The following is a discussion by His Holiness Jayapataka Swami on September 24th, 1984 in Atlanta, Georgia. His Holiness Jayapataka Swami is discussing Srila Prabhupada nectar.
Our temple in Calcutta is on 3 Albert Road, at the Queen Victoria Square and Prabhupad said that that is the part of Calcutta that when he was a boy was known as the sahib quarter or the area where the British used to stay. In fact the owner of that house used to be a knight, he was knighted by the King of England and down the road is Lord… Sir Lord Sinha Road, or Lord Sinha Road. That is where all the totally Indian gentlemen who had become English nobles or English knights or whatever were and where all English people would stay. So he used to say, tell us how he used to drive through there on his bicycle. He would go and look at the houses when he was a boy. Before that Srila Prabhupada was saying that normally that area, it was like an exclusive area and only the very elite people would stay, so he used to go through on his bicycle. So now we have our temple here, it is nice. He would sometimes make a joke, staying in the sahib quarter. The English people were called sahib.
Then Srila Prabhupada also told us that when he was a boy, that sometimes when they would come to the Maidan – in the center of Calcutta like in New York there is Central Park, the center of Calcutta there is the big Maidan or a big… like a park, it is all grass and that park is under the control of Fort William which is the army base. It is a very beautiful, very big park, it must be about seven miles long by two or three miles wide – quite large, at least 20-30 city blocks long. Goes from the side of the Ganges to the… it’s now known as… it was the Chowringee Road, now known as something else. So along that stretch, Prabhupada said sometime his father would have him walk to save the tram fare which used to be five paise. So then they would walk and he remembered walking along the Maidan as a child with his father. And he also told us that at that time there was King George… actually it came because we were following caturmaasya one year – Bhavananda Maharaj, myself, Acyutananda Swami, Garga Muni Swami – the four of us were following caturmaas, so were eating just once a day, we were doing the austerities, chanting 64 rounds, so we also let our hair and beard grow. So then he saw Bhavananda and he said, “You look just like King George!” And then everyone laughed like that and he said, “No, I have seen.” and he went on to explain that when he was in school at that time King George, I forget what number, King George the fifth or something – the fifth? He came to India, went by ship and came all the way to India and at that time their capital was in Calcutta, I still believe… still in Calcutta I believe. When he came there they had all the school children line up alongside the road. And then he remembers that he saw King George go by in his limousine, open air, amidst cheering and everything, then he was a school boy. Then he said, he looked just like Bhavananda Maharaj. Then he said that on that occasion they also gave a box lunch to all the children at school. Samosa and some sweet, everyone got a little box to commemorate the arrival of King George the Fifth to Calcutta.
If you see the old pictures of Calcutta, in Calcutta one time Prabhupada went to see the Victoria Memorial and we went with him. And there they had the pictures of Calcutta as it was in the 1800’s and the same buildings are still there. (laughter) A lot of them! Not all of them. But at that time they were very stable and even now they are a little bit run down but that time they were very stately buildings and very well maintained. And they had all the horses and buggies and everything – quite a thriving place. Now in Calcutta they constructed a memorial for Queen Victoria calling it the Victoria Memorial and that is in the middle of that Maidan in Calcutta. 170 feet high, solid marble. Something like the Taj Mahal but not quite so big or exclusive. See, regarding Calcutta those are the main things I can remember that Prabhupad said.
One thing that he said one day, he was giving class in Calcutta and he told the devotees in Calcutta, he said that “I don’t know how you are doing it, that how you are able to remain here in Calcutta, this is all Krishna’s mercy because even I find it difficult or even I can’t remain here, I have to travel.” Something like that. He made a little joke out of it. Then he said “Because you are… this is my birthplace city and you are here, you are getting ten thousand times the credit for doing devotional service here than anywhere else… than if you were back in your own country.” Then he actually said, I cannot even remain here but you are taking this austerity because Calcutta is very crowded now, quite a change for someone from the West. And actually he was very moved but he was very thankful that the devotees were taking the austerity of remaining in Calcutta and Bengal and helping him to revitalize the sankirtan movement in its original place.
Then in Calcutta the first thing that happened, Prabhupad sent Acyutananda Swami who was in Calcutta and Srila Prabhupada… I had started the Toronto centre and then Jagadish das adhikari had come up and we mutually decided that he could be the president. Then I wrote to Prabhupad if he had another service because I had already started that temple and it was going nicely. There was the president. So I could go and open a new temple or I could do anything he wanted. Or I could stay there, whatever he wanted. So he wrote back and said, “I want you to go to India, to Calcutta. Please come and see me.” So then I flew to Los Angeles to get instructions from Srila Prabhupad. At that time, Srila Prabhupada, Srila Prabhupada called me in his room and read to me some of the letters from Acyutananda das brahmachari and he said that he has the place, so you can go. Then by the time I reached there, that is what he said in his letter. But come and expla… In the meantime another letter came from Acyutananda das brahmachari at that time that he was still staying in the Gaudiya matth in Satish Mukherjee Avenue in Bhawanipura, Calcutta, southern part of Calcutta. And then Prabhupad said that “I don’t want you to go until we have our own place.” It was very cryptic, I mean, he said “I will explain everything to you but just before you go.” He didn’t want to explain until I was ready to go. And I had two or three meetings with Prabhupad in his quarters in Los Angeles. I remember in the second meeting he read this letter, something that his Godbrothers had said or something and I remember his servant was Devananda das, maybe he was a Swami I am not sure at that time, I don’t think so. So Devananda, he said that I think that your Godbrothers are envious and then it struck me funny you know, being a very simple just being here in the West, it seemed very unusual to me that how could a Godbrother be envious or something like that. And then sure enough, Prabhupad blasted him and said “They are my Godbrothers, you have no right to question them or criticize them, they are my Godbrothers.” And then I thought that right, it is confirmed. He was off by saying that, it sounded unusual to me.
Then Prabhupad said “I am not going to send you to India now because they don’t have their own place. Until they have their own place…” So that time Bhagavan Maharaj was… Bhagavan das Adhikari was going from Detroit to open up a center in Chicago. So then Prabhupad said I could go to Chicago and help him open up that center and then he would call me when it was time to go to India. So then we had that adventurous ride with Rupanuga Prabhu where the car didn’t stay on the road near Albuquerque in Mexico . Anyway, somehow I reached Chicago and then Prabhupad sent me a telegram, “Please call.” So I phoned Srila Prabhupad up and I got the message that you go immediately to India to Calcutta, they have their own place, you don’t have to come back and get any information from Prabhupada, it is alright, Garga Muni gave me that message. So then I never got the briefing that Prabhupad said he was going to give me, what to watch out for – I think it was because Garga Muni did not want to spend the money or something, ha! To send me back to Los Angeles. Frugal temple president serving conserving his finance. Anyway Srila Prabhupad had a fund and he sent me from his own fund money to go to India and I raised a little more.
So finally I got to Calcutta and unfortunately we didn’t have a separate residence as Srila Prabhupada had wanted. We were still staying in this Gaudiya matth in the temple of Prabhupad’s Godbrother, Bhakti Daiyita Madhava Maharaj. And they treated me very nicely and I stayed there for two months. But Prabhupada kept writing us letters, furious that immediately we have to get another place. Daily Harinama and immediately get another place and move out of there and have your own place. As soon as you have your own place I am coming. And then Prabhupad flew to Japan and he kept writing from there, saying, “Where’s…” Finally we found a place in Lake Road… Lake View Road, something like that near Rashbehari Avenue in south Calcutta. It was a very nice house built by a doctor, it was a three storey house and he had never lived there, it was brand new. So he said that “If sadhus live in my house you can stay there for free for six months, saying that if Krishna conscious devotees stay there my house will be blessed. So you can stay there.” So he gave it to us free of rent. Actually for the first year and half in Calcutta I did not pay any rent. People always gave us houses free which are probably historic. Neither did we pay for any food to speak of, most of it was donated.
So when we had a new place we telexed Prabhupad and he said that he would be coming and so prepared for his arrival, I visited all the newspapers, just Acyutananda das and myself. Acyutananda das went to all the Godbrothers of Prabhupad to invite them to come and meet him at the airport. So he told me that he couldn’t get anyone to agree to come. So that was very unusual. So then I also invited one or two and I invited one Maharaj on the stairs from one temple and he said, yes, I will go and greet my Godbrother, why not? And then some grihastha disciple of one of Prabhupad’s Godbrothers, came up to him and said, “You can't go, he is your junior sanyasi, he took sanyas after you did. Five years, you can’t go and greet him.” So then he was all intimidated by this. So we couldn’t actually get any of Prabhupad’s Godbrothers to go to the airport. It was unusual for us, I couldn’t understand it. I had always noticed the difference that when Prabhupad spoke it seemed to just earth shattering and immediately penetrate the heart and when I heard his Godbrothers speak it was very interesting and I could feel like a little tingle like a little something but it was just never the same, never had that same overwhelming presence of the spiritual world as I would expect, that was my own subjective experience. But this was completely bewildering to me. So then we all went to the airport to meet Prabhupad. We had truck loads of Harinama kirtan groups, we had newspaper men, the colonel who was in charge of that Fort Williams, he was in charge of the reception, so he arranged that Prabhupad did not have to go through immigration or customs. They picked him up right from the airplane by car and drove him to the VIP lounge where he gave a press conference – a returning celebrity, a returning ambassador of Indian culture; they gave him the royal reception.
All the big dignitaries came and the people greeted him and we did a kirtan and reception. Prabhupad looked around and saw that there were some of his Godbrothers’ disciples but no Godbrother was present. And one of the Godbrothers had… If you don’t know the name, later, I’ll tell you, but I’ll just leave it out for the sake… but one of the Godbrothers said, invited that we will give a reception for Prabhupad in our temple and we will have a feast ready. He should drive right up to our temple and we will give a reception there. It sounded like a very nice thing. But the Godbrothers themselves did not come to meet Prabhupad at the airport. They sent their disciples. So then we told Prabhupad and Prabhupad looked very stern.
We had a big American car for him to ride in and then behind we had all these trucks of kirtan devotees. So we had like a procession into the town. So Prabhupad jumped into the car and Srila Bhakti Paad was with Prabhupad, if I am correct, I think it was Bhaktipada, yes. Somehow Bhakti Paad just took the steering wheel and Prabhupad said go and I was arranging with the press and everything and next thing I know Bhaktipada was behind the steering wheel and ready to take off. I didn’t even know, you know… so I could just, you know… Prabhupada, swish… had to run and jump and get into the car at the last minute. So then I told this to Srila Prabhupad. He said, “We will not go there, take us directly to our house.” We could not understand the intricacies and Prabhupad was just very silent, very stern, I said “We have this kirtan par…” but he was very – very grave at that time, never saw Prabhupad so intense up to that point, as I had seen then. It was a new experience. So then we drove him right straight to the Lake… Lake Road house.
He liked the house, all brand new, we had a little room set up for him with an attached bath. Then Prabhupad said, “They wanted me to go directly to their temple so then they would take the credit that they had sent me to preach all over the world. If they were sincere they would have come and met me at the airport and requested me to also visit their temple.” But they sat in their temple and did not come to get me. This is very intricate. What this means it would appear that I was going and reporting back to them and they would publish that they had sent me and now I was going back to them. Therefore I will not go there; you go there and accept some prasad and we will take some. (laughter) So this is my first introduction to intricacies of Indian sadhu etiquette and different higher level kind of spiritual intrigues, being very simple. I once asked Srila Prabhupad “What should we do when we meet sannyasis? In India I mean there will be so many sannyasis, what should I do?” You know I was very… I wanted to do the proper thing, the proper etiquette.
He wrote back, “You should bow down.”
“Even if he is a mayavadi?”
“Yes, go ahead. Just don’t listen to them.”
So… but this was pretty high level intrigue but any way Prabhupad guided us through and then that night and any way just being two brahmacharis together in India, Acyutananada das and myself, you know sometimes in India taking sanyas and preaching, these things are very prominent. In the West there are other things which are more prominent but there because of environment it is a very good field for preaching and people are more receptive from the renounced order of life. So we were thinking that sometime possibly Srila Prabhupad would ask us to take sannyasa or whether he would or not because he had told me once when my temple president, this was another thing, any way I won’t distract you… I can say that. Once my temple president, that time my temple president was Hamsaduta das and his wife was Himavati and I was the bhakta in the temple. And Himavati was trying to get all the, not only the brahmacaris but even the bhaktas married. So that time I was quite determined to be Krishna conscious and I wasn’t hundred percent sure that being married was actually what I should be doing. I wasn’t closed to the idea but at the same time it was more or less being pushed on me. So I was kind of upset and I came in tears to Prabhupada and asked him “What should I do? They are trying to pressure me, this wife of the president.” And he said, “No, you tell her that it is my order that you cannot be married. The system in India is you wait till you are 25 and the guru decides, at the age of 25, he decides which direction the brahmacari should go. So you wait till you are 25 and then I will decide.”
Up until then you will be hands off! Ha! So I was relieved that I did not have to get married. So we were thinking that maybe Prabhupad would ask us because we knew he said you can get first and second initiations, you have to ask for that but sanyasi you have to be asked. So he called Acyutananada das in his quarters and at that time we were all asleep, it was 10 o clock but I was you know, listening. I heard Prabhupad shouting at him. First I thought he is calling him in to get sannyasa, I didn’t know, it didn’t seem like that he was getting sannyasa and it sounded like Prabhupad was very angry. I didn’t know what was actually happening. I could hear in bits and pieces. Something about a letter, something about Brahmananda, something about Godbrothers, couldn’t really pick it all together that time. But I knew one thing that it didn’t seem he was getting sannyasa! So then the next morning, I think it was the next morning, Prabhupad, he called us in and at time he explained to us that – in the meantime I heard from other Godbrothers that there was something happening in New Vrndavana, that some of our sannyasis had gone a little bit crazy, they had been affected by mayavadi philosophy and so on and that Prabhupad was very upset – so then Prabhupad explained that, well he said that Acyutananda is – I don’t know if Acyutananda was in the room at that time or not, he might have been, but I don’t remember – but he explained that he was – he picked up some criticism or something and he wrote that in a letter to one of the sannyasis in America, one of the devotees in America and as a result of that poison they became affected and they actually developed the mayavadi philosophy and so Prabhupada was actually testing Acyutananda to see if he was really into it and he said that he was innocent. But he was like a carrier, like a person carries a disease, by inadvertently repeating something which was envious, that he actually was a carrier and through him this poison had come and affected those four people. Of course Prabhupada corrected everything. So it was… Pretty much the first two days it was pretty intense but after that it was very nice.
We had programs in south Calcutta near Gariahatta and in Jadavpuranda all over Calcutta; Prabhupad went and did these programs. One program we had this big car, it was a Dodge 56, was given by a life member that we could drive it and then Kirtananda Swami used to drive the Dodge in Calcutta. It was a very big car and in Calcutta it was very crowded, so you drive a big car like that it is quite – had a very good suspension though – you were kind of floating. When we go over the bumps it seemed like we were floating. It was – I forget the name of the group – but it was a very distinguished group who met every two weeks – like Rotary Alliance but it was not that type of a… that type of a syndicate group, it was one specific group of high class, exclusive citizens of Calcutta but mostly businessmen, right near the corner of what was known as Esplanade – which is a… like kind of real hustle and bustle central part of Calcutta, up on the second floor.
So there, there was a big program and Prabhupad spoke and at time he inaugurated life membership in India. He said we were going to have a program, you can visit our temples all over the world and you can come and stay there and he inaugurated that you pay 1111 rupees, Krishna, God is one! You give 1111. So everyone liked that and about three or four people right on the spot, they became life members. And that was a lot of money in those days 1111 rupees and I remember that there was actually a struggle who would be first because whoever would be first would be the number one life member. In fact even to this day one of the life members who is number 2 he tried to get it changed to be number 1. But when number 1 heard about it then he became very upset. So then, you know, Prabhupad was very happy to accept their donations and he issued the first life memberships and then there was a big feast and this is the first time… normally we would only eat the temple prasad but this time he said no, because they have become life members and for preaching, all vegetarian of course, he said we can eat the vegetarian feast. And I remember Prabhupad was sitting at the head and devotees on one side and people who were new life members and other dignitaries were on the other side and it was a very wonderful gathering.
So that was basically the highlight I remember of how the Calcutta preaching started. Then Prabhupada went to Bombay and later on he came back and then in May, 1971 he arrived there in August 1970 and in May 1971 at that time when Calcutta was the time of what they called the United Front, they had a coalition government of the Leftist parties. At that time the Leftist parties they weren’t very cohesive and there was a lot of violence and the Naxals… at that time there was the Naxal movement of Marxists, Leninists and radical revolutionaries who were on the rampage because the scenario in Calcutta was that every day there was fourteen or twelve murders. They picked out businessmen, big politicians, all over eastern India, especially in Bengal, especially in Calcutta area but even in Jamshedpur and it was spread out, very rampant. And where I… where we were living in north Calcutta in a very sensitive area, it was Jatindra Mohan Avenue near Vidhan Street which is just in the heart of a very crowded area of Calcutta and in all alleys and lanes in India there were political activists.
So on the street at that time, there were sand bags put up by the police and they would be sitting there with their guns and they… actually would just be holding… when you went by at night you have to raise your arms and walk by with your hands in the air. And right below our window we often saw that from one side of the road one group of political gang almost you know, would come and they would carrying small athletic bags filled with bombs and from the other side they would come and like have a snow ball fight. They would throw the bomb and the bomb would hit the street and people would spin off and the bomb would explode and then they would get up and throw one and run with more bombs and the guy would carry, like a mad scientist kind of guy, and sometimes they would get hit and then the police would come, usually long after everything was over, but sometime they come. One time they came and they were chasing a boy into the alley and we heard gun shots and we saw them drag out his body. So it was like a very dangerous time in Calcutta.
At that time we were trying to preach there and at that time Prabhupad called us to the Kumbha mela in Allahabad and that is a whole other story, the Kumbha mela story, we could discuss that later. But when we went to the Kumbha mela then Prabhupad told me that “I am never going to Calcutta until you get me…” at that time we were in our own place. “I want our own place, our temple.” At that time we were staying in a half a floor of an apartment building that one gentleman had given us but he wanted the whole floor to ourselves so we could perpetually stay in at least for some time. So I had to leave the Kumbha mela a few days early, went back to Calcutta and we found the present place we still are on Albert Road, we found that place, and one gentleman was going to make it into a hotel and office six months later but right now he did not have need for it so he said we could have it free of rent for six months.
So we sent a telegram to Prabhupad and he came by train. So then we arranged to have in May a big pandal in downtown Calcutta. So Prabhupad got a letter in the mail which was you know, cut out from magazines – like the, you, may, words cut out which you see in the movies, he got one of those – several. “You please stop now or die. Naxal salaam.” Something like that. So then Prabhupad called the police and gave it over and we were going on with our program in spite of the threat that “If you don’t stop your pandal program now you will be killed.” Prabhupad said, “Just go on with it.” So we informed the police for the extra guard. While we were doing our pandal program in Calcutta, it was the biggest pandal in India, probably even to date. It was a huge pandal, bigger than a football field, about twice the size of a football field – 400 feet long by 300 feet wide. It was huge and was completely packed with people. It was opposite the Indian museum. We had all kinds of dignitaries who came and spoke there. Deputy chief minister one Mr. Nahar, he spoke. I think just at that time the government changed but you know still very agitated time, it was a very disturbed time but Prabhupad he just said “Go on with the preaching.”
We distributed prasad every night – halwa, sabzi and puris to thousands and thousands of people and Prabhupad would come every night, did arti and he would lecture and he was very bold in his preaching. So at that time he sent Tamal Krishna Goswami and Bali Mardhan das to Mayapur to buy the Mayapur land that we had found – Acyutananda das and myself had found… but I was busy with this program so I stayed in Calcutta. So at that time there were several things that happened, all day Prabhupad would be sitting in his room and big dignitaries would come and he would always preach to them how they should help the Krishna consciousness movement because they were the religious Indians, and they were very… that if the Indian community gave support then all over the world this would give us strength to the Krishna consciousness preaching.
I remember that one day this minister, he was the home minister of the government at that time, Tarun Kanti Ghosh, he came to see Srila Prabhupad and in India it is customary that people tried to touch the feet of sadhus but Prabhupada would sometimes get sick because so many people would touch him and he would get their karma. He said that if you touched the feet then they give you their karma but it is not good for the sadhus because they may have to take that karma, so actually only the disciples should touch the feet. So normally Brahmananda Swami would stop people from touching Prabhupad’s feet but sometimes they would be too enthusiastic and Prabhupad would say up to a point you can stop someone, you can entreat them, you can request, “Please don’t touch.” but I mean if somebody is really you know, diving, then you can’t have like a whole battle or something! So in this case the minister, he came and he said that “I am going to touch your feet Swamiji.” Prabhupad tried to get out of it but he just grabbed and I forget who was there, Brahmananda swami or someone whoever was there were ready but Prabhupad he didn’t want the minister the government to get assaulted or something you know! So then he went and put his head on Prabhupad’s feet and then Prabhupad touched him on the head, Prabhupad said there was some system where you can actually pass back the karma! (laughter) I don’t really know that technique.
But then we were sitting there and that morning in class Prabhupad had been saying that how all the devotees, in fact some of the devotees who were being sent by Lord Caitanya, that they were devotees previously. He said something like that and this minister he came and said, you know, I have seen your devotees chanting and seen them and “My impression is that they were born in Bengal before, that they were devotees before, this is not their first birth, how is it that so quickly they could take all these things up?”
Then Prabhupad, he turned to us and said, you just see, confirmed! Just what I have been saying to you, he has also said, this is a confirmation. So I remember that time then he had a darshan with the gentleman and then even again Prabhupad said that just see, this is confirmed what I had said. And I remember I was standing up and then I told Prabhupad that, “But Prabhupad how can this be? I am so fallen. How could it be that I was a devotee before?” And then you know, Prabhupada took… he became angry. He said, “Do not doubt my words, do not doubt! This is all superficial.” and when he became angry we all paid our obeisances.
So, there were many… every day there were big batches of people who would come, sometimes his relatives came rarely, he would introduce us, especially Pishima, his younger sister and god sister, she would come. I remember one time she insisted that she wanted to cook for Srila Prabhupad, she made the whole thing, Prabhupad was like “You have to let her do it, she is a very good cook!” Sometimes she would make preparations with mustard oil and Prabhupad had always told us that mustard oil is for your body it is not for eating, so when we told Prabhupad it is mustard oil, he would say “Mustard oil is very good taste if you know how to cook with it.” So from her cooking he would take one or two preparations with mustard oil although normally it was always with ghee. He said not too much, but one preparation was alright. And I remember one time Prabhupad got dysentery, the water in Calcutta is such that you can get dysentery there sometime. The sewage is built from the British times, the sewage and water pipes are very close or something I don’t know but somehow you get sick there quite easily. So even Prabhupad may be from the feasting with the life members or somehow he had the lila of having dysentery. So he said that “Today I want to have hot puris and salt!”
“Hot puris!” In dysentery or diarrhea you normally don’t take ghee. He said, no this is one cure, to take hot puris, has to be piping hot with salt. Order of the guru, so they cooked hot puris, I think pishi ma herself cooked him the first time and brought it in piping hot just steaming, small thin puris, you put salt on them and he ate a lot of them. Everybody thought, because normally if you take pakoras or puris when you are having a weak stomach, then forget it! Your liver doesn’t but this was like by a mystic power Prabhupad was completely cured by hot puris and salt! So that was a new one for Prabhupad devotees. Devotee: Did anyone try it?
Jayapataka Swami: Yes, I think in Mayapur once I saw someone try it I think Bhavananada maharaj.
Is there some prasad to give?
Then there was another thing that happened. One time we had a lot of learning to do, in India, Prabhupad said well, because nobody knew how to cook Indian style, so he said we could hire a brahmana if he didn’t smoke we could hire a brahamana. So then we hired a cook. Because at that time Yasodananadana Maharaj, Gargamuni Maharaj were also there. The assistant to the cook was a good chapatiwalla, he used to make thin nice chapattis, used to puff up, fantastic chapatis. So somehow or other the devotees thought that let him do the cooking. He is a better cook than the Brahmana cook. So then he was doing the cooking for a few days.
I didn’t like it but I was overwhelmed by because at that time the temple had Revatinandan, Gurudas, Shyamasundar, Giriraj, Gargamuni and I had Sanandana Gurukripa, Yamuna, Malati, these were very strong-willed devotees, to say the least, and so somehow or another they decided they wanted to have this person cook, and we were on a little austerity program, I was only letting them use half a kilo of ghee a day which wasn’t making me very popular. At that time Prabhupad had… it was on a pretty tight budget. So Prabhupad came and someone complained to him about the cooking, you know, that they weren’t getting enough ghee. So he came out and he saw, what are those? Those are chapatis. Why there is no ghee on them? He said, that is food fit for the goats. It was real heavy! Ha! To get chapatti without ghee, it was fit for the goats. Then he said bring the cook. So when they brought the cook, he said, who is this character? He is not a Brahmana. Then he said you are not only eating food fit for the goat but it is being cooked by a fifth class man. So he blasted us. I forget some of the others; this was some of the heaviest things that I ever heard him say. And because at least the Brahmana had some understanding about hygiene or things like that but a non Brahmana, a non vaishnava, you don’t know what they are going to do you know, they don’t have that training, that upbringing to act in a very clean and hygienic way. So like this Prabhupad was teaching us so many things even there in Calcutta.
One time in Calcutta we had a big verandah with marble floor and I was the president there but every time my GBC would come because GBCs were real new then, it was 1971 and Prabhupad had just appointed GBCs. We didn’t exactly know what their role was. So he had come and I wouldn’t be doing things the way he would be doing them. So he wanted to do everything the right way. But instead of telling me how to do them, he would be so impatient that he would fire me and he would take over as president. Then he would do everything his way. Then Prabhupada would come and say what are you doing? You are supposed to be the GBC. You are not supposed to manage the temple. He removed him and put me back as the president. Like this I was removed about eight times and every time I was replaced either by Prabhupada or by the GBC. And I remember that the GBC said that “I have to have my own room… I have to have my own room to meet people and for preaching.” So we didn’t have any rooms in the Calcutta temple as such, it was a weird palatial kind of building which was any way divided in half and had big rooms and high 15 – 16 about 18 feet high ceiling. So there was really no room to offer. There was one room for Prabhupad, there was the temple, there was the verandah, there was a little office, there was no other room in the whole place, there wasn’t any other room. Even the president didn’t have a room, kind of floating. But he insisted on having a room. So he built a little shanty he got some plywood and built a little shanty on the little room, very nice kind of simple little Masonite 8 inch plywood, built it up on the verandah with a little door, painted it blue, real bright blue like the color of Balabhadra’s T shirt lapel there. turquoisey bright blue. That was his little room and that room lasted until Prabhupad came. What is this he asked? “This is ruining my verandah.” I forget the exact words he used. “Why are you building this shanty room on my verandah? You tear it down immediately.” The GBC was crushed. We all you know… we all had told him that you know, “This is kind of strange. It cuts into the veranda.” So, while Prabhupad was telling that we had to like… (laughter) It was serious otherwise we would get... But was real hard because everybody was covering up. So that was the last of the blue room.
There are many little things. Prabhupad onetime he said that, “Nobody… we’re spending much on taxis, everyone should take a tram.” and trams cost 10 paise in India and at time 10 paise was less than a cent. So you could ride anywhere in the city for 10 paise. But it took forever, it was real slow as compared to a taxi and this was not even a bus, buses were fast but this was a tram. You could go by bus but buses are very crowded. Tram was a little better. Most of the devotees went by tram, 12 paise, 10 paise; you go first class was 12 paise, normal was 10. But if you went 10 paise all the seats had these bed bugs, you sit on it and you stand up, your whole rear end would be striped where… just where you sat, they’d be wooden seats, they’d all come out of the cracks and bite. And in first class they had a little bit of rexin plastic with some fibre, you know, and a little bit of padding, just for 2 paise more but the bed bugs didn’t get through it. Sometimes the devotees would you know, spend a little extra (laughter) and go by the tram, first class. So because Prabhupad had said we took it literally and we did but then later on it turned out that it cut into the collections and so… In the meantime I was transferred to Mayapur and the other, the new president got permission from Prabhupad that if the devotees collected more, you know by doing more sankirtan, and going by taxi was alright. But it shouldn’t be just going by taxi but should be due to getting increased productivity.
Now the time Prabhupada was going from Calcutta to the Kumbha mela. Then he said in the train sometimes Prabhupad would take, he would also take a box lunch but sometime in the train he would get hungry when the lunch would run out. So sometimes he would send me out and he would take puris cooked on the stations and he said that “If you fry then there is no karma and if it is cooked in ghee or deep frying then the transference of the bad mentality doesn’t go so much.” While travelling he quoted some Sanskrit verse which said while travelling it is alright in emergency. Although later when we went out we would cook a bigger lunch and then he would never do that. In the air planes I don’t think he ever did it at all. But one time anyway there were only few devotees. I remember I went out on the station and I was trying to procure those things and buy some oranges and somehow I didn’t notice that the train was taking off. I looked and there the train was, woo woo, going off. I started running because if you miss the train there is nothing you can do. And I missed Prabhupad’s car and by that time the train was going real fast. So one conductor reached down and pulled me up and it was an AC first-class compartment. All air conditioned. Prabhupada wouldn’t go in the air conditioned class; he liked to go in the first class. Those days first class was much better than it is today. But then somehow the next stop I got down and ran up and met Srila Prabhupad gave him the prasada.
He said “Where were you?” He was very nonchalant about it. I remember they were sitting there and because we didn’t have proper plates or any tray or anything, so one hand he had the banana and the other hand… eating with two hands we never see this here you know, in the train it was sheer logistics. He was taking with two hands and that time Prabhupad was, somehow the discussion came about milk. So then Tamal Krishna Adhikari at that time, he was asking Prabhupad that in India there are so many kinds of milk, they have buffalo, cow, goat, so many, and somehow he said that “Do dogs give milk?” Prabhupada was you know… and said, “That’s not milk.” with disgust. Then Prabhupad said that apart from cows, buffalo and goat, nothing else is milk.
It was very intimate, you know, being in the same compartment with Srila Prabhupad and going to Allahabad. Of course no one would sleep above him, so we had purchased him two berths. Opposite there would be two people and when we were going in he would bring everyone in, so we would be sitting across either on the ground or on the seat across. He would sit on one seat cross legged, with a cloth there, so it was very intimate opportunity and very wonderful instructions he gave. Because it was so intimate therefore you could and Tamal and I were just by his lotus feet. You can’t think what you are saying before you say it! But normally in another more formal situation that would never happen but then just as soon as you say something that wasn’t right Prabhupad would have immediately shown his transcendental position.
One thing happened in Calcutta that one day we were sitting in his room. I think that they, in his room they always had it completely white. There would be mattresses on the floor and he would have them covered with white sheets and he had big bolster pillows and a seat, not so opulent but a nice seat with a glass cover and he would be sitting there and everything would be white, the room would be white all covered with clean sheets which were changed every day, even a speck and they would be changed, always kept immaculately clean and incense burning. And there were two or three of us sitting there I think maybe that time… forget exactly who was there. I was sitting right in front of Srila Prabhupada and there were about three other devotees at that time and he started just to tell these stories.
He said that in Bengal there was one Gopal Bhar who was the court uh, barber and he was a very… he said there’s a story. Let’s see, how did it go? There was a very high pressure in the king’s court, the king was a judge, he was the administrative head, and everything was on his shoulders. So sometimes between sessions he would need a little relief, comical relief or humorous relief or... So nobody could play off the king and one had to you know, my lord, but the barber and he was like in the western context you might say he was a court jester, Prabhupad never exactly explained what he was but he was the one person, courtier in the court who had the right that he could spoof with the king. That was his unique position. But similarly the king would always treat all his other ministers with great respect; he would never treat them lightly. But the king could also, you know, spoof with this guy.
So one day the King came in… this Gopal Bhar came in, Prabhupad explained, just to give a little background and Prabhupad just started explaining this, Gopal Bhar came in the king said, “Gopal, you are an ass.”
Prabhupad said, that “Gopal said ‘No, there is a difference between me and an ass.’
The king said, ‘Gopal, you are an ass.’
He said, ‘No, your majesty; there is a difference between me and an ass.’
The king said, ‘Gopal, there is a difference between you and an ass?’
‘Yes.’ he said.
‘What is that difference?’
Then he was standing about six feet from the king, he measured off the distance from the king and he said “Six feet!’” (laughter) And Prabhupad was laughing. This is the first time we had ever seen Prabhupad crack a joke. We didn’t really know what to do, Prabhupad was laughing so we were laughing but we were little bit afraid, we didn’t want to do the wrong thing also. Actually just suddenly told us… then he explained how the king has his way and he said that actually even in the humor, in the Vedic humor there are messages. Then he just proceeded to tell more Gopal Bhar stories.
He said “There’s this famous…” he said, “There is a book in Bengal, the histories of this king, Krishnachandra who was in Krishna Nagar near Mayapur which is named after Krishnachandra and his famous court advisor is Gopal Bhar.” So he told the story that “One day…” Prabhupad told the story that one day the king had a new son, heir to the throne and the whole kingdom was rejoicing. So at that time the king was father, heir prince, was very joyful occasion. So then Gopal just happened to show up at that time. He came and the king said, “Gopal, Gopal, this joyous occasion, the birth of the crown prince, what do you have to say? Tell me at this moment. Tell me, how are you feeling?”
So then Gopal Bhar said “To be sincere, I am feeling very happy after passing stool.”
“Oh Gopal! You are so gross! How can you say something like this?” The king became thoroughly disgusted. Just see, here’s… the sake… the Brahmana are doing puja… it’s a big thing and just suddenly, the grossest thing you know. So after that Gopal said, “Don’t be angry, you asked me to tell you how I felt at that moment and I was just telling you the truth.” The king said, “Oh, just out of taste. You’re crude. You have no couth.” So after that the king had a very cold relation with Gopal. This courtier relationship is very dangerous, you know, very sensitive. The king was very turned… you know, very displeased with him and after that there was a cold relationship. He was very formal, he took it very personally. So then after sometime, Prabhupad explained that one day, Gopal after many months was taking him on a boat ride and he was rowing the boat. The king said that “Gopal, pull over. I have to answer nature’s call.”
He said that “No, no, this is not a good place, thieves and things congregate here. It’s a bad place.” So he kept on rowing and little further he kept on going and the king said, “Gopal, you pull over right away.”
He said, “No, no, I can’t, you see it is a very rough area here. It is not a good place. Thorns and things.”
But the king said, “No, no, pull over here right away.”
Gopal said, “Just a little further there is a better place.” you know.
The king said, “Immediately pull over! I cannot wait any longer.”
The king was really getting… so then Gopal pulled over and the king jumped out and did his business, nature call. So then when he came back after washing… he came back and Gopal said that “How do you feel?” He said, “Whew. Relieved.”
Gopal said, “You remember that day, the crown prince was born, such a thing happened to me and just at that moment you asked me how I was feeling? And so I just told you, now you understand?”
The king just said, “Gopal!” So then Prabhupad was laughing, that was too much for us. We didn’t know what to say. We tried to laugh but it was like uh, we didn’t know, you know, because our relationship with Prabhupad was so formal that we didn’t really notice that this was really an intimate joke and the punch line was not the normal that you get in the West so.... But Prabhupad didn’t stop there. He said that “You see there are many cultural things to learn from these stories. What is the position of the king?”
And he told another story. He said that one time Gopal was making a new house and according to the Vedic culture when you make a new house it has to be completely clean, no one should pass stool there. And if they do then they can’t as they have to do puja, griha pravesh and then you can use the house. So Prabhupad was trying to explain that this is the humor, just the normal humor, it doesn’t get any worse than this. But actually even in the humor, it is all based upon subtle relationships in the culture of the Vedas. So “Here he is building his house, he is going to have his puja, as soon as it is completed. So the king offers in the court that Gopal is building a new house and anybody can go there and defile his house and go there and pass nature call, you know, stool in his house, I will give a thousand silver coins.”
So then one person said I will do it, took the challenge. So he made a plan, what to do. One day Gopal was supervising his house construction, seeing everything is going on properly. They had brahmanas to do the foundation stone setting, people building according to the artha sastra and everything. Even for an ordinary house, they are very careful. Suddenly this man came up and said “Gopal, Gopal. There is an extreme emergency, I have to immediately answer nature’s call, please allow me to use your new bathroom.”
Gopal thought “This is very strange. Why he wants to use my new bathroom?”
“Yes, yes, it is alright.” Prabhupad explained then, that the person went and he positioned himself in the bathroom you know, and he wanted to close the door. He said, “Gopal what are you doing standing there with that big stick. Why don’t you let me close the door?”
Gopal said, “No you can pass stool but if you pass one drop of urine I am going to beat your head and kill you.”
So then he said, “Gopal, you win.” and he ran off, you know.
That was the final, that was really too much for us. But indirectly we were taught, this was actually teaching Vedic culture even in the humor, they had to do puja, the kings they were, this was the light side of their day they would… playing games but even the games were based on this Vedic culture even if it was intertwined. You can’t just say, like they say Krishna is so much intertwined that even if somebody gets a little, they call this tamasa, joking is like tama-guna. These are not like the spiritual instructions or something but even though these are so crude or whatever but at the same time it is like within the whole cultural values are completely intertwined and those were the stories that Prabhupad told us. Of course other… there are other different stories. There were just a couple of devotees and in a lighter moment Prabhupad opened up and told us a little bit of what the local humor was like. That way Prabhupad was trying to show that alright even you know, in the humor that has been handed down, this is taught in all the high schools, it is like part of the history of Bengal. That even within the humor there is this cultural connection. There is one more story how; you want to hear one more Gopal Bhar story? Devotee: Haribol!
Gopal Bhar was really smart.
One day the king was going on procession with his courtiers and everyone and then he saw that there was a Brahmana who was wearing a shaligram shila around his neck in a silk bag and then the Brahmana walked up to the side of the road and just with the shaligram shila round his neck he evacuated. So the king said, “Arrest him.” He had him brought to the court and said “What type of Brahmana are you? You are carrying a shaligram shila and then you do such a thing. Do you know that is Narayana that is God? How can you go to the bathroom wearing a shaligram shila? You are not a Brahmana. What do you have to say for yourself?” He started shaking and the king said at sun down you will be beheaded. “If brahmanas like you commit offence to Narayana in the kingdom then the whole kingdom will be destroyed by the offence. So you are not a Brahmana, therefore for committing this offence you should give your life.” So the Brahmana was completely petrified. And then Gopal said, “But your majesty, he is just a carrier of the Lord; he is just a carrier of the shaligram shila.” The king had just sentenced him to death and suddenly Gopal said, “He is just a carrier.”
So he thought this was one of Gopal’s jokes. So the king asked “What do you mean, Gopal? What do you mean he is just a carrier? Don’t butt in now, this is a serious business.”
“No, no, but your majesty he is just the carrier.”
The king knew that something was up. He said, “What do you mean? What do you mean, he is just the carrier? He is carrying the shaligram shila and he passed stool! Could there be a greater offence?”
“But your majesty, he was just the carrier.”
“Explain yourself!” the king said. “What do you mean he is just the carrier?”
And Gopal said, “My Lord, your horse was carrying you. When your horse passed stool, did you take a bath? Did you feel contaminated?”
“Release him! Never do this again!
Gopal, you did it again.”
So it gave a different angle in Vedic culture you know there were very personal relations and very personal things. Of course these are not the pure devotees, this is a king about five hundred years ago or four hundred years ago, just after the time of Lord Caitanya before the British came, during the Mogul period. But even then just only about three hundred years ago Vedic culture was so strong.
Anyway these were the basic ones we heard from Prabhupad and I became so curious that I bought the book. Prabhupad told us the sample just to show that there was another aspect in the lighter side but even the lighter side had its roots in the Vedic culture and similarly he told how… the unusual way you could seek how Vedic culture, how 5000 years ago there was total Vedic culture and how over the time it gradually got watered down, watered down and how it kind of intermingled with maya. As time went on it came with unusual combinations, some of them which are totally mind-boggling. Prabhupad would point out and show that how he could still see certain remnants of the Vedic culture, trained how to pick out what way you could see the roots of the Vedic culture in the humor, in the lifestyle in the history of the modern and neo-modern recent times. Prabhupad slapped his knee, he was laughing when he told the joke. We didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Part of the Gopal Bhar stories the punchline is kind of, it is more like a situation which is very cryptic, very humorous and then surprise ending. And the surprise ending is humorous.
Question: Would you care to… you went to Kumbha Mela. What was the story?
Jayapataka Swami: It’s too late for… that’s a long story.
Question: You said before when you invited the uh… Prabhupada’s Godbrother, who was standing on the stairs, the householder, was he a Godbrother of Prabhupada?
Jayapataka Swami: Like it is in the family tree, cousin brother
Question: Cousin brother. But my… my… He was saying that uh, you shouldn’t visit Prabhupada because he had taken initiation… sannyasa initiation before Prabhupada, but now he was giving instructions… he was a disciple. So he… why would he take his you know, instructions or advice?
Jayapataka Swami: Well, obviously it was political.
Reply: Seems like its contradictory.
Jayapataka Swami: It’s all so big… That is why in Lord Caitanya’s time this wasn’t there. This was the whole thing that for a long time he kept clear from the other mission, that’s wound up a lot now. Prabhupad brought together but it was kind of formal because Prabhupad was actually someone who may have taken sannyasa later but he was very close to Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura and Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur often, on some occasions praised Prabhupad and gave him very specific private instructions. But apparently his success in preaching all over the world the response it should have brought was complete cooperation and everything and Prabhupad comments on this fact in his Caitanya Caritamrita purport especially in the Madhya one… going to Ramakeli, is that was Madhya one?
Comment: Is that Advaitacarya’s…
Jayapataka Swami: Or maybe it is Madhya Two or… Where Lord Caitanya meets Rupa Goswami in Ramkeli, just going to Vrindavana. That is what I have the first one, Madhya One.
“Birth after birth you have been My eternal servants. I am sure that Kṛṣṇa will deliver you very soon.” The Lord then placed His two hands on the heads of both of them, and in return they immediately placed the lotus feet of the Lord on their heads.
After this, the Lord embraced both of them and requested all of the devotees present to be merciful upon them and deliver them.
When all of the devotees saw the mercy of the Lord upon the two brothers, they were very much gladdened, and they began to chant the holy name of the Lord, “Hari! Hari!”
Śrīla Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura says, chāḍiyā vaiṣṇava sevā nistāra peyeche kebā: unless one serves a Vaiṣṇava, he cannot be delivered. The spiritual master initiates the disciple to deliver him, and if the disciple executes the order of the spiritual master and does not offend other Vaiṣṇavas, his path is clear. Consequently Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu requested all the Vaiṣṇavas present to show mercy toward the two brothers, Rūpa and Sanātana, who had just been initiated by the Lord. When a Vaiṣṇava sees that another Vaiṣṇava is a recipient of the Lord’s mercy, he becomes very happy. Vaiṣṇavas are not envious. If a Vaiṣṇava, by the mercy of the Lord, is empowered by Him to distribute the Lord’s holy name all over the world, other Vaiṣṇavas become very joyful—that is, if they are truly Vaiṣṇavas. One who is envious of the success of a Vaiṣṇava is certainly not a Vaiṣṇava himself but an ordinary, mundane man. Envy and jealousy are manifested by mundane people, not by Vaiṣṇavas. Why should a Vaiṣṇava be envious of another Vaiṣṇava who is successful in spreading the holy name of the Lord? An actual Vaiṣṇava is very pleased to accept another Vaiṣṇava who is bestowing the Lord’s mercy. A mundane person in the dress of a Vaiṣṇava should not be respected but rejected. This is enjoined in the śāstra (upekṣā). The word upekṣā means neglect. One should neglect an envious person. A preacher’s duty is to love the Supreme Personality of Godhead, make friendships with Vaiṣṇavas, show mercy to the innocent and reject or neglect those who are envious or jealous. There are many jealous people in the dress of Vaiṣṇavas in this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, and they should be completely neglected. There is no need to serve a jealous person who is in the dress of a Vaiṣṇava. When Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura says chāḍiyā vaiṣṇava sevā nistāra peyeche kebā, he is indicating an actual Vaiṣṇava, not an envious or jealous person in the dress of a Vaiṣṇava.
So Prabhupad wrote these purports not only for the ISKCON Krishna consciousness movement but for the other Krishna consciousness movements as well, other followers of Lord Caitanya. Of course you have to kindly forgive our rudeness in repeating the Gopal Bhar stories publicly, more for the sake of history. If anyone is embarrassed, they should probably cover their ears.
Jayaraseshwari dd 20 October 2014
Revised by Jagannatha dasa Brahmcari