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Prabhupada comes to Detroit - July 1971

PRABHUPADA COMES TO DETROIT JULY 1971
Srila Prabhupada had been in India for many months, and when we at the New Orleans temple heard that He was returning for a month’s tour of America after a few days in Moskow, we pondered to which temple that He was to visit would be best for us to go and see Him. His itinerary was Los Angeles, San Francisco Rathayatra, Detroit, and New York before returning to India again. Detroit was the closest; furthermore I had joined there two years earlier and I wanted to see my old friends there, such as Narottamananda, Bhagavan, Jagadish, Lakshmi Narayan, Sri Govinda, and others. ISKCON Detroit had become a major North American center with many new devotees joining under the charismatic leadership of Bhagavan. Various temples in the central U.S. would gather in Detroit, and it promised to be an exciting reunion with Srila Prabhupada and many devotees. Bhaktin Betty stayed behind to watch the small temple.
In a 1965 Volkswagen Beetle, with no front bumper, right windshield wiper, or rear seat, Kanya Kumari, myself, and Bhakta Michael drove the 969 miles from New Orleans up Interstate 55 to see Srila Prabhupada in Detroit. The car had expired plates, no insurance, cracked windshield, and it just kept on going. It was July 16, 1971. Through the entire one day journey I was regularly calculating the remaining mileage and timing so not to miss Prabhupada’s flight arrival. We went directly to the
airport with less than an hour to spare, having driven all night.


 Typical VW Beetle- ours was green


We parked and entered the terminal, happy to find the devotees at the arrival gate. A grand vyasasana on a four foot high platform was set up in an alcove waiting area just off the main corridor. I noted a handmade, high-gloss white-painted “A”-frame bookstand to showcase Srila Prabhupada’s books, the barely dry paint still emanating strong odors, which included the hardback Krishna Books, Teachings of Lord Chaitanya, abridged Gita,Sri Isopanisad, and Nectar of Devotion. A recent instruction from Srila Prabhupada had emphasized that He wanted His books displayed at every public function.
Perhaps a hundred devotees and guests were present, and the kirtan jumped into high gear and strength as Srila Prabhupada came into sight. He appeared at the top of a moving escalator, and seemed to float some inches above the floor, moving forward effortlessly. The devotees became overwhelmed with spiritual emotions, being finally in the personal association of the pure devotee of the Lord, many for the first time. Loud exclamations of “Jaya Prabhupada!” resounded amongst a chaotic melee of stunned, overwhelmed, crying, jubilant, and blissful devotees, with passing onlookers quite amazed at the otherworldly spectacle. Without hesitation, Srila Prabhupada nimbly climbed up onto his umbrella shaded seat and settled on the cushions, surveying the
scene with great gravity. He was the only person there who was calm and composed. He bore a slight smile. The kirtan stopped and Prabhupada recited the premadhvani prayers, culminating in devotees again exclaiming, “All Glories to Srila Prabhupada!”
Bhagavan das placed a large garland of fragrant roses around Srila Prabhupada’s neck, visibly shedding tears. It was maybe the first time I had seen a man crying in happiness; here was our loving master, the topmost guru, and the tears were contagious. Srila Prabhupada then nonchalantly raised aloft a long-stemmed, silver cup and as he tilted his head back, sent a crystal clear stream of water pouring forth into the air. Opening his mouth slightly and, with the cup a foot from his mouth, most skillfully received the precisely measured flow, without a spilled drop or a hint of miscalculation. This happened so quickly that, to me, it was an amazing spectacle of graceful perfection- a miraculous feat of casual physical coordination that was executed as easily as blinking the eyes. It seemed to be mystical control over the natural elements. His second sip brought the cup closer to the mouth, as in the photo. I thought of the phrase, “Many a slip between the cup and the mouth,” and how it did not apply to Srila Prabhupada in the least. His index and pinky fingers were extended- Goloka style.

 


The second sip was closer than the first Ichimati dasi & Pratyatosa das adore Prabhupada
Rochan das held up a painting of Lord Nrsinghadeva to contribute to the special occasion. Srila Prabhupada then smiled broadly and nodded, admiring approvingly the bookstand display, and then proceeded with an arrival address.
Prabhupāda: It has become very satisfactory that so many devotees, boys and girls, are taking part in this great movement, Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. It is very important movement because it is correcting the human civilization. There is a great defect in the modern civilization, and people are accepting this body as self, and based on this mistake in the foundation, everything is going wrong. The basic principle of civilization—accepting this body as the soul—is the beginning of all problems. The great philosophers, scientists, theologists and thoughtful men, they do not know what is the defect. Recently I was in Moscow. I had a talk with a big professor of Indology,
Professor Kotovsky. So he was speaking that "Swamijī, after this finishing, annihila-tion of this body, everything is finished." So I was astonished that a learned professor who is posing himself on a very advanced post, he has no idea about the soul and the body, how they are different, how the soul migrating from one body to another. And everyone is accepting this body as the self, and "There is no life after death; therefore make the best use of this bad bargain and enjoy sense gratification as far as possible." But this Kṛiṣhṇa consciousness movement is checking this wrong progress of human civilization. Our first proposition is that "You are not this body; you are spirit soul. Some way or other, you are in contact with this material world, and you have got this material body, and under illusion, you are accepting something which you are not."
So basic principle of this Kṛiṣhṇa consciousness movement is to correct the wrong foundation of the human civilization. In the Bhagavad-gītā this is the beginning of spiritual knowledge. When Arjuna was identifying himself with this body and bodily relationship, Kṛiṣhṇa first of all corrected that "You are not this body." So if we do not understand these first steps of spiritual knowledge, then where is the question of making further progress? Yasyātma-buddhiḥ kuṇape tri-dhātuke sva-dhīḥ kalatrādiṣu bhaumaijya-dhīḥ [SB 10.84.13]. This is the verdict of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Yasya ātma-buddhiḥ.One who has accepted as self kuṇape tri-dhātuke, this bag of bones and flesh and blood... This body is made of... According to Vedic medicine or Vedic anatomy, it is made of three elements—mucus, bile, and air. Tri-dhātu. Apart from that medical science, this body, one who accepts this body as self and Sva-dhīḥ kalatrādiṣu, and persons in relationship with this body as kinsmen, own men, bhauma ijya-dhīḥ, and the land where we take our birth as worshipable, sa eva go-kharaḥ [SB 10.84.13], he is accepted as go-kharaḥ. Go means cow, and khara means ass. That means animal. The animal, they accept this, that "I am this body." But human form of life, which is so advanced in knowledge...
Suddenly an announcement cut in over the airport public address system: “Ladies and gentlemen, I have to ask you to clear the boarding area so we can start our flight.” As Prabhupada acknowledged, “All right. Then we shall stop” and the devotees once more exclaimed “All Glories to Srila Prabhupada!”-the speaker again boomed forth:
“Ladies and gentlemen, I have to ask you to clear the boarding area. We have a flight leaving here in about thirty minutes. We have to check it in. So if you'll kindly clear the boarding area, please.”
Apparently the devotees had set up the Vyasasana and Prabhupada’s reception impromptu, so Prabhupada dismounted from His seat, kirtan began, and the devotees surrounded their primary object of affection while proceeding down the corridors towards the terminal exit. It was a joyous parade with bold singing and mrdungas drumming away. At the top of an escalator and being a little to the left side and forward of the kirtan party, I saw ahead that there was a double glass door through which Srila Prabhupada would exit to reach his waiting car at the outside curb. I quickly saw how I could offer some direct menial service to my spiritual master. Leaping down the stairs next to the slower moving escalator, I reached the doors before anyone else could and grabbed the handle, opening the door wide for Srila Prabhupada to pass through. As soon as He did so, I abandoned the door and edged closer to the maroon sedan into which Srila Prabhupada had entered. After Srila Prabhupada began to pull away, I could
not find Kanya Kumari, and frantically decided to let her find her own way, running to our VW to speed back to the temple ahead of Srila Prabhupada. The departure of devotees from the airport was chaotic as they raced to reach the temple in time for Prabhupada’s next arrival ceremony, the bigger one. Each second of association with the mahabhagwat pure devotee was infinitely valuable, and no one wanted to miss any of it.
I had already prepared for this maneuver by studying a city map and memorizing the best route to the temple through America’s fifth largest city. I was not going to get lost or delayed in finding directions. Heart pounding, I reached the temple ahead of all others, now regretting not having waited for my slower moving wife. Parking on the side street, we saw that the grand reception was forming outside at the front of the temple, a large two storied brick building with a raised basement and attic dormers at 8311 E. Jefferson Avenue. The temple had once been an upscale mansion, now converted to the service of Krishna. Car after car arrived back from the airport ahead of Srila Prabhupada, and devotees rushed around for last minute preparations and assembled in a broad corridor from curb to doorway. Anticipation was the heightened at a maximum peak. Vamanadev and Indira dasi had arrived from their St. Louis center in their blue Volkswagen bus. Kirtanananda Swami and some scraggly, austere brahmacharies had come from New Vrindaban in a battered Chevy van. A crew of devotees came from nearby Buffalo, and Rupanuga came with devotees from New York where he was now the temple president. Jagadish and Laksmimoni also came; they had formerly assisted Bhagavan in Detroit, but had since established a growing temple in Toronto. Many devotees from Canada and around the the U.S. had gathered in Detroit to see Srila Prabhupada on his return to America tour.
Soon Srila Prabhupada arrived, and He was greeted by many cries of “Jaya Prabhupada!,” a kirtan that began with “Namah Om Vishnupadaya ,” and a huge garland of large varied color roses. A bolt of white muslin cloth had been laid from the street, to the temple entrance, into the temple room, and right up to the Vyasasana, as a sort of transcendentally-antiseptic, royal carpet. As Srila Prabhupada smiled pleasantly and slowly proceeded with His walking cane, rosewater and flower petals were sprinkled in His path just ahead of His every step. Reaching the temple stairs, rose petals showered from above and Srila Prabhupada looked upwards to see several devotee ladies above on the balcony. These ladies, of course, ecstatically exclaimed very loudly, “Jaya Prabhupada!”
Prabhupada entered the large temple hallway and turned right into the temple room, mounting His Vyasasana across from the door. Devotees spilled into and soon crowded the room, and I squeezed to within a few feet of Prabhupada’s left, facing the curtained altar. It was around mid-day, and the kirtan began to increase in intensity, as more and more devotees began to dance before their spiritual father. I remember that someone had loud wompers behind me- the first time I had seen these huge kartals. I held a small Kodak camera, taking occasional photos.
Srila Prabhupada began to smile, sharing His great pleasure with the chanting and dancing of the devotees, and with their obvious ecstatic and devotional happiness.


At the airport Reception outside the temple


In response, the devotees became more surcharged and the kirtan lept forward to another level of intensity. Then… suddenly the atmosphere was saturated with spiritual electricity. Srila Prabhupada’s smile broadened more, and progressed into a wide grin, his eyes opening wide as silver dollars. The kirtan further intensified, beyond all previously experienced limits, and now everyone was vertically jump-dancing - no more mellow swaying side to side. Srila Prabhupada’s exultant face beamed, radiating supreme bliss from ear to ear. The sight of Srila Prabhupada’s supremely gleaming, spiritual super-smile, with eyes expanded fully open, was enough to cause everyone there to abandon all self-consciousness, forgetting who or where they were. I took three photos of Prabhupada’s progressive ecstasy, are now unfortunately lost.


As the singing turned to the “Jaya Prabhupada” refrain, something truly amazing happened which I cannot ever forget, the thought of which still gives me the flutters forty some years later. A qualitative change in the time and space continuum precipitated and the spiritual dimension opened up, as though Prabhupada’s ecstacy had forced back the heavy curtain of maya. The devotees simply became delirious, crying and floating, merged into the kirtan, thick with emotion and affection for their Prabhupada. He was obviously very happy with his
disciples’ happiness in Krishna consciousness, and they were also so blissful to be with him again, focused intently on his physical form before them. We were no longer on Jefferson Avenue, in Detroit, or even on planet earth. We were in the spiritual realm.
Without any conscious decision or effort, I was bouncing, springing up and down as though weightless, with chills and shivers crawling over my body. The short hair on my head tingled. My bodily awareness was altered; I now felt clearer and lighter than ever before, as though afloat in the ethereal waters of a living dream. There was a profound absence of all the subtle aches, itches, and discomforts of wearing a gross body that accompany us throughout life like a heavy necklace. In a second, my consciousness transformed into a profoundly clean happiness- there was no more anxiety. Time stopped. Srila Prabhupada was giving us some mercy by sharing his spiritual bliss, a taste of the ocean of pleasure in Krishna consciousness. He was blessing us with a miracle, the experience of the transcendental field of purified consciousness. It was totally incomparable to any previous life event.
Then the episode gradually subsided as Prabhupada’s smile receded, and the mantle of bodily identification returned. Kirtan continued and the devotees assimilated their enigmatic metaphysical encounter. I was deeply moved and fully convinced of the supramundane reality. Now I would always follow Prabhupada. In spite of residual conditioning and fading attachments, all worldly so-called pleasures have paled piteously in the light of this brief contact with anandamaya, Krishna’s pleasure potency. I was fortified in the pursuit of the highest goal, a brief sight of which has crippled my interest in this temporary, miserable world. How did Prabhupada do that? He gave us a drop from the ocean of bliss, just as Lord Vishnu had encouraged Narada Muni with a short vision of His original spiritual form.
The kirtan ended, and devotees attempted to offer their obeisances in the very crowded room. There was no floor space for me to kneel, so I just stood with folded palms and continued to gaze at Prabhupada as He recited prayers to the predecessor gurus and holy places. Then followed the lecture, for which I managed to sit down. Prabhupada first asked whether the windows could be opened for ventilation, noting that “there are so many men.” He began by declaring that “this material advancement of civilization is not knowledge.” It was hedonism and out of ignorance of our real business, we were simply trying to “decorate the apartment” and “live comfortably.” However, death will come and forcibly evict us. Prabhupada brought laughter to the devotees when he described three kinds of persons: bhogi, rogi, and yogi.
Prabhupada elaborated how we, as eternal living entities, are part and parcel of God, and as such, we also share His nature of seeking pleasure and enjoyment. He recited from his fathomless memory a sloka from Brahma Samhita (5.37):
ānanda-cinmaya-rasa-pratibhavitabhis tābhir ya eva nija-rūpatayā kalābhiḥ goloka eva nivasaty akhilātma-bhūto govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
“Every effort is being made here to surpass distressed condition and to reach to the platform of happiness. The whole struggle is there. Why people are running by motorcar this way and that way? The background is to be happy, how to become happy. But they are making planning: "I shall be happy in this way. I shall be happy in that way." Just like there is advertisement, "Come on. There are some naked girl pictures." They are inviting, "Come here. You will be happy."
Srila Prabhupada emphasized that our real business was to solve the problem of not finding happiness despite searching for it, life after life, and getting frustrated instead. It was a matter of restoring our constitutional healthy condition, not to try for comfort in this temporary material body. Even if there were difficulties, a serious man will tolerate them while remaining fixed on the purpose of human life. Animals cannot understand the need for higher consciousness, but why should they then be treated as though they had no soul? Animals are less intelligent than humans but still they should be given protection. The Bhagavata community recognizes the equal rights of all living beings. A pandita or learned man is thus Krishna conscious.
So one who is actually paṇḍita, he will see a learned brāhmaṇa, a hog, a dog, and a caṇḍāla, an elephant, like that, everyone, all living entities—that means all living entities—on the equal level because he sees to the soul, not to the body.
Prabhupada said our movement is to revive our lost consciousness of being a spirit soul, part and parcel of God, Krishna. We can never be happy in this material atmosphere, just as one cannot be happy living in the water even if he is a good swimmer, and a fish cannot be happy on land, even it is given a “velvet bedding.” We must go back to Krishna. Then Prabhupada implored his audience to take advantage of this program and be happy, that our movement is not ordinary, nor bluffing, nor cheating, nor a religious sect. It is an authorized cultural movement to awaken our lost Krishna consciousness.
So I am very happy to see you all, American boys, Indians. This is wanted. We want to unite the whole world under this Kṛiṣhṇa consciousness movement. And actually that is happening. In our society we have got devotees from all section of people—from Christian, from Jews, from Hindus, from Muhammadan, from black, from white. It doesn't matter, because we are seeing according to the Bhagavad-gītā, paṇḍitāḥ sama-darśinaḥ. A learned man sees every living entity on the equal level.
Prabhupada noted that our process of chanting Hare Krishna was simple, free, not secret, and for everyone without hard and fast rules. One should start chanting from whatever condition he is in and then see the results in how the character is being transformed, how one is purified, how the face becomes brighter.
It is practical. So that is our request, that you take full advantage of this center. You come here. It is being guided by one of my best disciples, Bhagavān dāsa. So he and others will help you. Please come regularly to this temple and take advantage of it. Thank you very much.
Devotees: All glories to Śrīla Prabhupāda!
Then came the always-mesmerizing and interesting question and answer period. For me, this was much easier to absorb and follow than the lecture. I had a strong urge to ask a question but could not muster the wherewithal to do it. It was simply wonderful to witness Srila Prabhupada’s quick and precise answers, almost as though He had prepared them in advance, and often filled with delightful humor and a personal quality that was extremely endearing. Bahulasva das asked, “What is the thing that would please you the most?” and instantly Prabhupada replied, “Chant Hare Kṛiṣhṇa.” All the devotees resounded with, “Hare Krishna!”
That is the simple thing. You are chanting. I am very much pleased. That's all. I came to your country to chant, that "You chant also along with me." So you are helping me by chanting. So I am pleased. But this tendency is very nice, that you want to please me. That is very good. And to please me is not very difficult.
Prabhupada continued by quoting Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s order to become a guru by, "Whomever you meet, you talk to him about Kṛiṣhṇa." Then he cautioned about changing the divine message and compared it to adding sand into sweet rice- it becomes spoiled. “So many people say, "Oh, Swamijī, you have done wonderful." So I say, the secret of my wonderful activities is that I have not tried to adulterate it. I am simply presenting as it is.”
Prabhupada pointed out, “Because I am not adulterating the sweet rice with sand, people are tasting it very nice. So you also follow the same principle. Don't try to adulterate. Present it as it is. And people will like it. There is no difficulty.”
I have come here for the first time, but before me, Bhagavān dāsa, he has organized. But what is his credit? He has presented the thing as I have told him. That's all. This is wonderful. In Los Angeles also our program is going on very nicely. He, my disciple in charge, Karandhara—he's present here—he's simply doing what I instruct, and he's doing very nicely, first class. Everyone who comes, they become enchanted with the temple, with the activities, with the disciples. So this is the way. This is called paramparā system. Don't try to manufacture.
Prabhupada completed his answer with, “So if you say like that, "What Krishṇa says is all right," that will please me. We don't want to adulterate and bluff. Hare Kṛiṣhṇa. Go on.”
I remembered very little of this lecture, except the part about the sand and sweet rice, which I used in my simple attempts to preach thereafter. Hearing it in person from Prabhupada, it was a favorite analogy amongst the many that Prabhupada taught us. Otherwise, in these beginning years, although I tried to listen attentively, most seemed to pass into one ear and out the other. My ability to listen and remember at that time was rather poor. But the effect was gradual and purifying.
Srila Prabhupada’s routine during His three day visit to Detroit was to stay at a smaller, non-descript house on a quiet street somewhere in the suburbs, and to visit the
temple early every morning to give the Srimad Bhagwatam class and enthuse the devotees. He also came at least one evening unexpectedly, I seem to remember.


After the kirtan one morning, Bhagavan das’ one and a half year old son Vaishnava continued playing kartals, shakily as an infant would do, but keeping a steady rhythym as well. Prabhupada watched and said, “Oh, very good,” then laughed, and launched into an impromptu class on the permanent benefits of advancement in Krishna consciousness. He quoted from the Gita- Sucīnāṁ śrīmatāṁ gehe yoga bhraṣṭa sañjāyate [Bg. 6.41].
He described how sometimes a practitioner of bhaktiyoga will again succumb to maya and fall down from the path due to maya’s strong influence. Yet whatever advancement made by such a person is never lost. In their next life they will begin where they left off and continue making progress from that point. There is no loss in Krishna consciousness, unlike with the karmis who must leave behind all their material gains at death. They will lose all, unlike the devotee who keeps his spiritual gains. Of course, the karmi does take with him the results of his pious and impious activities with him to the next life.
And anything, whatever you gain in this material world... Suppose you become very rich man, good factory, working. But as soon as this body's ended, everything is ended. Lost everything. These things will not go with you. Your factory, your skyscraper building, your millions of dollars, bank balance, that you'll have to leave behind you. You have to go with your work only, what you have done, pious or sinful activities.
Prabhupada explained that a fallen devotee is guaranteed a human birth in the next life, while the materialist may easily be demoted to the lower species of life. Further, the devotee takes birth either in a devotee or brahmana family, or in a wealthy aristocratic family.
So these children who are born in our Kṛishna consciousness Society, they are those children, those who could not finish Kṛṣṇa consciousness last life. They have been given to take birth in the family of devotee husband and wife; therefore he's playing
karatāla. Otherwise it is not possible. He had practice in his last life; therefore he's quickly... He had got the chance. Again he's remembering and playing.
All the devotees looked upon Vaishnava das with amazement, understanding how he was a devotee in his previous life and was now displaying his kirtan proficiency carried over to this life. It was a Bhagavad Gita field trip, a practical example of the philosophy in daily life. Prabhupada said, “This is the fact.” “You'll see through the authority, scriptures.” Krishna Bhamini, the baby’s mother, sat there beaming with pride.

So this child is born of a devotee father and devotee mother. Now he'll again begin from the point where he lost last life. Suppose Kṛiṣhṇa consciousness he executed fifty percent. So he'll begin from this life fifty-one percent. That fifty percent was in his stock. But ordinary karmīs—cent percent lost. He has to begin another chapter of life according to his karma. Either he'll become a man or dog, there is no guarantee.
The judgement will be done by the superior authority, and he'll be given a particular type of body, as he has maintained the consciousness. Therefore our business, this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, is to train the followers to Kṛiṣhṇa consciousness so that next life he gets Kṛiṣhṇa consciousness atmosphere. He's not promoted immediately, directly to the abode of Kṛiṣhṇa. That is also possible. Mad-yājino 'pi yānti mām [Bg. 9.25]. "Those who are My devotees, they come to My place." Kṛiṣhṇa says. So if you perfect your Kṛiṣhṇa consciousness in this life, then you're guaranteed to be promoted to go back to home, back to Kṛiṣhṇa. If you do not perfect, then next life is guaranteed, a very nice human body, either in a rich man's family or in a Kṛiṣhṇa conscious family. Just try to understand how nice this movement is.
Someone asked a question and Prabhupada elaborated that although birth in a rich family is usually a distraction from spiritual life, for devotees it allows them to be free in that pursuit without the usual struggles for material needs.
If he thinks that "I have got this opportunity of opulence. I have nothing to bother about my living and eating. I am born rich man. Why I am given so much chance? Because last, my, I executed Kṛiṣhṇa consciousness, yoga; I could not finish.
Therefore Kṛiṣhṇa has given me this chance that I'll not have to bother about my eating, sleeping. I save my time and engage myself in Kṛiṣhṇa consciousness."
Otherwise, he continued, most wealthy persons become a great sense enjoyer “or a hippy,” due to bad association. It was our duty to go out and inform people of Krishna’s message without discrimination so they could come to Krishna consciousness.
On the second morning, July 17, was the initiations ceremony and fire sacrifice. Other sources indicate it was on the 18th, but one of the initiates, Pratyatosa das, notes that it was on his own birthday, the 17th. I was disappointed to see that Srila Prabhupada would not be personally performing the fire scarifice, as he had in Boston a year and a half earlier. Jagadisa das, now the local GBC man, and assisted by Bhagavan das, the temple president, would conduct the yajna as Srila Prabhupada watched from His elevated seat. Prabhupada began the lecture:
So there are ten kinds of offenses. That is described. And the most important point is the committing sin on the strength of chanting Hare Kṛiṣhṇa mantra. This is a fact that as soon you chant Kṛiṣhṇa, all your resultant action of sinful activities immediately nullified. But if we again commit that sins, that is up to you. So we should not make it a business that "Let me go on committing sins, and it will be counteracted by chanting." No. This is not good. This is the greatest offense. Sometimes in Christian Church there is confession, and again they go and commit the same sin, and next time, again confession. Not like that. That is not good. One confession admitting, excused. But not that you commit sins over and over again and it will be excused. Similarly, you cannot commit sins on the strength of chanting. That is the greatest offense.
Prabhupada asked for the beads upon which he would chant one round of japa each. He asked where was Tulasi devi, and asked to open the windows. Jagadisa recited the purificatory mantras, being corrected in pronunciation by Prabhupada, who guietly chanted on the initiates’ beads while supervising everything. He was training his leading disciples to assist him in a fast growing movement. About twenty devotees sat there ready for first or second initiations, some from other temples. Prabhupada told Jagadisa, “Ten offenses, explain.” Prabhupada asked for chairs for some standing ladies.
Prabhupada interrupted Jagadisa’s lecture to clarify that our senses can be easily controlled by fixing the mind on Krishna, and next by controlling the tongue in chanting and tasting prasadam. Then he continued his japa while Jagadisa returned to his lecture. Very soon Prabhupada cut in again, explaining further how all the senses should be engaged in Krishna consciousness to prevent them from being attracted to maya. Jagadisa then continued, “So we must always try to fix our mind on Kṛṣṇa's activities, Kṛṣṇa's lotus feet...” when Prabhupada again interjected:
Bhavauṣadhi śrotra-mano-'bhirāmāt. Kṛiṣhṇa's pastimes are described as the medicine of the disease bhava. Bhava means repeated birth and death. This is a disease. So bhavauṣadhi. The medicine, panacea, for curing this disease, bhavauṣadhi. At the same time, śrotra-mano-'bhirāmāt: it is very pleasing to hear, and very
enlightening to the heart. Kṛiṣhṇa's name is so nice, Kṛiṣhṇa's pastime is so nice, that it is very pleasing, very satisfying, at the same time, it is the medicine for the disease of repeated birth and death.
Prabhupada began chanting on the beads again. Jagadisa paused and tried to resume speaking, saying, “One of the qualities of...” when Prabhupada spoke up once more.
The more you become free from material harassment, the more you make advance in spiritual life, or the more you make advance in spiritual life, the more you become detached to the material life. These are the tests. Bhaktiḥ pareśānubhavo viraktiranyatra syāt [SB 11.2.42]. Bhakti, devotional life, spiritual life, the test is that viraktiranyatra. Anyatra means beyond, without Kṛiṣhṇa, everything becomes detestful. The example is given just like a hungry man, when he's eating, as he's eating so he's feeling satisfaction and no hunger, proportionately. And at one time it will come, he'll say, "No, I don't want any more. I am completely satisfied." Svāmin kṛtārtho 'smi varaṁ na yāce [Cc.Madhya 22.42]. Just like Dhruva Mahārāja. He said, "I am now completely satisfied. I have, I haven't got to ask anything, benediction." That is the progress and ultimate goal of bhakti. As soon as one is saturated with bhakti, he has no more demand, no more attraction for this material world. Not... Kṛiṣhṇa attraction means decreasing attraction for the material world. Go on.
Prabhupada began chanting japa on the initiate’s beads again, but before Jagadisa could think to resume his speaking, Prabhupada spoke more.
One can test his advancement for spiritual life, how he is being detached to the material life. That's all. It is not to be taken certificate from others. Just like when you eat, you haven't got to take certificate from others. You'll feel, "Yes, I'm satisfied." That's all. You don't require, while eating nicely, you don't require to take certificate: "Am I eating nicely?" You'll know yourself.
Chanting japa a bit more, Prabhupada then continued. It was now clear that he was not displeased with Jagadisa’s attempted lecture, but rather he was so enthusiastic to impart transcendental knowledge himself.
Another example is given: the candy. Candy, when a man is suffering from jaundice disease, if you give him candy, he'll taste it bitter. That means more one is materially suffering, he'll not be interested to Kṛiṣhṇa consciousness. But the example is this: The candy is the only medicine for jaundice. So we have to give him candy by force. And as he cure, as he cures, he'll say, "Oh, candy's very nice. Candy's sweet." So in the beginning we have to force. We have to give the medicine just like horse is given medicine. Three men required to induce medicine to the mouth of the horse. So this is our duty, to inject Hare Kriṣhṇa medicine just liie pushing medicine in the throat of a horse. By force.
While Prabhupada chanted on the beads, Jagadisa led the devotees in repetitive chanting of mantras and the neck beads were put on the initiates. Throughout the ceremony was an overlap of activities by the yajna priest Jagadisa and Prabhupada, the
diksha guru. Then Prabhupada handed beads and new names to his new disciples who come up to him one by one: Atmarama, Puranjana, Aprakrita das.
Aprākṛta means transcendental. … There are different stages of understanding. First understanding is direct perception, pratyakṣa. In Sanskrit word it is called pratyakṣa, direct understanding. That tenth-class understanding, that is not actually understand-ing, direct perception. But people are giving stress that "I want to see. I want to touch." This is called pratyakṣa. Then next is parokṣa, hearing from authorities. Then aparokṣa, realizing. Then adhokṣaja means beyond the perception of the senses. Then aprākṛta, transcendental. These are the stages for going to the aprākṛta, transcendental stage. From direct perception, then, pratyakṣa, parokṣa, to take instruction from others. Then realization. Then beyond these senses. Then aprākṛta, transcendental. So Kṛiṣhṇa is aprākṛta. Kṛiṣhṇa cannot be understood by direct sense perception. Gradually you have to rise to the aprākṛta stage, which is called Vāsudeva stage, beyond this material understanding. That will take time. You have to practice that. Hare Kṛiṣhṇa. Come on.
Next was Hiraṇyagarbha, and then Prabhupada noticed an initiate without neck beads, saying: “Where is...? No neck bead? How is that? Where is neck bead? Huh? Oh, these things are not good. It must be well equipped. Otherwise, what is the meaning of initiation? Give... No neck bead? Go on. First of all get neck beads.”
Then : “You have got neck beads? That's all right. Viśvakarmā. Viśvakarmā is the engineer of this universe. Hare Kṛiṣhṇa. Jaya. You know what are the rules and regulations? That's right. Next? Come on. Dineśvara. Dineśvara is the name of sun, sun-god. Come on. We are all dāsa, not the person. … Our position is always servant. Dāsa-anudāsa. Servant of the servant, servant of the servant, the more, the more you become on the lower status of servant, our position is greater. This is...”
Next: “You arranged for offering this sacrifice? You arranged? What is name? Mahā? Mahāvīra. Eh? M, h, r. Mahāvīra. Mahāvīra is the name of Hanumān, the servant of Lord Rāmacandra. He was very strong. He could raise even the hills for service of the Lord. Mahāvīra. Mahā means great, and vīra means hero.”
Prabhupada gave the name Bahishmati to a lady, and asked her, “You know, what are the rules? Tell me. Thank you. Hare Kṛiṣhṇa.” Prabhupada asked how many initiates were remaining, and began chanting on more beads again. He noticed
someone’s beads lying on the floor, noting this should never be done. Then another lady approached the Vyasasana: “Mahāyajñi is a name of Lord Śiva. Hare Kṛiṣhṇa. Take.”
Uttamaśloka das and Pratyatosa das received their beads, also Bhagavati dasi, Tapasvini dasi, and Svarga dasi. Jagadisa had continued with the sacrificial mantras while the beads were being distributed, and the fire reached its peak as the bananas were offered to the flames. Prabhupada left the temple room filling up with thick smoke to cross the central hallway fower into the large and empty prasadam room. He sat down behind a small low table and Rupanuga pulled the huge and tall double sliding ballroom doors shut as they met in the middle, and stood guard. He gave entry to one new brahmana initiate at a time so they could quietly, privately, and personally receive the gayatri mantra directly from their spiritual master.
Every time an initiate came out and another went in, I positioned myself to peer inside, able to glimpse Srila Prabhupada for a few seconds. All I wanted was to keep Prabhupada in my vision as much as I could. Then it was my wife Kanya Kumari’s turn; she was my first initiation recommendation as New Orleans temple president, and she was ushered inside to receive the mantra. I felt very left out and wanted to see the exchange, but the doors prevented that. Why was my wife entitled to personally sit alone with Prabhupada, when I had gotten both first and second initiations by mail?
Just then a rascal idea arose in my mind, and I quickly jostled through the packed devotees engaged in kirtan, rushed through the kitchen, past surprised and protesting cooks, and out the rear door of the temple. I picked up another devotee as accomplice with a few words, “Let’s watch through the window!” Around the building we ran, to the front of the temple, and we peeked through the glass of a large window, the sill being at my eye level. On tiptoes I saw Srila Prabhupada’s back towards me and my wife sitting next to Him counting the mantras on her fingers. I didn’t want to miss this- I had never seen Prabhupada give the Gayatri mantra before.
However, after a half minute, inexplicably, Srila Prabhupada turned and looked directly at us. I ducked quickly; how did He know I was there? Had I made a sound that he heard? I thought it was just coincidence, so again I cautiously edged my eyes up to the window ledge and peeked inside once more. Prabhupada turned His head around again, as I ducked down, now shocked. The other devotee had muttered, “Oh, oh…” and run away. Hunched down, I stubbornly crept around the corner to the side window and cautiously glimpsed in a third time. Within seconds Prabhupada again turned my way and stared directly at me. I sank down to the ground. Visually, I should have been invisible to Prabhupada- so he could somehow sense my presence beyond normal powers of sight. My inappropriate intrusion was detected from any direction, even from behind. How could he catch me spying on Him? Flushed with embarrassment at my own brash foolishness, and returing inside past the cooks again, I realized the error of invading my spiritual master’s privacy and taking him to have the same limitations as I had. At the same time I was amazed and exhilarated to have experienced the mystic abilities of the pure devotee. My faith that Prabhupada was not an ordinary person increased dramatically.
After Prabhupada had given the last brahmana initiate the gayatri mantra, he came out amid the devotees who had all the while been engaged in kirtan. They filled the grand entrance foyer and stood on the staircase for a better view. Prabhupada spoke into a leaning Rupanuga’s ear, asking if he could be shown to a bathroom. Rupanuga led Prabhupada through the parting crowd to the same rear doorway which led to the kitchen, where a bathroom was located in a hallway. The devotees pushed up in front of this doorway, waiting for Prabhupada to return, and I was left in the rear. Again inspiration struck. I ran out the front door, around the temple through the yard, past the windows through which I had just been peeking, and into the rear door. Surprising the cooking crew in the kitchen for a third time, I tried to appear as though I had some serious service rationale for passing through, and then I stood in the empty narrow hallway next to Rupanuga outside the bathroom. It was just my mentor and myself, waiting for Prabhupada to appear.

Prabhupada arrives at dawn


Rupanuga held Prabhupada’s bead bag, as japa beads are never taken into the bathroom. Grinning, Rupanuga began playfully touching Prabhupada’s bead bag to his head several times, and then raised them up graciously and dramatically, resting them on top of my head, holding them there for a few moments. The spiritual potency of Prabhupada’s most holy japa beads soaked through my heavy skull. What a benediction! Srila Prabhupada came out, I awkwardly snapped a photo, and in a minute he was gone back to his suburban retreat until the next day.
During these long days in Detroit, I did not pitch in to help with cleaning, cooking, or much of anything. My attitude was that I had come to see Prabhupada, and I avoided getting involved. Rather, I simply loitered about, meeting new devotees, chanting spacy rounds, looking for a place to take a nap, and wondering where I could find some prasadam or privacy. I found my way up to the attic via a substantial staircase and admired the hefty wood beams and solid construction of this fourth level of the temple mansion. I envisioned how the walls and ceiling could be finished with wallboard and how the inadequate temple room downstairs could be shifted up there where the spaciousness measured the full length and width of the building. Testing the attic floor, I could tell that it was plenty sturdy to support many devotees dancing in kirtan. Inspired, I found Bhagavan das and shared my suggestion with him: finish the attic into the new temple room! He was dubious, and busy. Later I saw photos of the new Detroit temple room in the former attic.
In the basement I found some devotees talking and Krishnakirtan das strumming a folk guitar. A discussion was ongoing about whether it was “bonafide” to write and compose English songs and music about Krishna. Those against the notion soon departed, and I listened to Krishnakirtan das as he justified “singing for Krishna.” After
all, George Harrison had done it and had succeeded in making a huge impact on millions of youth worldwide. But as I watched him, it seemed that he was more attached to becoming a musical star than actually benefitting others in the ways that Srila Prabhupada was always stressing, namely Hare Krishna sankirtan. How curious that Prabhupada had given him that name out of all others !
By the last day of Srila Prabhupada’s stay in Detroit, all the visiting temple presidents had already gone to the house in the suburbs to receive personal darshans of His Divine Grace. I had been told early in the week by Aravinda, Srila Prabhupada’s personal servant that I should be sure to come also to obtain some encouragement from Srila Prabhupada directly. But somehow each day when another group went, I wasn’t included and was left out, either because I had shied away out of timidity and reclusiveness, or I was elsewhere at the wrong time. On the final day, Aravinda saw me in the hallway and practically insisted that I go that afternoon, committing me to be ready at 2 pm at the front door. I was already prepared with a few gifts I had brought from New Orleans, but went shopping downtown for more gifts.
I was brought with some others far into the Detroit residential suburbs to a “thirties” bungalow on a quiet tree-lined lane. After a short while, I was ushered into an inner room as Aravinda introduced me, “This is Nityananda das.” With gifts under my arm, I offered my obeisances before Srila Prabhupada who sat on a low stool in the center of the room. The golden light of the afternoon sun shone in through a large bay and multi-paned window to the left of Srila Prabhupada. His body was vibrant with a deep golden-tan color. He wore only a thin gumsha towel and was apparently ready for His afternoon massage. The scene of warm suffuse afternoon beams of light highlighting Srila Prabhupada while sitting just above a thick carpet is etched in my memory like a priceless antique sepia photograph.
While I still had my head down on the carpet offering obeisances, Srila Prabhupada, somehow knowing of myself, said, “Oh, you are from Dallas?” Rising, and, sitting on my knees, I was amazingly able to reply without choking, stuttering, or stammering, and said: “No, from New Orleans, Srila Prabhuada.”
Srila Prabhupada explained, “I have received your news cuttings in the mail.” I then recalled that over the last half year since first opening the center in New Orleans, I had sent Srila Prabhupada every month our temple report and guru “maintenance fee” of $15. Often I included all the collected newspaper clippings of sankirtan and preaching activities. These positive articles had photos of our few devotees distributing Back to Godhead magazines and chanting on Canal Street or at the university campuses. At that time, the Hare Krishna movement was novel and interesting to the public, and there was no cult stigma attached to our movement as would come in later years.
Srila Prabhupada asked, “So, the people there are receiving Krishna consciousness nicely?” My answer: “Yes, Srila Prabhupada, the people in New Orleans are very receptive.” I felt somewhat strange representing the entire city of New Orleans, and no other reply came to mind. I did not offer any more details- I had not anticipated
that Srila Prabhupada would ask me questions and that I should be prepared for some conversation or delivering a progress report. No one had prepared me for this !
Srila Prabhupada continued, hoping I would be more forthcoming: “They are liking the sankirtan?” “Yes, Srila Prabhupada, they like the Sankirtan.” I could think of nothing more to say. Now that I had an extremely rare audience with the Acharya of the Hare Krishna Movement, the beloved assistant of the Supreme Lord of all creation, I was speechless and had nothing to report. All I could manage in reply was a few short sentences. I had no questions, no new news, nothing.
Srila Prabhupada tried once more: “So you are going out for Sankirtan each day?” My answer was just a little longer, but still only one sentence: “Yes, Srila Prabhupada, we go to chant and distribute Back to Godheads every day downtown on Canal Street.”
Then there was silence, as Srila Prabhupada gave up trying to engage me in conversation and saw that I had no further report to disclose. I was so befuddled, it was only much later that I was able to understand what had happened, and that I had failed in basic social skills when I should have performed at my best potential. A faint inkling that I was not conversing properly caused my 22 year old head to cloud up further, and embarrassment of being a dummy at this most opportune, critical moment left me bewildered and in deep shock. I had somehow been blessed with a private and personal audience with Prabhupada, and I had completely flubbed the opportunity of lifetimes.
Srila Prabhupada looked up at Aravinda as a signal, who spoke up, “You have brought some gifts for Srila Prabhupada?” I had forgotten the gifts under my arm which filled a large shopping bag. Cued, I nervously began to present them to Srila Prabhupada. There was a heavy saffron knitted sweater, which Srila Prabhupada accepted by His own hands, nodding, and passed it to Aravinda. Then came the knitted orange scarf, the saffron socks, and a bead bag meticulously sewed by Kanya Kumari. I thought I could see some appreciation for the bead bag in Srila Prabhupada’s face.
Finally came the two smallest gifts which I saved for last. One was a light blue square of chamois cloth for which I explained, “This for cleaning your eyeglasses.” Prabhupada took it, but without acknowledgement. Then I pulled out my special gift, a brainstorm item I had obtained at a camera store which was used by professional photographers to expertly polish clean the glass lenses of cameras, without causing scratches and easily removing smudges. It was a small booklet of special detachable, cloth-like, paper sheets, called “LENS CLEANING PAPER.” Srila Prabhupada held it, looked at it, and asked dryly: “What is this?”
“That’s also for cleaning your eyeglasses…” Srila Prabhupada’s slightly frowned expression clearly conveyed to me the uselessness, the utter irrelevant
folly of my brilliant idea for a practical gift, and I felt as useless as the special lens cleaning papers. Now I had really made a fool of myself. And Prabhupada had to entertain a tongue-tied eccentric like myself !


More awkward silence, and for help Prabhupada looked up to Aravinda das, who had stood by watching. On cue, Aravinda chimed in, “OK, we can go now.” Crestfallen, I placed my head on the carpet once more, mumbling my obeisance mantras, very disappointed that the meeting was over. I had expected that it to last longer. Backing out the door, I glimpsed Srila Prabhupada for one last second. I must have delayed His massage for five minutes- a very valuable time wasted in granting an audience to such a dull wit as myself. But I have ever since treasured this stilted private meeting with my spiritual master, an ambassador from the spiritual world.
Rather than see Srila Prabhupada off at the airport the next day, I decided to leave that afternoon. My youthful impatience and restlessness to re-engage in our programs in Louisiana won over my desire to see Srila Prabhupada once more. I had not yet understood that on the transcendental platform, meeting and separating are of the same ecstatic quality. I think I feared the emotions that would come with Prabhupada’s departure as he walked out of sight into a waiting airplane.
Late that night, on the way back to New Orleans, Michael was driving the Beetle in the rain on the Interstate Highway when we saw flashing lights approaching us from behind. Pulling over, we quickly jumped seats since Michael had no driver’s license. But we were still arrested by the Lewisburg, Tennessee sheriff for driving a car with no front bumper, one headlight, and one windshield wiper. Bhakta Michael and I spent the night behind bars in a musty jail. Somehow Kanya Kumari slept in the front lobby. She was finally able by mid-day to reach her parents, who sent by Western Union the $235 fine. From ecstatic association with the pure devotee the day before, we were now back in the material world.
Now, late in life, I sometimes visit my collection of Prabhupada tadiya or memorabilia, where I keep a duplicate pack of Lens Cleaning Paper next to Srila Prabhupada’s thick, black eyeglasses. Maybe he used them after all.

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