May 1975: LAUTOKA, FIJI – Walks, Programs
Madhudvisa das: Here we have Prabhupada walking with the devotees, and the gentleman to the right of Srila Prabhupada is Vasudeva. At this time he was Deoji Punja, and he was the prime mover of Krishna consciousness in Fiji in those early days. Srila Prabhupada was very affectionate towards Vasudeva and his whole family because here was an Indian gentleman outside of ISKCON, because ISKCON hadn’t been officially established there in the country yet, and he was taking it upon his shoulders to propagate Krishna consciousness. And he had a distinct love for Srila Prabhupada, as you see from his body language.
Vasudeva das: I had some business in Australia, Sydney, rice business. From my office, I saw some people, devotees, shaved head with saris, kurta, they are distributing the prasad, chanting Hare Krishna on the street. And I thought in my mind, “Who has changed these people?” So I asked some devotees there, “Who is your guru, and how you came to Hare Krishna movement?” They said, “Our guru is Prabhupada, and he is coming after one month.” Then after that, I asked the rice grower people in the office, “These people are chanting Hare Krishna, and who are they?” “They are taking drug and just chanting Hare Krishna.” So I decided that “Let me go to stay in their temple.” So I stayed two nights there. I saw early morning they wake up three o’clock, cold shower they take, and the arati and singing Hare Krishna mantra. Who has changed these people? So I decided to meet Prabhupada. Suddenly I have some business in Fiji, so I came back. Prabhupada came to Melbourne. Nandarani met Prabhupada in temple and asked Prabhupada when Prabhupada is going to Hawaii. Nandarani asked him, “You tell me also the flight number?” So Prabhupada told the devotees, “Tell them the flight number.” So Nandarani got the flight number, and Nandarani rang to us in Fiji. So Prabhupada’s flight is staying a half an hour. Nearly 2,000 people came out to greet Prabhupada. We had advertised in the papers and radio. When the flight came there, a jumbo jet, when I saw Prabhupada, I suddenly prayed dandavat obeisances. The first question Prabhupada asked me, “Is there any Radha-Krishna temple here?” So I said, “No, Prabhupada, there is no Radha-Krishna temple. There are so many small temples here but not Radha-Krishna temple.” “So you build nice…” In Hindi, “Bhariya sa mandir bana’o” he told me. I said, “I will try my best to build that temple.” After a 20-minute discussion, I paid obeisances to Prabhupada. And when I stand up, Prabhupada put his hand on my head and I feel just like all my sins have gone. I began to cry completely. Prabhupada said, “From today you chant 16 rounds,” and from that day I start chanting. I used to wake up three o’clock, and I used to chant 16 rounds every day.
Madhudvisa das: There were certain Indian gentlemen who had this awe and respect for Srila Prabhupada, devotees such as Karttikeya Mahadevia and Mr. Sethi in Bombay. They acted like old devotees from previous lifetime, old Vaisnavas that were reigniting their relationship with Srila Prabhupada in this lifetime. The unique position of Deoji, or Vasudeva as he was initiated, was that he was the CEO of a very large and important company…companies, many companies in Fiji. He was way up there in the elite of Indian businessmen. So he owned a chain of grocery stores, that was one of the retail businesses they had. And when the devotees were taken through the grocery stores and we came to the butcher shop, we were aghast, “How is this possible?” When it was asked of Srila Prabhupada, “What should we advise Vasudeva to do? Should we tell him that he should close down the butcher shop?” Srila Prabhupada said, “No, he doesn’t have to close the butcher shop at this time. This will come.” We were just black-and-white, cut-and-dry devotees. We had no nuances in our approach towards Krishna consciousness because we were immature, spiritually immature, even at this so-called late date in our spiritual life, 1975. Prabhupada could understand that Vasudeva was in business, the business was well established in the islands for many, many years, and Vasudeva had his brothers and uncles and aunts and his family was well immersed in this business. And for Prabhupada to say, “No, you have to close down the butcher shop,” that would be a point of controversy amongst the family members. Only Vasudeva at that time had fully embraced Srila Prabhupada. Prabhupada could understand that if Vasudeva became strong, if there weren’t any preconditions put on his relationship with Srila Prabhupada having to do with his business, then eventually he would win over all his other family members. And as it turned out, most of Vasudeva’s family members did embrace Vaisnavism and some of them actually took initiation.
Bhagavati dasi: Vasudeva invited him that next time when you pass from Nadi to Hawaii, next year you come and stay in Fiji.
Vasudeva das: Prabhupada says, “I will write to you when I can come.” So Prabhupada wrote a letter to me, “I am coming in 1975.” He rang from Hawaii, “Have you got the land?” I said no. Then I decided that I’ve got land, so I’ll donate this land to ISKCON, build a nice temple. We gave a contract for $330,000. I didn’t have any idea of how to build a temple. When I sent the copy of a plan to Prabhupada in Mayapur, Prabhupada saw it, Prabhupada says, “Why you build a dome in front?” “The architect says front people can see from the road.” “No, dome should be where the Deities are.” So we had to make so much alteration for that.
Bhagavati dasi: And he said the road should be concrete. For collection, Vasudeva used to go early in the morning, six o’clock, with a BTG in his hand and Prabhupada’s photo there.
Vasudeva das: As soon as they see Prabhupada’s photo, some will give thousand dollar, some five hundred dollar, some two thousand dollar. Within two months, I collected forty thousand dollars.
Bhagavati dasi: And then we got some loan from bank.
Bhagavati dasi: When Prabhupada first came, in the morning he was going for morning walk to Marine Drive in Lautoka. After coming from morning walk, we had Guru Puja. His first program in Natabua Hall, Lautoka, and the whole hall was full with people.
Vasudeva das: Upstairs, downstairs, 2,000 people were there.
Bhagavati dasi: Prabhupada gave lecture for 20 minutes in English. So Vasudeva requested, “Many Indians are here who don’t understand English. So can you speak in Hindi?” So Prabhupada gave same lecture in Hindi. And then he gave one program in Nadi, Ramakrishna Mission, and one at Ba, it was in theater.
Vasudeva das: I used to go every day to see Prabhupada at about four o’clock. When I finished my business, then I used to sit down with Prabhupada. Prabhupada used to tell me about Bhagavatam, and we used to talk to each other.
Bhagavati dasi: Once he didn’t come, so after lunch and rest he rang to call Vasudeva. Then we were sitting in the veranda. And one devotee was there, Satya Nashri, he asked Prabhupada that “Local people say that Kaliya is here in Fiji.” And Prabhupada asked, “Are there any wild creatures here like wild lion and serpents?” He said, “No.” Then he said, “Then Kaliya must be…may be here.” And after that, he changed the…
Vasudeva das: …name…
Bhagavati dasi: …to make Krishna Kaliya Temple.
Madhudvisa das: Some of the Hindus had said that this is Kaliya who has come to Fiji when he was banished from the waters of the Yamuna and that this big snake was living up in a big lake up on the top of a mountain where nobody went. And in Fiji there’s no snakes. So they told Prabhupada that, and Prabhupada said, “Yes, then it is possible because where there is the big snake, there are no small snakes because the big snake will eat the small snakes.” So one devotee, he took up the challenge to go to this lake. According to the superstition, if you went to this lake you wouldn’t come back or you would become insane. But not many people know how to get there, so he had to get a guide. So he paid this guide some money, and he was a little bit reluctant but finally he agreed. So they started to hike up there and a big storm came up, big typhoon. Winds were blowing, trees were knocked over. So the guide became spooked and he said, “No, no, this is the sign we are not supposed to go,” and he abandoned him. So the devotee thought, “Well, I’m going to do it.” He didn’t know how to get there but he still tried to persevere, but the storm became too violent and he couldn’t do it. So because of that folk tale, Vasudeva established the Krishna Kaliya Temple, and it’s a unique Deity of Krishna dancing on the head of the Kaliya serpent.
Bhagavati dasi: Then the next trip Prabhupada came in 1976.
Vasudeva das: Yes, to lay foundation.
Bhagavati dasi: At that time, we got initiation.
Vasudeva das: I told Prabhupada, “My brother Bhuvan Mohan will take initiation.” Yes, he agreed. So next day Prabhupada told Upendra das, “Make it ready the yajna, and I will give initiation.”
Bhagavati dasi: He asked Prabhupada, “Prabhupada, I want to take initiation from you.” Prabhupada said, “OK, shave your head.”
Vasudeva das: So myself and Bhuvan Mohan shaved head, and we got ready to take initiation.
Bhagavati dasi: After initiation, the next morning Prabhupada called us in his room and gave second initiation next day to both of us.
Vasudeva das: But before Bhuvan Mohan said, “I am drinking tea, Prabhupada.” “From today you leave tea, no more take tea.” Then Bhuvan Mohan said, “I am chanting other mantra also, Prabhupada.” He said, “This Hare Krishna mantra will conquer that.” Prabhupada gave him initiation.
Bhagavati dasi: And he presented first mala to Vasudeva prabhu, then to me, and then to Bhuvan Mohan.
Chitralekha dasi: Upendra went to Fiji first about a month before I arrived, and I believe it was September 1970. We were in Suva. People used to call us Mr. and Mrs. Swamiji, which we thought was very funny at that time, because we wore our yellow dhoti and sari. When we were in Fiji, an Indian family had given us a small Lord Nrsinghadev Deity. I still have Him. He was always our Deity who presided over our center and our preaching there in Fiji. He was the first Nrsinghadev Deity that appeared in our movement, so that was very significant. He was given to us soon after we had arrived there. On Sundays we had a feast, and our place would be packed with Fijian people and Indian people. So they took very enthusiastically to the feast. Upendra always wrote to Prabhupada about the difficulties that we were running into and the criticisms, and one of the sadhus next door wanted to chant Hare Rama first instead of Hare Krishna first. Prabhupada just wrote back and said, “Well, if he insists on chanting Hare Rama first, what is the harm? He is still chanting.” And part of it was their criticism about the color yellow for our dhotis and saris. Prabhupada answered back that “Usually white dhoti and colorful saris are what’s worn in India. But when someone is engaged in preaching activities or devotional activities they may wear yellow, and your life is always involved in preaching activities. So you may put on a white dhoti if you like, if you want, that is fine.” He was always instructing us every step of the way. Upendra would write him letters two or three times a month. So he was our guiding force all the way through. We really took to heart and felt like we had been given a responsibility to follow Lord Caitanya’s prediction that in every town and village there would be chanting of the Holy Name. So we literally went to every little village that we could and often were hosted in a very humble place, ancient temples of Narayan or Kali or whatever, but we would hold a program and all the villagers would come. There would be simple prasadam. Then we’d go on to another village and make our rounds. We went to Lautoka. We had met Vasudeva’s father, who was a very elderly man at that point, and his five sons, of whom Vasudeva was one of them. His father was a very devotional man and was always wanting to help in any way he could. And then we heard later how Vasudeva had come around to want to know more about Krishna consciousness and follow Prabhupada, and it was very exciting for us to see that from our humble beginnings that Vasudeva was going to take up the mission and carry on Krishna consciousness there under Prabhupada’s supervision.
Srutakirti das: When we arrived in Fiji, I remember it was practically one o’clock in the morning after our flight from Australia and it was Ekadasi. Of course, there was no temple then. We were staying at one Indian family’s house, and they had prepared prasadam for all of us; and, of course, it wasn’t Ekadasi prasadam. But Prabhupada said, “It’s OK,” and that was it. So we took prasadam. Then we went to bed around two-thirty or three o’clock. Then as Prabhupada did everywhere, when the sun was ready to come up Prabhupada was ready for his morning walk, and that was always the case. It didn’t matter how much Prabhupada was traveling, if he stayed in a place for two days or two weeks. As soon as Prabhupada got to the next place, he set his watch and he set his body and he just continued on. There was never any question jet lag, the word didn’t exist with Prabhupada. It wasn’t something anyone talked about. Prabhupada never exhibited it. We went out on a morning walk, and he would walk as quickly as he did everywhere for about an hour to an hour-and-a-half. Then we had a program. Prabhupada always had a morning program and he spoke, and then we had prasadam. Then Paramahamsa and I, we were just waiting for the opportunity to sleep again because we had only had three hours of sleep and for us that was really difficult, and we were hoping after breakfast Prabhupada would take a nap. So I brought Prabhupada his breakfast, and then when he was finished I came and took everything out and Prabhupada laid down. So I went back, I said, “Prabhupada’s resting.” So Paramahamsa and I, we laid down. Of course, we fell asleep, we were out, and Prabhupada maybe took 15 minutes or something and he was up. So finally I heard a bell ring. So I went into Prabhupada’s room, and it happened a few times where I would literally try to wake up as I was offering obeisances and exercise my eyes so Prabhupada couldn’t tell that I was sleeping. I sat up, and as soon as I sat up he said, “Why are you sleeping? You’re like dead men. Everyone is awake. The karmis are all at work but not the devotees. No, they’re sleeping.” He said, “They’re sleeping very soundly. Why are you sleeping?” And, of course, when Prabhupada asked why were you doing something wrong, I never had a response because whatever you said, he would just take that apart. So I just said, “Prabhupada, I’m sorry.” “What about Paramahamsa? Why is he sleeping?” He said, “Call him in here.” He goes in and immediately Prabhupada says, “You are a sannyasi. Your business is to minimize bodily demands, minimize sleeping, minimize eating. Why are you sleeping?” Paramahamsa said, “Prabhupada, I have jet lag,” and I thought, “Oh, no!” And Prabhupada said, “Jet lag?” He said, “Well, we just flew from here and done this,” and Prabhupada said, “So I am also flying, I am doing the same thing. I am awake.” Then he said, “All right, go on. Go sleep if you want.” So we go back to the room and, of course, we wouldn’t sleep. Sometimes five minutes would go by or sometimes a half hour and he’d ring the bell again. And you’d go in and then he’d tell you to start reading and he’d tell you some stories or something, and you would know that he wasn’t angry with you. He was always trying to save us from our own bad habits and trying to show us that becoming Krishna conscious is serious business and one has to follow the process, otherwise gradually one can fall away. But that was one of the things he would do after chastising – he would always have a way of being extra special nice a little later on, and then we knew that he loved us so much.
June 1975: LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – Arrival at temple, Conversations, Translation, Walks, Morning program
Racitambara dasi: The first time I saw Srila Prabhupada was in the L.A. airport. I think it must have been about 200 devotees went to greet him. We were a huge crowd and the loud kirtan and everyone was pushing forward, and there was a space above the partition where the passengers were coming out and you were able to see if it was a tall person. I remember a Stetson hat came by and something else came by, and then we could understand…“Is that…? No, that’s not Prabhupada.” We kept pushing forward more and more, and the kirtan was bigger and bigger. And then I felt someone pushing behind me and I thought that’s odd because I’m at the back of the crowd, I was a very new devotee. So then I turned to look and there were two businessmen behind me, mid-20s, suits and briefcases and everything else, but they were looking and looking to see who we were waiting for. Then suddenly we saw a danda raised above the partition and we knew, “Oh, Prabhupada must be coming.” So then Prabhupada came out and we all paid our obeisances, and there was the most amazing feeling like a tidal wave rushing through me from the very depths of my being and pouring out and I cried and cried and cried. Then finally when I stood up to go and follow the devotees who were following Srila Prabhupada, I turned and these two businessmen were standing there with tears pouring down their faces. That was such an amazing experience to see how they were touched just by a moment’s association with Srila Prabhupada.
Phalini dasi: Those times in New Dwaraka when he would come in through the right-hand curtain, he would bow flat down, the Govindam prayers would be so beautifully floating in the atmosphere. Then he would stand up and look at Gaura-Nitai with his hands folded, and then he would do in front of Rukmini-Dwarakadisa the same thing. It’s the same things that we would always do; but when Srila Prabhupada was there, you understood the depth. You couldn’t understand his depth, but your appreciation for dandavats would increase unlimitedly by seeing Srila Prabhupada pay dandavats to the Deities. When we built the new temple room in New Dwaraka, I remember the first time he came to visit there, that was the first time he ever looked me in the eye. And I was jumping so high because he was there and because he’s such an ecstatic personality. I just couldn’t help jumping, and I remember him looking at me and looking a little surprised at how demonstrative I was.
Sukadeva das: The day that we inaugurated the temple, it was Bhaktisiddhanta’s Disappearance. That day Prabhupada said, “I’m not going to sit on the vyasasana.” He took Bhaktisiddhanta’s picture and put it on the vyasasana where he would normally sit. So we spent most of the day cooking and spending the day with Prabhupada. And towards the end of the day we were reading the prayers that Prabhupada offered to his spiritual master, that famous Vyasa Puja offering. Tamal Krishna started reading it and he started crying, and so then he gave it to Brahmananda. And then Brahmananda started reading it and he started crying, he gave it to Gargamuni. Then Gargamuni started reading it, he started crying. So in this way it was handed down to different devotees, and eventually by Krishna’s grace we got through the reading. Then after that Prabhupada had a kirtan, and Prabhupada was dancing with the devotees just like Lord Caitanya surrounded by His associates. Prabhupada held up his hands and started dancing from side to side. I remember looking around and everybody was up dancing and chanting and crying uncontrollably. Everybody was dancing and chanting and crying uncontrollably. Prabhupada put us directly into Caitanya lila, he was so powerful. You had a direct experience of Caitanya lila by his potency.
Srila Prabhupada: We simply follow the predecessor’s instruction, that’s all. Our movement is very easy because we haven’t got to manufacture something.
Devamrita Swami: Nowadays a lot of devotees like to speak of Prabhupada as being very soft and compassionate. There’s no doubt about that. But his compassion often would manifest in the most determined, focused way. He was the personification of the expression “strictly business.” He had a mission to do, and he left no doubts that he had a mission to do. And he expected his followers to be his assistants in his mission, and he would thank them for that, for helping him to please his spiritual master. “If you simply print and distribute my books in every language of the world all over the world, automatically Krishna consciousness will spread.” That was spoken in Los Angeles. I never forgot that. It was like the master stroke for ending all kinds of speculation. Prabhupada just laid it on the line. It was not that the ISKCON leaders were fanatical. It’s just that Prabhupada laid it on the line, and this is what he said. What could we do except try to fulfill his desire the way he said it would be fulfilled. That was our only value. Back then devotees knew our only value is to just try to fulfill Prabhupada’s desire the way he wants it fulfilled.
Srila Prabhupada: We are receiving the transcendental knowledge through guru parampara succession. So we have to simply take instruction from guru. And if we execute that to our heart and soul, that is success. That is practical. I have no personal qualification, but I simply tried to satisfy my guru. That’s all. My Guru Maharaj asked me that “If you get some money, you print books.”
Badrinarayan das: Prabhupada was teaching us the Sri Isopanisad in the mornings. We could barely do anything, at least certainly myself. The Sanskrit was just a blur, at least to us, and Prabhupada was teaching us the Sanskrit. He would offer his obeisances before the three altars; and when he would sit down, we would all bow down. Then we would come up and we would chant the mantras. Only Jayatirtha really was learning them and a couple other devotees, and after maybe a week of this he could tell we weren’t taking it seriously. Prabhupada said, “I am writing these books for you. You have to know these books.” He said, “If someone stops and asks you, ‘Can you read this, the Sanskrit?’ and you say, ‘No, no, I’m not reading, I’m just selling,’” Prabhupada said, “What is that? I am writing these books for you,” and he was just pleading with us. So then we took it very seriously after that to learn the Sanskrit.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. So I took up this from his mouth that he is very fond of books, and he told me personally that “If you get some money, print books.” Therefore, I am stressing on this point, “Where is book? Where is book? Where is book?” So kindly help me. This is my request. Print as many books in as many languages and distribute throughout the whole world. Then Krishna consciousness movement will automatically increase.
Chaitanya dasi: The dance troupe portion of the Vaikuntha Players was in town, and they asked me to do musical accompaniment for a special showing, “The Killing of Pralambasura,” in the old temple room only for Srila Prabhupada. There was narration from the Krsna Book, and they acted out a dance-drama pastime. So only Srila Prabhupada, his servant, and maybe one other devotee were in the temple room at the time. I sat at Prabhupada’s lotus feet with a mridanga singing different bhajans to accompany the pure dance segment of the dance drama, and occasionally I would look up at Srila Prabhupada to see his reaction. And when Lord Balarama killed Pralambasura, striking him with His fist, at that moment I looked up at Srila Prabhupada and his mouth dropped open, his eyes got very wide, and then he began smiling and laughing. You could see he was totally immersed in the pastime, and he really expressed his appreciation of how hearing the pastimes was so important. That’s what made this so special was that the story came to life by hearing the words of the pure devotee right from Krsna Book and then the dance accompanying it.
Srutakirti das: It happened on three different occasions. I went in and Prabhupada was reading Krsna Book and he said, “If you just read this one book, you can be Krishna conscious.” He said, “You don’t have to read hundreds of books. Just this one book.” He had his glasses on, and I was sitting in front of him. Then he just looked at me and he said, “You don’t even have to read the whole book, just one chapter. If you just read one chapter of this book, you can be Krishna conscious.” And I’m nodding my head, “Yes, Prabhupada.” But he just kept staring. And then he said, “You don’t even have to read the whole chapter, just one page,” and he just ran his finger down the page. Then he’s looking and he said, “You don’t even have to read the whole page, just one line,” and he ran his finger across the line of the Krsna Book. And I said, “Yes, Prabhupada.” And he’s still looking and he said, “You don’t even have to read a whole line, just one word,” and he pointed to a word in the book. He said, “Just one word of this book if you read you can become Krishna conscious because Krishna is in every word.” And then he put his head back down into the book, and I offered obeisances and I left. But he said that about three different books to me over a year. “If you just read this one book.” Once it was Nectar of Devotion, once it was Bhagavad-gita, once it was Krsna Book. But he said, “Any one of these, if you just read this one book, you can be Krishna conscious.” He can understand Krishna is in every word, and this is what Prabhupada gave us. Nobody else has given us this, this direct connection to Krishna through His pure devotee.
Bahulasva das: Different people are coming to visit Prabhupada, so everybody is bringing Prabhupada something. So the first person comes in and gives Prabhupada a nice gold Omega watch, a real gold watch. Prabhupada says, “Thank you very much,” puts it on, takes the watch he had on and gives it to whoever was there. Then another person comes in, gives Prabhupada a gold Rolex watch that must have been at least thirty-five hundred bucks. So he takes off the gold Omega, gives that away to somebody, puts the gold Rolex watch on, “Thank you very much.” Then another person comes in and gives Prabhupada a Seiko, the cheapest of all three of them, maybe it was a hundred dollar watch. Prabhupada says, “Oh,” takes the gold Rolex, gives that away, puts the Seiko on, “Thank you very much.” You could see Prabhupada was simply accepting on behalf of Krishna. Nothing like, “Oh, wow, save this one for me, put it in my drawer,” nothing like this. Just “Whatever you are giving, I am taking on Krishna’s behalf.” You would see that in Prabhupada all the time. No mundane attachment.
Nartaki dasi: I was making pillow cases and curtains and bed covers. There was also one pillow case I made with tassels on the end, and Prabhupada is leaning against that and playing with the tassel. Prabhupada watched me cleaning, particularly his desk. He would sit behind the desk and I would take all the things off the desk, wipe the whole desk, and then wipe each article and put it back exactly where it was before, and Prabhupada really liked that. He told me, “It is very nice how you are cleaning and putting things exactly the way it was before.”
Brahmananda das: The first time that Prabhupada came to the new Los Angeles temple, it was done so nicely with all the marble, all the decorations, flowers being showered down and playing Yamuna’s Govindam, and then Prabhupada went up to his apartment. Bhavananda had done the painting – blue walls, the white ceiling and the orange curtains. That was the standard. It was so nice with the incense and I said, “Prabhupada, this is heaven.” And Prabhupada looked at me and he grimaced. He said, “Heaven? This is Vaikuntha.” There was a big difference between heaven and Vaikuntha.
Visnujana Swami: Bhaktivinoda Thakur stated that he was leaving this planet with his work unfinished.
Srila Prabhupada: Then let us finish. We are descendant of Bhaktivinoda Thakur. So he kept unfinished so that we shall get the chance to finish it. That is his mercy. He could have finished immediately. He is Vaisnava, he is all-powerful. But he gave us the chance. It is Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s mercy.
Srila Prabhupada: The air carries different flavor of the physical elements.
Yadubara das: This is probably the most intimate scene we’ve ever filmed of Srila Prabhupada. Visakha was doing the recording of the sound, and I was shooting the 16 mm camera. Really the reason we got a chance to film this scene goes back to the Gaura Purnima festival of 1974 where we premiered the first ISKCON film documentary, “The Hare Krishna People.” Srila Prabhupada appreciated that film and encouraged us to make more films. I thought at that time that I would eventually want to make a documentary on Srila Prabhupada’s life. So I asked him if that would be possible and his reply was, “What is the need?” And I said in the future people will want to know who started the Hare Krishna Movement. Srila Prabhupada thought for a moment and then gave his consent to make the film. We didn’t have a script at that time. I just thought we should film Srila Prabhupada in as many different situations as possible. So in the summer of 1975, Srila Prabhupada came to L.A. and we shot more film during that week than I think any other period of time. I was most nervous shooting this scene of Srila Prabhupada translating, really in fear of disturbing him, but we can see that he was totally absorbed in his translation. I don’t think anyone else could have done that, to have a large 16 mm camera pointing at them and at the same time being fully absorbed in their work. And it really must have been a distraction for him because we had set up lights inside, otherwise there wasn’t enough light. Actually at the end of this scene he looks up and speaks to me, and at that point I panicked and immediately turned off the camera. So it was just definitely his mercy that he allowed us to film so many different varieties of scenes during that time in Los Angeles.
Racitambara dasi: I stayed in L.A. from ’73 till ’76. Whenever Srila Prabhupada was visiting, I would rise very early, sometimes at one o’clock, one-thirty was normal, and I would go behind the temple. And there was an alleyway behind the L.A. temple, there was a laundromat that the devotees use, and it was dark and creepy at night. But anyhow, I went there and standing behind the temple you could look up at Srila Prabhupada’s quarters, his darshan room window, and he was always there no matter how early I got up. He was always already sitting there, and sometimes I could hear him softly chanting japa – it’s mostly summer there and the windows were open – or quite often I would hear him translating. And I would chant my japa softly down there and think that I was protecting Srila Prabhupada because it was a dark alley and he was silhouetted in the window, you could see him, and I was always afraid someone would come. It was the time of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King and these people had been shot, so I used to get up early and chant there and protect Prabhupada. But it was nice because I felt like it was a little time with him. I could hear him translating or hear him chanting.
Srila Prabhupada: Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakur gives in this connection a description of difference of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and ordinary living being.
Govinda dasi: The first time we were in Los Angeles, Srila Prabhupada went down there from San Francisco. This is in Los Angeles 1968, and at that time we joined him. Prabhupada was living in this apartment that was so noisy. There was a guy who liked loud music at night, which was disturbing to Prabhupada. But one of the things that happened there that’s very nice, Prabhupada had started teaching us up in San Francisco. This is just after he returned to America. We had expressed a desire to learn Bengali and Sanskrit. So every day we would come into his room at a certain time and he would recite the alphabet and we would recite it after him, and then he would talk about it. I really wanted to be able to read Caitanya-caritamrta, but I couldn’t because I didn’t know the language. So Prabhupada taught me one verse from the Caitanya-caritamrta, which by the way was not printed at this time. Remember, there was only his big Caitanya-caritamrta, which was always open every morning when I cleaned his room. That’s what he would read in the early morning times was his Caitanya-caritamrta. I would find it open. It was beautiful. It just glowed. I would clean it very nicely, and I would wish that I could read it. He knew that I had this affection for Caitanya-caritamrta, and so he taught me a verse from it and he would ask me to sing it every day: sri-krsna-caitanya-nityanandau sahoditau, gaudodaye puspavantau citrau sandau tamo-nudau. And he explained the meaning of this verse is that normally the sun and the moon don’t rise together. But in this case, both the sun and the moon have arisen over the land of Gauda and they are Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda, who are just like the sun and the moon and They are dispelling all the darkness of the world. Every day he would say, “Govinda dasi, have you remembered that verse?” And I would sing it to him, I never forgot it. And he was so happy, he was so delighted. So then we went down to L.A. and many times he would ask me, “Have you remembered that verse?” and I would sing it to him. He loved it. While we were in L.A. that time, this is the first time, we would sit at the kitchen table and write the letters. We were learning the alphabets of Sanskrit, Devanagari. One time Prabhupada came into the room and he looked over our shoulder at what we were doing for a few minutes and then he said, “Krishna does not need our service. He simply needs our love. He simply needs to see we are trying to serve Him. Just like the teacher may see that the child is making scribbles, but he sees that the child is trying so he feels happy. So it’s like that. Krishna doesn’t need anything from us, but He wants our love. He wants to see that we are trying to love Him.” It was a very profound instruction. That was a very sweet time. I was working on the cover of the Gita, the original Gita, the purple one, and he was supervising it. It was the Universal Form. It had a lot of arms, but McMillan took them all off. But the drawing that Prabhupada had me do had lots of arms. So Prabhupada would come in, and over my shoulder he would guide me in doing that. When Prabhupada took a nap, I would sit quietly and read. The books that Goursundar had gotten were the Caitanya-caritamrta. They were done by an Indian. They were the only Caitanya-caritamrta in English prior to Prabhupada’s, seven skinny little books that Goursundar had bought at some Indian store in New York. It wasn’t Gaudiya Math, it was a translation by some scholar, but they were nice. They were better than nothing. And so I used to sit on the floor and read them while Prabhupada was resting because we didn’t have any books. Just remember, the Gita hadn’t been printed, there was only the three volumes of Srimad-Bhagavatam. So I would sit and read them and Prabhupada could see how much we liked them, and that was when he decided that he would translate Caitanya-caritamrta. And Goursundar was learning Bengali, so he would do the transliteration. He would give me a tape every day, and I would transcribe it. If you look in the front part of Caitanya-caritamrta, “Some of my friends have requested me to do…” It’s because we were so eager to have Caitanya-caritamrta.
Jayadvaita Swami: Of course, it was difficult to get on Prabhupada’s morning walk. The scene that stands out in my mind is one or two cars parked in that alleyway next to Prabhupada’s quarters on Watseka Avenue, two cars ready to go just packed with the most competitive sannyasis and senior devotees who would do anything to get on that morning walk with Prabhupada. And if you weren’t in that top echelon, it was pretty tough to get on those walks. But anyway, somehow or other from the lower echelons I did get onto a couple of them. One thing I remember is just how much Prabhupada walked and how fast Prabhupada walked. I was so grateful to be on the walk, and then I was so exhausted trying to keep up with Prabhupada and the devotees. It was really quite something.
Ramesvara das: Prabhupada had become very disturbed. He had learned that his manuscripts that he had written through amazing sacrifice of sleep—he stayed up at night and dictated his books—they had been sent in to our New York BBT office and they had not done the production. He had written so many books with commentaries, and they were just lying there. So Prabhupada had flown into Los Angeles, and it was a very tense beach walk. He was discussing how important it was to publish these books and how upset he was that they were lying there, and he was demanding that they be published right away. He then asked, “How long will it take?” So Radha-vallabha from New York was there because he had been the production manager. So we pulled ourselves back and we discussed, “How long will it take you to get me the books so I can send them to the printer?” And he told me that he thought we could do one book every two months. At this point, we were doing one book every four to six months. So we went back into the walk, we caught up again and we told Prabhupada, “We think we can do one book every two months.” So Prabhupada turned around and said, “I want all 17 books done in two months.” I just blurted out, “Srila Prabhupada, that’s impossible!” At that point, Prabhupada stopped walking and he had a cane and he planted it in the sand, and he turned around and looked at me very gravely and said, “Impossible is a word in a fool’s dictionary.” And there was complete silence. We were all stunned. We were just completely stunned. Here is Prabhupada, perfectly in touch with Krishna, telling us that this can be done. It seemed to defy the physical laws as we knew it. So after some very long moments of silence, Prabhupada started walking immediately and the senior devotees, they just turned and started staring at me like, “So what are you going to do?” So this was a matter of just absolute blind faith. Either you believed or you did not believe. It was that type of moment where you commit, never mind what your intelligence is telling you is possible. So Radha-vallabha and I fell back again and we started talking, “We have to do this, this can be done,” and all of a sudden we started coming up with ideas that we hadn’t thought of. And we started getting ideas of different parallel production lines and turning the production lines into 24-hour production lines with two or three shifts, and recruiting devotees from all over to help us with this and on and on and on. And this was all happening in the span of just a few minutes that we were being flooded with these ideas, and we both realized that in order to do this we all had to be together in one central place. And it seemed more logical to do it in Los Angeles—we have the housing for everybody and we can expand easily. So then we caught up to the walk and we said to Srila Prabhupada, “If we are going to do this, we have to move the entire BBT division from New York to Los Angeles—the art department, the production, everything.” And Srila Prabhupada approved that. He said, “Fine. Do it immediately.” And we started.
Ragatmika dasi: I was a very fast typist in the composing department. So they were trying to round up any of the past composers to get them all on board, and they flew me out from New Vrindavan to Los Angeles. I tell you, that was so nectarean that because of the support system that Ramesvara set up, a family was designated to cook or to maintain that devotee, do their laundry, feed them, because we were staying up in the nighttime on irregular schedules just to keep it around the clock, all the composers, the composing machines filled up. I saw as the days went on in typing this nectar from the Caitanya-caritamrta, the pastimes, the loving relationships between Lord Caitanya and the devotees, that it was so sweet I was able to go beyond whatever limits I had before, and I was up all night and day practically. Just stopped to chant and to eat and sleep very little. In fact, on one morning walk, Radha-vallabha had said to Prabhupada, “Prabhupada, there is one mataji who is practically not eating or sleeping. She is just typing all day and night.” And Prabhupada said, “Yes, she is running on spiritual energy.” He was speaking about me, as he told me later.
Ramesvara das: So the 17 books got published. The last book came out probably on the last day of the two-month cycle, and we called the secretary and we told him, “It’s done.” We gave up everything, and somehow it happened. This is a very happy time. Everybody is feeling that there’s nothing we can’t do now. We can spread this movement anywhere in the world. There was no limitation on anything. That’s how we were all feeling. Not just the devotees who immediately were involved, but devotees all over the world were feeling that there are no material restraints or limitations. So it was really a great moment for everybody to expand their book distribution and their convincing people to join the temples. It was just one of those great times.
Rasajna dasi: There was such an innocence, enthusiastic innocence that made everything very, very beautiful. I remember at all the programs everyone would come with so much enthusiasm and excitement, all cleanly freshly showered with beautiful fresh tilak. Prabhupada’s presence was so powerful that he actually transformed us physically, not just in the heart. When I look at pictures in the BTG from that period, everybody looked very, very beautiful. So that was a very, very special time how he infused us. Actually when I first came to the temple in Brooklyn, I was attracted by the love that the devotees oozed out. They were so welcoming, and everyone wanted to serve. It was a privilege. Even at the offerings, especially the four o’clock offering, there would be pies and cakes and cookies and ice creams. And if you stood there 10 minutes before the offering, there would be 15 women coming from different parts of the community with their dishes to be offered. It was like in the stories of Krsna Book. So Prabhupada’s influence when he was here was like that. It was very enlivening and he was just directing us towards Krishna really, not towards himself. When I think on all the other gurus that I met before Prabhupada, no one directed you toward Krishna, they directed you towards them. That was the uniqueness of Prabhupada. And even now after all these years, the other gurus are more so-called famous really than Prabhupada because they directed people towards them whereas Prabhupada directed us toward Krishna and was very humble.
Kaumadaki dasi: Srila Prabhupada gave some wonderful classes. The one I remember the most was a class in the new temple room where Srila Prabhupada said, “Krishna says in Bhagavad-gita among thousands among men, one may endeavor for perfection, for self-realization. And out of many thousands of such men, only one may know Me in truth.” So then Srila Prabhupada looked around at the temple, and the whole temple room was packed and the whole balcony was packed. I was sitting up in the front of the balcony so I could see clearly, and Srila Prabhupada was looking at all of us and he said, “So does this mean that only a few of you are going to become Krishna conscious and be with Krishna?” He said, “No. Every one of you can be with Krishna. Every one of you can know Krishna in truth. You have come to Krishna after past lives of making progress in spiritual life.” But Srila Prabhupada was saying that when we come to Krishna consciousness, we take up where we left off in our past lives. So someone might come and they might struggle with the very simple things even after years, and someone might come and they might very quickly become a very advanced preacher or have wonderful spiritual realizations right away. Srila Prabhupada explained that that’s because of past development in past lifetimes. But Srila Prabhupada was saying that “Every one of you can be with Krishna.”
Vatsala das: Prabhupada was coming to Los Angeles. We lived in San Francisco. I went down with Jayananda, and we spent a few days in L.A. while Prabhupada was there. Prabhupada had the habit, of course, of coming down those stairs and then coming out that side door and then getting into his car and going for a walk. So the devotees would hang out there just so they could get a glimpse of Prabhupada walking to the car. So I got there early one day, I wanted to be right there in front and see Prabhupada. I was there and nobody else was coming. It was cold and I was scantily dressed, just my dhoti and no shoes. So I’m thinking, “Where is everybody? This is going to be fantastic. Prabhupada can’t miss me. I’ll be the only one here. He’s going to come out and go on his walk. This is going to be so far out.” But it started getting later and getting close to class time. I’m waiting out here, I’m not even going to get in the temple room basically. So I finally think that “Well, Prabhupada’s not coming. I’ve got to get over and get into the temple for class.” So I started making my way into the temple, and it was packed. And Danavir comes over to me and he says, “Do you want to put sandalwood pulp on Prabhupada’s forehead?” I said, “Sure I do.” So that got me right into the temple. So Prabhupada comes in and he greets the Deities and sits down and somebody urged me, “OK, now it’s time to do that.” So I got up there and stood in front of the vyasasana, and Prabhupada leaned forward and I put the sandalwood pulp on his forehead. And all I can remember, it was like sticking my hand in a wall socket or something like that. It was electrifying. I don’t know why, it was probably just all in my mind that this was Prabhupada and this was really special. That was a special incident. That was all. I just sat down and listened to class after that.
Racitambara dasi: One time Ramesvara prabhu called us all into the temple room for an emergency isthagosthi one evening and told us that Srila Prabhupada was in Hawaii but he was very, very ill and he was coming to Los Angeles that night. But no one should go to the airport and greet him, we should be very quiet around the temple, and no one should try to ask for darshans or anything like that. Prabhupada was ill and he was coming to rest, we wouldn’t see him at all. So at the end he asked for questions. My only service to Srila Prabhupada, a direct service, was to make these cookies that he gave out to the children. So I raised my hand and asked, “Should I make the cookies?” And he immediately said, “Cookies! I’ve just been telling everybody that Srila Prabhupada is so ill. You think Prabhupada is going to give cookies to the children?” And I felt so bad. So then I went home and I was crying like anything, telling my husband, “But it’s my only service to Srila Prabhupada.” And I guess to pacify me he said, “Never mind, service is absolute. So you go ahead and make the cookies and bring them over just as you usually do, bring them to Guru Puja, and later you could offer them to a picture of Srila Prabhupada and distribute them in the playground to the children.” So that pacified me. And the next morning I got up early and I very carefully made the cookies and I set them out on a beautiful silver plate, and I brought them over and tucked them behind the vyasasana. Nobody expected Srila Prabhupada to show up for Guru Puja. We knew he had arrived in the night, but we knew he was very ill. And just before the curtains were to open, suddenly the door to Srila Prabhupada’s quarters opened and there was Srila Prabhupada looking so ill, and he was being held up by two people. The curtains opened, and they laid him down to pay full dandavats in front of Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai. Then they had to pick him up again, he was so weak, and they helped him again in front of Rukmini-Dwarakadisa and laid him down again. Up and again in front of Lord Jagannatha. And by that time, they were back at his door to go back to his quarters and Srila Prabhupada said, “No, there should be Guru Puja.” So they helped him up to his vyasasana, and so we had a very short Guru Puja. Then they climbed up to help him down and Srila Prabhupada said, “No, there should be class.” So then Srila Prabhupada gave class, and I remember that even though he was speaking into the microphone you could hardly hear him because he was so weak. And he was sitting with his head all fallen forward, he was so weak. So then again after a short class, they went to help him down again and Srila Prabhupada said very audibly into the microphone, “No. Where are the cookies? The children are waiting for their cookies.” And I said, “Oh, I’ve got the cookies!” And I ran and brought the cookies, I was so happy. Srila Prabhupada remembered the children. He was so ill, but he had that heart for the children. And ill as he was, he waited till every last child he had given each one personally a cookie, and then he broke up the rest. By that time there was a huge kirtan, and he threw the rest of the cookies out into the crowd of all the dancing brahmacaris and everybody just went wild.
Ramesvara das: There are so many different sides of Prabhupada and qualities and characteristics, you couldn’t count them all. And you always felt that Krishna was there speaking through Prabhupada, Prabhupada was giving gifts to Krishna, very divine things were happening right in front of your eyes that you knew it was taking place and you were just a witness to it. So in these scenes as I recall, Prabhupada, he had visions of building temples, and they involved the transfer of funds. American BBT had become very successful, and Prabhupada had a formula from the very beginning – 50 percent of the money will be used for books, and the other 50 percent will be used for building temples. We had considered those buses as temples, traveling temples, so we were allowed to do that. But Prabhupada had this great grand vision of the whole world and the future and laying the foundation for the movement throughout the world. And so he would, out of this vision, direct in this case me to understand what he wanted and understand where to transfer money, how to account for it, make sure it got to the right place and was used for the right purpose. So some of this was done in correspondence, some of it was done in phone calls, and some of it, when I was fortunate enough, was done in person. When devotees requested Prabhupada’s help to buy a farm, sometimes then the money would come from BBT. We were sending a lot of money to Mayapur, and we were sending a lot of money also to Bombay. So Prabhupada’s vision was so all-encompassing and global, we didn’t know what was going to come up next. We just knew that he had already seen everything, and now it was just unfolding and he was letting us in on it step by step. That’s how we experienced Prabhupada building up the movement. I wouldn’t even use the word “business” because it just doesn’t do justice to what was really happening. It was this great grand vision and Prabhupada directing like a conductor in an orchestra all the pieces to fall into place gradually. But he had already seen it in its full composition and grand performance, and we weren’t there yet. Prabhupada already saw it completed, and you got that sense that you were dealing with Prabhupada in past and present and future just blended together.
Bhavananda das: I had gone to America to form a little collecting party for Mayapur. So in Los Angeles Prabhupada had arrived from somewhere, and he was up in his quarters. Most of the devotees had gone out on chanting, on sankirtan, and I was staying in a room opposite the temple. I was looking out at the temple and at the dusk with the evening star and I was thinking, “Jeez, I’d like to go up and see Prabhupada, but I don’t want to just burst in on him.” And just as I was thinking that, Upendra came walking out of the temple across the street and he looked up and he saw me and he was waving me to come. I opened the window and he said, “Oh, Prabhupada wants to see you.” So I went up to see Prabhupada, and it was very sweet, very quiet. Prabhupada wanted to know about Mayapur, and we were talking about Mayapur. And he was saying how he used to visit the Caitanya Matha but it was very difficult for him because when he visited the Caitanya Matha, he’d have to stay in the room with all the brahmacaris on a chowki bed and he said, “Their noses were always working.” He said, “This world is a horrible place, but Lord Krishna said to me, ‘You come down and write those books.’ And I said, ‘Oh, I do not want to go there. It is a horrible place.’ And Lord Krishna said, ‘No, no, you come down and write those books. I will take care of everything.’ And I said, ‘No, no, I do not want to go there.’ But He insisted, ‘You come down and write those books. I will take care of everything.’” So he said, “You just see how Krishna has taken care of everything for me.” That was a great revelation, an extraordinary thing that Prabhupada was saying. And I looked at Upendra and he looked at me, and it was just electric, the atmosphere.
Kirtiraj das: Prabhupada would have a group of devotees come and sit, and Shyamasundar would tell the different philosophies of the different philosophers for the philosophy book to be compiled. So while we were waiting for the class to start in Prabhupada’s room, I was sitting right in front of Prabhupada’s desk and Prabhupada was sitting at his desk and I was chanting my rounds. I was chanting very nicely and very attentively and I was pronouncing very properly, and I was chanting out loud. I was chanting Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare again and again and again. Prabhupada had been very quiet. And at a certain point, Prabhupada raised his voice and from total silence Prabhupada said, “No sound!” and raised his hand up in the air with his palm probably about two or three inches from my face, and all my pride in trying to please him by my nice chanting was totally shattered. What I understood from that is that one shouldn’t make a show of their chanting in front of the spiritual master. You’re supposed to chant on the side, not showing off, chanting for your own purification and calling out to Krishna to please engage us in His service, but especially not to make a show of our chanting.
Ramesvara das: He requested a loan from U.S. BBT for $160,000, which would be used to construct the second residence building.
Srila Prabhupada: How he will pay back?
Ramesvara das: His plan was that the American temples would purchase rooms, and over a period of four or five years they would pay that money back. So is that still approved by Your Divine Grace?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, I have no objection.
Ramesvara das: The only thing is that we will have to delay the loan because for the next three months all our money will be used to print these 17 books.
Srila Prabhupada: First of all books, then loan. Our…we cannot hold up printing, that is not possible. This you must always keep in view. We are not going to…the surplus money we are going to build, not that at the cost of stopping printing. You must always keep it. When you require money for printing, there is no question of loan for temple building. This should be our…
Visakha dasi: I had written an article for Back to Godhead magazine about how we are not the body, very basic philosophy. And the editors thought that the written part of the article was fine, they didn’t have a problem with that, but they questioned my illustration for it because I more or less dissected the human body into different parts – the head, the chest, the legs, the arms – and tried to point out how we’re not these different parts. The editors felt it was too anatomical, and they didn’t really want to use it. But they thought that since Srila Prabhupada was there at the time in Los Angeles, I should ask him his opinion. So I went up to Prabhupada’s room with a mock-up of the article showing the illustrations, and I explained to him the concept. I didn’t get the answer that I was looking for, either yea or nay. But I got something far more valuable because I saw that although Prabhupada had thousands of disciples and dozens and dozens of temples all over the world, so many responsibilities, he gave his full undivided attention to this one teeny tiny little disciple and teeny tiny little article, three- or four-page article. It was like nothing else existed for those few minutes. He was fully present to this question that I was asking, and he was unhurried. He was not going to make a quick decision, but he really looked at the illustrations and thought about it. And on top of that, he was very thorough. He felt he couldn’t make a decision about the graphics without also reading the text that went with the graphics. So it was a great lesson for me in terms of making decisions in Krishna consciousness. It’s not a snap decision, but it is a meditation to see Prabhupada’s mindfulness and his presence and his focus and his thoroughness and his thoughtfulness even for a small question that’s put before him. Later on this article was published in the September 1975 issue of Back to Godhead magazine. The illustration with all the different bodily parts wasn’t used, but instead a painting by one of the devotees.
Jadurani dasi: The artists had a meeting with Prabhupada in his quarters. And at that time Baradraj was having all the artists take drawing classes where the model would move around and run around in the middle of all the artists and then run out, and then the artists would have to remember and then draw it after. So I couldn’t relate to all these drawing classes, partly because it was too difficult for me. So we wanted to ask Prabhupada whether he actually approved of these drawing classes. So during this meeting, Pariksit Prabhu was asking Prabhupada about the classes and Prabhupada answered, “Yes, morning and evening classes we should have.” So Ramesvara said, “No, Prabhupada, we mean the drawing classes.” So Prabhupada said, “But I mean the morning and evening shastra classes. The real technique of any art is hearing and chanting. It doesn’t matter what else you do for the rest of the day, but you must attend the temple classes. Then by advancing in Krishna consciousness, the Lord is in your heart and He will give you directions how to do your art.”
Manjuali dasi: The 1st of October 1972 was when I got married to Jayatirtha. This was the first marriage in New Dwaraka that we didn’t actually get married in the temple room because some devotees were getting married and not taking their vows seriously, and Prabhupada was getting a little disturbed about that because they were getting married and then they were leaving the movement or they were leaving their partner. So Jayatirtha had been married once before and his partner had left, and so Prabhupada said, “You can get married but not in the temple.” So we got married in Nandarani and Dayananda’s garden down the road on Watseka, and there were three couples that got married at the same time. So we invited Prabhupada to come because he was in New Dwaraka. Prabhupada wasn’t feeling that well that day so he didn’t come, but he said to bring him prasadam. So we had the wedding, and then Jayatirtha and I went in to see Srila Prabhupada in the garden. So I came in my pink sari, tied together as one is, straight off the fire sacrifice. We came in, and we had the prasadam and everything. Prabhupada was giving all these lectures, I just remember, about a beautiful wife is the enemy to the husband. Prabhupada had a wicked sense of humor, though. So I was bringing the plate in and we had all the gopi dots on, everything was in order, all beautifully attired. Prabhupada was sitting on his chair in the garden, and Prabhupada looked up and he said, “Oh, she is beautiful,” and then he winked at me. And I thought, “Oh, no, I’m already an enemy!” I didn’t say that, that’s what I thought. Then Prabhupada said, “Come, come, sit down.” So we brought him the plate of prasadam, and then he took the drink and it was an almond drink. He took a sip of it, and I can still remember with his little finger up in the air, you know how Prabhupada did with his silver goblet. Then he looked down at the plate and then he said, “And she can cook!” Then he started to move his head from side to side like “accha,” but it was just the sense of humor Prabhupada had at that really important day in my life. It was just so warm and loving, and it was like he was my father.
Danavir Goswami: I remember one time we were in the garden, and I asked Prabhupada about chanting fast on japa. He said, “Yes, you can chant Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare, but you must hear all 32 syllables.” He demonstrated. And then he said, “Haridas Thakur was chanting fast. He was chanting 333,000 names.” So he asked how many rounds that was. Karandhar calculated it was 192. Then Prabhupada said, “So if he was chanting five minutes per round, how many hours would that take?” and Karandhar said, “Sixteen.” So he said, “Yes, he was chanting 16 hours of japa.”
Srila Prabhupada: If you do not know the art and if you want to do some benefit to the others, then that is cheating. Suppose a physician, he does not know what is the medical science; and if he wants to become a physician, that is cheating. Quack.
Guest: I hope through the study that I’m doing with the devotees and the book that comes out of it that it will help them not be cheated any longer and show them the right way.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Devotee: He is advising his patients that they should chant Hare Krishna and come to the temple.
Srila Prabhupada: Then it is very nice. Then you are friend.
Guest: Another thing I would like to do is go to Gurukula and test the children and show what NBC did was very false and unfair.
Devotee: On television, they did a very bad story on Gurukula.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, they are cheater. He wants to cheat and get some money, that’s all. Because the whole so-called human society is combination of cheater and cheated. So anyone who is acting without Krishna consciousness, he is a cheater. And anyone who is thinking himself advanced without Krishna consciousness, he is cheating. This is the basic principle. I mean Krishna consciousness, God consciousness. Without God consciousness, everyone is cheated.
Revatinandan das: We were walking right along the shoreline and Prabhupada was talking about the pebbles on the shoreline, that we are like those pebbles. He said tatastha shakti means in the margin, can turn toward Krishna or away from Krishna. Sometimes the pebbles are covered by the water and sometimes they are uncovered. He made it sound like it was almost very random. But he said that’s similar to the position of the living entity as marginal energy. For him the tatastha region wasn’t an area in space or something, it was the attitude of the souls. The jivas form the tatastha shakti. They have the capacity to turn toward Krishna or away from Krishna by nature, and that is the meaning of this marginal energy.
Bahulasva das: On one of these walks with Dr. Judah, Srila Prabhupada was explaining that the way to become Krishna conscious is through the practice of devotional service and sadhana and that if you don’t practice getting up in the morning, going to arati, chanting, sravanam kirtanam, all the various ways to practice devotional service, then there is no question of you becoming Krishna conscious. You can’t become Krishna conscious without engaging in the activities of devotional service. So I made some kind of comment, some kind of foolish comment came out of my mouth about the importance of this or that. And Srila Prabhupada turned around and told me that he had been explaining this to me for a hundred lifetimes, and all the devotees said, “Ohhhh,” as if that was a compliment that Prabhupada had had to come back a hundred times to save me from ignorance. But Prabhupada actually meant, at least I took it in a way that “This is how foolish you are that after a hundred lifetimes you are still not getting the message that Krishna consciousness has to be practiced.”
Jayadvaita Swami: One time on one of these walks on Venice Beach, I said to Srila Prabhupada…because you’d always want to say something that Prabhupada would appreciate…I said to Srila Prabhupada, “Srila Prabhupada, it seems to me that since you have come here to Los Angeles. the Deities are looking even more beautiful.” Prabhupada was walking, and after a few moments Prabhupada said, “That is my anxiety,” and he didn’t say more than that, he just kept walking. Naturally I’m puzzling, “that is my anxiety”? Then after a few moments Prabhupada said, “That is my anxiety, that when I am no longer here you will neglect the Deity worship, and then everything will be finished.”
Srila Prabhupada: Can you say like that, any statistics that nobody has… Maybe you have not seen him, one who has seen God. That is quite possible because you have not scrutinizingly studied all the men of the world. Then how you can say nobody has seen? You have not seen the man who has seen Him. He will not admit his fault. He will accuse others, “Nobody has seen God.” Why? You may not have seen, but why you say nobody has seen? You have not seen that person who has seen God. Therefore, you say like that.
Bahulasva das: So those people who wrote the Bible did not see God.
Srila Prabhupada: That is…when God is canvassing, “Here I am, Krishna,” they will not see it. And still they accuse, “Nobody has seen.”
Manjuali dasi: Get the Deities ready and all, and then the frankincense and myrrh was billowing up, and then the temple room was ready and Govinda Prayers start and the doors open, and Prabhupada just kind of swanned in with so much dignity and majesty. Then he would pay his obeisances to the Deities, and it was extraordinary when you were a pujari and he would be there and you would be doing your arati but totally conscious that Prabhupada was right behind you as well. What an honor it was. It was something that I absolutely loved, dressing the Deities, and actually every aspect of Deity worship was something that I just kind of fell into and it became natural. One day Prabhupada came and he was standing by the Deities, I could just see out of the corner when I turned around, and he was really looking at Krishna. I really felt that he was seeing Krishna because of course he was seeing Krishna, and we believed he was seeing Krishna as well. So then he gave class and we did the offerings because it was a matter of cooking and pujari work, and word came down, “Prabhupada wants to see you.” I thought, “Oh, gosh, Prabhupada never asked to see me before.” This was the first time, “Prabhupada wants to see you immediately,” and I thought, “Oh, gosh, what have I done?” So I took the apron off and went upstairs, and Prabhupada was sitting there on his asana. I went in and offered my obeisances to Srila Prabhupada, and there he was. I remember he just had a gamcha on, it was massage time, and there was a window behind Srila Prabhupada’s asana in his room and the morning light was coming through. I don’t know if it was diffused light, but I remember he actually looked golden. And he was smiling at me when I came in. Srutakirti was there and he sat down and, “So, you have dressed the Deities?” And he was saying, “Krishna is looking very beautiful. Thank you so much.” I said, “Thank you, Srila Prabhupada, because Krishna wouldn’t be here without you.” And then he said, “Oh, thank you so much. You are doing very nicely.” He was just so merciful. Then he said, “Always serve Krishna and this life will be perfect, and the next will be perfect because you’ll go back to Godhead.” So that was the nutshell. So simple. Then he waved over to Srutakirti and he said, “Give me my purse.” Then he dips his hand into his purse and takes out twenty dollars, which in 1975 was quite a lot of money, and he hands me the twenty dollars and then he said, “This is for the Deity worship.” I said, “Oh, we’ll use this for the new outfit, Srila Prabhupada,” and he said, “Very good. Very good.” And he said, “Continue as you are. You are doing very well.” I just thanked him for the opportunity to do the service. And here I was kind of lamenting because I never got to have much personal service for Srila Prabhupada in the sense of being in the inner circle. Actually that was just a fallacy really because in doing whatever we were doing we were in the inner circle, and it wasn’t about externals. It was about just being present and doing our service. And Prabhupada, he was just reaching out, and that was so wonderful. Having that little intimate exchange for that few minutes has been one of the gifts that Prabhupada has given me.
Rasajna dasi: At the New Dwaraka temple, it was arranged that every evening at the last arati there would be a performance for the pleasure of the Deities. But there were no devotees there normally, just the Deities and maybe a few scattered devotees who were still up. Our night was Wednesday, the theater night, and we would do a different lila each Wednesday. We would dress up in full costume and makeup, Prajapati would read the lila, and we would act it out in mudras and dance. It was so beautiful, it was like performing for the king and queen. You’d come in and you really felt Their personhood by doing a full-out performance. The principle of Deity worship that Prabhupada introduced to us gave us the perspective of really not just seeing the Deity but feeling the presence of God in the Deity through these activities.
Srila Prabhupada: So Krishna has given you very nice engagement, husband and wife.
Visakha dasi: Yadubara was filming Prabhupada chanting japa in his quarters, and I was taking still photographs as Prabhupada walked back and forth. Yadubara ran out of film so he left the room to change his film, and I was there with Prabhupada. At one point, Srila Prabhupada stopped walking and he stood in front of a large painting of Jagannatha das Babaji Maharaj and he said to me, “Such an old man and still he is chanting.” So I didn’t know what to say at the time. But on reflecting on it, I felt that this was Prabhupada’s instruction that we go on chanting, that we don’t stop because of old age or any other physical reason, but instead we learn to relish the chanting and take shelter of the chanting and understand it as our connection to Krishna and our connection to Srila Prabhupada by following his instructions.
Srutakirti das: I felt very fortunate because I got to see Prabhupada when he wasn’t with his disciples, when he wasn’t busy training them in management in so many different ways or chastising them for the mistakes they had made and being involved in seeing that the books were being produced and all of these different services he was doing for his spiritual master. Then at various times in the day when the doors closed, Prabhupada was just there by himself; and they were the times that I liked the most because he was a devotee of Krishna, and Prabhupada loved Krishna. You would find him in his room reading, and sometimes from the servant quarters all of a sudden you would hear the harmonium. It wasn’t Krsna Kanti coming in and recording bhajans, Prabhupada was just doing bhajan. Whenever I heard that, I would run into the room and I would offer obeisances; and as soon as I would sit up, Prabhupada would give me the nod, “Get the kartals,” and I would play kartals and Prabhupada would play the harmonium and he would just chant. It’s one reason I stayed with Prabhupada as long as I did, because I found being with Prabhupada was very peaceful for most of the time. And it was amazing because, as we know, Prabhupada was doing everything, he was running everything, the entire society, the BBT, taking care of so much mail every day, doing the classes, the morning walk, instructing devotees. But somehow or other, it seemed like there were hours where Prabhupada was just alone. And he was a devotee of Krishna, and he was very sweet. He was doing everything he was asking us to do, just develop our love of Krishna by chanting and hearing and so many times reading his books. He would walk around and chant in his room; and he would just chant on his beads, walk around, and sometimes he would jiggle his bead bag, you could hear the beads in his bead bag. But there was just this peacefulness that was amazing because of everything that he was doing. But as soon as the door closed, that was all gone. It was just Krishna there with him, and Prabhupada was happy. Even someone like me could pick up on some of that and just feel so peaceful to be with Prabhupada. It’s like you didn’t want to be anywhere else at those times.
Bahulasva das: When most of these professors came, Prabhupada was always ready to take them on. He didn’t get friendly with many of these professors, but he would always encourage me to bring more. Then we would work hard to cultivate a relationship to get them to come to see Prabhupada, and then Prabhupada would just smash whatever their philosophy was or whatever their point of view was. But there were a few that Prabhupada liked, like Dr. Judah. And Theodore Rosa, Prabhupada was also very nice with him. And I think that was more because they came with a devotional attitude. They didn’t come as if they were the great erudite scholars. When they came, they had a sense who Prabhupada was. They knew they were in the presence of a holy person, and then Prabhupada would treat them differently. But if they came all arrogant and puffed up, then Srila Prabhupada would immediately say, “And so, what is your philosophy? What are you thinking about this?” and he would immediately challenge them and just tear them to shreds. If you listen to any of the dialogues here, you’ll see that Prabhupada would go right at them and usually be very challenging. I think Prabhupada wanted to use these interactions as ways to give the devotees the confidence not to be afraid to speak up. You would get a sense that there was a Japanese Kabuki theater drama going on and Prabhupada was more or less showing you how to do it, regardless of who their positions were, to present Krishna consciousness fearlessly, not to hold back and be overly polite, especially true if anyone brought up meat-eating subjects. I can remember lots of conversations where Prabhupada would talk about how the cow is already giving you the equivalent of its blood in the form of the milk. What is the reason for killing the cow? Why take its blood when it is already providing you this? That theme would come up a lot. But mostly he would always get around to talking about how do you think life came about? How was the universe created? Why do you think you are here? Do you think you are the body? How do you substantiate your sense of who you are? Changing body. Those were the most common things that he would speak about. And then he would always bring it around to talking about the Supreme Personality of Godhead and that you are part and parcel, and you can’t be happy unless the part is serving the whole or you won’t be happy. He didn’t treat anybody other than the way he would deal with regular devotees. It didn’t matter who it was.
Srila Prabhupada: “Now whatever you like you can do.” Krishna never forced him to accept the teachings of Bhagavad-gita. He gave him the independence, “Now whatever you like you can do.” And he agreed, “Yes. Now my illusion is over. I shall act as You say.”
Rose Forkash: I came because it was Lila Shakti that was there. I don’t think she was initiated yet. I wanted to hear the man that was responsible for the movement, and I wanted to see what was going on. Who captured my daughter? Not that she didn’t need capturing. But when we walked into the temple – that was my husband and I – the sun was coming through the window and shining on this man. He seemed to be engulfed by the sun, like the sun was purposely coming just for him. Mind you, I was not a believer at that time. My first impression was that his whole demeanor had the strength of a lion. He appeared to me that he was giving off so much energy, so much strength in this man. Yet there was a kindness to him that I felt, and he appeared so large. I was so surprised when he did stand that he was not so big. I don’t remember what he even spoke about. I was mostly involved in just looking at the man. He finished his talk, and then he said would there be any questions. Of course, my hand went up, “Yes, I have a question. If this movement that you speak about is so necessary, why was it so late in coming here?” And I’m thinking, “Here my daughter was a hippie back in Illinois, involved in drugs and whatever. What took you so long if this was so important?” And he said, “That’s a very good question. It wasn’t late, you were late.” And the devotees, oh, they applauded. And he turned to them and he said, “And you were all late!” The devotees squelched down when he said, “And you were late.” They thought that he had won a debate with me. Actually mine was just an innocent question, “Where were you all these years?” I had hoped that we would have more conversation about this, but he went on to speak a little bit more. But I was determined to meet him again. I did come back the next time he came to town, and I requested a meeting with him. He was someplace in another room. He was told who I was. And he asked my husband what he does, what kind of business he was involved in, and Sam said that he operated an antique shop in Santa Barbara. He said, “And what kind of antiques do you carry? What do you sell?” Sam explained, “Anything that was old,” which it was. I remember Prabhupada saying, “That’s very interesting.” Of course, he was very, very, very nice to my husband, very nice. But we may have spent a good 30 minutes or so with him. In fact, prasadam was brought to him and he offered it to us, which I thought was so nice. His prasadam he offered to us. He was very happy that parents like ourselves were agreeable. He asked me about the other children we had, and I told him we had two sons and their feelings towards their sister’s involvement. And he listened, he listened to everything I said. He gave me rapt attention. Whereas I would have liked to have asked him more things, he was actually interviewing us now that I think of it. I’m sorry I can’t remember my entire conversation with him. Some of my memory has left me with this advancing age. The next birthday I have will be 87. The third time I met him I already had started the Friends of Krishna program where I was writing to devotees’ families. And he said, “Mrs. Forkash, you are doing very nice work, very nice work.” He asked me if I chanted, and I said I did. He said, “But you know, you should be wearing tilak,” and he pointed to my face and he said, “Right there.” I said, “What is tilak?” He called the girls over and he said, “Mrs. Forkash will wear tilak.” Well, they did apply it, and I swear on everything I did not have this until the next day when I washed the tilak and this remained. And I tell you, I went to a dermatologist and I asked to have this removed, and they could not take it off and it’s still there. Isn’t that something?
Nalinikanta das: Announcements were being made that Srila Prabhupada was concentrating on his translating work and he wanted to get a lot done and devotees should not bother Prabhupada. Only GBCs or sannyasis could go to see Prabhupada, and the usual requests for guests and such would be minimized. So I was a small temple president of Phoenix at the time, and I had a $50 donation to give Prabhupada, which was nothing. So Rakshana was guarding Prabhupada, and I made a little pact with him to let me up the back stairs. We talked to Srutakirti, who was Prabhupada’s servant, and he also agreed to let me in just for a minute. So it was 9:20 at night. I was a little afraid of breaking the laws, but I just wanted to see Srila Prabhupada so much. So Srutakirti opened the door and I came in behind him, and Srila Prabhupada had his hand in his bead bag and was facing away from us looking out the back window down the alley past the temple. Srutakirti said, “Srila Prabhupada, this devotee from Phoenix has come to see you.” Srila Prabhupada turned around; and as he slowly turned around, the fear of interrupting him and being insignificant was fairly strong. But when he turned around, he had the biggest smile on his face and he was just radiating warmth and love from his heart and giving me a greeting like, “Oh, my dear son has come to see me. How kind.” I really learned from that experience that all of us are equal in Prabhupada’s eyes and whenever we have anything to offer to him or if we have any love to give him at all, we should just do it without any rules or regulations in regards to status or standing in ISKCON or anything. We are all equal in his eyes, and he was just happy to see his lost son coming to him for shelter. It was a memorable exchange. Just with one look Prabhupada could pierce your heart and change your whole life in one glance. I gave him the check as I was leaving and he said, “Thank you very much.” Then what happened later was about three months later I got a letter from India from Prabhupada, which was surprising because I hadn’t written him, and it was a thank you note for the fifty-dollar check and the donation. He made a personal note and said something, preaching to me that pleasing the spiritual master is the way to please Krishna, and I thought it was wonderful that he would acknowledge not only me but also the small donation that we had given him.
Srila Prabhupada: That is human being. He should be inquisitive, “Why this happening? Why this happening?” And he should take education. That is human life. And if he does not inquire, if he does not take education, then what is the difference between him and the dog? He remains a dog. He has got this opportunity of human life, he should take advantage of understanding what is what. Not to keep himself in the dog status, simply eating, sleeping, sex life and defending. That is the distinction between dog and human being. If he does not become inquisitive how to control the mind, he is not even a human being. A dog never inquires. A dog knows that “When I bark, people become disturbed.” He will never ask, “How to control this barking habit?” Because he is dog, he cannot do that. A human being can do, that “People hates me, I do something wrong. How to control my mind?” That is human being.
Bhakti Swarup Damodar Swami: One time I invited Professor Bamford from the University of California Irvine. He is a particle physicist, and he had some interest on something beyond science. In the garden, Prabhupada’s garden, in the course of discussion with Professor Bamford, Prabhupada was asking that “You scientists are spending so much time in studying a piece of grass, what is the color of the grass, and then you dry it and you try to see what are the components that make up this grass, then what are the molecules, the atoms. So on a piece of grass you can write volumes and volumes of books.” Then Prabhupada was asking, “But what good is that knowledge?” And Bamford said, “Well, scientific knowledge is a different category of knowledge. Those who are pursuing scientific discipline, they get great satisfaction and great happiness in doing these things. Science is very useful.” Then Prabhupada said, “Do you think that from bullock carts to motor cars and airplanes, do you think this is advancement?” And Bamford said, “Yes, definitely, we are making progress.” Prabhupada said, “This is not correct because by this type of knowledge, you are forgetting your own nature, your own spiritual nature. You are forgetting who you are and what is the purpose of our existence. So this most fundamental knowledge you are neglecting. Therefore, we are not making progress.” And Prabhupada asked him, “Do you believe in God?” Professor Bamford said, “Not exactly. I am agnostic.” Then Prabhupada said, “Oh, you are agnostic means you are doubtful. Sometimes you think that there might be God, sometimes you think that there might not be God. That means you are ignorant.” So then he said, “Yes.” So he was not angry or he was not upset. And so in this way, Prabhupada was treating in a wonderful way. Although Prabhupada has a strong philosophical principle, but the way he treated people and the scholars, they felt very comfortable and they always had respect. But that day, that Sunday was also the marriage day of Jayatirtha and there was a huge feast. So during that conversation, one devotee brought a huge plate of all these preparations full to offer to Prabhupada. So what Prabhupada did, he took the whole plate and gave it to Bamford, “This is for you. This is maha-prasadam, please take.” So Professor Bamford was completely amazed. He didn’t expect that the whole plate is going to come to him, and he took so much prasadam. One of the main preparations, this eggplant preparation, I still remember he was so much fond of that eggplant. Then after when it gets a little dark, then Prabhupada also went upstairs. Then the Sandhya-arati started and Professor Bamford said, “I’d like to have a little experience of this singing. It seems very nice.” So I took him inside the temple, and then he joined arati. Then he said it was getting a little late and I saw he was wanting to leave. But he said before he left he wanted to see Prabhupada, he wanted to say goodbye. So I took him upstairs to Prabhupada’s room; and on the way there were some plates, these prasadam plates with a lot of eggplant. And Professor Bamford picked up again one more plate, he ate again this eggplant. Then after that we went upstairs to see Prabhupada again. This time he was so impressed by Prabhupada’s dealings with him as a spiritual authority. So he said, “I’d like to thank you for having me here this evening. You are doing so much wonderful service to train these American young boys and girls, learning this culture, and it is a wonderful thing.” So he was giving tremendous appreciation of Prabhupada, and then he left.
Rukmini dasi: Once going up to Prabhupada’s room in Los Angeles, Baradraj was walking into Prabhupada’s room a little bit ahead of me and Prabhupada said, “Where is Rukmini?” And he said, “Oh, she’s always busy doing something.” Then I walked in slightly behind him and Prabhupada saw me and he said, “Yes, always stay busy, busy, busy. Otherwise Maya will say, ‘Come and play with me,’” and he held out his arms like someone trying to embrace someone. He said, “Maya will say, ‘Come and play with me.’”
Srila Prabhupada: Education means enlightenment. You do not know what is the final cause. That huge body is working as nature. So many planets, so many big big planets like sun, moon, they are floating in the air, and who has made this arrangement? There we see every day. And everyone is speculating, “It is being done like this.” Another philosopher comes and he says, “It is like this.” Another says, “It is like this.” Nasau munir yasya matam na bhinnam. A philosopher is not a great philosopher if he does not defy the other philosophers. Is it not? So this process is going on. I defy you, you defy me, that’s all. But what is the real fact? Neither you know, neither I know. But we write big big articles. That is going on. I was also student of philosophy. My professors were all Europeans. So one professor, Dr. W.S. Urquhart, he was our professor for psychology, metaphysics. Later on he became the Vice-Chancellor of Calcutta University. A very nice gentleman.
Devotee: Dr. Mize finds that he is chanting Hare Krishna a little in the shower now. When he takes his shower, he chants a little more.
Srila Prabhupada: One press reporter in the Berkeley University in the beginning, he wrote his article and he wrote that “After hearing this Hare Krishna for a few minutes, I came home chanting all the road Hare Krishna Hare Krishna.” We are living being, we are conscious. We cannot give up anything, but we are being trained up how to utilize everything for Krishna. That is Krishna consciousness. So give him some prasada.
Chinmayi dasi: It seemed like the day that I got initiated Srila Prabhupada was really enjoying himself. He was laughing at everybody really. There was one boy named Asurakulanasana. Srila Prabhupada said, “Do you know the meaning of your name?” And he said, “It means the killer of the descendants of the demons.” And he said to Asurakulanasana, “Do you know who the demons are?” Asurakulanasana said, “Uh, the karmis?” and everybody was laughing. Srila Prabhupada raised his eyebrows and looked around and said, “The demons are the scientists.” And when he said that, Swarupa Damodar sat up straight and said, “Oh, but Srila Prabhupada…” and Srila Prabhupada was laughing and he said, “No, not you.” Then Srila Prabhupada asked me, “What are the four regulative principles, and how many rounds do you chant daily?” and I told him. Then he said to me, “Are you insured?” and I thought he said, “Are you sure?” So I said, “Yes, Srila Prabhupada.” And he said, “I asked you if you are insured,” he said, “because you have a spot on your face,” because I have a mole on my right cheek. And he said, “Once there was a movie star who had a spot on her face, and she had it insured for a lot of money.” And when he said that, he just laughed and laughed and everybody was laughing – Swarupa Damodar, whoever was there at the time, all the sannyasis. He was literally shaking and laughing, and I was so embarrassed I couldn’t even think of what he was saying. I was just thinking, “They’re all laughing.” And then he said, “Krishna consciousness is your only insurance. Your name is Chinmayi-devi, spiritual potency.”
Nartaki dasi: The devotees in Los Angeles once arranged for some theologians from the University of Southern California, which is nearby the temple, to come to meet Prabhupada. We always liked to hear Prabhupada speak to other people who have not yet accepted Krishna consciousness because we were going out on sankirtan and meeting the public and we wanted to see how Prabhupada speaks with these kind of people. So we were always eager to hear Prabhupada, but we were not always allowed to come back early from sankirtan. This time I was wanting to come very badly, and we came early. The garden is very small so not everyone could fit. So we were looking through the holes in the wooden fence, and we could see Prabhupada. And whatever we could not hear, we would afterwards hear the tape. Actually the same thing was on morning walks. If we would walk in the back, we could also not hear Prabhupada very well; but we would afterwards hear the tapes, and then we could understand. So this time also Prabhupada was speaking to these theologians. At first he was talking about how the animals are actually very expert. They may fly in the sky, and then they go into the water and they dive into the water and pick a fish out and eat it. And how an eagle seven miles up into the sky, he can see from up there where there is a carcass and he dives down and swoops at his prey, he can see so high. So they are actually very advanced. They can do things that we as humans beings even can’t do. But he says actually the difference between human beings is that they should understand what the problems of life are. Janma-mrtyu-jara-vyadhi dukha-dosanudarsanam. So Prabhupada, after some time talking in general, then they were introduced to him. One was Stillson Judah, who liked Prabhupada very much, and he had done some research previously into the teachings of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. And the others, they did not know anything about Krishna consciousness. So one was introduced to him as having studied modern theology. When Prabhupada heard “modern theology,” he was kind of laughing and he was saying, “So God is modern?” We in Krishna consciousness are being taught by Prabhupada right in the beginning dharmam tu saksad bhagavat-pranitam, that only God can enunciate religious principles. And we know from Bhagavad-gita that Krishna is consistent. What He has taught to Arjuna 5,000 years ago He has also taught to the Sun-god Vivasvan some millions and millions of years ago, the same wisdom, and there is no change. He remains consistently giving us this knowledge. Therefore, when this professor was saying “modern theology,” Prabhupada immediately understood this is a hoax, this is cheating. Then after that, he became quite stern and he was talking about how “You are theologist, but actually theology means that we know God and that we abide by His laws. ‘Theos’ means God, and theology is the science of God. So someone who knows about God is the theologian and then automatically abides by His laws. I think you mean to say theosophist. A theosophist means a person who is in search for God, who does not know yet God but he is eagerly searching for God.” Then the professor was saying, “So is knowledge…does that mean that is the end of search?” Prabhupada says, “Yes, automatically.” “Can you not do both?” Prabhupada says, “No, this is illogical. Once you know, then there is no need for searching anymore.” Sometimes we as devotees also may have thought, “Prabhupada is very strict with these people.” But actually he had to be strict because actually they are cheating. They are presenting themselves as authorities and teaching at big big universities and get all kinds of degrees, and naturally a young student will take them as an authority. But that is cheating because they don’t even know about God and they are presenting themselves as someone who does know; and, therefore, people are wasting their time with hearing these kind of speculations, which may be accepted now and in a few years again they are overthrown. So then he said, “So we accept from higher authorities. I’m not presenting whimsically a God, I am presenting how I heard from my spiritual master and from the great acaryas in the past. Therefore, what is the difficulty to accept what I am saying to you?” Dr. Stillson Judah, he was kind of representing everyone else and he was saying, “Maybe because we are older it is a little difficult for us to take up something new.” Then Prabhupada said, “Then you are not serious. If you really want the truth, if you are really in search of God, when it is presented to you, presented in an authoritative way, then you should accept.” So in a very short time he showed that it was actually cheating to present oneself as an authority when one has no knowledge. So I came from a family of theologians, and to me this was just extraordinary to hear Prabhupada speaking like this. And that really made it clear in my mind that I have done the right thing by taking up Krishna consciousness and by taking Srila Prabhupada as my authority, because I could see. Previously I was living amongst these people and even at the dinner table they would talk like that about God in a very speculative way, and I was never satisfied with that when I was a child. When I was 12 years I was praying to God, “Please let me know more about You. You are very kind that You have sent Jesus, but I want to know more about You.” And these people were always speculating and I felt not only that, they were cruel. They were harsh and cruel in their way of speculations. Anyone who couldn’t keep up with their arguments… I was a young girl then. It was always high above my head what they were talking about. And I felt they were cruel, they’re not sensitive to anyone else who may truly be interested in knowing. If you were not on the level that you can argue with them, then you were left out. But Prabhupada never gave us that sense. We were always included. He wanted us to know, he was eager for us to understand. So I felt Prabhupada is very kind. That is a real truly spiritual person. He is knowledgeable, authoritative, he himself has accepted a guru from a line of teachers, and he is presenting Krishna as He is. I just immediately felt comfortable with Prabhupada. I never felt like I was cheated – never, never. I felt like Prabhupada is truly an authority that I want to surrender to. My relationship with Prabhupada was always that I felt really, really close to Prabhupada when I heard him speak. Either he was preaching to someone else or he was giving classes to us, and I felt so close to Prabhupada. I felt he is my well-wisher, he is my friend, he is my father.
Srila Prabhupada: So you may love humanity. But because you do not love Krishna, therefore you do not love the cows. You send them to the slaughterhouse. So your love will remain defective. It will never be complete. And if you love Krishna, then you will love even the small ant. You are not interested to kill even an ant. That is real love.
Aniruddha das: Dayananda and Nandarani, his wife at the time, and a devotee named Uddhava had gone down to open up a center in L.A. from San Francisco. Prabhupada had asked his disciples to – those that knew a little bit about preaching – go open up centers. So they had chosen to go to L.A. to please Prabhupada, and they found this little storefront on Pico Boulevard in a middle class African-American neighborhood. So about a year or so later, I got this letter from Nandarani and Dayananda that they needed someone to come and help them run the L.A. temple. Actually she was going to her mother’s house and Dayananda was going to be away, so they wanted somebody there to run it. And nobody was coming at the time, it was just a storefront, nothing had really been established. There were no devotees, they had no real program. So I went to L.A., and I was there by myself actually for several months. I was in the temple alone, and Prabhupada started to write me letters saying, “It doesn’t matter nobody is coming, you can just chant to the walls. Krishna will hear you.” There are so many letters I had where he said, “Don’t get discouraged if nobody is coming now because very soon your temple will be successful. Just work sincerely and everything will happen.” So my program was to just have the morning arati, which was a little later than now, and we had a picture of Panca Tattva. I would get flowers. We had very little laksmi, maybe two hundred dollars a month to maintain everything. A hundred dollars paid the rent, and a hundred dollars was for everything else. When I started to communicate with Prabhupada, he would encourage me to do things. So then I wanted to please him. So little by little I’d make contact, people started to come around, and contact with some of the local papers and the free press and put advertisements. Gradually one or two people started to come around, and then some devotees from San Francisco came down to help and things started to progress little by little like that. Mukunda had come and Umapati had come down and stayed for a while. We were contacting different places, and Prabhupada used to write that if we make him some engagements… That was the way you’d get him to come to your temple in those days, to have some speaking engagements, preferably at a college and something on television, like that. So I tried to do these things even though I was petrified of talking to people in those days, I was very timid and very shy, but somehow or other Krishna gives you the ability to do these things. So I had some nice clothes from my karmis days, and I put on a very nice expensive suit and a tie. We weren’t shaved up but I’d wear tilak, and I went down to some of these stations. I went to, I think, AITV in L.A., they had these afternoon talk shows. So in addition to the TV and radio shows, I had arranged for Prabhupada to speak at UCLA and at Long Beach State College. Somebody told me that the International Student Center at UCLA has guest speakers. So I thought that would be a good place for Prabhupada to speak. But not being experienced and very expert, I went down and spoke with somebody there and she asked me if we were proselytizing, and I didn’t even remember what the word proselytizing meant. Even though I had college education, I became befuddled. And when I told that to Prabhupada, he said, “And did you tell them no?” But I didn’t even know what it meant I was ashamed to tell Prabhupada at that time. But she told me that she couldn’t sponsor us like they normally did, she thought it was a religious thing. So she said she’d give us the use of one of her rooms, but we would have to advertise and do everything else. So I thought, “Well, that’s all right.” So I went out and I printed up maybe a hundred or so fliers, which was really nothing, and I stood on the campus and gave them out. Jayananda sent the money down from San Francisco, and I printed them up because we had no laksmi in L.A. I realize now it was really like giving out one flier and really was so insignificant, but at the time I thought it was the best that I could do. We cut up a huge amount of fruit and Mukunda was in L.A. at the time, and we drove out there with Prabhupada. We had this room, it was like a huge classroom, and nobody showed up, not a person. So we were sitting there and Prabhupada is waiting, and then he finally looks at me and he said, “So, Aniruddha?” And again I felt like I was so insignificant. But I couldn’t say anything, so he just looked at me and he said, “That is all right. We will have kirtan.” He always made me feel wonderful afterwards because he knew how timid I was. So he related to me in that way, where some devotees he could really…like Tamal Krishna he could yell at. With me, it would really shake me up so he knew how to handle me perfectly, always made me feel he was so grateful actually. This reminds me of what a fool I am. So we had kirtan. And after kirtan, there was an Indian student that saw some swami inside so he came in out of curiosity, and he sat down and he had a conversation with Prabhupada. The boy was challenging. Prabhupada was saying, “So tell me, where are your Indian countrymen? Why are they not here?” And the boy had no answer, and he said after pausing, “I will tell you, they are lost. Hare Krishna.” So that was that engagement. The other engagement was at Long Beach State. They told me I had the use of either an indoor classroom and I could arrange for people to come, or that there was a huge area where all of the students took their lunch where they had a podium and they had speakers during the day. So I thought that that might be better because at least we had some kind of a guaranteed audience. So again we drive out to Long Beach, and it turns out that it’s this huge mall area the size almost of a football field. Everybody is spread out. I found out later that they’d have any kind of speaker would get up there and speak about any kind of nonsense that would arouse the students. It could be hippies or whatever. And there was nothing to cover Prabhupada from the sun, I didn’t even think about it. So we get out there and Prabhupada stands up there and he looks around and he looks over to me and he says, “Get me an umbrella,” because nothing was covering Prabhupada. All of a sudden, somebody hands him an umbrella. Then Prabhupada looks at me and says, “Aniruddha, this is not very nice.” I felt very badly. But he sang. He sang the normal things in the beginning that he would always sing, Vande ‘Ham and Govinda Jaya Jaya, Sri Rama Jaya Rama, that was his program. Then Hare Krishna. There was no way of asking questions so he just spoke something very seriously, something very heavy about Vishnu and four-handed forms and things like that, and then we left. So when I drove him back in the car, I felt very badly so I apologized. I said, “Prabhupada…” I don’t remember exactly my words. But he just looked at me and smiled and said, “That is all right.” Then after all that, when Prabhupada left L.A. and went back to San Francisco, from that time on he wrote me regularly. And the first letter that he wrote me he said, “My dear Aniruddha, please accept my blessings. Despite my ill health, I was so comfortably situated when I came to L.A. Thank you so much for your strenuous service single-handedly. Krishna will bless you, rest assured.” He said, “Now we are in San Francisco and they are arranging for me to speak at different universities, and they are very successful just as they were in L.A.” So he just would lift me up. Then I realized that Prabhupada really only saw the attempt. He understood that I didn’t know really much, and he gave me some credit. So he was always so merciful in that respect. It meant a lot to me, believe me.
Srila Prabhupada: You may challenge so long you have got little life for a few years. But God will come and drive you away from your present prestigious position, “Get out.” So unless one is madman, he cannot say there is no God. Anyone who denies the existence of God, he is a madman.
Dr. Wolfe: Prabhupada, wouldn’t it be better to say he is blind, he is stupid?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, the same thing. Mad is the sum total of all stupidity. When I say mad, it is the sum total of all kinds of stupidity. Now you can give them prasadam. I think we have occupied their time.
June-July 1975: DENVER, COLORADO – Walk, Car ride, Guru Puja
Brahmananda das: All across America wherever Prabhupada went, he would be taken to the park for the morning walk at six o’clock. And wherever he went, we’d see the parks were empty, not a single person. This is before the jogging craze, the health craze. So everywhere we went, the very nicely manicured parks taken care of, nobody was there. So Prabhupada is telling the story of the snake and the mouse. The mouse digs the hole and makes the little house, the hole in the ground. Then the snake comes along, goes into the hole, eats the mouse, and then lives comfortably in the hole. The snake can’t make the hole. The mouse had to work very hard, but the snake is enjoying it. So Prabhupada was saying that we get up early in the morning, that’s our religion, and we have these very nice parks just for our use. They are maintaining it at their expense, labor, and we are enjoying it.
Yadubara das: In the winter of 1974-75, I was very sick with very poor digestion and tried to cure myself with fasting and on a diet with no milk or grains. Well, the diet didn’t work, and I lost a lot of weight. Srila Prabhupada visited L.A. that winter, and when he saw me he said, “What has happened to you?” I explained my problem, and he said I should just take a little prasad. Then he added it could be selective, but just take a little prasadam. I tried to follow Srila Prabhupada’s instructions as best I could and started eating grains and milk and rapidly gained my weight back. On this Denver morning walk, the subject of diets came up; and the devotees were critical of the dieting because that had become somewhat of a fad. When Prabhupada heard the comments, he said, “Yes, we should all eat prasadam. Let what may happen happen. Simply we should all eat prasad.” Then Tamal Krishna Goswami said, “Yes, that’s the best thing, Prabhupada. Let us die eating prasadam.” Prabhupada laughed and he said, “That is devotee, ‘Let us die eating prasad.’” So I thought I would add my opinion, and so I said, “Srila Prabhupada, I’m a good example that these diets are not good. I can testify.” When Srila Prabhupada heard my comment, he stopped and turned and looked at me and he said, “The diets are not good or you are not good?” At that moment, my mind went completely blank. I just couldn’t say anything. It was really something to think about because it’s not the diet. The diet is just something that somebody has an idea that this may be good and they embrace that idea. Looking back on it, it was extraordinary how with just a few words Srila Prabhupada exposed my foolishness.
Siddhanta das: I remember distinctly Prabhupada was talking about the potency of prasadam, and he said that prasadam is so potent that any animal that eats prasadam jumps over all species of life and takes next birth as a human. Then also one godbrother, Padmanabha, was selling incense or jewelry at that time, and he would always drive. That was his sankirtan. He wouldn’t do books, but he would drive. And because of that, he couldn’t eat heavy prasadam in the morning. So it was a bone of contention because at that time we’d overload everybody with kitchari and a huge breakfast prasadam; and generally when you eat a whole bunch and you start driving, you tend to fall asleep at the wheel. So that was his concern. So he asked Prabhupada about eating other things besides those things that are offered to the Deities. Prabhupada, of course, was very practical and saying that you don’t have to eat everything that Krishna eats. Krishna eats very opulently but you can eat simply, fruit and…not that you are forced to eat the opulent things. If it doesn’t suit your body and your service well, then you eat simply. So there was a gap in the conversation between the devotees and Prabhupada, at which point I decided I was going to jump in with a question that had been on my mind. I had distributed books for a long time, and I would constantly be bombarded by people’s statements: “Why don’t you get a job?” “Stop harassing me.” “Why are you asking for donations?” And so many comments that would affect my mind and my faith. So I asked Prabhupada, I said, “Prabhupada, sometimes we get the comments that as devotees that we’re trying to escape this material world by living in a temple, asking for donations, and that we’re not being responsible human beings and taking up regular nine-to-five type of jobs.” And he responded very kindly in that he didn’t blast me for my lack of faith or lack of understanding of our position as devotees and disciples and followers of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu in the mood of sankirtan. Prabhupada, he went on the entire walk from that point on talking about this very point. He said, “Does a rich man’s son work? We are sons of Krishna, and Krishna is the wealthiest man. A factory owner, he is very wealthy, but does he work? No, he employs others to engage and do his business. Does that mean he is lazy, that he is not productive because he himself doesn’t work?” So he was giving some analogies like that. So he was able to dispel my doubts that morning walk about the non-necessity of having to go back and get a nine-to-five job, that I was actually doing the proper service, and he was just so compassionate. He would look at me very lovingly and if I didn’t understand one point, he would come up with another analogy so that I would really get the point. That’s the first time I really felt a personal connection with Prabhupada.
Ambarisa das: This one morning I remember he was hammering me on this one point because I kept on saying that the living entity grows, and Srila Prabhupada was saying, “No, not growing, changing, second by second changing.” And for some reason I just could not understand that concept, that the living entity is changing at every second like the picture in the book with the different movie frames. I was thinking that the body is growing because I wasn’t looking at it in a spiritual context at all. But I was so conditioned to this way of looking at things, that the child is born and then it grows, and Prabhupada was hammering this point home with me that “No, this concept of growth is wrong. The body is changing. Every second there is a new body and a new body, like that, changing, changing.” But he must have hammered on me for about 10 minutes and I was so thick, I just could not understand the concept at all. But finally I began to understand it, but I realized actually on this walk how conditioned I was by my so-called education and Darwinism and all this other nonsense that you’re fed when you are growing up in America. To understand Krishna consciousness, I had to unlearn a lot of things too before I could even grasp some of the basics. So it was kind of an awakening for me.
Asta-sakhi dasi: When Prabhupada came into the airport, they had planned for the television and different people to interview him. So they brought him into a room but then nobody showed up, and I just remember Prabhupada was very undisturbed. We were all upset that it didn’t happen. Then they took Prabhupada back to the temple. The Denver temple is very long, and at that time we just had little Radha-Krishna. When they opened the curtain, Prabhupada immediately called Brahmananda over and he was saying that little Krishna didn’t have a peacock feather on. We were all amazed that from such a great distance – his vyasasana was way in the back of that temple – that he immediately saw that and had them fix it.
Harikesa das: In Denver, it was just after L.A., and all of the problems that were there in Los Angeles and the political situations of the organization of the management of the society were weighing heavily upon him. At the same time, when he was in Denver there was an undercurrent…not a major theme, but an undercurrent of problems with householders. There were also other problems with some sannyasis, I forgot who it was. And it seemed to be in America Prabhupada was very much preoccupied with disturbances, whereas in India he was preoccupied perhaps with fighting with people who were trying to take away land. I think he was less disturbed by that than he was by the disturbances with devotees.
Summer 1975: WASHINGTON D.C. – Radha Damodar park program with Visnujana Swami
Chris Murray: I’ll never forget Visnujana putting Radha Damodar into my van. I had a Volkswagen bus. Visnujana sort of reclined on the little bed type of thing I had there, and the murtis were placed carefully on the seat. And as I drove to the park, he was singing some beautiful song. I was in ecstasy, and I made sure I wasn’t driving too fast because I didn’t want to see Visnujana or anything else go flying. But I felt so fortunate. We arrived at the park, and they had a great kirtan group. It was one of the first what I would call kirtan bands at the time.
Laksmi Nrsimhadev das: Visnujana Swami would be playing harmonium and singing. And then we would play the various instruments that he had accumulated over the course of time like the esraj that you see Sri Rama here playing, the ektar, which no one in ISKCON at that time was playing, and then we’d have various sorts of drums and percussive instruments that the other brahmacaris would play or guests would play that were usually musicians. That was basically what we did. Prabhupada was extremely pleased because it was a devotee-making program. There were many brahmacaris that came as a result of our traveling preaching and presenting the chanting of Hare Krishna and the distribution of BTG magazines and other books. Secondly, it was the way Visnujana Swami had arranged it. The Deities, of course, were always captivating, the exotic instruments, his deep and melodious voice, and his sheer enthusiasm for chanting the Holy Name. People literally were captivated upon seeing this whole presentation.
July 1975: CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – Arrival, Temple program
Balavanta das: My father drove my wife and I and my daughter, who was an infant at the time, to Chicago Rathayatra to see Prabhupada. When we arrived, the devotees were on their way to the airport and they had not found a car. They had some old inappropriate car to pick up Prabhupada, which was so fortunate for us because my father happened to have a Cadillac at the time. So that car was taken for picking up Srila Prabhupada, it was very nice. And then he came back to the temple, and my father was given a chance to meet with Srila Prabhupada. So they had a discussion, and my father started with that the Western people were devils. It was a very broad statement. Prabhupada responded, “No, why?” And he said, “Well, they dropped the atomic bomb on Japan.” He mentioned that when he was in the Pacific in World War II that some of the sailors used to drop the Japanese prisoners of war off the boat to see them be eaten by sharks for sport. Prabhupada said, “No, they attacked you.” Then my father accepted that, but it was a nice exchange. Prabhupada was very kind and respectful. At the time, my father I think was…he would have been 54 years old, which I thought was extremely old at the time. I’m now 55.
Ramakeli das: I had gotten a magazine at a concert, John McLaughlin and his Mahavishnu Orchestra, and the devotees gave me this magazine and said, “This is Mahavishnu.” After coming to the temple for the first Sunday Feast, I continued to come. I never missed one Sunday Feast. I kept going and started chanting regularly and attending the classes. And on Friday after I got off from work, I would get on the train and try to make it to the temple and stay there all weekend. Devotees would drop me off on Monday at the train station. They would be going on Harinam and I had to go to work, and finally I said, “I don’t want to go to this job. I want to stay and chant with the devotees.” Finally, after that I joined. We were going on book distribution. I traveled from Chicago to St. Louis to Texas to Oklahoma, Arizona, and all the way up to Los Angeles, and I ended up staying in Los Angeles. But somehow I still wasn’t convinced by the devotees’ behavior. A couple of things happened that were a little disturbing. So I said, “Prabhupada is coming to Chicago. So I am going to go back to Chicago and meet Prabhupada, and I’ll know then for sure whether I’m going to stay in Krishna consciousness or whether I am going to leave.” I took the bus back. It was a very hot three-day ride on the bus. We were painting the temple and waiting for Prabhupada to come, and finally the day arrived. The devotees were going to the airport. I also wanted to go but they told me that I couldn’t go, I had to keep on cleaning the temple and getting everything ready for Prabhupada to come. When the car was on the way back, they called and said, “OK, Prabhupada is on the way. All the devotees should get ready to have kirtan out in the front.” So we went outside to wait, and the car pulled up and Prabhupada was sitting in the back seat. They opened the door and Prabhupada got out, and immediately on seeing Prabhupada uncontrollable tears came down my face. I didn’t think I was a crybaby type but something…it was just uncontrollable, I couldn’t control it. But then I knew that actually “Yes, this is the messenger of God.” I was completely convinced from that point that Prabhupada was definitely Krishna’s representative. There was no doubt about it. So I said, “OK, Krishna, I’m not going anywhere.” And I made a vow at that time that I would continue to serve Prabhupada regardless, no matter what happened in the long run, whoever went, whoever stayed, that somehow or other I would continue serving Prabhupada.
Visakha dasi: The day before Srila Prabhupada left Chicago there was a great celebration in the temple, and four small sets of Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai Deities, brass Deities, were installed. While the devotees chanted the Maha Mantra and read from the Bhagavatam and other scriptures, They were given a full abhiseka and then the Deities were dressed. Then each set was carried out to a different bus, a Radha Damodar bus, and each set was to preside over that bus while the devotees preached and sold Prabhupada’s books. So when that was complete, Srila Prabhupada gave a talk and he mentioned how pleased he was that now with these buses devotees could go from town to town and city to city and distribute books explaining the science of Krishna consciousness. He said, “Materially racing around will not help us in spiritual life.” We were allowed to be advanced materially, but we should never forget our spiritual duty and our spiritual identity. If we do forget those things, then our human form of life is wasted. So after this talk, then there was an initiation. Seventy-five devotees became initiated at this time, and we could see how Prabhupada was pleased by the devotees’ efforts, how Krishna consciousness was being spread successfully. This pleased Prabhupada very much.
July 1975: PHILADELPHIA, PA – Arrival, Rathayatra
Chris Murray: I was fortunate to film Srila Prabhupada at the airport arrival in Philadelphia. And I remember how thrilling that was because when he would walk through the airport and everybody chanting and dancing in ecstasy, it was an experience that’s hard to describe how satisfying it is to be in his association in public with so many devotees. I remember the officials from Philadelphia who were nervously dealing with this arrival of this VIP. They have greeted many VIPs at the Philadelphia airport in their day, but they never greeted a VIP who had such an entourage and with such sound. All the senses were engaged. It looked so great, it sounded great, it smelled great with the garlands. This police official who was there who was a high-up official was a little bewildered at first, but he was steady in his own way because he didn’t lose his cool. As I recall, later on he was very proud of the festival because he got swept up in the transcendental ecstasy of Lord Caitanya’s Sankirtan Movement.
Pushpavan das: All the devotees rushed to the arrival gate to meet Srila Prabhupada, and Ambujaksha, who had never seen Srila Prabhupada, turned to me and said, “What should I do? Where should I go? Tell me what to do.” He actually said that to me, “Tell me what I should do.” I said, “Ambujaksha, just go stand by the asana that’s been set up for Srila Prabhupada because you know he’s coming there, and you can position yourself right next to Srila Prabhupada.” So we agreed, and we both went there. So as Srila Prabhupada came and sat down, a devotee lady approached Ambujaksha with this huge plate of fresh-cut fruit for Srila Prabhupada and gave it to Ambujaksha. So Ambujaksha offers the plate to Prabhupada. Prabhupada takes one fruit, pops it into his mouth, and then does the Bengali drinking style with the water. And for Ambujaksha it was just perfect.
Ravindra Swarupa das: It was the first time Prabhupada had been to Philadelphia when there was a temple there. Before he stopped off at Butler. On the way back from Butler to New York, he stopped off at the University of Pennsylvania, October of ’65. Then he came to Temple University once, spoke in Swami Nikhilananda’s course, made some devotees too from another program. Prabhupada also met with scholars while he was in Philadelphia – Tom Hopkins, who he was really, really quite favorable to. And this professor from the Temple University, my Religion Department, Vibhuti Yadav, who Prabhupada raked over the coals, he was so heavy with him. Prabhupada said to him, “What do you teach?” He said, “Hinduism.” Prabhupada said, “And what is that Hinduism?” Professor Yadav made the mistake of saying, “I don’t know. You tell me what is that Hinduism.” Prabhupada said, “Oh, you are teaching, you do not know?” He said, “This is our Swarupa Damodar. He is also Ph.D. Let us ask his opinion. He says he is teaching, but he says he does not know. What is your judgment?” On cue, Swarupa Damodar says, “Cheater, Srila Prabhupada. That is called cheater.” This is how it starts. Prabhupada said, “So he has called you a cheater.” It got heavier and heavier. Finally Yadav admitted he was a cheater and he said to Prabhupada, “Yes, I am a cheater, but I am an honest cheater.” Prabhupada didn’t give him a break. He said, “You say you are honest, but the judgment of a cheater cannot be accepted.” So he was demanding that Prabhupada tell him what Hinduism is, and Prabhupada said, “First you become shaven-headed like these. Then I will teach you. Tad vidhi pranipatena, pariprasnena sevaya.” Vibhuti Yadav says, “I did. When I came in, I offered my pranams.” He folded his hands together. Then Prabhupada said, “Then my first instruction to you is stop this cheating business.” Oh, the GBC and everybody were just shooting daggers at me because Prabhupada was quite visibly angry. And I didn’t know what to do, I had brought him and everything. There were some graduate students there who were friends of mine who couldn’t believe it, what Prabhupada was doing to him. Another point, Prabhupada had quoted the verse mam ekam saranam vraja, “Just surrender to Me.” “What is the meaning of surrender?” Yadav said. Prabhupada turns to his secretary, “Hand me a dictionary,” and Yadav bristled. He said, “No, I want the Sanskrit etymological meaning of saranam vraja.” Prabhupada leaned back, looked at him and said, “We cannot waste our time.” He said, “You don’t want a guru. You want a Sanskrit teacher.” So finally Yadav left, and the GBC were gathering around Prabhupada showing him favorable newspaper articles about Gita Nagari and trying to calm him down. I felt so horrible. But the next morning I was driving Prabhupada for his morning walk. I’d stayed up all night long thinking of an apology. He got in the car and we started driving and I said, “Srila Prabhupada, I’m very sorry I brought that professor to see you. I didn’t know he was such a demon.” Prabhupada looked at me. He said, “No, it’s all right.” He said, “At least he was chastised.” You can see me there, I’m looking quite concerned because the car is not there. There is the airport manager on the left. Prabhupada is there but I am not blissful because the car, the limousine is not there, the famous Cadillac limousine. Because a reporter asked him later, “They say you are very humble, but I see that the devotees brought you from the airport in a Cadillac limousine. If you are so humble, why did you drive a Cadillac limousine?” Prabhupada said, “The spiritual master is to be worshiped on an equal level with God, who rides a golden car. So this Cadillac,” he said, “was not enough.”
Chris Murray: When we left the airport lobby and came out to the street, there was a pause, I remember, waiting for the vehicles to come. And Prabhupada just stood there on the sidewalk, and he had such nobility. Prabhupada was the most noble person one would ever possibly meet in their life. And to see him standing there just waiting for the cars with all this activity going on around him, and he was such a steady, calm presence for all his disciples and everyone who approached him.
Prabhupada das: Everyone was on the porch waiting for Srila Prabhupada to come back from his morning ride, and we were lined up. I was standing up on a buttress a few feet higher. I was able to see everything pretty clearly. I was throwing flowers, and very ceremonious Srila Prabhupada came out of the car. He was going in to give a talk. And just at that time this little girl came running out from the crowd, and she started asking Srila Prabhupada, “When I make the garland, I don’t know to put first the red flower and then the white flower and then you put the needle in like this,” and she started asking Srila Prabhupada extremely specific questions about how she could perform her service of helping to make the garlands. Srila Prabhupada very lovingly looked down and instead of directly answering with words, he took off his own very opulent garland and put it on this little girl’s shoulders and said, “Just study how this is done, and then you can do it nicely.” And everyone was very happy with that exchange, especially the little girl.
Suresvara das: Srila Prabhupada is ushered into the temple room, small temple room, and he is surrounded by GBCs, and then the rest of the men came in. It was so small that the ladies couldn’t even come inside. There was one window on the side of the room and their noses are pressed against the window trying to at least see Srila Prabhupada, and Prabhupada is about to speak. Then Prabhupada notices them in the window and Prabhupada says, “You have to make room for them. They want to hear.” I remember that, “They want to hear.” So he insists that all the leaders and then the rest of the men squeeze in closer to him so that all the ladies can come in and hear. And it just struck me how he did that because Prabhupada was always very attentive to everything that was going on; and he saw them, how eager they were, and he just immediately, “You have to make room for them. They want to hear.”
Urmila dasi: For Srimad-Bhagavatam class, Prabhupada was reading from the story of Ajamila. He had somebody else recite the verse and purport, and that devotee said, “Then Ajamila cried out three times very loudly, ‘Narayana! Narayana! Narayana!’” Prabhupada said, “Have I said three times? It is not three times. Once is sufficient.” Then at the initiation, someone else had chosen the names for the initiates. So they’d call the person up by their regular name, and then Prabhupada would ask what was their new devotee name. And the devotee would read from the list, I think it was Brahmananda, and several times Prabhupada would change the name. They had mentioned some name and Prabhupada said, “What is this?” He said, “It’s supposed to be Bhubrt, meaning ‘one who carries the planets.’ This name you have chosen means ‘one who carries a heavy load.’” He said, “Where did you get these names?”
Ravindra Swarupa das: That’s my son, Yudhisthira, up there on the cart. Prabhupada joins us later on in the parade. It was a very long parade. And this year we are starting right in front of Independence Hall. We are going down Walnut Street and ending up at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Saudamani dasi: That year we started going out college preaching, taking Gaura-Nitai with us, so we thought we would bring Them for Rathayatra. They sort of hide Subhadra, but by the next year we had heard instructions that in the future that Gaura-Nitai should be brought on a palanquin separately but not to ride up on the cart with Lord Jagannatha. After that, if we brought Gaura-Nitai out, then we carried Them on a palanquin separately.
Suddha Jiva das: Trilocana and myself built this cart. We started about a year ahead of time because we knew Prabhupada was coming and we wanted to do something really special. We would go to these demolition places that would tear down big commercial buildings, and Trilocana would start going up to them and asking them to donate wood. And before you know it, we had these big huge long pieces of timber. Some of those beams were 12 inches thick. They were huge pieces of wood. So we started building the cart based on what wood we had and no idea how big it was going to end up. And before you knew it, it was over 50 feet long. Then we had to come up with some idea for wheels because we had such a big frame. So then we went to some electrical companies and we got these big spools that they would wrap wire around them, and the biggest ones they had were 8 feet in diameter. So each wheel was three of these put together. After we put them together, we rented this big industrial band saw, and they were so heavy. Trilocana and I were cutting these scallop edges around the wheels to give it this design. Then after we made the scallop edges, we would get these oak two-by-fours and we made spokes. And we had one devotee, Jim Newsham, he was a welder and he welded the hub, and we put it all together. Anyway, Prabhupada really liked these wheels. At one point after the parade, he stood there watching the wheels for about 15, 20 minutes and he asked Ravindra who built these wheels. So Ravindra told him and then he said, “These boys are descendants from the architects of heaven.” He really loved those wheels. So then we built this big dome to go on top of it. Then we were trying to think of different ways to decorate it, and we had some artists. Kim Murray was one of them, and some other devotees came out and painted all these beautiful designs. Prataraji made this beautiful canopy, and they were painting all these swans around the cart. The whole temple was buzzing around like bees, thinking that Prabhupada is coming and we really wanted to make this cart special. Then when we finally had it all together, Lieutenant Fensel came by, who was giving authority for parades. And when he saw this chariot and he saw the size of it, he said, “You’re crazy.” He says, “There’s no way this is going to go down the streets of Philadelphia.” So we went over to him and we showed him, we said, “We have a permit. We gave the sizes when we applied for the permit.” He says, “I don’t care what that permit says. There’s no way you’re going to take this cart down these streets.” So Sri Locana and I tried to convince him, and then Ravindra came and he tried to convince him. Finally it was Rupanuga, he came and very authoritative-like somehow or another he convinced this Lieutenant Fensel that we could do it. So during the parade this Lieutenant Fensel kept following the parade, and there were different times when we had to fix things underneath the cart. By that time, he was so much into it. He actually came underneath the cart himself. He says, “Do you need any help?” and you could see his whole face was transformed. He went from this real miserable authoritative-like policeman and he became real jolly, and he did everything he could and he was really into the cart. We started without Prabhupada. He wasn’t there yet until we went around the corner, and then Prabhupada arrived. And when Prabhupada came, everything came to life.
Ravindra Swarupa das: It almost rained every day. In fact, it was raining on the Rathayatra. You can see it’s overcast. And just when Prabhupada was coming to get on the cart, the sun came out. That was the first time we’d seen the sun. I was really afraid it was going to rain all during Rathayatra. Twice we went out for morning walks and we just drove around because it was raining so hard. The first time we took him for a walk was up in the Wissahickon Gorge near the temple. The Wissahickon Gorge is a forest in the middle of the city. Prabhupada said, “What is this jungle doing in the middle of the city?” At that time, people were preaching there was a food shortage. So he said, “All of these should be cut down and it should be planted. There is sufficient space to grow food for everybody.” So then the next time we took him for a walk along the river where there is more like a park, and he liked that much better. But it was so rainy Prabhupada said, “This is just like India.” He said, “In Puri, it’s always raining during Rathayatra time.”
Nandi dasi: From way up the street, the devotees parted and the car stopped and Srila Prabhupada got out of the car and walked toward the cart. It seemed like it was a great distance to me. But my very distinct memory is that as Prabhupada approached the cart, I was privileged to witness the meeting of great personalities – the meeting of Srila Prabhupada and Lord Jagannatha. And I felt suddenly as if the devotees had melted away, that the sound of the kirtan was from a distance, and I had a little peephole into this extraordinary exchange the moment when Srila Prabhupada and Lord Jagannatha greeted one another. I was insignificant in that exchange, I was just a little ant with a little glimpse. And it was profound, it was bigger than any emotion I’ve ever experienced. It was beyond this material world.
Ravindra Swarupa das: He offered his obeisances right on Walnut Street. My daughter said…this is the way she used to think, “That street is so dirty, that’s so muchi. How could Prabhupada put his head…bow down on the muchi street? I know! He looked at it first and by his glance he purified it and that cleansed it, and then he bowed down.” She figured it out really fast. I don’t think Philadelphia had seen such a huge crowd of devotees ever when Prabhupada was there. Every time the car would stop for a while, Prabhupada’s lap would fill up with money. People would come up, offer obeisances and put donations in his lap.
Kaulini dasi: In the parade, I stationed myself right next to the wheel of the cart, right next to Prabhupada, and I had my son up on my shoulders. I remember walking the whole parade not leaving that wheel, and regularly Prabhupada would look down and acknowledge our presence and smile at us and my son dancing on my shoulders. You could see Prabhupada was really, really happy. Then a few times he would throw flowers at us, and we would catch the flowers. I remember at that time I thought Prabhupada looked really, really happy. I remember thinking, “I’m walking next to Prabhupada, he’s on the cart, I’m on the ground,” and I felt like I could walk forever, that he gave me the strength that I could walk for time immemorial in that kind of situation. It was really, really nice. And he looked so happy. He looked strong and happy and pleased and satisfied with the whole festival.
Saudamani dasi: There is this fountain in front of the Art Museum and there were bleachers constructed that were just for the Bicentennial program, and these bleachers were filled with people looking like they were just sitting there waiting for the cart to come. The parade route was for us to go around this fountain and then go to the back of the Art Museum. We went around and all the people in the bleachers were amazed, and they were clapping and some of them were standing up. Prabhupada was so pleased that he instructed the people pulling the cart to take the cart around again. Those people in the bleachers were there for a whole completely other program, but by Krishna’s arrangement they got the most mercy.
Suddha Jiva das: When I was steering the carts, I was just a few feet away from him. So I was constantly meditating on Prabhupada. Of course, I didn’t have a lot of association with Prabhupada, so it was very amazing to me just watching how graceful he was. Every move he made, every little eye movement that he made, he made with such full attention and it was so graceful. And there were some Christians there as we were in the parade. They had their loudspeakers, and they were saying offensive things. I was really getting agitated, and I looked at Prabhupada. He was totally undisturbed. He was just so happy to see all these people in front of Lord Jagannatha, and it was so special watching Prabhupada.
Haryasva das: I couldn’t understand him on the tapes; but whenever I read the Bhagavad-gita, the purports, it was almost as if I could hear him. That’s why I studied the Gita so much because when I would read the purports, I would hear Prabhupada. I always felt like he was a special father to me, and I didn’t think I could please him. I guess that’s the sad part of the thing is I thought, “I’ve been looking for something like this all my life, but the standard is so high. Something special is going to have to help me.” I didn’t feel strong enough, and I didn’t want to cheat him. I thought he was too special to join and cheat him. My older brother was already in the temple. I was coming all the time, and I told my mother that Srila Prabhupada was going to come. I said, “I’d like you to come hear him.” So she says, “OK.” And my mother is Christian. She came, so then my five sisters had to come with her. I really valued my mother’s opinion. She couldn’t understand why my brother would leave his wife and children to join the movement. She says, “I won’t criticize your movement. I just can’t understand how someone could leave their family responsibilities.” She had faith that I would read the literature and that I would be very honest. So after she listened to Prabhupada, I said, “What do you think?” She says, “I think he is a very saintly, humble man.” That’s what she told me. So I was glad she liked Prabhupada.
Chris Murray: When we finally arrived at the park in Philadelphia, I remember there was an immense crowd there and there was a great vista. It reminded me almost of Washington, D.C., in the mall and Martin Luther King when he gave his famous speech, “I have a dream.” So many devotees were there, but then there were so many people from the city of Philadelphia who just happened to be in the area and everybody stayed.
Suresvara das: Prabhupada gave a short address on this grassy slope in back of this museum. Just as an example of what Prabhupada had to tolerate sometimes, I remember it was very popular at this time in America for young people to streak – just run with no clothes on. So all of a sudden during Prabhupada’s talk there were some streakers, just streaked right across the place. But it didn’t phase His Divine Grace. Sometimes he would work these things into his talk, he’d make some comment that would perfectly crystallize a point. But Prabhupada had to endure the streakers and carry on.
Ravindra Swarupa das: She was interviewing him the day after the Rathayatra. The reporter said to him, “Devotees told me during the parade that there were invisible beings flying overhead showering down flowers and that you could see them but we could not.” I was thinking, “Who was the idiot that talked to this reporter?” She said, “Is that true?” Prabhupada said, “Yes.” He said, “You cannot see them because you are envious of the spiritual master.” No reaction really. The article, given the amount of hostility she had, was not bad. It was a big Sunday feature article for the magazine.
Srila Prabhupada: Try to read, try to understand, and take it very seriously and you will be happy. Thank you very much.