13 October 2008

October 11 2008

I was off-line for a couple of days, traveling to Mumbai. I will be here ’till October 23. I have a series of meetings over the next week or so, some connected with the GBC meetings that are to be held here, and some with the TOVP

I don’t come to Mumbai much. If I travel out of Mayapur at all (summer excluded), its mainly to Vrndavana. Last time I was here was 2 years ago. They were still constructing the massive extension at that time. Now its finished. 

They call the new extensions to Sri Sri Radha Rasabehari’s temple ‘Heaven on Earth’ and it really is. Amazing place.

Heaven on earth 

If you come to India, you must visit Hare Krishna Land Juhu. The guest house is 4 star.

view from my guest house window 

The restaurant is huge and the prasadam served is delicious. Yesterday, Sunday over 50,000 people went through the temple and other facilities. There are so many people they have to keep the line moving so that everyone gets a chance to see the Deities.

 darshan of Deities

That’s regular traffic, on special events days its much, much bigger.

I won’t take up space here trying to describe the whole project. If you log on to you can see it.

The only thing I don’t like about it is this:

demolished site

The above blank spot is where Srila Prabhupada’s old quarters used to be. Of course, he did move into his new rooms on the top floor of the west guest house tower in 1977, but in my humble opinion the temple authorities here made a huge mistake in not preserving the old building as a memorial to the yatra’s beginnings. Anyway too late now.

Looking around it did bring back a lot of memories of the more humble beginnings, when Sri Sri Radha Rasabehari were being worshipped in a temporary facility that was little better than a shack

 SP having darsana of Radha Rasabehari

Things were simple but there was a great family spirit among the devotees.

 kirtan December 22 1975 SBSST disappearance day

I made my first visit here in December 1975, just after I had joined Srila Prabhupada’s party. I almost didn’t make it:

[TD 1] December 15 1976 – Delhi

Interviews with prospective Hindi translators are still going on, and His Divine Grace has already engaged a Mathura woman named Dr. Paliwal. Later this evening Mr. Singh arrived and showed Prabhupada his Ph.D. thesis — a lengthy treatise on Caitanya Vaisnavism.
Impressed with the man’s work, Srila Prabhupada said he wanted to spend more time with him, examining the document and testing his ability to translate. This posed a dilemma. It was too late to do anything on the spot, and Prabhupada has to fly to Bombay first thing in the morning. Prabhupada asked Mr. Singh if he could come to Bombay. He was immediately agreeable, but could not afford to buy a plane ticket.
Prabhupada thought for a moment and then called in Harikesa and Hansaduta. “So, what tickets do we have for Bombay?”
“Well, there are four: yours, Hansaduta’s, mine, and Hari-sauri’s.”
“So give him his,” Prabhupada said, without even a glance in my direction.
Harikesa gave me a sympathetic smile and shrugged. Within a moment my ticket was handed over to Mr. Singh. The man happily left, and Srila Prabhupada took rest.

December 16th, 1975
Delhi airport was filled with its usual bustle, and while Hansaduta and Harikesa dealt with the baggage and other formalities, Srila Prabhupada sat calmly in the boarding area. As he waited, a friendly Bengali gentleman, Mr. Chaudhuri, talked with him for some time. It pleased Prabhupada to discover that the man worked in the West Bengal Department of Development and Planning.
Mr. Chaudhuri spoke enthusiastically and appreciatively about Srila Prabhupada’s worldwide missionary work. He offered to help in any way he could, so Prabhupada wrote down his name and address.
At 6 a.m. the party, along with the Ph.D. candidate, flew out. I booked myself on the next flight out at 10:00 a.m. I had a little money saved, just enough for the fare, and by midday I too was in Bombay.
Hare Krsna Land
Juhu Beach, Bombay
Hare Krsna Land at Juhu Beach is only about half an hour drive from the airport — six rupees by taxi. The site is very impressive. Situated in the heart of exclusive Juhu, only a minute from the beach, it covers more than four acres, with half a dozen three-storied apartment buildings spaciously dotted among the many swaying palm trees.
It surprised me to find that the “temple,” at the front of the land, is merely a simple shelter — a small brick Deity room and a darsana area barely large enough to hold fifty people. It is completely open on three sides, covered with a flimsy tin roof balanced on thin iron poles.
Nevertheless, the worshipable Deities Sri Sri Radha-Rasabihari are beautifully dressed and meticulously cared for, despite the inadequate facilities.
I am surprised to discover that nondevotees occupy many apartments on our property, several of them even meat-eaters. When Srila Prabhupada obtained the land, six occupied buildings were already there, and according to Indian law their tenancies can’t be terminated. Devotees are gradually using those few flats vacated by former tenants.
Srila Prabhupada has arranged to have the third floor built on the top of each building to provide living quarters for his disciples. That work has just been completed, and the foundation is now being laid for the new temple complex. Some used materials left over from the Vrndavana temple construction have being trucked in.
A devotee directed me to Srila Prabhupada’s quarters in a building at the back of the land. After climbing several flights of steep steps to the top floor, I entered the open reception room door at the same moment His Divine Grace entered from the other side. He had just taken his massage.
“Oh, so you are here!” he said in mild surprise as I offered my obeisances. “All right, very good!” he remarked, disappearing into the bathroom.
Nitai appeared next; he had just given Prabhupada his massage. “Oh, you’re here! Okay, I don’t mind. I’d rather develop the gurukula in Vrndavana anyway.”
Then Harikesa came in, also surprised to see me. I found out later that when my ticket was handed over to Mr. Singh, everyone had considered my tenure with the party at an end. They assumed that Nitai would rejoin the party as Prabhupada’s servant. Apparently I was the only one who had not realized it.
But Prabhupada was pleased that I came. He sent me to find Giriraja, the temple president, and instructed him to repay me the full cost of my airfare. He advised me that I should keep my own money for emergency uses.

So sometimes it pays to be ignorant. If I had understood in Delhi when my ticket was handed over to Mr. Singh that my fragile tenure as Srila Prabhupada’s new servant was supposed to be over, I would never have flown down to Bombay and consequently I would have missed out on nearly a year and half’s personal service to His Divine Grace.

OK, more about Bombai, sorry, Mumbay, whoops, I mean Mumbai, soon.

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