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Part Three

Prabhupada at Glenville Ave

In the evening, Prabhupada was brought by Govinda dasi and Gaurasundara to our Glenville Avenue center for the kirtana and class. He first walked to the altar and offered his obeisances; and we also offered our obeisances to him. Having been one of the first to bow down, I was the first up. Embarrassed by seeing all the devotees still bowed down, I shyly looked toward Prabhupada as he stood near the altar. He at first looked at me, and then turned and pointed to a painting I had recently completed of Lord Caitanya's sankirtana party. With a smile, and in a loud and expressive sing-song way, he said, "Very good."

Behind him, the gold brocade curtain, which covered almost the entire front wall of the temple room formed a beautiful backdrop for his golden and saffron form, and he looked lovely. A painting of him in Vrndavana, which I had partly copied from the 'moment of ecstasy' photo he had given me in New Jersey, hung to his left; and another painting of Radha and Krsna hung just behind his head.

As he began walking up to his dais, Gaurasundara told me, "Swamiji doesn't want us to call his seat a dais any more."

"Well, what is it if it isn't a dais?"

"It's a vyasasana," Gaurasundara said, "the seat representing Vyasadeva. The guru is a manifestation of Vyasadeva and all his knowledge. He's a manifestation of the literary incarnation of Krsna. He knows everything—all the scriptures Vyasadeva ever wrote."

I nodded and joined in the chanting.

After leading us in a beautiful kirtana, Prabhupada looked towards the paintings on the wall and said, "First of all I have to thank Jadurani for these nice pictures. She is giving us light about spiritual understanding. So Krsna will bless her with greater energy for Krsna consciousness. Thank you. So this picture, Radha-Krsna with His associates, the eight gopis. It is a very great science. The Absolute is one, but in order to enjoy transcendental bliss, They became two."

I needed Prabhupada's appreciation of my efforts, and he was always generous with it. But hearing these words, I was dumbfounded. It was he who was giving the light about spiritual understanding, not I. Human nature being what it is, a person loves those who appreciate them. Fortunately for me Prabhupada was a manifestation of Krsna consciousness, and so his words inspired me to work harder at painting and preaching.

When Prabhupada spoke about a painting he spoke of it philosophically, for the philosophy helped us to understand the subject of the paintings, the spiritual images, and the paintings helped us to understand and visualize the philosophy.

Prabhupada's praise went to my head, and I ended up missing much of his class. Then, at the end of class, I raised my hand and asked impulsively, "Swamiji, can you tell us something about Radha, Krsna and the gopis?"

"Oh," Prabhupada said. "That you cannot understand."

I was visibly deflated. But wanting to give me hope for the future, he added, "But you can associate with them by service."

After he returned to his apartment, I began talking to a few of our regular guests. Describing his arrival I began, "On the way here, when he was in the taxi, he looked…"

One of the guests interrupted, "Why is it that you and the others, whenever you talk about a conversation with the swami, you always say, 'And he looked at me and said.' Why not just say, 'He said'? People don't speak like that; it's not even good grammar."

"I never thought about that before," I said. "I guess it's because whenever Swamiji looks at someone, even for a moment, it becomes significant to that person."


"Let's see. You know the Bhagavad-gita?"

The young man nodded.

"In the Bhagavad-gita it says that the spiritual master can impart knowledge unto a disciple because he has seen the truth. Whenever I'm in Swamiji's presence and he looks directly at me, I get a sense that he's seeing the Absolute Truth and at the same time looking at the real me inside the body. He's seeing Krsna, and for him Krsna's pastimes are right there and he is actually in them. So it's such a rare privilege to be in his company. Those moments when Swamiji looks at me are the closest I've ever come so far to feeling I'm in Krsna's presence. I guess that's because those eyes, which have Krsna in them, come in my direction."

Happy that the young man was nodding his head, I continued, "It must be something like an experience of no defenses. Or at least it's the unripe beginning of that. There's nothing you can do, or say, or hide behind. There's nothing that can make you more or less than what you really are to him. He sees all the garbage in our covered hearts, but beyond that he sees us in our true state as spirit soul. Whatever beautiful form our soul has in Krsna's service, he sees it."

* * * *

Cool Heads

Prabhupada's first preaching engagement in Boston was held at Northeastern University, a comprehensive liberal arts university located on a fifty-five-acre campus in the heart of Back Bay. It was midday, and having arrived at the college campus by train and cars, we surrounded Prabhupada as he waited just outside one of the main buildings; we were eager to catch anything he might say.

One of the devotees pointed to a huge statue of a dog in front of the building behind us, and Prabhupada made us laugh when he commented that people had become so frustrated with human relationships and misunderstanding about how to worship God that they had taken to worshipping dogs. He said, "We are worshipping God, and they are worshipping dog."

A female student approached him with a question.
"Why do you shave your head?"

Prabhupada nonchalantly retorted with another question: "Why do you shave your legs?"

The woman was surprised, and so was I.

Then Prabhupada casually added, "We believe in warm legs and a cool head." We all laughed.

Another student directed us upstairs to the classroom where Prabhupada was to speak. There were about one hundred students in the class, and we sat in the extra seats. Prabhupada perfectly understood his audience's yearning for significance, and he knew that despite the university's endeavor to help them achieve their goals, the students were still frustrated. He had already noted how the university's roofs had been fenced in because several students had jumped off them in disappointment. In his lecture, therefore, he now said, "If you serve the great, you become great. Just like Lord Jesus. He was a great servant of the great God, so now he is considered great all over the world. Just like President Kennedy. He was considered a great servant of the great America and now he is famous all over the world. Even after his death the American people glorified him, and now there is Kennedy Memorial, Kennedy Library, Kennedy Airport, and so on. He is considered great because he surrendered to a great country."

It had been only five short years, in my own search for significance, since my younger sister Carol and I had discussed our plans to enter the 'Miss Teenage America' contest. While addressing the college students, Prabhupada was surely addressing his own students.

At the end of the lecture a student asked, "What would happen if everybody became Krsna conscious? No one would produce food and everyone would starve."

Prabhupada answered with the question, "Who do you think is providing the food now?"

"The farmer," the student shouted.

Prabhupada gave a very definite "No! The farmers are not providing the food; God is providing. Everything belongs to God, and only by understanding this philosophy can there be peace." He explained that because we are God's sons, the father is naturally affectionate and provides everything we require, even when we are disobedient. "Without sunlight or water, you cannot live," Prabhupada said. "It is common sense. So by His grace, everything comes. If we offer our gratitude, then there will be peace."

The student shook his head in disappointment, considering that this answer was too simplistic.

* * * *


The next evening, four disciples of the internationally popular yoga teacher Swami Sacitananda come to hear Prabhupada's lecture, which he devoted to the principle of acintya-bhedabheda-tattva, the simultaneous oneness and difference between Krsna and everyone and everything in His creation.

As though he had not heard the class, one of the yoga students, Gopal, asked at the end, "Isn't everything all one?"

"Yes, everything is one," Prabhupada said, and he continued to explained how everything is one. In closing, he again reaffirmed, "Everything is one," but after a short silence he continued, "But, there is variety." He then proceeded to explain about variety, and how the spirit souls are qualitatively the same as Krsna, but quantitatively different.

Gopal raised his hand again and asked, "What about aum?"

"Aum is the concentrated name of God," Prabhupada said.

"Can one say aum instead of Krsna and gain the same benefit?" Gopal asked.

"Yes, but why instead of Krsna?" Prabhupada asked. "If aum and Krsna are the same, why not Krsna? Why stick to aum? Aum is formless, but Krsna has got a beautiful form, and He is enjoying. And we are addicted to beautiful form. Why something which is not beautiful? Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita: 'Amongst the alphabets I am omkara.' So in one sense, omkara and Krsna are the same. But I can see Krsna very beautiful and so many things, but I do not see in omkara that thing. Therefore, my preference should be to Krsna. Why shall I stick to aum? Yes." Prabhupada then made a little motion with his fingers. He held his thumb and the pointer finger of his right hand a short distance apart, to indicate something very tiny, and concluded, "Aum is this much of Krsna."

Most of the so-called spiritual groups I had come across in America considered aum to be the highest understanding of the Absolute Truth. As a hippy, I had often sat with my friends in the 'Be-Ins' at Central Park, smoking marijuana, and chanting aum in long drones. I had chanted it for the purpose of getting high and eventually becoming God. I was at first surprised by Prabhupada's explanation, because the previous year he had told me that aum stands for Radha, Krsna, and the living entity as Their pure servant. But then I understood that he probably gave this explanation because Sacitananda's students preferred aum to Krsna.

The yoga students were influenced by Prabhupada's lecture, so much so that they came by the next morning and joined the eleven of us waiting outside Prabhupada's house. On this fresh and mild morning we were all going to accompany Prabhupada on one of his regular walks. Damodara, who had now returned to Boston for his visit, and who liked to make videos, was lying down on the street beside a car, his camera poised for the door to open. When Prabhupada came out onto the porch and walked down the stairs, he said loudly, "Jayas tu pandu-putranam yesam pakse janardanah: 'Because Krsna was on the side of the Pandavas, they were victorious during the battle of Kuruksetra. So, if you keep 'Hare Krsna' on your side, you will always be victorious.'"

We all cheered, "Jaya!"

He first passed us by, and then, at the street curb, he turned to back to us and said, "We do not serve Krsna for any benefit. And even if there is no benefit, still we serve."

I'd been always looking for some return for my services, some remuneration, even if only a smile from Prabhupada or some praise from my god-brothers and god-sisters.

"We only serve Krsna to make Him happy," Prabhupada added and then told the yoga students, "You don't have to look very far to see Krsna, just like you don't have to look very far to see the sky. The sky is after all everywhere. Similarly, Krsna is everywhere—and He is canvassing you."

He walked so briskly that we practically had to run to keep up with him. I could scarcely believe that he was so easily outpacing us twenty-year-olds.

Gopal was the most keenly interested of the four yoga students. Trying to keep pace with Prabhupada, he asked, "Is Lord Buddha an incarnation of God?"

"Yes," Prabhupada said.

"And is Lord Jesus also an incarnation?"


"Are you also an incarnation?"

Prabhupada stopped walking and turned to face him. "No," he said shyly. "I am a servant of Krsna." Then, after a pause he added, "Well, not exactly a servant, but I am trying to be. To be a servant of Krsna is not an ordinary thing."

"A servant of Krsna must be something different from what I imagine it is," I thought. "I think I'm already Krsna's servant." I wanted to tell Gopal that Prabhupada most definitely was an incarnation—an incarnation of wisdom and humility.

Gopal and his fellow-student, Eddie, then asked Prabhupada if they could take initiation from him.

"If you become initiated on sentiment today," Prabhupada answered in a serious tone, "then you will leave on sentiment tomorrow. The best thing is to study the philosophy for one year, and after understanding the philosophy, then take initiation."

The boys looked a little discouraged, but they continued walking close to Prabhupada.

The Boston streets were dull, filled with varying shades of grays and browns, as they contained only endless rows of telephone poles and buildings. The occasional flashes of colored signboards generally held little interest for us; and they were even less attractive as we now walked along with Prabhupada. When we crossed the large deserted intersection three blocks from Chester Street, Prabhupada contrasted this ugliness with the beauty of the temples in India. He said, "In India, those who built temples did it very intelligently. They put the temples in locations of beautiful surroundings. In this way, people would be attracted to come. Similarly, that is why within the temple room there are so many flowers—to attract people to come and see Krsna."

Prabhupada then began speaking about Vivikananda. "They say, 'I was Rama, I was Krsna. I was Caitanya', Prabhupada commented, "But Rama, Krsna and Caitanya all have the same philosophy. Are They going to change Their philosophy all of a sudden in Their next incarnations? Vivikananda's philosophy is that the spark and the fire both are equal. But while the fire is still burning, the spark became dry." Then, walking a few more steps, Prabhupada added, "Because Arjuna accepted the process of bhakti, he found out who he was. Right from the beginning he got knowledge. Krsna immediately gave Arjuna a slap, right in the second chapter, and told him that you're not your body."

* * * *

Cryptic Sign

On May 5th I was assigned the duty of bringing the mrdanga, karatalas and sankirtana painting to Prabhupada's important engagement at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that evening. Unfortunately, I became so engrossed in the painting of Mohana Madhuri that I lost track of the time. When I eventually looked at my watch, it was so late that I only had half an hour to get to MIT. I ran the two blocks to catch the trolley to Cambridge, but as soon as I was aboard, I realized I had forgotten the instruments and painting. When I arrived at the college, I was out of breath and empty-handed.

Prabhupada was sitting on a raised platform. He looked at me and I could see the disappointment in his face when he realized I had not brought the instruments. He made do, however, and performed the kirtana without karatalas by having several devotees accompany him with clapping hands, and by playing his Hare Krsna album in the background. I was painfully aware of the large U-shaped metal stand that stood empty on the stage throughout the program, as it was supposed to have supported the painting.

I had, however, remembered to bring my tape recorder. When the kirtana ended, I turned it on and taped Prabhupada's lecture as he began, "Today I am very glad to meet you. You are all students of technology."

MIT was the world's foremost technological and engineering school. Its contribution to Boston's economy was enormous, because its classrooms and laboratories issued a stream of highly trained scientists and engineers who staffed the numerous technological firms in the city. The facilities and brainpower of MIT had attracted large federal and private research contracts, and the school's presence in Cambridge was a major contributing factor to Boston being chosen as the site for the NASA center for electronics research. But Prabhupada also knew something the school, the city, and NASA did not know—how useless their successes were, and how much they needed Krsna consciousness.

He told them, "This Krsna consciousness movement is also another technology. In the modern state of civilization there are different departments of knowledge. There is a department of teaching medical science, and a department for teaching engineering. There is department of education in many things. Unfortunately there is no department for distributing knowledge in the science of the soul. But that is the most important, because the soul is the mainstay, the background of all our movements.

"The idea is that in the present consciousness I am thinking that I am this body. Actually, I am not this body. This is ignorance. Body means senses; bodily activities mean sensual activities. But if you go deep into the matter, the senses can only act when the mind is sound. If the mind is not sound, a crazy man cannot use his senses properly. So, first of all there is technology of the senses, and then the higher technology is of the mind, which is known as psychology—thinking, feeling, and willing. And, above this mind, above the mental science, there is the science of the intelligence. Above the science of the intelligence, the background is the soul. Unfortunately, we have got technology for the bodily senses and for psychology, but we have neither any technology for intelligence nor for the science of the soul. This technology is wanting in the modern civilization."

Although Prabhupada clearly analyzed the urgent need for the students to adopt Krsna consciousness, during the question period, instead of asking a philosophical question, a student merely pointed at the large metal U-shaped stand and asked, "What is the meaning of the sign at your back?"

I cringed.

Prabhupada looked at the stand, and then back at the student. With mild annoyance he said, "Oh, this? I do not know. That is not my sign. That is a technological symbol. It is your sign." Everybody laughed.

At the end of the program, while we were all putting on our coats in preparation to leave, I heard several people shouting. Worried that there might be some difficulty for Prabhupada, I turned to find him. Prabhupada was fine, but he was being heavily challenged by a small group of students and teachers. He looked delicate, but after all he had God on his side. One student was insistently shouting, "All is one!" Others supported this assertion with a variety of angry expressions.

Prabhupada attempted to convince the student logically that although everything is one, within that one there is variety, but the student obstinately continued arguing. So Prabhupada angrily grabbed his shirt collar and loudly said, "You say everything is one. But is this cotton shirt the same as a cotton ball? Why don't you wear a cotton ball instead of this shirt?"

Prabhupada appeared to be angry, the students were angry, and we were angry because we felt that the students were insulting our spiritual master. A few of us sought a taxi so we could extricate Prabhupada from the insulting confrontation, and while someone paged a cab, the others separated Prabhupada from the students.
Satsvarupa rode back in the taxi with Prabhupada, who thought the evening a success. Of course it was, for his anger had been displayed simply for the purification of us all.

* * * *


The evening of May 6 was going to be historical, because in the morning Prabhupada decided he would hold a brahminical initiation ceremony. Kirtanananda and Acyutananda had already received this second initiation in the previous year when they were in India with Prabhupada, but this would be the first function held in the West.

As far as I knew, Pradyumna, Satsvarupa, Gaurasundara, Govinda dasi, Annapurna and I were all to receive the sacred thread, as we had all been initiated into harinama for over one year.

There were about forty devotees and guests present that evening, and all the initiates sat up front, close to Prabhupada. I looked around for Govinda dasi as I could not see her sitting with us. Annapurna, an English devotee who had recently joined our Boston crew was sitting across from me.

"We are very glad to receive Professor O'Connell in this auspicious meeting," Prabhupada announced at the start of his lecture, "And it will be very nice, because he is studying the process of Caitanya philosophy. This ceremony is one of the functions in devotional service. We have got a big book. I think Professor O'Connell, you have secured that book?"

Prabhupada honored Mr. O'Connell with the title 'Professor' even though he wasn't one. He was doing his PhD. Mr. O'Connell nodded.
"So that Hari-bhakti-vilasa was actually written by Sanatana Gosvami, but it was published or dedicated to Gopala Bhatta Gosvami. In this book the rules and regulations of the Vaisnavas are described—of the brahmacaris, the students, of the grhasthas, the householders, vanaprastha, retired men, and sannyasi, renounced order—how they all should live."

As the lecture progressed, somehow, as though unaware that I was also sitting there, the various men around me crowded together in such a way that I was pushed back, further and further away from Prabhupada, through the five rows of devotees. I was becoming increasingly annoyed, but despite my attempts to recoup my original seat, I ended up way at the back. I looked around and saw Annapurna, like me, relegated to the sidelines. It was then that I understood this initiation was only going to be for the men. I did not think we were supposed to be on the bodily platform. I almost felt like interrupting the ceremony in order to bring what I considered an injustice to Prabhupada's attention. I also realized that Govinda dasi probably already knew this, and that was why she had not even bothered to attend.

The confusion and disappointment I felt clouded my ability to focus on Prabhupada's definitions of a brahmana, although I did hear him say, "Dvijah means twice-born. The first birth is by the father and mother, and the second birth is by the spiritual master and Vedic knowledge. Second birth means that the mother is the Vedic knowledge and the father is the spiritual master."

Prabhupada had been criticized in India by those he had termed 'so-called rigid brahmanas'—for initiating Americans into Vaisnavism. And he now made a reference to these critics in his lecture: "They say, 'Without taking birth in a brahmana family there is no possibility of one's becoming a brahmana.' But Bhagavad-gita does not say that. Bhagavad-gita says, 'These four principles and castes—brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya, sudra—were created by Me.' It is a creation of God; nobody can nullify it. So that division is everywhere; not only in the Indian or Hindu society. No, it is everywhere; and it is by classification of quality and work."

Prabhupada briefly explained that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura had introduced this system of giving the sacred thread to a bona fide Vaisnava. He described that his Guru Maharaja taught that even if a person was coming from a brahmana family, he should still be initiated according to the authorized pancaratrika system because to be granted brahminical status by birthright alone was not applicable in Kali-yuga.

He had already commented in his first canto translation of Srimad Bhagavatam (SB 1. 12. 19pp]: "It is not possible, however, to revive the Vedic process of purification in this age, for want of proper facilities and good brahmaaas, but there is the Pancaratrika system also recommended for this age. The Pancaratrika system acts on the sudra class of men, the population of the Kali-yuga, and it is the prescribed purificatory process suitable to the age and time. Such a purificatory process is allowed only for spiritual upliftment and not for any other purpose. Spiritual upliftment is never conditioned by higher or lower parentage. . . .

"Therefore all the sanskaras, purificatory processes, are not mere formalities or social functions only, but they are all for practical purposes and can be successfully performed by expert brahmaaas like Dhaumya and Krpa. Such brahmaaas are not only rare, but also not available in this age, and therefore, for the purpose of spiritual upliftment in this fallen age, the Gosvamis prefer the purificatory processes under Pancaratrika formulas to the Vedic rites."

Prabhupada concluded his lecture by stating that because the sacred thread was inaugurated by his Guru Maharaja according to the authorized system defined by Sri Sanatana Gosvami, he didn't care if the priestly class accepted it or not. Even some of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura's other disciples had protested when Sri Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati introduced this system.

After the first part of the ceremony was complete, Prabhupada asked the devotees to move to the back of the temple room, and he also sat there in order to perform the fire sacrifice. After some minutes Govinda dasi came in, looking as down-hearted as I felt.

As she walked in, Prabhupada looked up and stopping the prayers he was reciting. He called out to her, "Oh, I was just thinking, 'Where is that girl?' And now Krsna has sent."

Govinda dasi brightened her countenance somewhat, and joined me as we desolately watched the fire grow hotter as its smoke billowed through the temple. It was at this moment that our landlady decided to storm in on one of her frequent surprise visits. Obviously drunk, she yelled, "Goddamn this house!" Then, slamming the door behind her, she left.

At her entrance Prabhupada had looked toward the door, as if waiting to see what she wanted. Then, when she left he asked, "What did she say? This is the house of God?"
We all laughed.

* * * *

I was still dejected and upset the next morning when we all joined Prabhupada for his morning walk, so it made me feel good to hear him tell the boys, "Now don't become brahmana in name only."

To my surprise, Prabhupada held another initiation ceremony that evening, just for Govinda dasi, Annapurna and me. During this initiation lecture, he pointed to my painting of Sita-Rama that was hanging on the wall and said, "Rama is wearing the sacred thread and Sita is not, but she is His sakti, His energy. And we say Sita-Rama. Sita is first." He looked lovingly over at us, his teenaged girl-disciples, and said. "We know so much about Krsna and we hardly know anything about Radharani. But still we say Radha-Krsna."

By way of an explanation for this separate ceremony, he said, "If the husband is a brahmana, the wife automatically becomes a brahmana; and if the husband is not a brahmana, what is the use of her becoming a brahmana?" We knew that the situation in our present Western culture was vastly different from this Vedic ideal, and it now seemed that Prabhupada, following in the footsteps of his spiritual master, was again making the adjustments, according to scripture and according to time, place, and circumstance.

I grew a little uncomfortable when, during his lecture, Prabhupada stressed the importance of women being married. "I had one friend in India," he began "who wanted his daughter to be married. The daughter objected, 'I'm not going to become a slave to any man.' I was a householder at that time. I told her, 'That is not slavery. That is grand protection.'"

Prabhupada looked at the three of us and said, "So don't become implicated. Just remain pure. Get yourselves married."

Govinda dasi was already married, but Annapurna and I were not. I squirmed in anticipation of what this statement might mean for me.

It seemed that this was why Prabhupada had held a separate ceremony for us: he wanted an opportunity to present this special message of the importance of purity and chastity for women. I realized I could have simply asked Prabhupada about it the day before. After all, he was my father.

Although we were not given threads to wear like the men, Prabhupada called each of us up to him and chanted the gayatri-mantra into our right ear and demonstrated how we were to count the mantras on our fingers. He also gave each of us a short, personal instruction.

The next morning, when we were all comparing what Prabhupada had said to each of us, we discovered that to most of us, both men and women, he had said, "Take a shower after passing stool and keep your nails cut short." However, to me he had simply said, "So, business is increasing." At first I thought he meant that since I was already busy doing so much service for him, now there would be even more to do. Later, however, when I looked up the subject of gayatri-mantra in Teachings of Lord Caitanya, I discovered that in the mantra there was another spiritual business beyond the realm of material actions, reactions and interactions. It was as if the mantra was a treasure chest, in which the Lord and His personal associate conduct Their transcendental pastimes, and from which they invite the reciter to join Them.

* * * *

Having heard about these initiation ceremonies, Hamsaduta packed most of the New York devotees into an old green school bus someone had recently donated to him, and drove to Boston. Then, a few hours after the New York devotees' arrival, Prabhupada held yet a third initiation ceremony.

Because he had instructed the men not to wear shirts during the ceremony, the tilaka markings on their bare arms and chests were clearly visible. One of the initiates had applied his tilaka in the correct places on his body, but rather sloppily. Prabhupada asked him to leave the room and reapply it. Then, when Prabhupada noticed that Rupanuga had very neat tilaka, he praised him. He explained that tilaka was like a policeman's badge. As the badge symbolizes that the policeman has the government's power behind him, so tilaka means that the devotee has God's power behind him.

None of us knew very much about temple etiquette, and we therefore sat in all sorts of postures while listening to Prabhupada. A few of us sat with one knee bent. Others had two knees up, and some had their hands on the floor behind them—and Prabhupada singled out devotees and corrected them. Having been sitting hunched over with my elbow on my knee and chin resting in the upper fist of my hand, I immediately sat up straight, and made sure that my knees were folded properly in a cross-legged posture. Purusottama had been resting his face in his hands, and when Prabhupada noticed, he told him to go wash his hands. Pradyumna was sitting with both his knees up, clasping them with his arms, and he had not readjusted himself even when Prabhupada was correcting others. Prabhupada began to say something to him, but he stopped himself in mid-sentence, as if remembering that Pradyumna had recently had a hernia operation. "No, no, that is all right. You are suffering," Prabhupada said with concern.

When Prabhupada began his lecture he explained how the Vedic civilization was now practically demolished in India because of the so-called brahmanas' restrictions on who was granted such status. "Lord Caitanya's mission should be preached not only in India," Prabhupada said, "But prthivite, which means all over the world. Yata prthivite ache yata nagaradi—in all cities and all villages, all countries—sarvatra, everywhere—this Krsna consciousness movement should be propagated. And He has openly said that anyone, it doesn't matter in which family or in which country he has taken his birth, anyone—ye Krsna tattva vette sei guru haya. Anyone who knows this science of Krsna, is eligible to become a Vaisnava or a spiritual master. He has also ordered:

yare dekha tare kaha Krsna-upadesa
amara ajnaya guru hana tara' ei-desa

"'By My order, everyone become the spiritual master, and the only duty of spiritual master is to preach Krsna consciousness.'"

Prabhupada told the new initiates that this ceremony meant that they could at some point also become guru. "But," he cautioned, "not while I am present".

Just before the fire sacrifice Prabhupada asked for questions, and Mr. O'Connell asked, "Is this the ceremony which is often referred to as mantra-diksa?"

"Yes, mantra-diksa," Prabhupada answered. "The first ceremony is harinama-diksa, and then mantra-diksa. Harinama-diksa. All these boys present, they were, one year before, they were initiated for chanting, and now they are being initiated for the second time by mantra-diksa. Yes. Any other questions?"

Mr. O'Connell seemed satisfied with that answer, and now asked another question: "Has there been fasting or other preparatory activities?"

"No. According to Vaisnava tantra we do not require to fast because we are taking Krsna-prasadam," Prabhupada replied. "Fasting is a purificatory process for one who is taking all nonsense things. But they are eating simply Krsna-prasadam and simple foodstuff—vegetable, grains, milk. They are not allowed to eat anything and everything. They are not allowed to take anything in the hotel. So practically they are fasting, according to the general regulations." Prabhupada smiled, looked around the room at all of us and added. "They are fasting every day."

We all laughed, never having considered that eating prasadam was as good as fasting. Prabhupada could be profound and joking at one and the same time.

A few of the New York devotees, having heard that Prabhupada's old pocket watch was not working well, had pitched in to purchase him a new one. It was therefore with some amusement that I noticed during kirtana that Prabhupada was sometimes glancing into his right palm while playing his 1-2-3 beat on the karatalas. Stretching to get a better view, I saw the new pocket watch in his hand. I had never noticed him holding his old watch before. By repeatedly checking the time, Prabhupada indicated to his disciples that he appreciated and valued their loving gift.

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