May, 1971: SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – Installation of Sri Sri Radha Gopinath
Caru das: We had this letter from Karandhar in Los Angeles that Prabhupada is traveling and everyone should invite him to their temple, and Karandhar said, “Of course, he won’t go, but it’s the etiquette for the disciple to invite the guru to visit the temple.” So I was absolutely sure that while Prabhupada might travel to Europe or something, one or two temples, he wasn’t going to go around the world, what to speak of come to Australia. So I wrote him the letter, the form letter. I put in every persuasive argument and every embellishment and I said, “We’re just dying for you to come here,” fully confident that that would never happen. And, gosh, two or three weeks later they said, “Prabhupada is in India, they’re having a big program in Bombay at the Cross Maidan,” and that he wanted to come to Australia right afterwards, “please send tickets for three people.” We were stunned. We never thought that Prabhupada would come to Australia. And as far as three tickets for three people, our income was $100 a week, maybe that was a good week going out and selling Back To Godheads. Where are we doing to come up with $3,000? So we put up one of those thermometers on the board for fundraising and, lo and behold, there was a devotee there and he came up to me one day and he said, “I would like to facilitate Prabhupada’s coming to Australia and I heard you need $3,000,” and he’d just sold a house. So I got the tickets for Prabhupada, and he came to Australia. He came with Vegavan and Padmavati, who had just been married, and he came with the Deities, Radha-Gopinath, that had been used at that Cross Maidan pandal. Vegavan sat on the plane with the Deities in his lap.
Vaibhavi dasi: There was a whole bunch of devotees that had joined recently. Some had just joined that week, seven days ago, some just two days ago, but Prabhupada decided he was just going to initiate everybody. When Prabhupada arrived, Bali Mardan and Vegavan were carrying Radha-Krishna Deities. So Srila Prabhupada obviously wanted that there were some brahmanas. So we got initiation, five of us got first and second initiation simultaneously. Of course, I didn’t know what a brahmana was. I hadn’t a clue really what initiation meant, although I did understand about following certain principles and chanting rounds. But at some point someone announced, “OK, we’re going to have five brahmanas here, so you need brahmana threads,” and Bali Mardan took off a thread that he was wearing around him and said, “Make some of these.” So I got up from the fire arena where I was sitting by the fire, ran out, went up and down the street looking for string, something similar, I got as close as I could. Then I came back and sat by the fire again and was making these long string things with knots in them. Later on, somebody said, “OK, now you’re a brahmana so you have to wear a brahmana thread too, so make one for yourself.” I said, “What’s a brahmana?” and I was confused. And then someone else said, “Ladies don’t wear brahmana threads.” So that was going on, the initiation was going on, and the installation was also going on. We didn’t know the Deities were coming really, and when They came we didn’t know what to do. But in the year between the first visit and the second we made a lot of progress, and we’d built a beautiful altar there. And that’s when he said, “When I was here before, I prayed to the Lord that He would instruct you from within how to take care of Him, and He has done so.” So he was very pleased with the Deity worship by then. When he left the previous year, he was thinking we were very much mlecchas.
Rasarani dasi: Well, because I was totally shy, I’ve always been shy, being interviewed by those reporters, I think the only way I could have done that was because of my commitment to ISKCON and the devotees and Prabhupada. I wouldn’t have normally left home, but I met the devotees and I just had to come and join the temple. It was a force that was way stronger than any of my personal qualities would prevent from happening. So I was very embarrassed. I was worried about my mother because she cried when I left home and she was upset, she didn’t understand. From an early age I used to tell her I came from another planet, I was from outer space, and she never really understood that. So it was difficult to explain why you’re going with this weird sect and why you’re bowing down on the dirty Paddington streets to some Indian person that we’ve never met before. So it was a scary time for me. I had just turned 18, and I had no worldly experience. So I was totally going against society, totally going against my parents.
Val Zimmerer: My thoughts have mellowed considerably since then. I now realize the Hare Krishna Movement isn’t the monster I thought it was. Thirty years ago I was frightened of what I didn’t understand. I know many of my daughter’s devotee friends and I find them to be loving, warm people. I love my Hare Krishna grandsons, who have turned out to be normal everyday boys, and she’s come to no harm. In fact, she’s a lovely girl and I’m very proud of her.
Rasarani dasi: But I had that strong conviction that I have to do this because Krishna was helping me. I know that sounds a bit trite, but initially when I wanted to leave home I thought, “How am I going to leave home?” So the very next day my mother said, “When I was 17, I left home. So if you want to leave home, it’s OK.” I thought, “Aha, Krishna is helping me.” That real connection with God was coming. It’s like that where you take one step towards God, He takes many steps toward you. So I could feel that. The first time I went to the temple I was just totally overwhelmed with the prasadam, the smells. I thought, “Finally I’m home.” So if I did anything in this life, I was going to stay there and I was going to do it because this was my ticket out of the material world and this was the only place that I ever, ever, ever felt comfortable. So there was something special happening there due to Prabhupada’s potency.
June, 1971: SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - Rathayatra
Rameswara das: I met Karandhar just before the summer Rathayatra in ’71. He had come up to Portland to meet me and to tour the temple, and he told me about how important book distribution was. So I was assigned the task of selling books. We had the hardbound books in Portland, and the only idea we had at that time was to go to the bookstores and convince them to carry the books. In those days, it was very easy to convince the bookstores to carry spiritual books. Then we drove down to San Francisco for the summer Rathayatra. For many devotees, that was the first time they ever saw Srila Prabhupada, and it was the first time that I ever saw Srila Prabhupada. Everything I had been feeling from my own chanting and from hearing Prabhupada’s bhajans became very magnified and intensified. Hundreds of devotees were crying, genuinely crying. That kirtan was a very special ecstatic kirtan and a lot of mercy from Srila Prabhupada and Lord Jagannatha that day. I was also very emotional. I was crying and very affected. I knew I was going to dedicate everything that I had to Srila Prabhupada.
Summer, 1971: LONDON, ENGLAND - Rathayatra
Aditi dasi: So I’d been in the temple already a year-and-a-half, and Prabhupada was coming. So I remember that Malati, Jyotir-mayi, Mandakini and myself, we stayed back, everybody else went to the airport. And I was feeling really, really badly because all the other devotees that had already met Prabhupada were on another platform and they were so excited. And Mandakini, we had to do everything. It pushed me to the point where I was kind of feeling negative, so I was feeling really bad about myself. So Prabhupada came through the door into Bury Place and Malati was first in line, then Jyotir-mayi I think, then Mandakini, and there was the temple door and I hung back to the back. So Prabhupada walked in with a big smile on his face and he gave a garland to Malati, he gave a garland to Jyotir-mayi, he gave a garland to Mandakini and then he turned to go into the temple room. So I thought, “Well, this is right because I’m such a nonsense. I don’t deserve anything from Prabhupada.” But I remember when he went into the temple room, it was late in the evening, Prabhupada offered his obeisances very deliberate and very slow and just very transcendental. Then he stood up and he just held his hands and just looked to the Deities so nicely. Then he went upstairs, and then all the devotees got back from the airport and we were all in a big room. It was either Ekadasi or it was going past midnight and it was going to become Ekadasi. So Prabhupada was giving out sweets and he gave them to each devotee, and I stood way in the back because I was feeling so badly. He kind of forced me to come. I didn’t feel right coming up, but he forced me with his hand and put it in my hand like that, he smiled and dropped it in my hand. Then there was some talk about, “Oh, it’s Ekadasi, and there is cornstarch in the icing sugar that goes into Simply Wonderfuls.” And Prabhupada, he said something like, “We are not fanatics,” and everybody took their Simply Wonderfuls.
Draupadi dasi: It was in the middle of the night when His Divine Grace arrived, and we were all lined up to meet him. But the most amazing thing was that when he arrived, he was golden. He was just golden. And you could hear the devotees as Prabhupada was walking by, you could hear one devotee after another, they were gasping in surprise, “He’s golden!” “He’s golden!” “He’s golden!” And he really was. Prabhupada just appeared on this specific occasion…it was different than other times. Prabhupada is always transcendental and effulgent, but this particular time he was looking like a walking Deity or something. He was just looking very golden.
August, 1971: LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – Installation of Sri Sri Rukmini Dwarkadish
Anniruddha das: When I was in L.A., I know Prabhupada had wanted us to carve some murtis of Radha-Krishna. This is before we had installed any Deities, and he was at the time trying to cast them in America to see if it could be facilitated. So he had Subal carve out a rough form of Radha-Krishna, and then he asked Subal and myself to go to different foundries all over. We were very inexperienced and didn’t even know the right things to ask. So we’d go and we’d see Prabhupada and he’d say, “So what intelligent information do you have for me today?” because we usually told him some nonsense. So then Prabhupada left and went to San Francisco, and then a while later when he came back to San Francisco…he might have gone to India again…he wrote me a letter saying that he wanted to know what was happening with those murtis that we carved, and we should bring them up to make sure he gets them. Eventually, he decided that they should be cast in India.
Jagatarini dasi: There was a program also that he had of a Deity walk where we would take the Deities on Sunday and walk all around the whole block with the small Deities, and we were asked to go into the houses in the early morning and ask people if we could take a flower from their garden. Then we would bring the Deities around the back, down the laneway and past his window, and he would stand up. I remember we would all look forward to that, and he would look out of his window when he heard the kirtan coming. We would all stand there for some time jumping up and down, so happy to see him. Then we would go around, bring the Deities to the front, and outside the temple we would place the Deities and then each one of us would give a report. This was quite shocking for me because I was such a new devotee, but you’d have to walk up in front of the Deities with your hands folded and say, “My dear Lord, this is what I’ve done this week,” and say what your service was and so on and so forth. It was such a spontaneous kind of a mood to talk to the Deities like that. At first I was a little shocked but I grew to quite like that, and everyone in the temple would have to present themselves and say what they had done for the pleasure of the Deities.
Badrinarayana das: Prabhupada was fixed in his preaching mission, and that was his ecstasy. But every now and then his internal emotions would bubble up sometimes. So usually Prabhupada would come and offer his obeisances to the three altars, and then he would come and sit on the vyasasana. Then we would offer obeisances and we would still be in the process of bowing down, and he’d be sitting on the vyasasana and he would begin with the Sanskrit, om purnam adah purnam idam, the Sanskrit rolling out. And nothing came, there’s nothing coming. So we all looked up and Prabhupada was sitting and he was looking at the Deities and tears were just pouring down his eyes, he couldn’t speak, just tears pouring down his eyes. It was the most far-out thing because then he pulled himself up straight, he took a deep breath, and you could tell he just suppressed, physically he just pushed it down and went on with his business. It was like daruka, it was a disturbance to his service. But there was no question that Prabhupada was on the highest level. But he was so dedicated to his spiritual master, he would not let his personal ecstasy interrupt his service to his Guru Maharaja. Then one time Prabhupada was leaving. The vyasasana was in the back and there was a side door, and Prabhupada had his slippers right there. So Prabhupada went out, and he had his back to us and he was just slipping on his slippers. I think somebody was helping him slip them on. He turned to us and we were just sitting there with our mouths open, nobody moving, and Prabhupada said, “Yes, if I told you everything, you would faint,” and then he walked up to his room.
Gargamuni das: Prabhupada invited all the other temple presidents to come and see the L.A. standard and he wanted this standard to be introduced, especially with the Deity worship with the three altars. When we got the building, Prabhupada went room to room and picked out what each room should be used for. Where you walk in now and there’s a temple, that actually wasn’t the temple that Prabhupada chose. Prabhupada had another vision that wasn’t our vision. His vision was to have mainstream America come into that with their shoes on and sit in the pews and hear Bhagavad-gita and kirtan on the stage. We put Prabhupada’s vyasasana on the stage, and he had Vishnujan play the organ. I even wanted to take out the stained glass and Prabhupada said, “No, that must stay.” He said, “Don’t touch anything here.” Even where the minister spoke, what is it called? A pulpit, he kept that because he wanted devotees to come and speak too. It was so surreal to sit in a pew and hear Bhagavad-gita and hear Vishnujan singing Jaya Madhava on an organ. Even Prabhupada would play the organ. We would sit and he would play the organ. I wish there was tape recordings of that. Prabhupada saw that the American people were becoming disenchanted with their churches. He said, “Now I will enchant them with Krishna consciousness.” So he thought they are inclined to come to a church, let them come back to this church but hear Bhagavad-gita and hear the kirtan. Prabhupada’s vision was totally…he was thinking mainstream America, not hippies. Prabhupada’s vision wasn’t that we all become monks. He wanted judges and politicians and doctors to come to the temple. They’re not going to all become monks and shave up. But we had another vision: come to the temple and shave up. But that wasn’t Prabhupada’s vision.
Badrinarayana das: Prabhupada used to come in from the back of the temple room because his quarters were upstairs and there was a hall he came down. We didn’t have the big Rukmini-Dwarkadish then, we only had small Radha-Krishna. Prabhupada came in, and from the back of the temple room he looked and he called Silavati over…Silavati was the pujari…and he said, “There’s tilak in Krishna’s eye.” She went and she looked and she couldn’t see anything, and she came back to Prabhupada. Prabhupada said, “No, there’s tilak in Krishna’s eye.” And she looked and she looked and she looked, and right in the very…it was a tiny speck of tilak in Krishna’s eye.
August – September 1971: LONDON, ENGLAND – Temple activities
Lilasakti dasi: There was another moment that was very special to me. There were some devotees, I think it was brahmacaris, they came from Germany and they were saying that the head pujari should not be a woman Prabhupada said. I remember that shortly after that Prabhupada came and I was in the Deity room, I just did aratik, and Prabhupada came in. He was on his own, he had just been outside, and because the temple room door is very close to the front door he just came in to see the Deities. I was just standing there next to Prabhupada and he turned to me and said, “Are you in charge?” I said, “Yes, Prabhupada.” He smiled and nodded and he said, “That’s very good.” It was like Prabhupada knew that I was given a hard time, but it was like a nod and a wink. Once a year when Prabhupada came, that was actually what kept me going because otherwise it was very tough.
Kishore das: The room was full, the condensation was dripping as it did in those days. It was just so packed and such a small space, it was impossible to believe how many people could fit into such a small space. But Prabhupada had finished giving his lecture, “And that is Krishna consciousness. Are there any questions?” And immediately an India lady stood up and her question was, “Swamiji, can you see God?” It was like a challenging tone, and immediately Prabhupada replied, “Yes, you cannot?” Then he looked around the room and said, “Krishna is everywhere. You cannot see?” And there was silence, she didn’t know what to do. So Prabhupada said, “Why you cannot see God?” and she didn’t know what to do. Then Prabhupada said, “Do you want to see Krishna?” and the lady was getting embarrassed and she looked down and said, “No, Swamiji.” And Prabhupada immediately said, “Therefore, you cannot see.”
Ranchor das: One beautiful memory from that time, it actually concerns Suddhajaya, a French devotee who joined around that time when he was visiting from Paris, and this was his first meeting with Prabhupada. The temple was crowded and he was just peeping through the door, and he asked at the end of Prabhupada’s lecture…he started just telling Prabhupada, he said, “I met the devotees here in London. I came here to get a job, but I met the devotees and I just find this so attractive, I just want to be around them. And now I’ve heard you speaking and it’s just so beautiful, it’s so wonderful to be here in the temple surrounded by all these wonderful devotees and listening to you. I don’t want to go back to find a job, I don’t want to go back to Paris. I just want to stay here with all the devotees.” Prabhupada turned and with a big smile he said, “That is because from crow you have become swan,” and everyone just erupted into laughter and jaya and cheering. It was a very nice moment.
Lilasakti dasi: When he got initiated, Prabhupada said, “Ah, the swan.”
Ranchor das: Oh, right, the swan.
October – November 1971: CALCUTTA, INDIA – Harinam, Pandal, Morning walk
Ashokamrita das: I met the devotees in very early ‘70s. One afternoon I saw them in Calcutta playing mridanga, and after some time they were preaching. After that, I asked them a few questions and they told me that they have a center in Albert Road. At the time I was student of Calcutta University, and I decided to go there. I also heard through the grapevine that at that time Srila Prabhupada is in town. So I brought some fruits and I showed up to see Srila Prabhupada one evening because also I heard that he gives darshan. I was met at the gate of 3C Albert Road by Shyamasundara prabhu, and he just told me to wait for a second. He went in to talk with Prabhupada, and he came and asked me if I am a student. I said, “Yes, I am a student of Calcutta University,” and he said, “Go head, go in.” I went and there was Prabhupada alone and there was nobody else. So I bowed down before him because in India it’s a custom to bow down before holy men, and I offered him the bananas that I purchased and then we started talking. At that time, I did not have any idea of the greatness of my Gurudeva. He was very open to me. He was glowing, I remember that. He was a glowing sannyasi, and that was my first meeting with my Gurudeva. We talked a lot of things and then when I was ready to leave, he took a banana and cut a piece off it and gave it back to me as prasadam, which I very gratefully accepted. And deep inside I have a very good feeling that he is a genuine swami, which is very rare in India. After that there was a program in a rich man’s home where a lot of devotees had gathered before a pandal program, and Prabhupada saw me in the crowd and he held up his hand and pointed towards me and said in Bengali, “Tumi tomar matha nara korbe kobe?” The translation of that is, “When would you shave your head?” In other words, he was telling me, “When would you become my disciple?” I was simply elated. I felt, “My eternal Gurudeva has found me, a lost soul wandering through the universe, and my Gurudeva has finally found me. It’s the beginning of my journey back home.”
Gurudas: The pandal program was scheduled to begin, but some of the work was still going on. At this time in northern Calcutta, there was some bombing and shooting going on between the Naxalites, the Communists, and other people. We had some chairs for life members. In case some people didn’t want to sit on the ground, there were some seats for one rupee each. So this was the basis for the Naxalites to complain. So they’re complaining. Meanwhile, there was a gentleman named Colonel Datta who used to come to the Calcutta temple, and he wore this pith helmet, this African hat that was very flamboyant. So he wanted to fight all the Naxalites and I said, “No, that’s not a good idea.” But he was barring the entrance and they were going back and forth, and you could hear a lot of commotion. Meanwhile, Prabhupada is up on the stage and Prabhupada wanted to know what all the commotion was. Meanwhile, a note then came and said, “Quit or die. Quit India or die.” Prabhupada sees it and he said, “Let’s go, let’s start the pandal.” He sang the Brahma-samhita prayers. He told me also, he said, “Go and tell them that if they want to sit in the one rupee chairs that they can. Just invite them to sit.” So I invited them to sit, this diffused the argument, Prabhupada started singing the Brahma-samhita prayers, cintamani-prakara-sadmasu, and they just quieted down and the pandal program started.
Giriraj Swami: Before the pandal program began, some reporters came to interview Srila Prabhupada and one of them challenged, “What is the point of spending so much money making so many arrangements for this pandal when the money could be used for better purposes, to feed people?” Srila Prabhupada replied, “The purpose of the pandal is simply to give people a chance to come and hear. Where has the pandal come from? I went to America and I simply gave people a chance to hear. And because they heard, now they have come with me to India and they have made the pandal.”
November, 1971: NEW DELHI, INDIA – Arrival, Pandal at L.I.C. grounds
Ksirodakshayee Visnu Swami: His Divine Grace Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is reaching now from Calcutta to the New Delhi Airport for attending the nine days discourse of Srimad-Bhagavatam. All the distinguished guests are welcoming him including the mayor of Delhi, Hans Raj Gupta, MLA of Delhi state, member of our ad hoc committee who will arrange all the discourses in New Delhi. The place is very difficult to get discourses in New Delhi. But by arrangement with the government of India, the mayor could arrange everything perfectly.
Yamuna dasi: What an appropriate event for Srila Prabhupada to be received as a very important person at the Delhi Palam Airport when he arrives for the first Delhi pandal in Connaught Circus, and many members of the government were invited to greet Srila Prabhupada. Gurudas is the official host. Srila Prabhupada is always so much untouched by praise. He humbly receives whatever level of consciousness that his disciples have been awarded with and receives it with such humility.
Ksirodakshayee Visnu Swami: This is the first magazine Prabhupada is seeing printed for this occasion from Delhi called Back To Godhead in Hindi, Bhagavat Darshan. And he was very pleased that our Hindi magazine is coming first time in India.
Yamuna dasi: You can watch him observing people and their progress in their spiritual life, so perceptive. He was able to see externally and internally the progress of his disciples. I find that so thrilling to watch the behavior, and he seems oblivious to anything other than the bhakti, the advancement in Krishna consciousness. He gives the same message country after country, encourages each disciple. But it was very appropriate for someone who had lived and served in Delhi in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, singlehandedly, alone, with no help, and just within 10 years such a tremendous change of appreciation. Prabhupada was big news. When these pandals happened in India, in Bombay and Delhi and Calcutta, they were very widely covered and the society of leaders were very aware of Prabhupada’s presence, all the way from the Prime Minister on down through the Cabinet. The Prime Minister herself was very appreciative of our Krishna consciousness movement. And through some of the honorary members of Parliament who spoke on our behalf to her, she was helpful in the early years of our Krishna consciousness movement, met with the devotees and gave a good word. That was Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
Dinadayadri dasi: When we got back to where we were staying from the airport, he invited everyone into his room and he was just lounging on these pillow and he looked so youthful and effulgent. It was just totally a different experience than seeing him in America. He was laughing and joking about how bad the milk was in Calcutta, “The milk in Calcutta is finished.” He had just come from Calcutta. I was just so dumbstruck by this experience of seeing my spiritual master in this mood, this informal mood, and feeling so unworthy that I couldn’t…when I’d look up at him, he looked so effulgent it hurt my eyes. So I thought, “OK, I’ll start by looking at his feet.” So I started looking at his feet, and then I moved up. It was almost like offering aratik with my eyes, I moved up his transcendental body until I got to his face. And when I beheld his face, he was transformed in his appearance. I started trembling and tears started pouring, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It was not a physical form at all that I had ever seen. It was Prabhupada, but it was transformed into this exquisite kind of otherworldly beauty that you never see on this planet. I almost fainted. Seeing Prabhupada’s appearance transform was like a tangible proof to me that he was a being from the spiritual plane, from the spiritual world, in our midst. And every once in a while the veil would lift from our eyes and we’d get a little glimpse by Prabhupada’s mercy.
Yamuna dasi: This is literally the first day of the Delhi pandal. There is the wonderful asana, and behind those curtains are the incredibly beautiful Deities of Radha-Gokulananda, Who were officially installed by Srila Prabhupada at this time on the occasion of the Delhi pandal. There was an instance for both the pandal in Delhi, the first Bombay pandal, those Deities went to Australia and New Zealand, these went to the Manor, and in Jaipur the Radha-Govinda Deities which ultimately went to New York, Prabhupada considered that these festival programs were an installation of the Deity. In other words, They were worshipped in his presence. So for a pure devotee to be introducing Them to worship is naturally a form of installation. So these Deities, They were different pastimes in these three places of London and New York and Dallas, where devotees actually made some adjustment on the arca-vigraha in some small way. When Prabhupada heard that he said, “No, these Deities have already been worshipped, this should not take place.” It so happened that I was the person that was arranging for Their worship and installation and that aspect of the pandal, and shortly after the end of that program I literally fell unconscious into a coma for three days.
Giriraj Swami: One evening an American young man, or a hooligan, came forward to the stage. He was bare-chested with a leather vest, he had tattoos all over his body, he had chains hanging from his neck and had wild long hair, and he came up to the stage in a very aggressive mood. He wanted to challenge Srila Prabhupada. So immediately Prabhupada’s disciples rushed forward to keep him away, but Srila Prabhupada surprised us all and said, “No, let him come on the stage.” So Prabhupada had him come on the stage, he had the disciples give him a cushion or asana to sit in, and Prabhupada had the disciples put a microphone in front of him. He said, “Have you realized yourself within yourself?” and Srila Prabhupada said, “Yes.” Then the young man was sort of taken aback and he said, “How old is the Bhagavad-gita?” Srila Prabhupada said, “Five thousand years.” Then the young man began to spout, “No, no, according to my authorities, according to my information Bhagavad-Gita is only about a thousand years old.” And Prabhupada said, “That’s nonsense.” Then the young man asked another challenging question and Prabhupada finally said, “No, you answer my question now. What is the process for learning Bhagavad-gita?” And the young man said, “No, I asked you first. You answer my question first.” And Prabhupada retorted, “No, I am not your servant, I don’t have to answer your question. You answer my question. What is the process for learning Bhagavad-gita?” So eventually…the two were shouting at each other, and Prabhupada motioned and the disciples escorted the man from the stage. Then Srila Prabhupada proceeded to explain what the process for receiving the knowledge of Bhagavad-gita is, and that is submissive oral reception, not by challenging. I was in the audience distributing books at the time, and the incident created pandemonium in the audience and the whole audience was polarized – some in favor of Prabhupada and some in favor of the young man. The ones that were sympathetic to the young man got up and surrounded us and started to challenge us and say, “Your Guru Maharaj should have answered his question.” So the mood was so agitated that all of us that were distributing in the audience made our way as quickly as possible back to the area of the stage. But later we realized what Prabhupada had done. He had created a situation to illustrate how one is unable to learn Bhagavad-gita and in contrast Srila Prabhupada explained what the real process is, and that is by submissive hearing from the authority.
Gurudas: My job…one of them was to invite chief guests to the program, and so I thought it would be a good idea to…because we did this in London…have titles for what Prabhupada would talk about and have guests that would sometimes have something to do with the theme. One of the chief guests was James George, the Canadian ambassador to India, who was very favorable. I think his talk was appreciated by the populace as well as any of the chief guests, if not more. So we invited Dr. Atmaram, the chief scientist, and he talked on how religion and science actually don’t have to be at odds with each other. And then Prabhupada spoke on Easy Journey To Other Planets type of a scientific talk. So we invited Hans Raj Gupta, the mayor of Delhi, who was a really good friend of Prabhupada. It was more anecdotal, how Prabhupada continued and persevered and started the League of Devotees and printed the Srimad Bhagwatams. It was very enlightening to us because Prabhupada really did persevere at the beginning of many of the things that we take for granted and made them happen.
Yamuna dasi: This is the first expansion of Srila Prabhupada’s energy that has become the Glory of India project today. Srila Prabhupada, when he left for the West, knew he was going to come back and inundate India with Krishna consciousness just the way Lord Caitanya inundated the subcontinent of India with Krishna consciousness. Srila Prabhupada’s destiny was to do that. And when he brought his disciples back from the West, who were enthusiastic but very new disciples, he started sending them various places for preaching work. So Delhi, Calcutta and Bombay were the first three big cities that Srila Prabhupada worked on; and because this was the capital, it was important. We were only there for maybe a month, but that month seems like it could have been a hundred years. It was so important at the time. So these were just the very little beginning foundation blocks of what later became the Delhi temple project.
Shyamasundara das: Prabhupada took us to Vrindavan, and this was the ultimate experience for us – Prabhupada coming back to his spiritual home with so many sons and daughters. This was the high point of our India experience with Srila Prabhupada, entering the magic spiritual realm of Krishna itself. Everything he had been teaching us for years came into focus. We could see now, “Oh, this is Vrindavan.” Such intimate sweet exchanges we had.
Radhanath Swami: This visit in 1971 of Srila Prabhupada was very, very historical in our Gaudiya Vaisnava Sampradaya. It was the inauguration of the fulfillment of Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda’s desire that the Holy Names of Krishna be spread to every town and village throughout the world. Lord Caitanya went to Vrindavan, and He sent the Six Goswamis there to establish it as a place of pilgrimage for people all over the world. When Rupa and Sanatan went to Vrindavan on Lord Caitanya’s order, they were there to establish it as a place of pilgrimage for people all over the world, obviously for people who would become Vaisnavas from every town and village in the world. That was Lord Caitanya’s vision. And this visit was the beginning of the fulfillment, the first time Vaisnavas from the West who were committed to Krishna consciousness in a relatively large group came on pilgrimage to the holy dham of Sri Braj.
November – December 1971: VRINDAVAN, INDIA – Srila Prabhupada’s first Vrindavan parikrama with his western disciples
Shyamasundara das: Look, he’s so healthy and exuberant. He’s back home. This is where he hatched out the whole Hare Krishna Movement. This is where Krishna empowered him to come West. And little Saraswati, she was one of his favorites. She followed him wherever he went. Sometimes he would grab her hand and walk with her. If Saraswati didn’t come to his room every morning around eight o’clock, he would sometimes ask, “And where is Saraswati?” He expected to see her every morning. And quite often he would play some trick on her when she came, either to make her laugh or cry. But he would always make up and give her some nice sweet. Here he is showing us the sights, showing us around the samadhis of great Vaisnavas behind Radha-Damodara temple, explaining a little bit about who is buried where. In those days, it was all run down and practically abandoned. Well, most of Vrindavan was practically run down and abandoned. We used to think that Raman Reti was far out of town. Prabhupada revived the whole spiritual life of India starting with Vrindavan, a now flourishing spiritualized city because of Prabhupada. Of course, Rupa Goswami’s samadhi there, Prabhupada’s favorite place. He used to say that Rupa Goswami inspired him to go to the West and spread Krishna consciousness because he would sit in his room and gaze out on his samadhi year after year and chant and read, translate.
Madhavananda das: When we arrived in Vrindavan, I remember walking into Srila Prabhupada’s room and paying my obeisances and saying, “Srila Prabhupada, what should we do now?” And he looked down at me and he said, “Just wander.” So that’s exactly what I did. I just went out into the Vrindavan village and everything I’d read about in Nectar of Devotion and Krsna Book, I was thinking of those things. I wanted to take rest under a kalpa-vrksa tree, it’s something I’d wanted to do for a long time. So I actually found one tree in the forest, and I actually fell asleep and slept very soundly and very deeply for a couple of hours. When I woke up it was evening time, and I didn’t really know where everybody was but I heard in the background the kirtan going on…Hare Krishna. So I followed the sound and I arrived at this big program where Srila Prabhupada and all the devotees were, and the lecture had just stopped and they were serving out prasadam. That was a great day in my life, just the way it worked out.
Radhanath Swami: Prabhupada was giving a lecture in a garden. There was a small pandal set up, and many Brijbasis came to attend that. It was somewhere in the area of Radha-Govinda temple. Somehow or other I came late, and when I arrived Prabhupada was just leaving, walking through a field back to his car. People were lined up on both sides to offer obeisances, and I offered obeisances. Srila Prabhupada stopped in front of me, and when I got up Prabhupada very affectionately showered his mercy upon me and told me how he was very pleased that I was so much attached to living in Vrindavan.
Gurudas: I was so ecstatic, and we got into the Ambassador car at the Delhi Airport. Shyamasundara was there and Prabhupada was sitting in the front, and we were riding to Vrindavan. Prabhupada was quiet and I was thinking, “He’s going to give some spiritual sloka about Vrindavan that will inspire us.” Prabhupada was quiet. Finally I hear Prabhupada clear his throat and he said, “Cement. We must get cement and build a water tower like that,” he pointed out the water tower, so we could have sweet water.
Dinadayadri dasi: Look at that. I’ll never forget that kirtan, you could feel demigods showering flowers. And the people were stunned. They’d never…because the way we did kirtan, Prabhupada did kirtan different than the traditional Bengali. And when we first went to India, we were chanting like Prabhupada and it was like the people had never heard, it was so potent. Prabhupada leading and the disciples following. These people had never heard anything like it, and they were just thunderstruck. I just loved…kirtan was my savior, that was my shelter. It washed everything away, it washed away all anxieties. To me, the perfection of life is to be with Srila Prabhupada in kirtan. It’s all I want in life and I don’t care where it is or when it is, that’s just all I want.
Nara Narayan das: When Srila Prabhupada came to Vrindavan, it was after he had left for less than five years. He had gone away to America presumably to die amongst the infidels or be lured by the temptations of the West. But anyhow, when he came back surrounded by disciples after having made a famous tour through Surat and other parts of India, big pandal programs in Calcutta and Bombay and New Delhi that were in the newspapers, were traveling by word of mouth. So when Prabhupada appeared there with a few of his many devotees, it was an astonishing event that people could not ignore. And when he marched through, it was a triumphant march. They did not fail to be deeply impressed because who else in the history of Gaudiya Vaisnavism, even from the time of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, could lay claim to such a feat?
Yadubara das: Srila Prabhupada took us to many holy spots in Vrindavan. We would go by bus, and he would ride in this Ambassador car. Here we are at Brahmanda Ghat in Gokula where Mother Yasoda saw the universe in Krishna’s mouth. Srila Prabhupada is telling the story, much to our delight. His eyes get big when Mother Yasoda sees the creation. For most of us, this is the first time we’d seen the Yamuna, and we were very eager to bathe in her transcendental waters.
Radhanath Swami: The bus went to Gokula, and we came out. Dinanath prabhu was leading the kirtan and Prabhupada came out of his Ambassador car, which was in front of the bus. Then we walked for some time behind Prabhupada doing harinam sankirtan. Then Prabhupada stopped us and turned around and said, “This is the wrong Gokula. This is Vallabhacarya’s Gokula. We want to go to Mahavan Gokula.” So then we all got back in the buses. And from there, from what I remember, we went to Brahmanda Ghat where we saw the beauty of the holy river Jamuna. Prabhupada came down with us and he sprinkled water on his head. Then he told all the devotees that they should have full bath. I believe Prabhupada was feeling somewhat ill that day so he said that he was not going to take full bath. So he was sitting on the steps and the devotees were bathing, and Prabhupada was watching us and he was so happy. His disciples, who he loved so very very dearly, who he gave his life and soul to give them Krishna’s love, here they were in Gokula at the holy banks of Brahmanda Ghat happily taking their baths in the sacred river Jamuna. What that must have meant for Prabhupada.
Shyamasundara das: He’s sitting there watching us take bath, and pretty soon he wants to go in with us. “What can I do? My devotees want me.” “Come on, Prabhupada, come on in!” Here we are saying our Gayatris on sacred threads standing in the Jamuna River. There he comes. Ah, Prabhupada.
Kanta dasi: A few of the ladies were clustered together, and Palika was there. And at some point we noticed that Srila Prabhupada was going in the water, although at first it didn’t look like he was going to go in. Suddenly it was, “Prabhupada’s going in.” I looked at Palika, we had the same reaction: “We’re going in too. We have to be in there with Prabhupada, and we have to do it fast because he’s going to say Gayatri,” and we wanted to say Gayatri with him. But both of us had only been in India for a month, and we knew that the ladies bathed in the Yamuna but we didn’t know how they did it. Should we go in with our full saris and then walk around dripping wet? Because we only had a few seconds. Palika was down to her slip and I was, “OK, me too.” It didn’t matter anyway because as soon as we hit the water we went right under. So we were up to our necks in water anyway so we were covered. We wanted to get as close to Prabhupada as we could while he was saying Gayatri and we got really close, within 10 feet of him. Just our little heads, we were scrunched under the water, and we got to say Gayatri with Prabhupada that day. To me, that’s the most memorable experience of the whole thing was that Gayatri in the water with Prabhupada so close.
Radhanath Swami: During the afternoons, Prabhupada would give darshan and the devotees were sent out to do harinam sankirtan. During that time, I had the great fortune of sitting in the room and attending all of his darshans each day. They were very intimate. Brijbasis would come, his old friends, godbrothers would come, Goswamis would come, sometimes guests would come, and Prabhupada would just sometimes speak to them very informally, sometimes he would preach to them very strongly, and sometimes he just had loving conversations. I’ll never forget when Krishna das Babaji Maharaj came to see Prabhupada. I happened to be walking down the street one day, and I met Krishna das Babaji Maharaj and told him I was going to see Srila Prabhupada. And very eager, he said, “I will go with you, I want to see Swami Maharaj.” He called him Swami Maharaj. When we came, there was a guard who was one of the more senior devotees. He was standing at the stairways guarding who was coming up to the darshan. And, of course, he welcomed me to come up because he knew that Prabhupada was favorable to me attending the darshans each night. But when he saw Krishna das Babaji Maharaj, he stopped him. He said, “Who are you?” And when he was introduced as Prabhupada’s godbrother, he said, “No, no, you cannot go.” So Babaji Maharaj wanted to go anyway and he wanted to stop him. And I told that devotee, “Please ask Prabhupada. He’s one of the most beloved devotees of Vrindavan, especially in Gaudiya Maths.” And a messenger came back and said, “Yes, Prabhupada immediately wants to see him.” So we went up together and Srila Prabhupada, when he saw Babaji Maharaj, he was sitting behind a little desk and there was maybe about six or seven people that he was talking to in the room. Prabhupada got up and they embraced, and they were just laughing and talking in Bengali. Prabhupada brought Babaji Maharaj to sit next to him behind the desk, and the whole time they were just laughing and talking and looking at each other with so much affection. And the six or seven people who were there were completely forgotten so they left, and I just sat there just watching this interaction. I couldn’t understand a word of it because they were speaking Bengali language, but I learned so much – not by their language but just by seeing the genuine love that these two great personalities had for each other and the intimate relationship they shared. And they were constantly saying Hare Krishna and laughing. I understood then that this is the goal of life, to have this type of love with Vaisnavas in sharing the mission of the spiritual master and pure love for Radha and Krishna. I think they were together for probably almost 45 minutes to an hour, and then Prabhupada made sure Babaji Maharaj got nice prasad.
Gurudas: We went to Mr. Saraff’s house, and he had just decided to give us the land in Raman Reti. There was a slip of paper that said “yes” and a slip of paper that said “no.” Our friend Shamadevi from London and Kenya and Vrindavan also wanted this piece of land. She had an ashram down the street in Raman Reti, and this would be an expansion for her. She was vying for it. Radharani arranged so that we picked the right slip of paper that said “yes” and so Mr. Saraff was finalizing this process at his house, signing the papers and the deeds. Shyamasundara was with me, and he had a portable typewriter and he was making this draft. At the same time, Gourachand Goswami and Madan Mohan Goswami had shown up because they were contending and wanting money for Prabhupada’s rooms in Radha-Damodara Temple. At the same time, Prabhupada had sent me to Mathura to arrange for theses rooms for life as a seva. It’s a technicality. So we were also drawing up this draft. The interesting thing is that even though Madan Mohan Goswami and Gourachand Goswami lived across the same courtyard in Radha-Damodara Temple, they were not speaking and they were both in Goswami families. So Prabhupada put Gourachand Goswami in one room, Madan Mohan Goswami in another room. I was going from room to room. Shyamasundara was making up documents. At the same time, Shamadevi came with a member of Parliament and a policeman to try and contest this land being given to Prabhupada. We put her in another room. So Mr. Sharaff’s house was full of people who were not talking and arguing and contending, and Shyamasundara was making up documents. At this point, Krishna das Babaji shows up, Prabhupada’s godbrother. Somehow or other, he always knew when Prabhupada was coming to Vrindavan. This was not announced, there was no emails, and he shows up from Radha Kund and he laughs and chants. He didn’t speak much. He laughed a lot, he chanted a lot. One time he left his bead bag in Anand’s room and we immediately had a poll, how fast he would be to return to get it. I said, “Well, at least within the minute,” and sure enough he came back and got his beads. So I called Prabhupada “the ringmaster” because he was like a circus ringmaster, taming clowns and lions and contesting people. And all the documents were drawn up, we got the rooms in Radha-Damodara for life, we got the land, Shamadevi couldn’t do anything, and Krishna das chanted and laughed. And it was a wonderful day at Mr. Saraff’s house.
Visakha dasi: After the incredibly successful pandal in Delhi where tens of thousands of people were coming every night to hear Srila Prabhupada, Srila Prabhupada took just a few of us, 20 or 30, to Vrindavan. So after all the fanfare in Delhi, the lights and distributing prasadam to all those people and the dignitaries that came, here we were in this simple village with Srila Prabhupada. I think all of us, certainly myself, felt how much Prabhupada cared for us that after this big, big preaching program, he would take the time and the trouble to bring us to Vrindavan. We stayed in a small place, Saraf Bhavan, which is about a mile from Loi Bazaar, and every day we would go by bus to different holy places. We went to Govardhan, Radha Kund, Barsana.
Radhanath Swami: When Srila Prabhupada was being carried on that Brijbasi palanquin up and down the hill of Barsana, the devotees were just so blissful, so happy to see Prabhupada being carried in this way. And although it appeared like a very uncomfortable way of traveling…Prabhupada was bouncing back and forth…Srila Prabhupada looked so blissful. At times he smiled so blissfully, just so happy to be amongst his devotees roaming through the hills and mountains of Barsana, Sri Radharani’s place of pastimes.
Visakha dasi: In Govardhan, Prabhupada was taking prasadam. Malati used to travel with us always and cook for Prabhupada, even on the bus. Prabhupada would sit in the front seat because his car had broken down. So he would be on the front seat of the bus, and Malati would be in the back seat doing whatever she was doing, nobody knew for sure. But then eventually she would come through the aisle of the bus and present to Prabhupada a beautiful plate of prasadam. It was a little bit miraculous how she did that. So she was Prabhupada’s cook during this time, and I remember in Govardhan she served Prabhupada his prasadam and a dog wandered by, a hungry dog. And Malati was about to give it the standard “hut” to drive it away when Prabhupada stopped her and threw a piece of his samosa to this dog, which actually delighted Malati. She was happy to see and also to hear Prabhupada say that “No living entity should go hungry in Krishna’s dham.”
Shyamasundara das: He was constantly concerned with everyone’s health and well-being, and everyone had a task. Prabhupada would assign the different duties and jobs and tasks for each of us, and we would all report to him every day what we had accomplished. He would give us guidance for the next day’s tasks. We had to become Vaisnavas finally in manner and in dress. So Prabhupada taught us all the ropes, all the different ways a Vaisnava should act in India, by example. We got to follow him around and watch him every moment, and we just began to emulate what Prabhupada did.
Radhanath Swami: It was really a very spectacular event for the Brijbasis. Because I was living amongst the Brijbasis, and they were really proud of Srila Prabhupada that one of their local residents who was living for so many years at Vamsi Gopal Temple and Radha-Damodara Temple had gone to the West and started temples and transformed Americans and Europeans into devotees of Sri Sri Radha-Shyamasundara. This was just astounding, amazing for the Brijbasis. Thus, they really had very, very high esteem for Srila Prabhupada. They considered him to be like the ambassador of Vrindavan for the world. They were looking forward to seeing the American and European sadhus coming. Prabhupada would have the devotees doing harinam sankirtan in the streets, and it had a very heartwarming effect on the residents of Vrindavan. They were joyful to see people from all over the world, young people full of life and opportunities who had accepted their culture, their faith. And especially they accepted the mercy of Srimate Radharani, and this was very meaningful to the Brijbasis. At that time, I was with Prabhupada from the mangal aratik through the evening. But then after the evening darshans, I would go back to the bank of Jamuna and I would be with my friends, the local inhabitants of Vrindavan, and they were very much talking about the glories of Srila Prabhupada. It was the first time Vrindavan had ever seen anything like this in history. Krishna appeared 5,000 years ago in Vrindavan and performed His transcendental pastimes. Caitanya Mahaprabhu came 500 years ago, and by His order the Goswamis began to excavate and establish the places of Vrindavan. And through the years, Visvanath Chakravarti Thakur and all these great acharyas performed their pastimes of worship there. Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur brought many thousands of people on his Braj Mandala Parikrama. But never before in the history of Brajbhumi did people from all over the world, from outside of India, come in a spirit of devotion to worship Sri Sri Radha and Krishna.
Winter 1971 – 1972: UNKNOWN TOWN IN NORTH INDIA – Parade
Dinadayadri dasi: This was a very bizarre experience. The people were just mobbing. It got to be almost like a frenzy, like a hysteria. They were so excited to have the devotees there. And as we were going down the street, we were knocking over vegetable stalls. So Prabhupada appeared to be feeling ill. We couldn’t tell if he was sleeping or if he was fainting. Then we ended up in some kind of sports stadium, and Prabhupada was in a little room. We closed the gates, these big wooden doors, and then the people just wanted to see Prabhupada but Prabhupada wasn’t well. So the devotees got him in this room and closed the room and wouldn’t let the people come in, and they just got more and more upset and they were banging on these gates trying to get in. I was getting scared – were they going to break down the doors and stampede us, what were they going to do to us, because they were getting a little angry too. It was like that, people just thronged Prabhupada like some rock star or something and wanted to rip him apart, get a piece of him. So I don’t think Prabhupada ever did speak. I don’t even remember how we got Prabhupada out of there. But I do remember that he sent groups of devotees out to have contact with the people. I remember myself and Nara Narayan being sent out as a team, and we went to this little temple and Nara Narayan gave a little talk and we had a little kirtan and the people were satisfied. They wanted to see us too, the white sadhus. It was so exciting for them to see these white sadhus. See, look at Prabhupada, he looks…because at some times he was sitting on this thing with his eyes closed and his head nodding. We didn’t know if he’d had a stroke or if he had fainted from the heat or if he was sleeping, it was just really strange.
January 1972: JAIPUR, INDIA – Parade
Shyamasundara das: This was one of the most intimate and relaxing highlights, Prabhupada’s stay in Jaipur in the palace grounds as a guest of the queen, Gayatri-devi. But she was so thankful to have Prabhupada there. The devotees coming in and out of the Govindaji’s temple would parade by Prabhupada’s bungalow throughout the day, and there were so many wonderful devotees in Jaipur. Every one of Prabhupada’s lectures, morning and night, were packed with thousands of people, devotees of the Govindaji temple there. He was appreciated in Jaipur in a way that he had not been appreciated in other cities in India. Almost every citizen came to these speaking engagements. They were already full-fledged Vaisnava devotees. He was very happy in Jaipur.
February – March 1972: MAYAPUR, INDIA – Walk, First Gaura Purnima festival on ISKCON land, Prasadam distribution
Jayapataka Swami: At that time, Prabhupada lived in the grass hut. There was no other place to live in. I remember Prabhupada, one time we were sitting in the grass hut and he just said, “This grass hut is in the mode of goodness, and this is all you need for spiritual life – live in a grass hut and live by the side of the holy river, chant Hare Krishna. But if we do this, people won’t come here. So we have to build the big buildings with concrete and steel and bricks. Those buildings are in the mode of passion. But for preaching, we can build those buildings. But for our own selves, this would be enough.”
Giriraj Swami: Before the festival, I had approached Srila Prabhupada on the balcony in Calcutta and said, “Srila Prabhupada, I’ve been trying to understand what you want of us, what your desire is.” I could see that Srila Prabhupada was really listening and taking every word into his heart. And then I said, “Two things seem to please you the most – distributing your books and building the big temple in Mayapur.” And Srila Prabhupada’s eyes opened wide, his face lit up, he smiled and he glanced at me and he said, “Yes, you have understood.” And then he said, “If you build this temple in Mayapur, Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur will personally come and take you all back to Godhead.”
Jananivas das: Bhavananda prabhu said, “Srila Prabhupada, we are sitting in the middle of these rice fields. I’m from New York, Surabhi the architect is from Amsterdam. We’re all from the cities. Jayapataka is from… We’re all from big cities, and we’re sitting in the middle of these rice fields and you’re asking us to build a big temple and a city. How we can do this, Prabhupada?” And he said, “Prabhupada, where will all the money come from?” Bhavananda is always thinking, “Where will the money come from?” He said, “Actually here you have Radha-Madhava.” He said, “Madhava means the husband of the Goddess of Fortune. You simply serve Madhava nicely and everything will come. You don’t have to worry about money.” “But Prabhupada, we don’t know where to start even.” They had the design for the Lotus Building, then where to put it. We were really bewildered, standing in the middle of rice fields. Prabhupada, he didn’t procrastinate as we say. So Prabhupada said, “Come with me.” We had three acres of land at that time, one strip of land from the road. So Prabhupada, he put a clod of earth down and then he just paced so far down, then he put another clod of earth. Then he just turned and he paced the other way, put another clod of earth, paced up the other end. So he put four clods of earth and he said, “Build it here.” That was it.
Jayapataka Swami: This is Prabhupada establishing the Ananta Sesa in 1972. He invited all of his godbrothers to come. Many godbrothers had already left so there were disciples of godbrothers, his spiritual nephews. So he invited them all to come, and then he spoke to them that “Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur wanted us to all work together. So why don’t we all combine and work together? Now I have temples around the world and I can give you some devotees from foreign countries to help the preaching. We should all work together.” But they didn’t accept. They didn’t really say anything.
Nara Narayan das: He had told us to dig a pit, and we dug a pit about 15 feet deep and probably around 6 to 8 feet wide with a bamboo ladder going down inside. He said he was going to set the cornerstone. We had no idea what setting a cornerstone was going to be like. But apparently his friend and godbrother, Puri Maharaj, had come bringing a little solid 24-carat gold Ananta Sesa. He was about an inch-and-a-half high. So Prabhupada was going down into the pit and Ashokamrita was holding the ladder. Then somebody came, “Prabhupada wants you.” “What?” “He wants you to go down into the pit. Prabhupada wants you to go down into the pit.” I saw Prabhupada is walking down the ladder, and I came over and I went down in the pit with Srila Prabhupada. To me it was symbolic enough. I’m in a pit with a ladder and Prabhupada – what more do I want? We gather an accumulation of bricks, and then a bucket comes down with mortar and a trowel. So I didn’t know what to do, and Prabhupada just gestured. “We are building a temple here,” he said like that. So I pick up a brick and I butter it with mortar and I set it down, then I put another one, and I start to set it just very nicely like a chimney or something of that sort. Prabhupada said, “No, no, no, not like that.” And I said, “How?” He said, “Every which way.” When he said every which way, he meant randomly. And I started building and I built this thing and there was a gap in the middle, and then Srila Prabhupada came and placed the Ananta Sesa and said, “Put more.” After I’d pretty well hidden the Deity with bricks, he told me to go up and others came down.
Malati dasi: So he went down…you see that ladder, bamboo tied together with pieces of string. He goes down and he comes up, and everybody is…his all godbrothers are there, we are all there. And he now sees Brahmananda, Gargamuni, Devananda, Tamal Krishna is there. So everybody was thinking, “Who is going to speak? Who is going to speak?” I remember I was also thinking that way. And then he says, “Malati, you speak.” Everybody was floored. I was floored. So what could I say, and I’m just looking around. Here’s all these learned Vaisnavas, certainly more learned than I’d ever be. I just stood up and spoke about Srila Prabhupada. I remember I was crying a little bit. And then afterwards, I remember Gargamuni came up to me and he said, “That was very nice.” I always appreciated that. I was just reflecting on Prabhupada’s expertness and putting us forward and then utilizing us for the benefit of his mission and knowing each one of our particular ability and our limitations and even using our limitations to the best advantage. Because in this situation, as I mentioned, I was not a pandit. I don’t know Sanskrit verses, I wasn’t fully learned in the Bhagavatam, but I had no hesitation about speaking on the glories of Srila Prabhupada. And it was actually the right thing to do at that time.
Giriraj Swami: While we were at Mayapur, one young man named Bob Cohen came to our camp. And we were really surprised because we didn’t get visitors just coming like that. Bob Cohen was very intelligent and sober. He was a Peace Corps worker in India. So he came to meet Srila Prabhupada. He had attended our pandal program at Desha Priya Park in south Calcutta, and he began to ask Srila Prabhupada very intelligent questions and Srila Prabhupada gave very elaborate answers. It became a regular routine that Bob would come and ask questions to Srila Prabhupada and, knowing that there was going to be an important discussion, I would ask Srila Prabhupada, “Should I call the others?” and he would say, “Yes.”
Brahmatirtha das: My experiences with Prabhupada, of course, occurred in the bhajan kutir where devotees wanted to know if I had any questions, which I certainly did. So I got to sit in there, I think, for several hours a day over probably a four-day period and discuss with Prabhupada my philosophical issues. I didn’t really know a whole lot about what was going on in terms of parampara and how things work. I knew a little, but I just appreciated the qualities of Prabhupada. He made me feel very comfortable. His humor was very disarming. And Prabhupada was on a platform, so I was on the floor. So I’d always be looking at Prabhupada’s feet, and somehow that gave me some blessing. One of the most dramatic moments for me personally is when I realize it’s time for me to leave Mayapur. Because the night before on Gaura Purnima night, Jamuna had come to me with tears in her eyes. And I remember the moon reflecting in her eyes and she had tears and she said, “You are so fortunate. Prabhupada is spending so much time with you.” She said it with such conviction that I was completely overwhelmed, and I realized that I might have to surrender. So I went behind the temple, behind the pandal and just collapsed in the rice paddies and started crying. I said, “I can’t give everything up.” So the next morning Prabhupada called for me again, asked if I had more questions. I said, “Thank you very much for what you’ve done, but I have to leave now. I have to get back to my teaching.” The Peace Corps had no idea where I was or what I did, so I could go back or not go back. And Prabhupada said, “Don’t talk L-E-A-V-E,” he spelled it out, “talk L-I-V-E. Don’t talk leave, talk live.” So I said to Prabhupada, “So you want me to stay longer?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “Well, if you tell me to, I will.” And then he said to me, “Good boy,” the same way you would say it to your pet. So at that time, in my heart I felt I had become Prabhupada’s pet, not realizing that I in essence had accepted him as my guru. Though when I think back at it, after that time, I was sold out to Prabhupada. A minor incident, but for me it was very major. And Prabhupada timed it just perfectly well to capture me.
March 1972: JUHU BOMBAY, INDIA – Cornerstone laying ceremony at “Hare Krishna Land”
Shyamasundara das: One of Srila Prabhupada’s most enduring projects was the Juhu land and Juhu development in what was then a remote suburb of Bombay. It was open marshland and swamps and coconut groves, very few people there in those days. So it was difficult for some of the devotees to understand why Prabhupada wanted this land so much. Most devotees are familiar with all of the squabbles that went on for this land over such a long period, many years, and the fights, litigation that was waged over this land. But Prabhupada was so insistent that we acquire this land, and he was ultimately triumphant.
Dr. Jayalakshmy Warrier: What we were thinking was mostly at that time they were hippies. So they are being converted into good people, so we should help them whatever way we can. We are not rich or anything, but whatever little in the house is there we should give. They used to come for cold water because March-April was so hot. They are not used to this climate, and then we used to give nimbu water and whatever is available in the house we used to give them. Then once he was walking in the garden, Prabhupada. So some new devotees had come in the morning. So he shows our house and tells, “This is Hare Krishna annex. You all have left your mothers and come. Here is a mother for you and anything you want to know, you can ask her and that is the house,” and he pointed to our house. Afterwards we asked the devotees what he was telling. They said, “This is Hare Krishna annex.”
Smriti Warrier: My name is Smriti Warrier, and I lived on Hare Krishna Land, B Building, on the ground floor. My parents were Mr. and Mrs. Warrier that helped a lot with the temple, the devotees, and did a lot of seva, and I basically grew up on Hare Krishna Land. I was there before the devotees came. So when they first came, I was 6, 7 years old. Of course, we’d never seen foreigners so much before. So then they would come and we would stare at them. They were like celebrities. We’d just sit there, every move they made we were watching them. Of course, at that time, we used to tease and chant. We would chant, but we would teasingly chant Hare Krishna or say “Haribol.” As time went on, we started to like them. They would be so nice to us, so we would always go up and anything they wanted we would run and get it for them. When they were living on the rooftop, they would bathe up there. I remember we used to see these soapy white lathered heads – Gargamuni, Brahmananda, Madhudvisa. This must be in Acharya’s garden that he’s getting massage because he came out of there and went right into the house. Later on they started a Gurukula, which we attended. That was the only Gurukula we really enjoyed going to, and the three of them did it. It was so much fun. We used to do all kinds of things – little projects, learning slokas, chanting, putting on dances when Prabhupada came.
Shyamasundara das: Before even having the title to the land, he had a cornerstone-laying ceremony. Prabhupada was the expert in everything, he was the supreme strategist, and he said that “If we install Deities on the property, no one will take Them down. This is not done in India,” that this would give us further right to the land. So he conducted this cornerstone ceremony. Later when the police did try to close down the Deities, there was a public outcry which forced the situation towards Prabhupada’s favor. But it was another year-and-a-half from this cornerstone-laying ceremony before Prabhupada actually acquired the deed to the land. But this was another maneuver Srila Prabhupada thought was important – to establish our right to the land by installing Deities and having a very elaborate cornerstone-laying ceremony. Prabhupada was teaching us all the time how to do business, how to manage our affairs. We were so innocent, we had no knowledge or experience in these kind of affairs – buying land, getting titles, and what to speak of in India where things are 10 times more difficult than the West.
Surabhi das: I came after shaving my head and then when I was asked by Brahmananda to go and see Srila Prabhupada. Then when I walked in he said, “Oh, now you look very nice.” First he asked me where I was from. I said, “I’m from Holland.” Then he asked me, “What is the use of decorating dead bodies?” Then I said, “No use,” and he said, “Exactly. Don’t waste your life in decorating dead bodies.” I was an artist, I was a designer, I would make things, beautiful things. I was definitely a decorator, so I understood the hint. So he would say, “Don’t waste your time on making beautiful things for the wrong purpose.” And then immediately he hinted that “Krishna has sent you here to design His temples,” that’s the next thing he said. “And tomorrow we have a ceremony here, it’s called the initiation ceremony, and then you will be initiated.” And then he asked the secretary, he said, “Give him some paper and some pencils so he can start designing, and you can sit over there next to the secretary.” So then he called Shyamasundara and he asked him to give me the photos of the Radha-Gopinath Mandir. So I got 20, 30 different photos, different shots that they had taken, and that is the temple he liked. He wanted that type of temple to be built in Bombay. I knew enough about the movement that that was a great honor, and I could hear the reactions around me that people said, “Krishna! Krishna!” They were making certain sounds that “This is quite unusual,” and I was also told later on that they had no record that Prabhupada ever did that before – a guy walking in and give him initiation the next day. So I could feel yes, there was something that gave me the energy, there was something that allowed me to do this that normally I probably wouldn’t be able to do. That I could feel, what does it mean to be empowered. And when Prabhupada tells you, “You are going to do this,” and then it actually happens, then you believe for the rest of your life that it exists.
Atreya Rsi das: In the same house, Prabhupada gave me a conch, left-handed conch, and he said, “Karttikeya has been such a great host to us and is well-wisher and so generous to us, and he has given me this conch, which is supposed to bring a lot of wealth, and I want to give it to you.” So he gave me the conch and he said, “I never expected to be able to do all this. I thought maybe we could just have some chanting, we could have a few devotees, but I never…” and he referred to all the temples, all that. Because Prabhupada, when he was saying that “I never expected it,” he was kind of laughing at himself. He was saying, “Hey, I went after a little fish and I caught such a huge fish, I don’t know what happened.” So I said, “Do you remember, Prabhupada, the story of Mullah Nasiruddin where Mullah Nasiruddin is sitting by a lake and putting some yogurt in the lake. And people say, ‘What are you doing?’ He says, ‘I am trying to see if the whole lake will catch to become yogurt.’ They say, ‘How could that be possible?’ He said, ‘Yes, it’s not possible, but what if?’” And we both laughed and laughed, “What if? What if?” I said, “Yours was the same thing. You just ‘what if’ and it caught on,” and he says, “Yeah,” and we just laughed around that. It was a very joyous time.
Nara Narayan das: The setting of the cornerstone of a temple is an extremely important thing. What happens is when this pit is established, it is actually protected by Ananta Sesa, which means that it’s very well protected indeed. And, of course, the manner in which the ceremony takes place also determines the outcome of the power of protection that the pit has. Now, in the case of this particular cornerstone, Prabhupada later on confided, he said, “When we first purchased this land from Mr. Nair, I did not see how we could keep this land.” He said, “But I thought if I bring Krishna here and I ask Krishna to sit tight, if He sits tight, if He stays, then I knew that it is possible we will be able to keep this land.” He built the temple, and the temple is there today to prove what can be done. By the order of the pure devotee of the Lord, on his order this temple was built by Krishna’s protection. So even Prabhupada did not believe it was possible, yet Krishna made it possible. So somehow this cornerstone laying was very significant in that regard because this is certainly part and parcel of Prabhupada asking Krishna to sit tight. And we know historically that when the police came to drag people away, the devotee girl Maitihili was holding onto the pole and they were pulling on her legs. And they tried to come with oxy-acetylene torches to cut down the temple; somehow they were cutting, but they could not finally get the Deity away. So Krishna sat tight. But Prabhupada had that power, evocative power, to bring Krishna to a place, ask Him to sit tight, and through the power of this pit of the cornerstone made it stick for all time.
Mahamsa das: I was a brahmacari, I was not even initiated at that time. There was a class going on, and he asked this question in the class. He said, “How do you know that Krishna is God? Why do you believe me?” So some devotee said, “Because it says in the Bhagavad-gita, aham tvam sarva-papebhyo,” and all that, quoting some verses from the Bhagavad-gita. Or saying that because Prabhupada… “No, I may be lying also, I may be lying. How do you know that Krishna is Krishna?” So someone quoted from the Bhagavad-gita some verse. He says, “Yeah, but whether you believe the Bhagavad-gita or not believe Bhagavad-gita, the translation or interpretation may be wrong. How do you know that Krishna is Krishna?” So actually I was a very new devotee at that time. So all the senior devotees were giving their explanation and Prabhupada kept saying, “No, no. This is not a good answer. This is not a good answer. That’s not enough.” And then finally there was a little quietness. I was even afraid to say what I felt like saying, so very meekly I put my hand up and Prabhupada said, “Yes?” And I said, “Prabhupada, I believe it is Krishna because I can feel Krishna. When I say Krishna, I can feel Him, I can feel it. That’s why I believe in it.” And then his eyes grew up like that, “Yes! That is it! You can feel Krishna’s presence, that’s why you believe in Krishna!” And he looked at me with so much happiness that “Yes! Your answer is right.”
Smriti Warrier: Whenever he was in Bombay, every morning I would take his breakfast for him and he liked wadas. Whenever he came into town, he would send his servant to tell Mrs. Warrier that he was here; and the next morning, idlis or wadas had to be given. I used to take it in and I used to wait around, waiting for Prabhupada to give me a sweet back in return. Sometimes he would tease me and give me a piece of idli back or a piece of wada, and I would say, “No, I want the sweet on your plate,” and wait there till he gave it to me. At times he would tease me so much that he would eat all his prasadam and I would still be waiting for my sweet, I would never leave without it. And then he would go to put the last one in his mouth, then he would just hand it to me and let me go. He would laugh. He knew he was teasing me with it, especially when he would pick up the idli and he would give it to me with this amused look in his eye like “Are you going to take it?” I was stubborn, I wanted that sweet, that was it. I’d go in the evening too for the class just to get the sweet, the pera or the burfi that they were giving out. Sometimes he would be kind enough to tell Visala, “Give her her sweet so she can go and play,” or sometimes I would have to sit through the whole class and then I would get my sweet. I remember there were times when his servants weren’t around and I would get to pick up his shoes and help him slip his feet into it. Every evening my mother would make a garland for the lecture, and I was thinking about it. When I was that little, I used to feel embarrassed because all these devotees would come with these beautiful thick nice garlands. They would buy the flowers and make these beautiful garlands, and I got this thin little thing that my mom had made with the champa flowers or the mogra from the garden. And the more I thought about it, it was actually true – Prabhupada would take the big heavy ones off and he would leave the thin ones on, and he’d be smelling them. So actually he did like that offering. In some of the pictures you’ll see of Bombay, you see he’s got that champa garland around his neck, he hasn’t taken that one off.
Dinadayadri dasi: The morning walks were very informal, pretty much whoever wanted to go could go. And a lot of times the devotees were so sick, most of them were under their mosquito nets when Prabhupada took his morning walk. So I remember one morning Prabhupada was just taking off for his walk and so Brahmananda, Nara Narayan, myself and Srimate trailed along after him. We came to the gates…remember those big wooden gates at the front of the property?...and they were closed. And this was after mangal aratik. Prabhupada became livid. He was so angry. He said, “Why are these gates closed? I’ve told you the gates must be kept open for mangal aratik so the villagers can come.” He said, “Do you think this mangal aratik is just for you? No, it’s for everyone! You think this Krishna consciousness is just for you?” He was very angry that we were being so self-centered and not thinking about the welfare of the neighboring people.
April 1972: MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – Arrival, Melbourne Town Hall program
Jagatarini dasi: I remember that in Melbourne he gave me second initiation, and I had been initiated in 1971 by mail in Hong Kong. So I received one letter and he said, “Your initiated name is Jagajanani-devi-dasi.” And then very shortly after that we received another letter in Hong Kong saying that the name has been changed to Jagatarini because there was already somebody with the name Jagajanani. I had never received a fire sacrifice for first initiation so I sat in on the fire sacrifice in Melbourne, and then he gave me second initiation upstairs in his room. Then we all went out to collect guru dakshina, which was something new. It was a bit of a novelty, we weren’t familiar with that concept then. I remember going down one street nearby and going shop to shop, and one of the shops that I went into was a butcher shop and that man gave more than anyone else. So when I came back, I commented on that to Srila Prabhupada and I said I’d gone into this butcher shop. It was kind of a childish thing to say. And so he said, “Oh, that is very good,” and he was very kindly and fatherly. At the end of that visit to Melbourne, I brought my parents to see Srila Prabhupada. My mother and father came in, and my mother was very suspicious, she was uncomfortable. But my father was gracious and so he sat near to Srila Prabhupada, and my mother hovered by the door; and then they gave her a seat, and she sat down. Srila Prabhupada had this blue-colored type of a couch, French-style chaise lounge or something like that, and he was sitting on that and he looked so elegant, so genteel. They both sat down and then the first thing Srila Prabhupada did was he looked at my father, who was respectful, and he said, “Your daughter will deliver you.” And my father was a little embarrassed, I think, he couldn’t really understand Srila Prabhupada’s accent. So he started laughing nervously and he said, “Oh, yes, we always thought she’d do something like that.” And then Srila Prabhupada looked at him quite earnestly and said, “Don’t think that she’s given up your service.” He said, “Because of her, so many generations forward and backward in your family will be delivered because of her.” And he went on to explain to him that he had gone so many places in the world and wherever he went, people thanked him for what he had done for their children and he’d saved them from so many vices and so forth. My father was very gentle and so he was respectful, and afterwards Srila Prabhupada turned to me and said, “Your father is a gentleman.” Then my mother, who was also very pious in that sense but she was nervous, at the very end of that darshan, Srila Prabhupada took this carnation garland, it was solid and full of carnations, and he took it very gracefully from his neck. And then he asked his servant, “Give this to her.” And so they handed her this garland, and she was so taken aback. He was so charming, and she didn’t know what to say. She took that garland home and put it on a plate of water and kept it on a vase, in some way kept it and preserved it as long as she could in appreciation from that visit with him.
Madhudvisa das: This is a lecture Srila Prabhupada is giving at the Town Hall in Melbourne, Australia, in 1972. The devotees had gone to Melbourne after they had established a temple in Sydney, and they had become quite popular in Melbourne because of elaborate street sankirtan that was performed every day by the devotees in downtown Melbourne. Caru and Vaibhavi were there and Upananda was there, and there was a whole crew of…we called them “the ecstasy crew.” The ecstasy crew were people that didn’t get initiated but they religiously showed up every day for sankirtan in downtown Melbourne. So right on the same street where the Melbourne Town Hall was located the devotees were chanting up and down every day. So when Prabhupada arrived and they had Prabhupada’s lecture at Melbourne Town Hall, it was quite widely publicized and many of the people that had been seeing us on the street every day were there. There were some hippie gurus that came to see Srila Prabhupada, some famous hippie gurus in Melbourne. And everyone thought that this one hippie guru who would stand on a soapbox every day in downtown Melbourne in various places and preach his own hedonistic philosophy, and he was very quick-witted…so everyone thought that he would come and be able to challenge Srila Prabhupada. So many of his followers came that night also. But Srila Prabhupada quickly philosophically defeated him and humbled him, and he came forward at the end of the lecture and chanted and danced with all of the disciples of Srila Prabhupada. Prabhupada was very adept at defeating the impersonalists and the hedonists, and this Melbourne Town Hall lecture was quite a grand success for the devotees. It was a large turnout. It was over 2,000 people that came to that, and so it was quite amazing.
Srila Prabhupada: This universe is called chaturdash bhuvan, 14 planetary systems. This is called Bhu-loka. Above this, there is Bhuvar-loka. Above that, there is Jana-loka. Above that, there is Mahar-loka. Above that, there is Satya-loka. Above that, there is Brahma-loka, the highest planetary system. Similarly, down also we have got Tala, Atala, Talatala, Nitala, Patala, etc. This information you get from Vedic literature, 14 worlds. Each and every universe is consisting of these 14 planetary systems, and there are innumerable universes. That you also get information from Brahma-samhita: yasya prabha prabhavato jagad-anda-koti. Jagad-anda-koti. Jagad-anda means this universe is a big ball just like anda, egg. Everything, every planet is just like egg, this brahmanda. The universe is also like egg. So there are many, many, many millions of jagad-anda. And in each and every jagad-anda, kotisu vasudhadi vibhuti-bhinnam, there are innumerable planets also. So these are the information we get from the Vedic literature. If you like, you can accept. If you don’t like, you can reject. That is up to you.
May 1972: LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – Arrival, Walk
Janaspriha das: I was in Vancouver temple, and I heard that Srila Prabhupada was coming to L.A. I’d never seen Prabhupada before so I got very excited and I asked Bahudak, which was the temple president, that I wanted to go to meet Prabhupada. And he said, “If you want to please Prabhupada, you stay here.” So I said, “OK, prabhu.” And as soon as he left I ran upstairs to the brahmacari ashram and I didn’t even take any clothes, I just grabbed my coat and I ran out the back door. I didn’t have any money, and I was in Canada. So I start hitchhiking, went across the border, got across almost to the end of Washington state the first night. And Prabhupada is arriving the next day around 4:00 in L.A. So I think I was about a thousand miles away from L.A. As soon as the sun came up, I started hitchhiking. And the first car that came over was a brand new Corvette, and this guy was an Air Force pilot. He said, “Where are you going?” I said, “I’m going to L.A.” He said, “Jump in,” and amazingly enough he was driving about 120 miles an hour. It was great, it was fun. To make a long story short, he drove me two blocks from the temple in L.A. and I got there about 20 minutes before Prabhupada came in. I ran upstairs, took a shower, put on a dhoti, put on tilak, ran outside into the alleyway and flowers were showering from the top of the building, and Prabhupada’s car pulled up and the door got opened and Prabhupada came out. It’s the first time I saw him, and his smile was great. The devotees were jumping up and down, and it was like being in the spiritual world.
Manmohini dasi: I think I was the first devotee widow, the first widow in the movement. And somebody told me that in India you can tell a person’s status by how they’re dressed and it was important what you’re wearing, and so it would please Srila Prabhupada if I put on all white. So I went to Culver Center and bought tons of white fabric and began wearing white, but I wasn’t sure if that was correct. We were new at everything. Nobody knew much about Vedic culture. So I wanted to go before Prabhupada, have him see me in white, and then I felt like I would be able to tell by his reaction. Maybe he would say something or give me a nod or something, make a comment. So I was determined that Prabhupada see me wearing a white sari. Every time Prabhupada would come to LAX Airport, as soon as he walked through the terminal, if you said your obeisances and you really said the full prayer, by the time you stood up you didn’t even get a glimpse of him, especially if you were in a female body because all the guys would stand in front of you and you didn’t get to see Srila Prabhupada. So I formulated a plan, and I didn’t tell anyone – it was my big dream, my big secret – that the next time he was coming to LAX, I would wait at the bottom of the escalator with my daughter and all the way down the escalator he might only see me and he might say something. So that’s what I did. I dreamt about it, I planned it, I couldn’t wait. And sure enough, I heard he was coming to Los Angeles again. So I did exactly that. I dressed up my daughter, we waited at the bottom of the escalator. It was difficult because the big tumult was upstairs, the big kirtan, but I stood there. And just as it went in my dreams, he came down the escalator and there was me and Nimai and he stopped at the bottom of the escalator. He leaned forward, he took the little bouquet of flowers that we made for him, he looked at me, he saw the white sari, and I got a definite nod of approval. Without a shadow of a doubt, I got the nod of approval, a very pleased nod. And that one nod, the power of Prabhupada’s nod kept me in white for 18½ years because of that nod. Meanwhile, what was humorous is the escalator kept going, and so all the sannyasis that were right behind him were getting squished like an accordion.
Haripuja dasi: We were always told that Srila Prabhupada’s favorite flower was a yellow rose. So I brought one to the airport to give to him. So he steps off of the mover and comes to the firm ground, and I’m standing there right in front of him. He looks at me right in the eyes and I hand him the rose, he takes the rose and gently nods his head and walks on. And for that one moment also, the kirtan, all the devotees and chanting, it seemed to just be a moment of silence that I got to share with Srila Prabhupada. And just one moment in time that Srila Prabhupada accepting a gift from me lasts a lifetime.
Manjuali dasi: All the devotees were coming back from the airport, and I remember meeting Prabhupada’s feet before meeting Prabhupada. I just remember him walking by as he was coming into the temple room and just seeing his feet walking. And I just remember that there was so much light around his feet, and I could see Prabhupada as a great huge being because I was looking up from the floor at him. That’s etched in my mind, that wonderful memory of just seeing his effulgent feet and then kind of working my way up from the feet up to his golden smile.
Vrindavaneswari dasi: During kirtan, Prabhupada was so enthusiastic and always encouraging the person who was leading. He would be looking around the room and I myself personally, I was feeling like I could touch the ceiling. I’d be jumping as high as I could, and I just felt like there was no bounds. I was also feeling that we were all like little puppies jumping up and down in great joy and happiness seeing our spiritual master. So Prabhupada was always encouraging, looking around, and he’d be with his gong, he would take the hammer and he would be gesturing, waving it up and down for everybody to dance. Prabhupada also, he had such perception. Sometimes in my mind I’d be thinking – I was young – “Oh, I wish Prabhupada would look over here, I wish he would look at me.” All of a sudden, Prabhupada would be looking directly at me, piercing me with his eyes, and I felt very foolish. But Prabhupada always fulfilled your desires that way, so it was always a special experience every day for months being able to have the mercy of dancing in front of Prabhupada. And then, of course, during Jaya Radha-Madhava, Prabhupada himself would be so absorbed, sometimes he would stop, being choked up. And I remember how Prabhupada would talk. He would say, “Actually I am just a kirtan man.”
Danavir Goswami: One time we were on the beach walking like this and the crabs were going out, and the crabs were running into the water as it was coming in. So Prabhupada indicated that they had a relationship. And he was explaining that a big elephant cannot go against the waves of the sea even though he’s so strong, but a little fish can swim out against the waves and the reason is because the fish has an intimate relationship with the sea. So in the same way a devotee, he can surpass all others because of his intimate relationship with Krishna. He can do things that nondevotees cannot accomplish.
Nanda Kumar das: In Los Angeles, I would take Prabhupada out for his morning walk. One day he would go to Venice Beach, and one day he would go to Cheviot Hills Park, a big beautiful park with a golf course, and one day he would go to the very wealthy part of Beverly Hills. There was one house that had plate glass windows in the front and every time he would walk by that house, a big German shepherd would come up and bark at the window. So this one day we were walking by that house and the person in the house opened the front door and let the dog out. And the dog came running across the front yard towards Prabhupada and me, and I thought I was going to die in protection of my spiritual master. So I turned around and faced the dog, and Prabhupada had paid almost no attention, he had just kept walking. He was 10 or 15 steps ahead of me. So I turned around and ran to catch up and the dog started chasing along the grass, never came onto the sidewalk. As I got close to Prabhupada, he just turned around and took a wide stance and picked his cane up over his head and just one “hut” – “Hut!” and the dog just shot back to the house. And he said, “If you say hut to an animal, they’ll respect you. And take stick.” He said, “If you take a stick and say hut, they’ll respect.” So later on we were in Jaipur, and they had given Prabhupada a room in the Jaipur Palace. And one of the big monkeys, the langurs, had torn the door off the kitchen and eaten all the bhoga. So they replaced the door, and I was in Prabhupada’s room on a day that just happened to be filled with a lot of people including influential Indian guests. And we kept a stick inside the back door. All of a sudden there’s a noise outside, you can hear this door rattling, and I look out the screen and there’s a monkey trying to take the door off the kitchen. So I picked up the stick, remembering the dog, remembering Prabhupada’s example, and went out and got six feet or eight feet away from the monkey. And as he heard me come, he turned around and stood up. And as he stood up, I lifted the stick up and said, “Hut!” He looked at me and he puffed his chest up and he bared his teeth, and he growled and he started walking towards me. And I ran, I turned around and ran back in Prabhupada’s room, and he and all of his guests just broke out laughing. He said, “You do not know the process,” and then he laughed more. He said, “If you had said hut again…he was testing you. If you had done it twice, he would have backed away.”
Manjuali dasi: A couple of days a week you were at the incense factory, a couple of days you were on sankirtan, and then between that and cooking offerings and distributing books as well, you were running all the time, there was a schedule all the time, there was always something to do. Your life was full of Krishna, of service. But I think one of the biggest joys for me was the sense of community, the sense that you had Prabhupada at the center, that you were all working for a common goal, you were all spiritual pilgrims really on a path together, sharing prasadam together and multi-tasking. It was exciting, it was really, really exciting, the kirtans. I remember you’d run home and throw off your thing, you’d take a shower, and then you’d run to arati and then you’d dance your heart out and sing and dance your heart out. Then there’d be a class and you’d do garlands or something to stay awake. Then you’d put the Deities to sleep, and then you’d get everything ready for the morning, and then you’d get your few hours. And the next day would come and you have your Deity worship or cooking your offerings, and life was so full. We had so much energy then too, and we were totally focused on doing what we were doing. So there was this big temple, which was the biggest temple when I joined in ISKCON. I think there were 75 devotees there then, and that was massive. New Dwaraka was the hub of book publishing, the BBT headquarters was in New Dwaraka. Prabhupada said “print books” was one of the core services of the ISKCON movement; and here in New Dwaraka it was an opulent temple, beautiful Deities, but it was a very effervescent community, very sparkly, and it was driven by our desire to please Srila Prabhupada. I think when Prabhupada came, it was like God was coming, Krishna was Himself coming, and all the stops were pulled out. You were up for days and nights just making sure that everything was really done as pucca as possible. And I think in some way Prabhupada, when he came, he appreciated our enthusiasm and our dedication, and it was an absolutely rich experience. I’m very thankful I had all those years.
Krishna Kanti das: Somebody coming to the Sunday Feast program in Los Angeles owned a 16 mm camera and was a film student and apparently approached Karandhar about filming Srila Prabhupada. So I think it was Karandhar’s idea to have Prabhupada give Bhagavad-gita classes. So this was a staged situation. The idea was to film Prabhupada speaking Bhagavad-gita which would be applicable for the people in general and have something for television.
Srila Prabhupada: I shall speak on Bhagavad-gita As It Is. The purpose of saying Bhagavad-gita As It Is explain that there are many editions of Bhagavad-gita, they are interpreted in their own way, giving up the spirit of Bhagavad-gita. So this particular name, As It Is, significant, perhaps there is no other edition of Bhagavad-gita where it is written as it is. In this connection, Professor Dimock of Chicago University has written a Foreword, and he very much appreciates the theme. He says, “Swami Bhaktivedanta comments upon the Gita from this point of view, and that is legitimate.” So he accepts that Bhagavad-gita As It Is is legitimate presentation of the great book of knowledge. He also says, “More than that, in this translation the Western reader has the unique opportunity of seeing how a Krishna devotee interprets his own texts.” So about Krishna, the devotees actually can interpret about Krishna book. Others, if they are not devotee, how they can interpret on Krishna? Just like a member of a family can say very nicely about the head of the family. How outsiders can say about the family? That is not possible. Similarly, about Krishna a Krishna devotee can speak nicely, not others. Others have no right to speak about Krishna. And Krishna also admits Arjuna as the right student of Bhagavad-gita. In the beginning, Krishna says that “I have selected you as My student because you are My friend and you are My devotee.” So in other words, we can understand that Bhagavad-gita can be understood who has intimate relationship with Krishna. Just like Krishna says, “You are My dear friend.” That is intimate relationship with Krishna. And without becoming a devotee, nobody can be intimately related with Krishna. These are the factors to be understood. So this Bhagavad-gita was spoken 5,000 years ago to Arjuna in the Battlefield of Kurukshetra, and the science of understanding God is there in this Bhagavad-gita. Bhagavad-gita is the science of God. Everything has got some science, scientific book, to understand that particular subject matter. Similarly, there are different types of concept of God. Generally, they take it as an idea, but we don’t take it as idea. We take God as concrete fact. Just like you are seeing me, I am seeing you. This is concrete fact. Similarly, God can be seen by you, and God is already seeing you. There is no doubt about it. But you can see also God. So that process we have to understand – how to see God. That process is mentioned in all the Vedic scripture. That is called bhakti-yoga, that process. Krishna also says in the Bhagavad-gita: bhaktya mam abhijanati yavan yas casmi tattvatah. If anyone wants to know Krishna, what He is, then one has to accept the process of bhakti-yoga. There are different types of yogas. Yoga means linking oneself with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. So speculative yoga will not help us. You have to take concrete yoga. Concrete yoga is Krishna consciousness. So we have given our introduction of the Bhagavad-gita that one has to understand Bhagavad-gita as it is directed in the Bhagavad-gita. There is direction how to read Bhagavad-gita. People are reading Bhagavad-gita without taking the direction. This we have explained in the manner that if you take some medicine, there is some direction on the bottle that “This is the dose: you take so many drops so many times.” That is direction. Similarly, for understanding Bhagavad-gita actually, you have to accept the direction as given by the author Himself, Krishna. He says that long, long ago, some 40 millions of years ago He first spoke this Bhagavad-gita to the sun-god. And the sun-god transmitted the knowledge to his son, Manu. And Manu transmitted the knowledge to his son, Iksvaku. Imam vivasvate yogam proktavan aham avyayam, vivasvan manave praha manur iksvakave’bravit. So the rajarsis, they are all kings. Manu is king, Maharaj Iksvaku is also king, and the sun-god Vivasvan, he is also king. He is the king of the sun planet, and his grandson, Iksvaku, became the king of this planet, Maharaj Iksvaku. And in this dynasty, which is known as Raghuvamsa, Lord Ramacandra appeared. It is a very old monarchical family. Iksvakuvamsa, Raghuvamsa. Vamsa means family. So formerly the kings, the head of the administrative executive, they used to learn the theses or the injunction given by God because a king is…
Man: Conclude. About half a minute left.
Srila Prabhupada: No, no, you cannot do like that. Now you conclude here, that’s all.
Man #2: Actually we should just change over. We can change loads, we can pick up right there, Prabhupada.
June 1972: MEXICO CITY, MEXICO – Temple activities, Program
Shyamasundara das: Due to Chitsukananda’s fervent devotion, he was able to get this beautiful temple in Mexico City across from Chapultepec Park and fill it with wonderful, angelic Mexican devotees. Prabhupada was very inspired and impressed by the Mexico City yatra. When he was there in Mexico, he talked a lot about the relationship between Catholicism and Krishna consciousness, that at heart there is no difference. He was struck, though, how the agony of Christ went against the grain of Vaisnavism. I remember one time in Mexico there Prabhupada was resting in a room at a life member’s home or something and on the wall was a crucifix, Jesus in agony on the cross. I had closed the door so Prabhupada could rest, and about a half an hour later I heard his bell ring and I opened the door. He was sitting on the end of his bed looking at this crucifix on the wall, and there were tears streaming down his eyes and he said, “Just see, they have killed their spiritual master so that they can continue sinning. Please remove this from the room.” And he had me take it out of the room.
Pusta Krishna das: I recall when Srila Prabhupada was invited to give an interview at a television station. And when Srila Prabhupada was greeted by the host of the show, who was one of the most popular hosts of any television show in Mexico, Srila Prabhupada was so humble. He was like a child. When the interviewer shook his hand to greet him, Srila Prabhupada smiled back at him with so much humility it practically melted my heart.
Summer 1972: CALCUTTA, INDIA - Rathayatra
Visakha dasi: The short devotee who is wearing a white sari is Bhavatarini-devi-dasi. She was known to all of Prabhupada’s disciples as Pisima, which means “the father’s sister” in Bengali, because she was Prabhupada’s sister. Pisima would come very often to the temple in Calcutta…that’s me with my back to the camera, we were staying there too at that time…and she would bring prasadam for Prabhupada and for the devotees as well. She was a very gentle, kind, loving person. But there was a problem because Pisima cooked, as is traditional in Bengal, in mustard oil and sometimes it would be hard for Prabhupada to digest her dishes, although they were very delicious. When Pisima heard about this problem, she said, “My brother can digest nails if he wants to.” And on his side, Prabhupada once said, “Whatever my sister cooks, we have to eat. This is her display of love for me.” And she had great devotion for her brother, not just because he was her brother but also because he is such an exalted devotee of Radha-Krishna. Srila Prabhupada said that his sister was a devotee of Radha and Krishna from her very birth. Whenever we offered Pisima the respect that she so much deserved, she was very humble. She would say, “I am a mere lady. I cannot give you anything. I cannot do anything for you.” Quite often under her sari she would carry a bottle of Ganga water or Jamuna water and she would liberally sprinkle the devotees around her with this water, which was great fun except for me because I usually had a camera with me. I would have to hide my camera under my sari when she pulled out her Ganga jal.
Sankarshan das: That first Rathayatra I have seen that is led by ISKCON Calcutta. At that time I am reading in the university, Calcutta University, I am a student. I was not initiated at that time, but I am the follower of this movement. And among the family members, Prabhupada’s family member, Pisima, myself and my sister Jalatala. Then there were not so many Bengali peoples because at that time Bengali people, they are thinking, “Oh, these people are foreigners,” because it is very new thing to them. “How this could be possible being a foreigner they are shaving their head, they are worshiping our Deity?” They are suspecting something. But how Prabhupada is merciful. The first publicity we got, front page in all the newspapers, they say, “This is the first time that foreign devotees are chanting and foreign devotees are going on the street with the chariot, which is a miracle.” And Prabhupada was very pleased. Prabhupada told us that every year you celebrate Rathayatra, particularly in Calcutta because Calcutta is a place where he started Rathayatra at the age of 5. He was born in 1896, and he started Rathayatra 1902.
Sacimata dasi: I met Prabhupada at Desha Priya Park pandal program. Then I decided that I should take diksha or initiation from him because what I have heard from his lecture has melted my heart. So when I met Srila Prabhupada, he inquired my name and where I have come from, what do I study. So everything I told him and he said, “You please come to the temple every day, see the programs and you join every day whether you like or not, and then I will give you diksha afterwards.” Then Prabhupada said, “Are you happy?” I said, “Oh, I’m so much happy, Srila Prabhupada.”
Sankarshan das: In the beginning, the mood was very nice. We were very not so much rich but we were pure in heart. We were very working hard, going to monument esplanade to distribute. I went personally. Once Jayapataka Maharaj told me, “Please come, you are Bengali.” I am the only Bengali boy. So I every day used to go after my college over, then distributing book. Then when the Bengali people see me, “Oh, you are Bengali, you work with foreigners. Oh, maybe they are CIA.” Then I told them, “Why you are saying all these things, because their Guru Maharaj is Bengali.” “Oh, their Guru Maharaj is Bengali? Is it possible?” “Yeah, you can come and see. He was born in Calcutta. He went abroad to preach this Krishna consciousness movement. Why not you are coming to our Calcutta temple?” So then so many people are interested, Bengali people, they used to come and participate.
July 1972: LONDON, ENGLAND – Arrival, Walk with George Harrison, Rathayatra, Departure
Maha Visnu Swami: I was a new devotee then and I was very doubting, skeptical. The devotees were so enthusiastic, “Prabhupada’s coming!” Mandakini was always screaming and shouting, “Prabhupada’s coming! Prabhupada’s coming!” But I was thinking, “Who is this Prabhupada?” So then I was thinking when Prabhupada came I’ll really scrutinize him and I’ll test, see whether he’s what I thought was genuine. I was thinking maybe he’ll be a larger than life kind of figure, a bit flamboyant, glamorous, putting on a bit of a show. So then we were waiting inside, the new bhaktas. It was a big buildup for us inside. So we were watching the door. I was thinking, “What’s he going to be like?” Then the door opened and there was Prabhupada, and he was much shorter than I thought. Then I could see he was very composed. He wasn’t in an emotional state. He was like a father when he comes back from work and he returns home, he puts the key in the door and then he walks in, and then it’s normal for him. He seemed like the most normal person, and I was surprised by that. I thought that if he was putting on some act he wouldn’t have acted like that. He seemed very genuine, and I was pleased by that. He passed my test. I was expecting to see him put on some kind of act. Then he went and sat on the vyasasana after paying obeisances to the Deities and I thought, “What’s he going to say?” because I had been reading Prabhupada’s books. Then I thought, “Wow, he’s only saying exactly what’s in the books!” So then again he passed the test. He didn’t try to say anything new or invent something special. He passed my test in a way that I wasn’t expecting, so I was satisfied.
Dhananjaya das: In 1972 I was the temple president in London, and Srila Prabhupada noticed that there were so many boys and girls staying in the temple. In fact, in the morning sometimes you’d have to step over sleeping bodies to get down the stairs.
Shyamasundara das: We needed space to expand and, of course, asking George Harrison to give us a place was the logical course. But we had a policy never to ask George for anything. So during the spring and summer of 1970, I was living at George’s new 38-acre estate in Oxfordshire, Friar Park, and I would often mention how crowded we were at Bury Place. And he would say, “Well, maybe I can do something about that.” But it was only when Srila Prabhupada himself came out to Friar Park one day and we were walking around these huge grounds and George said to Srila Prabhupada that he thought that a place like this, and he waved his arms around, was needed for us.
Dhananjaya das: Here we’re looking at one particular property called Runnymede Park, which is very close to the River Thames. So when George saw the place, and it hadn’t been occupied for some years and it was quite overgrown, he said, “This should be called Runnydown Park because it hasn’t been maintained for so long.”
George Harrison: When I was a kid, I used to like to go in the countryside. I’ve always liked nature, the woods or the ocean or gardens and natural things. I’m unhappy about the world being concreted over and all the forests chopped down and all the air polluted. I’m very unhappy about that. But I have a long-term view, which is all things must pass. Before it used to be “Maybe they’re going to blow us up with H-bombs.” But even that I thought, “It don’t really matter. They can’t destroy what’s within ourselves.” Krishna said there’s no time when we didn’t exist and there’ll be no time when we cease to exist. The only thing that changes is the body. But the music really was the key that opened the door into the yoga and the yogic philosophy and the Vedic scriptures, which is really the foundation of everything. It gave some sort of backbone to my life.
Prabhavisnu Swami: So I often had the chance to drive Prabhupada from the temple to the park where he was going to walk in our Ford Transit sankirtan van, and he would sit in the front seat and chant japa quietly. Sometimes he would be reciting Siksastakam in a barely audible voice, ceto darpana marjanam, he would sing it to himself. I remember once we were walking in Hyde Park and there was a big group of devotees and they were all chanting japa so it made quite a bit of noise, and there was some bum sleeping on a park bench. So he was woken up by this, and then he saw this big crowd of devotees bearing down on him and he was a bit frightened or freaked out. Then Prabhupada said, “Good morning,” in a very polite way, and then he responded.
Ranchor das: One morning in Russell Square Prabhupada told the story of the yogi and the mouse, and he really got into it and he started acting out the parts. We all stopped, and he was entertaining us with the story. Finally when he got to the punch line, when the mouse has been transformed into a cat and then a dog and finally the mouse is a tiger and turns towards the yogi, and Prabhupada acted the part of the tiger and his eyes became very big and he said, “Oh, now I will eat you!” Then the yogi said, “Again become mouse.” The way he acted out the part where his eyes became so big and wide, Prabhupada was such a wonderful entertainer. One morning there was a couple of big swans, they were on the bank, and when the group came around they retreated into the water. Prabhupada said, “See, they feel safe when they take shelter of the water. Similarly, a devotee takes shelter of Krishna and feels safe.” Another morning Prabhupada’s servant had broken off some twigs for him to use as a toothbrush, and this was in Regent’s Park. His servant returned to the group pursued by a park attendant, who was very upset that he’d broken the twigs off. Somehow the incident was diffused, but Prabhupada was disgusted. He said either directly to the attendant or to us, “You came to India for 200 years, you exploited and stole so many things from our country, and you wouldn’t even let us take a twig from your park.”
Lilasakti dasi: When he came to Bury Place and saw the Deities, he was always very encouraging. He used to say things like “Krishna is very happy here, thank you very much,” and just nod and smile, just a little something that actually kept us going. One time when he came, he was saying that “When the Deities are beautifully decorated, your heart becomes beautifully decorated. And when your heart is beautifully decorated, then very soon you will see Krishna.”
Padmalocana das: They were making a new vyasasana, so I’d been requested to upholster that vyasasana. So most devotees went off to the airport to meet Prabhupada, welcome Prabhupada, but we were still trying to finish this thing up before he arrived. So we wanted to finish, get it in the temple room, and it was green with gold trim around it. So Prabhupada came and immediately everyone was offering obeisances and I was completely overwhelmed, I’d never seen such a personality. I immediately had extreme emotions of crying, and I was quite overwhelmed. Then we went in and Prabhupada took darshan, and he sat down on the vyasasana and started giving a lecture. Then just as he finished the lecture he mentioned something about the vyasasana, “Oh, this is very nice.” Then he went upstairs. As soon as he got there it seemed, he had just arrived and then immediately somebody said, “Oh, Prabhupada is saying something about the vyasasana, you should go up there.” So I went up and Prabhupada said, “I want two more vyasasanas.” He said, “Yes, they should be small size because every day Lord Brahma and Narada Muni come here for the evening aratik and there should be a vyasasana for each of them. They should look identical to my one in small size.” I think we finished them on that same day, and next morning they were placed there. So Prabhupada was very appreciative the next day. He said, “Yes, yes, they should stay always and be here next to Radha-Londonisvara.” Then he told everyone, “Every day Lord Brahma and Narada Muni come here for the evening aratik.”
Rama dasi: We went down early to Marble Arch to help decorate the cart, and Prabhupada arrived. Again, when he stepped out of the car, the devotees just took off, they just left the ground, and there was such incredible joy on everyone’s faces and such a feeling of safety and security being around Prabhupada. He sat on the cart that year, he didn’t dance, and I just stayed by the Rathayatra cart by the rope just in front of Prabhupada’s vyasasana on his right side. I don’t think I ever looked forward in that Rathayatra, I think I just looked at Prabhupada the whole way. I was really fascinated by him because I was still pretty young, I had just turned 17.
Yaduvendu das: When Prabhupada would ask if there were any questions at the end of the class, I’d never put my hand up because I always felt that everything he said was fairly straightforward, everything made sense. But one morning he began to talk about a Golden Age, about a Vedic Age which had ended 5,000 years ago, and he described that there was only one language, one culture and one religion throughout the whole of the world. I’d never heard this before, and I’d been very interested in history. I had quite a hard time taking this in because it seemed to me that if that was correct, then the professors would be teaching this in the universities and it would be appearing in the historical textbooks. But it sort of shook my faith a little in Krishna consciousness in that it just didn’t make sense to me. So I decided that I would investigate this myself, and I started to do that over the following years. I discovered to my surprise that there was a great deal of information and that everything that Prabhupada was saying there is evidence for. I’ve since spent 30 years actually just studying this very point. When Prabhupada first came to England, there was a press conference arranged by Apple. One of the newspaper reporters asked Prabhupada, “What have you come here to teach?” And Prabhupada said, “I have come to teach what you have forgotten, that is all.” Actually what Prabhupada has brought back to England we can definitely say is exactly the same as existed here previously. All the Vedic gods were worshiped here, the language is from Sanskrit, the priests of Britain totally correspond to the brahmanas of India, they performed fire yajnas, they divided their society into four spiritual and four social orders. There are dozens and dozens of parallels, and it’s quite amazing that Prabhupada gave that answer. What he has brought is actually what we have forgotten, even in this country of Britain.
Shyamasundara das: Just to note the triumphal look on Prabhupada’s face and his whole manner, look at that regal bearing. He’s been to his Rathayatra in London, he’s the king. We did everything in our power to make the situation around him that he would appear as a king.
Ranchor das: If you look at the faces of the devotees, they all look tense and sort of pensive and sad and anxious because Prabhupada is leaving and he’s been staying in London for five or six weeks and now suddenly he’s going. It’s a very sad moment actually. A lot of people will be bursting into tears once he’s gone. Some of them might already be tearful. When Prabhupada is around for a few weeks, a month or six weeks, just a little bit you start to get used to…take him for granted a bit. I remember I used to think, “This is Krishna’s punishment. He’s taking Prabhupada away because we’re not appreciating him enough.” We went with him right up to the passport barrier, but we couldn’t go with him any further.
Shyamasundara das: We’re seeing the public faces of Prabhupada in these videos, but the private moments with Prabhupada in his rooms were, of course, the most attractive to the devotees. Those were not captured in film so much. But the end of the day or early in the morning sitting in Prabhupada’s room while he discussed the daily activities or giving our reports at the end of the day of what we had accomplished during the day, these were the most delightful moments with Prabhupada, the most intimate and surprising moments. Prabhupada never for a moment was predictable in any way. Everything he did and said was a complete surprise. In all the years that I used to open the door to his room and go in, I never ever lost that feeling of slight anxiety when I opened the door that I couldn’t predict what was going to happen. I knew it would be wonderful and it would be a total surprise, but you could never tell what the spiritual master was going to do or say. Goodbye, Prabhupada.