Chris Murray Remembers Srila Prabhupada

Following Srila Prabhupada

Interview DVD 07

Chris: We know that when one goes to see the spiritual master, one should have an offering. So we found a wonderful old photograph of his Guru Maharaj and we put it in a frame, and Kim beautifully decorated it with pearls and gold paint. It was quite attractive. So he had entered the room and was sitting at the end of the room, and on either side were all the senior devotees and sannyasis. Prabhupada looked to his disciples and he said, “Where is my Guru Maharaj?” There was no photograph of his guru in the room. I didn’t realize that this was Bhaktisiddhanta’s Appearance Day. And at that very moment I walked up to him, approached him and handed him a picture of his Guru Maharaj. Prabhupada put his hands in a namaste pose and bowed his head a little to me in gratitude. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to be able to present something to Srila Prabhupada. He was always so gracious to me. He always treated me with such affection and respect. I was not qualified for anything, yet he always gave me everything.

Interview DVD 09

Chris: I’ll never forget Visnujana putting Radha Damodar into my van. I had a Volkswagen bus. Visnujana sort of reclined on the little bed type of thing I had there, and the murtis were placed carefully on the seat. And as I drove to the park, he was singing some beautiful song. I was in ecstasy, and I made sure I wasn’t driving too fast because I didn’t want to see Visnujana or anything else go flying. But I felt so fortunate. We arrived at the park, and they had a great kirtan group. It was one of the first what I would call kirtan bands at the time.

I was fortunate to film Srila Prabhupada at the airport arrival in Philadelphia. And I remember how thrilling that was because when he would walk through the airport and everybody chanting and dancing in ecstasy, it was an experience that’s hard to describe how satisfying it is to be in his association in public with so many devotees. I remember the officials from Philadelphia who were nervously dealing with this arrival of this VIP. They have greeted many VIPs at the Philadelphia airport in their day, but they never greeted a VIP who had such an entourage and with such sound. All the senses were engaged. It looked so great, it sounded great, it smelled great with the garlands. This police official who was there who was a high-up official was a little bewildered at first, but he was steady in his own way because he didn’t lose his cool. As I recall, later on he was very proud of the festival because he got swept up in the transcendental ecstasy of Lord Caitanya’s Sankirtan Movement.

When we left the airport lobby and came out to the street, there was a pause, I remember, waiting for the vehicles to come. And Prabhupada just stood there on the sidewalk, and he had such nobility. Prabhupada was the most noble person one would ever possibly meet in their life. And to see him standing there just waiting for the cars with all this activity going on around him, and he was such a steady, calm presence for all his disciples and everyone who approached him.

Chris Murray: When we finally arrived at the park in Philadelphia, I remember there was an immense crowd there and there was a great vista. It reminded me almost of Washington, D.C., in the mall and Martin Luther King when he gave his famous speech, “I have a dream.” So many devotees were there, but then there were so many people from the city of Philadelphia who just happened to be in the area and everybody stayed.

Interview DVD 11

Chris: The New York Rathayatra was really a momentous event. It was a great triumph, the one I filmed. I’m from New York City and I went to high school near the Plaza Hotel, where Rathayatra to this day still begins there. So the Upper East Side was where I grew up, and I knew the significance of the Rathayatra Festival going down Fifth Avenue. I really understood what that meant. And I reflected on how much it meant to Srila Prabhupada because he started in New York City, and New York City I knew meant a lot to Prabhupada because it’s the most important city in the world. And I think Prabhupada knew if he could establish himself in New York, then that was a good thing. For me, having the Rathayatra Festival go down Fifth Avenue with Srila Prabhupada in the chariots was one of the most triumphant moments in the history of ISKCON because New York is the Big Apple and in a way the whole world watches everything that was going on there. And sure enough, the next day in the New York Times on the front page was a picture of the Rathayatra chariot going down Fifth Avenue, and I was so proud because I knew Srila Prabhupada would see that. It described the Rathayatra procession with Prabhupada in very sober and positive terms.