Sri Raga das Remembers Srila Prabhupada

Prabhupada Memories

Interview 01

Sri Raga: I was at the Ala Aloha Loop temple when Prabhupada first came and I remember I had to wash the driveway, and it still had a lot of water remaining when Prabhupada arrived. As he walked in the temple, he made a comment about the driveway with all the water, but I could not hear him. Later I went to ask Sudama Maharaj what Prabhupada said about the water. He told me Prabhupada said, “Water is very purifying.” That was my first contact with Srila Prabhupada. After the lecture the next day, I asked him, “Where is the soul in the body? Is the soul in the heart, in the area of the heart, or in the lotus of the heart?” I had read so many yoga books with different conceptions on this matter. The consensus in these books was that the soul is in the lotus of the heart, so I just wanted some confirmation from Srila Prabhupada. Prabhupada’s immediate reply was, “What are you, a medical man?” I hadn’t anticipated that response but listened carefully as he elaborated by saying, “What does it matter with so much detail whether the soul is on the western or eastern side? Just read my books.” Some of the devotees thought that answer was like a setback for me, but I said, “No. That was ecstatic.”

Before the day of my initiation, Prabhupada announced to everyone that he was going to cook the Sunday feast. Before joining the temple, I was into raw vegetables. Even when I went out on sankirtan, I carried a bag of raw peanuts with me. Devotees used to kick me out of the kitchen because they would say, “How can you eat all these bad food combinations?” But I was sticking to my raw peanuts and raw cabbage. However, when Prabhupada said he was cooking the feast, I said, “I am going to have to eat this feast; otherwise, it will be very offensive if I don’t eat it.” When it came time for the initiation, I was prepared to repeat the four regulative principles and then tell Prabhupada that I would chant sixteen rounds every day. But before I could respond in that way, Prabhupada said, “So many lifetimes—hogs, dogs, camels and asses—you try to enjoy your senses. Just take this one lifetime to control your senses and go back home, back to Godhead.” And then he said, “Your name is Sri Raga.” He told me Sri Raga means attachment to Krishna and then everybody shouted, “Jaya!” Upon reflection I believe Prabhupada knew my heart’s attachment for sense enjoyment, chasing the opposite sex, my desire to surf and doing so much nonsense. [chuckles]

One time when Srila Prabhupada came to Hawaii, I was living outside the temple working as a security guard. My neighbor was a florist and I had the desire to make a garland offering to Srila Prabhupada. On my way to work that night, I went to the neighbor’s refrigerator, which was in his garage, and took a huge box of carnations. I wasn’t thinking that I was stealing, but actually that’s what I was doing. I was a thief and I was stealing these flowers. I took the box to work that night and I made a garland that would come down below Prabhupada’s knees. The next day I went to the temple with the entire box of flowers and Laksman, the pujari, took all the flowers and decorated the entire altar. Srila Prabhupada’s vyasasan was also decorated nicely with pink and white Hawaiian carnations that were very fragrant. When Prabhupada went to the vyasasan after greeting the Deities, I asked the temple commander, “Do you think I could put my garland on Srila Prabhupada?” I was feeling a little insecure, as I was still in my security guard uniform. He kind of discouraged me, but I went up anyway even though Prabhupada already had garlands up to his nose. I went up to the vyasasan, took off all the other garlands, put them on Prabhupada’s lap, and then I garlanded him with my garland. I offered my obeisances, and Svatantra, the head pujari, told me that when I was offering my obeisances, Prabhupada looked at me the entire time with such a loving glance. When I got up, Prabhupada took my garland off and I was somewhat taken aback. But then he took all the other garlands that were on his lap and put them aside and then put back on my garland. I was feeling astonished and proud at the same time. During Prabhupada’s lecture he said, “If we neglect to see the Deities so nicely decorated, our hearts will become black.” At the end of the lecture, he said, “Even if you are a thief, and if you take and you give to Krishna, you will benefit.” I was shocked to say the least. The next day I went to the Kapualani Rose Garden, still in my security guard uniform, and I took the most fragrant roses I could find and made another garland. Again, after Prabhupada greeted the Deities, I stepped out and then he turned to me with an affectionate smile that blew me away as I garlanded him. After he sat down on the vyasasan, he took that garland off and he told Srutakirti to take it upstairs to his room. That reciprocation with Prabhupada for any of us gave us identity. We as humans always are looking for some distinction and adoration and that’s what Prabhupada gave us. Even in times of anxiety, that love would carry us through because it was such a strong emotion. That’s what I always saw in Srila Prabhupada. He only had our best interest at heart and that was shown by his love that radiated from him. It was a very powerful and spiritual influence.

I went on a morning walk with Prabhupada on Magic Island, a short distance from Ala Moana beach. Growing up in Hawaii, I body surfed my whole life, so the entire walk I was glancing over at the six- to eight-foot waves, meditating on going surfing right after the morning program. When we came back to the temple, Prabhupada gave a lecture on the Srimad-Bhagavatam. I can’t remember what verse he spoke on, but he did mention, “Just like those boys out in the water… What do you call them? Suffers?” Everybody laughed when he said “suffers” and then someone in the audience said, “Oh, ‘surfers,’ Srila Prabhupada.” Prabhupada laughed and said, “Oh, I call them suffers.” He went on to say, “If those boys out in the water, if they spend their whole time surfing and do not cultivate Krishna consciousness, they will take birth as fish.” Later when I went back to my house and was getting ready to go surfing, my friend Kailash-candra chided me by saying, “Oh, you remember what Prabhupada said, ‘You’re going to take birth as a fish.’” I said, “Well, I heard [chuckles] that ‘If you spend your whole time surfing, and do not cultivate Krishna consciousness, then you’ll take birth as a fish.’” So, with that, I got my board and headed out to the beach. [chuckles]

We were considering making Deities out of synthetic marble. Sarvasatya, Kailash-candra, Govinda dasi and I went up to Prabhupada’s room at the Honolulu temple to present to him our proposal. We took a heavy sample piece of this marble to show Prabhupada in hopes he would approve of what we believed was a progressive concept. Govinda dasi said, “Srila Prabhupada, we have this synthetic marble from which we can make Deities.” Prabhupada asked, “Will it break? How will you ship?” We said, “We could ship by plane.” Prabhupada again asked, “Will it break?” Govinda dasi responded, “Well, Prabhupada, I think...” Prabhupada immediately stopped her and said, “I think? ‘I think’ means ‘I don’t know,’” and he proceeded to walk out of the room. [laughs] That was the end of that conversation.

My mother used to pray to Jesus that I would leave the Hare Krishna movement. But as I was chanting and following the process, she began to recognize that I was changing and I was improving. Knowing this, I always felt that type of confidence in Srila Prabhupada that I would always improve and everything would get better. I used to tell my mother that when you look at other elderly people in the world, you won’t find another older person or teacher that could ever compare to the presence that Srila Prabhupada had. He had a presence that was welcoming and you always felt that he understood you. One time he was asked, “Prabhupada, you have so many disciples. Do you know them?” Prabhupada would say, “I know their very heartbeat.” There was always a link and a bond, especially after initiation, and a sense that he knew what was the greatest welfare for humanity.

To view the entire unedited video go to Memories 75 - The Hawaii Connection

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