Ecstasy of Separation
Snow and ice
typified our Boston winter. Freezing winds raged through the
city, the snow was sometimes knee deep—and the cold and
depressing weather mirrored my own feelings of depression. Despite
the assignment Prabhupada had given me, a third painting of
Lord Nrsimhadeva, I was unhappy. I could not understand where
these feelings came from, and so I tried to forget them by applying
myself to more and more service.
I envied Satsvarupa's satisfaction with his life. He worked
an office job in order to maintain the temple economically,
but his special spiritual assignment was to type and edit Prabhupada's
Srimad-Bhagavatam dictation tapes. Having first begun this service
in New York in 1966, he continued it even when Prabhupada traveled
to San Francisco early in 1967. Later that year, when Prabhupada
became ill, he had stopped using his dictaphone machine, but
now that he was back from India and again dictating, Satsvarupa
resumed typing. He had rented a transcribing machine, and would
beam whenever one of Prabhupada's hand-addressed business envelopes,
containing another Grundig dictation tape, arrived. Early in
the morning, before anyone else was awake, he would sit on the
kitchen floor and type, happily absorbed in Prabhupada's Third
Canto translations and purports.
Pradyumna also had an 'outside' job to help support the temple,
although his love was Sanskrit. Pleased by Pradyumna's eagerness,
Prabhupada had encouraged him to provide English synonyms for
the Sanskrit Brahma-samhita verses. Pradyumna worked diligently
at this, and was thrilled when one day he received a letter
from Prabhupada saying that he could soon do the same for the
And I was also busy. Since I alone remained back at the temple
most of the day, I greeted whatever guests visited, and I was
responsible for cooking Krsna's lunch prasadam. I also painted
for the six Iskcon temples—New York, San Francisco, Santa
Fe, Montreal, Los Angeles and Boston. But something was missing.
Wondering and wondering what was the problem, I eventually realized
the cause. Since I had not seen Prabhupada for several months,
I wasn't feeling his spiritual presence, and I was feeling lonely
for him. In the first week in January, I decided to write him.
I recalled how, whenever he had spoken about pure devotees in
his lectures or books, the topic of separation seemed to come
up; but it was always in the context of the 'happiness of separation'.
In one lecture he had said that the gopis, the cowherd maidens
of Krsna's village of Vrndavana, were so attached to Him that
when He was out of their sight, even for a short time, their
every moment seemed like millions of years and the entire world
appeared vacant. He'd explained that because Krsna is non-different
from remembrance of Him, the gopis enjoyed the transcendental
pleasure of His association at every moment by these intense
feelings of separation. He'd often quoted Lord Caitanya—that
feeling constant separation, while engaged in the service of
the Lord, is the perfection of Krsna consciousness. I had no
idea what that meant, since I was certainly not happy being
separated from him.
I was not very clear on how to formulate my question, and I
ended up asking a question that far exceeded my own level of
spiritual realization: "Swamiji, you write that the ecstasy
of the separation of the gopis for Krsna was higher than that
of meeting Him. Is this also true in relation to the spiritual
Though so busy, Prabhupada remained prompt at answering letters.
I received his reply on January 13, barely a week after I had
sent my letter: "Yes, the ecstasy of separation from the
spiritual master is even greater than meeting with him."
I knew I was light years away from that experience. Still, by
Prabhupada's concise yet potent words, I understood that gradually,
as I would become spiritually purified, my unhappiness could
turn into the ecstasy of separation. Yes, surely there were
separation feelings in the spiritual world, and there were separation
feelings here. Because Krsna is the center of everyone's life
breath there, even His separation is the cause of a certain
type of unlimited happiness, whereas here, because I am the
center of my life, and because I see everything in relation
to my mundane senses, I feel unhappy.
Prabhupada's letter reminded me of what he'd told me just before
leaving for San Francisco a year earlier: "Do you think
I would ever leave you? Don't think like that. I am always with
you and you are always with me."
* * * *
While I was waiting for Prabhupada's reply, I continued painting
Lord Nrsimhadeva. As in the two previous paintings, I portrayed
the Lord seated upon Lord Anantadeva, His expansion as the thousand-headed
serpent who serves as His bed, seat and umbrella, and whose
hoods were decorated with gold and jeweled helmets. In the original
Brijbasi print, Ananta's hoods seemed overly cute, almost smiley,
and in the previous paintings I had copied them exactly from
the print. Now, considering that since Lord Nrsimhadeva exhibits
divine ferocity, perhaps Ananta should as well, in my letter
I had also asked Prabhupada if I was correct.
in his same letter, "As long as we have got a materialistic
view, the serpent is fierce. When Prahlada Maharaja saw Lord
Nrsimhadeva, he was not at all afraid of the fierce features
of the Lord. The big jaws and nails of Lord Nrsimhadeva, the
fiery tongue of the Lord, and the gigantic lion's head, did
not create any fierce havoc before Prahlada Maharaja. He said,
'My dear Lord, I am not afraid of this fierceful feature of
yours, but I am afraid of the repeated cycle of birth and death
in material existence.'
"That instruction is very valuable. In our material existence,
we are always in dangerous and fierceful condition, but by the
spell of maya we do not take it very seriously.
"The serpent-like feature of the Lord is another expansion
of the Lord, to provide His place on the ocean. He is not at
all fierceful to the devotees."
I could not
immediately catch Prabhupada's point about Ananta. First I thought
he meant that my material conception of fierceness was wrong,
and that the Brijbasi print was correct. But re-reading the
letter I understood that Lord Nrsimhadeva, though fierce looking
and the cause of terror to materialists, does not cause any
fear in the hearts of His devotees. So Lord Ananta should also
look fierce in my painting.
The decision to change Anantadeva provoked another dilemma.
Since I now saw the Brijbasi version of Ananta as incorrect,
I began to question the propriety of Brijbasi prints in general.
Over the past year devotees had occasionally given me Brijbasi
prints, knowing that I used them as references for my paintings.
Several devotees even hung these prints on their walls as worshipable.
Although I also liked them, I now began to wonder whether I
should continue using them as references.
I wrote to Prabhupada: "Your Divine Grace has said that
the Hare Krsna mantra should be only heard from pure devotees.
In fact, you have said that one should not hear anything about
Krsna from a non-devotee. As milk touched by the lips of a serpent
has poisonous effects, similarly talks about Krsna given by
a non-Vaisnava are also poisonous. The hearer would become adversely
affected by the material misunderstandings of that non-devotee."
Thinking that the only real devotees were in Prabhupada's Iskcon,
I'd concluded my letter by asking, "Since the people in
the Brijbasi Company are not devotees, is it wrong to look at
their pictures?" His reply, witten in the same letter,
"Brijbasi Company persons are not ordinary businessmen.
They are devotees, and therefore their pictures are not poisonous.
Even if their pictures were to be poison, because we are paying
for their goods, if poison is there, it becomes ineffective.
We are buying many things at the market which are not fit for
offering to Krsna, but because we are purchasing them, we can
I realized more certainly now that I could indeed learn from
those more familiar with the Vedic traditions. In fact, I would
not have known how to illustrate anything of Krsna, or His incarnations
and devotees, were it not for these Indian prints. Some prints
would be bona fide and some not, it was true, but it was Prabhupada
who could distinguish between the two. He had previously said
not to display any of the Brijbasi pictures of the demigods,
because he did not want us worshipping the demigods on the same
level as Krsna. At the same time, he'd more than approved the
Brijbasi pictures of Krsna with the cows and gopis, as well
as those of Krsna's expansions. He'd even had them hung on the
temple room walls.
Prabhupada's letter contained more than just technical information;
it also reminded me that I could not cause Lord Nrsimhadeva
to manifest His personal presence on the strength of my brushes
and paints. His letter brought to mind the time he taught us
to pray to Lord Nrsimhadeva for his health. Then, after recovering
from his heart attack, had told us, "I was supposed to
die, but because of the devotees' sincere prayers to Lord Nrsimhadeva,
the Lord said, 'All right, let him live and do his nonsense.'"
I was dumbstruck, both then and now, by Prabhupada's prefect
humility. I prayed to Lord Anantadeva and Lord Nrsimhadeva that
they might please bless me with a drop of such sincere humility.
* * * *
In the third
week of February, Rayarama sent Satsvarupa and me a copy of
his recent letter from Prabhupada, along with a copy of Jaya
Govinda's latest comic strip. Because I'd drawn such a strip
myself, I was keen to read Prabhupada's comment on this first
you very much for sending me the latest copy of Back to Godhead,
which is so nicely decorated and painted. My special thanks
are due to Jaya Govinda who has so nicely sketched the story
of the Grand Procession. I think in each and every issue a similar
story-sketch may be printed, and it will be very interesting
for the American reading public. It is interesting and thought
provoking. Therefore, the more we print such sketch-stories,
it will be greater in appreciation."
That's a great name," I mused. "It sounds much more
descriptive than 'comics'.
Several months earlier, while working in Bhaktijana's asrama,
I had watched Jaya Govinda meticulously draw in the details
of the storyline—a retelling of a query by one of Srila
Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura's disciples as to why some
students make spiritual advancement and others do not, even
though appearing to be engaged in the very same devotional activities.
Srila Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura had answered
with a story of a groom and his family members who journeyed
by boat to the wedding site on the other side of the river.
They slept on the boat during the night while the boatman rowed,
but they were dismayed to discover in the morning that they
were still at their original mooring site. They had forgotten
to raise the anchor! Srila Sarasvati Thakura had explained that
if one does not lift the anchor of sense gratification, it becomes
very difficult to make real advancement in Krsna consciousness,
despite one's apparent performance of devotional activities.
Although I didn't particularly like Jaya Govinda's crosshatching
technique, I recognized that the comic strip approach was potentially
a very strong preaching medium. Even though his attempt was
not as slick as more professional comic art, its transcendental
message made it infinitely more valuable and even more beautiful.
The message had empowered the medium. I felt encouraged to continue
the Mahajana series.
Satsvarupa also showed me the letter Prabhupada had just written
to him, wherein he wrote, "Yes, the anchor, as told in
the sketch-story 'The Grand Procession', is sex life, and we
are 50% liberated if we can make it nil."
This convinced us—this was an easy and palatable way for
people to appreciate the very weighty and strict philosophy
of Krsna consciousness.
* * * *
the letters I walked downstairs to the basement, turned on the
dim light, and sat at a small table, strewn with pencils, erasers,
a ruler, and a sketch pad, to begin my second sketch-story.
I would be illustrating the pastime of "Narada and the
Hunter," which Rayarama had adapted from Prabhupada's soon
to be published Teachings of Lord Caitanya manuscript. With
great difficulty I drew and inked scenes that had only a slightly
better sense of proportion than my previous attempt. I had no
more knowledge of anatomy than I had during my rendition of
my first attempt, and I was no further talented artistically.
All I could do was pray to be lead through the darkness of my
lacking. Even some of the most famous artists of the world described
the experience of drawing the path traced by their pencil on
their sheet of paper as a person groping his way through the
darkness, what to speak of myself. But at least I had the process
for contacting the supreme source of all light.
In the pastime, Narada met a hunter in the forest who habitually
injured animals and left them to suffer, half-dead. Even the
hunter's name belied his cruelty—it was Mrgari, 'the enemy
of animals'. Freeing the animals by his yogic power, Narada
informed the hunter of the horrible karmic reactions such dreadful
sinful activities would bring him. He described a hell where
the hunter would be tortured by the very animals he was now
mutilating. Convinced by Narada's stark and dramatic arguments,
the hunter immediately stoped wounding animals and took up the
great saint's advice to chant Hare Krsna and worship tulasi-devi,
the plant so dear to Krsna. By Narada's grace, Mrgari became
so compassionate that on Narada's second visit, he carefully
brushed aside the ants on the walkways so that he would not
step on them or hurt them in any way.
The information was fairly straightforward—except for
what hell actually looked like. "Was it the fire and brimstone
place described in the Judaic-Christian tradition," I wondered.
"Or was the Vedic conception of hell different?" I
wrote to Prabhupada, who was still in Los Angeles, and his reply
was dated February
"It is only the devotee who can save the living entities
from falling down into hellish conditions, and by the grace
of Narada Muni, the hunter was awakened to Krsna consciousness
and was saved.
"Yes, the general principle is that one is sent to the
particular type of hell, and when he is practiced to suffer
the hellish condition, he is given a similar body as reaction.
These hellish planets are described in the Srimad-Bhagavatam,
"More than one hell?!" Pradyumna began as I read the
letter aloud, "Up until I met Prabhupada, I didn't even
consider the possibility of life on other planets, what to speak
of a real place that was hell."
I added, "I'm the same. When I was doing my first sankirtana
painting in Swamiji's quarter, he called out to me from the
window between our rooms, 'You know, there is a hellish planet
200,000 miles distant from this earthly planet.' Kirtanananda
was there too, and when he showed some disbelief Prabhupada
said to him, 'Why are you so surprised? There are hellish situations
even on this planet, are there not? The Jews in German concentration
camps were forced to eat their own stool. They were gassed on
the pretext of showering, and their skins were used to make
lamp-shades.' Then he said 'Animals, they already endure hellish
bodies. Cockroachs, for example. Are they not always getting
stepped on? And what do they eat? Dirt and dust. If this is
not hell, what is hell then?'"
Pradyumna agreed, and said in his usual scholarly fashion, "Certainly.
How could anyone not believe in it?
Without having Canto 5, I was still in the dark, and I just
did the best I could. Soon after the next issue of Back to Godhead
came out, I was happily surprised when I played a taped lecture
from Prabhupada and heard him talking about the Narada sketch
story. As I listened, I grinned like a child being talked about
by her father in public:
"Those who have seen our Krsna pictures . . . Have you
got Back to Godhead here? You can show. You see? The story and
the picture you will find in Back to Godhead recently published.
Because he is Vaisnava, Narada is lover of Krsna. . . . When
he saw that the many half-dead animals were being tortured,
flapping, he was very kind and said, 'Oh, who has done this
mischief to these poor animals?' He traced out the hunter, and
"The hunter asked him, 'Oh, why you are disturbing my business?'
"Narada said, 'My dear hunter, I have come to beg something
"The hunter thought, 'This mendicant is a beggar. He might
have come to me to beg some skin or deer skin or tiger skin.'
So he said, 'All right, please let me do my business. I shall
give you skin; whatever you like.'
"Narada said, 'No, no'…
* * * *
In early February,
Brahmananda phoned me from New York. The group of girls we had
met at the 'Be-In'* in Central Park that previous summer had
now been regularly visiting the 26 Second Avenue center. Although
they were mostly still studying at school and living at home
with their families, Prabhupada had initiated them by mail in
December. Brahmananda told me that Balai, the oldest of them,
had become indispensable to him because she was an expert typist
who now typed all his temple correspondence and legal documents.
"Where does she work?"
"I've made the back part of the storefront into my office,
and she has a manual typewriter there."
"Does she have a desk?"
"No desk," Brahmananda said. "Just like with
the rest of the devotees, the floor's her desk. And there's
also Kancanbala, Indira, Lilasuka and Sudarsana. They're especially
interested in painting. Prabhupada even wrote them. He asked
them to keep going to school and at the same time do paintings
for the temples."
Brahmananda asked me to visit New York to meet with them. Balai,
had an apartment just two blocks from the temple, and she had
invited all of us to stay with her over the weekend. Excited,
I made the bus journey to New York that next weekend, and after
meeting them we talked practically nonstop about Prabhupada
and his philosophical teachings, and I taught them some painting
techniques. I was so happy to have other unmarried devotee women
to relate to.
I returned to Boston on Monday and immediately wrote Prabhupada
about my trip. He replied on February 15, explaining how he
now wanted to establish a brahmacarini-asrama. In Vedic culture
only the men were brahmacaris and lived in an asrama. Indian
girls were often married by fifteen or sixteen years old, or
even younger. And their culture arranged for them to be always
protected at home—in their childhood by their fathers,
in youth by their husbands, and in old age by their grown sons.
But our Western culture was diametrically different. We had
grown up with the concept that girls and boys should both take
their place in the workforce. There was no question of 'protection,'
and often no desire on the part of girls to get married at all—certainly
not at such a young age. Now that more women were joining, Prabhupada
was making accommodation for women to be trained in the principles
of Krsna conscious life with the same facilities as he had giving
the men—and to gradually introduce the Indian Vedic culture.
Prabhupada's letter stated, "I am so pleased that you are
guiding your god-sisters in New York so nicely. But some of
your god-sisters in San Francisco want you for two months. I
have asked them to write to you directly, and if you can spare
yourself for that time to organize a brahmacarini asrama in
San Francisco, please think it over.
"My present plan is that I will have to go to San Francisco
most probably to open a center in Berkeley, during the Advent
Ceremony of Lord Caitanya, and from San Francisco I may go to
New York. So if you come to San Francisco at least for a few
days, then we can meet there and see how the brahmacarini asrama
is going there."
Prabhupada also commented on a news clipping Satsvarupa had
sent him several weeks earlier. The article had reported on
our center and included an interview with me, complete with
a photo. Despite the fact that the photo showed me wearing jeans
and a turtleneck instead of a sari, Prabhupada wrote:
"I have seen the article put in the Boston newspaper about
your activities there, and I am so glad to see your picture,
just a brahmacarini. The picture was very attractive for me,
and I pray to Krsna that you may make further progress in Krsna
consciousness so that your spiritual beauty may come out more
and more. The article was very nice. And also, I am thinking
if you go to San Francisco, then work in Boston may suffer for
want of you. Because you are only three in Boston, under these
circumstances I cannot advise you directly to go to San Francisco.
But, if you think it is possible, then try to help them."
I was excited to think that he was actually inviting me to be
with him—even if it would only be for a few days. I didn't
consider whether or not I was qualified to train anyone else.
I only considered that Prabhupada seemed to have faith in me,
and that gave me the confidence to believe I could accomplish
whatever he asked of me. At the same time I had to laugh, remembering
the story Kancanbala had shared in New York. As a new devotee
she'd been offering unofferable items, like catttails and acorns,
to Krsna on her alter, and she wrote to Prabhupada about it.
He'd written back, "Whatever you are doing at the present
moment is approved by me and I think on account of your becoming
a sincere soul, Krsna is dictating from within and you are doing
things nicely." He'd been encouraging her, his newborn
baby, and this newborn one—myself.
On the following week, Prabhupada wrote another, similarly encouraging
"I am happy
to hear all the good news from our fine art department. I think
I have already given you instructions in this regard. In my
opinion your guiding the girls working under you for painting
is very important, and if this business does not suffer, you
can think of going to San Francisco for organizing the asrama.
If all the brahmacarinis gather together and work under your
guidance, at any place, I will prefer this proposition. If the
majority of the girls are in New York, why not have the other
brahmacarinis from San Francisco go there and work under your
direction, either in New York or in Boston, as it is best.
"PS. For the time being, drop the idea of going to San
Francisco. Better concentrate your energy in organizing the
artist girls under your care. The brahmacarinis in San Francisco
may be called to New York, or Boston."
I was a bit
disappointed. I imagined that maybe Prabhupada never really
wanted me to go in the first place. Perhaps he was just writing
me to make me want to become responsible. I found out a few
days later that he'd actually written to Brahmananda, to ask
his opinion about whether or not I should leave the East Coast.
As a pure devotee, Prabhupada knew everything though he sometimes
pretended not to. Knowing that I would somehow see Brahmananda's
letter, Prabhupada wrote him,
Francisco, everyone is desiring Jadurani for at least two months
for consolidating a brahmacarini asrama. If I ask her to come,
she will surely come here, but I am seeking your opinion, if
her coming here may hamper the cause there she is now conducting."
replied that it was not an opportune time for me to go because
of all the brahmacarini artists who were now in New York, and
two weeks later Prabhupada again wrote me:
continue to help all the young girls, both in New York and San
Francisco as well. If they take to following your example of
sincere service, they will all be advanced in Krsna consciousness
very rapidly. Your example is very nice, using your artistic
abilities to serve Krsna, and they may all follow in your footsteps.
I think there is no need for coming to San Francisco. Most of
the girls are there, and recently Annapurna has left for Boston,
also. She is very nice young girl, and with artistic abilities.
. . Please keep me informed of the progress of your fine arts
department; I am always anxious to hear how they are doing nicely."
One month later,
Balai sent me a copy of the letter she had just received from
Prabhupada: "I am so pleased to hear of the activities
of Jadurani and her artist assistants. We require this service
as we require so many pictures. Pictures, books, etc.—all
we shall sell on our world tour with our sankirtana party. So
we require a lot of pictures in stock; and wherever we open
our centers, we must have at least Panca-tattva picture, Visnu
picture, sankirtana painting, spiritual masters picture, and
Radha-Krsna painting. They are all required, and therefore Krsna
has sent so many devotees to work in the painting department.
We have to utilize them fully, so their service is fully utilized
for advancing in Krsna consciousness.
It was clear.
Prabhupada not only wanted many paintings, but also a large
art department. I was honored to be given the responsibility
of guiding and assisting fellow devotee artists, and at the
same time I knew Prabhupada was just encouraging his one- year-old
baby, who didn't know how to guide. If any success would come,
it would be his doing, and if I would think it mine, I would
* * * *
The Boar Incarnation
the dictation tapes Prabhupada sent each week, Satsvarupa mailed
them back to Prabhupada, who then erased those tapes and reused
them to dictate the next set of translated texts and purports.
Usually I listened to the tapes before he returned them, and
sometimes I even copied the dictaphone tapes onto cassette tapes
so that we could listen to them later.
The subject was Prabhupada's translation of the Bhagavatam's
Third Canto description of Lord Varaha, Krsna's incarnation
as the transcendental boar. A powerful demon named Hiranyaksa
had stolen the earth planet, and Lord Varaha rescued it with
His huge tusks. It was an incredible story. Prabhupada dictated:
"The appearance of the Lord as the first boar incarnation
occurred during the time of Svayambhuva Manu, whereas the present
age is in the period of Vaisvasvata Manu. Each Manu's period
lasts seventy-two times the cycle of four ages, and one cycle
of ages equals 4,320,000 solar years. Thus 4,320,000 x 72 solar
years is the reign of one Manu." As one tape after another
arrived, they would enchant us with the unfolding of the story.
I especially enjoyed Chapter Thirteen:
"While Brahma was engaged in thinking, a small form of
a boar came out of his nostril. The measurement of the creature
was not more than the upper portion of a thumb. O descendant
of Bharata, while Brahma was observing Him, that boar became
situated in the sky in a wonderful manifestation as gigantic
as a great elephant. . . .
"The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Visnu, roared tumultuously
like a great mountain . . . With His uncommon voice, which echoed
in all directions. . . .
"Before entering the water to rescue the earth, Lord Boar
flew in the sky, slashing His tail, His hard hairs quivering.
His very glance was luminous, and He scattered the clouds in
the sky with His hooves and His glittering white tusks. He was
personally the Supreme Lord Visnu and was therefore transcendental,
yet because He had the body of a hog, He searched after the
earth by smell. . . .
"Lord Boar penetrated the water with His hooves, which
were like sharp arrows, and found the limits of the ocean, although
it was unlimited. He saw the earth, the resting place for all
living entities, as it was in the beginning of creation, and
He personally lifted it. Lord Boar very easily took the earth
on His tusks and got it out of the water. Thus He appeared very
I'd previously read something about the demon Hiranyaksa in
the First Canto, and now reread it to get refreshed in the details.
In his quest for gold below the earth's surface, Hiranyaksa
had created a disturbance that upset the planet's stability,
causing it to fall out of the sky and into the ocean called
Garbodaka, which lies at the bottom of the universe. Krsna then
had to perform the extraordinary feat of rescuing the earth.
It made sense that a boar form was chosen by the Lord when He
did this task, for Lord Varaha picked up the earth with His
snout and adeptly held it on His tusks. I appreciated the ease
with which Prabhupada's clear purports made these divine and
inconceivable activities eminently believable—at least
to those who had the impressions on the heart (samskaras) from
previous births' devotional activities and association with
Receiving these tapes felt almost like watching a TV serial.
After coming to the end of each tape, we were left in suspense,
waiting for the next. Now, when this next tape arrived, we heard
the details of the fight between Lord Varaha and Hiranyaksa:
"The Lord, who had appeared from the nostril of Brahma,
sprang and aimed His mace at the chin of His enemy, the Hiranyaksa
demon, who was stalking fearlessly before Him. Struck by the
demon's mace, however, the Lord's mace slipped from His hand
and looked splendid as it fell down whirling. This was miraculous,
for the mace was blazing wonderfully. . . .
"While His enemy looked on, the Lord in His boar form,
the enjoyer of all sacrificial offerings, playfully knocked
down the demon's mace with His left foot, even as it came upon
Him with the force of a tempest. The Lord then said, "Take
up your weapon and try again; eager as you are to conquer me."
Challenged in these words, the demon aimed his mace at the Lord
and once more loudly roared. When the Lord saw the mace flying
toward Him, He stood firmly where He was and caught it with
the same ease as Garuda, the king of birds would seize a serpent."
Amazed to hear that the fight ended when the Lord merely slapped
the demon, I wrote to Prabhupada to ask if I could paint this
"Yes," he replied, "try at your convenience to
paint pictures from the Bhagavata statement, in terms of the
purport and explanation."
Encouraged, I began to paint 'from the Bhagavata statement,'
but I quickly found myself at sea. How could a hog be a beautiful
form of God? Perhaps Krsna could exhibit incarnations that were
not beautiful? Or perhaps, because Lord Boar had a spiritual
body, He didn't look like a hog? I had seen the form of Lord
Varaha depicted as half-human- half-boar in a few Indian sculptures
and prints, so I asked Prabhupada if this was how I should depict
Prabhupada replied in his February 15 letter from Los Angeles:
"Yes, Varaha is beautiful. Generally the boar is depicted
as half-human and as half-boar, but in the Bhagavatam it is
stated that He is full boar. You can make the first two legs
as two hands and the rear legs as legs, and make him as beautiful
I had other technical questions which I'd included in my letter:
"How could a small demon fight with the Lord, who Himself
took a form many times larger than the earth? And how could
a demon become so powerful as to fight with Him in the first
Prabhupada answered these questions as well: "The demons
could assume any gigantic shape they liked. They could play
jugglery; they were not ordinary human beings. You must know
that a person with whom God had to fight is not an ordinary
person. He could play almost equally with the Lord, but nobody
could excel the Lord. Therefore, he was killed. To expand and
to reduce the body is sometimes performed by a successful yogi."
Satisfied by Prabhupada's answers but still puzzled how to portray
the Lord as gorgeous, I made a preliminary sketch of Lord Varaha
before starting the painting. However, because there were too
many new and unfamiliar elements for me, the painting would
not come out right, no matter how hard I tried. I had never
before created my own painting compositions. I had always copied
them from a print or at least obtained a basic idea from a print—except
when I had drawn the comics. But comics were simple line drawings
that did not require the detail and realism of a painting. I
put my canvas aside for the time being, and later, when I saw
Kancanbala in New York, I gave her a copy of the manuscript
and encouraged her to try doing a painting from it.
* * * *