Yogesvara das Remembers Srila Prabhupada

Prabhupada Memories

Interview 01

Yogeshvara: In Geneva, a famous Mayavadi Sanskrit scholar came to see Prabhupada. He had written a book about Krishna in which he said that the dust raised by the hooves of the cows refers to this, and the gopis are symbolic of that. Srila Prabhupada said, “I have been looking at your book.” The man said, “It took me twelve years to write that book.” Prabhupada said, “Yes, and there are still mistakes in it. The proof of whether one truly understands Krishna is whether or not one engages in devotional service. Just like these young boys and girls. Theirs is the age for enjoying, but they have given that up to engage in devotional service to Lord Krishna.” The Sanskrit scholar started chuckling. He said, “I smoke, I drink; I could give up these things if I wanted to, but I don’t want to.” Srila Prabhupada said, “Yes, therefore, you have many, many births to go on the spiritual path.” The scholar said, “It’s time for me to leave now,” but before he left, Srila Prabhupada presented him with a copy of The Nectar of Devotion and said, “I request you to look through this book. I think you will find it of great interest.” Afterwards, Satsvarupa Maharaj, Hansadutta, Guru Gauranga and I gathered around Prabhupada to make sure that we had understood what had happened. Prabhupada was quiet. Guru Gauranga said, “He was a big demon, wasn’t he Prabhupada?” Prabhupada said, “He has been influenced by association with Mayavadis, but I noticed that in his book he has said the name ‘Krishna’ many times. This will greatly benefit him.” Prabhupada was so compassionate, so kind, so concerned even for this Mayavadi scholar who had done much damage through his writing. The next person to see Srila Prabhupada was a very humble man. Srila Prabhupada said, “Do you have any questions?” The man said, “No, I was happy to hear that you are in Geneva, and I was honored by this opportunity to meet you.” Srila Prabhupada thought for a second and said, “Yogeshvara, bring my harmonium. Satsvarupa, you play kartals. Hansadutta play mridanga.” Prabhupada sang “Hari hari biphale.” Afterwards the man stood up, thanked Srila Prabhupada, and left. Srila Prabhupada looked at us and said, “He was a simple soul. Therefore I sang for him because I knew he would appreciate it.” Prabhupada had a wonderful facility for reciprocating with people according to their needs and disposition. His was an inspiring example of giving Krishna at every moment, in every situation.

To view the entire unedited video go to Memories 15 - The 1996 NYC and LA Reunions

The full Prabhupada Memories Series can be viewed here and also at www.prabhupadamemories.com

Following Srila Prabhupada

Interview DVD 02

Yogesvara:Those of us who came into France as devotees from outside the country quickly learned that French culture was a highly intellectual culture. I think a young person in France in those days by the age of 13 or 14 probably knew more about history and politics than a college graduate in America. And one thing that we went out of our way to do was arrange as often as possible for Srila Prabhupada to meet with intellectuals and thought leaders of the day. So he met with college professors and he met with Cardinal Danielou and he met with leaders from the World Health Organization, he met with leading Sanskritists, and the meetings were important because it gave us an opportunity to see how does a pure devotee of the Lord speak to different levels of people. I think what was most astonishing was Srila Prabhupada’s ability to listen carefully to each person’s particular level of spiritual development and address them on that level. As they approached him, Srila Prabhupada would reciprocate, sometimes becoming very, very firm, very outspoken: “Why do you speak this philosophy? Don’t you understand the dangers here?” He was concerned, not out of any kind of pride or sense of superiority but because this was dangerous, these philosophies are leading people astray. Atma-hana, killers of the soul.

This woman here is the official reception director for VIPs coming to Paris. In fact, she was the woman who arranged for Srila Prabhupada’s reception at the Paris City Hall. The protocol was made very clear to us – that when we go into the reception room, everyone should stand and the mayor will give his opening remarks and then Srila Prabhupada can reply. The way it worked out was somewhat different. The mayor waited and Prabhupada sat, and the mayor started getting nervous and Prabhupada sat. Then everyone was looking at Srila Prabhupada and I leaned over and said, “Srila Prabhupada, they’re waiting for you to stand.” Srila Prabhupada looked at me and said, “I’m supposed to stand for who?” and refused to stand. So the mayor started his remarks and gave his greeting to Srila Prabhupada seated, probably the first time in the history of the country that anyone had been received in City Hall without standing up. Then when the mayor was finished saying how Paris has always been such a spiritual city, Srila Prabhupada stood at that moment and said, “Mr. Mayor, you have spoken very nicely about how France is such a spiritual country, etc. Let us examine what is spiritual,” and went right for the jugular, that there is a soul within the body and any government that is unaware of the difference between the soul and the body is a demonic government. “Just like your Napoleon Bonaparte,” (he pronounced the name “Napoleon Bona-partee”), “he said, ‘I am France.’ France is there. Where is Napoleon? The soul is gone. Where has it gone?” This is the importance of proper spiritual training is to understand the difference between the body and the soul.

He was strong, and that was Prabhupada’s style. He was strong. He didn’t mince words. He could be very understanding and was always sensitive but never compromising. An opportunity like this in the City Hall of Paris before the mayor, before press, before dignitaries, Srila Prabhupada was the acharya, the representative of Krishna and Krishna’s world, and there was no compromising the message at all, ever.

What made it ironic was that at the very same time that Prabhupada was being received as a VIP in the City Hall, Indradyumna was leading a sankirtan book distribution party in the Paris Metros and found himself under arrest by the Paris police. This was not an uncommon irony, that Srila Prabhupada would be received as a dignitary, a missionary ambassador of peace from India, and yet the program for peace that he was initiating rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. So they didn’t dare not receive him because they recognized that as someone with a large following who was very respected by Indian culture, they had to receive him. But yet at the same time, they would do whatever they could to suppress the sankirtan activities.

The brilliance and genius of Srila Prabhupada’s mission was that he started off in such a humble way and always made himself accessible to people on all levels so that moments like this in official government receptions or other elegant environments in no way should be interpreted as an aloofness or a sense of elitism on his part. They were nice to-do’s when they could be arranged. It brought a certain notoriety or cachet to a visit. The really significant moments, however, were not receptions by fleeting politicians but rather the in-depth philosophical meetings that Srila Prabhupada had, sometimes with very ordinary people.

Paris in these early ’70s was a very political environment, and Cardinal Danielou fit right in. He was known as the bohemian priest. He had a very strong following among young people, even though young people for the most part were very anti-religion. If anyone had an ability to circulate among them it was Danielou. He managed to maintain a very broad-minded and open-minded position among young people. Danielou in his own way was making a contribution, I think, reaching out to young people who were completely atheist and attempting to bring some sense of the value of a God-focused life into their purview. Still, because it was a ritualistic Catholicism, he didn’t appreciate, for example, the philosophy of the soul present in all life forms.

The temple was not very big, hugely crowded. There were people from the area at the windows outside wondering what on earth is going on, and the Deities were very, very beautiful. It was a very exciting time. We had not had Krishna Deities in Paris before, so this was very meaningful to everyone. While the Deities were being dressed, that is to say after the bathing ceremony and while the Deities were being prepared for the first unveiling, Srila Prabhupada went out for a walk. When we came back from that walk, the curtains opened and Srila Prabhupada stood looking at the Deities for a long, long time. Kirtan was going on. Then he turned and walked down the marble temple room to his vyasasan, and we all noticed that there were tears streaming down his face. He sat on the vyasasan and used the edge of his dhoti to dry his eyes and started his lecture by saying that “The meditation on the Lord begins from the lotus feet. Therefore, I am inquiring why are there no ankle bells?” In our haste to dress the Deities in time for Prabhupada’s return from his walk, we had neglected to put Krishna’s ankle bells on. Prabhupada, of course, noticed. But it was a very touching moment because God must be real. Look at how much love this person has for Him. It was very obvious to everyone there that we have not been led into some kind of cultish practice or something. Here is Prabhupada, there is Krishna. Here is Prabhupada weeping out of love of seeing the Lord of his life. This is real.

This was such a beautiful place that George Harrison had purchased and given to Srila Prabhupada and the devotees. We finally felt that we had a real home in England and there was a sense of permanence about it. So the installation of the Deities had significance on many different levels, not the least of which was this feeling of having achieved a long-term goal of establishing Krishna consciousness in the UK, which, of course, had historic significance as well as emotional significance. England having been the invading force that had governed India for so long, and now Krishna consciousness coming to England and establishing itself permanently as the spiritual force in England was very significant. There must have been something about this because Srila Prabhupada was so energized during this installation ceremony. His lecture after the Deities had been installed and he offered the arati ceremony and this wonderful dancing, he was jumping up and down, going around and around the Deities.

His lecture was energized. He sat down on the vyasasan and said, “There is another world, a spiritual world, beyond this world,” and then went on to describe in the most vivid, visceral terms the universe where Krishna lives where souls dwell eternally in loving service to God. It was breathtaking. He just transported us out of the material world in a sentence, “There is another world,” and we were there. He could do that with a sentence because he was speaking from realization.

Interview DVD 06

Yogesvara: Here we are, this is entering the City Hall of Geneva. This is Srila Prabhupada being shown through the entranceway. Somehow or other we managed to have Srila Prabhupada received as a dignitary in the large capitals of Europe. That happened in Rome, it happened in Geneva, it happened in Paris. This is a telling moment. Here you see Srila Prabhupada seated while the mayor of Geneva issues his greeting, and that’s Guru-Gauranga translating the mayor’s remarks from French to English. Often there would be a declaration or some kind of plaque or something that would be handed over as a way of acknowledging Srila Prabhupada’s visit to the city. Then Srila Prabhupada would reply, commenting as he often did on such occasions about the duty of good government to train citizens in what is spiritual life, also warning that any government that does not take the responsibility seriously is a hellish government. I remember that that caused some consternation in Paris when he was received at the City Hall there. The mayor got very nervous.