Since yesterday we started our devotee Bhagavata classes. And who is the greatest
devotee, Maha-Bhagavata for us? Srila Prabhupada.
And yesterday we discussed about understanding Srila Prabhupada in our life.
Understanding the contribution of Srila Prabhupada and how we are going to derive our most important and the supreme spiritual benefit by developing our relationship with Srila Prabhupada.So yesterday there had been some request that I speak about my personal experiences with Srila Prabhupada. So I came across, first Srila Prabhupada’s books. Actually I met the devotees in 1970 for the first time in Hamburg, Germany. Those days I visited the
temple a few times but it didn’t occur to me to join the temple. Rather in a way I found
some devotees to be very arrogant. And aggressive, insensitive. And as a result of that I
stopped going to the temple. And the temple also was not at all as impressive. It was
actually an old warehouse. And in that warehouse they had on the second floor, they had
the temple. In a city like Germany where everything is so posh and prim, it was not very
impressive. Anyway I didn’t mind that, like how the temple looked. Of course at that
time, it was not much of a temple also. But there were many devotees and most of them
were, many of them were, Americans. And one day I had a little disagreement with one
American devotee and I stopped going to the temple. Not only I stopped going to the
temple. Those days if I saw the devotees on this side of the road, I stood the other side.
And they used to stand on a very strategic point. The underground station to the
university was a place called Stefans Platz. And you come out of the underground station
and you have to cross the road over a bridge. They used to stand on the bridge, so
anybody who is actually going from the station to the university had to meet them. They
used to stand there and chant. Most of the mornings they used to do that. But I used to
make it a point, I used to avoid them.
And then gradually my attitude changed. I became quite disillusioned with the
materialistic way of life. You see, in India generally you grew up with the idea that west
is the best. The Indian education system very expertly gears up to that understanding.
And so, and that’s why like, this illusion was there that the West is the best, that to
materially make it big is the ultimate goal of life and so on and so forth. But then going
there and seeing what the whole, entire western culture was like and the degraded
condition of this culture. And also, another consideration actually was that after going to
the west I started to appreciate India. Because I had many friends. I developed many
friends there. Most of them were from America because they used to speak English, I
used to speak English. And in the early stage I didn’t really have so many German
friends, only those who spoke English but their number were not that many. But mostly it
was Americans. And they had some very condescending attitudes towards India. I mean
not that they would deliberately do that. But it would come out from time to time. Oh,
India is so poverty-stricken, in India people are starving to death. And I used to very
strongly defend. Naturally. Because I had never seen, at least from my point of view
India was not poor. India was a very rich country. I mean the rich Indians are really rich.
Their wealth surpassed those of the west in many cases. And the lifestyle also in India is
much better than the west. All the western glamour, the external glamour is there but
underneath it is all… is there very [unclear].
They were very close friends of mine, actually, but I used to have big arguments with
them. And I used to tell them. You have never been to India, it’s all bad propaganda. You
think that west is the best but west is terrible. And, anyway but in course of that I began
to realise how little I knew about Indian culture. So I started to read books on India. And
that led me to start to appreciate Indian culture, Indian philosophy, Indian heritage. And I
could see that what a vast horizon just started to open up.
And then came a time when I felt that I had to take to spiritual life. And to take to
spiritual life I had to go back to India. Because spiritual life meant finding a guru and he
would guide me to my spiritual path. So thinking that, I went back to India. But I did not
find, after a long search, quite an extensive search, I could not find a single guru. Or I
couldn’t find a single person to whom I could surrender myself. Because my first
impression I’ll tell you like, was something like…
I landed in Delhi and I went straight to Haridwar and then to Rishikesh. I didn’t even go
home. I didn’t even tell them that I was coming to India. So I went straight to Rishikesh,
Haridwar first and then to Rishikesh. And then I started to spend time there. And I
thought that these people, these sadhus will be steeped with spiritual understanding and
completely profoundly absorbed in philosophical and spiritual culture.
But I found that they smoked from morning till night, and even through the night. They
were just smoking ganja. They just sit by the Ganges and smoke. And food is free
because there are many dharmshalas, many chattras, many ashramas where they
distribute food, free food. And, at least this is not what I expected. Because I had many
friends in the west who are also smoking ganja from morning till night. I felt that my
friends in the west, those hippie friends in the west were much better that these… at least
they are not pretending to be spiritual. Thinking that I then left Rishikesh and I went back
to Delhi. And then from Delhi I went back to Calcutta. That was a very difficult time in
my life. I rejected materialistic way of life but I couldn’t enter into spiritual life. I did not
know how to enter into spiritual life. One thing I knew that I needed a guide. I needed
somebody to lead me to spiritual life, guide me to the spiritual path.
And this was a very, very difficult phase and at some point when I almost gave up my
search. In the meantime I used to go wander around, stay in different ashrams, associate
with some of those spiritual personalities, but there was nothing that impressed me, that
generated the confidence that they could guide me in my spiritual path and I could
completely surrender myself to them.
And then when I practically gave up my search, thinking that if I have a guru then let him
come and pick me up. All this while I have been searching for him. So if I really have a
guru then let him pick me up because I can’t find him in my search.
And it was around that time that through a friend of mine I started to visit Calcutta
temple. That friend of mine also was in Germany with me. He was from Calcutta and he
became a devotee. His name is Sarvabhavana Prabhu. A very close friend on mine.
Sarvabhavana was, I mean when I saw him. He came to Calcutta one evening. He just
knocked at my door. I heard that he became a devotee. He joined ISCKON. But I thought
it was just, because I was not thinking at that time that ISKCON was the answer. I was
thinking that the answer was somewhere else because the impression of ISKCON that I
got was not really that impressive or (unclear). And so one day Sarvabhavana, I saw him
as a devotee, shaved hair. He had long hair. He had Iong hair (laughter) I had never seen
him wearing dhoti (laughter) . He was always, he used to wear blue jeans and jackets. So
here he was. And he looked very bright and peaceful and effulgent. And naturally I was
very happy to see him. And then I asked him, ‘Are you serious about what you are
doing?’ And he said, yes he was serious. But he didn’t preach to me or try to.. He didn’t
try to make me into a devotee as such. He used to come to me and we used just to spend
some time together. Then he used to invite me to come to the temple, Calcutta temple.
And Calcutta temple was not that far from my house. And many times I went by Calcutta
temple but it never occurred to me to go to the temple to look for spiritual life, as such,
And then one evening I went to the temple with him and he was suggesting that I read
some books. And he used to speak very highly of Srila Prabhupada. So I said, ‘Okay, let
me take a book.’ And so he suggested that I should start with Bhagavad-Gita. But
unfortunately there was no Bhagavad- Gita available, for some reason. So I asked him to
give me any book. So they gave me the Nectar of Devotion. And, maybe they gave me
Nectar of Devotion because size-wise it was close to Bhagavad-Gita (laughter). So I took
The Nectar of Devotion, went home. And when I started to read, from the very first page
it just occurred to me that this is what I was looking for. From the very first page it
became clear. Like things that actually impressed me at that time, what actually
completely blew me out, was… You see, in spiritual life generally what you search for is
And the very first page it became clear that there are, Prabhupada mentions about five
kinds of liberation. [laughter]. It blew my mind! Like, I was, I didn’t know what
liberation was and Prabhupada was speaking about five kinds of liberation. [laughter].
Then he is talking about one liberation is negative and four others are positive. I mean,
never ever I came across any description as clear as that. And then just what struck me
that God is a Person, that Krishna is God. With such clarity Prabhupada explained that
and I felt, ‘This is it. This is what I am searching for’. And I became so engrossed with
The Nectar of Devotion that I just couldn’t stop reading it. While reading, I fell asleep.
And in the morning when I woke up, the first thing I did, is pick up The Nectar of
Devotion and start reading again. And I finished The Nectar of Devotion from cover to
cover in three days. [laughter]. Because I was not doing anything. [laughter]. All I was
doing was just reading. And after practically the First Wave everything started to fly
above my head. Because first part, that First Wave was very clear, very easy to conceive
but then this rasas and exchange of combination of rasas, and symptoms of rasas,
expression of rasas. It was completely beyond me. But still I couldn’t stop reading. Just
like, as if completely bound to that book. I kept on reading. And while reading, at some
point there is a description of practice of devotional service. And I started to imagine
myself doing that. I started to imagine that I am at Vrindavan and I am doing all those
things, visiting the temples, going to take bath in Yamuna.
And then that friend of mine, he actually came back to India. And he was the VicePresident of Delhi. So he told me to come to Delhi with him, when I started to express
my appreciation of Prabhupada’s books. But he invited me to come to Delhi. I said, www.bcswami.com
‘Look, now I just want to be on my own. I do not want any other influence. Let me just
be on my own’. And I asked him, ‘Where is Prabhupada?’ And he told me that
Prabhupada was in America, at that time. And at the back of my mind I thought that
when Prabhupada came back to India I would surrender myself to Srila Prabhupada.
Because internally I already made up my mind, I’ll surrender. I’ll become a devotee, so
I’ll follow this path.
And then when I heard that Prabhupada was in America, I thought I’ll wait till
Prabhupada came back. And in the meantime I’ll visit all the places where Caitanya
Mahaprabhu performed His pastimes, and Krishna performed His pastimes. Thinking
that, the first place I went to, was Mayapur. And I arrived in the evening in Mayapur. I
arrived in the evening, because on the way I stopped at a friend’s house. I was talking to
him and he was trying to persuade me not to join, not to go this way. Anyway, just some
last snares of Maya [laughter]. And then many other friends, actually they all got
together. They were trying to convince me to lead a normal life [laughter]. But I just, I
made up my mind.
So finally I arrived in Mayapur in the evening. And it was at the time of, Sandhya arati
was going on when I came there. And the whole atmosphere was so beautiful. And one
devotee asked me to come to the Bhagavad-Gita class. Those days Bhagavad-Gita class
was not in the temple room. Those days Mayapur was very different. Mayapur had only
one building, the Lotus Building. And the temple actually was on the ground floor of the
Lotus Building. And upstairs there were guest rooms, there was the guesthouse and on
the second floor was Srila Prabhupada’s quarters. And Jayapataka Maharaja and
Bhavananda Maharaja were the Co-Directors, two sannyasis. They used to live on the
roof, one side of the roof was Jayapataka Maharaja on the other side, Bhavananda
So the Bhagavad-Gita class used to take place on the GBC Conference room and Bhakti
Raghava Maharaja gave the class. Those days he was not a sannyasi, he was Raghava
Pandita Prabhu. And I was so impressed to see that a Westerner had so much knowledge.
And he was quoting Sanskrit verses from Bhagavad-Gita . And to me it seemed like he
knew the entire Bhagavad-Gita by heart [laughter]. Later on when I told him about that,
he revealed the secret to me. He said he knew only about five or six verses [laughter] and
in the Bhagavad-Gita classes he always recited those [laughter]. Actually that’s how
Prabhupada taught us.
Prabhupada used to tell us that we should speak on the basis of the sastra, on the authority
of the sastra. So whatever we are saying , we must substantiate it with scripture, quoting
scriptures. That’s why Prabhupada wanted us to memorise the verses. Not that we had to
know, to understand or memorise all the verses but some selected verses. And by quoting
the verses we should elaborate the verses, and that is how we should explain. And I could
see how powerful that presentation was. That’s one thing I remember Bhakti Raghava
Maharaja, he was a brahmacari at that time. And so he gave the class. It was very
impressive, I could see that his knowledge was so profound and I could also see that. And
he was giving the class in such a way… He later on told me that he made me the target of
the class that day and I also felt that he was telling me everything. Telling me about the
futility of materialistic way of life. What is there? There is nothing. Real life is here
[laughter]. And simple living, high thinking, being in the Dhama in such a serene
atmosphere, we can cultivate our spiritual life.
And I was very, very impressed with that class. And then whoever I spoke to, they all just
kept on asking me, why don’t you stay here with us. Because those days Mayapur was
very remote and ISKCON was not that prominent. Rather ISKCON had many negative
images, created by some dubious people. And very few people used to visit the temple
those days. And some life members were made and some life members used to come
once in a while. I’ll tell you about that also. I was relating that incidence.
Anyway so the next morning also I attended the mangala arati, I attended the whole
morning programm and I attended the Srimad Bhagavatam class. And then I was
speaking to, everybody I was speaking to, was asking me, requesting me, inviting me to
stay there, at least try it out. So, at the back of my mind I also thought, I made up my
mind to take to this path. I made up my mind to surrender to Srila Prabhupada. And all
these devotees are inviting me, so why don’t I just stay.
So, in the morning I went to a barber. I shaved up. And I went to the Ganga, threw away
my old clothes and put on a dhoti and kurta. And the devotees were shocked. They didn’t
expect [laughter] me to act so fast. Actually one of our Godbrothers, Pandu Prabhu, he
whom I kind of developed a very friendly relationship with, he told me that he had
always been here.
Yeah, the one incidence, one life member family. No, I don’t know whether they were
life members actually. One family was visiting Mayapur. It was after three days of my
being there. They were just newcomers. They didn’t know anything. They just out of
curiosity, they just came to visit Mayapur. And I was preaching to them. And the man
then told me that he wanted to take initiation from me [laughter]. So I was relating that
story the other day because in India initiation is not such a big thing. In ISKCON we have
made it so big. And as a result of that, our growth has become stifled. If we consider, it’s
just a name just an expression, means the beginning. Initiation means the beginning of
spiritual life and for this movement to grow properly as Caitanya Mahaprabhu wanted, to
every town and village, we need many, many gurus. But unfortunately we have
developed the concept that a guru has to be a superman. Therefore nobody fits the bill, or
very few. Personally I feel that our movement needs many, many gurus because many
people need the guidance, need the spiritual support. It is not going to be possible for just
a handful of spiritual masters to execute the mission in the proper way.
Anyway, so I became involved. I joined ISKCON in this way and when it came to
service, like, many devotees, I mean I developed friendship with all the devotees. And
they all were, those days in Mayapur there were very few Indian devotees. Most of the
devotees were actually westerners, the very few devotees were there, Shyamlal Prabhu
was one of them. And he was a big devotee. [Applause] There were some Indian
devotees but they were from, actually they were weavers from Bangladesh. They took
shelter of ISKCON at that time. They got the shelter. But as I said not many educated
people were joining the movement because those days ISKCON had, nobody really
thought about ISKCON that seriously. And many people used to… There used to be a big
misconception that ISKCON was a CIA set up and the devotees of ISCKON are CIA
agents. [laughter]. Many times, I mean, those days we used to travel by busses and trams
and trains and so many times we would be confronted by this kind of challenges that we
were CIA agents. And so the service that I..
Yeah, give him a chair. Actually you should give a Vyasasana.
Syamlal Prabhu: No, no
So one devotee, one of my God-brothers was taking care of the goshala. So he
encouraged me to join the goshala. So Bhavananda Maharaja was the co-GBC and he
was mostly involved in Mayapura affairs. Jayapataka Maharaja in those days used to
travel most of the time, travel and preach and also lead a team of book distributors. And
Bhavananda Maharaja was the main person in Mayapura. So I went and told
Bhavananda Maharaja, that I wanted to join the Goshala. He said, no you are not fit for
Goshala. [laughter] So we just accepted that. Then there was a Gurukula in Mayapur.
Mostly with local boys, nice little Bengali boys, very sweet. So Hiryangarbha was the incharge of the, the principal of the Gurukula. His assistant was another devotee called
Nadiya. And Syamalal Prabhu, you remember? I think Hiryangarbha went back to
Canada? (Syamalal Prabhu)Yes.
Anyway, Hiryangarbha convinced, kind of tried to get me into the Gurukula, tried to get
me to join him in Gurukula to teach the boys. But then, so I got very fired up. Those days
I was thinking that serving the cows and taking care of the cows is the highest service.
But then, when I was not fit for that service, then I thought that teaching in the Gurukula
will be a good service. So I went and told Bhavananda. So Bhavananda said ‘Oh,
Gurukula is not….’ [laughter] So I got really upset, I told him ‘Am I good for nothing?’
[laughter] ‘I can’t serve in the Goshala? I can’t serve in the Gurukula, then what can I
do? Am I not good for anything?’ So then he told that, ‘It’s not whether you are suitable
for that or not. The consideration is that I do not want you to get some sort of service
where you lose your heart, get frustrated and then run away’. He was actually very nice.
In the beginning Bhavananda helped me in many, many ways. And I feel very much
indebted to him.
Then finally I got my service. My service was to assist Pancaratna Prabhu who was
building the Long building. How many of you have gone to Mayapur? Oh? So most of
you have gone to Mayapur. So you have seen the Long Building? It was in ’76 and we
were building the Long Building. And I became, I got the responsibility to buy all the
materials, like steel, cement, stone chips. Like, stone chips used to come from Bihar by
train. And trainloads of the, what’s it called?, the container-loads of stone chips used to
[Laughter] I was just about to speak about the [unclear] [Laughter]. Okay, that’s alright.
And then another service that I took up at that time. I used to love to read. So whatever
spare time I had, I used to have, I used to go to Navadvipa, the other side of the Ganges.
And there are many Gaudiya Maths. And there is one Gaudiya Math called Devananda
Gaudiya Math. And I developed some friendship with the devotees there. And I used to
go there and study in the library, read the books in the library. And in course of my
reading I came across some of the old writings of Srila Prabhupada. Devananda Gaudiya
Math used to bring out a magazine called Gaudiya Patrika. And for some years, like ’47,
’48, for some years Prabhupada was the editor of that magazine. And so I started to get
those magazines and collect the writings of Srila Prabhupada from those magazines. And
in this way I compiled, I collected Prabhupada’s writings and started to print them as a
book ‘Bhagavaner Katha’ in Bengali. And we also, I also started to bring out the Bengali
Back to Godhead. I used to translate the articles from Back to Godhead and we got them
printed. So this is how I got involved with various services.
Then we got the news that Srila Prabhupada came back to India. Prabhupada arrived in
Bombay. So I went and told Bhavananda Maharaja that I wanted to go to Bombay to
meet Srila Prabhupada. So he told me that, ‘Look, Prabhupada’s health is not good.
Prabhupada is not seeing the devotees now. And besides that, in Bombay nobody knows
you, so it will be very difficult for you to get to Srila Prabhupada, get the darshan of Srila
Prabhupada. So you rather wait till Prabhupada comes to Mayapur and then you will have
the darshan of Prabhupada. ‘So I just accepted that.
And then I got the news that Prabhupada went to Kumbha-mela in Allahabad and a group
of devotees were going to Kumbha-mela from Mayapur. So at that time another sannyasi,
GBC was Gurukripa and he had a group of devotees called Namahatta. They used to
collect in Japan. And Gurukripa with his group came back, came over to Mayapur at that
time. And it was decided that Gurukripa and some devotees from Mayapur in a bus
would travel to Allahabad, to Kumbha-mela. And I was also asked to join the group. So
by bus, we travelled from Mayapur to Allahabad. We arrived in Allahabad at noontime.
And just as we arrrived, I immediately ran to Prabhupada’s quarters, which was a large
area. It was walled out with corrugated tin sheets and inside that, there was a tent. Srila
Prabhupada’s tent. And so I asked where Prabhupada was, and I was told that Prabhupada
was there. And so I ran to meet Srila Prabhupada.
On the gate of Prabhupada’s entrance to the boundary area, walled out area there was a
big western devotee guarding the gate. So he stopped me and he told me that
Prabhhupada would give darshan in the evening, so I could come in the evening. So those
days I didn’t realise how difficult it is to get close to Srila Prabhupada because
Prabhupada had so many disciples, so many followers and everybody wanted to meet
Srila Prabhupada, everybody wanted to get close to Srila Prabhupada, which I was not
aware of. Therefore Prabhupada was very well guarded. Prabhupada’s secretaries used to
make it very difficult for getting close to Srila Prabhupada.
And so I just felt a little disappointed. So I just left. And while I was just walking,
coming back this way, Bhavananda, I saw, was just coming with a basket of vegetables
that he brought from Mayapur. And he saw me. He said, ‘Come. I’m going to Srila
Prabhupada. So you come with me.’ So I ran. He was running. I also ran after him. And,
so, the guard just made way for us. I could go in. But I made a mistake. Instead of going
straight into Prabhupada’s tent, like Bhavananda did, when I saw Srila Prabhupada, I saw
from outside the tent, Srila Prabhupada. And I just offered obeisances. And then when I
tried to go in, Prabhupada’s secretary was sitting at the doorway, at the entrance of the
tent. And he stopped me and told me that Prabhupada was taking prasadam, so don’t go
in. So anyway I left.
In the evening Prabhupada gave darshan. By that time I learnt one thing, don’t try to get
close to Srila Prabhupada. Because Prabhupada’s darshan, Prabhupada’s association is
very, very rare. But then I used to have the darshan. I used to go to the darshan in the
evening and just listen. Didn’t even ask any question to Srila Prabhupada. Hundreds of
people used to come. The tent used to be completely packed. And Prabhupada used to
give darshan. Many people used to come. Kumbha-mela, you get millions of people,
people would come there in Kumbha-mela. And that was a very special Kumbha. This
was a Purna Kumbha, Purna, purna Kumbha. Purna Kumbha takes place in every twelve
years and this Kumbha was in 144 years. This Kumbha comes once in 144 years. A very
special Kumbha. Many people used to come. And mostly, those who used to come, were
Indians, pious Indians, well-to-do Indians. And devotees did not ask that many questions
at that time. It was mostly those people who were asking questions. And Prabhupada
would give the answers in such a brilliant way. Only Prabhupada could give answers like
And anyway, and then Prabhupada also allowed us to have Guru-puja in the morning.
Sometimes Prabhupada would give classes, but most of the time Prabhupada just allowed
to have the Guru-puja. His health was not very good so he used to retire. And then one
morning we heard that Prabhupada was leaving Kumbha-mela and Prabhupada would go
to Calcutta. So I just took it, ‘Well Prabhupada is leaving Kumbha-mela.’
And then Bhavananda told me that Prabhupada was leaving that day. And he would be
travelling by train at night and a group of devotees will travel with him. And one entire
carriage was reserved for Srila Prabhupada and a group of devotees would travel with
Srila Prabhupada. And he told me that I also had been included in the team of devotees.
So I became so excited. And I could understand that it was he who must have made that
arrangement for me. So the train started in the evening, at night, around nine o’ clock.
And soon after that everybody took rest.
In the morning I woke up, took my bath and was chanting. So Bhavananda came to me,
told me and said, ‘Come I’ll take you to Srila Prabhupada.’. Now all these days I didn’t
try and go close to Srila Prabhupada and here now the time has come, the opportunity has
come to meet Srila Prabhupada. Now Bhavananda is telling me that he will take me to
Srila Prabhupada who was just one or two compartments away from where I was. And I
had a feeling as if I was not qualified to go to Srila Prabhupada, I was not fit to go to Srila
Prabhupada. So Bhavananda probably could, I mean I just sat there, although
Bhavananda said that I’ll take you to Srila Prabhupada. But I just sat there, without
moving and all kinds of thoughts were going on in my mind. And then, probably
Bhavananda could understand. So he grabbed me by my hand, and he dragged me
through the corridor. And he opened Srila Prabhupada’s compartment door and pushed
me in. [laughter]
And so I just fell flat, offering obeisances to Srila Prabhupada. When I got up, I saw Srila
Prabhupada was looking at me and Prabhupada motioned, Prabhupada asked me to sit
next to him. The first class compartment in Indian trains have two rows of seats facing
each other. On the other seat Jayapataka Maharaja, Bhavananda Maharaja and
Rameshwar Maharaja were sitting. Abhirama Prabhu who was the temple president of
Calcutta at that time, he was sitting on the floor, and the other seat Prabhupada was
And Prabhupada asked me to sit next to him. So first I said, ‘No Prabhupada, I’ll rather
sit on the floor.’ Then Prabhupada insisted. I said, ‘No.’ He said ‘No, you sit here’. So
there was a blanket spread over the seat. So I rolled up the blanket and sat on the corner
of the seat. And after some initial exchange, Prabhupada just told me to translate his
books into Bengali. And that actually gave me the opportunity to be close to Srila
Prabhupada. Or that gave me the opportunity to have access to Srila Prabhupada. Like
everybody knew that Prabhupada gave me the responsibility of translating his books into
Bengali. And those days this was a very important service. Everybody knew that
translating Prabhupada’s books and printing Srila Prabhupada’s books was a very, very
important service. And Prabhupada gave me that service himself. And so when we came
to Calcutta… As it is Calcutta was my stomping ground. And Prabhupada was in
Calcutta so I was with Prabhupada practically all the time. And this was our own field
and Prabhupada was within our field and so we had access to Srila Prabhupada.
One evening, Prabhupada only stayed in Calcutta only three or four days, I don’t exactly
remember, maybe three days. One evening, Prabhupada gave darshan. Every evening
Prabhupada used to give darshan to people. A lot of people used to come to meet Srila
Prabhupada. And, so then the aratika started. So Prabhupada told everybody to go to the
aratika. So everybody left. I also left. And I was in the arati. But I was thinking that arati
I can attend every evening but to get to see Srila Prabhupada, to be with Srila Prabhupada
is a rare occasion. So I thought let me just go back to Srila Prabhupada. So I went back to
Srila Prabhupada. I opened the door. I saw that Prabhupada was counting the money
[laughs] people that gave dakshina after having darshan of Srila Prabhupada. They gave
dakshina. And Prabhupada was counting that money that he received. So Prabhupada
looked up and said, ‘What happened?’ So I said, ‘Prabhupada I thought that I would just
come to be with you.’ Prabhupada said, ‘Sit down.’ And when I saw Prabhupada
counting the money, it was kind of a shock to me, [laughter] because I never imagined. It
was something not fitting to my, the image that I had of Prabhupada in my mind,
[laughter], Prabhupada counting, [laughter] . But then I immediately brushed that
thought aside quickly. That whatever Prabhupada does, is perfect. And Prabhupada
couldn’t care less, he just kept on counting [laughter]. And then Prabhupada put them in
a stack, opened his drawer, kept it in his drawer.
And then Prabhupada asked me, ‘So? Do you want to say something?’ Then I just blurted
out, ‘Srila Prabhupada, will you please give me initiation.’ Because I had at the back of
my mind, I had some fear. I had some anxiety, because I heard that there were many
devotees who had been waiting for years together and Prabhupada didn’t give them
initiation. And I thought that if that happened to me, if Prabhupada said that I was not fit
enough. But Prabhupada… And so that’s why I was with a heavy heart, with a lot of
anxiety. I asked Srila Prabhupada whether he would give me initiation. And Prabhupada
immediately said, ‘Yes, sure. I’ll give you initiation. He said during the Gaura Purnima
festival at Mayapur, I’ll give you initiation.’
Then from Calcutta Srila Prabhupada went to Buvaneshwar. Gour Govinda Maharaja got
a piece of land there. And he invited Srila Prabhupada to come lay the foundation stone
of the temple. I could have gone to Buvaneshwar because I was already considered, kind
of, because again, because of Bhavananda Maharaja’s mercy, like I was almost in the
team, in Prabhupada’s team already. But I was printing a book, called (Bhagavaner
Katha) books that the articles that I had collected from back from Gaudiya Patrika. I was
printing a book. So I thought that I would rather print the book and offer it to Srila
Prabhupada when he came back. And thinking that, I stayed back. Then after about two
weeks Srila Prabhupada came back to Mayapur. And then I met again.
Then one day Srila Prabhupada sent for me. And he gave me a stack of Bengali letters.
And he asked me to reply them. Reply them in the sense, Prabhupada wanted me to read
those letters out loud and then Prabhupada would give me the points and then I would
make a draft of the reply. And then I would read the draft to Srila Prabhupada. And then
when after some corrections I would write the final on Prabhupada’s letterhead and then
Prabhupada used to sign those letters. So, many letters came in Bengali, so Prabhupada
wanted me to answer them. So when I finished the Bengali stack, Srila Prabhupada gave
me a Hindi stack, a stack of Hindi letters. And he wanted me to reply them. So, at that
time Srila Prabhupada told me, one day that he was appointing me as a Secretary for
Indian affairs. And he asked, he called Tamal Krishna Maharaja, who was Prabhupada’s
secretary at that time. So he told Tamal Krishna Maharaj about my appointment. And he
asked Tamal Krishna Maharaja that I would move into his room, Prabhupada’s
So that gave me another wonderful opportunity to be with Tamal Krishna Maharaja in the
same room. And for about ten months, wherever we went, we always stayed in the same
room. And Tamal Krishna Maharaja was also so fond of me, being with me, that
whenever he came to Mayapur, he used to stay in my room. And, so this is how my
service to Srila Prabhupada started.
In the mean time the initiation took place during the Gaura Purnima festival. And
Prabhupada, and now Prabhupada told me that he would give me first and second
initiation together. So I got initiation. But soon after, and I was with Prabhupada, I was
taking care of the correspondence in Indian languages, Bengali and Hindi.
And everyday, practically I used to go and read out to Prabhupada about the translations,
my translations. And Prabhupada used to correct me. Sometimes Prabhupada used to
appreciate my translations. And this way I was, I was staying practically next to Srila
Prabhupada’s room. Actually Prabhupada’s secretary’s room was next to Prabhupada’s
room. But, those days there was no computer. The typing used to be done with a khat
khat typewriter [laughter]. And Prabhupada used to feel very disturbed with the sound of
typing. So therefore Prabhupada shifted his secretary’s room to the one after that. And
next to Prabhupada was Prabhupada’s servant’s room. And Hari Sauri Prabhu was
Prabhupada’s servant at that time. And next to that was Tamal Krishna Maharaja and I
were staying. And those were such wonderful days.
Then one day we got to know that Prabhupada was going to leave for Bombay. So it was,
I was naturally thinking that I also would travel. But Bhavananda Maharaja told me that I
have so much service in Mayapur. And if I left, that service would be affected. Because,
there was not so many Indian devotees in Mayapur those days. And the service that I was
doing, it would be difficult for others to take over. So he told me and I also felt that, ‘Yes,
if he is requesting me. After all he had done so much for me. It’s because of him that I
could come so close to Srila Prabhupada.’ So when he said, I accepted it. But I was
feeling heavy in my heart, that I would lose the opportunity of being with Srila
Prabhupada. But at the same time I couldn’t say no to him. So the day before or two days
before Srila Prabhupada was leaving, Prabhupada asked me whether I was coming. And
in a way, I also was waiting for such an opportunity [laughter]. So, in a rather innocent
way I told Prabhupada, ‘Prabhupada, Bhavananda Maharaja asked me to stay back in
Mayapur. And he told me that service in separation is better than service in association.
Then Prabhupada said, ‘Yes that’s true, but I think when your spiritual master wants you
to come with him, then you should come. [laughter] So I was just waiting [laughter] for
such a statement from Srila Prabhupada [laughter]. I ran to Bhavananda [laughter] and I
told him that Prabhupada wanted me to go to Bombay. He said, ‘Well, if Prabhupada
wants, then you have to go.’ And then I told him that Prabhupada also told me that he
should also pay for my fair.’ [laughter]. So that is how I got this opportunity to be with
Srila Prabhupada. Although I came late to the movement, but I was very fortunate to be
with Srila Prabhupada practically twenty-four hours a day. Then we went to Bombay.
Today I’ll stop now. So tomorrow I’ll continue.
Thank you very much.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada !
Applause from devotees.
I’m not taking any questions today. It’s already nine o’ clock. We have another session
but tomorrow, let us see. Tomorrow I will try to speak again. How many of you have
some questions or may have some questions. Okay, Lokabandhu Prabhu, then. Yeah, I’ll
take your question. These two questions I’ll take now.
Lokabandhu Prabhu: Maharaja, it seems your knowledge of Bengali, and your early
education in Bengali has equipped you admirably for translation of Srila Prabhupada’s
works. The question is about, we have this wonderful facility in ISKCON today. Such an
excellent facility for progress in spiritual life. The question is actually for the young
ones, like Jivani and Devaki and others, to equip the young so that they can make full use
of this facility.
His Holiness Bhakti Caru Maharaj: Yes, yes, very true.
Lokabandhu Prabhu: Can’t we motivate and encourage them? Especially we have the
materialistic challenges and the schools system. And yet the real culture, the greatness of
the Vaisnava culture is so important that we should give top priority to it.
His Holiness Bhakti Caru Maharaj: Well, generally I don’t let my secrets out, [laughter]
I’ll speak to you, I’ll…
Since you brought it up, I’ll reveal one secret, that I’m working on. You see, yesterday
and day before yesterday, I briefly mentioned about the importance of youth involvement
and what a loss it is we are losing our youth. They, we are losing our youth to the
corporate world. And so with that in mind I am realising we have to have our business as
such, where our youth can be gainfully employed. The point is that if somebody is
employing somebody by paying X amount of money. He’s obviously making X + Y out
of him. Now if we can employ them in a similar way, paying X amount of money, even
if he can’t make Y amount of profit, but at least if we can make half-Y, still it is a gain
for our movement, that ISKCON also needs a financial base. And the reality I have seen,
is that when we employ our devotees, then we don’t pay them X, they are happy with
half-X and they make twice Y profit. So anyway. So I think that is the way we have to
go. ISKCON must engage them in a way which is befitting their aspirations and
expectations. Like, most of our youth. Like as you have mentioned. After they have
completed their studies and all, they are not just going to become a full time devotee. And
even if they become a full time devotee what will they do in the temple? Wash pots and
clean the floors? Like, the world has changed. You know, like, and going out, And
another thing is, that, you know, our preaching, the preaching scenario of this world has
changed. I mean, yes, we need Harinam, we need book distribution, we need door to
door preaching. We need all of that but at the same time we have to open up another
horizon. And that is the corporate world. And there, a whole lot of people are there. And
we CAN motivate them, we can influence them. And specially our children when they
finish their education. Like that’s the problem we had with our Gurukuli’s. They
completed their education but they didn’t have any appointment, any opportunities to be
engaged. Our society was not ready. And we didn’t really provide them any opportunities
to become engaged within the movement, nor did we equip them to become, to find a
place in the outside world. That’s why today most of our youth has turned against
ISKCON. So we have to be proactive. We have to see how we can properly engage them
when they reach that age when they need some sort of positive and gainful employment.
Whether within ISKCON or whether outside ISKCON, we have to create that
opportunity. That’s one side of it. The other side of it, is that a spiritual organisation
cannot thrive just depending on donations in today’s world. We have to have our own
financial base. You see, when you get donations, Just a simple point. When somebody
runs his own business, he makes profits in the region of millions. But when he gives a
donation, it will be a few thousand. But if you are running the business, then you can
make that profit that goes into running the business. And that whole amount will come to
ISKCON. Anyway these are just some thoughts. Since you asked, I wanted to share them
Yes, last question? Bharata?
Bharata Prabhu: Guru Maharaj, when you joined the temple, how did your family take it
and how did [unclear]
His Holiness Bhakti Caru Maharaja: My father had a heart attack [laughter]. But I told
him. I actually told him. I told him that, ‘Look, materially, you can’t really expect much
out of me [laughter]. My other brother was taking care of him. Like he didn’t need much.
My other brother was in America I mean he is well situated. I mean he was well situated.
Now he is retired. it was a long time ago. And I told him that, ‘Look, you have one son
who is taking care of you, who can take care of you. And you are quite [unclear], you
don’t really need me. And what I am doing, I may not be able to help you now but in the
next life, [laughter] what I’m doing, he is going to get benefit of it. And er, he was
actually serious. I was serious when I told him. And he also took it seriously and then he
understood. He didn’t stop me. He actually let me go.
Krishna Caran was reminding me of one incident that my first darshan of Srila
Prabhupada. Actually it was, I got The Nectar of Devotion. The first night I read the
book. The second night, the next night, I had a dream of Srila Prabhupada. Still now, I
don’t know whether it was dream or real. I saw Srila Prabhupada sitting on a throne.
Those days I did not know what a vyasasana was. Because sadhus in India generally
don’t sit on an elaborate seat. They sit on a simple seat. But it seemed like Prabhupada
was sitting on a throne. There was a brilliant light around Srila Prabhupada. And just by
the sight of Srila Prabhupada made me realise that here is my spiritual master for whom I
had been waiting for. I didn’t ask any question. I didn’t say anything. I just offered
obeisances to Srila Prabhupada. And my heart was filled with a feeling that I cannot
describe in words.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada!