Boston on May 9th. From there he went to Columbus, Ohio, and
on the evening of the 12th he had an engagement at the Hitchcock
Hall Auditorium in Ohio State University. That evening the campus
auditorium was filled to twice its capacity, and one of the
Columbus devotees called us in Boston to tell us about the event.
About two thousand students had flooded the stage and aisles,
and soon after Prabhupada began the chanting they jumped from
their seats, crowded the stage, and danced and chanted almost
wildly to a mantra most had never heard before. Prabhupada also
jumped in his own elegant way as he danced. And as he danced
he threw flowers from his garland to the students, who scrambled
for them and then joined arms to continue dancing. The famous
"beat" poet Allen Ginsberg, who had visited Prabhupada
on and off since Prabhupada was at the 26 2nd Avenue temple
in 1966, was also on stage with Prabhupada now. He had personally
lead thousands in chanting in previous years, but even he was
amazed at the students' overwhelming response.
* * * *
A few days later
I finally followed Prabhupada’s instruction for me to
go to Hawaii to rest, and when I arrived there Govinda dasi
and Gaurasundara gave me a warm welcome at the airport. Riding
in their car to the temple, I marveled at the majestic scenery,
the gorgeous mountains, the exotic shapes, colors and fragrances
of the tropical flowers, and most of all, at the tremendous,
animated power and beauty of the Pacific Ocean, as it crashed
and surged against the giant rocks and mountains – Lord
Krsna’s moving painting.
The temple, an old, traditional, two-bedroom farmhouse with
a quaint windmill in the yard, sat on a hill way out in the
country. When we arrived, Govinda dasi asked me what prasadam
"Prabhupada said I should live on mangos and milk while
I'm in Hawaii," I said. "I'm sorry," Govinda
dasi replied, "but it's not mango season."
She cooked steamed vegetables, and while I honored the prasadam,
she told me about Guru Maharaja's recent visit there. She began,
"Prabhupada often asked me to prepare a raita made of puffed
rice, salt and pepper, melted butter, and cucumbers. He called
it his ‘puffed rice set.’ Isn't that a great name?
‘Puffed rice set.’ And he wanted it every day.
“He'd been trying to concentrate on his translating work,
but he was constantly interrupted by the local roosters, whom
he retaliated against by criticizing them in mock imitation:
'Cock-a-doodle-doo, come cut my throat, cock-a-doodle-doo, cut
my throat.' Then he said, 'On one side of our property is a
cow farm and on the other side is a chicken and rooster farm.
The cows cannot leave, even if they want to; they are fenced
in. The chickens can leave any time they like, but they are
so attached to thinking "This is my land" that even
though they see their fellow chickens being killed day after
day, they will not leave." Prabhupada's wit made me laugh,
and his heart made me have some compassion for the poor chickens.
I was now so sorry and sad that I had not come to Hawaii when
he was here.
Later, Govinda dasi took me for a tour of the temple grounds,
and when we stopped for a moment by a eucalyptus tree, Govinda
dasi began breaking off a few small twigs. "Prabhupada
would ask me to pick twigs for him," she said. "He
said three kinds are good – mango, neem, and eucalyptus
– and the best is neem. He said that by repeatedly biting
the end of the twig, which should ideally about a half inch
wide and six inches long, it becomes a toothbrush." I tried
to imitate what she was doing, but I wasn't successful at making
my toothbrush. Big chunks came off and it looked more like splintered
wood than a brush.
The next day Govinda dasi introduced me to a young girl named
Jayasri. She had moved into the temple a week earlier and received
her initiation letter the same day I arrived. "Jayasri
met Prabhupada in a very interesting way," Govinda dasi
"It was while the devotees were on harinama at Waikiki
beach," Jayasri said with a smile. "My friend and
I had come to visit for the first time, and Prabhupada was the
only one home. As soon as we got to the top of the driveway,
Prabhupada was on the platform at the top of the stairs telling
us to come up. So we went in and talked with him for two hours."
Impressed, I offered, "It sounds like he personally called
Jayasri pointed to a brahmacari who was doing construction work
just outside the temple. "His story is also wonderful"
she said. "One day while Govinda dasi was running to radio
stations and newspaper offices, she saw him sitting on the library
steps, looking very sad. So she introduced herself and invited
him to come to the temple to meet Prabhupada. He readily told
her that he was frustrated and had no money or friends, and
that he was trying to figure out who he was. He agreed to come,
and during his discussions with Prabhupada he asked questions
like 'Who or what is behind the play of life,' and 'Who put
the fragrance in flowers?' By the end of their long talk, he
was completely satisfied and became Prabhupada's disciple."
* * * *
I walked the ten minutes to the public beach park, the same
park where Guru Maharaja had gone with the devotees for his
morning walks in March, and where he had sat on a large rock
with his back toward the ocean, leading the devotees in the
singing of the Gurvastakam prayers, the eight prayers glorifying
the spiritual master.
Every morning at that park, I sat and chanted my one hundred
rounds. Every day, when I returned to the temple, I took prasadam
and then did my favorite activity – listening to Prabhupada's
tapes and repeating what I heard – until I remembered
that Prabhupada had ordered me not to speak. "Oh, I just
heard a great class by Prabhupada," I told Jayasri one
day. "As he was beginning the class, there was a jingling
ice-cream truck passing by and playing a tune in bells. Prabhupada
imitated it, singing the song of maya in a flirtatious-sounding
tune: 'Come on, enjoy me. Come on, enjoy me.'" I was just
about to relate Prabhupada's great analogy regarding the song,
when I remembered that I was supposed to be silent. "Uh,
oh. Sorry. Prabhupada said that because of my weak health I'm
not allowed to speak – I can only chant. Hare Krsna Hare
Krsna, Krsna Krsna Hare Hare/ Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama
The same thing happened on the next day. I began, "Jayasri,
I just heard a great class by Prabhupada. He'd just gotten news
of his god-brother's disappearance from this world – Srila
Bhaktiprajnana Kesava Gosvami Maharaja. Prabhupada said this
god-brother, his sannyasa-guru, was now in Krsna-loka and he,
Prabhupada was now feeling separation from him. He wrote a formal
statement of condolence to the Gaudiya Matha and passed it around
for all his disciples to sign their names. Then he . . . Oh,
I forgot, I can only chant." I was frustrated, as I considered
speaking about Lord Krsna and His pure devotees more tasteful
than chanting His holy names. I couldn’t realize that
the wholly names, Hare Krsna Hare Rama, contained all Krsna’s
unlimited pastimes and all of His mercy and powers. I couldn’t
realize that the names themselves have the power to create and
destroy universes within a moment.
* * * *
was twenty-one, a year younger than me, and like me she was
also having difficulties with her health. Unlike me, however,
despite her condition she managed to be a dynamic preacher.
She was now organizing a big sankirtana program with both preaching
and on-stage kirtana at a Jimmy Hendrix concert at the Waikiki
Shell, and she encouraged me to come, to chant in the kirtana.
Over twenty thousand young people attended the concert, and
we chanted on stage for a few hours before it was to start.
Then an announcement was made that the concert was canceled
and the crowd became a little unruly. When the police came,
they saw that the devotees had the crowd under control with
their chanting, so they asked us to lead all the people with
a kirtana to Kapiolani Park. Govinda dasi and Jayasri took the
lead and I followed, along with over one thousand other happy
Sudama dasa had just arrived a few days earlier from Japan and
was now also there preaching. He wrote to Guru Maharaja at New
Vrndavana about the event, and about a week later he showed
us his reply: "All glories to Sudama dasa brahmacari and
the Hawaii devotees for their excellent work. So all of you
work conscientiously and jointly. You are all good souls, and
you will be successful if you can transform Hawaii into New
Navadvipa. Lord Caitanya will shower His blessings and you will
be happy, not only in this life, but you will be promoted to
He made it sound so easy: "If you can transfer Hawaii into
New Navadvipa…" And in our spiritual babyhood we
thought it easy. It would not be until years later that I would
begin to understand the import of that letter. In order for
someone to turn a place turn into Navadvipa, he has to be a
fully self-realized soul. If we would try, but not succeed due
to not being self-realized premi-bhaktas, then we wouldn’t
go to Krsna-loka. We would go to Krsna-loka at the moment we
would become premi-bhaktas, for at that moment we would be able
to transform any mundane place into the spiritual world. Prabhupada
was expert in using the subtleties of language to keep us going
on, so that no matter what level we were on and no matter how
far we were from the goal, we'd feel encouraged by thinking
the goal is right around the corner.
Prabhupada's letter continued with a beautiful analogy: "I
think the roar of your sankirtana in Hawaii will soon be heard
in the neighboring places, including Japan and Hong Kong. The
ocean is the father-in-law of Visnu, because the Goddess of
Fortune, Laksmi, was born by the churning of the ocean. Because
Laksmi is the daughter of the ocean, the ocean also will help
in spreading the glories of the ocean's daughter and son- in-law.
So please keep me informed of your activities, and this will
I wished I was also a healthy, carefree brahmacari and could
get letters like that. Prabhupada's recent letters to me had
only discussed what to eat and when to eat it. In my most recent
letter, he’d told me that since it wasn't mango season
yet, I should eat green vegetables, but no coconuts, because
they cause constipation. He’d told me when to rest and
how to cope with my feelings of separation from my husband –
by being happily engaged in Krsna's service. I knew that Prabhupada’s
letters to me flowed from his heart, and his heart was full
of love, even for insignificant me, but Sudama's letter made
me yearn to get well immediately so that I could please Prabhupada
by helping others.
* * * *
The next day
was another big program, the Kam Day Parade, a yearly event
commemorating the reign of the Hawaiian King Kamehameha. The
devotees had worked nearly all the previous night, collecting
banana leaves and flowers and then decorating the temple truck
as a float. Govinda dasi, Jayasri and a few assistants including
myself made some trimmings and painted decorative signs.
By morning, the truck was a beautiful flower-laden Krsna-conscious
float, and at noon the announcer called through his microphone,
"The Hare Krsna Temple – step out". We then
began our five-mile march down the main street of Honolulu,
before 55,000 people and several TV cameras. Gaurasundara and
other devotees danced before the float, and Jayasri, Govinda
dasi, and I sat atop the float, chanting and tossing flowers
to the crowd. Our procession was bewildering to most of the
people there, because it had nothing to do with the holiday,
nor with Hawaii, and it had no hula dancers on it. Still, many
young people chanted as we passed, many adults clapped, dozens
of children scrambled after the tossed flowers, and many simply
gazed in awe.
By Krsna's grace, one week later there was another preaching
engagement – the Pleasure Fair. On the first day, by Govinda
dasis managerial arrangements with the head of the event, the
devotees opened up the entire program with a beautiful kirtana
performance for 12,000, on stage at the Shell, an enormous acoustical
amphitheater. Some of the devotees played guitars and drums,
and the rest of us played the more traditional kirtana instruments.
Many people joined in the chanting, and all over the fairgrounds
and outlying park, thousands more heard. Because of the giant
amplifiers we could be heard for blocks.
Then, after the kirtana we opened our booth, which the men had
built and the ladies decorated. It was the most opulent at the
fair, as Lord Jagannatha stood there on a silk-covered altar,
surrounded by flowers. Thousands of passersby got coconut laddu
prasadam and we held kirtana off and on all day, took turns
leading the chanting, spoke with people, and played kirtana
and lecture tapes and Prabhupada's new Govinda album on our
amplified tape recorder. I also preached, because the people
looked so eager.
A popular charismatic yoga teacher named Sai came by our booth
and offered fruit to Lord Jagannatha. Then he chanted with us
and invited us over to his yoga tent to chant. So, at 9:00 p.m.
Govinda dasi lead us in a Hare Krsna parade over the hill towards
his tent. Once up on the hill, however, where thousands of youth
were roaming, she stopped the parade and we continued the kirtana
there. Within minutes, a crowd of several hundred was joyously
jumping up and down, arms up-stretched, dancing and chanting
Hare Krsna. Even an atomic glimpse of a shadow of Lord Caitanya's
mercy brought tears to the eyes of His devotees.
Several devotees remained overnight at the Fairgrounds with
Lord Jagannatha, and we returned home at about 2.00 a.m. to
rest for the next day's festival. After I awoke a few hours
later, groggy, and stumbling around the room, I noticed a letter
to me on the dresser table. It was from Prabhupada. All my fatigue
immediately left and nervous excitement took its place. I ran
into Govinda dasi's room, where she was also just waking up.
I told her I had written Prabhupada just after the Kam Day Parade,
describing the event, and he had now replied. I read her his
letter, dated June 17th: "'I thank you so much for your
encouraging letter, and I am so pleased to learn that the center
is doing very nice propaganda work in Hawaii. Now you send to
Brahmananda as many photos as possible of the parading and other
chanting engagements. It will be the policy of our paper (Back
to Godhead Magazine) now to print as many photos and articles
of our own activities as possible.
"'I understand from Gaurasundara's letter that there is
now inconvenience in having so many people living in the house
there, so I think you may immediately return to Boston. I think
that you may now take part in sankirtana activities, so when
you return to Boston you may go out with them sometimes on sankirtana
"'I am very glad to know that Govinda dasi felt cured of
all her disease by hearing my words, and I am very much encouraged.
Both of you chant Hare Krsna and join the sankirtana party,
and there will be no disease. Maharaja Pariksit said that chanting
the glories of the Lord can be executed by liberated persons.
That means by chanting one becomes liberated of all material
impediments. Not only does the chanting give us liberation,
but even in our conditioned state we like to hear the sweet
melodious sound of the chanting. Only persons who are committing
suicide or who are addicted to animal killing, such as a butcher,
cannot relish the sweetness of this chanting. But even if they
take to the chanting, they will become liberated.'"
I went out with still more enthusiasm that day, and then made
arrangements to return to Boston within the next few days.
* * * *
Developing the Press
The Boston temple
devotees were poor. While I was still in Hawaii the devotees
in Boston had met and discussed getting outside jobs. At that
meeting, Nanda-kisora quoted a letter in which Prabhupada had
written that if the devotees go out on sankirtana, all of their
spiritual and material problems would be solved. Then, after
a few days of trying it out, they were convinced that they should
continue their new program, which was also slowly attracting
people to come to the temple and even join.
By the time I returned, Murari had come from Los Angeles with
his wife, Lilavati, to lead the new Boston sankirtana party.
The devotees were all enthusiastic to please Prabhupada, and
I was also enthusiastic to paint again. The temple president
wrote to Prabhupada and asked him for permission for me to work
again, and he replied at the end of June:
"Now let her join with the sankirtana party, and I am sure
she will improve her health more and more. For the time being,
she may not revive her painting work until she gets back more
strength. Regarding your sankirtana activities, please continue
this most important function. The nice pictures you have sent
have been dispatched to Brahmananda for publishing in Back to
Godhead. I have given instructions that in Back to Godhead the
pictures of our activities and short descriptions should be
more and more published.
Pleased by the letter and with faith in Prabhupada's words,
I joined Murari's harinama party every day – and Prabhupada
was right. My health improved.
I wrote Govinda dasi about the harinama party in Boston and
she replied, describing a letter she had received from Prabhupada
after he had heard of her strong preaching to a large group
of impersonalists at the Fair. He’d written her: “I
am proud that a little young girl like you is so much spirited
in preaching Krsna consciousness". In his letter he told
her that he was going to have the Back to Godhead devotees publish
her article under the heading of "Heroine Govinda dasi."
I also appreciated her spirit and wanted to emulate her.
In the meantime, Prabhupada was in Los Angeles supervising his
book and Back to Godhead magazine publication, which was still
being printed by the Japanese company Dai Nippon. He was also
beginning to organize foreign language publications, and he
continued to manage his disciples' activities around the world.
What amazed me most was that he was doing everything by mail,
and he was managing the production of the Krsna book by mail
– by regularly mailed tapes to Satsvarupa to type and
edit. And now, on July 11th, he told me by mail that I could
start painting again, encouraging me to read his transcribed
manuscripts so I would know exactly what to paint. This time
he did not give his own list of suggested paintings, but wanted
me to make my own. He wrote: "Draw pictures as many as
possible. Each picture should be very much attractive, colorful
and nice, so that people will appreciate these paintings also.
Our standard size will be like Teachings of Lord Caitanya, and
you can make the pictures proportionate to 8 1/2" x 11".
The style of the book will be like Teachings of Lord Caitanya
as far as paper, print and binding are concerned."
I was so happy that I began jumping and chanting and dancing
around my room. By getting strength from sankirtana, I could
now work again. I didn’t consider it work; it was the
mercy of service to Sri Guru.
Nanda-kisora didn't agree with my reasoning about my health
improving through sankirtana. After reading my July 11th letter
he told his wife, Jahnava, "Srila Prabhupada wished her
good health, and therefore she got better and could begin painting.”
I agreed with Prabhupada, but I also agreed with Nanda-kisora.
Titanium white, cadmium yellow medium, vermillion, rose matter,
cobalt blue, and emerald green – the choices of color
were not at all a matter of habit. We like sympathy; we like
company; but with art we have to sit alone and labor hard. Sitting
and painting, I now prayed that my Krsna book service would
cure my heart disease known as a 'Krsna-less heart,' an even
more painful condition than any physical disease.
Besides reading the newly typed manuscripts, fantastic worlds
in themselves, I copied Prabhupada's dictaphone tapes onto regular
cassette tapes and listened to them over and over while I painted—I
could not bear to see them disappear into oblivion. In the meantime
Satsvarupa, after transcribing them, sent the original dictaphone
tapes back to Prabhupada, who erased them, dictated new chapters
on them, wrapped them in simple business-sized envelopes, folded
the envelopes in half, stapled them closed around all the edges,
and sent them back to Boston.
On July 29th he wrote Satsvarupa, reiterating his desire: "Jadurani
can pick up the ideas for pictures from the transcriptions of
the tapes. In this way, when the book and pictures are ready,
we shall arrange for publication. As soon as five hundred pages
are ready by your typewriter, we shall print the first part
immediately. Both you and your wife have got very good opportunity
for serving Krsna. Make both of your lives sublime and teach
others also how to live by your exemplary life."
Here it was again. Again I misunderstood an instruction to be
a confirmation. It would not be until years later that I would
understand his meaning. He was ordering us to become exemplary,
and when I first read the letter I thought he was saying I was
already exemplary and I should simply teach others how to follow
The Glenville Avenue temple lease would be up in a week, and
a few devotees had been looking for a bigger and better building.
At the very last minute they found a mansion at 38-40 North
Beacon Street – a large, bright blue, seventy-year-old
wooden frame house, which had previously served as a funeral
parlor. This house was not for rent. We would have to buy it,
and if we did, it would be the first property of Prabhupada's
mission in the West. Prabhupada immediately agreed that we buy
All the temple devotees felt the purchase of the new house to
be Krsna's will, because a few days later, Prabhupada wrote
us that now that we had the big house, he wanted to set up "our
printing department in Boston immediately." He wrote that
one of the building’s big halls would be nice for setting
up a printing machine, and requested Advaita and Vaikunthanatha
to leave New York and come to Boston to begin printing operations.
It looked like the Boston Temple was about to greatly expand,
and Prabhupada made it clear by his letters that we were not
the causes of the expansion. Rather, we would be his instruments.
Many of the Press devotees were aware that book publishing and
distribution were important in the historic chronology of the
expansion of Krsna consciousness. We had learned from Prabhupada
that one of the twenty-six qualities of pure devotees is "poetic,"
and that this does not necessarily mean rhyming poetry. He had
said, "Poetic means literary man. They must give good literature."
In Lord Caitanya's time, that is, 500 years before, His associates
wrote scriptures on palm leaves, which were not only their manuscript
pages but their final book as well, and they wrote in Sanskrit
or Bengali handwriting. In this way, the six Gosvamis, Lord
Caitanya's direct disciples, as well as other Vaisnavas of Vrndavana,
wrote boatloads of books, and these books were hand-copied by
scribes for distribution. A few years later, Srila Jiva Gosvami
inspired Srinivasa Acarya, Narottama dasa Thakura and Syamananda
prabhu, his students, to take as many manuscripts as could be
collected, and bring them to Bengal for mass preaching of Krsna
consciousness. Somehow, after many months of travel the three
devotees’ worst nightmare came to pass. Despite having
ten armed guards, the manuscripts were plundered near Visnupura
in Bengal. As Srinivasa was writing his letter to Jiva Gosvami
about the incident, some miles away, King Birhambit was rummaging
through the treasures stolen from various travelers. Just then,
his servants appeared with the court's most recent find. The
king immediately removed the cloth covering and opened the trunk
to reveal "mere manuscripts." Dismayed that there
were no "priceless treasures", he lifted out the top
manuscript. He saw the signature, "Sri Rupa Gosvami"
written on a palm leaf, and when he examined further, he felt
something change deep within himself. Srinivasa later approached
the king during his search for the books, and after some discussion
about Krsna consciousness the king became Srinivasa's disciple.
Such was the potency of these books by the Gosvamis.
We remembered Prabhupada’s statement: "the elaboration's
and expositions on the philosophy taught by Lord Caitanya are,
in fact, most voluminous, exacting and consistent, due to the
unbreakable system of disciplic succession, of any religious
culture in the world." Lord Caitanya therefore "instructed
His disciples to write books on the science of Krsna, a task
which those who followed Him have continued to carry out down
to the present day."
In 1896, seventy-three years before Prabhupada started the Press
in Boston, when Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura sent his small book
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu: His Life and Precepts, to McGill University
in Montreal, the seed of Krsna consciousness was planted here
in the West. Besides this book, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura had
written and printed about one hundred other authorized spiritual
books in three Indian languages, and also, like his predecessors
Srila Narottama dasa Thakura and Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti
Thakura, he wrote hundreds of poems and songs, full of spiritual
sentiments and scriptural conclusions. His writings made the
sacred teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu fully available
to every modern reader of India.
Then his son, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, our Prabhupada’s
spiritual master, expanded upon the same work and adapted it
to his time period. He adjusted ancient traditions to conform
to technological and social conditions of the twentieth century,
and considered the printing press a most effective means of
spreading the transcendental message throughout the world. He
himself was the author of many important translations, commentaries,
and philosophical essays. Through preaching, kirtana, and books
he succeeded in re-establishing Gaudiya Vaisnavism as the leading
force in Indian spiritual life. His prominent and sincere disciples
in India continued in the publication work and of particular
note was Srila Bhaktiprajnana Kesava Gosvami Maharaja. Srila
Bhaktiprajnana Kesava Maharaja was not only Prabhupada’s
god-brother, but Prabhupada had also chosen him as his sannyasa-guru,
and he took sannyasa from him in 1959, in Mathura, India. [VASANTI
The wave of
multi-lingual translations of the ancient Vedic texts occured
when Srila Prabhupada came to the West and planted the eternal
Krsna consciousness movement here. At that time there began
a very wide and rapid dissemination of knowledge that had for
so long been contained within the very discrete walls of India's
* * * *
endeavors in the field of publishing and distributing transcendental
literature did not begin when he came to the West. It began
over two decades earlier.
During World War II, the British had arranged that many Indians
were without food – and children would fight with dogs
over discarded food. Prabhupada knew this was the result of
greed and mismanagement, yet he also knew that the situation
was a result of a lack of Krsna consciousness. To give people
the right message and true remedy, he started his Back to Godhead
magazine. In it, he discussed the world's crisis through the
eyes of the scriptures. Despite the paper shortage, he convinced
government officials to grant him the use of paper to print.
In 1947, despite India's new independence from Britain, there
was still dissatisfaction. There were many small wars between
India and Pakistan, resulting in the death of hundreds and thousands.
Prabhupada knew that fighting would continue as long as people
wanted to gratify their senses. He wrote about this in his new
Back to Godhead. With his idea of a spiritual United Nations,
though he was financially very poor, he kept publishing Back
to Godhead and he also wrote letters to the country’s
leaders. When he was 56 years old he renounced family life,
moved to Delhi and lived as a mendicant, staying from week to
week in temples or in homes of pious people. He spent his time
writing and approaching donors, to whom he preached Bhagavad-gita.
Printing and selling Back to Godhead in Delhi, he later resided
in Vrndavana, at the Vamsi-gopalaji temple near the sacred Yamuna
River – and regularly commuted to Delhi. He translated
and printed the first canto of Srimad-bhagavatam in three hardback
volumes, and he continued to produce Back to Godhead. Even when
he ran out of money he kept writing.
Now, in America in 1969, Prabhupada increased the print run
of Back to Godhead from the two thousand per month, which it
had been in the previous couple of years, to twenty thousand
per month. Each of his twelve temples were requested by him
to take a quota of magazines for distribution, and Boston's
quota became two thousand per month, or seventy per day. Excited
and somewhat nervous, the devotees organized a new distribution
system, where those who were out on harinama would take turns
distributing. Although it was difficult at first for many of
us to approach people on the streets and in the parks with the
magazine, we gradually gave up our fear.
Sometimes we went to Boylston Street or Harvard Square, but
Boston Common and Cambridge Common was our main place of sankirtana,
especially on Sundays. Now it was July, and the magnificent
summer weather arrived. The birds increased their singing, the
flower-bearing trees blossomed, the air was aromatic, and the
students were off from school. Thousands of tourists from all
over the country were visiting "The Freedom Trail,"
the series of historical landmarks from the days of the American
Revolution, when the American colonies revolted against England
and became an independent nation. That Freedom Trail, the place
where Paul Revere rode and the Boston Tea Party unfolded, had
its hub in Boston Common.
During the American Revolution, the Boston Common had been a
sorry sight, covered with tents, mess buildings and latrines,
and swarming with foreign soldiers wearing red coats. These
days the Common was a delightful expanse of trees, grass and
statuary, unsurpassed, perhaps, by any other urban park in the
country. While chanting harinama we passed by its baseball diamonds,
graveyards, underground parking garages, bandstands, flowerbeds,
and cow paths. On one end of the Common was the State Capital
Building, and on the other end, the swan boats and public gardens
where the tourists fed the ducks, and the ball parks for family
outings. Just around the park were thousands of business offices,
which released their office workers every day for lunch break.
The beautiful, balmy weather called out to one and all, "Come
on; enjoy me. This is the time for youthful pleasure. Taste
and feel my inviting warmth."
The sky was so bright during that mid-day time that it hurt
my eyes, but we who had gone there from the Boston temple were
all so enthused. We felt that Prabhupada had given us a special
sensation of knowing something of how the people were thinking,
and how they are plagued by the call to their six senses, as
a man who has six wives goes home to one of them and finds all
of them at the same house – calling, "Come on; enjoy
me." One wife pulls on one arm, another pulls on another
arm, another wife pulls on one leg, another rips at his ear,
another at his tongue, another at his skin, and another at his
eyeballs. In his insanity he thinks he is happy.
Krsna Himself, in the form of Lord Caitanya, had come to this
world to spread love of God through nama sankirtana and transcendental
knowledge. Excited, we prayed to Prabhupada and the pure devotees
in his disciple-succession, up to Srimati Radharani and Lord
Krsna, to please tell us what to say to convince the people
to read Prabhupada's books. Because it was Sunday, various rock
bands had come to the Common to perform, and thousands of young
people had come to hear, dance, picnic, wander around, mingle,
or just sit. We sometimes chanted and danced in a circle, or
in a line, and hundreds of young people joined in. We also took
turns wandering around the crowd to distribute books and Back
to Godhead magazines.
I remained enthusiastic by thinking of myself as one of Prabhupada's
secret agents on the strange planet Earth, meeting others who
ultimately also had nothing to do with the bizarre world of
birth and death. "Here," I told them, "You didn't
get one yet. This magazine will tell you about your eternal
life of bliss and knowledge." As soon as I offered people
Back to Godhead, I felt that they were no longer strangers.
They seemed like old friends who, like myself, had somehow become
covered by peculiar shells called bodies. Sankirtana was the
prime benediction for the age of Kali-yuga.
In mid-August Prabhupada wrote another letter, saying that since
I had resumed painting, Jahnava could go out on the sankirtana
full-time. A part of me had thought that Prabhupada would appreciate
me more if he saw that I was doing all the paintings –
and so I had been reluctant to share my painting service. Not
understanding the obvious fact that any credit for the manifestation
of the paintings was Prabhupada's, I was glad when I first read
Prabhupada's letter. At first I thought, “Now I will once
again be the only painter. But when I re-read the letter, particularly
the last two sentences, I changed my mind. He'd written:
"Since Jadurani has resumed her painting work, I think
Jahnava may be engaged in joining the sankirtana party, because
she is a good salesgirl of Back to Godhead. Anyway do things
in good sense, without any disturbance. We have to make progress
very soberly, and I am always at your service whenever required."
This time I cringed. Prabhupada was subtle, but he had made
his point. He knew exactly who I was – an infinitesimal
spirit soul covered by huge layers of pride, and he also knew
how tolerant Jahnava was. He would help us both make advancement
according to our sincerity, not according to who did what painting.
* * * *
On Sept 14th
Srila Prabhupada was still in Los Angeles, and now he sent test
questions on Bhagavad-gita to the devotees in all his temples.
It was the first bhakti-sastri examination, meant to see how
deeply we had been absorbed in studying the philosophy in Bhagavad-gita.
It was an open-book exam and we could select any 10 of the 15
questions listed: 1) Who is Krsna? 2) What is your relationship
with Krsna? 3) What are you expected to do with your relationship
to Krsna? 4) What is the aim of Krsna consciousness? 5) What
do you mean by religion? 6) Is Krsna consciousness a type of
religion or religious faith? 7) How do you distinguish between
changeable and eternal religion? 9) What are the different types
of religious faiths? 10) Can religion be manufactured by philosophical
speculations? 11) Who created religion first? 12) What is the
greatest common engagement of religious men? 13) Do you believe
that Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead? 14) If you
believe, how do you substantiate? 15) If no, what is your reason?
The test was a good way to make us study.
Also on September 14th, Prabhupada wrote to the Boston devotees
separately, reiterating his interest in his book publication.
Desiring that sankirtana and book publication to go hand in
hand, he wrote: "I am pleased that the press arrangement
is proceeding nicely, and you will be pleased to know that my
Guru Maharaja drew a picture in which he gave great importance
to the symbolic representation of the press next to the mrdanga.
Press means publication of various types of books and literatures,
and the mrdanga means the sankirtana party. So now your center
will have both facilities, and organize in such a way that you
will become the living example to the other centers. When the
press is fixed up, I shall go to Boston and see personally how
things are being done."