Srīla Prabhupāda was meditating on constructing his Krishna-Balaram Mandir. In April of 1972 he asked his disciple Surabhi, who had drawn the plans for the Bombay center, to execute drawings, basing the design on Indian renaissance architecture. Prabhupāda liked the Govindajī temple, located near the original Govindajī temple constructed by Rūpa Gosvāmī. He liked its open courtyard surrounded by many arches and its front steps leading up to the Deity darśana area. He suggested that some features of the temple be incorporated into his temple. Surabhi, with the assistance of a Vṛndāvana architect, executed the plans, and Prabhupāda approved.
This will be the grandest temple in Vrndavana. Many high-class gentlemen in Delhi who are also devotees will relish the chance to live with us on weekends and it will be for them just like Vaikuntha. You must construct something wonderful. Otherwise it will be a discredit to you American boys. That will absolve the position of America and India. And this Vṛndāvana project is one of the most important of ours in ISKCON.
Although Guru dāsa had been careful to keep in touch with Prabhupāda by mail, he had neglected certain important matters in Vrndavana, such as digging a well and getting city approval-things Prabhupāda had repeatedly asked for. In the summer of 1972 Prabhupāda wrote,
From the beginning I said I simply wanted a temple built in Vrndavana just like Govindaji’s temple. And there have been so many letters, but that has not been done. Never mind, now I like that plan of Surabhi’s.
Two weeks later Prabhupāda again wrote Guru dāsa on the same point.
I wanted a temple like Govindaji. Is it so difficult that for the last six months you have consulted so many engineers? Any ordinary engineer could draw up the papers and get it passed. There has been so much unnecessary correspondence.
To build a temple in Vṛndāvana should not be so difficult, Prabhupāda thought, and he became impatient with the delays. Concerned that the devotees and architects not make the building too costly, he said that they should go ahead with the plans he had approved, even if the building were to be a little cheaper than in the original plan. He was concerned that a competent disciple oversee the work so that ISKCON didn’t get cheated.
As early as April of 1972, Prabhupāda had asked that the Deities in Vṛndāvana be Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma. “Kṛṣṇa may be black, Balarāma of white, and the pose in the back of the Back to Godhead magazine is very nice.” He asked that a sign be put out front announcing, “Shri Krishna Balaram Mandir.”
One reason Prabhupāda chose Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma as the presiding Deities was that most of the Vṛndāvana temples were of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa; ISKCON’s temple would be unique in Vṛndāvana. Another reason was that the ISKCON land was located in Ramaṇa-reti, an area of forest and soft sands where Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma had enjoyed Their childhood pastimes five thousand years ago. To celebrate and worship the youthful sports of Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma in Ramaṇa-reti was fitting.
Although thousands of years had passed since Kṛṣṇa’s advent in Vṛndāvana, the same atmosphere and many of the same sights and sounds still prevailed. Peacocks ran across the sands or sat on rooftops or in trees. The cooing and chirping of pigeons and cuckoos and the sweep of the parrots’ green wings were eternal sounds and sights of the Vṛndāvana forest. In Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead Prabhupāda had described how Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma and Their cowherd friends played in Ramaṇa-reti and similar places.
“My dear friends, just see how this river bank is extremely beautiful be cause of its pleasing atmosphere. And just see how the blooming lotuses are attracting bees and birds by their aroma. The humming and chirping of the bees in the forest is echoing throughout the beautiful trees in the forest. Also, here the sands are clean and soft. Therefore, this must be considered the best place for our sporting and pastimes.”
According to Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, the playing of the cowherd boys with Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma as friends in Vṛndāvana is the highest spiritual realization, far beyond the ordinary religionist’s understanding of God. The Supreme Truth, whom some meditated upon as impersonal Brahman, others worshiped as the Supreme Almighty, and still others considered an ordinary living entity, was the eternal, loving friend of the cowherd boys of Vṛndāvana. Only after many, many lifetimes of pious activities had they become eligible to join in the loving pastimes of Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma in Ramaṇa-reti.
In establishing a temple of Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma, Prabhupāda wanted to offer the peaceful, transcendental atmosphere of Ramaṇa-reti to all people, including visitors from abroad, commuters from Delhi, and his own disciples. Already he had received a letter from a major international travel agency requesting that he provide accommodations for tourists so that the ISKCON guesthouse could be included in official tours of spiritual India. People were always coming to India to tour the holy places; unfortunately most of the places were unauthorized or overrun by cheaters. ISKCON’s center, therefore, would be very important. Prabhupāda wrote,
Have a European preaching center, and try to enlist all the tourists and hippies who come to Vrndavana. Give them nice prasadam and engage them in chanting, cleaning the temple, and reading our books, give them all facility for becoming devotees.
There was another particular significance in Prabhupāda’s choosing Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma as the central object of worship in his Vṛndāvana temple. Lord Balarāma is the first expansion from Lord Kṛṣṇa, and in His incarnation of Saṅkarṣaṇa, He upholds all the universes. The Vaiṣṇavas, therefore, worship Balarāma for spiritual strength. “You can pray to Lord Balarāma,” Prabhupāda said, “to help you in your deficiency.” As the source of spiritual strength, Lord Balarāma is also known as the original spiritual master.
As in Prabhupāda’s other large ISKCON temples, there would be three altars, and beside Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma would stand the Deities of Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityānanda. Lord Caitanya is Kṛṣṇa Himself, and Lord Nityānanda is Lord Balarāma, a fact the Krishna-Balaram Mandir would proclaim to the world. Lord Nityānanda is especially referred to as the kṛpā-avatāra, the form of God most merciful to the fallen conditioned souls. Thus the worship of Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma as Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityānanda would emphasize distributing Kṛṣṇa consciousness to others. Prabhupāda also wanted to install Deities of Rādhā-Śyāmasundara along with Their two attendant gopīs, Lalitā and Viśākhā.
Śrīla Prabhupāda could not possibly stay full-time in Vṛndāvana, and yet whenever he was away, progress slowed. Guru dāsa, the temple president, had little money and little expertise in managing finances. Prabhupāda called him “Damn Cheap Bābu,” a name given by Indians to Westerners who think they have won a “damn cheap” bargain, although they are actually being cheated.
Since Prabhupāda did not trust his devotees’ spending habits, he arranged for a complicated system whereby he would have to approve all ISKCON Vṛndāvana checks, even while traveling. When Guru dāsa wanted to spend, Tejās, the Delhi temple president, would come to Vṛndāvana and approve the expenses. Then a check would be made out and mailed to Śrīla Prabhupāda for his signature. When the check returned to Delhi, Tejās would add his own signature and give the check to Guru dāsa.
Although Prabhupāda generally preferred not to burden himself with managing his temples, he insisted onsupervising all spending in Vṛndāvana, down to the last rupee. But even with such controls, Guru dāsa would misspend money, taking funds earmarked for construction and using them for other temple purposes-usually getting cheated by the merchants.
After Prabhupāda’s 1972 visit during Kārttika, he was away from Vṛndāvana for an entire year, directing things through correspondence. With the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement growing quickly on all continents, he had many places to visit. Still, his three main projects-Bombay, Vṛndāvana, and Māyāpur-were his major subjects of correspondence and his greatest financial investments.
One reason he did not come more often to Vṛndāvana was that Guru dāsa’s letters had been very optimistic, promising a temple opening by Janmāṣṭamī 1973. Surabhi was in charge of the construction and knew well that the work was going too slowly, yet Guru dāsa would write to Prabhupāda, painting a picture of imminent completion of the construction and opening of the mandira. Prabhupāda was enlivened to hear the good news, and he held Guru dāsa to his promise, though with reservations.
If you can finish the work by Janmastami next, that would be a very great credit for you, and I shall come from any part of the world just to install the deity. But now you must work very, very hard to make good your promise to me, otherwise I shall be very disappointed and become very, very angry upon you.
Prabhupāda warned the devotees in Vṛndāvana that they would have to work diligently, finishing before the monsoon season arrived in June if they were actually to fulfill their promise.
But anyone visiting the construction site in Vṛndāvana could understand that the building would never be finished in time. The temple area consisted of foundation lines and steel rods. Only three or four devotees were living there, struggling to organize laborers and to obtain funds and building materials. That summer was extremely hot, and each day the devotees were forced to spend the afternoon lying down in their huts, exhausted from the heat. Prices for cement and steel had doubled. Yet Prabhupāda continued to respond to Guru dāsa’s glowing reports, encouraging him to continue with determination.
But Prabhupāda could also read between the lines, and he cautioned Guru dāsa, “I simply want to see that the work is being carried on vigorously, and the money shall not be used to pay bad bills. The money should simply be used for construction.” Talk of a temple opening by Janmāṣṭamī gradually disappeared, but Prabhupāda did not express his disappointment. Rather, he continued to encourage and push the devotees onward, asking that at least his own room be completed, so that when he visited in October of 1973, he would have a place to stay.
When Prabhupāda arrived, however, his quarters were far from completion, and he had to live for a week in the home of a Vṛndāvana friend. He did not remove Guru dāsa, but he tried to teach him better management and accounting. He also wrote to his India G.B.C. secretary, Tamāla Kṛṣṇa Goswami, to get more funds for the Vṛndāvana project.
So I have arrived here in Vrindaban, but so far the project is concerned, why the money is so irregular? Tejiyas reports that in the past three months you have sent Rs. 5,000/- and since then nothing. How will the project go on?
Inspired by Prabhupāda’s presence, the devotees rallied. They held a little festival on the land, erecting a tent and decorating the foundation posts with banana trees and flowers. For several evenings Prabhupāda lectured before a crowd of about fifty local people sitting on folding chairs in between the foundation lines.
Prabhupāda was determined in his desire. He wanted a temple as much as ever, and the small band of disciples in Vṛndāvana were convinced of their mission to erect that temple. They knew they were building a temple not merely as their own local project but as something very important for the whole world. Prabhupāda set the next Janmāṣṭamī, August 1974, as the new grand opening.
Surabhi had considerable architectural and construction experience, but he had never worked with such an ornate building before. He doubted, therefore, whether they could finish in a year’s time. Tejās wondered whether they could raise the funds in time. Guru dāsa was becoming more competent, and he assured Prabhupāda that they would meet their deadline.
Subala had wanted to stay in Vṛndāvana, but only on the condition that he be relieved of management, free to chant and wander in the groves. But he had long since departed for the West. Those devotees who remained committed to Vṛndāvana knew that, at least for the present, the real spiritual path in Vṛndāvana was one of hard labor, anxiety, combating the elements, and working as pure instruments in the service of Kṛṣṇa’s pure devotee.
In February 1974, as Prabhupāda was traveling eastward from Los Angeles, he wrote Guru dāsa that he would like to come to Vṛndāvana as soon as his residential rooms were completed-and he asked when that would be. Guru dāsa consulted Surabhi, who said one month. Trying to be more positive, Guru dāsa invited Prabhupāda to come and move into his new quarters in three weeks, but Śrīla Prabhupāda telegrammed back that he would be coming in two!
At that time Prabhupāda’s house had no roof or floor, and only portions of the outer walls. Surabhi began a marathon construction effort and hired two work crews, one for day and one for night. Two weeks nonstop they worked, drastically cutting corners. They plastered and painted simultaneously, and as a result the walls remained wet. A few days before Prabhupāda’s arrival they put down a temporary floor: bricks, covered with cow dung, covered with rugs, covered with sheets. The weather was cold, and the house had no heating.
The morning Prabhupāda arrived, the devotees all gathered with him as he sat happily before his desk, praising their achievement. He said if they could keep working like this, they could finish everything before Janmāṣṭamī.
Almost immediately upon his arrival Prabhupāda began to manifest the symptoms of a cold, but he would not hear of moving to another place. “This is my first house,” he said. “Now I am going to stay here.”
The large brick-and-stone room was simple and austere and remained dark during most of the day, but Prabhupāda considered it his Vṛndāvana residence. Soon local distinguished visitors began calling on him, and he received them warmly, discussing Kṛṣṇa consciousness hour after hour in his room. In the evenings he would lecture there and hold a kīrtana.
Prabhupāda had a problem to face in Vṛndāvana. Guru dāsa had informed him that Mr. S. wanted to take back fifty feet of the donated land, claiming the construction was not going quickly enough and that he had never intended to give the front portion. He was thinking of using it for shops, maybe even a petrol pump. Prabhupāda was alarmed. For Mr. S. to take back the front part of the property would ruin the temple scheme and make a farce of the gift. What good was land without proper access to it?
On further inquiry Prabhupāda learned that Guru dāsa had not yet received the actual deed. Prabhupāda was greatly disturbed, yet he proceeded calmly and intently. Guru dāsa, he said, should immediately secure the deed from the registrar and construct a high brick wall around the property. Prabhupāda’s secretary wired Mr. S., who was away from Vṛndāvana: “HARE KRSNA. PRABHUPĀDA NOW IN VRINDABAN UNTIL THE 13TH. NOW SETTLE UP FRONT PIECE AS PROMISED.”
Mr. S. wired his reply: “FRONT PART OF LAND WILL BE USED FOR OTHER PURPOSES AS DECIDED EARLIER. LETTER FOLLOWS.” Suddenly it seemed that Prabhupāda had another Bombay case on his hands.
Mr. S.’s action, however, confirmed Prabhupāda’s urgency for completing the construction. Had the land been already walled and the temple built, there would have been no question of Mr. S.’s taking the land back. Prabhupāda’s followers could now see clearly his reasons for pushing them. He had been vigilant, even heavy and critical, but for good reasons. Māyā’s opposition to Kṛṣṇa consciousness was always present, so that if the devotees let up for even a moment, they could suffer great losses. The question “Why hurry? Why be so anxious to build a temple right away?” should never have been asked. It was the question of the naive, the lazy. As long as the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement had no temple in Vṛndāvana, the threat would exist that there might never be a temple.
Prabhupāda wrote to a friend in Calcutta,
This statement of K. has given me much concern. He said personally to me that under dictation of Srimate Radharani he has given the land to us in charity. We have invested already lacs of rupees for constructing a temple, and now if he uses the front portion for other purposes there will be great damage to the view of the temple… Kindly see Mr. N. S., brother of K., and settle this up so we can go on in our progressive construction work. Kindly treat this as very urgent.
In Mr. S.’s absence from Vṛndāvana, Prabhupāda took the opportunity to speak with Mr. S.’s brothers as well as with Mr. S.’s lawyers. What had been given in the name of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, he informed them, could not be taken back. Mr. S.’s associates agreed, at least for the moment, that Mr. S. had no substantial position. Meanwhile, the laborers were working quickly to build a twelve-foot-high wall around the property.
It was four A.M. Prabhupāda sat in the cold darkness, with a small desk lamp shining before him. Having risen from bed at two and come into his main room to dictate Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam purports, he now sat silently. He wore a wool knit hat pulled over his ears, a sweater, and a gray wool cādar around his shoulders.
On the other side of the double doors sat his servant, peeking in to see what his spiritual master was doing. On Prabhupāda’s last visit to the United States, he had acquired a new secretary-servant, Satsvarūpa dāsa Goswami. Despite the cold, Prabhupāda’s new assistant was happy to be in Vṛndāvana and so intimately situated close to his spiritual master.
Prabhupāda rang his bell. The servant jumped up, opened the double doors, and entered the room. In the far corner of the large room, seated at the desk, he saw Prabhupāda, looking grave and mystical, his beautifully intense eyes sparkling. As Satsvarūpa offered obeisances, he thought of his great fortune in being there with his spiritual master. When he sat up, he saw Prabhupāda nod slightly, and he felt that Prabhupāda was acknowledging his servant’s good fortune.
Sitting on the floor on the other side of the desk, Satsvarūpa faced Śrīla Prabhupāda. In awe and reverence he tensed, prepared to do whatever Prabhupāda requested, yet fearful that the request might be something he wouldn’t know how to do.
“Get the Kṛṣṇa book, Volume Two,” Prabhupāda said. His servant ran and got it from the shelf, returned, and again sat down.
“Read the story of King Nṛga,” Prabhupāda said. Though terse, Prabhupāda’s commands were complete. His servant paused, wondering if there was anything else. He opened the book, then hesitated. “Out loud?” he asked. Prabhupāda nodded, and his servant began to read aloud.
Soon, however, Satsvarūpa became puzzled as to why Prabhupāda was having him do this so early in the morning when he was usually dictating Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. As Satsvarūpa read aloud, Prabhupāda sat motionless, giving no indication that he was pleased, or even listening. In that silence, Satsvarūpa became very aware of his own voice reading, and he listened intently to the story.
King Nṛga, the story explained, gave many cows in charity to the brāhmaṇas. One day, however, one cow wandered back and entered among King Nṛga’s herd, and so the king unknowingly gave it in charity to another brāhmaṇa. But as the new owner was leading the cow away, the former owner returned to claim it. An argument ensued between the two brāhmaṇas. Coming before King Nṛga, they charged that he had taken back a cow previously given in charity-a great sin. The puzzled King Nṛga very humbly offered each brāhmaṇa one hundred thousand cows in exchange for this one cow. Neither accepted, however, since according to Manu’s law, a brāhmaṇa’s property can’t be taken under any condition, even by the government. Consequently, both brāhmaṇas left in anger, and as a result King Nṛga had to take his next birth as a lizard.
As Prabhupāda’s servant read on, he suddenly got the feeling that Prabhupāda had asked him to read this story to expose the cheating of his own servant. In a panic, he tried to think of how he had committed the offense of stealing from his spiritual master. He couldn’t think of anything wrong-until he recalled having taken a pair of socks which had been given to Prabhupāda as a gift. Prabhupāda was always receiving gifts wherever he went, and it was his practice, after collecting socks and scarves and so on, to give them to his disciples. Prabhupāda would use only a fraction of the things given to him. So because it was cold in Vṛndāvana, Satsvarūpa, who had no socks, had taken one inexpensive-looking pair that he was sure his spiritual master would never want to use. He had assumed that Prabhupāda would not object, but now his cheating was indirectly exposed.
After the story was completed, Prabhupāda remained silent, as did his servant. “Perhaps Prabhupāda is sleeping,” Satsvarūpa thought, though he dared not say anything or even move. They both sat motionless, Satsvarūpa looking down at the book and sometimes up at Prabhupāda, waiting for an indication.
Five minutes passed. Finally Prabhupāda said, “Now take this chapter and type it up.” His servant acknowledged the instruction and got up to leave. But still it wasn’t clear. Why had he read the story, and why type it? Prabhupāda then spoke again. “Now I want to dictate one letter.” Satsvarūpa had a notepad with him, and he sat down and immediately began writing Prabhupāda’s words.
The letter was to Mr. S., and Prabhupāda referred to Mr. S.’s donation of the land and to his desire to take back the front fifty feet. He reminded Mr. S. that, according to the original agreement, he had given the entire land with the sanction of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. How could he say that now he was taking it back? Mr. S. should please reconsider what he was proposing. In this connection Prabhupāda was enclosing the story from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam of King Nṛga. Mr. S. should read it and consider the implications.
Prabhupāda’s servant felt relieved. But he also felt that his guilt was valid and that he should be wary of becoming too familiar with his spiritual master’s possessions. And he had learned another lesson as well: his own viewpoint of Prabhupāda was entirely subjective. Although he had been with Prabhupāda, he had not correctly understood Prabhupāda’s thoughts and motives. He felt that perhaps he was not the only disciple who sometimes made that mistake. One may try to comprehend the many aspects of Śrīla Prabhupāda, but one should not expect to understand completely. Even G.B.C. secretaries and other leading devotees who were right with Prabhupāda in his dealings could not know what Prabhupāda was thinking. Satsvarūpa Mahārāja decided that it was best to always follow Śrīla Prabhupāda’s instructions, and going back to the adjoining room, he began typing the story of King Nṛga.
At sunrise Prabhupāda stepped out of his house onto the dusty lane, and the devotees of ISKCON Vṛndāvana joined him on his morning walk. As he walked he began saying that one of the devotees had complained that the electricity was always going off. The devotee had said that India was advanced in spiritual knowledge and the West in material knowledge and that the two should combine. Prabhupāda agreed. “Yes,” he said, “that is my mission. To combine them.”
Prabhupāda reached the Chhatikara road in front of the property and began walking down the middle of the road in the direction of Delhi. Large nīm trees lined the road. “The material side of life is also necessary,” Prabhupāda continued. “In the West, even for shaving they have a machine. This is very good, but it is also being misused. It is all for the itching sensation, sex, which is insignificant and abominable. The whole intelligence is being employed like the dog’s or cat’s.”
Prabhupāda paused, and a devotee asked, “Prabhupāda, how can we understand that Vṛndāvana is Kṛṣṇa’s abode? There seems to be so much contamination in Vṛndāvana.”
“This is because your senses are impure,” said Prabhupāda. “But when your eyes are smeared with the salve of love, then you can see Vṛndāvana. Don’t judge Vṛndāvana by this external manifestation.”
As Prabhupāda walked along the road, many persons greeted him and his disciples, calling, “Jaya Rādhe!” “Hare Kṛṣṇa!” Some even stepped out of their shoes and prostrated themselves before Prabhupāda, who returned their respects with folded palms, nodding his head, and saying, “Hare Kṛṣṇa.”
The tightly gathered group walking in the cold morning air passed fields, āśramas, and groves. They heard the singing of many varieties of birds: sparrows, parrots, cuckoos, pigeons, and peacocks. Sugarcane stood high and ready for harvest. As Prabhupāda walked farther, the large nīm trees gave way to small thorny acacia trees, and herds of cows and buffalo grazed in the fields. For half an hour Prabhupāda continued. Then, turning, he retraced his route.
On the roadside he passed a man dressed in the simple white cloth of a bābājī, warming himself before a fire of twigs. Prabhupāda said that the Ṣaḍ-gosvāmy-aṣṭakam, by Śrīnivāsa Ācārya, defines the actual qualities of a person in the renounced order. The song glorifies the six Gosvāmīs, who gave up their posts as government ministers and became mendicants, accepting only one cloth and thinking always of Kṛṣṇa and the gopīs.
“Vṛndāvana is the gift of Rūpa and Sanātana Gosvāmī,” Prabhupāda said. “They wrote many books so poor people could take advantage and become Kṛṣṇa conscious. We see many imitations of Rūpa Gosvāmī in Vṛndāvana today. But they should never take the dress of Rūpa Gosvāmī, especially if they cannot give up this cigarette-smoking habit. It was the gift of Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī that we should not jump and try to change our garb all of a sudden. We should try to hear of the Absolute Truth from realized souls.” Prabhupāda said that especially his disciples living in Vṛndāvana should become gosvāmīs. Whether gṛhasthas or sannyāsīs, they should live simply and austerely and engage twenty-four hours in the service of Kṛṣṇa.
Prabhupāda sat in his room talking with Guṇārṇava about finances. “Where are the bills?” Prabhupāda asked.
“I am keeping duplicates, Prabhupāda,” Guṇārṇava explained, showing him how he had attached the bills to the vouchers. “Tejās is keeping the originals in Delhi.”
“This is just an explanation,” Prabhupāda replied. “I am an auditor. I am not A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami. Don’t you understand? The auditor wants to see the bills, not just your excuses.”
Throughout the day, Prabhupāda would call in Guru dāsa, Surabhi, Mr. Lahadi (the engineer), even the contractor, Mr. Alibuchs. Although the contractor was Muhammadan, Prabhupāda requested him, “Please do a nice job, because this is Kṛṣṇa’s temple. If you work very nicely, Kṛṣṇa will bless you.” Prabhupāda assured him that money would not be a problem. He would arrange that ten thousand dollars a month would come from his temples in America until the construction was finished.
“It will be finished by Janmāṣṭamī?” Prabhupāda asked.
“Yes,” Guru dāsa said firmly. “It will be done.”
* * *
While traveling from Calcutta to Māyāpur, Prabhupāda stopped as usual at the pleasant, secluded mango grove and, sitting on a straw mat, took a breakfast of fresh fruits. A group of his disciples and his sister, Bhavatāriṇī, were also present, and Prabhupāda saw that everyone received prasādam. He then returned to his car, and the caravan continued to Māyāpur.
As Prabhupāda’s car approached the Mayapur Chandrodaya Mandir, he was met by a “roadblock” of ISKCON devotees waiting at the spot known as Śrīvāsāṅgana, over two miles from the ISKCON property. Four hundred devotees from America, England, Europe, South America, Australia, India, and other parts of the world sang Hare Kṛṣṇa, following Prabhupāda as he rode slowly toward the Mayapur Chandrodaya Mandir.
Prabhupāda smiled. Looking out from the back seat of the car, he recognized many faithful disciples, all hankering for his merciful glance of recognition. The car, surrounded tightly by devotees, inched its way through the gates and up the long drive to the temple. Along the roadside and around the temple buildings, colorful marigolds and tagar were abloom, enhancing Śrīla Prabhupāda’s joyous reception.
The temple room was completed, its sparkling marble floor, freshly painted walls, and crystal chandeliers all having been readied just a few days before. After offering obeisances before the resplendent golden forms of Rādhā-Mādhava on the altar, Prabhupāda turned and walked the long temple hall to sit on his vyāsāsana and address this first truly international gathering of disciples. He welcomed them to Māyāpur, acknowledging that on this day, Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s prediction had come true. The devotees shouted triumphantly, “Jaya! Jaya, Śrīla Prabhupāda!”
Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura had written,
Oh, for that day when the fortunate English, French, Russian, German and American people will take up banners, mṛdaṅgas and karatālas and raise kīrtana through their streets and towns. When will that day come?
Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s prophecy had come to pass. He had also predicted, “Soon a great saint will come and establish Lord Caitanya’s movement throughout the world.” That great personality-empowered to create devotees of all races and backgrounds and to rally them together in Māyāpur, thousands of miles from their homes-was Śrīla Prabhupāda. And although he saw himself as an instrument of the ācāryas, his disciples saw him as the personification of Lord Caitanya’s and Lord Nityānanda’s mercy. As stated in the Caitanya-caritāmṛta, yadyapi āmāra guru-caitanyera dāsa/ tathāpi jāniye āmi tāṅhāra prakāśa: “Although I know that my spiritual master is a servitor of Śrī Caitanya, I know him also as a plenary manifestation of the Lord.”
Leaving the temple room, Prabhupāda went upstairs and retired to his room, satisfied that the building was now fulfilling its purpose by giving shelter to hundreds of his spiritual children. He began greeting leading disciples from various parts of the world, hearing the encouraging news of book distribution and dealing with problems. He asked that everyone take advantage of the holy dhāma by maintaining kīrtana in the temple room around the clock, stopping only for scheduled classes in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.
The devotees were very happy to be together in the dhāma. Those with experience of India, like Jayapatāka Swami and Acyutānanda Swami, led groups of devotees on parikrama (pilgrimage) to local holy places. This visit to Māyāpur would constitute the first half of the devotees’ Indian pilgrimage; after ten days they were scheduled to go to Vṛndāvana.
Almost all of the devotees assembled in Māyāpur preached in areas of the world where the modes of ignorance and passion predominated. Daily they had to mix with materialistic people, and it was inevitable that they would become worn down. This pilgrimage, therefore, was a chance for purification. Although they were not advanced in birth or in knowledge of the Sanskrit Vedas, Prabhupāda had accepted them, and that was their certification as devotees. They were bona fide candidates for understanding the meaning of the dhāma. They would become refreshed by bathing in the Ganges in Māyāpur and the Yamunā in Vṛndāvana, and they would return to their respective centers throughout the world, purified and renewed for more active preaching.
One song by Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura described the pilgrims’ eligibility to realize the dhāma:
gaurāṅgera saṅgi-gaṇe, nitya-siddha kari’ māne,
se yāya vrajendra-suta-pāśa
śrī gauḍa-maṇḍala-bhūmi, yebā jāne cintāmaṇi,
tāra haya vraja-bhūme vāsa
“Those whose intelligence has come to understand that the eternal associates of Vṛndāvana-dhāma are nondifferent from those in Navadvīpa can attain the service of the son of Nanda Mahārāja [Kṛṣṇa]. Such fortunate persons perceive the holy dhāma as an object of service because their transcendental eyes have been opened by the mercy of the eternal perfect associates of Navadvīpa-dhāma. Therefore, those who are enthusiastic realize the touchstone of the holy dhāma of Navadvīpa through their transcendental eyes. Thereafter, they reside in the holy dhāma of Navadvīpa which they know to be nondifferent than Vṛndāvana and serve in their eternally perfected spiritual bodies.”
The devotees’ main reason for coming to Māyāpur, however, was to associate with Śrīla Prabhupāda. He was always traveling, and his disciples could only expect to see him briefly from time to time as he passed through their area. To see him in Māyāpur and Vṛndāvana, where they could be with him daily on walks and in the temple, was the most ecstatic part of the festival.
Prabhupāda’s happiness to be in Māyāpur was increased many times by the large gathering of his international family. He wanted this. Māyāpur was for the devotees. Prabhupāda even thought that, if possible, all the devotees should stay here permanently and simply go on chanting, although he admitted that it was not practical in terms of world preaching. He derived great satisfaction from sitting in his room above the temple hall and hearing the constant rousing kīrtanas. “Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has said,” he remarked, “there is nothing of value in all the fourteen worlds except the chanting of the holy names.”
At Prabhupāda’s request, his Governing Body Commission members had gathered in Māyāpur. Their purpose was to discuss ISKCON’s preaching activities around the world and then to pass resolutions to direct that preaching. This was the first time they had met as a body in Prabhupāda’s presence, and he instructed them how to conduct their meeting. They should not simply talk, he said. Rather, someone should present a proposal, which should then be discussed and voted on. All resolutions should be listed in the minutes.
“Chalk out your plans for the year,” Prabhupāda said. “And then whatever you decide, do not change it, but carry it out. Then next year you can meet and discuss again.” He was not in favor of prolonged meetings, but he was satisfied to see his G.B.C. secretaries seriously confronting all items on the agenda for the sake of a growing Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement.
One of the main features of the Māyāpur festival was the arrival of advance copies of the recently published volume of the Caitanya-caritāmṛta. The volume contained chapters Seven through Eleven of the Ādi-līlā and included color illustrations by Prabhupāda’s disciples. Chapter Nine especially glorified the saṅkīrtana movement begun by Lord Caitanya, and verse after verse ecstatically confirmed the authenticity of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s movement.
Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja describes Navadvīpa-dhāma as the place where Lord Caitanya had planted the seed of the Kṛṣṇa consciousness “tree.” In one verse he states, “Thus the branches of the Caitanya tree formed a cluster of society, with great branches covering all the universe.” And Śrīla Prabhupāda had written a conclusive one-sentence purport to this verse: “Our International Society for Krishna Consciousness is one of the branches of the Caitanya tree.”
Prabhupāda’s Caitanya-caritāmṛta translation and commentary was the fruit of the Caitanya tree. It was fully authoritative and paramparā, but never merely academic or technical. Its teachings stressed that Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s desire to widely distribute devotional service should be the desire of everyone. It left no doubt about what Prabhupāda expected from the members of the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement.
The only purpose of the preachers of the saṅkīrtana movement must be to go on preaching without restriction. That is the way in which Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu introduced the saṅkīrtana movement to the world.
This volume also contained one of the most important verses of the Caitanya-caritāmṛta: bhārata-bhūmite haila manuṣya-janma yāra/ janma sārthaka kari’ kara para-upākara, “One who has taken his birth as a human being in the land of India should make his life successful and work for the benefit of all people.” In his purport to this verse, Prabhupāda explained the special piety of the Indians, who were always ready to take part in a saṅkīrtana festival. Unfortunately, the present leaders of India were leading the people away from God, away from distinguishing pious and sinful acts, and away from belief in a next life. The Indians had the special duty of educating the world in Vedic principles.
“If all Indians had taken to this path as advised by Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu,” Prabhupāda wrote, “India would have given a unique gift to the world, and thus India would have been glorified.” Moreover, it was not only the duty of the Indians but the duty of everyone to help the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement: “One should know definitely that the best welfare activity for all of human society is to awaken man’s God consciousness, or Kṛṣṇa consciousness.”
Prabhupāda stayed with his disciples in Māyāpur for a full week, lecturing daily and meeting with smaller groups for many hours. On the day of Gaura-pūrṇimā he went down to the Ganges and took the sacred water on his head, while his men dove off the high bank and swam. The next day he left for Vṛndāvana, where he would again meet his disciples and introduce them to the dhāma.
* * *
Although many of the Western devotees, inexperienced in living and traveling in India, were afflicted with indigestion, dysentery, and even, in some cases, culture shock and homesickness, they nevertheless traveled, a somewhat bedraggled group, from Māyāpur to Calcutta to Delhi, and finally to Vṛndāvana.
Since the Vṛndāvana temple and guesthouse was still mostly a construction site, the devotees had to stay at the nearby Fogel Ashram, while Prabhupāda again took up residence in his newly constructed rooms near the site of the Krishna-Balaram Mandir. The devotees would see him regularly on morning walks and during the morning Bhāgavatam class, and he would also come in the evening sometimes to speak under an outdoor pavilion at Fogel Ashram.
Noticing that not many devotees attended his first evening meeting in his room, Prabhupāda inquired and learned that many of them were out visiting Vṛndāvana’s famous old temples and other pilgrimage sites, while others were shopping in the bazaar, and still others were sleeping. “Bring them all back,” Prabhupāda said, annoyed. “Coming to pilgrimage means to come where the sādhus are. I am here, so why is everyone going elsewhere?” On hearing this, so many devotees came to Prabhupāda’s room that they could not all fit.
Prabhupāda began talking about tapasya, austerity. “The tapasvīs in Vṛndāvana go naked,” he said, “even in the cold. They are determined not to take birth again for material life.” He described how the living entity before birth remains cramped within the womb, a condition much like being tied by the hands and feet and thrown in the ocean. Worms within the mother’s body bite the skin of the embryo, and the living entity suffers. Because māyā deludes us into thinking we are happy, Prabhupāda explained, we have to again enter the womb of a mother. And although in one lifetime we may be a wealthy human being, in the next life we may be a bug or hog or dog.
“So this life is for tapasya,” Prabhupāda said. “But we cannot execute severe penances in this age. So our penance is to try to reform poor crazy persons. One should take voluntary pains for Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa comes to save the fallen souls, so if you help a little, He will be pleased. Kṛṣṇa comes Himself and He sends His devotee and He leaves books, and still we are mad for sense enjoyment. Our penance, therefore, is to try to reform the fallen souls.”
Prabhupāda’s preaching uplifted his disciples, whose duty was to preach to the citizens of many lands. They had come, at Prabhupāda’s bidding, to visit Māyāpur and Vṛndāvana, but their real work was to save the fallen souls of their native countries, and Prabhupāda’s preaching filled them with determination.
Later, one of the devotees told Prabhupāda that dealing with the devotees was sometimes more difficult than dealing with the materialists, and he mentioned a well-known problem case, a devotee named Makhana-cora. “That is your penance,” Prabhupāda said. “Your penance is to work with Makhana-cora. We should take anxiety. For a sane man to work with a crazy man is not pleasurable, but the service to Kṛṣṇa is pleasurable.” Prabhupāda described how he had left his peaceful life in Vṛndāvana to take on so much burden and anxiety for Kṛṣṇa. Just as he had taken a risk by going to America in old age, so his disciples should accept whatever difficulties were required in preaching Kṛṣṇa consciousness. “The work is not pleasurable,” Prabhupāda said, “but making so many devotees is pleasurable.”
Although the devotees had been visiting the various temples of Vṛndāvana, eager to imbibe the Vndāvana spirit, the real nectar came when Prabhupāda, sitting in his room, spoke about Vṛndāvana. “Vṛndāvana is for paramahaṁsas,” he said. “You cannot see Vṛndāvana with viṣaya, or material spirit. The test is how much you have conquered over eating, sleeping, and mating. Don’t think you can just come to Vṛndāvana and become a gosvāmī. One who comes to Vṛndāvana with a material spirit will take birth as a dog or a monkey in Vṛndāvana. That is his punishment. But the dogs here are also Vaiṣṇavas.
“People come to Vṛndāvana to give up all material anxieties and family life. So one should not be afraid. He should never mind what is going to happen. There are many devotees in Vṛndāvana who are not disturbed by heat or cold. But another risk in Vṛndāvana is to meet those who talk of the gopīs but are not free from smoking biḍis. They are sahajiyās. We have to see who is a devotee by his personal behavior. If one is seeking money and biḍis and women and talking of the gopīs, then what is his position? Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu never talked of the gopīs publicly. The real Vṛndāvana is not to eat prasādam and sleep but to follow the advice of Vṛndāvana-candra [Kṛṣṇa] and broadcast His message. That is His message. That is Vṛndāvana. Vṛndāvana-dhāma is worshipable. Don’t commit an offense here. Take it as cintāmaṇi-dhāma, Kṛṣṇa. Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura says to see Vṛndāvana is not possible with viṣaya. So we should take the shelter of Gaura-Nitāi, become cleansed of eating, sleeping, and mating. Then you will see Vṛndāvana. Don’t commit offenses here. There is a special influence in Vṛndāvana.”
Prabhupāda said that Vṛndāvana’s spiritual quality was such that devotional service performed here had one hundred times the effect of service performed elsewhere. But an offense in Vṛndāvana also had one hundred times the effect. Ordinary persons, therefore, were advised to visit a holy place like Vṛndāvana for no more than three days; otherwise they would become slack and return to their sinful activities. “Better to come,” Prabhupāda said, “become purified, and leave on the fourth day. And the worst offense to Vṛndāvana is to commit illicit sex here. So do not come and play hide-and-seek with Kṛṣṇa. He sees with His eyes, the sun, and He is also in your heart. Kṛṣṇa knows everything. Those who want to be devotees have to be sincere. They shouldn’t play tricks, because Kṛṣṇa knows everything. Be sincere with Kṛṣṇa and His representative. Preach the gospel of Bhagavad-gītā as it is. Become a spiritual master.”
After his evening lecture, Prabhupāda mentioned how some of the sahajiyās had walked out during his lecture. “They are so advanced,” he said, “that they want to hear only of the embracing and kissing of Rādhārāṇī and Kṛṣṇa. They take my talks as ordinary.” Prabhupāda explained that his process of lecturing was to speak on only one verse per lecture, but that that speaking was the same as Kṛṣṇa’s speaking. He said that his own Guru Mahārāja had lectured for three months on the first verse of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, and for that he had gained great respect.
Prabhupāda learned one day that one of his disciples had left the company of the ISKCON devotees to live among the bābājīs at Rādhā-kuṇḍa. Prabhupāda became angry and sent for the boy to come immediately. When the boy arrived, Prabhupāda went out to see him. Dressed in only a dhotī, Prabhupāda spoke sternly to his disciple, saying that the monkeys of Vṛndāvana also live simply but are interested only in eating and sex. “Don’t become a monkey!” Prabhupāda said, trembling as he spoke. “Why don’t you come and live with me?”
The boy replied, “The bābājīs have given me some facility to chant.”
“You come with me!” Prabhupāda exclaimed. “I will give you facility. But don’t become a monkey.” The boy surrendered before Prabhupāda’s compassionate concern.
Prabhupāda heard from his disciples living in Vṛndāvana that some of the local gosvāmīs had a complaint about him. They had read an article published in Back to Godhead and considered it insulting. The article, written by Prabhupāda’s disciple Hayagrīva, contained a statement that gosvāmīs in Vṛndāvana who misbehaved would become hogs and monkeys in Vṛndāvana in their next life. Prabhupāda replied that the statement was accurate. The article, he said, had not specifically referred to the present gosvāmīs but to any gosvāmī who lived sinfully in Vṛndāvana. This was not merely an opinion but was the authoritative conclusion of the original gosvāmīs of Vṛndāvana.
Although Yamunā dāsī lived in Vṛndāvana with her husband, Guru dāsa, Prabhupāda rarely saw her. So one day he sent for her and inquired why she was not coming to hear him and serve him. Yamunā admitted that she was afraid because Prabhupāda seemed to be in a chastising mood of late. (She was referring to Prabhupāda’s insistence and pushing to get the Vṛndāvana temple built.) Prabhupāda said that only by his pushing was the temple being built. But Yamunā again confessed her fear of Prabhupāda’s anger.
“You may be afraid of your spiritual master,” Prabhupāda said, “but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t come and see him.” He then narrated the story of how Lord Balarāma had once forced the River Yamunā to come before Him. As he spoke, all the devotees present became aware that Prabhupāda was not only telling the līlā of Lord Balarāma’s frightening the River Yamunā, but he was also speaking indirectly about his disciple Yamunā. Absorbed in the pastimes of Lord Balarāma, Prabhupāda described how the Lord, intoxicated from drinking honey, had threatened the River Yamunā, forcing her to come. But when the Yamunā did not come, Lord Balarāma had cut into the earth with His plow, forcing her to flow to Him. “In this way,” Prabhupāda said, “I will drag you to come and see me.” Yamunā dāsī agreed to stop her foolish reluctance and come and cook for her spiritual master.
Although the afternoons were warm in Vṛndāvana, the early mornings were chilly. Dressed in a sweater, a wool cādar, and a fuzzy wool cap that buttoned under his chin, Prabhupāda led his disciples on a pre-dawn walk along Chhatikara Road. With the ISKCON leaders and sannyāsīs staying close to catch his words, he walked and talked in Vṛndāvana. His walks were so long that most of the devotees became tired, and some joked that Prabhupāda was going to walk all the way back to Delhi. When the sun rose, gradually the air would begin to warm.
Some of the devotees had expected that in Vṛndāvana Prabhupāda would talk more about the places of Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes and about Kṛṣṇa and the gopīs and that Prabhupāda himself would want to see the places of Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes. But Prabhupāda seemed far more concerned to hear of the preaching of his disciples or to discuss the construction of the Krishna-Balaram Mandir. Often when devotees raised the topic of Vṛndāvana, Prabhupāda would criticize the cheating of certain Vṛndāvana bābājīs and the corruption within Vṛndāvana. Or he would speak of the special vision required before one could properly see Vṛndāvana. He said Vṛndāvana was wherever a pure devotee lived. And he stressed that the devotees’ main business was to go out of Vṛndāvana and preach.
As they walked along the road, the main traffic was pedestrians, workers carrying milk on bicycles, or men riding on bullock carts; only occasionally an automobile would speed by, its horn honking. Almost every person who approached would respectfully greet Prabhupāda with “Jaya Rādhe!” or “Hare Kṛṣṇa!” Or they would hold up their hands or bow their heads and say namas te. One young man driving a bicycle ricksha approached from the opposite direction and, just before reaching Prabhupāda, stopped his ricksha, got down, stepped out of his shoes, and prostrated himself on the road. Prabhupāda smiled and said, “Very good boy.”
Prabhupāda paused. “This is Vṛndāvana,” he said. The simple habit of the ordinary people in Vṛndāvana to offer respect to a saintly person was, to Prabhupāda, an expression of Vṛndāvana’s essence. Vṛndāvana was one of the few remaining places in India where even a common man would chant the name of Rādhārāṇī and Kṛṣṇa as he passed by on the road. To fully understand this extraordinary phenomenon was to understand Vṛndāvana.
One devotee asked Prabhupāda that if so many residents of Vṛndāvana were fallen souls, then what was the meaning of the statement that to be born in Vṛndāvana was to be liberated? “It says in the Kṛṣṇa book,” the devotee said, “that the people in Vṛndāvana don’t need a spiritual master. Kṛṣṇa is their spiritual master.”
“Yes,” Prabhupāda replied, “they have an excellent spiritual master. But one may have a spiritual master and not obey him. Then what is his position? So they are fallen who do nonsense things in Vṛndāvana. But their fortune is also there-that they are born in Vṛndāvana. But they misuse that fortune.”
The land was very dry. Prabhupāda said that Vṛndāvana was becoming like a desert and would become more so in the future. He said this was because of impiety. “In the West,” he said, “I see in America, Germany, there is so much green. But not here.”
The devotees then questioned Prabhupāda. “Wasn’t the West more impious than Vṛndāvana?”
“Yes,” Prabhupāda said. “I came to you in the West, and you did not know anything about Kṛṣṇa. You did not even know that these things were bad-meat-eating and illicit sex. But when I told you to stop, you did it. But this is Kṛṣṇa’s land, Vṛndāvana, and they are doing these things here. Therefore it is even worse. And they are being punished directly by Kṛṣṇa.”
Prabhupāda’s morning walks in Vṛndāvana were as exciting and enlightening as his formal lectures. On two consecutive morning walks, he outlined a comprehensive plan for starting an ISKCON varṇāśrama college. Bhagavad-gītā explains how society should be divided into four orders, according to a person’s nature and occupation. Prabhupāda said that although the members of the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement were above the social divisions-brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, vaiśya, and śūdra-they should teach others by acting perfectly within these divisions. Not everyone would become a brāhmaṇa, but everyone could attain the same perfection by doing his particular duty-for the pleasure of Kṛṣṇa. “We will teach military art,” said Prabhupāda, to the amazement of his disciples. “Soldiers will wear tilaka and march, saying, “Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa.’ They can march with military band and fight.”
To Prabhupāda, establishing varṇāśrama-dharma did not seem difficult. ISKCON should begin by starting a college based on the varṇāśrama conception. “There should be no unemployment,” Prabhupāda said. “We will say, “Why are you sitting idly? Come onto the field. Take this plow. Take this bull. Go on working. Why are you sitting idly?’ This is the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. Nobody should be allowed to sit down and sleep. They must find out some employment. Either work as a brāhmaṇa, or as a kṣatriya, or as a vaiśya. Why should there be unemployment?
“Just as this body is working-that means the leg is working, the hand, the brain, the belly. So why should there be unemployment? You stop this unemployment-you will see the whole world is peaceful. There will be no complaint. They will be happily chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa. Just like this field here. No one is working it. They have all gone to the cities to work in the factory. It is a condemned civilization.”
On a morning walk near the end of the Vṛndāvana festival one of the devotees mentioned that the festival was almost over and that the devotees would be going back to their centers. “Yes,” said Prabhupāda, and he stopped walking. “Yes, that is our real business-to go and preach.”
As the devotees were making travel arrangements for Delhi and onward, Girirāja arrived in Vṛndāvana with upsetting news from Bombay. The municipality of Bombay had denied them permission to begin construction of a temple. According to Girirāja, two permissions were quired: permission to build according to rules and regulations and a No-Objection Certificate from the police commissioner. In issuing the No-Objection Certificate the police must consider two points: whether the temple would create a traffic problem and whether the presence of a temple would cause community or religious tensions. The municipality had been delaying their permission, saying they first required an NOC from the police. And the police had been saying that they needed the sanction of the municipality before they would consider giving the NOC. Girirāja had been pursuing this bureaucratic matter, but now a commissioner from the police had written a letter flatly refusing to give an NOC. According to the commissioner, the kīrtana in the temple would produce a “nuisance.”
The report from Girirāja deeply disturbed Śrīla Prabhupāda. “You should immediately object,” he told Girirāja on his walk the next morning, “that the government is completely unqualified. The pure devotees are always engaged in kīrtana, and the government calls it a nuisance. He could at least be a gentleman and say that the sound should not be amplified while people are trying to take rest. But instead he has said the kīrtana is simply a nuisance.” Prabhupāda said that there were many learned persons in Bombay, and they also would not stand for this judgment.
“You have to organize all the Vaiṣṇavas,” Prabhupāda continued. “In the Bhagavad-gītā it is said, satataṁ kīrtayanto mām: one has to chant “Kṛṣṇa’ always. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu says, kīrtanīyaḥ sadā hariḥ. And this rascal is saying “bhajana is nuisance’? Hmm? Is it not possible to invoke an agitation against this? What right has he got to say “nuisance’? He could have spoken in sweet language that, “The bhajana may be very good for the devotees, but it creates disturbance to the others. Therefore we cannot allow.’ Say like that. But they cannot still stop bhajana. But his remark is that the bhajana is nuisance! Chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa is the culture of India. We must make propaganda and organize kīrtana parties and fight this.”
One of the G.B.C. men proposed that instead of going back to the West some of the devotees stay, go to Bombay, and hold massive protests. At first Prabhupāda approved this spirit, likening it to Lord Caitanya’s protest against the Kazi, who had stoped the saṅkīrtana movement in Navadvīpa. But on reflecting, he decided it would not be wise to fight with the government. The devotees could not hope to win such a fight, nor would the people appreciate it. Prabhupāda suggested the devotees hold massive kīrtana programs and preach positively to the people of Bombay, convincing them of the value of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. “When the people of Bombay are convinced of the importance of Kṛṣṇa consciousness,” Prabhupāda said, “they will see that the temple is built.”
In an urgent mood, Śrīla Prabhupāda left Vṛndāvana for Bombay. His last instruction to Guru dāsa and the others in Vṛndāvana: “An ideal gosvāmī should remain here to challenge any false gosvāmīs. But if you also become false, then you cannot challenge.”
* * *
March 20, 1974
Disciples and ISKCON life members continued to discuss with Śrīla Prabhupāda about confronting the police commissioner’s refusal to grant ISKCON permission to build a temple at Hare Krishna Land. Ironically, ISKCON’s property was bordered on one side by a large cinema hall, and every evening, both before and after the movie, a long line of traffic would form. The honking horns and the hundreds of pedestrians coming and going created much noise and congestion. If the neighborhood and government could tolerate a cinema, then how, without prejudice, could they call the Kṛṣṇa kīrtanas a nuisance?
Although addressing the specific issue of government permission, Śrīla Prabhupāda also preached on the greater principle of how governments in Kali-yuga restrict religious life. “The government policy,” he said, “is that religion is an opiate of the people. They think religion is just a sentiment. They want to open slaughterhouses and kill these mischief, loitering cows. Their conclusion is that religion has no value. Therefore, their decision is to not encourage these temples and this bhajana. From their point of view it is useless.”
Some of Prabhupāda’s Bombay friends suggested he work through the Jan-Sangh political party, which supported Hinduism, and thus form a strong political coalition. But Śrīla Prabhupāda was more concerned to use this opportunity for preaching. “I suggest that we make vigorous propaganda,” he said. “Hold meetings in big halls so that the public may understand, at least, that this movement is very important. Let there be advertisements that we will speak on different subject matters, and then I will come and speak.
“In that meeting, make a nice gentleman the president. Create public opinion so that they will come and sign, “Yes, here must be one temple.’ We will prove from śāstric evidence. As it is stated in Bhagavad-gītā, catur-vidhā bhajante māṁ janāḥ sukṛtino ‘rjuna. This word bhajana from bhajante is used with reference to the very pious men, sukṛtinaḥ. The opposite kind of man is duṣkṛtinaḥ, the miscreants. So bhajana is for the pious man, as recommended in the Bhagavad-gītā. And Bhagavad-gītā is held in great estimation all over the world. And yet he has accused bhajana as nuisance? How rascal and ignorant! We have to make it clear that bhajana is so important. Bhagavad-gītā is meant for solution of all material problems, but the people of India are not accepting it.
“My disciples can also speak and say, “You please come with us. We are foreigners, but we know Kṛṣṇa is not for this or that. So why are you Indians lacking? You accept your culture. We have taken to Kṛṣṇa, and Kṛṣṇa says that simply by kīrtana one becomes free from all contamination. So why not join with us? What is the wrong there? It is stated in your śāstra, and we have adopted it. And we are feeling better. So why you are so callous, you educated youth and gentlemen?’ This kind of propaganda has to be made.”
Śrīla Prabhupāda had abandoned the idea of direct political agitation, but he continued to speak against the police commissioner’s decision and to deliberate on overcoming it. He considered the matter from all possible angles, pro and con. At one point he said that if they could not get sanction to build a temple, then they should build a hotel. “I am trying to get sanction,” he said. “If you don’t give permission-then hotel.”
“Build a hotel in the front and a temple in the rear,” suggested Tamāla Kṛṣṇa Goswami.
“Yes,” Prabhupāda replied. And he instructed his men further on dealing with opposition. As with the struggle to acquire the land, the present struggle also threatened to become a long legal battle. Prabhupāda remained always transcendental, however, even while fighting. And he maintained his normal activities in Bombay, enjoying the mild tropical climate.
Although ISKCON owned a number of tenement buildings on the Juhu land, the devotees had not been able to use a single one, since all were occupied. But recently when tenants had vacated one of the apartments, the devotees had prepared it for Prabhupāda. It was a modest place, two small rooms with a little kitchen, but now for the first time Prabhupāda had his own residence at Hare Krishna Land.
Prabhupāda liked to sit on the narrow veranda outside his apartment and take his massage in the sun. Surveying the Juhu land, with its many tall coconut trees, their long palm leaves rustling pleasantly in the breeze, Prabhupāda said Hare Krishna Land was a paradise. The devotees were happy.
One day during his massage Prabhupāda saw that the contractors, whom he had allowed to come and take coconuts for a set price, were also taking away the leaves to sell in the marketplace. Leaping to his feet, Prabhupāda called from the veranda, “Caityaguru!” Soon the devotee in charge of grounds management appeared before Prabhupāda. “I cannot close my eyes!” Prabhupāda said. “No one else sees these things! You are being cheated!”
Every morning several Indian gentlemen would join Prabhupāda as he walked along Juhu Beach. Whenever Prabhupāda would criticize so-called great political and spiritual leaders of India, exposing their poor understanding of Bhagavad-gītā, these men would become disturbed. Similarly, Prabhupāda’s disciples became disturbed to hear these men argue with Prabhupāda.
One day when Prabhupāda criticized a favorite hero, a certain doctor argued back, criticizing Prabhupāda’s statement that the Absolute Truth was Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The doctor and others asserted that the Absolute Truth was many things and that ultimately everything was one. The devotees could barely restrain themselves, but still Prabhupāda always treated these men as his friends.
Early the next morning in his room, however, Prabhupāda told his disciples that these men were actually Māyāvādīs. “We will now have a program,” he said, “where we will walk on the beach, but we will only chant Hare Kṛṣṇa. If they want to talk, we will just chant, and we will all chant only. If they wish to, they can walk with us.”
“Prabhupāda,” a devotee said, “they will be restless if we do that.”
“Even if they don’t chant,” said Prabhupāda, “if they only hear, it will be beneficial for them. Māyāvādī philosophy is very dangerous. Śri Caitanya Mahāprabhu said that whoever hears it is doomed.”
A devotee asked why a Māyāvādī would disguise himself as a kṛṣṇa-bhakta. They do it, Prabhupāda said, to get popular reception for being liberal to all. But if a woman says that she is very liberal and accepts any man, that may seem to be a liberal proposal, but it is not good. “We will read the Kṛṣṇa book on the walk,” Prabhupāda said. “I am walking with my disciples. If these men like, they can join and hear. But if they want to ask questions, they must accept the guru’s answer without argument. Is that all right?”
The next morning, although the usual challengers did not join the walk, Prabhupāda had Girirāja read aloud from the Kṛṣṇa book. Suddenly, Prabhupāda sighted the familiar group of speculators approaching from the opposite direction. But as they drew closer, they purposely turned aside so as to avoid Prabhupāda. One of them came over, however, and, representing the entire group, informed Prabhupāda they were not going to walk with him any more; they had met and decided that their conversations with him created too much argument and criticism. “India has many saints,” the man added.
“I am the policeman,” Prabhupāda said, “and I have to catch the thief.” After a few days, the same group rejoined Prabhupāda on his walk, and the discussions continued as before. Some of Prabhupāda’s disciples remained disturbed, but Prabhupāda was jolly, correcting his friends like an older brother, teaching them pure Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
Prabhupāda would take a breakfast of fruit and nuts. Around eleven A.M. he would sit on the veranda in his gamchā while his servant massaged him with mustard oil. During the massage, Prabhupāda would often speak with one or two of his Bombay devotees, giving them pertinent instructions. After lunch he would rest an hour or two and, on arising, take a glass of fresh coconut water or sugarcane juice. In the evening he would meet guests and then around ten P.M. take rest. At one A.M. he would rise and sit at his desk, beneath a tentlike covering of mosquito netting, and dictate his translations and purports to Caitanya-caritāmṛta until time for his morning walk.
Several times a day, Prabhupāda would call for Girirāja and other Bombay managers to confer on the latest strategy in securing permission to build the temple. When Prabhupāda’s Bombay friends would visit, they would often find him on the roof of the tenement, sitting on white cotton sheeting and leaning on white bolsters, preaching the philosophy of Bhagavad-gītā by the hour. He would ask his visitors to help him solidly establish Kṛṣṇa consciousness in Bombay.
One day during the massage Prabhupāda confided to his servant, “Most men are retired at my age. I do not want to manage anymore. I just want to do some writing.” Prabhupāda asked if there was some place in the world he could go for six months, a place where he would be all alone, where no one would come to disturb him, and where he would not get any mail.
Prabhupāda’s servant suggested Tehran. Prabhupāda considered it, then suggested New Vrindaban. He spoke of Mahatma Gandhi, who could not even sleep at night because people were always after him, even though he traveled incognito.
That very day a letter came from Bhagavān in Paris, inviting Prabhupāda to tour his ISKCON centers in Europe. Immediately Prabhupāda was enlivened at this invitation. He said he would go.
“But earlier today,” his servant said, “you wanted to go away and be alone.”
Prabhupāda laughed. “That will not be possible for me in this lifetime. Better I keep traveling and die on the battlefield. For a warrior, it is glorious to die on the battlefield. Is it not?”
Traveling around the world once or twice a year had become Prabhupāda’s routine. In describing his own spiritual master, he had written, “Hindus are not allowed to cross the ocean, but you send your devotees overseas to preach.” The injunction for Hindus not to cross the ocean was to protect them from leaving the pious land of India, since so many Indians gave up their culture when they went abroad. When Prabhupāda had been a small child, one of his uncles had suggested he one day go to London and become a lawyer, but Prabhupāda’s father had protested; he did not want his son to be exposed to the sinful ways of the West. Years later Prabhupāda had gone to London, as a preacher, to change the ways of the sinful. For this reason the Vaiṣṇava should travel.
Just before starting his European tour, Prabhupāda explained to several devotees in his room that they also should travel and preach. He said they should do so while they were young, and then when they were old and matured in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, they could go to Māyāpur, retire, and simply chant Hare Kṛṣṇa. “Of course, for myself,” Prabhupāda added, “I’m not so mature.”
The devotees were silent a moment, but then one ventured, “But Śrīla Prabhupāda, if you say that you’re not mature, then how can we ever think that we are old or mature enough to retire?” Prabhupāda smiled and said that they would have to decide for themselves. But he was not mature enough.
Tamāla Kṛṣṇa Goswami said, “Then we also will never become so mature that we can retire.”
* * *
Before going to Europe, Prabhupāda responded to an invitation from his devotees in South India to attend a three-day paṇḍāl festival in Hyderabad. No sooner did he arrive at the airport in Hyderabad, however, than a group of reporters asked him for a press conference.
Prabhupāda consented, and a reporter opened with a technical philosophical question, inquiring whether Prabhupāda’s philosophy was advaita or dvaita. South India was so steeped in the ancient philosophical debate between the Vaiṣṇavas and the Śaṅkarites that here an ordinary news reporter was concerned with comparative philosophies.
Prabhupāda scoffed at the question. “What is the point of discussing such things,” he challenged “-whether one is dvaita or advaita? Kṛṣṇa says, annād bhavanti bhūtāni. Anna means “grains.’ The people have no grains. Grains are produced from the rains, and rains from sacrifice. So perform sacrifice. You have to divide the society into four orders. You may be dvaita or advaita, but you need grains.”
Prabhupāda’s secretary wrote to Bhagavān inParis, keeping him in formed of Prabhupāda’s location and schedule.
You can contact us here until the 29th or 30th of April after which we will be back in Bombay. Your idea for festivals sounds nice. Here they had a three-day pandal. Last night about a thousand people came, sat very silently through his whole lecture, and then pressed forward to receive blessings from Śrīla Prabhupāda. Devotees had the Deities on stage and a vyasasana and lots of prasadam for the guests.
From Hyderabad Śrīla Prabhupāda flew to Tirupati. There in mountainous Tirumala stands the richest temple in India, where a Deity of Viṣṇu known as Bālajī resides.
The temple managers respectfully welcomed Śrīla Prabhupāda and his party, providing them with two cottages on the mountainside. According to the temple policy, people usually have to wait in a long line before seeing the Deity-since fifteen thousand people enter the temple daily-and they are given only a brief darśana. Non-Hindus are usually not allowed. But Śrīla Prabhupāda and his disciples received the special honor of a private darśana of Bālajī.
At the end of a long inner sanctum, its entrance guarded by two large figures of Jaya and Vijaya, the gatekeepers of Vaikuṇṭha, the Deity was enthroned. The only light in the inner sanctum came from flaming torches affixed to the walls or held by the pūjārīs. When approaching the Deity in the hallway, many pilgrims would traditionally call out, “Govinda!” But as Prabhupāda entered, he sang, “Govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi.”
Later in his cottage Prabhupāda remarked that the millions of people going to see Bālajī were proof that the masses are still attracted to God, despite government propaganda. Although most people may go to the Lord for alleviating material distress or for getting money, still they called out the holy name, “Govinda!”
A devotee asked Prabhupāda why the Deity was called Bālajī. “Bāla jī,” Prabhupāda said, “means “child’-Kṛṣṇa as a cowherd boy, not in His Vaikuṇṭha aspect.”
Prabhupāda was pleased to stay in the cottage and take the Deity’s prasādam. He suggested that in New Vrindaban they build cottages like this and that ISKCON build temples like the temple of Bālajī, with its gold dome and extensive facility for visitors.
One day an official of the Tirupati temple, while visiting Prabhupāda, mentioned that their collection was about forty lakhs of rupees per month. Prabhupāda inquired how the temple’s income was being spent. When the priest indicated that most of the money went for renovation of the buildings, Prabhupāda replied that temple renovation was good, but propagating the message of Kṛṣṇa all over the world was better. “Bālajī is Kṛṣṇa,” Prabhupāda said. “His message should be spread. He descended as Caitanya Mahāprabhu to teach us.”
Prabhupāda told the priest of how so many old churches in London were not being used. “How will the spirit of the temple be maintained without preaching?” Prabhupāda asked. The priest then boasted that they were building another temple and installing pañcopāsanā (five deities recommended for worship by the impersonalist Śaṅkarācārya). Prabhupāda was surprised. “Your leader is Rāmānuja,” he said. “He never recommended pañcopāsanā!”
For the two days in Tirupati, Prabhupāda went three or four times daily to see the Deity of Bālajī. And whenever he went, the pūjārīs would clear the inner sanctum of all other visitors and allow him a private darśana for as long as he liked, standing in the torchlight before the mystical, bejeweled form of Bālajī.
* * *
Although in a few days Prabhupāda would be leaving for Rome, a problem now faced him and the management of his Indian projects. Tamāla Kṛṣṇa Goswami was requesting that Prabhupāda allow him to go to America; after four years of management in India, he was eager to try a different kind of preaching. His Godbrother-friend Viṣṇujana Swami had pleased Prabhupāda with his bus-touring in America and had convinced Tamāla Kṛṣṇa that this was the most opportune preaching. Śrīla Prabhupāda had accepted the proposal, although reluctantly. Certainly it would be good for the preaching in America, and it would be good for Tamāla Kṛṣṇa. But what about India? Once again Prabhupāda was faced with the fact that the only manager for ISKCON in India was himself.
Carefully he reviewed a recent report of the spending and accounts in Māyāpur. Concerned that all money be handled very carefully and spent exactly for the purpose it was intended, he had written to Jayapatāka Swami,
Money for the land must be spent for land purchase; if I send money for constructing of a kitchen it must be spent for that.
Also, if you purchase land it must be properly utilized… And if you actually produce some grains and vegetables, then where is the necessity for further money for maintenance. For maintenance we require 100 rupees per head without any risk for purchasing lands and cultivating the same. I understand there are only 20 men there at present, so utmost 2,000 rupees is necessary for maintenance. I am not competent to understand everything concerning what you plan to do, but that is my rough estimate.
You have tried to explain by long letter which I have not gone through yet. In the meantime go on the above principle: money spent must be used for that purpose intended. That will keep it very clear.
From a previous letter from Śrīla Prabhupāda, Bhavānanda and Jayapatāka had become a little despondent, thinking that they may have displeased their spiritual master. But Prabhupāda reassured them,
I know you are working hard and sincerely. I have no business to criticize but as head of the institution or your spiritual master, it is my duty to find out your faults. Even Caitanya Mahāprabhu presented Himself as faulty before His spiritual master. To remain faulty before the spiritual master is a good qualification so he is subjected to rectification. But if one thinks he is all perfect then there is no scope for rectification. Don’t be sorry when I find fault. That is my primary duty. Canakya pandit says one must find fault with disciples and sons, it is good for them.
Prabhupāda also scrutinized the finances in Vṛndāvana, where Guru dāsa was president and Tejās, in Delhi, was financial supervisor. Reviewing Tejās’s latest request, Prabhupāda wrote back,
I am enclosing the list of checks requested by you by Registered post except I am not sending one check for Rs 3,000 for Deity clothes to be paid to the tailor Lalit Prasad of Vrindaban. Deity paraphernalia is supposed to be collected separately by Gurudasa and Yamuna, not come out of the construction fund as you have requested. Besides, I have advised Gurudas not to pay any tailor but to make clothes by our own devotees for the deities.
Prabhupāda also found a serious inconsistency in the accounting, which he pointed out to Tejās for correction.
According to my check book, after writing the last check for Rs 17,6000.00 there is a balance of only Rs. 18,745.81. But you are indicating a balance of Rs. 100,313.64. Where is the difference? Send me a complete statement of account.
Guru dāsa and Tejās had assured Prabhupāda that the Krishna-Balaram Mandir would be ready to open by July 1974. Prabhupāda designed the invitation cards himself and asked that they be printed and sent to important persons.
The founder-acarya and the members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness requests the pleasure of Mr. and Mrs. ‘s company to visit the installation ceremony of the Krishna-Balarama temple from August 8 to 10 and accept prasadam.
Guru dasa Adhikary, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
Surabhi dasa Adhikary
With only three months left, Prabhupāda’s plans were to travel from May through July. Giving permission for transferring funds from Delhi to Vṛndāvana, he left. He would return in three months for the grand opening.
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