Remembering Prabhupad

Daniel Clark
© 1998

Preface For a more complete understanding of Prabhupad, read Srila Prabhupada-Lilamrta by Satsvarupa dasa Goswami (Los Angeles, Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, Second Edition, 1993). That monumental work, almost 1800 pages in length, conveys the essence of His Divine Grace far better than my short reminiscence. The world remains in deep debt to the Goswami for his remarkable book.

A Vaikuntha Man His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, my spiritual master, enacted his life's activities from his birth in 1896 to his passing in 1977. I knew him for the last eleven years of his exemplary and remarkable pastimes. But for me to say "I knew him" is going too far. I watched him. I listened to him. I talked with him and corresponded with him. I followed him and obeyed him -- and disobeyed him. I learned from him. I bowed down to him and prayed to him. I loved him, and still do. But did I know him? Do I know him now, 32 years after I first met him? Not much, I think. But who could? Who could solve the riddle of this 20th Century saint who established a medieval Bengali religion worldwide in a dozen years? Who could really understand his personality or his behavior or even the true nature of his spirituality? How to reconcile, for instance, his grandeur and his simplicity? How to integrate his liberality and his conservatism? He said that God is "harder than the thunderbolt and softer than the rose," and we immediately applied it to him, seeing those traits in him. He was a vast being who embraced contraries. But no, he was a humble gentleman who had a specific personality. His view transcended everyday ethics of right and wrong. But no, he was a moral man whose behavior was beyond reproach. He disdained materialists and even average citizens. No, no, he

felt deep compassion for everyone and made no distinctions in his dealings with people. The paradoxes are endless. He resists all attempts to figure him out. We disciples of his often quote his words in support of our particular points of view. But usually the opposing view can be supported by some other statement of his. "He's beyond me," his personal assistant confessed on a Manhattan sidewalk in 1967. He was beyond all of us. Yet there was something definite and distinct about him. That quality was what attracted us and enchanted us. It was a specific identity -- who he really was. But that remained a mystery to us. And when we attempted to probe into it by asking him about his unique relationship with God, his eternal identity in the spiritual world, he (often sternly) refused to respond. Still, there was something there we could sense. It was what we wanted for ourselves. Sometimes he described a great devotee as "a Vaikuntha man," a dweller in the spiritual world. We knew that he lived there, and that if we stayed with him, we would too. Through those 11 years, that person I first knew as Swami, then The Swami, then Swamiji, then Prabhupad, then Shrila Prabhupad, guided my life. How I did I come to meet up with him? My Story I grew up as a Unitarian. In Sunday School we studied many of the religions of the world. None of them were made to seem strange to us. Tolerance was the starting point. Beyond that, we were encouraged to appreciate them on their own terms. Really, we spent more time on other religions than we did on Unitarianism ! Later on, I took a class on Eastern Religions in college. More intensive than the Sunday School sessions (and presented by a teacher who showed little enthusiasm for his subject), it convinced me that I could never be a Hindu or a Buddhist. The obstacle for me was "the denial of the flesh." I couldn't conceive of myself practicing a religion that turned away from the bodily passions in order to contemplate a featureless, if peaceful, radiance.

But in the early 1960s the influences of Zen Buddhism and psychedelic drugs again changed my way of thinking about Asian spirituality -- though not about the "flesh" problem. The lives and the words of the sages of the East now made sense to me as descriptions of the cosmic reality and of God. Still, there were many unresolved questions in my mind. In my metaphysical struggles, I tentatively cleared a place for myself: I declared that I was a Voidist. My slogan was, "nothing is everything and everything is nothing." It was in that context that I experienced my first contact with Shrila Prabhupad, in April of 1966. I didn't see him in person. It was a New York Times or Village Voice photograph with a long caption. The Swami, pictured sitting, was giving classes on the Bhagavad-gita in a loft on the Bowery. For the Swami, first and foremost, God is a person, the caption stated. The best way to attain God realization, he said, was through devotion -- and specifically by chanting names of God in a congregational setting. The name of God preferred by the Swami: Krishna. Since his theology was different from the viewpoint I'd worked out, I supposed my philosophical position was better. Still, I had great admiration for his courage and his authenticity. He was "the real thing," I felt. He could have appealed to the vanity of wealthy uptowners, and satisfied their curiosity for the exotic. Many gurus from India had done just that. He hadn't. He was speaking from the Bowery, the home of New York's most hopeless outcasts. That gave me reason to trust in his integrity. I lived on the lower east side of Manhattan, not too far from the Bowery. But I was involved in other matters. The little article had moved me, but more was needed. During the late spring and early summer I got snarled in a metaphysical tangle. I was unable to decide which was the next level of reality after the Void -- Love or Knowledge. I had reduced my book collection down to two: a Zen text called On the Transmission of Mind (representing Knowledge) and the Gita (the Love book). The Gita was winning the fight on points. But there was no knockout yet. In July, Swami Bhaktivedanta and his students moved into a small storefront on Second Avenue. It was seven blocks

south of my apartment. I often rode the bus south to a friend's place. That took me by 26 Second Avenue, where a sign above the window bore the name "Matchless Gifts." The first few times I went by I didn't see anything going on inside. But one early evening, the lights were on. Through the window I could see a half dozen people sitting on straw mats with their backs to the street. Facing them and me, at the far end of the room, was a golden glow. That's all I saw at first. Then, it was the Swami, in yellow or saffron cloth. Yet, he was a magnet, or a source of energy -- more than human, I felt, more like a principle, or a goal. I was scared. Scared because I was attracted, and I knew what that attraction meant. It meant I would have to stop having sex! I would have to give up all kinds of things. I would have to commit myself to a path that would lead me into an unknown world far more vast and more disconnected from my present understanding than anything I could imagine. These impressions came to me in the three or four seconds allowed me by the fast-moving bus. I was shaken. The sex issue made an impact on me because of another article I'd read about the Swami and his band of followers. The celibacy requirement had been mentioned. During the late summer and early fall the Krishna Consciousness people were the subject of many conversations around the lower east side. The artists and avant-gardists living there considered themselves "way out" (and I was no exception), but we knew that the Swami's crew had gone way beyond our outness. Of course, most of the neighborhood beats kept their distance, for various reasons. In the interests of what I considered to be scholarly objectivity (it was abject terror, really) I too hesitated to walk through the storefront door into that other world. One afternoon, though, I did walk by. And I stopped. I read the notices taped to the door and the window. One of them, written in the Swami's hand, was an invitation. It said, more or less, "Any young man may live here if he agreees to follow these rules." A list of abstinences and duties was then given. Two of the Swami's books, Easy Journey to Other

Planets and Who Is Crazy? were on a shelf. Taped to the glass was the dust cover of Srimad Bhagwatam. I was transfixed by that cover. It was an illustration, or some sort of map, of the spiritual world, with deities drawn on planets shaped like lotuses. The central lotus was occupied by a dancing couple in colorful dress. What struck me first was the shape of the lotuses, or at least the central one. They weren't round. They were oval. This may seem like a minor point. But in every Asian or occult metaphysical diagram I'd ever seen, realms were presented as circles. The circle is a logically consistent geometric figure, a depiction of mathematical perfection. In contrast, the elliptical planets, especially when framed with large, pink, soft lotus petals, came across as organic, tangible life forms. The implications were too stunning for me to consider. But in my astonished state of mind I was somewhat prepared to take in the dominant image in the window. It was an oil painting, perhaps two by three feet in size, propped up for public display. Bare-chested, yellow-robed male figures with upraised arms and upraised eyes were dancing. Some swayed, with garlands of flowers draped down their fronts. One figure crouched slightly while beating on a drum hung on a neck strap. There were other instruments. All the worshippers were evidently in an ecstatic mood. They looked like they'd been transported into that other world -- the one that used to scare me, but now, on looking at the painting, it called out to me -- with a promise of deep satisfaction and divine enjoyment. I didn't know what was going on inside me. All I could say was, "That's what I need -- juice!" Even after that experience, for a few weeks I balked at actually making the move to attend services at the storefront. Then a neighborhood avant-garde newspaper, The East Village Other, published an issue in mid-October, its front page filled up with a large photo of the Swami standing under a tree as he spoke to a crowd in Tompkins Park. The headline above the photo shouted SAVE EARTH NOW. Under the photo was a mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare. Inside was a long article on Swami Bhaktivedanta and his disciples.

Included was an announcement that the Krishna people would be holding outdoor gatherings every Sunday at the park. They would chant the mantra and the Swami would speak. It was only a block and a half from our apartment, so my wife and I decided to go the next Sunday. The day was sunny and mild. As we entered the park, which as usual was busy with colorful bohemians celebrating the weekend, we didn't know where the group could be found, or exactly what to look or listen for. I had imagined the chanting would be pronounced in a low-pitched monotone, like some Tibetan Buddhist ceremonies I'd heard on LPs. (This despite the joyful singing in the painting in the window!) By now everyone knows what I saw and heard. Although the Swami was the only one dressed in a traditional wrapped cloth (and he was sitting down, batting on a little wooden bongo drum), the inner circle of adepts next to him included several enraptured humans dancing at a stately pace around and around in a circle perhaps ten feet in diameter. Their arms were raised in supplication, as in the painting. Some were concentrating on the words of the chant with furrowed brows, some were peaceful, some were smiling with a trembling abandon as if being swept away on divine wings. A few were dressed in the gypsy orientalia of the psychedelic subculture. Around the dancers sat two dozen or so crosslegged meditators buried deep in the sound of the mantra they sang. Around them stood a crowd of a hundred people. They were a cross-section of the lower east side population: students, Ukrainians, Puerto Ricans, bohemians, blue collar workers, and kids. Some jostled for a better view. Some stood solidly in place. Friends compared impressions. The merely curious stayed for a few minutes, and the personally interested hung out longer. Many of the onlookers, helped by leaflets passed out by a disciple threading his way through the assembly, sang along with the exotic spiritualists at the center. I was stunned. My life changed at that moment. I was picked up and flung off to outer space. I was ripped to shreds and was everywhere and nowhere. Without taking a drug I was catapulted into a new world, an ancient world, a deep world, a high world. In my imagination I saw a silvery ramp coming up diagonally from -- the past? -- the pit? -- and on up to a future that got better and better. I saw myself on the ramp, moving upward as I chanted the Hare Krishna mantra.

Another leaflet was thrust into my hand. It was an essay entitled "Stay High Forever" by its author, Howard Wheeler. The daring title and the article's radiant prose thrilled me. It was all I ever wanted there in the fall of 1966. Political possibilities opened up. Here before me was a little social group that could be the seed of a spiritual culture. Perhaps the seed would grow into a politics of love, to transform the world into a place of peace and happiness. As a pacifist vegetarian ban-the-bomber and war-protester, I spun out idealistic schemes while I chanted. The Swami modestly kept himself out of the spotlight. He allowed the words and the music of the mantra to work its sacred effect on the people there. After a while he stopped the singing and stood up to deliver a speech. There was no public address system and I was too far away from him to hear much of what he said. Also, there was the matter of his thick Bengali accent. He spoke with intensity, though -- that was clear. I wanted to hear more. My wife, however, had mixed feelings. She enjoyed the chanting experience. She liked its power as an agent of bliss. But she didn't like its power as an agent of renunciation. Of course, we both shared a discomfort with the celibacy that was directly stated as a principle of the Swami's -- and, that was indirectly inculcated by the sound of the Swami's magic mantra. For us, sex was an important part of our love. It held us together. If I were to get involved in this Krishna stuff, it would be a slap in her face. I knew this, and it troubled me. I loved her. I didn't want to hurt her. Yet, the Krishna Consciousness people were holding out to me the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. How was I to live my life? What was the point of my life, or anybody's? The metaphysical, the religious, the mystical -- I had seen these as the answer to humanity's problems in relating to each other. Now in my life the spiritual dimension was becoming a hindrance to my marriage. Or was it that my marriage was a hindrance to my spirituality? Now, 32 years later, I feel I've answered these questions. But then, I felt only agony -- agony, as a result of ecstasy. "As God gets more possible, life gets more impossible," I said to

her. She agreed, though to her the emphasis was on the impossible aspect. As we returned to our apartment, she asked me, "If push came to shove, who would it be, Krishna or me?" My response was awkward and certainly not diplomatic. "Well, Krishna is God, after all," I blurted out. We were both too afraid and too threatened by Krishna Consciousness to behave well with each other. We started using Krishna as a weapon to push the other person away. The world revealed by the mantra was too dangerous to our well-founded preconceptions, too challenging to our relationship based on ethical but still materialistic patterns of behaving that we'd been taught in the mid-20th- century United States, too explosive for us to handle. Because of my marriage's deterioration, my early impressions of Swami Bhaktivedanta, founded on a sense of wonder, were tinged with sadness. The Swami was my hero, and yet I couldn't deny I was angry at him for wrecking the affection my wife and I had shared. That competition between love of God and love of humanity was to occupy my thoughts and feelings for years afterward as I served the Swami in the context of his International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Despite the marital trouble I knew I was getting into, I attended the next regular evening meeting at 26 Second Avenue. Yes, I walked through the door and entered into Krishna's world. Once again, the chanting, which I learned was called Kirtan, was deeply fulfilling to me. After a Kirtan of 20 minutes or so, the Swami spoke. It was at that moment that I started to get to know him. Preconceptions got in the way at first. I had expected a smiling, light-hearted wizardly fellow who would dazzle us with paradoxical wordplay while chuckling at the absurdity of existence. Instead, the Swami was dead serious. In fact, his face bore an expression that struck me as melancholy or sour. Furthermore, his lecture concentrated on the evils of sex, which he railed against with vigor and not the least subtlety. During the question and answer period, however, as his followers displayed the sincerity of their purpose with searching inquiries, he employed a quickness of wit and a startling perceptiveness in his responses. A repartee

between the Swami and Mr. Wheeler, the essay's author, delighted me as it progressed into a dialog not unlike many I'd read in classic spiritual texts. I felt privileged to be in the presence of the Swami and his disciples. No matter how much grief it caused me, I was determined to proceed further along this path. I bought the two pamphlets of the Swami's I'd seen in the storefront window. During the next two days I read them. It was another revelation of the guru's spiritual depth. The writings showed his ability to apply ancient teachings to current situations without losing sight of the flavor or the intent of the original. He was conservative and liberal at the same time. It was plain that he dwelled in a world of yogis, mystics, and saints who were completely real to him and whose nature he didn't want to change or water down at all. He promoted the Vedic culture of thousands of years ago as the only culture worth considering for anybody anytime. But he was willing to adapt it to the present -- as he put it, "according to time, place, and circumstance." Those two tendencies were contradictory, but he managed a subtle balancing act. He was faithful to the original, sometimes even to the point of dogmatism. But -- as I found out during my successive visits to the storefront -- he was also a practical and businesslike person who could be as clever as anyone while he wound his way through the necessities of life. Many accounts of his expertise have been published elsewhere. One of my favorites is how he collected the final dollars of the first month's rent money at 26 Second Avenue from none other than the real estate agent -- by persuading the man to become a dues-paying member of the Society! But even as he artfully negotiated the obstacle courses of a giant industrial metropolis, he relentlessly reminded us of the futility and the misery of life in the material world. He cited scripture. He gave examples. He recounted personal experiences of his. He narrated the lives of saints and the exploits of avatars. He made use of colorful and, to us, exotic vignettes from the jungles and villages of India. Who could forget the "cereal mixed with sand," the "camel chewing thorny twigs," the ever-present "hogs and dogs," and each lecture's chosen philosopher-villain, who was often

saddled with the Swami's epithet, "simply rascal number one!" The Swami had a genius for balancing opposites. "The Absolute embraces all contradictions," he taught us. And the best example of that was his skill at the art. Once, a pychedelic group with a store in Greenwich Village decided that you could get high from smoking dried banana skins. Knowing that the Krishna Consciousness people used a lot of bananas in preparing free public feasts, they offered to contribute to our cause the bananas they'd peeled. Among ourselves, we discussed the ethics of us teetotalers accepting the "fruits" of their labors to intoxicate themselves. As I recall, the virtuous among us outvoted the pragmatists. But to our surprise, the Swami told us to accept the gift on Krishna's behalf. He said the donation would "engage them in Krishna's service." Thus we learned one of the central principles of Krishna consciousness -- active devotional service can spiritualize something ordinarily considered material. Service to Krishna can harmonize apparently dissonant worlds. The Swami had struck a balance between matter and spirit. On another occasion, a similar discussion ensued among us as to whether the Swami should attend a rock concert a few blocks up Second Avenue at the Village Theater (later the Fillmore East). It was organized by Louis Abolafia, a beatnik running for some political office, promoting himself as "The Love Candidate." Of course, as his ads made clear, he didn't mean Love of God! He invited the Swami and the "Krishna people," as we were sometimes called, to perform kirtan onstage. So we argued about ethics again. For some of us, it was a good advertising, or preaching, opportunity. For others, the sex-and-drugs motif of the gathering would pollute the purity of our message. Two disciples, Brahmananda and Rayarama, emerged as the leaders of the two parties. (I can't remember which side each was on.) One of them went up to the Swami's second-floor apartment to present his case. On returning to the storefront shortly thereafter, he reported that the Swami had agreed with his opinion. Then the other went upstairs and came down saying the Swami had agreed with his point of view. Back upstairs went the first lobbyist. On returning, he said the Swami had told him that we should decide it by ourselves, and the Swami would then go along with that conclusion. After a

while, we voted to accept the invitation. And the Swami went along with that. As it turned out, however, something else came up and we didn't go! (That's as I remember it. Satsvarupa dasa Goswami writes that we did go.) Nonetheless, the incident showed how the Swami was able to deal with contradictory points of view. To him, it was all personal. He related to each person as an individual and not as an abstraction. The "truth" of a situation included the person who was experiencing it. His concern was for the consciousness of the person before him rather than for some impersonal concept. This trait of his led one disciple (Gargamuni) to state, "nothing the Swami says is absolute." The phrasing was bold, but it showed an appreciation for our guru's dedication to personhood. Because of his personalism, he was able to integrate and balance apparent opposites. Just as Krishna bewildered Arjuna (in the Bhagavad-gita) by simultaneously embracing apparent opposites such as action and inaction, so the Swami bewildered his disciples. I recall one devotee getting really annoyed at him, saying, "he never gives you a straight answer." But then, that's the same charge Arjuna leveled against Krishna. So the Swami was in good company! As I attended more Kirtans and lectures through October and November of 1966, the Swami's erudition and persuasive logic convinced me that the original reality was indeed a person with form, and not a formless void. But was my "conversion" only a rational and scholarly process? Not at all. The conceptual arguments had weight, but far more substantial was the force of the Swami's character -- the depth of his vision and the warmth of his love. "He has Krishna painted on the inside of his eyelids," we childishly used to say, trying to convey what we felt about the Swami's closing his eyes while chanting. Or when his eyes were open, we felt we were looking into pools on Krishna's lotus planet. He moved with physical grace, and his patience with our ineptitude revealed his divine grace. The experience of being with him was unsettling. It forced us to question our assumptions about every move we made. Yet to be with him was also the most comforting and reassuring event of our lives. We used to say our beads,

speaking the mantra aloud, in the courtyard right under his apartment window. Sometimes he would look out and smile. To be so close to him was like being at the center of the universe. We felt no fear or anxiety. It was safe. He was our eternal protector. So my ideas changed from impersonalism to personalism. What made the change permanent -- and not just another philosophical phase -- was the living example of A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami. Unlike the usual exponent of a theory, the Swami was swimming in an ocean of realization that went far beyond the shores of the mind, beyond the horizon of our limited powers. And that magnificence was communicated to us in a simple, affectionate nod of the head or a little cracking of the voice when he spoke of Krishna's woodland home. Living Memories Shrila Prabhupad's life, especially during the period of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, has been recounted in great detail elsewhere. His written words are published in a hundred books and have been preserved on a huge digital database. His spoken words have been captured on tape, and now transferred to discs. What can I add to that? Not much. Still, I feel a need to share some moments with him, some words of his, with you. The memories will come to me of their own accord. I have no structure in mind. Please come along with me. Do you wonder about his authenticity? One young man attending a lecture in New York did. He asked Prabhupad, in a rude, sarcastic tone of voice, "Can you see God?" The answer came swiftly: "Yes, but you're in the way!" The swiftness of his responses was astonishing. At an outdoor program at the New Vrindaban farm in West Virginia, a woman asked, "If the purpose of life is to be Krishna conscious, why is Maya so strong?" Right at the last syllable of her question, the answer: "Because your purpose is not strong." (Are these things written anywhere? I don't know. Am I making them up? No, I remember them clearly. Maybe a

word or two is inaccurate. I can only pray to God for help in conveying to you Shrila Prabhupad as he is.) Krishna Devi told me this story in 1969. She had walked into Prabhupad's room in San Francisco as he was getting his daily massage. Since Prabhupad wore only his loincloth at these times, it was an unspoken rule that females should stay outside. She had more or less blundered in, but Krishna Devi wasn't easily embarassed. She took one look at her guru and said, "Swamiji, you're so skinny!" Whereupon he said, "Oh? You want me to be fatty?" To contrast the spiritual world with the material, Prabhupad would say, "You never see Krishna playing with a machine," or "You never see Krishna smoking a cigarette." He spoke of Krishna so vividly and intimately that we all felt we were in love with the Supreme Personality too. But Prabhupad cautioned us, "First you must know God, then you can love him." The movements of his hands were decisive yet supple. In 1966, before the Society had a treasurer, Prabhupad kept the meager fund of petty cash in his little snap-clasped purse. Brahmananda asked him for fifty cents. Prabhupad picked up the purse with a slow-motion sweep and elevated it to his eye level with his arms outstretched. He deftly unsnapped the clasp with one hand as his other hand descended into the purse, thumb and forefinger together like a bird's beak, the other fingers straight out like wings. Somehow the beak immediately found a fifty-cent piece. The graceful bird flew out of the purse holding it as if it were a golden coin from a king's treasure chest and released it into Brahmananda's hand, a fragile egg placed in a nest. Are these metaphors? Not really. The coin, after all, was Krishna's, and deserved special care. Prabhupad was a mighty eagle, flying in heaven, sheltering Krishna's special possessions -- including us -- under his wing. In the spiritual world, one thing can be many things. He could be controversial. In explaining the loving relationship between Krishna and the gopis, he said, "Sex is the hallmark of the spiritual world." That stopped us! How could one resolve such a statement with his relentless attacks on sex in the material world? (Sex is a "linking of urinals.")

Or how could a teacher who demanded concentration exclusively on Krishna say, as he once did, "We worship everything." Was he a hard-liner or a free-thinker? But then, it's true that he often said, "We are not fanatics." Still, in 1968 when the first traveling chanting party was being planned, and a disciple asked Prabhupad how they'd get money to eat, he advised, "Let them eat Hare Krishna." Service was always his standard. A devotee was using a power saw, drowning out the lecture at a morning Bhagavatam class. Complaints about the noise were lodged to the Swami, who decreed, "That is also Bhagwat!" He told us, "Actually, we have never left the spiritual world," when asked what form we'd first have on returning back to Godhead. We puzzled over his answer. And the discussion is still going on. While walking in Central Park, Shrila Prabhupad saw a statue with the name "Webster" on its base. "Brahmananda, is that the dictionary man?" he asked. "No, Prabhupad," Brahmananda answered, "that's Daniel Webster, the politician." "Daniel -- Daniel has come," Prabhupad said. What did he mean by that? Brahmananda asked him. "Daniel has come," Prabhupad repeated. "That is from The Merchant of Venice. Don't you know Shakespeare?" We mumbled ineffectually. "Yes, that is what Shylock says when he thinks Portia has ruled in his favor," he continued. Our beloved guru then proceeded to give a concise synopsis of the play's plot. He emphasized Shylock's elation at apparently winning the court case, and then his dejection when he was outsmarted by the judge, who was Portia in disguise. Then he miraculously drew a lesson from the story. "So," he said, "when Shylock thought he was successful, he thought God had favored him. 'Daniel has come.' What does Daniel mean?" My name is Daniel, so I said, "God is my judge." "Yes, he thought God had decided in his favor. But then later, when he lost, he was angry and forgot about God. But," Shrila Prabhupad said firmly, "we must accept both the successes and the reverses as Krishna's mercy." Once again Gurudev had found Krishna where no one before had seen him -- in an ordinary statue in Central Park. "This typewriter is not different from Krishna," he taught us in his apartment at 26 Second Avenue. He patted the grey

metal portable machine he was using to type out his purports to the Bhagavad-gita. We had no way of knowing that it would become the largest-selling English language Gita of all time. But he could see the immensity of God in the most humble of things. And his point for us was, as he'd stated so many times, that matter engaged in the service of God becomes spiritualized. "When you place an iron poker in the fire, it becomes just like fire." He suggested to me that I make a movie of the Bhagavadgita. I immediately agreed. But then he wondered if it would be possible, saying, "It requires too many elephants." Or did he ever really wonder about anything? It seemed to us that he knew everything, either by himself or because Krishna told him. Nevertheless, he would sometimes pause in a lecture to ask, "What is that verse?" as if he'd forgotten and was casting about for help. There were times when he'd be sitting down on his mat, looking up at a disciple, and his eyes would be as big and vulnerable as a baby's. Then at a lecture his eyes would seem to be shooting out fire as he verbally assailed the demons. At the La Cienega Boulevard temple, some devotees told him he was like a lion. "Oh, you like me like that?" he said. "Then I will always be like that." Because he was humble and wanted to serve his students, he would act like a proud king. The paradoxes of his being knew no end. Because this is a reminiscence, I'm using the past tense. But it could just as well be the present tense. The activities of the pure devotee aren't limited by time, or by space. He was the one who told us, "There is no time. It is all just a flash." He was indifferent to the duration of "this spot life." He lived in the eternal world with Radha and Krishna. Krishna's birthday features a fast until midnight. In Montreal, Prabhupad said, "Radharani is not so cruel," because her birthday's fast is only until noon. On the other hand, one of his favorite slogans was, "our fasting is feasting." The spiritual benefit that others try to derive from refusing food can be gotten more easily by accepting delicious food offered to God. He mentioned Radha again when he initiated a disciple as Mahamaya. The devotees laughed a little -- her new name

meant Great Illusion. But Prabhupad interjected, "Mahamaya is not all bad. She is another feature of Radharani." In saying that, he taught us theology, reassured his new student, and made us say, "Aahh." The "Aahh" phenomenon got out of hand for a while in 1968. Some teenage girl devotees liked to sit right in front of the Swami's dais, gazing up at him as he spoke, every now and then exhaling an emotional "Aahh" at the high points. The rest of us got to "Aahh"-ing along with them. Prabhupad didn't say anything to us directly, but asked Brahmananda, the temple president, to tell us to stop emoting and exhibit more decorum. A young woman in Los Angeles was dejected. Prabhupad had her come to his room, where he conversed with her for some time about turtles! The other devotees in the room were both charmed and surprised by his psychology. The woman went away feeling much better. (I wasn't there. I heard about it third hand.) Shrila Prabhupad, for many years, acceded to our requests to name our newborn children. When my daughter was born in July, 1971, I called Rupanuga, who was in Los Angeles with Prabhupad at the time, to ask His Divine Grace to do the usual. But Rupanuga told me Prabhupad had just decided to give up the practice, not being a suitable activity for a renunciate. "But, I'll see if he'll do it once more," Rupanuga said. Shortly, he called back. "I asked him if he'd name your new child," Rupanuga said. "He was smelling a yellow rose someone had given him. He said, 'Why not,' and looked at the rose and said, 'Her name is Gulab. It means Rose.'" To my knowledge, she was the last newborn child to be named by him. As of this writing, she's in her late 20s, and with her beautiful yellow hair, still chanting Hare Krishna with enthusiasm. How did he come to be holding a yellow flower when he named a child who would have yellow hair? How did he know I wanted to be named Damodar? I never told anybody. Of course these are the things people can explain away easily. But when you were with Prabhupad, they happened so often that you got the feeling you were in another world. A world where there were no doubts.

When he initiated Rupanuga, we couldn't hear the name clearly. After the ceremony we asked Robert what his new name was. He said, "I don't know. All I heard was, 'Baarrooomm!'" I was initiated a few months later. When I asked the Swami to accept me as his disciple, I forgot to bow down. But he was so kind that he never mentioned it. How many of our stupidities and offenses he overlooked! That was a big part of His Divine Grace. But then he could be just the opposite. A servant of his tried to second-guess Prabhupad, whereupon the lion-like guru shouted at him, "You must know that everything I do is perfect!" What constituted his perfection? Was he God? For a few days in 1970, some influential devotees were claiming that he was indeed Krishna. But Prabhupad squelched them. He said it was offensive to make that equation. After all, he'd always stated that a person who was a "pure devotee" derived the purity from surrender to God, not from any independent effort. The pure Vaishnava isn't concerned about developing mystical powers. Loving God is all. Whatever remarkable abilities a pure devotee may possess are given directly by Krishna. Could Shrila Prabhupad read our minds? Could he know the future? Could he see all events happening everywhere in the universe? There's no guarantee. His magnificence resided entirely in his love of God. Still, many of Shrila Prabhupad's disciples tend to think of such extraordinary abilities as certainties. He certainly had his perfections, but the only one that really mattered was his devotion to Krishna, which was constant and unwavering in all circumstances. Whatever he did, he did it for Krishna. Whatever opinion one might have about something he did, there was no doubt that he was doing it for Krishna. That is his qualification as a pure devotee and a spiritual master. Among his perfections was his gentlemanly behavior. In preparation for his return to New York in 1969, the devotees worked hard to fix up and paint his apartment on the second floor of the rear court building at 26 Second Avenue. As Prabhupad climbed the stairs and saw the rooms through the open door, he said, "This is my old home," and melted our hearts. He knew we wanted him to stay there and never

leave. He couldn't give us that, but he gave us his love so deeply. And he did it in such a gracious and elegant manner. At every moment he won us over again and again. We couldn't resist him because he was such a gentleman. "I am old man, and I could die at any time. So I want you my disciples to spread this movement." He said that in many ways at many times. One winter morning as he entered the storefront (at least at the beginning, he didn't call it a temple), he had a sour expression on his face. "It is quite bitter," he said. Where he'd lived in India, it would get down into the 40s (F). But the 'teens were probably an awful shock. And later in 1967 he had a stroke. That day, I went to the storefront after work to find the devotees in extreme anxiety. They said Swamiji was up in his apartment. He'd had a stroke. Most of the devotees were up there with him. A doctor, an Indian man, had come and said Swamiji should go to a hospital. I went out to the rear court building and up the stairs to the second-floor apartment. The door was open. On stepping inside, I saw a dozen or so disciples in the front room. They were all looking through the open window in the wall of Prabhupad's room, hesitantly reciting Sanskrit words I hadn't heard before. Someone told me it was a prayer to Krishna's form as Nrisingha, the lion-man avatar. Lord Nrisingha would protect his devotee in a time of danger. I took up the recitation as well as I could. Then I looked through the open window. Swamiji was lying down on the mat of blankets where I'd seen him sitting so many times, his head slightly propped up on a pillow. Brahmananda was massaging his legs, as I recall. There may have been one other person in the room. Shrila Prabhupad was talking about Krishna. He said that unlike our bodies, Krishna's body is perfect. Any one of Krishna's senses can perform the function of any of the other senses. He can eat just by looking at the food.

Swamiji was speaking slowly and quietly. He looked so drawn. Brahmananda asked him if it hurt. "Yes," Prabhupad said, "very much." Yet, other than that, he didn't try to invoke our pity. He gave some instructions to Brahmananda, and kept talking about Krishna. Despite his weakened state, he didn't stop telling us about Krishna. We kept chanting "tava kara kamala bare," and he kept talking about the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It went on for hours. Finally, he agreed to be transported to Beth Israel Hospital, about 20 blocks north of 26 Second Avenue. It was clear to us that Swamiji was showing us what to do when death is near. Think about Krishna, talk about Krishna, pray to Krishna. But of course that's what he wanted us to do all the time anyway. So in that sense death is no different from any other event. Once Prabhupad called death "the birthday of the soul." He had no fear of it, as his name Abhay (fearless) indicates. Since I worked at a job every day, I spent less time with Prabhupad at the hospital than most other devotees. It was obvious, however, that he didn't enjoy being there. He particularly disliked the diagnostic machinery that got wheeled in regularly. As far as he was concerned, it was a waste of time to poke and probe in that way. His own prescription for his condition was simple: massage, day and night without stopping. The devotees took shifts. I got a chance one day. He told me to massage his temples. I started gently. "No, harder, harder," he said. I applied more pressure. "Harder, harder!" I squeezed with all my might, and that seemed to be what he wanted. But how long could I keep it up? Fortunately, he told me to stop so he could talk to someone. The wonderful thing was, the constant massaging was helping to revive our Gurudev's strength. A few days later, he was back in his apartment. But he still needed to recuperate. He flew to Stinson Beach near San Francisco, but it was too cold. Back east, he and Kirtanananda rented a cottage on the New Jersey Shore. One day the rest of us drove down to visit. In the cottage, Shrila Prabhupad complained that Kirtanananda was following the doctor's orders and preventing him from eating whatever he wanted. But he laughed as he said it. Kirtanananda said, "You can see Swamiji's improving, because he's getting ornery again."

Outside in the sun, we sat in a circle and His Divine Grace spoke. He asked us all, one by one, how we were. I remember him talking about the elderly woman who owned the cabins. She lived there in her house. She liked the Swami and confided in him that she felt sad because she'd never had children. Prabhupad said he'd told her, "Just make Krishna your son." His compassion -- how we loved him for it! His devotion to Krishna, and his concern for our devotion to Krishna, were never at odds. He always found a way to engage people in Krishna's service. He wore a high school ring given to him by someone. (I never heard whose it was.) By wearing the ring, he kept that person connected to Krishna. And we loved his sense of humor. Interviewed by a TV talk show host, he demonstrated the benefits of a vegetarian diet by opening his mouth and saying, "See? I have all my teeth!" Because so many of his first students in New York came from Jewish families, he proclaimed, "I am Jewish Swami!" Once I asked him how a devotee could attain the position of Lord Brahma, the progenitor of all the living beings in the universe. "Oh?" he asked me pointedly, "You want to become Brahma?" And when I visited him at the La Cienega temple in Los Angeles, confessing that our Washington center was having financial problems, Prabhupad looked over at Gargamuni and said, "Gargamuni can give you money. Garga-money!" He laughed and laughed. Shrila Prabhupad often said that it was better to associate with him via his books than via his body. I think of that as an example of his modesty. To me there is no doubt about it: his physical presence, which was definitely not a "material" presence, was extremely significant for us as we developed our perception of what Krishna Consciousness is all about. That may have been because we weren't sufficiently developed to begin with. Our spiritual vision hadn't sharpened yet. We needed to start out at the point where we were situated. Yes. As Prabhupad once said, "we have these senses and we are practiced to use them," so let us use them to serve Krishna. For the neophyte spiritualist, interacting with a teacher in the same physical space is much more demanding and inspiring than a relationship at a distance. Words on a page can have power, but a breathing, immediate person -- a person who challenges you and maybe scares you sometimes -- is stronger medicine.

The written words are attributes of that person. Of course, it can be argued that the physical body of the liberated soul is also an attribute, as the printed words are. True. The eternal self remains hidden until ones's eyes "are smeared with the salve of love." Until then, we must make do with attributes. The more of them, the better, I say! The books are necessary. The books, the audio and video recordings, the reminiscences. And for most of us, the body is also necessary. Am I implying that with Prabhupad's disappearance the Krishna Consciousness Movement came to an end? Not at all. He wanted all his students to grow so deeply in love with God that they also would be gurus. Then there'd be no shortage of qualified teachers to carry on his legacy. Sincere seekers would be able to find sincere teachers. That is always possible. "By the grace of Krishna one finds a guru," Shrila Prabhupad said. God is in everyone's heart, directing our wanderings according to our desires. Do we doubt that if we sincerely want to serve a real spiritual master, that Krishna would not send one to us? It's in Krishna's interest, after all. Because "by the grace of the guru one finds Krishna." It's up to us to become pure devotees. Prabhupad never wanted any less from us. There's no other solution. A crowded roster of "representative priests" and "officially sanctioned initiators" won't do the job. The change comes from within, from the heart, not from a bureaucratic decree. If I had not been there with Shrila Prabhupad for days and weeks and months, my life would be nothing but dry, tattered scraps. The sound of the words from his mouth was like a ripe, delicious mango, and it drove you mad for more and more. His eyes were like swans illuminated by flashes of lightning. His hands danced, and his lotus feet protected the entire cosmos. There was nothing material about his physical presence. His body was not, in fact, in the material world at all. The sight of him blessed our eyes with spiritual vision, for on seeing him we gazed into the kingdom of God. That is why I bow down before him and offer him songs of praise. Shrila Prabhupad: A Principle or a Person? Prabhupad passed away in November, 1977. From that time until the present (1998), the International Society for Krishna Consciousness has carried on his mission. Inspired by his example and following his instructions, his sincere disciples

have had countless successes. Yet it's also true that ISKCON has been in turmoil. I left the organization in April, 1978. During that winter and early spring I'd been in charge of the college lecturing program at the Los Angeles center. But I became increasingly distressed by the difference between what I was presenting to college students when I spoke in their classrooms and what was being presented as the official "philosophy" at the temple. I'm glad I left when I did. Had I stayed on, I would only have become more upset. Instead, my life has been a positive, productive one all these years. The specifics of Iskcon's post-1977 troubles are not mine to describe. I haven't experienced them first hand. But I do read about them and hear about them, and I'm reminded of similar confusions from the early days. In the 1960s the stage was being set for the conflicts of the 80s and 90s. I express it this way: is Shrila Prabhupad a principle or a person? Or both at once? My answer is, he's both. The first time I saw him, when I was in a bus rolling by 26 Second Avenue, he was a principle. He was a spiritual force, a golden glow, a vision of truth. He was one with The One, a fixed and unvarying principle. But as the months went by, I got to know him as a person. His purity never wavered. But it took on form and movement. It showed a variety of moods and colors and sounds. It deepened as I came to feel the Swami's compassion. It broadened as I admired his erudition and his wit. Then I grew aware of his contradictions, and of the largeness of this great soul who could embrace his opposites within something vaster still. Then I noticed that his students, myself included, tended to see him as the Swami that conformed to our own concept of who he should be. One devotee preferred the liberal Swami, another the conservative Swami. One liked the Swami who asked us to "dovetail" our propensities in Krishna's service. Another liked the Swami who instructed us to renounce worldly contact. For some of us, he was friend of humanity.

For others, he condemned the population to hell. A few saw him as affirming family life. Most saw him as an advocate of monasticism. Meanwhile, His Divine Grace continued to be who he really was: someone beyond our convenient categories. As long as he was physically present with us, he repeatedly pulled the carpet out from under us and kept us from hardening our concepts into dogma. As soon as we thought he wanted us to have big buildings, he pronounced them an obstacle to spiritual advancement. When we were certain he wanted the society's magazine to be topical and professionally laid out, he ordered us to print only articles on scripture and to reproduce photos without any cropping or size alteration -- and to spend four hours a day going around the city chanting and dancing. When we thought we understood him to say that we could sell his books using unethical methods, he told us all our dealings must be above board. He kept us guessing! And every time, he was showing us that spirituality includes the dualities, and goes beyond them too. After his passing, though, there was no one to push us forward. Concepts hardened. Dogmas solidified. Mistakes became policies. Most of all, the aggressive managers took control, unchecked by the humble rank and file. Those who protested were made to leave, directly or indirectly. The organization devolved into flag-waving. Prabhupad the person faded away as Prabhupad the principle took center stage. I believe that I can strengthen my devotional life if I consider my guru to be a person -- at least as much, if not more than, a principle. He did urge me to "follow the principles," but he also called Krishna Consciousness "Personalism." What does this mean? For one thing, it means that Shrila Prabhupad is an individual living being with specific characteristics that may be different from my characteristics. His psychological temperament may not be the same as mine. His way of doing things may not be my way.

It means that imitating him, while inevitable during my introduction to his path, is not going to help me much in the long run. Just as Shrila Prabhupad was never embarassed about himself and his uniqueness, neither should I be about mine. He told the devotees in the US to "use your American intelligence." I'm an American. I'll do that. Bengalis are Bengalis, but Bostonians aren't. And neither are the British or the Burmese. We all have our God-given temperaments. We are different from each other. Yet we are all servants of Krishna. Even in the spiritual world, each person has a different relationship with God. Difference is as eternal as sameness. Perhaps this is beyond the comprehension of the rational mind. That's why Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu called Krishna Consciousness "incomprehensible difference and non- difference." Shrila Prabhupad has his preferences. Once he wrote me that it was acceptable for his disciples to wear respectable clothing according to local conventions, "but in my opinion," he added, devotees in robes "look just like angels from Baikuntha." Yes, he has his preferences. Because he is a person. But he understands that others may feel differently about it. Anyone who is a faithful disciple of his does not want to displease him. I want him to be happy as he observes my activities. He is my spiritual father. But I also know that he will be most pleased if I expand his movement out to as many people as possible. To do this, I may have to let go of traditional details that he holds so dear. It's not an easy decision to make. How difficult it is to gauge one's own motivations in these circumstances! How much easier, it seems, to stick to the established pattern. Yet I must be realistic and not nostalgic or romantic. There's work to be done. As long as my behavior does not contradict the spirit of the law of Krishna Consciousness, then the letter of the law may indeed be rewritten. As Prabhupad said, religion must be performed according to time, place, and circumstance. It's true, this is a risky business. How tempting it is to go overboard! And to drown in one's illusions. On the other hand, we now have seen how easy it is to go overboard off the other side of the boat, too. The dogmatists of the law's letter can also sink down into Maya.

All I can do is pray to Krishna to help me balance myself on the narrow "razor's edge" of spiritual life. And play my hunch. That's what Shrila Prabhupad did. He was criticized in India for breaking certain longestablished rules of behavior for a renunciate. He allowed men and women to sit together during temple services. He performed marriage ceremonies. Most of all, he started his own corporation, ISKCON, rather than opening branches of his guru's organization, the Gaudiya Math. These bold moves earned him disfavor from many of the members of the Gaudiya Math. They considered him too loose. But most assuredly, from the point of view of his Western students, he was sufficiently strict. Shrila Prabhupad, from our point of view, was orthodox. And that's one reason we were attached to him. He was the real thing. He didn't make up anything. He could ask us to "just repeat" because that's what he did. Prabhupad laid down the law -an ages-old, orthodox law. He never wavered from that standard. Clearly, he saw that his mission was to deliver the sankirtan movement of Lord Chaitanya to the West without any change. He then asked us to continue his work and also present it "without any deviation." Yet, he was obviously willing to accomodate some changes. After all, there are people in India who feel that Sanskrit literature has no effect when translated into other languages. There are those in India who feel that Westerners cannot be devotees of Krishna. And some say using industrial and technological machinery will taint their purity. Shrila Prabhupad certainly ignored their warnings about those modern changes to the traditional path. His teaching was that when matter is employed in Krishna's service, it becomes spiritualized. When he was physically present with us, we regularly asked him, in effect, just how far we could go with that. Could we use rock music in Krishna's service? Could we read newspapers in Krishna's

service? Watch movies? Eat pizza? His responses were not always consistent. He'd give different advice to different disciples on different occasions. Again, he was answering to the person as much as the principle. Which brings me to say this. Shrila Prabhupad too was a person. He took birth in Calcutta, India, in 1896. His parents were devotees of Krishna. He briefly sided with Gandhi's nationalism, but soon was won over to the Vaishnavism of an orthodox guru. Furthermore, he had a specific personality. His boyhood friends recognized his position as a strongwilled leader. During his householder life, he held religious gatherings in his house despite the opposition of his wife. In later years, when he lived in the holy city of Vrindaban before traveling to the US, the residents there noted his insistent zeal. As the spiritual master of ISKCON, he often described the society's activities in military terms and called on his students to oppose all scientists and "kick them in the face with boots." He was a lion, a commanding general in the war against materialism. Against the falsities of Western culture, he vigorously advanced the truth of traditional Vedic culture. (Of course, as I've already mentioned, in addition to being "harder than the thunderbolt" he could also be "softer than the rose." But, even though the evidence suggests he had both qualities in equal measure, his thunderbolt aspect became predominant for most of his disciples.) Prabhupad never apologized for being the kind of person he was. He never apologized for having complete faith in the orthodox Vaishnavism of his upbringing. Nor did he apologize for asking others to become as orthodox as he was. I can learn a lesson from that. I will not be ashamed of who I am. My specific personality may be a material personality for now, but it can be spiritualized by engagement in the service of Krishna. Likewise, I will not be ashamed of having a birthplace outside India. National or regional characteristics can also be spiritualized. Is Vedic culture the only social context within which devotion to Krishna can be practiced? Is it possible to make a distinction between the religion and philosophy of Krishna Consciousness on the one hand, and the society and culture of Vedic (or medieval) India on the other hand? Since Krishna appeared in Vedic India ca. 3,000 BCE, does that

mean the Vedic culture of that time and place is identical to the culture of Krishna's eternal abode? Or did Lord Krishna manifest his pastimes in terms of a culture that was as transitory as any other on this planet? If Krishna Consciousness is a non-sectarian and universal sanatan dharma, then can it not be lived within the terms and terminologies of any time or territory? I don't have to impersonate Bengalis. In doing so, I depersonalize myself. This may seem an unnecessarily harsh judgment. Isn't it natural for us to imitate a person we admire? Perhaps it's a blessing to be able to do so. For in this way we can begin to take on those admirable qualities. If a Bostonian or a Bulgarian pretends to be a Bengali, surely the play-acting can be forgiven if they improve themselves thereby. But the danger is that the "self" does not improve. The danger is that only the external costumes, mannerisms, and parrotings improve -- at the expense of an inner self that is only slightly touched by the outer efforts. If I am convinced to bury my personality under the weight of an adopted personality (no matter how noble a soul I may be imitating) then I've lost my ability to make discriminations, to make intuitive decisions, perhaps even to make the simplest choices. Those abilities (which are central to the psychology of Krishna Consciousness) depend on perceptions made with my mind in clear view. I can't have that view if I'm pretending to be somebody other than who I am. If ISKCON has been dysfunctional, I maintain that's the reason why. I too used to identify myself with a mental image created out of hope, rather than accepting my psychological reality. That projected image was not a person. It was a lifeless, frozen, shallow invention made of fear, preventing me from being able to contact the God-given psychological resources by means of which I could make responsible choices. Instead of being responsible, I turned myself over to a bureacracy that made my decisions for me. But they were also acting through a mask, a projected image of themselves. And they turned themselves over to their invented image of Shrila Prabhupad. That can be defined as neurosis. I won't deny that I derived enormous benefit from being in ISKCON, even under those circumstances. But there came a

time when I had to set aside my mask and take the next step toward the ultimate reality. If I'm going to achieve the self-control that Lord Krishna speaks of in the Bhagavad-gita, I have to be in touch with myself at all times. Self-deception will block my progress. "Honesty is the best policy." I've been referring to the conditioned personality as "who I am." Granted, that's not who I really am. But is Shrila Prabhupad really a native of Calcutta, or of India? Is he really a speaker of British-school English? No. Still, he didn't attempt to hide his traits or his temperament, which were conditioned by the facts of his birthplace and birthdate. He accepted them, spiritualized them, and by Krishna's mercy became a powerful source of inspiration for the world. I can do the same. Not by pretending. By accepting my personhood as Krishna's mercy -- and straightforwardly engaging my heart and mind, as they are, in Krishna's service. To me that is one of the greatest lessons Shrila Prabhupad taught, by his own example. Not to make excuses for myself. To accept everything as the mercy of God and go forward with clarity of mind and a positive attitude. Then I'll be able to make good decisions and choose reality over illusion every time. As Shri Krishna said to Arjuna in Prabhupad's translation of the Bhagavad-gita , "Everyone is forced to act helplessly according to the qualities he has acquired from the modes of material nature ... Even a man of knowledge acts according to his own nature, for everyone follows the nature he has acquired from the three modes. What can repression accomplish?" (3.5, 3.33) Arjuna wanted to imitate the renunciates. Krishna warned him that performing another's karma, or duty, is dangerous for those in spiritual life. So Arjuna accepted his "material" nature as a warrior, and achieved spiritual self-realization. Whether I'm a warrior or a poet, and whether I'm a native of India or Indiana, I too can achieve the same goal. The master of my body, mind, and soul, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, has given that compassionate teaching to the world.


Appendix During the years 1967, 1968, and 1969, I made five 8mm films. They were silent "home movies" in a style I called "poetic documentary." The subjects were Shrila Prabhupad and his disciples. Vaishnavas (1967, color) Using a zoom-fisheye lens I'd built and superimposing three image tracks, this effort sported a "psychedelic" look. It featured the 26 Second Avenue devotees at the storefront in the winter and spring of '67, plus the joyful arrival of Swamiji at Kennedy Airport in April. Before I showed the movie to His Divine Grace in his apartment, he closed the curtains of his altar (I assume, to avoid any offenses to the Radha-Krishna dieties). I introduced the film by trying to prepare Prabhupad for all the technical gimmickry. I thought he might find it incomprehensible, or worse yet, the work of a madman. Nevertheless, he sat patiently through it, and at the end pronounced it "beautiful." Shortly afterward, he asked me to make a movie of the Bhagavad-gita. That project was never realized. Swamiji (1967, b&w) It was July. Prabhupad was going to leave for India the next morning. His disciples were morose, thinking they might never see him again. They asked me to shoot some footage of him, so we'd at least have his moving picture image to meditate on. I had a couple of rolls of high speed black and white film handy. When I asked his permission, explaining the devotees' request, Swamiji agreed to let me film him as he sat in his apartment. As I filmed, he read the Gita, told Kirtanananda how to pack the luggage, and ate his lunch prasadam. There never was a more charismatic movie star. He was a nobleman, a grave sage, a simple child, and a friend. As I opened the second spool and pulled off a C-shaped plastic gripper that held the roll in place, he asked me to show him how it worked. I did. "They think of everything," he observed. Paramhansa (1968, color) At the (Allston) temple in Boston, Shrila Prabhupad leads a kirtan and gives a lecture. Later he

goes for a morning walk through the city accompanied by Jadurani and Gaursundar. Then, in Montreal, he conducts a fire ceremony. The Full Nectarine (1968, color) Nayana Bhiram and I worked together on this one. The New York devotees enacted the story of Lord Chaitanya giving up his married life and becoming a renunciate, then moving from Bengal to Orissa, where he worshipped Jagannath in the Puri temple. As a framing device, we used footage of Shrila Prabhupad and the devotees in the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens (which we called "Brooklyn Brindaban"). His Divine Grace was talking. Since it was a silent film, we were able to suggest that he was recounting the above narrative, which we displayed as screen titles, intercutting between Shrila Prabhupad and the actors. Part of the movie was filmed in a forested park on Staten Island. The scene of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's tearful parting with his family was filmed in the courtyard between the two buildings at 26 Second Avenue. Gurudev (1969, b&w) By now, His Divine Grace is a world traveler. Here, he arrives at Kennedy Airport, welcomed by a throng of enthusiatic devotees. Then, at the 61 Second Avenue temple, he leads a Kirtan, lectures, and initiates several new disciples. Jai Shri Guru