On the evening
of May 28th, a few of us were in Prabhupada's darsana room discussing
his up-coming preaching engagement at Brandeis University. One
of the devotees mentioned that the elderly Miss Rose would be
driving him. Hearing her name, I remembered her from Prabhupada’s
visit in the previous year. I remembered how Prabhupada had
always spoken to her in sweet words, encouraging her to preach
to responsible men, write articles, buy temples, and advertise
in newspapers, so that everyone could understand the Hare Krsna
movement. I also remembered how she had generally made excuses
and interrupted Prabhupada's points, and how he had always allowed
her to interrupt him as though she was his equal. Still, she
was more intelligent than most of the great, so-called scientists
and scholars of the world. For over a year she had regularly
visited the temple and performed temple services, especially
when Prabhupada was visiting.
A few moments later Miss Rose walked in. Although in her sixties,
she was wearing a purple wig to match her purple mini-skirt
outfit. As she plopped herself in front of Prabhupada, she began
guilelessly complaining about her gall bladder and digestive
problems, and how she now had to follow a terribly restrictive
"Oh, you are a young girl," Prabhupada replied with
a smile. "You could eat even stones." Miss Rose was
The next day Prabhupada took us all to his college engagement,
and somehow I had the fortune to ride in the car with him. Purusottama
and Prabhupada sat with Miss Rose in the front and Jahnava and
I sat in the back, and on the way, Miss Rose got lost.
"Why not stop and ask someone for proper directions?"
Purusottama suggested. "Otherwise, we'll be late."
"It's an hour's ride," I added.
Miss Rose refused three times. "Whomever you choose for
me to ask doesn't look intelligent enough," she insisted.
The dilemma could only be resolved by her 'Swamiji,' who interceded
in a kind voice, "Miss Rose, I think that all the people
in your country are very intelligent." That ended the issue,
and she stopped the car to get directions.
Soon we arrived at Brandeis University's large auditorium, and
went up on the stage together. At 7:00 p.m. the auditorium was
almost empty, with perhaps only thirty students present in the
auditorium’s many rows of seats. Still, Prabhupada picked
up his karatalas, turned his head slightly to the side, closed
his eyes and struck the karatalas strongly: 1– 2–
3, 1– 2– 3. He began a beautiful kirtana, and I
wished I could somehow enter his transcendental realm.
During the hypnotic kirtana, a few students stood up in front
of their seats to join in the chanting and dancing, and some
swayed from side to side in their seats. When kirtana ended
Prabhupada was silent for two or three moments, and it was a
silence which seemed to increase the eagerness of his small
but attentive audience. He began his lecture by singing ancient
Vedic prayers, and then encouraged the students, "We have
chanted about half an hour, but if we chant even twenty-four
hours, you'll not feel tired. That is the practical significance.
You will feel more and more enthusiastic to chant. Our boys
and girls do that. In the beginning, of course, you may not
understand, but take to this practice of chanting and you'll
immediately feel transcendental pleasure. I saw that although
some of you could not join us in dancing and chanting, you were,
from your seat – you were trying to dance. That I have
I was in awe, thinking that Prabhupada must actually be seeing
the beautiful sleeping souls inside the bodies of the students,
yearning to wake up and dance. He must certainly be perceiving
their relationships with Krsna, and he must be seeing how some
would dance with Him in pure Krsna consciousness in the future.
"There is no secrecy," he continued, distinguishing
his philosophy from that of Maharishi Yogi's 'Transcendental
Meditation.' "We are not charging any fees, that 'You pay
me so many dollars, I'll give you a secret mantra, and you chant.'
No, it is open. It is distributed freely. Simply you have to
take it. That's all. The result will be, oh, great!" I
loved the way Prabhupada accentuated and elongated, "Oh,
great!" His eyes were closed and his head was turned slightly
upward, as though he were experiencing an exotic, heavenly fragrance.
Gesturing toward my sankirtana painting on an easel on the stage,
he then said to the teenage students, "You see this picture?
There are fFive learned brahmanas, and in the center there is
one figure who is Lord Caitanya. He started this movement when
He was only seventeen years old – a boy; a boy only –
a school boy! He was a student, but He introduced this movement
five hundred years ago. And some of the elderly men, as you
see in the painting one elderly man with a beard, also helped
Him, and the others also helped."
The audience was practically all teenagers, and Prabhupada obviously
wanted them to identify with Lord Caitanya’s greatness
in youth. He showed that Krsna consciousness applies to everyone,
that everyone can feel a connection with it. He was expert;
he knew just how to put people at ease. He continued, "Actually,
this movement was originally started by young boys, Sri Caitanya
Mahaprabhu, Nityananda prabhu, and others, and there was a great
agitation against them by the priestly brahmanas of that time…
Prabhupada concluded his class by assuring the university audience
of the authenticity of Mahaprabhu’s movement and that
of the Hare Krsna mantra. He said, “Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu
picked up these sixteen words from Vedic literature. It is not
that He manufactured something. No. In the Vedic way there is
no question of manufacturing a religious process."
During the kirtana after the lecture, most of us disciples danced
in a circle around Prabhupada. By this time many more students
had arrived, bringing the number to at least one hundred, and
several students jumped onto the stage and joined our circle.
Then, after the kirtana and an announcement asking for rides
home for the devotees, we rolled up the large oriental rug and
collected the musical instruments. In the meantime I noticed
Prabhupada walking up the aisle to the auditorium's front door
with a few devotees, and I ran to catch up with him. As he approached
the last row of seats, one of the members of the audience got
up from his seat and walked toward the aisle. It was Mike, an
eighteen-year-old who frequently visited the temple. He caught
Guru Maharaja's attention and asked shyly, "Prabhupada,
why is it that the words in the mantra are so repetitive: Hare
Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare?"
"That is out of love," Guru Maharaja answered. “We
are saying, 'My dear friend, my dear friend, my dear friend,'
or, 'Please engage me, please engage me, please engage me in
Mike grinned broadly and I was thrilled. It was easy for even
a materialist like myself to sense the externally subdued yearning
for Lord Krsna in Prabhupada's throat. I had never heard him
give that translation before. I had run half-way up the aisle
to catch up with him, just to realize I was light years away.
Prabhupada then defined the name Krsna: "Krsna means God.
Krsi means cultivation, and krsi means very great. Krs-dhatu.
Krsi also means 'repetition of birth'; na means 'one who checks
it'. One who checks the repetition of birth, He is Krsna. Our
repetition of birth can be checked only by God, otherwise it
is not possible. Harim vina na mrtim taranti. 'Nobody can stop
his repetition of birth and death without having the causeless
mercy of God.'
Somehow I was again fortunate enough to ride back to the temple
with Prabhupada, (my Guru Maharaja – DO YOU HAVE TO SAY
MY GURU MAHARAJA?). When we passed a "Home for Blind Children,"
Miss Rose praised it, saying, "They're educating blind
children very expertly these days."
"Yes," Guru Maharaja replied, "but they have
to have enjoyment also." He turned to me and added, "Ensure
that the temple devotees hold kirtana and prasadam distribution
* * * *
The next evening
the temple room was completely crowded with devotees and guests,
and there was a new cover on the vyasasana. The entire wall
behind the vyasasana was covered with a gold drapery; and the
vyasasana itself, its back the shape of a single lotus petal,
was covered with dark turquoise velvet cloth. Lord Krsna's emissary
in this world entered that scene and, once seated on the Vyasasana,
looked perfectly framed, as if in a painting.
After Prabhupada’s lecture, a guest asked, "Why is
this world here?"
Prabhupada looked at him strongly and answered with another
question, "Why is the cloud here?"
The guest couldn't answer and neither could the rest of us.
We simply stared at Prabhupada.
"Because there is a necessity," Prabhupada finally
said, and, after waiting a moment for that to be digested, he
continued, "Because there is need of rain. From the cloud
comes the rain, and from the rain, all varieties of vegetation.
Then the rain disappears and the cloud disappears, and only
the sky and luminaries remain. Similarly, only the Absolute
Truth, which is like the sky, remains eternally. There is a
need for this temporary material world, for all those who could
not obey God's laws."
It was such a brilliant answer and yet so simple. I turned to
one of the guests and said, "Due to his association with
Krsna, Prabhupada's qualities were like Krsna's. The Supreme
God of unlimited complicated universes is a simple cowherd boy,
and as His associate, Prabhupada is able to explain the most
complicated and difficult concepts in the simplest and clearest
I recognized the young man as the student who, after hearing
our temple president's request for rides back to the temple
after the Brandeis program, offered to drive; and who, during
our second kirtana, he had participated eagerly with wide-eyed
"There are so many different swamis and yogis," the
student said, "and each one advocates a different process
of self-realization. Each one says his process is best. How
do I know which is actually best?"
"What is your goal?" Prabhupada asked him. "Do
you want to become God or do you want to serve God? If you want
to become God: you are not God now, and how can someone who
is not God become God? God is God. He is always God. He doesn't
have to become God by yoga or meditation. Krsna is always God,
whether He is playing on the lap of Yasoda or speaking Bhagavad-gita
to Arjuna." Guru Maharaja told him that Krsna would help
him in devotional service, but He wouldn't help him compete
with Him. And again he asked, "You want to serve God or
you want to become God?"
The guest looked embarrassed as he replied, "I want to
serve God . . . but actually I realize that I wanted to become
"Yes!" Prabhupada said emphatically, and he then spoke
a few words about the difference between the infinitesimal living
being and the infinite Godhead.
During this short exchange, Hamsadhuta’s wife Himavati
walked into the temple room from the kitchen with one of the
biggest plates of prasadam I had ever seen. When she placed
it before Prabhupada, he looked at the plate and said, smiling,
"I am not God. I cannot eat all this!"
We all laughed, including the guest.
* * * *
Servants of Illusion
One day shortly
after this, Nanda-kisora and I accompanied Prabhupada on his
morning walk. After walking about half a block, Prabhupada stopped
at a bush just next to the temple building and pulled off one
leaf. "See how this leaf is so symmetrical," he told
us. "Inside the leaf is another tree design, and it is
also symmetrical. Krsna makes millions and millions of leaves
like this – so easily. On the contrary, if the scientists
were to try to make just one leaf like this, their brains would
perspire. Krsna paints so many millions of trees, in a few days,
every Autumn. He paints the leaves red, yellow, orange and spotted.
But if a scientist or artist would try to paint the leaves on
one tree different colors, it would take him months”.
We walked to a park just a few blocks from the temple. It was
a hilly park and full of garbage. As we walked throughout the
various small hills, Prabhupada told me to sweep it, and to
hold a Sunday festival there and invite the people of the neighborhood.
I liked the idea.
Nanda-kisora asked, "Srila Prabhupada, since Krsna always
knows what's going to happen at the next moment, doesn't He
Prabhupada looked at Nanda-kisora with wide-opened eyes, raised
his voice, and said, "That is anthropomorphism. Because
I would get bored if I knew what was going to happen next, I
think Krsna is that way. But that is not fact. He can know what
is going to happen next, and, at the same time, He does not
get bored. There is a difference between you and God."
As we continued walking, Prabhupada began to tell us the story
of Sally Sen Gupta, an English girl who married an Indian man.
The newly married husband didn't want his father to know about
the marriage, because many elderly Indians generally don't like
the lack of culture in Western women. Because Sally's husband
was a famous personality and they often attended public functions,
the father eventually found out, and finally they had to submit
to him. The father said, "All right, I'll allow you be
married to my son, but there has to be one condition. You have
to put on a sari, cover your head, and clean my house."
She complied with his wishes, and he was satisfied. Prabhupada
concluded, "Therefore, first thing in the morning all the
girls at the temple should make all the rooms clean."
* * * *
The next morning,
Rukmini and I, along with a few other god-sisters, walked to
Prabhupada's apartment – to join him for his walk. As
he entered the street from his apartment and turned right, we
followed behind, and I made sure to walk close enough to hear
his soft and melodious chanting of japa.
Instead of taking his usual quiet route, this time Guru Maharaja
led us around the main streets of the neighborhood. As we passed
the university students' apartments, he pointed with his cane
to the garbage on the street. Two hippie-looking students passed
us, going in the opposite direction, both wearing leather "Buffalo
Bill" jackets that had long leather fringes at the jacket’s
bottom. Prabhupada saw the students out of the corner of his
eye and remarked, "How wretchedly they are dressed."
He again pointed to the paper and garbage-filled street several
times with his cane. Our eyes traveled from Prabhupada to his
cane, and back to him as he then told his secretary, "Purusottama,
you should print on the top of all my stationery: 'We are not
hippies; we are happies.'"
We turned right at the next corner and walked past a bus stop
in front of some department stores. Two women waiting for a
bus stared at us, and Rukmini and I stared back. "You are
looking at these girls, wondering why they are wearing mini-skirts,"
Prabhupada said to us, "and they are looking at you and
wondering why you are wearing long skirts. They have got their
austerity and you have got your austerity. But your austerity
is spiritual – for Krsna – whereas their austerity
is for sex life."
We smiled, happy that Prabhupada was claiming us as his own,
and again we all turned the corner. "In Victorian times,"
Prabhupada continued, "the ladies all wore long dresses.
Then, as the times changed, the styles changed." Pointing
to his chest he continued, "Sometimes they are opened in
the front." Then he pointed to his own back and said, "And
sometimes they are opened in the back. In different periods
they expose different parts of the body, and they call that
'advancement of civilization.' But what is that advancement?"
Prabhupada called out to Purusottama who was walking about ten
feet ahead of him: "Purusottama, what is that advancement?"
Purusottama turned back toward Prabhupada, smiled and shrugged
his shoulders, so Prabhupada answered his own question by saying,
I have studied psychology in college," he continued as
we walked. "By nature women are shy, and ashamed when they
are uncovered; but now they are trained to be shameless. They
wear their skirts up to here," he said, pointing to his
thigh, "and they pretend to try to push it down in shyness."
Though he continued to walk, he acted out the part of a woman
secretary, sitting in an imaginary office and trying to push
down an imaginary miniskirt. "But what have they got to
push down?" he asked hypothetically."
As providence would have it, half a block ahead, an attractive
young woman of about twenty-five years was standing on the street
corner, waiting for someone. Although it was now nearly May,
there was still a bit of snow on the ground and the air was
chilly. We were all wearing coats, but this woman wore a short,
sleeveless‚ black dress. Clearly shivering, she tried
to cover each of her bare arms with the other.
"She will become a slave to maya, but not to Krsna,"
Guru Maharaja commented. He then turned his attention from the
woman and walked over to a pigeon standing in the middle of
the sidewalk, eating vomit. "This world has something for
everyone," he said, looking at the pigeon and back toward
us, making us laugh. "But if a human being were to eat
vomit, he would immediately get cholera and die. A human being
has to discriminate."
I anticipated that he was going to describe the specific foods
a human being should eat, but instead he said, "We discriminate
by eating only krsna–prasadam."
Since he was already discussing a variety of topics, I hoped
it would be all right to ask an unrelated question. Since I
had been weak and often ill for the past several months, and
even now did not have much energy, I asked, "Prabhupada,
before I got sick, I used to paint and draw for about thirteen
hours daily. Was the cause of my illness overwork?"
Prabhupada looked into my eyes and replied, "The cause
is this body. The cause is already there."
Reviewing his strong words in my mind as we continued walking
I remembered a story he'd told a few years before – about
an exorcist. The exorcist could get rid of the ghosts in other
people's bodies, but when he himself became haunted, he was
helpless. Guru Maharaja had commented at that time that we are
trying to get rid OF the miseries of the body, but the misery
IS the body.
After the morning walk, Prabhupada and we disciples separated
ways and engaged in our respective daily duties – and
then, that very evening in his Bhagavad– gita class, he
expanded his point about the body itself being the cause of
misery. He said, "We do not understand that in our materialistic
way of life, every one of us is in a diseased condition of life.
It is not a healthy condition of life. That we do not understand.
We are thinking, 'Oh, I am eating, sleeping and dancing, so
what is the disease? It is nice.' But your body is the disease
– this very body – because it is subjected to so
many tribulations; so many sufferings. So we should try to understand
what is the cause of our suffering. The cause of our suffering
is this body."
* * * *
Praying to Become Happy
On May 2nd many of us Boston
and visiting disciples had the good fortune of another darsana
in Guru Maharaja’s quarters. As the devotees entered his
room and offered obeisances, he smiled and greeted us individually.
Then he played a cassette tape, as he had done at a previous
darsana, but this time he was singing alone on the tape:
nitai- pada-kamala, koti-candra-susitala
je chayay jagata juudraya
heno nitai bine bhai, radha-krsna paite nai
drdha kori' dharo nitair pay…
After hearing his singing we
listened to his recorded explanation: "This is a very nice
song sung by Srila Narottama dasa Thakura. He advises that nitai-pada,
the lotus feet of Lord Nityananda, are a shelter where one will
get the soothing moonlight of not only one, but of millions
He seemed also to be listening attentively to himself as he
said on the tape: "Narottama boro dukhi. Narottama dasa
Thakura, the acarya, is taking the position that he is very
unhappy. Actually, he is representing ourselves. He says, 'My
dear Lord, I am very unhappy.' Nitai more koro sukhi: 'Therefore,
I am praying to Lord Nityananda to make me happy.' Rakho ranga–
caranera pasa: 'Please keep me in a corner of Your lotus feet.'"
"That's me," I thought. "I'm definitely unhappy."
I'm unhappy even when good things happen. Even when I sit in
Prabhupada's room, my mind wanders to unhappy situations, and
I become envious of the devotee sitting next to me. Externally
I serve Prabhupada for so many hours each day, but internally
I manage to invent unhappiness.
Although I could relate to the part in the song about unhappiness,
I failed to understand why Srila Narottama dasa Thakura asked
the Lord for relief. How could I ask Krsna or Nityananda for
happiness? After all, Prahlada Maharaja didn't ask for relief
from distress when he was tortured by his father. He tolerated
the assaults and meditated on Lord Nrsimhadeva.
When Guru Maharaja turned off the tape, Rukmini raised her hand
and asked for us all, "I thought we weren't supposed to
ask Krsna to make us happy."
"Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda are Krsna and Balarama
Themselves," he answered, but they have come just to give
love of God. Therefore you can ask them to make you happy."
"Of course, that's it," someone behind me whispered.
"Right from the beginning, Prabhupada told us to pray to
Krsna for the happiness of loving and serving Him."
Back in 1966 Prabhupada had said that the Hare Krsna mantra
meant, "O Krsna, I am suffering in this world because I'm
serving Your material energy. Please uplift me and engage me
in the service of Your spiritual energy, so I can be happy."
"Okay," I thought, "It's only possible for me
to be happy if I want Krsna's happiness. But that's the problem.
Even when I pray just to please Krsna, ultimately I'm really
asking for my own happiness: by serving Krsna, I will become
happy." Getting twisted into mental knots I finally concluded
that I had to start somewhere. I might as well start by praying
the standard prayers and begging for real happiness –
a happiness free from selfishness – begging from those
who could easily give it, such as Nityananda. He would understand
my problem, and so would Prabhupada.
Rukmini was also encouraged, and she asked a second question:
"How do we become sincere?"
Guru Maharaja smiled again and replied, "Be sincere, and
you will be sincere."
I looked around at the other devotees; everyone seemed as confused
as I was.
"How do you become a thief?" Guru Maharaja continued.
Rukmini shrugged her shoulders, and Guru Maharaja gave the answer,
"By practicing stealing. So how do you become sincere?
By practice. Abhyasa-yoga- yuktena. Yoga means practice."
The ideas presented in his morning darsana flowed into his evening
class, and his evening class teachings flowed into what he would
say during the next morning's darsana. This was the beginning
of our practice for being in the spiritual world, where everything
is eternal, with no beginning or end, no past or future; only
an ever fresh, ever new, present, which unfolds eternally.
* * * *
On the next day, a Boston University
student reporter named Jerry interviewed Guru Maharaja, our
Prabhupada. He sat beside him in the darsana room while about
fifteen of us listened in.
Jerry turned on his tape recorder and asked, "Are you people
Prabhupada was aware of the Vietnam War going on at that time
and had talked about it many times. In the previous year he
had told us that because American leaders were sending sudras,
working class boys, to Vietnam, the boys were naturally being
killed. He had even gone so far as to say that any government
leader who is proud of his country’s scientific advancement
and does not know how to organize society by varna and asrama
is a fool. Moreover, just a week before he had ordered that
we have Bhagavad-gita examinations for bhakti-sastri titles,
so that Iskcon could be recognized as a spiritual institution
and his students could "be freed from this draft board
Still, he pretended to misunderstand Jerry's word "pacifist"
to be "passivist, or "non-active." He pointed
in the direction of his Radha-Krsna Deities and said, "No,
we are not passivists. We have got our Radha-Krsna. We are dressing
Them, we are . . . " His voice trailed off and he didn't
complete the sentence. Instead of saying he was a proponent
of peace instead of war, he demonstrated that he was a personalist,
a servant of god as the Supreme Person; not an impersonalist.
Without responding, Jerry moved on to his next question: "What
do you think of the drug culture? My own opinion is that drugs
such as marijuana and LSD are far superior to the lower forms
of intoxication such as alcohol."
"Dry stool, wet stool," Guru Maharaja replied. "Once,
two European gentlemen in India saw two piles of stool in a
field. One of them told the other, 'The wet one is superior.'
The other man said that the dry side was better." Prabhupada
flipped his hand from one side to the other and concluded, "But
they are both stool, after all." We all laughed.
Jerry's next question was, "What do you think of astrology?"
Prabhupada looked at us and then at his own left hand. He raised
it, pretending to study it as an astrologer might. "Suppose
someone says I will become a king," he said, as his right
finger pointed to different lines. "And suppose I become
a king." He paused and then concluded, "How long can
I remain king?"
We all laughed again, pleased with his three concise, brilliant
answers in a row.
* * * *
A Notorious World
the president of Prabhupada’s Montreal temple, Janardana,
arrived in Boston. He had driven down to visit Prabhupada for
a few days, and he arrived just in time to take him to his scheduled
lecture at the Arlington Street Church. Because Janardana and
I were old friends since the time I was in Montreal two years
earlier, I had the good luck to ride in the same car.
On the way to the church we passed a large gas station sign.
Prabhupada read it aloud, separating the syllables more than
one would normally do. "CIT– GO”, he uttered.
“America is very expert at advertising; very expert at
getting people's attention."
Janardana replied, "America is notorious for their advertising."
"Everything material is notorious," Prabhupada replied.
"This world lures us by advertising happiness, and then
it crushes us."
* * * *
When we arrived
at the church hall, there was practically no one there. We had
done plenty of advertising, and I had personally designed posters
and pasted them on numerous billboards, store windows and lampposts
– but hardly any guests had come. Trying to remedy the
situation Hamsaduta took a group of devotees outside for a short
but roaring kirtana, and in that way he attracted many people
to come back to the church. Then, during the kirtana in the
hall, Prabhupada noticed that there was no prasadam to distribute
to the audience, and ordered me to quickly find and cut up some
fruit. Then after the kirtana, he recited his heartfelt prayers
to his disciplic succession and began:
"Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you very much for participating
with us in the sankirtana movement, or Krsna consciousness movement.
This movement is to awaken the sleeping living entities. In
the Vedic literature Upanisad, we have the verses: uttistha
jagrata prapya varan nibodhata. The transcendental Vedic voice
says, 'O humanity, O living entity, you are sleeping. Please
get up. You have to go to your duty.' Responsible parents awake
their sleepy, indolent boy, and the Vedas are considered as
the mother of the human society. The Vedas are crying, uttistha,
'Please get up. Please get up.' And what is that sleeping? Sleeping
means to forget ourselves. Anyone, either a common man or very
rich man, forgets himself when he is fast asleep; he dreams.
Although he is sleeping in a very nice apartment on a nice bedstead,
he sometimes dreams that he is thrown into the ocean or into
the fire or something like that."
Prabhupada’s mood sounded urgent – as though there
was an emergency. Life was very short, and we had to wake up
immediately, or fall off the cliff of reincarnation. He continued
to explain that we don't know how we came to this world, what
we are doing here, or where we will go after death. As politely
as possible, he told his audience that we were all still like
dumb animals: "The animal is standing, eating some grass.
Although he'll be taken to the slaughterhouse and he'll be killed
in the next moment, he has no information. He is very happy
eating the grass. And even if he is informed, 'My dear Mr. Cow,
you are eating grass here very happily. Just half an hour later
you will be taken to the slaughterhouse. Go away from this place",
the grass-eating is still more palatable to him than looking
for protection from being killed. This is called ignorance –
the sleeping state."
He explained how this life is only a preparation for the next
life, that we should try to develop our spiritual body, and
that we could do that by following spiritual authority. That
was the main point of his lecture. He urged: "Authority;
everywhere authority is there. You have to accept authority.
Without authority there is no advancement. The next question
will be whether you will accept this man as authority or that
man as authority; that is a different question. But if you want
to advance, you have to . . . Just like even in the crossing
the street, you ask the police authority, Shall I go this way
or that way?' Authority is to be accepted, because we are not
A few of the students protested Prabhupada’s conclusion,
and some of them even stood up and began shouting against the
idea. They were rooting for anarchy and we disciples were rooting
for our Gurudeva, the winner. Finally he ended the conversation
by saying, "Let us chant."
On the way back to the temple, I again sat behind Prabhupada
in Janardana's car. Since Janardana was from Montreal, he wasn't
familiar with Boston's streets and didn't know which way to
go – so he kept guessing. After driving for some time,
he finally stopped and asked a policeman, who told us that the
temple was completely in the opposite direction. We had driven
all the way across town in the wrong direction. Prabhupada turned
to us and said, "And they say you don't have to follow
* * * *
evening a guest from the Arlington Street Church program came
to the temple, and he asked Prabhupada if he would be giving
another lecture there.
"Arlington?" Prabhupada asked.
"Are you going to be there again?"
I interrupted, "He wants to know."
"If you arrange it, I can go," Prabhupada replied.
"I am at your service. I have dedicated my life for this.
Whenever you call me, whenever you invite me, I can go anywhere.
Why Arlington Church? I can go to any place. It is my duty to
deliver you the message of Srimad-Bhagavatam and Bhagavad- gita.
That is my duty."
Sitting in the back of the temple by the big picture windows
with her legs stretched out in front of her, was a young woman
from the neighborhood who had seen one of the posters advertising
Prabhupada's visit. After his lecture she raised her hand and
asked in a challenging voice, "How do you know that a name
is approved?" She also seemed to have a problem with authority.
Prabhupada called back to her, "How do you know your name?
How do you know?"
"It's given by a human being," she said. "It
was told to me by a person."
"So, who? Who told you," Prabhupada asked.
She replied, flustered, "I suppose my mother."
"Why do you believe her, that it is your name? I say that
it is not your name. Why do you believe that this is your name?"
"I can choose my name if I don't like the name I have."
"That's all right, but why do you believe? When I asked,
'What is your name?' You gave your name given by your parents.
Why not by your friend?"
"But you accept it," Prabhupada said.
"So you have to accept, because your mother is the authority,"
"Yes, but who is the authority for telling me . . ."
Prabhupada, "That's all right. This is the principle. So
you have to accept the name of God from God. You cannot manufacture."
"How do you know that Krsna is the name of God?" she
Although her feet were outstretched and facing him, Prabhupada
didn't seem to notice. He replied, "It will take some time.
How do you know a man is your father? Some gentleman comes,
and your mother says, 'He's your father.' How do you know it?"
"I have no proof," she said.
Watching the two, I was thinking, "Prabhupada is so patient.
If it were me, I would have probably not bothered to continue.
I would have started speaking to someone else."
"Can you have any proof that he's your father?" Prabhupada
"I suppose there will be biological . . ."
"No, you are not born at that time," Prabhupada interrupted.
"How can you know that he is your father? You have to accept
your mother's version; that's all. That is your authority. Your
mother says, 'This gentleman is your father', and you have to
accept it. There is no other way to understand." For another
five minutes the conversation continued, and the girl continued
challenged him, resistant to his explanation. Prabhupada even
gave her his standard example of the sun, that by our own perception
it looks like a tiny disk, but when we go to school and hear
from authority, we can better understand its magnitude. Still,
she wouldn't accept the concept.
"It seems a very hopeless situation," she finally
And Prabhupada concluded, "Then hopeless for you, but not
for others...For one who accepts authority, it is not hopeless
for him. It is very simple."
Even though Prabhupada was my superior and perhaps I should
have felt only respect, I also felt pride. I loved his words.
I prayed to him in my mind, not only that I could preach like
him and with his conviction, but that I could preach with his
compassionate awareness of the crying souls inside strange bodies.
* * * *
Because I was
now a married girl, I had interest in whatever Prabhupada said
or did that pertained to marriage. Whenever he spoke about householders
I was very curious, and I was now eager to attend the triple
marriage of my fellow artists, Jahnava, Rukmini and Saradiya.
On May 4th, Baradraja arrived from Montreal to marry Rukmini,
and two days later, Nanda-kisora and Vaikunthanatha arrived
from New York. That evening Prabhupada lectured at Harvard University,
and at the end of the Harvard class he invited the students
to come to the exotic and ancient Vedic wedding ceremony to
be performed the next day. On the day of the wedding the temple
room was filled, many of the guests being from Harvard. Seated
on a fluffy, striped cushion on the floor just behind the sacrificial
arena, Prabhupada wore a large cotton cadar (Indian shawl) wrapped
around his shoulders and covered by his garland of roses and
carnations. The mound of earth on which the fire would be lit
was decorated with gardenias and roses; a small silver plate
holding six bananas and a small pile of kindling sat on one
side of the mound, and an acaman cup, a bowl of ghee and a small
flower vase sat on the other.
On the wall, just behind and above Guru Maharaja, were three
large paintings – Radha-Krsna, Sri Janardana in the Causal
Ocean, and Guru Maharaja in Vrndavana. On the left wall was
a painting of Lord Krsna reclining on the grass and holding
a flute, which I had copied from a small Indian print. The entire
background was rose-red, and in the foreground Krsna looked
sweet and innocent, and very happy. Then, facing Guru Maharaja,
on the opposite side of the temple, was the altar that Devananda
had constructed for our Radha-Krsna Deities.
As Prabhupada began his lecture, the three couples sat on either
side of him, and somehow I was sitting next to them. He began,
"Because in this country, mostly I see the boys and girls
are not married, I have introduced this marriage system in our
society; and the result is very good. You will be pleased to
know that in London I have sent six boys and girls who were
married by me, in my presence. Formerly, they were not married.
As the other boys and girls lived, they were also living in
that way. But the result has been very excellent. They are preaching
Krsna consciousness there. They are not very big philosophers,
nor Vedantists. They were not born in the Vedic civilized way;
rather in an ordinary way. They have been trained under my direction
for only two years, and now they are working in London very
wonderfully. People have come to know that there is a Krsna
consciousness movement, and the London Times wrote in a big
heading, 'Krsna Chanting Startles London.'
"Formerly, many sannyasis went there to introduce this
movement, but they failed. These boys and girls are not very
aged also; none are more than twenty-six years, but they are
doing very nicely."
"So the platform of purity is so nice that they can play
tremendous . . . So we want such pairs in our society. We are
not dry. Everything is there. The hedonists want to eat, drink,
be merry and enjoy, and for these four things they are going
to hell. But our… the same things are there. We are dancing,
we are chanting, we are eating, and we also have love between
husband and wife, between boys and girls. We allow everything,
but everything is targeted to achieve to the highest goal of
life, Visnu or Krsna – that is the significance of this
life. We don't stop anything, but we regulate everything to
achieve the highest perfection of life. That is our aim. Everyone,
every living entity, is by nature hankering after a joyful life.
That is his nature."
Prabhupada looked toward the Deities and continued, "You
see Krsna and Radharani. They are also transcendental unity.
Krsna is a young boy of sixteen years. Similarly, Radharani
is also a young girl. They are chanting, They are playing on
the flute, They are enjoying life, and They have got Their associates.
So it is not dry. Rather, it is highest perfectional stage,
in purity. Their life is not in the material modes of passion
He went on to explain how everyone wants that "pure, joyful
life," but no one knows where to get it. He told both his
disciples and the Harvard students that they should just try
to approach Radha and Krsna, and then they would have a full
life of enjoyment. He then asked that his newly-married disciples
follow Lord Caitanya's example – to be strict, to follow
all the rules and regulations, to preach, and to go back to
After his lecture, he began the fire sacrifice. Although I wasn't
one of the brides, I made sure I sat close to him as he told
one of the grooms, "Cover the head and give her this red
sindhura." He directed every detail of who should do what,
who should say what, who should sit where, and who should wear
what: "Cover it nicely. You see; here. You should keep
your wife always covered." He made us all laugh when he
added, "Don't allow this mimi or mini-shirt," and
he surprised us when he said that any dress that is above the
ankles is a mini-skirt.
Prabhupada looked simultaneously happy, grave and serene as
he advised, "According to Vedic civilization, respectable
woman cannot be seen even by the sun. Asuryam pasyet. You cannot
avoid the sun, but it is said like that. The sun should find
difficulty to see a man's wife."
After organizing the three couples for a photograph, Prabhupada
prepared to light the fire. He took the colored dyes from their
individual cups and sprinkled them up, and down, and sideways,
on the mound of earth before him. Using his thumb and pinky,
he delicately picked up the twigs and wooden splinters and dipped
them into the ghee. As he lit the twigs with a candle, his hands
looked like flower petals moving in a soft breeze. Even an illiterate
would have felt poetic while watching him.
He took up the wood splinters one by one, built a 'teepee',
and made a small fire that blazed around it. He then mixed sesame
seeds, barley, and clarified butter in a bowl and passed it
around, telling us each to take a handful. As he recited the
Sanskrit prayers, we responded in unison. Each prayer ended
with the word svaha, meaning "I offer myself," repeated
three times. And with each "sva– HA" we threw
the sesame seeds and barley into the fire.
Or so we thought. After a few minutes of enthusiastic grain–throwing,
Guru Maharaja said very softly, slowly, and clearly, enunciating
each word; "Unto – the – fire. Not –
unto – me."
"Oh God, he's so tolerant," I thought. “We’re
throwing the grains straight across the fire onto Prabhupada's
dhoti and cadar!” Though knowing that he knows everything
going on even behind him, I hoped he didn't notice me, and I
prayed he would not get tired of trying to purify me. "O
Prabhupada, when will you make me like you, so Krsna conscious,
so correct, and so tolerant? Please don't consider whether I'm
qualified or not to get your mercy."
At the end of the fire sacrifice Prabhupada poured the rest
of the pot of ghee into the fire. Then he called for kirtana,
picked up the mrdanga and began to play. Various devotees picked
up the karatalas, tambourine, an X– shaped drum, and a
mid-eastern, one-stringed instrument with the violin-like bow.
During the kirtana, sparkles seemed to shoot of Prabhupada’s
eyes like soft rays.
* * * *
I Asked You to Come
On May 8th,
the day before Prabhupada’s departure, I walked to his
apartment as usual around 6 a.m., and waited outside to accompany
him on his morning walk. But this time he didn't appear. As
I chanted my rounds, I thought about his deep voice, eyes, smile,
wisdom, love and wit. I finally became impatient, walked upstairs
and knocked on his door. Purusottama opened the door slightly,
whispered, "Prabhupada is still resting," and invited
me in. His own bed was just outside Prabhupada’s bedroom,
relatively close to the front door. He pointed to it and again
whispered, "Just yesterday Prabhupada chastised me for
putting my clean clothing on the bed. He said the bed is a contaminated
place." "Really? That's something new." I whispered
back. "I'm always putting clean things on my bed. I’d
I couldn't help but notice that Prabhupada's door was slightly
open. I thought he might be almost ready to go for his walk,
so I peeked in. He was awake, but lying down, and as soon as
he saw me, he sat up a bit. I felt terrible and apologized for
waking him. He tried to assure me, "No, you did not wake
me. I have been up for hours. I could not sleep." I didn't
know if he said this to make me feel better, or because it was
true, or both, but I felt terrible, and I apologized for coming.
Then, as he began to sit up still further, he held out his arm
and moved his hand back and forth. "No, no," he said
in what sounded like a tone of appeal, "I asked you to
come." I was stunned by his compassion; his wanting me
not to feel guilty. I didn't know what to do, so I just closed
his door and waited for him to come out for the walk.
* * * *
Later in the
morning Prabhupada was preparing to have Purusottama offer arati
to his Radha-Krsna Deities, and he wanted some of us to learn
from him. Four or five other disciples were already present
when a god-sister and I entered. Sitting behind his desk, Prabhupada
played karatalas, and after the camphor lamp was offered to
the Deities and then brought over to him, he carefully took
a few fingers off the karatalas. Using both hands he put those
fingers over the flame, and still holding the karatalas he touched
his fingers to his head to honor the flame prasadam.
As Purusottama offered the camara wisk, Prabhupada waved his
arm to get his attention. Purusottama looked back toward Prabhupada,
but couldn't understand what he meant or what was wrong, and
I couldn't understand it either. Purusottama’s left hand
ringing the small bell, his left arm was bent at the elbow at
a right angle as Prabhupada had showed him earlier, and he wasn't
knocking into anything with the camara wisk. So it wasn't clear
what was amiss. Prabhupada didn't reply, but simply indicated
with his eyes that Purusottama should continue the arati. After
he blew the conchshell to indicate the end of the arati, Purusottama
turned to Prabhupada and asked, "What did I forget?"
Prabhupada answered, "You forgot everything." He spoke
with such gravity that it sounded like, "You have forgotten
everything for millions of births, and now I am coming to remind
you of that everything."
* * * *