Bala Gopal devi dasi Remembers Srila Prabhupada

Following Srila Prabhupada

Interview DVD 05

Bala Gopal: This is Svati’s son, Sivajvara. Prabhupada holding onto his hand and Sivajvara doesn’t quite know… He wants him to let go. But every day—Sivajvara got a lot of mercy—every single day he would come out there, and he would have a lot of interaction with Srila Prabhupada. It was very sweet.

In 1971, Prabhupada had a pandal in Delhi, the first pandal, and these Deities were used for the pandal. Then afterwards They were just sitting. Then there was discussion that we would eventually get a new temple because Bury Place was becoming too small. So then Prabhupada mentioned that these Deities were available. So immediately Dhananjaya called up India and started the action of, “Can we get these Deities over here?” So it was already set in motion, and then Srila Prabhupada asked, “Well, where is the money?” Because one man had volunteered to pay for the Deities to be sent over but he hadn’t handed the money in hand, and Prabhupada said, “No.” He said, “Don’t do anything until you get the cash in hand,” because we had no extra money at all. So when Dhananjaya called again to try to stop—wait until we get the money—the Deities somehow, they had cleared Them through customs and They were already on Their way. So Prabhupada made the comment, he said, “Well, if Krishna wants to come, who can stop Him?” So then Radha Gokulananda arrived, and They sat up in the pujari room in Bury Place for about a year before They came out here. We hadn’t had the Manor, we didn’t even know where we were going to have a temple at that point. Then Bhaktivedanta Manor was found, and so Radha Gokulananda were always destined to come to the new temple wherever it was going to be in England. They came with seven outfits. It was meant to be installed on Janmastami, and we did it on Janmastami. Now he’s offering. This is the first offering to the Deities, and Prabhupada is personally offering the Deities Their bhoga. Prabhupada is very involved in the whole installation. He comes down into the temple room. They’re about to offer him a garland, he doesn’t accept the garland because there’s none on the Deities. Then he personally supervises the bathing of the Deities. Then he personally supervises the men that carry the Deities and put Them up. Then Malati dressed Krishna, I dressed Radharani. Then he came in. Personally he’s hurrying us up to dress the Deities quickly. Prabhupada was you do it in a certain amount of time.

When you got to do personal service to Srila Prabhupada, I always felt like I was in another world. You were just so wrapped up in the service that you were performing and so intent on doing it that everything else…almost nothing else…probably the world could have blown up around you and you wouldn’t have noticed that that had happened. So this is Prabhupada doing this arati, and to be personally so involved and be able to dress the Deities and being in the Deity room when Prabhupada offered the prasadam and now doing the arati, it was definitely a very exceptional feeling. And after, you’ll see when he comes to the point where he starts circumambulating the Deities and then invites the whole temple room into the Deity room, there’s a lot of space. This is a big room so there’s space behind the altar. There were very few occasions I felt this amazing energy. Every time Prabhupada danced or he raised up his hands for people to dance, there was this energy and the whole…everyone felt it and you were just lifted off your feet by this ecstatic energy. To be able to do that with Srila Prabhupada and dance with him so closely, it was absolutely amazing.

It was a very full day because Shyamasundar had invited all these dignitaries. So there were all these people that came in the evening time for Janmastami.

Interview DVD 06

Bala Gopal: At the time, Prabhupada wasn’t very well. So he was traveling with his own personal cook, who was Satsvarupa Maharaj. But when they arrived, they had just come from India, Satsvarupa had hepatitis. So then it was decided that I would be his cook. So because of that, Prabhupada was very involved in the cooking. So on three different occasions he came into the kitchen, and on this one particular time he came in to cook lunch and he cooked the whole meal along with me and whoever was helping, Narmada. For some reason, I’m pretty sure we made asparagus that day. I had cooked for him previously, but one of Prabhupada’s endearing qualities was his pure innocence. He would come into the kitchen, and this was a very, very tiny room. Prabhupada would walk into the kitchen and he’d see a bowl of chickpeas. He’d point at everything, “What is that?” He was just so curious, but never imposing. He would just be pure innocence – “What is this? What is this? What is this?” – curious about everything. So we had a couple Italian devotees cook an Italian preparation on a few days and Prabhupada inquired what it was before he ate it, but he enjoyed them.