Gunarnava das Remembers Srila Prabhupada

Following Srila Prabhupada

Interview DVD 08

Gunarnava: My first involvement is when I met Prabhupada in England in Bury Place. I was a very young, very new devotee, and I was all freshened up ready to go into the evening aratik and Prabhupada wanted to see me. So I went up to his room. I was feeling very, very nervous and Prabhupada says, “I want you to go to Vrindavan to help build a temple. We want to build a Krishna Balarama temple.” So I went with a devotee called Smarahari. We came to India on a one-way ticket. We arrived in Vrindavan, Smarahari went to Mayapur to serve there, I stayed on in Vrindavan. Things were very slow in the beginning. There were no funds. There was not even a concept for the temple, no design. And, of course, the key ingredient, no cement. So you would think, “Well, how is it going to happen? How is Krishna going to help us fulfill Prabhupada’s desire?” So Guru Kripa Maharaj, he was given the task of going to Japan with his collecting party, the Nama Hatta, and they would work very, very, very hard and bring a lot of money back to Prabhupada. That was the beginning of real progress in the building of the Krishna Balarama Mandir.

I’ve never seen a person draw something without having to erase anything. I remember him, Surabhi, he had these pencils in his pocket, and he said to me one morning, “Gunarnava, I’m going to do the artist’s conception. I’m going to draw the Krishna Balarama Mandir for the first time.” I remember we were staying in these little straw-roofed huts, very, very humble dwellings. He had a desk and a drawing board and an A3 sketch pad, and he opened it up and he started sketching and his pencil never stopped. He didn’t rub anything out, and it just manifested on this paper. When he showed Srila Prabhupada that design, Srila Prabhupada beamed. I was in the room. Srila Prabhupada said, “This is wonderful,” and he was so proud of it, and he was showing some guests that were also there in the room. He said, “Ohhhhh, this is going to be the Krishna Balarama Mandir.”

Nothing would stand in Prabhupada’s way. This temple had to open as soon as possible, and there were many obstructions. You live in Vrindavan, you try and get things done, everything is magnified a hundred times. So if there is an obstruction, it’s a big one, it’s a hundred times more obstructive than anywhere else in the world. But finally through great endeavor the day arrived.

The next step, the next key component was the establishing of the goshala. Krishna Balarama now need to drink milk, just like They did five thousand years ago when They were herding Nanda Maharaj’s hundred thousand cows. So Prabhupada called me into his room and he says, “I’d like you to establish a goshala. Krishna Balarama need milk, and my disciples need to maintain health and vitality,” because in those days in Vrindavan, basically the milk that we were drinking was either watered down buffalo milk or very watered down God-knows-what milk. So that was important. So what do I do? Prabhupada has told me to start a goshala. I didn’t have any money. I didn’t really know how to begin. So I had this Seiko watch on my wrist and I thought, “Right, I’ll sell my Seiko watch.” Then Bhagatji, one older Indian gentleman that Prabhupada regarded as his right-hand man in India…and Bhagatji helped me incredibly over so many years in my service to Srila Prabhupada…so he took me to Govardhan market, where there would be a monthly cow auction. And from the proceeds of selling my Seiko watch…I think we got about eight or nine hundred rupees in those days for it…I was able to purchase two cows, and that’s how the goshala started. And the goshala started simultaneously with the construction of the gurukula, the boy’s gurukula ashram, which also Prabhupada asked me to oversee the construction of that building.