Bhurijana das Remembers Srila Prabhupada

Prabhupada Memories

Interview 01

Bhurijana: I was a university student at State University of New York at Buffalo. The first time I was introduced to the notion of Prabhupada was when I saw an interview of Hayagriva. He said he was walking down the street and he met a swami, and he described him with his pointed shoes. I thought, “Why doesn’t something like that ever happen to me?” Very soon after that I saw the devotees with Prabhupada on another television show, and I thought the whole look of the devotees was attractive. I remembered some of the things Prabhupada had said that I thought were funny. The interviewer asked him how old he was. Prabhupada said, “Seventy years old,” and just so naturally, he said, “And I still have all my teeth.” He just smiled and said that in such a relaxed way that I was impressed by him. Then they asked him, “Are you liberated?” Prabhupada said, “Yes. It’s all my disciples.” It was just so captivating.

When Prabhupada came back from his trip to India where he had gone to recuperate after his heart attack, he went to 26 Second Avenue in New York. Rupanuga, who was teaching a yoga course at the university, sent me and another student in the middle of winter to see Prabhupada. We hitchhiked from Buffalo to New York City, and when we got there, we took a train across town. We arrived just when Prabhupada was beginning his class. We walked into a room that was full of souls who were listening to Prabhupada. Previous to hearing this class I had been listening to Prabhupada’s Happening album over and over, so I could understand his accent quite well. Even so, I don’t remember anything specific from his lecture, but I remember my first reaction was that he reminded me of my grandfather. He was elderly but so powerful. I also remembered that I had a question in my mind before seeing Prabhupada because I had a conception of what a perfect person was like. I was wondering whether he would stop at a red light at an intersection or whether he would continue walking in the crosswalk. It was a peculiar wonder. When there was no traffic, does he follow all the rules? When I had the opportunity to go with him on a walk, I saw that Prabhupada stopped at a red light, looked both ways, and just walked across the street. Immediately I understood how practical Krishna consciousness was and how practical Prabhupada was. He was theoretically and philosophically and spiritually fixed but always feet on the ground and practical. He also said in the early days that he wanted to project a letter that someone had sent him onto the wall so others could easily read it. I don’t remember the exact content of the letter, but he felt it was very significant. He told his servants, “From now on we should always carry a projector with us.” I understood from that comment that Prabhupada was certainly willing to use technology in the service of preaching. I heard Prabhupada say at 26 Second Avenue in 1968 two sort of handy phrases that really stuck in my mind and that I found very practical. One is, “If something is auspicious, do it immediately, and if something is inauspicious, put it off.” I use that all the time, still to this day, fifty years later. The other one was, “Something is better than nothing.” That one I forgot about. Now I will start using it again, “Something is better than nothing.” It is such common sense. It’s so practical that if someone can do something, it’s certainly better than doing nothing. Now that I think about it, it is very helpful for devotees in dealing with each other. We could see the good in the person’s attempt at Krishna consciousness, especially the eternal value in something that someone has done. I remember one time in Melbourne all the devotees were sitting together. Prabhupada was speaking to us in such a way that made us feel like we were all compassionate because we were doing such compassionate work. He made us feel like we were deeply compassionate, but at least for myself I was thinking, “I don’t have a drop of compassion in me really.” But he was speaking to that part of you that was the most sincere part of you because he wanted that part to grow. I saw that very clearly in him as a teacher and a very expert teacher. But an expert teacher has more than one methodology in his repertoire, in his toolbox. So he knew when to use which technique for the benefit of the person. Sometimes he chastised, yes, because everyone did have such potential, and in the beginning days the training was more individualistic. Later on, because there were so many devotees, not as many had personal contact with him and few could ask questions directly. He didn’t necessarily participate in their lives in a personal way. They only saw him when he came to the temple and then generally only during the Bhagavatam class and the Bhagavad-gita class. Yet Prabhupada’s potency was such that everyone felt that they had such a strong, personal, individual relationship with him.

One time in Melbourne, only my wife Jagattarini, Tusta Krishna Swami and I were in the room with Prabhupada right after he woke up from his afternoon nap. He walked out, sat down and said, “They write me so many letters and they say, ‘Dear Prabhupada, I am the most fallen, insignificant soul, and I have a great problem.’” Then he sort of laughed in a knowing, disappointed way and said, “Just see.” It took me a long time to understand what was disappointing in that. Then after a while, I could understand that if you are an insignificant soul, insignificant souls can’t have great problems. You can only have an insignificant problem. Then Prabhupada responded to his own comment by saying, “I wish I could train all my disciples personally, but what can I do?” I learned many things from that encounter. One was that I very much doubt that most of the devotees, myself included, could have handled the kind of intensity of training and the full surrender required to be in the presence of someone like Prabhupada, never mind, Prabhupada himself. To be in Prabhupada’s presence, you were in the presence of fire, so you have to be fire yourself. You had to be fired up. You had to be able to see things from his point of view. It was Krishna’s arrangement in some sense that we didn’t get as much personal association as we would have loved to have had because it took so much surrender. But I also saw that we would have really, on the other hand, benefited from that personal touch and the individual training. I saw that when he was dealing with my wife Jagattarini. One time he told her in Fiji, “Act as a maidservant of your husband.” She responded in a very clear-headed way, “I wasn’t trained in that way.” Prabhupada said, “But if something is better, you should accept it.” Prabhupada wasn’t trying to be politically correct with respect to what is culturally relevant and accepted in the world today. He didn’t really consider that. But she was convinced by his instruction because it was very personal and intimate. It was his personal touch that really moved her heart. Being in Hong Kong proved to be a very difficult time for us. We were all alone for many, many years. I am from New York, but Hong Kong was more intense and materialistic than New York. It was very difficult. I don’t want to go into all the difficulties that were there, but we were struggling. When Prabhupada came and visited us in Hong Kong in 1974, he was very strong. He chastised me especially, and Jagattarini also was feeling that intensity. I was in the room with Prabhupada in the Hong Kong Hilton and Jagattarini was outside the door. She didn’t even want to come into Prabhupada’s presence. To some degree that sounds incomprehensible because why wouldn’t you want to be in Prabhupada’s presence? But Prabhupada was Prabhupada. He could be very strong, and if you weren’t ready for that strong presence, it was very difficult.

He asked me in a very personal way, “How is your wife doing with this?” He understood that she had actually sacrificed so much to join the movement. He used to say that she sacrificed three things: (i) she was an actress, quite an up-and-coming actress, and she gave that up, (ii) she had gone to Hong Kong on Prabhupada’s order, and (iii) she had married me, which was, of course, an austerity. It was an arranged marriage and on top of that we were married on the first day we met. That’s so culturally impossible for someone brought up in the West, but she did it, and after fifty years we are still married. It was just Prabhupada’s mercy. In any case, he very much appreciated her. He asked me how my wife was doing. I said, “Not very good. She is struggling.” He said, “Bring her in.” [starts crying] So I brought her in. Then he directed her to sit in front of him. He took off a ring from his finger—a gold ring—and gave it to her. Of course, she melted and she still has that ring today. But this was a different Prabhupada than Prabhupada just sitting on the vyasasan. Most of the devotees had that relationship with him, the defender of the Gaudiya sampradaya, the simha-guru sitting on the vyasasan. That was one aspect of Prabhupada. Prabhupada had many aspects. In this case, Prabhupada’s presence obviously really helped her. His presence gave us life. Not only for us, but his presence was the life of the movement. I am sure she would be more emotional than I am right now, remembering it. But if she were sitting here next to me, we’d both need towels. She still has the ring, of course. It’s her life. What could you have that is more of a treasure than that? Because it’s a gesture of the person’s affection, deep affection. The two are mixed together and are inseparable. One time in the middle of the night, fairly recently, she unconsciously took the ring off and couldn’t find it when she woke up. The next morning, however, somehow I found it. So I was the hero. [laughs] One time when Prabhupada was talking, he just gazed out over the whole valley and spoke about the scientists. He said, “They have the power of the bomb to make all the leaves fall off, destroy the trees too. But they are limited in power in that they don’t have the power to refresh the tree and bring back its leaves.” One time Devananda came out with a plate of fruit. Prabhupada would take some fruit and then the servant would pass it around for us to take the remnants. At one point before I had arrived, someone gave me some brilliant advice, “Eat the leftover part from Prabhupada, such as an orange peel. It is even better than just taking something off of his plate.” When Prabhupada saw that I had just eaten the orange peel, he looked at me and said, “It’s digestible.” It was just so funny and so relaxed. Prabhupada could be the most serious and grave acharya and yet he could be just the most friendly of grandfathers as well.

Another time when I first arrived in Vrindavan, Prabhupada called me upstairs. One of the first things he said to me was, “Have you heard the tape?” I said, “No.” Then he put on a tape of a studio recording the devotees had sent from Los Angeles. Visnujana was singing “vande ‘ham” and Prabhupada was playing the mridanga. Accompanying Prabhupada and imitating his beat was another devotee from San Francisco named Jivananda. I don’t know exactly how to describe it, but suddenly the sound even coming from a tape recorder created the greatest spiritual surround sound atmosphere. It was like the spiritual world opened up. It was so sweet and we just started dancing. I remember Arundhati was in the room and we just started dancing at the same time. One time I gave a Bhagavatam class and it was odd because Prabhupada was right upstairs listening. But somehow or other I wasn’t especially nervous because I didn’t think he was really listening. But he actually was listening. I remember the content of the class because it was about Sukadeva’s conversion from being an impersonalist to a personalist by the mercy of Vyasadeva teaching him the Bhagavatam. Devananda asked me, “Does Sukadeva’s impersonalism mean that it was his personal preference or does it mean that the personal is higher than the impersonal?” Of course, after asking a question like that, we all ganged up on him and everyone answered him and let him have it. I did my part too. I probably said something like, “If you are an impersonalist, how could you have a personal preference?” Then right after the class, I went up to see Prabhupada in his room. He said, “So they put the question to you, did they?” I said, “Yes.” He laughed. Then Arundhati, who was there, asked the question, “Why do impersonalists fall down? Why is it necessary that they fall down?” That was part of someone’s answer because that’s what we had heard. I have to say in 1968 our depth of understanding wasn’t so great. Anyway, she asked in a very sincere way, “Why do impersonalists always fall down?” Prabhupada thought for a while, and it was like he was thinking, “How can I explain this to these children?” Then he answered in such a simple way. He said, “Because they get lonely.” There is a volume of philosophical import to that answer. The nature of the soul is to be actively engaged with other living entities. We see everywhere in the world and with every soul—from the birds to the dogs to the monkeys—without relationships everyone gets lonely. What will satisfy our loneliness is, of course, Krishna. Prabhupada was saying that without developing that relationship with Krishna, even if we rise to the impersonal brahman, the existential loneliness that plagues everyone’s heart, just won’t go away. There was a lot in that simple statement, “They get lonely.”

Prabhupada was sitting in his upstairs room and sometimes in the afternoon devotees would visit with him. He was so relaxed and he was so peaceful inside and happy. He said to the four or five devotees who were sitting there, “The secret of Krishna consciousness is to arrange your life in such a way that you cannot forget Krishna for a moment.” When you read Prabhupada’s books, that’s really the secret of Krishna consciousness, and that’s what Mahaprabhu said, “kirtaniya sada hari.” Prabhupada himself was always engaged and it’s just so hard to do if you are not a pure soul. This is my realization. You can make an intellectual adjustment and say, “From now on I am only going to think about Krishna,” but when you are a conditioned soul, you just can’t do it. You can’t do it by intelligence. But if you have love for Krishna, you want to engage in Krishna’s service. It’s natural, as stated in the Brahma-samhita, “premanjana-cchurita-bhakti-vilocanena” (Brahma-samhita 5.38). Prabhupada’s explanation was very practical. Everything should be somehow or other connected to Krishna. There should be no duality in your life—this is for Krishna; this is not for Krishna. So it calls for a depth of consciousness. After Prabhupada said, “The secret of Krishna consciousness is to arrange your life in such a way that you cannot forget Krishna for a moment,” he turned to Brahmananda prabhu, and he said, “Isn’t that right Brahmananda?” Brahmananda just laughed and said, “Yes. It’s not that hard,” because Brahmananda followed whatever mood that Prabhupada had. In fact, Brahmananda many years later told me, “When Prabhupada wanted someone to say ‘Yes,’ he called on me. And when he wanted someone to think independently, he called on Tamal Krishna Maharaj.” When Prabhupada came to Japan in 1969, I was already there. He had sent me there to help Sudama prabhu, Bali Mardana and Cintamani. He sent his disciples to these places with nothing, practically speaking, except faith in his order. Prabhupada had given Sudama some instructions. He said, “Dress in silk and wear flower garlands and the people will appreciate it.” Also, Sudama told me that when they were looking at a map before he left, Prabhupada got down on the floor with him and was pointing out Tokyo and other locations. [chuckles] Then in 1970 Prabhupada came to Japan very unexpectedly. As soon as I saw Prabhupada at the airport, without knowing anything, he looked so much older and more grave. I began to cry immediately just seeing him like that. Later we found out the reason for him coming. We heard that there was a conspiracy against him. The devotees weren’t passing his mail to him directly. They were also leaving off his title, Founder-Acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, when writing his name in the publications. We couldn’t understand what was going on, but there was something very, very tense. Prabhupada was traveling with many of his leading disciples at that time. He had called them all to Los Angeles and the mood, as we heard later, was to extricate him out from a very dangerous situation. Many of them also came to Japan with Prabhupada and then accompanied him to India. One of the lessons I learned from this was that Prabhupada took a very difficult situation, in which he felt his movement was being threatened as well as his own position and relationship with the movement, and he turned it into something positive. This is the perfection of Krishna consciousness: to use everything in Krishna’s service, even a most difficult situation. Prabhupada turned this negative situation into an opportunity to open up the biggest preaching field in the world, which was India. One of the amazing things that happened in Japan was that one young Canadian boy, who was Japanese by origin, was interested in Krishna consciousness. His name was Bruce Enomoto. He was continuing on with something from a previous life because he was living outside as a recluse, translating from Japanese into English. He was living alone, following all the principles, chanting sixteen rounds a day, but he had no inclination to move into the temple. When Prabhupada came through Japan, Prabhupada decided he wanted to bring Bruce to Calcutta with him along with the rest of the party. Amazingly, Bruce, who later became Bhanu Swami, was singled out and immediately put into such a prominent position. He is still translating, like a wildfire, the ancient Vaishnava texts into English. Prabhupada first gave these people sannyasa and said, “By preaching they will become purified.” Then, while Prabhupada was still in Japan, there was some meeting in New Vrindavan and a few of his disciples were preaching that Prabhupada was God. The reason Prabhupada left the United States was because he was dissatisfied and unhappy that people weren’t recognizing his actual position. It was quite extreme because they were sannyasis, and practically speaking, they were the only sannyasis at that time, and so much respect was given to them. There were devotees who were confused, and of course, there were devotees who were not confused as well. There was an altercation in New Vrindavan. The devotees, such as Rupanuga prabhu and others, defeated those few who thought Prabhupada was God. All this information was being transferred to Prabhupada in Japan at that time. So Prabhupada excommunicated those devotees from the movement who were preaching the misconception about his position. When they started saying he was God, that was too much across the philosophical boundaries, and he excommunicated them. But he was always so concerned for them. I heard a story later on that Prabhupada had sent Brahmananda to Pakistan, and he sent Gargamuni to Bangladesh. Then some news came to Prabhupada months later when he was in Bombay that American Hare Krishnas were killed during the Pakistani uprising. Prabhupada was in complete anxiety about Brahmananda’s safety. Despite thinking of him as a conspirator and despite the philosophical topsy-turvyness of what they were preaching, Prabhupada never internally rejected them at all. Rather, he was in anxiety about their health and welfare. That was, of course, very touching. Gargamuni was a sannyasi and he was distributing books for Prabhupada in the Calcutta temple. Gargamuni would break open the lock and take whatever books he wanted. Prasannatma, who was in charge of the books, went to Prabhupada and complained, “You’ve put me in charge of the books, but how can I do my job when Gargamuni just breaks the lock and takes anything he wants?” Prabhupada said, “Let him do what he wants. He helped me so much in the early days.” It wasn’t at all mechanical with Prabhupada. He appreciated so much the service that the devotees did, whether it appeared that he appreciated it or not. But the appreciation was so deep within him. I could say for myself, because of whatever little service I did, I am here because of Prabhupada’s tolerance only. Prabhupada was in Tokyo for his own Vyasa-puja in 1970. The ceremony wasn’t done to his satisfaction, so he instructed Tamal Krishna Maharaj how to organize it properly, and he allowed us to do it a second time the next day. One thing I remember from those instructions was that the most senior person should offer the arati to Prabhupada. Another thing I remember was the order in which Prabhupada had us offer the flowers to him at his lotus feet. It was sannyasis first, then householders along with their wives, and then brahmacaris. That was how he explained the proper order for offering flowers, and he specifically said householders with their wives. When we were in Hong Kong, Prabhupada was very strong with us. He wanted the Hong Kong temple to continue. He didn’t want us to leave. In other words, he insisted that we stay. He never let on to us that he understood how difficult it was just to be there alone and struggling in such a materialistic place. He didn’t show us sympathy in any external manner. Then one day many years later, I was in Sridham Mayapur listening to a Bhagavatam class given by Subhag Maharaj. He told the story of how he was with Prabhupada in London, and suddenly a tear glided down from Prabhupada’s eye down his cheek. He asked Prabhupada why he was crying. What caused that tear to fall? Subhag Maharaj related Prabhupada’s words, “I am thinking about my disciples in Hong Kong and how much they are suffering.” But Prabhupada never let onto us that he understood how difficult it was. He was very strong with us. But he knew, and his blessings really manifested thousands and thousands of times over. I could say in my life, I have considered what my greatest regret is in my life, and it’s that I couldn’t fulfill his desire to stay in Hong Kong no matter how difficult it was. We were just kids basically, but still, if I could have just pleased Prabhupada and satisfied his desire, I would have made him happy. That would have been the benefit. When Prabhupada visited Hong Kong for the first time in 1972, we had a big program for him in the Park Hotel. There were some Chinese people who attended, but the guests were mostly from India. At the end of the class, Prabhupada asked if there were any questions. One young boy, Lalu, maybe ten years old, who was in one of our children’s Sunday school classes, asked the question he had asked me weeks and weeks prior about Krishna. We used to read to them stories from the Krishna Book and he asked me then, “Who started the forest fire?” I told him, “Prabhupada is coming in a few weeks. Why don’t you ask Prabhupada?” So now, Lalu raised his hand and out of nowhere asked Prabhupada, “Who started the forest fire?” Prabhupada said, “Who started the forest fire?” Then he answered philosophically. He said, “No one starts the forest fire. This is the nature of the material world—samsara-davanala-lidha-loka.” (Sri Gurv-astaka, 1) Prabhupada began to preach philosophically about how there is always the forest fire of material existence, always difficulties one after the next. It was such a surprising thing that this young boy remembered his question that I had forgotten he had asked previously, which brings up another point. When taking care of children, we should be very careful because they have better memories than we realize. They remember a lot of things that we may not wish them to remember. [chuckles] They remember everything. When Prabhupada came to Hong Kong, I had a habit of wanting to offer him gold because someone had once told me that gold is good for one’s health. Of course, we were concerned with Prabhupada’s health. Larry Mack, who was helping with Spiritual Sky incense at that time, went to China to purchase some incense sticks, and he asked if he could bring back a gift for Prabhupada. I told him, “Why don’t you bring him some gold?” He ended up buying a ladies bracelet out of eighteen carat gold that was intricately designed at the cost of two hundred fifty dollars. When Prabhupada was there in the Park Hotel, I introduced him to Larry and told him that he was helping Spiritual Sky. I said, “Prabhupada, he has a gift for you.” Larry pulled out the ladies bracelet and he put it on Prabhupada. Later on when we were on the plane going to Japan, Prabhupada asked me, “Is this bracelet for a lady or for a sannyasi?” I said, “Prabhupada, it’s for your health and it cost two hundred fifty dollars,” which was a lot in those days. He said, “Oh!” and he accepted it like that. I gave Prabhupada quite a few pieces of gold over time. Once I gave him an ID bracelet that said “PRABHUPADA” on it. I have heard that bracelet ended up in the Bhaktivedanta Manor safe. Another time I gave Prabhupada a twenty-four carat gold ring that said, “Jai ISKCON” on it. Then one other ring I gave to Prabhupada just had a “P” on it. Years later I saw Prabhupada still had that ring. I said, “Prabhupada, you still have that ring?” He said, “Yes, it is a good ring.” Later on he ended up giving it to someone, and he said, “I am not attached.” Prior to him giving it away, however, Sudama noticed the ring while he was massaging Prabhupada. He asked him, “Oh, Prabhupada! I see you have a new ring.” “Yes.” “Who gave it to you?” Prabhupada just looked at me, turned back and said, “Oh, someone.” It was so subtle and intimate at the same time. He could have said, “Oh, Bhurijana gave that to me.” But he just made it so personal and in that way it was like a secret that only he and I shared. It was a special moment. One morning in Hong Kong in 1972 we went on a morning walk to Kowloon Park, which is near where our temple was. I knew something about Chinese history and why China was so prone toward communism and atheism, so I began to explain my understanding to Prabhupada. Prabhupada replied, “They don’t know anything about religion.” He clearly drew a distinction between things done in the name of religion and true religion, which means following the words of the Supreme Lord and prema pum-artho mahan, to learn to love Krishna and the pure practices of Krishna consciousness. So rather than saying, “Oh, now I understand why they don’t like religion,” he said, “They don’t actually understand religion.” That was very telling. I think the point that Prabhupada was making was that the material world is a very difficult place, even in an opulent place like Hong Kong. Hong Kong was very opulent compared to a poverty-stricken place. Still there are so many problems and there is still poverty. People who have the karma to be poverty-stricken are destitute even in the most opulent circumstance. Prabhupada made that point about seeing the derelicts in the Bowery as well. He was surprised to see in the midst of all the opulence in America, there were people who had the karma for suffering. One can’t avoid one’s karma. Prabhupada would make the point that instead of trying to avoid your karma, better to learn how to use your human life to love Krishna. In 1974 Prabhupada stayed in the Hong Kong Hilton in the same suite where the Shah of Iran had stayed. The suite was so large that we held a press conference there for Prabhupada. It was quite full with reporters and they asked him many questions. The first question was, “You preach against materialism and the acquirement of wealth, but here you are living in this very posh penthouse.” The reporter was trying to point out what appeared to him to be hypocrisy in what Prabhupada was doing. Prabhupada’s consciousness was so clear, and he was never intimidated by any kind of question direct or otherwise trying to catch him. First Prabhupada started explaining philosophically that, “Everything belongs to Krishna; therefore, renunciation means to use everything in Krishna’s service.” You can imagine the reporter’s face went completely blank when that one was presented to him. Then Prabhupada decided on a different tact to respond to this challenge. He said, “For me, as far as I am concerned, I can live under a tree.” Practically speaking, Prabhupada did that in 1977 when he was living in Bhubaneswar; he was bathing out of a well in the mornings at the Kumbha-mela. He didn’t have that kind of attachment to opulence. “But as far as I am concerned,” Prabhupada said, “I can live under a tree. But if I lived under a tree and invited you all to a press conference, would you have come?” Complete silence. The point was made. It was obvious to them too. It was such a wonderful answer. Who could have thought of such an answer like that? Then one reporter asked about Guru Maharaji. Reporters naturally like to report on controversy because that makes the news. Controversy, negative talk, and especially if one big spiritual leader is criticizing another big spiritual leader, that makes for a great headline. The reporter asked, “What do you think about Guru Maharaji?” Prabhupada declined to answer. He said, “Just ask about Krishna consciousness. We don’t know anything about this.” Then the reporter asked again. Prabhupada, for a second time, declined to answer. Then the reporter was quite insistent and he asked a third time. For some reason Prabhupada decided this time to answer him. He decided to answer him in a very straightforward, forceful way. He said, “He says he is God? He is a cheater and a dog. But Krishna is the biggest cheater and he will be cheated by Krishna.” The reporters were so happy because this was just the kind of controversy that made headlines. It made the Hong Kong Standard the next day. “Trouble in Paradise,” I think they called it. “Guru of Hare Krishna movement calls Guru Maharaji a dog.” It was something like that. They loved it and it even made it into Time magazine. The next day some local Indian leaders came to Prabhupada to complain about what he had said. First I interrupted. I wanted to defend Prabhupada for making a controversial statement. Then Prabhupada said, “Be quiet,” basically telling me to mind my own business and watch how he would deal with it. I listened very carefully to what Prabhupada said. He explained to them that, “We don’t have any business criticizing people. But when someone says he is God, but he is without power, and people are believing that—so foolish.” Prabhupada had followed some news story and explained, “And he doesn’t even question himself, ‘I get a toothache...,’ and then he has to go to the hospital to cure the pain from his toothache. He doesn’t question himself, ‘How can I be God if I have to go to the hospital for a toothache?’” Prabhupada very patiently and calmly explained to them why he had made that comment about Guru Maharaji, and they were convinced by the end. It was wonderful. Later on, of course, the Guru Maharajis responded in the newspaper with their own version of the issue and commented that Prabhupada was wrong for criticizing. Then I responded to their letter to the editor, and I sent that to Prabhupada. Basically I used the argument, “You may have your opinion, and I may have my opinion, but the lawyers in the law court argue based on the law.” So Prabhupada’s argument was based on shastra. Prabhupada appreciated it. He actually distributed my response letter to others. In 1972 Prabhupada called us to go to the Philippines because there was a temple there started by Sudama Vipra Swami. Prabhupada praised Sudama Vipra Swami in the Nectar of Devotion lectures in 1972, saying, “In six months he has done so much.” At that time, however, the President of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos, had declared martial law and outlawed large meetings. We were in the Manila Intercontinental in Makati and Sudama decided to hold the meeting anyway. It was well attended, mostly by our large Indian congregation of about five hundred in number. After the lecture Prabhupada asked for questions, and I remember after all these years one incredible response. One person stood up in front of the microphone, and he began to speak, not asking a question, but just rambling on about his own philosophy, talking on and on and on. He was relishing that sweet taste of holding the microphone and he just kept going on and on. Prabhupada patiently listened to him for a while, and then he said, “Are you finished yet?” The person said, “No, I am not finished.” This story really shows Prabhupada’s expertise. Prabhupada let him go on. The man kept on speaking and speaking and speaking. For those of us who were listening, it felt like he was going on for hours. After a while, maybe several minutes, Prabhupada said, “You are finished yet?” The man said, “No.” Again Prabhupada just patiently sat there and let him go on and on. After a little bit longer, Prabhupada said, “Are you finished yet?” The man said, “Yes.” Then Prabhupada swung into the microphone, “Then sit down!” He got the audience completely on his side. Everyone in the hall, including the devotees, cheered and clapped after that. He was just so expert. Then he said something that proved to be so significant for me. I always want to pass this on to anyone who follows Prabhupada and would like to do some service for him. He said, “It is my desire that Krishna consciousness be spread throughout the universe. You please help me to fulfill this desire.” When I think of this, I realize he didn’t even say the “world.” He said the “universe.” Prabhupada’s desire was so big and so compassionate that it could accommodate anyone who wants to do any service to please Prabhupada because the universe is so big—it extends from the person next door to anyone. There is just so much opportunity for everyone to find some service to fulfill Prabhupada’s desire to spread Krishna consciousness throughout the universe. In 1972 when Srila Prabhupada went to Tokyo, Sudama, who was in charge, arranged a program for Prabhupada in Kobe because there was a large Indian community within the city. There was talk of them possibly donating a temple or some land for us, so Prabhupada took the train ride to Kobe. At one point on the train, Prabhupada put his feet up on the chair in front of him where Bhanu had been sitting. Bhanu was standing up, so when the conductor came by, the conductor said to Bhanu, “You can’t stand.” Because it was a Shinkansen, the bullet train that goes extremely fast, he had to sit down. I was in the awkward position of having to ask Prabhupada to move his feet so Bhanu could sit down. I said to Prabhupada, “Prabhupada, the conductor says that Bhanu has to sit down. Could you move your lotus feet?” Prabhupada said, “So the lotus-like devotee can sit down.” Prabhupada was very humble. When we arrived, there were a few hundred Indian members of the local community who came for the program, which also included a Mayavadi speaker. Since they were mostly Sindhis, they have the Punjabi habit of reading from the Guru Granth Sahib, which is the main religious scripture for Sikhism. The person who reads from the book sits on the asana. We suggested to the man in charge that Prabhupada should sit on this asana. He said, “No, no, this is for whoever reads the Guru Granth.” We said, “No, no, Prabhupada is so famous, so let him sit there.” So he agreed. We asked the head of the Hindu association to give us money for a nice garland for Prabhupada. He said, “Yes, you can have money for the garland for Prabhupada, but you also have to make a garland for this Mayavadi sannyasi too.” We said, “Yes, yes, yes.” We ended up making one big garland for Prabhupada, and we gave the Mayavadi sannyasi Prabhupada’s prasadam garland from the day before. Of course, the etiquette was that he had to accept it. He nodded his head in the typical Indian fashion in agreement. When it came time for Prabhupada to speak, we invited Prabhupada to sit on the asana with the Guru Granth. Prabhupada began to speak. First he had us recite verses from the Bhagavatam and he had us lead kirtan. Prabhupada spoke in English. He spoke for perhaps a half hour or forty minutes. And, of course, what would Prabhupada speak about? He spoke against Mayavada philosophy. When Prabhupada had ended his talk, it came time for the Mayavadi to speak. The head of the Hindu society brought the Mayavadi over. Prabhupada was still sitting on the vyasasan, and the emcee put out his hand to help Prabhupada get down from the vyasasan so that the Mayavadi could sit there. Prabhupada refused to get down from the vyasasan. He just didn’t acknowledge that he was supposed to get down. What could they do? The Mayavadi, of course, said, “shanti, shanti,” so he just sat down in another seat that was on the stage, and they brought the microphone over to him. He began speaking in Hindi, so we couldn’t understand what he was saying. Prabhupada sat very gravely on the vyasasan and he chanted. He was just rocking back and forth chanting on his beads. We imitated Prabhupada, so we sat there in front of Prabhupada, and we rocked back and forth and chanted on our beads. The Mayavadi spoke for five minutes, ten minutes, twenty minutes, twenty-five minutes, and the entire time Prabhupada was just chanting on his beads. Then suddenly after about a half hour, Prabhupada looked directly at me and said, “Stop him!” The Mayavadi was speaking forcefully and he was fired up. Prabhupada just looked at me and said, “Stop him.” We didn’t know what in the world to do. So then Prabhupada said, “Start kirtan.” In the middle of this fellow’s lecture, we jumped up and started playing kartals, chanting, and jumping up and down. We had no idea what was going on because the Mayavadi had been speaking in Hindi. When we finally got back to Prabhupada’s apartment, Prabhupada was sitting behind his low desk. Bhanu had brought him his hot milk for the night. There was a desk lamp that emitted a low light. It was very dramatic. We came in, offered our obeisances, and we asked Prabhupada what had happened. Prabhupada said, “First he was speaking all right. But then he started explaining panca-upasana, which means five different gradations of demigod worship—Ganesh, Durga, Laksmi Devi, Shiva and Vishnu. And then he said, ‘Above Vishnu there is Brahman,’ and when he said that, I could not tolerate it.” His objection wasn’t a fanatical thing or a philosophical thing. He just said, “I couldn’t tolerate it.” The way he said it reminded us of apasiddhanta-dhvanta-harine; his Guru Maharaj was opposed to anything against the siddhanta. Prabhupada’s response was so unique and heartfelt, the actions of a lover, not a philosopher. And Prabhupada looked so satisfied. He wasn’t in anxiety. He wasn’t angry. He was just sitting there—like after a cat has caught a mouse. He was so happy almost like he was purring. Then he said, “I am like a lion when I am out and like a lamb at home.” There was a controversy in 1972 going on in ISKCON regarding whether one could wear non-devotee clothes and distribute books. Some devotees felt strongly that it wouldn’t work and that it was going to hurt the devotees’ consciousness. Some devotees felt, on the other hand, that more books were going to be distributed. Karandhar prabhu had come from Los Angeles and he was strongly in favor of allowing the devotees to wear non-devotee clothes to distribute books. He showed the facts and figures about how it would hurt book distribution and the collection of money if the devotees were to only wear devotional clothing. So on a morning walk I somehow or other chimed in. Because the topic was money, I said, “We are not interested in money.” Prabhupada didn’t appreciate my comment at all. He said, “This is hippie philosophy. Without money, how can we spread Krishna consciousness?” In the beginning all the devotees wanted to go on the morning walks. There were about ten to fifteen devotees. On one of the morning walks, one devotee brought a big tape recorder, a ghetto blaster type of tape recorder. As Prabhupada started walking down the road and all the devotees were with him, this devotee started playing “govindam adi purusam” on the tape recorder. Prabhupada took a few steps and stopped. He turned and let the devotees surround him, and he said, “There is an old Bengali saying that ‘You eat alone, study in twos, and walk in threes.’” Then he just turned around and kept walking. That was the last walk where everyone came. No one had to say, “Don’t come.” The devotees allowed Prabhupada his privacy after that. In 1972, the Tokyo temple was in Asakawa-cho. It was far away from the city, and it was a place where we would take a walk on a road carved into the mountain. Because of my training and conditioning, I couldn’t quite internally accept that evolution wasn’t real. Then when we were walking, Prabhupada pointed to the trees on the side of the road and said, “What’s the cause of this, that all these trees are facing the sun?” I said, “Change, that there is always change.” Then he responded, “Chance?” I thought he said chance, but I said “change,” and then he said, “Change, yes. Change. And if things were organized by chance,” and then he pointed to all these trees, “you would expect at least one tree not to be facing the sun. But look at them, every single one of them…” There was such a long line of trees and every one of them was facing the sun. It was a very simple example. So at that time somehow or other just by his explanation, I became completely convinced that evolution wasn’t a fact, and to this day, I am even more convinced that evolution isn’t a fact. I have thought about it, I have studied it a bit, and I see that it’s actually statistically impossible. That was Prabhupada’s potency. Shyamasundar and I were on a morning walk with Srila Prabhupada when a six-legged creature walked across our path. It looked like a crab. Prabhupada pointed his cane at it and said, “Be careful. It’s a scorpion.” Then Shyamasundar turned to me and said, “It’s a land crab.” So was it a land crab? Was it a scorpion? Prabhupada said it was a scorpion. But what was it really? The question that’s interesting is what is the extent of the knowledge of the spiritual master? Is he a zoologist? Can he make a mistake on that level? It’s a very interesting question. Because sometimes we hear Prabhupada recite Bhagavad-gita verses that don’t exist in the Bhagavad-gita exactly the way Krishna said them. How is one supposed to see that? There is an interesting conversation between Prabhupada and his disciples that took place in Mayapur. Jayadvaita Maharaj was asking the question about the perfection of the spiritual master, “Does he know everything?” Prabhupada’s answer on that walk was that only Krishna knows everything. But he knows Krishna and, therefore, he knows everything because he sees everything in relationship with Krishna. He said, “The spiritual master is not God.” Trivikrama was serving in Japan, and one day he and I were sitting outside of Prabhupada’s room. Prabhupada rang the bell. We both went into his room. Before that, Trivikrama was showing me a Bible tract that his brother, who was a born-again Christian, had sent him. Trivikrama showed it to Prabhupada. The Bible tract said, “As many Westerners or Christians are turning to Eastern religions and Hinduism, here is one Hindu PhD who is turning to Christianity.” The PhD Christian presented two strong objections to so-called Hinduism. One was the caste system and the other was Deity worship, which the author described as the worship of idols. Prabhupada looked at it and he just laughed. He said, “He is a PhD but doesn’t know anything.” Then he revealed to us the reason why he had rung the bell and called us in. He had received some photos of Rukmini-Dvarakadish from Karandhar who had come from Los Angeles. He pulled out a photo of Rukmini-Dvarakadish and said, “Anyway, our God is the nicest God.” He had called us in just to show us the photographs of Rukmini-Dvarakadish and share Their beauty with us. In 1974 I moved from Hong Kong to Australia because my wife Jagattarini was Australian. After a while I started a business. I was feeling bad that I had left Prabhupada’s service, and I wasn’t getting along very well with the temple devotees. But I used to think of Prabhupada as the boss of the business. He was the owner of the business and I was working for him. I would just take what I needed from the business to pay the rent, etc., and I’d send money to Prabhupada every single week. All I could afford at that time was twenty-five Australian dollars. Every week I would get a money order for twenty-five dollars and I’d send it to Prabhupada and I would write a letter. The mood of the letter was, “Please accept this until I could do some service.” Then every week Prabhupada would reply to my letter and thank me for my donation. He was very kind and encouraging. Gradually I was trying to increase it to fifty dollars a week and then one hundred dollars a week. Again I would write to Prabhupada, “Please accept this until I can do some service.” He wrote back saying, “What do you mean ‘until you could do some service?’ You are sending checks. Checks are service. Checks are the best service.” He was obviously encouraging me like that. Finally, when he came to Australia for the last time, I was able to give him a thousand dollars. That was very satisfying for me. There is a tendency when you are doing business and you do want to serve, to wait until you have a lot of money before you feel you are able to give that money. What I concluded was that anytime money passes through your hands, if you are a householder, you should give something to Krishna. Don’t wait until you have a lot before you give something. Anytime money passes through your hands, you should give something to Krishna. I would like to share two little stories about Prabhupada in cold weather. One story is when we were in Asakawa-cho in 1972, outside of Tokyo. It’s hard to describe what it was like in those days except that the windows were all made of paper. That is the old Japanese style. The windows were all paper, and during mangala-arati, Prabhupada was sitting on the vyasasan chanting, and his breath was quite visible. I was standing in front of Prabhupada with a thin chaddar on. Of course, there was no hot water and there was no heating. I was basically shivering. He looked at me and said, “It is so cold, is it not?” Sometimes we tend to think of Prabhupada like a mechanical pure devotee that has no material experience. But to me, that was glorious. I was inspired by the fact that he did experience the cold and didn’t like it at all. And he didn’t like traveling as an elderly man, but he did it anyway. He didn’t let the fact that it was cold stop him from going to a place like Asakawa-cho in Tokyo to encourage Sudama and the other devotees. He was so dutiful and so devoted to the preaching movement and helping his disciples. The fact that he experienced the cold and didn’t like it, to me, was more touching than thinking of him in the other way—that he was with Krishna and he didn’t experience anything of this world. A second little story about cold took place in 1974 when we took Prabhupada on a morning walk to the peak that is on Hong Kong Island. We took him on morning walks there every day. It was overcast on one particular day and extremely cold with the wind adding to the bitterness. Prabhupada was wearing a thin coat. I asked Prabhupada, “It’s cold Prabhupada. Would you like to go back?” He said, “No.” Then he asked me, “But are you cold?” I said, “Yes.” I was thinking that because I knew he must be cold. I said, “Yes,” and I was cold too. Then he said, “Oh! Immediately we should go back.” It gave me a glimpse into Prabhupada’s heart. He was ready to endure any inconvenience himself, but he didn’t want to inconvenience his foolish disciple, me. That was a glimpse into the heart of a true transcendental gentleman. When we were walking with Prabhupada on the peak in Hong Kong in 1974, he turned to me and said that he wanted at least one Chinese devotee to become initiated in Mayapur. We were able to bring several Chinese devotees to Mayapur. It was a unique thing. Raymond Yeung Pak Hei was a young man and a gentleman. He was working as an engineer in an electrical company. I told Prabhupada, “I have one Chinese gentleman who wants to meet you.” I brought Raymond in, and he told Prabhupada that Chinese people are very attached. Prabhupada looked at him and saw that he was young. He was just two years older than me and I was twenty something. Prabhupada said, “So, where is the gentleman?” Then as he began dealing with him, he started recognizing that he was the gentleman to whom I had been referring. The first thing that Raymond said to Prabhupada was, “Chinese people are very attached to their families.” I expected Prabhupada to say, “That’s okay, you can be attached to your family and chant Hare Krishna,” or something to that affect. But Prabhupada just looked at him and said, “That’s natural. Even dogs and birds are attached to their families.” Raymond was not offended and he traveled with us to Mayapur. On Gaura Purnima in 1974, he became initiated and received the name of Yasomatisuta. Prabhupada commented, “This boy is so nice that the whole Chinese race has become glorified because of him, just like if there is one sandalwood tree in a forest, the whole forest becomes fragrant.” Previously Prabhupada wrote me a letter after I told him that people in China were not interested in what we were presenting. In the letter he said, “There is one there.” He meant that there is one there that Krishna will send and Yasomatisuta was the one. When Yasomatisuta became initiated, we immediately asked him to translate the Introduction to Bhagavad-gita into the Chinese language. After he had done that, we went into Prabhupada’s room in Mayapur, and I told him that Yasomatisuta had completed the translation, and I asked if he would like to hear it. There was a wood carving of Radha and Krishna in Prabhupada’s room that had been made in Indonesia by Amogha prabhu, and which is still there in Mayapur. Prabhupada had Yasomatisuta read his Chinese translation to the wood carving of Radha and Krishna. After he heard some of the translation, Prabhupada commented, “It is so sweet, is it not?” Then he turned to the life members who were in the room, some aristocratic life members from Calcutta, and he said in Bengali, “They are trying to turn others into communists, but we are going to China and turning the communists into Vaishnavas.” Prabhupada was so pleased and proud of Yasomatisuta. When Prabhupada came to Melbourne in 1975, there was a press conference at the airport. The reporters were quite aggressive. The first reporter asked Prabhupada all the typical superficial questions, including what the tilak meant. Then he asked him what the “A.C.” stood for in his name. Prabhupada said, “You won’t understand.” The reporter said, “No, please tell me what the ‘A.C.’ stands for in your name?” “You won’t understand.” “No, please tell me.” Then Prabhupada said, “Abhay Caranaravinda.” But he said it so fast even I couldn’t understand what he said. The reporter replied, “What did you say?” Prabhupada said, “I told you, you wouldn’t understand.” He just couldn’t be defeated in anyway. Then another aggressive reporter, looking to show Prabhupada as an exploiter of these poor innocent “cult members,” said to Prabhupada, “I have heard that your disciples only sleep six hours a night.” The reporter was trying to elicit a comment that would prove Prabhupada was exploiting his disciples and that he was on top enjoying on behalf of all their hard work. Then in a very pointed and disagreeable way, considering Prabhupada was such a gentleman and senior in age, he asked Prabhupada, “How many hours a night do you sleep?” Prabhupada answered, “I go to sleep at 10 o’clock and wake up at 12 o’clock.” Then Madhudvisa Swami, who was the GBC there and had such an intimate relationship with Prabhupada, immediately interrupted and said, “Prabhupada sleeps less than his disciples. He sleeps only four hours a night.” Prabhupada said, “No, no, no. I go to sleep at 10 o’clock and wake up at 12 o’clock,” indicating it was only two hours a night. That was something very special. In Melbourne there was a wonderful Tulasi garden. The Tulasi gardener was somewhat eccentric, but he obviously had devotion because the Tulasi garden was blossoming. While I was in the room, this Tulasi gardener asked Srila Prabhupada, “How many Tulasi leaves are required to place on the plate to make an offering?” Because Tulasi gardening was his whole life, he was imagining the whole plate would be covered by hundreds of Tulasi manjaris and leaves. Prabhupada just looked at him and said, “One.” It was again Prabhupada showing us that it was the quality of our devotion that was essential. In Melbourne in 1975 Prabhupada was speaking to a group of devotees in his house. He said, “If you remain celibate between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one, then your brain becomes fertile for spiritual realization.” Then he looked around at the devotees who had their heads hung down, and then he just laughed and said, “But if you chant Hare Krishna, everything will be all right anyway.” Another time Prabhupada was speaking about book distribution. He imitated a book distributor handing out a book to someone, and he said, “Please take this book.” Then he imitated the person who was responding to the book distributor, “Okay, what’s it about?” Then he imitated the book distributor saying, “I don’t know. It’s for you.” Then he said, “My only criticism of the devotees is they think my books are for distribution, not for reading.” He also said, “Why are we so interested in book distribution? Because it is distribution of knowledge.” Then he repeated it again, “Because it is distribution of knowledge.” When Prabhupada was in Hong Kong in 1974, he understood how difficult it was to preach there. While I was standing in his room, he turned to me and said, “When you have been preaching for ten years, you can go and live in Vrindavan.” As it turned out, when I was writing a book about Prabhupada called My Glorious Master, I remembered that incident, and I calculated the exact amount of time I had been preaching until I actually started living in Vrindavan, in September 1983. It was just as Srila Prabhupada had said, and I could see the power of the blessings of Prabhupada and the power of his words. In Japan in 1972 Prabhupada was saying how important it was that we want to go back to Godhead. At the end of the lecture in a very naive superficial way, I said, “We don’t want to go to Goloka. We just want to serve you.” Then Prabhupada just looked at me and said, “Don’t make me come back to accept your service.” He was making two points: first, that we should desire to be with Krishna, and second, that it was his responsibility to insure that we do rejoin Krishna in Goloka Vrindavan. In 1975 in Melbourne, Srutakirti was massaging Prabhupada, and Prabhupada was in a reflective mood. He said, “Because I let women move into the temples, I was successful, and my god-brothers criticized me for this.” Then he laughed and said, “But their biggest programs are their Navadvipa parikramas, and who comes? It’s mostly ladies and widows anyway.” Then Srutakirti prabhu asked a very intelligent question. He said, “Prabhupada, you said that because you made this adjustment, therefore, you are successful, but how do you tell the difference between changing a principle and making an adjustment?” Prabhupada thought for some time and he said, “That takes a little intelligence.” What I realized afterwards was that making changes had to be done because time forces changes. Times change and that forces you to have to change things sometimes. But the essential principles, the foundational principles, they shouldn’t be changed. They can’t be changed; otherwise, everything is lost. Prabhupada’s point was that changes could be made, as I understood it, but it had to be done very carefully. It takes a little intelligence—a lot of intelligence and deep intelligence—to know the difference between something that is adjustable and something that is not adjustable.

In Dallas, for the first time, I was asked to do some Deity worship on an altar with installed Deities, Radha-Kalachandji. When I went on the altar, without any premeditated thought, I recognized that the mood of Radha and Krishna in Vrindavan is exactly the same mood as being with Prabhupada. Something really fell into place in my mind at that time, especially after having lived in Vrindavan for many years. I could understand that Prabhupada carried Vrindavan with him wherever he went. Prabhupada’s reality was to live in the sweetness that is only available in the spiritual world. I think of it in terms of a bubble in one sense. Prabhupada carried with him a bubble of sweetness, a bubble of Vrindavan, and that sweetness attracted everyone. Not everyone—but everyone who entered that bubble—was affected by that bubble, and some were extremely attracted. When I think of Prabhupada in that sense, I think of Prabhupada as not having left Vrindavan, but having brought Vrindavan to the world, and we wished to be with him in Vrindavan.

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