So we were very, very happy. Before this time, we had always been operating out of small houses and storefronts and the devotees collecting in the streets and enduring a lot of different hardships distributing Srila Prabhupada’s books. So moving into this new temple and inviting people was the crowning glory of all their efforts, and it was a time of great pride for the devotees to showcase their spiritual master in such a beautiful setting and such a relaxed atmosphere. This marked a great historic time in Australia yatra.
Dvaipayana das: When Prabhupada came back and they took him up to his room, and so I went up there and brought this beautiful silver bowl with these peanuts and spiced rice bubbles in it. I came in and put it down before Prabhupada and paid my obeisances. Then Prabhupada took out his Gayatri thread and started chanting his Gayatri. So all the other big brahmanas in the room brought out their Gayatri threads and sat there like this. Then after a very short time, Prabhupada finished chanting his Gayatri. Everyone else still had their sacred thread hooked around their thumbs. So Prabhupada reached into this bowl with these spiced rice bubbles, picked up a little bit and handed it to the nearest brahmana, who still had his thumb hooked around his Gayatri thread. What a dilemma. So all the devotees immediately stopped chanting their Gayatri, put their hands out and accepted what Prabhupada was offering them. I later found out from Srutakirti’s book this was a fairly common occurrence that Prabhupada chanted his Gayatri very quickly. So one by one the devotees got up and left the room, and I was still sitting there alone with Prabhupada. He asked me what my service is. I said, “Prabhupada, I do cooking and Deity worship.” He said, “Oh, that is very nice.”
Srutakirti das: This is one of the things I think the devotees really appreciate, and I talk about it a lot. It’s seeing or hearing how Prabhupada lived, that we all need to see and know how Prabhupada practiced Krishna consciousness. And taking prasadam to me was such a wonderful activity, the way he did it. You can see he always took prasadam alone, 99% of the time. And if there was someone who was in the room when I would bring him prasadam, very graciously he would take off a piece of fruit or two or three for whoever was there or a little sweet and give them a little something and say, “OK, Hare Krishna,” and send them on their way. Then he would sit there and he would just honor prasadam. He did it very calmly and peacefully and never in a rushed way, never talking about different things, but he relished prasadam. It was such a nice thing to see. There’s another thing we do, especially as Westerners, we can turn taking prasadam into meeting times and socializing times with other devotees, just carelessly talking about whatever and really not get into the significance of honoring prasadam, mercy from Krishna. You could see with Prabhupada, he took it in that way. You could feel he was honoring Krishna in the form of His prasadam. So wherever he was, prasadam he was ready to have right around noontime. And as he traveled and the time changes, he would immediately adapt. There were no adjustment periods for Prabhupada. He never talked about jet lag, having to recover, take a day off. He just went right in and immediately accepted his responsibilities that he had given himself – giving class, greeting the Deities, morning walk, meeting with the devotees, the management, giving advice.
Shyamananda das: The first time I met Srila Prabhupada, I met him in Burnett Street. Upendra asked me up to go and see him. I sat down after offering my obeisances, and Srila Prabhupada looked straight at me and said, “So you’ve had doubts?” And I hadn’t said a word. So it was obvious straight away that I was in the presence of someone quite extraordinary because I did have doubts and I hadn’t expressed them. I said, “Yes, Srila Prabhupada. I really like to chant but I have a lot of trouble with the Hindu mythology, with people with four heads flying around on swans,” was exactly what I said. He sat back and put his hand back behind his head, played with his sikha and sort of looked up. Then he looked back at me and he said, “So don’t worry about that. Just chant and everything will be fine.” So that was the first instruction he ever gave me. I took that very seriously, and I started chanting 32 rounds a day and I took it on board as best I could. Then from that point, the next time I saw him was in Sydney. Someone had told him I was an artist and he said, “So you are an artist?” I said, “Yes, Srila Prabhupada, I’m a painter.” He said, “Could you design a temple?” I was young so I said, “Yes.” So he got me to come around his desk and sit right next to him. So I sat down next to him, and everyone was askance. They were all quite taken aback. And so was I, I was trembling. I remember everything was trembling. He took out all these small black and white photographs of Vrindavan and particularly the temple where he lived, the Radha-Damodar temple, and showed me the photographs, and he asked me to design a temple for Vrindavan. He gave me this whole…there must have been 50 photographs. So what happened is I went away and designed a temple, but I didn’t stick to the Radha-Damodar format that he gave me and I designed something far too modern. In the end, I produced a huge architectural model and everything, none of which I’d ever done before, so it was really quite wonderful because I was only 22. But he was very kind through the whole process and very supportive. And he did mention that when you do something with the mood of service, it’s not necessary that it be carried out for the service to reach fruition because the actual engagement in that mood was the thing that mattered. So he was very encouraging.
The only reason I wanted to share all that is that I had a lot to do with the design of Burnett Street and I had a bit to do with this as well, the current Melbourne temple. During that time, there were a lot of petty divisions within the movement and people were very concerned about whether you lived in or out of the temple and all of that sort of thing; and it was all very understandable because people were very young, trying to find their feet in something that was way beyond their understanding. At that stage I had reasonably long hair, and I’ll never forget this because I did a painting which is now in Srila Prabhupada’s room in the Melbourne temple here. The painting is of Radha and Krishna with a peacock behind Them. I brought the painting in to give to Srila Prabhupada…it’s four feet square and quite a heavy thing…and all the devotees were there. Srila Prabhupada came out into the hallway and he saw the painting and he said, “Oh, what is this?” I said, “It’s a painting I’ve done for you, Srila Prabhupada.” He smiled and then he looked at my hair and he said, “So what is this?” I started to say something about trying to look like everyone else and not scaring people, and I got about halfway through and realized it was nonsense and so I just sort of laughed. And he reached out and rubbed my hair and laughed. It was really sweet. It was the exact opposite of what I expected. He was very gentle with me because I wasn’t very strong spiritually or devotionally, so he was particularly soft with me. He just laughed and rubbed my hair, and it was one of the sweetest memories I have with Srila Prabhupada. Then he looked back at the painting and he said, “Bring it into my room.” So I carried it in and he said, “Put this painting right next to my bed. I want it to be the first thing I see in the morning and the last thing I see before I go to sleep at night.” And, oh, that was it for me. That was the perfection of anything I wanted to aspire towards. So I did, I put it there and I propped it on the table. Then he gave me some instruction, unfortunately most of which I can’t remember. A lot of what Srila Prabhupada said was in Sanskrit, and that’s why I don’t remember. But the part I do remember, at the end he said, “I can write, you cannot write. You can paint, I cannot paint. Let’s work together in Krishna’s service.” So I took that very seriously and did what I could to help Madhudvisa with the temple here in Melbourne.
Rasanandini dasi: Darshans were pretty amazing. When Prabhupada would greet the Deities, he’d be, of course, the center of attention. But it all just went past him, he was totally unaffected, and he went in front of the Deities as Their most humble servant. And that for me reinforced his personal qualities. He’d be in ecstasy and his eyes would be on Radha-Vallabha, and you could see the tinge of the ointment of love. He’d be totally in love with the Deities.
Kurma das: Srila Prabhupada’s lectures at the Melbourne temple were actually held in the evening. Normally Prabhupada’s Bhagavatam classes were held in the mornings. But on the advice of Madhudvisa Swami, with whom he always took counsel…he had a lot of respect for Madhudvisa Swami, and Madhudvisa had suggested that we’d get more guests along to the temple in the evening time. So Prabhupada, with a slight movement of his head and a smile, he agreed to Madhudvisa that “Yes, definitely we’ll do that.” So Prabhupada would take his morning walks at the Botanic Gardens, as he always loved to do. It was one of his favorite places to walk, he said. Then he’d come back to the temple, there would be greeting of the Deities and then Guru Puja, and then he’d return to his room and we’d have the Bhagavatam class in the evening.
Jagattarini dasi: During Srila Prabhupada’s lecture, one devotee asked a question. And his question was that if a devotee is initiated as a brahmana and he leaves Krishna consciousness, then isn’t it appropriate that if he wants to come back that he should be reduced to the level of a sudra. It was a very theoretical kind of a question, and Srila Prabhupada cut him off quite quickly and said, “It is not for you to judge who is guilty and who is innocent.” Then he tried again, and he re-phrased or he re-presented his question. It may have been that he didn’t think that Srila Prabhupada understood his question, but he tried again to explain this point that somebody who leaves should be put in a lower position and then work their way back up. Srila Prabhupada again cut him off, and then he commented afterwards that only the spiritual master knows who is actually guilty and who is innocent. And that really struck me quite deeply, that Srila Prabhupada was indicating that we can’t see from the outside what are people’s intentions and motives so as to be able to judge them or degrade them for their offenses or their faults.
Sabhapati das: Each evening Srila Prabhupada would give a lecture, and a couple of lectures he spoke on how society should be organized according to the varnasrama-dharma and how it was the duty of the leaders of society to rule properly. So I was very impressed by these sort of lectures because previously I’d been to university and I’d studied economics and politics, and I was interested in how society should be organized. Previously in 1974 after coming back from the Mayapur Festival, some devotees in America, Balavanta prabhu in particular, were running for Congress. So in elections in Australia, I was put up to be the representative of the In God We Trust Party, the political party of the Hare Krishna Movement. From this we got so much wonderful publicity – interviewed on so many of the leading current affair TV programs, on the Mike Willesee Show, on In Melbourne Tonight. When I was on the Mike Willesee Show, he asked me what my policy was. And I was explaining to him how we weren’t so much interested in so many political ideologies, but actually we were more interested in the quality of the politician, of the morality of the politician. The politician should have good spiritual qualities because in the past so many politicians were so corrupt and involved in so many different types of scandals and corruption so they were of no good quality. One of our platforms was that if we got elected, we would close down the two bars in Parliament House where the politicians would go and they would drink so much alcohol. And then after deciding to have the vote, they would ring the bell so that all the politicians were forced to leave the bar and to leave their drinks and to go back into the House and make the vote. So we made a big point that so much legislation was passed in the Parliament by intoxicated leaders. So we thought that this was actually quite disgusting. Our political platform was actually based on Harinam. We would go out and we would chant on the streets of Melbourne, and we would stop in a particular place and perform the kirtan and, of course, hundreds of people would come around. Then we would stop the kirtan, and I would stand on a soapbox and get up and talk about the philosophy of Krishna consciousness. We would talk for three or four minutes and everyone would listen, and I would finish and they would all clap in appreciation. Then we would continue chanting on down the street and stop at the next corner and get up and give another talk. So actually we went around the suburban streets where there were just houses. Then we would have kirtan up and down the suburban streets. So in this way, not only were we participating in a political process, but it was all based on the Harinam of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. So in that way, we were spreading Krishna consciousness. So as we engaged in the electoral campaign, we got quite a lot of publicity. One evening we were on a show called Melbourne Tonight, which was a big variety show in Melbourne; and one man came to Australia, and his name was Arnold Schwarzenegger. He had just won the title of Mr. Universe for the second or third time, and he was doing a tour of Australia. So he was a very smart guy, and he saw me on this political show. So he wanted to get publicity for himself. So the next day he rang up and he suggested that we have a meeting together and he could bring along a cameraman, and we would have publicity for him and publicity for the Hare Krishna political campaign. So we agreed to it. So the next day Arnold Schwarzenegger came and we met with him, and we had a big discussion and we were explaining to him that we’re not this body, we’re the soul. But he was flexing his muscles and telling us how good and how big and how powerful he was, and he was fit and healthy and we weren’t fit and healthy because we were doing meditation. But we challenged him to come out on an eight-hour kirtan with us and see if he could keep up. You have to be very fit. Anyhow, he declined. Then finally he brought a photographer along, and he took a photograph of myself and him shaking hands. The next day it appeared in the paper, and it had “The man of the body meets the man of the spirit” and a very, very nice favorable article underneath that caption.
Sahadeva das: Prabhupada was giving class one evening, and I think it was the first evening that Prabhupada was there. And we had all been working really hard and hardly slept at all for a few days preparing everything. And so as Prabhupada started the class, I think more than half the devotees nodded off. Then Prabhupada told everyone to wake up, and I was one of them, I ended up going to sleep. I hadn’t slept properly for at least three days. So I tried even standing up, but I almost fell over. Anyway, Prabhupada two or three times told everyone to wake up. Then after that Prabhupada actually got quite heavy, and he started explaining that the disciple’s responsibility and duty is to hear from his guru and that it’s very disrespectful for a disciple to go to sleep in front of his guru while the guru is giving Hari-katha. Prabhupada was very, very strong on that. So that was good for me because it helped me understand the relationship between disciple and guru. Because at that time we were doing so many things, but Prabhupada pointed out that the most important thing was to hear from your guru. So I always remember that.
Mahotsaha das: When Prabhupada was on the vyasasana, I took it upon myself to take his water in his lota when he was finished. That was my task. I took it to the kitchen and took that water and distributed it; and I was a bit greedy, I had most of it. Prabhupada, he was the real center for the movement in Australia. When he was here, everybody was there and it was so exciting. Everybody drove from everywhere to be there, and it was all around Srila Prabhupada. Even the people on the edge who were just interested visitors would get caught up in that enthusiasm, and I’m sure many of them joined as a result.
Srila Prabhupada: Sarvopadhi-vinirmuktam, tat-paratvena nirmalam, hrsikena hrsikesa-sevanam bhaktir ucyate. This bhakti means that we have to clear ourselves from the designations. What is that designation? Everyone is thinking, “I am American,” “I am Indian,” “I am European,” “I am Australian,” “I am cat,” “I am dog,” “I am this,” “I am that,” bodily. We have to cleanse this bodily conception of life, that I am not this body. Aham brahmasmi, “I am spirit soul.” This you have to realize. Then there will be no distinction that there is an American, here is an Australian, here is a Hindu, here is a Muslim, here is a tree, here is…no. Panditah sama-darsinah. Panditah means learned, one who knows things as they are. For them, vidya-vinaya-sampanne, brahmane gavi hastini, suni caiva svapke ca, panditah sama-darsinah. A person, very learned, vidya, and very gentle…vidya means, educated means he is gentle, sober. He is not rogues and ruffian. That is vidya. That is the test of education. He must be very sober and silent, that is called gentleman in one word. Brahma-bhuta prasannatma, na socati na kanksati, samah sarvesu bhutesu, mad-bhaktim labhate param. Samah sarvesu bhutesu. Unless one is spiritually realized, he cannot see equally everyone. Then samah sarvesu...mad-bhaktim labhate param. Then one can become real devotee of the Lord, after surpassing the brahma-bhuta stage. So this bhakti line is not so easy. But by Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s mercy, we have installed the Deity here in your country. You are very fortunate that Caitanya Mahaprabhu has come to your country to teach you how you become free of all anxieties. This is Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s mission. Everyone is full of anxiety, but everyone can be free from all anxieties if he follows the path chalked out by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. What is Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s instruction? Very simple. Harer nama harer name harer namaiva kevalam, kalau nasty eva nasty eva nasty eva gatir anyatha. This is not Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s personal version. This is in the scripture, Vedic scripture, Brhan-naradiya Purana, this instruction is there. As people are fallen in this age, the method also has been offered very simple. They cannot follow any strong or severe austerities, it is not possible. They have been recommended simply to chant the Holy Name of God, that’s all. Anyone can do. It is not difficult at all. Then if you say that “You are from India, your Caitanya is Indian, and He is recommending Hare Krishna. Why shall I chant? I have got my own God.” All right. If you have got your own God, then you chant His name. Caitanya Mahaprabhu doesn’t say that you chant simply Krishna’s name. If you have got any relationship with God and if you know His name and address, then you chant His name. Unfortunately, you do not know who is God, neither you know His address, neither His activities. So take this Krishna. Here is a solid name, and we will give you His address, His father’s name, His mother’s name, everything. Krishna, His form, His activities, His qualities we cannot understand with these blunt material senses. It is not possible. Atah sri-krsna namadi, na bhaved grahyam indriyaih. Then, we have got this only possession indriyas, how we shall understand? Sevonmukhe hi jihvadau. If you engage your senses in the service of the Lord, svayam eva sphuraty adah, then Krishna will be revealed to you, “Here I am.” This is the process. Now, this word is very significant. Sevonmukhe hi jihvadau. Jihva means tongue. If you simply engage your tongue in the service of the Lord, you will gradually develop. So how to engage the tongue? It is not said that if you see or if you touch, if you smell, no. If you taste. So what is the business of the tongue? The business of the tongue that we can taste nice foodstuff and we can vibrate. Do these two jobs: vibrate with your tongue Hare Krishna and take as much as possible prasadam, and you become a devotee. Thank you very much.
Madhudvisa das: Do you want to have any questions? If there are any questions…
Srila Prabhupada: Test it. Make a trial. The temple is here. We are inviting, “Come here. Do these two business.” And our Madhudvisa Maharaj is ready to give you prasadam and chance for dancing and singing, that’s all.
Devotee: The kings were taught to govern the whole universe. Does that mean all the worlds in the universe or just this earth?
Madhudvisa das: She is just wondering how it was possible for one king to rule the whole world. It seems like it is very difficult. Nowadays we have so many leaders and they cannot manage.
Srila Prabhupada: So forget that. Why you are thinking that you cannot rule over, therefore others cannot? You are thinking in your terms, but there are. That is possible. So that is not our field of activities. It is other’s, politician. But let us…our business is how to improve our spiritual condition of life. Even if you don’t rule over the world, it doesn’t matter. So why you are anxious to rule over the world? It is not our business. You chant Hare Krishna and take prasadam.
Hari Sauri das: A memorable feature about Prabhupada’s visit were the big kirtans that we had every night after Prabhupada’s lecture. Prabhupada had praised Madhudvisa Swami, who was our GBC, for his ability to lead kirtans, his enthusiasm for kirtan. He had once told him, I think in India, that “Madhudvisa is the emperor of kirtan.” Every day we would dance, we would sing, he had enlivened us all for several years. And, of course, when Prabhupada came, he was especially enthusiastic. So he would lead the kirtans. When Prabhupada came, his secretary was Paramahamsa Swami. Paramahamsa, I remember, used to love playing the drum, really pounding away on it. And we would all let loose, we would dance up and down, we would let ourselves go. And seeing Srila Prabhupada sitting on the vyasasana with that characteristic movement of his head from side to side…he would slightly close his eyes, he would play his kartals and become fully absorbed in the kirtan. And when we saw Srila Prabhupada in that kind of concentration and meditation on the Holy Names and seeing him appreciate Madhudvisa leading such enthusiastic kirtans and seeing the devotees so enlivened by it, it was a fantastic reciprocation. All of the devotees just loved it. We would go wild.
Dvaipayana das: That’s me playing the guitar. One thing I do remember about that particular time in 1975 is that there was that breakaway…what we call “the Haribol Group” had a fairly big following in Melbourne. And because Prabhupada was there, they would all come along to the program and the kirtan. They would try to persuade Prabhupada to come to their place, but Prabhupada said, “No, you can just come along here, do kirtan and take prasadam. What is the difficulty?” A number of times he did stress the importance of kirtan and prasadam specifically in Australia. So that’s one thing that really struck me, and I still remember it to this day and try to do it in my own small way to continue this program. Very simple but very effective. Somehow or other people can become attached to hearing and chanting the Holy Name of the Lord and partaking in the divine remnants of His beautiful vegetarian food. It certainly opens up their hearts.
Madhudvisa das: Srila Prabhupada leaving the temple in 197 Danks Street, which is one block off from the ocean. Beaconsfield Parade is the name of the road that goes along the ocean there, and Srila Prabhupada in the morning would walk out there and go along. Because Prabhupada is getting into the car, it would indicate that he would be going down to the Botanical Gardens because if he was going onto the beachfront he would just walk. This is Prabhupada arriving in the Botanical Gardens there in Melbourne, which was a very beautiful place. He’d know that the British had the tradition of building these elaborate botanical gardens wherever they would have their colonies, whether it was in Africa or in India. So Australia was like that too. They would have these elaborate botanical gardens that they would construct, and they would bring all these different exotic trees into one place. Srila Prabhupada would go early in the morning and he would comment, “They have spent so much money building this and now look, in the morning no one has come to take advantage of it. We are the only ones.” Prabhupada would be walking in the Botanical Gardens at seven in the morning, and everybody else would be whizzing by in their cars going to work and we would be taking advantage of their Botanical Gardens. Srila Prabhupada would preach the philosophy of Krishna consciousness using nature. He would tell us many times that “You can learn from nature.” When he would be going on these morning walks, he would point out things and he would amaze us. Sometimes he would say, “This is a certain type of a tree,” and he would quote the name of the tree in Latin like he was some kind of a botanist. And lo and behold, we’d go and look at the tree and the name would be there and it would be that tree. And he would point out the medicinal value in the trees. Prabhupada was very educated, not just in spiritual things but he had so much material knowledge that he would amaze the devotees.
Ramprasad das: You could see the city from the distance, and there were buildings. I can’t remember exactly his question, but it was something along the lines of “Why do they build these big buildings?” Being somebody who was always a little bit in awe of architecture, I remember saying something like “Well, they like to be remembered from doing some big construction.” I guess that’s sort of the fault of an artist anyway, isn’t it? Either do a painting or leave something behind. Prabhupada said, “That’s exactly the same as the washerman’s donkey. He likes to be known for being able to carry some big load. It’s no different.” Yeah, the washerman’s ass. I remember thinking then, “Hmm.” I was working at the time as a designer and an artist. I had a job in a TV studio here in Melbourne. Prabhupada was dismissing the so-called lofty aesthetics of contemporary architecture. The mode of passion I guess it is, isn’t it? You like to work in the mode of passion and leave something behind that you’ll be known for. But yeah, Prabhupada’s perspective cut through it.
Sahadeva das: All of us would pile into cars and then follow Prabhupada for the morning walk. We would all follow behind. You’d have the leaders in front, you’d have Madhudvisa, who was the GBC, Dipak, he was the temple president of Melbourne at the time, then you had a few others there, and then the rest of us would be walking behind. It had been raining a little bit so the grass was moist, and Prabhupada would be walking along the pathway, a cemented pathway, and then go straight off the pathway and walk across the grass. So I had just read the day before that Lord Caitanya, wherever He stepped people would take the dust of His feet. So I thought, “I should get some dust from Prabhupada’s feet.” So I was walking behind Prabhupada, Madhudvisa was on his right, and Dipak was on his left. Then I was looking for the footprints. I could see the footprints of Madhudvisa and Dipak really clearly. As you walk in the grass, it leaves an imprint quite deep, about half an inch deep. And I was looking and Prabhupada wasn’t making an impression in the grass. So I decided that I would get right down to actually see Prabhupada’s foot come off and see the grass underneath. And I was looking as Prabhupada’s foot came off, the grass even wasn’t bent or anything. It wasn’t that Prabhupada was an inch or two off the ground, it wasn’t like that. It appeared that Prabhupada’s feet were actually touching the ground, but they weren’t. I became a little confused at that time. I didn’t really understand what I was seeing. Then later I read in Bhagavatam where Yudhisthira Maharaj, he never touched the ground. So I understood from that that Prabhupada was a nitya-siddha, that he was never a conditioned soul and he came directly from the spiritual world. I didn’t need to see that to come to that conclusion because by serving Prabhupada I was able to experience within that my understanding of Krishna consciousness and my detachment from the world as it was developing. I understood that this is a pure Vaisnava because serving a materialist or ordinary person, these things don’t happen in your heart. But that was really wonderful to see that.
Ragatmika dasi: My son Janaka, who was very young at the time, probably 4 years old. And one morning walk Srila Prabhupada took Janaka’s hand in his, squeezed it very hard, and kept it in his pocket all through the morning walk. It was probably Janaka, my son, that spent more personal time with Srila Prabhupada than I did. In the Melbourne temple, he used to go up to Srila Prabhupada’s rooms. I would dress him in the morning, and he’d disappear for the day. Prabhupada’s assistants traveling with him and the other devotees would be standing guard at Prabhupada’s door to his room. Janaka knew his way in and out of Prabhupada’s room, so he would sneak in through the side window and spend the day with Srila Prabhupada. He’d play boats in the bathroom when Srila Prabhupada slept. Sometimes he would sleep under the bed there with Prabhupada, take prasadam with him.
Venugopala das: When we were on morning walks, Prabhupada would, of course, be chanting japa and we would follow in unison. Then Prabhupada would stop and he would say something or point out some philosophical point. He would walk on again, and everyone would start chanting japa. And this little mataji – Ramaniya her name was – her chanting was over and above everyone else’s chanting, very loud. And sometimes you couldn’t hear what Prabhupada was saying, so you’d have to really snuggle in around Prabhupada as close as you could to actually hear what he was saying. So you might hear someone chanting japa in the background, not knowing what to do when they couldn’t hear what Prabhupada was saying. So then Ramaniya was chanting this japa very loud and everyone else was thinking, “Oh, she’s chanting so loud.” You could feel the vibe of the devotees, “Turn it down, please.” Then Prabhupada actually commented, “She is chanting very nicely. It is good chanting.” So that put us in our place.
Bhutanatha das: Prabhupada had gone out on his walk, and something needed doing in Prabhupada’s room. I don’t recall exactly what it was. I think it was to tidy up. There must have been a lot of devotees in there before he went for the walk. Anyway, I was feeling Prabhupada’s potency in the room. I was feeling very low and dirty and unclean and “What are you? Who are you to put yourself before this exalted person?” I could recognize that he was just so glorious. “And I think you should go away out of the sight from this man, you don’t belong here.” I was actually thinking that in my mind. And as I thought that, the front gate there opened and Prabhupada looked straight up at me and beamed a big smile and called me down to greet the Deities. So I went down and went in the temple. So that dissipated any doubts. I thought if Prabhupada is accepting, then I felt freed from that. And I served then for 16 years nonstop, 18 hours a day.
Sukla dasi: I stayed behind to do the room and get the room all ready for Srila Prabhupada, and I would always be downstairs and open the door when Prabhupada came in and there was a huge kirtan. Prabhupada came in, and I had some flowers in my hand. Prabhupada walked up the stairs. In Melbourne, there was an area where you got halfway up the stairs and there was a landing, and then you went further up. Prabhupada walked up the stairs, and then Prabhupada turned around and the kirtan was louder and louder. Prabhupada looked down at me, and he saw I had the flowers in my hand. He walked back down the stairs and took the flowers out of my hand and walked back up the stairs. That was pretty far out.
Srila Prabhupada: Why there are varieties?
Devotee: They say originally there was just a cell and that by adaptation, in some circumstances one kind would live and another would die. So all these varieties adapted to different conditions.
Srila Prabhupada: Who adapted? Who manages?
Devotee: Well, they just…accidentally.
Srila Prabhupada: Ah, that is nonsense. Nothing happens accidentally. That is nonsense. There must be some arrangement. What is happening accidentally? Why you are taking care of the trees? So many things. Nothing is done accidentally. You do not see the cause. Let accidentally money come and sit down. Why do they not do that? If accident is there, let accident come and I will become rich man. Why do they try? Why they go to the college? Let accidentally you become M.A., Ph.D. This is all rascaldom. There are five causes: activity, the place, the proportion of energy, and ultimately sanction by God. Then things happen. Otherwise, there is no question of accident.
Gopinath Acharya das: Srila Prabhupada really made a point about the neck beads should always be tight. They were bought off the shelf somewhere in Vrindavan, whatever, so they wouldn’t be tailor-made for the devotees’ necks so they’d usually be loose. But even though they were put on loosely, Srila Prabhupada insisted on a number of occasions that “No, they must be tight.” I think it’s got something to do with remembering, remembering the beads are there and that we’re servants of the spiritual master.
Dayasara das: I remember I was very nervous, of course, going before Prabhupada to receive initiation. Is that me there? I think so. I’ve put on about 40 kilos since then. I was worried that I would forget the four rules and regulations so I said, “No illicit sex, no gambling, no intoxication, no meat eating,” to try and make sure I didn’t forget. Then Prabhupada said, “So many negatives?” because I was stressing the word “no” as though it was abhorrent to give these things up. And Prabhupada said, “Isn’t there any positive?” Then I said, “Ah, yes, and chanting Hare Krishna 16 rounds.”
Gopinath Acharya das: There were a number of occasions when I was involved or sat in or was part of initiations, Srila Prabhupada always insisted that the doors and windows remain closed. Devotees would open the windows as if the smoke coming from the fire was a botheration. I don’t know exactly why, but he would insist that we keep the doors and windows closed. It didn’t matter, the smoke was not harmful.
Sabhapati das: There was a chaise lounge that he would sit on. When the guests came, he would sit there and preach to the guests. This was a very big room. All the devotees could actually fit, it was almost as big as the temple room. One particular preaching engagement was with a social worker from the Department of Social Welfare. We actually rang up the departments and tried to get the ministers to come and meet with him, but the minister couldn’t come but he sent one of his top men. This man came along and actually he was very, very nervous, and I don’t think he actually wanted to be there. Anyhow, he met with Prabhupada, and he was respectful. Then Prabhupada started to tell him about our principles and how one of our principles was no illicit sex. And when Prabhupada mentioned this, this man became very, very agitated. Prabhupada kept talking about this, and this man became so agitated that in the end he wanted to cut the conversation off. Although Prabhupada was giving him the answers and the solutions to so many of their social welfare problems, this man was not willing to listen. Prabhupada’s preaching was very powerful, but they were not willing to hear.
Also on the same visit he met with one man whose name was Brian Dixon, and Brian Dixon was a very, very famous man in the state of Victoria. He was a very famous footballer, and later on after that he became a politician, a government minister. He came with his secretary, and she was not dressed very appropriately. She had a short dress, she had the makeup on, everything, and she was very provocatively dressed. So Brian Dixon came in and met Srila Prabhupada. And he made the comment straight away that he saw the Hare Krishna devotees on the streets singing and dancing and chanting and whenever he saw them, he saw that they were always happy. So he asked Srila Prabhupada, “Why are you successful?” He knew that we did not participate in taking drugs, and he was impressed by this. Prabhupada explained that we follow four principles and one of them is no intoxication and that by chanting Hare Krishna you become happy. And Brian Dixon, he was listening. So then Prabhupada mentioned that we do not engage in illicit sex, and Brian Dixon became embarrassed. He actually blushed like anything. Almost immediately he looked at his watch and said, “Oh, I’m sorry, I’ve got another appointment,” and he had to leave. So Prabhupada was preaching very, very strongly, and he was giving these particular men the answers to their problems that they were dealing with. But again, they were not willing to listen or to implement this particular program.
Then again we had one newspaper reporter come from The Age newspaper, which is the main Melbourne newspaper, and Srila Prabhupada preached to this man for about 45 minutes, simply preached to him about “you are not this body,” straight preaching. Although the man was asking general sort of questions, Prabhupada just stuck with this one point of how you are not this body and you are the servant of Krishna and he just preached to the guy full on, and the guy just sat there and listened. So then the next day he wrote a very, very nice article. It was about half a page on the second page of The Melbourne Age, quite an extensive article and very well written, because most newspaper reporters, they actually misinterpret what the original message was. We showed Srila Prabhupada the newspaper article the next day, and he was so pleased that he asked us to get 12 copies of that particular article and he got his secretary to send them to some of the big Life Members in India.
Mahotsaha das: He would hold darshans there some evenings in his room, and he’d sit and talk and Prabhupada would display his usual erudite knowledge. But he had this compassion that he would hear everyone and consider. Even if you spoke, you could only feel foolish in front of Prabhupada; but he seemed to tolerate, and he had a lot of compassion. But at the same time, with the guests that would come, he would show a lot of interest but he would not tolerate the subject being moved. So he would be very quick to bring the subject back within the Krishna conscious domain. Even if he would insinuate that they were in illusion, he did it in such a way that nobody was ever offended. Prabhupada had this knack of speaking to people. So in Melbourne, I remember he spoke to one of the parents of a devotee and he made them feel extremely comfortable. But at the same time, Prabhupada was very strong in stressing that Krishna consciousness was for everyone and not just a sectarian movement but it was for everyone and it was a practical movement. Prabhupada had the skill of disarming people’s defense just through his purity and his straight speaking and his simple language, and it was understood by everyone. There was nothing duplicit in his language, it was straightforward.
Cittahari das: My uncle, Father Wallace, he was a Jesuit; but he was in charge of the whole of Victoria, so he was the head Jesuit. I said to my mother, “I’d like to get my uncle to meet Prabhupada.” So somehow she got that arranged. My mum was pretty good at arranging those things. So my uncle came, and we were all sitting around in Prabhupada’s beautiful room on the beautiful blue carpet. And he was sitting back on the chair, and he was quite an elegant sort of a guy and a very good speaker as the Jesuits are pretty well trained in philosophy. Prabhupada spoke philosophy with him quite a bit, and he seemed to be able to follow the thread of it and answer it, which most people when they met Prabhupada, they kind of lost it. Prabhupada was probing into what they understood and they couldn’t understand what they believed themselves, but he seemed to have some belief himself. Anyway, it went on for about three quarters of an hour, having a pretty lively conversation but jokey too, a lot of laughter and so on. Then finally the session was over, and he got up and shook hands and left. We were all sitting around Prabhupada, and Prabhupada was sitting there just kind of rocking a bit. I said, “Srila Prabhupada, what did you think of my uncle?” Prabhupada looked at us all and he smiled and he looked at me, he said, “A very pleasant drunkard.” And that was…we just all cracked up laughing because when immediately he walked in, Prabhupada must have picked up he’d had something. And I wouldn’t be surprised if he was a regular drinker. He had that kind of look, his face, a bit over-reddish. Yes, it was pretty well strong through the whole order at that time, I’d say, the whole Catholic church. That was the one thing the priests could do, have a good drink. The way Prabhupada could crack a joke was really amazing.
Social worker: The minister is elected according to public will in our society.
Srila Prabhupada: Because they have made a department…just like your, what is the department?
Social worker: Social Welfare.
Srila Prabhupada: Social Welfare. So if they find social welfare, why not help? Why they bring politics? If actually there is social welfare here, why they should not support it?
Social worker: Yeah, well, you’re right. But in our society, the minister is elected to carry out certain policies, not what he wants but what the people voted for, and they are taxed to support this.
Srila Prabhupada: If your policy is social reformation…
Social worker: Social reformation is not our policy.
Srila Prabhupada: Then? Social welfare.
Social worker: Just to look after those who are in trouble. That’s our policy.
Srila Prabhupada: Everyone is in trouble.
Social worker: Pardon?
Srila Prabhupada: At the present moment, even the ministers are in trouble.
Social worker: Yes, but that is not what our function is. Everybody is in trouble.
Srila Prabhupada: Physician, heal thyself. You see? They are also drunkards, they are also woman hunters and meat-eaters and gambling, that’s all. They require to be rectified.
Social worker: But they can’t help that, that’s society. You have to go and change society so society tells us to act differently.
Srila Prabhupada: But unless you change the society, how you can make social welfare? If you keep them as it is, then where is the question of welfare?
Social worker: They give it a different interpretation to the word.
Srila Prabhupada: Inter…how…I don’t…
Social worker: Does he understand me?
Srila Prabhupada: Basically one must be first-class ideal man. That is wanted.
Social worker: That’s why it’s so very difficult. You have to work on your own, or you have to see that your things are allowed to work. If you can convince enough people to go your way…
Srila Prabhupada: Our own program, it is not vox populi. You find out fault with us.
Social worker: What?
Srila Prabhupada: You find out what is our fault.
Social worker: I can’t see any fault.
Srila Prabhupada: Then you can disagree. But when you see everything is nice, how you will not accept it? Unless you are biased.
Social worker: Of course I am biased. I’ve been brought up differently.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Just like our…
Social worker: Just as you are biased against my life.
Srila Prabhupada: No, we are not biased. We say…
Social worker: You say I am sinning.
Srila Prabhupada: Just like we are not biased, we are allowing. We say that if you want to be first-class man, then you must not commit sinful activities. That is our proposal.
Social worker: But I as a public servant, I’m not here to change society. Society tells me what to do.
Srila Prabhupada: But we are also public. We belong to the public. You must become our servant also.
Social worker: What?
Srila Prabhupada: We are public, members of the public.
Social worker: Yes.
Srila Prabhupada: So you should become our servant also, if you are public servant.
Social worker: A public servant, in our philosophy, is a man who serves the minister elected by the people. In this way, he serves the public.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Social worker: And what the public decides, he does accordingly.
Srila Prabhupada: Therefore, we are reforming the public. Just like we are proposing here…I am not proposing, Krishna says that one must be peaceful. So how to become peaceful? If his mind is always disturbed, how he can become peaceful?
Social worker: You’re quite right.
Srila Prabhupada: So that is the secret of success. You want to make the people peaceful, but you do not know how to make him peaceful.
Social worker: Yes.
Srila Prabhupada: So therefore you have to adopt this…
Social worker: We have a competitive society.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. We say that you chant Hare Krishna, eat here sumptuously, live here comfortably, and you become peaceful. It is guaranteed. If anyone, even a madman, agrees to these three principles, that let him chant Hare Krishna mantra, take whatever nice foodstuffs we prepare, take, and live peacefully, he will be peaceful.
Social worker: What’s your answer that still such a small percentage of the population, tiny percentage of the population accepts the philosophy that so-and-so…
Srila Prabhupada: Tiny percentage…just like there are so many stars in the sky, and there is one moon. In percentage the moon is nothing. If you take percentage of the stars, the moon is nothing. But moon is important than all the nonsense stars. But if you take percentage, he has no percentage vote. But because he is moon, he is important than all these rascal stars. This is the example. What is the use of taking percentage of the stars in the presence of moon? Let there be one moon, that is sufficient. There is no question of percentage. One ideal man. Just like in Christian world, one ideal Lord Jesus Christ.
Social worker: How do you feel about Mao Tze Tung?
Srila Prabhupada: What is that?
Devotee: He says how do you feel about Mao Tze Tung?
Social worker: In China, he’s the ideal man.
Devotee: He’s a Communist.
Srila Prabhupada: His ideal is all right.
Social worker: In China he is…
Srila Prabhupada: His ideal, Communist idea that everyone should be happy. That is good idea, but they do not know how to make… Just like they are taking care of the human being in the state, but they are sending poor animals to the slaughterhouse. So for the satisfaction of the tongue of the human being, the animals should be cut throat. That is the defect.
Social worker: Our minister regards himself as a servant of the people who can be kicked out in two weeks’ time.
Srila Prabhupada: That is the defect. The people are rascals and they have elected another rascal. That is the defect.
Social worker: Right. But that’s how it is.
Srila Prabhupada: So what can be done? Then hopeless.
Social worker: You can work on the…
Srila Prabhupada: We are going without depending on these rascals. We are going on. If we instruct a man, “Please do not have illicit sex.” Have you got any objection?
Social worker: What?
Srila Prabhupada: If I advise somebody that “Do not have illicit sex,” have you got any objection?
Social worker: Yes, I do.
Srila Prabhupada: You have…
Social worker: Yes.
Srila Prabhupada: Illicit…if I say…
Social worker: I like sex, and my wife likes it.
Srila Prabhupada: Huh?
Social worker: We just enjoy it, we couldn’t live without it. Our marriage is happier because we have sex.
Srila Prabhupada: Just see, this is the position. No, we don’t prohibit sex. We prohibit…
Social worker: We don’t have two children, we stopped at…what?
Srila Prabhupada: …illicit, illicit sex.
Srila Prabhupada: Well, we use the pill, we use contraceptives, we use all kind of things, because it makes our…
Srila Prabhupada: Why do you use contraceptive?
Social worker: Because we don’t want any more children.
Srila Prabhupada: Then why don’t you stop sex?
Social worker: Because I like sex.
Srila Prabhupada: Just see.
Social worker: Because I enjoy it.
Srila Prabhupada: That means go to physician, “I want to do everything I like, still I want treatment.” This is the position. You want…
Social worker: I didn’t come for treatment.
Srila Prabhupada: No, no, I say… No, no, you have come for treatment here…
Social worker: I was invited to come.
Srila Prabhupada: …because you have failed to control the society, your activities. Therefore, you have come here, treatment. But when I prescribe medicine, you don’t accept it.
Social worker: I haven’t come for treatment.
Srila Prabhupada: No…yes. Otherwise why you have come here?
Social worker: I was invited.
Srila Prabhupada: Just to help you in your social activities, social welfare activities, to take some suggestion from us. But when we give the suggestion, you reject it. That is your position.
Gopinath Acharya das: Srila Prabhupada would always give wonderful lectures, but sometimes devotees would be falling asleep maybe due to having too much prasadam. And I must admit, in those days I used to fall asleep a lot. But I do remember one incident, it really floored people. We had a program at the Palais Theater in Saint Kilda, which was a pretty hip part of town. It wasn’t a very big theater, and it was cozy and intimate. It was eclectic, put it that way. There were a lot of philosopher hippie types there, and Srila Prabhupada was sitting on his vyasasana. He gave his lecture, and the acoustics unfortunately weren’t that good. It was reverberating around the room and it was hard to catch what Srila Prabhupada was saying, but there were a lot of people there. Anyway, at one particular point somebody asked a question, “There are so many yogis and swamis that have come and this and that. What can you do?” Either “what can you do,” inferring what that others can’t do or what can you do. Srila Prabhupada said, “I can save you from death.” Then there was complete silence, and everyone knew that Srila Prabhupada meant it. It was the most sobering thing I’ve ever heard someone say. So from then on, the rest of the program was sober. People were respectful.
Madhudvisa das: Prabhupada had a great, great affection for Australia and the preaching in Australia because we could see that when hearing Prabhupada giving lectures at different parts of the world, he would refer back to Australia – how the preaching was going on in Australia and they have gone to jail in Australia or they have the Rathayatra and they are distributing more books in Australia than everywhere else in the world, and it was a great joy for Srila Prabhupada to have his devotees in Australia. He sent some of his dear devotees there in the beginning. Bali Mardan and Upendra das went there in the beginning. It was an English-speaking country that had never been exposed to Krishna consciousness or anything like Krishna consciousness before, it was a completely fresh start, whereas in England some of his godbrothers had gone there before and there was some affiliation with India. But Australia was a far remote place, and people had taken to Krishna consciousness very elaborately and very diligently. And it was through the book distribution that that could be gauged, that here in Australia, a relatively small country with maybe 15 or 17 million people in the whole country, they were one of the top book distributors in the whole world at that time. At one point, Australia was the number one book distributing country in the world in the early ’70s, and we used to make sure that Srila Prabhupada heard about that. We would send the report, and Srila Prabhupada was always beaming. I remember when he came out with the Caitanya-caritamrta and they were in India and Prabhupada said, “And we will print 15 thousand volumes of this book.” I was there and I said, “Prabhupada, we’ll take 10 thousand.” Prabhupada said, “Oh, Madhudvisa is taking 10 thousand already. We must print 20 thousand.” Prabhupada saw that this was a young and vibrant and healthy country. Sometimes Australia is referred to as “the lucky country,” and Srila Prabhupada would go there and he would love the ghee that was there, the cow’s ghee. So he worked out a program that the Australian devotees could pay for their books in ghee because there was money being sent from Los Angeles to India to finance all the different building projects there. So instead of having the devotees from Australia send money from Australia to Los Angeles, then Los Angeles send money to India, Prabhupada said, “No, forget about all that sending back and forth. Instead of paying for your books in dollars to Los Angeles, pay for your books in ghee sent to India,” because this high-quality ghee sent from Australia to India was more valuable than the dollars sent from Australia. In this way we would send the ghee, and he said the devotees would be able to distribute this ghee to the Life Members in India and feed the devotees with high-quality ghee so they would stay healthy while they were doing their preaching work in India. So for so many years, thousands of pounds of ghee, this Allowrie ghee, a very famous ghee – it came in this big 10 gallon tin or 5 gallon tin – paying for our books in ghee. That was quite unique.
Krodesvara das: I was the guard, so to speak, stopping the hordes getting up there and bothering him. Prabhupada used to come out of his room very late at night or early in the morning and go into the other room where he would do his dictation, and I’d just be sitting there with my Bhagavad-gita. Sometimes I’d be fully conscious, and sometimes I’d be partially not conscious. Prabhupada stopped one time and spoke to me. He asked me what my name was and he asked me a few simple questions, and I replied back to him. I was a bit nervous being around Prabhupada in the sense that I was in awe of Prabhupada and I didn’t really feel comfortable being too familiar. I was a little bit awestruck by Prabhupada. So we had a few simple exchanges on the top of the steps in the dead of night, and Prabhupada went off into his room and did his translating. It inspired me thinking that there’s no one else awake except the two of us, and Prabhupada is in there actually translating the Bhagavatam.
Kurma das: Every night after the Bhagavatam class there was a big feast that was served out in what was known as Parampara Hall, which was a large room on the ground floor of Prabhupada House. That was the prasadam room at the time. So Dvaipayana and other cooks prepared very, very nice prasadam. This was the highlight of the evening for many, especially those who had come to the temple for the first time. On the second night, I remember Dvaipayana had prepared apple crumble. Apple crumble in those days was apples with cinnamon with a mixture of oats, flour and butter and baked in the oven till the topping was crispy. Now, it was a bit controversial because we thought that oats were not fit to be eaten by devotees. Someone said that somebody said that Prabhupada said that oats are meant for horses. So some devotees thought that apple crumble was not bona fide. Anyway, Dvaipayana made apple crumble, many, many, many trays of it, some of the best apple crumble that he had ever made. After the lecture, Prabhupada went up to his room and he felt a little hungry, and he asked Srutakirti to go down and see what prasadam there was available, what was being served for the devotees. So Srutakirti went down to the kitchen and brought back some apple crumble. Prabhupada ate a whole bowl of it, and then he sent Srutakirti downstairs for more. He said, “Please bring me more of those crispy apples.” After we heard the story, we realized that apple crumble was now bona fide and fit to be eaten by devotees. So then apple crumble became a dessert that was served at practically every feast.
Srila Prabhupada: So our process of knowledge you should take from the supreme authority. Then we save time for research work. That is Krishna consciousness movement. We take perfect knowledge from Krishna. I may be imperfect. Just like child is imperfect. So I may be imperfect, you may be imperfect. But if you take the perfect knowledge from the Supreme Perfect, then your knowledge is perfect. That is the process. This is called avaroha-pantha, knowledge coming, deductive knowledge. So everything is there. And if you like to take advantage of this movement, make your life perfect, go back to home, back to Godhead, then fully utilize this center, our Melbourne center, come here, read our books, and argue, try to understand with your full knowledge, no blindly acceptance. There is reason, there is argument, there is philosophy, there is science, everything is there. And if you accept that simply by chanting I shall realize, that is also allowed. Both ways. If you accept this simple process, that chant Hare Krishna and realize God, that is also fact. And if you think, “What is this nonsense, chanting Hare Krishna?” Then you read books. Both ways we are prepared. Come and take advantage of this movement. Thank you very much.
Devotee: Srila Prabhupada, where it is stated in the scriptures that Lord Brahma rides on a swan, a hamsa, is this…do we take this to mean that it’s a real swan, or is it something symbolic?
Srila Prabhupada: Not symbolic, it is fact. Why do you say symbolic?
Devotee: It’s rather unusual.
Srila Prabhupada: Unusual? What experience you have got? You have no experience. Have you got any experience of other planetary system, what is there? Then? Your experience is very teeny. So you should not calculate Brahma’s life and other things by your teeny experience. Now, in the Bhagavad-gita it is said that the duration of life of Brahma, sahasra-yuga-paryantam, ahar yad brahmano viduh. Lord Brahma’s life, it is stated in the sastra. We have already explained that we accept the authoritative statement of sastra. Lord Brahma’s life is stated there. Ahar means his one day is equal to our four yugas. Four yugas means 43 hundred…4,300,000 years, and multiplied by 1,000. Sahasra-yuga-paryantam. Sahasra means 1,000 and yuga…yuga means the 4,300,000 years makes a yuga, and multiplied by 1,000. That period is Brahma’s one day. Similarly, he has got one night. Similarly, he has got one month. Similarly, he has got one year. And such hundred years he will live. So how you can calculate? How it is within your experience? You think something mysterious, no. Your experience is nothing. Therefore, you have to take experience from the perfect person, Krishna. Then your knowledge is perfect. That I have already said. Don’t try to understand with your teeny experience everything. Then you will be failure.
Guest: Can one’s efforts to serve Krishna be virtually useless?
Srila Prabhupada: That I have already explained, that you are coming here even though you are not initiated. That is also service. So if you deposit one cent daily, one day it may become a hundred dollars. So when you get the hundred dollars, you can get the business. So you come here daily, one cent, one cent. When it will be a hundred dollars, you will become a devotee. So this is not wasted. It is…that is stated in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, krta-punya-punjah. Krta-punya, krta means done. Sukadeva Goswami is describing when Krishna was playing with His cowherd boys friends, so He was describing that these cowherd boys who are playing with Krishna, they have not come to this position in one day. Krta-punya-punjah, after life after life having performed pious activities, now they have come to this position that they are allowed to play with the Supreme.
Devotee: Who is a person who says…they are suffering but they actually…but they say that they’re happy and they’re not afraid to die.
Madhudvisa das: Someone who is not afraid to die and says that he is not suffering, how…
Srila Prabhupada: He is a madman, that’s all. Who is caring for madman?
Devotee: It’s very easy to convince some people that they’re not their bodies, but it’s not very easy to convince them that they’re not their minds. Is there some way we can explain to them?
Srila Prabhupada: That will take time. How can we expect that in one minute everyone will understand everything? It requires education, time. If he is prepared to give the time, then he will understand. Not that within 5 minutes, 10 minutes he will understand the whole thing. That is not possible. He is a diseased man, he requires treatment, medicine and diet. In this way, he will understand. A diseased man, if he doesn’t care for medicine, diet, then he will suffer. That’s all. Yes?
Devotee: If we’ve been here lifetime after lifetime performing impious activities, does it mean that we have to be here lifetime after lifetime performing pious activities to balance out our sinful reactions?
Madhudvisa das: We have been here for many lifetimes performing sinful activities. So is it possible to counteract all those sinful activities in one lifetime, or does it require many lifetimes?
Srila Prabhupada: One minute. That is Krishna consciousness movement. One minute. You are not reading Bhagavad-gita? What Krishna says? Sarva-dharman parityajya, mam ekam saranam vraja, aham tvam sarva-papebhyo, moksayisyami. “You surrender to Me, give up your all business. I will give you relief from all sinful reaction immediately.” So it requires one minute. “My dear Krishna, I was forgotten, now I understand. I fully surrender unto You.” Then you will become immediately free from all sinful reactions. Without any reservation, without any politics. If you fully surrender, Krishna is assuring, aham tvam sarva-papebhyo, moksayisyami ma sucah. He reassures, “Don’t worry whether I will be able to give you relief from all reactions.” Ma sucah. “Finished, guaranteed. You do this.” So how much time it requires to surrender to Krishna? Immediately you can do that. Mam evaisyasi asamsayam, “Then you come to Me without any doubt.” Everything is there. Krishna has given everything fully. If we accept it, then life is very simple. There is no difficulty. Yes?
Devotee: How long do you say it is before Krishna comes to this planet again in physical form, in human form?
Srila Prabhupada: Now calculate. I have already given the duration of one day, 12 hours of Brahma means 4,300,000 years multiplied by 1,000. What it comes?
Madhudvisa das: 4 thousand 300 million.
Srila Prabhupada: No, no.
Devotee: 4 billion 300 million.
Srila Prabhupada: Oh, difference of opinion.
Madhudvisa das: In Australia they calculate different.
Srila Prabhupada: Anyway, what is your Australian calculation? Let me know.
Madhudvisa das: Their billion is something else.
Srila Prabhupada: Oh. Anyway, I give you the right figure. Four million according to American and English calculation. 4,300,000 years and multiplied by 1,000. Then, what it comes according to English calculation?
Devotee: 4 billion 300 million.
Srila Prabhupada: Huh?
Devotee: 4 billion 300 million.
Srila Prabhupada: That is 12 hours, and add again 12 hours night. Then 8 billion…
Devotees: 600 million.
Srila Prabhupada: So Krishna comes after this period. In one day, after one day of Brahma He appears.
Devotee: Srila Prabhupada, does Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu also appear every day of Brahma?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, following Krishna. Krishna comes in the Dvapara-yuga. After finishing His business in this universe, He goes to another universe. In this way, the rotation takes 9 billion years. He stays in one universe for 125 years. Everything is there calculation in the sastra. Now we can imagine how many universes are there. That is all together material world. That is stated in the…athava bahunaitena, kim jnatena tavarjuna, vistabhya aham idam krtsnam, ekamsena sthito jagat. This material creation is one-fourth creation of the whole God’s property.
Kurma das: At this time in Melbourne, there were two groups of devotees. There were those who were living in the temple, and there were those that were known as the outside devotees. I’m not even sure that we were that respectful as calling them devotees; but we felt that if they weren’t living in the temple, they were not qualified to be devotees. We had a rather limited perspective of things. But amongst these devotees that were living outside, there were those who had broken away from ISKCON and they had concocted their own philosophy. And at the end of this evening class, some of their doubts were brought up at question time. Prabhupada very kindly allowed us to have some very lengthy question and answer periods at the end of these classes. One boy who was in this circle asked Prabhupada, “Can you take initiation by accepting the spiritual master in your heart without actually taking?” Prabhupada cut him off and said that these were all bogus propositions. He said, “It has no meaning. If you think in yourself that ‘I am eating,’ will you be satisfied?” He said, “You actually have to eat to be satisfied. If you just simply imagine that you have eaten, you will not satisfy your appetite,” indicating that you have to physically take initiation from the spiritual master, not just take initiation in the heart. This he said was bogus.
Ugrasrava das: At the end of the lectures, he would stop at the temple doorway and I’d put his slippers on his feet. And he would allow me to pick him up, and he would put his arm around my shoulder and I’d carry him up the stairs in Danks Street. Sometimes he would give me little comments on the way just the two of us could hear. Other times he would be very sober. But all the time, once we got past the doorway, I would get a little jovial comment of some sort. But the amazing thing was, I always never, ever, ever forgotten this point that it always seemed to me as though he was weightless. There was no weight there at all. I could walk up the stairs with him easy with just holding him, carrying him up. It was amazing how weightless he was.
Madhudvisa das: We were sitting in Srila Prabhupada’s room, not his bedroom but his sitting room where he would receive his guests. What you’re seeing now is one of the lawyers we brought up to speak to Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada wanted to talk with distinguished guests every night, and it was the duty of our advance team to arrange for people to come and speak to Prabhupada. Finally we had our own building and a very elegant place to bring distinguished guests, people like the Archbishop of Melbourne and the Episcopal Bishop of Melbourne. Srila Prabhupada is sitting on his elegant chaise lounge that we purchased at the antique shop, and we went overboard a little bit. We had it reupholstered in that powder blue color to match the walls because we understood that Srila Prabhupada liked the blue and white and gold combination as his color scheme for his room. So Srila Prabhupada was speaking to the lawyers and explaining Vedic philosophy. They were very respectful. As you may know, in the beginning of Krishna consciousness in Australia, there was quite a struggle for proselytizing Krishna consciousness in the street. In Melbourne, where they had a very liberal-minded City Council, they had a front of being very tolerant but they really wanted us to get off the street. The people that had their big multi-million-dollar boutiques and stores didn’t fancy the idea of the devotees being part of the landscape. So we hired this lawyer, Wally, for advice in what to do. The City Council would issue us these tickets; and we had received instruction from Prabhupada that we can chant in jail or we can chant on the street, it doesn’t make any difference. So why waste our money on expensive lawyers, and eventually they’ll see the folly in their persecution and leave us alone. And sure enough, that’s what happened. So we never paid Wally a lot of money. In fact, he donated his service mostly, and a lot of times we didn’t take his advice either because Prabhupada always took precedence.
The flower incident is a famous incident in the history of Australia, and it revolved around our Rathayatra Festival – the Rathayatra Festival which was held in Australia in 1973. Srila Prabhupada was there for Rathayatra the year after, and then this conversation which is taking place happened in ’75. During that Rathayatra Festival, some of the devotees got carried away with their gathering of flowers. And one group of devotees took off to the outer suburbs and they broke into a greenhouse, a professional greenhouse, and they volunteered all the flowers from that greenhouse to Lord Jagannatha, which wasn’t an authorized activity at all. But somehow or other, thousands and thousands of carnations showed up on the morning of Rathayatra Festival. So we used them, and then the police came just before the festival was to begin. It was almost an ugly scene, and one of the brahmacaris had to be sacrificed for the gallows. So he sacrificed his freedom and he said that “I went and stole the flowers, I did it on my own.” So he spent the Rathayatra day in jail, and the Rathayatra Festival went on. We had to pay a fine and everything like that. So everything got resolved a whole year before. So the humor is that the devotees had purchased this new temple and we wanted to have an elaborate greenhouse for the Tulasi plants. So the devotees who were helping to organize this temple weren’t aware of what happened on the Rathayatra Festival the year before. So they were looking around for a greenhouse. So they thought, “Well, let’s ask the guy about his greenhouse,” and they were all dressed up like devotees and everything, very earnest. So they knocked on the guy’s door and, lo and behold, it was the man who years before the devotees had stolen all his flowers. It was like the straw that broke his back. He flipped out and he started screaming and yelling, he drove them away. He said, “Get off of my property! I never want to see you again!” So the lawyers had found out about that, and they were all laughing. And it all came up while Prabhupada was explaining how Krishna owns everything. So they were all having a good chuckle about that.
So in that type of an atmosphere, Prabhupada was conducting these conversations every night. They would usually go on for an hour or two hours, and then they would be given prasadam and treated very respectfully. And in this way, Prabhupada said we can establish good relationships with the respectful people of the city. It actually worked because when we were having all these difficulties with the police and City Council in Melbourne one year, the Archbishop of Melbourne came to Srila Prabhupada. And the Archbishop was so impressed with Srila Prabhupada that he spoke from the pulpit the next Sunday saying that “We should not persecute these Hare Krishna people, and you should let them go in peace.” And the sermon was reported in the paper, on the Sunday papers, that the Archbishop had made this comment; and lo and behold, the City Council backed off after that. It came out in the paper that the Archbishop of Melbourne had given his stamp of approval to the devotees. So it was a great PR move on Srila Prabhupada’s part even inadvertently, but nothing was inadvertent with Prabhupada. He knew that Krishna was in control and that he was doing his job spreading Krishna consciousness and everything else was going to come out perfect.
Guest: It’s going to be very hard to get to what you’re striving for.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. That is to be united first. The first thing is that everyone should be convinced or understand clearly that everything belongs to God. But they have no conception of God even.
Amogha das: In his room, there is a chaise lounge, the French kind of seat, Prabhupada sat on. So in that room, one morning I had some duty to ask him something, I can’t remember, but he was sitting on that seat. When I came in, he was in some kind of spiritual experience with his eyes closed and he seemed to be hugging someone who I couldn’t see. He was moving his shoulders forward and feeling these really intense feelings. Then after some time, I didn’t know what to do so I was just sitting there. And then he opened his eyes and looked at me and, “Yes?” Then I…whatever question…something about doing something by a certain time, I can’t remember what it was just now. Then he answered, and then I paid my obeisances and left. That was very amazing.
Ugrasrava das: There were the two solicitors, and the other guy with the long hair was the photographer that took the ad for the Wrangler shirts, which was that billboard ad that was around the world. The photographer’s name was Bob Bourne. He was a personal friend of mine, and he won awards for that one photo. How it came about for him to do the Wrangler ad, we had just done the temple up in Burnett Street and the Deities had just been all clothed in new clothing and Vaibhavi had been decorating everything. I organized Bob Bourne to come and take the photos of the Deities for this particular time of their new dress. Bob had the Hasselblad camera, which is the one you viewed through the top, and he kept on referring to the Deities as “them” and “it” virtually, “those.” One time where he was lining everything up, and Vaibhavi was just making sure that everything was in particular position for the photo. And it just so turned out that she walked out of the Deity room and I walked out of the temple room, we were discussing something. And within seconds Bob came out and said she’d moved. We said, “What are you talking about?” He said, “She’s moved, you have to go and straighten Her up.” And Radha had turned, the Deity moved. So Vaibhavi had to go in and straighten Her up again. So from that time on, he never referred to Them as “them” or “it,” it was always “Radha and Krishna.” And after that, he wanted to do the photo for the Wrangler ad.
Shyamananda das: One of the nicest engagements I remember was when we went to Tarrawarra Abbey. It was a Trappist monastery up in Yarra Glen up the back of Melbourne, and those monks were in silence up until the end of the ’60s. So they were very strict vegetarian. At the Franciscan monastery, Prabhupada spoke quite pointedly about not killing, which he tended to do around Christian people because “thou shalt not kill” was the point at which he would enter the engagement with them. But at Tarrawarra he didn’t. He spoke in a much more relaxed manner, and I never saw him so comfortable among men that weren’t actually devotees. There was a point in the evening where he was sitting on a couch and the monks were sitting around him, and he actually had his arm over the back of the couch around one of the monks’ shoulders virtually and he was sitting up. When Srila Prabhupada was relaxed, he was extremely relaxed; but he had a very regal bearing. And like anyone who has a great regal bearing, when they relax it’s extremely attractive because it’s intimate, it’s not something that you’d normally get to see. Prabhupada’s bearing in public was impeccable, and I very rarely saw him let that go and just relax. I also saw in that moment how Srila Prabhupada was not sectarian. It was always about the principles. If the principles were being applied and lived, then he would embrace that in whatever form that took; and he had a remarkable way of speaking to that part of everybody. When you read the qualifications of a Vaisnava – always respectful to others – and you read those things and those words, you can take them superficially or you can take them very deeply. And in moments like that, I got to see very deeply what something like that really meant – the profound respect for the sincerity of those souls. And these monks put on such a feast for us and they went to so much trouble, and he was so happy to see that and just to be amongst men who were trying to love God and were following some rules and regulations. I could see that he felt a degree of comfort and affinity that I never witnessed before or since. It was absolutely wonderful.
Srila Prabhupada: And similarly, one who is not a devotee of God, he has no good qualities because he will hover on the mental platform. There are different platforms. Bodily concept of life, general. “I am this body. Therefore, my business is to satisfy the senses.” This is bodily concept of life. And others, they are thinking, “I am not this body. I am mind.” They are going on mental speculation like philosophers, thoughtful men. And above that there is intelligent class of men, practicing some yoga. And spiritual platform is above that. First bodily concept, gross, then mental, then intellectual, then spiritual. So this Krishna consciousness movement is on the spiritual platform, above body, mind and intelligence. But actually we should come to that platform because we are spirit soul. We are neither this body, nor this mind, nor this intelligence. So one who is on the platform of spiritual consciousness, they have got everything – intelligence, proper use of mind, proper use of the body. Just like a millionaire, he has got all the lower grade position. Ten rupees or hundred rupees, he has got everything. You should see whether you are successful. And what is the standard of success? The standard of success is whether you have pleased God. Read this.
Srutakirti das: What is it?
Srila Prabhupada: Atah pumbhir dvija-srestha.
Srutakirti das: Atah?
Srila Prabhupada: Pumbhir.
Srutakirti das: Atah pumbhir dvija-srestha.
Srila Prabhupada: Find out this verse.
Srutakirti das: Atah pumbhir dvija-srestha, varnasrama-vibhagasah, svanusthitasya dharmasya, samsiddhir hari-tosanam. “O best among the twice born, it is therefore concluded that the highest perfection one can achieve by discharging his prescribed duties, dharma, according to caste divisions and order of life is to please the Lord Hari.”
Srila Prabhupada: That is the idea. That should be there. So whether by my profession, by my business, by my talent, by my capacity, there are different categories, whether I have pleased God. Then it is success. If you have pleased God by your legal profession, you are in a different dress, it doesn’t matter. You are as good as they are whole time serving God, because their business is also to please God. Similarly, if you have pleased God, then even by practicing your law you are as good as the saintly person. That should be the aim, whether I have pleased God with my professional duty or occupational duty. That is the standard.
Guest: You could assume that whatever religion, if a person was religious…
Srila Prabhupada: Religion means God. God is one.
Guest: That that should aid all religions.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Guest: The more Krishnas there are, the more other religious people might benefit. Yet these…they can’t see that.
Srila Prabhupada: According to Srimad-Bhagavatam, religion means the law given by God. Just like law means the act given by the state. You cannot manufacture law, I cannot manufacture law. Everything is there. He must be, at the same time, although he is hero, he must be generous. Just like Alexander the Great, perhaps you know this story. He arrested one thief. So when he was arrested and he was being judged by Alexander, the thief pleaded that “What is the difference between you and me? You are a great thief, I am a small thief.” So Alexander understood it and got him released, “Yes.” This is generosity. You must agree to the principle.
Guest: There is another one, the battle. You know, the big battle where the opposition, what was his name, was on the ground?
Madhudvisa das: I told Wally the story that Abhimanyu was surrounded by the maharathis, there was no mercy then. So now Karna was objecting that “You cannot shoot a man if he gets off his chariot.” And Krishna said, “There was no mercy with Abhimanyu, so therefore there will be no mercy now.”
Srila Prabhupada: Tit for tat.
Guest: But where was the generosity there?
Srila Prabhupada: In war that is happening, tit for tat.
Guest: Was that generosity?
Srila Prabhupada: Huh?
Guest: Where was the generosity?
Srila Prabhupada: No.
Madhudvisa: There’s times, Wally, sure. There’s times where they don’t…
Srila Prabhupada: That is war tactics. That is war tactics.
Madhudvisa das: So he left about 20 people back at his house at some party, so he is feeling that he must return.
Guest: It’s my father-in-law’s birthday.
Srila Prabhupada: Oh.
Guest: And it’s my son’s 9th birthday.
Srila Prabhupada: Oh.
Guest: We decided we’re going to have the family.
Srila Prabhupada: That’s nice, very good.
Guest: And then my wife said…
Srila Prabhupada: So give some prasadam.
Guest: A couple of nights ago my wife said…
Srila Prabhupada: Take some blessings from the temple for your son and father-in-law.
Guest: Thank you very much. So we decided to get all of my father-in-law’s friends. He doesn’t know yet, and I’m supposed to pick him up, you see, a couple of hours ago. He just thinks it’s a family dinner, you see. But by the time we get home, it’s a surprise for him.
Srila Prabhupada: That is very nice. It is a very nice function, the father-in-law, the grandson.
Madhudvisa das: He’s going to bring some prasadam for you.
Srila Prabhupada: Give some prasadam for them also. Yes.
Madhudvisa das: We invited everyone over to Ugrasrava’s house one night. We had a big party, and Wally came and Raymond came and they became very much addicted to prasadam.
Srila Prabhupada: Make his father-in-law also interested.
Guest: Well, he was here on Sunday.
Srila Prabhupada: Oh, yes?
Guest: He came down on Sunday.
Srila Prabhupada: So you are going?
Guest: Yes, I am going. Thank you very much for your time. You’ve been most gracious and kind with us. I hope you have a nice trip.
Srila Prabhupada: Thank you, Hare Krishna.
Madhudvisa das: He is coming back in January too. Maybe then we can have a longer meeting.
Srila Prabhupada: It is a very nice place. I wish to stay here, but I have got so many branches I have to go.
Guest: Good night.
Srila Prabhupada: Good night. Hare Krishna.
Guest: I think you must be very happy to see what’s happened in Melbourne here.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, I am very happy. This house is quite suitable for our purpose.
Guest: They looked very hard for a long time.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Guest: And they had a lot of difficulty.
Srila Prabhupada: Oh, yes.
Guest: This is one of the things that…I imagine you know the story. But the Catholic church, the Roman Catholic church owned this property, and it was almost by devious means that it was acquired.
Srila Prabhupada: They did not want to give us?
Guest: They didn’t want to sell direct like that.
Madhudvisa das: This is in the temple room of the Melbourne Mahaprabhu Mandir, and we are going to install the Gaura-Nitai Deities. These are quite elaborate Gaura-Nitai Deities. They were brought by the devotees from Nabadwip, and Srila Prabhupada in the chadar there is bathing Them. These are the largest Deities that have ever been cast in Nabadwip. They weighed hundreds and hundreds of pounds, solid brass. You can see how tall They are. Prabhupada is standing one step below Them, so They are quite tall. These thrones had been purchased by the devotees in San Francisco. They had been shipped all the way to San Francisco from Jaipur, beautiful white marble thrones, but they were too small for the Deities in San Francisco. So we had them sent all the way out to Australia, and they were assembled by the marble merchants who were installing the marble floor. They took time off and they put these beautiful white marble thrones together, and you can see even Gaura-Nitai is a little bit too big for these thrones. Their arms stretch out underneath the archway so they’re not totally visible. But the official opening of the temple and the installation of the Gaura-Nitai Deities took place on the same day, and the devotees were quite ecstatic to have all this activity going on in one day. Vaibhavi was responsible for putting together the whole temple. She cast all the columns, and they had the wrought iron gates made and designed everything.
Bhaskara das: And one day Gaura-Nitai arrived in two gigantic crates. They came in on a huge crane off the truck, maneuvered into the Prabhupada House, as we called it, where They remained for some time while the devotees made clothes and organized all the necessary what-have-you for Their installation. It was a wonderful installation. Actually before these Deities were installed, I began making a small set of Gaura-Nitai Deities. We knew we were never going to be able to move these big Deities again, and we needed some small Deities. They were made for the traveling sankirtan bus as Sabhapati Prabhu was organizing at the time. Unfortunately, not being a brahmana, I wasn’t allowed to go and examine big Gaura-Nitai. So I really just made it all up, how They had to look. But we just did it in the backyard of the temple. We bought a little bit of paraphernalia for the job, some fire bricks and some old vacuum cleaners to pump a bit of air into the fire. As the vacuum cleaners would melt, we would grab another one and turn it on. They melted pretty quickly because it was very, very hot. As we were doing this, we had the Rath carts parked right beside them and there were devotees sitting all over the Rath carts watching this casting procedure underway as we were melting it and pouring it. They were cast metal in bronze and brass. While they were being cast, we didn’t have any gold so certain of the ladies who were watching it were pulling off their wedding rings and throwing them into the crucible as we were melting down the metal, and that was very exciting. Dipak was handling the metal with me. It was something we’d never attempted before, and we really didn’t know where we were going or what we were doing with it but we had a shot at it. This casting…the making of these Deities had transpired…must have been shortly after Prabhupada’s visit. I imagine Prabhupada would have installed those too if he had been there at the time. He came to make Lord Caitanya available to everyone. I tried to please Srila Prabhupada in this way, and it was all by his mercy that any of it was ever achieved, obviously. We certainly weren’t going to be able to do anything alone or by ourselves.
Madhudvisa das: The original Deity was Radha-Vallabha, marble Deities that occupied the center altar. And then the year after that the Jagannatha Deities were carved for the Rathayatra, which Srila Prabhupada installed. And then the third year when Srila Prabhupada opened up the new building, this is when Gaura-Nitai was installed. When Prabhupada installed the Gaura-Nitai Deities, he named the new temple the Melbourne Mahaprabhu Mandir. We practically outgrew the temple the day we moved in.
Amogha das: The purchasing of the Melbourne temple was a very big endeavor. It was very difficult for us to come up with the money. One devotee donated 10,000 Australian dollars, and that was the first deposit. But after that, the rest of it was 180,000 Australian dollars and that was a lot of money back then. We had a very meager income, just people getting coins and notes on the street for books. In those days, we didn’t hire people to do things. So devotees, they personally renovated the whole surface of Prabhupada House. They scraped and plastered and filled on ladders and scaffolds all over the building. The large temple room floor was laid with marble and onyx, and there was a very short time and Prabhupada was coming. They actually arranged Prabhupada’s visit to Perth for 10 days because the Melbourne temple wasn’t ready to open. When Prabhupada arrived, at one stage Prabhupada actually said to Madhudvisa prabhu, “This temple is too small. Why don’t you build a bigger temple in the courtyard?” And this was a real shock at the time because it was such an endeavor, and I guess we were feeling a bit proud that we had done this. So like some other circumstances, Prabhupada would say something to make us realize, “It’s not so big what you did.”
Kurma das: Prabhupada sat down, he took off his chadar, he folded it into a neat little square, and he sat down with his back to the wall next to Lord Nityananda. Myself and Dvaipayana were then allotted to dress the Deities. We were dressing the Deities in full view of Prabhupada, who was just a meter away. So we were quite nervous. Dvaipayana reached for some Tulasi leaves and also the manjaris because we were growing our own Tulasi plants at this stage, and we placed them on the feet of the Deities. Prabhupada at this stage leaned over and suggested that we don’t place the Tulasi leaves on the feet of the Deities but rather we place them in between the feet of the Deities. So we made this adjustment. We were all heavily sleep-deprived. We had been up for days and nights without sleep, so a lot of us can’t remember much about it. But there’s a bit of my bald head popping up there and, in fact, I am leading kirtan. Until I saw the footage, I wasn’t able to remember what I was doing, but there I am. There’s a lean, mean-looking Kurma das playing the mridanga. There’s a little bit of a few devotees’ heads that I recognize. We were all packed in very close together. Here comes the camphor lamp for us to take the prasadam, and we were dancing and chanting like anything. I remember Sabhapati was playing whompers like a devil and practically busting my eardrums. But we were on a spiritual high at that point. We were having Prabhupada in our presence, this was the darshan of the first aratik ceremony, Prabhupada was doing the aratik, we hadn’t seen Gaura-Nitai before. We were in a daze, we couldn’t believe it was going on. But we did what we had to do, and at the same time we were watching Prabhupada do the aratik. It was all wonderfully ecstatic.
Gopinath Acharya das: One time Srila Prabhupada was sitting on his vyasasana and there was a need for somebody to do the Guru Puja in the morning. So I busied myself going about doing the aratik to Srila Prabhupada. So one thing that really struck me was that Srila Prabhupada was taking a lot of attention about what I was doing and how I was offering and cleansing my hands and doing the whole aratik. He was always looking over. Normally you would think that somebody of Srila Prabhupada’s status who had been offered aratik so many times wouldn’t be taking much notice. But as we know, Srila Prabhupada took notice of everything. One time he said when somebody had said to Srila Prabhupada, “Oh, that’s no big deal” or “It’s nothing big,” Prabhupada said, “Everything is big for a devotee.”
Shyamananda das: There was a time when I dressed the Deities. I dressed Them very much in the mood of those Kangra paintings from India, the very simple paintings where the actual lila is very strong in the painting. They’re not very realistic in the way a Western person would think, but I find them much more realistic in terms of the mood. So I remember there was a lot of very delicate white flowers dancing around, and Krishna had this big turban. A photograph got sent to Srila Prabhupada and when he saw it he said, “Whoever dressed these Deities was directly inspired by Krishna.” So Krishna was very kind to me because I had no qualification at all. I still don’t. I had no understanding. There were a lot of much more serious people around that had a much deeper grasp of what was going on than I had. But Krishna was very, very kind, and Srila Prabhupada always made sure that that knowledge was passed on to me one way or another so that the encouragement and the support was very clear. So when we got to the Melbourne temple, it was very much that way as well. He was very pleased here. That’s one thing I think should be said very clearly. He publicly praised Madhudvisa Swami in particular for the effort he had put in, and it was a wonderful thing to see because he didn’t often give praise openly in public like that. That wasn’t a common thing. At that time, Madhudvisa, he did a lot to consolidate the chanting of the Maha-mantra in Melbourne. Like all of us, there’s times when we can serve very well and then there’s times when it’s not so easy, and I’m sure there’s been a fair degree of difficulty along the way. But certainly during that period he was able to inspire so many people, and Srila Prabhupada was visibly pleased with that.
Balarama das: Actually after the installation, Prabhupada called me up into his room. I was the temple president at that time, and he asked me if we’d be able to maintain the three pujaris at all the aratiks. I told him that with our manpower we’d probably find it difficult for all the aratiks, and he said therefore we should have Mangala-aratik and evening aratik with the three pujaris. So we pretty well maintained that right through after that. He also asked that we make sure prasadam distribution took place as far and wide as we could from the temple. He said, “So what plans have we got to distribute prasadam?” We’d only just opened the temple, of course, so I said, “We’re having the Sunday Feasts and lunchtime prasadam,” and we had a restaurant downtown that we were wanting to expand.
Kurma das: Every devotee in Australia had come to the opening of the temple. Prabhupada was not scheduled to visit any other place, rather he suggested to Madhudvisa that all the devotees come to this one celebration. So not only that, there were parents of devotees, friends of devotees. We’d invited all the neighbors and the local dignitaries in the South Melbourne Council. So the property was overflowing with people. We had even invited the workmen who had helped with the construction, and so it became quite a joyous event.
Bhaskara das: It was a large gathering of guests. I think many of them were relatives of the devotees because I know my own parents were there. It was wonderful to see them there because they had certainly had no contact as such with Krishna consciousness and never would have. But that was Srila Prabhupada’s mercy that he was able to attract everyone.
Gopinath Acharya das: Srila Prabhupada gave a darshan to the devotees. Now, Srila Prabhupada, from what I remember, didn’t very often give darshans to the general devotees. So it was a special occasion. We were all called up to his room, and we were all sitting there and Srila Prabhupada is sitting at his desk. It was quite a casual affair…well, a loving affair, put it that way. Srila Prabhupada was basking in the association of his disciples, and his disciples were doing the same. At one particular point, a devotee got up. His name is Gopikanta. He was a brahmacari, and he’d been to Japan to help collect for the Nama Hatta program. So he got up and he stood in a particular way, and everyone else was sitting down so this was very dramatic. He’s a big person and he stood with his hands almost like in a karate style for emphasis, and he said to Srila Prabhupada, “Srila Prabhupada, I know there are so many things that please you. But I want to know what will please you the most, I mean the most. What will please you the most?” So many of us might have been thinking that Srila Prabhupada is going to say “distributing my books,” and that’s what I was thinking. But it really sticks in my mind because Srila Prabhupada didn’t say that. Basically he said…and this is pretty revolutionary for those times because we could not conceive that there was going to be a time, at least I didn’t, when Srila Prabhupada wasn’t going to be with us. But he said, “Understand Srimad-Bhagavatam, learn Srimad-Bhagavatam and Bhagavad-gita, and become a guru. Try to deliver everyone in your land or the world. If not the world, in your land.” Srila Prabhupada never actually said such a thing to us. Because in other conversations Srila Prabhupada said, “That doesn’t mean that one advertises oneself as a guru.” Actually it means become qualified as a guru, which means really to become a perfect disciple.
Rasanandini dasi: The whole temple was packed out, and I peeked in through the door at the yajna. I wanted to ask Prabhupada a question. I’d only come up for the day from the country. And I wanted to know if he was like Jesus, if he could save me from birth and death, that kind of thing. So I propped myself in the passageway, and then an opportune moment as he came past I stood up and blocked his way a little bit. I didn’t realize…as soon as I stood up, Prabhupada was shorter than me. But then all material conceptions were inappropriate because he was so effulgent and his skin was just like velvet and his eyes were like deep black pools. But Prabhupada stopped, and he wanted to give me his attention and he wanted to hear the question. He said, “Hm?” and it was really deep but very soft. The question was irrelevant because of his presence. He was the most transcendental personality I’d ever met. So I just paid my pranams and got out of his way basically.
Balarama das: There had been a big advertising campaign that the devotees were involved in with the Wrangler jeans company. One of the congregation devotees, they dressed him up with a dhoti and a blue Wrangler shirt. The whole idea of the ad, there was a sankirtan party coming right down Burke Street, the main street in Melbourne, and he was dressed in his dhoti but he still had a blue Wrangler denim shirt on and the caption at the bottom was, “I’m not going if I can’t wear my old Wrangler shirt.” And that was on billboards all over the city. So when we were driving Prabhupada out to the airport, we passed one of the billboards and pointed to the billboard and said, “Prabhupada, this is one of the ads that we’re in.” He said, “Oh, everywhere, they are seeing us everywhere.”
Mandapa das: I was working for the national airline Qantas in Sydney, and Prabhupada came through actually on his way back from Melbourne. I had access to the reservation system, so I put the VIP comments in the computer program; and when Prabhupada came through, they looked after him very nicely. I went over there and offered him some Seven Up or some drink like that, and Prabhupada looked at me because I was in my uniform, of course, being a traffic officer there at the airport. So I offered my obeisances in my uniform, and I think Prabhupada was a little bit surprised. He said, “Who is this boy?” So Srutakirti prabhu said that I was in Melbourne at the events in the last few days. But it was nice, I felt very happy to do that.
Shyamananda das: The movement has had a lot of ups and downs and devotees have come and gone and life goes on, and yet that paradox exists. The people that were touched by Srila Prabhupada, you’ve only got to scratch the surface and you can see that they’re still touched. And that’s continued for decades after Srila Prabhupada has left this world. When Prabhupada touched us most deeply and spoke to the heart and soul of a person, the self, and awakens that awareness of what the self is and what its function is and what its goal is in this world, those things have never diminished over time. They actually, if anything, gain clarity and the taste deepens and sweetens with age. It’s not constrained by a historic dynamic. Certainly history was made, there’s no question about that. But the real history that was made was the way Srila Prabhupada touched such a remarkably diverse range of people and held them the way he did.