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
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."
* * * *
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
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
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
Gopal raised his hand again and asked, "What about aum?"
"Aum is the concentrated name of God," Prabhupada
"Can one say aum instead of Krsna and gain the same benefit?"
"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
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
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
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."
* * * *
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
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?"
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
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
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.
* * * *
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
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
"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
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
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,
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
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.
* * * *
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
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
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
"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.
* * * *