Vaishesika das Remembers Srila Prabhupada

Prabhupada Memories

Interview 01

Vaishesika: I first met Srila Prabhupada in San Francisco in 1974. When I joined in 1973, I washed pots for a while and then became part of the San Francisco book distribution team. In 1973 Prabhupada started emphasizing how everyone should distribute books. In lectures in Los Angeles, Srila Prabhupada said, “tad-vag-visargo janatagha-viplavo, yasmin prati-slokam abaddhavaty api, namany anantasya yaso ’nkitani yat, srnvanti gayanti grnanti sadhavah.” For someone to come in touch with the Bhagavata is not an ordinary thing. The Bhagavata is so powerful that if they read one word or one line or even if they touch the book, their life will change. By seeing Srila Prabhupada’s demeanor, by hearing the sweetness of his voice, by being taken up in his energy, he instilled in young people—some who were just walking in the door—faith in his books. Armies of devotees were distributing books. When Srila Prabhupada was in his room in San Francisco, our temple president, Bhaktadas, introduced some of us to Srila Prabhupada. Bhaktadas said, “These are the book distributors. They are sacrificing so much to go out and sell your books every day, and they’re selling so many books.” We were listening, thinking, “Oh, this is nice.” Srila Prabhupada said, “You must also read the books,” and he preached for twenty minutes about how he wanted every one of his disciples to take full advantage of the Srimad Bhagavatam. “Every word,” he said, “I’ve translated from Sanskrit into English. I’ve painstakingly translated these books for your benefit because I want you all to become pure devotees.” At that time I could see that Srila Prabhupada’s real interest was for us to be completely serious about Krishna consciousness and to take full advantage of the process of Krishna consciousness. I’ve always been inspired that, although Prabhupada is pushing book distribution and it is very pleasing to him, he wants us to take advantage of everything he’s given us. Srila Prabhupada wants us to take the process seriously and come to the highest platform of Krishna consciousness. At the opening of the Krishna-Balaram Mandir in 1975, a group of us— Tripurari Maharaj, Sura das, some others and I—were working for the BBT party. After Prabhupada did the first arati for Krishna-Balaram, his disciples were given the opportunity to do the next arati. Tripurari Maharaj grabbed Sura das and me and pushed his way into the pujari room and said, “We’re doing it!” Bhagavan came in, pushed Tripurari away and said, “No, we were here first.” Gurudas came in and said, “No, we were here first.” We said to Tripurari, “Maharaj, just let them do it,” because we weren’t fully trained in pujari work. But we were allowed to perform the arati. We were instructed to wait until Srila Prabhupada came in, then to open the Deity doors and offer the arati. Before we went into the Deity room, the pujari, who had been up for three days said, “You had better do the offerings properly because Srila Prabhupada will be watching along with all the biggest pandits from all over Vrindavan, and we want to make a good impression.” We were very nervous. We waited and waited, and finally Srila Prabhupada came for darshan. We opened the doors, and we walked to the front where all the arati paraphernalia was. I froze. I’d never seen such arati paraphernalia before—long ghee wicks and so forth—and I had never done a simultaneous arati before. That’s very difficult in and of itself. I was at Radha-Shyamasundar’s altar, Tripurari Maharaj was at Krishna- Balaram’s altar, and Sura das was at Gaura-Nitai’s altar. There was a fan going full speed over Gaura-Nitai’s altar, and no one knew where the switch for it was (the temple had just opened and everything was new to everyone). Sura das could barely light the ghee wicks or offer the chamara properly. Srila Prabhupada offered his obeisances to Gaura-Nitai and Krishna-Balaram. Then he came to Radha-Shyamasundar’s altar and stood there. All the GBC men and the sannyasis stood behind Srila Prabhupada, and when I turned around to offer the incense to the devotees, I practically fainted because Prabhupada was standing there. I continued to fumble through the process and it went from bad to worse. The whole time I was thinking that Srila Prabhupada might ask me to burn my brahmana’s thread afterwards. When I threw the offered water to the assembled devotees, it hit Tamal Krishna Maharaj squarely in his glasses and I could see he was furious. After the arati, we came into the pujari room and Tripurari Maharaj said, “Now is the time to pray for forgiveness.” I went to the dark recesses of my room and thought that I would stay there for a long time and pray for forgiveness. Meanwhile, after the arati, Prabhupada went back to his room, and, according to Ramesvara, Srila Prabhupada said, “Who was doing arati?” Someone said, “Prabhupada, it was Tripurari Maharaj and his men. They don’t know much about puja, but they distribute your books.” Prabhupada said, “Oh, that is all right.” After that I felt even more gratitude for Srila Prabhupada’s mercy, and I also took it upon myself to learn how to do puja.

To view the entire unedited video go to Memories 34 - 25th Anniversary of SP Disappearance

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

Following Srila Prabhupada

Interview DVD 08

Vaisesika: So the bank was right under the guesthouse. That’s actually where Prabhupada’s room is now, where we have Bhagavad-gita class. They opened a bank and all the devotees crowded in, and Prabhupada was inside and he was inaugurating the bank and he told this joke. I was craning through the little screen window to hear what he was saying and he said, “So one man heard that money attracts money. So he went into the bank and he put his money on the counter, and the teller took his money and put it in the till and said, ‘Yes? Can I help you?’ The man said, ‘Well, I heard that money attracts money, so put my money in there,’ and he said, ‘Yes, but our money has attracted your money.’” Prabhupada laughed and everyone laughed, and that was his joke that he told.