Dayananda das Remembers Srila Prabhupada

Prabhupada Memories

Interview 01

Dayananda: At that time I was living with someone, and after we saw the wedding ceremony of Subal and Krishna devi, we decided that we wanted to join the community. I thought there must be some formality for joining, so I went to the devotees and said, “We would like to go and speak to Swamiji. What should we do?” They said, “Oh just go up, he is on the 5th floor.” I said, “But is there some formality? Should I make an application?” “No, no,” I was told. “Ranchor, Swamiji’s servant, will answer the door, and you tell him that you want see Swamiji.” I said, “That’s all I have to do?” He said, “Yeah. Go ahead.”

So we went up, and sure enough, Ranchor answered the door. We said, “We would like to see Swamiji.” He said, “Yes, come in.” I was shocked. I thought, “There must be more.” We walked in, and although we knew better, Prabhupada had to tell us, “Please take your shoes off.” We ran back to the door, took our shoes off, then came back and sat down. Prabhupada said, “Yes, you want something?” I said, “Swamiji, we would like to join your community and be married.” Prabhupada said, “First you have to be initiated.” I said, “Oh, yes, I want to be initiated.” I had an idea that this was the procedure. I had been attending the classes regularly, and he said, “You like our philosophy?” I said, “Yes!” He said, “Do you have a job?” Many people were coming who weren’t working, but I had a job, so I said, “Yes, Swamiji,” and I explained that I did electrical lineman work. I said, “I climb those electrical poles.” Prabhupada said, “Very good,” and he agreed to our proposal.

Some devotees say that the philosophy or the prasadam or this or that attracted them, but my decision to join Krishna consciousness was because I wanted to be part of Swamiji’s group. I wanted to be part of his Society, his family.

To view the entire unedited video go to Memories 15 - The 1996 NYC and LA Reunions

Interview 02

Dayananda: One time we were riding in the car. I was driving, Prabhupada was on the passenger side, and somebody else was in the back seat. Prabhupada said, “So, how old is Chandramukhi?” I said, “She’s two.” He said, “So you can send her to gurukula.” There was a gurukula in New Vrindavan at that time, but only Sila- vati’s kids and Dwarkadish were enrolled there. I said, “When she’s five, Prabhupada?” He said, “No, you can send her now.” I thought, “I’m not going to do it.” (Laughs)

Once I took Prabhupada to a park in Los Angeles when it was raining. I didn’t want Prabhupada to get wet while he walked, so I tried to put the umbrella over his head. Prabhupada said, “It doesn’t matter, I like the rain. It rains like this in Calcutta. This reminds me of Calcutta.” On a couple of occasions he said that Los Angeles somehow reminded him a little of Calcutta.

While on a walk in Dallas, Prabhupada was told that H. L. Hunt lived right across the river from where they were walking and that he was one of the richest men in the United States. Prabhupada said, “If you see him, what will you tell him?” Someone said, “We’ll tell him that we have a school here and we’re producing first class citizens.” That was in context with what Prabhupada was saying at the time. Prabhupada said, “No, tell him he’s a thief and that he’s stealing from Krishna.” I heard this story, and later, when I was Prabhupada’s secretary for a month in the beginning of 1976 in Mayapur, we were walking on the roof of the Mayapur building, when Jayapataka Swami came with a Life Member. He introduced the Life Member, an industrialist from Calcutta, to Prabhupada. This man was very respectful. Prabhupada said, “What is your business?” The man said, “I manu- facture glass. I have a glass factory.” Prabhupada said, “Oh, very good. How do you manufacture glass?” The man said, “Well, glass is made from silicon, which is in sand.” Prabhupada said, “Who owns the sand?” The man was pious and bright. He said, “Oh, Swamiji, Bhagavan owns the sand.” In other words, God owns the sand. Prabhupada said, “Oh, you are stealing from Bhagavan?” Prabhupada put this man on the spot, and the devotees laughed and the man laughed as well. Then he faded back a little bit, and the topic changed until he came back a few minutes later and said, “Prabhupada, I give in charity.” Prabhupada said, “Oh, you are just a little thief then.” Prabhupada wasn’t going to let him off the hook. I love to think about how Prabhupada called a big man a thief but did it in such a way that it was effective. It’s like precept and practice. Prabhupada was able to do it in such a skilled way that the man was laughing.

Tamal Krishna was in charge of a traveling sankirtan party, and he was a much more effective leader and manager than I was. I was the temple president of what had been a small Los Angeles temple but, with Tamal’s presence, it became a much larger entity, with many more brahmacharis and brahmacharinis. Besides being temple president, I was also working all day. So Tamal Krishna went to Prabhupada for clarification. He asked, “What’s my position, and what’s the position of Dayananda, the temple president?” Prabhu- pada answered, “Dayananda remains the temple president.” Then Prabhupada suggested we have elections, and he personally nominated some people for different posts. He nominated me for temple president, Tamal Krishna for secretary, Jayananda for vice president, and Silavati for head pujari—I don’t know if head pujari was an elected position. Prabhupada also nominated Virabhadra for temple commander. The devotees voted for everyone Prabhupada nominated, except that we didn’t want Virabhadra as the temple commander because he was only twelve years old. So we nominated and elected Vishnujana as the temple commander instead. Madhudvisa was the treasurer, nominated by Prabhupada and elected by us. When Tamal became the secretary, there was a question, “What does the secretary do?” Prabhupada said, “The secretary is the person who deals directly with the spiritual master.” It was a predefinition of the GBC secretary. Later on I realized that Prabhupada was incredibly skilled in the way he managed the whole situation. The temple was in a major transition, and yet I remained the president. I’ve thought about it a lot since then, and I’ve seen that sometimes a temple president is not very effective, and another guy comes in who’s much more effective. One idea is, “Let’s get rid of this old one and put in the new one.” But the way Prabhupada did it was so skillful—he created a new position and kept the temple president so that there was consistency in the management.

In Iran, Prabhupada was talking to Mrs. Patel, a wealthy, aristocratic, Indian woman from Gujarat. She and her husband were wonderful Vaishnavas and were supportive of and gave money to the movement in Iran. When she was talking with Prabhupada in his room, a young British or American hippie type came in and sat for a while. The guy finally said, “Swamiji, what about doing good for other people? Can’t we just do good for other people?” Prabhupada looked at him and said, “What good can you do? You cannot even take care of yourself.” By this time, 1976, the movement had progressed to such an extent that Prabhupada could say it like it was to these young people. In the beginning, Prabhupada had to cultivate young, irresponsible hippie types, but in fact, what good can down-and-out people do for others? The only good that they can do for the world or for anyone, including themselves, is to take up Krishna consciousness.

Once a few of us were in Prabhupada’s garden when Nanda Kumar was his servant. After some time, Prabhupada wanted to go inside, and we walked with him behind the temple into his quarters. Downstairs from Prabhupada’s quarters there was a room with some cupboards, and some of the Krishna Book paintings were sticking out from one of the cupboards. Other paintings were on the floor, leaning against the wall. Prabhupada noticed that the Krishna Book paintings were not nicely protected and said, “Why are these here? What are these doing here?” Nanda Kumar said, “I don’t know Prabhupada. It’s not my responsibility.” Prabhupada shot back, “It is too your responsibility.” That was a clear indication that Prabhupada expected his disciples to take responsibility for things that they saw in his Movement.

For years Prabhupada treated me a little differently than the brahmacharis and sannyasis because I was a householder. He was not so strict but a little bit more lenient with me. But that changed when I came to Mayapur in 1976 to learn Sanskrit. I had already learned a little bit and was teaching Sanskrit in the gurukula, but I wanted to advance further. So an Indian devotee was teach- ing me to read a Sanskrit commentary on the Gita. I thought, “This is bona fide. It’s a commentary by Baladeva Vidyabhusana, which is in our line. Prabhupada bases his commentary on that commentary.” During a morning walk Prabhupada asked me what I was doing and I told him that I was reading Baladeva’s commentary and studying a Gita grammar. Prabhupada said, “We’ll talk about it in the evening.” At 4 o’clock that evening I came for Prabhupada’s darshan. Several people were there in the room, and Prabhupada was talking with somebody. Then the conversation stopped. He turned, looked at me, and said, “Why are you going over the head of the spiritual master?” He was very strong. At that time the few people who were into Sanskrit tended to deviate. One of them was into Goswami writing and lilas. Prabhupada wasn’t pleased with our direction, and he pulled me down to earth, saying, “Look, this is a deviation.” After that, I became Prabhupada’s secretary for a month, and he treated me strictly. I’d been temple president and I thought I’d achieved a certain level of responsibility, but when I made a couple of little mistakes he took me to task. So this was also his compassion. It shows relationship, it shows different kinds of treatment according to different people and circumstances. Prabhupada was incredibly flexible in the way he would train and relate to people.

In 1969 Gargamuni started the incense business and convinced me to quit my job and work in the incense business full time. I shaved up, and when Prabhupada saw me he said, “Oh, you have become brahmachari?” He was surprised that I shaved. Much later he mentioned to Jayatirtha that he didn’t think it was a good idea that I had quit my job. He thought I should have remained as a professional rather than going into the incense business. Once he told me a story about sticking to your guns. He said that in British India, there was an office with a couple of British overseers and a lot of clerks. One day these overseers announced that no one should wear tilak in the office. The next day only two men wore tilak. The British overseers called these two men in front of everyone and said, “Okay, these men are the real devotees, the real Vaishnavas. You others are all imitations.” Prabhupada told this story to illustrate that we have to stick to our guns.

At the end of 1970, Srila Prabhupada was considering going back to India. Rupanuga, Karandhar, some others, and I were sitting with Prabhupada in his garden in Los Angeles when he said, “Shall I go to India? I’m thinking to go to India and to take a group of devotees with me.” It turned out that he took quite a few devotees. Our Los Angeles temple was practically cut in half. We also gave him several thousand dollars to take with him. But we managed somehow. Karandhar and I were amazed. It was like a cell splitting in half and then growing again. It was incredible to experience that kind of growth. In the garden that day, we were all feeling a lot of pressure and changes. These things affected me particularly. On the other hand, Rupanuga always had a mature presence with Prabhupada and seemed able to communicate easily with him. When Prabhu- pada asked Rupanuga, “Should I go to India?” Rupanuga said that he was not much in favor of the idea. Another devotee, maybe Karandhar, supported Rupanuga. Then Prabhupada asked me, “Dayananda, what do you think I should do?” I had never given advice on such a monumental thing. This was completely beyond my realm, so I said something diplomatic. I said, “Prabhupada, I think you should do whatever is your desire.” Prabhupada shot back at me, “My desire is to spread this sankirtan movement all over the world.” His words entered my heart. How could I not be grounded in that idea? For me it was the right time and the right place to be influenced by Prabhupada in that way. It’s something that I think about regularly.

Vishnujana and the other devotees who did puppet shows were practicing one that depicted Narada Muni asking Krishna, “What’s maya?” Then all of a sudden Narada Muni is in the desert, gets married, has a family, and the family gets washed away in a flood. Narada Muni calls out, “Oh, Krishna, my family!” and then once again he’s back with Krishna. But this is not a bona fide story. The devotees were practicing this show in a parking lot outside of Prabhupada’s quarters, and Prabhupada saw them. He didn’t like it. He said, “What story is that? What story are they doing?” They told him, “You know Prabhupada, that one about Narada Muni falling into maya.” Prabhupada said, “Narada Muni doesn’t fall into maya.” Prabhupada checked it. He was always supervising to see that things were done in a bona fide way.

After the program we went to a separate room, the brahmachari room, and had a puppet show about Prahlad. Vishnujana had made the puppets. Behind the puppets’ screen, Silavati was Prahlad’s mother, while Vishnujana and one or two other devotees took other roles. At one point Hiranyakashipu was about to give Prahlad some poisoned food, and there was a plate of sweets on the puppet stage. Prahlad was offering these sweets to his spiritual master, when someone told one of the brahmacharis to bring the plate of sweets to Prabhupada. When Prabhupada received these sweets he said, “Oh, you’re trying to poison me?” It was so funny. Prabhupada made this joke, and everybody got a kick out of it.

When the realtor came, we toured that building, then we toured the other building, and we decided that we wanted the Watseka building. Prabhupada said to the minister, who was the representative of the church that owned the Watseka building, “You are serving God, and we are serving God. We’re both servants of God. We are just as poor as church mice, and so in some sense we can ask you to give the building to us for the service of God. How- ever, we won’t ask you that. But you give us your best price.” Prabhu- pada obviously wanted the building and was negotiating with the minister like anything, practically pushing him.

When we were in his garden in Los Angeles in 1970, Prabhupada started talking about Russia. He said that his first impression of the Russian men was how strong they were. They had picked up the luggage effortlessly. He was a little critical of such physical strength because after all, our intention is not to be muscle-bound, but to be spiritually inclined. Then he commented on the women. He said the women in Russia were also big, and he said that the gopis were tribhangalalita, meaning that the gopis had an attractive figure, unlike the Russian women. Those first impressions of Russia made it seem a little formidable at the time.

To the end, Prabhupada was a warrior. I was in Iran during Prabhupada’s disappearance lila, and one by one we all went to visit Prabhupada. When I got to Vrindavan, I immediately went to his room. I had a suit on, and some devotee said, “Go get changed,” but Jayadvaita said, “No, no, those are his preaching clothes. Let him come in.” I went in. Prabhupada was lying on his bed, and when I went next to him he asked me what I was doing. I said, “I’m still in Iran with Atreyarishi.” He said, “What are you doing with your money?” Fortunately I was giving fifty percent of my income to Atreya for the preaching project. I told him that, and he said, “Good.” He liked that. He put his hand on my head, and that was a very emotional time for me. Prabhupada was lying there in such an emaciated state, yet he put his hand on my head. I felt that my hair was impure, yet Prabhupada touched it. Then Prabhupada wanted to continue translating the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Pradyumna came in to read verses from the Bhagavatam, and Prabhupada gave his purports. I was always impressed by Prabhupada’s determination. In general, from his schedule and lifestyle, he was like a warrior, constantly preaching, leading kirtans, administrating his book distribution and book publishing, managing his movement and his personal spiritual life, sometimes chanting his rounds late at night. He was such a fighter, such a warrior, and he was so determined to accomplish his spiritual goals.

To view the entire unedited video go to Memories 14 - Prahladananda Swami, Balavanta, Suresvara, Dayananda

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

Following Srila Prabhupada

Interview DVD 01

Dayananda: Prabhupada had introduced something that all of the youth were really attracted to, and he was really something of a Pied Piper. You can see here how much everybody is participating. These are not just devotees, but all of the people here in the park were completely open to this – as a matter of fact, so much so that they considered the Hare Krishna to be the hippy religion at this point in 1967 in San Francisco. So many hippies were in love with Prabhupada and in love with the devotees and considered themselves very much a part of Hare Krishna.

Interview DVD 02

Dayananda: The exchange of flowers that started in Los Angeles after Prabhupada came back from his morning walk was just one of the sweetest and most memorable exchanges that I’ve ever had in my Krishna conscious career with Prabhupada. Prabhupada would go on the morning walk, and typically he would go to Venice but not always, Venice Beach. Then when he returned, prior to the greeting of the deities, the devotees would be prepared for him in two lines and all the children would be there. It was such a sweet time and everybody was so happy that it’s so obvious that the children also enjoyed the whole thing. The whole atmosphere was completely enjoyable and family-like, this wonderful, wonderful exchange of flowers with Prabhupada. This was going on outside the temple. We could have done it inside the temple or something, but it was just there being done as Prabhupada dismounted from the car and we were right there on the street and greeting Prabhupada right when he first arrived there.

Shortly after this exchange, everybody would follow Prabhupada into the temple and there was the greeting of the deities. Prior to this, at least in Los Angeles, I don’t think that there was really a formal greeting of the deities ceremony. So I believe this basically introduced the greeting of the deities ceremony as we know it today, at least it certainly did in Los Angeles. And then typically on many mornings, Shilavati would fill the deity room with frankincense, clouds of frankincense. Then when she opened the doors, the frankincense would often billow out into the temple and there would be this cloud of frankincense, which also to me was very mystical, and Prabhupada bowing down. Then afterwards he took caranamrita, and then he would proceed to his vyasasana. I remember Vishnujan leading us in the Samsara Prayers. One time Prabhupada, at the end of the singing of the Samsara Prayers, said very gravely, “samsara-davanala-lidha-loka,” he said the whole first verse and he said, “What is the meaning?” And everybody was stunned because…probably a few devotees knew, but after being quizzed like that from Prabhupada, nobody knew. Then one person recited the English meaning of the verse, but Prabhupada then said that we should all know what the meaning was.

Interview DVD 07

Dayananda: I specifically remember a meeting in which some of the teachers asked Prabhupada’s advice about teaching. At that time, I seem to remember there were two camps. One camp really wanted to be very loving to the students, they somehow wanted to control the students through affection or through love, and then another camp of teachers wanted to be very strict with the students. I remember very clearly that Prabhupada said that we needed to communicate affection to the students. I can’t remember the precise words that Prabhupada used, but I remember very clearly getting the message from Prabhupada that the teacher needs to have real affection for the student and he needs to be able to communicate that affection to the student. Otherwise how will the student take what the teacher is giving? There may certainly be discipline, but this real affection coming from the teacher to the student has to be there. The other thing that happened before I arrived there was that Prabhupada had visited a couple of years prior to this visit and he wrote a letter in which he said, “If the students are beaten or if the stick is used on the students, I will use the stick on the teacher.” So my understanding of that was always that the teachers should not consider themselves the highest authority and they shouldn’t misuse their position as teachers and they should always be mindful of the fact that they are answerable to a higher authority, and that whatever they administer to the students that they certainly will have to either enjoy or suffer themselves in the future. Also, what’s prominent in my mind is that Prabhupada always loved children. Before, during and after my gurukula experience, I always remember Prabhupada being very affectionate to children and to anyone who was in the dependent situation.

Interview DVD 10

Dayananda: I spent a month as Prabhupada’s servant prior to the ’76 Mayapur festival. I had been studying Sanskrit, so I knew quite a few verses. And one of my favorite verses, if not my favorite verse, is kecit kevalaya bhaktya vasudeva-parayanah, agham dhunvanti kartsnyena niharam iva bhaskarah, which means that for the unalloyed devotee, Krishna dispels the sins just like the sun dispels the fog. So we were walking on the roof of Mayapur and in the morning in Mayapur, for anybody who has visited Mayapur, they’ve probably seen the fog that hangs over all the rice paddies. Bengal is this wonderfully lush country and Mayapur is this flat, flat country where you can see for miles, but sometimes there is this fog that lingers over the top of the rice paddies and sometimes it can be incredibly beautiful. The sun is coming up so you can see the action of the sun clearing the fog, and it’s just incredible, the whole scenery. So one time Prabhupada was walking on his morning walk, and he stopped and he paused and looked out over this panorama and indicated with a sweep of his hand the sun. And then he said, “Kecit kevalaya bhaktya vasudeva-parayanah,” the first line from this verse indicating that Krishna is like the sun Who dispels the fog of our sins. It was an incredible, wonderful experience.