Early Days with Prabhupada Part 4

Transcript of interview with Hansadutta, Part 4 (3:25:24 – 4:36:23)

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HANSADUTTA: [reading from paper:]

“You defended Narayana Maharaja, calling himself Bhaktivedanta. Because all of Keshava Maharaja’s sannyasa disciples receive this title. You used the example of Muni Maharaja who took sannyasa at the same time as Srila Prabhupada and was also given the title ‘Bhaktivedanta’. It seems that you were implying that Srila Prabhupada also received this title at the time of taking sannyasa from Keshava Maharaja. The fact is that Srila Prabhupada received the title not at the time of his sannyasa, but during his years as a householder. Prabhupada Lilamrita lists the year as 1939. This is a little over two years after the departure of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta. Not only did the Bhaktivedanta title have nothing to do with Srila Prabhupada’s taking sannyasa, but it was something much different. It was awarded by a group of intimate god brothers with regard to the special qualities and abilities that Srila Prabhupada exhibited. From the following two quotations about this title-giving, the conclusions which can be drawn are as follows: that this title was meant only for Srila Prabhupada and that it had never before been given to a Vaishnava, what to speak of anybody else in the Gaudiya Matha. And that it was a very great honor bestowed by his peers who recognized that Srila Prabhupada was more qualified and advanced. Consequently, others may adopt this title and may have many reasons for doing so, but as far as I am concerned, there is only one Bhaktivedanta. And he is that special Bhaktivedanta, and his being thus titled is unique and incomparable.”

So this is an important point, which most devotees don’t know, as far as I am concerned. In fact, I went on to write a letter to the Prabhupadanugas. They like to call themselves the Prabhupadanugas. And my god brother, Urdhvarga, who is mentioned in the Prabhupada, His Movement and You, he became – what… he wrote me after a long time, probably a year or two now ago. And he wanted to basically invite me to come somewhere and initiate somebody or something. So anyway, but before responding to his letter, I said, “The first thing I have to address is that you are calling yourself the Prabhupadanugas, a word which no karmi can pronounce [and] which is a manufactured word or designation. Prabhupada himself, being designated as Bhaktivedanta, he referred in the [Bhagavatam] first canto to the story of Narada with the sages – he referred to them as the Bhaktivedantas, repeatedly. And then I compiled – I actually have them here – I compiled all the times… many times that he used this [word]. Not only did he do that, but he personally wrote to me that he wanted to institute a test for qualifying, and those who receive the highest or passing of these different tests, they would be given the title of Bhaktivedanta. And he said, “I want that the Bhaktivedanta…” so you know that? You’ve read it?

PURUJIT: Yes, I have.

HANSADUTTA: Okay.

So, now somebody – he got… they got bitter, “Why are you quibbling over this point?” like it’s not important. But this point is so important that Prabhupada used this title, name, or this title, this award that he received from his god brothers, as his name to the public. Like name recognition – BMW, or Apple computers. It’s not a –

PURUJIT: Trademark.

HANSADUTTA: Trademark name, right? It’s not a little thing. It’s an all-important thing. So I won’t go into it any further, but that’s my point.

Anyway, then Prabhupada… Have you read this letter? Have you seen this letter?

PURUJIT: No.

HANSADUTTA: Okay. Then the quotation is from Prabhupada:

“But I retired from my family life. I was sitting alone in Vrindavana, writing books. So this – my god brother – he insisted me, ‘Bhaktivedanta prabhu,’ – this title was given in my family life. It was offered to me by the Vaishnava society. So he insisted me. Not he insisted me. Practically, my spiritual master insisted me through him that you accept. Because without accepting the renounced order of life, nobody can become a preacher. So he, Bhaktisiddhanta, wanted me to become a preacher. So he, Bhaktisiddhanta, forced me through his god brothers, ‘You accept.’ So unwillingly, I accepted. And then I remembered that he wanted me to go to the Western country. So I am feeling now very much obliged to my god brother.” [Festival Lecture: His Divine Grace Bhaktiprajñana Keshava Maharaja’s Disappearance Day, Seattle, October 21, 1968]

I was there when Prabhupada gave this talk. It was in Seattle, I believe. Yeah. It was uh…

PURUJIT: ’68?

HANSADUTTA: Something like that.

PURUJIT: Yeah.

HANSADUTTA: Appearance day. I don’t even know how I got there, because I was still in Montreal. So maybe I had to come to L.A. for something, I don’t know.

“So I am feeling very much now obliged to my god brother – this god brother, that he carried out the wish of my spiritual master and forced me to accept this sannyasa order. In India, the Mayavadi sannyasis are known as vedanti. Therefore my society, Vaishnava society, has particularly given me this title, Bhaktivedanta. Vedanta means bhakti. It is a challenge to the Mayavadi sannyasis. This particular title was given after due consideration that my humble self should be awarded this title. It is a new title amongst the Vaishnava society. So the Mayavadi philosophers, they are sometimes surprised: ‘Oh, how? Swamiji is vedanti at the same time bhakti?’ But actually, they do not know. Vedanta means bhakti.” [Festival Lectures: Radhastami, August 30, 1968, Montreal]

Yeah, I guess it… I can’t remember who wrote the letter. Because it’s not signed. Anyway, it’s a copy of that letter. And this at your leisure, you can sometimes look at. Or maybe – do you have a copy machine here?

WOMAN: No, but we can go make one. We can go make a copy.

PURUJIT: I can make a photograph of it.

HANSADUTTA: Oh, you can? That’s amazing. Here. It’s all – it’s the first letter that Prabhupada wrote me in December of ’68.

WOMAN: We can go –

HANSADUTTA: December, ’68. So far back, right? He got on this point. And then here, all the quotations in regard to that story. And this is important. You know, maybe… I don’t know, maybe… You are not a Prabhupadanuga, are you? But you can introduce this idea if you are or if you have some communication with them. You don’t even have to mention my name. But just – because everything that mentions my name they say no. But it’s an important point. Don’t you think it’s important?

PURUJIT: The name?

HANSADUTTA: Yeah.

PURUJIT: Yeah.

HANSADUTTA: Otherwise, why Prabhupada used it? Why did he not use his initiated name, Abhay Charan?

PURUJIT: Mhmm.

HANSADUTTA: Huh? Why did he use this name, and then Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, the Bhaktivedanta – everything Bhaktivedanta?

PURUJIT: Yeah.

HANSADUTTA: It’s very important. You know, and in fact, in Western marketing, merchandising, name recognition is the number one important thing. Companies spend thousands of dollars to get someone to find them the right name. The name. The name. And in a best-selling book, Dale Carnegie, he makes an issue: the name of a person is the most important thing to him. And if you meet someone, and then you meet him again and you don’t remember the name, you have just – you know, made a big mistake. You can’t say, “Yeah… I don’t know, what’s your name again?” He makes the point, Dale Carnegie. This book sells today still. I think it was written in the thirties. Right? How to Win Friends and Influence People.

PURUJIT: I think some devotees, they say that Prabhupada would always remember everyone’s name.

HANSADUTTA: Yeah, and Prabhupada pointed out, and I read also – whether it was Hitler or Napoleon – any great leading person, they either have a fabulous memory or they make it a point. In fact, I don’t have a good memory, so when I read this book, I got into the habit – when I meet someone and I know I’m not going to remember, I say, “That’s a very unusual name – that’s really nice, now how do you spell it?” And then I would… [gestures writing] And people, they don’t object. They actually like it. They think, Oh, he’s writing down my name.

PURUJIT: Just like Krishna. Krishna likes his name to be glorified.

HANSADUTTA: Right.

PURUJIT: So we’re the reflections of Krishna.

HANSADUTTA: Now if we just think of Prabhupada again, right? He prints, he publishes Krishna book, right?

WOMAN: I can make copies of this. You want me to?

HANSADUTTA: Yeah, please.

HANSADUTTA: And – here, copy this too for him. This is from Bhaktivinoda.

When Prabhupada published this book, first of all, no book had ever been published on Krishna in this size [gestures, indicating the size of the first edition]. Right? And not only that, he doesn’t spell the word Krishna – K-R-I-S-H-N-A. He spells it KṚṢṆA with these three dots. Right now, an ordinary person would think, “Naw, people won’t get that. They’d be confused.” No, Prabhupada, he understood this. And he didn’t have to explain it. But I understood that he understood, right? When I saw the KṚṢṆA book. When we made that art book, Kṛsna Art – you’ve seen it?

PURUJIT: Yeah.

HANSADUTTA: That was my last – not last, but it was one.. So the person helping me put it together, she said, “How – what are you gonna call the book?” I said, “Kṛṣṇa Art, with the three dots.” She said, “But nobody’ll buy that book.” I said, “They will. They will pay hundreds of dollars for this book. Even if they’re absolute karmis, they will buy it.” And that turned out to be true.

PURUJIT: It’s unique.

HANSADUTTA: Yeah, it’s unique. I mean, we don’t have to invent anything. We just have to follow Prabhupada. He understood. You know, a lot of devotees thought that “Well, you know, he’s an old man. He doesn’t know how things are done in America.” That’s not true. Prabhupada knew exactly.

PURUJIT: Of course.

HANSADUTTA: And if there was something he didn’t know, he would ask. He would say, “Well, what do you think?” He was often – often times, he asked me, “Hansadutta, what do you think?” And I would always say, “You really want me to say what I think?” He would say yes too, [and] then I could – then I felt free.

So KṚṢṆA book. Yeah. Anyway, here’s another – this is I mentioned to you also. Just read it. This is a small conversation, very short. Prabhupada, Tamal, and Harisauri. They’re talking about the two pujaris in Mayapur. The name is Jananivas, and his brother, his name – I can’t remember now, but they’re twins. And they’re very outstanding pujaris. You might have heard about them.

PURUJIT: Yeah.

HANSADUTTA: Anyway, so Tamal said, “They look like they’re out of Chaitanya Charitamrta. They appear as two persons right out of that book.”

Prabhupada: Yes, very good boys.

Tamal: Vaikuntha men.

Prabhupada: Oh, yes. They do not know except the duty. Very good boys.

Tamal says, “Perfect team of brothers.”

Then Prabhupada says – this is the important part,

“Oh yes, therefore Krishna has brought them here in Mayapur. Previously, they were advanced. All of you, you are simply born because this mission was to be started. Just like, in Yadhu-vamsa, Krishna ordered all the devotee demigods to go take birth there and help me. Similarly, you are also. You were born in Europe and America to help this movement. Otherwise, you were devotees in your past life. I have explained that in my recent writing. The purport was mam eti. One goes to Krishna where his pastimes are going on. And then they are transferred to the original. So, all the devotees picked up. And they were placed together where Krishna’s having his pastimes in either of these innumerable universes. He is going on, just moving – sun is moving little little, so Krishna’s pastimes, they’re always going on. This universe, that universe – in some universe. He’s all – in all universes present. That is called nitya lila. So those who are advanced, perfected devotees – first of all they are sent there, and then – then further trained up. Mam eti, just like after passing the administration examination, he’s made – one is made assistant to some magistrate. Then gradually he’s promoted higher, higher.”

Then Harisuri says, “When we were in New York last summer, you said that the spiritual master also has associates who appear along with him to help him in his mission.”

Prabhupada: “Yes, Krishna wants his assistants. The spiritual master also requires assistants. Everything is going on under Krishna’s direction. Mayadhyakshena prakritih suyate sa-characharam.” [Conversations: Morning room conversation, February 16, 1977, Mayapur]

So that is the… So those devotees, they didn’t just like, “Oh we’re bumped into Prabhupada – it was accidental, it was a one-time –” No, it’s an ongoing thing.

PURUJIT: Mhmm.

HANSADUTTA: And that ongoing is expanded through those devotees to other devotees. Just like you became devotee. I don’t know how you became devotee, but some – somewhere, there was some connection to Prabhupada. You see? This – you know, in computer technology, they have this expression, “digital footprint”. Wherever you go, in that system, there is a record. Right? So similarly, every living being – that… the record is there. So it is either strictly karmic, or it is mixed, or it is pure. So I don’t say, and we don’t say that “Oh, all these devotees are pure devotees.” No, they’re devotees for sure. So each time they appear in the entourage or in the mission of Prabhupada, they make more perfect. With Prabhupada – not only with Prabhupada, but with one another. And they expand with some who come later, and some who… like that. Anyway…

Okay, I could have given her this copy.

Okay, so what do we do?

PURUJIT: I have a question I wanted to ask you. About Hayagriva.

HANSADUTTA: Oh yeah, Hayagriva.

PURUJIT: Hayagriva, he was –

HANSADUTTA: Can I wear this hat, or is that too ostentatious?

PURUJIT: You can do whatever you like.

HANSADUTTA: I know I can whatever I like, but I need your opinion.

PURUJIT: Yeah, why not? I don’t mind.

HANSADUTTA: Anyway, are we on film?

PURUJIT: Yeah.

HANSADUTTA: Oh, we are? Okay.

PURUJIT: Yeah.

HANSADUTTA: Okay. Go ahead.

PURUJIT: So there’s a couple of letters I found. One of them is about – Prabhupada is explaining. These are both addressed to you.

HANSADUTTA: The letters?

PURUJIT: These letters, yeah. So that’s why. Now I think it would be nice if you’d maybe – you could tell something about it. This is the first one. This is where Hayagriva had kind of like a falldown.… Alright. So I’m gonna read the letter.

HANSADUTTA: What’s the date?

PURUJIT: 17th of February 1973.

HANSADUTTA: ’73, okay.

PURUJIT: [Reads:]

“While in India last, it was brought to my attention that our Sriman Hayagriva das has become deviated from the four basic principles which I have given to all my students for adherence to when they are first initiated. I do not know why he’s living in such a way. But I feel that he must be brought back to the standard immediately. So I’m requesting you as my Governing Body Commissioners to help me bring back to the standards. He has very good talent, but he’s spending it by living such an unrestricted life.”

HANSADUTTA: What do you wanna know?

PURUJIT: What was going on?

HANSADUTTA: You know, I have to be honest. I can’t say. I don’t know directly or personally. I just know from hearsay.

PURUJIT: Okay.

HANSADUTTA: And – where was I when this letter was written? Was I in Germany? Probably.

PURUJIT: I don’t know.

HANSADUTTA: Yeah, probably. See, I have a binder of Prabhupada’s letters and my responses back and forth. But I think it’s up north. I haven’t been able to find it in my room. Anyway. But I’d rather not comment on – you know, on it. I know that – what I am aware of is what – early on, I think it was ’68 – Hayagriva and Kirtanananda, they left.

PURUJIT: Yes.

HANSADUTTA: And there was some, you know… upheaval. And in fact, Himavati, she wrote Prabhupada a letter and something to the effect that he must be very displeased with them because of doing this. And Prabhupada was fine. “No,” he said father – you know – he’s not displeased. But if they do some mischief, he has to correct them.” So he didn’t take it very seriously. But this incident, I don’t wanna comment on it because I really don’t know.

PURUJIT: Okay.

HANSADUTTA: I would just be repeating something that somebody said.

PURUJIT: Okay, all right.

HANSADUTTA: But the fact is that Prabhupada was very keen about Hayagriva’s editing work. And very proud to have him as his editor-in-chief. In fact, I was – did a short little interview with Gadadhara’s mother, and she mentioned something about Hayagriva editing the books and changing the books, and she said something to the effect of, “Well you know, people say Hayagriva was crazy.” I said, “Well, yes he was. But you’re crazy, I’m crazy – we’re all crazy. So why don’t you remember –” I can’t remember which word, “why don’t you remember that Prabhupada took crazy people and he inspired them to do sane and wonderful constructive things? Why don’t you think that way? Why do you just think he was crazy?” So, you know, he was not crazy. Everyone’s crazy.

PURUJIT: Of course.

HANSADUTTA: Yeah, so that was my point.

PURUJIT: Here’s another one which is related to the editing. Prabhupada says… he seems to be responding to your letter. So I’ll be very curious –

HANSADUTTA: Same year?

PURUJIT: No, this is ’75.

HANSADUTTA: Okay, yeah.

PURUJIT: I’ll be very curious, because you know, I don’t really know what you wrote to Prabhupada. So Prabhupada says, “I don’t think that Hayagriva is at fault. He has not changed the meaning or the philosophy in any way. But if you like to use the original manuscript, then if it is possible, you can use it.”

HANSADUTTA: He’s probably referring to someone pointing out to me – at the time, ’75 it wasn’t a big issue yet – but that he might have taken liberties in the editing, and that perhaps we should – you know… I think it was we were translating the Gita at the time. I’m not sure.

PURUJIT: Wasn’t it the Srimad Bhagavatam? Or the Bhagavad-gita?

HANSADUTTA: It would have been the Bhagavad-gita, because I did not – I can’t remember that we started on the Bhagavatam. The first thing was Isopanisad, then the Gita. And I remember, we published that book in a smaller size – about you know, like that book there – a little reduced. And I printed on Bible paper. Which I did this, thinking Prabhupada, Oh he’ll like this. And anyway so I brought it to Mayapur and gave it to Prabhupada. And when he got it, he was, you know, as was his habit to examine very closely the binding, the paper and the color work, and he looked up, he said, “It’s better than the English edition.” Or American edition, so I was very… I was very happy about that. So he liked that, yeah. He liked it.

Anyway, getting back to that particular letter, it probably had something to do with that, and I might have suggested that since he might have taken liberties, that you know, perhaps we should or I could use the original manuscript or whatever. Whatever. And Prabhupada said yes, so – which I didn’t do, but I can’t remember that we did it. But he told me at another time – I can’t remember now where we were. But I suggested that maybe we can re-publish his original Bhagavatams. The original with…

PURUJIT: Delhi.

HANSADUTTA: Yeah, yeah. And he said, “No. Whatever Hayagriva has done is perfect. I have full faith in Hayagriva.” And so that was my understanding about Hayagriva. Whatever, you know, mischief or even if there was some mistake – Prabhupada was really, really keen on Hayagriva. There were other… other helper editors, but they were not anywhere near what Hayagriva was.

Just like Prabhupada had artists, but Bharadraja was the end-all and be-all of the artists, and he basically, you know, had… he had a huge studio in L.A., right? And he became a devotee in Montreal.

PURUJIT: Yes.

HANSADUTTA: I remember when I brought him to Prabhupada. I said, “Oh, Prabhupada, this boy is a really…” Because I was an artist for, you know in my karmi times, but nothing like Bharadraja. He just was… the top. So Prabhupada, as soon as I said that – we were in his room, he [Prabhupada] said [to Bharadraja], “Oh, okay. Take this and you copy that and bring it back.” When he brought it back the next day, Prabhupada’s eyes were lit up like silver dollars. And that was it. So he was also a musician, probably.

PURUJIT: Yes, yes.

HANSADUTTA: And he did the cover when I did the reprint of Easy Journey To Other Planets on a mimeograph machine.

PURUJIT: Mhmm.

HANSADUTTA: So I got him to make a cover.

PURUJIT: Okay.

HANSADUTTA: He did that in Montreal.

PURUJIT: Which one was that?

HANSADUTTA: Well, you see I was so – I was so completely saturated and overwhelmed with this little book, right? That I – I think I told the story – I immediately walked into the temple. From eighth street to second street [sic] – six blocks. And so anyway… but when I got to Montreal, at some point Kirtanananda – I think it was after Kirtanananda left; he had to go with Prabhupada in June, June of ’67.

PURUJIT: Yes.

HANSADUTTA: So I decided, this book. Everyone has to read this book. But I didn’t know anything about printing or – nothing, really. I was really… So I knew that there’s such a thing as a mimeograph machine. You make stencils, somebody types them up and… so that’s what I did. I bought a stencil machine, and I had someone sit and type because I didn’t know how to type, and Bharadraja made the cover.

PURUJIT: And this was in Montreal?

HANSADUTTA: Yeah.

PURUJIT: Okay, wow.

HANSADUTTA: So we… I think we made 5000 copies.

PURUJIT: Was this like the first book ever printed? They were printing some –

HANSADUTTA: Probably, probably.

PURUJIT: Some “Who’s Crazy?”, like small pamphlets.

HANSADUTTA: “Who’s Crazy?” pamphlets, and there were Back To Godheads.

PURUJIT: Back To Godheads.

HANSADUTTA: But yeah, I never thought about it that way. Yeah, it probably was. So I… We put together 5000 copies, if I remember right. So half of those I sold to Rupanuga, got all my money back for the printing machine and the paper and duh duh duh duh. Right? And the rest, I started to sell on the street. And that’s when I had this like, epiphany. I thought, this is like a perpetual goldmine.

PURUJIT: Okay.

HANSADUTTA: Not only do you get money by distributing the books –

PURUJIT: Yeah.

HANSADUTTA: – but every now and then… There’s a ratio. Someone reads that and then he lights up like I did. And then he’ll also distribute, and eventually out of a ratio of so many books distributed, someone’s going to read it and also become a devotee. So it’s an endless – how do you say, endless –

PURUJIT: Perpetuum mobile.

HANSADUTTA: Huh?

PURUJIT: Perpetuum mobile.

HANSADUTTA: I don’t know what that means.

PURUJIT: It means that machine like a –

HANSADUTTA: Perpetual motion.

PURUJIT: Yeah.

HANSADUTTA: Yeah, perpetual motion, right. Both for making devotees, for making money, and there just is nothing compared to it. So that was very, very clear to me. And what I didn’t know at the time, is that Prabhupada took note of this. I didn’t know that. I had no idea that he was aware that I did this. But so how did I come to know it? In 1974 when he asked me to be a trustee, at the Bhaktivedanta Manor, I was astonished. I said, “But Prabhupada, you have so many disciples that have MA, BA, PhD, they’re educated. Me, I’ve been…” Because two days earlier, he’d asked me, “Why every letter you write this kind of style?” I said, “Oh, Prabhupada, you know, I didn’t go to school.” So he said, “Oh, it’s okay.” Anyway, so when I posed this question, “Why are you asking – why don’t you ask one of your other disciples, who you know, have a proper education?” He said, “Because you have understood the importance of my books. Without being asked, you published and distributed my books.” And that referred to that particular endeavor of reprinting his Easy Journey to Other Planets.

PURUJIT: Okay.

HANSADUTTA: Which, so it was. All those years I didn’t know. I thought, well you know, I’m just doing my thing.

PURUJIT: Huh.

And you knew that Prabhupada meant this specifically?

HANSADUTTA: Yeah.

PURUJIT: Okay, wow. This is very interesting. The… You said you also distributed on the street?

HANSADUTTA: Yeah.

PURUJIT: And the other devotees, they were helping out? Or were just you yourself?

HANSADUTTA: Yeah, yeah, they were.

PURUJIT: So the book distribution started from very beginning, then?

HANSADUTTA: Well you know, I mean, it couldn’t have been much of anything, right? I mean, it wasn’t a systematic – it was all in all… works in progress. It was just a spontaneous thing that you do, you know.

PURUJIT: Okay.

HANSADUTTA: You know, it wasn’t book distribution as we – you know, book distribution scores and this and that –

PURUJIT: Sure.

HANSADUTTA: It was just that I was so touched, or so moved, or so affected by this book. I thought that other people, if they read this they’re gonna have the same effect. I actually naively thought that within a year’s time, everyone in New York City is gonna become Krishna conscious.

PURUJIT: Okay.

HANSADUTTA: I really believed it. And, and you know, and then all over the world, it wouldn’t take long you see. That – and I think I’m not unique in that feeling. I think that’s what moved all these disciples in the early days. They read or heard Prabhupada and they thought, Wow, this is the end-all and be-all. This is it. This is Eureka, Nirvana. This is the… you know, finally found it. In fact, when I came home in the evening after the first time, you know after reading Easy Journey and going to the temple. I stopped in at my friend’s – he lived underneath me in Hoboken. His name was Luke Faust. He was musician. He was connected with Bob Dylan, he was banjo player. I walked in, I said, “Luke, I’ve found it. I’ve found what we’ve been looking for. The absolute truth! Krishna!” He said, “What, control your senses?” I said, “Yeah, yeah!” He said, “Well, maybe you were looking for it, but I wasn’t looking for it.” Then I realized the guy who I thought – because he was always very quiet – I thought he must know something deeply profound, right? But he actually… in his head was just full of air. He didn’t know anything. So that was the end of him.

PURUJIT: Yeah, I think that’s very important, to have this conviction.

HANSADUTTA: Conviction is infectious. There’s a saying. Conviction is infectious, even if the person has a conviction about something which is totally erroneous or wrong.

PURUJIT: Like Hitler.

HANSADUTTA: Like Hitler or Mao Zedong, or that… there are many examples in history. They have such overwhelming conviction, they infect people. Like in the medical field, if someone has… There was Typhoid Mary, right? She had typhoid. But she didn’t – it didn’t affect her. But wherever she went, people were getting typhoid. So Prabhupada used to say, “Spread the virus. The Krishna virus. The K virus.”

Yeah, conviction is infectious. Without conviction, there… At one point, when we started to sell Isopanisads and other things on the street in Germany, me and Chakravarty – he was my right hand guy. And we thought, you know maybe we should call in a marketing and – marketing outfit – advertising or marketing outfit, and have them give us a plan which is suitable – tailored, custom tailored to our needs, right? We did. And the guy came and we explained what we were doing, and he said, “Yes, yes, I’ve seen you. I’ve seen you.” He said, “Now, I could sell you a very expensive plan, but I’m telling you there isn’t anything more that you could possibly do to be successful. You are doing – you are doing all the things that you have to do in order to be successful. Even more than other companies.” And then he pointed out the five principles of selling something. And out of the five, that you must be convinced. If that isn’t there, you can’t be successful. “And you people,” he said, “I’ve watched you, I’ve seen you, I’ve studied you. You wouldn’t be on the street if you were not convinced. With a shaved head and a dhoti.” So I said – so he said, “You know, if you like, but it’ll cost you a lot of money, but it’s not gonna improve your present format. You’re doing everything –”

PURUJIT: It’s complete.

HANSADUTTA: Yeah, it’s complete. Be convinced. And when one has that conviction, then he infects the other person, the person he’s approaching, with the desire to have that thing. Whatever it is that this guy has, I want that thing. So that’s… anyway.

PURUJIT: That’s the secret.

HANSADUTTA: Yeah, that’s the secret. Be convinced.

PURUJIT: Devotees, they would also not wear the dhoti later on. They would dress in you know, karmi clothes and –

HANSADUTTA: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

PURUJIT: With the wigs, and… and Prahupada –

HANSADUTTA: He was reluctant, like, “Yeah, okay… but you know…” But he –

PURUJIT: Prabhupada didn’t like it. Truly.

HANSADUTTA: He didn’t care for it, no, he… but he thought, “Okay. If it sells more books…” It was reluctant agreement. But it was then it became a runaway thing where not only didn’t they wear the dhoti, but then they cooked up all kinds of lines and… you know. So yeah, that was that.

PURUJIT: Prabhupada was not fond of it.

HANSADUTTA: No. No. But I can also tell you that –you know – at some point, I saw that the devotees in general, unless they are… unless this point is addressed systematically, how or what takes place when you approach someone and try to sell them a book… I saw devotees who are not aware of that or don’t have a natural, how do you say, spontaneous ability. They have to be trained. And we used to have classes. I’d have classes, and we would go through what to say and what not to say.

For example, you never say “maybe” or “Could you…?.” You always say, “You will.” “You will take it home and read it? Thank you very much.” “You will take it home.” You say it three times, and you nod, you look them in the eye, and “Thank you very much. We’re just asking a small contribution so we can continue our work.” So everyone has some response – “I don’t have any money,” “I’m not interested,” so you have to be able to respond to any negative – “You don’t have any money? That’s okay. You’ll take it home and read it? Thank you very much. Look in your pocket, maybe there’s something you missed.” Or to “I got it already,” “Okay, that’s great! Take another one and give it to a friend.” And so, everything – every response that’s negative, you have to accept that –

PURUJIT: Come up with a response.

HANSADUTTA: And give a positive substitute. Like that.

So there were different things like that. And different kinds of people, you talk to them in a different way. If it’s a little old lady, you kinda [leans forward, smiling], “Excuse me, ma’am.” And if he’s a brash business man, you gotta come on stronger. If he’s a hippie, then, “Hey, man!” You know. So gradually the devotees came to understand what the mechanism is. And one of the most important things we had to teach the devotees is that people on the street are harmless. They’re not gonna hurt you. They might say something nasty to you like, “Hey!” you know, or whatever. And I gave the analogy, I said, it’s like a child that grows up on a farm with cows and horses… a four- or five-, six-year-old boy or girl, they’re not afraid of a cow. They’ll call out like “Come on, come on!'” But if I bring a business man or a lawyer or someone from the city who’s not [accustomed to the farm] – he’s terrified, he thinks the cow is gonna trample him to death, right? So I tried to make – you have to get the devotees, the distributors to get over this anxiety, this fear that they have of being rejected, being insulted. Or that someone’s gonna take the thing and run away, or whatever. They have to come to the point where they realize there’s nothing to be afraid of with these people. If you just assert yourself [outstretches his arm and points his finger] “Sir!” then they’ll immediately… [leans back with hands up in surprise]. So like that, yeah we did.

So I wrote to Prabhupada, and that was my point – I wrote to Prabhupada describing how I was giving classes. And very detailed. And he said, “Yes, selling is a great art.” Like one of the things I said was you never say anything until you put that book in the person’s hand and he has it.

PURUJIT: That’s what Prabhupada said?

HANSADUTTA: No, I said.

PURUJIT: Oh, okay. Okay.

HANSADUTTA: And one of the things I told them: “And you never take it back. No matter what, you just never.”

And you have to know that, you see. And if someone tells you in a run-through like we did in the temple, you understand. You never take it back. And if they try to – you know – if they have the book and they want to start leafing through it? You just put your hand on it and close it. Or they’ll ask, “What’s this book about?” I said, “Everything’s in the book. You’ll take it home and read it? You’ll take it home and read it?” And everything can be repeated three times. If after three times, it doesn’t work, then you know… But – or if people say, “What’s that on your forehead?” You don’t get into explaining what it is. “Everything’s in the book, you’ll take it home and read it?” Sounds simple, but that’s what they have to do.

PURUJIT: Okay.

HANSADUTTA: Right? Or “This book is about Krishna?” “It’s all in the book, take it home and read it, yes?”

HANSADUTTA: You don’t – you avoid saying negative things. “Maybe”, “Can you…?”, “Can you give a donation?” No. “You will”. So it’s something that can be practiced and learned and done. And I’ve seen people who are absolutely reluctant, you know, terrified. Devotees that just could not sell anything or distribute. But once they get the script, so to speak, hey. And once they start having success, it’s like they lose all fear and apprehension and anxiety.

PURUJIT: Okay. Well, later on they started wearing wigs and hiding, hiding that they’re devotees.

HANSADUTTA: Yeah, what happens is this. This is what happened because… I left America at the beginning of 1970. I went to – Prabhupada asked me to go to Germany. And I… when I came back and saw what had happened… What happened was that the original enthusiasm which brought people or devotees out in the street – right?– to sell books and collect lakshmi, that became dampened more and more, because first of all they went kinda undercover. And then it become more and more adept, they saw that yeah it’s a fact. Like the little boy on the farm, he’s not afraid of a cow. But he doesn’t abuse the cow either, right? He learned that cows are – you know – you have to look after them and so forth. But the devotees who were originally there out chanting… In the beginning, everybody, every party went out, and they were chanting. They have, say they have six, seven, eight people chanting. And you may be have three or four at most, distributing. And then they’d rotate. So what happened with the introduction of the karmi clothes and the wigs, and the more clever lines, that the devotees became very expert in collecting money. And in fact, the focus shifted, or the thought process – the exhilaration of sankirtan shifted from thinking that if this person reads this book, he’s gonna be a devotee. Like I’m relating how I read the book and I got all lit up, you – imagine – you have that going through your mine. So that waned more and more, and you were concerned with collecting more and more money. Or getting more and more numbers, you know, you’re gonna be the number one guy.

PURUJIT: The fruits.

HANSADUTTA: The fruits, yeah. The attention. The consciousness. The concern shifted.

And so what happened, although a tremendous amount of money was collected in time, they became more and more – and the focus became more and more, because the leaders who mostly stayed home at the desk – not home, in the temple you know. So they bought properties. Like Tamal bought a big place down in Okla – I think it was Oklahoma. And different places, they bought properties. So gradually what happened is the enthusiasm that was generated by a devotee going out and you know, doing this because he saw himself and he saw other people – “Oh, they’re gonna, he’s gonna read the book, he’s gonna believe and become a devotee” – that gradually faded. So and then everyone was looking to these guys just to bring the money and the numbers. And then that just… that just wasn’t inspiring. The inspiration to do what they’d been doing or what led them to this point. That evaporated. And they didn’t wanna do that anymore. And then when that happens, well then you know, you get attracted to the opposite sex. That’s one of the things that happens. One of the other things that you get pride. Wealth, women, and prestige. So in the… these things then overwhelm the devotee. His potency becomes compromised. By wealth, women, prestige. I’m summing it up in a simple way. But I saw that. It was very clear.

PURUJIT: Why do you think devotees started introducing this?

HANSADUTTA: Why did they?

PURUJIT: Yeah. What caused the shift?

HANSADUTTA: The shift? Well, you can say… you can say wealth, women and prestige. You know, and if I come back with a hundred dollars more than everybody else, everyone’s gonna think I’m a great guy. If I sell more books than everybody else – which is fine, but these things are always, even in – you know, we read our Bhagavatam, right? And there’s so many stories of how a great devotee falls down, or gets diverted. So it’s kinda like that. And… and you know, in the presence of Prabhupada… Even in the presence of Prabhupada. I once… I asked him one day, “Why is it, it seems like everyone who’s been your servant or secretary in due course of time, they almost in every way fall down? Why is that?” He said, “Because they think the spiritual master is an ordinary man.” So everyone’s subject to be attacked by maya. Everyone. And you know, the other thing is of course, we’re Western people.

[Indicating the window shade] You know, you can do the shade so you don’t…

PURUJIT: Oh, it’s okay, it’s okay. I like it.

HANSADUTTA: Oh okay. Western boys and girls – right? – they have no background. No cultural, traditional, philosophical – nothing. In India you know, of course people grow up, even if they don’t follow they have some idea that there are certain standards, and – admirable… to be truthful, to be clean, to be celibate, to be… like that. So you know, Prabhupada came. And anyone and everyone – anyone who… you know, “Okay, come on. Let’s go.” I remember Buddhimanta, he was an… we became good friends. But when he first came, he was just like sixteen or seventeen years old. He was a hippie in San Francisco, distributing hippie newspapers, Berkeley Barb. So –

WOMAN: Got it. [Returns with photocopies]

HANSADUTTA: Hare Krishna, thank you.

WOMAN: Krishna.

HANSADUTTA: So exactly how he [Buddhimanta] came, I don’t know. I can’t remember. But –

PURUJIT: Oh, thank you.

WOMAN: And then here are your original ones.

HANSADUTTA: Okay, thank you.

WOMAN: Uh huh.

HANSADUTTA: But he was one of these, you know, he was like six – well, more than six feet tall. Very energetic guy. And kinda hyper, right? And so we… he comes to the temple, and he you know, “What do I do? What do I do now?” So finally they decide that the guy is becoming a nuisance, sort of. They decide to give him a set of – a stack of Kṛṣṇa Books. And go out and… “You try – go out and try to sell these.” They figured he’ll be out there all day, he’s never gonna sell them because no one ever has, right?

He goes out and a half hour later he comes back, he said, “Okay, I sold them. What do I do now?” So he became one of the, you know, great distributors. So much so that Keshava, who was Karandar’s brother, took him on a world tour so to speak. And that’s – I think – the first time I met him. He came to Germany, and I thought, How’s this guy gonna show our guys how to – he’s – he can’t speak one word of German, right? So before he goes out, he comes, he approaches me, he says, “How do you say ‘please’?” I said, “Bitte.” “How do you say ‘contribution’?” I said, “Spende.” He said, “Well which way does it go, ‘spende bitte’, or ‘bitte spende’?” I said, “It doesn’t matter, either way.” So he goes out, you know, and he practically would fall down on his knees and hug somebody’s pant leg and not let him go until he bought a book, right. And of course our guys saw all that and they were… So you know, things like that. It was a very… yeah. All the things that were introduced… like the Love Feast – that was Kirtananda’s idea. It wasn’t like Prabhupada said, “I think we should have a Sunday [feast].” No. Kirtananda thought of it and Prabhupada sanctioned it, or he confirmed it. He said “Yes, do that. That’s very good.”

So many, many things were like that. I remember when I was in Montreal. Because I was a navy guy, right? And also I was always up early, – it was my nature to be up early – and I liked taking a cold shower. But our guys were not getting up early and taking cold showers. So I at one point wrote to Prabhupada and suggested that it might be a good idea if they – you know – our guys get up and… earlier and so forth. And Prabhupada said “Yes, that’s very good.” And kinda confirmed it in his own way. So many, many things came like that.

PURUJIT: Okay. When did devotees start to wake up before four? Because Prabhupada made that rule, before four, you wake up. But I was doing some research, and devotees were not waking up from the very beginning.

HANSADUTTA: Right, right. I… I can’t say. I just know that wherever I went, we got up early.

We got up early. Not necessarily take cold shower, but you know. It was… yeah, I had… I was little older than most. I was twenty five, almost twenty six when I came. Yeah, twenty six almost. A month shy of twenty six. So I’d spent three or four years in the military. So you learn how to kind of organize and… you know, like that.

PURUJIT: What about Kirtanananda? You mentioned Kirtanananda before, but maybe you could tell a little bit more about him, because you know –

HANSADUTTA: Kirtanananda… I only knew him because I came to [Montreal]. I couldn’t – we couldn’t – move into the New York temple because I was married. And they didn’t tell me that, because they didn’t know how. So early on they were kinda like – you know – it was a little awkward to tell someone, because you know how there was free love and everything, so forth and so on. Anyway, so he was in… he had gone to Montreal a week or two earlier, before I came. And they suggested, “Well you know, Keith just went to Montreal. Maybe if he’ll agree, and to… would you go there?” I said, “Yeah, I’ll go anywhere you know. Been a sailor, I’ve been everywhere. Whatever.” So I went there and he was… I understood right off because of this military background that I have, that he was that leading guy. Him and Brahmananda. But for me, Kirtanananda, because I was out of New York and was there [in Montreal with Kirtanananda]. There was just Kirtanananda, myself, Himavati, Prajyumna, and Janardan – sometimes he came, but he was going to school. So our first engagement was just ripping up the bowling gutters, you know, make it a flat, one surface. And he taught me to cook simple things – chapatis, rice, dal

PURUJIT: Okay.

HANSADUTTA: And you know, simple sabjis that… generally cabbage and potatoes or sometimes just potatoes, whatever. You know. So end of March I came. March, April, May, June. End of June he was gone.

PURUJIT: Okay.

HANSADUTTA: So without any experience really, save except those first few months, he went off and he became Prabhupada’s servant and went to India with him. And –

PURUJIT: Did you, did you –

HANSADUTTA: So I didn’t, I did not have any further association with Kirtanananda, because I was sent to Germany. So Kirtanananda was in New Vrinadvan. I mean, I remember the day he came back after they – him and Hayagriva had gone away for some days, or actually it was about a year, I think – I happened to be in New York. And I saw him come walking down Second Avenue with his danda and his dhoti – you know – all clean shaved.

So the only time I saw him again was when we went to India. When we went to India. And I tended to stay kind of aloof from him, because… Anyway, he didn’t like being in India. He wanted to be back in New Vrindavan. And he eventually did [return there] – which brings up an interesting story, which I should tell because it was very important for me. He didn’t care. He didn’t like being in India. And he had his own New Vrindavan thing, so. But at any rate, Prabhupada wanted him there because he was a leading devotee. And he was sent to Gourapura, where Prabhupada had one disciple who was a Mohammedan and a professor at the university in Gourapura. His name was Ramananda Roy – his initiated name, if I remember right. So I was the secretary at the time, and we got a letter from Kirtanananda, and he was – you know – complaining away. He just… just in another words, he wanted to go back to New Vrindavan. He thought this was a waste of time. So Prabhupada just said to me, he said, “Write him an encouraging letter.” But in my mind, I’m thinking No, let him go, you know, who cares about him? Because we didn’t exactly get off harmoniously, although there was nothing you know, that ever happened between us. So I went back to my room and I said, “Okay, I gotta write him an encouraging letter.” Where in my heart I was really thinking I would rather write Yeah, go! Goodbye! But I didn’t. I had to think like, Now, what would Prabhupada say to encourage him?

And so in this mindset, I began to formulate a letter in the spirit – what I call the spirit of Prabhupada. The letter was sent off, and when the reply came, he was completely transformed, right? He was enthusiastic, yeah and that… And then I realized that this is what it means to serve, or act in the spirit of Prabhupada: to understand his purpose, and then to express that in whatever way you are asked to do it. And I think this is what makes the difference between those that were you know, prominent, and those that were not so prominent: that they embraced the purpose and the intention and Prabhupada’s goal. They just embraced it. Whether… and, yeah, that’s – that’s… Sorta like you know in the gangster world, a man rises up when he understands what the Don wants. And whatever it is, he does it. So I know it’s a crude example, but it’s that. And I think military life is like that. That’s how Napoleon… he became very prominent. He could never have risen in the ranks like he did, because he was not actually French. He was – I think – from Corsica, or considered like… you know. And so they would routinely or traditionally keep such a person… and he wouldn’t rise to the ranks like he did. But he rose to the ranks because he embraced the cause and the purpose of the then ruling person or administration, whatever you call it. Does it make sense?

PURUJIT: Yes.

HANSADUTTA: Yeah.

GADADHARA: You don’t like broccoli, huh?

HANSADUTTA: It’s not that I don’t like it, but I thought your wife was gonna make that same…

GADADHARA: Yeah, but, but we just don’t have any cauliflower, so…

HANSADUTTA: That’s all right. Broccoli’s fine. Yeah, as long as it’s done. Some people they like that Chinese style where it’s half cooked and…

GADADHARA: No, no no. Raw?

HANSADUTTA: No, I’m not into that.

GADADHARA: Okay.

PURUJIT: I was reading about – this is in your book Prabhupada, His Movement and You. Your letter to Kirtanananda. And you mentioned in that letter that Kirtanananda –

HANSADUTTA: Told me.

PURUJIT: Said, yes, that we should’ve been ritviks.

HANSADUTTA: Yeah, he did.

PURUJIT: So…

HANSADUTTA: I… when I fell down, I went to New Vrindavan. And the reason I went there is because Kirtanananda fell down. I thought, Well, he’ll understand what – you know – my situation here. He early on… he took sannyasa, right? You know – so you know the history. And he fell down and he came back, and everything was set straight. And he went on to develop New Vrindavan. So I thought I would go to New Vrindavan, and maybe he can help me because I was really mortified. Really mortified. And anyway I came to see that he could not help me. Neither could any other of my god brothers help me because I saw they all had the same problem that I have – it just hasn’t manifested yet. That was very clear to me. And in fact, Harikesh told me I should commit suicide.

Anyway, so I wound up going to India afterwards to see Bhakticaru. And then I also visited Sridhara, because I had visited Sridhara with Bhakticaru before Sridhara became an issue or a controversy. I went there with Bhakticharu. We were very – how do you say – friends. We were friends, good friends. He also spoke German. He had been in Germany before he left there and joined in India. So it was very, kind of inspiring to hear Sridhara. Just – you know – have darshana there. And he was also very inclined to – I don’t know if that’s the right word – but he was very friendly. It made me feel very friendly. And he knew that I was one of Prabhupada’s – you know – leading disciples. But he also couldn’t help me.

And then I realized that nobody can help me except Prabhupada. With Krishna. And you know, that’s the end all – that’s just the way it is. There’s no… yeah, that’s all there is. So Kirtanananda wrote that letter. I don’t know if I wrote the letter before I went there or after I went. Probably before visiting, because I’d never – I don’t think I’d ever been –

PURUJIT: ’93, I think. It was written.

HANSADUTTA: Yeah, I don’t think I’d ever been to New Vrindavana. So yeah. Yeah, and he did. That he was kinda keen on that. I remember him articulating that before everything started to unravel. But apparently – you know – he got caught up just like everybody else. It was just… People often express that there was some conspiracy but I don’t see it that way. I think that it was a case of… You know, Prabhupada often mentions this world is full of the cheaters and the cheated. So when Prabhupada disappeared, then naturally all the leading people – and I wrote a letter to this effect, and I think it’s in the book, right? Which was written to Veda I think, just to – for my own clarification, but also for him. Then I think every leading disciple wanted to be a guru. Just natural. But Prabhupada modified that. He didn’t give the blank check. And that was a kind of disappointment. And I felt that also. But at the same time, I understood this is a very – you know – ritvik representative of the Acharya, a great responsibility, great honor, and it’s not like a bureaucratic thing. Like some devotees… they’re thinking it’s just like… something like a clerk, he’ll just – when you go to the DMV and he stamps your driver’s license, you’re okay to go. No, it’s not like that.

And… but… so, what am I saying? So what happened was because everyone became infected with the… with this… to fulfill this desire to be a guru. That was there – that was unavoidably there. That was unmistakably there. And you know, maybe I shouldn’t say this, but I think everyone became infected with maya and the desire to have that prestige. Not just the prestige – there’s wealth, women, and prestige. Prabhupada once said to me, he said, “You can give up illicit sex. You can give up meat eating, you can give up gambling, intoxication. You can give up the wealth, the women. But to give up prestige is nearly impossible.” And Bhaktivinode – recently, some months ago I read an article [“The Terrible Desire Will Be Removed”] on the Sampradaya Sun by Bhaktivinode. He starts… he said, “In this world, people take to religion, austerity, penance, renunciation, yoga,” and so – have you read it?

PURUJIT: Well, you mentioned it before.

HANSADUTTA: I mentioned it, yeah.

PURUJIT: The last time.

HANSADUTTA: Because it’s the first line. And I thought, wow what a thing to say. That everyone takes up these things, which are considered very noble right? Holy and divine and desirable. But their purpose is prathista, prestige. And yes, so yeah… and it’s a very short article. He says… And the only way… actually, the more one – how do you say – becomes renounced or austere or whatever, the more this prathista grows.

PURUJIT: Yeah. Prabhupada also calls it “the last snare of maya“.

HANSADUTTA: Yeah. He said to be a guru or to be God. These are the two things. Two things. I am the guru, I am God. Hare Krishna. So in the article, he said, “The only way that this prathista can be subdued or neutralized” – I can’t remember the exact word he used – “is to take complete shelter in the lotus feet association of pure devotee. Then it’s possible.” And even then, we saw that sometimes a person still would become infected.

So does it answer your question?

PURUJIT: Yeah. But historically, how did you…? Well you got the letter, the July 9 letter.

HANSADUTTA: I was still in Sri Lanka, yeah.

PURUJIT: And you understood that this is ritvik on behalf of Prabhupada. Everyone can be guru. If you repeat the message, you’re immediately a guru, just like little Sarasvati [Shyamasundar’s young daughter] was a guru, because she says, “Krishna is the supreme personality of Godhead.”

HANSADUTTA: Yeah, yeah.

PURUJIT: But when we speak of the initiating guru, one who accepts disciples, it’s very clear from Prabhupada’s writings that one has to be on the highest level of realization, or uttama adhikari.

HANSADUTTA: It is and it isn’t. It is – it is when you take it as confirmation of what – you follow? One confirms the other. But if that ambition – if you allow that ambition – in other words, if you don’t recognize and check that ambition within yourself, then you become infected. And once you become infected, once you allow yourself, even just – how do you say – in your imagination or in your mental ruminatings, intellectual ruminatings… I was gonna finish my thought from before, but – about the cheaters and the cheated –

PURUJIT: Sure.

HANSADUTTA: It just grows. It just grows. You know, it’s like walking into some place, and… say we – I come to visit him, and I see a handful of money somewhere in the drawer and I think [I could use that money] – and then you allow that to fester, you might actually take it and go. You think, Oh who’s gonna know? So this is the nature of [the mind]. To control or not… the mind is one’s best friend and one’s enemy as well. So… but I was started on a point before. It’s a question of the cheaters and the cheated. Prabhupada disappeared. Now, there are eleven or twelve men who have been designated as those who should continue initiation. Now the question is whether they’re gonna initiate in the way that Prabhupada outlined in that July 9th letter. [End of Part 4]

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

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