Hṛdayānanda Goswami: When we would get in the car to go on the morning walk, Śrīla Prabhupāda would always smell like sandalwood, and there would also be the aroma of flowers, because he would always wear flower garlands. Prabhupāda was always very clean, with fresh tilaka, so immediately when he would sit in the car, the car would become spiritualized and sanctified. All illusion would be gone. And many times, as we would pull away from the curb, Prabhupāda would look out the window, and he would see the particular Los Angeles neighborhood we were in and would often recite this verse, harer nāma harer nāma harer nāmaiva kevalam. He would recite it with great feelings, almost like a mother seeing her child in a dangerous or diseased situation. With great intensity Prabhupāda would recite this, urging them all to take to Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
ISKCON Los Angeles, New Dvārakā, the Western world headquarters, was burgeoning with many Kṛṣṇa conscious projects. Book distribution was booming. The devotee population was growing. Money was available and was utilized in various technological and cultural preaching departments. Śrīla Prabhupāda visited for the first time the spacious BBT warehouse, where his books were stored and shipped out to the ISKCON centers around the world.
A trail of devotees in several cars followed Prabhupāda’s car as he pulled up in front of the large warehouse. He entered the front reception office. On the wall were framed color reproductions of the covers of Back to Godhead magazine in consecutive issues. Śrīla Prabhupāda stopped before a large framed painting of Sītādevī, the wife of Advaita Ācārya, as she came to pay respects to the newborn baby Nimāi, Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Śrīla Prabhupāda asked who had painted it and, when told the name of one of his disciples, remarked, “She has good talent.”
Rameśvara, the manager of the BBT, was acting as Prabhupāda’s tour guide through the warehouse.
“We have two warehouses,” Rameśvara said, and he led Śrīla Prabhupāda onto the floor of a vast storage room with its ceiling three stories high. Everywhere stood stacks and stacks of books in cartons.
“So are they going out or simply stacking there?” Śrīla Prabhupāda asked.
Rameśvara: “‘They’ve been greatly reduced since they first arrived.”
Wearing his swami cap pushed jauntily back on his head and walking regally with his cane, Śrīla Prabhupāda surveyed the warehouse with pleasure.
“So, Haṁsadūta,” he said, turning, “you have to make a godām like this.”‘ Haṁsadūta smiled and agreed. “Then you will defeat these charges,” said Śrīla Prabhupāda. “When the German nation will accept these books, then that will be the proper reply to the charges.”
“This forklift lifts the pallets high up to the ceiling,” Rameśvara pointed out. Prabhupāda asked for a demonstration, and the driver hurried to start up the engine. Meanwhile, Rameśvara pointed out special racks holding five hundred copies of each of Prabhupāda’s books for the library party, which was traveling and selling full sets to university libraries across the country.
As the forklift began moving, Prabhupāda remarked, “I first saw this machine in the Commonwealth Pier, Boston.” The boy driving the truck became so nervous before Prabhupāda that he could not operate it properly. “Usually he is very careful,” Rameśvara apologized.
Rameśvara explained that the rent was eighteen hundred dollars a month, a good price for that area. He told Prabhupāda that a speaker system played Prabhupāda’s lectures in the warehouse throughout the day. Prabhupāda remarked, “Acchā,” and chuckled with pleasure. They then entered the second warehouse, which stored Back to Godhead magazines. Prabhupāda asked about the arrangement for fire, and the devotees told him they had fire insurance and fire alarms. He saw where the Bhagavad-gītās were stored as well as Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and Caitanya-caritāmṛta volumes. Some of them had just arrived from the printer.
While walking in the warehouse Prabhupāda mentioned the dramatization some of the devotees had performed for him the previous evening. “Now we have got Caitanya-caritāmṛta and Bhāgavatam. If such demonstrations are done very nicely, it will be very much appreciated, even by the public. We can collect some money.” Standing in the midst of the bound volumes, Prabhupāda elaborated on the theatrical possibilities of their dramatization. The devotees could act in pantomime, he said, and sound tracks could narrate plays in many different languages. In this way they could tour India and specifically attend the upcoming Māyāpur and Vṛndāvana festivals. Theatrical talents, all talents were acquired from austerity and should be used to glorify Kṛṣṇa.
“Kṛṣṇa is Uttama-śloka,” Prabhupāda said, as the devotees crowded around in between the aisles of stacked books. “So we have got so many of Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes, Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s pastimes. We can overflood. Just like you can overflood with this literature, we can overflood. This is art. Art, music, everything we can utilize—in any way one is addicted. Let him eat only, let him sing only, let him paint only, let him dance only. We have got everything. That is Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Let him do business only. Yes, engineering, construct temples. It is an all-perfect movement. That is Kṛṣṇa. All-attractive. Everyone can become attracted and give up everything. He will be attracted by Kṛṣṇa in such a way that he will give up all nonsense. That is Kṛṣṇa consciousness. All other attraction finished. Anyābhilāṣitā-śūnyam. Simply Kṛṣṇa.” Prabhupāda walked on until he faced an especially large area of tall stacked cartons. “What are these?” he asked.
“Back to Godhead magazines,” said Hṛdayānanda Mahārāja.
Rameśvara: “These boxes have come from the printer all ready to go to different countries, and they stamp the address on it. These are those newspapers you saw yesterday called Spiritual Revolution.”
Prabhupāda: “I think this Revolution is not very important. Make revolution with magazine, this Back to Godhead. And what are these?”
Rameśvara pointed out the Caitanya-caritāmṛtas. One after another, Prabhupāda examined the stacks and then the individual books on racks. Sometimes he handled them, leafing through their pages, and sometimes he touched the cartons with his cane.
“Just before Christmas,” Rameśvara exclaimed with exuberance, “this wall was filled up, and now it is practically empty. We have sold so many books just in a few months. All up to the ceiling it was filled. Now we have to reprint.”
Prabhupāda: “Now this is only the English language. In every language we should have such a big godām.” Turning to Hṛdayānanda Mahārāja, he said, “‘You have taken Spanish.” And turning to Haṁsadūta, he said, “And you in German. Let them overflood. No other literature.” Devotees surrounding Prabhupāda burst out in triumphant laughter. Prabhupāda then quoted a Bengali phrase, “They’ll say, ‘No, no, we don’t want any other literature.’”
In the presence of his books Prabhupāda was exhilarated, and the thought of how more and more books could be written, printed, and distributed in many different languages made him ecstatic. Although the present warehouse in L.A. was awesomely large, Prabhupāda envisioned beyond it to other countries and other warehouses.
“I think no religious publisher has seen such big godām in their life. Hmm?” Prabhupāda widened his eyes and looked at the others. “Throughout the whole world,” he continued, “as soon as they will hear about religious books, they immediately avoid it. Especially the Communist country. Bring some Communist country man. Show him that ‘You are trying to avoid God. Now see how we are preaching God.’”
Prabhupāda was next shown to the office of Kīrtirāja dāsa, who was in charge of sending out the orders received from the college libraries around the country. Kīrtirāja showed Prabhupāda how a well-known Christian magazine had recently reduced the quality of its printing from an expensive color magazine to a plain paper edition. “They have degraded,” Prabhupāda remarked.
“Now we have almost 125 standing orders for Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam,” said Kīrtirāja, “and 100 for Caitanya-caritāmṛta.”
“That’s nice,” Prabhupāda replied. The devotees then showed him the Golden Avatar studios, where tapes of his lectures were kept as masters and duplicated by high-speed equipment. “This is a complete library of all your lectures,” Rameśvara explained. “We keep it carefully because we know it is very important. They are cataloging it according to the title of the book, so if someone wants to see what Your Divine Grace has lectured on the Bhagavad-gītā, they can find it, or from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, First Canto, or whatever, They have an index system.” Prabhupāda approved: “Very good.” Rameśvara introduced the technician for duplicating the tapes and pointed out the extensive equipment. “This makes four copies of the cassette every three minutes,” Rameśvara continued, “so we are mass-producing your lectures.”
Prabhupāda: “Less than a minute for one copy.”
Rameśvara described how devotees were buying Prabhupāda’s tapes on a subscription rate of three a week, and orders were coming in from all over the world.
“American organization,” Prabhupāda proudly said.
He next met Svarūpa dāsa, the corresponding secretary. Rameśvara explained how he answered all letters regarding Prabhupāda”s books and encouraged the people to become life members.
“I was also doing that,” Prabhupāda reminisced, “when I was Dr. Bose’s manager. Any inquiry coming from the outside, I must continue correspondence with him until he becomes a customer. That I was doing.”
Prabhupāda saw one office after another until he had completely toured all the warehouse facilities. “Nice, well-equipped godām,” he remarked. And they then left the building, walking through a light rain to their waiting car. Rameśvara pointed to Prabhupāda’s name printed on the building.
Prabhupāda looked up. “Yes, that’s nice. They will be inquisitive. ‘What is that book?’”
Riding back to the temple in the car, Prabhupāda reflected, I have said that there is no happiness in this material world, and that’s a fact. But if there is a little happiness, that is in America. So you are favored by Kṛṣṇa. Utilize this favor of Kṛṣṇa in glorifying Kṛṣṇa. Then it is successful. Avicyuto ’rthaḥ kavibhir nirūpito yad-uttamaśloka. To become extraordinary in any branch of facilities requires austerities. So when one has acquired that, he should engage it for glorifying the Supreme. Yad uttamaśloka-guṇānuvarṇanam.
As BBT manager, Rameśvara went to Śrīla Prabhupāda when the BBT could no longer afford to print the hardbound Kṛṣṇa book in two volumes. Since Śrīla Prabhupāda had already authorized the paperback version’s three volumes, Rameśvara hoped he would give permission to print the hardbound in three volumes also. Otherwise, Rameśvara could see no way they could afford to reprint the Kṛṣṇa book in two volumes, and the book would have to go out of print.
Śrīla Prabhupāda replied that he had originally planned Kṛṣṇa book in two volumes; he didn’t want to change it. Rameśvara presented the economic arguments. Because of an oil embargo, the printing industry had suffered badly; prices had gone up fifty percent. The BBT already had a contract with Dai Nippon to reprint the book. They had already bought the paper, so they were obliged to go ahead. Yet Dai Nippon had just raised their prices and would not honor their original contracts. After discussing the various economic difficulties for over an hour, Śrīla Prabhupāda unhappily consented to reprint the hardbound Kṛṣṇa book in three volumes.
Rameśvara then mentioned that Dai Nippon had said the book would be much cheaper if the BBT printed it the same size as the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, instead of the larger size. When Prabhupāda heard that, he banged his fist on the desk. He had planned it in that size. Nothing would change it. He would hear no more of it. He then told Rameśvara to leave the room.
Staggering down the stairs, Rameśvara realized that he had just been thrown out of the room by his spiritual master. But he also felt ecstatic in appreciation of Śrīla Prabhupāda. For the first time, he began to appreciate how meticulously Śrīla Prabhupāda planned every detail of his books. Not only did Prabhupāda carefully prepare the translations and purports, but he also considered the market, the cover pictures. Everything about the book Prabhupāda had considered deeply. As a humble servant, Rameśvara was surprised and awestruck as he began to understand how deeply Prabhupāda was involved in all decisions regarding his books.
Rameśvara: One time I was up in Prabhupāda’s room, and we were talking again about BBT printing. It was an involved conversation, but suddenly, right in the middle of it, Prabhupāda’s prasādam arrived, placed by his servant on a little table Prabhupāda ate from in his bedroom. As soon as the prasādam arrived, Prabhupāda rose from his seat, moved to that room, sat down, and became totally immersed, almost like in a trance of honoring Kṛṣṇa’s prasādam. It was so transcendental, it was as if I suddenly ceased to exist. Prabhupāda did not say even a word. It was just the prasādam, and Prabhupāda became absorbed in Kṛṣṇa. So I very quietly offered my obeisances and hurriedly left the room.
During this visit Śrīla Prabhupāda saw the first completed diorama by the artists engaged in doll-making. In 1973 he had requested several of his disciples to visit India and learn the ancient art of making lifelike figures from earth and straw. He wanted to create artistic exhibits showing the pastimes of Kṛṣṇa and Lord Caitanya as well as scenes depicting the Kṛṣṇa conscious philosophy, such as the transmigration of the soul and karma. Prabhupāda’s disciples Bharadvāja, Ādideva, and others had gone to Bengal and had, with great endeavor, mastered the art of creating these dolls. Now, returning to Los Angeles, they had set up a studio for mass production and had finished their first diorama, a miniature of Lord Kṛṣṇa and Arjuna on the chariot at the battle of Kurukṣetra.
Prabhupāda entered the artists’studio, followed as usual by as many people as could fit into the room. He stood before the diorama. The models were exquisite, the figures as realistic in detail as figures in the best wax museum, and they were dressed and bejeweled like temple deities. The horses and chariots were startlingly lifelike. The scene was that depicted on the cover of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s Bhagavad-gītā As It Is. Prabhupāda’s response was spontaneous delight. His face broke into an ecstatic smile.
“The horses are more beautiful than Kṛṣṇa,” Prabhupāda commented. There was a groan from the devotees. “That is because they are the servants of Kṛṣṇa,” he said, smiling.
Later Śrīla Prabhupāda instructed the Los Angeles leaders to give the doll-makers full financial support. His spiritual master, Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī, had been very keen to create such doll exhibits on the teachings of the Bhagavad-gītā and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, and that was how Śrīla Prabhupāda had received the idea. Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī had also been willing to spend big sums of money to put a large collection of dolls on exhibit in Calcutta. In collecting for this project, he had introduced a system of keeping his temples in debt. He would get his disciples to collect for a specific project, but when they gave him the money, he would spend it on dioramas. Then he would again return to those same disciples and request money for the same project they had already collected for.
“But we gave it to you, Guru Mahārāja.”
“No,” Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī would reply. “That which you gave me has already been spent on dioramas. Now I need it for the original purpose.” He had been convinced that these artistic exhibits could attract and convert people in the West, and so Śrīla Prabhupāda was intent to open diorama museums and exhibits all over the world.
Śrīla Prabhupāda spent two days in Los Angeles. It was the ideal center for his headquarters, with the largest number of his disciples in one city, many of whom were also leaders in book distribution. No other center at that time had as many departments and expansive projects. His own living quarters were also comfortable, a pleasantly decorated three-room apartment and a private garden with many varieties of aromatic flowers. He enjoyed sitting in that garden in the early evening with just a few disciples while one of them read aloud from the Kṛṣṇa book. The climate of Southern California was also to Śrīla Prabhupāda’s liking. And as for the temple worship of the Deities, Śrī Śrī Rukmiṇī-Dvārakādhīśa, Śrīla Prabhupāda considered the standard perhaps the highest of all the centers in his ISKCON. And yet, he could only spend a few days before moving on.
“Kṛṣṇa has given me hundreds of nice places of residence,” Śrīla Prabhupāda laughed. “But His order is you cannot stay.” Prabhupāda was explaining his transcendental predicament to a few disciples gathered in his room on one of the last days of his visit in Los Angeles. “I’ll tell you one humorous story in this connection which is a little long,” Prabhupāda said, and he appeared to hesitate. “I don’t wish to divert your attention, but it is an interesting story. That is also mentioned in the Bhāgavatam, aniketana: one may have many nice places to live, still he should think, “I have no place to live.” That is one of the spiritual items.”
“What is that story?” Haṁsadūta asked, and the other devotees laughed. They were eager to hear the story and didn’t want Prabhupāda to avoid it.
Prabhupāda smiled. “‘The story is,” he said, “that there was a joker. His name was Gopāla Ban. He was the joker of a king, Rāja Kṛṣṇa. You know that place, Krishnanagar, near Māyāpur? He was the king of that place. So the kings used to keep a joker to please them by words. So this joker, Gopāla Ban, was constructing a new building for himself. It was almost finished, but there was as yet no opening ceremony. So the Rāja advised one of his friends, ‘If you can go and pass stool in that new house of Gopāla’s, then I will give you so much prize. Go and pass stool there.’” Prabhupāda chuckled. “So the man said, ‘Yes, I’ll do it.’ So one day the man made his plan. As he was passing the new house, all of a sudden he entered.
“‘Gopāla, I am very much called by nature. Kindly show me where I can pass stool.” Gopāla was intelligent, and he could understand there was some trick.
“Yes, yes,” Gopāla said, ‘there is the lavatory. Come here. You can use it.’ But then he made so many conditions. ‘The door must be opened so you may pass stool, but I will see that you are passing stool.’
“‘How is that possible?’ the man asked. ‘Can I use it or not?’
“‘No, it is possible,’ Gopāla said. ‘You can pass stool here, but you cannot pass urine. If you pass urine, then I shall kill you.’ So, passing stool,” Prabhupāda commented, “without passing urine, how is it possible? ‘You have come to pass stool,’ Gopāla said, ‘and I will allow you. That you can do here. But don’t pass a drop of urine.’” Prabhupāda laughed heartily and said, “So that is my position. Kṛṣṇa says, ‘You may have hundreds of centers and places, but you cannot live anywhere.’ That is Kṛṣṇa’s order. It is a plan not to become attached.”
Devotee: “Just like Nārada Muni got that curse from Lord Brahmā.”
Prabhupāda: “Yes, not Lord Brahmā but Dakṣa Rāja—he cursed Nārada Muni that he cannot stay anywhere more than three minutes. Nārada Muni’s business is preaching, so every one of us, we have to become disciples of Nārada Muni.”
And thus Śrīla Prabhupāda, the greatest living disciple of Nārada Muni, made plans to travel next to Mexico and then to Venezuela on his world tour for preaching Kṛṣṇa consciousness. His disciple in charge of South America, Hṛdayānanda Mahārāja, had joined Prabhupāda in Hawaii and come with him to Los Angeles to ensure Prabhupāda’s keeping his promise to visit South America. So Prabhupāda’s promise was firm. As he said, Lord Kṛṣṇa had arranged it that he should go constantly from place to place. And wherever he went, Prabhupāda tended expertly the delicate creepers of devotional service growing in the hearts of his disciples. He also stoked the fires of Kṛṣṇa consciousness and fanned them into blazes. And in each place he left behind more dedicated followers than before. He gave further orders to be executed, and he redefined and clarified directions for guiding and expanding his Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement.
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