Dina Bandhu das Remembers Srila Prabhupada

Prabhupada Memories

Interview 01

Interview 01

Dina Bandhu: Prabhupada would take charanamrita, pay his obeisances to Radha and Krishna, and then go to Lord Jagannath. Somehow I always managed to be at the charanamrita bowl. One day I was standing behind Prabhupada when he took the charanamrita, and he looked at me with a heavy, horrible look. My heart stopped. He said, “It is salt.” He looked around at all the devotees and said, “It is salt.” He was upset. He paid his obeisances, sat down, and immediately said, “Who has done this?” Some poor brahmacharini in the kitchen came in shaking, and Prabhupada said, “Why have you done this?” She giggled and said, “It’s Krishna’s mercy.” Prabhupada said, “It’s not Krishna’s mercy; it’s your stupidity.” When Prabhupada was personally doing the installation for the large Gaura-Nitai Deities that Govinda dasi had made for our temple, everybody was in the temple room. I thought, “If we are installing Deities there should be a feast,” so I went into the kitchen and cooked everything I could think of, like rasagullas, sandesh, halava, and puris while I listened to the ceremony over the speakers. Finally there was a fire sacrifice and then an offering. After that, Nanda Kumar, Prabhupada’s servant, came in, loaded up Prabhupada’s plate with mahaprasad and went upstairs. When he came back he said, “Prabhupada usually eats a little sweet, but today he ate every single sweet.” He said that Prabhupada smiled at him and said, “Sweets means rasagulla and sandesh.” At that point I knew that my whole life was perfect. That was the only time I ever got to cook for Prabhupada.

Prabhupada was due to arrive at the L.A. Airport, and we went there and had a huge kirtan. We were jumping up and down, waiting for Prabhupada, and there was a big, black sweeper there, mopping the floor. He saw all this commotion, and, as he came over to see what was going on, Prabhupada came through the door. All the devotees hit the ground. When the sweeper saw Prabhupada he said, “Look at that man, he’s shining, he’s shining! Look at that man, he’s shining!”

To view the entire unedited video go to Memories 15 - The 1996 NYC and LA Reunions

Interview 02

Dina Bandhu: We were on harinam sankirtan near Diamond Jim’s on Hollywood Boulevard. Vishnujana was chanting the mahamantra to a Hollywood melody when suddenly his eyes got big. He said, “Prabhupada,” and hit the ground to offer his obeisances. We all turned around, and there was Prabhupada in a little Ford Pinto. Prabhupada was offering his pranams, and you could see that he was happy. I thought, “God, we’re like mlecchas, but Prabhupada is so happy to see us on harinam preaching the holy name in such a degraded place.” Right there on the street, we all hit the deck to offer our obeisances to him. That’s the first memory that I have of Srila Prabhupada.

I went to L.A. to get initiated by Prabhupada. I think that initiation was the last one in which Prabhupada chanted on the beads in front of everyone. It took him a long time to chant, because there were ten of us: Jayatirtha, Krishna Kanti, Dayanidhi, Chitralekha, five others, and myself. Prabhupada chanted on those little white Tandi company beads. They looked like a little string of pearls in Prabhupada’s hands. He had a special way of holding and stretching them. When he asked me the four regulative principles I said, “No meat eating, no illicit sex life, no gambling . . .” and then my mind went blank. I froze, and I couldn’t think. Somebody poked me from the side and said, “No drugs.” I said, “Oh, no intoxication.” Prabhupada laughed and said, “Yes, no LSD.” Then he asked me how many rounds I vowed to chant daily, and he handed me my beads. He said, “Your name is Dina Bandhu. Dina Bandhu means ‘friend of the humble.’”

I joined in Boulder where Bhavananda and Hari Nama had opened a temple. In those days, we had polyester and dacron dhotis. But I didn’t have an ordinary piece of saffron dacron cloth. Mine was shiny, which meant that it was very slippery also. In those days we just tucked it in, we didn’t tie a little knot. I was jumping up and down, and then all of a sudden I felt something go zump! It didn’t fall off completely, but I was so ecstatic in front of Prabhupada that I grabbed my dhoti and kept jumping up and down.

When the Los Angeles temple room was where the F.A.T.E. Museum is now, Prabhupada used to come in the back door, walk up to pay his obeisances to the Deities, and then sit down on his vyasasana. Once Prabhupada came in the back door, cocked his head back, and said, “What is in Krishna’s eye?” At that time we were worshiping only the little Deities, and from the back door, I can’t even see if Krishna has an eye, what to speak of seeing what’s in Krishna’s eye. Even the pujaris who were right there took two minutes to figure out what was wrong. Finally they found that when they had put the tilak on Krishna, little splinters of it had fallen down in Krishna’s eye. We were totally shocked.

Once, Prabhupada was lecturing from his big vyasasana in the new temple room in Los Angeles. At the end of his lecture Prabhupada said, “So if you will just follow these four regulative principles and chant sixteen rounds then you will go back to home, back to Godhead. I guarantee it.” He paused and looked around at all of us. Then he said again, “I guarantee it.”

We were walking down the beach, and Dr. Judah said, “Prabhupada, what does one do about lust?” Prabhupada stopped and dug his cane in the sand. He said, “You have to become Krishna conscious, otherwise there is no solution to lust.” Then he walked on. Again he repeated, “If you become Krishna conscious, then this question of lust is solved. You cannot solve it any other way.” Prabhupada was saying that you can do so many things; you can cut down eating sweets, you can have defense mechanisms like saying that women are snakes and this and that, but only by becoming Krishna conscious can you overcome lust.

Around 1970, we drove from Boulder to L.A. and were present when Prabhupada started playing the tape of the Govindam prayers. Although it’s taken for granted now, before that time we didn’t play that tape of Yamuna singing. But on the second or third day that we were there, Prabhupada came into the temple, the tape was put on, and he paid his obeisances. He took some charanamrita and then sat down on the vyasasana, all the while singing along with the tape. Suddenly we saw tears gliding down Prabhupada’s cheeks. We all felt unqualified to be in his presence. When Prabhupada experienced ecstatic symptoms, you just wanted to lift up one of those linoleum tiles and crawl under it, thinking, “I don’t belong here.” Then suddenly Prabhupada sniffed, wiped his face, and started chanting the Isopanishad mantras that he was teaching us at the time. He had a deep, rich voice that reminded me of a sea captain. Every day we would start from the beginning and chant all the verses we knew, and then he would teach us the next verse.

Whenever I came to L.A. I would sit at the foot of Srila Prabhupada’s vyasasana in the temple room. One day Prabhupada sat down on his vyasasana, looking rather concerned. He pointed toward me but I didn’t know what was wrong. I looked down thinking maybe my dhoti was open but it wasn’t. I looked back up. Prabhupada nodded his head as if to say, “Everything is okay.” My hands were resting on my knees, and I froze in that position thinking, “Now everything is all right. Whatever was wrong is all right now.” I sat there while Prabhupada lectured but in the middle of the lecture, Prabhupada got disturbed again. I was wobbling my knee. Prabhupada stopped speaking, pointed at me, and said, “Don’t do that.” I stopped doing it.

On a morning walk in Vrindavan, Prabhupada was preaching heavily against abortion and birth control. He gave the example that, “If I have rented an apartment and you stop me from living in it, that is illegal. Or if I am living in an apartment and you come and kick me out, that is also illegal. You will be arrested. Similarly, that soul has rented that womb which is his apartment, and if you prevent him from staying there it is illegal. He’s inside and you kick him out—that is illegal.” He explained how those who commit abortion will go from womb to womb and will never see the light of day. He was so heavy. On the way back, Prabhupada was a little quiet. Then one Indian man said, “I read today in the newspaper that Guru Maharaj Ji’s mother said that Guru Maharaj Ji is a bogus fellow. She’s denounced him.” Prabhupada and everyone else laughed. We walked a few more steps and the Indian man said, “Yes, practically she has finished him.” Prabhupada stopped, dug his cane into the street, looked at all of us and said, “She should have finished him in the womb.”

Prabhupada explained that a mouse went to a yogi and complained that a cat was bothering him. The yogi said, “What do you want?” The mouse said, “I want to become a cat, and then the cat won’t bother me.” The yogi waved his hand and the mouse became a cat. Later the cat (who was previously the mouse) went back to the yogi. The yogi said, “Now, what’s the matter? You want something?” The cat said, “Now a dog is bothering me. I want to become a dog.” The yogi said, “All right, become a dog.” So the cat became a dog. After a while he came back to the yogi, who said, “Do you want something?” The dog said, “Yes, now a tiger is bothering me. I want to become a tiger.” The yogi said, “All right, become a tiger.” When the dog became a tiger, he looked at the yogi with longing eyes. The yogi said, “Oh, do you want to eat me?” The tiger shook his head “yes.” The yogi said, “punar mushika bhava,” which means, “again become a mouse.” The tiger immediately transformed into a mouse. When we heard this we all burst out laughing, but Prabhupada meant it to be serious, and later we understood what the story meant. Prabhupada was telling us that if we become puffed up and fail to realize that Prabhupada is actually the power behind us, then we would fall back to our former position. Prabhupada wanted us to understand that we shouldn’t think, “Now I am very big, I can take over my spiritual master’s position.” After he told that story, Prabhupada looked at me and said, “Try to understand. Don’t laugh.”

Kartikeya was cooking for Prabhupada, and one day Govinda dasi came with some wheat germ. Kartikeya said, “Next time Prabhupada asks for halava, I’ll make it with wheat germ instead of farina.” The next time it rained, Prabhupada asked Kartikeya to make halava, because it gave him lots of warmth. Kartikeya thought, “Prabhupada’s going to be pleased when I make his halava with wheat germ. He’s going to like it so much.” He offered the halava to the Deities and brought it to Prabhupada. Prabhupada looked at the bowl and said, “What is this? Halava means farina.” Then with his left hand Prabhupada indicated, “Take it away.” Kartikeya was a sensitive fellow, and his whole heart was to please Prabhupada, so he was devastated. He went into the temple room, sat down in front of the picture of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, and began to cry and pray that, “I was trying to please your spiritual son and now he’s upset with me. I don’t know what to do.” Suddenly he heard Prabhupada’s voice, “Kartikeya? Kartikeya?” He ran into Prabhupada’s room. Prabhupada said, “Bring that halava.” Kartikeya brought in the bowl of halava. Prabhupada ate it and then said, “Bring more.” In this way, Prabhupada finished off the whole pot of halava. Prabhupada told us that the grandfather is more merciful than the father. So, young devotees should not feel that, “Well, I didn’t get any association with Prabhupada, I didn’t get to see Prabhupada.” Prabhupada is your grandfather spiritual master. I sometimes feel he’s chastising me because I’m not doing my service as I could. But Prabhupada is already so merciful to all the young devotees.

When I went to the Los Angeles temple for training, the first devotee I met there was Mahapurush, who immediately began to tell me a story about 26 Second Avenue. Mahapurush used to go to 26 Second Avenue and take prasadam. He said that every day, everybody would sit in Swamiji’s apartment, and Swamiji would serve rice, dahl, chapatis, and subji to everyone. Then one day Mahapurush stayed a little late. Everybody else had left. There were only two people in the room: Prabhupada and himself. And there were many dirty pots. Mahapurush began to think, “Well, somehow these dirty pots get cleaned every day. I don’t see anybody else around and there’s only one other person in this room, and I’m usually not here. So there’s only one person who could be doing this. It’s not proper for him to do it.” Thinking in that way, Mahapurush began picking up the pots. At that moment Prabhupada smiled and said, “I was just praying to Krishna to please send someone to help me.” Srila Prabhupada could have stayed in any Gaudiya Math temple, as they all loved him. Prabhupada’s God-brothers knew that Abhay Babu sang sweet kirtans, lectured wonderfully, and wrote wonderful articles. If you go to the Gaudiya Maths you can see old sannyasis there living comfortably, as Prabhupada could have lived. He wouldn’t have had to do anything, what to speak of wash a pot. He could have lived a very comfortable life in Vrindavan. Instead, here he was washing pots for hippies. We were the most degraded class of persons, yet Prabhupada was cooking and cleaning up after people like us. Prabhupada’s humility and compassion were unparalleled. There’s no one like Prabhupada, and there will never be anyone like Prabhupada.

To view the entire unedited video go to Memories 18 - Dina Bandhu, Bhavananda, Puskara, Yogesvara

The full Prabhupada Memories Series can be viewed here and also at www.prabhupadamemories.com