Dravinaksa das Remembers Srila Prabhupada

Prabhupada Memories

Interview 01

Dravanaksha: We were in a separate departure lounge, and Prabhupada asked Jagadish to read from the Bhagavatam. As Jagadish read, Prabhupada went to the back of the room and laid down on one of the benches, as if he was going to nap. Sometimes Jagadish’s voice could put a charging elephant to sleep. He read one purport and all of us were nodding off. Jagadish stopped and looked up. Prabhupada lifted his head and said, “I am listening.” Prabhupada wasn’t really sleeping. He was always aware.

There were some black-bodied devotees from the Cleveland temple who didn’t get along too well with the devotees in other temples or with their GBC. However, Prabhupada had approved of them having their own temple. One of the ladies from that temple asked Prabhupada to visit them, and Prabhupada said, “You can come and see me in New Vrindavan.” The lady said, “We don’t have a car, Srila Prabhupada.” Prabhupada said, “Arrange with your GBC, Jagadish, for some transportation.” I felt that Srila Prabhupada was trying to bring the whole family together. Those devotees were a little bit separate, and Prabhupada wanted the GBC to help them and he also wanted them to cooperate with the rest of the movement. It was a nice mood.

After the devotees had gotten the Fisher Mansion in Detroit, a gentleman who hung around the higher society of Detroit came to see Prabhupada. He told Prabhupada a bit of the history of the building and of the auto industry. I was sitting in the room, waiting for Prabhupada to preach to this gentleman, but he never did. Prabhupada was polite, listened, and spoke a few words here and there. After the interview, I realized how expert Prabhupada was. This gentleman wasn’t interested in and didn’t want to hear anything spiritual. But he liked to meet famous people and he was happy to meet Prabhupada. Prabhupada picked up on that and didn’t waste his time preaching.

There was a discussion about the Radha-Damodar kirtans that we were having on campuses and on the streets. At that time we had many instruments. We had a harmonium, an esaraj, which was like a violin, an ektar, and we had an instrument that had strings that we’d play with little hammers. Adi-Keshava said that the people were attracted to the party because of the instruments, but Prabhupada didn’t seem to take that very seriously. Prabhupada said that we should just use khols and kartals. Adi-Keshava said, “But Vishnujana said…” Prabhupada cut him off. Prabhupada said, “Who is Vishnujana? I am your spiritual master.” Prabhupada also said that we shouldn’t play the harmonium during the aratis. Previously, Baradraj and others played harmonium during the aratis, but after they heard that they stopped. Prabhupada didn’t want just expert musicians but rather he wanted devotees. So for a while, the Radha-Damodar party went back to mridanga and kartals in the public kirtans, and eventually added a couple of instruments here and there—I heard with Prabhupada’s permission, but I don’t know for sure.

There was a tall black fellow that the devotees had thrown out of the Detroit temple because he had bothered some of the ladies at the Sunday Feast. But anybody that wanted to, could come on our bus party, no matter how crazy they were. So we asked this guy to come with us and he agreed. He lived in a run-down apartment in a poor part of town, and he went and got some of his belongings, including an old guitar and some clothes. When he joined us we were following Srila Prabhupada’s summer tour, and we drove to Prabhupada’s next stop, Toronto. Prabhupada was staying in a house around the corner from the temple, and we parked one driveway up. When I was sitting in the bus driver’s seat, sometimes I could see Prabhupada coming from his house. Once I watched as an Indian-bodied devotee dove at Prabhupada’s feet and within the blink of an eye, Prabhupada put his cane out. The devotee’s head stopped at the cane and his hands missed Prabhupada’s feet. Later on, Prabhupada let that devotee touch his feet, but that time he stopped him. TAPE 47 As Prabhupada walked by the bus to go to the temple, he noticed that one of the bus bays had been pushed in. Some drunken driver had smashed into it about a week before, and we hadn’t fixed it. Prabhupada admonished us. He said, “You should get it fixed right away. The bus should always look first class.” He also told us that we should keep it very clean. From then on, I washed it almost every day. We had brass Gaur-Nitai Deities, and Lord Nityananda was particularly beautiful. Although all the Deities on the Radha-Damodar party were bought from the same place, They all looked different, and our Lord Nityananda was particularly beautiful. One morning as Prabhupada walked by, he stopped at the bus, stood on his tiptoes and looked in the window. Later he said, “I have seen your Lord Nityananda. He is very beautiful. Everyone on this bus is going back to Godhead.” But he didn’t say when we were going back to Godhead. Years later I was visiting the Detroit temple, which is now the Fisher Mansion, and the devotee who had been thrown out of the temple and later thrown off the bus party because he was so wild, was there in dhoti and kurta, looking first class. He was a temple guard and was doing a lot of service. The minute I saw him, I remembered Prabhupada saying that everyone on our bus was going back to Godhead.

To view the entire unedited video go to Memories 47 - Twenty Disciples Remembering SP

The full Prabhupada Memories Series can be viewed here and also at www.prabhupadamemories.com

Following Srila Prabhupada

Interview DVD 07

Dravinaksa: In order to help prepare for Prabhupada’s arrival, Govardhan, president of Detroit, and the brahmacaris went ahead to Chicago to help fix the temple up a little bit. We had a real crack cleaning crew for Detroit. Govardhan hated dirt. The Detroit temple was always spotless; it had white floors, white staircases. So we came there and I remember the doors flying open in the vans, floor machines coming out, and everybody got to work and scrubbed the place down, made it really clean. We built a little desk and a seat for Prabhupada. His desk was a sheet of plywood and some four by fours; I built it. They had a room for Prabhupada, a very simple room – just a bed, a chair, a desk. He lived very, very simply there.

Our little crew of armed guards drove in a car behind him. And on the way to the airport, Prabhupada’s car pulled off, he had to use the bathroom at a gas station, and there was a fruit stand near there. So we were all brahmacaris, we didn’t have any money, we begged some fruit. When we got to the airport, Prabhupada had a special lounge set aside. So Sudama was cutting up the fruit and giving some to Prabhupada and distributing it to the devotees. Then Kirtanananda Maharaj came and brought some sweets from New Vrindavan for Prabhupada. Prabhupada liked them very much. While we were waiting for the flight, Prabhupada laid down on one of the benches there to take a little nap, and Jagadisa was reading out loud from the Bhagavatam. Jagadisa had a particular voice which would cure insomnia in any situation, so everybody immediately fell asleep. Jagadisa stopped reading and looked up, and Prabhupada lifted his head up and said, “I am listening.” So he continued reading.