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The main room at the Waimanalo beach house was very large, encompassing a large living room, dining area, and kitchen. So in order to give Srila Prabhupada more privacy in his part of the great room, I hung a long curtain between the living room area and the dining room area, thus partitioning off his work room. This was so that he might not be distracted by our comings and goings, and our moving about the kitchen and dining area.
One day, he called out to me from the other side of the curtain.
“Govindasi, that rocking chair cushion; it has some needle in it!”
I had just refurbished his rocking chair, and one of our brahmacharinis had made a new cushion cover for it. So this was a surprise!
I called back from the kitchen, “What do you mean? You got stuck with a needle?”
“Yes, there is some needle there.”
So I quickly went into his workroom, and dragged the rocker out, into the curtained off kitchen dining area.
Then I knelt down and began to feel all around the cushion with my hands, squeezing and pressing it here and there, trying to find out a pin or needle that may be hidden in it. But I couldn’t find anything.
So I called out to Srila Prabhupada, “I can’t find anything. Where did you feel it?”
“In the cushion,” he called back from behind the curtain.
By now, I was frustrated, as I had been squeezing every part of the cushion for several minutes. I pressed and pressed, squeezed and pulled, but could not find anything at all.
Finally, I decided I would just have to sit in the chair to find it. I knew that the disciple is never supposed to sit on the Guru’s chair, but for seva, Srila Prabhupada had taught me, it was acceptable. Still, I was very reluctant to do it. But it was a last resort.
So I plopped down in his rocking chair–but still nothing. So then I began to bounce up and down on the cushion, up and down and all around. Then I hit it!
“Ouch!” I yelped. I was laughing, as Srila Prabhupada was also now laughing. He heard my yelp from the other side of the curtain and began to laugh and joke with me.
“Ah, yes! So now you have left a pin in your Guru Maharaj’s cushion and now you have got your resultant karma!” He was chuckling and I was also laughing, as I was not injured at all–but I did find the culprit pin!
And I was able to quickly remove the pin as part of my service to my beloved Spiritual Master Srila Prabhupada. (If only all karma was as easy as this!)
This was a light and loving exchange; please don’t anyone take this wrongly. Srila Prabhupada was always loving and kind. Yes, he would sometimes chastise a disciple, but always out of love, not out of any cruelty or malice. And this was simply a loving family exchange, a delightful example of what it was like to live in the same home as Srila Prabhupada.
So often, I feel disturbed by the way Srila Prabhupada is presented, rather misrepresented, in some other memoirs. Perhaps it is safe to say that each person had a different experience, and thus a different perspective. However, it seems that the “thunderbolt” aspect has come to overshadow the “rose of compassion” aspect, and it has even come to be the fashion to imitate this so-called “thunderbolt” aspect.
I find this very troubling, because Srila Prabhupada was practically an incarnation of Lord Nityananda’s mercy; he was divinely compassionate upon all the conditioned souls.
Once, while leaving Los Angeles, and returning to our preaching center in Hawaii, Srila Prabhupada told us as we were leaving, with tears streaming down his cheeks.
“Preach to the people of Hawaii, the poor people of this world, they are suffering so much, although they do not know it; they are suffering for lack of Krishna consciousness. Please go and spread this message of Krishna consciousness to all of them.”
This was Srila Prabhupada’s essence, his most important feature: his compassion and mercy. We are all undeserving recipients of such mercy, and we should never forget this for even a moment. We should not become foolishly proud of our so-called accomplishments, or position; our only good fortune is that we have somehow or other, stumbled into the assembly of great spiritual personalities, and they have taken pity on us, and given us a grace-filled glance. That is really all we have.
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Alfalfa sprouts became popular in the early ‘70s as a good health food. In the tropical climate of Hawaii, salads are also very light and refreshing. So we had begun offering and eating salads made with such sprouts, but there was some controversy over this.
Some devotees felt we were killing them with our chewing process, and it may not be a good thing. Others said, “Well, we ARE offering them, and we are also killing carrots and other root vegetables, like potatoes and beets, when we harvest them.”
So, in order to get to the truth of the matter, we decided to make a very nice sprout salad and offer it to Gour Nitai, then serve it to Srila Prabhupada. I made a very tasty salad, with lettuce, ripe avocado, tomatoes, then topped with a large serving of alfalfa sprouts. I bowed down and offered the salad at the Gour Nitai altar, along with Srila Prabhupada’s lunch, and then served it to him. He ate his lunch on his desk, which was opposite our makeshift Gour Nitai altar. Then I waited to see his reaction, and thus get any instruction from Srila Prabhupada on this sprouts issue.
Srila Prabhupada ate his usual lunch of dahl, chapatis, rice, and three subjis, and also ate most of the avodado-alfalfa sprout salad. Later, I asked him about the salad, and he told me it was quite tasty, and there was no problem in offering such salads, “living foods,” to the Lord. So my query was answered, and the sprouts controversy settled.
I later asked him if he would like to have a similar salad for tomorrow’s lunch. Srila Prabhupada smiled, and nodded from side to side, but declined. He said, “That’s all right.”
This meant, of course, “it was good, but not for every day.” Srila Prabhupada never ate so many salads; he much preferred a menu of dahl, rice, chapatis, and subji. But at least we now knew that sprouts are fine to offer and to eat. And Nanda Kumar’s excellent dahl, chapatis, and subji continued to be his favored cuisine. Srila Prabhupada often commented on what a good cook Nanda Kumar had become.
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Srila Prabhupada’s arrived at the Waimanalo Beach house, where he showered and rested from his long flight. After some time, he came out of his room to enjoy the view of the beautiful Koolau Mountain range, which lines the sky behind the ocean rim. He commented on how beautiful it was, and that surely it must be “left over” from a previous yuga. He often said that Hawaii was left over from a previous yuga, as it had not yet fully been enveloped in the ugly reign of Kali.
Srila Prabhupada often mentioned how Hawaii was such a special place on the planet, for its beauty, isolation, and also for the fact than many yogis take their birth in Hawaii. The enjoyment spirit is definitely pronounced, but more in the mode of goodness, enveloped in the beauty of Mother Nature. So also is the strong inclination toward spiritual life. Love and respect for the “aina,” the land, is a part of the ancient Hawaiian culture.
In old Hawaii, there is a concept of nurturing the land, the trees, the flowers, the fruits, and the water, all of which are seen to be the givers of life. It is an old Hawaiian custom, for example, that at the birth of every child, a coconut tree is planted. The coconut tree can supply all the needs of the human being, with fresh water and food, and even palm fronds for shelter from the sun. Srila Prabhupada often spoke about the coconut palm, and how, amazingly, the water is distilled by Mother Nature. He would say how amazing it is, that by Krishna’s arrangement, such pure water is found at the very top of such tall trees!
Managed properly, Hawaii could be a leading force in the movement of Lord Chaitanya. Sadly, it is not so easy to manage, as most of the people who come here from the mainland are unfamiliar with the customs of the culture here. Moreover, they are unfamiliar with the prevailing modes of nature, and this often has resulted in tragic situations, with one travesty after another. Hawaii is a place of spiritual attunement, excellent for practicing yoga and meditation, but not for devious courses of action. Coarse persons, who are insensitive to the subtle energies of the Islands, are rarely able to remain in Hawaii for very long.
Srila Prabhupada was well aware of the special attributes of the Hawaiian Islands, and relished the beauty and bounty of goodness in the form of fragrant flowers, coconuts, mangos, papayas, and exquisite scenery. He loved the fresh ocean air and daily took long walks along the sparkling beaches. He was quite comfortable in the mode of goodness that prevails here in Hawaii.
Each morning Srila Prabhupada would sit beneath the plumeria tree in the front yard, its sweet fragrance permeating the ocean air. There he would have his mustard oil massage, and often talk about Krishna for hours on end. He was extremely happy and comfortable in Mother Nature’s lovely setting, and looked like a golden jewel in an emerald green setting.
Srila Prabhupada especially loved the gorgeous Tulasi gardens, with Tulasi plants often towering to six and seven feet tall, and expanding Her branches out four and five feet. These enormous Tulasi plants graced the front of our Honolulu temple, and even years later, they also graced the front of the Coelho Way temple. Now, only one small Tulasi plant remains in front of the temple. Srila Prabhupada used to say that the “Tulasi plant is the barometer of devotion. Where there is devotion to Krishna, the Tulasi will thrive.”
On Srila Prabhupada’s desk in Waimanalo, I placed a large glass jar of water, filled with offered Tulasi manjaris and leaves. He had requested this, since there was such an abundance of Tulasi flowers. The flowers and leaves would soak for hours in the water jar, and thus the water would become fragrant and purplish. He would drink from this water jar throughout the day, and often comment, “Ah, yes. The Tulasi gives the water a very nice taste!” He gave us many instructions about the care and worship of Srimate Tulasi Devi.
In the afternoon, after his lunch and nap, Srila Prabhupada would pace back and forth chanting japa in the front room, usually in front of the makeshift altar. On the altar, was my painting of Gour Nitai, which had served as our main Deity for many months. Now, since Pancha Tattva were ready, They would become the main Deities of New Navadwip.
Nearby, in the same front room, Pradyumna Prabhu, “Panditji,” as Srila Prabhupada nicknamed him, would sit in a lotus position, absorbed in his Sanskrit transliteration. Pradyumna was always sitting in a lotus position with a book in front of him, and often smiling, with sparkling eyes, like he was not present in this world, but absorbed in another realm. He was immersed in the spiritual realm of Naimisharanya, where the Srimad Bhagavatam is being spoken eternally by Sukadev Goswami. In this way, he was constantly absorbed in the spiritual world, working on Srila Prabhupada’s Srimad Bhagavatam translations. Srila Prabhupada kept him nearby at all times, and was very pleased with his translation and editing. Pradyumna was receiving divine guidance and transmissions from Srila Prabhupada continuously.
Meanwhile, Shyamsundar Prabhu was usually busy typing letters for Srila Prabhupada, or reading them to him each day, as he was serving now as Srila Prabhupada’s secretary. Shyamsundar was always jovial, and usually off in his own world, typing and wearing headphones. Shyamsundar was a fun person to be around, and I could see that Srila Prabhupada really enjoyed his company. Together, they were like mischievous swaggering pirate-boys, no doubt part of the butter-thieving clan of Vraj.
Nanda Kumar Prabhu, and myself, were usually in the kitchen, either preparing prasadam, or cleaning up after the offerings. Nanda Kumar was an excellent cook, and Srila Prabhupada enjoyed his cooking each day, with dahl, rice, chapaties, and subji being the daily fare. Srila Prabhupada would often comment on what an expert cook he was, and also he would comment on how he looked like the perfect brahmin, with his round burly chest and jovial smile.
Each morning, we would walk on the long sandy beach of Waimanalo, its clean sparkly sands shifting slightly with the gentle ocean waves. The Waimanalo beach is broad and flat, so as a group, we would walk from one end to the other.
Srila Prabhupada always had someone carry a large stick, often me, or one of the guys, for “keeping away dogs.” There was no loving dog visiting him on this trip to Hawaii, so we were back to the normal “no dogs allowed” policy.
In this way, Srila Prabhupada spent his days at the Waimanalo beach house, relishing beach walks each morning, and much time outdoors in the beautiful setting. As always, he was up in the wee hours of the morning, speaking the Srimad Bhagavatam into his transcribing recorder, thus continuously working on his books. In the evenings, he often came to our Honolulu temple, about twenty minutes away, and gave classes and led kirtans. Sometimes there was a special program held at a church or university, and Srila Prabhupada would enjoy speaking to the youth of Hawaii. It was a very gentle and spiritually relishable time for everyone.
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THE big day finally came! After months of preparation, Srila Prabhupada was on a jet flying into Honolulu! Our excitement knew no bounds!
This time Srila Prabhupada’s arrival would be very different from his first visit. At that first arrival, in February of 1969, there was no elaborate devotee greeting party. There was only Goursundar and myself, Mahapurusha, Murari, and Lilavati. Then, Goursundar and I had picked Srila Prabhupada up in our old orange truck, and traveled to our remote beach house in Kaaawa. We had even stopped along the way to pick sugar cane stalks for him–tall, sweet ones that he selected. He pointed them out, and Goursundar went crashing through the cane fields to cut them down for him. He later enjoyed those canes at out country beach house in Kaaawa. It was a quiet time; there were hardly any devotees, only a few programs, and no hurry.
Now, in 1971, less than two years later, things were very different. Srila Prabhupada was greeted by dozens of dancing devotees and a booming kirtan! Flower garlands of every sort were showered upon him! There were so many flower leis that he had to remove some just to make room for more!
Hawaii is, after all, the land of flowers, rainbows, and sunshine, so there is always an abundance of flowers like plumeria, tuberose, pikake, gardenia, white ginger, and others too numerous to mention. The huge gardenia leis almost covered Srila Prabhupada with fragrant white blossoms.
Srila Prabhupada strode elegantly from the landing gate and sat down on a decorated, makeshift Vyasasana. It was actually a concrete sitting platform, a part of the airport, but we had temporarily transformed it into a Vyasasana.
There he received more and more garlands from everyone, and smilingly, he greeted all the devotees with the warmth of his spiritual love. He first greeted Goursundar and I, and then called for Siddhasvarupa to come forward. Siddhasvarupa shyly approached Srila Prabhupada, and offered his obeisances at his lotus feet.
Siddhasvarupa had been initiated by mail, and was to be given sanyas and second initiation at the forthcoming Deity installation ceremony. So Srila Prabhupada had not yet met Siddhasvarupa in person.
Srila Prabhupada called him to him, and when Siddhasvarupa bowed down, Srila Prabhupada stroked and patted his freshly shaven head. His Divine Grace was immensely pleased with the surrender of this young man, who had given up everything–disciples, properties, money, and, most of all, his heart, at the lotus feet of Srila Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada blessed him and Siddhasvarupa radiated with the joy of seeing his Spiritual Master for the first time.
Srila Prabhupada had told Sai, Siddhasvarupa, that he would initiate him first, and then he (Siddhasvarupa) could then initiate all his disciples who were already with him. But Siddhasvarupa chose full surrender. He asked that Srila Prabhupada initiate all of his disciples as well. And he humbly stepped down from his position as their guru, after guiding them to the lotus feet of Srila Prabhupada. Siddhasvarupa then came to live in the quite austere and crowded basement brahmachary ashram of our Honolulu temple. This young man, at 21 years old, already had what nearly everyone wants: money, power, land, properties, disciples, and the fame and adoration that accompany these things. Yet he chose to surrender everything at the lotus feet of Srila Prabhupada, and to become a penniless brahmachary. His faith and devotion to Srila Prabhupada were so firm, even though he had not yet met Srila Prabhupada in person.
When young Sai had joined our temple in November of 1970, he brought with him many wonderful devotees, such as Maile (who later became Manjari dasi), Michael (who became Prahladhlada), and later Phenop, Balakhiya, Katyayani, Saisesekar, and many more. His “Krishna Yoga Center” as he had named his organization, had more than sixty young students and disciples; many of them joined Iskcon temples on the mainland, as well as in England, as our Honolulu temple could only accommodate a small number of them. They were all bright, young dedicated disciples.
Once, years later, while Srila Prabhupada was in India, Siddhasvarupa wrote a letter to him, saying, “I hope you will remember me sometimes…” While this letter was being read to Srila Prabhupada, he commented, with tears in his eyes, “I am always remembering him.” Such is the love between guru and disciple.
This is the mood that we all experienced with Srila Prabhupada. He was constantly thinking of us, watching over us, and guiding us from within our hearts as well as from the outside, with his many letters, lectures, and conversations. Even now, on the vast spiritual platform, Srila Prabhupada continues to be our greatest well-wisher, always trying to find ways for each and every disciple, grand-disciple, or anyone who even slightly takes an interest in Krishna consciousness, to go back to Godhead.
Since most of our new devotees had been initiated by mail, many had not yet met Srila Prabhupada. So one by one, they come forward and offered obeisances at his lotus feet, while the joyful kirtan reached a crescendo. There was Balabhadra das, Jayashri devi dasi,Turya das, Kusha devi dasi, Govardhan das, Shaktimati devi dasi, Babhru das, Hariballabha das, Saisesekar das, Suparna das, Gour Govinda das, Phenop das, Balakhiya das, Katyakani devi dasi, Jivan Krishna das, Vrishni das, Lilasukhi devi dasi, and so many more nice devotees, too numerous to list. (Please forgive me if I have forgotten someone…)
Srila Prabhupada sat regally upon the cushioned airport Vyasasana, and blessed everyone with his loving glance. We chanted and chanted and filled our hungry eyes and hearts with the purifying vision of Lord Chaitanya’s great devotee, Srila Prabhupada: Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s “senapati bhakta,” His Commander in Chief, His Maha Sankirtan General. Looking back, however, it may be said that we hardly even noticed how incredibly great Srila Prabhupada really is–because we were so blinded by our intense love for him!
His loving glances fed our hearts and his gentle words were the music we longed for. Yes, it was a very ecstatic airport greeting!
After over an hour of kirtan, we whisked him off to Waimanalo, to his private beach house, complete with a big fenced yard and many flower trees. It was a wonderful day! Hawaii was blessed to receive him, and Goursundar and I were overjoyed that THIS time we could receive Srila Prabhupada more properly than we did at the time of his first visit to Hawaii!
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FINALLY, after months of work, our Pancha Tattva Deities were complete!
All the devotees worked together on this project, and it unified us as a
“family.” We were working cooperatively on a project that Srila Prabhupada
wanted. Our mood was one of loving service; there was no thought of money,
fame, or adoration. We simply wanted to see our beloved Srila Prabhupada
smile. His lotus smile, his pleasure, and his approval was far more
valuable than all the wealth in the world! If only we as a movement, can
capture that mood, truly the road to success will be paved with rose petals!
Goursundar took photos of the Divine Five, and we sent them to Srila
Prabhupada. Ironically, in Hawaii there is a group of companies commonly
known as the “Big Five.” These are old landholder trusts/corporations that
hold most of the wealth and assets of the former Kingdom of Hawaii. Now,
we had our own “Big Five,” and They stand far bigger, greater, wealthier,
and more merciful, for They are the Supreme Lord and His Divine Associates!
Srila Prabhupada received the Pancha Tattva photos, and he let us know he
was pleased. He began making his plans to come to Hawaii to install our
Pancha Tattva Deities as he had promised. We began decorating the temple
room, designing and creating a beautiful Vyas Asana, and preening the rose
and Tulasi gardens that graced the front of our Manoa temple.
Srila Prabhupada always loved to have Tulasi gardens right in front of the
Lord’s temples. That way, all visitors would first honor Tulasi Maharani,
and then approach the Lord’s temple. However, our Tulasi plants had gotten
far larger than we expected. We read that the plants usually would reach 3
or 4 feet tall, but our plants had grown to be well over 7 feet tall!
Perhaps due to the mild climate of Hawaii, and the rich volcanic soil,
Tulasi Devi thrives in Hawaii.
As a result of the Tulasi plants’ enormous size, the front entry to the
Manoa temple was becoming narrower and narrower. So Goursundar asked Srila
Prabhupada if the Tulasi plants could be pruned back, in order to widen the
entry way. Srila Prabhupada very adamantly said, “No, you *cannot* cut
Them. That is a great offense. But you can tie back the branches.” So we
tied the branches back to widen the entrance.
The Tulasi plants continued to grow, however, and so after some time, the
entry way was again being blocked. The plants were now much taller, so
that the tops of the Tulasi plants reached skyward, and there was only
space to enter beneath Them. Temple guests would have to duck down under
the branches just to enter the temple courtyard!
So, again Goursundar approached Srila Prabhupada, asking what could be
done. He explained that everyone had to duck down to go under the Tulasi
branches as they entered the temple grounds.
Immediately Srila Prabhupada’s eyes lit up, and he exclaimed, “Oh, they
are having to bow before Tulasi before entering?” Then he chuckled, and
said, “Very good. This is very good. They are bowing their heads before
Tulasi and then coming to the Lord’s temple. This is very good!” And that
was the end of the discussion. He did not see it as a problem, but as a
Now, at our present temple in Nuuanu, the Tulasi garden is no longer
located at the front of the temple, where it was for many many years. For
many many years, the huge Tulasi plants greeted the guests, and all the
devotees chanted their rounds while repeatedly circumambulating the round
Tulasi garden right in front of the temple. Srila Prabhupada sat on the
balcony above and chanted japa while admiring this centrally located
moon-shaped Tulasi garden. Now, due to years of poor management, the
Tulasi garden has been replaced by grass and small ornamentals like pansies
and impatiens, mostly due to ignorance of the importance of Srimate Tulasi
Maharani. And our Tulasi garden has been relegated to some other area off
to the side of the temple.
I personally believe that our Hawaii Temple will really flourish once
again when Srimate Tulasi Devi is again placed in front of the Lord’s
Temple where She belongs. That way, Srimate Tulasi Devi’s mercy is readily
available to everyone who visits the Lord’s Temple.
By now, not only were the Tulasi gardens thriving, but our Honolulu temple
was thriving as well. Our 3 story Manoa home was packed with new
devotees. Devotees like Balabhadra das,Turya das, Babhru das, Govardhan
das, Prahladhada das, Tarun Kanti das, Vrishni das, Ananda das, Saisesekar
das, Phenops das, Balakhiya das, Jayasri dasi, Kusha devi dasi, Manjari
devi dasi, Shakti Mati devi dasi, Lilashakti devi dasi, and many more
whose names I cannot recall.
When Sai joined with us, he brought many of his own followers to the lotus
feet of Srila Prabhupada–disciples such as Maile, who became Manjari dasi,
and Balakhiya, Saisesekar, Phenops, Prahladhada das and many more. Sai was
initiated by Srila Prabhupada and given the name Siddhasvarupananda das. He
was given Brahmin initiation and sanyas on the day of the Installation of
the Pancha Tattva Deities.
When we moved into the Manoa house, we were only five devotees,
Balabhadra, Jayasri, Turyadas, Goursundar and myself. Within months, the
place was brimming with new and enthusiastic devotees! Such is the power
of the Holy Names, and daily Sankirtan parties on the streets of Honolulu!
Up on the hill behind our temple, Goursundar had built an outdoor bhajan
kutir for the brahmacharies, complete with a water hose for a shower.
Outdoor life in Hawaii has always been attractive to the youth, so we made
sure there was plenty of outdoor activities such as gardening, swimming,
and most of all Sankirtan parties every day.
Huge leafy squash vines climbed up the hill behind the temple, ready to
offer fresh leaves and flowers to Srila Prabhupada when he arrived. This
was the same type, Chinese long squash, that he relished in Kaaawa during
his first visit to Hawaii. He liked the leaves cooked with potatoes, as a
dry veggie, and he liked the flowers made into pakoras.
Because our temple was so packed, and a veritable beehive of activity,
Goursundar and I began to search for a suitable place to house Srila
Prabhupada during his planned month-long stay. Srila Prabhupada always
liked to stay by the ocean whenever possible; he used to say the ocean air
is “full of vitamins.”
Because it was a short drive from Honolulu, we chose Waimanalo Beach.
There we found a nice vacation rental, right on the beach. It was a large
comfortable house, with an expansive wall of windows looking out onto the
ocean. And there was a small cottage next to it, a “maid’s quarters,”
where Goursundar and I would stay.
The beach house was large enough for Srila Prabhupada and his travel
troupe–Shyamsundar das, his secretary, Nanda Kumar das, his cook, and
“Panditji,” Pradyumna das, his Sanskrit scholar. Pradyumna das traveled
with Srila Prabhupada everywhere, as they worked on the Srimad Bhagavatam
together daily. Sometimes his secretary or cook would change, but Panditji
was always next to Srila Prabhupada.
Srila Prabhupada had full faith in Pradyumna’s understanding of Sanskrit
and his grasp of the philosophical aspects of Krishna Consciousness, as
well as his very excellent devotional mood.
“Panditji,” Pradyumna das, lived in the world of Srimad Bhagavatam; he was
absorbed day and night in Sanskrit slokas. He had no interest in name,
fame, and wealth and their accompanying problems. He loved Srila
Prabhupada sincerely, and served him selflessly.
For these and other reasons, known only to Srila Prabhupada, he appointed
Pradyumna das to complete his great work of translating and adding purports
to Srimad Bhagavatam. Perhaps one of the greatest tragedies that befell
Iskcon after Srila Prabhupada’s untimely departure from this world is that
his Srimad Bhagavatam was not completed according to his desires.
Pradyumna das was unable to complete the work as Srila Prabhupada had
ordered due to some of the ugly politics that crept into Srila Prabhupada’s
Iskcon shortly after his demise. This, among other things, should really be
corrected as part of our effort to restore the original harmony of Iskcon
as Srila Prabhupada designed.
Like worker bees, the Hawaii temple devotees buzzed day and night, making
ready the beach house, the temple, the Vyasasana, and many gorgeous outfits
for Sri Pancha Tattva. Some of the girls stayed up all night working on
the Vyasasana and the ornamentation around it. One of the Brahmacharinies
made a new cover for the cushion in Srila Prabhupada’s rocking chair, and
we then placed it in the living room of the beach house. The boys
constructed a temporary altar in the beach house living room, and just
before the day of the installation, I placed my painting of Gour Nitai on
it. This was the painting that we had been worshipping on our main altar
for many months. It became the main Deities on his home altar.
For transportation back and forth to Waimanalo, Goursundar purchased a
roomy, comfortable car, so wide that four or more passengers could easily
fit in the back. It was an old Chrysler or Mercury; surely a gashog in its
day. It turned out that Srila Prabhupada liked that great big car, and
even asked about shipping it to India!
We were ready and waiting.
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All Glories to our beloved Master Srila Prabhupada, whose many wonderful
qualities are so vast that it is truly impossible to adequately praise him.
Still, as disciples, it is our duty to attempt to do so.
Today I want to speak about Srila Prabhupada’s quality of sacrifice–his
austerity and his willingness to undergo incredible difficulties for
spreading the mission of Lord Chaitanya. I also want to remind everyone of our need to cooperate, our need to try to work together even if there are minor disagreements. And most importantly, our duty as disciples to preserve what he has given us and thus hand it down as a ripen fruit to the next generation, without changes or interpretations or opinions.
In early 1968, just after Srila Prabhupada’s illness and his return from 6
months in India, we spent time in LA, SF, and then later NY, Boston, and
Montreal. At that time I was his secretary and cook. There were only a few temples, and only a
handful of devotees. It was a special time, unmatched for its sweetness
and spiritual tranquility. It was the time when the lotus was just
beginning to open, and the fragrance of the Holy Name was wafting over the sleeping Western world.
Each day, when I would bring Srila Prabhupada’s lunch plate, heaped high
with fragrant Basmati rice, three tasty sabjis–all Bengali style, steaming
dahl, and chappaties–always brought in one at a time–like round
piping-hot puff balls, Srila Prabhupada would exclaim:
“Ah! Just see! Before coming to your country (USA), everyone warned me:
‘Oh Swamiji! You cannot go there to USA! They have no food for you–there they eat only meat and potatoes!’”
“So I said, what is that! I shall simply live on bread and potatoes!”
“And now, just see, Krishna has sent everything! So many nice
preparations, nice fruits, vegetables, milk, everything. Krishna is so
And Srila Prabhupada genuinely meant this. He REALLY did plan to survive on bread and potatoes. He even brought with him in his luggage some flat rice from India.
This is an example of Srila Prabhupada’s incredible austerity, marked with determination and willingness to undergo any amount of personal inconvenience for the sake of pushing on this great movement of Lord Chaitanya. He struggled alone in NY for nearly a year, yet he never once lost faith in his Guru or Krishna, or in the mission he was sent to ignite. What an incredible example of faith and determination! If we had only a smidgen of such faith!
Srila Prabhupada’s greatest desire was, and is, for this movement to go
on–unchanged and uncorrupted, and unlimited by faddish politics and
opinions. Anyone can see that policies and politics change from day to
day, year to year, whether American politics, Indian politics, or GBC
politics. What is fashionable today may be questionable tomorrow.
We should not get swept up in the whirlwinds and duststorms of fads and
ever-changing policies, whatever they may be. Instead, we should stick to the basic principles he gave us–his original instructions, his original books,
and his original devotional mood. If we add or subtract, change or modify
what he gave us, there can be no good result.
These are our Trinavartas, our whirlwinds that stir up so much dust that we
can no longer see Krishna. And we can no longer see the glories, the
incredible perfection of our Gurudev, Srila Prabhupada. We may even become so blinded by the dust of aparadha even to the extent of criticizing or finding fault with him. For the disciple, this is the greatest tragedy.
We should understand and appreciate the great austerities Srila Prabhupada undertook to spread this mission, and know that it is our duty to protect and preserve what he gave us. And we must know also that he is still watching over his Iskcon. It is like a small plant struggling forth to
produce leaves and flowers, and sometimes enduring the attacks of spiders
and insects intent upon destroying it. Srila Prabhupada is so
transcendentally powerful and competent to watch over this movement of Lord Chaitanya; he is, after all, “mor sena pati Bhakta”, Sri Chaitanyadev’s
Sankirtan Army Commander-in-Chief. He still governs the actions and the
directions, occasionally even correcting the misdirections, in order to
channel his Iskcon toward future glories.
In 1976, Kusha and I traveled with Srila Prabhupada to Kumba Mela, and then on to Bhubaneshwar. There, while sitting outside his hut in Bhubaneshwar, Srila Prabhupada gazed out at the surrounding forest and freshly tilled farmland, where there were furroughs bearing small plants.
Contemplating this peaceful vision, only months before he left this world, he prophetically said:
“Now, the seeds have just been planted. In time they will grow to become
big trees. And then, in time, they will begin to bear fruit, and then–Ah!
Then you shall see what is this great movement of Lord Chaitanya!!”
And so, we have to hold our faith firm, and know well that he is guiding
the ship, our expert Captain, Srila Prabhupada. And that we are merely servants, seed-scattering servants, of this great movement of Lord Chaitanya.s
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Some time after Srila Prabhupada left this world, I had a very powerful dream….In that visionary dream, I saw Srila Prabhupada sitting on a huge lion-flanked and jewel-bedecked Vyasasana. His Vyasasana rested on the brightly shimmering globe of Mother Earth, and was positioned just above the sacred land of India. Behind him, the vast curvature of the earth planet was visible. A silvery bluish-white light emanated from the center of the vision, forming a giant oval, in which Srila Prabhupada sat.
Below him were many crowds of people–all races, nationalities, and all ages–all the people of the world, reaching out from darkness. They were pointing toward Srila Prabhupada, in awe and wonder, exclaiming, reaching out, praising, and acknowledging him according to their various abilities. Many were in darkness, in worldly life, yet they were all reaching out toward Srila Prabhupada, seeking his mercy.
Above Srila Prabhupada, in the shimmering silver-blue sky, many swan-shaped airplanes circled. In these airplanes, devas were singing praises and showering flowers. Cascades of colorful blossoms tumbled down from their swan planes, as they glorified Srila Prabhupada. With sweet sounding instruments, and heavenly chorus, they sang “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare. Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare…” Their joyful mood spread throughout the universe. They were celebrating Lord Chaitanya’s mission on Earth, and showering blessings upon His Senapati Bhakta, His Commander-in-Chief, Srila Prabhupada.
Srila Prabhupada sat regally upon the huge Vyasasana, like a lion king sits atop a mountain. From there he could see all the world and its inhabitants, their sufferings, and their great need for Krishna Consciousness. In his mood of compassionate contemplation, he saw each person’s needs and desires, past and present karmas, and he devised ways to bring their hearts back to home, to love of God.
His Vyasasana shone brightly, like a brilliant golden chariot, bedecked with shimmering jewels. Golden lions flanked each side of his seat, each with piercing ruby eyes. The Vyasasana was SO dazzling, with sparkling jewels of every color, that at first I could not see that something was written there. Then, like a camera’s zoom lens, the base of the Vyasasana came into full focus. As the focal point moved in onto the base, I saw, just beneath Srila Prabhupada’s Lotus Feet, written in glittering jewels, was the word, “ISKCON.”
As the dream faded, I was told to take color notes, and was instructed to paint a picture of this vision. And the realization was transmitted to me, that “ISKCON” is Srila Prabhupada’s Vahana, his sitting place, his carrier, just as Lord Shiva has a bull carrier, and Ganesh a rat, and Lord Vishnu, the glorious Eagle Garuda.
The information came clearly that “ISKCON” is a divine creation, meant to serve the mission of Lord Chaitanya, and specifically designed to serve Srila Prabhupada’s work in this world–his work of printing and putting out his books, his teachings, and thus scattering seeds of Krishna consciousness far and wide. ISKCON is far more than a religious organization, an institution, or a conglomerate of clamoring managers; ISKCON is a divine entity, created by Lord Chaitanya, to assist Srila Prabhupada in his work in this material world. Though it may include all of the above, ISKCON is far more than this, and this realization, described in this dream, will come to people in the future.
Srila Prabhupada alone can sit upon this divine throne, as he has been given jurisdiction of this Earth planet. He understood this fully, even as he slowly turned the Earth globe in his tiny New York apartment, in the year 1967, Christian Era, surrounded by a handful of inexperienced youths. He would often tell several of his young disciples, while pointing to locations on the globe, “Brahmananda, you go to Russia, Goursundar, you go to Japan…” From this tiny apartment, he planned for temples in every nation on Earth, to fulfill Lord Chaitanya’s prophecy that the chanting of the Holy Names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare” will be sung in “every town and village.”
This vision of Srila Prabhupada in now here for all to see, and to understand that this is only a small glimpse of his greatness. We are indeed fortunate to have lived at this time in history, for in the years to come, generations will look back at this time and consider that Srila Prabhupada, with his ISKCON, is indeed the hero who pulled the Earth planet up from the miserable mire of Kali Yuga.
Srila Prabhupada’s ISKCON is also a “breeding nest”, a place for the divine souls coming from higher dimensions in this universe, and even beyond. ISKCON is supposed to be a place where they can safely land, and be loved and cared for by devotee parents, who will protect them and groom them for the work they have been sent to do. This is a very great responsibility; it is one of prime importance. Such angelic beings need much care and protection so they don’t get lost in the bowels of Kali Yuga, and so they can take this Hare Krishna movement to the next level. Their “adhikar,” eligibility, is far greater than ours.
Remember how often Srila Prabhupada would say, “The demigods are lining up to take birth in this Movement.” He would often tell his disciples, “From the children of your children, pure devotees will be coming out!” Just think what a lot of pure devotees can do!
Srila Prabhupada showed everyone the great importance of his many children, the children of his disciples. They are so dear to him. We all remember how he gave each one a cookie every morning, and how he looked into each child’s eyes to give spiritual transmissions of loving encouragement. These children taking birth from Hare Krishna devotee parents are indeed Srila Prabhupada’s children, his “reinforcements” coming to help establish Lord Chaitanya’s Mission on Earth. To love them, protect them, and guide them is our most important service to Srila Prabhupada. They are the future of Lord Chaitanya’s Movement.
ABOUT THE PAINTING
Originally I planned to put this painting on the cover of my forthcoming book, SRILA PRABHUPADA: THE EARLY DAYS. But since more people will be reached by internet connection, I have chosen to place it here, for all to see. I will gradually post my book of memoirs here as well, perhaps in the form of an ebook, so that more people can hear about the glorious lila of Srila Prabhupada in this world.
Since I am mostly computer illiterate, I wish to express my sincere gratitude to my Godbrothers and Godsisters who are helping me put forth this work as a service to others. I also wish to thank the artist, Satchitananda das, who transferred my dream vision onto canvas in a wonderful way.
Right after this dream, I did a complete color sketch, as instructed, and later transferred the sketch onto a big 3’x4’ canvas. It hung on my wall for many years, unfinished. Due to a busy schedule, it seemed unlikely I would ever get it finished. So, while in Vrindaban, I commissioned one very talented Russian devotee artist, Satchitananda das, to utilize his skills and paint my dream vision. He is the best portrait artist I have ever met, and has done an excellent job of painting Srila Prabhupada exactly as he looked in this dream.
Srila Prabhupada was never easy to draw. I know, I am an artist, and I would often try to sketch him, but could never do so successfully. It was bewildering. He sometimes had the “child-cowherd boy look” and sometimes the “wisened acharya look,” and a lot of “looks” in between!
In the early days, some of us would often joke, “Swamiji, sometimes you look two years old, sometimes five, and sometimes seventy-two years old! Which are you?” And “Swamiji,” Srila Prabhupada, would just chuckle.
I would privately joke that “He’s so much a part of the spiritual world that it’s hard for him to keep track of how he’s supposed to look here in this material world!”
Sometimes he would look like a five year old cowlad prankster; other times he would have the regal bearing of the great acharya. We all noticed this. In fact, one girl devotee regularly made saffron cowboy shirts for him! It was just an ordinary part of our “early day” naivete and fun. So capturing Srila Prabhupada on canvas was never easy to do.
In this visionary dream, with Srila Prabhupada sitting on the ISKCON Vyasasana, the picture of him that appeared was the one taken of him sitting on a green grassy lawn and peacefully chanting japa. Of course, I always liked his expression in this particular photo, but since it is what I saw in the dream, I never questioned it or considered changing it.
Years later, while visiting my dear Godbrothers Brahmananda and Gargamuni in Vrindaban, we were talking about Srila Prabhupada and the many various photos of him. They told me that they once asked Srila Prabhupada which one of the many photos of himself was his favorite. Amazingly, they said he chose this very same picture–the one of him sitting on the grassy lawn with the flower nearby. Brahmananda and Gargamuni said they were shocked, since in that photo, Srila Prabhupada has no flower garland, no Vyasasana, nothing–just a very beautiful and contemplative expression on his face. I was pleasantly surprised to hear this. I then told them about this visionary dream, in which I was shown that this particular photo was to be used for the painting of the “Acharya Dream.”
So when I commissioned Satchitananda das to paint my dream, I brought him this photo to copy. He then did an excellent job of transferring my vision and color notes onto canvas.
But naturally, as a creative artist, he included some of his own embellishments, all of which add to the ultimate grandeur of the finished work. In the crowd below Srila Prabhupada, Satchitananda added the doves, the Hare Krishna banner, the flags, a few of my Godbrothers, and even his five year old son offering a garland to Srila Prabhupada!
Unexpectedly, he also added a picture of me, facing outward, his reasoning being that I was the narrator describing the dream. Though I would have preferred to be facing Srila Prabhupada, since this was somehow done with his own artistic inner guidance, I accepted it as Krishna’s arrangement. After all, Satchitananda is a long time resident of Vrindaban, so this painting was done in the Holy Dhama.
I wish to express my sincere gratitude to Satchitananda das and his wonderful artistic abilities; he did an excellent job. From my descriptions and sketches, he did indeed enable me to share this vision, this glimpse of Srila Prabhupada, with the world.
I also wish to thank my dear Godbrother, Janaspriha das, along with his tech-savvy friend and Godbrother, Yogananda das, for putting up this website. I am mostly computer illiterate, and only by the special grace of Krishna (and a little help from Steve Jobs), am I able to even figure out how to turn on one of these devices!
Certainly these time-consuming contraptions were invented for this Kali Age to help spread Krishna Consciousness all over the world, while simultaneously the demoniac population uses them for individual and mass destruction. We live at an exciting time, when the next ten thousand years will bring forth more and more such discoveries and inventions, and more importantly, when the Hare Krishna Mahamantra– “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare”–will indeed spread to “every town and village.”
My generation grew up in Western society, with the demoniac social values of lust, greed, ambition, and enviousness. Little boys were spoonfed ambition from their cribs. And personal ambition has absolutely no place in the realm of bhakti. So it is not surprising that these twisted values have sometimes seemingly permeated and perverted the pure atmosphere of Lord Chaitanya’s movement.
We early disciples are truly fortunate recipients of undeserved grace. Because of being in such close association with Srila Prabhupada, even though greatly unqualified, it has given us some discrimination. We cannot easily be fooled by frauds or fakes, or ensnared by the popular traps of pratistha–profit, adoration, and distinction, and the powers they convey.
Srila Prabhupada used to say, “It is not surprising that someone leaves Krishna Consciousness. This is Maya’s domain. So it is not surprising if someone falls prey to the material energy. After all, it is Kali’s age. What is more surprising is if they are able to stay in Krishna Consciousness.”
Now, we must be aware that souls with far greater “adhikar,” eligibility, are being born on this planet–not just within the present limited conception of the Iskcon structure, but in other places as well–like yoga ashrams, vegetarian societies, animal rights groups, and so forth. These divine souls, with their higher dimensional realities, will hopefully be able to bring Srila Prabhupada’s transcendental ISKCON into full blossom.
Our most important duty at this time, as I see it, is to preserve what was given by Srila Prabhupada, without changing any of his words, his instructions, his books, or his lilas, and to protect, guide, and encourage the divine souls that are taking birth in our world.
Srila Prabhupada is not “gone.” He lives forever, in his books, his original writings, his lectures, and his instructions. I am convinced that he is watching the whole show, rearranging things as needed. He is still sitting on his big lion-flanked Vyasasana, witnessing and guiding, and contemplating ways to push forward this glorious Sankirtan Movement started by Lord Chaitanya–the worldwide chanting of “HARE KRISHNA HARE KRISHNA KRISHNA KRISHNA HARE HARE, HARE RAMA HARE RAMA RAMA RAMA HARE HARE.
Yours in the service of Srila Prabhupada,
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Finally, after months of praying to Krishna for guidance– and many long hours of blending paper mache, pressing molds, drying them, and having Vrishni assemble and sand Them–then painting Them, and also having Kusha, Jayasri, and Shakti Mati design and create clothing and jewelry for Them–the Gour Nitai Deities were complete. It was a long process, and like all forms of devotional service, one that required many prayers for the Lord’s mercy. And the constant remembrance that we are not the doers or the creators; we are merely instruments in the Lotus Hands of Lord Krishna.
Srila Prabhupada had originally told me that the Gour Nitai Deities must have crowns, so we ordered two crowns from India. They finally arrived, miraculously. And Shakti Mati, our expert jeweler, designed and created beautiful necklaces, bracelets, and anklets from jewelry pieces ordered from Los Angeles.
Since Srila Prabhupada said They should be dressed like “Bengali Gentlemen,” with dhoti, kurta, and chadder (shawl), we designed such outfits using very fancy cloth. We also designed one outfit of soft white Indian cotton, with our own hand embroidered trim, which was always my favorite. Kusha, Jayasri, and Shakti Mati were the best of seamstresses, since all of them were experienced even before joining our temple.
So now our McKinley Street Temple was a beehive of creative activity, with some devotees sewing Deity outfits, some devotees stringing pearls and setting rhinestones, some devotees blending paper mache and pressing molds, and some devotees sanding and shaping the finished Deities. One of Balabhadra’s friends even donated real fresh water pearls for Their jewelry! I did the painting since I was most experienced at that, using a watercolor sponge to create soft color in Their hands and cheeks.
Simultaneously, our daily Hare Nama Sankirtan parties continued to go out to Fort Street Mall and Waikiki, so many devotees were engaged in that way, and new people were coming all the time.
During a recent trip to Los Angeles, Srila Prabhupada had instructed me to paint a large picture of Lord Chaitanya and Lord Nityananda, in “dancing mood,” and place that painting on the main altar in our temple.
Prior to that, we had Kartamashayi on our main altar, but Srila Prabhupada clearly wanted Sri Sri Gour Nitai to be worshipped as our main Deities. So my large painting of Gour Nitai was now being worshipped on our main altar, and Kartamashayi was now situated on a separate altar in the temple room. In anticipation of the new Gour Nitai Deities, devotees were already developing a loving reciprocation with Sri Sri Gour Nitai by daily arotiks and worship.
When the Sri Sri Gour Nitai Deities were finally complete, and Their jewelry was beautifully crafted, and They had seven sets of clothes, we took Lord Nityananda down to our tiny Temple garden. There, beneath Lord Chaitanya’s Mango tree (the one that regularly offered incredibly delicious mangos to Srila Prabhupada), we did a photo shoot. Shakti Mati knelt down nearby, and I knelt down next to Lord Nityananda’s Lotus Feet, just touching the lotus base. Then we sent the photos to Srila Prabhupada. We were eager to have him come to Hawaii to install our new Gour Nitai Deities!
Srila Prabhupada was very happy with the pictures. However, his response came as a great surprise!
He told us, “Oh, very nice. So now you have done Lord Chaitanya and Lord Nityananda so nicely. So now you should also do Pancha Tattva!”
He then described how each of the Others should look: He said Sri Advaita should have white hair and a white beard, Sri Gadadhar should look very much like Lord Chaitanya but without a crown, and Sri Vas should have a shaven head and knotted sikha, since he was a brahmachary.
He told us that only Lord Chaitanya and Lord Nityananda should wear crowns, not any of the Others. And, he said, “They should all be dressed like Bengali Gentlemen, wearing the Sankirtan clothes as in the house of Sri Vas–dhoti, kurta, and chadder. They should look like Sankirtan dancers, as Lord Chaitanya’s main message was propulgating this Hare Nama Sankirtan movement.”
Srila Prabhupada also told us that the Lord’s opulence is hidden in this Incarnation, so They should appear just like Lord Chaitanya’s Sankirtan Party–singing and dancing in the home of Sri Vas. He also said Lord Chaitanya should always be worshipped as a householder, never as a sanyasin. To see Lord Chaitanya as a sanyasin, Srila Prabhupada said, “is very painful to the devotees. They cannot bear the thought of the Lord taking so much trouble. So he is worshipped always as a householder, with his Sankirtan Party and His Close Associates, the Pancha Tattva.”
After recovering from the shock of the new instructions, we immediately began to try to figure out how to do as he asked. Our expert sculptor/moldmaker, Vrishni das, who now lived at our temple as a full time devotee, had no difficulty modifying the mold. He figured out a way that we could make new forms of Sri Advaita and Sri Vas, with folded palms, as described by Srila Prabhupada. Our main problem now was finding matching cloth for the other sets of clothes, but somehow this also was done. And so we set about making the Forms of Sri Advaita, Sri Gadadhar, and Sri Vas.
More blending paper mache, pressing molds, drying, sanding and painting soon followed. Such was the magic of our beloved Srila Prabhupada. He not only gave us instructions; he also sent others to help us fulfill his instructions. In this way, it was “good for us, and good for those who helped us.”