Prabhanu das Remembers Srila Prabhupada

Prabhupada Memories

Interview 01

Prabhanu: I was so raw, or you might say, innocent in the beginning. I didn’t know that it would be okay to go where Prabhupada was giving darshan and actually listen. I would simply look through the windows to try to get a glimpse of him. One day, Aravinda said, “Yeah, you can go in there.” I said, “Really?” So I sat in at the end of the darshan. Prabhupada was comparing this material world to a dream. He said, “Isn’t it just like a dream?” He said, “Suppose you have a dream, and you think you’re the king. You really think you’re the king. But when you wake up, what reality is there? So similarly, we have these bodies, we have this identity as American or Indian or whatever, but what is the reality of that?” He made a sound like “phhhtt”. “It is finished.”

There were simple experiences that may seem mundane but just nothing is mundane with Prabhupada. One time I was on my way to the bathroom when all of a sudden the door opened and Srila Prabhupada came out. I didn’t know what to do, as there was no place to offer obeisances. Prabhupada said, “Jai.” That’s all he said. There’s a section of the Bhagavatam where jadi yogi Rsahavdeva, laid down in his own stool and his own urine because it was like lotus flowers. It smelled like lotus flowers because he was so pure. When I walked in that bathroom after Prabhupada used it, it was like flowers. There was an overwhelmingly beautiful scent in the bathroom.

We were in Africa and my friend Paramesvari and Vivikar were sitting around when Vivikar got his nose in an atlas and said, “Oh, look here. There’s an island out a thousand miles off the coast and it’s got a million Hindus on it. Why don’t we go there?” Paramesvari had been to Mauritius before and he said, “Yeah it’s a good place.” So Vivikar and I went in Prabhupada style. What that means is that we had a trunk of books, enough rupees that you could count on your fingers, and a letter of introduction. It’s not such a rich place and it was a little bit of a struggle. But after a year or so, Mr. Gautam Tilak, the Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture of Mauritius suggested, “Why doesn’t your guru meet the prime minister?” And that was suggested to Prabhupada. He said, “Yes, very good.” He liked to speak to leading people so we made all kinds of arrangements and Prabhupada came. He stayed in a beautiful beach house someone had donated. During that time Prabhupada went on a morning walk when some guys on the sugar cane trucks mocked us and sarcastically said, “Aaaah, Hare Krishna, Hare Rama”. One of the devotees said, “Prabhupada, what happens to a person when they chant Hare Krishna like that?” With a lot of conviction Prabhupada said, “They are liberated.”

In Mauritius there were only nine of us, so we got to do all of Prabhupada’s services. One thing that stands out is that he was taking every day a glass of carrot juice in the afternoon. One day he asked, “How many carrots does it take to make this glass of carrot juice?” When he heard the number of carrots it took, he said “No more.”

Caitya Guru was giving Srila Prabhupada a massage as Pusta Krishna read to him about actions that lead to hell from the Fifth Canto that had just been published. Pusta Krishna looked up at Srila Prabhupada at one point and asked, “Prabhupada, is this really what happens to someone when they do this?” Prabhupada kind of chuckled. You couldn’t understand exactly what he meant. He said, “Yes”, but the way he chuckled was sort of like, “Well, you know it’s not real,” in the sense that we’re spirit soul and we actually have nothing to do with this material world. Like Krishna says in the Bhagavatam, it’s superfluous to the soul. That was sort of the mood in his chuckle but at the same time he said, “Yes.”

There was a darshan in Prabhupada’s room I remember in Mayapur along with Sudama Swami and Siddhaswarup Maharaj. Siddhaswarup was effulgent as far as I was concerned. He was a very interesting person. But there were some politics going on between him and some other sannyasis and GBCs. When he came in the room, Prabhupada turned to Siddhaswarup and said, “So Siddhaswarup Maharaj, I understand that you have a different philosophy than we do?” Siddhaswarup said, “Well, Prabhupada…” Prabhupada interrupted him and said, “Isn’t it Sudama?” Sudama kind of hung his head as he didn’t want to get involved. Then Siddhaswarup said, “Well Prabhupada, sometimes I preach to the householders that they should live outside the temple and have their own independence.” Prabhupada said, “Yes, that’s a very good idea.” And then Siddhaswarup said, “Prabhupada, you know, sometimes I just don’t feel qualified…” Prabhupada cut him off and said, “Qualified or unqualified, I love you.” I was stunned at the way he said that with such compassion. I thought that was the most liberal and affectionate statement that could come out of anybody’s mouth, especially such an elevated personality as Srila Prabhupada. “Qualified or unqualified, I love you.”

To view the entire unedited video go to Memories 52 - Prabhupada Memories DVD 52 The Alachua Clan 1

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

Following Srila Prabhupada

Interview DVD 10

Prabhanu: We were in Zambia in a little ashram, four of us sitting around. And one devotee there, his name was Bivakara, he was in the World Atlas looking at Africa and populations and whatnot, and he saw this little island out there in the middle of the Indian Ocean. He said, “Oh, look, it’s about 850,000 people,” and more than half of them were Hindus. So Chayavana Maharaja and Paramesvari das, they went to India for the Mayapur festival. And on their way back, they stopped in Mauritius and they felt that it was a very nice place. So Bivakara and I went to Mauritius, and we began things there. We went there Prabhupada style. We went there with a trunk of books and more or less no money and an invitation to someone’s house. That’s how we began. The people took an immediate interest in us, I think, just because we were a novelty, but the preaching really took off after Srila Prabhupada came. It’s amazing to see the potency. He only stayed really a few days and he inspired so many people, and the long-lasting effect of his presence is incalculable to me. I remember he was speaking so enthusiastically to a few boys that were coming, and they were talking about making that country the first Krishna conscious country. And I’m sitting there thinking, “This is never going to happen.” But Srila Prabhupada, he could see it. His devotion was so great that he literally influenced thousands of people even though he only met a few.

We would rotate. Some of us would stay back and clean Prabhupada’s room or do personal services. So one day when I went on the walk, we were out approaching the beach and in the distance a sugarcane truck goes by with four or five workers in the back of the truck. They saw us and in a mocking way they said, “Hare Krishna, Hare Rama!” They weren’t nasty or anything, they were happy-go-lucky guys. And one of the devotees said, “Oh, Prabhupada, what happens to someone who chants Hare Krishna like that?” Prabhupada said in a very deep and most serious and convinced way, “They are liberated.” So when he said that, it reminded me of that verse in the First Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam. It says, “Living entities who are in the meshes of birth and death can be freed immediately simply by chanting the name of Krishna, which is feared by fear personified.” So I thought of those men and how Prabhupada said, “They are liberated.” But I’m sure they just took off and went to the sugarcane field and cut down some sugarcane and threw it in the truck, and went and ate some lunch and went home and watched TV. Hard to see how they are liberated. But Prabhupada had that conviction, and that conviction is confirmed in sastra. And we also have that kind of faith that Prabhupada doesn’t just see things theoretically, but he sees through his realization. There was another thing that really struck me when we were on the beach, and I saw him do it also on the beach in Bombay, that total strangers would come up to him and he would greet them and just beam at them. It’s hard to describe in a way, like he’s known him forever and it’s his best friend. But it was so disarming to see how much friendliness could come out of one person to a total stranger. From his angle, he could see everyone as part of God. He lives that or experiences that – again, it’s not just theoretical – and it comes out. And when you see it in his person, it’s very astonishing.