Letters answered by Srila Prabhupada
Rukmini : The pujaris in Los Angeles had a beautiful and high standard of Deity worship that didn't exist anywhere else in the society. So, after being trained in Los Angeles, when I returned to Boston, where they didn't have this nice standard, trying to introduce it was difficult.
One night I had a dream that all the temple devotees were lying on the floor arguing with each other, "In New York we do it like this." "Well, in Boston we do it like this." "Well, in Montreal we do it like this." Then the curtains closed and the Deities were gone. This dream upset and traumatized me and I wrote a letter to Prabhupada lamenting about how unacceptable our Deity worship must be. I wrote, "I think we've been very negligent in our standard of Deity worship and now I had this dream that the Deities disappeared. And I know that you said that without bhava, Deity worship is just like idol worship."
Prabhupada wrote a pragmatic letter back with a list of many items of cleanliness. He wrote, "Deity worship means to be very clean. You should try to bathe twice daily. The Deities should never be approached without having bathed first and changed to clean cloths after passing stool, etc. Keep teeth brushed after each meal, fingernails clean and trim. Be sure that your hands are clean before touching anything on the altar or the Deities. And cleanse the Deity room, altar and floor daily thoroughly. Shine the various arati paraphernalia after arati. This is described in the booklet for pujaris written by Silavati Dasi. The idea is summit cleanliness - that will satisfy Krishna. Regarding your dream, it is a great blessing to you that Krishna warned you. So you should never be negligent. Always be careful, then in due course you will feel bhava." That was very nice.
Reference: Srila Prabhupada-Remembrances - Siddhanta Dasa
Satsvarupa : Srila Prabhupada received a reply to his letter of November 8 to Tirtha Maharaja in Calcutta. Prabhupada had explained his hopes and plans for staying in America, but he had stressed that his Godbrothers would have to give him their vote of confidence as well as some tangible support. His Godbrothers had not been working cooperatively. Each leader was interested more in maintaining his own building than in working with the others to spread the teachings of Lord Chaitanya around the world. So how would it be possible for them to share Srila Prabhupada's vision of establishing a branch in New York City? They would see it as his separate attempt.
Yet despite the unlikely odds, he appealed to their missionary spirit and reminded them of the desires of their spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. Their Guru Maharaja wanted Krishna consciousness to be spread in the West. But when Prabhupada finally got Tirtha Maharaja's reply, he found it unfavorable. His Godbrother did not argue against his attempting something in New York, but he politely said that the Gaudiya Math funds could not be used for such a proposal.
Prabhupada replied, "It is not very encouraging, still I'm not a man to be disappointed." In fact, he found a little hope in Tirtha Maharaja's reply, so he described to his Godbrother the property he had recently found for sale at 143 West Seventy-second Street. The building, only eighteen-and-a-half feet wide and one hundred feet deep, consisted of the first-floor store, a basement, and a mezzanine. Prabhupada presented Tirtha Maharaja the price - $100,000 with a $20,000 cash down payment - and remarked that this building was twice the size of their Research Institute in Calcutta. Prabhupada conceived of the basement as a kitchen and dining area, the first floor as a lecture hall, and the mezzanine as personal apartments, with a separate area for the Deity of Lord Krishna.
Appropriately, Prabhupada had described himself as "a man not to be disappointed." He was convinced that if there were a center where people could come hear from a pure devotee, the genuine God conscious culture of India could begin in America. Yet because he had made his plans dependent on obtaining an expensive building in Manhattan, his goal seemed unreachable. Still, he was persistently writing to prominent devotees in India, though they were not interested in his plans.
Reference: Srila Prabhupada Lilamrta Volume 2 - Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami
Jayadvaita : One of the earliest devotees was named Rayarama. He joined before Satsvarupa Maharaj and many of the others, and he was impressive and dedicated to helping Srila Prabhupada. He and Hayagriva were the first editors of Back to Godhead, and he was the original editor for Teachings of Lord Chaitanya. Rayarama knew the philosophy better than anyone, at least in New York, because he was practically the only devotee who'd read all the books, and he used to be terrifyingly good in answering questions. Hippies and others would come and he would speak with them expertly.
I was typing in Rayarama's office, but in 1968 or early 1969, after I'd been around for a few months, Rayarama left the Society. Then in 1971, when we were at Henry Street and ISKCON Press was on Tiffany Place, he showed up at the Press. He said that he wanted to come back, and he wrote a letter to Srila Prabhupada that, "I want to do some service, I want to join again." I thought Srila Prabhupada would be happy if such a long-lost devotee returned to the Society. However, from Rayarama's letter to him, Prabhupada detected that his materialistic mentality was still there.
Srila Prabhupada wrote, "I welcome you for your coming back to our Society and you are feeling very nicely for the association of devotees." And then Prabhupada explained, "Devotee means who are following the regulative principles. One cannot be independent and at the same time become a devotee, because all devotional activities are based on surrender. So in the association of devotees we learn this important item - how to surrender, but if we keep our independence and try to become devotees, that is not possible... If you want to live with us you must accept temple life, namely cleanly shaven head, observing the regulative principles, decorating the body with tilak, etc. You know all these things. As far as your editorial work is concerned, I welcome your good service but if you do not follow temple life and Deity worship, it will set a bad example." Prabhupada ended his letter with, "To associate with me you are always welcome but not with your independence. That will not help me or you."
I think Srila Prabhupada knew that his letter meant Rayarama would say, "Well, then I can't join." But Prabhupada laid it on the line, "If you want to join and surrender, then you are welcome back full-heartedly. But if you want to join but not really join, if you want to join but keep a separate mentality, to have your own agenda, then why do it? Why cheat?" Rayarama left, and we never saw him again.
Reference: Srila Prabhupada-Remembrances - Siddhanta Dasa
Visakha : While I was up on the top of this building living there under my mosquito net and a little piece of wood, I wrote an article called "Srila Prabhupada, India's National Hero." I sent him this magazine, and he wrote me a letter back. I could read that letter because it has very broad implications. He says here, "I am in due receipt of your letter from Bombay dated May 24th, 1972, along with a very nice article 'Prabhupada, India's National Hero.' I am very grateful to you for your kind words about me, but I do not think that I have done anything but I am only delivering the best message as it is. Actually anyone who is a sincere devotee of Krishna and who is rendering service by preaching his message is to be considered as hero. So you are all heroes of your country and your humanity. Hero means someone who others want to follow as an example of the best type of person. So you all become like that, perfect examples of Krishna consciousness, heroes and heroines, and preach the message exactly as I have taught it to you very seriously and being fully convinced, then others will automatically come forward and join us. We shall all be like one great army of heroes for Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu."
Reference: ISKCON Juhu, 25th Anniversary
Mahatma : When I was temple president in Vancouver, I thought that we should form a rock band so that we could influence young people. I imagined us converting people to Krishna consciousness, distributing books, and making money at concerts. I wrote Prabhupada a letter saying, "Rock stars influence young people. They can change what people think. What if we start a rock band, try to become famous, and then preach?" Prabhupada wrote back, "This trying to become famous is all phantasmagoria. You'll never become famous. This is totally impractical. Why have you been trying for it? We don't want to become famous ourselves. We want to make Krishna famous. If you want to do music, then use your musical abilities to lead ecstatic kirtans in the Vancouver temple. But don't try to become famous yourself."
When I wrote to Prabhupada, I wasn't thinking of becoming famous. I was thinking that if we became famous we could use that for preaching. But before I was a devotee I had a strong desire to become a famous musician. It was very clear that Prabhupada saw that. If that wasn't one of my motives when I wrote to him, it certainly would have become my motive or I would have been aversely influenced by fame. Prabhupada knew exactly where I was at. After that, I totally forgot my formerly strong desire to become famous.
Reference: A Transcendental Diary Volume 3 - Hari Sauri Dasa