I Remember Bombay

I spent some of the best years of my life at Juhu as a servant of Shrila Prabhupada’s Mission. For it is the greatest joy to render service unto Lord Shri Krishna’s pure devotee. For that service is liberating, enlightening, enlivening, and always filled with divine bliss.

And there at Hare Krishna Land, you have the Divine Purveyors of the highest level of bliss, Their Lordships Shri Shri Radha and Rasa Bihari.

I remember first coming to Juhu, to the Hare Krishna Land beach jungle in 1973. And how quickly Shrila Prabhupada arranged for the construction of the spiritual center His Divine Grace would call “his office.” How quickly arose this great gift to the mega-polis Bombay. Up to that time, Bombay was enjoying every imaginable facility for sense gratification. But in this modern city of an ancient land, one thing was missing–and that was Krishna consciousness.

I had to go back after six months since in those days India was a great visa problem for Americans. So I returned to London and the next year-1974— came overland. The trip back to Mumbai took me through the great capitals of Europe where the Hare Krishna Movement was already thriving. And to hundreds of holy places from the Yamuna, to the Ganga, to the Himalayas, to the Vindyas and the great coast of Gujarat.

Arriving in Bombay I found that India was the still in the pioneer stage. India is a naturally Saturnian country. This means that the results would be most rewarding in the ancient Land of Dharma. But to get to that point were many austerities to perform and many tests to pass.

The preaching in India was different. In the West, our target market had been the hippies. These are the Rahus or dregs of society. There we approached the rejected, the non-conformist, the idealist, the abandoned. But here in India Shrila Prabhupada took us to the homes of great Seths where we dined off huge silver plates.

I remember the lovely warm nights we spent on the roof of the apartment building blessed by his darshan. I remember chanting Shri Ishopanishad with some of the children of Hare Krishna Land like Smita Warrier and Smiti Warrier. I remember Mrs. Warrier, too. How could I forget her? When I was laying sick in the sand with dysentery outside the old straw hut we used to call our ashram, she sent me her homemade herbal medicine which fixed me right up. She was truly magic.

And I remember some of the wonderful Hindu gentlemen who came to Shrila Prabhupada to support his work and who loved his vision.

There was the Sindhi Sadajiwatlal Chandulal Bahl of Panjabi Chandu Halwai. He was always eager to share his devotion to the great Sikh Gurus, showing how each one of these great exalted leaders all had Vaishnava bhava and bhakti. There was Mr. PT Sethi who proudly handled construction as his own Guru-Seva.

The Maharana of Udaipur was a very frequent visitor, and it is safe for me to say that he is one of the greatest and most absolutely brilliant gentlemen I have ever met in my life.

Hari Om and Nandini Sharan often visited for darshan, and they lent their rare talents of singing and chanting the glories of Shri Radha-Rasa Bihari in the temple. Hari Om and I together wrote a nice melody, “Jai Shri Radha-Rasa Bihari” which he eventually recorded for the devotees.

Whenever Hema Malini came to visit, it was like a denizen of the heavenly planets had arrived to bless Shrila Prabhupada’s project.

I remember bathing in the warm, refreshing waters of Juhu Beach when Shrila Prabhupada sauntered by for his morning stroll along the shore. When he saw his disciples bathing, His Divine Grace joined us and waded in. The waters that were fortunate to embrace the sacred body of Rasabehari’s paramhamsa servant have by flowed all over the world blessing each shore.

I remember giving Shrimad Bhagavatam class one day at the first makeshift “temple.” As I was speaking, Shrila Prabhupada walked through the gate, returning from his walk. I could see Guru Maharaja beaming rays of brilliant light from one side of Hare Krishna Land to the other. He is always so pleased if we can just speak whatever he has spoken.

His words, as seen in his voluminous and exacting transcendental literary contributions are all perfectly arranged. And for us to speak this message that he has brought to save us is our glory. For the Absolute Message of Krishna is flowing in Shrila Prabhupada. The great disciplic chain he represents as the current acharya is like electricity that is delivered through the silver wire. His words are just like the nectar of immortality flowing from a sacred mountain. And atop that mountain is Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

I remember gathering reviews for Shrila Prabhupada’s books. My budget for travel, food, and lodging was one dollar a day. And on this one dollar a day I visited practically every part of the sub-continent obtaining reviews for Shrila Prabhupada’s books from the greatest scholars of the land. And amazingly each of them was so eager to lend their approval to Prabhupada’s work.

Their men were Vice-Chancellors, Padma Shris, Padma Bhushans, double Phds with D. Litt. and Presidential award winners in Sanskrit. Each one of these brilliant scholars enthusiastically took Shrila Prabhupada’s books to heart and offered the most sterling review of his writings.

I remember minding the BBT book tent at a Delhi Book Fair when the Prime Minister of Inda, Morarji Desai, sauntered through. I handed the PM a Bhagavad-gita As It Is. He paused and leafed through the pages. Then he smiled gratefully at me, thankful for the As It Is edition. Everyone in India from the top to the bottom loved and still loves Shrila Prabhupada’s work.

I collected hundreds of reviews from foremost scholars. I was sending them to Shrila Prabhupada right up to the fateful last days of Kartika Shukla of ‘77. Later his secretary would tell me that reading these reviews were among the happiest moments when he was leaving in Vrindavana.

I think you all know something about the trumped up accusations against us Bombay Six in 1978. But that is the way it is in the land of tests and tapasya. One day you are honoring prasadam served on silver platters, and the next day you are rotting in a filthy dungeon with 130 men locked up like animals. But after a trial lasting a year, the devotees were found Not Guilty.

During the trial, I was able to prepare the translation to Chanakya Niti with the able guidance of Pandit Shri Badarayana Murti. He was a great Madhva brahmana who had come to serve Prabhupada. And I wrote my authorized tour book on Vrindavana entitled Vraja Mandala Darshan. I wrote that one in the library of Hare Krishna Land with the kind help of Shri Upendra Dasa, a great scholarly devotee originally from Gujarat.

As you all know, even Mrs. Nair whose husband conspired with local gundas in high positions to steal Hare Krishna Land, had to come to the lotus feet of Shrila Prabhupada and beg for his mercy.

Krishna promised Arjuna that His devotee is always victorious. And so is Prabhupada always successful, which means that those who cling tightly to the dust at his twin lotus feet will soon enough overcome samsara and go back to Godhead.

I remember accompanying Shrila Prabhupada on the beach one day when a young lady in her teen years walked up to him and handed our Guru Maharaja a beautifully carved murti of Lord Ganesha. Shrila Prabhupada lovingly examined Ganesh, rubbing his hands over him to take off the sand. For the lady had just pulled the murti from the water.

Prabhupada spoke to her: “They worship for some gain, and when the worship is finished, they say, ‘Get out … and then they throw.” When he handed the Ganeshji back to the young lady we could see that she had well understood his instruction. And now this Ganesh ji would have a permanent place where he would be properly respected each day as the son of Lord Shiva who had arisen from the ocean.

Shrila Prabhupada was and is. a living example of the simple truth that a pure devotee is loved by everyone. Bombay adores Shrila Prabhupada. India worships him. The whole world is taking shelter at the feet of His Divine Grace.

But most of all Their Lordships Shri Shri Radha-Rasa Bihari, Shri Shri Sita-Rama-Lakshmana-Hanuman, and Lords Shri Nityananda and Gaurasundara love our spiritual master as Their empowered representative for even among acharyas, he is the rarest of the rare.

Let us all, therefore, take shelter of His instructions and follow them astutely each day of our lives. Let us remember always who the Founder-Acharya of Hare Krishna Land is. He alone is the savior of the world from the confusion of Mayavada and degraded impersonalism.

Let us together support his great sankirtana movement. For the Holy Names of the Supreme Lord are in truth the only remedy against the bleakness of Kali Yuga.

Let the disciples of our Godbrothers serve their respective Gurus. Yet let them always remember in their heart of hearts that Shrila Prabhupada is the Founder-Acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. And it is his scriptural writings that are the transcendental law books for the next 10,000 years to come.

Jai Hare Krishna Land. Jai Shrila Prabhupada.

 

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