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Prabhupada came to Calcutta with Pradyumna in 1973 April, and Pradyumna came up to me and said, “How would you like to come with Prabhupada and type Chaitanya-caritamrta?” He says, “OK, tomorrow we’re going to Mayapur. So you have to learn how to read Bengali, and then you can come with Prabhupada.” I said, “OK, no problem.” So he gave me a Bengali book, I learned how to read Bengali, and I was off with Prabhupada the next day. We never thought anything was impossible, that if Prabhupada wanted us to do something, then impossible is a word in a fool’s dictionary. So yeah, no problem, I learned to read Bengali and I got to go with Prabhupada. In Calcutta, it was a challenging place for us, something about the temple, at least at one period. Everyone was sick, everybody had dysentery, and the service…there wasn’t enough people to do the basic service. So it was a challenge. Banu Swami was there, and Banu Swami as I remember is a naistika-brahmacari. And through all of this, he never got sick, he never lost his focus, he remained active. And when others were down in their attitude, consciousness, he was never affected by it. At one point, he was the only person who was well and up serving. Prabhupada made note one day and he said, “Just see, this is the value of brahmacarya. Because he is brahmacari, he is able to circumvent all the challenges of the world and continue steady in his service. This is the value of brahmacarya.” I got to have a private darshan with Srila Prabhupada. Of course, his servant was in the room and myself and Prabhupada. When I first came before him with what I thought was this huge life-ending problem, my whole consciousness absorbed in being in anxiety about this problem, all of a sudden when I got in there the whole problem just shrunk down to the size of the water in the hoofprint of a calf. This huge unsolvable anxiety just became insignificant. And there I was, totally embarrassed. All of a sudden it didn’t seem like something that you should bother Prabhupada with, and I was so embarrassed. But here I am, I had disturbed him. At that time, Prabhupada communicated something to me. You’ve probably heard from other devotees how sometimes Prabhupada would communicate without speaking. Prabhupada became a mirror and I think that’s a guru’s function, to be like a mirror to the disciple. He was like a mirror. He was showing me my spiritual situation, and I had this really esoteric internal vision for a few seconds of myself being this brilliant diamond-like spiritual spark within my heart but I was covered over with mounds and heaps and heaps of dirt. And I also had a vision of Srila Prabhupada sitting there, the same brilliant spiritual spark only completely clear of any covering. He communicated to me with that vision that I was just like him but I was covered, and that all I needed to do was to follow his instructions and I would become completely uncovered like him. That was such an intense realization, and I thought, “Oh, how can I bring up my petty mundane problem?” But like I said, after I’d gone and disturbed him and he was sitting there expecting me, then I did it, I blurted it out. The most significant thing about that whole experience was that internal mirror-like vision that he gave me of myself and himself. Winter of 1973, Vishnujana Swami’s bus had burned down somewhere in America; and while Karandhar and the BBT were building him a new bus, he came to sail down the Ganges and do harinam sankirtan and prasadam distribution and he had a slide show to show in these villages. Vishnujana was amazing doing kirtan through the villages. People were asking us to take their children with us, and they were just in shock. We’d have a program every night with a big slide show and show them London Rathayatra and San Francisco Rathayatra. They were blown away that their Hinduism was actually spreading all over the world. Because we were the first Western Hindus they had ever seen, and it wasn’t just that we were a handful. We represented this movement with temples and festivals all over the world. So, of course, who was the person responsible for all this is Prabhupada. The villagers were enormously impressed. Anyway, we sailed down the Ganges for 40 days and nights, and we got stopped in northern Bengal by a huge dam called Farakka Barrage. So then we took trips down to Calcutta, where we met Prabhupada. So we had some kind of little camera with us, but somebody had a shaky hand and it all came out looking like ghostly images. So we didn’t have anything to show Prabhupada. But when we were reporting in the room about it, Vishnujana Swami said that we had distributed 500 sets of japa beads. And Prabhupada looked very concerned and said, “You cannot do that. Now they think you are their guru.” So he was a little upset that we didn’t know these subtleties of Indian culture, that if you give someone beads and tell them to chant Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, you’ve just given them Harinam initiation and that’s how they see it. So I think there must be a lot of villages along the Ganges where they have this memory of this bronze god from the West who looked like Lord Chaitanya and gave them initiation. Srila Prabhupada, one time he singled me out in one of the darshans. He said to me, “Oh, my sister tells me you speak Bhagavatam very nicely.” So when he said that, I didn’t know what to say because I never spoke Bhagavatam, what to speak of nicely. So I was just completely bewildered and puzzled why he said that. But then it was in Calcutta that I had been reading Krsna Book in front of Pisima because it was Janmastami in 1972 and what we had to do, all the devotees were reading Krsna Book from morning till night. So when it was my turn to read, I was reading Rasa-lila and she was my only audience. There were hardly any people then. There was nobody in the temple in Calcutta in those days. So she was about the only one sitting in front of me, and I was reading in English and she didn’t know a word of English. But I was being real dramatic, “Krishna left the gopis and they were crying,” and then she was crying and crying and crying although she didn’t know any English. So she understood the mood of it, and then she must have told Prabhupada that I speak Bhagavatam. But now 30 years later I thought about what Prabhupada said, and in Prabhupada’s lifetime I never spoke Bhagavatam. And even for 27 years since when I was a devotee, I never spoke Bhagavatam. But now I’m speaking Bhagavatam. Just this year when I was speaking Bhagavatam at VIHE [Vrindavan Institute for Higher Education], it struck me that Prabhupada’s words came true even though I didn’t understand, “What is he talking about?” But then I thought, “Wow, a pure devotee’s words must be true,” that it has to happen. And even though I had no plan of ever speaking Bhagavatam, but it happened anyway by Krishna’s arrangement. We were in Prabhupada’s room in Calcutta, and Nanda Kumar brought in a letter for him to sign. Prabhupada looked at the letter, two-page letter, looked it over and then grabbed the pen and goes “A” and then “C” and then this big “Bhaktivedanta” and then big capital “Swami.” There was a Life Member there and I was there looking at this, and we looked at each other when we saw the signature. And Prabhupada noticed it and he looked at the Life Member and he said, “Yes. When I was at Scottish Church’s College in Calcutta, my professor witnessed my signature also and he said, ‘Ah, that is a royal signature.’” So we went to greet Srila Prabhupada at the airport and this is, of course, the very first time I ever saw him so I was a little anxious. I remember they rolled out a long red carpet, and I remember my first impression. For some reason I had expected him to be very tall, I don’t know why, and I remember thinking, “Oh, he’s so short.” But there was something so very regal about his carriage. Then he went to sit down on the dais. They had actually brought a little wooden dais for him to sit on because there was going to be an interview. It was a television interview. First there was, of course, the kirtan. And then everyone sat down and, of course, all the people in the airport in the background wondering, “What’s going on here?” So I was just mesmerized watching him. It was like watching a performance for me, a solo performance on the stage. He sat down with the greatest of elegancy and ease. Someone offered him a silver goblet of water, and I remember him holding it up and the stream of water flowed like a fountain right in his mouth. It was just so elegant and I just thought, “Wow!” Being in the theater profession for some years, I thought, “Boy, that person really has a lot of grace to be able to do that in front of all these people, everybody’s eyes on him, with not even a string of nervousness or tension or anything like that.” Then they offered him a plate of fruit, and he very delicately picked up a piece of fruit and just popped it in his mouth and sat there and chewed it. Everyone was watching him and no discomfort, no nervousness or anxiety, he just finished eating that little piece of fruit. Then he was looking around one after the other at the faces, very peacefully and quietly really looking, taking all the time that he wanted to. I was just, from a material standpoint, completely impressed. One time I purposefully brought Prabhupada’s vases of flowers back to his altar late because I knew that he would be arriving. So I was the only one left in his quarters, and I had dared to do that because I thought that was a good chance for me to meet Prabhupada face to face. So I came late with the flowers, returning them to his altar just as he was walking into his sitting room. So I placed them on the altar and then paid my obeisances. Srila Prabhupada was still standing, he hadn’t sat down behind his desk, and he said, “And what is your name?” I told him my name was Hari Puja and that I had just gotten second initiation and I thanked him, and he shook his head like he did side to side and he said, “Thank you.” Then I left, and I was very happy that I got to talk to Srila Prabhupada face to face. The next day in his lecture, I can’t remember it but the idea was that Prabhupada had mentioned that even a sincere flower girl can make progress and go back to Godhead. So, of course, I was thinking that he was recognizing me. I had just graduated from Yale University. I had been living in the temple for three weeks but I was always afraid that my ex-fiancée, who I had just ended the engagement a few weeks ago by slipping away to live in the temple…I was always afraid she’d come to the temple and drag me out. So I prayed to Sri Sri Radha-Govinda, “Please, Krishna, get me out of this one and I promise You, never again.” A few weeks later Prabhupada came, and I was sitting in front of him as he gave a Sunday Feast lecture and Prabhupada began to roar with great transcendental strength that “If you are optimistic about material life you’re an animal. If you’re a human being, you must be pessimistic.” While he was roaring like that, I felt this tap on my shoulder and I looked – there she was right behind me. So all this was going on right in front of Prabhupada. So I looked at her, and Prabhupada continued to roar. I didn’t bat an eye, and I just turned right back and looked at Prabhupada. I could see out of the corner of my eye that she was about to burst out crying in the middle of the temple room like, “What’s going on here? Here’s my dearly beloved, and now he doesn’t even blink an eye at me. He’s just totally absorbed in this person.” So she left, and Prabhupada went on to explain with less fire, “Material life, yes, everything is pessimistic. But in Krishna consciousness, everything is optimistic.” So after that, I remember the kirtan we had for the Deities and I remember dancing in ecstasy, thanking Krishna, “I’m free! I’m free! Prabhupada did it! I’m free! I’m free!” One time I was on a walk with Prabhupada in Brooklyn, and it was one of those walks where Prabhupada would drive to his destination and then walk and then come back. As we were coming around the corner, just in front of the temple Prabhupada saw that there was a boy who was mailing a letter. But he was a small boy and so he couldn’t reach the box, and his father was picking him up and the boy was dropping the letter in the box. Prabhupada saw this, and he just became absorbed in seeing it. Of course, how long does it take to mail a letter? It’s only a few moments. But Prabhupada just became absorbed and, again, it seemed like it was so much time. His eyes became very wide and became sparkly, and he seemed as if he were remembering something. I was thinking, “What is Prabhupada thinking of – something from his childhood or what?” Then the scene ended and Prabhupada said, “The little boy, by his own strength he cannot do. But the affectionate father, when he helps, then it is possible.” We were going to do a performance for him the first evening of “Krishna Kidnaps Rukmini,” but I really felt that he could see into me, there was nothing that I could hide. Then I was thinking, “Oh, my God! I’m going to be playing the part of Princess Rukmini, who is an expansion of the Goddess of Fortune, and it’s ridiculous. What am I doing? It’s just going to be a farce!” But anyway, it was planned and the show must go on. So there I was and the scene opens with myself sitting on the floor by myself writing the letter to Krishna, and I could feel my right knee beginning to shake out of nervousness. Then I remembered something my director said. He said, “Whatever comes up for you, just use it in the part, find some way to integrate it into the role.” Then I just realized, “Well, she probably was in a very anxious state. Here she was to be married to someone she didn’t want to be married to, and she was totally anxious.” Also I noticed as my eyes went up, even though you don’t really look at anybody, you still have a feeling. As my eyes passed Srila Prabhupada sitting there and moved up, this ease came over me. It was like he put this blessing on me or something, and I forgot everything and I just became Rukmini and was able to play with total abandon, just totally get into the part. Then we finished, and there was grand applause and everything. We went down to the dressing room, and I was completely drenched with sweat. We were waiting, just taking our makeup off and so forth. Then Srutakirti came in and started telling us everything that Prabhupada said, and it was real excited. He said, “Prabhupada said, ‘This is better than reading my books. It’s better than reading my books because it sticks in the mind because you have a vision.’” And he said, “Seeing these is like windows to the spiritual world. So people just don’t hear it, but they actually have an experience.” Then I got the wonderful compliment when he said, “Rukmini, she was the best.” I thought, “After all that anxiety I went through, and then he was actually pleased.” Then, of course, there was a little part of me that thought, “Well, he’s just saying that because he knows I need to hear it.” But then I also understood when you use whatever talent you have in Krishna’s service, that is the best. So it didn’t matter whatever I was thinking. He actually wanted us to go with him and travel with him all over the world. I think his next destination was Africa. He wanted to take us with him and he said, “There should always be kirtan, lecture, performance and prasad.” It just didn’t work out at that time, but I realized the importance of cultural events in the presentation of Krishna consciousness that Prabhupada really wanted. When Srila Prabhupada was working on some of the chapters of Chaitanya-caritamrta, we had a recording device. It was big, it was several feet wide. So Srila Prabhupada would dictate Chaitanya-caritamrta and as soon as he was finished, Pradyumna would bring it up to me and I would immediately transcribe it using this big contraption. We didn’t have a Dictaphone. I would just use the foot pedal, starting and stopping it and starting and stopping it. But we did it right away as soon as Srila Prabhupada was finished with it, and then Pradyumna would bring Srila Prabhupada the transcription back. And Srila Prabhupada said that he was so encouraged because I was doing it so fast that it made him start doing two tapes a day. That is my very best memory ever. I was in Atlanta. It was summertime, I remember that, and I was walking up the street and a devotee opened the window and stuck his head out and yelled at the top of his lungs, “Balavanta, Prabhupada’s on the phone!” which was just the shock of my life. So I ran with wings on my feet up and got the phone. It wasn’t actually Prabhupada on the phone, it was his secretary on the phone at his request, Prabhupada was in the room, and the secretary said, “Prabhupada wants to know if you can come to New York right away.” I said, “Of course.” So I dropped everything and went and got on the plane and flew to New York, and Prabhupada wanted to discuss politics. Actually what happened is I wrote to him and suggested that I could run for mayor of Atlanta, it would be a good preaching platform, and he wrote back with the most overwhelming enthusiasm I’d ever experienced. I took one step to him, he took a hundred steps to me. But the broad discussion, all I remember is basically he said, “So what do they say about our program?” I said, “Prabhupada, they say it is not practical.” He says, “Yes, it is not practical because they will not accept it. If they would accept it, it would be very practical.” We were discussing the In God We Trust Party and a devotee said, “Prabhupada, when we take over the government, we’ll outlaw all these religions.” Prabhupada, “No, why? We only want to see that they are following their religion.” Srila Prabhupada was not for one religion taking over the government. He fully supported freedom of religion. In fact, he made it clear many times and told us that “This is not a religion. This is a process of spiritual realization which is applicable to any religion.” So he made it very clear that in terms of politics we’re not interested in changing people’s religion or taking over the government for one religion as opposed to another religion. We just would like to see that the leaders of human society are enlightened personalities, whatever religion they come from, and the Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam and the chanting of Hare Krishna facilitates that process.

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Duration: 23 minutes and 14 seconds
Country: Andorra
Language: English
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Posted by: lopter001 on Jan 3, 2022

Fsp Dvd 4-105

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