is Hare Krishna?
Events: Kirtan Festival
2004 - Hansadutta das
Part III: New Vrindaban, 1968-1969
By Hayagriva das
Paramhansa in the Hills
this story to a friend Printer
arrive at the foot of Aghasura Road, the devotees are waiting beside
the powerwagon. The air is vibrant with the humming of bees and
fragrant with the sweet aroma of white locust flowers.
The devotees offer obeisances as soon as the Lincoln turns down the
driveway. They fall face down on the grass and gravel.
“Oh, there are many waiting here,” Prabhupada says, stepping out of the
car. “Jai Sri Krishna!”
Little Dwarkadish, six years old, timidly obeys his mother and garlands
Prabhupada with gardenias and red roses.
“Oh, thank you, Mr. D.D.D.,” Prabhupada says. “D.D.D.” is his nickname
for Dwarkadish-das, who has just arrived with his mother from the Los
Angeles temple. Present also are other recent arrivals: John and Susan,
students from Ohio University, where Prabhupada lectured; Patita-pavana
and Uddhava, two brothers from New York; Rupanuga and his five-year-old
son Ekendra; and Nara-narayana, the carpenter who’s been helping
Vamandev repair the farmhouse.
“So, where do we go from here?” Prabhupada asks.
“It’s two miles up that road, Prabhupada,” Ranandhir says, pointing at
the muddy Aghasura winding its way down the creek through locust and
“And we go in this?” Prabhupada asks, looking at the old powerwagon.
“It’s as strong as a tank, Prabhupada, “ Kirtanananda says, getting
inside and starting it. The engine roars and smokes as he revs it up.
“Why not walk?” Prabhupada suggests.
We protest that the two-mile trek would be too hard on Prabhupada.
Driving the power-wagon over Mr. Thompson’s property is quicker and
Paramananda calls me aside to inform me that he couldn’t contact Mr.
“He wasn’t in last night or this morning,” he says. “I guess it’s all
right to drive over. He’s never refused.”
“Well, it’s an emergency,” I say.
Purushottam and Devananda load Prabhupada’s luggage in the back of the
powerwagon. Prabhupada curiously asks about the vehicle’s model as he
gets in. To cushion the jolts, we’ve placed clean pillows over the bare
springs of the seat. Shama-dasi has even garlanded the dashboard.
Once Prabhupada is securely seated, Kirtanananda starts driving up the
gravel road to Mr. Thompson’s farm. The powerwagon shudders and lurches
forward. Hrishikesh, Paramananda, Ranandhir and I jump in back. The
other devotees run behind in a hurried procession.
Driving around the back of Mr. Thompson’s house, Kirtanananda starts up
the dirt road to the pasture running along the ridge two miles to New
Vrindaban. As we pass Mr. Thompson’s horse corral and chicken coop,
Prabhupada chants on his beads and looks about curiously.
When the powerwagon starts pulling the first small hill, it suddenly
shakes violently. Then the engine hisses and dies. Kirtanananda starts
it up again and throws in the clutch. The powerwagon rolls backward,
lurches forward, roars, shudders and dies again. This process is
repeated. We look anxiously at Prabhupada.
“Why not walk?” he asks Kirtanananda.
Kirtanananda turns the ignition. The powerwagon responds with a cough
and a feline growl.
“It’s temperamental,” he says.
Paramananda opens the hood, and Chaitanya-das takes a look. He
supposedly knows something about engines. Purushottam stands by the
powerwagon door fanning Prabhupada with peacock feathers.
“If only I had some tools,” Chaitanya-das laments.
I start interrogating Paramananda. It seems he couldn’t get the
powerwagon to the mechanic. Yes, it’s been dying periodically. It could
be due to any number of problems. Well, if we could push it to the top
of the hill, it might start coasting down.
“Maybe we can start it in reverse,” I suggest. “Let’s roll backwards.”
“Then Prabhupada should get out,” Purushottam says anxiously.
“We can walk,” Prabhupada says.
“It’s a two-mile walk, Prabhupada,” Devananda says.
As Prabhupada descends from the powerwagon, Mr. Thompson suddenly
appears, driving his tractor over the hill, hauling a wagonload of cow
dung. He stops and glowers at our stalled procession.
“You might have asked permission,” he says.
We explain that we’ve been trying to find him, that this is a special
occasion, the arrival of our spiritual master.
“Well, all right,” he says. “But next time, ask permission.”
Before we can petition Mr. Thompson to help us with the powerwagon,
Prabhupada starts walking back down the driveway. Purushottam runs
behind him, carrying his Deities in a small suitcase. Prabhupada is
waiting for no one.
“Better walk,” he says, marking a lively pace.
Hurrying after him, we leave the powerwagon and its karma with
Paramananda and Chaitanya-das.
“Push it if necessary,” I tell them. “All Prabhupada’s things are in
Kirtanananda informs Prabhupada that it would be easier to walk over
the ridge, but Prabhupada heads straight toward the Aghasura demon.
“Better this road,” he says. “Better walk on our own property. Then we
won’t be intruders.“
He enquires whether Mr. Thompson has taken prasadam with us. When we
say no, he suggests that we invite him.
“He raises cows for eating,” Satyabhama says.
“Oh?” Prabhupada shakes his head. “Animal killers will not take to
chanting. But no matter. You can offer him some
prasadam. With tasteful prasadam, you can convince the karmis
to give up their bad habits.”
Then, as nonchalantly as he would walk down a Calcutta street,
Prabhupada starts up Aghasura Road, keeping his lively pace. We hurry
after him, fretting. He walks, as usual, with his head held high, not
looking down for anything, not even Aghasura’s mudholes and ruts.
“Govinda-dasi is doing nicely in Hawaii,” he says, “defeating the
Mayavadis with some very strong preaching. What kind of tree is this?”
“Locust, Srila Prabhupada,” Kirtanananda says. “Very hard wood. They’re
used for fenceposts.”
Prabhupada stops before a large flower-ladened tree. The limbs are
buzzing with bees.
“And they are giving honey also,” he says. “Such trees are very useful.
A tree that gives no fruit or fragrant flower is like a man devoid of
Krishna consciousness, just standing in the way. A wasted life.”
Dwarkadish and Ekendra run ahead and place flat rocks in the shallow
creek crossings so Prabhupada won’t wet his feet. Talking casually
about the plants, trees and vines, Prabhupada keeps up the quick pace.
Surely he must slow down going uphill. After two shallow creek
crossings, Aghasura Road rises from the creekbed and runs along the
hillside, twisting and turning, to the farmhouse.
“Maybe you would like to rest here, Srila Prabhupada,“ I suggest,
indicating a large, flat rock beside a flowering dogwood.
“That’s all right,” he says, not even breathing hard, not even looking
at the choice spot.
Finally, just at the top of the hill, as we round the curve and see the
farmhouse ahead, Prabhupada stops. The devotees welcome the rest. Some,
including Kirtanananda, are huffing.
“We are stopping just for Kirtanananda Maharaj, Prabhupada says,
Then, the brief rest over, he starts up again, not stopping until he
reaches the farmhouse, where his dais awaits him beneath the willow.
Prabhupada washes, we bring him fruit, honey and fresh milk from
Kaliya. He sits outside under the willow, and we sit about him in a
semicircle. Dwarkadish and Ekendra sit at his feet.
“I haven’t tasted milk like this in fifty years,” he says.
Ranandhir parades our cow Kaliya before him. Prabhupada admires her but
doesn’t pet her. “We don’t have such fatty cows in India,” he says. “In
days past, yes, but now no one can feed them nicely. That is the way
the Vedas calculate a man’s wealth—in cows and grains.”
“The honey is from nearby,” Kirtanananda says. “It’s tulip honey. Maybe
next year we can get a hive.”
“Then you will have the land of milk and honey complete,” Prabhupada
says. “That is nature’s design, that everything is given complete for a
happy life. We don’t require artificial amenities. All we need to
realize Krishna is here.”
Walking out to the barn, Prabhupada watches Ranandhir put Kaliya in her
“There’s a waterfall down there in the creekbed,” Kirtanananda tells
him. “We’ve called it Kesi Ghat, as you suggested.”
“Yes,” Prabhupada says, “and that hill you must call Govardhan.“
“And this is Revachuggi,” I say, introducing the goat.
“Very good,” he laughs. “Just see the nipples on her neck. It is said
that a man trying to derive pleasure from the senses is like someone
trying to get milk from those nipples.”
Prabhupada then casually mentions that in her last life, Revachuggi was
a Mohammedan who had killed goats.
Returning to the farmhouse, Prabhupada looks about, appraising the
land, the road, the hill slanting down to the creekbed, the forests,
the hill up to the main road, and the overgrown pasture.
“Where are the flat parts?” he asks, turning to me.
“I’m afraid we left them in Ohio,” I say, sadly admitting the obvious
Again, Prabhupada looks about like a king surveying his domain.
“Well, you can flatten this part here,” he says, “by taking earth from
Govardhan Hill and filling in over there.” He points to the field below
the house. “Then,” he adds, “it will be nice and flat.”
As Prabhupada explains how we’re to level the land, we listen with
“Well, St. Paul speaks of faith moving mountains,” Kirtanananda says,
“Yes,” Prabhupada agrees. “Just do it!”
Dwarkadish’s mother, timidly approaches Prabhupada with a silver cup of
water freshly drawn from the well. Somehow she manages to offer
obeisances, lying face down on the ground, without spilling a drop.
Prabhupada accepts the water and drinks from the goblet, not letting it
touch his mouth.
“Oh, it is very sweet water,” he says. “That is Krishna. That is the
way of remembering Krishna. And it is so easy here at New Vrindaban.
When we take fresh water, we can remember Krishna because Krishna is
the taste of water. And we can remember Krishna as soon as we see the
sunlight in the morning, because the sunlight is a reflection of
Krishna’s bodily effulgence. And as soon as we see moonlight in the
evening, we can remember Krishna because moonlight is the reflection of
sunlight. When we hear any sound, we can remember Krishna because sound
is Krishna. Even the cow reminds us of Krishna because Krishna is
renowned as Govinda, who gives pleasure to the cows. And the
countryside also reminds us of Him because He says He is the sweet
fragrance of the earth. And when we see the flowers in springtime, that
is also Krishna. And the wind and nature’s thunderbolt remind us. So
much is there to remind us of Krishna that the devotee can’t forget Him
for a moment.”
leads Prabhupada down the hill to what was once a pigpen, located
beneath a great shady maple. Vacated decades ago, the building-about
fifteen feet square is hewn out of great logs, and structurally it is
the most sturdy building around. For purification, Hrishikesh has
scrubbed the stone floor with cow dung. For light and air, Kirtanananda
has cut out windows and stapled screening over them.
“These are my new quarters,” Kirtanananda announces.
“Very good,” Prabhupada smiles. “A little cottage like this is just
perfect for a sannyasi and brahmachari. It is cool and
Prabhupada enters and sits on the rough, wooden bench. He inspects the
log siding and the roof. We don’t mention that it was originally made
“It appears very well made,” he says. “I notice that people in your
country are very expert at building. But cutting this wood is much
labor, no? I will show you designs of simple houses made of mud. You
can get clay and rock from the creek and make very solid houses at
practically no cost.”
To show Prabhupada that cutting wood in America is swift and easy, I
take the chainsaw and begin cutting some locust logs.
“We can zip through a cord of wood in no time,” I say, revving the
engine proudly. Prabhupada has never seen a chainsaw in action before.
He watches with interest as the sawdust flies.
Then, as I start on a second cut, the chain suddenly slips off the bar,
breaking a couple of iron teeth.
The chain’s ruined.
Prabhupada looks at the smoking machine curiously and says nothing. It
is not necessary.
Returning up the hill, Prabhupada selects a sitting spot beneath a
persimmon tree near the farmhouse. Purushottam puts down a foam rubber
mat for him, and he sits with his back toward Govardhan Hill and looks
east, toward the next ridge.
“That is our property there?” he asks.
“No, Srila Prabhupada. New Vrindaban ends at the creekbed. The other
side belongs to neighbors.”
“Maybe they will sell you a portion,” he says, “so we can put a
footbridge there. What do you think, Nara-narayana? Is it possible to
build a bridge?”
“Quite possible,” Nara-narayana says.
“With a bridge, we will have easy access to the property. Or maybe
one—what do you call?—cablecart.”
“Very possible, Srila Prabhupada,” Nara-narayana says. “They’re quite
successful in Alpine country.”
“But a bridge would be better. Not for automobiles. Just to walk over.
Then many gentlemen will come.”
I look out at the swath cut by Wheeling Electric. From the opposite
ridge, the land slants abruptly down to the creekbed, a steep descent
and ascent, a long distance to have to span. The electric company was
hard pressed just stringing the wires.
“In one sense, the isolation is good,” Prabhupada says. “In India,
there are temples requiring some austerities to reach. At Tirupati, to
see the Deity, you must walk barefoot up a mountain much steeper than
this. But in your country, people will not go out of their way.”
The roar of the powerwagon descending Govardhan Hill interrupts us. Mr.
Thompson helped push it. Paramananda parks before the farmhouse, and
the devotees carry in Prabhupada’s luggage—suitcases, boxes, a big
trunk full of manuscripts, and footlockers.
Purushottam and Devananda install Prabhupada’s Radha Krishna Deities
upstairs in the small cherrywood room sectioned off from the bedroom.
Prabhupada can comfortably watch aratik from a new innerspring
mattress, which we have set on the floor without a bedstead. Usually,
Prabhupada prefers mats to elevated beds. Because the room is a little
dim, we have set up gooseneck floor lamps. Two small windows open out
on the big willow. Along the walls stand bookcases filled with books
accumulated since my high school days.
“These are all your books?” Prabhupada asks.
“A lot of impersonalism, I’m afraid,” I reply.
“That may be. But they are philosophical books. That is good. They do
not deal with frivolous topics. You can tell a man by his library.“
Then, out of hundreds of books dealing with religion, Prabhupada
instantly, magically. selects two volumes of Shankara. They are the Brahma-sutras,
purchased by Kirtanananda two years ago in India. Although Shankara—an
incarnation of Shiva—was ultimately a personalist, Lord Chaitanya
discouraged the reading of his work due to the emphasis on
impersonalism. Prabhupada’s pulling them out was remarkable, since the
bindings are unmarked.
“You are reading?” Prabhupada asks.
“Not now,” I say. “I find them dry.”
“They must be,” he says. “They don’t deal with the pastimes of Krishna.
Even Vyasadeva was dissatisfied after writing Vedanta-sutra.
We will discuss that in class. But you can be sure that mundane
literature will never give us peace of mind. Literature not dealing
with the Supreme Absolute Truth, regardless of how literary, is food
for crows. It only adds fuel to the fire of material life. But chanting
and reading of Krishna is uttama-sloka, transcendental verse,
full of meaning and life.”
likes his new room. A window fan keeps the air fresh, and it is
convenient for his personal servants to bring him prasadam from
the kitchen. We request everyone to keep quiet around the house.
Whenever Prabhupada wants to work or rest, silence must reign.
Kirtanananda cooks dal and a vegetable kitri for
Prabhupada, and Hrishikesh keeps running upstairs with hot chapatis.
Sometimes, Prabhupada eats as many as five.
“Kirtanananda’s still the best cook in the movement,” he says, “and
also the first to learn.”
After eating, Prabhupada rests, and we tiptoe around the house,
cleaning and preparing for evening aratik. The women and
children pick wildflowers in the fields—wild geraniums, buttercups,
fiddleferns and the aromatic phlox—and arrange them in vases on the
Prabhupada comes downstairs about an hour before sunset. Devananda
brings out the foam rubber mat and asks him where he would like to sit.
We suggest sitting beneath the willow, but again Prabhupada prefers the
persimmon tree beside the well. Here, the ground is a little level, and
he can sit comfortably and look out over the ridge. Devananda sets a
small reading table on the grass before Prabhupada and puts Bhagavad-gita
and Prabhupada’s reading glasses on it. Also the latest copy of Back
To Godhead. About fifteen devotees sit around Prabhupada on the
“So, Mr. Ekendra, what have you been doing to be so tired?” Prabhupada
asks Rupanuga’s five-year-old son, who promptly hides his face.
“He’s been picking flowers, Prabhupada,” Rupanuga says.
“And the others?”
“Cleaning the barn,” Ranandhir says.
“And you, Mr. D.D.D.? Have you been tending your Deities?”
Dwarkadish blushes and stammers. Before Prabhupada, he’s too
self-conscious to utter a word. After a moment of fidgeting, Dwarkadish
abandons the attempt to answer. He is overwhelmed.
“That’s all right,” Prabhupada says, smiling. “So here at New Vrindaban
we may get tired working, cleaning and so on, but that is an asset. We
can attain perfection by these simple chores. But if it’s just to
gratify our senses, we are wasting our time. If you work for maya,
you’ll never be happy. Just tired and confused.”
Prabhupada then points out that in the country, it is possible to live
on nature’s bounty and spend the rest of our valuable time cultivating
“Karmis are busy working so many hours daily that they only have
time for a little sex, intoxication, and then sleep. But that kind of
life is abominable. Say we are now earning five hundred a month. If we
earn five million, will we eat more than four chapatis? Will
there be more than twenty-four hours in the day, or more months in the
year, or more years in our lives? Will we occupy more space than the
same six-foot bed? Though you may acquire the whole property of West
Virginia, it is maya to think that you can improve your
condition by economic development. The same four chapatis and
six feet of space are there. And the same allotted time.”
“Most Americans would consider life here too austere,” Kirtanananda
says. “They would rather work hard in the polluted cities.“
“Yes,” Prabhupada says. “That is due to lust. Lust is making the karmi
world turn around, as they say. In the cities, there are so many
facilities for gratifying this lust: cinemas and brothels and
nightclubs. Even if they see that this New Vrindaban country atmosphere
is so nice, they will refuse to come. Even Lord Indra, the king of
heaven, was reluctant to leave his hog life. Because Indra committed
some offense at the feet of his spiritual master, Brihaspati, he was
cursed to take birth as a hog. When Lord Brahma went to earth to
convince Indra to return to his throne in the heavenly kingdom, he
found Indra enjoying himself as a hog. ‘You have become a hog due to
your offenses,’ Brahma told Indra, ‘but I have come to deliver you.
Please come with me.’ ‘No,’ the hog Indra said. ‘I cannot go. I have so
many responsibilities. I have my children, my wife, my society, my
country.’ So even if you offer to take a hog to heaven, he will refuse.
This is called forgetfulness.“
A conchshell announces evening aratik. We follow Prabhupada
into the temple room. During the aratik, Prabhupada stands and
plays cymbals, and we stand a little behind him. Devananda is the pujari.
aratik, Prabhupada encourages us to dance. Then he dances, dipping
his body slightly forward on one foot, dancing in rhythm to the
cymbals, striking them deftly so that they ring loud and long.
To lecture, he sits on the modest vyasasana beside the
The dais is a simple wooden platform made of rough-cut native lumber,
and covered with purple and gold cloth. Above, hangs a print of Lord
Nrishingadev tearing out the entrails of Hiranyakasipu.
Prabhupada talks of Vyasadeva’s dissatisfaction after completing Vedanta-sutra.
Vyasadeva’s spiritual master, Narada Muni, advised him to write of the
pastimes of Krishna to attain happiness. The Vedas,
Narada argued, are meant to liberate mankind from material bondage, and
so far Vyasadeva had yet to write anything liberating. The knower of
Krishna’s activities is immediately liberated; therefore glorify
Krishna’s pastimes. In this way, Narada Muni encouraged Vyasadeva to
“This Srimad-Bhagavatam is self-luminous,” Prabhupada
says. “Just as the sun does not need the light of glow-worms, Srimad
Bhagavatam does not need the commentaries of mundane scholars.
When Vyasadeva wrote Vedanta-sutra, he thought he had
said the last word in self-realization. But no. He was dissatisfied. He
did not deal directly with Krishna’s pastimes. Of course, today so much
is made over Vedanta, and Vedanta continues
to be misinterpreted by crows. So that its conclusion would not be
misunderstood, Vyasadeva wrote the beautiful
After the lecture, we ask Prabhupada if he would like to walk outside
for fresh air and a view of the stars.
“Yes. Why not? Purushottam, get my chadar.”
We follow him outside to the open field before the barn. The moon has
yet to rise. The Milky Way, directly overhead, spans the dome of sky, a
faint luster on black satin. Prabhupada looks up, then, like a captain
reading his course, turns east, west, then north and south, as if he
might order the helm set in any direction.
“There’s no moon?” he asks.
“It should rise in about an hour, Prabhupada,” Purushottam says.
“Just see all these globes floating in air,” Prabhupada says. “There
are at least thirty-three million planets in this one universe, and
they are like phantasmagoria, having no permanent existence. They are
like the expression ‘sky flower.’ There is no flower in the sky. Or, as
we say in Bengali, they are like ‘eggs of a horse.’ Finding happiness
in these material worlds is like finding horse’s eggs—impossible. How
can there be happiness when there is old age, disease, and death? Even
if you have a demigod’s body and live long, so what? You still must
We walk a little distance down the road, but Prabhupada stops, again
looks about, then turns back. It is too dark to walk very far. With
flashlights, we return to the farmhouse.
“Now Krishna has given you a very nice place here,” Prabhupada says.
“You have everything. You are not needing cinemas or nightclubs here.
At night, we can see the sky and just sit and listen about Krishna.
Then take some warm milk and rest. Who would not be satisfied?”
“The karmis,” Satyabhama says.
“The karmis will never be satisfied. They are always running
back and forth on the freeways, like in Los Angeles. Zoom, zoom, here
and there. Always looking for more money and sex life, and never
satisfied. So now Krishna has given you a tranquil place to meditate.
The country is in sattva-guna, goodness. As you say, ‘Man made
the city; God made the country.’ Here I see that you are already having
a nice Vrindaban atmosphere.”
I sleep in
the lean-to on the hill just above the garden. The moon, now rising
over the ridge, is three-quarters full. The Big Dipper is descending
over Govardhan Hill. Out by the barn, someone is chanting japa.
The chirr of crickets is high and shrill. Lights are off in
I dream of Prabhupada. He is chanting Hare Krishna, and countless
devotees sit around him chanting feverishly, sounding like bees in a
hive. I see cowherds, hear milk pails rattle, clank, fall to the
ground. I see no faces, but hear laughter and the sound of feet
running, and the name “Krishna! Krishna!” shouted across great expanses.
Then I awake, back in the lean-to, looking out at the garden and stars.
And I recall the dream I had outside Ananda Ashram, ages ago, it seems.
I look down the hill at the farmhouse. The light is now on in
Prabhupada’s room. Although it is two in the morning, Prabhupada is
Again I sleep, and when I awake, the moon is past its zenith. In the
kitchen, the devotees are preparing for aratik. It is four a.m.
After brushing our teeth, bathing, putting on tilak and fresh
robes, we attend the aratik ceremony, some twenty of us crowded
into the downstairs temple room.
Standing, Prabhupada strikes the steel gongs with a mallet. He watches
the Deities intently as Pradyumna offers incense, camphor, water, a
handkerchief, peacock fan, and yak tail whisk, circulating them before
Radha and Krishna and the Jagannathas in the alcove. We chant the Sri
Gurv-astaka written by Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakura.
After the offerings, Prabhupada goes upstairs and celebrates a second aratik
before his own Radha Krishna Deities. He sits on the new innerspring
mattress and rings a small bell as Purushottam makes the offerings.
After this aratik, Prabhupada sits alone in his room, chanting
softly. Devotees circumambulate the temple while chanting the required
sixteen rounds, about an hour and a half of chanting. Sitting out by
the barn chanting, I wait for the first hints of dawn, chanting through
the quiet but spiritually vibrant hour before sunrise. Night fades as
the first sunbeams light up the mist in the hollows.
For breakfast prasadam, we eat a porridge of cornmeal ground in
the small hand-turned mill in the barn, fresh milk from Kaliya, and
local tulip honey.
After breakfast, chores are assigned. Before typing up Prabhupada’s
daily correspondence, Purushottam takes me aside.
“We should be seeing Rayarama soon,” he tells me. “Prabhupada’s furious
over the latest Back To Godhead. He called me in his room
in the middle of the night and dictated a letter.”
“It’s over a number of things. In one issue, I interview the Beach
Boys, and a photo shows one of them smoking. Well, Prabhupada didn’t
like that. And there was an advertisement with a woman in it. But worst
of all, he said, is the new cover picture of Arjuna in the chariot with
Krishna. Arjuna is painted brown like a shudra. Prabhupada said
he looks like a demon instead of the highest devotee. He wants to see
Rayarama at once.”
walks out to the field by the barn to bask in the early morning sun.
Devananda follows him and sets down the foam rubber mat. Prabhupada
sits down, and Devananda begins to massage him with mustard seed oil.
Purushottam takes letter dictations during the massage. Afterwards, we
arrange a hot water bath on the porch, heating the water in washtubs
over an outdoor woodfire.
In the afternoon, Prabhupada calls a general convocation. We all gather
around the persimmon tree, and Prabhupada quickly starts the meeting.
“Here at New Vrindaban, only Krishna is master,” he says. “In the
material world, everyone is trying hard to be master, but here it is
different. Here we all acknowledge that Krishna is master; therefore we
have called this land New Vrindaban. Lord Shiva or Brahma or
incarnations of Vishnu or even Radharani—all are servants.
“In this consciousness of knowing that we are all servants, we divide
duties among ourselves. By carrying out the duty prescribed by the
spiritual master, you attain your perfection. So everyone here has to
make his own routine. For chanting and reading Bhagavad-gita,
you should allow, say, up to three hours daily. If twenty-four hours
are at our disposal, we can use six or seven for sleeping, and two or
three for chanting and reading.”
“At least five hours are devoted to aratik and kirtan,”
“And at least two hours for prasadam,” Satyabhama says.
“And ten to twelve hours in the field,” Ranandhir says.
“So, what are you saying?” Prabhupada asks. “Do you want to stop
chanting and reading?”
“No! No!” everyone protests.
"Then you can forego your sleeping and eating,” he says. “The Goswamis
were doing that. If they could not finish their chanting, they would
forfeit their eating and sleeping.”
“But the Goswamis didn’t swing axes all day,” Paramananda says. “Did
“No,” Prabhupada laughs. “They were writing books. Anyway, just as I
have to manage my own routine, you have to manage yours. But even if
you don’t have time to read one chapter of Bhagavad-gita
daily, that is all right because you’re already engaged in Bhagavad-gita.
Any duty done here at New Vrindaban is spiritual. Because Krishna was
inducing Arjuna to fight, his fighting was also devotional service.
Similarly, work done here at New Vrindaban is also considered reading Bhagavad-gita.
But in any case, chanting must go on.”
“Can you chant while working?” Hrishikesh asks.
“Yes,” Prabhupada says. “You must. Chanting is the basis of our life.”
Prabhupada then outlines the varnashrama social order to be
followed. Being the sannyasi, Kirtanananda must be the
acknowledged community leader. The brahmacharis, celibates,
should live with him, under his directions. The grihastha
householders should work in conjunction and contribute half their
income to community maintenance. Since we have no vanaprasthas,
retired men, that ashrama doesn’t apply.
“Now, I wish you would draw up some map of the land,” Prabhupada says,
turning to Kirtanananda, “and I will lay out plans for
everything—temples, guest houses, living quarters.”
“But we need men to construct such places,” Kirtanananda says.
“Right now you need fifty men,” Prabhupada says. “And eventually you
may need two hundred.”
“Two hundred?!” Kirtanananda’s eyes widen.
“Yes,” Prabhupada says matter of factly. “You’ll have to manage so many
There is amazed silence as each devotee considers this. Kirtanananda
“I don’t know what to think, Prabhupada, “he says. “The conservation
men were out last week. They took aerial photos. They say that properly
developed, this land will support only eighteen cows. So, a cow per
person, that’s only eighteen people.”
“Not per person,” Prabhupada says. “Per family. Anyway, it’s not
possible to be self-sufficient immediately. There’s so much you have to
get from outside.”
“We should invite people from other temples,” Satyabhama says.
“But there are no facilities,” Ranandhir says.
“There’s the barn,” Prabhupada suggests. “At least ten devotees can
live in the barn. First the men. Then the facilities will follow.”
meeting, we return to our tasks with renewed enthusiasm. We agree to
mail letters to all temples inviting devotees to come help build New
Vrindaban. As soon as we get the money, we’ll buy building supplies to
repair the barn. For ascetic brahmacharis, the barn is
Desiring to see more of the property, Prabhupada walks to the top of
Govardhan Hill and looks out across the rolling hills of forests and
green pastures toward the Ohio River.
“Here you can build one small house,” he tells me. “You can live here
and edit peacefully. No one will ever disturb you. Meditation in the
forest is not our method; our way is preaching. Publishing books about
Krishna is the most durable form of preaching. And one who instructs
others about Krishna is most dear to Krishna.”
“This entire community can be an instruction,” Kirtanananda says.
“Yes, it must be,” Prabhupada agrees. “It is also a form of preaching.
We are saying, ‘Look, you can be happy by putting Krishna at the center
of your life.’ This is also Bhagavad-gita.”
From Govardhan Hill, we walk down the back road toward the state lake.
“The road’s a little steep,” Kirtanananda tells Prabhupada, “but it’s a
Prabhupada walks a short distance down the road, past the dense
blackberry shrubs, big poplars, locust trees, and dogwoods. When we
reach a place where thick vines cover the road, he stops.
“This is jungle,” he says.
We start clearing a way through the vines.
“It’s clear just on the other side, Prabhupada,” I say.
“No,” he says, refusing to go further. “It’s jungle. Now we can go back.
evening, there is a fire sacrifice before aratik. Ranandhir,
Paramananda, and Devananda receive their brahminical threads,
signifying rebirth in knowledge of Krishna consciousness.
“Brahmin means clean within and without, Prabhupada says.
“In India, in the Ganges, we see that some yogis can even
remove their intestines—through their mouths—clean them in the river
and then replace them. But generally, who can do these gymnastics? Brahmin
means truthful and clean in body and mind. And tolerant.“
Prabhupada points out that in this debased age of Kali, people have
become intolerant and are therefore always ready to quarrel. They lack
all the brahminical qualifications.
“In this age, everyone is born shudra,” he says. “Parents do
not beget children with brahminical qualities because they don’t
perform the proper garbhadan ceremonies before having sex.
Today, parents go to sex like hide-and-seek. And then they wonder why
they beget children with shudra propensities, or even lower.”
“How can you tell when one is a brahmin?” Hrishikesh asks.
“By symptom,” Prabhupada says. “By birth, everyone is shudra.
So we must look at the symptoms.”
Prabhupada then tells the story of the boy who went to the great sage
Gotama and begged him for initiation.
“What is your father’s name?” Gotama Rishi asked.
“I don’t know,” the boy replied.
“Go ask your mother.”
The boy went to his mother, who said, “Before you were born, I was
foolish and loved many men. I don’t know whose son you are.
The boy returned to Gotama Rishi.
“What did your mother say?”
“Since she was a prostitute, she doesn’t know,” the boy replied.
“Oh!” exclaimed the sage. “You are truthful. You are a brahmin.
I will initiate you.”
“So there are brahmins throughout the world,” Prabhupada says,
“and we must pick them up. You American boys show tolerance by taking
up another culture, which you’re not accustomed to since birth. I ask
you, ‘Don’t drink, don’t smoke,’ things to which you’re accustomed. And
you’re following. This is tolerance, a brahminical qualification.”
He points out that tolerance and patience are two important brahminical
qualities needed for success in Krishna consciousness.
“Sometimes the example of a young bride is given,” he says. “From the
day of her marriage, a woman wonders, ‘When will I beget child?’ And
time passes, and no child comes, but because she is married, we can
rest assured that there will be a child. That is a gross example. So,
you are initiated and take to the bhakti-yoga process, and you
wonder, ‘When will that day come when Krishna consciousness will fully
awaken in my heart?’ And many days pass, and you worry and are perhaps
discouraged, but because you have been inducted into the process, you
should know that someday you will see Krishna, that someday you will be
fully established in Krishna consciousness and will be completely
Prabhupada fits into the New Vrindaban routine, or, more properly, New
Vrindaban fits into his routine. Regardless of physical location,
Prabhupada’s day revolves around Krishna. He dictates in the early
hours, dozes after morning
aratik, walks and takes his massage in the morning, then prasadam,
and some more dictating or meetings with disciples, usually an
afternoon rest, then more meetings, or dictating letters, or a walk and
lecture, darshans, and dictating alone late at night, into the
early hours again, then mangal-aratik again. Thus the hours of
his days revolve, over and over, happily, tirelessly.
May 26. In the afternoon, after his rest, Prabhupada is visited by Mr.
McIntyre, a Wheeling lawyer who has been helping Hrishikesh obtain
ministerial status in order to avoid the draft call to Vietnam.
Mr. McIntyre is young, liberal, and already prominent in the local law
field. He has read Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita.
Prabhupada explains varnashrama-dharma. Brahmins, he
points out, are never meant to fight. That is the work of kshatriyas,
warriors like Arjuna. By fighting, Arjuna could attain perfection, but
not by pursuing the dharma of a brahmin. Each caste has
its own work. Now Hrishikesh has just received his brahminical thread,
so he must ask for exemption from the battlefield.
Mr. McIntyre agrees. “For all intents and purposes, he’s a monk, he
Prabhupada begins discussing Vedic law, which was set down thousands of
years ago in the Manu-samhita.
“There it is stated that a murderer should be condemned to death so
that in his next life he will not have to suffer the
karma of his sins. Therefore when the king hangs the murderer, he
is benefiting him.”
Mr. McIntyre points out that throughout history, official violence has
been the standard way of administering justice. “An eye for an eye.
“But that isn’t real violence,” Prabhupada corrects. “The soul cannot
be killed. For the administration of justice, so-called violence is
permitted. Of course, we cannot kill whimsically. Personally, we don’t
have the right to kill even an ant. And in any case, that is no work
for brahmins. Now this business in Vietnam is simply dog eat
dog. No religious principle is involved. This is typical Kali-yuga
Mr. McIntyre says that many Americans consider the war in Vietnam to be
in the pursuit of justice and therefore honorable.
“And what is this pursuit of justice?” Prabhupada asks. “We call
Justice karma. You don’t have to pursue justice. It is
automatically there. Do good, you reap good results. Do evil, you
suffer. We don’t have to inflict the suffering. Material
nature—Mayadevi—will do that effectively enough. Of course, to maintain
order, the state must administer justice to the people—reward and
punishment. But the state is fallible. Perhaps a criminal goes
unpunished, or they punish the wrong man. But Mayadevi, working under
Krishna’s directions, is infallible. It is impossible to escape the
fruits of karma. Live like a dog, and for your next life,
nature gives you a dog’s body. Eat meat, next life a tiger’s body. Sex
life? All right, become a pigeon or rabbit. Chant Hare Krishna, you get
an eternal blissful body like Krishna’s. So you may pursue justice, but
actually justice is already there.”
leaves, walks back down to the base of Aghasura Road, then returns,
looking for his dog, a large Dalmatian.
“He’s never run off before, he says, muddy and bewildered.
He finally finds the dog chasing groundhogs in the field below the barn.
“Oh, lost dog?” Prabhupada laughs when Kirtanananda informs him. “It is
Krishna’s grace. The lawyer has such affection for the dog. Now he can
just turn his affection to God, to Krishna. Anyway, a dog will never
get lost. Only men get lost.”
surprised when Foster visits from the Goat Farm, walking up the back
road from the state lake.
“I hear your swami’s arrived, he says. “I was thinking I might
get a chance to talk with him.”
Foster goes up to see Prabhupada in the upstairs room. We bring a chair
so he won’t have to sit on the floor. When Prabhupada learns that
Foster is the land lessor, he sends Purushottam running down for
lemonade and kachoris.
“I am hearing that you want to start an ashram,” Prabhupada
says, “a spiritual community.”
“Yes, well, that was my plan,” Foster says.
“Then you must help these boys here construct this New Vrindaban. There
is so much to be done.”
“Yes, well, you see, I was interested in something appealing to seekers
on all levels,” Foster says. “Not just your Krishna worship. I mean,
that’s just one discipline, and not one that would appeal to everybody.”
“Nothing appeals to everybody,” Prabhupada says.
“I—? Well, I’m thinking of leaving that open. You see, I don’t want to
close any avenues. When you close avenues, you block out knowledge.
Now, over the years I’ve been giving this some thought, have met many
wanderers on the paths of truth—”
“Just one thing,” Prabhupada interrupts.
“Here you must understand that in this material world, everyone is
trying to become God.”
Foster looks around uncomfortably. He has told everyone at the Goat
Farm that he is already God.
“Yes, everyone wants to imitate Krishna,” Prabhupada says. “Everyone
here wants to dominate, to be master. That is why everyone’s in bondage
to material nature, to suffering and death. That is the cause of our
conditioning, our insanity.”
“Now, wait a minute,” Foster says, reddening. “You aren’t gonna tell me
that those salt and pepper shakers are gonna save you from dying.”
Salt and pepper shakers? I suddenly realize that he’s referring to the
Jagannatha Deities. If Prabhupada catches the irreverence, he doesn’t
“No one escapes death,” he says. “It is there for everyone on all
planets. Our concern is our consciousness at death. Our state of mind
determines our next body.”
“But you can be liberated even in this body,” Foster says, almost
gloating. “And you can see the universe for what it is, for what you’ve
“What have you made?” Prabhupada asks.
“Your world?” Prabhupada shakes his head, smiles. “That is our disease.
We are each claiming proprietorship. ‘This is my land, my wife, my
children, my house, my world.’ Everyone’s trying to be master, to be
God. All this is going on, this insanity, just like a madhouse.”
“But you don’t know the ‘me’ I refer to,” Foster says, sticking to his
“Whatever. You can never become God. That you must understand. You may
strive for millions of years, millions of lifetimes, but you will be
frustrated. I’m telling you frankly. If I wanted to cheat you, I’d say,
‘Yes, you can be God. Here. Pay me money, take this mantra, and
you’ll become God in no time.’ And then you’ll go away saying, ‘Oh.
Swamiji is such a great guru.’ The cheaters and the cheated.
But I don’t say that. I say that you will never become God, and that
you will suffer and suffer until you understand that only God, Krishna,
is God and you are His eternal servant. Not just you—everyone. So
understanding this is real knowledge. Everything else is cheating.”
Foster almost chokes on the prasadam. He tells us that people
are waiting for him down the road, that he’s sorry he has to hurry off.
Again, Prabhupada invites him to join us in building New Vrindaban.
Silently swallowing his anger, Foster walks quickly back down the road,
ignoring the devotees outside.
“I think he’s offended,” Kirtanananda tells Prabhupada.
“Because we did not lie to him?” Prabhupada shakes his head sadly.
“Just see. Such a man strives hard all his life for money and still is
not satisfied. Despite this, he will induce his sons and grandsons to
follow him. Although he has experience that his life is not very
pleasing, that he’s basically dissatisfied, he still forces his
children to chew the chewed.”
“I’ve tried to talk to him about Krishna a number of times,”
Kirtanananda says. “He doesn’t want to understand. Oh, he reads some
philosophers, impersonalists, but he won’t hear of Krishna as a person.
“No one is interested in the lotus feet of the Supreme Person,”
Prabhupada says. “If people were interested, they would be liberated
and wouldn’t be here.”
“Well, Mr. Foster would say that he’s here just temporarily, that soon
he will leave his body and become God again.”
“If he’s God,” Prabhupada says, “how did he become conditioned? How did
he fall into this imperfect material body, into illusion? Is illusion
stronger than God? Ask him this. Convince him logically so that he can
see the beauty in Krishna consciousness and join us.”
“I’ve tried,” Kirtanananda says.
“Achha! Then just induce him to take prasadam. Just that much
will help him.”
of dormancy, my hayfever returns with a vengeance. As the grass
pollinates, my sneezing and wheezing begin. I run through dozens of
handkerchiefs. My eyes constantly itch. At times, after paroxyms of
sneezing, I sit helpless, totally congested.
“The threefold miseries exist everywhere,” Prabhupada says. “If you
escape one, another will catch you. There’s
adhibitautik, miseries inflicted by other living entities. Then adhyatmik,
miseries arising from the body and mind. And adhidaivik,
miseries arising from natural calamities like earthquakes and tornados.”
“This is a natural calamity,” I say.
“Looks more like adhyatmik to me,” Kirtanananda says.
“No,” I say, sneezing. “It’s the grass pollen. I know. I had tests
“What are you saying?” Prabhupada asks. “That the grass is attacking
“Exactly,” I say. “It’s adhibhautik. Misery inflicted by other
Prabhupada laughs. “That is ridiculous,” he says. “Why should the
pollen attack just you? Why not others?”
I look at Prabhupada through watery eyes. It’s true. No one else is
“I don’t know,” I admit. “Maybe they’re not allergic.”
Again Prabhupada laughs. “Of all the people here,” he says, “why is it
attacking only you?”
For a moment, I wonder whether I’m imagining that I’m sneezing, but a
paroxym renders me helpless again.
Prabhupada asks Devananda for a valise, and from this he produces a
“Here,” he says, handing it to me. “When there is discomfort, just take
a pinch and sniff.”
I do so. The snuff sets off a fresh barrage of sneezes. Finally I sit
dazed. Surely my head must be empty of mucus.
“When you’re irritated,” Prabhupada says, “you may use that. It will
help. But you shouldn’t think that you are being attacked.“
Again he laughs, and suddenly, seeing myself pursued by legions of
grass pollen, I laugh too.
get tired living outside like you do indoors,” Prabhupada says, walking
down the road to the spring just below Govardhan Hill. “Here, the fresh
air and the cow’s milk will make you very healthy.”
Kirtanananda picks the tender tops of pokeweed growing by the barn,
cuts them up and cooks them in butter for Prabhupada.
“Very tasty,” Prabhupada says. “Just see. The plants are just waiting
to be picked. You can be like the Goswamis. They lived on whatever
fruit dropped from the trees. They slept under trees and used their
arms for pillows. And for clothes, they used whatever others discarded.
All their time they devoted to Krishna consciousness.
As the late May days pass—beautiful, lengthening days with brief
afternoon thundershowers—Prabhupada gradually builds his community,
throwing out ideas, planning, even designing a two-wheel cart for the
“With this kind of cart,” he says, showing me a drawing, “you can more
readily go up and down the road. It will be easy for the horses to
I study the drawing. The cart is a much simpler conveyance than our
Amish wagon, now in disrepair.
‘The karmis will see New Vrindaban as an undesirable place,”
Prabhupada says. “They will say, ‘Oh, there’s so much trouble. No
amenities, no bathroom or running water.’ But devotees will find it a
very nice place. When you’re Krishna conscious, the world becomes a
very beautiful place without problems. Why? Because you’ve taken
shelter of Krishna.”
week in June, Rayarama, appears, summoned from New York by Prabhupada’s
letter criticizing Back To Godhead.
“Arjuna looks like a monkey,” Prabhupada complains, waving the magazine
cover before him, then tossing it on his desk for all to see. “Who
painted this picture? By whose authorization?”
“Rohini-dasi,” Rayarama says. “A new girl. She didn’t know. She just
thought he was dark like most Indians.”
“Most Indians?” Prabhupada asks, amazed. “She is equating Arjuna with
most Indians? With shudras? With monkeys? He was a great kshatriya,
a great devotee, and she makes him look like a demon with big
moustaches and black face.”
“She didn’t know,” Rayarama says. “Anyway, he’s brown, not black.”
“But Arjuna’s neither. He’s the most elevated personal friend of
Krishna, leader of a great dynasty, a great demigod by today’s
standards. Men like Arjuna no longer exist.”
“The girl didn’t know,” Rayarama repeats, pleading. “She copied from
some other pictures, some other artist.”
“Who?” Prabhupada asks. “What rascal paints Arjuna like a shudra?
Never will you find such a description in authorized scriptures. Why
didn’t you come to me? Why accept some unauthorized rascal artist who
“But Prabhupada, I didn’t know. It certainly wasn’t done deliberately.
We could print a retraction, if you want.”
“You don’t know, the girl didn’t know, nobody knows. But you are editor
of our magazine. It is your business to know or consult.“
Bit by bit, Prabhupada forces Rayarama to accept the responsibility for
the offense. Prabhupada also makes other criticisms
—sex-oriented ads, political articles, a photo of the Beach Boys
“What do they know of Krishna consciousness? Are they authorities,
sitting there smoking and talking of Krishna? Why are you printing
Rayarama emerges from the meeting pale and haggard. He stands outside
under the willow in a kind of trance. It looks as though his soul has
been picked up, spun around and thrown back in his body. He stays long
enough for some lemonade, then starts back to New York.
“I think you and Satsvarupa will be doing Back to Godhead, he tells me
before leaving. Then: “I just don’t know why Prabhupada got so upset
over one mistake. It’s not like we were presenting some Mayavadi
“Maybe it was more serious,” Pradyumna says. “Maybe Arjuna’s offended.“
No one knows what to say. When a disciple is scolded, we don’t always
see the reason behind it. To us, the rebuke may seem arbitrary, but we
know that Prabhupada sees the totality. Ultimately, chastisement is for
the devotee’s benefit. It is Prabhupada’s mercy disguised.
the cool, stone floor of the pigpen, Kirtanananda is awakened by an
enormous black snake slithering across his shaved head. The snake
crawls up the log wall and rests on the windowsill.
“Maybe it’s a copperhead,” Kirtanananda says, dazed.
“Looks like a harmless blacksnake to me,” I say.
“The Vedas advise us to kill all serpents,” he says. And,
with Vedic authority, he boldly grabs the snake’s tail, whirls the
snake around like a whip, and beats it against the stones. Then he
throws the remains into the bushes.
“The Vedas say that saintly persons take delight when
serpents are killed,” he says.
“That was just a harmless creature,” I protest.
We consult Prabhupada. Should the snake have been killed?
“All serpents are dangerous,” he says. “If they are around the house,
then you should kill them.”
“But I thought all living things are sacred,” I say.
“That may be,” Prabhupada says, “but the cow is giving milk, and the
snake is giving poison. You don’t see the difference? A poison-giver,
according to the Vedas, may be killed. But mother cow is
nicely kept in the barn and pasture. One creature is envious; he is
always ready to bite. The other creature is friendly; she just eats a
little grass and gives you milk to make butter and cheese. Yes, they
are both spirit souls, but these distinctions are there.”
June 4. A
young couple from New York, Bill and Inez, come to be initiated by
Prabhupada. Both are students at the University of Buffalo, and both
were influenced by the night classes in bhakti-yoga given by
Bill becomes Bhagavan das, and Inez becomes Krishna-bhamani.
“As soon as you hear this Hare Krishna,” Prabhupada tells them, “you
immediately remember Krishna, His talks in
Bhagavad-gita, His form, qualities and pastimes. Everything
comes before you by remembering. So we chant Hare Krishna to remember
and to remain always uncontaminated. If we forget Krishna, there is
chance of contamination.”
Bhagavan das and his wife listen intently. Prabhupada continues. He
seems to be laughing inwardly.
“Christmas, in Los Angeles, I took some vaccination against the Hong
Kong flu,” he says. “Hayagriva was insisting because there was some
epidemic. So you should know that this world is nothing but the Hong
Kong flu. Mayadevi is always ready to attack, and we have to take the
injection of Hare Krishna, the vaccine brought by Lord Chaitanya to
kill the Hong Kong flu of material consciousness. If you chant Hare
Krishna, you will be forced to remember Him. When you are more
advanced, you will see nothing but Krishna. When you see a tree, you
will actually see Krishna, you will not see the form of a tree. Once
you’re conversant with the science of Krishna, you know how His
energies are working. Therefore you will be sympathetic to all living
entities. That is universal vision, universal love. If you love
Krishna, there will be universal love; otherwise universal love is
After the initiation, we celebrate aratik, and Prabhupada gives
his customary evening lecture, wherein he discusses sannyas,
the renounced order, and the various stages of renunciation.
“There are four stages,” he says. “In the first, the sannyasi
lives in a cottage outside his village. He doesn’t go home, but food is
brought to him from home. In the second stage, he asks himself, ‘Why
stay here? The world is my home.’ So he goes out to wander and beg. In
India, there is no problem, because there, anyone will give to a sannyasi.
Even shelter is offered. Thus a sannyasi can travel from
village to village. In the third stage, he thinks, ‘Why should I just
take from people? I should also give.’ So, instead of hoarding his
knowledge, he begins to distribute it. In the last stage, he is
experienced in spiritual knowledge and is beyond material infection.
This is called the paramhansa stage, for, like a hansa,
a swan, he can extract the essence of the cosmic manifestation—Krishna.
The paramhansa knows that Krishna is the center, the cause of
all causes. All devotees of Krishna are paramhansas. We’re
teaching people to become paramhansas immediately, to attain
the highest level of sannyas just by chanting Hare Krishna.
That night, I
sleep outdoors in the lean-to. The conchshell announcing aratik
awakes me. I hear the mantras telling everyone to come see the
beautiful aratik of Radha and Krishna. I hurry to bathe and
After aratik, Prabhupada sits in the upstairs room chanting bhajans
and playing the harmonium. He calls me up to tell me to set up the tape
recorders, that he would like to make a second recording, dubbing in
the mridanga. He chants the “Chintamani” prayers from the Brahma-samhita,
in praise of Krishna, and “Parama Karuna,” “Bhaja Bhakata,” and “Udila
Aruna,” emotive songs of longing for Krishna, expressions of great bhaktas.
Afterwards, he tells me that Rayarama needs help on Back To
Godhead. “He cannot make all the decisions,” he says. “He should
consult with you and Satsvarupa. It is not difficult. Simply repeat
what you have heard. When my Guru Maharaj was selecting articles for The
Harmonist, if he saw that the writer several times wrote the
word ‘Krishna’ or ‘Chaitanya,’ he would say, ‘All right, publish it. So
many times he’s written Krishna and Chaitanya.’”
“We’re still afraid we don’t know enough about Krishna to write very
well,” I say.
“No matter,” he says. “You may not pronounce Sanskrit well. You may
call me ‘guru’ or ‘gau,’ master or cow. But I know your
meaning. Similarly, if a book deals with Krishna’s pastimes, it’s for
the swans, even if it’s written in broken language. And if it doesn’t
deal with Krishna’s pastimes, it’s for the crows, however well written.”
“But you’ve said to try to make it like Time [magazine],”
I say. “To appeal to a lot of people, we have to relate Krishna to
contemporary ideas and events.“
“That you may do,” he says, “but just make certain that Krishna’s at
the center. Now the problem lies with all these branches of knowledge.
People are pursuing everything and anything, and everyone thinks his
field is most important. People collect books, and there are great
libraries filled with millions of books of mundane knowledge, and so
much time and money is spent. But it’s not necessary to read a lot of
books. Actually, it’s undesirable. Only one book is necessary.”
Prabhupada relates the story of a brahmin who was instructed by
spiritual master to read three chapters of
Bhagavad-gita daily. Unfortunately, the brahmin was
illiterate. Trying to follow the instructions, he sat in a temple and
turned the pages of Bhagavad-gita one by one. Seeing
this, many of his friends, knowing he couldn’t read, laughed and made
fun. But the humble brahmin tolerated this and went on turning
pages. When Lord Chaitanya saw this, He took compassion and approached
the brahmin, asking, “My dear brahmin, what are you
Seeing that this was an elevated person, the brahmin replied,
“My spiritual master told me to read three chapters of Bhagavad-gita
daily, but, being illiterate, what can I do? Therefore I’m just sitting
down here turning the pages.”
“But I see that you’re sometimes crying,” said the Lord. “You must be
appreciating. How is this?”
“Oh yes, I’m appreciating,” said the brahmin. “When I open the
book, I see a picture of Krishna and Arjuna. Arjuna is sitting in the
chariot, and Krishna is instructing Bhagavad-gita to him.
So I am appreciating how kind the Lord is to accept the post of
charioteer for His devotee. When I see that the Lord has become servant
of His servant, I feel some ecstasy, and I cry.”
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu immediately embraced the brahmin and told
him, “Your Bhagavad-gita reading is perfect.”
“This is the perfection of yoga,” Prabhupada says. “Thinking of
the activities of Krishna and Arjuna. You don’t need academic degrees
to read Bhagavad-gita. If you understand just one sloka,
just one verse, and meditate upon it, that is perfect meditation. But
no. People must collect and read hundreds of books, going from topic to
topic, like crows from garbage to garbage. Therefore you should
carefully receive knowledge from the right source and understand it.
This means hearing well.”
“Isn’t academic education almost an impediment?” I ask. “A whole way of
thinking has to be changed.”
“Yes,” Prabhupada says. “Material qualifications become
disqualifications when they’re used to help us forget Krishna. But
those same qualifications can be dovetailed to Krishna’s service. For
instance, you learned to read and write in school. Now, you can use
these abilities to earn money for sense gratification, or to advance in
Krishna consciousness. That’s up to you. But usually the effects of
education are to entangle us more and more in the world. People lack
guidance. Therefore we have founded this Society. We invite
everyone—educated and uneducated. Gaura-kishora could not even write
his name, but he was so elevated that my Guru Maharaj, a great scholar
of his time, accepted him as spiritual master. Transcendental knowledge
is revealed to one who has unflinching love for Krishna and the
spiritual master. One doesn’t have to be a scholar or even literate.
The knowledge is revealed by the spiritual master, who is the mercy of
and Shama-dasi spearhead a drive for a washing machine. They
convincingly argue that it takes too much time to carry the clothes
down to the spring and beat them on the rocks. They could render
Krishna much more service if all this were done automatically,
We agree to allocate fifty dollars, and Paramananda buys a second-hand
Maytag washer in Wheeling. Since both the horse wagon and powerwagon
are in disrepair, Paramananda, Hrishikesh, Ranandhir and Chaitanya-das
have to carry the Maytag on poles for two muddy miles. When they
finally arrive at the farmhouse, Prabhupada is amazed.
“This is called ugra-karma,” he says. “In Bhagavad-gita,
ugra-karma is mentioned. It is extremely hard
endeavor that is painful to carry out and leads to no good.” Then
Prabhupada laughs. “Yes, you think you’re advancing by these
materialistic inventions like slaughterhouses, atomic bombs, breweries
and this machine. But it is all ugra-karma, all hard labor, all
All suffering indeed. The used Maytag works only three days before
breaking down. Now the defunct machine is referred to as “Shama-dasi’s ugra-karma.”
June 10. My
parents visit New Vrindaban for a day. After talking with Prabhupada in
his upstairs room, they are impressed. My mother says, “You can tell
immediately that he’s a real holyman. All he talks about is Krishna.”
My parents are too kind to criticize the rundown farm or discourage our
ambitions for a community, but by afternoon they decide to return to
the Holiday Inn with its toilet and running water.
In the late afternoon, Prabhupada sits in his favorite spot beneath the
persimmon tree, reads letters or a few verses, and looks out over the
“This place is out of contact,” he says. “It is Krishna’s desire that
no ordinary man will come here.” Prabhupada turns to me, smiling. “Is
that not so?” He then begins laughing heartily and nodding his head.
“Yes, it is beyond the reach of ordinary men. Just like your father
said this morning, ‘I’ll never walk up that road again.”’
“I’m afraid Aghasura Road is our greatest enemy, Prabhupada,” I say.
“No,” he laughs. “Krishna’s devotee has no enemy. He sees everything as
Krishna’s plan. Now you may be thinking you have to conquer the road,
but someday you may see that it’s a great asset. Someday there may be
many cottages by the road, and people will be driving up to see. Don’t
For a long time, Prabhupada sits watching the boys working in the
fields below, digging roots out of the garden with picks, clearing away
the sticky blackberry shrubs with bush-axes, gathering the brambles and
“Krishna is so attractive that one becomes hypnotized,” he says.
“Otherwise, why are these boys working so hard on this farm? They’re
all qualified to earn money outside. In your country, sufficient money
is paid for work, but these boys are hypnotized here.”
“You’ve hypnotized them, Prabhupada,” Pradyumna says.
“Not I. What attraction do I have? Krishna is the all-attractive. He
hypnotizes you in spite of yourself. Like the Pandavas. Arjuna and all
the Pandavas were friends and relatives of Krishna, but they were
banished from their kingdom for twelve years, and their wife Draupadi
was insulted. By becoming Krishna’s devotees, the Pandavas underwent
many difficulties. Still, their love for Krishna increased. Narada Muni
was astonished by this. ‘What kind of hypnotist is Krishna?’ he was
Prabhupada laughs, shaking all over, his smile enormous. He leans
forward on the little table, and joins his palms as if in prayer.
Devananda brings him a cup of water.
“They’ve been working all day,” Devananda observes, looking at the
devotees in the field.
“Yes, I was just commenting,” Prabhupada says. “They are hypnotized by
Krishna. That is samadhi. Samadhi doesn’t mean inactivity. It
means being completely absorbed in Krishna. Anyone chanting Hare
Krishna is in samadhi. Anyone cooking for Krishna or writing
for Krishna or working in the field for Krishna is in samadhi
because the consciousness is: ‘I am doing this for the satisfaction of
“Yogis are always speaking of entering samadhi,” I say.
“Yes,” Prabhupada says. “Samadhi is the goal of all yoga.
It is total absorption. The illiterate brahmin looking at the
picture was in samadhi because he was absorbed in thoughts of
Krishna and Arjuna. But samadhi doesn’t mean sitting like a
statue, holding your breath, and thinking of merging with some void or
spirit. No. Working for Krishna is samadhi. Thinking of Him is samadhi.
Preaching Bhagavad-gita is samadhi.”
“But often it doesn’t seem that way,” Pradyumna says. “Often it’s hard.
People aren’t interested, or they’re antagonistic.”
“That’s another matter,” Prabhupada says. “People may not want to hear
because the Vedic literatures are reminding us of God, whom we have
forgotten since time immemorial. That forgetfulness is the goal of
modern civilization. They want the kingdom of God—prosperity,
enjoyment, happiness—without God. That was also Ravana’s desire. Ravana
had much gold. His capital, Sri Lanka, was covered with gold. That is
material civilization—paradise without God. So here, on this little
piece of land at least, we are trying to restore consciousness of God.
So what do you think? We can have paradise with God.”
June 14. We
are entering Prabhupada’s fourth week at New Vrindaban. He is looking
robust and is enjoying himself immensely. In the early mornings now, he
walks down Aghasura Road to the spring and often takes a little fresh
water in his hand and sips it. He comments on everything: the birds,
flowers, fence, pasture, buildings. Nothing is too insignificant to
escape his attention. He even inquires about a stray dog.
“Does he have a name?”
“We call him Hare Rama,” I say.
“And how’s that?”
“Because he chants. He can’t say Hare Krishna, but he can say Hare
When I coax Hare Rama by chanting “Hare Rama,” he responds, as always,
by lowering his head between his paws and making a strange sound that
very closely resembles “Hare Ramaramarama.“
“Oh, very good!” Prabhupada laughs. “Even the stray dogs are making
nice progress here. That is the potency of a holy
dham. In Vrindaban, you will see many dogs running loose in the
streets, but when they die, they are liberated. That is a special
benediction for those who have committed offenses in Vrindaban. They
receive one life as a dog or hog in Vrindaban. Then liberation.”
June 18. A
letter arrives from Mukunda informing Prabhupada that he has found a
house in downtown London, not far from the British Museum. There is
some interest among the large Hindu population. And John Lennon has
offered to host Prabhupada and the devotees at his Ascot estate north
of London. George Harrison has taken the most initiative, helping
Mukunda and Shyamasundar cut a Hare Krishna record. They expect big
sales in England, and are recording more songs under George’s direction
to be issued in an album by the Beatles’s Apple Record Company.
Clearly, Prabhupada stands on the brink of international recognition.
Devotees are distributing Bhagavad-gita on streets, at
games and races, in parks and airports. Arrested for soliciting, they
generally win the court cases, and this sparks more newspaper coverage.
Money flows quickly in and out, as big buildings with expensive
overheads are rented and bought. In the name of transcendental
competition, each center tries to establish a bigger and better temple
to attract Prabhupada’s presence.
“I must go to London,” Prabhupada tells Purushottam. “Make reservations
This casts us into despair. We’ve been hoping that he would spend the
entire summer in New Vrindaban, but he has been saying that everything
depends on developments in London.
“There are many Indians in England who want to start a Hindu temple,”
Prabhupada says, “but I’m not interested in something for Hindus. We
want something for everybody. So far, in our Society, there is not one
single Indian other than me.”
And, thinking of this, Prabhupada laughs loudly.
Purushottam schedules Prabhupada to fly from Pittsburg to New York on
the morning of June 23. After spending a week in New York, he plans to
fly on to London. From there, he will launch the Hare Krishna invasion
Prabhupada calls a special meeting beneath the persimmon tree to
discuss the founding of a gurukula at New Vrindaban.
So far, there are only three boys at our school. But not for long.
Prabhupada wants all the Society’s children sent to New Vrindaban.
“Now in this New Vrindaban we will have a community of enlightened
fathers and mothers, and of sannyasis and
brahmacharis. All the children here are very fortunate. They are
learning automatically how to chant.
“If you can make just one child Krishna conscious, that will be a great
service to the earth. Krishna will be very pleased. Many children will
come here, because this place is very nice, and Krishna will give us
all opportunity. I will also come again. I like it so much here, but
first I must finish the little work still remaining. I want to go once
to London and Germany. Then I’ll entrust the whole preaching work to
you. So do not become too anxious. With cooperation, everything will be
possible. Krishna will help you.”
Prabhupada’s last night in New Vrindaban. After kirtan, he
tells us that even if we can’t prosecute Krishna consciousness in full,
we should still accept it.
“Once a person has taken to Krishna consciousness, Krishna will never
leave him,” he says. “His consciousness of Krishna will revive even in
his next body as a shudra. Previously, you American boys and
girls were addicted to eating meat and engaging in many abominable
habits, yet you immediately took to this process. This is because in
your last life you performed some Krishna conscious activity but
somehow or other could not complete the process. So there is no loss,
as Narada assures Vyasadeva, and as Bhagavad-gita
confirms. It doesn’t matter. Once you have taken to Krishna
consciousness, wherever you may take birth, in whatever country or
planet, that consciousness will be revived. That is the nature of the
plant of bhakti that grows and grows.
“Have I told you of the plant of bhakti? Lord Chaitanya likens bhakti
to the sowing of a seed in the heart by the spiritual master. Once this
seed is sown in the heart, and the disciple goes on watering it by
chanting Hare Krishna, the seed will fructify and grow and grow until
it penetrates the covering of the material universe and enters into the
brahmajyoti effulgence in the spiritual sky, where
it also grows more and more until it reaches the highest planet, Goloka
Vrindaban, where the plant ultimately takes shelter under the lotus
feet of Krishna, and there rests.
“So Krishna consciousness may seem checked for the time being, but that
is only temporary. It will again come out. Just the desire to serve
Krishna is sufficient to keep you intact. This desire will never die.”
Prabhupada goes upstairs, and Kirtanananda takes him hot milk. We crowd
into the small room, all eager to catch his last words. He talks
lightly of his travelling. Personally, he says, he would like to stay
in New Vrindaban and finish translating Srimad-Bhagavatam.
When young Dwarkadish begins to nod sleepily, Prabhupada smiles.
“So, you are feeling samadhi, Mr. D. D. D. ?” he asks. “All
right. Let him take rest. And you are also feeling
samadhi, Mr. Ekendra? You are very good boys. You can also take
We sense that it is time to let Prabhupada himself take rest, but we
remain in the room, knowing the importance of each precious moment
spent with a sadhu. As Purushottam packs, he asks Prabhupada
where he would like certain items placed, and Prabhupada gives him
directions while answering everyone’s last question.
“Just as a doctor can tell the condition of his patient by feeling his
pulse,” he says, “so the spiritual master can also tell the condition
of his disciple and prescribe medicine accordingly.”
“But what if we don’t take the medicine?” Ranandhir asks.
“Oh, that much you must do,” Prabhupada says. “My Guru Maharaj used to
give the example of a man trapped in the bottom of a well. If someone
comes along and throws him a rope, he must grab it. If he does not,
what can be done? One must make the effort to grab the rope. That much
endeavor we must have. We have that much independence. We have to catch
the rope. Then Krishna will grab us. So that is our situation, and we
should know it. The test of all spiritual life is at the time of death.
It is a difficult test. Therefore we must scientifically practise
chanting Hare Krishna to remember Krishna at death. Training and
association are important, not mundane education. Getting up for aratik,
chanting our rounds, and reading Bhagavad-gita is real
We sit before Prabhupada waiting. There is a silence in which we hear
only Purushottam packing and the big bullfrog croaking away in the
little pond beneath the spring. It is a very lonely sound.
“It’s getting late,” Kirtanananda says at last. “We’ll never get up for
aratik if we don’t let Srila Prabhupada rest.”
Prabhupada says nothing, and this is a sign that we are to retire. We
all offer obeisances and leave his room.
milk, we sit a while under the willow just outside Prabhupada’s window
and watch the moon slowly climb through the branches. From time to
time, I see Purushottam behind the window, packing Prabhupada’s trunks.
Finally, I walk up the hill past the garden to the lean-to and my
Chanting one last round before sleep, looking up at the stars, I think
of Prabhupada seated eternally behind his tin footlocker, waiting
calmly with all the answers.
And how many perfect answers to endless questions! As we all approach
Krishna from our own angle of vision, our karmic history, Prabhupada
answers us all, patiently sifting and sifting, discarding
nonessentials, explaining over and over until only the Truth remains.
“And when you have thus learned the Truth, you will know that all
living beings are but part of Me—and that they are in Me, and are Mine.”
Pradyumna’s voice rises from below the hill: “Srila Prabhupada, ki
jai! All glories to Srila Prabhupada!” And from the lower pasture,
someone answers with "Haribol!”
I continue chanting softly on my beads and watch the moon, nearly full,
shine over Govardhan Hill, spreading its cool light over the earth,
like Prabhupada spreading pure love of Krishna. That love is what we
all truly want. If we’re at all happy, it’s because some day we’ll
attain it. Prabhupada’s promise. Whether we have to wait a thousand
years, or only until tomorrow, that day will surely come.
End of Chapter 18
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
is Hare Krishna?
Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Krishna Consciousness -
His Divine Grace A.C.
Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Society of Devotees -
Disciples of Srila Prabhupada
Spiritual Master -
Rittvik - Initiation
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