Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 5, No. 22
By Krishna-kripa das
(November 2009, part one)
London 40 Years Festival
(Sent from Albany, New York, on January 24, 2010)
Notes on the 40th Anniversary Celebration of Radha-Londonisvara
I am so happy I rearranged my travel to stay for the London 40-years festival as it was filled with so much spiritual inspiration. Four of the six devotees who started Krishna consciousness in London, namely Guru Das Prabhu, Malati Prabhu, Shyamasundara Prabhu, and Yamuna Prabhu, were there and talked about their experiences, as did many devotees from the history of the British yatra. I was not able to attend every function nor record everything that was spoken, but I hope you will find many wonderful pastimes and important realizations that uplift you in the following pages. The London devotees planned to make a set of DVDs with videos of many of the events, and if you find this brief summary attractive, you might get the DVDs. There are pictures of the festival on their web site as well.
During the weeklong festivities, we heard from the different devotees who brought Krishna consciousness to London about different creative ideas they tried to popularize the Krishna consciousness movement. The idea of double-decker bus harinama to kick off the anniversary festival was something that had never been tried, but it seemed to be in that same spirit as the original devotees had. These double-decker buses are a popular sight in London, and some of them, especially tourist ones, have the top level completely open. I was worried the event could easily be a disaster because of London’s famous weather, often dark, cold, and wet, and I was urging devotees to pray to Krishna for good weather on that day. As I walked to and from the travel agent during the hour before the bus harinama was scheduled to start, the weather was dark, cold, wet, and beyond that, quite windy, with gale force winds predicted. Amazingly enough by the time of the harinama, the rain stopped and the wind died down, and occasionally the sun even peeked through the clouds.
We chanted from just after 3:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m, and we must have had at least a hundred people on the bus at the most crowded point, with at least eighty on the top level, which was open to the sky above. Devotees came from both Bhaktivedanta Manor and Soho Street, and there was a group of twenty-nine devotees from Birmingham. A few came from other parts of the world for the festival. Despite posted warnings about standing up on the top level of the bus, most everyone on the top level was standing, some even on the seats! In fact, while the bus was stopped, some devotees even danced on the seats on top of the bus!
One of the big virtues of the bus harinama as it grabbed the attention of people who I do not think would otherwise pay attention to a harinama. You can imagine that to see a bus with eighty people singing and dancing, and jumping up and down, would certainly attract attention. Even old men and women would smile and wave wildly at us. The floor of the bus moved significantly from the jumping of the devotee dancers. We crossed over the Thames River, both on the London Bridge and the Tower Bridge. Once on Tower Bridge we met a group of seven or so who danced on the bridge’s sidewalk to our music for some time. Then we met a group of twenty people. We chanted that tune where you sing one word at a time and the group repeats it, which we sometimes use to encourage new people to chant, and those twenty people sang and danced, smiling, laughing, and waving, all the while.
One time we went through a brightly illuminated tunnel, and a public double-decker bus, with a closed top, slowly passed us on the right. Because of the bright lights, we could easily see into the top level of that bus, which about the same height as our own. Almost everyone in that bus was looking at us and smiling and waving, and having a very good time.
Once we got off the bus and chanted from Leicester Square to Piccadilly Circus and back to the temple. I was happy to have the chance to distribute invitations to those who were obviously attracted. My only suggestion for improvement is to have a few more times when we get off the bus so more flyers and books can go out.
Everyone had a great time, and many thought of adding bus harinamas as a feature on other festival days, like Gaura Purnima. Thanks to all the organizers, and those prepared the prasadam that was distributed to the chanters on the bus and the general populace.
Remembrances about Vilasini Devi Dasi, a former head pujari of Sri Sri Radha-Londonisvara (by her husband):
Wherever she dressed the Deities they looked astounding. When asked how she did it, she said, “Krishna dresses Himself.” The understanding is that when one is humble, Krishna personally guides, and so in reality, the Deity dresses Himself. Vilasini was also very humorous and encouraged people that devotional service was fun. She built up a team spirit among the pujaris. She was incredible organized, even folding extra plastic bags and storing them. When she was suffering incredibly because of cancer, she chanted prayers to Gaura-Nitai, “ha ha prabhu nityananda premananda sukhi, kripa bala koro ami boro duhkhi.” She joined in 1970, and later was initiated by Srila Prabhupada, who told her, “Your name is Vilasini, one who enjoys with Krishna.”
Setting the scene: In the 1960s there was prosperity, global transport, and communication, but the young people could see it wasn’t making their parents happy. Hundreds of thousands of young people left home, many congregating in New York’s Lower East Side and in San Francisco. Srila Prabhupada was beautiful and spoke with such realization that you understood what he said was true when he said it. We were looking for something higher, and he appeared to have it. His sense of adventure and action was inspirational—getting on a transatlantic ship at the age of 69 with no money. For us, it was like he laid out a magic carpet and said, “Get on it.” Of all the spiritual leaders, he was the only one who came and sat down among the hippies. In San Francisco, Srila Prabhupada had a whole different approach than in New York. He saw most of us had girlfriends, so he had us all get married. Therefore it was more like a family atmosphere. He spoon fed us. We gradually gave up things like smoking as we developed faith in him. We were so absorbed in our present adventures with Srila Prabhupada for the first two years in San Francisco, that we never thought about recording anything. One time, Srila Prabhupada called me in, and had me sit right next to him. Only very few times in my life, I felt so peaceful. He began to teach me bookkeeping. “You should always get receipt,” he said. When I was carving Jagannatha in San Francisco, I took my time because I knew that Srila Prabhupada would continue to stay in San Francisco until I was finished. Once he came to check on my progress carving Lord Jagannatha. He saw a pack of cigarettes sitting on the Deity. He took his cane and hit that pack of cigarettes and knocked it across the room, saying, “No more cigarettes.”
Even in August of 1968, Srila Prabhupada was thinking of coming to London. Other devotees were starting centers in other cities, and we were getting a little itchy. Once I got two thousand dollars from the government, which I had in my pocket when I was arrested by the police, before I met the devotees.
“You never knew what would happen when you knocked on Srila Prabhupada’s door.”
Pradyumna Prabhu, who was Srila Prabhupada’s Sanskritist and traveled with him perhaps more than any other devotee, subsequently organized interfaith programs for the United Nations for thirty years. When I asked him if he met anyone like Srila Prabhupada among the various gurus, saints, lamas, monks, etc., he dealt with, he smiled and said, “No, no one comes even close!”
Guru Das Prabhu:
“Art means full belly,” Srila Prabhupada said. Unless basic needs are meant, there is no time for culture.
I was in the civil rights movement. I was getting beaten and put in jail many times. My father was glad when I became a devotee because he did not have to worry about that anymore.
Being with Srila Prabhupada was so much fun. When we came to Srila Prabhupada, we saw there was a higher taste. Since Srila Prabhupada was the only Indian we knew, we thought all Indians were perfect.
As a kid, we would send people out with no money and see who came back with the best adventure and even the most money. I was a civil rights activitist and did not want to kill faceless people who had nothing to do with me. I wasn’t about to join Lord Caitanya’s transcendental army and be disciplined, but Srila Prabhupada was smart, and he did not present it like that. We would come to the temple with our dogs and leave them tied up outside the temple, like horses at a saloon.
One time Srila Prabhupada said, “I may die at any moment.” He wanted us to continue what he had started.
In India the horn and brakes are more important than the motor. When the horn didn’t work, Srila Prabhupada asked for his spoon and plate and improvised a horn, joking later, “They will think it is an new American invention.”
I asked, “Can we wear Lord Nrsimhadeva masks on harinama?” Srila Prabhupada said, “Yes.” And then he told the story of Charlie Chaplin ripping his coat tails completely, when he saw them partially ripped, and then returning to the floor, and dancing like a madman thereby creating a new fashion.
We had kirtanas at 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. just Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Once I stood on my toes to get Srila Prabhupada’s attention. It did not go over very well.
When Srila Prabhupada saw my camera, he played with the light meter for twenty minutes without getting tired.
Prabhupada greeted me with such an oceanic smile like he hadn’t seen me for ten years, and so I followed up on any idea I had to get Srila Prabhupada’s association.
Once Srila Prabhupada said, “If I don’t forgive you, Krishna will forgive you. If Krishna won’t forgive, Radharani will.”
You never knew what Srila Prabhupada would do. It is like you do not know what riff a great musician will play. Once Srila Prabhupada came into a kitchen and ate one of the pakoras that Harsarani was cooking. She protested.
He said, “I gave you the rules, I can break the rules.”
Harsarani asked, “How many can you eat Srila Prabhupada?”
He replied, “More than you can make.”
Bhagavat-asraya Prabhu: Rohininandana Prabhu started a lunch program and a bhakta program in Bury Place, and both proved successful. Many new devotees joined, so much so they purchased Croome Court (Caitanya College) to house them. I became temple present in Soho in June 1983 because at that time the same temple president was struggling to take care of both temples. Later due to economic reasons the devotees sold Caitanya College, which proved disastrous for the community of devotees. The question of where Lord Jagannatha would go arose. Although some proposed the Manor, I couldn’t see it, and prayed to Lord Baladeva to bring Lord Jagannatha back to London. Two days later I got a call from the national council, “Get ready. Lord Jagannatha’s coming to London.”
Every morning the devotees would pass out cards for the lunch program, “All you can eat for 2 pounds.” Kesava Bharati Maharaja had a room and preached here for many years, making many devotees.
In five weeks, Ranchor Prabhu created a new altar for Lord Jagannatha, put marble on the walls of both altars, and built the cubical and vyasasana for Srila Prabhupada, and as well as the closet.
I was always told that Guru Das Prabhu and Yamuna Prabhu were the father and mother of the family. There are different conceptions of ISKCON, the corporate conception, etc., but the family conception is the best. We always tried to keep it like a family. Radha-Londonisvara are the first marble Deities in ISKCON. He quotes Ronald Reagan, “I don’t think anyone really becomes president. But it is that one is privileged to have stewardship for a few years.” I felt the same way. I had to deal with different personal problems that I did not have a clue how to handle. I would just tell the devotees, “Just come down to the temple room and reveal your mind to Radha-Londonisvara.” They would do that and come away transformed. They may not have a specific solution, but they would have learned they have a friend [Radha-Londonisvara]. “Radha-Londonisvara are very merciful, but do not take Them for granted.” The more time we get together and actually chant for the pleasure of the Deities the better. Jaya Tirtha Prabhu was a wonderful devotee who did wonderful service for Srila Prabhupada, but then maya (illusion) got him. Our problem is we do not remember the good things.
The Christians say that the family that prays together stays together. In the same way, we can say the family that preaches together reaches together. [Meaning “reaches the spiritual world.”] [This reminds me of one from Bhakti Caitanya Swami: “The family that dances together advances together!”]
Sarva Mangala Prabhu (Bhagavat-asraya’s wife): The devotees really loved the devotees who introduced them to Srila Prabhupada, who had since gone to India, and they would often talk of them, especially Yamuna Prabhu. I think that Radha-Londonisvara have really blessed us that when we serve Them together we develop nice relationships between each other. When you practice Krishna consciousness it changes your heart, and you can pass that on to others. Let’s keep the family spirit.
Q (by Amrita Gopal Prabhu): I want to know about the family atmosphere and how people cared for one another. How do you do it exactly?
A (by Bhagavat-asraya): You just do it. You take time to look people in the eye and ask them how they are. Love is a verb. Everyone who walks through the door has been sent here by Radha-Londonisvara, and you are meant to serve them. If you love me, you love my dog. Srila Prabhupada was always lovingly concerned with devotees, even in late 1977, when he was on his deathbed.
A (by Guru das): If you do not take care of your community, you cannot reach out.
A (by Sarva Mangala): We try to be concerned others, but sometimes we fail, and we must keep trying. Srila Prabhupada said he would be eternally residing in his quarters in the Manor. If Srila Prabhupada just glanced at you, that was very intimate. You got an experience of being a spiritual person. That experience carries people for many years. Just a little gesture of the head or hand was so inspiring. We are servants of Srila Prabhupada, and if we can encourage others, then Srila Prabhupada might come though us. One time we did a drama “Prabhupada is Coming.” Sruti Prabhu did such a good job of replicating Srila Prabhupada’s behavior culminating with a statement, “You have done well.”
Srila Prabhupada had delighted in doing Ratha-yatra in his youth. He also told us he had an ambition to go to London. This first Ratha-yatra in London was thus a special success for Srila Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada did a fire sacrifice on the plinth of the Nelson column and initiated twenty-two disciples.
Like Shyamasundara did at Bury Place, I made sure the temple room door in Soho Street had a window in it so people could look into the temple room and decide if they wanted to enter.
When you are in the presence of true greatness there is something awe inspiring. It was like that with Srila Prabhupada.
I always wanted to know more about God than my teachers, nuns, monks, and priests were willing to tell me. When Srila Prabhupada was on TV and the interviewer asked him if he worshiped the same God, I was all ears. Srila Prabhupada said, “Yes. God has many names.”
We took the harinama incredibly seriously.
Although there are no rules for the chanting, for the sake of our mission, Srila Prabhupada wanted us to pay great attention to the quality of our presentation of public chanting.
On harinama, we were in two lines. We all wore pullovers the same shade of orange that Tamal Krishna Goswami had purchased. One or two devotees passed out BTGs, some had some burning incense, and one used a conch shell to collect the donations. For us, harinama was the complete way of life. When I interviewed about 70 godbrothers and godsisters about these early days, so many of them first recall seeing the devotees to be glowing like angels.
Srila Prabhupada never said leave your religion and convert, but if your religion teaches love of God, then follow it. Prabhupada would say all religions aim for love of God and therefore there is no argument.
I was so inspired by Srila Prabhupada’s presentation that all living things are spirit souls that when I was reflecting on this while I was driving through the country, I became so overwhelmed, that I had to stop and hug a tree.
The secretary general of the United Nations said that not only do we have to have peace between human beings, we have to make peace with the planet. His assistant secretary, who is vegetarian, said that we have to see in terms of all living beings not just all human beings.
The last time George Harrison saw Srila Prabhupada, George said, “Soon everyone will be chanting Hare Krishna,” and Srila Prabhupada said, “That will never be.”
Once a crazy man attacked the Deites, and Mukunda asked Srila Prabhupada how it could happen. Srila Prabhupada said Krishna had already left because of your neglect. The Deities were repaired and returned to the altar. Traditional Hindus do not accept Deities that appear to be damaged physically, but Vaishnavas are not so restrictive.
Another devotee remarked that during the days the Deities were not on the altar, the devotees’ lives were very bleak. But when They returned, the devotees’ devotion increased many fold, and he thought the whole arrangement was Krishna’s plan to increase their devotion.
Most of the six of us were friends before we met Srila Prabhupada, and so working as a team was natural for us.
Once Vishnu Jana Prabhu said, “I see a pink glow around the prasadam, and it is psychic energy.”
Srila Prabhupada said, “Just eat.”
At Vyasa-puja someone said to Srila Prabhupada, “I don’t think they should bow down to you.” Srila Prabhupada replied, “As you are thinking they shouldn’t bow down, they are thinking you should. As this is a democracy, majority rules.”
Without the women this couldn’t be done. They kept us on track. We were just wild hippies.
We wanted to have a fabulous place in central London and to have some English devotees when Srila Prabhupada would come.
We always engaged Guru Das in things we were shy about doing as he was a New Yorker.
We put articles in the underground newspaper International Times.
When we brought an apple pie to Apple records with the Hare Krishna mantra on it, we met Chris O’Dell, George Harrison’s secretary, who was from America and suffering culture shock and was very glad to see us.
Srila Prabhupada said, “Approach the leading people.”
We did not want to appear as beggars. We all had little jobs.
Guru Das walked around London looking for pictures. Once he saw a house that just burst into flames, and he took a picture of it and sold it to the newspaper for 25 British pounds. Another time, he got a picture of a lady jumping off a building, in midair.
Before we had our place at 7 Bury Place, we lived in different London suburbs, and we would get together almost every day, and either do harinama sankirtana, or go to media offices or rock concerts.
Every day things would happen to us that were hilarious.
We knew that Krishna was guiding us, and we just had to show up for work. We were not depressed the whole time.
One of my friends told me about a Christmas party at Apple Records. All the famous people in London were there, gathered in one large room, waiting for the The Beatles, who were in an adjacent room. I sat on the only chair left at the other side of the room and chanted a few rounds. John peeked out of the room, saw the crowd, and disappeared. Later Paul, peeked out and saw the crowd, and also disappeared. Then George looked out, and then came out of the room, and walked across the room directly to me saying, “I was looking for you people.”
Srila Prabhupada taught us we should not ask famous persons for anything or even act as if we need anything. George Harrison picked up on that mood and appreciated it.
George Harrison loved prasadam, practically getting intoxicated on it, especially lassis and gulabjamons.
They had such a nice kirtana at George Harrison’s place the first time they came there that everyone was amazed, and George said we should make a record.
Once George Harrison called, saying, “We are at Abbey Road with the boys, and we have some extra studio time. Come over, and we’ll make a record.” And so they did.
George liked our record. It was the only one he got to control. He liked our launching ceremony because the reporters all took prasadam instead of getting drunk.
George invited us to talk to the boys. I was talking to John, and I am not a good speaker, but I spoke the philosophy so nicely that I could understand Krishna was empowering me. John was the only one of the Beatles, other than George, that took it seriously.
In one year, the devotees purchased a building, made a number one record, and arranged for Prabhupada to stay at a grand estate and be picked up in a brand new Rolls Royce.
Everyone was working twenty-four hours a day to get everything ready for the installation and temple opening.
After the canopy almost collapsed, Srila Prabhupada with a single hand protected the Deities. Later Srila Prabhupada said, “Radha and Krishna did not want a canopy over their heads.”
Every day there was some miracle by Krishna. Some, like the lightning bolt immediately after I asked George about financing Krishna book, were just a little more memorable.
Prabhupada had been traveling for two days when he arrived in London for the Ratha-yatra. He walked almost the entire length of the parade and then did kirtana for another hour.
Srila Prabhupada himself said that the Bury Place temple was like a family, that I (Guru Das) was the father, and Yamuna was the mother, and the proof that it was like a family is that the men and women were just a floor apart, but there was no mixing, because they were so happy being engaged in devotional service.
One man talked with Srila Prabhupada on the train in India. Then Prabhupada told me to get down at Delhi because this man would help us start a temple. Prabhupada pulled 50 rupees out of his clothes and gave it to us and discussed with me who could help me in Delhi.
One time I was sitting by Srila Prabhupada’s door, and I looked in the room, and his eyes were blazing and it sounded like he was talking to Krishna.
Srila Prabhupada said, “If I had one-tenth of what Bhaktivinoda Thakura had, I would be a great devotee.”
Srila Prabhupada said, during the time of Pakistan war, “If the bomb comes, I will see the bomb as Krishna.”
The secret of preaching is listening. See what the people are about. Then see how to speak to them.
Smara Hari Prabhu:
I traveled around the world and have not met finer devotees than the six devotees who started Krishna consciousness in the UK. Shyamasundara and Guru Das are on my list of the top ten devotees.
The first time I went on the morning walk, I stepped on Srila Prabhupada’s shoe, and he walked three paces and turned around and said, “Always walk at least three steps behind the spiritual master.” One sannyasi godbrother told me many years later that I was fortunate because on that day Srila Prabhupada had accepted me as a disciple [by correcting me].
While I was in India for ten years, acharyas (reputed spiritual teachers) I talked to about Srila Prabhupada’s potency said was it unprecedented and not in the books.
Prabhupada was very humorous. Had Srila Prabhupada not become a world acharya, he could have been a stand-up comedian. I think Srila Prabhupada thought it was a joke how seriously people took themselves.
One disciple said to Srila Prabhupada, “I have fallen from the standard so many times, I do not know if I can continue.” Prabhupada laughed convulsively for maybe 20 seconds, and said, “Just like an infant falls down many times, but ultimately learns to walk and run and so many athletic things, you will make progress. Just do not think you are a greatly advanced devotee but just a spiritual infant, and keep picking yourself up.”
Srila Prabhupada was very concerned about people not being engaged properly.
Srila Prabhupada mentioned that parikrama at least three times before viewing the Vishnu deity is standard.
Srila Prabhupada said whenever anyone wants to do some service for Krishna, you should immediately accept it.
Kripa Moya Prabhu:
Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura had a map of London on the wall in his Caitanya Matha in Mayapur. He desired devotees chant in front of Buckingham Palace and other prominent places in London.
It is not an accident that certain devotees play certain roles in the Lord’s mission. It is His mercy.
Is it nonstandard to name the Deity Londonisvara, devotees sometimes wonder? No, a couple thousand years ago, the Alvars named Deities Vyenkatevara, Lord of the Vyenkata Hills, and Tirumala Balaji, after Tirumala, the hilltop town where He resides.
In London, Lord Krishna always wore a watch. Now why would the Lord of time wear a watch?
I met one young man who told me how Srila Prabhupada found him sleeping in the park and told the devotees to take him to the temple and give him a shower and prasadam. Prabhupada then asked his disciples to bring the boy to his office, and he got a rare hour-long darsana with Srila Prabhupada. He did not become a devotee, but he later said of Srila Prabhupada, “He was so kind to me. He was the nicest man I ever met.”
Warning: Repeated chanting of this mantra can lead to states of ecstasy.
The producer of “Top of the Pops” now chants 16 rounds.
Our main question to Srila Prabhupada was what does Krishna look like?
Srila Prabhupada said, “This too is God,” of the Jagannatha dolls Malati picked up at Cost Plus. Srila Prabhupada seemed relieved that Lord Jagannatha had appeared. He asked me to carve the Deity of Jagannatha. I carved Jagannatha out of Douglas fir from Washington State. Traditionally Jagannatha is carved from a block of wood without knots.
The Ratha-yatra in London started at Marble Arch. After fifty feet, the right front wheel broke. In the newspaper the next day, there were headlines, “Largest Traffic Jam in London History.” The devotees had to carry the Deities.
We each used any excuse to see Srila Prabhupada.
One year the police refused to give us permission for the Ratha-yatra. We begged to have a test course for the cart, and the police agreed. The course, in a Kings Cross parking lot, seemed very severe, and it looked impossible from the engineering point of view to make one of the sharp turns. Nara-narayana Prabhu prayed like anything and the devotees pushed, and the cart made it around the turn. Nara-narayana said “God is great!” and the devotees cheered.
Srila Prabhupada was so happy one year when there was a nice picture of the Jagannatha Ratha cart with Lord Nelson’s column appearing lower than the cart in the London’s Guardiannewspaper, with the title “Jagannatha Ratha-yatra Rivals Nelson Column.” He mentioned the incident in a purport in Sri Caitanya-caritamrita.
One year, after three months of traveling sankirtana, we arrived for the Ratha-yatra. The organizers suddenly realized no one was bringing Lord Jagannatha, and so I volunteered our sankirtanavehicle. I felt that it was our reward for our sankirtana service that we got to bring Jagannatha to His festival.
I saw when the Queen came to the Parliament, they had a very nice throne for her, and so I modeled a vyasasana for Srila Prabhupada after a picture of the Queen’s throne. Prabhupada liked it.
I never had a desire to cook. Cooking, for me, meant cleaning up all the time, so I was not attracted. But I found out cooking for Krishna was different.
Within an hour of meeting Srila Prabhupada, he engaged me in cooking.
Srila Prabhupada was expert in so many things, besides being a devotee empowered to spread Krishna consciousness. He learned cooking from his maternal uncle, auntie, and street wallas(vendors).
There was never a time Srila Prabhupada did not ask a guest to take prasadam.
After meals, Prabhupada asked me if knew how to cook everything that was served. If not, he wanted me to learn.
Sometimes Prabhupada was lenient, and sometimes he would reprimand with such subtlety we would only understand it years later.
Prabhupada would describe the ingredients in a dish, and then critique it after we made it, indicating first class, second class, and third class with gestures.
He demonstrated how to make pera, explaining the principles.
Srila Prabhupada revealed a buni or bunji kitri, a thick kitri, for Ratha-yatra for Jagannatha, Baladeva, and Subhadra. It should be the main dish at every Ratha-yatra feast.
You took what you could eat, and if you couldn’t eat it, you ate it anyway.
Srila Prabhupada disliked the waste of milk so much, he had the devotees rinse the milk bottles out with a little water and then put that milky water in the pot with the rest of the milk.
Yamuna was attentive, submissive and always inquiring. Thus Srila Prabhupada taught her many things.
Srila Prabhupada taught that you could cook everything for his lunch in 45 minutes.
At one amazing program at Conway Hall, Srila Prabhupada began dancing, and Srila Prabhupada practically floated above the stage. Srila Prabhupada spoke so wonderfully nice.
We would always joke with the officers about having three carts in the parade, saying it would make it more manageable. One year, in April, instead of us calling the police to schedule our Ratha-yatra, they called us and asked how many carts we would have. And I said, “One.” The officer said, “I think you should have three, because it would make it more manageable.” So that year we had three carts, by the mercy of the Lord.
[There were a couple positive stories involving the police, and I do not remember which devotee told them. Once an officer discreetly came up to a devotee, pointing to the Jagannatha stickers the devotee was distributing, and said, “Can I have a blue one?” Another time, an officer came up to a devotee, and asked to buy a Bhagavad-gita.—kkd]
For one festival, the organizers did not give us enough tickets for all the devotees. We hid a bunch of devotees in the Ratha-yatra cart while we pulled it through the entrance. Once we got in, everyone got out of the cart.
We do the Ratha-yatra at midnight at the Stonehenge solstice festival.
Ratha-yatra is never always easy. In fact, it is never easy. One time the German police stopped us, and gave us a list of things that had to be fixed before they would let us go on our way. These were almost impossible, like to fix an oil leak in a van that was twenty years old. I decided I would just try to clean beneath the van, and I discovered a loose screw and tightened it. Somehow between midnight and 4:00 a.m. we fixed all the things in a similarly easy way, by the grace of the Lord, and we were able to continue.
Ratha-yatha is special because you can see all the activities we do, in one festival and the public is there.
Srila Prabhupada was talking with a life member about the time of death. Srila Prabhupada said, “At the time of death, your life goes before you like a movie film, until it gets to when you saw the Jagannatha cart, and then you go back to Godhead.”
If we do not do harinama regularly, we may fall away or become an impersonalist. I am grateful to the London devotees for maintaining the daily harinama for so many years.
By our doing harinama in London, Krishna sent devotees, then we able to get a temple. Just as when Krishna appeared, He sent His devotees to come first, so before the Lord appeared as thearca-vigraha (Deity), he sent the devotees who would arrange for and reside in His temple.
When we lived at John Lennon’s estate called Tittenhurst, we would do harinama in London and sometimes people would come back with us, some allured because we lived in John’s estate, and others who were genuinely burnt out on the struggle for material existence.
There was one devotee marriage at Tittenhurst. The couple were hippies who were living together and had a small child. In the midst of the wedding, Srila Prabhupada noticed the child and said, “The child should not be present at the parents’ marriage. Usually the child comes later.” So I took the boy, who was under my care during the ceremony, out of the room. It was a case of Western culture meets Vedic culture, and Srila Prabhupada handled it gracefully as usual.
Purusottama and Prabhupada were watching the moon landing on TV. After watching it, Srila Prabhupada said, “The idiot box has made idiots out of us.” He was not convinced that the astronauts actually went to the moon, but Purusottama was attached to the idea that the astronauts actually did.
Once I had a bottle of fresh milk in one hand and rinsed out bottles of prasadam milk in the other, and Srila Prabhupada commented that I did not know cleanliness.
Bhaktisiddhanta Saravati Thakura said the opinions of others are the concern of neophytes, our concern is to understand the Vedic principles and to follow them. [Guru Das reminded us that Srila Prabhupada said, “The dogs may bark, but the elephant caravan will pass.”]
There are other Gaudiya groups promoting the chanting of Hare Krishna. What makes us different from others? We can learn from Srila Prabhupada comment, “If there is anything I have done that is special, it is I have not deviated from the instructions of my spiritual master, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura.” We must be careful not to deviate from Srila Prabhupada.
We always knew that we met success in London only because it was Srila Prabhupada’s desire.
We advertised, “If you want to live on John Lennon’s estate and do some work on it, and to also live with the Hare Krishnas, please apply.” I accepted five, and three came, and all three became nice devotees.
We were asked to be on “Top of the Pops.” We had our instruments but did not play them. We just pretended we were playing them. There were some go-go dancers who were on contract to dance, but we said that would not do. Because they were on contract, the producers said they had to dance anyway. Thus, we got some bulk cloth and cut it into pieces. The devotee ladies dressed the girls in the cloth, and taught them the swami step and the trance dance, and so they danced to our record, and they all had a great time. George said one of his proudest moments was to see us on “Top of the Pops.”
Srila Prabhupada described the Govinda record as superexcellent.
Srila Prabhupada said, “I am glad that George has said, ‘I do not want to make nonsense records anymore.’”
Be bold. Do something new for Krishna every day.
George appreciated the truths that “God is a person” and “we are not our bodies.”
Q: How did he die?
A: With Srila Prabhupada playing on a loudspeaker and with brass Radha-Krishna Deities present. His last words to me were, “Thank you.”
Srila Prabhupada said, “George is more than a devotee, he is like my own son.”
Because of George paying for the printing of Krishna book, and beyond that, writing the foreword, we were able to sell many copies by mentioning his name, and thus many, many Krishna books were sold.
Mukunda was a great example. Janaki was spontaneous. Prabhupada would find everyone’s talent and encourage it. Today we should find everyone’s talent and encourage it.
The ladies kept things going, while we were out making engagements.
One of Srila Prabhupada’s eyes was jolly, and one was grave, and then they would switch.
What would Srila Prabhupada be displeased about now?
I went to the archives in LA in the 1980s to look for pictures of myself and Srila Prabhupada, and I found 160 pictures of Srila Prabhupada in London.
Srila Prabhupada says that Krishna consciousness is so nice, according to Rupa Goswami, if it is available, one should purchase it immediately. What is the price? Only your laulyam (eagerness)! This eagerness can be developed by the association of devotees. The human life is meant for developing the eagerness, “I must see Krishna in this life.”
From a song about Srila Prabhupada, “No one gave as much as you, nor will they ever give. You built a house of touchstone in which all the world can live…”
“When I see his love I know, I have got a long, long way to go . . .”
I saw the devotees on “Top of the Pops.” The Hare Krishna mantra record was number one for about six weeks in the UK. It was followed by the Radha-Krishna temple album.
In the old days we collected guru-daksina [a contribution given to one’s guru when one accepts initiation] on the street, instead of from the devotees, because the devotees had no money.
On harinama I was one of the BTG distributors who generally distribute alongside of the party. One day I was deviant and instead went to distribute near a store that blasted the kind of music that I used to listen to and was still attached to. I thought this was great, a little for Krishna and a little for me. Then a song came on the radio, Govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami . . . It was like Krishna was saying, if you want to hear music, hear My music!
We did harinama twice a day and thus passed by a certain fruit vendor who disliked us four times a day. Finally he could not take it any more, and he started punching the last devotee in the party, who screamed “Haribol!” attracting the attention of the other devotees, who surrounded the guy and beat the heck out of him. I just watched, as I was a love and peace hippie sort of guy. When we went out the next day, I was worried that the guy arranged to get some friends to beat us up, but I was amazed to see the that guy who used to get angry with us, and who we beat up the previous night, instead spoke politely and ushered us down the street.
Srila Prabhupada taught us that wood used for the Ratha-yatra cannot be reconstituted and offered again to the Lord in another form.
Srila Prabhupada gave five or six classes talking about all the atrocities the British committed against India. In the final class, he said that the camels in India, who walk with their noses stuck up in the air, are incarnations of the British Raj.
I want to thank the six devotees that came from their country to ours and started the Krishna consciousness movement. We are completely indebted to them for the facilities they created and the mood they possessed.
Tasting the maha-prasadam of Radha-Londonisvara today, I recognized the same taste from years ago. One time, years back, I took Radha-Londonisvara maha-prasadam, and when I left the temple, I could not stop chanting Hare Krishna the whole rest of the evening. I told the devotees the next day, and they said, “Do you know what you have been eating?” I said, “Good food.” The devotee told me, “No, that is Krishna prasadam.” and they explained its spiritual value.
Srila Prabhupada pranam mantras are meaningful and worth meditating on.
My entire path from meeting the Krishna consciousness movement to the present day is an uncovering of consciousness.
I came to Krishna consciousness as a result of reading an article in BTG. It felt meaningful. Such a powerful moment. Maha-Vishnu and Kisore Prabhu started a center in Manchester, and Maha-Vishnu Prabhu gave me leftovers from the Sunday feast and kind words that convinced me to stay in the temple. Then I went to Edinborough and was trained up by Tribhuvanatha Prabhu, and came to Bury Place after a few months. I got to install the spotlights for the Deities. When Prabhupada came to London, it was a typical gray London day, but just as he arrived at the temple the sun appeared in all its brilliance.
Murali Manohara Prabhu:
Radha and Londonisvara have their mystical ways. They pick their servants. I spent six years trying to do book distribution, but I was doing such a poor job, that I wrote my spiritual master, revealing my mind. Not long after that, my spiritual master wanted to see me. He told me to go to Soho St. and surrender to Mother Arcana and do pujari work. “How long?” I asked, thinking it would be just a couple of months. He said, “As long as the Deities want.” That was ten years ago. Mahadyuti Prabhu, who is very expert in explaining why you are the only person suitable for the service he wants you to do, convinced me to be head pujari. As head pujari, I see the spontaneous devotion of all the devotees coming forward offering donations, bhoga, and service, sometimes even staying up late into the evening to do it. It is truly wonderful to see the enthusiasm of the devotees to come forward and serve Sri Sri Radha Londonisvara.
The Gaura-Nitai Deities often need to be painted, but I always put it off. Once I had a dream in which I was about to repaint Gaura-Nitai but was waiting for someone to bring Them up the stairs to the pujari room. Then I heard a bumping noise and the Gaura-Nitai Deities were jumping up the stairs themselves, eager to be repainted.
I said, “Srila Prabhupada, you are so kind!” And his face lit up so brightly I could not even look at him.
I wanted to go on the altar and serve Sri Sri Radha-Londonisvara, but it was not my destiny. I was selected to go to France and help a center in Geneva.
a Prabhu whose name I do not know:
These three girls Mandakini, Lila-sakti, and Aditi, did all the cooking, and I was amazed at their full engagement in service. I felt I should do something for them. I found out they made a certain jam with blackberries, that had all run out, so the weekend before I moved in the temple, I spent the whole day picking blackberries and I gave them to the girls, and they made jam out of them.
George paid for the Radha Londonisvara pictures all the way down the into the local tube station.
Srila Prabhupada wanted the outfits made by the pujaris and not purchased by the devotees in India.
Srila Prabhupada gave Yamuna lessons in singing the slokas of Bhagavad-gita. I do not recall he did that for anyone else.
Srila Prabhupada did not yell at the women.
Massaging and cooking both for Srila Prabhupada was a challenge because the massage could take between one and two and a half hours, during which time you could not check on what was cooking. I was very happy when one fourteen-year-old boy wanted to cook Srila Prabhupada’s lunch, so I could just concentrate on the massage. After the massage, when the boy brought in the lunch, I realized I made a mistake. Srila Prabhupada asked me if I supervised him, and I had to admit I hadn’t, and when he asked why? I had nothing to say.
Shyamasundara, in my opinion, was the best secretary that Srila Prabhupada ever had. He was incredibly efficient. When I became Prabhupada’s servant, Shyamasundara told me, “You job is to always be next to Srila Prabhuada.” I immediately liked him.
Everything is timing with Srila Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada never stopped for you to put on his shoes. You had to learn how to put them on while he was walking.
Srila Prabhupada is very peaceful. You really noticed that when everyone else left the room, and he was alone.
At Bury Place at greeting of the Deities, Srila Prabhupada turned to the devotees and said, “They are the most beautiful.”
Srila Prabhupada’s loyalty to his disciples and his humor were my favorite qualities.
We weren’t told things in ISKCON, we just found things out.
Srila Prabhupada said his two rooms at Radha Damodara were the hubs of the spiritual world because this Krishna consciousness movement began there.
I always remember seeing Yamuna making chapattis for Srila Prabhupada at Radha Damodara. All I could think is about Mother Yasoda cooking for Krishna.
Srila Prabhupada insisted that I take prasadam, and so I did. I never tasted anything that was as good as what Yamuna cooked for Srila Prabhupada.
There was no temple in ISKCON where we cooked in oil. Srila Prabhupada taught us to use ghee. We may have no money for cauliflower, but still we would have ghee.
Sometimes people say Srila Prabhupada glanced at them and saw all their impurities, but that is not what Srila Prabhupada was seeing. He was seeing whatever devotion for Krishna they had, and he was appreciating that.
All of us are simply dependent on Srila Prabhupada’s mercy.
Once Srila Prabhupada said, “If it was not for the chanting of Hare Krishna, you could not accomplish anything, you are so contaminated by illicit sex and intoxication.”
“If you just chant sixteen rounds, following the four regulative principles, and at the end of life, you will go back to Godhead without a doubt.”
Srila Prabhupada never addressed any of his female disciples as mataji.
Some people say that Srila Prabhupada wanted us to go to India to learn Indian culture, but that is not my understanding. Generally, he did not want us to leave our property in India. As far as I know, he wanted us to go to the holy dhama to purify ourselves to improve our sadhana and devotion.
“Most important” was used by Srila Prabhupada to emphasize the importance of something not to indicate that other things were less important.
Besides Srila Prabhupada, no other spiritual teacher in India had the idea exporting Ratha-yatra all over the world.
Srila Prabhupada wanted Back to Godhead to be popular and to have a circulation like Time and Newsweek.
We distributed Back to Godhead on harinama, and we passed around a conch to collect donations, which amounted to 10 British pounds.
When Srila Prabhupada was sick he engaged Yamuna Prabhu in making hot chili pakoras to increase his body heat. As a person who regularly massages Srila Prabhupada, I was entitled to the remnants of his lunch. Since I did not want to share them with anyone, I ate them in a room with the light off. The pakoras were unbearably spicy hot, but I was determined to eat them anyway. Besides, I didn’t want to be caught with some of the remnants, although I felt there must be smoke coming out of my ears.
Guru das was funny, and Mukunda was the charmer.
Srila Prabhupada said two minutes is sufficient to present the entire philosophy of Krishna consciousness, and he demonstrated on one media program.
Srila Prabhupada saw everyone as a potential devotee and did not see people so much in terms of their position in society.
Srila Prabhupada said the Manor should be called New Gokula, and we should have 150 cows and be famous for cow protection. We could get a double-decker bus and bring busloads of people to see our ideal community.
Notes from a Video of Devotee Interviews by Bhakta Matt:
By coming in touch with Krishna consciousness, I found I had more to give people. Through Srila Prabhupada’s books we have unity in diversity.
Adi Guru Prabhu:
I distribute literature and teach Krishna consciousness at yoga conferences. The devotees were the last refuge in my spiritual search.
Bhaktin Louise: I was bored to death working in a call center. I got a plate of food at Parasurama’s Food for All. It was the best food I ever ate. Then I went to the temple. These people are so dedicated to what they are doing and are so generous.
Sarasvati Prabhu, restaurant manager: Not everyone can digest philosophy, but everyone can digest prasadam.
Gopi Vallabha Prabhu: The theory that life comes from chemicals, with its idea of survival of the fittest, is the greatest illusion, greatest disservice, and greatest harm.
Titiksu: Ratha-yatra encompasses all the activities we do, Deity worship, prasadam, chanting Hare Krishna and dancing. I have more fun with Ratha-yatra than when I played with toys when I was a five-year-old kid! And is all for real!
I appreciate the beautiful flowers you are offering with such a pure attitude, and I feel very happy seeing this. Srila Prabhupada loves roses, especially yellow roses. This is because they are created by Krishna who is so beautiful.
Rohininandana made incredible cereal with dates, raisins, and yogurt, and it gave me so much energy on sankirtana. Not only is Krishna merciful, but His devotees are merciful.
Association is so important. I depend on the mercy of the devotees. In every step, the devotees helped me so much, and continue to do so.
I was from the Roman Catholic church in Poland. I was praying to Jesus Christ with all my heart to do missionary work in Korea. I saw the Hare Krishnas chanting on Oxford Street and the sound vibration was so beautiful. I thought I could not join them as I was so old, thirty-nine, and they were young. I got an invitation to the temple, and it mentioned bhakti-yoga. I had practicedhatha-yoga in Poland, so I was curious about what is bhakti-yoga. I went to the temple. I learned they follow these four rules, and I could understand they were very seriously following the principles of Lord Jesus Christ, so I joined immediately this Hare Krishna movement, the most important movement for human society.
I have a team of ladies who paint sweets for the Deities. They do not have to be initiated to do that service, and they are very enthusiastic and are becoming more so.
I learned to never cook for anyone else but Krishna, Krishna doesn’t accept anything from a dirty kitchen, and that Radharani doesn’t accept one-second late prasadam.
The actual process of devotional service is easy.
The kirtanas in Bury Place were amazing.
The whole street smelled like incense from the temple.
When Srila Prabhupada came to Bury Place, it was so crowded. There were people sleeping on the roof, on the stairs, or even under the sink as you were brushing your teeth.
In the tube, someone put a picture of Krishna and Balarama.
I met a devotee at Kensington Street. He said to me, “Hey man! You don’t need to take dope to get high.”
Because I was a regular visitor, when I decided to stay overnight, Dhananjaya Prabhu, the temple president, invited me to sleep on his desk.
Tribhuvanatha Prabhu used one of my belongings one time. When I inquired about it, he said, “It’s alright, Prabhu, because I am using it in Krishna’s service.”
We didn’t have our own clothes or even our own brahmana underwear. We would bring all the clothes back from the laundry mat mixed together.
I planned to stay for a year, but after a while I decided I was going to go because I couldn’t take it anymore. One devotee said, “OK, but just take prasadam before you go.” And he gave me the entire evening offering and put me alone with it in the shoe room. That was the last time I ever thought of leaving.
Janananda Prabhu was treasurer, and it was an easy job for him because there was no money, so he would just go on harinama.
Before reading Bhagavad-gita, one devotee told me there was a book you should read first, and he found a Krishna book for me. I read it and at the end of each chapter there would be benediction that you become purified, and basically, that you would become a Hare Krishna.
I thought the devotees’ bald heads looked ugly. I told my mother you won’t get me joining that lot.
One person said to Srila Prabhupada, “You look so young.”
Srila Prabhupada turned toward him with a brilliant smile, and said, “Did someone say I was old?”
Titiksu Prabhu’s wife:
Radha Londonisvara, as many, many devotees have mentioned, being physically near the devotees, both seem and are very approachable.
By hearing all these stories of Srila Prabhupada, we feel that we know Srila Prabhupada. I feel that because we have the Prabhupada’s disciples, we have Srila Prabhupada. And even after they leave, we will have Srila Prabhupada’s books, and those who read them will have that shakti.
At sixteen I was looking for the quintessential quality of love. I found that in Sri Sri Radha Londonisvara.
Srila Prabhupada said do not worry. Radharani is providing for everyone who comes so you should always have subji and puris on hand for people who come. That was the beginning of the lunch program.
Manjvali Prabhu (Jaya Tirtha Prabhu’s wife):
One time I dressed the Deities, and Srila Prabhupada wanted to see me. He was radiating love. “You have done nicely,” he said.
“We have a whole team,” I replied.
“Krishna is looking so nice,” he said.
“It is your mercy because you have picked us up,” I replied.
Srila Prabhupada said, “If you keep Krishna in the center, this life will be perfect, and your next life will be perfect.”
Then Srila Prabhupada had Srutakirti get his purse and he gave me $20, and said, “Buy something for Krishna.”
Srila Prabhupada was looking at the Deities and he said, “Krishna is smiling. Radha-Londonisvara smiles the most.”
[Mandakini Prabhu told how Prabhavishnu Swami came, but I so busy writing the previous things down, I didn’t remember, do you?—kkd ]
I liked to see the interactions of Srila Prabhupada and his dear disciples. Mukunda said to Srila Prabhupada, “I have to go to work.” And Srila Prabhupada looked genuinely sad to hear he was going and said, “You’ll be back in the evening?” Mukunda replied, “Yes.” There was so much love in their conversation.
Rohininandana gave me prasadam when I came to the temple.
The bhakta program I attended was also run by Rohininandana Prabhu. It was continuously going on, and you could join at anytime.
The GBC gave Rohininandana Prabhu a quota to make 108 devotees in a year, and he did it.
I recall that Tribhuvanatha Prabhu would tell the following two stories:
We would clean the temple for half an hour after breakfast. Then we would do harinama from Bury Place to Marble Arch and back, and then back to Marble Arch, where we would have lunch and then go to Bury Place, back to Marble Arch, and then back to Bury Place for the 7:00 p.m. arati. Then after the arati we would to harinama from Bury Place to Marble Arch and back. We get back around 10:30 p.m.
One time a neighbor was causing trouble, and when Srila Prabhupada was visiting, that was brought to his attention. Srila Prabhupada said, “Take him down to the pub, and buy him a gin and tonic.” Then Srila Prabhupada explained, “In your country that is what they understand.” We did just that, and the neighbor didn’t cause any more trouble.
The main event on Saturday night was a colossal dinner and cultural event attended by 1,800 devotees at a venue called the Troxy, which the devotees found overwhelming wonderful. Because the only cheap airline ticket I could get for India was that night, I did not purchase a ticket to go to the Troxy program. Thus when the airline deemed the copy of my Indian visa insufficient for my travel, and I returned to the temple, I decided to join the regular Saturday evening harinama, which the receptionist said had left ten minutes before. I brought my mini accordion and intercepted the rest of the party, which I found consisted of just two devotees, Bhaktin Elizabeth and an Indian gentleman, as they were entering Chinatown. I sang and played the accordion, Elizabeth played the mrdanga and distributed flyers, and the Indian gentleman carried the Hare Krishna maha-mantra sign and distributed flyers as well, as we followed the usual route through Leicester Square, Piccadilly, and back to the temple. I was amazed that almost as many people sang and danced with us as usual despite the incredibly small size of our party. A couple people even wanted to play some beats on the drum. One girl, accompanied by about ten friends, exclaimed with glee, “I know that song!” Looking at the mantra sign, she and her friends all together chanted for some time. I was so amazed to see the happiness that such a small harinama brought to many people on Central London’s streets. It reminded me of the value of maintaining programs, even in a reduced way, rather than abandoning them, simply to give people the eternal benefit of some pleasurable Krishna conscious experience.
Srila Prabhupada wanted a Russian visa. I was successful in getting one, but we had to leave within 48 hours and could stay but five days. Within three days, we completed our mission of discussing with our contact Professor Kotovsky.
I saw two boys in Moscow, one Indian and one Russian. They both knew English, and we began talking. They wondered if we had jeans or Beatles records. I replied, no, but we are friends with the Beatles, and our guru is the guru of the Beatles. They were amazed and were eager to see Srila Prabhupada. That Russian boy ended up staying with us for two days. Srila Prabhupada had him offering prayers and learning how to offer prasadam. The boy asked the right questions to get the answers he needed. Malati had snuck a Bhagavad-gita in my bag, and Srila Prabhupada asked if we could give it to the boy. The last day the boy brought us to the home of Alexander Solzhenitsyn. I was able to give an Easy Journey to Other Planets to his apartment-mate, a famous cellist married to a famous ballerina, to give to him. Prabhupada initiated the interested Russian boy as Ananta Shanti, and gave him my beads to chant on, and thus he planted a seed of Krishna consciousness in Russia.
We were together, but we would be doing different things. Srila Prabhupada was the center of our lives, but he was traveling, so he would install the center of lives [the Deity], who would be there when he was not.
I liked to be with Srila Prabhupada. He never kicked me out as some people wanted to.
Srila Prabhupada said, “As they are touching my feet, and I may be absorbing their sins, I touch them on the head and give it back to them.”
He saw I had a sense of humor and so he would relate to me in that way. He said someone without a sense of humor is not Krishna consciousness. It is a part of being Krishna consciousness, and I told these humorous pastimes to convince you that it is part of being Krishna conscious.
When Srila Prabhupada had the setback in San Francisco, Srila Prabhupada said maya was testing him because he was having some success. As we make progress, Krishna will test us.
I was in Vrindavan for many years, but this is my favorite yatra. It is because you are nice ladies and gentlemen, and you do things well. We were pioneers. Shyamasundara built the floor, but did not mop the floor. He was on to the next place to be a pioneer. But in London we stayed and watched things grow.
When he was holding up the canopy above the altar, Srila Prabhupada was a lion, holding it up so strong. His eyes were blazing like fire.
Because Shyamasundara was involved in carving the Jagannatha deities in San Francisco, he began to do that when we were at Betterton Place.
Now 7 Bury Place is a dental office, but previously it was transcendental.
“Something learned hard is hard to forget, something learned easily is easily forgotten” is a Prabhupada adage. Because my interactions with Srila Prabhupada were so very meaningful, I could not forget them.
Some temple administrators broke into a trunk of my possessions once. They found some shoes, and thinking they were Srila Prabhupada’s, they gold plated them. When I visited that temple, I saw them on the altar! I requested them back.
All I have is a notebook from autumn 1969. I like to remember the pastimes with other devotees. We all remember different things. It is wonderful having Malati’s association.
Srila Prabhupada said of deity worship, you are dealing with the supreme pure, so you have to become pure. The same is true of him.
Jagannatha, Baladeva, and Subhadra were installed the same time as Radha-Londonisvara.
Srila Prabhupada said would say to disgruntled parents, “If your child is happy then why do you object?”
Sometimes my father would come on harinama. If someone said something bad about the devotees, he would point to me, and say, “That is my son. Don’t say bad things about him.”
This is the only place Srila Prabhupada gave the instruction for mantra-snana [bathing by mantra] Deity worship. We did not ask why. Perhaps it was we were understaffed.
I had met Meher Baba, Saccidananda, and Maharsi, but when I saw Srila Prabhupada get off the plane, glowing and barely touching the ground, I realized he was special.
When Srila Prabhupada got of the plane. I initially was thinking I was seeing the lights of the journalists’ cameras, but they I realized that I was seeing Srila Prabhupada’s form, and suddenly I felt moved to bow down although we had not been taught about offering obeisances before. I had a dream soon after, in which Srila Prabhupada appeared, and which confirmed for me he was my guru.
I came to the marriage of my sister. I thought Krishna consciousness was alright for my friends but not for me. I liked Srila Prabhupada. At one point, I decided I would do an experiment and try to follow the four principles and chant. I read the first seventeen chapters of Srimad-Bhagavatam and was truly impressed. I was chanting practically all day.
Next time I saw Srila Prabhupada, he inquired about my plans, and I said I wanted to go to a higher place, like the Himalayas. Srila Prabhupada replied, “I can take you to a higher place than the Himalayas. Just see. Just see.”
When someone would say I like Krishna consciousness, but how can it save the world. Prabhupada would say, “You are so different from the rest of the world?”
Q: Can you suggest a plan to help us increase in the future?
A: Srila Prabhupada would say, if you can convince one leader of society, then many, many people will be convinced. When theologians, philosophers, and anyone who leads people would come, Srila Prabhupada loved to speak to them. It takes a full life commitment to track after one particular person. And you will get to see Krishna personally reciprocate with you in your endeavor.
One of the reasons George liked us so much is because we treated him as a real person. It is actually a disservice to not treat an important person like a real person, and it is a service to treat him as a real person.
Q: What did you call Tamal Krishna, Tommy Gun?
A: I saw in Tamal Krishna a very strong devotee, because would speak very strongly to persons to convince them of Krishna conscious points. It was in admiration of his ability in this I called him Tommy Gun.
My cooking for Srila Prabhupada, I felt, was progressing from kindergarten through high school. In London, we had been devotees only a year and a half.
Srila Prabhupada was so perceptive on so many levels. We all appreciated him differently. Sometimes he would just indicate things with his eyes.
Srila Prabhupada would repeat an instruction until we got it and then he would move on.
Jai Nitai Prabhu:
We had a little family atmosphere, but now with all of you who took part in building this temple, who are our aunts and uncles, here for this festival, it is more complete.
The first six devotees came to London taking the blessings of Srila Prabhupada with humble hearts, not thinking they were great devotees, but knowing that Srila Prabhupada was a great devotee, and they were instruments of Srila Prabhupada’s mercy, and they were completely depending on the blessings of Srila Prabhupada. But they wanted to please their spiritual master. They were completely fearless because they knew Srila Prabhupada was behind them, and he could do anything. They had complete faith in Srila Prabhupada’s blessings.
What the most powerful sannyasis could not do in London, six hippies from America who were only devotees for over a little over a year, were able to do in London.
This innocent humility in their hearts empowered them.
Hearing from these devotees for a week, we can see they just wanted to please their spiritual master.
People are asking what we should do in the next forty years. The answer is to capture their humble spirit of desiring to please their spiritual master. They are all completely different personalities, but they were united because they were focused on pleasing Srila Prabhupada. Being united to please guru and Krishna. What they have done here in London is actually a miracle. It is the miracle of Srila Prabhupada’s desire. Srila Prabhupada sacrificed everything to help people he didn’t even know. They were touched by Srila Prabhupada’s love and simply wanted to share it.
When the four devotees were singing kirtana, it really reached the hearts of the devotees. It was really a high moment—an intimate experience of unity and diversity in the service of Radha and Krishna.
It is principle of bhakti is to respect our elders. What empowered the future devotees was following the mood of selfless service to Srila Prabhupada of the first devotees.
The future of this yatra and all yatras is with gratitude to those who started it, Srila Prabhupada and his followers who sacrificed so much for others. A grateful heart is a fertile heart for bhakti to flourish.
Radhanatha Swami, Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.6.8-9 class:
Festivals are contradictory—they energize us and exhaust us simultaneously.
Krishna like a magnet attracts all the residents of Vrndavana.
Ultimately Krishna sees the good. He also sees everything else. Our task is to reduce “the everything else” to zero.
Srila Prabhupada also sees the good in everyone’s heart. He saw the potential of living being to serve Krishna.
Compared to the original size of Putana, Krishna was tiny, like a mosquito, but He caused her to suffer so much that she became free from all her sins.
Sometimes a devotee suffers greatly, and it is to be understood that is to free him from all traces of material contamination.
The devotees recently received a library of Gaudiya Vaishnava literature with original manuscripts of Bhaktivinoda Thakura including the Gaura arati song.
Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura wrote, when his sannyasis were preaching in London, “What an historical event this is that the glorious teachings of Sri Caitanya are being spread on the holy banks of the river Thames!”
A couple days before going to the West, Srila Prabhupada went to Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura’s samadhi and spent the day there, begging to be empowered to do a materially impossible feat.
In London, within a year, Srila Prabhupada’s six disciples had a temple. They were famous. They had crowds of people. And then Srila Prabhupada installed Radha-Londonisvara.
To see the glorious offering enjoyed by the Lord, is a cause of joy for the devotees.
Pundarika Vidyanidhi was outraged to see the Jagannatha pujaris offering starched garments one after another on Odani Sasthi and revealed his mind to Svarupa Damodara Goswami. Svarupa Damodara explained that rules in the scriptures are for those who are not situated in love of God and that because the King of Puri and the priests who know the scriptures do not protest, the activities of devotion should be accepted. That night Jagannatha, Baladeva, and Subhadra appeared to Pundarika Vidyanidhi and beat him up to teach him not to criticize His devotees.
Seeing the external appearances causes so much criticism within one faith and between different faiths. The supreme religion is that which causes unmotivated, uninterrupted service to the Lord. All the rules are meant to bring us to a platform of always remembering and never forgetting Krishna.
The message is more important than the envelope. Krishna sees the purport and intent of our offerings.
There is saying that one teaches the daughter-in-law through the daughter, although the daughter already knows. Similarly the Lord teaches the populace by using his devotees as examples. Srila Prabhupada did not have to get heart attacks and a stroke for his own purification.
The Lord did not mind the mistake of offering the starched cloth, but he minded the one who found fault in those who offered it.
Seeing the essence and encouraging the essence, is Srila Prabhupada’s example, here in London, and in general.
Radhanatha Swami’s Message to the London Yatra:
I hope you continue to expand the family spirit, which you demonstrated during this festival and that was appreciated by the visiting devotees. That is the key to making Krishna consciousness popular.
Thank you to Jai Nitai. Being temple president is an honor, a privilege, and a challenge. We should see devotional service as a privilege, not something we have to do, although we may have to do it.
varam vrnidhvam bhadram vo
yuyam me nrpa-nandanah
tusto ’ham sauhrdena vah
“The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: ‘My dear sons of the King, I am very much pleased by the friendly relationships among you. All of you are engaged in one occupation—devotional service. I am so pleased with your mutual friendship that I wish you all good fortune. Now you may ask a benediction of Me.’” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.30.8)