Revatinandana das Remembers Srila Prabhupada

Prabhupada Memories

Interview 01

Revatinandana: The kirtan ended, and Prabhupada put his spectacles on. This was in early 1968, and he was using his own Srimad-Bhagavatam that was in front of him. He read from it and then spoke much of the time with his eyes closed. He wasn’t advertising himself or trying to appear as a holy man, as other so-called gurus did. He was just speaking the teachings from the book and then explaining them. I recall him remarking, “Now they say that everyone is God. You are God, I am God, there are so many gods loitering in the street. If you think of God in that way, then God does not mean very much to you.” He also said, “G-OD, D-O-G. What is the difference? You say you are God. I say you are dog. If we are all God, and gods are loitering in the street, then what is the difference between God and dog?” It immediately struck me that he was right. How could God be in such a bad situation?

One day I was cooking in the temple kitchen with Aniruddha. Aniruddha came back in from seeing Prabhupada and said, “Prabhupada just told me that we are not supposed to cook with mustard seeds or mustard oil or fenugreek anymore.” Prabhupada wanted us to use simple spices, cumin seeds, chiles, asafoetida, as well as simple techniques. He specifically mentioned not using mustard seed and mustard oil, as well as fenugreek. In India later on, he once remarked, “My God-brothers generally prefer mustard oil, but I like ghee.”

Srila Prabhupada gave a Sunday feast lecture about kirtan, and he said things that I never heard him say at other times, particularly not during a lecture. He remarked that melodic instruments, including the harmonium, are not meant for kirtan, and he explained why. He said that the ear will automatically follow musical strains, and then our attention will be diverted from the mantra. He said that rhythm instruments are good for kirtan because they make one more inclined to dance, and dancing, in turn, unlocks devotion. He liked graceful dancing. He used to mention that Jayatirtha was a graceful dancer. He said, “See how he dances. This is very good. This will help one feel more devotion.” Another time he told Vishnujana that he did not like melodies that had long, extended notes in them. He liked the melody to be filled with the mantra. During the lecture he gave that day he also said, “Don’t harmonize during the response.” The leader may sing little variations, but the group should sing a steady response. One person shouldn’t be singing one melody and another doing another melody during the response. “These things,” he said, “will help one pay more attention to the mantra as one is chanting and dancing. That way one will get the maximum benefit, and the kirtan will also become more ecstatic.” He also said that the dancing should be graceful and gentlemanly. Then, during the second kirtan, he got off the vyasasana and danced in the middle of the kirtan party. He danced back and forth very gracefully in what we called the “swami step.” After a while he put his hands up and started leaping up in the air straight up and down. He wasn’t shaking his body around. His hands were up, and he was leaping in the air. He kept leaping and leaping and leaping for a long time, and we were doing it with him. I got tired. I stopped and started to dance back and forth at one point. I was twenty-two years old at the time, and he was over seventy. Yet Prabhupada went right on leaping. He seemed to have no physical exhaustion at all. I was impressed because I thought, “I play basketball and here this guy can jump more than I can.” I shouldn’t say “guy,” but those are the kind of thoughts that were going through my mind. It was the first time I had ever seen him dance, and I was amazed.

One morning in India I was very sick, but I went to the pandal program anyway. Prabhupada was lecturing about Ajamil and about prayaschitta, or atonement for sins. Sometimes I thought he was giving those Ajamil lectures for me because Ajamil’s fate might also be my fate. Anyway, in the lecture that day, Prabhupada said that the problem is that you atone but you do not remove the seed of sinful desire from your heart, and therefore you sin again. Thus you go through sinning and atoning again and again. So atonement is not the solution. One has to purify the heart. He talked about how chanting purifies the heart and eventually cleanses even the seed of sinful desire from the heart, and then he said something that I’ll never forget. He said, “But do not be impatient. After all, it took me thirty years to chant in this way.” Some people hypothesize that Prabhupada was this or that in his past life. Once in Calcutta he said, “In my previous life I was a doctor, and I lived sinlessly. Therefore, I was able to take up devotional service seriously in this life.” But in the pandal lecture that day, he said it took him thirty years to chant with the devotion and purity that he chanted with, which was obviously with pure ecstatic love.

In Calcutta Prabhupada once said that when a pure devotee leaves his body he takes another birth on the planet where Krishna is appearing. Then, when Krishna leaves that planet, the devotee goes with Him back to the spiritual sky for good. So there is one more birth after one becomes a pure devotee, but it’s not a material birth, because it is a birth with Krishna where He is appearing and having His pastimes, and after that one goes to Goloka with Him. Another time in his room in Calcutta I asked him, “Because you are a devotee of Radha and Krishna, does that mean all of us are inherently devotees of Radha and Krishna?” He said, “Not necessarily.” I said, “So we might be devotees of say, Lakshmi-Narayan or Sita-Rama?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “Am I to understand that by doing this process our relationship with Krishna, in whatever form, will be uncovered?” He said, “Yes,” again. Ultimately not every devotee would become attached to Radha and Krishna. I was thinking of the story of Murari Gupta in the Caitanya Caritamrta, to whom Lord Chaitanya said, “You are a pure devotee of Lord Ramachandra. You are Hanuman.” In other words, there are some devotees who are constitutionally attached to other forms of the Lord. But Radha and Krishna contain all the other forms within Them, and by purification we would find our ultimate relationship. At least that’s what he told me in Calcutta.

The room wasn’t very big, and there were forty or forty-five of us in it, along with Prabhupada and a couple of guests. During the evening Bhagavad-gita classes he would sit in a chair at one end of the room, and the rest of us packed in. One night Prabhupada was looking around and everybody was there but Jayananda. Prabhupada said, “Where is Jayananda?” We said, “He is still out parking the van, Srila Prabhupada.” Prabhupada waited, and when Jayananda walked in, Prabhupada looked at him, smiled, and said, “Oh, Jayananda looks just like Lord Chaitanya.” Jayananda blushed purple. He blushed and blushed because he was a homespun, shy, humble devotee.

He went into his room and called for Jayapataka. We were standing outside on the covered balcony at 3 Albert Road in Calcutta. Prabhupada practically roared at him, “Why is your complexion greenish?” Jayapataka stammered something. Prabhupada said, “If you do not eat better, you will die. The devotees are looking weak. All of you are not eating properly.” He said, “Everyday go to the place where the sweet merchants buy the freshly made curd that’s delivered from the countryside, and buy curd for each devotee. Fry it with a little salt and asafoetida, and give it to the devotees along with other, more substantial food.” We were having a lot of puffies as well as dahl and chapatis, but it wasn’t enough for us. When Prabhupada came he immediately saved us. He saw that the devotees in the temple at that time were suffering from malnourishment.

Prabhupada spoke from the vyasasana saying, “On one side there is a blazing fire,” and he pointed towards the street end of the building because Calcutta is Calcutta, “and on the other side there is Radha and Krishna. People do not know that there is an alternative. We have to give them the alternative.” In the Calcutta temple, it was refreshing to see the nice Radha-Krishna Deities, who were wonderfully worshiped by Yamuna, Kaushalya, Chitralekha, and Devananda Swami. The Deities were decorated with lots of little, white jasmine flowers as well as champak garlands, so They looked pretty and smelled heavenly. There was a window behind Them allowing light to come in, and black bees would also sometimes come in, fly around the Deities, land on a flower or two, and then go out again. Prabhupada said, “When those black bees come, it is a sign that Krishna is pleased with the Deity worship.”

One day we were going to a Gaudiya Math in Calcutta. This particular Math had a bookstore with all kinds of old Gaudiya Math publications, some of which were quite rare. Prabhupada and I were standing in the doorway of the ISKCON temple on Albert Road, and I asked, “Srila Prabhupada, I understand that your books are all that we need, but there will be books for sale at the Math. Once you told Bali Mardan that if he read the Brahma-samhita he would become a good preacher. I was wondering if it would be all right if I bought the Brahma-samhita and some other books, since we are going to this place.” Prabhupada answered my question in three parts. He said, “For one thing, I do not think you will be able to understand those books very well. My Guru Maharaj was not pleased with the sincerity of most of his disciples, and he wrote his books in a difficult language so that almost none of his disciples could understand them.” Then he said, “Actually, my Guru Maharaj wrote those books for me. Only I could understand them.” Another thing he said was, “We shouldn’t read anything published by the Gaudiya Math after 1932, because by that time politics were entering into the editions that were being printed.” I said, “Didn’t your Guru Maharaj pass away in 1936?” He said, “Yes, but in the last four years he was infirm and was not directly supervising the editing.” The final thing he said was, “Besides that, for an intelligent disciple, what his spiritual master provides is sufficient.”

In the spring of 1975, Gurudas took sannyas at the Stewart Street temple in Berkeley. Prabhupada gave a very nice lecture that day. He spoke just as highly, if not more highly, of Yamuna, Gurudas’ former wife, than he did of Gurudas. At one point he said, “His wife is practically a sannyasini.” When the program was over and Prabhupada was walking back to his room, I asked him if it was conceivable that women in our movement might formally take sannyas. Prabhupada looked at me, made a very disgusted expression and said, “Never!” It was an emphatic answer. From his point of view, that would never be possible.

One day had been especially difficult for me. I had been on the street collecting for a long time, I was tired, and I had just fought with another devotee. I felt that I couldn’t go on, that it was time for me to disappear and leave. That night, after another eight-hour day of street sankirtan and magazine selling, we were driven over to the bungalow where Prabhupada was speaking. I didn’t get into chanting during the first kirtan because I didn’t want to get carried away again. Every time I felt like leaving, it was either one of Prabhupada’s lectures or a feast that would wind up changing my mind to stay. Maya was really tugging at me. When Srila Prabhupada started to lecture that night, I had my head down. Prabhupada said, “When one is engaged in devotional service he will become joyful. If one is morose, that means he is not Krishna conscious. If one is Krishna conscious, he cannot be morose.” That hit me hard. I looked at him, and his eyes were right on me. He was speaking to me at that moment, but I was so psychologically fragile, if he had singled me out I would have probably run from the room or broken into tears or gotten very agitated, even angry, and left. Instead he did it in a lecture. I knew that he had seen exactly what I was feeling, and he said it for me. And I knew he was right, because all day I had refused to engage myself and, therefore I had been miserable. My legs hurt, I was tired, I was this, and I was that. Otherwise, I would have been absorbed, time would have passed, and little by little I would be getting stronger. Periodically other devotees had experiences similar to mine. Prabhupada was very good at reading faces. He once said that the face was the index of the mind, and he had that art down by training or intuition or both. He knew what to say at a particular time to keep us from faltering or to encourage us in different ways.

In the mid-seventies, Nitai das, a devotee Sanskrit scholar, started hearing from a Brijbasi Goswami and left ISKCON as a result. Nitai claimed that Prabhupada had not given us all the information we needed. He criticized Prabhupada for not telling his disciples about their eternal rasa with Krishna. So, in Berkeley in 1976, I asked Prabhupada, “Are there any matters concerning the nature of our devotional service and our relationship with Krishna that you have not explained to us? In the future will it be necessary for us to find someone else for more instructions? Or, if we follow your prescription for sadhana, sankirtan, preaching, and chanting, will our hearts be purified so that Krishna will reveal subsequent things to us from within?” When I said the latter part, Prabhupada smiled and said, “Yes, that is the way. You will not have to go anywhere else. If you simply follow my instructions, everything will be revealed to you from within.” He had a pleased look. It was clear to me that there was no need for information about our rasa, because everything is revealed to a purehearted devotee.

To view the entire unedited video go to Memories 08 - Revatinandana, Malati dd, Chitsukananda, Yadubara

Interview 02

Revatinandana: In an evening class Prabhupada mentioned that he’d received a letter saying that a God-brother of his had passed away. Prabhupada said that when he was living in Vrindavan as a vanaprastha, this God-brother had kindly written him a letter, reminding him that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati had wanted him to take sannyas and preach in the West. Prabhupada said, “I did not want to take sannyas, because materially it is a very difficult position. But I received that letter from my God-brother, and around the same time my Guru Maharaj appeared before me three times in dream. Each time he walked away from me, turned around, and beckoned me to follow.” These things prompted Prabhupada to take sannyas. He said, “In this way, my Guru Maharaj pulled me out of this material world.” When he said “pulled”, his voice got thick and two tears suddenly shot out of his eyes, as if they were squeezed out by a shudder of ecstasy, and went running down his cheeks. Everybody in the room was speechless. I was impressed with the intense feeling he had when his Guru Maharaj called him to take sannyas.

One time while we were walking side-by-side I asked, “Srila Prabhupada, this is not a judgmental question because whatever you eat, I’ll eat and feel like it’s what I should be eating. But I think that the food that we’re getting here has not been offered to Krishna. They have a Krishna Deity, but you can’t tell Him from the other Deities. They don’t discriminate. How should we view eating this food?” Prabhupada looked at me and said, “Actually, a Vaishnava takes everything as the mercy of the Lord. We prefer to eat what is offered to Radha and Krishna, but we understand that everything is Krishna’s mercy. But do not preach like this.” I said, “Why is that?” He said, “Because the new devotees will take food simply as sense enjoyment unless they offer it first. We do not want to confuse them.” As I thought about it, I was smiling because it was the first time I saw a clear example of Srila Prabhupada’s priorities. He was an uttama-adhikari who came to the platform of a madhyama-adhikari to preach Krishna consciousness.

Prabhupada was letting us ask questions. I said, “Prabhupada, it says in the Srimad-Bhagavatam that the fourteen different grades of planetary systems are arranged along the stem of the lotus flower. I always envisioned them as they are in the paintings, out in space around Brahmaloka. But here it says that they’re along the stem of the lotus flower. How can that be? Visually they appear to be in all directions.” Prabhupada looked at me, smiled, and said, “It may be a very big lotus flower,” and shook his head a little bit. He said, “We cannot understand these things with our puppy brains,” and smiled. It was immediately revealed to me that I have a very small scope for conceiving such things.

One day on the way back from an engagement, our host wanted to show us a Durga temple that had just been constructed by the side of a river. As we went in Prabhupada told us to do what he did. He said, “I’m going to bow down with my right side toward the Durga Deity. When we bow to Radha Krishna, we bow with our left side toward the Deity.”

One evening Prabhupada said he wanted to have a feast for the Gita Press people. He said, “They have been sheltering us and feeding us, so we will cook for them.” In the afternoon Prabhupada asked what chutney I was going to make, and I said, “apple.” He said, “I do not think apple chutney is very nice. Make tomato or something like that.” I said, “But, Prabhupada, we already purchased the apples.” He said, “All right.” So our cooks made subji and puris, and I made apple chutney and halava with milk. A couple days earlier and throughout that week, Prabhupada had been teaching us Jaya Radha Madhava in the morning by having us repeat it after him. He took a special liking to that song, and that’s when he started singing it before his morning class. We were taking care of beautiful, metal Radha-Damodar Deities. The floor of the temple room was wooden, and Prabhupada mentioned that it hadn’t been properly cleaned. Kaushalya volunteered to clean it, but the next time Prabhupada saw it he still thought it wasn’t clean enough. Prabhupada said, “You’re not doing it properly. Get two pots, one for dirty water and the other one for clean water, and do it like this.” He pulled up his dhoti, got down on his hands and knees, put a rag in one pot of water, and scrubbed the floor. Then in the other pot of water he wrung the rag out and rinsed it. Again he put the rag in the fresh water and mopped up what he had done. He said, “In this way, you will keep one pot of water clean while the other one gets dirty. Always rinse the rag, and then soak up the dirt. That way you’ll pick up the dirt, rather than just moving it around.” He didn’t hesitate to show Kaushalya exactly how he wanted it done and spent two or three minutes on his hands and knees scrubbing the floor in front of the Deities. That was a nice thing to see Prabhupada do.

That night all the people from the Gita Press showed up to hear a very philosophical lecture on the Vedanta Sutra. Prabhupada started speaking about Vedanta Sutra but after about fifteen minutes pointed out that the ultimate knowledge of Vedanta was knowledge of Radha and Krishna. He quoted the line, “jaya radha madhava kunja bihari,” which means that “Radha and Madhava are enjoying in the pleasure groves in Vrindavan.” At that point he stopped talking and sat up very straight with his eyes closed. A little tremble went through his body. When we were traveling in those days, sometimes Prabhupada would be tired and would doze off while sitting in his seat or waiting on the vyasasana. But this time he was sitting up very straight, and there was a little tremor in his body. He sat quietly for several minutes, and both the Gita Press people and the devotees were spellbound watching him. We knew that he had drifted into a trance right there on the vyasasana. You could have heard a pin drop in the room. Nobody said anything, nobody moved. Everybody just watched him. Finally he opened his eyes and said, “So, this song is very nice. You should all learn to sing this song,” got off the vyasasana, and went into his room. That was the end of the lecture.

One night we received an invitation from local politicians and businessmen to do a program at the Lion’s Club in Indore. Prabhupada didn’t want to go. He said to me, “I’m not going to this one. I do not like these men. They are snakes. You go and give the lecture.” I said, “Oh my gosh. What should I tell them?” He said, “Tell them that we are spreading their Hindu religion all over the world, so they’re obliged to give us a donation. But before you talk, lead a big, good kirtan. The chanting is our mantra for charming snakes. Then they will be able to listen for a few minutes without arguing. Try to get them to give a donation and then go.”

Prabhupada walked in the room, looked at the preparations, and stopped. He said, “Where are the fruits? Where are the flowers? This initiation ceremony is a farce. I cannot bring the Lord of the Universe to a place like this. What is this?” The devotees had gotten rectangular stainless steel hotel pans for bathing the Deities, and Prabhupada was totally dissatisfied. He stood there for a long time, chastising Nanda Kumar, Shyamasundar, Akoyananda, one after the other. He said, “I am not going to do it. You have not prepared for it nicely. There should be flowers and fruit everywhere. I’m leaving.” Then he hesitated. He got on the vyasasana and said, “All right. I will do it, but I do not think this is very nice.” All of this was on TV. He was shouting for perhaps ten minutes. It was incredible. I was shaking. I was thinking, “I’m lucky that I wasn’t in charge of any of the arrangements.” There was a kirtan, and then he said, “All right, Revatinandana Maharaj, perform the fire sacrifice.” Pradyumna was there, and I had assumed that he was going to do the fire sacrifice, but maybe since it was Akoyananda’s sannyas initiation, I was called upon to do it. Every time I made a mistake Prabhupada interrupted me, saying, “No, it is not like that. It is like this,” and the more he chastised me the more nervous and upset I got. All of a sudden I was on the firing line too. His mood was intense that afternoon. I’d never seen him that angry. Finally in my confusion, I skipped “namomaha.” Prabhupada said, “You have forgotten ‘namo.’ All right, I will finish these mantras.” Much to my relief, he concluded the mantra chanting. I started feeding sticks into the fire with my right hand and using the ladle in my left hand to pour ghee on the fire. As I held up the ladle I realized, “Oops, it’s supposed to be in my right hand.” Prabhupada was looking at me as I switched hands, and he made a disgusted face and shook his head. Then Prabhupada gave Akoyananda sannyas. Besides taking sannyas, which is serious enough, Akoyananda had also just been chastised very heavily. He was standing there shaking, holding a danda with his teeth clenched. When the ceremony was over, Prabhupada said, “All right,” pointed at me and said, “Begin kirtan.” I started leading kirtan. Prabhupada looked over at Akoyananda, and for the first time that afternoon he smiled a little and indicated that Akoyananda should dance. Prabhupada was pleased with his seriousness, but he also wanted him to get into the swing of the kirtan. It wasn’t that serious. He should enjoy Krishna consciousness also. Afterwards he got up and went to the back door to leave, but the car hadn’t gotten there yet, and he had to stand in a drizzle of rain for a few minutes. The crowd was so packed in behind him that he couldn’t go back inside. He got into the car and asked Nanda Kumar, “So, you have brought my prasadam?” Nanda Kumar said, “Well, Prabhupada, I thought that you would take your usual prasadam, since it’s not as rich.” Prabhupada said, “No, this is a Deity installation. I want maha prasadam. Go and get me a plate.” Nanda Kumar went back in, came out with a plate of maha, and drove Prabhupada off. Nanda Kumar told me later that when they arrived at Prabhupada’s apartment, Prabhupada’s plate of prasadam fell off the back seat and landed face down on the floor of the car. Nanda Kumar went, “Oh no,” to himself. Prabhupada went upstairs, and Nanda Kumar thought, “I hope Prabhupada forgets about his prasadam.” But the first thing Prabhupada said was “Where is my prasadam? Bring me my prasadam.” Nanda Kumar said, “Prabhupada, it fell on the floor.” Prabhupada said, “Bring it.” Nanda Kumar picked it off the floor, put it back on the plate, and brought it to him. Prabhupada ate the whole plate. It probably had dirt and whatnot in it, but Prabhupada ate it anyway because it was prasadam.

One of my God-brothers said, “Revatinandana, you know what Prabhupada said the other day?” I said, “What?” He said, “Prabhupada said that sometimes, even after going back to Godhead, a soul can fall again.” I said, “Are you sure?” (I knew that in the Gita Krishna says, “Having returned to My transcendental abode, one never again returns to this world of miseries.”) He said, “You can ask Prabhupada yourself, but that’s what he said.” When I got a chance, I asked Prabhupada, “Is it true that even after going back to Godhead, a soul sometimes falls again into the material energy?” Prabhupada said, “Yes.” I said, “How does that relate with the Gita’s statement?” With a wise, meditative smile Prabhupada said, “‘Never’ means ‘practically never.’ The soul is Krishna’s marginal energy, which means that the soul eternally has the capacity to turn away or to turn toward Krishna. Generally a soul does not fall, but if he did, he probably wouldn’t do it again. However, it is not inconceivable.” People say that souls never fall from the spiritual world in the first place, that they fall from somewhere besides Krishna’s association. But Prabhupada was definitely speaking about being in Krishna’s abode as described in the Bhagavadgita.

I was alone with Prabhupada in his room one time, and I asked him, “Many times when we’re out traveling, we stay up until midnight or two in the morning answering the student’s questions.” Prabhupada asked if we were distributing his books properly. I said, “We use the Krishna Books as altar pieces because Radha-Krishna is on the front and your picture is on the back. We also have a Pancha-tattva painting. We have kirtan, I give a lecture, we have more kirtan, then we give out prasadam, and we invite the students to look at the books and talk with us.” Prabhupada smiled and said, “Oh, that is very nice, continue to do that. As long as you’re presenting the books nicely, it does not matter how many you distribute, because your program is different. Your program will attract devotees.” He was pleased. I said, “I’m a little worried because sometimes we’re not up for mangal arati. We’re not really following the sadhana.” Prabhupada was still smiling. He said, “That is all right. Because you are doing sankirtan that will be fine.” He said, “Our movement runs on two tracks, the pancharatriki vidhi and the bhagavat vidhi. Pancharatriki vidhi refers to the rules and regulations of Deity worship. Our temple sadhana is centered around pancharatriki vidhi because devotees become strong by being regulated. “The bhagavat vidhi process of chanting, dancing, feasting, and philosophy was propagated by Lord Chaitanya. However, the smarta brahman community in India criticized Lord Chaitanya saying, “We do not find Your process in the Vedas.” So, when Lord Chaitanya instructed the Goswamis to write, in order to make the process appear more Vedic, they added some modes of Deity worship from the previous age, and that is the pancharatriki vidhi. “Even though I say in my books that our movement runs on two tracks and they are both equally important, I will tell you that in this age you can get along without the pancharatriki vidhi if necessary. But you cannot get along without the bhagavat vidhi. This is why your sankirtan activity is sustaining you, even without the regulation of Deity worship.” He said, “If a devotee needs to be strengthened, then send him to the temple. But otherwise sankirtan will be all you need.” Then he told me, “Do not preach this.” I said, “Why?” I was ready to run out and start singing. I thought what he explained to me was wonderful. “Many devotees are attached to the Deities, and that helps them to be attached to Krishna consciousness. If you explain this, they may think that you are criticizing Deity worship or that the Deity is less important or unimportant. Therefore, do not preach this. I’m explaining this to you for your own understanding.” That was very nice of him.

When the sannyas initiation was over I said, “Maybe I should go over to Prabhupada’s apartment and apologize on behalf of the devotees.” We all thought that it was the worst disaster we’d ever had, as far as our service was concerned. I got a ride over and asked Nanda Kumar, “Is Prabhupada still up?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “Can I see him?” He said, “Put your head in and see if he’ll see you.” I did that and asked Prabhupada, “Can I come in?” He said, “Yes, come.” I came in, offered obeisances and sat down at his feet. I said, “Srila Prabhupada, on behalf of all the devotees I want to apologize. We did it badly and we’re sorry to have displeased you.” Prabhupada smiled a little and said, “Do not pay it any mind.” I was amazed, because he was as cool as a cucumber. I knew from experience that I should never, to Prabhupada’s face, use him as an example of a pure devotee. When I did this once in India, he said with great vehemence, “I am not a pure devotee. I am a rascal.” So this time I said, “Prabhupada can you answer a question about the consciousness of a pure devotee?” He said, “Yes. Ask.” I said, “Sometimes, it appears that a pure devotee may be very angry or happy, but how does that really affect him?” I was thinking that Prabhupada didn’t seem even slightly upset. Prabhupada said, “The consciousness of a pure devotee is very deep. It is like the ocean. Near the surface there may be many waves, but as you go down into the ocean, you will find that it is still.” I immediately understood what he was saying. He continued, “In this way, the consciousness of a pure devotee is so deep that nothing really disturbs it. There may be some ripples on the surface, but underneath remains very deep and still.” I asked, “Is it like that even at death?” He said, “Yes.”

To view the entire unedited video go to Memories 11 - Tamal Krsna Goswami, Kaushalya dd, Revatinandana

Interview 03

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

Following Srila Prabhupada

Interview DVD 01

Revatinandan: At that point, Vishnujan had his black nylon gloves on with little pieces of tile taped underneath on the outside of the gloves so he could just slip the gloves on and he’d have pieces of tile in all the places where his hands would hit the mrdanga shell because a mrdanga, after a while, it can cut your hands to ribbons. So to protect his hands, he had these gloves that he could slip on and off that already had taped pieces of tile in place so he could tap the drum all day without hurting his hands. He used to play that drum like that and lead that kirtan every day, day in, day out. Between the street and the temple aratiks, he probably led kirtan 10 hours a day, day in and day out. I’m not kidding. An average of three-and-a-half to four hours in the afternoon, an average of the same at night, and then at least three or four big kirtans in the temple throughout the day. Added all together, probably 10 hours a day chanting at the top of his lungs, and he never ever seemed to be tired of doing it. His dedication was philosophically based. It’s possible to be sentimentally based or emotionally based only. Vishnujan was actually very philosophical. He could give a good lecture.

These were big days. These were some of my favorite days of the year because we got to have kirtan for hours at a stretch; and after about two hours of chanting in continuous kirtan, it goes through a kind of a change. This special thing used to happen where you felt like you were listening while your body did it, and it got real sweet at that time. And then you could go on and on and on and on after that. There were times when I led for 10 hours without stopping at a Rathayatra. This is when the sankirtan portion of the movement, which was the real movement, was in full swing at that time. Prabhupada used to say, “Our movement runs on two tracks – the pancaratriki-viddhi and the bhagavat-viddhi.” And he defined the pancaratriki-viddhi as being all of the regulations connected with deity worship basically by which devotees pattern their life, timing everything every day. And the bhagavat-viddhi he defined as chanting, dancing, feasting and philosophy. And that’s exactly how he defined it, he just said those four terms. He said, “I have written in our books that our movement runs on both tracks simultaneously, and they are both equally important.” But then he told me another time, he said, “But I’ll tell you, you can get along without the pancaratriki-viddhi in this age but you cannot get along without the bhagavat-viddhi.” So his main stress was on this, and it was livewire.

Interview DVD 02

Revatinandan: At the start of the procession we had speakers on Subhadra’s car, and Jivananda and I and a couple other devotees were sitting in the back with microphones to have kirtan over the microphone. Then Prabhupada sent word back that he didn’t want the speakers anymore and he just wanted kirtan parties in the crowd like in India. So Jivananda and I turned the speakers off, hopped out and started doing kirtan.

Subal, Brahmananda, Gargamuni and Vishnujan were together and they came to this president’s meeting. They weren’t presidents, they were new sannyasis. The president’s meeting was happening in the temple building in New Vrindavan; and meanwhile, the first GBC meeting was happening at Hayagriva’s house, which was on a little hill right next to the temple but up the hill. Brahmananda and Gargamuni and Subal…Vishnujan didn’t have much to do with it…took over the president’s meeting and started doing this whole trip on us about how we had gotten way ahead of ourselves, we couldn’t even understand who Prabhupada was what to speak of understanding who Krishna was, that we should understand that our entire relationship was with Prabhupada and when you read Bhagavad-gita you shouldn’t read “Sri Bhagavan uvaca,” you should read “Srila Prabhupada uvaca.”

This was in Bombay. The program was a sankirtan procession where they took deities on a kirtan procession. They had bands. The bands were playing the Mexican Hat Dance. You know the Mexican Hat Dance? That’s what the band was playing for the deity, for Radha-Krishna deities. We were chanting along with the Mexican Hat Dance, I remember that. We got out on this pier and there were several speakers to speak, and one of the other speakers was one of the most famous Mayavadi sannyasis in Bombay and Prabhupada knew his name. He was in the Shivananda line, which is the big Mayavadi Shivite line in India. Almost every one of the big gurus that came to the West was a disciple of Swami Shivananda in Bombay, and this guy was his successor. Then Prabhupada spoke and he said, “So you have been listening to such-and-such, or such-and-such is here and he is very famous,” and he mentioned him by name, “and he is impersonalist. He does not believe that Radha-Krishna are the Supreme Personality of Godhead. But I will tell you something that I know. In secret he is worshiping Radha-Krishna deities.” And the man smiled real big, and Prabhupada had him. He said, “Even though he says he does not believe God is person, he cannot resist worshiping Radha-Krishna.”

One day we were brought to have a tour of the Golden Temple, and no pictures like a mosque; and at the top of the little temple there’s a grantha, the holy book is there, and they sit reading it all the time. After we went there, we went to the chapati room. In those days, they were feeding anywhere from six to eight thousand people a day a free meal. The pit itself must have been about 12 or 14 feet across, and suspended over the middle of the fire was a big old cast iron plate. Then around the room were all these Indian men and women rolling chapatis. As we sat and watched, there were chapatis unpuffed and puffed flying through the air in the room all the time like flying saucers. Prabhupada said, “See how they are doing this. This is how you distribute prasadam.” He really liked it. He said, “Learn to do like this.”

Surat is near Dwaraka, and so it’s a traditionally Vaisnava province. They worship mostly Bal Krishna in the Vallabhacharya line, but any Krishna worship is very popular there. So Mr. Jariwala was very respected in the town, and every day he had our kirtan route printed in the newspaper. So people knew exactly which streets we were going to be on and they had those streets streamered with sari cloth all the way across the roads, everybody had little white chalk auspicious diagrams in front of their houses on the sidewalk, and they were out there with kumkum and rice and flower garlands to put the red kumkum and rice on our foreheads and garland us. We got so many garlands put on us that after a while we had to take 20 of them off and pass them out to the crowd, and next thing you know we’d have 20 more garlands on. We got garlanded 50 times in the course of each procession, and people were doing arati to us in the street as we went by in the kirtan procession. Basically, that was just a ton of fun.

I didn’t get to go on a single one of those morning kirtans. I had to cook for 45 people breakfast on the fires. Then I had to cook lunch on those fires. Then one day Prabhupada said…after lunch was over he said, “I want you to prepare rice, puris and chutney for 700 people,” and that was to be passed out in the pandal in the afternoon. And then after that I had to get dinner ready for 45 people. I had two little wood fire pits and all we had was sticks, just sticks. Not even chunks of wood that you could make a bed of coals out of, just sticks. So all you had was flame and soot. The pots were covered with soot, I was covered with soot. Somehow I was putting out every bit I had to do that service at that time. It was the hardest thing I ever did materially.

But I was so sick that when I got up in the morning about four o’clock and had to run for the outhouse, there was somebody in the outhouse. And then I went back in and I climbed between the quilts again to get warm, and I just laid there and I couldn’t move. And then I heard the mangal arati start, and I got up and I got dressed and I came into arati and I must have been 10 minutes late. Prabhupada watched me walk in from the back, and he was talking about the Bhagavatam story of Ajamila about the subject of atonement. The Sanskrit word is prayascitta, and it means atonement. He was talking about how atoning for sins doesn’t solve the problem because it doesn’t cleanse the seed of sinful desire from the heart. So even though you can get free from the reaction by atonement, by some kind of prayascitta, you can’t stop the tendency to commit the sin again that way. Then he started talking about Ajamila and how Ajamila as a youth…and he said he did some very pure service, and Prabhupada was looking at me as he said it. And then he said, “Very pure.” But then later in his life because of circumstance, he fell down and he went to his death as a fallen worldly man. But it was right as I walked in and as he was looking at me that he talked about Ajamila doing some pure service in his youth, and then as he was looking at me he said, “Very pure.” Even now thinking back on it and what happened and then how my life has gone since, it almost seemed like he saw my future.

Interview DVD 09

Revatinandan: We were walking right along the shoreline and Prabhupada was talking about the pebbles on the shoreline, that we are like those pebbles. He said tatastha shakti means in the margin, can turn toward Krishna or away from Krishna. Sometimes the pebbles are covered by the water and sometimes they are uncovered. He made it sound like it was almost very random. But he said that’s similar to the position of the living entity as marginal energy. For him the tatastha region wasn’t an area in space or something, it was the attitude of the souls. The jivas form the tatastha shakti. They have the capacity to turn toward Krishna or away from Krishna by nature, and that is the meaning of this marginal energy.

Interview DVD 10

Revatinandana:Vishnujan had asked Prabhupada on a morning walk on the roof of the building, “How was Chota Haridas delivered by committing suicide after his offense?” So Vishnujan had been thinking about that question probably for days. He said, “Srila Prabhupada, can I ask a question?” and his voice cracked while he said it, and I looked up because his voice was so emotional. Prabhupada looked at him and he said, “Yes.” Then he asked him that question. Then Prabhupada said something to the effect that “Yes, if a sannyasi does that, if he has illicit sex, then it is better that he kill himself,” and while he was talking Vishnujan looked away, he looked off to the side. Then Prabhupada said, “But that is an exemplary punishment, it is not meant to be taken literally,” and he stopped and walked on. And Vishnujan never heard the last part of the answer. Something happened, and he was feeling very guilty and bad about it. I marked, “That’s why he’s been different since I saw him on the way from New York.” He was pale and he was staring off into space and he looked completely distant and detached from his surroundings, and I had never seen him like that in years. He was always energetic, enthusiastic, had a lot of effulgence, and he was busy. I grew up with him. We played in Grandma’s back yard from the time we were a year old together. He and I had a significant thing. We lived in the same house in the Haight-Ashbury, he joined six months before I did. If it hadn’t been for him, I probably never would have become a devotee. The last thing Vishnujan said to me was, “Whatever you do, try to do something beautiful for Prabhupada.” I told him, “I do.” Anyway, I don’t see Vishnujan again until the walk. After he asked that question I marked, “He’s thinking about suicide! You have to talk to him, he didn’t hear the end of the answer.” So I’m thinking, “As soon as I get a chance, I’m going to talk to him.” By the time the crowd dispersed and we got down to the morning program, which was right afterward, I didn’t see Vishnujan at the program. He disappeared. I never set eyes on him again. I never got a chance to talk to him.

While he was being massaged by Hari Sauri, I asked him if he was aware that Vishnujan Maharaja had probably committed suicide. Prabhupada suddenly looked up at me with concern and said, “Why do you think that?” And I asked him if he could remember a few months previously in Mayapur when Vishnujan had asked him, “How has Chota Haridas been delivered by committing suicide after his offense?” I recounted that story to Prabhupada including roughly what Prabhupada had said. After I finished, Prabhupada looked at Hari Sauri and he said, “Do you think he did that?” and Hari Sauri shrugs his shoulders. Prabhupada put his head down and said, “He might have done that.”