After lunch Srila Prabhupada went upstairs to take rest, which is his usual routine. Today he had me put his bed, a simple wood-framed cot crisscrossed with thick, wide, cotton strapping and covered with a thin mattress and sheet, outside on the front terrace of his room. He slept peacefully in the sunshine, with the domes of Krishna-Balaram Mandir towering above, benign and protective.
I remained in the small room on the roof. Feeling a little tired, I sat on the edge of what I thought was a spare wood-base bed in one corner of the room. As one of the Guest House beds with a sponge mattress, it did not appear that Srila Prabhupada had ever used it. The next thing I knew, Srila Prabhupada was waking me up. Rising after his nap, he had come through the door to find me sound asleep on the bed. He gave me a gentle shake, and I jumped up quite embarrassed and apologetic.
Prabhupada wasn't annoyed, but he did comment very kindly, "If you are fatigued, that is all right. You can rest on a mat on the floor, but whatever is the spiritual master's should never be used."
Moving over to sit at his desk he asked, "So, what is your name?" Certainly he must have already heard it many times over the last few days, so perhaps it was his way of making me feel more comfortable. It relieved my embarrassment, making me feel that he is getting to know me on a more personal basis.
"Arry Sawry, Srila Prabhupada," I said in my broad Northern English brogue.
"Haree Showree," Prabhupada corrected in his elegant Bengali accent. Giving me a warm smile he asked for some water.
It is hard to say when Prabhupada's day begins and when it ends, because he never seems to conclude his activities in the way we do. He only rests for a few hours each day, and even that is intermittent.
Srila Prabhupada maintains a remarkably regulated daily routine. While here in Vrindavana his schedule is:
6:00 a.m.Wash, brush teeth, and take Ayurvedic medicine.
6:30 - 7:30 a.m. Morning walk.
7:30 - 8:30 a.m. Greet the Deities, guru-puja, then Srimad-Bhagavatam lecture from the Seventh Canto.
9:00 - 9:30 a.m. Breakfast of fruits and chira.
9:45 - 11:15 a.m. Rest on roof for an hour and then meet people (usually by appointment).
11:15 - 1:15 p.m. Massage with oil.
1:15 - 1:45 p.m. Bathe.
1:45 - 2:30 p.m. Lunch prasadam.
2:30 - 3:00 p.m. Sit in room or chant japa.
3:00 - 4:00 p.m. Rest.
4:00 - 5:00 p.m. Meet with specific people or devotees, or chant.
5:00 - 6:30 p.m. Give public darsana.
6:30 - 9:30 p.m. Meet public or senior devotees, GBC business or just chat.
9:30 p.m. Take hot milk, massage and rest.
12:00 - 1:00 a.m. Rise and translate.
5:00 a.m. Light rest or japa.
Srila Prabhupada's typical routine goes something like today.
After his all-night translation work he stopped at mangala-arati time and lay back against the bolsters with his feet up. He slept lightly for a short time.
At six o'clock he went into the bathroom to wash, brush his teeth, and freshen up. He came back and sat for a few minutes as he put on tilaka. When that was completed, he took a reddish Ayurvedic medicinal pellet called Yogendra-rasa. After I had crushed it with a large, roasted cardamom seed and then mixed it with honey in a small oval mortar, he added a little water. He drank the mixture straight from the mortar, scraping up the residue with the pestle, which he then deposited on his tongue with an elegant twist of his fingers.
Then Prabhupada prepared to leave for his morning walk. Getting up from his desk he stood patiently as I helped him on first with his uttariya (the saffron top-piece traditionally worn by all sannyasis) then with his heavy saffron-colored coat and his woollen hat. I finally hung his bead bag around his neck.
All the while he conversed with Hansaduta, Akshayananda Swami, and Gopala Krishna.
As he walked toward the door, I rushed ahead to place his cane directly into his hand. I then positioned his shoes so that he could step into them and out of his slippers in one easy movement, all while I was holding the door open. It is somewhat of an art to manage all this without delaying or interrupting Prabhupada's steady progress out.
The expectant devotees waiting outside enthusiastically shouted, "Jaya Srila Prabhupada!" as he appeared, offering their obeisances and a garland.
Smiling and modest, he returned their greeting with "Jaya! Hare Krishna!" The privileged few who went on the day's walk gathered closely around him as he made his way up the side of the temple and out the front gate onto Chattikara Road.
Heading west into the countryside beyond the boundary of Vrindavana village we walked for exactly half an hour, as far as a solitary house named "Moda Place," and then back.
Prabhupada's gait is surprisingly swift and strong, and by the end we were struggling to keep up.
At precisely seven thirty he entered the temple from the side door and waited patiently as the pujaris strained to swing back the immense wooden doors on each of the three altars. The conch shells trumpeted their call to the faithful, announcing the imminent appearance of the Deities. The curtains drew back, and the Govindam prayers boomed over the loudspeaker. Srila Prabhupada, followed by all the devotees, offered his prostrate obeisances first to his Guru Maharaja, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, and Their Lordships Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai, then to the two moon like brothers Sri Sri Krishna-Balarama, and finally to the brilliant forms of Sri Sri Radha-Syamasundara.
After taking a little caranamrita, Prabhupada walked across the black-and-white checkered marble floor and mounted the steps to his carved marble vyasasana. As he sat flanked by ornamental lions, the devotees offered guru-puja. Chanting the prayers "sri guru carana padma...," each devotee came forward to offer a flower to his lotus feet and bow before him. Everyone relished this opportunity to glorify Srila Prabhupada in person. It is a daily act of humble submission, an affirmation of our full commitment to his service and a reminder to our flickering minds that without him we are nothing.
As the kirtana ended, Harikesa moved forward to swing the microphone around in front of Prabhupada's mouth.
Prabhupada's voice rang out over the loudspeakers, "Jaya om vishnupada paramahamsa parivrajakacarya ashtottara-sata sri srimad bhaktisiddhanta sarasvati gosvami maharaja prabhupada ki jaya!"
The devotees bowed their heads to the ground in obeisance to the disciplic succession, the Panca-tattva, the holy dhamas, the Vaishnavas, and all the assembled devotees.
Then Harikesa passed Prabhupada his karatalas. We sat down to listen and respond to Prabhupada's sweet and melodious voice as he glorified Sri Sri Radha-Madhava:
"Jaya radha madhavuhhh, kunjavi hari, gopi janaballabhaa girivaradhari; jasodanandana brajajana ranjana, jamuna tiiraaa banacaari."
His eyes closed in concentration, his face showing the intensity of his meditation on the objects of his love and worship in the groves of Vrindavana on the banks of the Yamuna river. He infused new meaning and freshness into the song, though he sings it every day before class. His brass karatalas rang out, quickening the pace, and the devotees' voices swelled in response. Just as it came to a heart-filling crescendo, the karatalas gave their final three metallic rings, "dung dung dung," and everyone knelt with their heads to the floor as Prabhupada recited the prema-dhvani prayers again.
Harikesa jumped up again, removed Prabhupada's karatalas, and quickly hung a small microphone around his neck, the other end of which he connected via a two-way switch to the large reel-to-reel Uher tape recorder that he had carried since the morning walk. He handed Srila Prabhupada the Bhagavatam, an Indian Sanskrit edition containing the commentaries of different acaryas that Prabhupada uses for his evening translation work, already opened to the proper page. He carefully slipped Prabhupada's spectacles onto him.
Then Harikesa sat to lead the devotees in responsive chanting of the Sanskrit verse, loudly reciting the translation before Srila Prabhupada began his lecture. "Prahlada Maharaja continued to speak: My dear friends born of demonic families, the happiness which is perceived with reference to the senses can be obtained in any form of life according to one's past fruitive activities. Such happiness is automatically obtained, as sometimes we obtain distress without any endeavor."
Harikesa also wore a neck microphone plugged into the same small box with the two-way switch as Prabhupada's. He recorded himself and then threw the switch to record Srila Prabhupada.
Prabhupada read out the verse: "sukham aindriyakam daitya deha-yogena dehinam/ sarvatra labhyate daivad yatha duhkham ayatnatah." (SB 7.6.3)
Sometimes speaking with his eyes closed in complete concentration and sometimes opening them, surveying his audience, he propounded the ancient philosophy of the Srimad-Bhagavatam in the modern context. He quoted other Sanskrit verses profusely, cross-referencing each point with other works, such as the Bhagavad-gita and the Puranas or the Upanishads. His explanations are always clear and potent. Srila Prabhupada is amazingly skilled at conveying the most profound and complex philosophical concepts in a way that anyone can easily understand and apply. Having grasped the very essence of life, its meaning and purpose, he can present it for the understanding of both ordinary people and intellectuals.
Punctuating his lecture with analogies and vivid practical examples, he told a story to illustrate that the sense of material enjoyment is the same for all living beings, whether dog, hog, or human being. "There was a prostitute called Laksahira, whose charge was one lakh of pieces of diamond. It doesn't matter, a big diamond or a small diamond; that was her charge. So one man was suffering from leprosy, and he was assisted by his wife, a very faithful wife. So still he was morose. The wife asked the husband, 'Why you are morose? I am giving you so much service. You are leper, you cannot move. I take you on a basket and carry you. Still you feel unhappy?'
"So he admitted, 'Yes.'
" 'Oh, what is the cause?'
" 'I want to go to the prostitute Laksahira.'
"Just see! He is leper, a poor man, and he is aspiring to have a prostitute who charges one hundred thousand pieces of diamond. So anyway, she was a faithful wife. She wanted to satisfy her husband. Some way or another she arranged. Then when the leper was at the house of the prostitute, the prostitute gave him very nice dishes of food, but everything in two dishes; everything one in the golden pot and one in the iron pot.
"So while he was eating, he asked the prostitute, 'Why you have given me in two pots?'
" 'Because I want to know whether you will feel different taste in different pots.'
"So he said, 'No. I don't find any difference of taste. The soup in the golden pot, the soup in the iron pot, the taste is the same.' " 'Then why you have come here?'"
In the same way, Prabhupada explained about distress. "If a man is a millionaire he still suffers the same distress from typhoid fever as a poor man. Happiness and unhappiness are the same in different pots. This is knowledge."
From these simple stories he derived a profound conclusion. "This is foolishness. The whole world is going on like that. They are simply trying to taste the same thing in different pot. That's all. They are not detestful, 'No sir, I have tasted enough.' That is called vairagya-vidya no more tasting. 'It is all the same, either I take in this pot or in that pot.' Therefore it is said, sukham aindriyakam, the sense pleasure, whether you enjoy as a dog or a human being or a demigod or as a European or as an American or an Indian?the taste is the same. This is very important. You cannot have a better taste. Better taste is only Krishna consciousness. It doesn't matter in which pot I am in at the present moment. Ahaituky apratihata. You can taste Krishna consciousness without any hesitation, without any check, without any hindrance."
After half an hour he brought the class to an end.
The devotees shouted, "Jaya, Srila Prabhupada! Srila Prabhupada ki jaya!"
Again Harikesa sprang into action, deftly removing Srila Prabhupada's spectacles, the microphone from his neck, the Bhagavatam, and handing him his cane, all as he stepped down from the vyasasana to go out the door.
At the top of the steps leading out onto the path, I waited with his shoes. Slipping into them, Srila Prabhupada walked the hundred yards past the temple, towards the Guest House. The devotees followed, dancing and chanting, "Jaya Prabhu-pada, jaya Prabhu-pada, jaya Prabhu-pada, jaya Prabhu-pada!"
Srila Prabhupada passed through the open veranda into the small secretary's room and through the door on the right into his sitting room. This is the room that Prabhupada uses for both giving darsana and working. He propped his cane in the corner next to the door and then slipped out of his outdoor shoes into his slippers. (Prabhupada never walks barefoot, even inside.) I helped to remove his coat and hat.
Prabhupada sat for a few minutes looking outside, through the three tall, narrow windows barred with ornamental grill work, into the small tulasi garden with the solitary tree. Surveying his room, he glanced appreciatively at the large shelves displaying copies of his translations of Srimad-Bhagavatam and Caitanya-caritamrita. He requested that we hang his flower garlands on the various beautiful original oil paintings or the photos of Deities and devotees adorning the walls. The garlands were to be left hanging until dry and then removed. He has complained that in the past the devotees cleaning his room have unnecessarily removed the garlands while still fresh.
As soon as his breakfast was served he walked through the other door to his prasadam room. He sat on a seat behind one of the two low wooden tables called chonkis. On his chonki was a silver water tumbler, a packet of toothpicks, and a small hand bell to summon his servant, should he want anything else. From this seat Prabhupada can look over the small back veranda into his enclosed garden. The original painting of Krishna taking prasadam in the company of His friends, used for the cover of the first Hare Krishna Cookbook, smiled down on Prabhupada as he took his meal.
Kisori dasi and other ladies prepared Prabhupada's breakfast. It consisted of various cut fruits: seedless grapes, guava, banana, orange, pomegranate, and whatever else was freshly available at the market. With this he had a small bowl of fried chira (flattened rice mixed with peas), another of fried cashew nuts, and a small piece of sandesa milk sweet. One item is vital to Prabhupada's breakfast: ginger soaked in lemon juice. He won't start breakfast without it, as it stimulates his digestion.
Srila Prabhupada ate little and very slowly, as an act of devotion: prasada-seva, service, rather than indulging the tongue. When he finished, I cleared his plate and wiped the table as he sat and cleaned his teeth. It surprised me to see that his teeth moved apart when he inserted the wooden pick, but Prabhupada just laughed about it.
When he finished he held out his open palm for me to tip a little Bhaskar Lavan, an Ayurvedic digestive powder, into it. Tilting his head back, he dropped in the powder. Then still maintaining the pose, he poured in some water from the tumbler without touching it to his lips. After washing his mouth and hands in the bathroom he returned to his darsana room.
Sometimes, Prabhupada sits in his darsana room after breakfast and chats with his servants for a few minutes, usually commenting on the present state of the world. These moments are especially sweet to be with Prabhupada as he sits, relaxed and casual, basking in the warmth of his intimate association.
This morning was particularly memorable. The sun was shining brightly through the tall and narrow windows, casting patches of dazzling light on the clean, white sheets on the floor. He sat comfortably in the middle, his legs crossed, right ankle resting on the left knee. His fingers loosely intertwined, he closed his eyes briefly and enjoyed the warmth of the sun as it danced upon his golden form.
Seeing the opportunity, Hansaduta, Harikesa, and I sat on either side of him, just happy to be with him in a quiet moment. He began to reflect on the unfortunate state of the world's inhabitants. He explained that due to a lack of knowledge about the Supreme Lord people are suffering. Under the false impression of being independent they commit all kinds of sinful acts, not knowing and not caring for the results, foolishly thinking they are free to do as they like. But when the volume of sinful life becomes too great they suffer the consequences in the form of pestilence or war. They think that by politics and meetings they can avoid such things, but that is not possible. They are helpless to prevent them, and therefore they receive their punishment through the three-fold miseries of life. At just the right moment, nature brings the demons together and engages them in war.
To illustrate the point, he gave an amusing but striking example of how maya works. "In my young days we had one teacher. Whenever there was any misbehavior between the boys, the teacher would stop them and bring them out to the front of the class. He would make them stand face-to-face and each take hold of the ears of the other and on his order make them pull. So the one, he is pulling, and the other is hurting, so he pulls back even harder, and each one is pulling and crying. But they cannot let go because the teacher is ordering, 'No, you cannot stop. You must go on pulling!' Similarly, maya brings together one Churchill and one Hitler. 'Now, rascal, pull!' And neither can stop. And the foolish people glorify them."
The thought of the scene so humored him that even before he finished he began to laugh heartily. His shoulders and belly shook, and his brilliant teeth flashed like pearls in the sun. When Prabhupada smiles the entire room, even the universe, seems to light up. It's a Vaikuntha smile that spreads transcendental effulgence everywhere around.
Prabhupada's mood was so open and congenial it seemed, if just for a moment, that we had joined a picnic with Krishna and His cowherd boyfriends, joking and laughing in the forests of Goloka. We laughed with him, glancing at each other in appreciation and wonder as to who this extraordinary personality Srila Prabhupada really is. He is far beyond our comprehension, yet we feel ourselves extremely fortunate to share these intimate moments with him.
It was an entrancing moment, and it occurred to me that Srila Prabhupada must have many friends in the spiritual world with whom he can eternally enjoy happy and carefree days. Yet being extraordinarily merciful he chooses to be here among us. Although the most exalted personality, he appears to like nothing better than to be with his disciples, foolish and neophyte as we are. He gives the impression there is no one in the world he would rather be with and nothing he would rather be doing than sharing whatever he has with us, although we have nothing to give him in return that could possibly be of interest to him. It seems a lopsided relationship, but Prabhupada doesn't mind. He is not looking for anything for himself, only to see what he can give us. As a result, we have obtained more than any of us can ever have hoped for.
After chatting with us, Prabhupada took rest upstairs on a mattress in the sun for about an hour.
He reserved the time from 10:00 until 11:15 a.m. for special guests and discussed management of the temple with senior devotees. Sometimes he replies his mail during this period also. Today he dealt with a wide range of people and projects. He is negotiating the offer of a gosala near Mathura, the opening of a post office in our future gurukula building, and the establishment of a bank branch in the Guest House. These arrangements will provide better facilities for the devotees and guests, which will result in the temple becoming a greater focus of local community activity. When more people come, more preaching can go on, the net result being that Krishna consciousness will further increase and more souls will be saved from the clutches of material existence.
Prabhupada confronted a variety of topics in today's mail, from orchestrating the worldwide production and distribution of his books through the efforts of enthusiastic followers to solving the personal problems of a disciple struggling with maya to encouraging the newly interested a university teacher in Copenhagen and a distressed young man in Australia. Everyone received his close personal guidance and attention.
Ramesvara, head of the American division of the Book Trust, reported a recent new record in book distribution. In a one-day competition, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Atlanta temples distributed 5,406 hardbound books, with some individual devotees selling over two hundred each. Ramesvara's report was dramatic. "Our men are willing to do anything to please you, and all of them have dedicated their whole lives to distributing these books. Our only desire is that you may kindly bless us with greater and greater desire to distribute these books all over the world until every home has whole libraries of your books. By Your Divine Grace's blessing we will never stop distributing these books. We are thinking that this is the highest pleasure in all the three worlds."
Prabhupada's response was equally enthusiastic. "Your report of book sales is over-encouraging. You are all becoming very, very dear to my Guru Maharaja. I started this movement by book selling. I was never a beggar for money, but I was writing books and selling. My Guru Maharaja very much liked my writing, and he used to show others in my absence, 'Just see how nicely he has written, how he has appreciated.' He encouraged me, and my Godbrothers, they also liked my writing. After I wrote that poem for Vyasa-puja of my Guru Maharaja, they used to call me 'Poet.'
"Anyway, I was working writing books and publishing BTG alone, but I could not give the thing shape, so I decided to go to the U.S.A., and now you all nice boys and girls have helped me so much. It is all the mercy of Krishna. Thank you very much."
Yasodanandana Maharaja and Acyutananda Swami are touring South India, and Prabhupada plans to meet them in Nellore in a few weeks. They are arranging programs for him in a large hall in Madras, where their party has met with a good reception. They also sent a favorable report of their book distribution. They are holding pandalas, making Life Members, and distributing The Scientific Basis of Krishna Consciousness, written by Svarupa Damodara, one of Prabhupada's disciples.
Although each of their men sells only a few copies of one small book and collects 150 rupees per day, Prabhupada considers this a good beginning and his expectations are high. "There is tremendous field in India for selling books," he wrote. "If you continue this effort you will soon compete with America.
Gopala Krishna is arranging to print Srimad-Bhagavatam in Hindi, First Canto Vol. 1 15,000 copies, also Bhagavad-gita As It Is. So there is a big field, in India 600,000,000 people. In every home there should be at least one BBT publication, so the field is very big."
Aja dasa, the president of Boston temple, has begun holding lectures at local universities, where he distributes prasadam and magazines. The devotees have made applications to teach courses on Krishna consciousness in several colleges, and they've established a new center in Amherst, a big college town.
Prabhupada was extremely happy to hear this, for one of his greatest ambitions is to see his books studied seriously in the schools and colleges of the world. He replied, "I am very pleased to note that you are attempting to preach seriously in the schools and colleges. Prahlada Maharaja, a great devotee and authority in our line, said Krishna consciousness should be taught from the very beginning of childhood. The defect of modern education is that the children are taught all nonsense things. They do not receive even the first point of knowledge, that 'I am pure spirit soul, part and parcel of God.' This simple fact they have yet to learn, so if you can teach them just this one point it will be a great success, because this is the basic platform of advancing in spiritual understanding. If we want to read and write, then it is essential to learn first of all the ABCs."
A brahmacari in England asked for guidance in his service and asrama after a period of difficulty, and Prabhupada encouraged him to push on. "From your letter it appears that you are a little confused. This means that the consciousness is not clear, brahma-bhutah prasannatma, na socati na kanksati. The clear stage of consciousness is free from hankering and lamentation. As long as we are on the material platform, bodily conception of life, we will hanker after so many things required for material supremacy. Therefore to clear this cloudy consciousness Caitanya Mahaprabhu has recommended that one should simply chant the holy name of God sincerely and hear it with attention. So chant, dance, take prasadam and be happy. Marriage is not recommended. Are you prepared to get a job, live outside the temple in an apartment, provide the wife with bangles, saris and sex? Better you concentrate on this chanting and hearing process, then teach others and give them prasadam."
Prabhupada has attracted the attention of people in all walks of life, and his replies to nondevotees are equally to the point. When Mark Phillips, a young Australian married man, sent a faltering cry of distress, Prabhupada offered the universal panacea. "Yes, we are eternally related to the Lord as servant, so naturally when we forget our eternal relationship as servants of the supreme master, Krishna, we suffer... . Therefore Krishna advises everyone, in Bhagavad-gita, to simply surrender to Him and He will take care of us. In Australia we have got our temples; consult the Back to Godhead magazine for the temple nearest you. Please visit the temple and take advantage of the pure, spiritual atmosphere. This will immediately extinguish the burning fire of material suffering in your heart. Meanwhile I humbly request you to chant Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. This chanting will bring you all perfection of life; please try it."
Dr. Yogi Raj Dev Swarup teaches yoga at the University of Copenhagen and has recently obtained an Indian Government grant to begin a yoga institute in New Delhi. He wrote a letter expressing his appreciation of Prabhupada's work and asking how he can help the mission.
Prabhupada replied, "I thank you very much for your kind appreciation. Because you are a teacher in a respectable university I request you to study some of my books, especially Bhagavad-gita As It Is. As stated in the Gita, manah samyamya mac-citto, yukta asita mat parah. 'One should meditate upon Me (Krishna) within the heart and make Me the ultimate goal in life' (Bg. 6.13-14). Western people are now becoming more and more interested in yoga practice, but unfortunately, because they have no authorized source of information, they are being misled by unauthorized teachers and concocted methods of yoga practice. Actually the astanga-yoga system practiced thousands of years ago is not practical for this age; therefore Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu introduced the chanting of the holy name of God: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
"In all our temples we are doing that and we have more than forty big volumes of authorized books: Srimad-Bhagavatam, Bhagavad-gita, etc. Intelligent people are accepting this Movement all over the world, so if you are serious about joining this mission then why not study these books, understand the philosophy and teach."