Gargamuni das Remembers Srila Prabhupada

Prabhupada Memories

Interview 01

Gargamuni: In 1975 Prabhupada gave me the money to purchase three Ambassador cars, one for each center in Vrindavan, Bombay and Mayapur. He wanted these cars made because the foreign cars were not able to ride nicely on Indian roads. I went to Mr. Birla’s factory outside of Calcutta and asked him for three cars because at that time there was a waiting list of seven thousand people. In the early days you couldn’t just go and buy a car in India. You had to go on a waiting list because the government told the factories how many cars they could make. I didn’t want to wait for Prabhupada’s cars. He wanted them immediately. So I went to Mr. Birla and asked him if he could give me four cars because I ordered one for the Calcutta temple as well, and he said okay. Immediately that day I was given the cars. Each car at that time cost twenty-eight thousand rupees. However, when you buy these cars in those days there way no quality control. I wanted Prabhupada to feel most comfortable in his cars and, therefore, I took every car entirely apart. We took out all the insides including the engine and we rebuilt the entire car as well as the insulation. Prabhupada didn’t like noises and he didn’t like to bounce. Prabhupada told me that the Ambassadors would last forever if you just keep enough oil in them. Even in the material sense, Prabhupada’s words about the Ambassador car are true because now it is 2003, which is almost forty years later, and still this car is riding very nicely. We should never underestimate the orders of the spiritual master even on what may seem like trivial matters.

Although he was doing everything he would give us the credit. For example, one time at the Los Angeles temple I remember in the opening lecture Prabhupada said, “All glories to Gargamuni” when he said the ‘Jai Om’ prayers. He said that because I was instrumental in acquiring the L.A. temple. He was giving me the credit even though I knew it was actually Srila Prabhupada who obtained it. Sometimes devotees forget that fact and think they’re doing things, but actually it’s Prabhupada doing it through you and then he gives you the credit. Just like in Bhagavad-gita Krishna was on the battlefield doing everything, but because Arjuna was surrendered to Krishna, Krishna gave him the credit. I got very emotional when Prabhupada said, “All glories to Gargamuni”, because I knew I didn’t do this but Prabhupada did it. That’s why to be with Prabhupada was the most wonderful experience because you knew he would never cheat you.

Prabhupada never made you feel bad. He never did or said anything to make you feel bad. He always made you feel good and even if he said something strict, later on he would come back with something very kind. Because in all circumstances, the closer you got to Prabhupada the more he would teach you about life and about serving Krishna and your responsibility to the guru. It’s a never-ending process of surrender. When you’re conditioned to act on impulse, to act on the basis of your senses, it’s very hard to surrender. Prabhupada was able to supersede all of these things and take all of your good things in a charming way and engage them in Krishna’s service. It made you feel like a human being, like an important person in the service of Krishna. Self-esteem is something that many devotees lack and yet Prabhupada had the most self-esteem. He was very proud to be a servant of Krishna and you could see that and in the same way, Prabhupada would make you feel important when you were a servant of Krishna.

Allen Ginsberg brought Timothy Leary, who started the LSD movement, to meet Prabhupada. Actually Prabhupada stayed with the chemist who invented LSD and he was initiated as Karlapati, a graduate of Harvard. When Prabhupada met these dignitaries he never criticized their ways. He never put them on the spot but always acted in a very charming way and asked them, “Can you help me in my movement?” With George Harrison he said, “You are a very important person. People are following you. You can help me in my mission.” He would actually appeal to them and try to engage them in service to Krishna. He was never condescending or critical of their personal life. He would only see the good things and try to engage them in service. Usually we always look for the bad things in somebody. Prabhupada was just the opposite. In fact if you did something wrong he would reward you with more responsibility. He never took things away from you. If you did something bad, he would send you out to do something more, give you more responsibility. The more bad you were, the more mistakes you made, the more responsibility he gave you; the more he was merciful with you.

I was in Gainesville, Florida at the time somebody in Bombay from the Arya Samaj had questioned Prabhupada as to why he was preaching in India. He asked, “Why don’t you go to the Muslim countries?” So Prabhupada sent my brother and me to West and East Pakistan. Somehow we made it to East Pakistan but in those days we didn’t read newspapers and when we arrived, there was a civil war going on. We knew there was a Gaudiya Math there so we thought we’d try to find it and take shelter there for a while. I spent over two months preaching and printing books but then the revolution got hot and India entered the fray and I had to leave. Then I went to West Pakistan and it was in West Pakistan that Prabhupada got the newspaper report in Bombay that four Hare Krishnas were killed. He knew I had an assistant and he knew Brahmananda had an assistant. So I was the first to come back. It was April 1971. It was the day of Ramnavami when I arrived from Karachi and when Prabhupada saw me he got up. He embraced me and I felt again all these things fly out of my body. It was the second time he embraced me and I fell to the floor and then he got down and pulled me up by my sikha. It was like he was pulling me out of the material world and then he slapped me on the back real hard. He said, “Very good.” He was happy. Then he called his servants and told them to cook us a feast. Everybody was fasting and we had a whole feast with puris and subji. The other devotees became envious, as they couldn’t believe they had to fast while I was eating a huge feast. But Prabhupada saw that we were sacrificing our lives for him in helping him with the preaching mission. He saw this and he returned that love by blessing you; by pulling on your sikha, by slapping you on the back. You don’t know what it is to have Prabhupada slap you on the back. It’s not like any slap you’ve ever received. You feel some spirituality from it. You feel purifications. You feel your heart drop into your stomach. It’s the most wonderful feeling to have the spiritual master do something like pulling your sikha. I can’t describe it. Because Prabhupada, although he may act like an ordinary man, was not an ordinary man and anybody who met him felt that way. Even 14 great scholars gave him so much respect just by his demeanor. So to have him do personal little things like slap you on the back, you feel something. He also did the same with Brahmananda.

To view the entire unedited video go to Memories 49 - Jayapat S, Sruto, Gargamuni, Gurukrpa, Narayani, RupaV, Hari, Ranjit, Nrsimhanda

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

Following Srila Prabhupada

Interview DVD 01

Gargamuni: We had a big tape recorder that weighed 50 pounds. I was in charge of that. Brahmananda would bring it down from Prabhupada’s closet every night. So my job was to set up the tape for Prabhupada’s lecture. Prabhupada was very insistent in having his lectures tape recorded, so much so that when the tape ran out, he would stop and wait for me to rethread the tape with a new one. In those days, we didn’t have money, and those tapes, I remember they were three, four dollars for Scotch tapes. So Prabhupada wanted everything tape recorded. We didn’t think it was important in those days, but now we do. They’re important for preaching.

In the beginning, there was only one or two who were thinking how to give Prabhupada something instead of just taking from him. Because I had asked Prabhupada, I said, “Swamiji, we’re here with you, and what are we supposed to do? We come here, we take Krishna prasadam, and then we all go away. But what are we supposed to do for you? What are we here for?” I wanted something definite. Prabhupada said, “The duty of a disciple is to assist the spiritual master in his work.” That’s all he said. So then I thought, “Work?” Later on I pondered on this subject, work, and I said, “Prabhupada doesn’t work. What does he do? He doesn’t have a job. He’s a religious teacher.” So then it occurred to me there’s one thing he does do every day and that’s translate books, and he’s using this typewriter. Prabhupada wasn’t a typist. He used just his index fingers. That’s how he was typing his books. So I was walking one day, because there were four or five head shops that would carry Back to Godhead and I would always stop in the shops to see if they’re selling. So on my way I passed this Grundig shop, and something in the window caught my eye. It was like a miniature tape recorder, and it said Dictaphone. I said, “What the hell is a Dictaphone?” So I went inside, and I went up to the man and I said, “What’s this Dictaphone?” He says, “Well, it’s used by lawyers and doctors to keep notes.” I go, “Oh, yeah?” I said, “I know somebody who is translating books. It would be good for him?” He said, “Oh, yeah.” So he showed me how to use it, and I said, “I’m going to buy this for Prabhupada. Now I’m helping him because this will go a lot faster than typing.” Practically speaking, the Dictaphone revolutionized Prabhupada’s book. Because he wanted to do the Gita, and so it would take ages for him to finish typing by hand. It was 150 bucks [dollars], I think. So I brought it to Prabhupada. I was all excited and puffed up, and I said, “This is helping Prabhupada.” So I thought, “Boy, how am I going to show Prabhupada how to use this thing? He’s from the village. In Vrindavan, they don’t know what a Dictaphone is.” So I brought it up to Prabhupada’s room, and I showed it to him. I showed him the mike, and he looked at it. I said, “Prabhupada, there’s an instruction book here how to use it. I’ll go through it with you.” He said, “No, that’s OK, I know.” I was shocked. And sure enough, Prabhupada knew. He pressed the right buttons, he was testing it, and I was shocked. He never even looked at the book. It took me an hour with the guy. He had to show me everything, and here I’m showing it to someone from the village and he didn’t have to look at the book. Then I realized that this person, he’s not human. How does he know how to work this thing? He never had one. Prabhupada was very easy with electronics. He wasn’t at all intimidated. And then boom, Prabhupada started doing the tapes. It was great. But then we had the other problem – the tapes were building up, and the tapes were expensive. At the end, we had six or seven tapes and we didn’t have money to keep buying tapes. For some reason, nobody knew how to type properly because you have to have coordination. I think because we were all on LSD, nobody could coordinate their foot with their fingers. Because you had to use a foot pedal, and then you had to hear Prabhupada and coordinate, like driving a car, and nobody could do it. So all of a sudden this Neal shows up, and he’s from Antioch College. He has to do a summer course, three months course, joining a religious organization and writing about his experience. That was his paper. So he thought, “I’ll join you guys.” He said, “I’m going to do it.” I said, “Fine.” So I immediately asked him, “Do you know how to type?” We just thought we’d ask. He goes, “Yeah, I can type.” I said, “Do you know how to use a Dictaphone?” “Oh, yeah, that’s easy,” and right away the guy started typing 60 words a minute. We used to watch his foot – man, the foot was going a mile a minute. He knew how to go back and go forward in a second if he didn’t understand anything. And we go, “Wow!” We looked at each other, “This is mystical,” because this is the person we needed and then all of a sudden he shows up knocking at the door. You don’t know, the devotees then had an inner communication with each other. When things like this happened, we’d look at each other and go, “Wow, this is mystical.” And then we understood that Krishna provides. That was the famous word: “Krishna provides.” That’s why you really felt secure when you were with Prabhupada, because you felt nothing could hurt you or touch you and you felt wonderful. You always wanted to be around him because you felt fully protected – that feeling that everything’s going to work out when you’re with Prabhupada, because everything did work out.

To see an Indian man in Indian dress in a park on Tompkins Square where the majority of the people were old Russian and Polish people, it was just too far out. So we used to go every weekend Sundays, especially Sundays, to Tompkins Square to chant with Prabhupada. I would be in the crowd with the leaflets, talking and inviting people. We used to make these leaflets called “Stay high forever.” People really got a kick out of those. We used that photograph of Prabhupada where he’s sitting and he’s smiling and he’s got his hand on his head. That photo was…people would look at that and say, “Wow! He is high. He’s so high, he’s trying to keep himself down just from the mantra.”

That record went everywhere, the first record of Hare Krishna. Nobody rehearsed it, and it went so smooth. The Happening record. There was a very hip station in those days—it was called WBAI—and there was a guy on it all night from eleven o’clock until eight o’clock. It was the most popular night station. I went up there with the record. He used to do far out things, this guy, and he played it nonstop until the next morning, over and over. People called in and said, “Hey, that’s cool, we love it,” and he did it.

We had eight sankirtan parties going out every day. We would come back and then at night go out again. We would stay out till twelve o’clock, one o’clock every night. The whole spirit behind this, I have to say, was Vishnujan. This person could chant Hare Krishna on a drum all day long. He must have been a divine personality because I don’t see how a human could do that. People were anxious to go on sankirtan, and it was such a wonderful sight to see. People would watch us for hours and hours and hours, it was so attractive. Then we used the conch shells to hold the money, and the deal was you’d give a Back To Godhead with a pack of incense for a buck. In those days, Prabhupada had me order Back To Godhead, and we would sit down once a month and he would give me the order. It came out to about 250,000 a month at that time. He would say, “How much New York?” I said, “Well, Prabhupada, you said 30,000.” He says, “Make it 40.” He would put adjustments. We were taking the most, though, L.A. We were taking 60,000 to 70,000 a month, and there was no problem in distributing them. By the end of the month, we were all out. That’s how big sankirtan was.

Interview DVD 03

Gargamuni: Prabhupada invited all the other temple presidents to come and see the L.A. standard and he wanted this standard to be introduced, especially with the Deity worship with the three altars. When we got the building, Prabhupada went room to room and picked out what each room should be used for. Where you walk in now and there’s a temple, that actually wasn’t the temple that Prabhupada chose. Prabhupada had another vision that wasn’t our vision. His vision was to have mainstream America come into that with their shoes on and sit in the pews and hear Bhagavad-gita and kirtan on the stage. We put Prabhupada’s vyasasana on the stage, and he had Vishnujan play the organ. I even wanted to take out the stained glass and Prabhupada said, “No, that must stay.” He said, “Don’t touch anything here.” Even where the minister spoke, what is it called? A pulpit, he kept that because he wanted devotees to come and speak too. It was so surreal to sit in a pew and hear Bhagavad-gita and hear Vishnujan singing Jaya Madhava on an organ. Even Prabhupada would play the organ. We would sit and he would play the organ. I wish there was tape recordings of that. Prabhupada saw that the American people were becoming disenchanted with their churches. He said, “Now I will enchant them with Krishna consciousness.” So he thought they are inclined to come to a church, let them come back to this church but hear Bhagavad-gita and hear the kirtan. Prabhupada’s vision was totally…he was thinking mainstream America, not hippies. Prabhupada’s vision wasn’t that we all become monks. He wanted judges and politicians and doctors to come to the temple. They’re not going to all become monks and shave up. But we had another vision: come to the temple and shave up. But that wasn’t Prabhupada’s vision.

Badrinarayana das: Prabhupada used to come in from the back of the temple room because his quarters were upstairs and there was a hall he came down. We didn’t have the big Rukmini-Dwarkadish then, we only had small Radha-Krishna. Prabhupada came in, and from the back of the temple room he looked and he called Silavati over…Silavati was the pujari…and he said, “There’s tilak in Krishna’s eye.” She went and she looked and she couldn’t see anything, and she came back to Prabhupada. Prabhupada said, “No, there’s tilak in Krishna’s eye.” And she looked and she looked and she looked, and right in the very…it was a tiny speck of tilak in Krishna’s eye.

Interview DVD 04

Gargamuni: Walking along the Hoogli. The Hoogli is the Ganges River, which I really enjoyed because Prabhupada would stop sometimes and have intimate moments where he would look at the water and you could just imagine that Prabhupada sailed down that water when he left. He left from Calcutta so that’s the place, and now he’s back here again with his disciples.

I was one of the few foreigners who learned how to drive in India, mainly because I drove our vans. I don’t think there were very many others who drove Prabhupada in India. Prabhupada usually had a driver. But anyway, we drove and Yadubara, one day he accompanied us with Rupanuga. It was just Rupanuga, me and you. There were very few of us so there was no talking or conversations, but it was the best morning walk because of the area where we were in Calcutta. This was Prabhupada’s home town.