Chitralekha devi dasi Remembers Srila Prabhupada

Prabhupada Memories

Interview 01

Chitralekha: Just after we arrived in Vrindavan, two dozen devotees, including my one year-old daughter and I, went into Prabhupada’s room for darshan. My daughter and I were quietly sitting in the back when my daughter got up and started walking to Prabhupada. The brahmachari at the door motioned to me to get her. He whispered, “Get her! Bring her back!” Although I saw the brahmachari out of the corner of my eye, I conveniently ignored him and instead made a motion to Prabhupada asking, “Should I get her?” Prabhupada saw the brahmachari flipping out at the door, put his hand up and told me, “Just sit down.” I had no idea what my daughter, Chintaya, was going to do. She walked to Prabhupada’s desk, looked around, looked at Prabhupada, walked over to him, crawled across him and sat down on his lap. All other conversation stopped as she played with his garland and then crawled off his lap. He gave her a flower to take with her and then he nodded to me to come and take her. I picked her up and took her back to sit down. No matter who or what age the person was, Prabhupada built sweet relationships with everyone—even with the youngest children—through his sweet exchanges.

Prabhupada made comments about my son, Saumya because he had poor eyesight and started wearing glasses at age two. Prabhupada would say, “His glasses are bigger than his head.” If Prabhupada inquired about Saumya, Upendra would say, “He’s well, Prabhupada. But sometimes he’s naughty.” Prabhupada would say, “Naughty means intelligent.” And Prabhupada said,“Saumya should learn Sanskrit from Pradyumna.”

One day in Los Angeles, Upendra, who was my husband and Prabhupada’s servant, was in Prabhupada’s room when Prabhupada handed him a twenty-dollar bill and said, “This is for your children.” Immediately Upendra said, “Prabhupada, we can’t take this from you. You’re our spiritual master, we should be giving to you.” Prabhupada said, “No, this is for your children. I’m not their spiritual master, they will have to take their own.” Upendra brought the twenty-dollar bill home and we knew that Prabhupada was telling us he wasn’t going to be on the planet to initiate our children—they were going to have to seek out their own spiritual master. It wasn’t an automatic given that all of our children would be Prabhupada’s disciples.

Once Upendra was talking with other devotees while he waited outside Prabhupada’s door. Prabhupada rang his bell to call Upendra and then asked him, “Who are you talking to?” Upendra said, “I’m talking to the devotees, Prabhupada.” Prabhupada said, “What are you talking about?” Upendra said, “Just about things and other devotees.” Prabhupada said, “That is gossip. Gossip will destroy this movement.”

Prabhupada was always instructing Upendra in a gentle, loving, fatherly way, and Upendra was always ready to serve Prabhupada and travel with him. But by that time I had children and Prabhupada would occasionally question Upendra, “What about your wife and children? Who will take care of them?” Upendra would try to explain to Prabhupada how we were on welfare, and Prabhupada would say, “You are foolish. You must take care of your wife and children.” In some way Prabhupada always humbled Upendra.

Sometimes when a devotee fell away or had an illicit relationship, other devotees advised that person not to come to the temple or they shunned and humiliated that person so much that he or she wouldn’t come to the temple. That disturbed Prabhupada. He would write, “Now you have driven him away. You have humiliated him so much that he won’t be able to continue his service.” In that way Prabhupada would chastise us. Prabhupada was accepting of anything that anyone could offer on any level. No one would have become a devotee had Prabhupada been very strict. He was strict with himself but accommodating with anyone who was inclined to offer any loving service to him or to Krishna. In my eyes that is Prabhupada’s most magnanimous quality. That’s the mood with which he began this movement and, if we can imbibe that quality of Prabhupada’s and carry on with loving compassion for one another, that’s how this movement’s going to continue. Be strict with ourselves, yes, but have loving compassion for one another. To go back to Godhead we need each other’s support.

To view the entire unedited video go to Memories 36 - Bhutatma, Tosan Krsna, Kuladri, Chitralekha dd, Rangavati dd, Atma Tava

The full Prabhupada Memories Series can be viewed here and also at

Following Srila Prabhupada

Interview DVD 08

Chitralekha: Upendra went to Fiji first about a month before I arrived, and I believe it was September 1970. We were in Suva. People used to call us Mr. and Mrs. Swamiji, which we thought was very funny at that time, because we wore our yellow dhoti and sari. When we were in Fiji, an Indian family had given us a small Lord Nrsinghadev Deity. I still have Him. He was always our Deity who presided over our center and our preaching there in Fiji. He was the first Nrsinghadev Deity that appeared in our movement, so that was very significant. He was given to us soon after we had arrived there. On Sundays we had a feast, and our place would be packed with Fijian people and Indian people. So they took very enthusiastically to the feast. Upendra always wrote to Prabhupada about the difficulties that we were running into and the criticisms, and one of the sadhus next door wanted to chant Hare Rama first instead of Hare Krishna first. Prabhupada just wrote back and said, “Well, if he insists on chanting Hare Rama first, what is the harm? He is still chanting.” And part of it was their criticism about the color yellow for our dhotis and saris. Prabhupada answered back that “Usually white dhoti and colorful saris are what’s worn in India. But when someone is engaged in preaching activities or devotional activities they may wear yellow, and your life is always involved in preaching activities. So you may put on a white dhoti if you like, if you want, that is fine.” He was always instructing us every step of the way. Upendra would write him letters two or three times a month. So he was our guiding force all the way through. We really took to heart and felt like we had been given a responsibility to follow Lord Caitanya’s prediction that in every town and village there would be chanting of the Holy Name. So we literally went to every little village that we could and often were hosted in a very humble place, ancient temples of Narayan or Kali or whatever, but we would hold a program and all the villagers would come. There would be simple prasadam. Then we’d go on to another village and make our rounds. We went to Lautoka. We had met Vasudeva’s father, who was a very elderly man at that point, and his five sons, of whom Vasudeva was one of them. His father was a very devotional man and was always wanting to help in any way he could. And then we heard later how Vasudeva had come around to want to know more about Krishna consciousness and follow Prabhupada, and it was very exciting for us to see that from our humble beginnings that Vasudeva was going to take up the mission and carry on Krishna consciousness there under Prabhupada’s supervision.