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When I traveled with Srila Prabhupada.

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Govinda Dasi: When I traveled with Srila Prabhupada someone would invariably send him a flier, or a brochure or some form of advertising for Krishna consciousness for his approval. If it did not have his title, “Founder-Acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness”, along with his name on it, he would immediately have us call that devotee to correct the error. It didn’t matter if it was in the middle of the night because it was a significant matter in his eyes. I didn’t understand why, but then he explained to me one time that if the spiritual master’s name and titleis not put there, along with whatever work we do, then that is the beginning of fall down. That means that the disciple is not acknowledging that everything is coming from the spiritual master. And it can be so subtle. It was a very important issue to Srila Prabhupada.

Along that same line, I remember there was a wonderful advertisement done in the early days in the Back to Godhead that read, “This man has changed the world” along with a picture of Srila Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada was so upset when he saw this. He said, “The disciple should never refer to the spiritual master as a ‘man’. This is aparadha and it’s the beginning of falldown.” So sometimes when I hear someone say he was a great man, I just cringe. I feel sometimes if I hear this and I say anything, they’ll think I’m a fanatic. But the fact is, that is what he said. And he’s usually right.

Guru-Gauranga: When Prabhupada came to Geneva there were many notable personalities, scholars, writers and scientists, who came to visit Srila Prabhupada. One such memorable conversation was with a Swiss author and researcher of myths, Sergius Golowin. He had been personal friends with Timothy Leary, the propagator of the LSD culture, and Friedrich Durrenmatt, a world famous Swiss-German writer. Being a contemporary of these gentlemen, Golowin had quite a following in Berne, the capitol of Switzerland. He was considered very avant-garde, a spiritualist and a researcher of esoteric spirituality. Because of his background I invited him to come meet Srila Prabhupada and he accepted.

I brought Golowin into Srila Prabhupada’s quarters, and Prabhupada looked up and Golowin said, “Thank you for inviting me.” Prabhupada indicated he could take a seat on the floor where we had provided a cushion. He sat down and Prabhupada said, “So, do you have any questions?” The man said nothing. I thought to myself, “Did he understand Srila Prabhupada? Why isn’t he answering? He’s a writer and an intelligent person. Why is he just silent?” Then I started becoming panicky within myself, like “Why did I invite this man? Prabhupada just asked him if he had any questions and he’s not answering.” Just at that point the man said, “No, I have no questions. I’m just very happy to be here in your presence.” I felt relieved. I thought, “At least this gentleman knows that he’s in the presence of someone great.” And then there was silence again.

Prabhupada didn’t speak and Golowin kept quiet. Again I started getting nervous. “Why had I arranged for this? What would Prabhupada say?” At that point, just as my doubts were crystalizing, Prabhupada asked for the harmonium and he began to play and sing a bhajan. It was the most intense solo bhajan I had heard or seen Prabhupada ever give. He continued for thirty minutes with his eyes closed. It was so clear to me that Prabhupada was in a place I have yet to be able to understand. It was a total meditation by everybody on Prabhupada. When Prabhupada finished his bhajan he looked up at everybody and again we were back to silence. Golowin finally spoke up and said to Prabhupada, “Thank you so much. It’s been an honor to be in your presence.” Prabhupada said, “Thank you,” tilting his head, and then he looked at me as Golowin was getting up to take leave and Prabhupada said, “Make sure he gets prasadam.” That was it.

I realized from that exchange that Prabhupada could preach in any situation. A so-called big man with big thoughts, who had not a single thing to say to Prabhupada, but what did Prabhupada see? Did he see somebody who was ignorant? Perhaps. Did he see somebody who was receptive, and that the only way to get Krishna to this man was to chant? So that’s what Prabhupada did. What I take away from that is that every situation was a preaching situation for Prabhupada. There was no menu or formula that fit all. Prabhupada could reciprocate with each and every suffering conditioned soul in a way that only Prabhupada, being a pure devotee of Krishna, could understand and deliver Krishna consciousness. I always remembered after that, not to have preconceptions about who is worthy and what is the proper way or formula to preach. We have a vast array of tools that Prabhupada gave us, and any one of them, in this case the Holy Names, a bhajan, and prasadam were what was required.

 


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