November 2 2008 – Mayapur

April 1972 Sydney

April 1972: Srila Prabhupada and Sydney temple president, Mohanananda dasa. Photo by Amogha dasa.

Today is Srila Prabhupada’s 31st Disappearance festival, which I am celebrating in Mayapur.  I decided to return here from Vrndavana and observe His Divine Grace’s departure pastime at  his puspasamadhi in the more intimate and peaceful atmosphere of Mayapur-dhama.

There are not so many crowds and the ceremony is more simply observed, but it has its own sweetness and style. The puspa-samadhi is a beautiful building, its only drawback being the terrible accoustics. The sound echoes around the dome and the smooth concrete walls and you have to sit in the right spot to hear properly. For this reason we will be hiring one of the top accoustic engineers in India so that we don’t have the same problem in the TOVP.

After the regular morning program we gathered in the samadhi and had three hours of Srila Prabhupada katha interspersed with bhajans lead by our expert Bengali kirtaneers. We are blessed with the presence of several very senior devotees, particularly HH Umapati Swami who joined in 1966, Madhusudana and Kancanabala prabhus and their daughter who both joined in 1967, Bhakti Charu Swami, Hanumat-presaka Swami, Jananivas and Pankajanghri prabhus, Bhavananda prabhu, Sri Raga, Grahila, Suresvara, Ragatmika and others.

 The main theme seemed to be “How I joined Krsna consciousness by the mercy of Srila Prabhupada.” It was engaging hearing, each story a moving testiment to the great compassion and mercy Srila Prabhupada extended to the most fallen souls of Kali-yuga.

For my part, I had skipped the regular Deity greeting and guru-puja so that I could do my own daily puja to Prabhupada before the festival program began.

Hsd Deity of Prabhupada 

As I bathed and dressed him, I listened to the first ever recording of Srila Prabhupada, made by himself in February 1966 as he sat in his windowless, furnitureless room at 100W 72nd Street. It is his Introduction to the Geetopanisad, or Bhagavadgita.

As I absorbed myself in his resonant, careful dictation, I envisioned him sitting, alone and penniless, in the New York winter in what could only be described as a materially destitute condition. Yet with unlimited enthusiasm to execute his spiritual master’s instructions to preach Krsna consciousness to the English speaking people of the world.

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura had told him that even if noone else is there, you can still preach to the walls. And that is precisely what Srila Prabhupada did. When he spoke the Gita Introduction there was noone there to hear him. He was speaking to a machine. He had no idea whether anyone would hear what he had to say, but he had confidence that it was worth saying, and that if Krsna desired it would eventually be heard.

Then in my mind I fast-forwarded to Sydney, circa January 1972. I had met the devotees the year before on the streets of the same city, the second day I arrived there as a new immigrant from England. I bought a BTG, #37 with the rasalila dance pictured on the front. After six months working in the far north-west of the Australian outback, I had traveled back to Sydney to find the devotees.

I was materially burnt out, desperate to find some meaning to my life, seriously questioning my own sanity and looking for answers to questions that noone seemed to even understand what to speak of answer. I found the devotees and bought a Bhagavad-gita As It Is, the blue Collier MacMillan edition with a black sillouette of Lord Visnu on the front.

Collier MacMillan Gita 1968

note: this is a recent reprint with additional foreword by George Harrison taken from Krsna.

I was staying with recently met friends. I started reading the Introduction. And that was it. I couldn’t put it down. I read the whole thing in one session. It was truly amazing. Every question that had haunted my disturbed mind for the last year of intense but futile searching and speculation was answered, just in the Introduction without even entering the actual book! And more than that, it contained information about topics I could not even imagine nor even think to ask about it.

When I got to the end I thought “This is completely perfect. It has everything there is to be known within it. The author is a genius.” I was also fearful because it was too good to be true. How could any book have all the answers to life’s questions? Every other book I had read on the topic of the meaning of life, the universe and God had turned out to be insufficient and defective in some way or another. They had let me down after raising my hopes. But this seemed perfect and flawless, and led me into a realm of faultless logic and realization. I almost didn’t dare to believe it was true.

But I needn’t have worried. Srila Prabhupada was the genuine article. A real master of the soul. And that was the end of my search. I joined the Sydney temple in mid-February, saw Srila Prabhupada for the first time on April 1st 1972 and was accepted as his disciple on April 9.

So this morning I was reflecting on that. How Srila Prabhupada had preached to the walls, his only audience a small machine that he had recently discovered and immediately seen the potential of. He was alone and without prospects, shut up in a small box of a room. And yet his enthusiasm and his extreme compassion had, six years later, saved me, a fallen and distressed living entity living on the edge of madness, and restored me to healthy eternal life.

I am, as all of us are, here simply because of the great compassion and mercy of His Divine Grace. What can we say except All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

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