By Premanjana Das
Let me first introduce you to a vaishnavaâ His Grace Radha Madhava Prabhu (formerly Richard Mende) who is now 77 years old and has just completed writing two books which will be published soon. He graduated from the Stanford University and has worked in New York in the film producing industry while he was absorbed in worldly ways of life.
His Grace Guru das Prabhu writes about His Grace Radha Madhav Prabhu:
âRichard Mende’s The Book of Constant Chanting is an important book. He has culled many of the most sublime, meaningful, poetic and life changing verses and slokas from many, many sources. He has painstakingly devoted many hours of research and practice in this intelligent anthology, he wrote for our benefit.
I first met Richard Mende in Radha Kund a small village in India. Although previously experiencing wealth and material success, he has now chosen a life of renunciation, devotion and love of God via the practice of Bhakti yoga and chanting the Holy Names
Hare Rama,Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare
H.G. Radha Madhava Prabhu chanting Hare Krishna
While many were chanting two to three hours a day, Richard was chanting most of the day and night, with little time for eating and sleeping, like some of our saintly predecessors such as Haridas Thakur. I know Richard is bristling humbly as he reads this comparison, but the point I am making is that he practices what he preaches.
That makes Richardâs book even more powerful as he has devoted his life almost anonymously, without striving for fame or position or even a spiritual name for himself. He has always been humble without bringing attention to his scholarship and intelligence. Well, now this book does.
To me, this huge endeavor takes on heroic proportions as no one asked Richard to undertake this. He did this work out of pure love and devotion. He chose to compile this book, just as David chose to fight Goliath when no one expected the Shepard to step up, or, as Prahlad had chosen to be a devotee, when his father taught him differently.
What is striking in this jewel of a book is not only the many sources showing great scholarship, but the placement and choice of verses. Richard has constructed a spiritual palace through The Book of Constant Chanting. Each section builds on the strong foundation of the previous sections. Richard also sparingly but appropriately intersperses his own and other purports, backgrounds of Lord Chaitanya and his devotees as well as verses regarding humility and compassion.
Anu Kirtanum Cintamani “The Book of Constant Chanting” is full of variety and beauty. By the end of reading this volume, one automatically becomes more Krishna conscious.â
His Grace Radha Madhav prabhu once prayed to God when he was enjoying his material life in New Yorkâ “Oh Lord, please help me stop destroying myself.” He received strength to discontinue smoking, drinking and meat-eating, he became vegetarian; then he realized that he was becoming ‘happy’. He read the Quran, Bible, Zen and then the Bhagavad Gita (cover to cover) and was deeply influenced, he went to the lower 22nd avenue ‘Hare Krishna temple’ and then to Brooklyn to stay for weekends. Thereafter, he attended classes on the Bhagavad Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam. He came to India and read Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa, Muktananda, Cidananda, Saibaba and studied various traditions; a common thing which he noticed was that all those sources âglorifiedâ the holy name of the Lord. Later, Radha Madhav prabhu was initiated by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (ISKCON Founder Acharya) in about 1970.
My personal interaction with His Grace Radha Madhav prabhuâ I talked to him on a Sunday afternoon on the 16th of September 2012 just before he was going to give a lecture in the Preetivardhanam classes at ISKCON Juhu temple. I first began by asking him for his picture with Srila Prabhupada, thereupon, Radha Madhav prabhu said that his heart breaks at this as he has none. Radha Madhav prabhu is from New York but he has spent most of his time in Manhattan. He had some conversations with Srila Prabhupada but he recalls one of them:
âThere is one famous conversation between Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Ramananda Rai (mentioned in the Chaitanya Charitamrita) wherein Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is questioning Ramananda Rai about the higher and higher levels of devotional service. Radha Madhav prabhu questioned Srila Prabhupada that why was the chanting of the holy names of the Lord not mentioned in that conversation. Srila Prabhupada answered it in two words- ‘By implication’.â
Radha Madhav prabhu told me about himself â “I was not as close to Srila Prabhupada as His Holiness Satswarup Maharaj and His Holiness Jayadvaita Swami. There were some other conversations which I had with Srila Prabhupada but I forgot all of them after Srila Prabhupada disappeared in 1977.”
“I lived at Radha kund for 7 years. There was 24 hours kirtan when I lived at Radha kund and it was right in my bhajan-kutir (prayer cottage).â Sometimes Radha Madhav Prabhu would have 50 people doing kirtan in a day at Radha kund.
Radha Madhav prabhu also lived at Nawadwipa and he says thatââOne special quality about Nawadwipa dhama is that if you die there, you ‘go back to godhead’ directly, no matter what you are thinking at the time of death (your state of mind at the time of leaving the body) but the same is not the case with other holy places.â But his consciousness changed after living in Nawadwipaâ âIt is great if you go ‘back to godhead,’ but it is also very selfish as we have to preach. Srila Prabhupada says-”preaching is the essence”.â
Radha Madhav prabhu says about ISKCON Mumbai temple (Shri Radha Rasa Bihari ji), âIt is a magnificent temple and attracts a lot of congregation. Devotees who are living in the temple are ‘very fired up devoteesâ. I think that there are enough devotees to do kirtan for 24 hours here.â
Excerpts from the lecture given by His Grace Radha Madhav prabhu on the 16thof September 2012 at the Preetivardhanam classes on Sunday afternoon at the ISKCON Mumbai temple (Shri Radha Rasa Bihari ji) â “I have seen many wonderful devotees, they go just like the moon, well-read, very good mind, give wonderful classes and are good at chanting, but then they fall all the way down. When such a great devotee falls, it is very heart-breaking. I have been close to many of these great vaishnavas, I came to know what happens to them. The root cause of all ‘fall-downs’ is ‘vaishnava-aparadha’. The scriptures teach that even if you are at the level of Lord Shiva and commit ‘vaishnava-aparadha,’ you fall down. There are diverse aspects of ‘vaishnava-aparadhas’ which includes speaking ill of others, like he is lazy etc. even if it is true, we should not speak like that. I used to say terrible things because of inferiority complex; I used to say bad things for others and make ‘ugly remarks’. Best way to get rid of bad habits is to replace them with some good qualities. When I started seeing good qualities in others I started feeling good in myself. âNo one is completely good or badâ. Even devotees have some bad qualities and even mafia has some good qualities. We should not even hear statements against other devotees. We should glorify that devotee and counteract. We can defend that devotee by either glorifying him or just walking away (keeping the ears closed).”
(I have written this article to pay my obeisances to a great disciple of Srila Prabhupada who is still preaching at the age of 77 and gave his entire life to serve the mission of his spiritual master, I am giving ‘a final shape’ to this article on the auspicious day of Vijaya Dasami/Dussera hoping that this article would inspire countless devotees all over the world especially the ones who are slowing down due to their advanced age and also to the Indians who are blindly imitating the west).