September 7 2008

 A few days ago Janmastami prabhu, the principle of our Mayapur Institute for Higher Education and Training (MIHET) sent me this painting:

Srila Rupa Goswami gives his blessings to Srila Prabhupada for his mission

along with this question:

“Do you know the pastime that is represented by the attached plate? Any references? I would like to use it in my NOI course.”

My reply:

 Yes, this is the occasion in the early 1960s when Srila Prabhupada was personally instructed not only by Srila Rupa Goswami but also by Srila Sanatana and Jiva Goswamis about his writing and his desire to preach Krsna consciousness in the west. This painting is not strictly accurate as you will see.

I include this incident in my own seminar series “Srila Prabhupada The Living Bhagavatam” about Writing [SPLB–see the audio section] The incidence is mentioned in TD Vol 3, quoted portions of which appear in italics here:

On July 26, 1976 Srila Prabhupada was in England, staying for a few days at Bhaktivedanta Manor, the beautiful estate donated to ISKCON by George Harrison. George had just visited Srila Prabhupada that afternoon and in the evening Bhagavan prabhu, the GBC for Southern Europe and Prthu Putra Swami arrived. They presented Srila Prabhupada with the first French edition of Srimad Bhagavatam Canto One, Part One.

The book contained a photo of Srila Prabhupada’s room at Radha Damodar Mandir in Vrindavana. It was the first time an edition of the Bhagavatam had included photos and Prabhupada was extremely pleased with it.

 After hearing some of the favorable reviews printed in the book Srila Prabhupada told them:

“My Guru Maharaja is very pleased. As soon as a book comes out, he is pleased. He was lamenting that ‘These men [his disciples], they did not publish any number of books. They are simply after this stone and bricks.’ He condemned. He was very, very sorry. So I thought that I must take a risk. And he’s pleased.”
“So now you have books and temples,” Bhagavan said.
Prabhupada smiled. “Yes, temple is automatically. I never stressed on temple. I was engaged in publishing the
Back to Godhead. Whatever I could do, I did it because I took it very seriously that he is very sorry that these things were not done. He said that, ‘There will be fire in this Gaudiya Math.’ Agun jvalbe, he said. Amari taci loka kichui boi kakrayebo: ‘If I can, I shall sell these marbles of this temple and convert them into books.’ That was his ambition. … Now whatever is being done, it is by his [Bhaktisiddhanta’s] blessing. Let us work sincerely. Things will be all … Otherwise it is humanly impossible. It is by his grace.”
“George was also commenting on that, how one man could have written so many books,” Jayatirtha said. “He could not even read them all, what to speak of writing them.”
Prabhupada quoted a Sanskrit verse:
mukam karoti vacalam pangum langhayate girim/ yat-krpa tam aham vande sri-gurum dina-tarinam. “A dumb [person] is a great orator. The lame man, is jumping over the mountain. Yat-krpa, by the mercy of guru it is possible. So let us cooperate and do this business. Higher authority will be pleased, and that is our success. Yasya prasadad bhagavat-prasadah. If the higher authorities are pleased, then Krsna is pleased. That is our success.”

After more conversation the other devotees left the room, leaving me alone for a few minutes with His Divine Grace:

During the conversation I had flipped through the pages of the new book [French Bhagavatam] and had noticed a picture of Srila Prabhupada’s kitchen in the Radha-Damodara temple in Vrndavana. I now told him about it.
“Oh! Where it is?” he enthusiastically asked.
I found the page for him. Opportunities like this don’t arise frequently, so as he inspected the brownish photo I asked a few questions about Prabhupada’s life before ISKCON. “Through that window you could see Rupa Gosvami’s samadhi. And for those two rooms they were charging five rupees a month?”
“Yes,” Prabhupada said. “These rooms were broken. So they told me that ‘You can repair these, and whatever you like, you can give.’ So I thought, ‘Don’t need much space.’ Before me there was a tenant in that other room, he was paying three rupees. So I thought, ‘Two rooms, but I have spent money. So I’ll give him five.’ Now I am giving them ten rupees.”
“To retain it.”
“Sometimes the devotees go down there and clean out the rooms,” I told him, “and they have kirtana there sometimes. I think this is the first book that someone included this photo.”
“Yes. It was very calm and quiet. And people used to offer obeisances from outside because they knew. Practically everyone knew me. So they used to offer …”
“You were very well known in Vrndavana before you came?”
“Not very well known, but people knew me.”
“Because you were writing?”
“Or because of your ambition to come to the West?”
“No, at that time there was no such thing,” Prabhupada replied. “I was living there, retired man.”
“So when you went to Vrndavana, you’d given up the idea of coming to the West?”
“No, coming to the West, the idea was there, but I was planning how to go, how to go there, how to preach there, how to take some books, how to bring them—everything alone …”
“So as soon as you had some books then you were …”
“Yes. Then I decided. Everything was being dictated by superior.”

Again Srila Prabhupada had referred to his higher authority or superior, and this peaked my interest:

With Srila Prabhupada in such a congenial mood, I took the courage to broach something Harikesa once mentioned to me. “I was told that one day you were told by Rupa Gosvami that you must go.”
Prabhupada’s mood changed slightly. “But that was open secret,” he said dismissively. “Everyone knew.” Then he changed the subject.

So Prabhupada confirmed some exchange between himself and Srila Rupa Goswami had occurred; but what?

I never heard a mention of this incident again until 28 years later when my godsister Mulaprakriti dasi, just before she left her body, published her book Our Srila Prabhupada, A Friend to All.  It is a series of interviews with people who had known Srila Prabhupada before he left India for the west in 1965.

I was ecstatic to read the following entry by Gopal Chandra Ghosh of the Vrndavana Research Institute. As a young man of about 20, he used to meet Srila Prabhupada at Radha Damodara Mandira:

“There were several times I recall him telling me about his Gurudeva. Once he had a fever and was sitting covered with a cloth and blanket, reading Srimad Bhagavatam. I bowed my head to his feet , and asked, ‘You are not feeling well?” He said “No, I have a cold, so this little medicinal cure will be helpful.” The next day when I returned he was happy, healthy, and was writing, maybe a commentary, I did not see. I asked, “Today you are feeling better?” He answered very mysteriously, “Oh, yes.” I asked him again and he said, “At night my Prabhupada came in my dream. He encouraged me saying, “You do work like Narottama Thakura, like Srinivasa Acarya and like Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura.” Swami Maharaja told me joyfully, “I have received mercy from my Gurudeva. He blessed me and has given me power. I was too much anxious for the Bhagavata commentary. He said, “You just write and all Six Goswamis will help you.” He also mentioned then that his Gurudeva had come in front of him in sannyasa dress two or three times when he had been sickly.

“During these months when I would visit him in his rooms at Radha Damodara he occasionally told me some special things that I understood as secrets in his bhajan. Once I came early in the morning in wintertime. He was chanting hari-nama very deeply and I saw tears coming from his eyes. When I inquired several times for him to tell me anything, he said that he had received a visit last night. In the courtyard by Srila Rupa Goswami’s samadhi, he saw some very beautiful persons. One was wearing only kaupina and was chanting on large tulasi mala around his neck. His eyes were large like lotus flowers and he was extremely effulgent. Also coming there was another personality, dressed similarly, but older and taller, very kindly to him. Behind them was a much younger sadhu, whose beauty and sweetness were captivating. Swami Maharaja told me they were Srila Rupa Goswami, Srila Sanatana Goswami and their nephew, Srila Jiva Goswami. He said they spoke to him and gave him mercy and guidance for his writing and for his future preaching. I tried to ask more but this is all he would tell me.”

I am informed that this gentleman died a few years ago, so we can be very grateful to Mulaprakriti mataji for her efforts in preserving this extremely important part of our history.

 I will add here a caution:

While I have quoted from the above book, which is a collection of memories and anecdotes stretching back many decades, readers should be careful what they accept as truth. Interviews of persons recalling events from many years ago should be taken cautiously. Memories can be unreliable, and motives can also cloud recollections. After a person becomes famous, there are those who would lay a claim to a part of history without deserving it.

A classic example of this is found in perhaps the most famous statement from Srila Prabhupada Lilamrta, A Lifetime in Preparation. The very last paragraph quotes one Sisir Bhattacarya describing Srila Prabhupada’s departure from India for the USA in 1965 on the MV Jaladuta. It is at once poetic, dramatic and romantic:

“Mr. Bhattacarya and Bhaktivedanta Swami took a taxi down to the Calcutta port …

“He was alone. A lone fighter. When he left, there was no one on the shore to bid him goodbye. No friends, no supporter, no disciple, nobody. Even if you call me, I was not a disciple of his. I was a disciple of somebody else. So I was not his follower. But due to shared love, I had very much respect for him. So, I was the only person standing on the shore to say him good-bye. No one was with me. I could not know that it was such an important thing.”

The problem is, it is bogus.

When we compare it to the description of his departure from Srila Prabhupada’s own diary [The Jaladuta Diary published by Bhaktivedanta Archives 1995] we get an entirely different picture:

August 12 Thursday
To start for U.S.A. by
MV. Jaladuta from Calcutta
port (K. George’s Dockyard)

August 13 FRIDAY
Today at 9 a.m. embarked on M.V. Jaladuta. Came with me Bhagwati, the Dwarwan of Scindia Sansir(?) Mr. Sen Gupta, Mr. Ali and Vrindaban. The cabinet is quite comfortable. It is owner’s residence and therefore the sitting room, the bedroom and the bath and privy all equipped with first class materials. Everything is nice in the 1st class compartment and thanks to Lord Sri Krishna for His enlightening Smti. Sumati Moraji for all these arrangements. I am quite comfortable.”

From Srila Prabhupada’s own diary we see that at least 4-5 persons were there to see him off. In the later 1990s I personally interviewed one of those mentioned, Srila Prabhupada’s youngest son, Vrindaban Candra De. To paraphrase what he told me:

“Yes, I was there. My father was staying at a dharmsalla near Nutan Bazar (New Market). He came to pick me up in a taxi about 6.00 AM. We drove down to King George’s dockyard and boarded the boat. I was with him in the cabin for about half an hour until it was time to depart.”

So again, please be cautious about accepting the statements of others who claim to have had some intimate exchanges with Srila Prabhupada. I don’t say they did not, or could not have happened. But its best to get them verified if possible. I accept Gopal Candra Ghosh’s statements because Srila Prabhupada personally confirmed the incident to me in 1976.

Your humble servant,
Hari-sauri dasa

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