Bhakta das Remembers Srila Prabhupada

Prabhupada Memories

Interview 01

Bhakta: When Prabhupada arrived, I picked him up at the airport and drove him to the temple. We had painted the Hare Krishna mantra on the risers of the steps going up into the temple. But Prabhupada didn’t want to walk over the mantra. So he mildly rebuked me. He said, “Krishna and His name are non-different. We never step over Krishna.” I immediately had the devotees repaint the steps. He wasn’t angry because he knew that we had done it out of enthusiasm. But it was a practical lesson on how to respect the Holy Name. Krishna’s name, whether it’s printed or spoken, is non-different from the Lord. When inside the temple in San Diego, I took him on a tour of the entire temple. It was a large house about a hundred years old that the devotees had worked hard for two weeks in preparation for Prabhupada’s arrival. We painted every inch of the temple and there wasn’t a speck of dust, even on top of a beam. It was just absolutely immaculate. First, of course, he went in the temple room and took darshan. Prabhupada then went into the kitchen, the bhoga room, the prasadam room, the brahmacarini room, the brahmacari room, my office, and in each room he touched the ledges and looked at his finger to see if there was any dust. The last room he went in was the sankirtan room where his books were stored. All the books were in absolutely perfect order and immaculate. When Prabhupada saw that, he grabbed me and he hugged me in his arms and said, “Thank you very much.” And I just fell down at his feet crying, “Prabhupada, thank you very much.” [choking up] As you can imagine, that was the perfection of my life—that Prabhupada would be happy and give me his smile just one time.

I was there in Los Angeles when the “Govindam” prayers were played for the first time in the history of ISKCON. As Prabhupada entered the temple room, Visnujana turned on the “Govindam” tape. After Prabhupada offered his obeisances to the Deities and sat on his vyasasan, he was feeling such ecstasy that tears were shooting from his eyes. Those of us who were sitting at the bottom of the vyasasan were getting showered by Prabhupada’s tears, literally showered. You could feel his tears that were shooting out from love.

Once we had settled in Los Angeles, Prabhupada started giving classes every day. One morning, after the class was over, all the devotees had offered their obeisances and we were just rising to leave the temple. Suddenly His Divine Grace took his microphone and out of nowhere he said, “Either you love Krishna or you love the vagina.” If you ever want to feel the air go out of a balloon, you should have been in that room at that moment. You could have heard a needle drop from the middle of outer space. Everyone was breathless. I couldn’t even breathe as I was choking out of shock. It was so shocking that I am sure everyone took it the same way I did. I knew he was talking right into my heart. He was telling us the naked truth about why we were here in the material world. That was the reality. We are thinking we are devotees and we love Krishna, but actually we love something else. It was a hard truth to swallow and I’ll never ever forget that moment. I’ll probably remember it for the next thousand lifetimes.

In San Francisco in 1974, the Ratha-yatra wheels for the chariots of Lord Balaram and Lord Jagannatha had become aged and they were falling apart. They were made of heavy, solid wood, more like the ones in Puri. Jayananda thought they were dangerous for the crowd and he wanted to make new wheels, so he got rid of the old wheels. I wrote to Prabhupada and I said, “We’re making new wheels for the chariot.” Prabhupada wrote back to me and said, “Don’t change the old way. The old way is fine. This is your American disease. You always want to change everything.” But it was too late. We had already disposed of the old wheels and we were in the middle of making the new ones. Jayananda had recruited a Mexican man, who was a welder, to make metal framed wheels with metal spokes. He was a nice man and he agreed to do the work, but on the condition he would receive a six-pack of beer every night. [laughs] So I had to give Jayananda money to buy his beer. Once he finished the job we test drove the chariots and there was no problem. They worked beautifully. The 1975 Ratha-yatra day finally arrived, and we had the new wheels on Lord Jagannatha’s chariot and Lord Balaram’s chariot. Of course, Srila Prabhupada was sitting on Lady Subhadra’s chariot, which had the old wheels. When the Ratha-yatra started with all the weight of the devotees riding on the chariots, within the first hundred meters, the wheels collapsed. And instead of being a round wheel, it became an octagon. Both Balaram and Jagannatha were bouncing on an octagon. The first thing that came in my mind was that letter from Prabhupada, “It will never work.” I realized the absolute nature of Prabhupada’s words. It was like Krishna was saying, “What Prabhupada says, goes.”

Formerly what’s now the Los Angeles temple was a church. The main room was where the parishioners would sit in pews to attend the services. There was also a stage, a pulpit for the minister to give his Sunday lessons, an organ and big stained glass windows. Prabhupada loved that room. He loved that guests could come and sit like ladies and gentlemen and not have to sit on the floor. He liked the organ, he liked the stage, he liked the pulpit, and he didn’t want it changed. But because the temple was growing with more devotees and the temple room was becoming packed, Jayatirtha prabhu and Nara Narayana prabhu wanted to expand the temple room. But Prabhupada told them, “Don’t change this old room.” But somehow they had gone ahead and done it although Prabhupada had told them not to make changes. They’d taken out the stained glass windows, removed the organ, removed the pews, and made what’s now the Los Angeles temple room. I was with Srila Prabhupada and Jayatirtha the first time Jayatirtha presented their renovation, and when we walked into the temple room, Prabhupada became like an atomic bomb in anger. I have never seen such anger in my whole life. He told to Jayatirtha, “I ordered you not to do this. Deliberately you have disobeyed me. You think you know more than your spiritual master.” His lips were dark purple, his face was red and pulsating, and he was trembling because he was so angry. I was frightened and glad it wasn’t me who redesigned the temple room.

Once I wrote Prabhupada and said, “Prabhupada, I have so much money. What should I do with it all?” Prabhupada wrote back, “If you have extra money, send it to my Mayapur Vrindavan Trust” and he gave me the account number. When I was going to get married and planning on having children, I didn’t know about circumcision. I asked him, “If I have a son, should he be circumcised?” He wrote back, “As far as circumcision is concerned, it’s not important.” I think that’s an important point. Prabhupada also gave us practical knowledge. Probably the last question I asked Prabhupada was in 1975 when I was driving him to the San Francisco airport. We had recently moved the New Jagannatha Puri temple from San Francisco to Berkeley, and at that time Lord Jagannatha was on the right side of the altar, Radha-Gokulananda were in the middle, and Gaura-Nitai were on the left altar. All the devotees wanted Lord Jagannatha to be in the center altar, but everyone was afraid to ask Srila Prabhupada if we could move the Deities. I asked Satsvarupa, I asked Brahmananda, I asked Jayatirtha, and everybody was afraid to ask Prabhupada. So as I was driving across the Bay Bridge, I asked Srila Prabhupada, “Your Divine Grace, Berkeley is New Jagannatha Puri. It is the home of Lord Jagannatha, and the devotees here would like to see Lord Jagannatha on the center altar instead of Radha-Gokulananda.” Prabhupada said, “Yes, why not?” [laughs] So the next day we moved the Deities. It was so simple and so easy, but everyone had been afraid to ask.

I think what stands out to me is Prabhupada’s quality of gratefulness in that he was grateful for everyone’s service. We are so small, we are so tiny, and we are so insignificant. We are not even like a tiny light bulb against the sun. Yet Prabhupada was so grateful because we tried to serve him. We gave what little we could and he was so grateful. He was so kind and appreciative of it and so encouraging. For me, even now, that’s what stands out. Here, every day my wife and I bathe the Deities, decorate the Deities, and offer prasadam and offer arati. A couple of weeks ago I was just looking at Prabhupada while offering arati, and I was feeling that loving gratitude that he hasn’t forgotten me. No, he hasn’t forgotten. Although I have no good qualities, still he is grateful.

To view the entire unedited video go to Memories 79 - 15 Devotees Share

Interview 02

Bhaktadas: After we had purchased the temple on Watseka, I was transferred from Laguna to Los Angeles. My first service was with Bhavananda, painting, hammering, and sanding to prepare Srila Prabhupada’s quarters. When Prabhupada moved into his apartment the work crew was there to greet him. He sat behind his desk, pulled out a bag of cookies, and handed one to each of us. We ate the cookies, and he said, “Now wash your hands and feet. You must always do this after eating.” Shortly after that, there was an incident that I remember fondly. The Sunday feast was still at La Cienega Boulevard temple, but after the feast I went back to Watseka to paint the ceiling of the temple room. I was on a scaffold singing the Hare Krishna mantra quite loudly. I thought I was the only one in the temple and wasn’t paying much attention to anything else, just chanting and painting. I glanced down, and Srila Prabhupada was standing on the floor along with the temple president, Gargamuni, Karandhar, and perhaps Brahmananda. I was stunned. I scampered down the scaffold and offered my obeisances to Srila Prabhupada. Then I knelt on the floor in front of him with my hands folded. He looked at me, folded his hands and said, “Thank you very much.” Afterwards the devotees told me that when they drove up they could hear me singing. Srila Prabhupada asked them to be quiet, and they listened to my chanting as they walked into the temple. Srila Prabhupada appreciated the loud chanting.

In those days he would lecture on Monday evenings at the La Cienega temple. All the devotees would line the sidewalks waiting for him to arrive. When he drove up we all bowed down, and Srila Prabhupada walked down the line of devotees, sometimes patting a devotee on the head. We were always trying to understand whether or not he was accepting our service. If he patted you, you felt that, “I’m not worthy. He’s just giving me some encouragement.” And if he didn’t, you felt the same thing. After we’d moved into the new temple on Watseka Avenue, Srila Prabhupada gave Sri Isopanisad classes every day. One day after class he asked, “Is everyone chanting sixteen rounds?” I raised my hand and said, “Srila Prabhupada, I’m not chanting sixteen rounds.” Srila Prabhupada said, “Why aren’t you chanting sixteen rounds?” I said, “Srila Prabhupada, I am working twenty hours a day. The temple president doesn’t give me sufficient time to chant.” He said, “Then sleep two hours. Chant sixteen rounds.” In other words, Srila Prabhupada strongly told me, “Don’t diminish your work for the chanting. Diminish your sleep.” I took it seriously and would spend late nights standing in the hot water closet trying to finish my rounds. Later I found out that hardly anyone chanted sixteen rounds, because the leaders thought that work was more important than chanting.

I distinctly remember my initiation, because it was something you dream of and pray for and wait for innumerable lifetimes. But in particular, I remember when Prabhupada said, “Bill Prabhu come forward. Your name is Bhaktadas,” He handed me my beads and said, “This name means that you are the servant of the devotees. The more you think of yourself as a servant, the more you will advance in spiritual life. The more you think you’re becoming a master, the faster you will go to hell.” In that one sentence he summarized the essence of the Krishna consciousness philosophy. Over the years I meditate on those words over and over and over again. I’ve attempted to serve the devotees in whatever way I can, and I’ve found that it is, without any doubt, the mercy of the devotees that helps one to advance in spiritual life. Our philosophy is that by the mercy of Krishna one gets a bona fide guru. And by the mercy of the devotees, one gets Krishna. In the neophyte stage, the kanistha level, we worship the Deity and neglect the devotees. Or we give the respect to the “big” devotees, swamis, and gurus, but we neglect the ordinary devotees. I know I’m guilty of every variety of offense, but I keep hearing Srila Prabhupada’s words again and again echoing in my mind, “Become the servant of the devotees.” I finally concluded that the highest service is to serve the newest devotee, the youngest devotee, because he’s taking the bold step to try to leave the material world. If you help him, then you’re really helping the Krishna consciousness movement. The people who are already mature in devotional service don’t need so much help.

When I became temple president in San Diego, I started writing to Srila Prabhupada once a month to give him a report on the temple activities. My first letter was in January of 1971. I was so nervous I agonized over every word, every comma, wanting to try and make it perfect. It probably took me weeks to write that letter. Srila Prabhupada wrote back, “It appears Krishna has blessed you. Now make sure all of our principles are followed, and then there will never be any scarcity.” I found that to be an invaluable instruction, and I still try to live by that. We should have faith that Krishna will maintain and protect us if we are obedient to our spiritual master.

I was determined to remain a brahmachari. I felt that Krishna had protected me because I never had a girlfriend before I joined the movement, and I thought I could continue. But some of our senior men in Los Angeles told me that I should marry, and this destroyed my mental equilibrium. I started thinking about marriage, and I asked Prabhupada, “Should I get married?” He said, “It is better if you can remain a brahmachari.” But he didn’t say “no” or “yes.” It wasn’t specific. After this visit to San Diego in 1972, there was some talk that I should take sannyas. I searched my heart and concluded that every time a pretty girl walked in the temple my mind would be attracted to her. I said, “I don’t want to take sannyas now. When I take sannyas, I want to be free of this.” So I got married instead. Over the years I’ve come to appreciate the mercy of the grihastha ashram. Krishna’s so kind to allow us that. Think of the poor Mayavadis who must take sannyas even though their hearts are full of desires.

In the middle of 1972 there was no plainclothes sankirtan. Everything was straight saris, dhotis, tilak, and “Here, we’re from Hare Krishna, please read a book about Krishna.” Around that time Srila Prabhupada wrote me a letter saying, “Make sure that you sell books by preaching, not by cheating.” I was taken aback by this. I said, “What does he mean? He’s written ‘cheating.’ What are we doing?” I wrote and asked, “Srila Prabhupada you mentioned, ‘Sell books by preaching, not by cheating.’ What do you mean?” He replied that if you act with the consciousness that Krishna is the Supreme Proprietor, the only Enjoyer, and the dear most Friend of all living beings, then you are not cheating. But if you act in any other consciousness, you are cheating. He didn’t specifically say that we were lying on sankirtan to collect money and distribute books. But my understanding was that as Supersoul, Krishna is within us and within all others, and when we’re on sankirtan we should be trying to please Him.

Once I had the idea to try and sell the books through bookstores. I invested some laksmi in radio advertising, produced a radio ad for the Krishna Book, and placed Krishna Books in all the bookstores in San Diego County. I wrote to Srila Prabhupada about that and he wrote back, “This is very nice. Please let me know if it is successful. If it is, we’re prepared to spend millions and millions of dollars to advertise our books.” Of course, I didn’t have enough finances to do it the way it should have been done. But it was effective inasmuch as the books were displayed in all the stores. Some of them sold, but not enough to justify the amount that we’d spent. But I think Srila Prabhupada liked the attempt to do something boldly. When Srila Prabhupada was asked, “What is humility?” he said, “Humility is to act boldly for Krishna.” We may think that humility is to be meek, quiet, or submissive. But no, Prabhupada said, “Be bold for Krishna.”

Once Srila Prabhupada lectured in a lecture hall at a Catholic school at the University of San Diego. Most of the persons who attended were priests, nuns, bishops, perhaps a cardinal, and Catholic lay preachers of Southern California. There was a big crowd, and my father also came. We put Srila Prabhupada’s vyasasana on top of a desk, and he climbed up a chair, onto the desk and onto his vyasasana. He began his lecture by quoting a Sanskrit sloka that I have never been able to find. Then he said, “This means you are what you eat. In this age, most people are eating hogs.” I will never forget that. I was sitting on the floor at his feet, and my jaw dropped. I thought, “Prabhupada how can you say this?” I couldn’t believe he would speak like this to this particular audience. I could understand if he was calling the hippies, the drug addicts, hogs, but here he was saying the same thing to this highly, so-called cultured, religious, scholarly audience. I was dumbfounded. I looked at the faces of the other devotees, and they were dumbfounded too. If I had been speaking to this audience, it was the last thing I would have said. But Srila Prabhupada, having no false ego, could say anything and get away with it. If I had said that same thing they probably would have stoned me. I don’t remember the rest of the lecture, and I’ve looked for it over and over again and never been able to find it. On another occasion during the same visit, Srila Prabhupada went to the home of Dr. Duvari, an Indian gentleman. We ate there (I don’t know if it was prasadam), and then Srila Prabhupada and Dr. Duvari had a philosophical discussion. Dr. Duvari presented every variety of Western atheistic philosophy, and Srila Prabhupada countered him. The conversation began at 7:30 or 8:00 in the evening, and it went on and on and on. At about 11:30 it was still going on. Three or four of us were sitting there silently watching Srila Prabhupada and listening. Srila Prabhupada became exasperated with this man and said, “You’re a fool. I have never met such a complete fool such as you before.” Finally Dr. Duvari put his head on Srila Prabhupada’s feet and submitted. Since then his entire family have become Vaishnavas, and they’re still the biggest supporters of the San Diego temple.

During the preparations for the Berkeley Ratha-yatra in 1970, devotees were cutting fruit for a huge fruit salad. We didn’t get much sleep, maybe an hour or an hour and a half. We had a small morning program, and, one morning when we were sitting in the temple room reciting the Guruvastaka prayers in English, Srila Prabhupada suddenly came in. We had no idea that he was coming. It was spontaneous. He sat down on his vyasasana and said, “Continue doing what you’re doing.” We continued, “The spiritual master is very satisfied when he sees the devotees eating bhagavat prasada.” Srila Prabhupada said, “Yes! This is the best part!” (Laughs) We responded, “Jaya, Prabhupada!”

In 1972 there was a devotee named Devarishi in San Francisco who had become famous as an expert Back to Godhead magazine distributor. But he had had a fall down of some sort, and the temple president in San Francisco had kicked him out. This temple president called me and said, “Don’t let Devarishi in, he had a fall down.” Then Devarishi showed up at the San Diego temple. I had a hard time keeping anyone out. Srila Prabhupada was there, and Devarishi was sitting on the front lawn wanting to come in. I said, “Why don’t you come in and see Srila Prabhupada?” He came in and explained to Srila Prabhupada what had happened and how he wasn’t welcome in the temples anymore. Prabhupada said, “You come and travel with me.” This is an example of Prabhupada’s compassion. Nobody wanted Devarishi, but Prabhupada said, “Come and travel with me. I want you.” Prabhupada didn’t reject anyone.

On July 1, 1970, we had organized a festival in the Starlight Opera Theater at Balboa Park. We tried to advertise and promote it, and although we had a reasonable crowd, not a lot of people came. Sitting on the stage on his vyasasana, Srila Prabhupada had begun lecturing about Lord Chaitanya, when some drunk hippie in the audience started screaming, “We want sex! We love sex! Sex, sex, we want sex!” Srila Prabhupada leaned over and asked, “What is he saying?” I said, “Srila Prabhupada, he says he wants sex.” Srila Prabhupada stopped his lecture and spoke about the real purpose of sex. That was quite amazing. That lecture is in the archives and you can read it.

Mr. Joshi was a retired Punjabi magistrate who lived in the Berkeley area across the San Francisco Bay. Every time Srila Prabhupada came to San Francisco he would go to Mr. Joshi’s for lunch. Mr. Joshi would greet him with a garland of one-dollar bills. We’d all criticize Mr. Joshi, “Why aren’t you giving one hundred-dollar bills?” (Laughs) Mr. Joshi would wash Prabhupada’s feet, he would wash all the devotee’s feet, and he’d have us sit down. On this particular occasion, I was wiped out because I had been working hard for Ratha-yatra for a number of weeks. I was sitting down for prasadam feeling horrible, but I hadn’t said anything to anyone. I was determined to grit it out. Srila Prabhupada looked at me and said, “Bhaktadas, you’re not feeling well?” I said, “Srila Prabhupada, I’m a little sick.” He said, “Go and take rest. You have worked hard, now take rest.” I said, “Yes, Srila Prabhupada,” paid my obeisances, walked into a back bedroom, laid down and passed out. After some time, I heard some noise and looked up to see Srila Prabhupada coming in. I jumped out of the bed and fell down at his feet in dandavats. I started to walk out of the room, when Prabhupada said to me, “Take rest! You’ve worked hard, take rest!” I said, “Yes, Srila Prabhupada,” and got back into bed. There were two twin beds right next to each other. I was in the one on the right, and Mr. Joshi came and pulled back the covers of the other one. Srila Prabhupada crawled in, and Mr. Joshi tucked him in as if he were a child. It was very sweet. The two beds were only a foot and a half apart. Prabhupada’s head and my head were quite close while we napped. Of course, for me it wasn’t an ordinary nap. It was a Goloka nap, a yoga nidra nap. It was very extraordinary. It showed how Srila Prabhupada was compassionate, sensitive and caring. He didn’t have an air that, “Hey, I’m the guru and you’re a nobody and you get out, I’m taking the bed.” He was equal to everyone. Of course, he was as good as God to me. But his kindness was overwhelming. Every time Srila Prabhupada saw me, the first thing he would say was, “Bhaktadas, are you happy?” He was always concerned. I was always happy when I was with Srila Prabhupada. Sometimes, before I went to see him I was angry, but when I saw him, everything disappeared. All problems evaporated. There weren’t any problems in his presence.

Most of the devotees in San Francisco had never seen Srila Prabhupada and wanted to have his darshan. They had worked hard, so I gathered most of them and brought them to Srila Prabhupada’s room. I wanted to bring Jayananda, but Jayananda kept saying, “I’m too busy, I don’t have time. I have to work.” I grabbed him: “You’re coming. You’re going to go see your spiritual master.” Prabhupada was staying in Keshava Bharati’s apartment. We went in and paid our obeisances. Jayananda sat down against the far back wall and instantly fell asleep. He didn’t say a word to Srila Prabhupada, and Prabhupada didn’t say a word to him. We had darshan for thirty or forty minutes, and when it was time to go I said, “Jayananda, it’s time to go.” He said, “Okay,” paid his obeisances, and walked out. It was obvious that the relationship between Srila Prabhupada and Jayananda extended far beyond the range of the voice or body. It wasn’t at all dependent upon bodily conditions.

At the end of a Christmas Marathon in 1973 or ’74, Rameshvara sent Prabhupada enormous book distribution scores. Srila Prabhupada wrote back, “Congratulations on selling so many books. This is very nice, and I’m very pleased.” But in the final sentence, he wrote, “The highest realization is to save your self.” That sentence was like a sledgehammer in my heart, because most of us were thinking, “We’re saved, and we’re saving others.” But here he was telling us that the highest thing is to save ourselves. I felt that we had become like Christians, thinking “I’m saved by the blood of Jesus, and these people are all heathens. We’re going to save them.” I felt that we’d become puffed up and intoxicated by ourselves. The words in that letter always stayed with me.

To view the entire unedited video go to Memories 12 - Radhanatha Swami, Bhakta, Uttamasloka

The full Prabhupada Memories Series can be viewed here and also at

Following Srila Prabhupada

Interview DVD 07

Bhakta das: The Rathayatra seemed like it had gone downhill because my first Rathayatra was 1970, which was the first one with three huge chariots and that was a huge festival. Then ’71 became smaller, and ’72 it was smaller, and ’73 it was still smaller and Srila Prabhupada hadn’t come. Then in April of 1974, I was sent to San Francisco to serve as the temple president. At that time, Madhudvisa had come to get a new visa for Australia and, of course, Jayananda was in San Francisco. Madhudvisa was very encouraging to expand the Rathayatra, turn it into a wonderful festival with a fair-like atmosphere and a real chance to broaden the preaching of Krishna consciousness. So he was a big inspiration. Of course, Jayananda was there and was very eager to do the practical work. Due to those two people’s inspiration, we started trying to visualize how Rathayatra could be expanded and improved and how we could get Srila Prabhupada to come back again. So we got the idea to make not just the parade but to have a fair at the end of the parade where we’d exhibit all aspects of Krishna consciousness from Deity worship and prasadam and books and also try to turn the festival into something that was economically viable, not just a huge expenditure, and try to find ways to promote the Rathayatra to the public in new ways. I hired a professional public relations firm, a man named Reid Turner, and I think we paid $2,000 to him to help promote and publicize the Rathayatra. Maybe that was the best thing I ever did because the amount of publicity this man got for free through Public Service Radio and donations of billboards and donations of space on all the trains and buses, it was just phenomenal. As a result, that year a huge amount of people came to the festival. Of course, Srila Prabhupada came. He wasn’t in the United States hardly at all in those years, just coming once a year for a few weeks touring. So most of the disciples hardly got to see him. So I’ll never forget in ’74 roughly a thousand disciples came from all over the United States to greet Srila Prabhupada. I remember on the morning of the Rathayatra it was cold and it was damp and it was foggy, and we got out to the Golden Gate Park and it was nobody there. My heart was pounding and my head was spinning. I’m thinking, “Lord, we’ve spent all this money, this huge effort to make this a nice festival, and now You’re giving us this miserable weather.” I remember Srila Prabhupada arriving. When he got on the chariot…he sat on Subhadra’s chariot…and when he touched the vyasasana, that moment the sun burst out and all the fog was gone. And all of a sudden thousands of people, it’s like they came out of the trees and the bushes, and this ecstatic kirtan started. It was so miraculous. It was like an effulgence came off of him that dissipated the darkness.

Interview DVD 10

Bhakta das: Jayananda had said these wheels of the chariots are all wearing out and they’re dangerous, they’re too big and they’re too heavy, and we need to replace them. He wanted to make steel wheels with the spokes. So he had this welder making new wheels, and the night before the Rathayatra we went and put new wheels on Jagannatha’s chariot and Balarama’s chariot, not on Subhadra’s chariot. Her chariot was relatively easy to navigate compared to the other two. So we pulled the chariots, testing the new wheels, and there was no problem. The next morning, of course, the parade starts, and as soon as we started pulling the chariots these new wheels collapsed. Instead of being round, they became octagons. Between each spoke, the steel collapsed. So the chariots were bouncing, and I was horrified because the vibration was so intense. Fortunately, Srila Prabhupada was on Subhadra’s cart. But what was remarkable is that I had written Srila Prabhupada and told him that we were making new wheels, and he had written me back and said, “The old wheels are fine. Don’t change anything. This is your American disease.” But by the time we’d gotten the letter, the old wheels had already been thrown away and the new wheels were done. So Jayananda reassured me, he said, “No, no, there is no problem.” But then it was like Prabhupada’s words had to be fulfilled. So as soon as that parade started, the new wheels collapsed and I could hear Prabhupada’s voice say, “Stick with the old wheels.”

Srila Prabhupada went on a tour of the temple, and I walked with him. He, of course, went to the temple room first and offered his obeisances. I never forget, he walked in every room, he was inspecting everywhere, and the last room he went in was the sankirtan room where all of his books were stored. When he saw his books were being taken care of and respected, he was so pleased he grabbed me in his arms and he embraced me and he said, “Thank you very much, thank you very much.” And I fell at his feet offering dandavats and said, “Thank you, Srila Prabhupada.” That was the fulfillment of all desires, to see Srila Prabhupada smile at me.