Lokanatha Swami Remembers Srila Prabhupada

Prabhupada Memories

Interview 01

Lokanath Swami: About fifteen of us went from Bombay to Mathura on a train and then to the Radha-Damodar temple by tonga. It was early morning when we entered Prabhupada’s small quarters. I was sitting in front of Prabhupada, and we were all listening as he spoke. Whenever I used to hear someone with attention, I had a tendency to shake my knees, and I was sitting in front of Prabhupada doing that. Prabhupada said, “Stop it.” That was my first personal meeting and his first instruction to me.

One morning we were walking on Juhu beach while birds were flying overhead in perfect formation. These birds would fly in a line or make a U-turn all together. So I asked Prabhupada, “How do these birds fly in a perfect formation? How do they communicate with each other?” And Prabhupada’s response was, “They are not less intelligent like you are.”

Prabhupada gave instructions about bullock carts in September of 1976, around Radhastami, when our Nitai-Gaura traveling sankirtan party had come to Delhi. At that time we had lost our big buses from Germany. These buses could only stay for so many months in India, and Hamsadutta also had to return to Germany for some business. So I was left in charge of the traveling party. When Prabhupada realized that we had no mode of transportation he called me to his quarters and said, “What about bullock carts? These big machines and vehicles always break down and require so much maintenance.” Maybe he knew that I had a simple village background and so came up with this new assignment of traveling from village to village in bullock carts.

We went to see Srila Prabhupada the day we started our bullock cart sankirtan from Vrindavan to Mayapur. We wanted him to give an inaugural speech and some further instructions. Since it was winter, he told us that we should all have two blankets. He also said our carts should have rubber tires, not wooden ones, and he said that when we go to the village we should park next to the well because “the well is the heart of the village. All the people of the village come to the well to get water. So you need not go to them. They will come to you if you are next to the well.” He said, “The well water will help you to be suci, to be clean.” Those were his instructions. He also explained how Mahatma Gandhi had failed. Mahatma Gandhi had tried to keep people in the villages by stressing village industry and being happy with whatever resources were available in a five-mile radius. He was good, Prabhupada said, but “…what was lacking was the spirituality which would satisfy the people’s souls and enable them to be happy with the bare minimum facilities.” He gave us a task. He said, “Go to the villages and try to increase their attraction for the holy names so that they have a higher taste. Then wherever they are, they will stay there.” These were some of his instructions the day we started.

One time, while we were on the way to Mayapur with his bullock cart sankirtan, I wrote to Prabhupada hinting that we needed financial help to maintain the program. Prabhupada responded by sending me a letter with big sankirtan scores showing how many books were being distributed. He said that this is how we maintain our institution, by book distribution, and that I also had to do this. He said that outside help was not healthy. If my program was to be appreciated by the public, their appreciation should be practical. They should help by assisting me. Otherwise it was just lip service. In this way he encouraged us to increase book distribution in our bullock cart sankirtan program.

I had been two-and-a-half years in the movement when I asked Prabhupada if I could take sannyas. He said, “Wait.” I waited for one year and again approached him. This was around the time that Prabhupada had asked Sridhar Swami, my colleague in Bombay, to go to Vrindavan for his sannyas initiation. When Prabhupada heard that I wanted to take sannyas, his first response was, “You are already a sannyasi.” When I was not satisfied, he started to explain the first verse of the sixth chapter of Bhagavad-gita: “One who is unattached to the fruits of his work and who works as he is obligated is in the renounced order of life, and he is the true mystic, not he who lights no fire and performs no duty.” Prabhupada explained how that verse defines sannyas. But I was not budging an inch. I was keeping some pressure on. He said, “So you want to undergo the formality of sannyas?” I said, “Yes, Prabhupada.” Prabhupada said, “You also go with Sridhar and meet me in Vrindavan.” This was in December of 1975. So Sridhar and I both jumped on the train. Prabhupada had gone with Ambarish, Hamsadutta, Gopal Krishna, and Harikesh Maharaj to Kuruksetra and when he returned he gave us sannyas in the courtyard of the Krishna-Balarama temple.

After the sannyas initiation ceremony for Sridhar Maharaj, Prithu Putra from France, and I went into Srila Prabhupada’s quarters to check two things: whether our names were going to change and whether we had new assignments. Prabhupada said, “Just add ‘Swami’ to your name,” and he did not change our assignments. Then he talked to us about “man mana bhava mad bhakto mad yaji mam namaskuru” (Bhagavad-gita 9.34). “Krishna is asking us to do four things: to remember Him, to worship Him, to offer Him our obeisances, and to become His devotee. If you just do these four things without duplicity, then your preaching will be effective, and people will take you very seriously.” That was his instruction in the personal meeting he gave us.

We were in Badarikashram in North India when we heard that Prabhupada, in Vrindavan, was getting sicker. So we rushed back to Vrindavan. Soon after our arrival there we were allowed to go into his quarters for darshan, and we spent quite some time with him. He was lying on the bed. For months he had been on the bed, but he was very enthused by our sankirtan reports. He inquired, “Which book is selling the most? What is your daily collection?” As we had just returned from Badarikashram, in a humorous way I said, “Srila Prabhupada, we presented your Bhagavad-gita As It Is to Srila Vyasadeva.” In Badarikashram there is a cave where Srila Vyasadeva still resides, and we had visited that cave. We did not see Vyasadeva but carried Bhagavad-gita with us, and we imagined that Srila Vyasadeva saw it. So I said, “We presented your Bhagavad-gita to Srila Vyasadeva.” Prabhupada smiled.

To view the entire unedited video go to Memories 04 - Lokanatha Swami, Madhudvisa, Srutakirti, Nara Narayana

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

Following Srila Prabhupada

Interview DVD 02

Lokanath Swami: I was especially attracted by their appeal that said, “American sadhus are in town, European sadhus.” I had only heard of Hardwar sadhus or Vrindavan-Mathura sadhus or Pandharpur sadhus. So I was curious. That time I didn’t get to see Prabhupada, I was mostly meeting devotees. But I was very much impressed with Prabhupada’s devotees, Prabhupada’s followers. They were pretty dead serious, grave, convinced, knowledgeable, and I had these impressions. And if this was his followers and disciples, then I could only imagine their guru, their spiritual master must be far, far superior.

Interview DVD 06

Lokanath Swami: There I am, dancing in kirtan like crazy. Prabhupada would be noticing, looking at us. When we would see his appreciation on his face, we could read the appreciation, that would give us further boost and then higher we would jump. We were realizing this was giving him great pleasure. We were young and energetic and we thought that was the best use of our energy, just dance for Prabhupada’s pleasure. And, of course, Radha-Rasabehari were pleased. Great kirtans. That was an amazing place and amazing times. We were so fortunate being in Bombay.

Interview DVD 11

Lokanath Swami: The theme that Prabhupada had chosen was that the material civilization, modern civilization is total failure, only solution is Krishna consciousness. And he was speaking on this theme every night. Bhavananda, a lot of times some others would read a text from Bhagavatam, purport, and then Prabhupada would comment. The memory I have is how strongly he was preaching, like a roaring, scaring his fellow citizens, trying to wake them up, shake them up. I don’t remember any other time Prabhupada was as strongly, forcefully, emphatically making his points, reminding them bharata-bhumite manusya-janma haila yara, janma sarthaka kari’ kara para-upakara. “You are born in India. If you want to make your life perfect, don’t lead the life of cats and dogs. Do para-upakara, take to Krishna consciousness.”

Considering his last will of going around Govardhan, his followers, his disciples did take Prabhupada, the small brass murti of Srila Prabhupada, which was first taken to Radha Kunda and bathed with Radha Kunda water. Then there was a procession around Govardhan Hill. Hundreds and hundreds of devotees and friends and well-wishers, followers of Prabhupada, we went performing Govardhan Puja. Prabhupada was on the mind of all of us, so we were carrying Prabhupada on our minds and in our hearts. So how could Prabhupada not be there? He was very much there. Prabhupada, his mission of preaching, he wasn’t thinking of stopping at any time. He was just unstoppable. His desire to spread Krishna consciousness was so intense. He was dead set. If you talk of determination, he is the personification of great determination to spread Krishna consciousness, and he exemplified that by his last will of going around Govardhan. It wasn’t a drama for him. He wanted to go. He wanted to go on a bullock cart and travel or do some preaching or programs if possible. The night before he was appealed, “Please, don’t go, don’t go,” and the next day he comes up with this bus program. “Take me on the bus. Take me out of here. I want to be in the field, be with the public. Let me die on the battlefield preaching, battling with Maya.” So he was trying to make his followers understand his spirit, his determination to spread Krishna consciousness. And this is how he was preparing us or his followers, future generations, to go on until they reach every town and every village in the world. Prabhupada, he was so determined, he would not stop till Krishna consciousness movement reaches nagaradi-grama, sarvatra pracara haibe mora nama. So I think Prabhupada will be accompanying the preacher of Krishna consciousness movement who would be visiting the very last village on this planet, bringing the Holy Name there. The will power that he had, strong, strong will, which is only giving us inspiration to carry on spreading this Krishna consciousness movement.