Radha Kund Remembering Srila Prabhupada
Posted April 16, 2007
Radha Kund: As we were walking through the airport, Prabhupada stopped to tell Sri Govinda, whose tilak went up his forehead and continued on top of his head, "This is not a racing stripe. This is tilak. It stops at the forehead." Then I knew for sure how to put on tilak. I was walking and dancing in front of Prabhupada, and I could see that he was heading to an entrance door instead of an exit door, so I ran ahead and pulled the door open for him. When Prabhupada walked by he said, "Thank you." God, it was the greatest thing in the world that he said something to me.
My initiation was the next day. The Radha-Damodar traveling bus party was also there and a lot of devotees were initiated that day. About a month before this, The Nectar of Instruction had been published, and for the first time people heard of Radha Kund. As the devotees were called up to get their beads, they made a lot of errors. They paid their obeisances to Srila Prabhupada with their rear-ends facing the Deities, Kishor-Kishori. Prabhupada told them to move. They would reach with their left hand to get their beads. When one devotee recited the principles, he said, "Don't eat after dark." Everyone was nervous and ecstatically discombobulated. They didn't know what to do or how to present themselves. I was watching and thinking, "Pay obeisances to the side, reach with the right hand, the four regulative principles, sixteen rounds. Okay, I've got this. I'm going to do this right." When I was called up I was still thinking, "Four regulative principles, sixteen rounds, right side, right hand." I was so intent on saying these things to Srila Prabhupada that Prabhupada picked that up. He knew that I was anxious to tell him, and so he sat there looking at me. I was waiting for him to ask me, and he was waiting for me to tell him. Finally he smiled and chuckled. He said, "What are the regulative principles?" I recited them, and then said I would chant sixteen rounds daily. He took my beads from the microphone stand and looked at me with a smile. Then he got sober and said, "Your name is Radha Kund." When he said that, it was like the Fourth of July. Five-hundred devotees exclaimed "Ooo, ahh!" because they had just read about the glories of Radha Kund. That was my first association with His Divine Grace.
The next evening Prabhupada played the kartals in a two-four beat, which we had never heard before. With his eyes closed he sang, "parama koruna pahu dui jana, nitai gaurachandra." Only Dhirakrishna and one or two others knew the song. All the rest of us were dumbfounded to hear this concert from Srila Prabhupada. Prabhupada came out of his samadhi, looked around, and said, "You don't know this song? Tomorrow you'll know this song." He put the kartals down and started class. We all felt strange. The next day, Balavanta and Rupanuga, the head men there, gave us copies of the song. When Prabhupada sang the first stanza we sang along with him. Then Prabhupada stopped, because Paramahamsa Swami, who was playing the mridunga, had no idea how to play the two-four beat. It was altogether different. Prabhupada said, "Give me the mridunga." This was the first time Prabhupada had played the mridunga in years. It was a spectacular moment in life and also an exclusive that Prabhupada was going to play the mridunga. But since it was humid in Atlanta, the mridunga had a horrible plap, plap, bang, bang sound. It had no tone. Dhirakrishna went off and brought Prabhupada a high-quality mridunga. But it too had a plap, plap, bang, bang sound because of the humidity. In front of all of us Prabhupada performed a miracle. He put that mridunga in his lap, and just by the tapping of his hand, sri mridunga came into tune, and then he started to sing again. Prabhupada was our hero. He conquered the mridunga, and he had a look on his face that he had figured it out. Everyone was roaring. Prabhupada was victorious in everything he did. It was so cool.
When Prabhupada gave the Sunday feast lecture, a Christian woman kept interrupting him. She said, "It says in the Bible that Jesus is the only way." Prabhupada said, "Yes, the teachings of Christ are the only way. One has to surrender to a guru. One has to follow the principles of religiosity." Prabhupada humored her, but the devotees wanted to toss her out. One Sikh person called out, "In our scriptures there's no mention of Krishna, but we worship Govinda, Gopal." Prabhupada said, "That's good. Worship Govinda, Gopal; that's fine enough." Then the Christian woman interrupted again, and Prabhupada interrupted her. He said, "Have you seen God?" She said, "No." Prabhupada said, "Then why are you speaking? Don't speak anymore." All the devotees said, "Jaya!" and at that point the woman left. That was neat, because Prabhupada was caught in an awkward social situation. It was a Sunday feast. The temple was packed with devotees and guests, as well as the news media, and this woman was causing a disturbance. I wondered how Prabhupada was going to handle it, and the personality that he was, he handled it beautifully.
One morning, Pushkar's painting of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Prabhupada sitting in a chair was on the vyasasana. Prabhupada kept his head tilted and away in a mood of a child sitting humbly in front of his father. For Prabhupada, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur was there. Prabhupada made sure that everything was perfect, that there were no problems. Even though his Guru Maharaj was in the form of a painting, Prabhupada treated him as if he were actually there. After Prabhupada chanted, he got off his vyasasana to offer the gurupuja arati. I was standing two feet to Srila Prabhupada's right as he did the arati, and I watched every move he made. After he offered the conch, he saw that there was no bowl for the offered water. In the roar of the kirtan, no one could hear his voice, but he looked at Rupanuga, and with his lips he said, "I need a bowl." All of a sudden, the devotees started roaring out "Haribol, Haribol!" and the whole room started chanting "Haribol." Prabhupada looked at them with the expression, "What do I have to work with here?" It was a funny moment.
In order to be continuous and keep the flow going, Prabhupada tossed the offered water to a Tulasi devi plant that was near the picture of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, about three feet away and four feet high. The water came out of that conchshell in a perfect stream and circled around Tulasi devi without as much as splashing her. It was miracle number two. I was overwhelmed. What Prabhupada did was not within the laws of physical nature.
Before this I had a romantic notion of who Prabhupada was. Although he initiated me, I was not convinced to the core of my heart that he was a pure soul who was in complete communication with Paramatma, with Lord Krishna. I didn't appreciate that reality. I thought, "It sounds good; we should think like that," but I didn't think so.
Then it was time to blow the conchshell. It was a little conchshell, and its blowing hole was not properly made. Later the pujari mentioned that he gave Prabhupada the wrong conchshell. That conchshell hardly worked for me, a twenty-year-old. The whole room was waiting to hear Prabhupada blow this conchshell. I thought, "Oh, this 'old man' ain't gonna be able to blow this conch- shell." Srila Prabhupada took this conchshell to his lips, and with- out taking a breath he blew it perfectly three times. It was miracle number three. I realized that Srila Prabhupada was a pure devotee who was outside the laws of nature. That was the most amazing thing.
On the only morning walk that I was ever on, I was directly behind Srila Prabhupada. I could see the three wrinkles on his neck, the tilt of his head, the quickness of his cane, and his smooth and soft gait, which appeared to be slow until you found yourself taking an extra-quick step to stay with him. He actually walked fast, which surprised me because it didn't look like we were walking fast. But I found myself having to move quickly to keep up. Srila Prabhupada would stop to answer a question or make some philosophical point, and all the devotees wanted to hear, so I was always being pushed from behind into Prabhupada. I found myself leaning backwards to keep from bumping Srila Prabhupada. At one point some big, tall, goofy devotee said over my shoulder, "Srila Prabhupada, is Krishna blue when nobody is around?" Srila Prabhupada immediately stopped, turned around, and looked at me with a disgusted, angry expression. Prabhupada's face was close to mine, and I tried to communicate, "It wasn't me talking, it was that guy." But Prabhupada looked at me and said, "Just read my books," with a tone that seemed to say, "You idiot." Then he turned around and continued the walk, and I stepped on the back of his shoe. First I got sauced, and on top of that I gave him a shoe flap. The devotees were looking at me like they wanted to kill me. Everyone thought I had asked that question. And then I stepped on Srila Prabhupada's shoe. Well, you can imagine.
At the Sri Chaitanya Chandradoya Mandir in Mayapur, the gurukuli boys and girls were the first ones in line in front of Prabhupada's vyasasana, and I was next to the children. When Prabhupada finished class, he walked down the center aisle and patted some of the kids' heads. I bent my head down, hoping, and Prabhupada laughed and patted me on the head too.
At this time Prabhupada was leading a procession to circumambulate the Radha-Madhava Deities and ring the temple bell. After he touched my head I paid my obeisances, and when I got up Brahmananda was standing there with a serious look on his face. I thought, "Oh, God, what are you doing here? You should be in the procession with everybody else." Brahmananda said, "I've been waiting for Prabhupada to pat me on the head for ten years, and he still hasn't done it," and then he went on. That was pretty cool. Brahmananda stopped to tell me that it was neat.
In 1976 Srila Prabhupada was in L.A. for the last time. In L.A. there's an alleyway with steps to a side door that leads to Prabhupada's apartment above the Deities. To go on his morning walks Prabhupada went through that door to a waiting car. One morning I was on the side of the steps when all the other devotees were facing Prabhupada's door. Srila Prabhupada opened the door, and everybody said, "Jaya, Srila Prabhupada!" and offered their dandavats. I offered my dandavats, "-Nama om vishnu-padaya krishna-preshthaya bhu-tale srimate bhakti-" and jumped up, because I didn't want to miss Prabhupada's form at all, ever. In all the different times I was around Prabhupada, I was always in front, and I never looked at anything else.
Anyway, as I was paying my obeisances, Prabhupada went down the stairs and
said, "Hare Krishna," in a dark, deep voice. I heard that as I was getting
up, and without meaning to, I mimicked him, "Hare Krishna," because it
sounded so cool. I thought, "Oh, God, what have I done? I just sent myself
to hell. I just made guru maha aparad." I was very scared and freaked out. I
thought I'd ruined my life that Prabhupada would tell me, "Get out!" Well,
to my surprise Prabhupada looked at me, clinched his fist and said, "Jaya!",
and then got into the car. I was overwhelmed. Prabhupada appreciated that I
wasn't being sarcastic. I said it because it sounded so great.