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Feb 172017
 

One day Upendra and Bali-mardana discovered the Domain, a vast, well-kept expanse of parkland dotted with sprawling old fig trees near the city. The Domain was well-known as a “Park for the People”, where for years thousands had flocked to watch cricket matches and military reviews. More recently, the Domain had been host to protests against the presence of nuclear bases and Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War. Within walking distance of their small temple, it came alive every Sunday afternoon, offering instant crowds that eagerly gathered around anyone who had something to say. Philosophers, evangelists, political activists and popular heroes would proselytise atop ladders, in the same way as in “Speakers’ Corner” at London’s Hyde Park.

As the devotees arrived each week, dozens of speakers would already be standing atop ladders and boxes. They promoted a vast array of doctrines — creationism, rationalism, pacifism, republicanism — to name but a few. Fundamentalist Christians with banners proclaiming “Ye Must be Born Again” and “The End is Nigh” vied for attention with other real and quasi-religious preachers. Communists and Anarchists stood beside Irish revolutionaries and old aboriginals singing songs. While members of “The Flat Earth Society” displayed their pamphlets and posters, other groups held placards proclaiming Populate or Perish, Keep Australia White — Say No to Yellow Peril, Dagoes, Wogs and Wops, and even Kill a Commie for Christ.

One especially popular speaker was Webster, an intense and loud-mouthed man who amused, taunted, and verbally assaulted his audience with a seemingly endless array of pseudo-intellectualism, philosophical hodgepodge and sexual innuendo. Until the devotees started coming, Webster would regularly draw the biggest crowds. The devotees soon began to give him stiff competition — much to his chagrin.

After chanting and addressing the crowd for some time, Upendra or Bali-mardana would extend an open invitation to the crowd to return with them to the temple for a “Love Feast”. The devotees would then walk back across the grasslands, followed by an assortment of hippies and “free-spirits”, past the wharves and up the staircase on the cliff face that led to the quaint old temple at Potts Point.

Upendra, an excellent cook, regularly spent Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning preparing an assortment of tasty dishes: rice, vegetables, and salted peanuts with raisins, buttery halava, and thick, cold sweet rice. These were served to guests in small, teaspoonful quantities. 

On special occasions, Upendra would prepare sweetballs — gulabjamuns — just like Srila Prabhupada had shown him. He would stay up late Saturday night, slowly deep-frying the small balls in ghee on a low heat until they had turned golden-brown and full. Then, one by one, he would lift them out of the ghee with a slotted spoon, and soak them in thick sugar syrup.

Upendra took pleasure in informing the guests that Prabhupada had named the sweets “ISKCON bullets”, because they were weapons in the war against maya. 

Srila Prabhupada had originally adopted the name “Love Feast” back in 1966. Srila Prabhupada said to the devotees that such feasts for the public should become an important part of ISKCON. As he had explained many times, food offered to Krsna becomes spiritual, and whoever eats the prasadam receives great spiritual benefit. So Krsna’s mercy in the form of delicious prasadam became a regular weekly event in Sydney.

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