Madhu-dvisa das Remembers Srila Prabhupada

Prabhupada Memories

Interview 01

Under the shade of a jackfruit tree
About a hundred years ago;
In a little house near Calcutta,
A most unlikely place I know.
But ‘twas there that Mahaprabhu
Would spread his name far and wide.
Siddhanta Saraswati
Did preach there and reside.
A most important day it was
In the sorry, sad world of men,
Where millions had been killed in wars,
Been killed and born again.
Been born again to suffer
In the sea of pain and strife.
A most important day it was,
The dawn of new life.
Under the boughs of a jackfruit tree
About a hundred years ago;
In a little house near Calcutta,
A most unlikely place I know.
But it was from that history
Would spread our ISKCON far and wide.
A boy was born,
Not quite born with Krishna on his side.
It was he who brought
Krishna bhakti to the West.
To the Western world,
which was of true religion quite divest.
Receive this sacred knowledge
Of the soul and God from him.
Oh, Srila Prabhupada, you filled our hearts
With nectar to the brim.
Under the boughs of a jackfruit tree
About a hundred years ago;
In a little house near Calcutta
Where the Ganges waves did flow.
The day after Krishna’s birthday
He came forth from his mother’s womb:
The factual messiah
Who could save us all from doom.
Now our cup of life was empty
And our future hope was dark and dim.
Come Prabhupada to save us,
Bow to him, bow to him.
Under the boughs of a jackfruit tree
About a hundred years ago;
In a little house near Calcutta,
A most unlikely place I know.
But it was there that Mahaprabhu
Would spread his name far and wide.
Siddhanta Sarasvati
Did preach there and reside.
Srila Prabhupada ki jaya!

Separation. Well, there is no separation. As I speak this, now I know That separation doth the strength Of love connections show. Now one who feels no separation Did no connection get. And one who feels deep separation Has firm connection yet. Now separation does not mean To make a show of tears; To make one’s sorrow prominent Just to win beginners’ cheers. Separation means to feel Deep within your heart That I depend on Prabhupada And nothing shall us part. Now we all depend on Prabhupada, From neophyte to master. And one who puts aside his grace Is heading for disaster. He is the first, he is the last, The acharya, and the founder. No one worked so hard as he Or kept a standard sounder. To the end of time he will be known As ISKCON’s suckling mother; His books, the nourishment of us all— Where comes such another? So as we’re struggling forward We should hang upon his grace. Brother side of brother, Both in our humble place. And as we are expanding No one should forget The heavy dues we owe to him— Unrepayable the debt. And then, if we’re honest, We’ll know for sure he’s here And will always feel secure And free from fear. But if we think that now he’s gone, We will struggle on our own. Ahhh. Dread fear and death surround— Hey, what can you do alone? A little karma, a little charisma, It will all be finished in the end. Punah mushika bhava: again become a mouse, To ignominy condemned. Do not think there’s aught in you That Prabhupada does not lend. Know this truth, depend on him, And you will see him once again.

Srila Prabhupada ki jaya!

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

Interview 02

Madhudvisa: Prabhupada said, “Any questions?” Immediately, many hands shot up. There were a lot of questions. One man who wanted to hear himself talk more than he wanted to ask Prabhupada a question stood up and warmly said, “Your Divine Grace, how are you enjoying your stay in Australia?” Prabhupada said, “I like it very much.” Everybody clapped. “Yeah!” Prabhupada said, “I like every place very much.” Everybody went, “Umm!” Prabhupada said, “Because everything belongs to Krishna, therefore I like every place.” The next person asked, “What do you think about Sai Baba?” Prabhupada said, “Who is he?” Prabhupada’s technique was to diffuse a person like that. There were a couple of other questions, and then a puffed-up young man, 22 or 23 years old, said, “Today, I choose to be God. Today I choose to take the responsibility of the whole universe upon myself; therefore I am God.” When Prabhupada got mad, his lower lip would quiver a little. When he heard this young man, his lip began to quiver. Prabhupada took a deep breath and said, “My God is powerful.” The man said, “I choose to be the all-powerful God.” Prabhupada said, “I choose to kick your face with shoes. Can you stop me?” The man said, “Give me some time.” Prabhupada said, “My God is powerful all the time. Why should I accept you as God?” The whole auditorium burst into laughter, and that man was mortified. Prabhupada said to him, “Please, don’t waste your time on this nonsense. Try to be godly, don’t try to be God.” In this way Prabhupada immediately changed from a ferocious lion to a soft, beautiful rose. This was Srila Prabhupada’s quality. He would use very harsh language. He would deal very strongly when something was offensive to Krishna, but at the same time, he saw in everyone an opportunity for him to extend Krishna’s loving, tender hand. Prabhupada’s vision was that his spiritual master had sent everybody that he came in contact with, and his service was to bring them back to home, back to Godhead.

To view the entire unedited video go to Memories 10 - 1995 Prabhupada Festival

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

Following Srila Prabhupada

Interview DVD 01

Madhudvisa: We did go out on Harinam everyday, it was a fact, except Sundays because Sundays we were preparing the feast at the temple and cleaning the temple. Behind the kirtan, they're building the BART in the background. See Market Street is all torn up. So Srila Prabhupada instructed us in the beginning that Harinam was our main activity in the temple, and Back to Godhead distribution. In those early days we didn't have elaborate book production program going on. We didn't have elaborate Deity worship, and so that was ideal for Harinam. People could go on Harinam. Part of the troup could be around the Harinam distributing Back to Godheads. There wasn't any airports open in those days for book distribution. Door to door wasn't happening yet. It was all centered around Harinam. So we distributed a lot of Back to Godheads and invitations to come to the temple. So it was propaganda—ideal propaganda— because people were seeing the Harinam. They were inquisitive to what you guys are all about. Here's a Back to Godhead. Here's an invitation to the temple. Come for the Sunday feast. It all was hand in hand like that. So Prabhupada said, "Except for a few devotees "who stay back in the temple for cooking and cleaning, "the rest of the temple should go on Harinam." So everyday most of the devotees went on Harinam during the day, and some of the devotees would go in the evening. In San Francisco, we would go to North Beach in the evening time which is like an entertainment section of the city where they had clubs, coffee houses, burlesque, bars and things like that all in North Beach. So we would have Harinam there

The Berkeley temple was an old fraternity house. The devotees would go there every day at Sproul Plaza and chant and distribute prasadam and preach, and they would invite people back to the temple to eat prasadam. In the back yard of this temple, that’s where Lord Chaitanya’s murti emerged like a giant sequoia tree growing up in the back yard. The neighbors were surprised to see Lord Chaitanya manifesting Himself above the peaks of the roof as the devotees were constructing Lord Chaitanya. Locan das, who eventually and still to this day carves all the murtis that sit in the temples around North America, he made that Lord Chaitanya deity, and that started the tradition of having Lord Chaitanya. This started right there at Sproul Plaza. It was a very famous place where the students began to have free speech, and then eventually it led to the anti-war demonstrations. They all started there at Sproul Plaza. They gave us permission to close off the street. Prabhupada made the comment that in the past whenever the students gathered for a demonstration, they would break all the windows up and down the street. So they would never give permission for the students to have this street closed, Telegraph Avenue, a famous street in Berkeley. But this time they allowed us to do it, and there was no breaking of any windows and no civil disturbances. It was all quite peaceful and joyful. So the locals were quite happy. There was great cooperation amongst the devotees at that time in the Bay area, and we had so many different joint activities. I remember the devotees all came together at the famous rock and roll concert at Altamont where the Rolling Stones came. All the devotees from the three or four different temples in the Bay area came, and we got there the night before and distributed prasadam to thousands. There was hundreds and thousands of people at that festival. But here in Sproul Plaza, Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in all His glory.

We emphasized that fact, that Prabhupada had written this pamphlet called “The Peace Formula” saying that real brotherhood could be attained only when we recognized our common father. Jayananda dancing with the hippies. Jayananda would always take the common man under his wing. He was a devotee that could always…he had the biggest heart. No one was ever too smelly or too dirty or too distraught for Jayananda. Jayananda would take anybody, the lowest, under his wing.

Interview DVD 02

Madhudvisa: Srila Prabhupada called San Francisco “New Jagannatha Puri.” So devotees would come from all over the world to attend the Rathayatra because Srila Prabhupada was there in attendance. There were no Rathayatras in Australia or Tokyo or Los Angeles, New York. So people would come from all over the world, and so it was a great occasion for the devotees to come together and celebrate that festival with Srila Prabhupada. This is in front of the 518 Frederick Street. This is right on the sidewalk in front of Frederick Street. Devotees painting the canopy and upholstering the asanas. This was the biggest festival that was ever held in ISKCON in the early days, 1970 Rathayatra. It was like this monster. Out of this little storefront, we created this huge publicity campaign and we mobilized the whole city of San Francisco.

That’s the lot. Three carts are being built in that lot. This is where Srila Prabhupada came to visit the Rathayatra cart, and he amazed all the devotees. He just laid out flat on the dirt and paid his obeisances to the Rathayatra cart and he said, “The ratha is as good as the deity.” You can see, Jayananda and Nara Narayan are there.

You couldn’t see the deities until They were on the ratha cart. That was one of our technicalities that we thought had to be there, that no one should view the deities until…it was like looking at prasadam before you offer it. So nobody’s going to see the deities until They get on the Rathayatra cart. And then when They were all up on the cart, then They would be revealed in all Their magnificence.

When Prabhupada arrived at Rathayatra in the middle of Golden Gate Park, all of the devotees stopped. Srila Prabhupada was supposed to give a lecture at the beginning of the Rathayatra Festival; but because there was some disturbance at that time, Prabhupada delayed his arrival and he entered Golden Gate Park up the road about a mile or so from the beginning and then walked back towards the Rathayatra cart and took everybody by surprise. Prabhupada had many garlands that were given to him and he took one of his garlands off and he looked for Jayananda and he garlanded Jayananda with the flower garland that was given to him, making that benediction to Jayananda. Prabhupada began to dance in a circle, and you see Prabhupada’s flowing robes. Bhavananda picked out the fabric for that cloth.

Prabhupada was showing the devotees that he liked to dance, not just the Swami step but jumping up and down. That was a new revelation. He introduced that at La Cienega Boulevard temple. At the temple, he had introduced the jumping. Before, the Swami step was the conservative dance step that was used by everybody. But when Prabhupada started to jump at the La Cienega Boulevard temple in Los Angeles, that’s when jumping became part of the choreography of the temple.

Interview DVD 03

Madhudvisa: This is a lecture Srila Prabhupada is giving at the Town Hall in Melbourne, Australia, in 1972. The devotees had gone to Melbourne after they had established a temple in Sydney, and they had become quite popular in Melbourne because of elaborate street sankirtan that was performed every day by the devotees in downtown Melbourne. Caru and Vaibhavi were there and Upananda was there, and there was a whole crew of…we called them “the ecstasy crew.” The ecstasy crew were people that didn’t get initiated but they religiously showed up every day for sankirtan in downtown Melbourne. So right on the same street where the Melbourne Town Hall was located the devotees were chanting up and down every day. So when Prabhupada arrived and they had Prabhupada’s lecture at Melbourne Town Hall, it was quite widely publicized and many of the people that had been seeing us on the street every day were there. There were some hippie gurus that came to see Srila Prabhupada, some famous hippie gurus in Melbourne. And everyone thought that this one hippie guru who would stand on a soapbox every day in downtown Melbourne in various places and preach his own hedonistic philosophy, and he was very quick-witted…so everyone thought that he would come and be able to challenge Srila Prabhupada. So many of his followers came that night also. But Srila Prabhupada quickly philosophically defeated him and humbled him, and he came forward at the end of the lecture and chanted and danced with all of the disciples of Srila Prabhupada. Prabhupada was very adept at defeating the impersonalists and the hedonists, and this Melbourne Town Hall lecture was quite a grand success for the devotees. It was a large turnout. It was over 2,000 people that came to that, and so it was quite amazing.

Interview DVD 06

Madhudvisa: The irony surrounding the whole Town Hall engagement and the Rathayatra Festival was that the people that were issuing us thousands and thousands of dollars worth of tickets for chanting, dancing in the streets and distributing Srila Prabhupada’s books in the streets were the same people that we had to go to to get the permits to conduct the Rathayatra Festival. So I remember when I first had to go there to the Melbourne City Council – big, dark oak draped council room with 30 or 40 of these City Council men sitting around the table when I walked in with my shaved head and my dhoti and had to convince them that they should allow us to have the Rathayatra Festival. So when I walked in, he had this big pile of tickets on the table. And the head of the City Council, the mayor of the city said, “What are we going to do about all these tickets here?” I convinced him or Krishna convinced him that they should not let these unpaid tickets have a bearing on their opinion whether they should give us the Rathayatra permit or not. I remembering thinking to myself, looking at the mayor’s chest and saying that “Krishna, You are in his heart. Inside his chest is his heart, and inside his heart You are there. And if You want to allow us to have this Rathayatra Festival, then You instruct him from within that he should allow us to have this.” So the mayor was very flamboyant and he said, “Just tell me one reason why I should allow you to have this festival, seeing that you have flaunted, you have snubbed us by not paying one single ticket that we have issued to you, which is thousands and thousands of dollars. Why should we give you the permission to parade through our streets?” I looked at the Council, and I knew the egalitarian sentiment of the Australians. They always wanted to give people a fair chance because the history of Australia is that they were subjugated by the Britishers, the prison colonies were started there, and they were always for the common man. So I looked at the mayor, and I used one of the Australian idiomatic expressions. I said, “Well, can you give us a fair go? That’s all we’re asking for is a fair go.” The mayor look around, and he didn’t want to be the one to say that he wasn’t going to give someone a fair go. He looked at the members of the Council and he said, “All right, we’ll give you a fair go,” and he stamped the permit and we got the permit to have the Rathayatra. So the same people that were giving us tickets had to give us the permits, and Krishna arranged it in such a way that they didn’t hold it against us. So the Rathayatra went on and Srila Prabhupada’s speaking engagement went on in the Melbourne City Hall, and the newspapers gave us favorable reviews.

I was reading a letter yesterday that Prabhupada said, “I appreciated very much how you were leading the kirtan and at the same time taking care of my personal while we were walking along on the Rathayatra Festival.” You wouldn’t think that Prabhupada would observe that, but he saw how I was leading the kirtan and at the same time “taking care of his personal,” that’s the way he worded it. In other words, making sure that everybody was around Srila Prabhupada and not blocking the way.

At this time in the early ’70s, La Trobe University was in the throes of Vietnam protests. The Vietnam War had become a very unpopular war throughout Australia, and Srila Prabhupada was identified by the students as someone who was taking the thunder away from their anti-war demonstrations by preaching peace and love. Instead of encouraging students to demonstrate against the war, Prabhupada was telling people to chant Hare Krishna and to solve the problems of the world like that. So they had strategically placed many students in the audience that were specifically there just to disrupt the lecture. So after the kirtan was over, Srila Prabhupada began to speak and immediately one student stood up and started to object to what Srila Prabhupada was saying. The gist of what they were saying is that Srila Prabhupada was there just to disturb their anti-war sentiments. Then we had that person removed and brought into the back. Then as soon as Srila Prabhupada started to speak again, someone else stood up and started to speak; and they would be using profanity and wouldn’t be reasoned with. I tried from the microphone to try to diffuse the whole situation, but they were determined that they wouldn’t listen to any logic. Although the audience wanted to hear Srila Prabhupada speak, these hecklers were determined to stop the meeting. So after three or four of those people did this and wouldn’t allow Srila Prabhupada to speak, then Prabhupada finally said, “Just chant.” So we chanted, and then Srila Prabhupada left. But while this whole thing was going on, the devotees were taking these hecklers out and bringing them into the vestibule and the fistfights…there was a big fistfight broke out. So although it appears to be calm in the auditorium, just outside the doors there was a full-fledged donnybrook going on. The devotees were defending themselves, and it became quite a bloody scene. One of the students had a knife, and he threw the knife on the ground and he said, “Look, look, they have a knife! They’re trying to stab me!” So the security guards came, and it was a big commotion out there. But Krishna was working in such a subtle way. The temple president of Sydney, Australia, now whose name is Atmarama…he was initiated by Srila Prabhupada, but at that time he was a student at La Trobe University. He saw all these people walking into the men’s room, they were all bleeding, bloody noses. He said, “Gee, I thought those Hare Krishnas were peaceful people. How come there’s a big fight going on?” He said, “Oh, they were heckling his spiritual master.” He said, “Oh, these guys are really committed,” and he was profoundly affected by the devotees’ fierce loyalty to Srila Prabhupada. Soon after that he became initiated, and now he’s the temple president of Sydney. So Krishna works in strange ways. Also, the students up on top of the underpasses, as the devotees were leaving they dumped black paint on our white vans. So it was an orchestrated thing by these anti-war demonstrators. So when Srila Prabhupada got back to his rooms, he said, “Now we know, we cannot have any free speaking engagements anymore. Whenever I speak in public like this, you must charge five dollars or two dollars. There must be some admission charge because when we have these free assemblies, then any riffraff can come and cause a disturbance.”

Now, if the intelligentsia of Australia cannot sit for half an hour and listen to a gentleman speak about love of God, it does not speak very well for you. We are simply not asking for disturbance, we are not asking for violence, but we will meet violence with violence. We are not artificially pacifists. We are asking you to listen like gentlemen. We have come here in good will. We have come here not to cause any disturbance. So we ask you please to have that much respect for our spiritual master. At this time, if there is any questions about Krishna consciousness philosophy, not about fighting…we can go out in the street and fight, and we can solve everything out there. We have come here to speak about spiritual matters. If we want to speak about spiritual matters, let us speak together like brothers and sisters. Let’s not cause disturbance. I have an ego, you have an ego. If you do something to flick off my ego, I may get mad. If I do something so flick off your ego, you get mad. So we’ll go out into the street and settle it like a cat and a dog? No. We’re not here in this university to act like that. We’re supposed to have raised above that platform. So please, we ask you to present sober questions to our spiritual master. Yes, sir?

Interview DVD 08

Madhudvisa: There are all the devotees. You can see Prabhupada after arriving, 10 hours on the plane, 12 hours, sometimes 15-hour flight, he was always fresh and spry. Navayauvana, Krishna is Navayauvana. So Prabhupada was the servant of the ever-fresh Krishna, so he was always spry himself too. Prabhupada is weighted down with the flowers. There were never too many flowers. Prabhupada would distribute the flowers. There he is, from material calculation an old man, walking with the young, spry, enthusiastic devotees. This was a great scene. Prabhupada felt comfortable in the presence of all the young enthusiastic devotees. He didn’t feel out of place. Srila Prabhupada would only come to Australia once a year, which was quite good considering the remoteness of the country. But Prabhupada came to Australia six different times.

Srila Prabhupada leaving the temple in 197 Danks Street, which is one block off from the ocean. Beaconsfield Parade is the name of the road that goes along the ocean there, and Srila Prabhupada in the morning would walk out there and go along. Because Prabhupada is getting into the car, it would indicate that he would be going down to the Botanical Gardens because if he was going onto the beachfront he would just walk. This is Prabhupada arriving in the Botanical Gardens there in Melbourne, which was a very beautiful place. He’d know that the British had the tradition of building these elaborate botanical gardens wherever they would have their colonies, whether it was in Africa or in India. So Australia was like that too. They would have these elaborate botanical gardens that they would construct, and they would bring all these different exotic trees into one place. Srila Prabhupada would go early in the morning and he would comment, “They have spent so much money building this and now look, in the morning no one has come to take advantage of it. We are the only ones.” Prabhupada would be walking in the Botanical Gardens at seven in the morning, and everybody else would be whizzing by in their cars going to work and we would be taking advantage of their Botanical Gardens. Srila Prabhupada would preach the philosophy of Krishna consciousness using nature. He would tell us many times that “You can learn from nature.” When he would be going on these morning walks, he would point out things and he would amaze us. Sometimes he would say, “This is a certain type of a tree,” and he would quote the name of the tree in Latin like he was some kind of a botanist. And lo and behold, we’d go and look at the tree and the name would be there and it would be that tree. And he would point out the medicinal value in the trees. Prabhupada was very educated, not just in spiritual things but he had so much material knowledge that he would amaze the devotees.

Prabhupada had a great, great affection for Australia and the preaching in Australia because we could see that when hearing Prabhupada giving lectures at different parts of the world, he would refer back to Australia – how the preaching was going on in Australia and they have gone to jail in Australia or they have the Rathayatra and they are distributing more books in Australia than everywhere else in the world, and it was a great joy for Srila Prabhupada to have his devotees in Australia. He sent some of his dear devotees there in the beginning. Bali Mardan and Upendra das went there in the beginning. It was an English-speaking country that had never been exposed to Krishna consciousness or anything like Krishna consciousness before, it was a completely fresh start, whereas in England some of his godbrothers had gone there before and there was some affiliation with India. But Australia was a far remote place, and people had taken to Krishna consciousness very elaborately and very diligently. And it was through the book distribution that that could be gauged, that here in Australia, a relatively small country with maybe 15 or 17 million people in the whole country, they were one of the top book distributors in the whole world at that time. At one point, Australia was the number one book distributing country in the world in the early ’70s, and we used to make sure that Srila Prabhupada heard about that. We would send the report, and Srila Prabhupada was always beaming. I remember when he came out with the Caitanya-caritamrta and they were in India and Prabhupada said, “And we will print 15 thousand volumes of this book.” I was there and I said, “Prabhupada, we’ll take 10 thousand.” Prabhupada said, “Oh, Madhudvisa is taking 10 thousand already. We must print 20 thousand.” Prabhupada saw that this was a young and vibrant and healthy country. Sometimes Australia is referred to as “the lucky country,” and Srila Prabhupada would go there and he would love the ghee that was there, the cow’s ghee. So he worked out a program that the Australian devotees could pay for their books in ghee because there was money being sent from Los Angeles to India to finance all the different building projects there. So instead of having the devotees from Australia send money from Australia to Los Angeles, then Los Angeles send money to India, Prabhupada said, “No, forget about all that sending back and forth. Instead of paying for your books in dollars to Los Angeles, pay for your books in ghee sent to India,” because this high-quality ghee sent from Australia to India was more valuable than the dollars sent from Australia. In this way we would send the ghee, and he said the devotees would be able to distribute this ghee to the Life Members in India and feed the devotees with high-quality ghee so they would stay healthy while they were doing their preaching work in India. So for so many years, thousands of pounds of ghee, this Allowrie ghee, a very famous ghee – it came in this big 10 gallon tin or 5 gallon tin – paying for our books in ghee. That was quite unique.

We were sitting in Srila Prabhupada’s room, not his bedroom but his sitting room where he would receive his guests. What you’re seeing now is one of the lawyers we brought up to speak to Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada wanted to talk with distinguished guests every night, and it was the duty of our advance team to arrange for people to come and speak to Prabhupada. Finally we had our own building and a very elegant place to bring distinguished guests, people like the Archbishop of Melbourne and the Episcopal Bishop of Melbourne. Srila Prabhupada is sitting on his elegant chaise lounge that we purchased at the antique shop, and we went overboard a little bit. We had it reupholstered in that powder blue color to match the walls because we understood that Srila Prabhupada liked the blue and white and gold combination as his color scheme for his room. So Srila Prabhupada was speaking to the lawyers and explaining Vedic philosophy. They were very respectful. As you may know, in the beginning of Krishna consciousness in Australia, there was quite a struggle for proselytizing Krishna consciousness in the street. In Melbourne, where they had a very liberal-minded City Council, they had a front of being very tolerant but they really wanted us to get off the street. The people that had their big multi-million-dollar boutiques and stores didn’t fancy the idea of the devotees being part of the landscape. So we hired this lawyer, Wally, for advice in what to do. The City Council would issue us these tickets; and we had received instruction from Prabhupada that we can chant in jail or we can chant on the street, it doesn’t make any difference. So why waste our money on expensive lawyers, and eventually they’ll see the folly in their persecution and leave us alone. And sure enough, that’s what happened. So we never paid Wally a lot of money. In fact, he donated his service mostly, and a lot of times we didn’t take his advice either because Prabhupada always took precedence.

This is in the temple room of the Melbourne Mahaprabhu Mandir, and we are going to install the Gaura-Nitai Deities. These are quite elaborate Gaura-Nitai Deities. They were brought by the devotees from Nabadwip, and Srila Prabhupada in the chadar there is bathing Them. These are the largest Deities that have ever been cast in Nabadwip. They weighed hundreds and hundreds of pounds, solid brass. You can see how tall They are. Prabhupada is standing one step below Them, so They are quite tall. These thrones had been purchased by the devotees in San Francisco. They had been shipped all the way to San Francisco from Jaipur, beautiful white marble thrones, but they were too small for the Deities in San Francisco. So we had them sent all the way out to Australia, and they were assembled by the marble merchants who were installing the marble floor. They took time off and they put these beautiful white marble thrones together, and you can see even Gaura-Nitai is a little bit too big for these thrones. Their arms stretch out underneath the archway so they’re not totally visible. But the official opening of the temple and the installation of the Gaura-Nitai Deities took place on the same day, and the devotees were quite ecstatic to have all this activity going on in one day. Vaibhavi was responsible for putting together the whole temple. She cast all the columns, and they had the wrought iron gates made and designed everything.

The original Deity was Radha-Vallabha, marble Deities that occupied the center altar. And then the year after that the Jagannatha Deities were carved for the Rathayatra, which Srila Prabhupada installed. And then the third year when Srila Prabhupada opened up the new building, this is when Gaura-Nitai was installed. When Prabhupada installed the Gaura-Nitai Deities, he named the new temple the Melbourne Mahaprabhu Mandir. We practically outgrew the temple the day we moved in.

Interview DVD 09

Madhudvisa: Here we have Prabhupada walking with the devotees, and the gentleman to the right of Srila Prabhupada is Vasudeva. At this time he was Deoji Punja, and he was the prime mover of Krishna consciousness in Fiji in those early days. Srila Prabhupada was very affectionate towards Vasudeva and his whole family because here was an Indian gentleman outside of ISKCON, because ISKCON hadn’t been officially established there in the country yet, and he was taking it upon his shoulders to propagate Krishna consciousness. And he had a distinct love for Srila Prabhupada, as you see from his body language.

There were certain Indian gentlemen who had this awe and respect for Srila Prabhupada, devotees such as Karttikeya Mahadevia and Mr. Sethi in Bombay. They acted like old devotees from previous lifetime, old Vaisnavas that were reigniting their relationship with Srila Prabhupada in this lifetime. The unique position of Deoji, or Vasudeva as he was initiated, was that he was the CEO of a very large and important company…companies, many companies in Fiji. He was way up there in the elite of Indian businessmen. So he owned a chain of grocery stores, that was one of the retail businesses they had. And when the devotees were taken through the grocery stores and we came to the butcher shop, we were aghast, “How is this possible?” When it was asked of Srila Prabhupada, “What should we advise Vasudeva to do? Should we tell him that he should close down the butcher shop?” Srila Prabhupada said, “No, he doesn’t have to close the butcher shop at this time. This will come.” We were just black-and-white, cut-and-dry devotees. We had no nuances in our approach towards Krishna consciousness because we were immature, spiritually immature, even at this so-called late date in our spiritual life, 1975. Prabhupada could understand that Vasudeva was in business, the business was well established in the islands for many, many years, and Vasudeva had his brothers and uncles and aunts and his family was well immersed in this business. And for Prabhupada to say, “No, you have to close down the butcher shop,” that would be a point of controversy amongst the family members. Only Vasudeva at that time had fully embraced Srila Prabhupada. Prabhupada could understand that if Vasudeva became strong, if there weren’t any preconditions put on his relationship with Srila Prabhupada having to do with his business, then eventually he would win over all his other family members. And as it turned out, most of Vasudeva’s family members did embrace Vaisnavism and some of them actually took initiation.

Some of the Hindus had said that this is Kaliya who has come to Fiji when he was banished from the waters of the Yamuna and that this big snake was living up in a big lake up on the top of a mountain where nobody went. And in Fiji there’s no snakes. So they told Prabhupada that, and Prabhupada said, “Yes, then it is possible because where there is the big snake, there are no small snakes because the big snake will eat the small snakes.” So one devotee, he took up the challenge to go to this lake. According to the superstition, if you went to this lake you wouldn’t come back or you would become insane. But not many people know how to get there, so he had to get a guide. So he paid this guide some money, and he was a little bit reluctant but finally he agreed. So they started to hike up there and a big storm came up, big typhoon. Winds were blowing, trees were knocked over. So the guide became spooked and he said, “No, no, this is the sign we are not supposed to go,” and he abandoned him. So the devotee thought, “Well, I’m going to do it.” He didn’t know how to get there but he still tried to persevere, but the storm became too violent and he couldn’t do it. So because of that folk tale, Vasudeva established the Krishna Kaliya Temple, and it’s a unique Deity of Krishna dancing on the head of the Kaliya serpent.