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.