Srīla Prabhupāda prepared for extensive world travel. Although his itinerary was indefinite, his general plan was to travel widely for a few months, then tour the U.S., visit London, and then return to India. He had sent disciples to Australia and Malaysia, and he wanted to visit them. He also wanted to go to Moscow and was awaiting a letter of permission from the Soviet government. As he had spread his movement in America, visiting major cities and preaching and then stationing a few faithful disciples there to carry on, he now expanded his field to include the whole world.
Śrīla Prabhupāda’s traveling was in the mood of Nārada Muni, the eternally wandering devotee. In the First Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Śrīla Prabhupāda had translated Nārada Muni’s words:
I travelled all over the earth fully satisfied and without being proud or envious… I do travel everywhere, by the Grace of the Almighty Vishnu either in the transcendental world or in the three divisions of the material world without any restriction because I am fixed up unbroken in the devotional service of the Lord. I do travel as abovementioned by constantly singing the glories of the Lord in transcendental message by vibrating this instrument of Vina charged with transcendental sound and given to me by Lord Krishna.
And in his Bhāgavatam purports, Śrīla Prabhupāda had explained,
It is the duty of a mendicant to have experience of all varieties of God’s creation as Paribrajakacharya or travelling alone through all forests, hills, towns, villages etc. to gain faith in God and strength of mind as well as to enlighten the inhabitants of the message of God. A Sannyāsī is duty bound to take all these risks without any fear and the most typical Sannyāsī of the present age is Lord Chaitanya Who travelled in the same manner through the central India jungles enlightening even the tigers, bears, snakes, deers, elephants and many other jungle animals.
In the age of Kali, Prabhupāda had explained, sannyāsa is especially difficult. If, however, one did take sannyāsa,
One who may take the vow of renunciation of family life may not imitate the Paribrajakacharyas like Nārada or Lord Chaitanya but may sit down at some holy place and devote the whole time and energy in hearing and repeatedly chanting the holy scriptures left by the great Acharyas like the six Gosvamins of Vrindaban.
Yet Prabhupāda was traveling as a mendicant missionary, parivrājakācārya. Having already attained the advanced stage wherein the pure devotee resides in Vṛndāvana and chants Hare Kṛṣṇa incessantly, he was now traveling for the good of the whole world. He, like Nārada, was traveling to all parts of the world. As a news writer in India had appropriately titled him, he was “a jet-age parivrājakācārya.”
A few brahmacārīs, each only recently initiated by Śrīla Prabhupāda, had been preaching alone on the tropical peninsula of Malaysia for several months. With nearly a million Indians in Malaysia, many of them wealthy and influential, the brahmacārīs were meeting with success. During one program at a Hindu temple in Kuala Lumpur, a South Indian doctor and his lawyer wife expressed their appreciation of the devotees and offered to donate a house and some land to ISKCON. When the devotees visited the property and found that the offer was serious, they informed Prabhupāda, who decided to visit.
Prabhupāda, accompanied by his disciple Vegavān, flew from Bombay to Kuala Lumpur. Since he planned to go next to Sydney and install Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa Deities in the new temple there, he carried the Deities with him, the same Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa who had presided at the Bombay paṇḍāl. Lord Kṛṣṇa rode in a wooden box in the plane’s luggage compartment, and Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, wrapped in cloth, rested on Vegavān’s lap. Within a brief time after Prabhupāda’s arrival at Kuala Lumpur, he was lecturing before a large audience at his host’s home.
I’m very glad to inform you that we have reached Malaysia very shortly, that on my arrival there was a nice meeting, and then we have come outside the city. Yesterday I was very busy all day.
For two days Prabhupāda stayed in the home of a wealthy Sindhi merchant of Kuala Lumpur. The house was large and luxurious, with thick carpets and large mirrors. But when Prabhupāda learned that his hosts were meat-eaters, he refused to eat anything except fruit and milk, even though his disciples offered to cook for him. His disciples, having traveled throughout Malaysia, considered eating at the homes of meat-eaters permissible, as long as the devotees could prepare their prasādam in pots not used for cooking meat. But Prabhupāda’s standard was higher.
One room in the house held a large collection of marble Deities, about fifty sets of Lakṣmī-Nārāyaṇa and Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa Deities in rows. It appeared to be more of a collector’s display than worship, however, and Prabhupāda was unimpressed.
Prabhupāda lectured at the Kuala Lumpur town hall and the Lakṣmī-Nārāyaṇa temple, mostly to Indians. He explained that people could be united only on the spiritual platform. “Look at the United Nations,” he said. “They are adding more and more flags. And there are only more and more wars. This Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement will be the real United Nations.” Prabhupāda had brought with him slides of ISKCON’s activities, and he had one of his disciples narrate a slide show, coaching him on what to say. When a slide appeared of Ratha-yātrā in London’s Trafalgar Square, Prabhupāda prompted the devotee, “Now it’s no more Lord Nelson. Now it’s Lord Jagannātha.”
When Prabhupāda met the couple offering the land, he discovered that the agreement had certain important conditions. The doctor and his wife said that they would give ISKCON a large piece of land near the main highway and that their own construction company would build the temple. Within two years, however, if the company hadn’t completed the building, the doctor and his wife would reclaim the property. Always eager to consider any serious donation of land, Prabhupāda accepted the conditional offer. But he knew that such offers were usually too conditional. Already the doctor and his wife had hinted of “Indian brāhmaṇas” running the temple and of ISKCON’s having only a side altar.
One evening as Prabhupāda talked with the doctor, a gynecologist, the talk turned to birth control. Prabhupāda explained its sinfulness, and he gave an example. If someone poisoned the air in the room he and the doctor were sitting in, then they would have to leave the room or die. Similarly, Prabhupāda explained, contraception meant to poison the womb, denying a soul its rightful shelter.
Like Prabhupāda’s previous host, the doctor ate meat, although the devotees had been pushing him to give it up. Prabhupāda was gentle. “Try to stop eating meat,” he urged. It was Ekādaśī, and Prabhupāda decided to fast from all food, again showing extreme reluctance to eat in the home of a meat-eater.
* * *
May 9, 1971
The Sydney devotees weren’t ready for Prabhupāda. An early telegram had informed them he was coming, but a later telegram had said, “Prabhupāda not coming now.” A third telegram had come, announcing that Bali-mardana, the Australian G.B.C. secretary, was coming. When a fourth telegram had stated only “Arriving” and the date and flight number, the devotees had presumed this referred to Bali-mardana, not to Prabhupāda. The devotees had taken a small garland and had gone to meet the plane, and when the doors to the customs area opened and Prabhupāda himself walked out, they were flabbergasted.
A white attache case in his left hand, a cane in his right, a lightweight cādar around his shoulders, Śrīla Prabhupāda enteRed the airport. Reporters, on hand to interview Bali-mardana, came eagerly forward, one of them inquiring why Prabhupāda had come to Australia.
Replying softly, Prabhupāda said he traveled everywhere, just as a salesman travels everywhere. A salesman looks for customers wherever he can find them, and Prabhupāda was traveling, searching for anyone intelligent enough to accept his message. “There is no difference in coming to Australia,” he said. “The governments have made a demarcation- “This is Australia’-but we see everywhere as the land of Kṛṣṇa.”
One of the devotees hurried to phone the temple-Prabhupāda was coming!
Like Prabhupāda’s original temple at 26 Second Avenue in New York, the Sydney temple was a one-room storefront on a main business thoroughfare. On the storefront’s plate glass window, one of the devotees had painted a picture of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa. Prabhupāda entered the room and found it bare, except for a simple wooden altar with three-inch Jagannātha deities, and a big cloth-covered vyāsāsana. An old rug hid the floor. The blue haze hanging in the air was smoke from the downstairs kitchen, where a devotee was frantically burning cumin seeds to spice Prabhupāda’s lunch.
Prabhupāda remained grave as he walked deliberately to the rear door and looked outside. But when he saw garbage and boards stacked high against the building, his gravity turned to sternness. “What is all this?” he asked. Someone tried an explanation. Unsatisfactory. A devotee brought a glass of milk. “Too hot,” Prabhupāda said, and the devotee took it away.
Prabhupāda sat on the large vyāsāsana. He looked around the room at each face. None of the fifteen or so devotees had ever seen him before, and only a handful had been initiated (by mail). They were untrained. The carpet was dirty, he said; it should be replaced. And why were there no flowers on the altar? He had brought Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa Deities, but before the devotees could begin Their worship, everything must be very clean. The devotees would have to become brāhmaṇas before they could worship Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa.
These devotees, Prabhupāda saw, knew little of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. The devotees who had come to Australia originally, Upendra and Bali- mardana, had opened the center and left, returning but rarely. Thus an entire temple of inexperienced devotees had been virtually left on its own. Since none of the Sydney devotees could lecture well, the daily classes had consisted of readings from Prabhupāda’s abridged Bhagavad-gītā As It Is, the only book they had. Yet their firm faith in Prabhupāda compensated for their lack of training. They accepted him as a pure devotee directly in touch with God, and they accepted his books as truth and Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. But many practical things they didn’t know, such as how to cook, lecture, and worship the Deities. They knew Prabhupāda wanted them to chant Hare Kṛṣṇa publicly and distribute Back to Godhead magazines to the people of Sydney, and this they did daily. Despite frequent arrests, they continued with their saṅkīrtana. Sincerity they had. They only lacked training.
A devotee brought Prabhupāda his lunch, poorly cooked-the capātīs half burned, half raw, the vegetables wrongly spiced. Prabhupāda rebuked the cook, “If you didn’t know how to cook, why didn’t you tell me? I can show you.” And he went into the kitchen. One of the cooks had tried to make kacaurīs and had failed. Although she knew that the dough had to be rolled thin, the filling put in just right, and then the edges folded over precisely, neither she nor any of the other devotees had been able to do it. Prabhupāda, using the same dough and filling, demonstrated the art and made perfect kacaurīs.
The devotees explained their difficulty in making capātīs. There was no flame on their electric stove. The capātīs always came out dry or raw or burned and never puffed up. The excuse only annoyed Prabhupāda, however, who showed exactly how to make capātīs that puffed up every time-even on an electric burner. Then he taught the cooks a simple vegetable dish, advising as he cooked. After he left the kitchen, the devotees tried the capātīs again. They wouldn’t puff. It seemed a magical art only Prabhupāda knew.
Śrīla Prabhupāda had his reasons for bringing Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa to Australia-some of them apparent, others so deep that only he and Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa could understand them. Of course, he was always expanding his movement, of which Deity worship was an important part. So that was one reason for bringing Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa to Australia: to strengthen the devotees and establish more solidly his movement there.
And Prabhupāda loved these Deities. They had presided over the Bombay paṇḍāl, and when They hadn’t been onstage he had kept Them in his room, where he could look at Them during the day. He had brought Them from Bombay to Malaysia to Sydney, and now he proposed to install Them in this fledgling ISKCON center. But the infinite purity of his heart and the depth of his determination to risk anything for Their Lordships Śrī Śrī Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa are unfathomable. Śrīla Prabhupāda’s activities are most grave, and their deeper meaning eludes an observer. Of Lord Caitanya, Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja wrote, “I do not know the deep meaning of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s activities. I am just trying to describe them externally.”
When Prabhupāda came to the temple to perform the initiation ceremony and Deity installation, the devotees weren’t ready. Only one small vase of flowers decorated the almost bare altar, and the devotees had not made garlands for the Deities. Prabhupāda was displeased. The small temple was packed, however, and guests and devotees crowded the open doorway and peered through the front window. TV crews filmed the action under hot lamps.
While devotees hurriedly strung garlands for the Deities, Prabhupāda performed the initiation ceremony. There were fifteen initiates in all. To some devotees he gave first initiation, to some second initiation, and to others both first and second. Then he lovingly bathed the forms of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa and performed the fire sacrifice. While dressing the Deities, he remarked that Their clothes had been poorly made and that the devotees should make new ones immediately. He named the Deities Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Gopīnātha.
Vaibhavī: He initiated everyone in the temple, anyone who was there- even one boy who had just joined that week and had only come across Kṛṣṇa consciousness the week before, and people who weren’t living in the temple, just anyone who was there and somehow serving. He wanted Kṛṣṇa consciousness to be established in Australia, so he just initiated everybody. He gave first and second initiations at the same time, because, having installed the Deities, there had to be some brāhmaṇas.
But we didn’t know anything. We weren’t even ready. The altar wasn’t finished. Prabhupāda explained to me that we had to string flowers for a garland-the Deity was supposed to wear one. I was running up and down the street trying to find some flowers and get some thread and make a garland.
Same with the sacred thread There were no sacred threads. Prabhupāda gave the men a sacred thread at brāhmaṇa initiation, but no one really knew what it was. So I had to run and buy some string. And while Prabhupāda was initiating people, I was sitting there in the arena making sacred threads, copying the one that Bali-mardana had taken off himself.
I made five of them, and then I was next. After the sacrifice, and after I came out of Prabhupāda’s room, where he’d given me the Gāyatrī mantra, the other devotees said, “You’re a brāhmaṇa now. So you have to have a sacred thread, too.” They told me to make one for myself which I didn’t, because someone told me later a woman wasn’t supposed to wear one. We just didn’t know much.
At Sydney Grammar School, an elite school for boys, Prabhupāda led his disciples and a group of students in a kīrtana procession through the schoolyard. About two hundred boys and several teachers took part, some children frolicking and laughing, some singing the mantra, some soberly following the procession, as the teachers smiled and watched. The procession ended in a large room with a row of chairs in the front. Prabhupāda sat in the headmaster’s elaborately carved thronelike seat in the center and began playing karatālas, continuing the chanting of Hare Kṛṣṇa. Seeing only a few students responding, he stopped and looked around at the children sitting before him.
“So you are all beautiful boys. Why you do not join us in chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa? Is it very difficult? Will you not try to chant? Hare. Say Ha-re.”
A few children: “Hare.”
Prabhupāda: “All of you chant, Hare.”
The children, weakly: “Hare.” Some giggled.
Prabhupāda led them through the mantra, one word at a time. Still some children were reticent.
Prabhupāda: “There are only three words: Hare, Kṛṣṇa, and Rāma. Is it very difficult? Chant again-Hare.”
Teasing and prodding, Prabhupāda coaxed them. “Oh, you cannot chant? You are all dumb?” The children broke into laughter. “How is that? Three words you cannot chant? Oh, that is very astonishing. Chant! Hare!”
Prabhupāda began rhythmically ringing his karatālas, the children following him as he sang: Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare.
After a short time Prabhupāda brought the kīrtana to a close. Sitting in the beautiful ornate chair, he smiled at the children. “Three words: Hare, Kṛṣṇa, and Rāma. Do you know what is God? Can any of you stand up and tell me what is God?”
There was silence, then whispering. Finally, one twelve-year-old boy stood. His schoolmates applauded and laughed.
“Oh, thank you,” Prabhupāda said. “Come here.”
The boy approached.
“Do you know what is God?” Prabhupāda asked.
“Yes,” the boy replied. “God is self-realization, and God is found in the unconscious mind.”
Again the children applauded.
“No, wait. Don’t go away,” Prabhupāda said. “Now you must explain what you mean. What is self-realization?”
Boy: “It is tapping the powers of the unconscious mind and seeing yourself…”
Prabhupāda: “Do you think the mind is unconscious?”
Boy: “The mind is unconscious.”
Prabhupāda: “To understand the unconscious, you have to find out what is consciousness.”
Boy: “I’m not talking about consciousness-the unconsciousness.”
Prabhupāda: “Unless you know consciousness, how can you describe unconsciousness?”
Boy: “The unconsciousness. The id.”
Prabhupāda: “Unconsciousness is the negative side of consciousness. So you should explain what is consciousness. Then we can understand unconsciousness.”
Prabhupāda: “Yes. Try to understand what is consciousness. Then you will understand what is unconsciousness. Consciousness is spread all over the body. Suppose I pinch any part of your body. You feel some pain. That is consciousness. This feeling of pain and pleasure is consciousness. But that consciousness is individual. I cannot feel the pains and pleasures of your body, neither you can feel the pains and pleasures of my body. Therefore, your consciousness is individual and my consciousness is in dividual. But there is another consciousness, who can feel the pains and pleasures of your body and who can feel the pains and pleasures of my body. That is stated in the Bhagavad-gītā.
“You have heard the name of Bhagavad-gītā? You? Any of you?”
Another boy: “Yes.”
Prabhupāda: “Who says yes? Please come here. Thank you. Very good. At least one of you knows what is Bhagavad-gītā. In the Bhagavad-gītā it is stated that…” And Śrīla Prabhupāda proceeded to explain the difference between the material body and the soul and between the individual souls and the Supreme Soul, Kṛṣṇa.
“You are individual knower of your body. I am knower individually of my body. So everyone is knower of his own body. But there is another person, who says, “I know everything of everyone’s body.’ Just like I know something of my body, or I know something of this world. Similarly, there is another ātmā (soul), supreme ātmā, who knows everything of this universe. He is sometimes called God or the Paramātmā or Kṛṣṇa, whatever, according to different language.”
After describing the soul’s intimate relationship as an eternal servant of Kṛṣṇa and the soul’s suffering caused by forgetting that relationship, Prabhupāda concluded his lecture.
“These teachings should be introduced in every school and college so that from the very beginning children understand what is God, how great He is, how we are related with God, and how we have to live.
“So our movement, Kṛṣṇa consciousness, is teaching that thing. Don’t think that it is a sectarian religion. We are making people God conscious. It doesn’t matter to what religion you may belong. If by following the principles of religion one becomes advanced in God consciousness, that is first-class religion. That is our motto, and we are preaching all over the world.
“Therefore, I request your teachers here to make the students from the beginning God conscious. Then their future life will be very peaceful, prosperous, and hopeful. Thank you very much. Hare Kṛṣṇa.”
Prabhupāda also agreed to speak at Wayside Chapel, a center in downtown Sydney ministering to drug addicts and prostitutes. A Wayside sponsor met Prabhupāda at the temple and accompanied him to the Chapel. The sponser, a long-haired young man in hippie dress, boasted of how Wayside Chapel helped drug addicts. Prabhupāda, however, took it that he was saying the Chapel supplied drugs to the addicts.
At Wayside Chapel a skeptic in the audience challenged Prabhupāda. Prabhupāda had explained that the chanting of the holy names of God was the only way to actually help people, but the cynic challenged, “What good actually is this chanting of Hare Kṛṣṇa?”
“It saves you from death!” Prabhupāda answered forcibly.
May 12, 1971
In his quarters in Sydney, Prabhupāda wrote the Preface to the upcoming edition of Bhagavad-gītā As It Is. The Macmillan Company had now agreed to print the unabridged manuscript. The contract was signed, the book was being readied for printing; only the Preface remained to be written.
Prabhupāda wrote in his Preface that although he was known for starting the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement in America, actually “the original father of this movement is Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself.” Giving all credit for his own achievements to his spiritual master, Prabhupāda said that the only qualification he himself had was that he had tried to present Bhagavad-gītā as it is, without adulteration.
Instead of satisfying his own personal material senses, he [a person] has to satisfy the senses of the Lord. That is the highest perfection of life. The Lord wants this, and He demands it. One has to understand this central point of Bhagavad-gītā. Our Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is teaching the whole world this central point, and because we are not polluting the theme of Bhagavad-gītā As It Is, anyone seriously interested in deriving benefit by studying the Bhagavad-gītā must take help from the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement for practical understanding of Bhagavad-gītā under the direct guidance of the Lord. We hope, therefore, that people will derive the greatest benefit by studying Bhagavad-gītā As It Is as we have presented it here, and if even one man becomes a pure devotee of the Lord we shall consider our attempt a success.
As Prabhupāda explained in his Preface, he was publishing the full Gītā manuscript “to establish the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement more soundly and progressively.” He would do this by presenting transcendental literature like Bhagavad-gītā. But he would also have to go, as Lord Caitanya has said, “to every town and village”-either personally or through his agents, his disciples. And wherever he went, he would preach Bhagavad-gītā to whoever would listen.
Tomorrow Prabhupāda would leave Australia for a big paṇḍāl festival in Calcutta, then on to Moscow, Paris, Los Angeles…
Lord Kṛṣṇa states in Bhagavad-gītā that no servant is more dear to Him than one who teaches Bhagavad-gītā to the devotees. And Prabhupāda, in all his activities-whether writing a Preface, lecturing to the prostitutes and drug addicts, teaching a disciple to cook capātīs without burning them, or planning grand projects yet to come-was always teaching Bhagavad-gītā and therefore was always the dearest servant of Lord Kṛṣṇa.
Prabhupāda stood before the Deities of Rādhā-Gopīnātha with folded hands. After less than a week in Sydney, he was leaving. He knew that the devotees here were not up to the standard required for worshiping Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa. And he knew he was taking a risk, entrusting Their worship to neophyte disciples. Yet as an empowered ācārya and as the representative of Lord Caitanya, he had to implant Kṛṣṇa consciousness anywhere it might take root. The world was in desperate need. If his disciples followed the process he had given them-chanting, hearing, observing regulative principles-he knew they would quickly become purified.
He had given an analogy: Although in material life a man must first become a highly qualified lawyer before sitting on the judge’s bench, in Kṛṣṇa consciousness a sincere devotee is first allowed to “sit on the bench,” to become a brāhmaṇa, and later, by the mercy of the holy name and the spiritual master, he becomes qualified. The devotees in Sydney, however, were particularly immature, and Prabhupāda made an extraordinary request of Rādhā-Gopīnātha: “Now I am leaving You in the hands of the mlecchas. I cannot take the responsibility. You please guide these boys and girls and give them the intelligence to worship You very nicely.”
* * *
May 13, 1971
Prabhupāda arrived just in time for the ten-day Calcutta paṇḍāl festival. On his orders, Girirāja and Tamāla Kṛṣṇa had come to organize the festival, just as they had the one in Bombay. Prabhupāda had written to Jayapatāka Swami, president of ISKCON Calcutta,
In the San Kirtan festival pandel if a very big kitchen arrangement can be made, then we shall distribute prasadam daily. Try to make this arrangement. Puri, halevah, kitrie-whatever can be arranged as much as possible. Tamal Krishna and Giriraj have all the ideas.
Attendance surpassed that of the Bombay paṇḍāl, with twenty to thirty thousand people attending daily, including ministers of Parliament and other distinguished speakers. It was one of the biggest religious functions Calcutta had ever seen; the whole city became aware of the strength of the Hare Kṛṣṇa movement.
In the early afternoon the devotees would begin selling Prabhupāda’s books from a booth, performing kīrtana onstage, and distributing prasādam to the masses. Around 6:30 the evening program would begin with a long, intense kīrtana, which would increase in its fervor as Prabhupāda arrived for the evening ārati before the Deities of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa. Prabhupāda would lecture, sometimes in Bengali and sometimes in English. Afterward the devotees would show slides of the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement around the world, and Prabhupāda would answer questions from the audience. After the program, people would push forward to receive a morsel of the prasādam that had been offered to the Deity.
Naxalite terrorists threatened Prabhupāda’s life. These young Communist terrorists, who had been active in Calcutta during Prabhupāda’s visit of 1970, had never disturbed him until now. Their tactic was to approach prominent businessmen in their homes or on the street and coerce them into cooperation with Naxalite political objectives. If a businessman refused, the Naxalites would burn his home or place of business or even assassinate him. The Naxalites, who were eager for all of Bengal to turn from their religious traditions and embrace Communism, saw Prabhupāda rekindling the religious spirit in Calcutta. Prabhupāda’s tremendous crowd-gathering paṇḍāl, they concluded, was undermining the principles of Communism.
“Fly or Die,” read the note Prabhupāda received. He informed the police, who regretted their inability to help. The whole of Calcutta, they said, was in terror of the Naxalites. Prabhupāda, however, refused to be intimidated; he would not fly. Even if they were to attack him, he said, what better way for a Vaiṣṇava to leave his body than while preaching the glories of the Lord?
The next night as Prabhupāda came before the crowd to speak, he noticed a group of rowdy young men, Naxalites, near the stage. They were protesting the preferential seating of certain dignitaries onstage. When one young radical shouted that the radicals themselves wanted to dance onstage, the devotees invited them to join in a kīrtana. The Naxalites backed down, but continued shouting and disrupting the meeting. They began banging the seats of the wooden folding chairs, calling out Naxalite slogans, and threatening to burn the place down. Others in the audience began talking nervously among themselves, increasing the commotion. In a vain attempt to bring order, some of the devotees threatened the dissenters. Pushing and scuffling broke out in the audience.
“Cintāmaṇi-prakara-sadmasu kalpa-vṛkṣa-/ lakṣāvṛteṣu surabhīr abhipālayantam…” Prabhupāda’s voice rang over the powerful loudspeaker system. Appearing uninterested in the crowd, depending only on Kṛṣṇa, he began singing prayers from Brahma-saṁhitā, and within minutes everyone quieted. Those who wanted to leave left, and those who wanted to stay sat down. The crowd subdued, Prabhupāda lectured.
Several more “fly or die” notes came, and the Naxalites returned the next night, threatening again to burn the paṇḍāl. “Call them,” Prabhupāda said. “I will meet with them.” The devotees thought it unsafe, but Prabhupāda insisted. In a small room behind the paṇḍāl, Prabhupāda spoke with the hostile youths. They were angry and disrespectful at first, but as Prabhupāda explained to them the Vedic concept of communism-with Kṛṣṇa at the center-he caught their interest. They agreed to allow Prabhupāda’s meetings to continue without any further disruptions.
Acyutānanda Swami: The last night of the ten-day paṇḍāl program was a grand finale, with over forty thousand people attending. I had just stepped out to get sugarcane juice. The paṇḍāl was completely packed when I left, but when I got outside, I saw rivers of people flowing through the four main gates into the paṇḍāl tent. I thought this must be Kṛṣṇa’s mystic power, because the tent was already packed and still thousands of people were entering it. I thought that Kṛṣṇa must be unlimitedly expanding the dimensions of space.
The climax of the evening was a big procession, beginning at the paṇḍāl and going up Park Street to the ISKCON temple on Albert Road. The Deities of Rādhā-Govinda rode on a palanquin to the temple, where They were placed on the altar. After an ārati in the temple, the remaining crowd dispersed.
Acyutānanda Swami was standing next to Prabhupāda that night in the Calcutta temple. “Prabhupāda,” he said, “someone put Kṛṣṇa’s flute in backward.” Prabhupāda looked. It was backward. “Kṛṣṇa is all-powerful” he said, turning to Acyutānanda Swami. “He can play from the back end also.”
Śrīla Prabhupāda was still striving for a plot of land in Māyāpur. Having abandoned the idea that his Godbrothers in Māyāpur might help, he had been working through Bengali friends in negotiating with Muslim farmers in Māyāpur. On returning from Australia, Prabhupāda had sent Tamāla Kṛṣṇa to Māyāpur with orders not to come back until he had purchased land. Tamāla Kṛṣṇa’s mission was successful, and after six days he returned to Prabhupāda in Calcutta, having purchased nine bighas, three acres, in Māyāpur.
Conceiving the value of Māyāpur was difficult for the devotees, however. One devotee journeyed from Calcutta to see the new ISKCON property and on returning asked Prabhupāda, “What are we going to do there? It’s just a big empty field. Nothing is there.”
“Because there are no factories and cars,” Prabhupāda replied, “therefore you think there is nothing to do. But we are going to chant Hare Kṛṣṇa in Māyāpur. We will build a big temple there, and all the devotees in the world can go out and chant Hare Kṛṣṇa in the place of Lord Caitanya’s birth.” On May 28 Prabhupāda wrote,
You will be glad to learn that we have purchased about five acres of land in Mayapur, the birthsite of Lord Chaitanya, and we have proposed to hold a nice festival there from Janmastami day for two weeks. At that time the foundation stone will be set down. I wish that all our leading disciples come to India at that time. There are 50 branches, so at least one from each branch should attend the function.
* * *
For months Prabhupāda had been planning to visit Moscow. Aside from his desire to preach to the Russian people, he had a specific meeting in mind with a Russian Indology Professor, G. G. Kotovsky. Professor Kotovsky headed the department of Indian and South Asian studies at Moscow’s U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences, and Prabhupāda had been corresponding with him for a year.
Kṛṣṇa dāsa in West Germany, with the help of a Dr. Bernhardt of the University of Hamburg, had obtained the names of other Russian scholars of Indology. A letter to Kṛṣṇa dāsa in December of 1970 had revealed Prabhupāda’s plans for preaching in Russia.
I am very encouraged to see your enthusiasm for preaching this message to the Russian people, and your idea to send letters with the help of Dr. Bernhardt is very good. He is a big scholar and he also appreciates our movement. So if you arrange a tour of Russia for me, I am prepared to accept. Let us see what Krishna desires… If we can go to Russia with our World Sankirtan Party, I am certain that it will be very much appreciated and people will see the real peace movement is chanting process-chanting the Holy Names Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. So try for it.
Śrīla Prabhupāda had coached Kṛṣṇa dāsa on how to best cultivate the Russian Indologists.
You can ask them some questions like: What is the ultimate goal of life? What is your ideal ultimate goal of life? What is the difference between animal and human life? Why is religion accepted by all kinds of civilized societies? What is your conception of the original creation? In this way questions may be put to find out what is their standing. We do not grudge an atheist provided he has got some philosophical standing. In this way try to elicit some answers from the Professors. If you can finally establish one Moscow center, it will be a great credit to you. So far studying Russian language, it is not necessary, but if you do so it is all right. I want very much a center in Russia, so for the time being I shall desire that Moscow Center.
In March 1971, Professor G. G. Kotovsky had replied to Kṛṣṇa dāsa’s letter.
I thank you for your information about Swami Bhaktivedanta’s lecturing tour. If he would come to Moscow, the Soviet scholars doing research in ancient Indian culture would be very happy to meet him in the Institute of Oriental Studies, U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences. I would be thankful to you for your information on the dates of Swami Bhaktivedanta’s arrival and stay in the U.S.S.R.
Śrīla Prabhupāda had personally replied to Professor Kotovsky.
… it was understood that you and your university are interested in hearing about Krishna culture and philosophy. This ancient Krishna culture and philosophy is the oldest in the world or in the universe. At least from a historical point of view it is not less than 5,000 years old.
Perhaps you may know that I have started this cultural movement since 1966 and it is already spreading all over the world. Krishna culture is so popular in India that even the government attracts many foreigners by Air India time table to visit Vrindavan, the land of Krishna culture. Enclosed please find one page from the latest Air India time table (April 1971) wherein the Krishna culture is depicted for general attraction.
My life is dedicated to spreading this Krishna culture all over the world. I think if you give me a chance to speak about the great Krishna culture and philosophy in your country, you will very much appreciate this simple programme with great profit. This culture is so well planned that it would be acceptable by any thoughtful man throughout the whole world.
Having preached a year in the Eastern Hemisphere, Prabhupāda was eager to return to the West, and he planned to fly to Moscow and on to Europe. For Prabhupāda and his traveling companions, Śyāmasundara and Aravinda, getting tourist visas for Russia was simple. They would take a five-day, government-controlled tour, with every activity planned by the Soviet Tourist Bureau and everything paid for in advance.
Captain Lal, the pilot of the flight to Moscow, considered Prabhupāda an important passenger and came back to visit him during the flight. They spoke of Prabhupāda’s movement, his chances for lecturing in Moscow, and of Bombay, where Prabhupāda was trying to purchase land. Captain Lal invited Prabhupāda to the cockpit, and Prabhupāda came and sat behind the captain, asking technical questions about the equipment and the flight. Prabhupāda and Captain Lal agreed to meet again in Moscow.
Prabhupāda, his secretary, and his servant cleared Soviet customs and immigration quickly and smoothly, and a government tourist guide escorted them by limousine to the Hotel National. The hotel, near Red Square, Lenin’s Tomb, and the Kremlin, was expensive but plain. Prabhupāda found his room dingy and cramped, with barely space for a bed and two chairs. The room for Śyāmasundara and Aravinda was far away, and Prabhupāda decided that Aravinda should share the room with him instead, crowding Prabhupāda’s room all the more.
Aravinda told the hotel manager that they would not eat the hotel fare, but would have to cook their own meals. The manager refused at first, but finally allowed them use of the maid’s kitchen.
That problem solved, the next was getting food. Prabhupāda sent Śyāmasundara out. Across the street, Śyāmasundara found a milk and yogurt store, but he returned to Prabhupāda’s room without any fruit, vegetables, or rice. Prabhupāda sent him out again, and this time Śyāmasundara was gone practically all day, returning with only a couple of cabbages. Prabhupāda sent him out the next day for rice. When Śyāmasundara returned with rice after several hours, Prabhupāda saw that it was a poor North Korean variety, very hard. Prabhupāda asked for fruit, but Śyāmasundara had to hike for miles through the city to find anything fresh-a few red cherries.
Prabhupāda remained peaceful and regulated, keeping to his daily schedule. He would rise early and translate, and in the cool of early morning he would go out for a walk through the all-but-deserted streets. Prabhupāda, wearing a saffron cādar, strode quickly, Śyāmasundara sometimes running ahead to photograph him.
As they would pass Lenin’s Mausoleum a queue would already be forming. “Just see,” Prabhupāda commented one morning, “that is their God. The people don’t understand the difference between the body and the spirit. They accept the body as the real person.”
Prabhupāda appreciated the sparseness of the traffic-some trolleys and bicycles, but mostly pedestrians. As he walked among the old, ornate buildings, he saw elderly women hosing the wide streets-a good practice, he said. The Russian people appeared to live structured, regulated lives, much more so than the Americans. These simple, austere people, unspoiled by the rampant hedonism so common in America, were fertile for Kṛṣṇa consciousness. But devoid of spiritual sustenance, they appeared morose.
Prabhupāda had Śyāmasundara arrange a meeting with Professor Kotovsky and invite Captain Lal to come along. The tourist bureau provided a car and guide, and Prabhupāda and his party rode outside the city to Professor Kotovsky’s office in an old white brick building at the Academy of Sciences.
When Prabhupāda arrived, the middle-aged Russian professor, dressed in a gray suit, got up from his cluttered desk and welcomed Prabhupāda into his small office. Professor Kotovsky appeared a bit hesitant, however, more cautious than in his letters. When Śyāmasundara mentioned Prabhupāda’s eagerness to lecture before interested scholars at the Academy, Professor Kotovsky flatly refused-it would never be allowed. Prabhupāda was disappointed.
The next moment, however, Prabhupāda seemed unaffected and began speaking in his humble, genteel manner, sitting in a straight-backed office chair beside Professor Kotovsky, who sat at his desk. Śyāmasundara turned on the tape recorder, which the professor eyed cautiously but didn’t object to.
Prabhupāda: “The other day I was reading in the paper, Moscow News. There was a Communist congress, and the president declared that, “We are ready to get others’ experiences to improve.’ So I think the Vedic concept of socialism or communism will much improve the idea of Communism.”
Professor Kotovsky listened intently and politely as his foreign visitor explained how the gṛhastha in Vedic culture provides for everyone living in his house-even for the lizards-and how, before taking his meal, he calls in the road to invite any hungry person to come and eat. “In this way,” Prabhupāda explained, “there are so many good concepts about the socialist idea of communism. So I thought that these ideas might have been distributed to some of your thoughtful men. Therefore I was anxious to speak.”
Professor Kotovsky’s academic interest was piqued. “You know, it is interesting,” he said, his articulate English heavily accented. “As it is here in our country, there is now great interest in the history of old, old thought.” He described the accomplishments of his colleagues and himself, particularly a booklet they had recently prepared highlighting Soviet studies in Indology. He said he would like to give a copy to Prabhupāda.
Professor Kotovsky: “You will be interested to discover that we published not all but some Purāṇas, then some parts of the Rāmāyaṇa, eight volumes in Russian of the Mahābhārata, and also a second edition of the Mahābhārata, translated by different people in full and published. Manu-smṛti is also translated in full and published with Sanskrit commentaries. And such was the great interest that all of these publications were sold in a week. They are now completely out of stock. It is impossible to get them in the book market after a month. Such a great interest among reading people here in Moscow and the U.S.S.R. towards ancient Vedic culture.”
Prabhupāda: “Among these Purāṇas, the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is called the Mahā-purāṇa.” And he told of his own translation of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, “the ripened fruit of the Vedic desire tree.” He would show some volumes to the professor if he was interested.
Professor Kotovsky said the Moscow and Leningrad libraries had nearly all the major texts of Indian culture in Sanskrit. These libraries housed not only ancient texts but more recent literature as well, comprising an up-to-date study of Hinduism.
“Hinduism,” Prabhupāda interrupted, “is a very complex topic.” And they both laughed. Professor Kotovsky acknowledged that Hinduism was more than a religion; it was a way of life. But Prabhupāda explained that the name Hindu was actually a misnomer. The real term to explain Vedic culture was varṇāśrama. Briefly Prabhupāda described the four orders: brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, vaiśya, and śūdra.
Professor Kotovsky: “You have told that in any society there are four divisions, but it is not so easy to distinguish. For instance, one can group together different social classes and professional groups into four divisions in any society. There is no difficulty. The only difficulty is, for instance, in socialist society, in our country and other socialist societies, how can you distinguish productive group and workers?”
Prabhupāda welcomed the professor’s questions, although grounded in Soviet socialist vested interests. Prabhupāda considered the professor not so much an academician as a pawn of the Soviet university system; much as one political power tries to understand its adversary, the professor was inquiring into Indian culture so that his government might penetrate it with their own ideology. Behind Professor Kotovsky’s apparent interest in Vedic culture, Prabhupāda could see the view of the Communist party, a view diametrically opposed to Vedic philosophy. Nevertheless, Prabhupāda tactfully continued to present Kṛṣṇa consciousness in accord with paramparā, and he tried to convince Professor Kotovsky through scripture and logic.
Quoting Bhagavad-gītā, a śāstra with which the professor was familiar (in his own way), Prabhupāda described Lord Kṛṣṇa as the creator of the four divisions of society. Professor Kotovsky immediately countered with the theory of the Soviet scholars that the varṇāśrama divisions were a recent addition to Vedic culture. He also again registered his opinion that the divisions of varṇāśrama had no meaning within socialism.
Professor Kotovsky: “There is a great distinction between socialist society and all societies preceding socialism, because in modern Western society you can group all social and professional classes in the particular class divisions-brāhmaṇas, kṣatriyas, vaiśyas (or factory owners), and śūdras, or menial workers. But here we have no vaiśyas. Because we have administrative staff in factories, managerial staff-you can call them kṣatriyas-and then śūdras, the workers themselves, but not this intermediate class.”
Prabhupāda: “That is stated, kalau śūdra-sambhavaḥ. “In this age, practically all men are śūdras.’ That is stated. But if there are simply śūdras, then the social order will be disturbed. In spite of your state of śūdras, the brāhmaṇas are there. That is necessary. So if you do not divide the social order in such a way, then it will be chaos. That is the scientific estimation of the Vedas. You may belong to the śūdra class, but to maintain the social order you have to train some of the śūdras to become brāhmaṇas. It cannot depend on the śūdras.”
Prabhupāda gave his standard analogy, comparing the social body to the human body. All the parts are necessary, not only the legs but the belly, the arms, and the head. “Otherwise,” he said, “it will not work properly. As long as this is going on, there will be some disturbance.”
Modern society’s missing point, Prabhupāda said, was an understanding of the purpose of human life. “They do not know what is the next life,” he said. “There is no department of knowledge or scientific de partment to study what is there after finishing this body.”
Professor Kotovsky objected-politely, completely. “Swamiji,” he said, “when the body dies, the owner also dies.” Prabhupāda marked his reply.
“No,” Prabhupāda quickly replied. “This fact you must know. Why is there no department of knowledge in the university to study this fact scientifically? That is my proposition. That department is lacking. It may be as you say, it may be as I say, but there must be a department of knowledge. Now recently a cardiologist, a doctor in Montreal and Toronto, has accepted that there is a soul. I had some correspondence with him. He strongly believes that there is a soul.”
Prabhupāda continued to build his argument: “We accept knowledge from authority.” The professor countered that everything had to be accepted on the basis of empirical evidence. But then, in midsentence, he stopped arguing and inquired, “Have you many branches of your society in the world?”
Prabhupāda began speaking about ISKCON, with its sixty-five branches all around the world, and of how he was going next to Paris, where his disciples had recently acquired a new center, and of how the American boys and girls especially were joining his movement. He told of the four prohibitive rules (no meat-eating, no illicit sex, no intoxication, and no gambling) and of the books he had published. As Prabhupāda described the workings of his movement, Professor Kotovsky nodded approvingly.
When Prabhupāda returned to comparing Kṛṣṇa consciousness to Communism, he concluded that the two philosophies were in agreement. And both stressed surrender to an authority. The devotee surrenders to Kṛṣṇa, the Communist to Lenin.
Prabhupāda: “Our life is by surrender, is it not? Do you disagree with this point?”
Kotovsky: “To some extent you surrender.”
Prabhupāda: “Yes. To the full extent.”
Kotovsky: “You have to surrender to the society, for instance-the whole people.”
Prabhupāda: “Yes, to the whole people or to the state or king or government or whatever you say. The surrender must be there. It may be different.”
Kotovsky: “The only difficulty is we cannot have surrender to government or to a king. The principal difference is of surrender to a king, who is a single person, or to the whole society.”
Prabhupāda: “No, that is a change of color only. But the surrender is there. The principle of surrender is there. Whether you surrender to monarchy, democracy, aristocracy, or dictatorship, you have to surrender. That is a fact. Without surrender there is no life. It is not possible. So we are educating persons to surrender to the Supreme, wherefrom you get all protection. Just like Kṛṣṇa says, sarva-dharmān parityajya. So surrender is there. No one can say, “No, I am not surrendered to anyone.’ The difference is where he surrenders. And the ultimate surrendering object is Kṛṣṇa. Therefore in Bhagavad-gītā it is said, bahūnāṁ janmanām ante jñānavān māṁ prapadyate: “After surrendering to so many things, birth after birth, when one is factually wise he surrenders unto Me.'”
Professor Kotovsky agreed. But surrender had to be accompanied by revolution, he said. The French Revolution, for example, was a revolt against one kind of surrender, and yet the revolution itself was another surrender, surrender to the people. “So it is not enough to come full stop,” the Professor argued. “Surrender is to be accompanied with revolt against surrender to other people.”
Prabhupāda: “Yes, the surrender will be full stopped when it is surrender to Kṛṣṇa. That is full stop: no more surrender. Other surrender you have to change by revolution. But when you come to Kṛṣṇa, then it is sufficient-you are satisfied. Just like-I give you one example. A child is crying and people change laps: “Oh, it has not stopped.’ But as soon as the baby comes to the lap of its mother…”
Kotovsky: “It stops.”
Prabhupāda: “Yes, full satisfaction. So this surrender, the changes will go on in different categories. The sum total of all these surrenders is surrender to māyā (material illusion). But the final surrender is to Kṛṣṇa, and then you will be happy.”
After only three days, Prabhupāda’s mission in Moscow seemed finished. The meeting with Professor Kotovsky over, what was left? The government would allow nothing else. It had not allowed him to bring in books, and now he had been refused the opportunity to speak publicly. Foreigners were not to talk with the Russians. He could go nowhere, unless on an accompanied tour. So with no preaching and no prospects, he stayed in his cramped room, taking his massage, bathing, accepting whatever food Śyāmasundara could gather and cook, dictating a few letters, chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, and translating Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.
Prabhupāda took a guided tour of Moscow, riding with other tourists on a crowded bus. He saw elderly Russians going to church, armed guards stationed at the door. He soon tired of the tour, however, and the tour guide got him a taxi and instructed the driver to return him to the Hotel National.
Śyāmasundara continued to spend most of his day looking for fresh food. Hearing that oranges were available at a certain market across town, he set out across the city. With his shaved head and his white dhotī and kurtā he drew stares from everyone he passed, and as he was returning after dark, uniformed men wearing red armbands accosted him, taking him to be a local deviant. Grabbing him, they pinned his arms behind his back and shouted at him in Russian. Śyāmasundara caught the word dakumyent (“document, passport”). He replied, “Dakumyent, hotel! Hotel!” Realizing Śyāmasundara was a tourist, the officers released him, and he returned to the hotel and informed Prabhupāda of what had taken place. “There is no hope in Russia without Kṛṣṇa consciousness,” Prabhupāda said.
Once Śyāmasundara was standing in line at the yogurt store when a man behind him asked him about yoga. “I really want to talk with you,” the man said, and he gave Śyāmasundara his name and address and a time they could safely meet. When Śyāmasundara told Prabhupāda, Prabhupāda said, “No, he is a policeman. Don’t go.”
One day two young men, one the son of an Indian diplomat stationed in Moscow, the other a young Muscovite, were loitering near Red Square when they saw an amazing sight. Out of the usual regimented routine of city traffic, a tall young man with a shaved head, a long reddish ponytail, and flowing white robes approached. It was Śyāmasundara. Familiar with Śyāmasundara’s dress, the son of the Indian diplomat stopped him. Śyāmasundara smiled. “Hare Kṛṣṇa, brother.” And he began talking with the Indian, whose name was Nārāyaṇa. The Russian, Ivan, knew a little English and followed the conversation as closely as he could. The talk grew serious.
“Why don’t you come up and meet my spiritual master?” Śyāma sundara asked. Honored, the boys immediately accompanied Śyāmasundara to the Hotel National. When they arrived, they found Prabhupāda seated on his bed, aglow and smiling, Aravinda massaging his feet. Śyāmasundara entered, offering obeisances before Prabhupāda. Ivan was completely fascinated.
“Come on,” Prabhupāda said, and the three of them sat at Prabhupāda’s feet. Turning first to Nārāyaṇa, Prabhupāda asked his name and his father’s occupation. Nārāyaṇa liked Prabhupāda and offered to bring him green vegetables; his father, being highly placed at the Indian Embassy, had produce flown in from India.
Ivan was interested even more than his Indian friend, and Prabhupāda began explaining to him the philosophy of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, while Nārāyaṇa helped by translating. Ivan inquired with respect and awe, and Prabhupāda answered his questions, teaching as much basic information about Kṛṣṇa consciousness as was possible in one sitting. Prabhupāda explained the difference between the spirit soul and the body and described the soul’s eternal relationship with Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He spoke of Bhagavad-gītā, of his network of temples around the world, and of his young men and women disciples all practicing bhakti-yoga.
Prabhupāda mentioned his desire to preach in Russia, which was a great field for Kṛṣṇa consciousness because the people were openminded and hadn’t been polluted by sense gratification. He wanted to introduce Kṛṣṇa conscious literature in Russia through a library or a reading room or in whatever way possible. Kṛṣṇa conscious philosophy, he said, should be taught to Russia’s most intelligent people, but because of government restrictions it would have to be done discreetly. Devotees would not be able to sing and dance in the streets, but they could chant quietly together in someone’s home. Prabhupāda then began singing very quietly, leading the boys in kīrtana.
Ivan’s taking to Kṛṣṇa was like a hungry man’s eating a meal. After several hours, however, he and his friend had to go. They would return the next day.
Śyāmasundara began spending time with Ivan and Nārāyaṇa. Ivan, a student of Oriental philosophies, was very intelligent and eager to know what was going on in the outside world. He was fond of the Beatles, and Prabhupāda told him of his association with George Harrison and John Lennon. Ivan and Śyāmasundara had long talks about the ambitions and hopes of young people outside Russia, and Śyāmasundara explained to him how Kṛṣṇa consciousness was the topmost of all spiritual paths. Śyāmasundara also taught him basic principles of bhakti-yoga, such as chanting the prescribed sixteen rounds of japa daily, and gave him his own copy of Bhagavad-gītā As It Is.
Prabhupāda showed Ivan how to prepare capātīs and rice and asked him to give up eating meat. Joyfully, Ivan accepted the chanting, the new way of eating-everything. Ivan was being trained so that after Prabhupāda left, Ivan could continue on his own. Ivan would be able to feel himself changing and advancing in spiritual life, and after practicing for some time he could be initiated. Ivan said he would tell his friends about Kṛṣṇa consciousness. With only two days left in Moscow, Prabhupāda taught Ivan as much as he could. In this young Russian’s eagerness and intelligence, Prabhupāda found the real purpose of his visit to Russia.
Prabhupāda gave the analogy that when cooking rice the cook need test only one grain to determine whether the whole pot of rice is done. Similarly, by talking with this one Russian youth, Prabhupāda could tell that the Russian people were not satisfied in their so-called ideal land of Marxism. Just as Ivan was keenly receptive to Kṛṣṇa consciousness, millions of other Russians would be also.
Cāṇakya Paṇḍita says that one blooming flower can refresh a whole forest and that a fire in a single tree can burn the whole forest. From the Marxist point of view, Ivan was the fire that would spread Kṛṣṇa consciousness to others, thus defeating the communist ideology. And from Prabhupāda’s point of view, he was the aromatic flower that would lend its fragrance to many others. Prabhupāda’s visit to Russia was no obscure interlude, but had become an occasion for planting the seed of Kṛṣṇa consciousness in a destitute land.
Śrīla Prabhupāda had brought the movement of Lord Caitanya to yet another country. Caitanya Mahāprabhu Himself had predicted that the saṅkīrtana movement would go to every town and village, yet for hundreds of years that prediction had remained unfulfilled. Prabhupāda, however, in the few years since his first trip to America in 1965, had again and again planted Lord Caitanya’s message in one unlikely place after another. And of all places, this was perhaps the most unlikely; during a brief, government-supervised visit to Moscow, he had planted the seed of Kṛṣṇa consciousness within the Soviet Union. He was like the needle, and everyone and everything connected with him was like the thread that would follow.
Professor Kotovsky had remarked that Prabhupāda’s stay in an old-fashioned hotel would not prove very interesting. But Prabhupāda, unknown to Professor Kotovsky, was transcendental to Moscow or any other place in the material world. Prabhupāda had come to this place, and Kṛṣṇa had sent a sincere soul to him to receive the gift of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. This had happened not by devious espionage against the Soviet government but by the presence of Kṛṣṇa’s pure devotee and his natural desire to satisfy Kṛṣṇa by preaching. In response to Prabhupāda’s pure desire, Kṛṣṇa had sent one boy, and from that one boy the desire would spread to others. Nothing, not even an Iron Curtain, could stop Kṛṣṇa consciousness. The soul’s natural function was to serve Kṛṣṇa. And Kṛṣṇa’s natural will was to satisfy the pure desires of His devotee.
In a farewell letter to Professor Kotovsky, Prabhupāda tried to encourage further correspondence.
You wanted to see the manuscripts of my lectures, therefore I am sending herewith an Introduction to the lectures, and if you so desire I shall be glad to send essays on these subjects:
1. Vedic Conceptions of Socialism and Communism
2. Scientific Values of Classless Society
3. Knowledge by Authoritative Tradition
In a letter to Tamāla Kṛṣṇa, Prabhupāda summed up his Moscow visit.
The city is well-planned. There are big, big houses and roads and at day time the streets are busy with buses, cars, and underground trains which are far better than American or English. The underground streets are very neat and clean. The surface streets are also daily washed. But there is some difficulty in collecting vegetarian foodstuffs; still we are cooking our meals by the cooker which has saved our lives. We talked with one big professor Mr. Kotovsky, and Shyamsundar talked with many great writers and musicians. Two boys are working with us; one Indian and one Russian. So there is good prospect for opening a center, although the atmosphere is not very good. The embassy was no help. So our visit to Moscow was not so successful, but for the future, it is hopeful. Tomorrow I go to Paris for one day, then to S.F. Ratha-yātrā and then I shall come back to London.
* * *
June 25, 1971
Śrīla Prabhupāda was lying on the couch in the conference room of the Indian Tourist Office, having just come from Orly Airport. Two disciples, Ārādhana and his wife, Śantanu, had come with him in the taxi and were the only others in the room. Since there was to be a press conference later, Prabhupāda said he wanted to rest, and he closed his eyes.
At the airport, Paris immigration officials had detained Prabhupāda while some thirty European devotees, none of whom had ever met him, had waited anxiously. They had glimpsed him as he had walked from the plane to the terminal building, and they had watched him carrying his sannyāsa-daṇḍa with umbrella strapped to it. He had waved to them, holding up his bead bag. But then he had been kept from them, just beyond a thin wall, until finally, after two hours, Paris immigration had allowed him through.
The Paris devotees had not arranged a car for Prabhupāda, so when he had asked for one, several devotees had run off to hail a taxi. When the taxi had arrived, Prabhupāda, along with Ārādhana and Śantanu, had started for the Indian Tourist Office, leaving the others to join him later.
After a brief rest, Prabhupāda opened his eyes and saw Ārādhana, Śantanu, and Śyāmasundara in the room. The other devotees and the press would be arriving soon. As Prabhupāda sat up, Śantanu offered him some mango, and Śrīla Prabhupāda smiled.
Yogeśvara: I sat outside the door to Prabhupāda’s room, eating the peel of the mango Prabhupāda had eaten. My heart was pounding, and I had no idea what it was going to be like after having been initiated for a year and a half and having never met my spiritual master personally-but now knowing that he was just behind that door!
Then Śyāmasundara opened the door and peered out and saw me sitting there. He stuck his head back inside the door and said, “There’s a devotee here. Shall I let him in now, Śrīla Prabhupāda?” I peeked around the door, and Śrīla Prabhupāda, who had been lying down on the couch, was now sitting up with his hand on his knee very solidly, with a royal, majestic look. He responded to Śyāmasundara’s question by motioning with his hand that we could all come in. It was the first perfect thing I had ever seen in my life-that one gesture. So I came in and immediately fell flat on the floor. And then I understood that “Now I am with my spiritual master.”
Gradually the devotees began arriving from the airport, and they came into Prabhupāda’s room. The press also arrived, as Prabhupāda spoke warmly and pleasantly with his followers, encouraging them in their preaching and telling them of his own recent preaching in Moscow. Hardly any of the devotees had ever been with their spiritual master before, and Locanānanda began introducing them to Śrīla Prabhupāda.
Hari-vilāsa: I arrived late, and when I came in I was mixed up with surprise, with elation, with egotistical pride, and with amazement that the Lord’s pure devotee was there. I walked in with Ghanaśyāma, the boy who had started translating some of Prabhupāda’s books into French. The room was almost filled, and Ghanaśyāma immediately sat down in the back. I was the president of the temple, and I was very proud and puffed up about it. So I made my way all the way up to the front, where Śrīla Prabhupāda was, and I sat down right next to him. I looked at him, expecting him to look at me and smile or something, some recognition. But he didn’t look at me at all.
Locanānanda was introducing all the devotees to Prabhupāda. Locanananda said, “This is Ghanaśyāma. He is the translator.” Prabhupāda said, “Where is he?” And everyone looked around to Ghanaśyāma in the back. Prabhupāda said, “Let him stand up, please.” Ghanaśyāma stood, and Prabhupāda looked at him and smiled and said, “Oh, thank you very much.”
Right then I felt a little funny. I sat there wondering, “What have I done? I’ve walked all the way up to the front, and I’m expecting so much recognition.”
Then Locanānanda said, “This is Hari-vilāsa. He is the president of the temple.” Prabhupāda didn’t even look at me. And I knew, yes, I had made a big mistake. I began to realize, “This is my spiritual master.” Because immediately he had acted in such a way as to point out a great fault in me.
Reporters began their questioning, and Prabhupāda patiently an swered them, taking advantage of their sometimes superficial questions to elaborate on the philosophy of Kṛṣṇa consciousness and explain the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. The conference ran one hour.
As Prabhupāda left the Indian Tourist Office he found that there was no car to take him to the temple. While several devotees ran around trying to find a taxi, Prabhupāda waited, standing before a sidewalk cafe.
Thinking that Prabhupāda must be tired from the rigorous press conference and his long flight from Moscow, one of the devotees asked, “Śrīla Prabhupāda, would you like to sit here for a minute?” And the devotee pulled one of the cafe chairs out away from its table.
“What is this place?” Prabhupāda asked.
“This is a sidewalk cafe,” the devotee replied.
“What do people do here? Do they smoke and drink?”
“Yes, Śrīla Prabhupāda, it’s a cafe. They serve alcoholic beverages.”
“No,” Prabhupāda replied. “Guru cannot sit in such a place.”
When Prabhupāda reached the temple, he bathed and took prasādam. The next day he was scheduled to leave for Los Angeles, and his one day in Paris was filled with outside engagements. He rested and again went out to preach.
The devotees had rented the Olympia Theater, a large auditorium meant to seat more than two thousand. But because the devotees had advertised Prabhupāda’s lecture only two days in advance, only forty people attended. Prabhupāda was undaunted, and he lectured and held kīrtana. Afterward he went to a television studio for an interview.
By the time Prabhupāda returned to the temple, it was one in the morning. Śyāmasundara told the devotees, who had all accompanied Prabhupāda during the day, that they should rest a full six hours before rising. But the next morning Prabhupāda rose as usual, and at five o’clock he was demanding to know why there was no maṅgala-ārati. He sent his servant to wake the devotees, and as the devotees were hurrying to the temple room to begin their morning worship Prabhupāda was going out on his morning walk.
Accompanying Prabhupāda on his walk were ŚyāmasundAra, Ara vinda, and the Paris temple president, Hari-vilāsa. The spring morning was sunny, and Prabhupāda, walking with his cane, appeared noble. “Śyāmasundara,” Prabhupāda asked, “Why are all the householders in māyā?” When Śyāmasundara couldn’t reply, Prabhupāda said, “That’s all right. That is their position-to be in māyā.”
He said that when he had gone to America his plans had been to make sannyāsīs, but when he saw the free mixing of the sexes in the West he had decided to let his disciples first get married and have a child, and then the wife could go to Vṛndāvana with the child, and the husband could take sannyāsa. Prabhupāda laughed. Man becomes entangled by his family, he said-by his home, his bank account, his animals, and so many other attachments.
Near the end of his walk, Prabhupāda spoke specifically of Paris. “Three things are prominent here,” he said, “wine, women, and money. What do you think, Hari-vilāsa? Is this a fact?”
Hari-vilāsa replied, “Yes, Prabhupāda, this is definitely a fact-wine, women, and money.”
Prabhupāda said that although these attachments were very strong, the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement could overcome their influence.
Prabhupāda said that the houses in the Paris suburb, with their attractive fenced-in yards, were excellent. But everything was being wasted for sense gratification. Although a French gentleman may have such a first-class house, garden, wife, bank account, and car, he has no spiritual knowledge. Therefore, he would always remain attached to his first-class possessions, and at the end of his life his great attachment would lead him to take birth as a cockroach or rat or dog within that same house.
As Prabhupāda and the devotees continued walking, Prabhupāda asked Hari-vilāsa how he thought the temple’s preaching was faring. Hari-vilāsa said he thought it would be successful but that it might be a good idea to make extra income by starting a business.
“Your business is preaching,” Prabhupāda said. “If there are some householders, they can do business.”
When Prabhupāda and his party arrived at the temple, they found the devotees eagerly waiting for Prabhupāda’s morning Bhāgavatam lecture. But there was no time. Prabhupāda had to leave at once for the airport. He was returning to America.
This post has already been read 24 times