Devamrita Swami Remembers Srila Prabhupada

Following Srila Prabhupada

Interview DVD 04

Devamrita Swami: I had just graduated from Yale University. I had been living in the temple for three weeks but I was always afraid that my ex-fiancée, who I had just ended the engagement a few weeks ago by slipping away to live in the temple…I was always afraid she’d come to the temple and drag me out. So I prayed to Sri Sri Radha-Govinda, “Please, Krishna, get me out of this one and I promise You, never again.” A few weeks later Prabhupada came, and I was sitting in front of him as he gave a Sunday Feast lecture and Prabhupada began to roar with great transcendental strength that “If you are optimistic about material life you’re an animal. If you’re a human being, you must be pessimistic.” While he was roaring like that, I felt this tap on my shoulder and I looked – there she was right behind me. So all this was going on right in front of Prabhupada. So I looked at her, and Prabhupada continued to roar. I didn’t bat an eye, and I just turned right back and looked at Prabhupada. I could see out of the corner of my eye that she was about to burst out crying in the middle of the temple room like, “What’s going on here? Here’s my dearly beloved, and now he doesn’t even blink an eye at me. He’s just totally absorbed in this person.” So she left, and Prabhupada went on to explain with less fire, “Material life, yes, everything is pessimistic. But in Krishna consciousness, everything is optimistic.” So after that, I remember the kirtan we had for the Deities and I remember dancing in ecstasy, thanking Krishna, “I’m free! I’m free! Prabhupada did it! I’m free! I’m free!”

Interview DVD 07

Devamrita Swami: In Atlanta, Prabhupada began his lectures not by singing Jaya Radha-Madhava but by singing parama koruna, pahu dui jana, nitai gauracandra in a very slow, moving melody. The temple was not large so it provided an intimate setting, and there Prabhupada gave one particular lecture which I’ll always remember. The lecture only lasted three minutes. I was sitting right in front of him, and he began to explain how Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda are so merciful: “They are giving Krishna although no one knows who is Krishna.” And he urged, “Take shelter of Lord Caitanya.” As he was speaking like that, his voice full of wonder and devotion, just two minutes into the lecture his voice began to crack. And as I sat in front of him, I saw the tears shoot from his eyes like coming from a syringe. Then Prabhupada stopped speaking and without another word climbed off the vyasasana and left, and devotees who were with him when he went to his quarters said he didn’t speak at all about what had happened.

Interview DVD 09

Devamrita Swami: Nowadays a lot of devotees like to speak of Prabhupada as being very soft and compassionate. There’s no doubt about that. But his compassion often would manifest in the most determined, focused way. He was the personification of the expression “strictly business.” He had a mission to do, and he left no doubts that he had a mission to do. And he expected his followers to be his assistants in his mission, and he would thank them for that, for helping him to please his spiritual master. “If you simply print and distribute my books in every language of the world all over the world, automatically Krishna consciousness will spread.” That was spoken in Los Angeles. I never forgot that. It was like the master stroke for ending all kinds of speculation. Prabhupada just laid it on the line. It was not that the ISKCON leaders were fanatical. It’s just that Prabhupada laid it on the line, and this is what he said. What could we do except try to fulfill his desire the way he said it would be fulfilled. That was our only value. Back then devotees knew our only value is to just try to fulfill Prabhupada’s desire the way he wants it fulfilled.

Interview DVD 10

Devamrita Swami: This was in the middle of the inconceivable marathon. So Ramesvara had arranged that the BBT staff were on a special bus that arrives right before the Rathayatra and takes off right after. I remember I would look at Prabhupada and kept staring at him and praying, “How can I be of some service to you?” because I was feeling that I was just useless and missing out on all the nectar and not having anything to do for Lord Chaitanya’s mission. Here I was working on the book marathon, but still those were my sentiments. I was lost in the crowd and just looking up at Prabhupada and praying like that very emphatically from my heart. And I’ll never forget all of a sudden, amidst hundreds upon hundreds of devotees, Prabhupada suddenly looked in my direction and looked straight at me and I was so shocked. He looked straight at me and fixed his eyes straight on me, I had no doubt what was going on. And I was just stunned, “He actually hears, he actually knows what’s going on in my heart.”

The other thing that I remember is upon arrival at the festival site, Radhaballabha, who was in charge of the production at that point, brought Prabhupada a stack of books which had just been printed because this was during the inconceivable marathon so some books had already started to come out. Prabhupada took those books, and I’ll never forget what I saw. He was on the stage seated on his vyasasana and I was down below seated on the grass, and I saw Prabhupada just light up like the moon in the sky upon getting those books in his hand. I’ll never forget that. Then I remember him lecturing and I remember him saying, “I have given this example so many times. You water the tree at the root, all the branches blossom. You put the food in the mouth, the whole body is energized.” I remember at that moment I finally caught it. It finally dawned on me the utter simplicity yet profundity of Krishna consciousness and bhakti-yoga: simply by satisfying Krishna, all purposes are fulfilled.

Prabhupada was starting off speaking about one subject, and then a hippie interrupted him, “I want sex!” And Prabhupada changed the whole subject of the lecture and began to explain in detail the grihastha regulative principles for having children. It was quite astonishing, telling the hippie, “You can have, but this is the way you have it.” Then after he spoke, there was this wonderful kirtan.