I received a Facebook message from a devotee named Kusum Sarovar Priya dasi. She wrote that her temple president from Mauritius has repeatedly asked the devotees to read Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta. Kusuma-sarovara reluctantly started reading and finished Volume 1. She started to have some little taste and then Volume 2 was over, and she started reading Volume 3 and finished it in a week, and then Volume 4 in ten days. “It’s just getting sweeter and sweeter. Thank you so much for writing, Maharaja. Thank you so much for the nectar.” I wrote her back and said that myself and the team assisting me in doing research felt we were empowered by Srila Prabhupada to do the service.
I think reading the unabridged Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta should be required reading for all devotees in ISKCON. At the end of the last volume, I wrote that it should be read and re-read. From Srila Prabhupada’s books we get the philosophy with his personal touch. But from SPL we get to know Prabhupada intimately and at length. This is very favorable for our Krsna consciousness. Since the first edition sold out, the full biography has not been available. But now a seven-volume edition has been printed at an affordable price, and there is a revival of purchasing and reading the Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta. Rama-Raya’s New York City sankirtana and harinama party just ordered 700 sets of the seven-volume series. People who have read some of Prabhupada’s books before want to know about the person who wrote the books, and the devotees are enthusiastic to distribute them. I have just received 50 copies of the first volume to autograph. Devotees are going to sell the whole set from a book table at the Radha-Govinda Mandir in Brooklyn on Janmastami in August.
We are hearing about the rule of Emperor Prithu Maharaja. He ruled over the entire world. He was a saktavesa-avatara and was capable of giving protection to all the citizens and curbing the miscreants. At a large gathering of all the citizens, he performed a yajna. When he changed his dress and put on a black deerskin, the people could see his beautiful form. There was some enemies of his in the great assembly, but he ignored them and spoke to the faithful theists. He did not command them in an autocratic way but spoke humbly and like a father. He requested his citizens to follow their occupations in the varnasrama dharma system, and they should worship Lord Visnu. He asked them not to neglect their religious duties or else he would have to receive a portion of their impious deeds. If they followed his guidance, there would be peace and prosperity for everyone, including his enemies. Prithu Maharaja broke up the mountains and hills with his strong bow, and made the land level so it could be favorable for agriculture. Even today, the place where Maharaja Prithu ruled from, is very good for agriculture and is considered the bread basket for India. Now the days of one-world rule by an emperor like Maharaja Prithu are over. There are many, many nations, and they compete and even make war on each other, and the situation has become chaotic. The little tyrants and “emperors” of today would like to become one-world rulers like Maharaja Prithu, but they don’t have the purity or the potency. The United Nations just has flags of different states, and there is no central, abiding authority or recognition of God.
I was given a book by Swami B.B. Bodhayan of the Gaudiya Matha. In it he discusses the controversy of whether the jivas fall down from the spiritual world. He writes that once going to the spiritual world, no soul ever returns, and he gives scriptural reference. Ravindra Svarupa has written two articles for Back to Godhead magazine with evidence from the Srimad-Bhagavatam, to assert that the jivas do fall from the spiritual world. Prabhupada sometimes said that the controversy was not important. The jivas entering into the material world happened at a time so far in the past that it is untraceable. It is not crucial to find out why and when they descended. He said that the important thing is that the jivas are fallen, and their important responsibility is to get out of that fallen position and go back home, back to Godhead. He gave the example of a man who once had some butter and now has none. He can research as to how and when he lost his butter, but that is not so important. The crucial thing is that he needs butter, and he has none.
In the beginning of Gurukula in Dallas, I was very much involved. I dealt with the landlords and realtors and sought a loan from ISKCON to purchase the buildings. Prabhupada wrote me that I was the one who had the original idea, so I should go there and carry it out. I was a sannyasi with a GBC zone in the Midwest, but I frequently stayed in Dallas to oversee the proceedings. It was my responsibility to see that the original guidelines Prabhupada gave us were kept, and no new concocted ideas—like the Montessori system—were introduced. I did this mostly by intimate talks with the teachers and ashram leaders. I also went into the classrooms and mixed with the children and tried to deal with the perennial problem of how to discipline them without forcing them. I took part in playing with the children and being involved with dramatic skits they played. I was quite “hands-on” in Dallas for several years. Then in 1972, at my request, Prabhupada agreed to award me sannyasa. I went to Los Angeles and received sannyasa along with three other Godbrothers. After that, I stayed in touch with gurukula duties, but was somewhat withdrawn as I traveled and preached in my U.S. zone. Abuses in gurukula took place after I was less involved. I did not create syllabuses or teaching models for the school; that was done by the main teachers, the husband-and-wife team of Rupa-Vilasa and Candrika devi dasi. But they worked closely with me and looked up to me as their leader.
It is quite clear to me that because of my physical immobility, I cannot travel to India and go to the holy dhama. I do not much regret it. I savor my memories of my many pilgrimage visits to Vrndavana in the 1980s and 1990s. I visited all the holy places and associated with advanced devotees who lived in the dhama. Rupa Gosvami advises that one should live in Vrndavana, but if he cannot, he should live there in his mind. I am cultivating separation from Vrndavana in my mind. I worship my Radha-Govinda Deities, which I obtained in Vrndavana. They are on an altar which is surrounded daily by fresh flowers and permanent plants, vines (like a kunja), and the tulasi plant nearby. I read books from Vrndavana like Prema-bhakti-candrika and the dramas of Rupa Gosvami, and these enliven me in Vrndavana consciousness. The times I visited Vrndavana, it was not so much developed as it is today. There were not many hotels and no busy vehicle traffic on the main road. Now Vrndavana has been highly developed, and I am not attracted to that aspect of it. I like to remember Vrndavana in the years that I used to go there, when there were sandy lanes and a relatively peaceful atmosphere. I used to give seminars in the Vrndavana Institute for Higher Education, and that was very satisfying. I treasure my memories of Vrndavana as it was, and hope Radha and Krsna accept my sincere practice of separation from the dhama by worshiping Radha-Govinda and reading rasika literature.
I was Prabhupada’s servant and secretary in 1974 when he visited Bombay. After an evening lecture, I followed Prabhupada upstairs in the building where he was staying, and I carried in my book bag the volume of Srimad-Bhagavatam, his karatalas (in case he wanted to use them), and his eyeglass case. When we reached upstairs and I examined my book bag, I discovered that the eyeglasses were missing! Prabhupada went to his room, and in a panic I ran downstairs and searched the ground outside. After some time, I fortunately found the eyeglasses and carried them upstairs. But incredibly, by the time I had reached upstairs, the eyeglasses were again misplaced! I was very upset, thinking Prabhupada might at any moment call for his eyeglasses, and I raced downstairs to search for them. After a while, I found them lying in the grass. They were in a case that a devotee had made for him, which was decorated with the figure of Lord Jagannatha. I raced upstairs blissful and relieved. The devotees asked me what was going on that I seemed to be in such an unusual state. I didn’t tell them, but I returned the eyeglass case to Prabhupada’s room as soon as possible, and he didn’t seem to notice their absence or what I had gone through.
It seems that a number of Prabhupada’s servants went through similar situations where they were completely humiliated and devastated in their service by making some mistake or oversight. They were intelligent men, college graduates, yet they flubbed in doing something even a twelve-year-old could do. Another consideration is that the servant had many, many things he had to attend to and keep in order for Srila Prabhupada’s service. Everything for his desk had to be set out properly as he wanted: his tilaka paraphernalia, his Dictaphone, his reference books, his eyeglasses, a cup of drinking water, etc. I only occasionally cooked for Srila Prabhupada, but when I didn’t I had to see that the cook was organized and brought the preparations on time. Prabhupada’s clothes had to be regularly cleaned and ironed so that he could change them daily, and it was the servant’s duty to oversee this, while an assistant mataji might actually iron the clothes. In his Transcendental Diary, Hari Sauri wrote about a time that he locked Prabhupada in his screened-in room and went off to eat a snack. Prabhupada had to go to the screened window and shout down to the devotees in Krsna-Balarama Mandir and ask them to get Hari Sauri in order that he could be freed from his temporary incarceration. When they reached Hari Sauri, he was aghast at his blunder and ran back and freed Prabhupada, making profuse apologies, while Prabhupada reprimanded him with sarcastic words.
I made many mistakes and absent-minded blunders as Prabhupada’s servant. Observing this, he gave me the name “Sir Isaac Newton.” I didn’t know why he should dub me with the name of the famous scientist, but he explained it. Sir Isaac Newton had two pet cats. To let them go in and out of his house, he carved two openings in the door. His friend saw this, laughed and asked why the scientist had made two holes when one hole would have been sufficient. Sir Isaac Newton replied that he made two holes because he had two cats. This was an example of extreme impracticality by the great intellectual scientist. Shortly after giving me this name, I went on a morning walk with Srila Prabhupada. When the car arrived at the place where we were to begin our walk, the car doors were locked, but I discovered that my bead bag was in the locked car. I exclaimed that my beads were in the car. Someone went to unlock the car, but Prabhupada started off on his walk without me and simply said, “Sir Isaac Newton.” I don’t know how many devotees understood his remark, but it stung me and delighted me at the same time.
Prabhupada Nectar was first issued over time as a series of small red books. Later it was compiled into one book. It was written after the Prabhupada-lilamrta was compiled, with the first booklet coming out in 1984, the fifth booklet coming out in 1987, and the single volume Prabhupada Nectar being published in 1996. It consists of a series of anecdotes about Srila Prabhupada, which I gathered by interviewing devotees. At the back of the book, in an acknowledgements section, I gave credit to the person who told me the anecdote. As small red books, and as a one-volume compilation, Prabhupada Nectar has been very popular with the devotees.
“Regarding the child problem, in call, I may inform you that our children born of Krsna conscious parents are all welcome, and I want hundreds of children like that, because in the future we expect to change the face of the whole world, because the child is the father of the man. Anyway, I have seen M. is nursing her child so nicely that she attended my meeting every day and the child was not playing or crying. Similarly L.’s child also never cries or disturbs the meeting. L. was always present with her child, so it depends on the mother. How to keep the child comfortable, so that he will not cry. The child cries only when it feels uncomfortable. The child’s comfort and discomfort depends on the mother’s attention. So the best solution is we train all our small babies in such a way that they are always satisfied, and there will be no disturbance in the meeting. Then there will be no complaint. But there cannot be any hard and fast rules that only children who are grown up, seven or eight years old, can be admitted and no other children can be admitted. That is not possible, and I am not going to sanction any such rule. Rather, I shall welcome the baby from the very beginning, so that the transcendental vibration may enter into its ear, and from the very beginning of its life, it becomes purified. But of course children cannot be allowed to disturb in the meeting by crying, and it is the mother’s responsibility to keep them comfortable and not disturb the meeting.” (Letter of August 26, 1968)
In Los Angeles Srila Prabhupada liked to have impromptu recording sessions in his room. When the recording technician, Krsnakanti dasa, tried to schedule a special session, Prabhupada often postponed it. But on an impromptu basis, either in the morning, afternoon, or evening, whenever Prabhupada would say, “Let’s record,” the devotees would try to immediately respond. If they said that they didn’t have the right microphones or equipment ready, Prabhupada would reply, “Then record with whatever you have.” He did not seem overly concerned about the exact technical arrangements, and he did not want to spend much time with it either.
When he was in the mood, Prabhupada would call for different devotees to play the karatalas and mrdanga and begin the recording. He liked to set up everything quickly and start at once, and he did not want to be stopped in the middle. One time, the devotees delayed in setting up the tape recorder and microphone, and when Prabhupada finally began to sing, they asked him twice to please stop because of a technical difficulty in the recording process. At the end of that particular session, the devotees discovered that the machine was defective and had not recorded at all.
“This machine is worthless,’ said Prabhupada. He then looked over to the devotee-technician and added, ‘You are worthless also.”
In 1974, at ISKCON Dallas Gurukula, one of the teachers introduced a new learning contest for the children. He called it ‘Krsna Bowl,’ modeled after a television program called ‘General Electric College Bowl.’ ‘College Bowl’ was a contest that tested the wits of the brightest college students, so Krsna Bowl was a contest to see which students had the best memory for incidents in the Krsna Book. The competing gurukula students would sit at desks facing the assembly of children and teachers, and a tense competition ensued. The questions tended to be extremely intricate, and the first student who knew the answer had to press an electric buzzer. Whoever buzzed first got to answer.
The games caused great excitement among the children and sometimes caused tears and tantrums for the losers of the game. Some of the adult devotees in Dallas wondered if maybe the whole Krsna Bowl was just so much mental speculation. One of the teachers in favor of the game wrote to Prabhupada for approval.
Prabhupada replied as follows:
“I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter regarding the Krsna Bowl game, and it should be stopped immediately. This thing will be a taxation on the brain of the young children. Why are you inventing? Why are you not satisfied? You are all only inventing and spoiling money. You teach the children perfectly Sanskrit and English instead of spoiling time and money. The children cannot pronounce correctly the Sanskrit. But then read it correctly. That is wanted first. They must pronounce nicely Sanskrit and English. The English is no difficulty. If you can do this, then your education is all right.”
Another letter from Srila Prabhupada soon followed, sent to one of the GBC representatives:
“I received one letter from Gurukula regarding the Krsna Bowl contest,” wrote Prabhupada, “and I want you to know that nothing new should be added. Whatever I’ve introduced should remain. Nothing new should be added. New things means that their brain is not clear. Carefully manage things that I have established.”
Baladeva is performing dhupa arati to Radha-Govinda, Gaura-Nitai and Srila Prabhupada. He is distracting me from trying to think of a free write word. But I had already thought of “chariot” in Vedic warfare. How fast could they go with their non-rubber tires and pulled by four horses (as Krsna and Arjuna had). But we must not impose our modern-day prejudices on the Vedic times. With the omnipotent, infallible Krsna at the reins, they could readily have surpassed the 85-miles-per-hour gasoline-driven jeeps of modern day. Krsna traversed the Battlefield of Kuruksetra wherever Arjuna asked Him to go, at incredible speed. When Krsna took Arjuna to visit Maha-Visnu’s planet, they crossed the dense material coverings of the universe in a jiffy. Similarly, any warrior trained in the Vedic martial arts could discharge thousands of arrows by mantra. They also could levitate by mantra their chariots. Thus all the rules changed when they applied Vedic science and mantras, and it is not comparable to modern times. Otherwise, how could they kill 64 million men in 18 days?
Although Radha-Govinda are only a few feet away, I cannot see clearly the details of Their facial features. Maybe I need a new eye examination. I can see Their general shapes, Their beautiful outfits, Govinda’s tri-bhanga stance, Radharani’s delicate form, Her offering a tulasi leaf to Krsna. Only the few pujaris in the ashram get to see Them in Their kunja, but we show Them on Facebook with a new set of clothes every third day; so They have a following. People send us messages how much they like to see Them. Arcye visnau sila-dhir. We must be convinced that the arca-vigraha is not a metal statue but the spiritual forms of Radha and Krsna. We read in the scriptures about devotee-worshipers who cannot see above the lotus feet—they are too effulgent for the devotee to see more than the lotus feet. Only when their vision and ecstasy calms down can they proceed to look at the upper portions of Their Lordships. In my own receiving of darsana, I first look at the lotus palm of Radharani (Prabhupada wrote that She is giving us a benediction to look at Krsna’s lotus feet). So I go from Radharani down to Krsna’s feet and stay fixed on them, or go back and forth from Radha to Krsna’s lotus feet, and then gradually to the upper portions of Krsna’s form.
Prabhupada first introduced chanting to Lord Nrsimhadeva when he had a stroke in 1967 and was hospitalized in critical condition. He told all the devotees in his temples to chant the Nrsimha prayer:
namas te narasimhaya prahladahlada-dayine
hiranyakasipor vaksaha sila-tanka-nakhalaye . . .
The devotees stayed up all night and fervently chanted the mantra. Prabhupada said their prayers saved him. A few years later, someone threw a pipe bomb into the temple room in Los Angeles. A few devotees were hurt with shrapnel. At that time, Prabhupada had the complete Nrsimhadeva mantra printed out and distributed to the devotees. He told them to chant it for protection in times of danger. He also said the devotees should pray to Lord Nrsimha to drive out their anarthas (unwanted bad habits and thoughts) so that they could proceed in pure consciousness.
Within the first weeks and months of associating with Swamiji at 26 Second Avenue in 1966, his small group of initiated devotees came to the realization that he was a self-realized, pure devotee. We didn’t know very much what that meant, but we held him in the highest esteem, above all other swamis and religionists. It didn’t take so long. Prabhupada taught that we must surrender to a pure devotee-spiritual master, and we submissively concluded that he was the one. The scriptures he brought with him and quoted said this, and he taught it in parampara. He identified himself as a surrendered devotee of his spiritual master, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, whom he impressed us was a pure devotee of his own spiritual master and Krsna. Thus Prabhupada taught us the parampara system of accepting the pure devotee spiritual master and the conclusion that he was the present, living example.
ISKCON in the 1970s was a compilation of all the diaries I kept in that decade. It contained innumerable exchanges with Srila Prabhupada and my own self-searching. Here is an excerpt:
Prabhupada, my father, my guru absorbed in the Absolute Truth, Krsna, and how to spread Krsna consciousness, a philosophy for all humanity. “No sane man will object.” Now he has gone to India to meet with the Prime Minister. ‘I am concerned about the management of my society.’ As one of his ‘ten thousand assistants,’ I have a particular duty to see that his books are being distributed to the scholarly class. ‘There are 75,000 libraries,’ he said again.
Comment: The reference to my particular duty was the Library Party. I was the sannyasi leader, and we sometimes had as many as ten brahmacaris traveling in vans in the party, quickly traversing the United States and going to every college and attempting to sell books, and especially standing orders. Each devotee wanted to have a chance to see the most likely professor, one who taught Indology or Eastern Religions. I had to mediate the group and give preference to the two main successful salesmen, Ghanashyam dasa (later Bhakti Tirtha Maharaja), and Mahabuddhi dasa. It was sometimes difficult to deny certain devotees a chance to see the top scholars. But we had to save them for our best men. I tried to settle the quarrels and keep peace and keep everyone engaged. I also went out in a suit, tie and wig and tried to sell books. But I didn’t have the natural talent to cinch a sale for a standing order with a professor who’d agree to accept all of Prabhupada’s books, including the ones he hadn’t yet published but would publish in the future. Gradually, as we sold books to the professors, they wrote letters of appreciation for Prabhupada and the books. Prabhupada was extremely pleased by these letters, and he wanted to publish them in a booklet. There was some worry that the anti-cultists would see our pamphlet and write to the professors and give a bad impression of ISKCON. But we went ahead and distributed their letters.
The Library Party was a dream assignment for a brahmacari. We were constantly on the move, staying one day at a college campus, and then moving on to the next nearest college to try our luck there in distributing Prabhupada’s books. I charted out the itinerary using a road atlas of the United States. We were subsidized by the BBT, and we had several Dodge vans. We used to sell our vans after accruing only 35,000 miles—we traded them in for new ones, because we wanted to be able to travel without worrying about breakdowns, so we always drove in relatively new vans.
After several years, when we had completely covered the U.S. universities, we asked Prabhupada if the Library Party could go to Europe. He immediately agreed with a big smile. I had been the leader-in-residence for settling disagreements in a large party. But when the Library Party went to Europe, I didn’t go also. I switched to the service of constantly lecturing in the colleges. The Party scaled down to just a few brahmacaris who traveled along with translators to speak to the professors in foreign languages. As usual, Ghanashyam and Mahabuddhi continued being the leading salesmen in Europe. A few other devotees joined them. They were able to continue to get letters of praise and recommendation from the professors in Europe. Showing them the letters of appreciation from the top professors in the field in the United States was very convincing to get new letters from the European professors. Ghanashyam was the most adventurous. He penetrated behind the Iron Curtain during the time of the Cold War and went to Eastern European countries that were under the control of the Soviet Union. He made miraculous sales. Once he even went to a university that was closed, but he met a professor in the men’s room and began talking with him and made a pitch for selling the books, and he convinced the professor to take a standing order for all of Prabhupada’s books. Ghanashyam began writing letters of report to Srila Prabhupada of his preaching, and Prabhupada became very pleased with this daring devotee-preacher.
Two classes with Professor Braune, East Connecticut State College, Willimantic. His classes really chanted nicely. Before the class we spoke some philosophy with the professor.
Everywhere we go we are respected by the professors. They want us to expose their students to the Vedic knowledge because it is so different and is related to their studies. I was preaching as a devotee, saying, “Surrender to Krsna or you’ll remain in suffering.” Now and then I would say, “According to Vedic philosophy,” in order to set things in the academic, objective tone.
Two more classes with Braune and an interview with the local newspaper. In the Oriental Philosophy course I spoke on yoga—read from Gita verses on karma, jnana, astanga and bhakti. Krsna is Yogesvara. The professor was very respectful. Eight lectures for the week.
There are many shortcomings to the college lecture program, but it is also great mercy on me and on the colleges. Professors are all respectful. Students hear for the first time that God is real, Vedic literature is real, bhakti is the purest thing, and perhaps their professors are speculating. Two lectures today—in the last one I covered all Vedic literature and its siddhanta and defended sruti and the Personality of Godhead. Simply I spoke from “the authentic tradition since time immemorial” as the professor (Miller) said, “Jaya!”
I’m grateful to the Lord and my spiritual master for letting me engage in some service I can do.
Dhanurdhara Swami has a friend named Jan who was his friend in high school and is now a lawyer. He wrote to DDS as follows:
“I told you I found Satsvarupa’s book in a bin of free books at TBC, Looking Back, Volume 1. I read some of it when I got home—just great, couldn’t stop. He has a really interesting style, an adventurous approach. Reminds me of the Beats in some ways, but of course he has the taste of devotion.
“I wonder if he is able to have any disciples with his unfortunate headaches, and what he does all day. I got the feeling when I saw him that he is not very active. Does he still have that nice devotee taking care of him?
“Well, if you see him, tell him I am enjoying his book, and I hope he is feeling better.”
I wrote an email to Jan and thanked him for his appreciation of my book. I admitted that I was inactive. I told him that I had arthritis in my legs and that I couldn’t move except by pushing a four-wheeled walker. But my mind is active. I post a weekly Free Write Journal on SDGLegacy.com. It comes out new every Friday. I also publish two books a year. All of my books can be seen posted at SDGLegacy.com
Manjari Singh sent me a color photo of Prabhupada honoring prasadam with his disciples at a life member’s house in India. Prabhupada has an ornate small silver table in front of him. His aristocratic hand is delicately picking at the prasadam on his plate, and he looks meditative. In the picture, I am sitting directly to the right of him. My hand appears not as delicate as Prabhupada’s. He is fingering the prasadam, but I am shoving it into my mouth. But it’s a wonderful discovery, this intimate picture of sitting beside Prabhupada on the same level and relishing krsna-prasadam. This was a rare event, and I’m so glad Manjari discovered the picture.
I would begin by telling him the example that Prabhupada gives. If you have a ticket to go to Bombay, it won’t take you to Calcutta. Different paths lead to different goals. In the Bhagavad-gita, speaking as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna says that the path of personalism (bhakti-yoga) is easy and is superior to the impersonal path where one seeks to merge into the existence of God. He says the impersonal path is very troublesome and difficult. If one insists on thinking all spiritual teachings and all teachers are saying the same things, he or she is displaying a poor fund of knowledge. The ancient Vedic literature teaches that there are many paths in spiritual life, but some are superior to others. There is the path of karma-yoga, jnana-yoga, dhyana-yoga and finally the highest, bhakti-yoga. They are like steps on a ladder. At the conclusion of Bhagavad-gita Krsna says, “Just give up all types of religion and surrender to Me. I will protect you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.” (Bg. 18.66)
When I wrote this, I was trying to become closer to Srila Prabhupada and have exclusive faith in him as my guru. I alternated going to the actual Prabhupada Samadhi Mandir and going to his more quiet residential room attached to the temple building. I went with a notepad, tried to contemplate, and wrote down my external and internal impressions:
“Our brahmacari is sweeping up the leaves and the puddle, cleaning his heart. He wears the Vaisnava tilaka clear and artistically in twelve places.
“Now another large group enters. Today they are well-dressed, not villagers with worn-out clothes, but city folk—men in fashionable Western clothes, ladies in clean saris. Some remind you of Americans—blue jeans, caps with beaks, fat mammas.
“The crowds move in and out, like breathing. Sometimes it’s quiet and empty and then it fills up. Srila Prabhupada draws them in and then lets them go, draws them in and then lets them go.
“It would be nice if everyone had more to do with Srila Prabhupada and became his follower, chanting on japa mala and reading his Bhagavad-gita As It Is. The Centennial aims to increase public awareness of Srila Prabhupada, and I’ll try to do something too.
“He himself says that people are not interested be-cause they are attached to sense gratification. Srila Prabhupada insists, ‘No illicit sex, no intoxication, no meat-eating, and no gambling. Chant Hare Krsna at least sixteen rounds.’ For most people, even for a lord of England, this is ‘impossible.’
“I look up and can’t even see Srila Prabhupada. A solid wall of visitors blocks my view. I wonder what they are thinking as they look up to him. I can’t help but feel it’s incomplete, the half-a-moment in which their minds and senses are arrested by the shiny golden murti, and then they’re out the door again.
“Out of thousands, only a few seek perfection. Out of those who achieve perfection, hardly one knows Me in truth.” What is true for Sri Krsna is also true for His pure representative. Hardly one knows Srila Prabhupada in truth.”
“A new-generation brahmacari sits before you, Srila Prabhupada, chanting japa. He’s so young. I think, ‘I’m senior.’ What does that mean? Do I think it means that I should be given honor and privilege? It means I should do more. I should know more and give more. I should freely tell your pastimes to others and assure them of their relationship with you. I should speak from my own experience and encourage them about the power of reading your books. That’s what being senior means. It means taking responsibility.
“The letter on your desk today is to Kesava dasa, January 1972. Big, strong Kesava, Karandhara’s brother. Karandhara was the captain of L.A., and Kesava was the captain of San Francisco. Those good old days. He requested initiation for many boys. ‘I have been receiving so many reports about how my disciples of the San Francisco temple cannot be surpassed in distributing my books. Sometimes they are selling as many as 70 Krsna Books daily.’
“The beginning of the tidal wave of book distribution in America. ‘By hook or by crook.’ How did they do it? Kesava used to say, ‘No secret. Just go out and try.’ They were determined and enthusiastic.
“‘By distributing my books profusely, you are giving me great encouragement to translate. And you are all helping me to fulfill the order which my Guru Maharaja gave me. So I am so much grateful to you, and I am sure Krsna will bless you a million times over for doing this work.’
“That famous ‘million times’ line—all ISKCON knew about it. ‘I hope you, all my beloved disciples in San Francisco are in strong health and jolly mood.’
Prabhupada includes his upcoming itinerary in the P.S.—Jaipur, Bombay, Nairobi, Mayapur, Hong Kong, Sydney, Tokyo, Hawaii ‘and then return to U.S.’
“. . . I see the light from your desk lamp shining on your lap. Your left hand is touching the mattress. You have fine hands. The mattress is covered with clean white sheets. The bell is tolling eleven.”
I remember walking on parikrama around the town of Vrndavana early in the morning with a group of my disciples. It would take two or three hours to complete circumambulation, unless you walked like Mahanidhi Swami, in which case it would take much shorter. He would zip past us at a speedy pace. We went slowly and stopped at designated spots to speak krsna-katha and read from the Krsna Book. “This is the place where Lord Caitanya sat.” There were many Deities in small temples and in peoples’ homes. I recall a Deity of Krsna who was dressed in very simple clothes, but He was cleaned regularly and gave off an effulgence. Devotees sometimes asked me esoteric questions about Krsna and I wasn’t able to answer, mostly we just chanted our japa as we walked. It was a sublime, purifying experience.
There used to be a Jagannatha ashram for sadhus which was right on the path of the parikrama. The pilgrims would walk right into the area where the sadhus were going about their business washing clothes, sitting in a room chanting, walking around in kaupinas while their cloth was drying. They seemed uninterested in the parikrama going by, and on certain days there were large amounts of pilgrims passing through their ashram. I used to go out in the 1980s and it was still old Vrndavana, with “enchanting sands.” Not macadam roads, many chirping birds and a peaceful atmosphere. Mangala-aratis would begin, and they were executed, with clanging bells and gongs, in dissonance. You would hear cries of “Jaya Radhe!” in the darkness. In the area between Kaliya-ghat and Kesi-ghat, the monkeys were very active in stealing people’s eyeglasses, so it was best to take off your glasses and hide them. Most everyone would walk down the steps of the Kesi-ghata and put a few drops of the Yamuna on their heads. You would see sadhus wearing old blankets, hunched over and smoking bidis. In the early morning, there would be a lot of coughing as sadhus used tongue scrapers and wretched their throats. Our devotees used to call them “Vrndavana warblers.” As the sun rose, Vrajavasis would start their morning cooking fires with cow dung. A distinct smell permeated the air with pleasant smoke. Even though it might be cold, we passed many people taking baths, either immersing in the Yamuna or washing themselves from a pump or with a bucket.
Baladeva’s sister Kathi is a committed, practicing Buddhist. She gave me two books by a rinpoche (“cherished teacher”), and she is giving me a book by a monk called Kamarpa. He is the head of a Buddhist lineage, just as the Dalai Lama is the head of another lineage. The Dalai Lama emphasizes scholarly teachings, whereas Kamarpa concentrates on meditation. I am not interested in reading the techniques and doctrines of Buddhism. But I enjoyed the autobiography of the rinpoche and look forward to Kamarpa’s story and how they endured the oppression of the Chinese in Tibet and finally escaped and found asylum in India or other countries. Kathi is visiting us for several days. She is a very sociable and likeable person, but she is distracting us from our regular program of reading the Bhagavatam out loud for an hour and a half at lunch. We have been sparing her from that. But we are a little over-satiated with her Buddhism entertainments, and we have decided to go back to reading out loud from the Bhagavatam even in her presence, at least for the first half hour of lunch.
We devotees of ISKCON have been told by Prabhupada that we should not step on Govardhana Hill. The Vrajavasis climb on Govardhana Hill regularly, but we consider it too sacred to walk upon. My favorite Govardhana lila is Krsna’s lifting the Hill on the pinkie of His left hand to make it an umbrella and protect all the residents of Vrndavana from the flooding rains sent by angry Indra. This was the first miraculous pastime that Krsna displayed at seven years old, and it was witnessed by all the Vrajavasis. Previously, His extraordinary feats like the killing of Putana, the pulling down of the twin arjuna trees, etc., were all believed by the elders of Vrndavana to have been performed by Lord Visnu to protect baby Krsna because He was so pious. I love the pastime of the lifting of Govardhana Hill. Even though we cannot walk on Govardhana Hill, devotees can gather pebbles or rocks, with the permission of a Vrajavasi, and worship them as Krsna murtis just as good as the statues in the temples. There is a spot at the base of Govardhana Hill which has impressions of Krsna and Balarama’s lunch plates. The boys would fan out around Krsna and Balarama and take lunch with Him. There are smooth places in the rocks where Krsna and the boys used to slide in playing. There is also a large footprint of Krsna on Govardhana Hill. There was a Deity of Gopinatha on the top of Govardhana Hill. Lord Caitanya (and later Rupa Gosvami) did not think they could walk up to see Gopinatha because walking on the Hill was too sacred. Knowing their minds, Gopinatha came down the Hill on the plea that the Muslims were going to attack, and Gopinatha was kept safely in a devotee’s home. In this way, both Lord Caitanya and Rupa Gosvami received darsana of Gopinatha.
There are two opinions about the identity of Govardhana. The gopis said that Govardhana is the best servant of Krsna, because Govardhana Hill provides caves, minerals, flowing rivers, and especially very edible grass for the cows. But in the Govardhana lila section of the Tenth Canto, Krsna conducts Govardhana puja and leads the devotees in the worship of Govardhana Hill. He expands Himself into a huge form and eats all the offerings they have brought. By this evidence, it is concluded that Govardhana is Krsna Himself. With this in mind, devotees collect pebbles from Govarhana and worship them, just as they would worship the Deity of Krsna in the temple. I prefer the version that Govardhana is Krsna Himself.