More than one hundred of Prabhupāda’s disciples and followers are in the lobby of the International Terminal of Boston’s Logan Airport. Kīrtanānanda Swami has come from New Vrindaban with a truckload of devotees. The devotees from New York are here with a large banner: NEW YORK ISKCON WELCOMES ŚRĪLA PRABHUPĀDA. Most of the devotees wear heavy coats over their dhotīs and sārīs and are chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa; some play drums and cymbals. A few babies and children are present. Waiting passengers can only watch, startled.
Prabhupāda’s plane is late, and the devotees continue chanting, often leaping into the air with outstretched arms. They haven’t seen Prabhupāda in a long time, and they are waiting, expecting to see him at any moment. Oblivious of the proprieties of being in public, the devotees chant emotionally, building almost to uncontrolled ecstasy. The state police step in to tell the biggest devotee, Brahmānanda, “Cool it!” The chanting falls away to a murmur of japa: Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare.
The plane from London arrives! The devotees are unable to see the passengers entering in the glassed-in immigration and customs area because the bottom six feet of the glass wall is painted black. Straining to see over the top, the devotees press forward, chanting, feverish, some almost hysterical. Suddenly they see Prabhupāda’s raised hand with bead bag on the other side of the wall! They can see only his raised hand and bead bag. They go wild.
Fearlessly, with drums and karatālas, the kīrtana explodes again: Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare. Advaita is tearfully smashing the karatālas together and chanting. Brahmānanda, jumping up and down, trying to glimpse into the customs room, is crying uncontrollably and yelling, “Prabhupāda! Prabhupāda!”
Śrīla Prabhupāda, free of customs, suddenly appears before them. Kīrtanānanda Swami, reserved until now, leaps around airport chairs and runs to him. Everyone is pushing and running, trying to be where Prabhupāda is.
Prabhupāda’s saffron robes are wrinkled from the long flight, and he wears a knit sweater. He holds his white plastic attache case in his left hand and again raises his right arm with forefinger and thumb extended from the bead bag. He smiles wonderfully, beaming to his children. Devotees cheer and cry: “All glories to Prabhupāda!”
As he walks toward a saffron-covered sofa in the airport lounge, the devotees move with him in an ecstatic wave, pressing in close. He sits down. Paramānanda, from New Vrindaban, comes forward with his infant son, the first boy born in ISKCON, and holds him forward to Prabhupāda for blessings. Prabhupāda is smiling, and the devotees are completely, unabashedly blissful.
“Where is Hayagrīva?” Prabhupāda asks. The question is repeated by the devotees, and big Hayagrīva lurches through the crowd, grumbling and falling flat at Prabhupāda’s feet in obeisance. One by one, the leaders of the various ISKCON centers come forward and place garland after garland around Prabhupāda.
Prabhupāda looks beyond the wall of devotees at the newsmen with their cameras and at the baffled, curious, and disdainful onlookers. A bystander says, “I think he must be some kind of politician.”
“So”-Prabhupāda begins speaking-“the spiritual master is to be worshiped as God. But if he is thinking that he is God, then he is useless. My request is, please don’t take Kṛṣṇa consciousness as a sectarian religion…” Prabhupāda explains that Kṛṣṇa consciousness is a great science, culminating in pure love of God. “These boys and girls had never heard of Kṛṣṇa before,” Prabhupāda continues, “but now they have taken it up so naturally-because it is natural.” Prabhupāda says that he is an old man yet he is sure that even if he passes away his students will continue the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. The potency of this move ment is such that it can awaken awareness of God within anyone’s heart. After the lecture Prabhupāda stands and is escorted outside, where a limousine waits to drive him off through the newly fallen snow.
Riding joyfully in the car with Prabhupāda were Kīrtanānanda Swami, Brahmānanda, Satsvarūpa, and Puruṣottama. A professional chauffeur drove. Prabhupāda talked of London. It was an old, aristocratic city, he said, and the temple was in a very influential area near the British Museum. “The location is-what it is called-downtown?”
They passed a large billboard advertising a restaurant and lounge: CONTINENTAL. On seeing the billboard, Prabhupāda said, “Cintāmaṇi-what is that? Oh, no, Continental.”
The devotees looked at one another: “Cintāmaṇi.” Prabhupāda had thought that the sign had read Cintāmaṇi, meaning the spiritual gems that make up the transcendental land of Kṛṣṇaloka. But Prabhupāda himself was cintāmaṇi, pure and innocent, coming to the cold, dirty city of Boston yet always thinking of Kṛṣṇa wherever he was. How fortunate to be with him! Satsvarūpa glanced at the professional chauffeur. “Drive carefully,” he said.
Prabhupāda spoke softly from the back seat, while the devotees in front peered back, barely able to see him in the darkness and completely awed by his friendly yet inconceivable presence. “The other day,” he said, “I told George Harrison that if he thought his money belonged to him, that was māyā.”
At the Summer Tunnel the limousine pulled up at an automatic toll booth. The driver threw a coin into the chute, and the red light turned green. Prabhupāda asked if sometimes people drove through without paying, and Brahmānanda replied that an alarm would go off. They moved ahead into the Sumner Tunnel, usually an eerie, nerve-racking place-but not when riding with Prabhupāda.
“I told George to give his money to Kṛṣṇa,” Prabhupāda said, “not that he had to give it to Kṛṣṇa by giving it to me, necessarily, but that somehow or other he must spend all of his money for Kṛṣṇa.”
“But you are the only way to Kṛṣṇa,” Brahmānanda said.
Prabhupāda laughed lightly. “Yes,” he admitted, “at least in the West.”
This was the great privilege of being able to ride with Prabhupāda: to hear him say little things or serious things and to see his fathomless expression or his kind smiling. It was a rare opportunity.
“I am representing unadulterated teachings,” Prabhupāda continued. “Kṛṣṇa says in Bhagavad-gītā, “Surrender to Me,’ and I say, “Surrender to Kṛṣṇa.’ It is very simple. So many swamis come and present themselves as Kṛṣṇa, and it is all spoiled. But I say, “Surrender to Kṛṣṇa.’ I do not say anything new or adulterated. Kṛṣṇa says, “Surrender to Me,’ and I say, “Surrender to Kṛṣṇa.'”
Prabhupāda asked Brahmānanda if fifty thousand copies of Back to Godhead magazine were being printed. Brahmānanda answered that they were. “Good,” Prabhupāda replied. Turning his attention to Satsvarūpa, Prabhupāda asked how the composing machine was working, and Satsvarūpa said that hundreds of pages were being composed each month. Prabhupāda asked Kīrtanānanda Swami about New Vrindaban. New Vrindaban would improve, Prabhupāda said; the only thing wrong was that it got “blocked up” in the winter.
Each devotee in the car felt completely satisfied by his brief exchange with Prabhupāda, and they rode with him intoxicated in spiritual bliss.
Most of the devotees had raced ahead to the temple on Beacon Street and were waiting excitedly. The limousine pulled up, and again the devotees were unrestrained in their adoration of their spiritual master. Regally Prabhupāda walked up the walkway, onto the porch steps, through the front door, and into the vestibule, where he gazed around at the purple walls and the pink and green doorways. Surrounded by cheers and loving looks, he smiled.
The second-floor parlor, now the temple room, was filled with more than 150 disciples and guests, and they could see Prabhupāda’s form rise into view as he came up the stairs. He still carried his white attache case in his left hand and his bead bag in his right. And although he had just come out of the winter’s night, he wore no coat, only cotton robes and a sweater. He appeared radiant.
Prabhupāda approached the altar. He seemed to notice everything: the small Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa Deities enthroned beneath a red velvet canopy, the larger deities of Jagannātha, Subhadra, and Balarāma on a raised shelf above the picture of Lord Caitanya and His saṅkīrtana party, even the brass ārati paraphernalia, brightly shining on the small table near the altar. Turning to his secretary and traveling companion, Puruṣottama, he asked, “What do you think, Puruṣottama? Isn’t this very nice?”
Crossing the room, Prabhupāda sat on the red velvet vyāsāsana. He spoke, and the audience was attentive. After praising the London center, the Deity worship there, the expertly made purīs for Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa, he turned toward the altar and said, “If you clean the Deities’ utensils, your heart will become cleansed.” By polishing the Deities’ paraphernalia, he said, the devotees were cleaning their spiritual master’s heart also. As he spoke, focusing simply and purely on devotion to the Deity, the devotees suddenly realized the importance of this aspect of their Kṛṣṇa consciousness. “Who has made these clothes?” Prabhupāda asked, glancing at Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa’s little flounced dresses.
“Śāradīyā,” a few devotees called out.
Prabhupāda smiled. “Thank you very much.” Then he threw back his head and laughed. “Is Śāradīyā still fighting with her husband?”
The devotees and guests laughed, while Śāradīyā covered her face with her hands. “Don’t fight with your husband,” Prabhupāda said. “He is a good boy. Anybody that comes to Kṛṣṇa consciousness is good.” He then asked to see the rest of the house.
A hundred devotees, straining to see and hear Prabhupāda’s responses, followed him as he went downstairs. Although the crowd surrounded him, he remained relaxed and unhurried. He entered the press room, a long hall directly beneath the temple room. A large old offset press, a paper cutter, a folder, and flats of paper stock filled the room, which smelled like a print shop. Advaita, the press manager, bowed down in his green khakis before Prabhupāda. He rose up smiling, and Prabhupāda stepped forward and embraced him, putting his arm around Advaita’s head. “Very good,” he said.
Standing before the printing press, Prabhupāda folded his palms together and offered a prayer to his spiritual master: “Jaya Om Viṣṇupada Paramahaṁsa Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī Mahārāja Prabhupāda ki jaya!” Advaita asked Prabhupāda to give the press a transcendental name. “ISKCON Press,” Prabhupāda said matter-of-factly, as if it had already been named.
“Keep all the machines very clean,” Prabhupāda said, “and they will last a long time. This is the heart of ISKCON.”
“You are the heart of ISKCON, Prabhupāda,” a devotee said.
“And this is my heart,” said Prabhupāda.
Leaving the main press room, Prabhupāda toured the other press facilities. Squeezing in, ducking under, standing on tiptoe, the crowd of devotees followed him step by step. He peeked into a little cubbyhole where a devotee was composing type. The typesetters, he said, should proceed very slowly at first, and in that way they would become expert. Turning to Advaita, he said, “Everyone in India who speaks Hindi has a Gītā Press publication. So everyone who speaks English should have an ISKCON Press publication.”
Compared to most authors, Prabhupāda’s literary contribution was already substantial. But he wasn’t just “an author.” His mission was to flood the world with literature glorifying Lord Kṛṣṇa. Prabhupāda’s ISKCON was now three years old, yet his disciples were only beginning to execute his plans for printing and distributing transcendental literature.
Printing was an important step-the first step. Months ago Prabhupāda had written,
The press must work on continuously, and we shall produce immense volumes of literature. If the press goes on nicely, I shall be able to give you material for publishing a book every two months. We have got so much material for the Krishna consciousness movement.
And just prior to coming to Boston he had written,
Samkirtan and distributing Back to Godhead and our other literatures is the fieldwork of this movement. Temple worship is secondary.
Now ISKCON was printing fifty thousand copies of Back to Godhead per month, and Prabhupāda hoped to increase the sales more and more.
Standing in the crowded, chilly basement, surrounded by devotees, press machines, and transcendental literature, Prabhupāda described how he wanted ISKCON Press to operate. He said that after dictating a tape he would mail it to Boston to be transcribed. The transcription should take no more than two days. During the next two days, someone would edit the transcribed manuscript. Then another editor would take two days to edit the transcript a second time. A Sanskrit editor would add diacritical markings, and the manuscript would be ready for composing.
Prabhupāda said he could produce fifteen tapes-three hundred manuscript pages-every month. At that rate, ISKCON Press should produce a book every two months, or six books in a year. Prabhupāda wanted to print at least sixty books. Therefore his press workers would have plenty to do for the next ten years. If the devotees simply printed his books incessantly, he said, even if they had to work twenty-four hours a day in shifts, it would give him “great delight.” He was ready, if necessary, to drop all his activities except for publishing books.
This was the special nectar the press devotees were hankering to hear. Printing books was Prabhupāda’s heart; it was the thing most dear to him.
During Prabhupāda’s week in Boston, Puruṣottama continued as secretary and servant, out of duty. His difficulties in London had increased. Doubtful and morose, he came before Prabhupāda two days before their departure.
Puruṣottama: I had decided to leave in London. I just felt like there were different things I wanted to do. But I felt obligated to stay with him because he needed me there. It was my job to at least get him back to the States. I felt that he needed someone to travel with him. And I just felt that I should complete that, have everything in order, so I couldn’t say to myself that I had just quit when he needed me like that in a foreign country.
I didn’t tell anybody. I didn’t speak against him or anything. I performed my duties, but in my attitude I let him know I was really getting kind of distant the last few days. I didn’t bow down to him. I would come in, but I just wouldn’t bow down to him.
He entered Prabhupāda’s room. He didn’t bow down. He stood. He was too uncomfortable to sit, because of the gravity of what he would say. Prabhupāda looked up from his desk. “Yes, Puruṣottama?”
Puruṣottama: I went in to see him. I knew I was going to leave, and it kind of made me sick to do it. Anyway, I told him I have a lot of questions about the movement, the moon, and everything. I just don’t believe all of this. He was very congenial about the whole thing. He took it nicely.
He said to me, “If you have questions, why don’t you ask me?” And I said, “You yourself have said that we should only ask questions to somebody we feel we can believe or trust.” He looked very hurt. He knew what I was saying. I felt like I really hurt him. I didn’t mean it to be so defiant, but there I was.
He said, “I’ve noticed that you haven’t been well lately. You’ve had some problems?”
I said, “Well, I haven’t been trying to hide it.” I guess I was trying to prepare him for what was coming. I wanted to leave that night. So I said, “I want to leave.” But he said to me, “You’ve been with me so long, and now you’re so anxious to go? You can’t even stay a night?” He said, “Why don’t you stay at least till my plane leaves.” That was two days later. I said, “O.K., I’ll do that then.”
I was going to go back to New York. Actually I didn’t have the money for the ticket, and he gave me the money, he gave me the bus fare. I really appreciated that. I could have borrowed some money from someone else, but he said, “Well, you take it, and you can pay me back later.” And I did. I gave it back the next week.
He was very gracious about the whole thing. Actually I could see that he had a very special loving way of looking at the world. I felt that sometimes I could see things in a loving way, like he did, and I realized that I got that viewpoint from him-you know, that little loving spirit. He had that, and I kind of caught some of that from him. And that’s one of the things I always remember about him. And I know that through his movement I came to believe in God. Before I met him, I didn’t believe in God.
After Puruṣottama left, Prabhupāda spoke with Bhavānanda about Puruṣottama’s doubts concerning the moon landing and his consequent doubts of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. “I can understand that he might not accept it because I said it, but how could he disbelieve the Vedic śāstras?”
Boston’s weather was miserable. When the rain stopped, the snow fell, and when the snow stopped, the rain came again. Prabhupāda tried taking a walk in the front yard, Bhavānanda beside him with the umbrella, watching cautiously to guard him from falling on the ice. But after a week of Boston’s nasty December weather, Prabhupāda’s cold was getting worse. He would go to Los Angeles.
* * *
Los Angeles February 25, 1970
On the auspicious occasion of Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura’s appearance day anniversary, the Los Angeles devotees received permission to enter their new temple on Watseka Avenue. The rooms had not even been cleaned, and the large hall was bare; but the devotees brought in Prabhupāda’s vyāsāsana from the old temple on La Cienega, and Prabhupāda had them place on it a large picture of his spiritual master. Standing before his spiritual master, Prabhupāda offered ārati while some fifty disciples gathered around him, chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa and dancing in the otherwise empty hall.
After the ārati, Prabhupāda directed his disciples in offering flowers to the picture of Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī. Then, still standing before the vyāsāsana, he said he had nothing to offer his spiritual master on this day except his own disciples. He then read aloud the names of all his disciples.
Taking his seat on a low vyāsāsana beside the large vyāsāsana of Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, Prabhupāda gave a short history of his Guru Mahārāja, son of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and powerful ācārya of the mission of Caitanya Mahāprabhu. As Prabhupāda recalled his first meeting with his spiritual master, he told how Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī had told him to teach Kṛṣṇa consciousness to the English-speaking world. This large new temple, Prabhupāda said, had been provided by Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī as a gift for the devotees to use in Kṛṣṇa’s service. They should not become attached to the opulence, Prabhupāda said, but they should use this wonderful place for preaching. As he spoke, he wept.
“Now bring them prasādam!” Prabhupāda called. And the feast began. While devotees sat on the floor in rows, Prabhupāda from his vyāsāsana directed the servers, having them bring another samosā to one devotee, more chutney to another, and so on. He watched over all of them, encouraging them to take Kṛṣṇa’s prasādam.
That afternoon Prabhupāda toured the buildings. In addition to the main hall, which he would have the devotees convert into a temple, he saw the equally large lecture hall. These rooms, plus a three-room apartment, ample separate quarters for male and female devotees, a parking lot, and a front lawn, made this the finest physical facility in all of ISKCON. “We don’t require such a nice place for ourselves,” Prabhupāda told the temple president, Gargamuni. “We are prepared to live anywhere. But such a nice place will give us opportunity to invite gentlemen to come and learn about this Kṛṣṇa consciousness.”
The cost of the building had been $225,000, with a $50,000 down payment. Prabhupāda had had more than $10,000 in his book fund, but that was exclusively for printing books. So although he usually didn’t like to deal personally in such negotiations, he had made an exception in this case and had asked the other temples to donate to the new “world headquarters” in Los Angeles. He had even mailed snapshots of the buildings to various temple presidents around the world. Thus he had collected the down payment, and on Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī’s appearance day ISKCON became the legal owner.
This was the only temple ISKCON actually owned-all the other buildings were leased or rented-and Prabhupāda wanted to design everything himself. Hiring professionals would be too expensive, but Prabhupāda had plenty of disciples eager to do the renovation. Karandhara knew a little carpentry, plumbing, and general construction, and he could learn more by experience. Bhavānanda had been a professional designer, and he was filled with Prabhupāda’s enthusiasm to transform the plain church into a dazzling palace for the Supreme Personality of Godhead. “First you make my apartment,” Prabhupāda told Bhavānanda. “Let me move in, and then we will work on the temple room.”
Bhavānanda: We picked out a part of the Los Angeles temple for Prabhupāda’s quarters, and Karandhara built a bathroom. When Prabhupāda came up to the rooms, he said, “This will be my sitting room. This will be my bedroom.” And when he came to a third room, with a skylight, he said, “This will be my library.”
Prabhupāda had told me once in Boston that as a child he had lived in a palace with blue walls, red marble floors, and orange and gold trim-the Mulliks’ house in Calcutta. So we painted the walls of his sitting room blue, and I put in a white tile floor. The drapes were burnt-orange satin with gold cords and gold fringe. Prabhupāda liked this color scheme very much.
In the bedroom I asked Prabhupāda where he wanted his bed, and he said, “Put the bed in the middle of the room.” We had put down a rug, and Prabhupāda said, “Now you should get sheets and cover the rug with them. In India they have rugs like this, nice rugs, and they cover them with sheets. And on special days they take the sheets off. Otherwise they would become ruined.” So I went out and bought sheets.
Prabhupāda was in his sitting room when I came in and started putting the sheet over the rug in the bedroom. Prabhupāda came in and said, “Yes, this is very nice. Again I have introduced something new. This is something new for all of you-sheets on rugs.” Then he told me, “Now make sure there are no wrinkles in the sheet.” I was on my hands and knees on the rug, and Prabhupāda also got down on his hands and knees right next to me. We were both pressing out the wrinkles from the sheet, and when we got to the end, Prabhupāda folded the sheet under the rug.
He was very happy there, because it was our own place. We had never had our own place before.
In the temple room Prabhupāda showed Karandhara where to build the three altars. He indicated the measurements and instructed that before each altar should be a pair of doors and over them the symbols of Viṣṇu: a conchshell over the altar for guru and Gaurāṅga; a wheel and club over Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa’s altar in the center; and a lotus over Lord Jagannātha’s. The spiritual master’s vyāsāsana was to go at the opposite end of the temple, facing Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa. The walls should be yellow, which Prabhupāda said was in the mode of goodness. The ceiling should be covered with a canopy, and there should be chandeliers.
Once the altars were completed, Prabhupāda wanted to bring the Deities, even though much of the renovation was yet unfinished. After constructing an umbrella-covered cart and decorating it with flowers, the devotees brought the Deities in procession from the old temple on La Cienaga Boulevard to Their new home.
Bhavānanda: The first time he came into the temple room after his morning walk, he went to the guru-Gaurāṅga altar and paid his obeisances. We all paid our obeisances. Then he stood up, and he went to Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa, and then paid obeisances, then to Jagannātha, and we all followed. Then we walked back and he sat on his vyāsāsana, and he told us, “Now you line up facing each other from the vyāsāsana to Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa, face each other. This way, that way, one way you look is guru, and the other way God. And then back and forth that way. Always leave this aisle,” he said, “so I can see.”
The Deity was the king, Prabhupāda said, and all the temple residents were His personal servants. The temple, therefore, should be like a palace. An elaborate temple was important for preaching, Prabhupāda explained, because most people, especially Westerners, were not inclined to undergo any austerities for obtaining spiritual life. There was an Indian saying, No one listens to a poor man. Were the devotees to advertise classes on bhakti-yoga in such-and-such empty field under a certain tree, Prabhupāda said, no one would come. But a clean, beautiful building with chandeliers and comfortable rooms would attract many people to visit and become purified.
The temple was also for those who wanted to live there as Kṛṣṇa conscious devotees. Devotees, Prabhupāda said, should be willing to live and sleep anywhere. But as the loving, protecting father of his disciples, Prabhupāda took great care to establish a large temple and an adequate dormitory facility. He was making a home for his family. To see that his spiritual children had a place to live and practice their devotional service was just another aspect of his mission.
A special feature of the new temple was Śrīla Prabhupāda’s garden. The devotees had excavated a large patch of concrete behind the temple, filled it in with earth, surrounded it with a cinder-block wall, and planted a lawn with flower gardens all around.
Karandhara: I had dug some beds along the inside perimeter and planted a plant here and a plant there. But Prabhupāda said, “No, plant something everywhere. Everywhere there should be something growing. Everywhere there is a place, you plant something. Let there be growing everywhere.” He wanted it overgrown like a jungle, a tropical area where plants just grow luxuriantly everywhere.
Śrīla Prabhupāda always enjoyed sitting in the garden in the evening with the fresh, cool evening air and the fragrance of the flowers. The topics of conversation in the garden were as varied as Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam-all different subjects. Sometimes there would be lively conversations with guests or devotees, and sometimes Prabhupāda would spend the entire time just chanting, with very little conversation. Sometimes Prabhupāda would just have somebody read from the Kṛṣṇa book.
Prabhupāda said that his mother maintained a garden on the roof of their house when he was young and that he would go up there in the evenings and play. He remembered that. He always remembered what he liked to do as a child. You would hear him reminisce with pleasure about it. Many times he would comment, “My mother maintained a garden on the roof of our residence, and as a child I would go there in the evening and play. Now I also have such a nice place to come.”
Under Prabhupāda’s personal direction, the Los Angeles center became a model for the rest of ISKCON. At the morning Bhāgavatam class, for example, he had the devotees responsively chant the Sanskrit mantras after him, and he asked that this become the standard program in all his temples. In May 1970, he wrote to each of his twenty-six temple presidents throughout North America and Europe, inviting them to visit him at Los Angeles.
Now at the present moment, I am concentrating my energy in this Los Angeles Center as ideal for all other centers in respect of Deity worship, Arotrik, Kirtan and other necessary paraphernalia. As I have curtailed my moving program, I wish that you may come here at your convenience and stay here for a few days and see personally how things are going on; and by meeting with me personally for necessary instruction, I hope simultaneously in all Centers the activities will be of the same standard.
The temple presidents who visited Prabhupāda, most of them young men in their twenties, came with practical as well as philosophical questions. They came with their notebooks, writing down everything from the temple schedule to color schemes, noting the tunes used in the kīrtanas, learning how to manage a saṅkīrtana party. And perhaps most important of all, they would note the things Prabhupāda did and the words he spoke personally to them. The temple presidents would then return to their own centers-in Berkeley or Hamburg or Toronto or Sydney-glowing with ecstasy and ready to implement dozens of new standards they had imbibed from Prabhupāda at the Los Angeles world headquarters.
Although Prabhupāda still spoke of expanding his movement more and more, he seemed content to stay in Los Angeles, reaching the rest of the world through his temple presidents, his saṅkīrtana parties, and his books. New plans were unfolding, however, and Prabhupāda again spoke of a governing body, twelve hand-picked disciples to manage all of ISKCON’s affairs. He also spoke of initiating more sannyāsīs and taking them with him to India to train as itinerant preachers. And to insure that his books were regularly and properly printed, he wanted to form a special committee in charge of book publication.
Sometimes managing his worldwide religious movement, sometimes leading the growing group of devotees in chanting Sanskrit mantras in the Los Angeles temple, and sometimes sitting alone and translating in the pre-dawn hours, Prabhupāda lived happily in Los Angeles.
One day a record arrived from London. The London devotees, who with George Harrison’s help had already produced an album, had now also released a new single, “Govinda.” The song consisted of verses Prabhupāda had taught them from Brahma-saṁhitā, each verse ending with the refrain govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi. Prabhupāda asked that the record be played during the morning program in the temple. The next morning, after he had entered the temple room, bowed down before the Deity, and taken his seat on the vyāsāsana to begin the class, the record began.
Suddenly, Prabhupāda became stunned with ecstasy. His body shivered, and tears streamed from his eyes. The devotees, feeling a glimmer of their spiritual master’s emotion, began to chant Hare Kṛṣṇa as if chanting japa. The moments seemed to pass slowly. Finally Prabhupāda spoke: “Govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi.” He was again silent. Then he asked, “Is everyone all right?” The response was a huge roar: “Jaya Prabhupāda!” And he began the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam class.
* * *
Vaiṣṇavera kriyā-mudrā vijñe nā bujhaya. “No one can understand the mind of a Vaiṣṇava.” Only a pure devotee can understand an other pure devotee perfectly. But by observing the main activities of Prabhupāda’s life, we can see that whatever he did was pure service to Lord Kṛṣṇa and was a perfect example of how to surrender to Kṛṣṇa. He taught by precept and by example. Often encouraging, even praising his disciples, he always pushed them into more and more participation in the blissful saṅkīrtana movement of Lord Caitanya. But he also exposed the faults of his disciples, and these faults were sometimes great and painful to see, both for him and for his disciples.
One day, as Prabhupāda came into his quarters at the Los Angeles temple, he saw that one of the devotees cleaning his room had placed his picture upside down. A simple mistake. But it indicated something wrong in the disciple’s mentality. Every morning the devotees sing prayers to the spiritual master honoring him as the direct representative of God. How could any sincere disciple not notice that he is standing God’s representative upside down?
Then a more serious discrepancy. Prabhupāda went to the temple, greeted the Deities, and went to take caraṇāmṛta, the scented water from the bathing of the Deities. It was part of his daily schedule. After his morning walk, he would return to the temple and offer obeisances to the Deities while the “Govinda” record was being played. A devotee would then offer him a few drops of caraṇāmṛta in his right palm, and he would sip it. He had mentioned this item of devotional service in The Nectar of Devotion. “Scented with perfumes and flowers, the water comes gliding down through His lotus feet and is collected and mixed with yogurt. In this way this caraṇāmṛta not only becomes very tastefully flavored, but also has tremendous spiritual value… The devotees who come to visit and offer respects to the Deity take three drops of caraṇāmṛta very submissively and feel themselves happy in transcendental bliss.”
On this particular morning, however, as Śrīla Prabhupāda took caraṇāmṛta, he frowned. Someone had put salt in it! He walked the length of the temple room, took his seat on the vyāsāsana, and before a room full of a hundred devotees, asked, “Who has put salt in the caraṇāmṛta?” A young girl in a sārī stood and with a nervous smile said she had done it.
“Why have you done it?” Prabhupāda asked gravely.
“I don’t know,” she giggled.
Prabhupāda turned to Gargamuni: “Get someone responsible.”
Everyone present felt Prabhupāda’s anger. The unpleasant moment marred the pure temple atmosphere. A disciple worships Kṛṣṇa by pleasing Kṛṣṇa’s representative, the spiritual master; therefore to displease the spiritual master was a spiritual disqualification. The spiritual master was not merely a principle; he was a person-Śrīla Prabhupāda.
When ISKCON Press in Boston misprinted Prabhupāda’s name on a new book, he became deeply disturbed. The small paperback chapter from the Second Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam bore his name on the cover as simply A.C. Bhaktivedanta. Omitted was the customary “His Divine Grace” as well as “Swami Prabhupāda.” Śrīla Prabhupāda’s name stood almost divested of spiritual significance. Another ISKCON Press publication described Prabhupāda as “ācārya” of ISKCON, although Prabhupāda had repeatedly emphasized that he was the founder-ācārya. There had been many ācāryas, or spiritual masters, and there would be many more; but His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda was the sole founder-ācārya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
To make matters worse, when Prabhupāda first opened the new Bhāgavatam chapter, the binding cracked and the pages fell out. Prabhupāda glowered.
The devotees in Boston, hearing of Prabhupāda’s anger, knew at once that their mistake in misprinting Śrīla Prabhupāda’s name was a serious oversight. Minimizing the spiritual master’s position was a grave offense, and they had even published the offense. The serious implications were difficult for the devotees to face, and they knew they would have to rectify their mentality before they could make spiritual progress. Prabhupāda criticized the mentality behind these mistakes, and his criticisms were instructive to his disciples. Unless he instructed them about the absolute position of the spiritual master, how would they learn?
At the beginning of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam class one morning, Prabhupāda called on one of the women devotees: “Nandarāṇī.” She stood respectfully. “Do you chant sixteen rounds every day?”
“Well, I try to, Prabhupāda.”
“This is the problem,” Prabhupāda said, turning to the temple president. If Nandarāṇī, one of the senior, responsible women, wasn’t chanting regularly, then certainly the new women under her weren’t either. This was the managers’ fault. Prabhupāda had praised and encouraged his disciples for laboring hard to renovate the temple and for going out daily into the streets to chant and distribute magazines. But for a devotee to not chant the prescribed rounds was to neglect the most important instruction.
What Nandarāṇī hadn’t said was that the temple authorities had told her that chanting all her sixteen rounds wasn’t necessary, as long as she worked. They had told her this, even though Prabhupāda clearly instructed his disciples at initiation to always chant at least sixteen rounds daily.
Then another incident. During the morning class, Prabhupāda was discussing Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya, an associate of Lord Caitanya. Looking among the devotees, he asked, “Who can tell me who is Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya?” No one spoke. Prabhupāda waited. “None of you can tell me who is Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya?” he asked. One girl raised her hand; she had “read something about him”-that was all.
“Aren’t you ashamed?” Prabhupāda looked at the men. “You should be the leaders. If the men cannot advance, then the women cannot advance. You must be brāhmaṇas. Then your wives will be brāhmaṇas. But if you are not brāhmaṇas, then what can they do?” Without improving their chanting and without reading Kṛṣṇa conscious literature, Prabhupāda said, they would never attain the purity necessary for preaching Lord Caitanya’s message.
While the local anomalies were weighing heavily on Śrīla Prabhupāda, he learned of strange things his disciples in India had written in their letters, and he became more disturbed. One letter to devotees in America reported that Prabhupāda’s Godbrothers in India objected to his title Prabhupāda. According to them, only Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī should be called Prabhupāda, and they referred to Prabhupāda as “Swami Mahārāja.” Prabhupāda also learned that some of his disciples were saying he was not the only spiritual master. They were interested in reading Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī’s books-as if to discover some new teaching Prabhupāda had not yet revealed.
Prabhupāda regarded these remarks as dangerous for ISKCON. Advancement in spiritual life was based on implicit faith in the spiritual master, and to Prabhupāda these new ideas indicated a relative conception, as opposed to the absolute conception, of the spiritual master. Such a conception could destroy all he had established; at least, it could destroy the spiritual life of anyone who held it.
Though sometimes ignorant, his disciples, he knew, were not malicious. Yet these letters from India carried a spiritual disease transmitted by several of Prabhupāda’s Godbrothers to his disciples there. Prabhupāda had already been troubled when some of his Godbrothers had refused to help him secure land in Māyāpur, the birthplace of Lord Caitanya. Although he had asked them to help his inexperienced disciples purchase land, they had not complied. In fact, some of them had worked against him. Prabhupāda had written to one of his Godbrothers, “I am so sorry to learn that there is a sort of conspiracy by some of our Godbrothers as not to give me a place at Māyāpur.”
Prabhupāda was sensitive to any threat to ISKCON. His accepting the name Prabhupāda, his teaching that the disciple must approach the spiritual master as the direct representative of Kṛṣṇa, without attempting to jump over him to the previous spiritual masters-these things he had carefully explained to his disciples. But now a few irresponsibly spoken remarks in India were weakening the faith of some of his disciples. Perhaps this insidious contamination that was now spreading had precipitated the blunders at ISKCON Press and even the discrepancies in Los Angeles. Talks about the relative position of the spiritual master could only be the workings of māyā, the Lord’s illusory energy. Māyā was attempting to bewilder the devotees of ISKCON. That was her job: to lead the conditioned souls away from Kṛṣṇa’s service.
The recent events began to hamper Prabhupāda’s writing. He had been working quickly in Los Angeles and had recently finished the second and final volume of Kṛṣṇa. And on the very tape on which he had dictated the last chapter of Kṛṣṇa, he had immediately begun a summary of the Eleventh Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Gradually, however, his writing stopped.
Karandhara: Prabhupāda’s translating would require a great deal of concentration. He would have two or three of his big Bhāgavatam volumes opened up and sometimes a number of other small books, which he would refer to for something or other. He would sit, wearing his glasses and speaking into his dictating machine, and he would be completely absorbed in reading. Sometimes he would make a brief note, then look into one of his books, then open another book, turn back to another page, make a note, and then dictate. It required a great deal of concentration. I think that’s why Prabhupāda did most of it at night, after he would rise from his late evening nap. From one or two in the morning until six or seven in the morning he would be absorbed. It was quiet at that time, and he could become absorbed.
But when Prabhupāda became disturbed about the problems in ISKCON, it inhibited his work. He was spending his time discussing with visiting devotees or myself or whoever was there. Then he would spend more time thinking matters over or pondering the problem, and he wouldn’t be able to concentrate on his translating. These difficulties disturbed him, and he would think about them and say, “I have not been able to concentrate. I have been thinking about this problem.”
Although the spiritual master suffers for his disciples’ mistakes, Prabhupāda’s perspective was not simply negative. He continued chanting and lecturing in the temple and inviting the leaders of his movement to visit him in the ideal center of Los Angeles; but he also corrected the diseased mentality wherever it appeared. When, for example, Guru dāsa wrote from London to say that they had allowed an Indian guest to lecture in the temple while sitting on Prabhupāda’s vyāsāsana, Prabhupāda immediately wrote back, correcting him.
I am surprised how you allowed Mr. Parikh to sit on the Vyāsāsana. You know that Vyāsāsana is meant for the representative of Vyāsadeva, the Spiritual Master, but Mr. Parikh does not come in the Parampara to become the representative of Vyas, neither does he have any sound knowledge of Vaiṣṇava principles. I understand from your letter that sometimes discussions on Aurobindo philosophy are done by Mr. Parikh from the Vyāsāsana, so I am a little surprised how did you allow like this. I think you should rectify immediately all these mistakes as stated by you in the last two lines of your letter, “I think the best thing to do is to stop his class. Nonsense ought not to be tolerated.”
In a letter from Paris, Tamāla Kṛṣṇa asked Prabhupāda philosophical questions about the perfection of the spiritual master, and Prabhupāda answered fully, but sternly.
A Spiritual Master is always liberated. In any condition of His life He should not be mistaken as an ordinary human being. This position of the Spiritual Master is achieved by three processes. One is called sadhan siddha. That means one who is liberated by executing the regulative principles of devotional service. Another is kripa siddha, one who is liberated by the mercy of Kṛṣṇa or His devotee. And another is nitya siddha who is never forgetful of Kṛṣṇa throughout his whole life. These are the three features of the perfection of life.
So far Nārada Muni is concerned, in His previous life He was a maidservant’s son, but by the mercy of the devotees He later on became siddha and next life He appeared as Nārada with complete freedom to move anywhere by the grace of the Lord. So even though he was in His previous life a maidservant’s son there was no impediment in the achievement of His perfect spiritual life. Similarly any living entity who is conditioned can achieve the perfectional stage of life by the above mentioned processes and the vivid example is Nārada Muni.
So I do not know why you have asked about my previous life. Whether I was subjected to the laws of material nature? So, even though accepting that I was subjected to the laws of material nature, does it hamper in my becoming Spiritual Master? What is your opinion? From the life of Nārada Muni it is distinct that although He was a conditioned soul in His previous life, there was no impediment of His becoming the Spiritual Master. This law is applicable not only to the Spiritual Master, but to every living entity.
So far I am concerned, I cannot say what I was in my previous life, but one great astrologer calculated that I was previously a physician and my life was sinless. Besides that, to corroborate the statement of Bhagavad-gītā “sucinam srimatam gehe yogabhrasta ‘bhijayate,” which means an unfinished yogī takes birth in rich family or born of a suci or pious father. By the grace of Krishna I got these two opportunities in the present life to be born of a pious father and brought up in one of the richest, aristocratic families of Calcutta (Kasinatha Mullik). The Radha Krishna Deity in this family called me to meet Him, and therefore last time when I was in Calcutta, I stayed in that temple along with my American disciples. Although I had immense opportunities to indulge in the four principles of sinful life because I was connected with a very aristocratic family, Krishna always saved me, and throughout my whole life I do not know what is illicit sex, intoxication, meat-eating or gambling. So far my present life is concerned, I do not remember any part of my life when I was forgetful of Krishna.
Prabhupāda thought some of his leaders had become entangled in ISKCON management and were trying to gain control for themselves. In the classes he would speak of this only indirectly, as he had when he had exposed that the devotees weren’t chanting and reading enough. Consequently, most devotees were unaware of Prabhupāda’s anxiety. But occasionally, while sitting in his room or in the garden, Prabhupāda would express his concern. He wanted his disciples to manage ISKCON, but to do so they must be pure. Only then would he be able to concentrate on writing books. In June he wrote to Brahmānanda,
Now my desire is that I completely devote my time in the matter of writing and translating books, and arrangement should now be done that our Society be managed automatically. I think we should have a central governing body for dealing with important matters. I have already talked with Gargamuni about this. So if you come back by the Rathayatra festival, we can have a preliminary meeting at San Francisco in this connection.
* * *
In July Prabhupāda visited San Francisco for the fourth annual ISKCON Ratha-yātrā. It was the biggest festival ever, with ten thousand people joining in the procession through Golden Gate Park to the beach. Prabhupāda felt ill and didn’t join the parade until about midway. He danced in the road before the carts, as a hundred disciples encircled him, chanting and playing karatālas and mṛdaṅgas.
Afterward, Prabhupāda wanted to ride in the cart, just as he had done the year before, but some of his disciples restrained him. A gang of hoodlums, they said, had caused trouble earlier, and for Prabhupāda to ride on the cart might be dangerous. He disagreed, but finally relented and rode in his car to the beach.
At The Family Dog Auditorium on the beach Prabhupāda began his lecture. “I want to thank you all for coming. Although I am not well, I felt it my responsibility to come, as you have so kindly attended Lord Jagannātha’s Ratha-yātrā festival. I felt it my duty to come and see you and address you.” His voice was frail.
Later in his apartment in San Francisco, Prabhupāda complained that he had not been allowed to ride in the cart. As leader of the Hare Kṛṣṇa movement, he should have ridden on the cart. Not only had his disciples refused him, but several disciples had prominently ridden on the cart-as if in his place.
Prabhupāda asked the many temple presidents assembled for the Ratha-yātrā to meet and discuss forming a governing body to manage ISKCON. The devotees met and then reported that they thought only one of them should be elected the chief representative.
They hadn’t understood. The strength should be in a group, Prabhupāda said, not in a single individual. Since he was ISKCON’s founder-ācārya, what need was there for another single leader? He asked them to meet again.
* * *
Returning to Los Angeles, Prabhupāda announced he would award several of his disciples the sannyāsa order. The devotee community excitedly prepared for the festival. The sannyāsīs, Prabhupāda said, would leave their temples to travel and preach. It was an unprecedented change for ISKCON, a sensation, and the devotees loved it.
Although Prabhupāda was awarding sannyāsa to some of his most advanced disciples, he also said the sannyāsa initiation was to purify these disciples and to rid them of their entanglement in material desires. He set the initiation for the end of July, two weeks later.
One day in Los Angeles, a visiting devotee speaking with Prabhupāda in his room humbly asked why Prabhupāda hadn’t answered his questions in a recent letter. Prabhupāda remembered no such letter. Inquiring from his secretary, Prabhupāda discovered that his secretary often showed incoming letters to certain temple leaders, who at their discretion would sometimes withhold letters they considered petty or too disturbing.
Prabhupāda was outraged. How dare they come between him and his other disciples? How could they presume to make such decisions on their own? How could a disciple censor his spiritual master’s mail?
Although Prabhupāda reprimanded the devotees involved, the incident only increased the already heavy burden on his mind. Again the thought of spiritual disease transmitted in letters from India disturbed him. He found no one close to him in Los Angeles with whom he could speak confidentially about this serious minimization of the spiritual master. As his anxiety affected him bodily, he fell ill and stopped eating.
Karandhara: I’d heard some things, but in the spirit of “going on” it had all been glossed over. And Prabhupāda didn’t talk much about it either. One time, though, I was in his room, right after the sannyāsīs had left Los Angeles, and he asked me if I understood what had gone on. I said, “Well, I think so.” But I didn’t really know very much.
At that time the devotees who were going out on saṅkīrtana were in the alleyway chanting, and Prabhupāda was at his desk. Hearing the kīrtana, he turned back, looking in the direction of the devotees below his window, and smiled. Then he turned to me. “They’re innocent,” he said. “Do not involve them in this business.”
Karandhara still didn’t understand, and he wondered what not to involve them in. He did know, however, that a shadow was hanging over the heads of the sannyāsīs.
Prabhupāda requested three trusted disciples to come be with him in Los Angeles.
Rūpānuga: I was in Buffalo and the phone rang. Someone said, “Śrīla Prabhupāda is on the telephone.” I said, “What? You’re kidding!” It wasn’t Śrīla Prabhupāda, but it was his servant, Devānanda. Devānanda said, “Śrīla Prabhupāda wants you to come to Los Angeles.” I said, “What’s wrong?” He said, “Well, he doesn’t want…” Then he said, “Śrīla Prabhupāda wants to talk about it now.”
So Śrīla Prabhupāda got on the phone, and as soon as I heard him on the line, I paid my obeisances. Then I said, “Śrīla Prabhupāda, what’s wrong?” He said, “You didn’t know I was ill?” I said, “No!” He said, “You should come immediately.”
Then I said, “Uh… uh… Śrīla Prabhupāda, let me speak to Devānanda.” I didn’t know what was going on, so I asked Devānanda, “Tell me what’s going on.” Then he said, “Śrīla Prabhupāda said he will talk with you when you come. He will explain everything.”
Bhagavān dāsa: One day after coming back from saṅkīrtana, I received a call from Rūpānuga, who told me he was on his way to Los Angeles, having received a call from Prabhupāda that there was some disturbance there. He couldn’t tell me more, but he said he would call me when he returned.
This set my mind reeling. I sat in the chair, hot and sweaty after coming back from saṅkīrtana, my mind absorbed in thinking of Prabhupāda and what could be going on. I called Los Angeles to talk to Prabhupāda’s secretary, Devānanda, who told me he couldn’t really say anything at that point. I was hoping somehow or other I would get more information of the situation, but after waiting some time, I went in to take my shower.
I was in the shower when all of a sudden someone banged on the door. “Prabhupāda is on the telephone. He wants to speak with you.” I was sure there was some misunderstanding-how is it possible that the spiritual master could be on the telephone? Anyway, I ran out of the shower, all wet, and picked up the telephone and said, “Hello?”
There was a long pause. Then all of a sudden I heard Śrīla Prabhupāda’s voice on the other end: “Bhagavān dāsa?”
“Yes,” I said. “Śrīla Prabhupāda, please accept my humble obeisances. How can I serve you?” I was completely stunned. Then Prabhupāda’s voice came slowly on the phone, “There are many things that you will do, but the first thing is that you must come here immediately.” I said, “Of course, Śrīla Prabhupāda, I will be there right away.” And with that we both hung up.
I managed to gather the money together to take the flight to Los Angeles. And when I got on the plane in Detroit, it just so happened that Rūpānuga was also on the same plane. We sat together and discussed what could possibly be happening in Los Angeles to cause Śrīla Prabhupāda so much distress.
When we arrived at the airport, Karandhara picked us up and told us that some of the older devotees had been plotting against Prabhupāda and that that day Prabhupāda had given several of the men sannyāsa and sent them away to preach. This was all quite amazing to me, and I didn’t really know what to make of it.
When we came into Prabhupāda’s room, he looked distressed and was rubbing his head, complaining of the blood pressure that was caused by the conspiracy.
Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: I had written Śrīla Prabhupāda a lengthy letter from Paris, describing how we wanted to expand our preaching efforts in Europe, and suddenly I received a telegram from His Divine Grace that said, “Received your letter 26 July. Come Los Angeles immediately.” I was quite surprised, and I remember disentangling myself that very day and leaving that night, even though I was in charge of the activities there.
When I arrived in Los Angeles, I found Rūpānuga, Bhagavān, Kīrtanānanda Swami, and Karandhara. I was in a very enthusiastic, blissful mood from having done so much saṅkīrtana, and I had no idea of any difficulty. But these devotees were all in a heavy, sober, somber mood, and they tried to explain to me what was going on. But actually I could not get a very clear understanding. I had arrived in the late afternoon, and I could not see Śrīla Prabhupāda.
Early the next morning, when Prabhupāda was informed that I had arrived, he called for me before maṅgala-ārati. I went up to his quarters, and when I came through the door, Prabhupāda was sitting in his room with his head downward. He looked up, and he appeared to be almost ill. He was gaunt and looked very sorrowful. He said meekly, just as I was bowing down, “Have they told you?”
Of course, I hadn’t really understood everything, but in reply to his question I said, “Yes, they have told me some things.” And Prabhupāda said, “Can you help me?” So I answered, “Yes, Śrīla Prabhupāda.” He said, “Can you take me out of here?” I said, “Yes, Śrīla Prabhupāda.”
Of course, I didn’t feel that I could help Śrīla Prabhupāda, but I could understand that I had to say yes. How can you say, “No, I won’t”? But how far could I help? It’s like lifting the heaviest object in the world. The guru is so heavy, and yet I had to say yes.
So Prabhupāda asked me next, “Where will you take me?” And I said, “Well, we can go to Florida.” He said, “No, that is not far enough.” I said, “I could take you to Europe.” He said, “No, that also will not be good. The problem may be there also.” So anyway, we didn’t conclude where to go at that time. But Prabhupāda said, “It is like a fire here. I must leave at once. It has become like a fire.”
Prabhupāda confided in Rūpānuga, Tamāla Kṛṣṇa, and Bhagavān about the various incidents: his mail withheld, his name misprinted, his riding in the Ratha-yātrā parade restricted. He mentioned these and other indications that certain persons wanted to move him into the background, out of the reach of his disciples. He didn’t want to stay in Los Angeles, he didn’t want to stay in the United States, he didn’t even want to go to Europe. He wanted to leave the arena of his disciples’ offenses. But before leaving, he wanted to complete his plans for establishing a governing body to manage ISKCON. To this end he dictated the following on July 28:
I, the undersigned, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, disciple of Om Visnupad Paramhansa 108 Sri Śrīmad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvatī Gosvami Maharaj Prabhupāda, came in the United States in 1965 on September 18th for the purpose of starting Krishna Consciousness Movement. For one year I had no shelter. I was travelling in many parts of this country. Then in 1966, July, I incorporated this Society under the name and style the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, briefly ISKCON… Gradually the Society increased, and one after another branches were opened. Now we have got thirty-four (34) branches enlisted herewith. As we have increased our volume of activities, now I think a Governing Body Commission (hereinafter referred to as the G.B.C.) should be established. I am getting old, 75 years old, therefore at any time I may be out of the scene, therefore I think it is necessary to give instruction to my disciples how they shall manage the whole institution. They are already managing individual centers represented by one president, one secretary and one treasurer, and in my opinion they are doing nice. But we want still more improvement in the standard of Temple management, propaganda for Krishna consciousness, distribution of books and literatures, opening of new centers and educating devotees to the right standard. Therefore, I have decided to adopt the following principles and I hope my beloved disciples will kindly accept them.
Prabhupāda then listed the names of the twelve persons who would form the G.B.C.:
1. Śrīmān Rupanuga Das Adhikary
2. Śrīmān Bhagavandas Adhikary
3. Śrīmān Syamsundar Das Adhikary
4. Śrīmān Satsvarupa Das Adhikary
5. Śrīmān Karandhar Das Adhikary
6. Śrīmān Hansadutta Das Adhikary
7. Śrīmān Tamala Kṛṣṇa Das Adhikary
8. Śrīmān Sudama Das Adhikary
9. Śrīmān Bali Mardan Das Brahmacary
10. Śrīmān Jagadisa Das Adhikary
11. Śrīmān Hayagriva Das Adhikary
12. Śrīmān Kṛṣṇadas Adhikary
These personalities are now considered as my direct representatives. While I am living they will act as my zonal secretaries and after my demise they will be know as Executors.
Prabhupāda further described the role of the sannyāsīs:
I have already awarded Sannyas or the renounced order of life to some of my students and they have also got very important duties to perform in this connection. The Sannyasis will travel to our different centers for preaching purpose as well as enlightening the members of the center for spiritual advancement.
Prabhupāda’s legal document went on to set forth general directions for the G.B.C. secretaries. They should travel regularly to the temples in their respective zones to insure that each devotee chanted sixteen rounds and followed a regulated schedule and that the temples were clean. His twelve G.B.C. secretaries would relieve him of management, and they would rectify present and future difficulties within the society. That rectification, Prabhupāda’s document explained, would be possible only when the devotees in each temple engaged fully in regulated devotional service: rising early for maṅgala-ārati at four-thirty, attending Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam class and reciting the Sanskrit verses, and chanting in the streets and distributing Back to Godhead magazines and other Kṛṣṇa conscious literature. This emphasis on strictly following Kṛṣṇa conscious principles would supersede all material formulas for management. The G.B.C. would insure that in their appointed Zones all the devotees were properly engaged. There would be no māyā.
The next day Prabhupāda drafted another significant statement, naming Bhagavān, Rūpānuga, and Karandhara trustees of his Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.
The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust account will be used to publish my books and literature and to establish Temples throughout the world, specifically three temples are to be established, one each in Māyāpur, Vṛndāvana, and Jagannath Puri.
Since returning to America in 1967, Prabhupāda had often said he would stay permanently in America as the adopted son of his disciples. Now he revealed new plans. He spoke of going to India to preach and to establish large ISKCON temples. For the devotees, who based their activities mostly in small rented houses, Prabhupāda’s constructing cathedrallike buildings in India was inconceivable. In India, Prabhupāda said, he would teach his disciples how to preach and how to establish temples.
Prabhupāda picked a team, including two newly initiated sannyāsīs, to accompany him to India. In the future, he said, more disciples could join him, for India would become an important field for Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Prabhupāda wrote Satsvarūpa and Uddhava in Boston:
You are all my children, and I love my American boys and girls who are sent to me by my spiritual master and I have accepted them as my disciples. Before coming to your country I took sannyas in 1959. I was publishing B.T.G. since 1944. After taking sannyas I was more engaged in writing my books without any attempt to construct temples or to make disciples like my other God-brothers in India.
I was not very much interested in these matters because my Guru Maharaj liked very much publication of books than constructing big, big temples and creating some neophyte disciples. As soon as He saw that His neophyte disciples were increasing in number, He immediately decided to leave this world. To accept disciples means to take up the responsibility of absorbing the sinful reaction of life of the disciple.
At the present moment in our ISKCON campus politics and diplomacy has entered. Some of my beloved students on whom I counted very, very much have been involved in this matter influenced by Maya. As such there has been some activity which I consider as disrespectful. So I have decided to retire and divert attention to book writing and nothing more.
On July 31 Prabhupāda wrote Brahmānanda and Gargamuni, explaining why he was leaving for India.
In order to set example to my other Sannyasi students I am personally going to Japan with a party of three other Sannyasi students. Although it is beyond my physical condition, still I am going out so that you may learn the responsibility of Sannyas…
I am fervently appealing to you all not to create fracture in the solid body of the Society. Please work conjointly, without any personal ambition. That will help the cause.
It is the injunction of the Vedas that the Spiritual Master should not be treated as ordinary man even sometimes the Spiritual Master behaves like ordinary man. It is the duty of the disciple to accept Him as a Superhuman Man. In the beginning of your letter your comparison of the soldier and the commander is very appropriate. We are on the battlefield of Kurukshetra-one side Maya, the other side Kṛṣṇa. So the regulative principles of a battlefield, namely to abide by the order of the commander, must be followed. Otherwise it is impossible to direct the fighting capacity of the soldiers and thus defeat the opposing elements. Kindly therefore take courage. Let things be rightly done so that our mission may be correctly pushed forward to come out victorious.
Prabhupāda wrote other letters revealing his plans to travel to India.
Our life is very short. The Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is not meant for fulfilling one’s personal ambition, but it is a serious movement for the whole world. I am therefore going to the Eastern hemisphere, beginning from Japan. We are going four in a party and all of us are Sannyasis. In this old age I am going with this party just to set an example to my disciples who have taken recently the Sannyas order.
In preparation for Prabhupāda’s trip to India, Prabhupāda’s secretary, Devānanda, now Devānanda Swami, asked him questions from the immigration form, mechanically reading the questions and filling in the answers as Prabhupāda replied. “Have you ever committed any criminal acts?” Devānanda asked, reading from the form.
Prabhupāda’s eyes widened: “You are asking your spiritual master if he did anything criminal?” And he turned to Bhagavān: “You see, I am simply surrounded by people I cannot trust. It is a dangerous situation.”
Prabhupāda sat in his garden the night before his departure. “Don’t be disturbed,” he told the disciples with him. “We are not going backward. We are going forward. I will reveal everything to you. I will rectify.” His strong words and criticisms, he said, had been to enlighten his disciples, to warn them and show them the subtleties of māyā.
Karandhara mentioned that the temple leaders had arranged that only a few devotees go with Prabhupāda the next day to the airport. “Where did this idea come from?” Prabhupāda asked. “Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam in structs that when a saintly person leaves your company, all present should follow the departing vehicle as far as possible, until it is out of sight.”
So the next day the devotees all accompanied Prabhupāda, chanting and dancing behind him through the long corridors of Los Angeles International Airport. After many months with them, he was now leaving. Devotees cried.
Prabhupāda, dressed in new garments, his head freshly shaven, looked effulgent. He sat in the departure lounge, head held high, as grave and unfathomable as ever. He was embarking on a new adventure for Lord Caitanya. He was old and might not return, he said, but his disciples should continue the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement seriously. “If you follow this new schedule,” he said, “you will keep māyā from attacking.” And then he left them.
* * *
En route to Japan Prabhupāda stopped overnight in Hawaii. He stayed in a motel, and Gaurasundara and Govinda dāsī came to talk with him. Govinda dāsī wanted Prabhupāda to stay and install their Deities of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa in the temple. If Gaurasundara agreed, Prabhupāda said, he would stay a few days longer to perform the Deity installation. “Let me consult,” Gaurasundara replied. And the next day Prabhupāda flew on to Japan. From Japan Prabhupāda wrote Govinda dāsī.
It is very encouraging to learn that people inquired about me and were eager to hear my speaking. I could have stayed one or two more days, there was no hurry, but you did not make any arrangement. I personally proposed to Gaurasundara that I shall install the Deities, and he replied that, “Let me consult.” But he never informed me of the result of that consultation and with whom he had to consult. So this is the present situation in our ISKCON Society. It is clear that a great mischievous propaganda was lightly made and the effect has created a very unfavorable situation and I am very much afflicted in this connection. Still there is time to save the Society out of this mischievous propaganda and I hope all of you combine together to do the needful.
At the Tokyo airport Prabhupāda was greeted by executives of Dai Nippon Printing Company, the printers of Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the twenty thousand monthly copies of Back to Godhead. Prabhupāda and his entourage rode in a limousine, courtesy of Dai Nippon, to a small private apartment about forty-five minutes from the temple.
Prabhupāda had developed a severe cough and several other symptoms of ill health, due, he said, to his disciples’ behavior. Yet despite his illness he would talk for hours of his concern for ISKCON, especially with his traveling G.B.C. secretary, Tamāla Kṛṣṇa.
Soon after their arrival in Japan, Prabhupāda’s secretary received a disturbing call from a devotee attending the society-wide Janmāṣṭamī celebration at New Vrindaban. Four of the newly initiated sannyāsīs had arrived, the devotee said, and were teaching a strange philosophy. Devotees were confused. Prabhupāda had left America, the sannyāsīs were saying, because he had rejected his disciples. The sannyāsīs were blaming themselves and other disciples for not realizing that Prabhupāda was actually Kṛṣṇa!
When Prabhupāda heard this, he said, “That is why I did not go. I knew this would happen. This is impersonalism.” He defined the Māyāvāda (impersonal) misconception of the guru and Kṛṣṇa. If one says that the guru is God, or if the guru himself says that he is God, that is Māyāvāda philosophy.
For the Māyāvādīs, spiritual realization is realization of one’s identity with Brahman, the all-pervading spirit. Despite their austerities and their detachment from materialistic society, and despite their study of Vedānta-sūtra and the commentaries of Śaṅkara, they mistakenly think that Kṛṣṇa’s body, name, pastimes, service, and devotees are all facets of māyā, or illusion; therefore they are called Māyāvādīs. A Māyāvāda spiritual master does not reveal to his disciple the holy name of Kṛṣṇa, the holy pastimes of Kṛṣṇa, or the transcendental form of Kṛṣṇa, since the Māyāvādī considers all these māyā. Instead, the guru explains the oneness of all things, teaching the disciple that the concept of separate existence and ego is illusion. The Māyāvādīs sometimes compare the guru to a ladder. One uses the ladder to reach a higher position, but if the ladder is no longer needed one kicks it away.
Coughing intermittently and speaking with physical discomfort, Prabhupāda explained the Māyāvādīs’ dangerous misconceptions. The impersonalists held a cheap, mundane view of the guru, the guru’s worship, and the guru’s instructions. If one says that the guru is God and God is not a person, then it follows logically that the guru has no eternal personal relationship with his disciples. Ultimately the disciple will become equal to the guru, or in other words he will realize that he, too, is God.
Arguing from the Vedic scripture, Prabhupāda refuted the Māyāvādīs’ claims. The individual souls, he said, are Kṛṣṇa’s eternal servants, and this master-servant relationship is eternal. Service to Kṛṣṇa, therefore, is spiritual activity. Only by serving the guru, however, can a disciple fully revive his eternal relationship with Kṛṣṇa. The Vedic literature gives paramount importance to serving the spiritual master. He is the representative of God, the direct, manifest link to God. No one can approach God but through him. Lord Kṛṣṇa says, “Those who are directly My devotees are actually not My devotees. But those who are devotees of My servant (the spiritual master) are factually My devotees.”
For hours Prabhupāda drilled his disciples. He would pose a Māyāvāda argument, then ask his disciples to defeat it. If they failed, he would defeat it himself. He stressed that the relationship between the spiritual master and disciple was eternal-not because the guru was Kṛṣṇa, but because he was the confidential servant of Kṛṣṇa, eternally. A bona fide spiritual master never says that he is Kṛṣṇa or that Kṛṣṇa is impersonal.
The devotees began to understand how the offenses of minimizing Śrīla Prabhupāda’s position were products of Māyāvāda philosophy. For the Māyāvādī, to increase devotion to the guru is unnecessary; if individual relationships are all ultimately illusion, why increase the illusion? If the master-servant relationship is ultimately illusion, then the less the disciple sees his guru as master and himself as servant, the more he is advancing. The Māyāvāda philosophy was a subtle and insidious poison.
At least Prabhupāda had been spared the pain of being personally present in New Vrindaban to witness the Māyāvāda rantings of certain of his disciples and the appalling display of ignorance of most of the others. He had his small entourage and was on his way to preach in India. While here in Tokyo, he would try to obtain many Back to Godhead magazines and Kṛṣṇa books to take with him.
Prabhupāda observed Janmāṣṭamī at his apartment by having disciples read aloud to him from Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead throughout the day. If they kept reading, he said, they might be able to finish the book in one day. The devotees had decorated Prabhupāda’s room with leaves and flowers strung from the ceiling and along the walls, and Prabhupāda sat on a thin mattress behind his low desk, hearing the pastimes of Kṛṣṇa. At nine P.M., after fasting all day, the devotees were still reading to him when he asked if they would be able to finish the book by midnight. The devotees replied that they would not.
“Then you stop, and I will read.” Prabhupāda opened a Sanskrit volume of the Tenth Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and, for the next two hours, chanted the Sanskrit verses. “You cannot understand the Sanskrit,” he said, “but I know you can feel. The verses are so potent that just by hearing one can be purified.”
During the reading, Kīrtanānanda Swami and Kārttikeya Swami cooked a feast in the kitchen. At midnight the devotees served Śrīla Prabhupāda the Janmāṣṭamī feast. Taking only a few bites, he watched his disciples eat heartily.
The next day was Vyāsa-pūjā, Prabhupāda’s seventy-fourth birthday, and he went to the Tokyo ISKCON temple. The temple was only two rooms-one for living, one for worshiping-with Japanese grass mats on the floor. Prabhupāda sat to the right of the altar, looking at Lord Jagannātha, while his disciples sat on the floor before him, singing Gurv-aṣṭaka prayers glorifying the spiritual master. None of them, however, knew exactly how to conduct the Vyāsa-pūjā ceremony, and after a while they ended the kīrtana. In the painfully awkward moments that followed, the devotees realized they were supposed to do something special. But what?
Prabhupāda appeared angry: “Don’t you have puṣpa-yātrā? Isn’t prasādam ready?” The devotees looked at one another. “This is not Vyāsa-pūjā,” Prabhupāda said. “You have not been to Vyāsa-pūjā before? Don’t you know how to celebrate the Vyāsa-pūjā, how to honor the spiritual master?” One of the sannyāsīs began to cry. “Tamāla Kṛṣṇa,” Prabhupāda said, “didn’t you see how I observed my Guru Mahārāja’s birthday? Where is puṣpa?” (Puṣpa is Sanskrit for “flowers.”)
Puṣpa? Puṣpa? Tamāla Kṛṣṇa decided Prabhupāda must mean puṣpānna, a fancy rice dish. “I’m not sure,” he said.
“What kind of Vyāsa-pūjā is this with no puṣpa?” Prabhupāda asked.
“We can get some, Prabhupāda,” Tamāla Kṛṣṇa offered.
Tamāla Kṛṣṇa grabbed Sudāmā. “Prabhupāda wants prasādam. He wants puṣpānna rice.” They ran into the kitchen and hurriedly started the rice.
Meanwhile, in the temple the devotees struggled through their version of a Vyāsa-pūjā ceremony. Kīrtanānanda Swami stood and began to read aloud from the introduction of Kṛṣṇa, the Reservoir of Pleasure, which included a short biography of Prabhupāda. But Prabhupāda interrupted, scolding his disciples for concocting and for acting improperly. “If you don’t know,” he said, “then why didn’t you ask me how to do this properly?”
The Japanese guests present didn’t understand English, but they could see the spiritual master was disturbed. Prabhupāda explained that in devotional service everything must be done properly, according to the paramparā method, without concocting. “We will observe Vyāsa-pūjā again tomorrow,” he said. “Come to my room. I will tell you what to do.”
The next day, after a simple, traditional ceremony, the devotees felt ecstatic. Afterward they agreed: when one displeases his spiritual master, there is no happiness; but as soon as the spiritual master is pleased, the disciple becomes blissful.
The Janmāṣṭamī-Vyāsa-pūjā festival in New Vrindaban had become a nightmare. Hundreds of devotees had converged there from the East Coast, with many others from California and even Europe. They had come for a blissful festival but instead had found Śrīla Prabhupāda’s newly initiated sannyāsīs expounding a devastating philosophy.
The sannyāsīs, speaking informally to groups here and there, would explain how the devotees had offended Prabhupāda and how he had subsequently withdrawn his mercy. The sannyāsīs revealed their special insights that Prabhupāda was actually God, that none of his disciples had recognized him as such, and that all of them, therefore, beginning with the sannyāsīs, were guilty of minimizing his position. And that was why Prabhupāda had left for India; he had “withdrawn his mercy” from his disciples.
The devotees were devastated. None of them knew what to say in reply. The sannyāsīs, by their preaching, had projected gloom everywhere, which was proper, they said; everyone should feel guilty and realize that they had lost the grace of their spiritual master. No use trying to cheer one another up by chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa or eating a feast; everyone should accept the bitter medicine.
Although Prabhupāda had given his disciples three volumes of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, as well as Bhagavad-gītā As It Is, The Nectar of Devotion, Teachings of Lord Caitanya, and other literature, none of the devotees were well-versed in them. Many devotees wondered if the philosophy the sannyāsīs were preaching was correct, but none of them knew enough of the scriptures to immediately refute it. The devotees turned to the new G.B.C. men, Prabhupāda’s appointed leaders and guardians of ISKCON. The G.B.C., along with other senior devotees, began carefully searching through Prabhupāda’s books to ascertain exactly what he had said about the position of the spiritual master.
Then Hayagrīva announced that a letter had just arrived from Śrīla Prabhupāda in Tokyo. As soon as the devotees all gathered under the pavilion roof to hear, Hayagrīva read aloud: “My dear Sons and Daughters…” and then Prabhupāda listed almost all the New Vrindaban residents. The devotees immediately felt a wave of hope. Just to hear Prabhupāda say “My dear Sons and Daughters” was a great relief.
Hayagrīva continued to read: “Please accept my blessings.”
Prabhupāda hadn’t rejected them!
The letter went on to say that Śrīla Prabhupāda was pleased with the work of the New Vrindaban devotees, and he promised to come and visit them. Soon he would send for other devotees to join him in India, he said. As he described what preaching in India would be like, the devotees became caught up in the momentum of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s preaching spirit. They cheered. They felt blissful.
Then Prabhupāda specifically referred to the difficulty facing ISKCON: “Purge out of New Vrindaban the non-Vrindaban atmosphere that has entered.” His letter turned the tide against the Māyāvāda teachings.
The G.B.C. then called a meeting of all disciples in the temple room. Reading selections from The Nectar of Devotion, they established that the spiritual master, although not God, should be honored as much as God because he is the confidential servant of God. Several senior devotees spoke their heart’s convictions, citing examples from their association with Prabhupāda to prove that he had not rejected them-he was too kind. The sannyāsīs might feel rejected because of their own guilt, someone said, but they should not project their guilt on others.
The false teachings, however, had dealt a blow from which many devotees would need time to recover. Newcomers at the festival were especially unsettled. But the cloud of gloom that had hung over New Vrindaban now lifted, thanks to Śrīla Prabhupāda’s timely letter.
The sannyāsīs admitted their confusion. The G.B.C. then phoned Kīrtanānanda Swami in Tokyo and told him that Prabhupāda’s letter had resolved most of the problems, but that the sannyāsīs still held their misconceptions. Hearing this, Prabhupāda felt his suspicions confirmed.
Certain disciples had been contaminated by the poisonous philosophy from India. Consequently, material desires for power and control had overwhelmed them, even in Prabhupāda’s presence.
Turning to Tamāla Kṛṣṇa, Sudāmā, and the three sannyāsīs with him, Prabhupāda asked what they thought should be done. With the previous day’s philosophic drilling still sharp in their minds, they suggested that anyone teaching Māyāvāda philosophy should not be allowed to stay within ISKCON. Prabhupāda agreed. If these sannyāsīs continued to preach Māyāvāda philosophy, he said, they should not be allowed to stay in his temples but should go out and “preach” on their own. Tamāla Kṛṣṇa conveyed this message to the G.B.C. in the U.S., and Prabhupāda was satisfied that the problem would be adjusted. He had created his G.B.C. to handle such matters.
On September 2 Prabhupāda wrote Haṁsadūta in Germany.
Regarding the poisonous effect in our Society, it is a fact and I know where from this poison tree has sprung up and how it affected practically the whole Society in a very dangerous form. But it does not matter. Prahlad Maharaj was administered poison, but it did not act. Similarly Lord Kṛṣṇa and the Pāṇḍavas were administered poison and it did not act. I think in the same parampara system that the poison administered to our Society will not act if some of our students are as good as Prahlad Maharaj. I have therefore given the administrative power to the Governing Body Commission.
To Hayagrīva in New Vrindaban Prabhupāda wrote,
I am very glad to know that the G.B.C. is actively working to rectify the subversive situation which has been weakening the very foundation of our Society. All you members of the G.B.C. please always remain very vigilant in this connection so that our Society’s growth may go on unimpeded by such poisonous elements. Your preaching in New Vrindaban as well as in tensified study of our literatures with seriousness is very much encouraging. Please continue this program with vigour and reestablish the solidity of our movement.
From the beginning I was strongly against the impersonalists, and all my books stressed on this point. So my oral instruction as well as my books are all at your service. Now you G.B.C. consult them and get a clear and strong idea. Then there will be no more disturbance. The four Sannyasis may bark, but still the caravan will pass.
Prabhupāda wrote Satsvarūpa in Boston,
I am very glad to know that you are not affected by the propaganda of the Sannyasis that I am displeased with all the members of the Society-I am never displeased with any member.
The worst was over, Prabhupāda thought. For months this problem had upset him and his writing. Relentlessly he had instructed his disciples, for their own benefit and for the benefit of his movement. The disease had taken its toll, and that was unfortunate. But the devotees were being forced to turn to Prabhupāda’s books and apply their teachings, and that was the positive outcome. Now they should clearly understand the position of the spiritual master and never again be led astray by false philosophies or sentiment.
Prabhupāda’s main business in Tokyo was with Dai Nippon. Considering him an important author and a venerable religious monk, they had provided him a car and apartment. Each morning they sent a private car to drive Prabhupāda to Imperial Palace Park, where he could take his morning walk. Prabhupāda liked the neatly planted trees and gravel walks, and he appreciated the habits of the Japanese people. As he would pass, elderly ladies would bow to him from the waist, and others would fold their hands respectfully, acknowledging his being a holy man.
On the morning of Prabhupāda’s meeting with Dai Nippon, he came out of his apartment with Tamāla Kṛṣṇa and Devānanda Mahārāja and got into the back seat of a Dai Nippon company car. The car proceeded through the early-morning streets, and Prabhupāda chanted his Gāyatrī mantra silently.
A Dai Nippon junior executive escorted Prabhupāda and his two disciples into an elevator and up to a spacious room with a long conference table. Prabhupāda’s guide cordially offered him a seat at the table, and Prabhupāda sat down, with Tamāla Kṛṣṇa and Devānanda Mahārāja on either side. Soon there entered Dai Nippon’s six top executives, including the corporation president. Each stood behind his respective chair, and each in turn, beginning with the president, bowed slightly from the waist and presented his calling card. Addressing Prabhupāda as “Your Divine Grace,” they introduced themselves, announced their posts, and took their seats.
“We are very honored to have you here,” the president began. “You are a great religious author, and it is our great privilege to be publishing your books.” After the president had spoken briefly, tea was served. Prabhupāda requested hot milk. Conversation was informal, and Prabhupāda spoke of the importance of his mission and his Kṛṣṇa conscious literature. No one discussed business, however, and the Dai Nippon executives soon excused themselves. They would meet again the next morning.
When Prabhupāda was again alone in the room with his disciples and the junior executive who had escorted him, he asked the young Japanese, “So what is your goal in life?” By way of answer, the man gathered up all the business cards that lay scattered before Prabhupāda on the table and stacked them, with the president’s on top, then the first vice-president’s, and so on, putting his own card in its place on the bottom. He then dramatically removed his card from the bottom of the stack and slapped it on top-a graphic answer to Prabhupāda’s question.
Prabhupāda smiled. To become president of the company, he said, was temporary. All material life was temporary. He explained on the basis of Bhagavad-gītā that the body was temporary and that the self was eternal. All the identities and positions people hankered after were based on the bodily conception of life and would one day be frustrated. The purpose of life, therefore, was not to become the temporary president of a temporary corporation within the temporary material world, but to realize the eternal soul’s relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead and gain eternal life. Prabhupāda spoke for almost half an hour while the man listened politely.
At the next day’s meeting, negotiations began. The conference room was different, the table smaller, and three of Dai Nippon’s international sales representatives sat opposite Prabhupāda. Prabhupāda presented his price: $1.35 per book.
“Oh, Your Divine Grace,” one of the salesmen exclaimed, “it is not possible for us to give this price. We will lose too heavily. We cannot afford it.” They explained their position, quoting paper costs and other expenses.
Prabhupāda began to speak about his mission. ISKCON’s book distribution, he said, was a charitable work for the benefit of all humanity. ISKCON distributed these books for whatever donations people were able to make, and he received no profit or royalties. It was spiritual education, the most valuable literature. “In any case,” Prabhupāda said in closing, “you deal with my secretary in this regard.” And he sat back in his chair. The burden was on Tamāla Kṛṣṇa.
Tamāla Kṛṣṇa began by saying that Prabhupāda had been too kind, because ISKCON could actually never pay such a high price. He then quoted a price forty cents lower per book than Prabhupāda’s quote. “Mr. Tamāla,”-the salesmen were again upset-“please reconsider your point.” A polite argument ensued.
Suddenly Prabhupāda interrupted, presenting himself as an impartial third party. He said he would settle the difference that had arisen between his secretary and the salesmen. “I have heard both sides,” he said, “and I feel that the price should be $1.25 per book. That’s all.”
“Yes, Your Divine Grace,” the salesmen agreed, “that is right.”
After further negotiations, Prabhupāda agreed on a contract that included a reprint of Volume One and a first printing of Volume Two of Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, two issues of Back to Godhead, a Hindi issue of Back to Godhead, and a new book, Śrī Īśopaniṣad. ISKCON had to pay only $5,000 cash, and Dai Nippon would deliver everything on credit.
Prabhupāda held a feast at his apartment for the Dai Nippon executives, who especially liked the samosās and pakorās. They presented Prabhupāda with a watch and continued to see to his comfort during his stay in Tokyo. Prabhupāda also met a Canadian-born Japanese boy, Bruce, who was seriously interested in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Prabhupāda invited him to come and join him in India, and the boy eagerly agreed.
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