Adideva das Remembers Srila Prabhupada

Prabhupada Memories

Interview 01

Adideva: The first time I physically saw Srila Prabhupada was in the New York temple on Henry Street in 1972, right after Ratha-yatra. I had met devotees in Texas and they had encouraged me to go and meet Prabhupada. I went with my sculptor teacher, who later became Murti das and we weren’t there twenty minutes before we were escorted up into Prabhupada’s room. Prabhupada wasn’t there as he was downstairs using the restroom. When I first saw Prabhupada we were just standing there, mesmerized like deer in a headlight. Prabhupada was dressed in his gumsha and he had his brahmin thread wrapped around his ear. We both hit the floor. At that point we didn’t even know the prayers so we just mumbled some non-descript sounds. My first impression of Prabhupada was how regal he was even in this very domestic situation. The first words out of his mouth were, “I’m not a king. This is not for me. This is an educational facility for teaching Krishna consciousness.” He could tell that my teacher and I were pretty wound up and so he immediately started with small talk. We went into his room and he just started asking us about Visnujana Swami and about Texas. “Is it hot there? Do you like wearing dhotis in Texas?” That sort of broke the ice. Then Prabhupada asked his secretary, Arovinda to bring in a drawing of Panchatattva. Prabhupada knew we were sculptors and so he said, “Can you do this? Can you produce these? We’d like to put them in our temples all over the world.” I had done a little figurative work and taken a lot of life drawing but I’d never done clay figurative pieces. I said, “Yes Prabhupada, we can do it.” Murti das was a little wiser than I was so he said, “We’ll try.” Prabhupada even gave us a size. He said, “About forty inches.” Years later we produced a set of Panchatattva for Hawaii and before we sent them we measured them and they were about forty inches. We hadn’t planned it but it just happened that way.

When I took brahminical initiation from Srila Prabhupada, I went out and collected dakshina and sent a letter to him with the dakshina saying, “What do you want me to do? What can I do?” Then Prabhupada sent me a letter back in 1973 that changed my life. “Please accept my blessings. I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter and enclosed dakshina. Regarding murti making, yes I wanted those who could do it nicely, they should go to Mayapur and take instruction there on how to make murtis and especially dolls. We want to make dolls of Krishna lila. (I didn’t have any conception of what that meant) Just like in London I was seeing thousands of people going to the wax museum to see dolls of dead men and even they were paying to see them. So we want to make dolls of all the wonderful activities of Lord Sri Krishna and just by seeing, people will get spiritual benefit from it. So you consult with Karandar and do the needful.” That was Srila Prabhupada’s letter to me.

I was in Mayapur and one of my duties when I first got there was to make up Srila Prabhupada’s sandalwood paste and put it on his forehead before he gave class in the morning. I was so proud of myself that I knew how to make it just the right thickness to where it stayed on his forehead nicely. Then the second or third morning Prabhupada uttered something that I couldn’t understand. I said, “What Srila Prabhupada?” He uttered it again and still I couldn’t understand what he said. Finally the third time, his servant said, “Use your right hand!” Because I’m left handed, I was putting on the sandalwood with the wrong hand according to Vedic etiquette. That was an instructional tidbit from Srila Prabhupada.

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