Padmanabha das Remembers Srila Prabhupada

Prabhupada Memories

Interview 01

Padmanabha: In Denver, every night we would sit outside and read Krsna Book to Srila Prabhupada while he rocked back and forth in his rocking chair and sometimes massaged his temple. When the chapter ended, Prabhupada would look up. The person reading would continue, “Chapter 13, The Stealing of the Boys and Calves by Brahma,” and Prabhupada would say, “Oh, good, go on.” For an hour or an hour-and-a-half Prabhupada was immersed in Krsna Book, and I would think, “Does he even know that he wrote this book?” He had no ego like, “This is a book I’ve written.” If I’d have written the book, I would have been proud. But selfacclaim and taking credit for having written the books was not part of Prabhupada’s personality. Prabhupada could sense that I was over-enthusiastic and I wanted to be special. One night, in July of 1975, we had just gotten the sankirtan results and the Denver temple had come in third in the world. I was brimming with pride and I wanted to tell Srila Prabhupada. When the Krsna Book reading ended and Prabhupada stood up to go back to the house, I said, “Srila Prabhupada! Srila Prabhupada!” He said, “Yes?” I said, “Last week Denver was number three in the world in book distribution!” We had done three thousand big books and only Los Angeles and the Radha-Damodar party had done better than we did. We only had seventy devotees while the Los Angeles temple had hundreds of devotees and the Radha-Damodar party had five buses. I thought we had done dang well and that Prabhupada was going to say, “That is wonderful!” But he looked at me and said, “Then you make it number one!” (laughs) I wasn’t expecting that. I thought, “How are we going to do that?” But I said, “Oh, wow, okay, yeah!” Srila Prabhupada was always encouraging us.

The most fun I ever had was to go on morning walks with Srila Prabhupada. Once, Brahmananda and other sannyasis were on a morning walk in Denver during the time that Ted Patrick was deprogramming devotees. Prabhupada said, “Your parents do not like me.” Vishnujana Maharaj said, “Srila Prabhupada, you are like Narada Muni. You have to keep moving.” Prabhupada said, “Yes, I travel so much so they cannot catch up to me,” and everybody laughed. Then Prabhupada said, “But some of your parents have appreciated our movement.” He pointed to Brahmananda and said, “How about your mother? Tell them about your mother.” Brahmananda started giggling and couldn’t say anything, so Prabhupada said, “His mother came to see me and said, ‘You have taken my two sons and turned them into monks. They have shaved their heads and they wear robes. What else do you want?’” Prabhupada said, “I said to her, ‘Can you give some money?’” and she said, “Oh, no!” I laughed with all the swamis, and it was probably the best laugh I’ve had in my life. Srila Prabhupada, all the sannyasis and I were laughing about how parents were upset because Prabhupada had taken their children away from them. At that point I understood that Prabhupada was our real father. The material family is temporary, but Srila Prabhupada was our true father. He had gathered up his children and had sent them on tirtha, on pilgrimage, going in vans from one temple to the next to distribute his books.

On a morning walk I asked, “Srila Prabhupada, I approach a lot of business people for donations, not for book distribution. Do these people gain anything when they give money but don’t know that they’re giving it to Krishna?” He said, “This is called ‘ajnata sukriti’.” I thought, “Ajnata means ‘done unknowingly,’ and sukriti means ‘pious activity’.” Prabhupada said, “They make some advancement without knowing it.” I was reassured that what I was doing for Srila Prabhupada was important and beneficial. Book distribution was hyped as Prabhupada’s love and it was said that Prabhupada was here to give us his books. Book distribution was the front line activity and for it to go on took so much backup work. It was nice to know that there were other things that we could do to give credence to passing out his books and it gave me pleasure to know that even without their knowledge, these people were getting some benefit.

In Denver we were having a lot of fun enacting plays such as, “Contemplation of the Objects of the Senses,” and we thought about performing that one for Srila Prabhupada. But in that play, we exaggerated the characters of Attachment and Lust and Delusion, and had Mick Jagger singing in the background. Besides that, a couple of members of the cast, Maitreya and Manindra, were no longer at our temple. So we had to come up with another play and decided to do puffed-up Paundraka. We had a new devotee, Govardhanadhari, who was really excited and exciting. I was Paundraka and I wore a headdress and had shoulder pads with two arms that went up and two arms that came down. Srila Prabhupada was sitting on the vyasasana and the narrator was saying, “Krishna saw Paundraka face to face for the first time. Krishna saw that Paundraka had decorated himself with the symbols of the conch shell, disc, lotus and club. He carried an imitation Sarnga bow, and on his chest was a mock insignia of Srivatsa,” I walked by Srila Prabhupada and everybody in the Denver temple room. I looked over at Prabhupada and thought, “I hope he forgives me for this,” as I said, “Where is this Krishna?” Prabhupada was into it. He was ready to jump up and kill me himself. I said, “Who is this Krishna?” Prabhupada looked at me as if to say, “I’m one of Krishna’s guys.” I stopped in my tracks for a second, took a breath and said, “This impudent fool! I am the only Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vasudeva. No man can compete with me. I have descended as King Paundraka, taking compassion on the distressed conditioned souls out of my unlimited causeless mercy.” Then Govardhanadhari, playing Krishna, came and killed me. My arms fell off as I fell to the ground. We also had little pyrotechnic fireworks that blew up. There was an explosion, “Ba boom!” and a mushroom cloud of smoke rose in the temple. I didn’t know it was going to be that loud. It startled everybody. Prabhupada was startled but broke into a big smile. I thought, “Ah, good, he liked it. Wow!” That was really exciting and fun. The biggest thing Prabhupada taught me was that there’s a very serious side to Krishna consciousness, and there’s certainly a heck of a lot of fun too.

To view the entire unedited video go to Memories 47 - Twenty Disciples Remembering SP

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