Some personal recollections by his disciples.
In January or February of 1971, Srila Prabhupada wrote us from India. He said that in April he would be coming back to America and would visit our Boston temple, where I was president. So we booked a beautiful suite for him in the Sheraton-Boston Hotel and cleaned the place ourselves. We had rented the hotel suite because we didn’t think the temple was very suitable. In that old building we did have two rooms Srila Prabhupada could use, but in many ways they weren’t adequate.
Surprisingly, when Srila Prabhupada arrived and heard that we wanted him to stay in a hotel he refused. “I would rather stay in the temple,” he said. “A hotel is like a brothel.” And he explained, “If you live in such a place, you are living in the mode of ignorance. Generally, though, living in the city is in the mode of passion, and living in the country is in the mode of goodness—but if you live in the temple of the Lord, you are living in the spiritual world.”
Srila Prabhupada accepted his quarters in our old place and assured us he didn’t find them inconvenient. He was glad, he said, to be in the temple. Of course, he made us glad, too—by gracing our temple with his presence and giving it more prestige than the Sheraton-Boston.
Satsvarupa dasa Gosvami
In the early days of our movement—in the little storefront temple at 26 Second Avenue in the East Village—Srila Prabhupada would lecture in the evening and then retire to his upstairs apartment, All of us would be very eager to accompany him, in hopes of getting some personal advice or just hearing him talk more informally. As an excuse to go upstairs, each of us would carry up one of the things Srila Prabhupada had used during the lecture—the watch he’d kept before him on the dais, the Sanskrit Bhagavatam volume he’d read from, or the mrdanga drum he’d played during the chanting of Hare Krsna.
I would bring the mrdanga drum upstairs to the outer room of Srila Prabhupada’s apartment and wait before his door, hoping he would see me and call me in. Sometimes he could call my name: “Madhusudana….” Then, my desire fulfilled, I would enter his room. He was always concerned in a very personal way about me, and he would ask me how my parents were. (At that time I was rather young, just eighteen, and although I was already his disciple, I was still living at home.) “They’re all right,” I would tell him.
Then one night Srila Prabhupada said something that took me a while to comprehend. “Actually,” he said, “you are the parent of your parents. The parent is the one who brings the child to life, the one who gives birth to the child. So you have come to Krsna consciousness first, and therefore you are giving your parents birth into spiritual life, which means eternal life. Actually, you are the real parent.” Around that time, as if to help me understand what he had said that night, Srila Prabhupada would often mention in his lectures that if a person becomes a pure devotee of Krsna, then the Lord will give spiritual liberation to his relatives for ten generations before and ten generations to come.
This story still amazes me. It happened in England in 1969, when we were just opening the London temple (in Bloomsbury, near the British Museum). Srila Prabhupada had come, and he was talking with the more experienced devotees and confirming their projects. “Yes,” he would say—”do it very nicely,” and “Very good—make it first class.” For instance, Mukunda was to continue his efforts in public relations and another devotee was to carry on his work in renovating the building.
So I said, “Srila Prabhupada, everyone seems to have something to do—can you give me something to do?”
“No,” he said, gently but firmly. “What would you like to do for Krsna?”
“I don’t know, Srila Prabhupada,” I said. “I’ve never thought about it. But can’t you give me something to do anyway?”
“No,” he told me again. “Just try to understand our Krsna conscious philosophy: you should decide what you want to do for Krsna.”
I felt really thickheaded. All my life I’d been taught not to think about God at all, or to think about what I wanted Him to do for me. But somehow, a long while later, I got an idea.
“Srila Prabhupada, I was thinking that I’d like to make a synthetic version of the clay drums we play when we’re chanting Hare Krsna. We could even mass-produce them.”
He smiled at me warmly and chuckled, “Yes. That is a good idea. But you must make them unbreakable. Otherwise these Western devotees will simply throw them down like clay pots.”
Srila Prabhupada advised that I go to West Bengal, India, and learn the traditional drum-making art firsthand. Then I could return to the West and develop my manufacturing plan.
Several years later, after I had made several hundred of these drums, I realized, “Srila Prabhupada has helped me discover what I always wanted to do for Krsna.”
I had the good fortune to be in Srila Prabhupada’s room when he was visiting the Mexico City temple in 1974. At that time a disciple who had strayed away had returned and was asking Srila Prabhupada to forgive him. He said he was afraid that Srila Prabhupada might have rejected him forever. The entire room fell silent. Srila Prabhupada lowered his head thoughtfully for a moment. Then he looked up and said, “Krsna is God, and if He likes He can spread Krsna consciousness all over the world in a second, without the help of anyone. But I am not God. I am simply a servant of God, so I require assistance. If someone helps me even a little, I am eternally indebted to him. You have helped me very much, so how can I reject you?” We were all moved by Srila Prabhupada’s humility and forgiveness.