Milk Drinkers' Beauty
Instead of doing
the Varaha painting, I thought to begin work on a second painting
of Narada Muni—this one for the San Francisco temple.
It would be a welcome greeting for Prabhupada upon his return
from Los Angeles this coming March.
I recalled the time, almost a year before, when Prabhupada had
invited me into his room and said, "I want to give you
an idea for a painting of Narada Muni." At that time he
handed me a beautiful print of Narada Muni walking through an
enchanting forest full of mango and other flowering trees. In
his right hand Narada held a vina, a stringed instrument that
was much like a tamboura. His left hand held wooden clappers
made of two pieces of carved wood, one having holes for three
fingers, and the other having one hole for a thumb. The clappers
had bells attached, so that when the two pieces were struck
together they would jingle.
"Please do a painting from this print and paint this mantra
near the bottom of the painting," Prabhupada said at that
time. He handed me a 1"x 6" strip of paper on which
he had written the Sanskrit words: narada muni bajaya vina radhika-ramana
namine. Then he said, "Narada Muni plays his vina and chants
Hare Krsna. 'Ramana' means 'the enjoyer of Radhika,' or 'one
who enjoys with Radhika'. So 'Radhika-Ramana' means 'Hare Krsna,
The colors of the Indian print were bright and cheerful. While
I painted I felt I had become almost transported into that forest
where Narada walked, or at least to my conception of that forest.
I wished to hear Narada as he played his clappers and strummed
his vina. Of course, one would have to be at a very advanced
stage of bhakti to almost hear his vina. One would have to be
almost as advanced as the player of the vina for that. My feelings
were not real spiritual feelings, but they were surely an encouragement
to go further.
When I touched my paintbrush to the canvas to paint the topknot
in Narada's hair, I felt I was touching a real person. I knew
that I had a long way to go before I could actually experience
Narada's presence. I knew I was just on the 'thinking' platform
and not the realized platform. But even that small beginning
gave me a joy I had not known before I met Prabhupada.
In the print, Narada was a very attractive young man with a
magical and inviting smile. I prayed to be able to properly
convey that magical beauty in the painting. As I painted Narada's
feet, which in the print looked like they were not quite touching
the ground, I marveled at his ability to travel throughout the
universe without any sort of vehicle. He was like a transcendental
spaceman, and I desired to experience his mystical presence.
I felt both privileged and nervous to be in front of such a
After a few days I'd asked Prabhupada to critique my painting.
"Yes, it is all right," he said, looking it over carefully,
"But one thing—Narada's chest looks a bit like it
has breasts on it."
Embarrassed, I'd agreed and then made the proper corrections.
The painting was complete the next day and Prabhupada seemed
pleased. He asked Gargamuni to hang it in the temple room for
the guests to see, and he asked me to paint similar ones for
Now, one year later, I began another one. Since my painting
style had developed over the year, I now considered that first
painting of Narada Muni rather crude and amateurish. I wanted
this one to look professional, and therefore I took a bus to
the Boston library where I spent the day studying photographs
of the great Renaissance paintings and Western landscapes. I
then chose what I thought were the perfect prints for my purposes,
and brought them back to the temple.
This time I was not just copying a print, and I had to do more
than just match the colors. With this painting I had the responsibility
of creating my own color combinations, and I had to constantly
consider the laws of color: Yellow would make things come forward;
purple would make them go back, and so on. One and a half weeks
later the painting was complete, and I sent it to the San Francisco
temple. The devotees wrote me several letters of appreciation,
saying how their kirtana singing increased in happiness when
they gazed at Narada and his vina. I was overjoyed, and wrote
them back detailing my desires to make Krsna conscious art more
popular in the West than Leonardo de Vinci's Mona Lisa.
After another week, Prabhupada returned to San Francisco and
saw the painting; but his opinion of it was different from that
of his disciples. One of the devotees had told him of my desire
to make Krsna conscious art more famous than that of the Old
Masters, and despite his busy schedule, which included several
radio and television engagements, Prabhupada took the time to
write to me on April 8:
"You are already a great artist. You do not want to become
a great artist to satisfy the senses of the public. If your
present paintings are not acceptable to the general public,
I do not mind; they are fools. You continue trying your best
to make your pictures as far as they can be nice looking, but
not to satisfy the senses of the rascal public.
"Yesterday I went to a Unitarian Church, and there I saw
two pictures of only logs and bamboos. It was explained to me
by our great artist, Govinda dasi, that these are modern abstract
arts. Anyway I could see in them nothing but a combination of
logs and bamboos. There was nothing to impel my Krsna consciousness.
So if you want to be a great artist in that way, I will pray
that Krsna may save you.
"Anyway, if the public does not buy, we do not mind. Why
you are anxious for selling? We shall distribute them to devotees
without any price. If our things have no market in the sense
gratification society, that does not mean we are going to change
our principles. We are meant for satisfying Krsna; not anybody's
senses. That should be the principle of our life.
"In this connection, I may remark that you have sent one
picture of Narada Muni which I understand was copied from some
so-called great artist, but Narada Muni's body appears to be
very sensuous. He was a first class brahmacari (celibate); he
can't have such a sensuous body. So you will do well not to
work from the so-called well-known artists, but you should follow
exactly the descriptions of the scriptures.
"The picture of Narada Muni which you painted in New York
in my presence was very nice and good-looking, but this picture
here does not appeal to me. Better not to worry about this technique
Prabhupada had asked Govinda dasi to write me also, and her
letter was included with his: "Swamiji says this is the
'meat-eater's conception of beauty—muscles and sunken
cheeks.' He says the 'milk-drinker's conception is full, smooth
skin, and sweet red lips.' He just showed me a Brijbasi Indian
print of Krsna as a child, coming to hear the singing of his
blind devotee, Suradasa, Bilva Mongala Thakura. And he really
praised the beauty of that print."
Prabhupada was right; my Narada Muni resembled a muscle-bound
'sadhu' with gaunt cheeks and a Christ-like 'dhoti'—all
too characteristic of Michaelangelo's paintings. Although Narada
still carried a vina, I had painted him in a California-style
Now I understood that when Prabhupada had written me that the
Brijbasi artists made 'nice cartoons,' he did not mean children's
cartoons. I had been proud that I painted more 'realistically'
than them, but now I saw that Prabhupada preferred the 'cartoons'.
I recalled the time when, in Prabhupada's quarters in New York,
Gaurasundara was doing his pen and ink drawings for Teachings
of Lord Caitanya. At that time Prabhupada had criticized him
for making Lord Caitanya appear too muscular. He'd told him,
"He is strong, but He does not need muscles."
I was now broken-hearted and discouraged that I had not been
able to please my Guru Maharaja. I remembered one lecture where
he'd commented: "Without pleasing the spiritual master,
one's spiritual whereabouts are unknown." Not wanting my
whereabouts to be unknown, and with a heavy heart, I wrote him
an apology—and he wrote back immediately:
"Please accept my blessings. I am in due receipt of your
letter post-dated April 11, and this is the first time I received
your letter finished in three lines; so I can understand that
you have been depressed by receiving my letter.
"The idea is that there is a story. 'That I have lost my
caste and still my belly is not fulfilled.' In India it is the
custom that Hindus never take meals in the house of a Mohammedan,
Christian, or anyone other than the house of a Hindu brahmana.
But a man was very hungry, and accidentally he took his food
in the house of a Mohammedan. And, when he wanted still more
food, the man refused, as he could not supply further. So the
Hindu man said, 'Sir, I have lost my caste and still I am hungry!'
"Similarly, if artistic pictures as they are approved by
the people in general in this country can be sold quickly, I
have not any objection to present our pictures in such a way.
But I know that pictures in this country are not on the merit
of the picture, but on the reputation of the artist. That system
is also current in India. But to come to the point of a reputed
artist will require a long duration of time. And our time is
very short. We have to finish our Krsna consciousness during
our lifetime, and we should not waste a single moment for anything
"It's not that I had a desire to become a famous artist
for its own sake," I responded defensively in my mind.
"I didn't want just personal recognition from the public;
I wanted to be famous so you and Krsna could be glorified."
I continued reading: "According to Caitanya-caritamrta,
a man is famous who is known as a great devotee of Krsna. So
if there is not possibility of selling our pictures immediately
on presentation, I do not think that there is any necessity
to improve our artistic craftsmanship. We should be satisfied
with our pictures hanging in our different temples, and we may
not sacrifice our valuable time for becoming famous artists
so that pictures may be sold like hot cakes."
My defensiveness softened and I admitted, "Well, maybe
I did have some selfishness alongside my desire to do better
service. Had I no personal desire, Krsna would have guided me
to do the painting in the right way—not the wrong way."
And whatever personal motive I did have, albeit unaware, would
probably have turned into something a lot worse, had Prabhupada
not re-directed me. He was not just chastising me. He was a
loving father solacing his distressed child. I read on:
"Our institution is mainly for the devotees and as it is
the custom in India, devotees are maintained by the general
public, who are engaged in materialistic activities for sense
gratification. But in this country it is not possible that the
brahmacaris or sannyasis shall beg from door to door, as is
the custom in India. But at the same time we require some money
for conducting business of society. Therefore, the idea is that
we may sell some pictures, but so far I understand that even
if we follow the principles of modern artists, still our picture
like Narada Muni, Panca-tattva, etc., will not have immediate
"If there is actually any prospect for selling our pictures
put up in this modern artistic way, then I have no objections
for putting pictures in this way for selling them. But if that
is not possible, then I think we should not waste time in this
way. Of course, I am not an artist, neither have I power to
see from artistic viewpoint; I am a layman, so whichever picture
appeals to me, I say it is nice, and whichever picture does
not appeal to me, I say it is not nice. That is my common sense
affair. Therefore my remark has no value from artistic sense."
Prabhupada made it clear that because spiritual art is eternal,
because it portrays eternal qualities, it was my duty to depict
a spiritual culture that transcended mundane fads and trends.
He ended his letter by saying: "Anyway, don't be depressed,
you can go on with your work, and we shall talk more on this
subject when we meet together."
Now I was no longer depressed, but relieved and grateful.
due to arrive in New York on April 17 at 4:45 p.m., and Satsvarupa,
Pradyumna and I came there from Boston on the day before him.
It had been almost nine months since he had last visited the
East Coast, and we were all eager to see him again. When we
arrived at 26 Second Avenue, the temple was bustling with over
one hundred devotees from New York and Montreal, many of whom
had never seen Prabhupada before, and the next morning Brahmananda
gave us all services to prepare for the big event. Some, like
myself, made garlands, some cooked the feast, others made banners,
others cleaned, and a few arranged for a large bus and van to
take us all to the airport.
In the afternoon we all filed out of the temple and into the
bus, chanting Hare Krsna, and continued chanting as the bus
sped along the Van Wyck Expressway. When we arrived at JFK airport
we filed out onto the walkways and danced in a harinama-sankirtana
procession into the American Airlines terminal. Passengers and
airport staff could not quite believe we were for real.
Some of the brahmacarinis rolled out an Oriental rug and set
up a small altar with flower vases. They placed an easel on
the rug, and my large painting of Radha-Krsna on the easel,
and then we held a loud kirtana for about forty-five minutes
in front of this new altar. When we heard the announcement that
Prabhupada's plane had arrived, the kirtana rose to a crescendo;
and when Prabhupada finally came into the terminal, we became
exhilarated—jumping in the air, raising our arms and crying.
It felt strange to be crying now. I had always known crying
to be a sad affair. This was the first time in my life that
I had ever cried because I was too happy to contain my joy.
Although only five feet tall, Prabhupada's regal bearing made
him seem much taller. He danced majestically with us for a few
moments, his arms raised high, his right and left feet alternately
stepping forward and back, and his long cadar (Indian shawl)
hanging from his arms. He reminded me of the painting of Lord
Caitanya as he danced, and I was once again captivated by his
oceanic smile. The kirtana ended and he spoke a few words of
greeting: "If you are seeing the beauty in one, you miss
the beauty in another. So you have to see all the beauty at
once—and that is Krsna's beauty."
I found myself beside Kancanbala, and since this was her first
time meeting Prabhupada, I asked her how she felt.
"Just that smile is enough," she said. "Even
if we had done years and years of laborious work to prepare
for his arrival, this would have been enough reward in itself."
Prabhupada sat on an airport seat and some of the devotees offered
him garlands. Rayarama approached first, and Prabhupada laughed
mildly as he playfully rumpled Rayarama's wavy russet-colored
hair. Brahmananda, Purusottama, Balai and Himavati also offered
garlands, and as they each got up from offering their obeisances,
Prabhupada patted their heads.
Accepting a pair of karatalas someone held out to him, Prabhupada
led us in another, more gentle, kirtana, and then addressed
the audience of devotees and curious passersby: "God has
got millions and trillions of names. Lord Caitanya has recommended
that we chant the names of God. He chanted Hare Krsna, and,
we are following Him. We are in the line of Lord Caitanya, and
so we also chant Hare Krsna. But if you don't like the name
of Krsna, you can chant any name of God that you have got. This
chanting of the Lord's names is the only means to peace and
prosperity in the world."
We then followed
Prabhupada to the curbside where a car was waiting. Kancanbala,
Annapurna, Lilasuka and Ekayani ran ahead of him, sprinkling
rose water and rose petals in his path. The rest of us continued
chanting in the kirtana as we ran alongside, trying to catch
glimpses of him. It was impossible to see his feet in the crowd
of devotees, but from where I was positioned, it looked as if
he was floating slightly above the ground. It looked as if he
was being almost carried, for his head was steadily poised and
his shoulders were not moving up and down, or side to side,
as they usually do when someone walks quickly.
Somehow our bus reached the temple before Prabhupada's car;
so we waited outside for him. When he arrived he once again
patted Kancanbala, Balai, and some of the other devotees on
the head as he passed, and I wished I'd also been standing near
his path. He offered his obeisances to Radha-Krsna in the temple
and then went up to his quarters. We all followed him upstairs,
and as many devotees who could, squeezed into the greeting room.
I had not been in this room for nearly a year, and was surprised
to see how opulent it now looked. In the previous few days the
devotees had painted the walls sky blue and the baseboards gold;
and my paintings of the Jagannatha temple in Puri and the Madana-mohana
temple in Vrndavana were hung on the wall above Prabhupada's
Since the room was small, some of the devotees had to sit in
the altar room and look through the window between the two rooms.
Others stood outside the door, hoping to see Prabhupada through
the crowd, and I had a good seat and a good view from the greeting
"Is everything all right, Madhusudana?" Prabhupada
called out. Madhusudana was sitting in the back of the room,
and we all turned to look at him. His facial expression said
that he was overjoyed, simply to hear Prabhupada remember him.
Then Prabhupada saw Damodara in the crowd and said, "Oh,
Damodara, I just visited the Radha-Damodara temple in India."
Damodara blushed. "Oh, Swamiji, I don't deserve it."
"You are Damodara dasa," Prabhupada joked.
Satsvarupa seemed to be concerned for Prabhupada's health, and
he politely interrupted: "Swamiji, I think it's better
if we leave, so you can rest now."
"Talking is resting," Prabhupada replied in a gentle
voice. He ended the darsana after a few more moments of conversation,
but as the devotees were leaving, he asked me to sit down by
"I'm sorry about producing the wrong kind of painting,"
I blurted out, not even waiting for Prabhupada to speak. "I
understand that I'll have to be careful if I want to paint Krsna
consciousness as it is, and not as I invent it."
"No, no, it was very nice," Prabhupada assured me.
But then, as soon as I was 'assured', he continued from where
his letter had left off. "Why should you waste time trying
to compete with the best materialistic artists for this expertise?
No one cares really how good a painting is, anyway. People just
consider who did the painting. If it is done by a popular artist,
they will say, 'Oh, this is good painting.'" He then became
more animated and pretended to be an enthusiastic art lover
as he said. "Oh, so-and-so did that? Oh, then it is very
Feeling my spirits lift, I added, "Well, we say that too.
We say, 'Oh, Swamiji said that? Then it is very nice.'"
Prabhupada lowered his head. "Of course, that is love.
That is a different thing," He said, "It is like a
mother who has a blind child and names the child 'Lotus-eyed'."
I had become so absorbed in his humility that I didn't notice
that we both had our elbows perched on opposite sides of his
small footlocker-desk. When I realized the casual pose I'd adopted,
I sat back more respectfully.
He then startled me by saying, "I like your eyes—cat's
eyes. Everyone likes cat's eyes; don't you?"
"I . . . I like your eyes," I stammered, "lotus
Prabhupada then leaned over to the side and replied, "Oh,
I am an old fool."
Not knowing what to say in response, I excused myself, offered
obeisances and walked out. I had barely reached the temple room
when I regretted leaving, but I realized that I had simply become
too overwhelmed by who he was—even though I really didn't
know at all. He was surely Krsna's personal associate and manifestation,
and that way he commanded my utmost respect, awe, obeisances
and service, but on the other hand the whole thing was actually
too unlimited to comprehend at all. Besides that, he also revealed
that he was even more approachable than my own father. When
I thought of him in that way, I felt that he was my dearest
friend. The confusing part was how a single person could have
both apparently contradictory qualities.
Lilasuka had been cleaning the temple room while I had been
"You look blissed out," she said.
"I've just been talking with Swamiji."
"Did he show you the picture?" she asked.
I shook my head. "What picture?"
"The Indian print, the one of Radha-Krsna and the eight
"No," I said, thinking that I'd left too early and
he was going to show it to me.
"Oh, it's so beautiful," Likasukha said. "All
the gopis are holding something to offer Radha and Krsna. Swamiji
described it to some of us, and then he turned to me and said,
'So, you want to be a sakhi?''"
I didn't know how to respond.
* * * *
Early the next
day, one of the brahmacaris approached me in the temple room
and told me, "Swamiji wants to see you."
I was so excited that I practically tripped as I ran up the
stairs. After I offered my obeisances and sat down, Prabhupada
smiled and showed me the beautiful 10"x14" print of
a moonlit evening in a Vrndavana forest garden where Radha and
Krsna were standing with the eight principal gopis.
"The land of Vrndavana," he said as though reciting
a cherished verse, "is always spiritual. It is populated
by goddesses of fortune called gopis, who are all beloved to
Krsna. The trees of that land are kalpa-vrksa, wish-fulfilling
trees, and one can have anything he wants from them." He
closed his eyes as if visualizing the place in front of him,
and when he opened them again he said, "The land there
is made of touchstone and the water is nectar. There, all speech
is song, all walking is dancing, and Krsna's constant companion
is the flute. Everything there is self-luminous, just like the
sun in this material world." He looked directly at me and
said, "Human life is meant to understand this transcendental
land of Vrndavana and its residents." Then he looked down
at the picture and asked, "Do you think you could copy
the scene onto a large canvas?"
I nodded and said, "I can try."
"This painting is called Mohana Madhuri, Radha-Krsna and
the eight gopis," he said. "The gopis who serve Radha
and Krsna are not ordinary girls. They are expansions of Krsna's
pleasure potency. Radharani and the gopis, we should never think
them as ordinary. We need the guidance of the spiritual master
to understand their position." He pointed to the individual
gopis. "They serve Radha and Krsna by their singing, by
their dancing and by their offering refreshments; and they decorate
Them—with flowers they decorate."
My only response was a technical question: "The gopis aren't
all looking at Radha and Krsna. Shouldn't I make them looking?"
"That's all right," Prabhupada replied. "When
people are dancing together, they have not to face each other
always." He added, "The gopis in the picture have
Bengali beauty because they are painted by a Bengali artist.
I noticed that whoever the Bengali artist was, he had not painted
the forest flowers very clearly. They looked more like a variety
of colored blobs. I asked, "Swamiji, what kind of flowers
should I paint?"
Prabhupada smiled and said, "You can take any flowers and
transport them to Vrndavana."
"And what color should I paint Krsna's eyes? I've sometimes
read that Krsna's eyes are red."
Prabhupada closed his eyes and said, "They are red-ish.
"Krsna's supposed to be the color of a fresh rain cloud,
but exactly what color is that?" I asked.
"They say that Krsna is the color of a fresh, new rain
cloud," Prabhupada said, as he lowered his head and covered
his entire face with his hand. He looked lost in a deep remembrance,
and after a moment he slowly raised his head and moved his hand
down, so that it was now only covering his mouth. This muffled
his voice, but his words were still clear. "But I do not
know what color that is," he said.
I felt as though he was trying to hide the fact from me that
he always saw Krsna's color.
Prabhupada looked at the print again and said, "You may
make Krsna slightly shorter than He is in this print. He is
too much taller than Radharani. And in the original He looks
a little fatty. This scene somewhat resembles San Francisco's
Golden Gate Park where I recently performed harinama-sankirtana
and took my morning walks."
"I'll begin the painting as soon as I'm back in Boston,"
* * * *
Distributing the Taste
As I was finishing
my breakfast prasadam the next morning, Kancanbala practically
floated into the temple room, bubbling over with happiness.
I noticed that she had Prabhupada's dhoti in her hands, so I
asked her, "Did you get the service of washing that?"
She held it out to me and said, "Just smell it."
I went closer, took a deep breath, and was astonished at its
incense-like fragrance. I looked up at her and asked. "Does
this scent come from his body?"
Kancanbala shrugged her shoulders and smiled, her large, brown,
doe-like eyes growing even larger. "I was also blessed
to be able to clean the altar room while Swamiji took his walk
this morning. We worked as fast as we could, but he came back
before we finished. It was wonderful. His presence turned the
whole room into such a sanctified place"
I asked. "Did he speak to you?"
"When he saw me sweeping, he touched his neckbeads and
asked if I was initiated. So, I said, 'Yes, Swamiji.' Then he
asked, 'What is your name?' I said, 'Kancanbala dasi.' Then
he nodded, 'Ah, Kancanbala dasi.'" She was utterly satisfied
with that simple exchange and gave me a big hug.
Just then Govinda dasi came downstairs carrying a large plate.
She had previously traveled with Prabhupada, and was now serving
him as an assistant. In a way I yearned for a relationship with
Prabhupada like hers, but supposed that she must have been serving
him in a past life and was now simply continuing. She put the
plate down, and we offered obeisances and embraced. "What
happened?" I asked. "You've actually become plump.
I remembered you as being super-thin."
"It's Swamiji's order," Govinda dasi laughed. "He
said I had to gain weight, and told me to drink lots of milk.
So I've been drinking a quart a day."
"And your hair is so long now," I said smiling. "The
last time I saw you, you had that very short haircut. I remember
Swamiji told you that he didn't like that 'bobcat cut'."
"It's because of him that I've let it grow," She said,
as she bent down to retrieve the plate she had brought from
Prabhupada's quarters. "Here; this is Swamiji's maha-maha-prasadam
fruit," she said as she gave Kancanbala, Sudarsana, Lilasuka
and me each a half-chewed slice from an orange. She told us,
"Swamiji says that when Krsna eats, the remnants are called
maha-prasadam, and after Krsna's pure devotee honors it, the
leftovers become maha-maha-prasadam."
None of us had previously had the chance to eat Prabhupada's
personal remnants, and we looked at each other with a little
uncertainty before putting the orange slices in our mouths.
I did not expect it to taste any different from any ordinary
orange. Lilasuka broke our silent savoring by exclaiming, "It's
hard to believe a taste like this can exist." We all agreed.
One of the brahmacaris then called my name and said that Prabhupada
wanted to see me. I excused myself and ran upstairs.
"I have just received one postcard from Mahapurusa,"
Prabhupada said. "On July 12th and 13th, the city of Montreal
will be hosting a World's Fair-Expo, and Mahapurusa wrote me
that there will be hundreds of thousands of people attending.
The devotees have a booth at the fair, and Mahapurusa has asked
if we have some paintings they can display." He handed
me the postcard, as if to confirm what he had just said.
I tried to think of what paintings might be suitable for an
exhibition. "Kancanbala just finished a painting of Lord
Varaha fighting the demon Hiranyaksa," I said, although
when I had last seen it, it was only partially finished. Then,
as I thought of my own attempt to paint that scene, I began
to have reservations. I added, "But I don't think people
will believe it really took place."
Prabhupada ignored my doubt, and said with a serene and dignified
air, "When Lord Caitanya was planning to go to Varanasi
to preach this love of Krsna, His devotees requested Him, 'Don't
waste Your time.' They knew the people in Varanasi were mostly
impersonalists and they probably would not believe in the Hare
Krsna chanting. So Lord Caitanya said, 'If they don't like what
I have to sell, I'll take it back.'" Prabhupada raised
his arms high as if beckoning the entire world to come and chant
and savor the exquisite taste of love of God. "So He chanted
Hare Krsna and danced, and everyone purchased.
"When Lord Caitanya went to Varanasi, the Mayavadi sannyasi
philosophers criticized Him. They said He was illiterate; a
sentimental sannyasi who had no interest or understanding in
Vedanta. Caitanya Mahaprabhu ignored them, but the devotees
said they could not tolerate the offense. Hearing their appeal,
Mahaprabhu showed them mercy by defeating the Mayavadis' arguments.
At a big, big meeting he defeated them. When people came to
know of this, large crowds gathered to see Him and they began
to chant Hare Krsna. Hundreds of thousands of people laughed,
chanted and danced. All the Mayavadi sannyasis offered Him their
obeisances and gave up their impersonal Vedanta studies. They
gave up their sin of not recognizing the personal form of the
Lord as spiritual and of full bliss, and they began studying
Srimad-Bhagavatam. In this way Caitanya Mahaprabhu delivered
them. He turned the whole city of Varanasi into another Navadvipa.
Lord Caitanya told His devotees, 'I came here to sell My emotional
ecstatic love. Although I wanted to sell My goods, there were
no customers and it appeared I would have to carry them back
to My own country. But you all were feeling unhappy. Therefore,
it is by your will only I have distributed them without charging.'"
As soon as I left his quarters, I sought out Kancanbala and
asked her to bring Prabhupada her painting of Varahadeva. She
was so delighted that I thought she might faint, and I was then
surprised to see that her painting was a much nicer rendition
than my own attempt.
* * * *
Pradyumna and I stayed in New York for two weeks, but then,
together with a few New York devotees, we returned to Boston
in order to prepare for Prabhupada's visit on May 1. This would
be his first trip there since September 17, 1965. In that year,
the Jaladuta, the ship on which he had sailed during his thirty-five
day journey from Calcutta, had docked at Boston's Commonwealth
Pier, and the captain had taken him for a walk around the docks
and downtown shops.
Just before coming to New York, Prabhupada had written to tell
me what sorts of arrangements we should make for him in Boston:
the nine blocks are concerned, I do not mind a long walk, if
it is flat land and not hills. Here I am walking at least two
miles daily, voluntarily, so if the house is nice, you can keep
it. If a car is available from New York, then that will be very
nice, otherwise I can walk. As far as devotees are concerned,
if there is only one toilet room, then not more than two devotees
can remain with me. I must have a separate silent place; if
there is no noise, all the six rooms could be filled up with
devotees. For my personal service I require only one. So you
can make arrangements in that way.
"Whenever there is need of my lecture, I am always prepared
to serve; it doesn't matter whether big or small. Probably as
you are making fine arrangements, many will come to the temple
to hear me, so in that case, I must come. Best thing will be
to see people in the class, not in my private apartment. Lecturing
or meeting must be done in the classroom; that's all."
The Boston devotees
and guests worked hard to clean and decorate the apartment we
had secured for Prabhupada on Chester Street. It was the ground
floor flat in a building filled with Boston University students,
and the students living upstairs had agreed to keep the music
and loud noise down during Prabhupada's stay.
On the day of his arrival it happened that everyone else was
still too busy getting everything ready, and I was sent alone,
by taxi, to greet him at the airport. I had also been busy painting
the baseboards of his apartment, up until the last minute, and
the taxi driver thought it strange that I was making a garland
on the way to the airport.
When Prabhupada deplaned, along with Gaurasundara and Govinda
dasi, I was once again struck by the dignity of his beauty—the
folds of his robes fluttering in the Spring breeze and reminding
me of a flock of graceful, saffron-hued flamingos. Although
I had been feeling proud in the taxi that I was the only one
going to greet him, I now felt awkwardly alone and afraid as
I clumsily offered my obeisances. Prabhupada, on the other hand,
was as regal as he had been at his large New York reception,
and he bowed his head slightly to accept the garland.
On the taxi ride back to his new Chester Street apartment, Prabhupada
sat in the back, next to Gaurasundara. Govinda dasi sat next
to her husband, and I sat in the front seat next to the driver.
I was both nervous and excited, as this was only the second
time I had ever ridden in a car with Prabhupada, and I kept
turning around to see him throughout the journey.
Satsvarupa and a few others met us at the car door and slowly
walked with Prabhupada up the wooden stairs, across the front
porch, and through the white columns of the old brown, stately
looking wooden house. Passing through the long hallway that
divided his quarters in two, we then entered the large living
room on the left. Satsvarupa directed Gaurasundara to put Prabhupada's
luggage in the front room on the right, he invited he and Govinda
dasi to stay in the back room, and the middle room could serve
as a darsana room and office for Prabhupada's translating work.
Not knowing what else to do, I suggested, "Why don't you
take some rest now Swamiji?"
"I rested on the plane," Prabhupada replied.
"Well," I persisted, thinking I was being considerate
of his needs, "you could rest some more."
He turned his head slightly and with a touch of sarcasm said,
"I am not meant for resting all day and night." I
recognized the look, for it was the same one he gave me when
he had told me the year before, "If you love someone, you
like to hear them speak." I was embarrassed, and then I
said nervously, "In preparing for your visit I had to sew
material for the altar, put up curtains behind the altar, make
posters for the college and temple engagements we've arranged
for you, and then post them all over the city."
Prabhupada titled his head, but said nothing, so I added, "Satsvarupa
and Pradyumna were working at their office jobs, and I was the
only one left to do these other things."
Although he knew everything, he looked bemused as to why I was
saying all this. Then, as if to further explain, I said, "So
please excuse me that I wasn't able to do my real service of
"Don't worry," Prabhupada said, sounding apologetic,
"I won't stay long."
Trying to save the situation, I said, "It is not that I
didn't want to do those services. I was just confused about
"The direct order of the spiritual master is the most important
thing to do," he answered. "Except in an emergency."
I felt relieved.
A little later, while we were walking through the hallway outside
Prabhupada's room, Govinda dasi whispered to me, "When
Swamiji saw the Radha-Krsna painting you completed in New York,
he said, 'It looks like Radharani had another boyfriend.'"
"I'm surprised. Why would he think that?" I asked.
Govinda said, "Well, you had Her standing next to Krsna
and holding a garland, but you made Her turning away from Him.
I shook my head and said, "Oh, I know why. This painting
was one of my first attempts at imitating the Old Masters' style.
I wanted the scene to look realistic, so I used a photograph
of a Renaissance painting of a young Dutch girl for my Radharani.
It was the best I could find in the Boston Library. The girl
was pretty and sweet looking, and she wore a long dress. And
I wanted to paint a pretty Radharani."
"Well there was one main problem with that," Govinda
dasi said, "The girl in your print was facing the wrong
direction and you just plain copied her."
I felt terrible and wanted to immediately redo the painting.
When we joined Prabhupada again in the living room, I found
myself standing right next to him. He startled me by taking
a step towards me, looked me straight in the eye, and asking,
"Compared to the karmis, what inconvenience do you have?"
I felt exposed—because Prabhupada knew the inner state
of my heart—that I was so often worried about one thing
or another, and so often complaining about one thing or another.
"They are struggling and suffering so much," he said.
"What inconvenience do you have?" He then sat down
on the large and aged couch in the living room. Gaurasundara
busied himself in arranging Prabhupada's things, Satsvarupa,
Govinda dasi and I sat on the floor at his feet, and Jayadvaita,
a new devotee from New York, sat down and joined us.
Prabhupada looked down at us, smiled and said, "Vrndavana
is the kingdom of Radharani. There is a song by Narottama dasa
Thakura: 'Vrndavana is the kingdom of Radharani, and Krsna is
I couldn't stop thinking of my unbonafide painting of Radharani
as Prabhupada continued, "Radharani is the center of all
Vrndavana's activities. There, Krsna is Her instrument; so all
the residents of Vrndavana chant, 'Jaya Radhe!' Krsna Himself
has said that Radharani is the Queen of Vrndavana and that He
is simply Her decoration. Krsna is known as the Madana-mohana,
the enchanter of Cupid. Radharani is the enchanter of Krsna,
Madana-mohana-mohini, the enchanter of the enchanter of Cupid.
If we approach Krsna through Radharani's mercy, then our advancement
becomes so much easy. If Radharani recommends someone, then
Krsna immediately accepts that very person. Therefore in Vrndavana,
all the devotees are chanting Radharani's name more than Krsna's.
"In Vrndavana, if someone wants to visit me, they call
out…" Prabhupada looked over his shoulder toward
the doorway down the hall. Then, as if imitating a visitor at
that very door, he called out, "Jaya Rad-he!" He sang
the mantra, extending the "Radhe" and making the last
syllable rise in pitch. "And I call back . . . " he
said as he again looked over his shoulder, 'Jaya Rad-he!'
"Krsna is very strict and Radharani is very nice,"
he continued. "A woman, unless she is unnatural, is very
softhearted and very kind-hearted. And Radharani is not unnatural."
I could no longer contain the agitation I felt about having
spoiled the painting; so I said, "Swamiji, Govinda dasi
said that you don't like the Radharani I painted in New York.
You said it looks like She has another boyfriend. So I can do
it over if you want."
Prabhupada smiled and said, "No. Radharani is offering
the garland to Jadurani for painting so many nice pictures of
I blushed. "Would Radharani really personally do that?"
I wondered. "Would the controller of the Supreme controller
be personally appreciating my minuscule attempt to serve Prabhupada?
Prabhupada continued speaking, answering some of the other devotees
questions and deepening everyone's affection for him. More devotee
gathered and Prabhupada continued to feed his hungry disciples.
Satsvarupa finally said, "Swamiji, you probably have your
work to do. Perhaps we should leave now."
Prabhupada's answer amused and charmed us all, and it was also
instructive: "Talking is working." In New York he
had said, "Talking is resting." Transcendence was
not obligated to satisfy the laws of logic and contradiction,
as mundane subject matters are bound to be.
* * * *