Indradyumna Swami Remembers Srila Prabhupada

Prabhupada Memories

Interview 01

Indradyumna Swami: I first saw Srila Prabhupada when he arrived in the Detroit airport on July 16, 1971. Devotees had come from everywhere—Chicago, New York, St. Louis, even the West Coast—to receive Srila Prabhupada. Prabhupada had been away for some time, and many of us had never seen him, so there was a tumultuous kirtan. I was looking through my camera lens when Prabhupada turned the corner in the airport. In those days, a photograph of Srila Prabhupada was something rare and special and if a devotee had one, he would treasure it. The few photos I’d seen were black-and-white and often during our japa sessions, we’d sit around one of them and chant. I was eager to get my own photo of Prabhupada, and when I saw Prabhupada through my lens I thought, “Prabhupada looks just like he does in the photographs.” Meanwhile, all around me there was a huge kirtan and devotees, especially devotees who had had Srila Prabhupada’s association before, began to cry and to offer their obeisances. My God-brother Bahulasva Prabhu was next to me—he was a hero for me because he was a good preacher, a leader and a tough devotee— but he was on the ground crying, “Prabhupada! Prabhupada!” I thought, “Why am I not crying? I must have so many material desires in my heart that I can’t cry when I see my spiritual master.” So I put my camera in my bag and fell to the ground saying, “nama om visnu-padaya . . .” Then Prabhupada embraced Kirtanananda Maharaj and patted Bhagavan das on the head. It was very sweet. And he sat on a chair we’d set up for him and lectured. I’d been meditating on him for a few months and I was so mesmerized by seeing him in front of me that I couldn’t hear what he was saying. But there is one sentence that other devotees who were there (like Bhakta-bhringa Govinda Maharaj and Praghosa Prabhu) and I remember from this lecture. Prabhupada said, “Our first proposition is that, ‘You are not this body; you are spirit soul. Some way or other, you are in contact with this material world, and you have got this material body, and under illusion, you are accepting something which you are not.’” That entered into my heart and convinced me, “Oh, I’m not the body, I’m a spirit soul.” I’d read it often in Prabhupada’s books and heard it in lectures, but when Prabhupada leaned over a little and said those words, it was powerful to hear it from his lips.

The first morning in the Detroit temple, Prabhupada came down the stairs to give class. Bhagavan’s wife, Krishna-bhamini, along with her first child, one-year old Vaishnava das, were standing near Prabhupada’s vyasasana and I was standing near Krishna-bhamini. When Prabhupada walked in, kirtan was going on and Vaishnava was expertly playing the kartals—sweetly and in time. Prabhupada saw this and said, “Oh, this is very nice.” Then he sat down on the vyasasana and instead of picking up his kartals and chanting jaya radhamadhava, he said, “So these children who are born in our Krishna consciousness Society, they could not finish Krishna consciousness in their last life. They have been given the chance to take birth in the family of a devotee husband and wife; therefore this child is playing the kartals. Otherwise it is not possible. He had practice in his last life; therefore again he’s remembering and playing. This is the fact.” Krishna-bhamini was so happy to hear that. Prabhupada also quoted the Bhagavad-gita on how the unsuccessful yogi takes birth again either on a higher planet or in a family of wealthy merchants or, Prabhupada said, “In a nice devotee or brahman’s house.” He said, “These children are special. You must take very good care of them.” That impression remained with me.

Another time, at the chateau in New Mayapur when I was a grihastha, one afternoon I was taking my one-year old son on my shoulders while I chanted my japa around the castle. Prabhupada came to look out the window from his quarters upstairs and my son, Gaura-shakti, saw Prabhupada and said, “Prabhupada! Prabhupada! Prabhupada!” He was so excited that I thought he was going to fall off my shoulders. I said, “Okay, hold on! Hold on!” Prabhupada waved to him and that night in his darshan, Prabhupada brought up this incident. He said, “There was one young boy going around the castle with his father and when he saw me, he started chanting ‘Prabhupada! Prabhupada!’” Prabhupada said, “We don’t know who these children are. They’re so enthusiastic when they see me, maybe there is some relationship from a previous birth.” I said, “Ah, my son.” I’d been a devotee about eight months and I really wanted to be initiated but Bhagavan said that none of the devotees he’d recommended for initiation had left, and he was very strict about devotees waiting one year before they were initiated. This was unusual because in those days devotees were getting initiated after six months, four months or even one month. But since Bhagavan didn’t authorize me to be initiated I thought, “I want Prabhupada to know that I’m aspiring to be initiated by him.” So, when Prabhupada was going to the car to leave the Detroit temple, I thought, “I’ll give Prabhupada a donation,” and I ran upstairs. I’d heard something about the BBT, the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. When I’d joined the temple, I’d given all my money—two or three thousand dollars—to the temple, and the temple president had allowed me to keep ten dollars. I was saving that ten dollars for an emergency—it was some kind of security—and for me it was a lot. I put it in an envelope and I wrote a short letter: “Dear Srila Prabhupada, please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to you. Thank you for coming to Detroit. It was a short stay, but I learned so much during your visit and I became attached to you. I’m sorry to see you go and I’m going to feel your separation.” I put it in the envelope with the money, sealed it, and ran downstairs. Prabhupada was outside, just getting into his car and I was at the door thirty or forty feet away. I yelled, “Srila Prabhupada!” All the devotees stopped and looked around. Prabhupada said, “Oh?” I said, “I have a letter for you.” I ran up to him, paid my obeisances, and gave him my envelope. Prabhupada folded his hands and said, “Hare Krishna.” Those short encounters with Srila Prabhupada made such an impression in our hearts. Lava-matra sadhu-sange sarva-siddhi haya. By even a moment’s association with a pure devotee, one can attain all success. Prabhupada put my letter in his kurta pocket but it was sticking out. I thought, “Is he going to lose it? Will he read it?” Then he drove off. I thought, “Prabhupada’s so busy, he probably won’t reply.” Two weeks later a letter from Srila Prabhupada came in the mail. In those days, whenever a letter would come it was a special event. The temple president would get the letter, and he wouldn’t say to whom it was addressed. We’d assemble in the temple reception room, someone would blow a conch, “Wooooooooo! A letter has come from Srila Prabhupada!” and whatever we were doing—working in the kitchen, cleaning the temple room, preparing the books for sankirtan —everyone would drop it and run to hear a few drops of nectar from Srila Prabhupada. We didn’t think, “Oh, this letter is for this particular prabhu.” We’d thought that whatever Srila Prabhupada said was for the benefit of all of us, so every devotee would hang on every word in the letter. So, Bhagavan said, “Today we’ve received a letter from Srila Prabhupada addressed to Bhakta Brian.” I said, “That’s me! Prabhupada wrote a reply to my letter!” Bhagavan said, “Bhakta Brian, you can come forward and read the letter.” So I came forward, my hands shaking, and I read, “My dear Bhakta Brian, please accept my blessings. I want to thank you very much for your donation of ten dollars towards my book fund. I have information from the authorities in your temple that you are doing very nicely in Krishna consciousness. So my request to you is that you always follow in the footsteps of advanced devotees and in due course of time I will be very happy to accept you as my duly initiated disciple.” I was elated that Prabhupada had agreed to initiate me in due course of time. That gave me a lot of spiritual strength. Some months later, Srila Prabhupada wrote to Bhagavan das that he wanted Bhagavan to go to Europe to help with the new temple in Paris. A few devotees were there—Hari-vilas, Locanananda, Umapati Prabhu (who is now Umapati Swami)—but Prabhupada wanted a GBC man there to organize the preaching and get things going. So one day Bhagavan mentioned that he was going to France and he wanted an assistant. I raised my hand and said, “I traveled around Europe once.” He said, “Do you know how to travel?” I said, “Of course. I’ve been to France, Germany and Spain. Take me and I’ll organize the traveling.” Bhagavan and I were already quite close. He said, “All right, you can come but on one condition—that you get us on the same flight as Srila Prabhupada.” Prabhupada was scheduled to fly to London in about a week. So Bhagavan said, “If we’re going to go, we’ll try to go on the same flight. I said, “Okay.” I got on the telephone to New York and found out from the devotees what flight Srila Prabhupada was on. Then I called the airline ticket agent and said, “Do you have an A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, a Mr. Swami on this flight?” The ticket agent replied, “Yes, we do.” I said, “I’d like to reserve two seats on that flight.” She said, “I’m sorry, the flight’s completely booked.” My heart dropped. I said, “Isn’t there anything you can do? This is my spiritual master.” She said, “Your what?” I said, “He’s my spiritual master.” She said, “What’s a spiritual master?” I said, “He’s my guru, my spiritual teacher. In Christianity you have Jesus Christ who’s your life and soul and also your teacher.” She said, “Ohhhh. Okay, just one minute. I’ll go talk to my supervisor.” Two minutes later she came back and said, “Sir, we’ve made an arrangement so you can be with your guru on the flight. We’ve got two seats for you.” I gave her Bhagavan’s name and my name, and some days later we drove to New York City. At that time the temple was on Henry Street in Brooklyn. Prabhupada was lecturing and initiating, and devotees I’d heard about and wanted to meet, like Baradraj and Vishnujana Maharaj, were leading kirtans and having harinam on the streets every day. Bhavananda had made a pop art vyasasana for Srila Prabhupada with different colors and patterns. I was impressed, “This is an amazing vyasasana.” But Prabhupada would struggle not to slip when he sat on it, and I always wanted to hold the cushion for him. When it was time to go to the airport for our flight, Bhagavan and I left a little early. In those days everyone in the temple would go to the airport to see Prabhupada off, but this time most of the other devotees got stuck in traffic. Somehow we avoided the jam and got to the airport first. Srila Prabhupada and Pradyumna arrived just behind us. We checked in our bags and went to the passport control, and by that time hundreds and hundreds of devotees had arrived. It was chaotic. Everybody wanted to see Prabhupada, offer their obeisances, and maybe ask a few questions. After the passport check, an officer checked our hand luggage. I was next to Prabhupada when that officer said, “I want to see inside your white bag.” Prabhupada kept all his important papers, his glasses, his kartals, certain documents, and medicine in a white bag he carried whenever he traveled. I was curious to see inside that white bag, but when the officer asked him, Prabhupada had trouble with the locks. The bag was old and it was made in India. The officer became rough, “Open that bag, I said!” I leaned over the counter right into his face and said, “If you speak to my spiritual master like that again, I’m going to break your face.” The officer stood back and said, “I thought you people were nonviolent.” I said, “You’re speaking to a pure devotee. You should know the proper etiquette.” He said, “Okay young man. You open the bag.” I said, “Okay.” I turned the bag around and it opened, just like that. I became mesmerized—looking into the bag was a confidential insight into Prabhupada’s possessions. The officer said, “Excuse me, I want to see in the bag.” I turned the bag around, the officer looked in it and said, “Okay, thank you.” While Pradyumna and Bhagavan went through the same check-in formalities, Prabhupada and I walked to the plane. Just the two of us were in the hallway. It was the first time I’d been alone with Prabhupada. Prabhupada turned to me and said, “Because people in this material world associate with the modes of nature, they have no good qualities. Do you understand, Indradyumna?” Prabhupada was speaking to me! I didn’t really understand but I said, “Yes.” We walked a little further then stopped, and he said, “They are hovering on the mental platform without Krishna consciousness, but with all bad qualities. Do you understand, Indradyumna?” “Yes.” Just before we got on the plane, Prabhupada stopped again and said, “Because people associate with the modes of nature, they’re going down. But if we can revive their Krishna consciousness, they will develop all good qualities. Do you understand?” I said, “Yes, now I understand.” Hearing the same knowledge three times had a special potency—it entered my heart. I said, “Yes, I understand that they have bad qualities because they’re associating with material nature. But if we revive their Krishna consciousness, then all their good qualities will come out.” I felt, “Wow, okay, now I understand!” It was a mystical experience. We went on the plane, Srila Prabhupada sat down and I nervously sat down next to him, not knowing what to do. There were no other passengers. I chanted, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama . . .” and thought, “Prabhupada will see I’m chanting good rounds.” Prabhupada looked out the window. A few other passengers came on and Prabhupada said, “So, prasad?” I thought, “What prasad?” At the time, Pradyumna was Prabhupada’s secretary and servant and had Prabhupada’s prasad for the trip, but as we were going through the crowd of devotees at the airport, somebody had handed me a bag and said, “Here’s some oranges for Prabhupada. Tell him it’s from such-andsuch.” So I had that bag. It had a little plastic knife, some paper plates and three oranges. I pulled down the tray table, took out the knife, cut the oranges, and gave them to Srila Prabhupada. Prabhupada sucked the juice out of the slices, his jaw making a noise, and ate them all. He put the last one down and said, “Hare Krishna. So, Indradyumna, you’ll take prasad?” Neophyte devotee that I am, I said, “Srila Prabhupada, there’s no more prasad.” Prabhupada said, “There’s maha maha prasad.” I said, “Ohh . . .” and I took the plate feeling happy that my spiritual master had ordered me to take his remnants. I was in bliss. I put the peels in my mouth and started chewing. Orange peels are sour and my lips and mouth burned, but I thought, “This is maha!” I took two, three peels, and tears came to my eyes, “Maha prasad!” Prabhupada looked at me with an expression of amazed approval. I sucked the rest of them. Then the plane took off, some time passed, and we were asked to close the window blinds because a movie was starting. I thought, “A movie is maya. I’m going to show Prabhupada that I’m not going to watch this movie.” It was dark, the movie started and I picked up my Bhagavad-gita and read different verses, “. . . dehino ‘smin yatha dehe . . . dhiras tatra na muhyati . . . sarva-dharman parityajya . . . I’m not watching this movie.” I heard Prabhupada chuckle. And then he started to laugh. I looked over and Prabhupada was watching the movie! I put the book down, looked up, and saw it was one of Charlie Chaplin’s humorous movies. Prabhupada liked the movie. He was laughing, Pradyumna was laughing, and I was also laughing. When the movie ended and the lights came on, I thought, “We aren’t supposed to watch movies. What’s going on here? Prabhupada must have some explanation.” I leaned over to Pradyumna who was on the other side of Prabhupada, and said, “Pradyumna, can I speak to you?” He said, “I’m busy now.” I said, “I need to speak to you, I have an important question. I’ll meet you by the bathroom.” I got up and went toward the bathroom. Pradyumna got up, went past Prabhupada and joined me in the aisle. I said, “Pradyumna, we’re not supposed to watch movies, so what am I supposed to think?” He said, “I don’t know.” I said, “Maybe we should ask Srila Prabhupada.” He said, “Okay. Go ask Srila Prabhupada.” I said, “No, you ask Srila Prabhupada.” He said, “No, you ask Srila Prabhupada.” We went back and forth like this and finally he agreed to ask Srila Prabhupada. He sat down next to Prabhupada, they spoke and eventually a big smile came on Pradyumna’s face. I was in the aisle waiting. Pradyumna walked over, still smiling. I said, “What did Srila Prabhupada say?” Pradyumna said, “Prabhupada said, ‘we don’t generally watch movies, but Charlie Chaplin’s humor is very original and Krishna is the origin of all original things.’” Even as a young boy, Prabhupada liked the innocent humor of Charlie Chaplin. I was excited as we landed in London because I had heard how Malati, Shyamasundar, Mukunda, Janaki, Gurudas, Yamuna and all the other devotees there had done a lot of service and built a new center and I’d heard how the Beatles had taken an interest in Krishna consciousness. Srila Prabhupada’s receptions were always special, but I was expecting that this would be an extra special, big reception. After we landed, Prabhupada chanted his japa while we collected the luggage, but an important bag, the bag with commentaries by the acharyas that Prabhupada used for his writing, didn’t arrive. We waited and waited. We could hear a big kirtan in the reception hall, but there was no bag. Shyamasundar was upset. He said, “Someone has to wait here for the bag.” I tried to hide behind a pillar. Shyamasundar said, “Prabhupada, Indradyumna can stay and bring the bag to the temple.” Prabhupada said, “Yes, it is very important.” Oh no, I’m going to miss the reception! Prabhupada walked out the door, the other devotees left with him, and I could see the kirtan, Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna. I had to wait for this bag! Why did they lose the bag? I waited by the ticket counter for about an hour-and-a-half, and finally they found the bag and brought it to me. It was a huge heavy suitcase packed full of books. I could hardly lift it. I put it on a trolley and went outside. It was raining and cold. There were no devotees around and I was miserable that I had missed the reception. I hailed a taxi, put the bag in and got in. The taxi driver said, “Where do you want to go?” I said, “7 Bury Place.” He looked back and said, “Are you all right, son?” I said, “No.” He said, “Anything I can do to help you?” I replied, “No, I missed the reception of my spiritual master.” He said, “Your what?” I said, “I have a spiritual master. I’m a devotee in the Hare Krishna movement.” “Oh,” he said, “the people who sing on Oxford Street. Well, sorry about that. Anyway, there’s always a better day.” It was even raining harder when we got to the temple. I paid the driver, walked up the stairs with that big bag, knocked on the door, and some devotee with a blissful face answered, “Oh, Hare Krishna! Who are you?” I replied, “I’m Indradyumna das. I came on the flight with Srila Prabhupada and I had to wait behind for his bag.” The devotee said, “Ah, come in.” I came in, put the bag down and thought, “Well, God, at least I’ll get some of the prasadam feast.” The devotees were sitting around with paper plates that were empty except for yellow turmeric stains and a few finger marks in the ghee. I said, “Prabhus, is there any prasadam?” One devotee said, “Oh, prabhu, you missed the prasadam. You should have come a couple hours earlier. And you missed the reception! The reception for Prabhupada was so ecstatic! Prabhupada spoke so nicely and we had a big kirtan!” I said, “Oh, please. There’s no prasadam, not even a pakora?” “Nope.” “Okay, well, Prabhupada’s upstairs?” “Yeah, he has a room upstairs.” “Can you help me carry this bag upstairs?” “I’m so full. I can’t help.” So I did it myself. I was starting to get angry at that bag. Later I understood that bag was the source of all good fortune for me. The steps were very steep in Bury Place Temple. I took that bag up—boom, boom, boom, boom. Prabhupada’s room was on the second floor and I was hungry, exhausted, and hadn’t showered. I saw a door with a sign, ‘His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami,’ and I thought, “Prabhupada’s there.” I didn’t knock. I didn’t think of etiquette. I was excited to see Prabhupada again and I was a little confused. I opened the door, turned around and started dragging Prabhupada’s suitcase in backwards when all of a sudden Nanda Kumar, Srila Prabhupada’s servant in London, said, “Hey, watch out! You’re going to bump into Srila Prabhupada!” I dropped the bag, turned around, and Prabhupada was standing close to me. He said, “Hare Krishna.” I said, “Oh, Srila Prabhupada,” and I fell down to offer my obeisances, “Namah om visnu-padaya krsna-presthaya bhutale, srimate bhaktivedanta . . .” All of a sudden there was a slap on my back. I thought, “Prabhupada slapped me on the back,” but I couldn’t figure out if it was out of love or anger. Of course, either would be a blessing. I can still feel Prabhupada’s blessing right there on my back. I continued, “Namaste sarasvate . . .” and Prabhupada said something softly. I couldn’t hear him. I was near Prabhupada’s feet, and after a few moments his feet walked to another room. I got up and Prabhupada wasn’t there. Nanda Kumar’s mouth was open. I said, “Prabhu, what happened?” He said, “Prabhupada slapped you on the back.” I said, “Yeah, I know, really hard. And what did he say?” Nanda Kumar smiled and said, “Oh, it was so nice. Prabhupada said, ‘So much endeavor in this material world. But when I take you back home, back to Godhead, everything will be easy and sublime.’” We receive so many instructions from Srila Prabhupada’s books, but if a disciple gets a personal blessing from the spiritual master, he treasures that and keeps it in his heart forever. Over the years, when there was opposition as the Krishna conscious movement spread and when there were daily difficulties in going out on sankirtan—too cold, too hot, too tired—then I remember Prabhupada’s words. “So much endeavor in this material world. But when I take you back home, back to Godhead, everything will be easy and sublime.” When difficult days come, those words also come to me. Let us struggle to serve Srila Prabhupada, to push on the sankirtan movement in this world, because in the end Prabhupada’s going to take us all back home, back to Godhead. And when we go back to the spiritual world, everything’s going to be easy and sublime. We spent a couple of days in London and once someone said to Bhagavan and me, “Prabhupada wants to see you.” We knocked on the door. Nanda Kumar answered and invited us in. Prabhupada was sitting behind a low desk. We paid our obeisances, and Prabhupada preached about the importance of the sankirtan movement. He appreciated that we were going to help the sankirtan movement in Paris. He looked at me and said, “My instruction to you is to preach boldly and have faith in the holy names. Krishna will give you all facility.” Again his instruction went into my heart and I meditate on it constantly. “Preach boldly and have faith in the holy names.” Then Prabhupada said, “I’ll give you something to encourage you,” and he pulled out some of his clothes from a drawer. He handed something to Bhagavan das and he handed me one of his dhotis. I took that dhoti to my heart and I said, “Wow, now I have something that I can treasure. I have the instructions from Srila Prabhupada to preach boldly and have faith in the holy names and I have his own dhoti.” Although I was a grihastha, I used to wear that dhoti like a chaddar. Once a sannyasi came to Europe and said to me, “You’re a householder, you can’t wear saffron.” I said, “Maharaj, yes I can. This is Prabhupada’s dhoti and no one’s going to make me take this dhoti off.” He said, “Oh, it’s Prabhupada’s dhoti, eh?” I said, “Yes.” And I wore that dhoti until it wore out. So with Prabhupada’s blessings, we went to Paris. In America things were building up, we had big temples, Deities and organization. But as we walked in the Paris temple, a little house on the Fontanay-aux-Roses outside of Paris, the devotees were having a big kirtan, and the altar—cardboard boxes with a couple of sticks to hold a picture of the Pancha-tattva—collapsed. We thought, “Oh, my gosh, where did Prabhupada send us? Look at this place!” The temple was an old, cold building with no heat. But Locanananda was leading an ecstatic kirtan. A couple of weeks later Prabhupada came to Paris and we received him in that little temple. We had a program downtown in the American Center that Hansadutta and all the devotees from Germany came to attend. At that program, some ruffians tried to make problems outside but we didn’t want to tell Prabhupada. On a morning walk with Srila Prabhupada, I was impressed by the nice little French gardens and houses, but Prabhupada wasn’t impressed. He looked at me and said, “These French, they are so expert at sense gratification.” Prabhupada visited France several times. On August 10, 1973, he installed Radha-Parisisvara in a simple ceremony. I was standing next to the vyasasana. As the devotees bathed Srimati Radharani, Prabhupada thought that the marble on Her cheek had become discolored from the abhishek. Prabhupada got off his vyasasana and with so much concern and care and love, he walked towards the Deity of Radharani. He got up close to Her, folded his hands and then carefully rubbed Her face. Prabhupada thought what was on Her face could be removed, but it was in the marble. I thought, “Prabhupada doesn’t see the Deity as marble. He’s actually seeing that Radharani is there and he’s treating Her with so much love and devotion.” That one incident convinced me about Deity worship. Before they do puja, devotees pray, “My dear Lord, You are not a statue. You are directly the son of Maharaj Nanda.” Although I didn’t know that quote then, Prabhupada’s intimate dealings with the Deity convinced me the Deity is not stone, but is actually Krishna, actually Radha. When Prabhupada installed the small Radha and Krishna in Los Angeles, he said, “So we have to keep ourselves always in the fire of Krishna consciousness; then everything is all right. Otherwise, it will become dull and it will be simply idol worship. That’s all. That is the difference between idol worship and Deity worship. If there is no life, then it is idol worship, hedonism. And when there is life, feeling, ‘Where is Krishna? Here is Krishna. Oh, I have to serve Krishna, I have to dress Him, I have to serve Radharani. She is here. Oh, I must do it very nicely. And as far as possible decorate Her to the best capacity.’ In this way, if you always feel Krishna conscious, then you are fire. And if you think it is a brass-made idol, then it will remain a brass-made idol to you forever. But if you elevate yourself to the higher platform of Krishna consciousness, then Krishna, this Krishna, will talk with you. This Krishna will talk with you.” Prabhupada made monumental achievements around the world but because he was a pure devotee, the little things he did were also wonderful. Just as Krishna is greater than the greatest and smaller than the smallest, so by the Lord’s grace, His pure devotee is able to do huge things. But because even the small things he does are imbued with pure devotion for the Lord, they are also significant and endearing. The way Prabhupada played kartals, the way he moved his fingers and chanted, captivated me. He was doing it in pure devotion for Radha and Krishna. The next year Prabhupada was scheduled to come to Paris again, and to collect funds to renovate the temple for his arrival, we started a marathon. We went to the Metro (the underground subway) to distribute small books and pamphlets on chanting Hare Krishna. We were competing—the first two persons who won the marathon would bathe Prabhupada’s feet. Every morning, the other devotees and I got up, chanted our rounds, went into the Metro before sunrise and left at eleven o’clock at night. For one month I didn’t see the light of the sun. If we got tired, we slept in the Metro chairs. We ate down there too—we just kept going. I slept three or four hours a night that month. I’d heard that the dust of the lotus feet of the pure devotee, the water that washes those feet, and the remnants of his prasadam are very conducive for advancing in Krishna consciousness and I was determined—beg, borrow or steal—to get that mercy. My God-brother, Bhugarbha, and I were a team. We went out a few extra days, distributed many small books and pamphlets, and won that marathon. Then we made a plan—and we got an extra-big silver pitcher and bowl for washing Prabhupada’s feet. So, when Prabhupada arrived he had a big reception at the airport and then he came to the temple. Bhugarbha and I had our big silver bowl and pitcher filled with warm water, rosewater and petals. Prabhupada offered his obeisances to the Deities and sat down to receive gurupuja. I put the bowl under his feet and Bhugarbha started pouring the water. I thought, “Wow! This is the perfection of my life, touching the feet of a pure devotee.” The kirtan was raging as Bhugarbha and I gathered the many liters of water, charanamrita. I had the key to the president’s office in my pocket and I said, “Okay, one, two, three, let’s go!” We took that bowl, ran upstairs into the office, slammed and locked the door just in time to keep out the brahmacharis who were following us. Usually you throw charanamrita on everybody’s head but we wanted every drop of it. Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, the brahmacharis were banging, “We want the nectar! We want the nectar!” Bhugarbha and I sat down and took new cups out of our pockets. Behind us the brahmacharis were hitting the door. I said to Bhugarbha, “Do you hear something?” He said, “No, no, nothing to worry about.” I said, “Let me do the honors,” and I put charanamrita in a cup and gave it to Bhugarbha. Then I dipped my cup in it and—cheers! We began drinking slowly, savoring every drop. I was remembering that the water that washes the lotus feet of the pure devotee has so much mercy. The kirtan was going downstairs, and we were drinking and drinking. I don’t know how two young men could drink that much charanamrita. At the end there was a couple of drops left, so we divided it, he took one and I took one. Then we sat back, “Ahhhh.” I think that mercy is probably the reason that I’m still in the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. After that I opened the door. Twenty brahmacharis tumbled in because they didn’t expect the door to open. They all got up. One asked, “Where’s the charanamrita?” I said to Bhugarbha, “The mercy?” He said, “What are they talking about?” I said, “I don’t know.” We still had our cups in our hands. The boys said, “You took all the charanamrita!” I said, “Oh, charanamrita! Sorry, boys. Hare Krishna. Beg, borrow or steal, you’ve got to get the mercy.” Then Bhagavan came and said, “What are you all doing up here?” I said, “Nothing, nothing, I’ll be down in a minute, I have to use the toilet.” We came down when Prabhupada was playing his kartals and chanting, “jaya radha-madhava kunja-bihari, gopi-jana-vallabha giri-vara-dhari.” Hearing Prabhupada sing about the spiritual world, Radha and Krishna, Giri Govardhana, Yamuna, everything around us stopped. We were mesmerized. We entered the spiritual world through Prabhupada’s transcendental sound vibration. Prabhupada was looking at Radha-Parisisvara and suddenly he started shaking. I thought, “Oh, no, Prabhupada’s sick, something’s happening.” “Kunjabehar . . . ,” and Prabhupada stopped singing. I was sitting in front of Prabhupada’s vyasasana, and I noticed that Prabhupada’s eyes welled up and then overflowed with tears. We hear Lord Chaitanya’s prayer, “O Govinda! Feeling Your separation, I am considering a moment to be like twelve years or more. Tears are flowing from my eyes like torrents of rain.” In the same way, Prabhupada’s tears were flowing. I thought, “Here I am in the material world and Prabhupada’s in the spiritual world, in Vrindavan, and by his causeless mercy I’m getting a glimpse of what it’s like to be in Vrindavan, to have love for Radha and Krishna.” That was another impression that is forever etched in my heart, like lines etched in stone. If there’s anything that convinced me about Krishna consciousness, it was that one incident of Prabhupada shedding tears of love. I couldn’t understand it and it’s still far beyond me, but it convinced me. Then Prabhupada opened his eyes and said, “Chant Hare Krishna.” We started chanting and after that Prabhupada gave a short lecture and went upstairs. In Geneva, Guru Gauranga had given me two bars of Swiss chocolate, a light and a dark, and he had told me, “Ask Srila Prabhupada if he’d like some chocolate because Swiss chocolate is the best.” I said, “Okay.” So, after his reception, when Prabhupada had gone upstairs to his room, we paid our obeisances and I said, “Srila Prabhupada, we have some chocolate for you.” He said, “Oh?” I said, “Guru Gauranga says that Swiss chocolate is the best chocolate.” He said, “Oh, so I will try some.” I opened up the light one, broke a little piece and gave it to him. Prabhupada tasted it and said, “Ah, very good.” He pointed to the other one and said, “And that?” I said, “This is dark chocolate, it may be a little bitter.” He said, “No, no, we’ll try.” I took a little and gave it to Prabhupada. He said, “Hare Krishna.” When my traveling sankirtan party was distributing books in the French island of Corsica in the Mediterranean, Prabhupada came to Paris again, this time unexpectedly. Prabhupada was ill in England, and Bhagavan had begged Prabhupada to come to France. Bhagavan spoke about the activities that were going on in France, how many books had been published and were being distributed and the wonderful Deity worship. Bhagavan didn’t want to pressure Prabhupada, but he wanted Prabhupada to know how intensely the devotees were serving and how much they loved him. When Bhagavan walked out of the room Prabhupada turned to one of his secretaries and said, “All right, we will go. Bhagavan is the Supreme Controller.” So, in Corsica we received a phone call that Srila Prabhupada had arrived in Paris and we were to go there immediately. I was giving a lecture in a yoga club when someone said, “Prabhupada’s just arrived in Paris and you’re supposed to go right now.” I said, “I’ll finish my lecture.” “No,” he said, “we want to go right now. We don’t want to miss it.” I said, “We’ll finish the lecture. Prabhupada would want us to finish the lecture. This is our duty.” So I finished the lecture in 10 or 15 minutes and I said to the audience, “My spiritual master, a pure devotee of the Lord, has just arrived in Paris. If any of you want to, you can come with us and meet him. Can any of you come?” At the back a man in uniform raised his hand. He said, “Yes, my family and I will come. This is the first time we’ve been to a yoga center, but what you’ve said is interesting and I’d like to meet the person who explained this to you—your guru.” I said, “Sir, who are you?” He said, “I’m an admiral in the French Navy.” I said, “You’re an admiral in the French Navy? All right.” He said, “Don’t worry, I’ll get off duty.” I said, “Well, we’ll leave in about a half an hour.” He said, “No problem,” and made a few phone calls. He got off work, his wife packed a few belongings and got their two kids, and within a short time they were back. We jumped in our sankirtan van and went off for the 13-hour drive to Paris with the French admiral in tow behind us. When we got there Prabhupada was about to have darshan. After driving all night we were unshaved and unshowered, but we weren’t going to miss one moment of Prabhupada’s association. We came in the temple and I told the devotees, “An admiral came with us who would like to meet Srila Prabhupada.” They said, “All right, come on up.” Prabhupada had just started speaking when we walked in. I was so happy I could bring this person to my spiritual master. The etiquette is you bring your guru some dakshin, some flowers or fruits, and here we were bringing an admiral in the French Navy. I was bursting with pride to be the disciple of my guru and, “This is my alms, I’ve brought this person for you to preach to.” Prabhupada saw the admiral, and “Ohhh,” he beamed. I asked the admiral and his wife, “You sit down here in front of Srila Prabhupada.” They were respectful. They sat down and I sat next to them and told Prabhupada, “Srila Prabhupada, we were doing a program in Corsica, and when we heard of your arrival, I asked if anyone wanted to come and this admiral…” Prabhupada said, “Oh, very nice,” and began explaining how the Bhagavadgita was spoken to Arjuna, who was a warrior. He described what brahmanas, kshatriyas, vaishyas, and sudras do and how everyone’s focused on offering their service to Krishna. Prabhupada said, “Even though you are a warrior, you can also be a devotee of God. You can use your work to serve God.” The admiral was drinking in every word of it, “Oh, yes.” Then Prabhupada started speaking of reincarnation and karma, which was new to the admiral, but he listened carefully. Prabhupada preached to him for forty-five minutes and in the end the admiral said, “What do I call you?” I said, “Call him Srila Prabhupada.” He said, “Srila Prabhupada, this is very interesting for me. I don’t know what’s happened. My wife wanted to go to a yoga club and now I’m sitting here in front of you, a very special person. If I want to understand this philosophy, what should I read?” Prabhupada said, “Bhagavad-gita.” One of the servants got a French Bhagavad-gita. Prabhupada said, “This is our French Gita. Read this.” The admiral looked at it—it was a big book. He said, “I may not have time to read the whole book—of all the chapters, which one should I concentrate on?” Prabhupada said, “Read the Ninth Chapter and then you’ll understand everything about Krishna.” The man took the Bhagavad-gita that he received from Prabhupada and left. We were so young in those days, I didn’t get his address or telephone number and he was gone. I thought, “Boy, I wish I had gotten his contact information.” Years later I was distributing books near the mayor’s office in Paris when there was a big function. The police cordoned off the area, police cars and lights were going, and I thought, “Wow, this is great—a big event with a lot of important people. I’ll get in somehow and distribute books—maybe I’ll get a book to the mayor.” I got in and the police threw me out, “Get out of here.” Then I saw a group of Navy personnel who were part of the function and who saw how I’d been roughly thrown out. And who did I see but the admiral in his uniform. He went to the police and said, “Let this boy come.” I thought, “Oh, this is a good opportunity.” I said, “Admiral, it’s good to see you again,” and I gave a few books to the people around there. I actually didn’t sell any books. The admiral said, “Yeah. Not a day goes by I don’t remember your spiritual teacher. Not a week goes by I don’t read the Ninth Chapter of Bhagavad-gita.” I said, “Thank you very much,” and we shook hands. Then the police said, “All right, that’s enough! You have to go.” I went out of the ropes and I thought, “Oh, my God, again I didn’t get his name and address.” But I thought it was Krishna’s mercy that this man met a pure devotee and that he would have the opportunity to meet Prabhupada again. Another time we were getting ready for Prabhupada’s arrival in Paris when there was a knock on the temple door. We opened it and there was a 19 year-old disheveled bum who hadn’t bathed in weeks and had intoxicated eyes and hair matted with dirt. “Food,” he grunted. “All right,” I said, “I’ll give you prasadam.” He said, “I will come in.” “No,” I said, “first bathe, you’re too dirty.” We gave him prasadam and he went away. Later in the afternoon I was on a japa walk on a prestigious Paris boulevard near the Arc de Triomphe when I heard a noise in the bushes. I looked and saw that this boy had made a little place for himself there with some newspapers. He’d been there a few days. The next day I came by and he popped out of the bushes, “Food!” I said, “Come to the temple, we’ll give you some prasadam.” Other devotees heard about him. We nicknamed him Pig Pen, and after that I forgot about him. Then, after Prabhupada arrived, one morning all the devotees except the pujaris (who were on the altar dressing the Deities) went for a walk in that same area. Suddenly this boy lunged out of the bushes and tried to grab Prabhupada’s feet. Someone said, “Get that boy!” and the devotees threw him back in the bushes. Oh, my God, Pig Pen almost touched Prabhupada’s feet! We all walked around a lake then went back to the temple, and I noticed that the temple door, which we had left closed, was wide open. Somebody had come in while we were away. I was next to Prabhupada when we went into the temple room, and there was Pig Pen. He lunged and grabbed Prabhupada’s feet. Somebody said, “Get that . . .” But Prabhupada said, “No.” Prabhupada let Pig Pen hold his feet. Prabhupada massaged Pig Pen’s head saying, “That’s all right, my boy, that’s all right. Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna. It’s all right, it’s all right.” It was completely silent. Nobody moved. We were watching, stunned. “It’s all right, my boy.” Then Prabhupada said, “All right, Hare Krishna.” Pig Pen fell back and we greeted the Deities, “Govindam adi-purusam tam aham . . .” The temple was crowded and Pig Pen was sitting in the middle of the floor but nobody dared move Pig Pen out of the temple room because we’d seen how affectionate Prabhupada was towards him. Prabhupada gave class and afterward somebody said, “Pig Pen should leave.” But someone else said, “No, Prabhupada gave him some mercy. Let’s see. So Pig Pen, do you want to stay?” Pig Pen grunted. He had been taking drugs. I said, “Take him upstairs and clean him up.” He went upstairs, had a shower and someone helped him put on a dhoti and kurta. I didn’t recognize him when he came downstairs, but he still couldn’t speak well. He stayed around that day and then he spent the night. Some devotees thought, “We can’t have him around, he can’t do anything.” But Pig Pen started cleaning things. He endeared himself to the devotees by cleaning. Sometimes we’d say, “Pig Pen, how are you doing?” He’d reply, “Prabhupada saved me, Prabhupada saved me.” We’d say, “Okay, Prabhupada saved you.” Then he’d start chanting. A couple of weeks later it was time for me to go on traveling sankirtan in my van. We packed the van, went inside to get some more books, came out, and Pig Pen was sitting in the front passenger’s seat. I said, “Pig Pen, what are you doing here?” He said, “Go on sankirtan.” I said, “Pig Pen, you’re doing a good job cleaning the temple.” “Go on sankirtan,” he said. I said, “Pig Pen, why?” He said, “Prabhupada saved me.” I said, “Oh, Pig Pen. All right. We’ll give you a chance. You can clean the van.” He said, “All right.” We got his few things together, put them in the van, and we left with Pig Pen in the front seat. I was driving, looking over and thinking, “Oh, God, look at this guy.” Somehow he had a book bag and he put some books in it. In those days we distributed books in parking lots. We got to the parking lot and the first one out of the van was Pig Pen in his dhoti. I thought, “Oh, my God, what’s this guy doing? He’s going to get us arrested.” I said, “Somebody go get him!” Someone said, “How should we get him?” I said, “Never mind, he’ll get scared and be back in a minute.” We had a big breakfast and were packing our bags and talking, and then, “It looks like Pig Pen’s doing a book at the entrance to the shopping market. Hey, Pig Pen!” An hour later, as we were getting ready to leave, Pig Pen came back with no books in his bag. I said, “What happened?” Someone replied, “He probably dumped them.” Another said, “No, no, we saw him distributing the books.” I said, “Pig Pen, how’d you do that? What did you tell the people?” He said, “I told people that Prabhupada saved me.” That was his mantra. Prabhupada had transformed him. In one verse, Sanatan Goswami says that just like bell metal can be changed into gold by a chemical process, so someone who has training and diksha from the pure Vaishnava devotee of the Lord can become more than brahman—he can be Vaishnava. That transformation was quick in Pig Pen’s heart. His transformation renewed our faith in the process of Krishna consciousness and in Prabhupada’s mercy. Prabhupada transformed that boy by rubbing his head, “It’s all right, it’s all right, my boy. Hare Krishna, it’s all right.” Who can understand what Prabhupada gave during those twenty seconds that the boy was holding onto Prabhupada’s feet in the temple room? Pig Pen’s speech cleared up, he started talking nicely, and he became a big book distributor and started giving classes. Eventually he was initiated as Rasada das and for many years served in France. Years later I heard that he was still distributing books in New York. All glories to Srila Prabhupada’s mercy that transforms the Jagais and Madhais of the modern era! One time Prabhupada arrived in New Mayapur when we were on traveling sankirtan, and later, when we arrived in New Mayapur, Prabhupada was giving darshan on the lawn. At the end of the darshan, Prabhupada asked for questions and I thought, “If I ask a question, my spiritual master will see me. He’ll know that I’m his disciple, that I’m here.” There were so many devotees that we didn’t get much intimate association. I raised my hand and said, “In your lecture, you said that because of his love, the pure devotee of Krishna sees Krishna everywhere. But in the Siksastaskam prayers, Lord Chaitanya’s feeling separation from Krishna and thus He’s feeling a moment to be like twelve years or more. So how do we understand that on one hand the devotee is seeing the Lord everywhere but on the other he is also feeling separation?” I was sitting close to Prabhupada, and he closed his eyes. It’s a deep subject, vipralambha-bhava, feeling loving sentiments for the Lord in separation from Him. Prabhupada opened his eyes, leaned forward and only said, “This is a difficult question. Someday when you’re advanced, you will understand the answer to this question.” In the Caitanya-caritamrta there’s a story of Sri Mukunda. Srila Prabhupada writes that, “Sri Mukunda, a great friend and associate of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, used to visit many places where people were against the Vaishnava cult. When Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu came to know of this, He punished Mukunda, forbidding him to see Him again. Although Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was soft like a flower, He was also strict like a thunderbolt, and everyone was afraid to allow Mukunda to come again into the presence of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Mukunda, therefore, being very sorry, asked his friends whether he would one day be allowed to see Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. When the devotees brought this inquiry to Lord Chaitanya, the Lord replied, ‘Mukunda will get permission to see Me after many millions of years.’ When they gave this information to Mukunda, he danced with jubilation, and when Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu heard that Mukunda was so patiently waiting to meet Him after millions of years, He immediately asked him to return.” So, when Prabhupada said, “One day when you are advanced, you will understand,” I thought, “Okay, by Prabhupada’s mercy, one day I’ll achieve some level of Krishna consciousness where I’ll get the answer to that question.” A devotee is a perfect gentleman, and I saw that Prabhupada was willing to preach to anyone and everyone. He always had time for anyone who came. He was the perfect listener, and he was always able to give expert advice. He was so expert that he could touch even an antagonistic person’s heart. In one darshan in Paris Prabhupada said, “Are there any questions?” A lady raised her hand and said, “Swamiji, what was I in my last life?” Prabhupada ignored that question and took another question. The lady stood up, “Swamiji, I want you to answer my question. What was I in my last life?” Prabhupada ignored her again. The third time she asked, Prabhupada said, “This is not a relevant question. Pariprasnena sevaya. Questions to the spiritual master should be relevant, how to advance in Krishna consciousness, how to render service to Krishna. It’s not so important what you were in your last life but what you’ll be in your next life.” That got her. She said, “Ohhhh. So what I can be in my next life?” Prabhupada said, “You can be a devotee of Krishna if you chant Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare.” In Prabhupada’s association, I saw that whether an admiral, or a hippie boy, a scholar or a devotee’s mother, Prabhupada somehow expertly interested each person in Krishna consciousness. Each person went away with a favorable impression of Krishna consciousness. That’s a perfect gentleman. But Prabhupada could also become angry defending his beloved Krishna. I heard that at a big pandal program in Bombay, Prabhupada became angry when one boy said, “Krishna is not God. I am God.” In front of 30,000 people Prabhupada exploded, “You are not God, you are dog!” Many people walked out of that pandal program thinking, “What kind of sadhu is this? A sadhu should not get angry.” But this is sadhu. If Krishna is blasphemed and if one really loves Krishna, then that person will stand up to defend his beloved. In every situation Prabhupada reacted to give Krishna conscious instruction to each individual.

To view the entire unedited video go to Memories 33 - Indradyumna Swami

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

Following Srila Prabhupada

Interview DVD 05

Indradyumna Swami: Later during that visit to London before Bhagavan and I went on to Paris, Srila Prabhupada called us into his room to give us some more instructions and inspiration; and I was very much hoping at that time to receive a personal instruction from Srila Prabhupada. Prabhupada gave many general instructions but, of course, a disciple always hankers to have some personal interrelationship with his spiritual master and receive some special instructions. I was a little shy to ask, but at one point I spoke up and I said, “Srila Prabhupada, could you give me some instruction?” So Srila Prabhupada leaned over the desk at that time and looked at me in my eyes and he said, “Preach boldly and have faith in the Holy Names.” I’ve always tried to follow that instruction of Srila Prabhupada as a guideline for the rest of my life. I was so nervous at the time, I don’t remember how I felt. I just felt blessed that Prabhupada would see me, notice me and give some instruction that I could build the rest of my devotional career upon. Then Prabhupada, to further encourage both of us, he reached over into his drawer and he gave me one of his dhotis and he gave Bhagavan das one of his undershirts and he just smiled. Then after a little more conversation, we left for our service in Paris, France. I did wear that dhoti actually. It was bright saffron and, of course, I was a grihastha at that time; but it was the tadiya, it was the paraphernalia of the spiritual master and, therefore, divine. We know that Mahaprabhu Himself, in order to encourage His own followers, His own disciples, He would sometimes give them pieces of cloth. A piece of His cloth was sent to Maharaja Prataparudra, who worshiped it as nondifferent than the Lord. A piece of His cloth was sent to Gopal Bhatta Goswami in Vrindavan. So this tadiya, this nectar, this mercy of my spiritual master, I took that very seriously. I used to wear that as a chaddar actually. And sometimes when the sannyasis would come through, they would chide me, “You’re a grihastha and you’re wearing saffron?” I said, “Yes, this is no ordinary cloth. This is the dhoti of our spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada. I’m not taking it off for anything.”