A Dream Come True
On Friday, December 16, as I stood in the altar room with Prabhupada and a few other devotees, I had an unusual feeling. It seemed that I had known him always, yet simultaneously it seemed like we had just met. Although I had only known him for eight weeks, somehow, practically every time I spoke with him felt like a first-time meeting.

Prabhupada began describing a dream he had the previous night. In the dream all his disciples were in Tompkins Square Park, surrounded by thousands of people who were chanting and dancing to the Hare Krsna mantra. He asked me to recreate this dream in a painting.

Of course I agreed, happy that he was being so personal with me, and happy to have any connection with him. I did not even consider how I would begin such an epic painting. The next day, before I had time to figure it out, Prabhupada’s dream turned into reality. The managers of Tompkins Square Park had a festival planned for Sunday, and they wanted the devotees to chant on the stage.

Prabhupada asked me to forego painting his dream, and paint instead a large Hare Krsna mantra sign that we could carry on stage with us. I immediately went to the art store on 8th Street, this time purchasing a six -foot by threefoot piece of glossy oak tag.

As was usual for Sunday mornings, the altar room was crowded. Although on weekdays one or two devotees did the cooking for everyone in the tiny but well-equipped kitchen in Prabhupada’s apartment, on Sundays, almost all the devotees became cooks in order to prepare prasadam for seventy to one hundred guests. Now Brahmananda, Satsvarupa, Kirtanananda, Hayagriva, Gargamuni, Acyutananda, Rupanuga and others were there—cutting vegetables, rolling samosas, mixing salads and making sweetballs.

I was also there, sprawled across the parquet floor as I painted the mantra on the oak tag sign. I couldn’t figure out how to reach the top section of this huge sign without lying over the holy names. Although I tried just stretching my arms, they would not reach. The only way seemed to be if I stretched practically my whole body over the words. I felt slightly uncomfortable, as though I was doing something wrong.

I remembered my recent reading from the Srimad Bhagavatam: “The name Krsna and the Personality of Godhead Krsna are identical. There is no difference in the absolute realm between the name, form or person of the Absolute Truth because in the absolute realm everything is transcendental bliss. His name, fame, form and pastimes are all one and the same transcendental identity, and they are not knowable by the exercise of the material senses.”

I felt uncomfortable, but I had no solution and so I continued.

Absorbed in my work, I didn’t notice when Prabhupada came in to inspect the progress of our various services. Seeing his feet, I stopped my painting and looked up at him. From my position on the ground he looked like an ancient, and yet soft, Indian sculpture. “O Swamiji, I didn’t see you,” I said. “Am I being offensive to the sign by doing this?”

Prabhupada smiled. “Once,” he said, “Krsna had a headache. He asked His servant, Narada Muni, to get dust from the feet of any of His devotees. He said that only such dust could cure Him.

“Narada went everywhere, but no one cooperated. They all asked, ‘How can we put the dust of our feet on Krsna’s head? We will go to hell for such an offense!’

“Finally he went to Vrndavana where the gopis live. Since they are Krsna’s most surrendered devotees, they all agreed to help.” Prabhupada dramatized the scene using his own hands, feet and facial expressions to show the gopis taking dust from their feet and offering it to Narada.

“Narada asked, ‘Do you not fear going to hell for such an offense?’

“So they replied, ‘Never mind. We shall go to hell, but let Krsna be cured.’

“This is the kind of selfless devotion that Lord Caitanya has come to teach. This is love. For loving service, you can take all risks.”

I smiled, and now with authorization, continued to lean over the mantra.

* * * *

That afternoon the maha-mantra resounded all over the park. There were thousands of people, and Prabhupada chanted for almost two hours while the crowd blissfully joined in the chanting and dancing. Although most of the devotees planned to stay another hour, Prabhupada decided to leave before the end—and I also wanted to get back and paint.

I walked the nine blocks back to the temple with Prabhupada and Rayarama. In my enthusiasm to serve, I offered to carry the heavy harmonium. On Avenue A and 9th Street we turned west towards 2nd Avenue. Just as we were about to cross the street, I began to feel the weight of the instrument and I began to regret having offered to carry it.

Prabhupada must have read my thoughts, for almost immediately he turned to Rayarama and said, “You can carry the harmonium for her.”

As soon as we returned to the temple I went to work on my painting, and some minutes later Prabhupada called to me from his room. As I walked in, he motioned to the stainless steel pitcher on the floor to his right.

“You see the slight reflection of light on this pitcher?”
Though surprised at the question, I nodded.

“It comes from the wall outside the window,” he said.

I looked outside the window, and nodded again.

“The wall’s light is reflected from the sun. The sun is so powerful that even at midnight the sky is never completely black. There is always some light. But the sun’s light is also reflected. Where from?”

I shrugged—science was not one of my best subjects.

“From beyond the universe,” he answered. “The universe is how big?” He paused for a moment, raising his eyebrows as though waiting for me to say something.

When I did not answer he continued, “It has a diameter of four and a half billion miles. Surrounding the universal atmosphere is a layer of earth.” He rested his elbows on a pillow on his lap, opening his palms and extending his fingers as if to emphasize his point. “It is ten times as thick as the diameter of the universe. Around that is a layer of water. And that is ten times as thick as the layer of earth. Then fire, air, like that. And each layer is ten times thicker than the previous layer.”

I leaned forward. This was a dramatically different picture of the universe than what I had learned in school.

“Then there is a layer of mind, of intelligence and of false ego,” Prabhupada continued. “Each ten times thicker than the previous one. And beyond that?”

I still didn’t know what to say.

“Beyond that is the brahmajyoti, the undifferentiated spiritual sky. That brahmajyoti is so much powerful that it is reflected through those all layers of matter onto the sun—making it shine. And what is the brahmajyoti a reflection of? Krsna’s body. His body is so brilliant.” Prabhupada smiled. “Just like when we go out during daytime into the sunshine and see the bright blue sky, we feel, ‘Oh, very good.’ So similarly, when the devotees on Krsna’s planet see Him every day, we cannot imagine how good they must feel.”

I remembered Hayagriva's explaining about the blue sky to the guest just a few days before.

Then Prabhupada said simply, “All right, that is all I wanted to say. You may go now.”

I offered my obeisances and went back to painting, the conversation continuing to boggle my imagination for hours. It stimulated my understanding of Krsna’s relationship with the universe, and that increased my desire to relate to Him through service.

* * * *

That evening as Prabhupada gave class, he sat back, relaxed on his dais. Looking at the wall toward the beautiful Indian print of young Krsna sitting on a rock with an enchanting smile and playing His flute, a mystical lush landscape in the background, he said, “We are not interested in going to Vaikuntha. We are interested in going to Goloka Vrndavana, where Krsna is sitting on the rock.”

I knew that Vaikuntha was another name for the spiritual planets. In Sanskrit vai meant without and kuntha meant anxiety, so Vaikuntha was that eternal place which is always free from anxiety. “We want to go to Krsna to get the nectar,” Prabhupada said, looking at another print nearby—a close-up of young Krsna holding a tray of sweets and feeding one to a lovely white calf. “Just like the calf. He is walking up to Krsna like this . . .” Then Prabhupada closed his eyes, smiled slightly and raised his nose and chin a bit, slowly shaking his head back and forth as a calf would do. Then he said dramatically, “And Krsna is pleased to give him nectar.”

It seemed so intimate. I could hardly contain the happiness I felt. Not only was Prabhupada and his scriptures giving a more complete exposition of the mighty Godhead than anyone else I’d ever heard, but he was also giving this other, more confidential, side of the Lord, a view other philosophies could not even begin to conceive.

Copyright 2001-2002 Jadurani/Syamarani dasi.
All Rights Reserved.