Suddhadvaiti Goswami Remembers Srila Prabhupada

Prabhupada Memories

Interview 01

Jayantakrd (Suddhadvaiti Swami): I was raised as a Christian Catholic. When I had some questions while I was studying to become a priest, there were no answers. So I started to search East and began to study Buddhism. When I went to India, I was nineteen-and-a-half years old, and when I landed in Bombay, I saw Prabhupada for the first time. I couldn’t say that seeing Prabhupada left me with an impression because I just saw him sitting very far from me. I remember the devotees had a “Question and Answer” booth and later on Giriraj Maharaj preached to me. At that time, however, I was not into Krishna consciousness. I spent a few months in India in a Buddhist monastery, the Kriya Yoga ashram of Yogananda. This has been my greatest regret—to be in Puri but not to know anything about Mahaprabhu or Krishna. To make a long story short, I did join the temple in France. When Prabhupada came in August to install Radha and Krishna, I saw him sitting on the vyasasan, and I thought, “He looks like a mountain of power.” But when Prabhupada started to speak, I saw there was so much compassion coming from him. I said, “He is not a mountain of power; he is a mountain of love and compassion.” That really struck me. SP Memories - DVD 76 Page 2 of 20 At that time I had difficulty worshiping the Deity of Lord Jagannatha, which was the local Deity in Paris, because, for me, it looked like some American totem pole. I remember praying, “Oh my Lord, I could never believe You look like that, but if Prabhupada said so, then You must look like that.” When he installed the Deities and gave a lecture, Prabhupada said, “The Deities of Jagannatha are not very beautiful.” I said, “Ah, okay, it’s not an offense to think like I did.”

In Paris every day Prabhupada would go on his morning walk. I remember one time we saw some people walking their dogs and Prabhupada became very grave. I cannot swear, but it looked like there were some tears brimming in his eyes. He said, “Most of those people, next lives they will change. They will be on the other side of the leash.” He was speaking with so much compassion. He said, “So unfortunate. They have this human birth and they are walking the dog. But because of attachment, next life, most of them will be on the other side of the leash. They will be in a dog form.” I thought, “Oh, my God!” But Prabhupada, when he spoke he was not contemptuous, “All those karmis…” He was so full of compassion. You could really feel that. I was impressed. Then we went to a lake that was next to the temple. One devotee was bringing back some leftover prasadam to give to the ducks in the lake. Prabhupada pointed to one little duck with his cane. He said, “You see that one who is quacking the most? He is getting the attention. This is what you should do with Krishna and the spiritual master. The devotee who is quacking the most, asking, ‘Gurudeva! Gurudeva!’ he gets. Just like this duck, automatically the devotee is receiving attention.”

I remember one lecture Prabhupada spoke in Switzerland that really impressed me. He talked about how the devotee wants to install Krishna in his heart on a big diamond throne, a pure heart. So we should do like that. We should clean our hearts so much by chanting Hare Krishna that Krishna comes in the heart. But our hearts should be clean. Then how do we clean our hearts? By making the heart very spotless, by giving up all our anarthas, all our unwanted things, and by praying and engaging all the time in His service. I remember I asked Nitai, who was Prabhupada’s servant at that time, “Did Prabhupada ever say where he is going to be preaching in the next life?” Nitai said, “I never heard that question. I could go and ask him right now.” He went right into Prabhupada’s room and came out and said, “Prabhupada said, ‘I am going to preach in the lower planets in the next life.’” I was completely amazed. What struck me most was Prabhupada’s compassion. It’s bottomless. He was willing to do anything to please Mahaprabhu and to please his spiritual master. When he said, “I am going to preach in the lower planets,” I was thinking, “How can someone do that?” It was very, very striking.

When Prabhupada came back to France, someone said to me, “Oh! You should come and take second initiation.” I was thinking, “But I am not ready.” He said, “No, no, you should take the mercy when it comes.” So I boarded a train and went to Paris. Prabhupada was there. Actually the only time I was alone with Prabhupada was in the room when he gave me second initiation. I remember he took his thumb and made me do the counting—with his hand, with his own hand he showed me. Then he gave me the Gayatri mantras. I knew that I had to say something. You have to say something to glorify the spiritual master. But I felt so foolish—a new devotee, dumb and not knowing anything. But I had to say something. So out of my foolish head, I said, “All glories to your lotus feet Srila Prabhupada.” He looked at me and said, “Jaya!” I felt like a child offering an ugly tie to his father and the father is accepting because it’s offered by the child with affection. Prabhupada just accepted this ugly tie of dumb words, “All SP Memories - DVD 76 Page 8 of 20 glories to your lotus feet,” and he said, “Jaya!” I bowed down, mumbled my mantras, and retreated thinking, “What was that?”

Another remembrance I have of Srila Prabhupada was during a morning walk in New Mayapur. There were two French guys coming from Afghanistan who claimed to be Afghanis, but of course, we knew they were French even though they wore turbans and robes. They were asking Prabhupada, “Can you follow Hinduism and at the same time follow Islam?” They were asking questions again and again, and Prabhupada finally became very sober, and he said, “No, you choose one path. But actually you don’t want to follow anything.” They were completely stunned. It took the wind right out of their sails. Then Prabhupada said, “To think of Krishna like Mother Yasoda is thinking, is there any difficulty?” I asked him, “How can we think about Krishna like Mother Yasoda as you said? He said, “First you have to stop doing nonsense.”

I used to have some money because I came from a wealthy family so I could travel to India regularly. I arrived in Bombay and I was thinking, “Oh! Let me bring to Prabhupada some nuts that he doesn’t find in India.” So I brought some hazelnuts. I went to the kitchen and I asked the pujari, “Can you give me a plate for Prabhupada?” I put those nuts on the plate and I went up the stairs. Prabhupada was on the roof giving darshan. I came in, bowed down, and put the plate next to Prabhupada. Prabhupada started to take the hazelnuts in SP Memories - DVD 76 Page 12 of 20 his hand and without touching—Prabhupada would be such an amazing gentleman—he would just pop them into his mouth and nod his head. One Indian then asked a question, “What about this swami and what about that swami?” Prabhupada said, “Just ask their disciples. They don’t know anything. But ask my disciples and even a new devotee, he can tell you the whole philosophy.” Prabhupada was very elegantly and majestically speaking, “Look, my disciples, my devotees, they know.” Prabhupada was expressing so many times so much appreciation for his disciples. He loved his disciples so much and gave them so much credit and so much affection.

I remember Prabhupada when he was in Mayapur during the Gaura-Purnima festival and he would ring the bell three times and then walk around the altar. When he looked behind him at his devotees, Prabhupada was beaming with a big smile and everyone started to jump in ecstasy. I was impressed to see all those big guys—big GBCs, grown men—just jumping like little kids because of that smile of Prabhupada. With that smile Prabhupada conquered everyone.

At the Mayapur festival in 1975, Prabhupada sat on the vyasasan, started to chant Jaya Radha-Madhava, and suddenly he stopped. I was next to the big loud speaker and I looked up. Srila Prabhupada had gone into an ecstatic trance and his forehead was knocking on the microphone. I looked up and said, “What’s happening?” Then boom! I heard this horrible sound again in the loud speaker. It was Prabhupada’s forehead on the microphone. He tried to control himself and again he could not control himself in his ecstasy. Again his head was knocking, I think, two or three times. I was horrified. It was a horrible sound. Imagine your guru’s head knocking on the microphone. It was as if he left his body. One sannyasi started kirtan while this was happening. It became a controversy. Was it an offense of the sannyasi to do kirtan? Because we read that when Mahaprabhu went into trance, His disciples and followers would do kirtan to bring Him back. I was not there in the room when Prabhupada was asked, but evidently he said very humbly, “I don’t do that very often, do I?” We had such an out-of-this-world spiritual master who had so much humility, so much compassion, SP Memories - DVD 76 Page 16 of 20 so much love, so much authority. There was no doubt those things were there in Srila Prabhupada.

I think the quality that attracted me the most to Prabhupada was his compassion. It was emanating from every pore of his being, so much compassion. He was tirelessly repeating again with so much patience the same basic things, trying to make us understand who we are, what our predicament is, and what we are supposed to do to get out of it. Also he spoke with so much authority. He was not making up something from anywhere. When he was speaking, there was no, “Well, no, I don’t know.” He was always quoting so much shastra of course. He spoke as someone who knew, not someone who had heard or someone who had read something somewhere, but he was someone who knew. Everything he spoke he had realized and that gave so much weight. If I tell you, “You are not the body,” you’d say, “Yeah, sure.” But when Prabhupada said, “You are not the body,” that hit you like a fist. “Yeah, I am not the body.”

To view the entire unedited video go to Memories 76 - Mondakini dd, Hari Krishna, Ananda Svarupa, Suddhadvaiti Goswami, Kedara

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