Ravindra Swarupa das Remembers Srila Prabhupada

Following Srila Prabhupada

Interview DVD 08

Ravindra Swarupa: We had gotten local brahmanas to install the Deities because Prabhupada said that without them doing it, the people wouldn’t think the Deities were really installed. This is Prabhupada at the installation. So at one point in the ceremony, they had to bring Prabhupada out. I guess he was the yajnamana or the sponsor of the sacrifice, and he had to participate in some of the rituals. You just notice how Prabhupada sits here, quite…I don’t know what to say…submissively enduring the ritual of the brahmanas. He also ordered that there be a 24-hour kirtan, and he told the devotees that the kirtan is actually installing the Deities. But they were quite elaborate, the rituals. You see how they do their coconuts up, the real style. Pradyumna was busy taking notes.

Interview DVD 09

Ravindra Swarupa: It was the first time Prabhupada had been to Philadelphia when there was a temple there. Before he stopped off at Butler. On the way back from Butler to New York, he stopped off at the University of Pennsylvania, October of ’65. Then he came to Temple University once, spoke in Swami Nikhilananda’s course, made some devotees too from another program. Prabhupada also met with scholars while he was in Philadelphia – Tom Hopkins, who he was really, really quite favorable to. And this professor from the Temple University, my Religion Department, Vibhuti Yadav, who Prabhupada raked over the coals, he was so heavy with him. Prabhupada said to him, “What do you teach?” He said, “Hinduism.” Prabhupada said, “And what is that Hinduism?” Professor Yadav made the mistake of saying, “I don’t know. You tell me what is that Hinduism.” Prabhupada said, “Oh, you are teaching, you do not know?” He said, “This is our Swarupa Damodar. He is also Ph.D. Let us ask his opinion. He says he is teaching, but he says he does not know. What is your judgment?” On cue, Swarupa Damodar says, “Cheater, Srila Prabhupada. That is called cheater.” This is how it starts. Prabhupada said, “So he has called you a cheater.” It got heavier and heavier. Finally Yadav admitted he was a cheater and he said to Prabhupada, “Yes, I am a cheater, but I am an honest cheater.” Prabhupada didn’t give him a break. He said, “You say you are honest, but the judgment of a cheater cannot be accepted.” So he was demanding that Prabhupada tell him what Hinduism is, and Prabhupada said, “First you become shaven-headed like these. Then I will teach you. Tad vidhi pranipatena, pariprasnena sevaya.” Vibhuti Yadav says, “I did. When I came in, I offered my pranams.” He folded his hands together. Then Prabhupada said, “Then my first instruction to you is stop this cheating business.” Oh, the GBC and everybody were just shooting daggers at me because Prabhupada was quite visibly angry. And I didn’t know what to do, I had brought him and everything. There were some graduate students there who were friends of mine who couldn’t believe it, what Prabhupada was doing to him. Another point, Prabhupada had quoted the verse mam ekam saranam vraja, “Just surrender to Me.” “What is the meaning of surrender?” Yadav said. Prabhupada turns to his secretary, “Hand me a dictionary,” and Yadav bristled. He said, “No, I want the Sanskrit etymological meaning of saranam vraja.” Prabhupada leaned back, looked at him and said, “We cannot waste our time.” He said, “You don’t want a guru. You want a Sanskrit teacher.” So finally Yadav left, and the GBC were gathering around Prabhupada showing him favorable newspaper articles about Gita Nagari and trying to calm him down. I felt so horrible. But the next morning I was driving Prabhupada for his morning walk. I’d stayed up all night long thinking of an apology. He got in the car and we started driving and I said, “Srila Prabhupada, I’m very sorry I brought that professor to see you. I didn’t know he was such a demon.” Prabhupada looked at me. He said, “No, it’s all right.” He said, “At least he was chastised.” You can see me there, I’m looking quite concerned because the car is not there. There is the airport manager on the left. Prabhupada is there but I am not blissful because the car, the limousine is not there, the famous Cadillac limousine. Because a reporter asked him later, “They say you are very humble, but I see that the devotees brought you from the airport in a Cadillac limousine. If you are so humble, why did you drive a Cadillac limousine?” Prabhupada said, “The spiritual master is to be worshiped on an equal level with God, who rides a golden car. So this Cadillac,” he said, “was not enough.”

That’s my son, Yudhisthira, up there on the cart. Prabhupada joins us later on in the parade. It was a very long parade. And this year we are starting right in front of Independence Hall. We are going down Walnut Street and ending up at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

It almost rained every day. In fact, it was raining on the Rathayatra. You can see it’s overcast. And just when Prabhupada was coming to get on the cart, the sun came out. That was the first time we’d seen the sun. I was really afraid it was going to rain all during Rathayatra. Twice we went out for morning walks and we just drove around because it was raining so hard. The first time we took him for a walk was up in the Wissahickon Gorge near the temple. The Wissahickon Gorge is a forest in the middle of the city. Prabhupada said, “What is this jungle doing in the middle of the city?” At that time, people were preaching there was a food shortage. So he said, “All of these should be cut down and it should be planted. There is sufficient space to grow food for everybody.” So then the next time we took him for a walk along the river where there is more like a park, and he liked that much better. But it was so rainy Prabhupada said, “This is just like India.” He said, “In Puri, it’s always raining during Rathayatra time.”

He offered his obeisances right on Walnut Street. My daughter said…this is the way she used to think, “That street is so dirty, that’s so muchi. How could Prabhupada put his head…bow down on the muchi street? I know! He looked at it first and by his glance he purified it and that cleansed it, and then he bowed down.” She figured it out really fast. I don’t think Philadelphia had seen such a huge crowd of devotees ever when Prabhupada was there. Every time the car would stop for a while, Prabhupada’s lap would fill up with money. People would come up, offer obeisances and put donations in his lap.

She was interviewing him the day after the Rathayatra. The reporter said to him, “Devotees told me during the parade that there were invisible beings flying overhead showering down flowers and that you could see them but we could not.” I was thinking, “Who was the idiot that talked to this reporter?” She said, “Is that true?” Prabhupada said, “Yes.” He said, “You cannot see them because you are envious of the spiritual master.” No reaction really. The article, given the amount of hostility she had, was not bad. It was a big Sunday feature article for the magazine.