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.