How Prabhupada took Londonisvara

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By His Holiness Tamal Krishna Goswami

(from www. narasimhalila. com/deitypastimes. html)

In London we had another interesting negotiation. By the time I got to London, in September of 1969, Prabhupada was about to get 7 Bury Place. But what is a temple without Deities? Prabhupada instructed us to install Radha Krishna Deities when the temple opened in December, but we didn’t have any Deities, and he didn’t ask for any Deities to be made in India. How are you supposed to find Radha and Krishna in London? We started to ask anyone and everyone. It was like a national alarm, “Anyone knowing the whereabouts of Radha and Krishna please phone such and such number,” and that was the number of Mukunda’s wife, Janaki. Week after week went by. Prabhupada would call us and say, “Where are the Deities?” We said, “We don’t know where Radha and Krishna are.” Prabhupada said, “You have to have Deities.” Finally, miraculously, when we were practically giving up, Janaki got a phone call. Someone said, “We have Radha-Krishna Deities.” Immediately she informed Mukunda, and Mukunda and I went to this man’s house.

The man took us into his study and said, “I have marble Radha Krishna Deities. Would you like to look at them?” Would we like to look at Them? Sure we wanted to look at Them. He took off the cloth, and we offered our obeisances. That was Radha London Isvara. We said, “They’re beautiful, They’re so beautiful.” And They were beautiful. He said, “I’m considering giving Them to your temple.” We said, “Can we bring our spiritual master to see Them?” He said, “Yes, you can do so.” We raced out and immediately called Prabhupada’s apartment near Regents Park. He was resting, so we decided to go there. We went in and told him, “Prabhupada, we found Radha and Krishna.” Prabhupada immediately said, “Take me, I want to see Them.” So, Prabhupada, Mukunda, Shyamasundar, myself and maybe Gurudas went in the temple van. By that time it was the early evening. Prabhupada started to talk with this Indian gentleman in a very friendly way. The man said that these Deities were for some other society, but there was some difficulty, and they could not use the Deities. Prabhupada ignored that point and kept on asking the man, “Where are you from? How are you? How is your wife?” He had the man bring in his wife and children, and Prabhupada blessed everyone. He was talking and talking.

Finally, the man said, “Swamiji, don’t you want to see the Deities?” Prabhupada said, “Yes, we can see the Deities.” It was nonchalant, as if he was not even interested. The man said, “Please, I want to show Them to you.” Prabhupada walked over to Them and said, “Hmm,” turned around, walked back to the sofa and sat down again. The man said, “Swamiji, what do you think? Can you use the Deities?” Prabhupada said, “They look like They may be used.” The man said, “Well, I’m thinking I can give Them to you.” Prabhupada said, “Yes, we could accept Them.” He told us, “Go and see how heavy the Deities are.” Shyamasundar and I went over and I tilted Radharani and said, “Not very heavy,” although She was heavy. Shyamasundar had Krishna. Prabhupada said, “All right, we’ll take Them now.” He said, “Pick Them up.” The man said, “Wait, wait, Swamiji, wait a moment.” Maybe he had an idea of recovering some of the cost. Prabhupada said, “No, no, it’s no problem. These are American boys, they’re very strong.” We carried the Deities out, and the man was protesting, “Swamiji, Swamiji, one minute.” We walked to the van and put Them in. Prabhupada sat in the seat next to the driver’s seat. He said to the man, “I’ll take care of the Deities. We’ll be in touch with you,” and then he said, “OK, let’s drive.” We drove off and when we got around the corner, Prabhupada said, “Stop the car.” We stopped, and Prabhupada said, “Take the cloth off the Deities.” We took the cloth off and, with tears in his eyes, Prabhupada started to sing the prayers from Brahma-Samhita. He said, “Krishna has now appeared in London.”

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1 Akruranatha

I have long relished this transcendental story which has a lot of important lessons in it. We see how Radha-Londonisvara made Their appearance by Their sweet will, and we also see how Srila Prabhupada was an experienced, shrewd negotiator in the service of Krishna, far above the ordinary considerations of mundane moralists.

Undoubtedly there are aspects of the story that remain esoteric. We can barely guess about the intimate exchanges and communications taking place between Srila Prabhupada and Londonisvara, which Srila Prabhupada could not disclose in front of “the man” who made the donation.

However, as I read it these days I am reflecting on how we should be careful not to imitate Srila Prabhupada’s transcendental activities.

Speaking for myself personally, sometimes I tried (for example as a book distributor) to be “callous” to the mundane concerns of the customers as I “liberated” their lakshmi to use in Krishna’s service, but I was not as transcendental as I thought. The mood that I was cleverly getting over on them subtly contaminated my service, and made me less sensitive to the feelings of those around me, in the name of a false transcendence of mundane morality.

Srila Prabhupada did not have to worry about the material concerns of conditioned souls: he was giving them the highest benediction by engaging them in Krishna’s service. I, while still under the grip of false ego, cannot afford to be so insensitive to what they are feeling.

So today as I read the story I am prompted to ask, “What became of ‘the man’ who donated Sri Sri Radha-Londonisvara?” Of course he never ‘owned’ Radha and Krishna, who can only be purchased by pure devotional service, but still he served as an instrument for Their transcendental appearance in Srila Prabhupada’s temple, and I wonder if he and his family later came to visit the temple and became friends with the devotees. Does anybody know?

Comment posted by Akruranatha on June 25th, 2010
2 Akruranatha

Tomorrow a gang of us are going to Santa Cruz for book distribution. Other San Jose devotees will be going door to door in various places around the San Francisco Bay Area, as will devotees in Sacramento, Modesto, Visalia, Ukiah, and Monterey.

The occasion is the Monthly Sankirtan Festival in honor of Srila Bhaktivinod Thakur’s Disappearance Day, which we will observe on July 11, 2010, presenting our scores to him and to the Deities. We have certain goals for books (7,000) and lakshmi ($9,000), but the main theme of this year’s Bhaktivinoda Thakur MSF is that we plan to engage at least 300 devotees in distributing books.

That’s right: 300. For a small, congregational temple like ISV, that is a lot of book distributors!

When I consider the pastime of Srila Prabhupada “taking” Radha-Londonisvara (or actually Sri Sri Radha-Londonisvara running away with Srila Prabhupada), it reminds me of how certain super-empowered book distributors in the past learned to use advanced sales techniques and even mystic powers to convince many unwilling members of the public to give large donations for books they often did not even want. Those book distributors paved the way for us today, softening up the public and creating at least a passing familiarity with Krishna and Bhagavad-gita and Bhakti Yoga. It is by their extraordinary mercy that many of us became devotees.

However, in the 1970s and 1980s we may have emphasized that aspect of book distribution so much that other devotees who could not master the technique were discouraged and did not learn to enjoy book distribution. Some of us tried unsuccessfully, and in the process left a bad impression on the public by coming across as “pushy” or “greedy”.

The devotees at ISV are simply showing the books to people and presenting them on their merits, showing the pictures and explaining what the books are about and why they like to read them.

They leave everyone with a good impression, and get ample donations. They may not do 200 big books in a single day, but they do plenty, and they are very open and friendly. Even the little children go out with their parents and distribute the books, and even visitors at the Sunday feast go out.

This is a kind of book distribution everyone can do. They are not transcending the ordinary codes of morality, but are doing something very respectable and beneficial.

Shy devotees can even set up a table and sell books to those who walk up voluntarily. It really works.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on June 25th, 2010
3 pustakrishna

Sri Krishna bless the sankirtan efforts of the ISV bhaktas (I also am one of them). I wanted to comment on one thing that Akruranath Prabhu brought up about book distribution. Two things, I have personal experience with in Srila Prabhupad’s service regarding the so-called morality or immorality of collection in Krishna’s service.
First, I was a new sannyasi, age 22, in 1972, visiting the Henry St. Brooklyn temple en route to Europe to preach. Bali Mardan das was initiating a push to collect money to purchase a building in Manhattan. Buddhimanta das (bless his heart) was a large man, red-headed, and very ebullient (outgoing, friendly) devotee. He started to go out on the streets passing out sticks of incense and using lines like “pretty, pretty please, give me money”. He was fairly successful and shared his techniques with others. I was no stranger to sankirtan and book distribution, and thinking that this was leaving a poor impression on those who might meet out devotees in dhotis begging for money on the streets of NYC, that the devotees might be perceived as a nuisance. Bali Mardan wanted the money to roll in, and he wrote to Srila Prabhupad complaining about my criticism of the ‘over-bearing’ (as I saw it) collection techniques. Srila Prabhupad simply wrote back that “we should all try to get along”, and he did not criticize Buddhimanta nor my self. By the way, I loved Buddhimanta as a devotee.

Second, I was Srila Prabhupad’s personal secretary in 1976, and we were in Vrindaban upstairs in his quarters when Tripurari and Pragosh (ACBS) came in to ask Srila Prabhupad some questions about book distribution. Both of these individuals were already legendary book distributors. Questions about book distribution in the airports were brought up. I was concerned that the devotees (again) were not open and honest about what they weredoing when collecting funds, and then passing out books to surprised people who would throw the books into the trash in the airports. Srila Prabhupad said: “if they throw the books into the trash, then they are demons.” This was Srila Prabhupad’s angle of vision. My mundane morality shot down again.

I pass these anecdotes on for edification of some things. Obviously, Srila Prabhupad saw Krishna and nothing but Krishna in everything. Pusta Krishna das

Comment posted by pustakrishna on June 29th, 2010
4 Akruranatha

When I was a new bhakta on the Radha-Damodar bus, I was sent out early in the morning with saintly Jayananda Prabhu to get flowers for Sri-Sri Radha-Damodar.

We drove to a nice residential neighborhood near Louisville, KY, and Jayananda parked the van.

I asked, “What are we doing here?” He said we were going to collect flowers from the people’s lawns.

I said, “That is stealing.” He said, the flowers actually belong to Krishna and we are using them for Krishna.

I said, “I agree the flowers belong to Krishna, but the people who own the houses do not understand that and will think we are stealing.”

He said that whether they know or not, they will make benefit from the flowers they planted being offered to the Deities.

I told him I was still not comfortable about it, and he was so kind and gentle he just told me I should stay in the van and read Krishna book while he collected the flowers by himself. I still remember reading that morning about Mother Yasoda sending Krishna off to tend the calves with some yogurt and rice and fruit salad mixed together.

Later, I came to accept the “ajnata sukrti” philosophy and did a lot of things that defied mundane morality in service to Srila Prabhupada under the guidance and encouragement of temple authorities. I admit there was something very sweet and intimate about how surrendered and “culty” we were in our willingness to break ordinary rules to please Prabhupada and advance the cause of ISKCON.

However, in retrospect I can’t help think that we might have advanced the cause better if we were more like Jayananda and did not try to push people into a kind of book distribution they were uncomfortable with.

Maybe according to time and place it was necessary back then. We did not have as much support from congregations, we needed more money to support our temples, and it even seems there was not as much interest among the populace in the books as there is today.

Nowadays I think we can expand book distribution more effectively by marshaling large numbers of happy weekend warriors who just want to spread the mercy as best they can. Even the most expert, seasoned distributor cannot do as many books as an army of friendly, soft-hearted novices.

Today we can organize book distribution like harinama, something everyone can do to share his or her appreciation of Srila Prabhupada’s books, and not the exclusive province of a corps of elite, highly-committed, “take-no-prisoners” super-salesmen.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on June 29th, 2010
5 pustakrishna

As an aside, I cannot imagine Srila Prabhupad sneaking into a neighborhood early in the morning to pick flowers from the yards of others for the temple. We did it, and perhaps we were dovetailing our propensities for our growing love for Krishna. We may not be able to model ourselves after each and every bhakta, and so we need to choose the examples to follow. But, our external analysis of things will hit a wall when we try to think that “mine is the only way.” There are so many ways to serve Krishna, some crooked, some straight, by mundane moral standards. Those may be relative things, but the important task of sravanam, kirtanam, smaranam remain.

Pusta Krishna das

Comment posted by pustakrishna on July 1st, 2010
6 Akruranatha

Yes. Nice points Pusta Krishna Prabhu.

It makes me think of the “sadhur eva samantavyah” verse.

Maharaja Das told me a story about Jayananda in San Francisco:

Jayananda was always working and his old blue jeans were worn threadbare and full of holes. The TP gave him $20 to buy another pair.

Jayananda felt too humble and shy to spend $20 on clothes for himself (!) He put the $20 in the Deity’s box and tried to shoplift a pair of blue jeans, but he got caught. :-(

At his arraignment he explained the whole story before the judge. The owner of the store was so moved by Jayananda’s simple humility and frankness that he declined to prosecute and *gave* Jayananda a pair of blue jeans!! :-)

Of course we also all know the story about how Lord Jagannatha manifested when Malati brought Srila Prabhupada what she thought was a curious “Made in India” item from the Cost Plus store.

We were a counter-cultural lot in those days, but as ISKCON grows and times change, the less crooked and more straight ways to serve Krishna may be preferable, if they can be accomplished with the same surrender and sincerity and purity.

If we are thinking, “I am so honest and sattvik”, that kind of pride will interfere with bhakti, but if we are thinking, “Krishna prefers that I follow the rules of dharma but only for the purpose of pleasing Him”, we might end up finding that doors open for us and successes become possible that we could not dream of while we were an anti-establishment organization of outsiders and social misfits.

Krishna consciousness isn’t just for hippies anymore. Its time for the high court judges (and politicians, doctors, engineers, professors) to start putting on their tilak.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on July 2nd, 2010
7 Babhru

As a sort of counterpoint to Pusta Krishna’s account of Srila Prabhupada’s reply about books that end up in airport trash cans, he said something a little different on another occasion. When Srila Prabhupada visited Honolulu in 1974, someone complained about the apparently indiscriminate book distribution. Srila Prabhupada seemed to think it was more a virtue than a problem. Then the devotee added, “But your books are being thrown into trash cans!”

Prabhupada just said, “After all, they’re my books. If I don’t object, what is the difficulty?”

As one of those who was uncomfortable with what I considered ham-handed tactics, I was a little taken aback, and disarmed, by this comment. Over the years, though, I have met quite a few devotees whose introduction to Krishna consciousness was picking a book up out of a trash can.

Comment posted by Babhru on July 2nd, 2010
8 Akruranatha

Of course something tells me that the pastimes of the Deities, and who they agree to be served by, and how, are all especially within the internal potency. They move by Their sweet will and no one can truly possess Them but by pure devotional service.

I also remember hearing when I was a new devotee that stealing maha-prasadam was not really stealing. :-)

Comment posted by Akruranatha on July 2nd, 2010
9 pustakrishna

Just for the record, Srila Prabhupad said we are taking hippies and making them happies. Really, we need to
keep in mind that Krishna, Lord Chaitanya, is ‘patita pavana’, deliverer of the most fallen souls. So, whether one may be judge or homeless, we really need to recognize that a soul is a soul. From wherever Krishna will attract one, we have to give spiritual nourishment. While we are “hoping” for Chief Justices to become bhaktas, in reality, the numbers of western born bhaktas has decreased over the years. Fortunately, our Indian born blessed brothers and sisters have reawakened their attraction for Krishna and are helping so much to sustain the sankirtan movement in the west.
I just visited New York City and the places of Srila Prabhupad’s inauguration of the movement. I remember when 50 or more devotees would go out on sankirtan and chant in front of the New York Public Library. The enthusiasm for Krishna consciousness distribution is alive and well in San Jose, no doubt. But, it is clearly a great challenge for the temples in the US to attract new western born men and women.
Srila Prabhupad wrote his famous poem on the Jaladuta, you all know. It is all up to Krishna, and we have to depend on Krishna. Who will be a fit candidate? We must try to become transparent conveyors of Srila Prabhupad’s mercy. Pusta Krishna das

Comment posted by pustakrishna on July 3rd, 2010
10 pandavavijaya

I heard I believe from Giriraj Swami at the recent installation of Krishna Balarama at Alachua that the man who gave Londonisvara said he would sponsor any temple that wanted a deity and he sponsored Alachua ’s Krishna Balarama

Comment posted by pandavavijaya on July 4th, 2010
11 Akruranatha

In Palo Alto Friday night, an American man named Heath came and chanted with the party for a long time. The next morning he got a ride with one of the Indian devotees to the temple to attend the lecture by Kesava Bharati Swami. Following the morning program, he went out on a door-to-door book distribution party with Vaisesika Prabhu and KB Maharaja and others.

In the late 1970s we had to engage devotees in temple cleaning and pot washing for a long time before we sent them on book distribution. We (many of us) had a kind of anti-establishment, culty, even scammy book distribution style and one really had to be pretty well indoctrinated into our separatist culture before being willing to be pushy or even deceitful enough to successfully distribute books.

I do not know whether it was necessary back then. Maybe it produced bigger results and more money collected. However, I do know it is not necessary now. Sankirtan is supposed to be a very generous, pleasing, pouring out of mercy to those who are yet insufficiently blessed to have studied Srila Prabhupada’s books. The way Vaisesika Prabhup is organizing the book distribution program in San Jose (and elsewhere) that is exactly what it is.

Maybe Heath need a little more time actually reading and appreciating the books before he becomes successful in distributing them. Nevertheless, he was able to go out on the first day he came to the temple. There was no “dirty little secret” about book distribution we needed to avoid exposing him to.

I have talked to many long-time devotees who did not like doing book distribution and gave it up after a short time because they felt uncomfortable about some of the tactics being stressed, or because they were made to feel embarrassed about not doing as “big” as some of the more accomplished distributors, or (usually) both.

Also, we succeeded in convincing many U.S. Courts in the 1970s that book distribution was a protected religious activity that was essential to our practice of Gaudiya Vaisnavism. We should demonstrate to the world (in ways they can clearly understand) that this really is a pure and positive spiritual benediction — which it truly is — rather than something that gives the public heartburn because they feel we are too aggressive or pushy for money or misleading or even flirting in order to make our sales.

Vaish emphasises our “prime directive” is to always leave everyone with a good impression. Its common sense, really. :-)

Comment posted by Akruranatha on July 4th, 2010
12 Akruranatha

Thank you Pandavavijaya Prabhu. It is very pleasing top the heart to hear that the devotee who donated Sri Sri Radha-Londonisvara sponsored Alachua’s Krishna-Balaram Deities and is continuing his service of sponsoring Deities to ISKCON temples.

He is obviously a recipient of Srila Prabhupada’s great mercy and was involved in one of the very important chapters of ISKCON lila, so it is only natural to expect that he has continued with great satisfaction in performing the service of supplying Deities to Srila Prabhupada’s temples.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on July 4th, 2010
13 Akruranatha

Yes, Pusta-Krishna Prabhu, of course we should distribute Krishna consciousness indiscriminately, to whomever will take it.

Often those who are not sufficiently “materially exhausted” are too proud or too attached to take it seriously.

And yes, in the past “hippies were our best customers”, and a larger cross-section of our generation were hippies.

One thing though: in the past we were sometimes so indiscriminate about who we welcomed into our community (and in those days we lived together and slept and bathed in the same buildings) that we ended up getting more than our share of so-called “lazies and crazies” and criminals.

IMHO (and as always I may be totally wrong), our old model of “moving everyone in” to an alternate society with our own economy and government, a world unto itself, was an ill-conceived strategy, at least for carrying out the long-range and deeply transformative mission we have been assigned. It may have been a “hippie commune” ideal that crashed into the reality of real varnasrama civilization.

It is usually easier to convince homeless people, people with emotional and mental problems who cannot fit in anywhere else or provide for their own economic needs, to “move in” with us.

And naturally, those who move in become purified and eventually become somewhat faithful devotees (although as Srila Prabhupada points out in the Purport to 9.3, “some people come and apply themselves to Krsna consciousness with some hidden motive, and as soon as they are economically a little well situated they give up this process and take to their old ways again.”)

But in the long run it is a great drain on energy and our own psychic equilibrium to have to live with too many people with backgrounds in mental hospitals and corrections institutions (as many homeless people are). As a matter of strategic planning and “triage,” I think we should have a more carefully considered policy regarding who can actually stay in a temple asram, and for how long and under what terms.

Not everyone is cut out to be a monastic or a brahmana. Permanent temple life, at least in urban preaching temples, should be reserved for those who really have a brahminical vocation, IMHO. Such sattvic, tolerant devotees can live happily together in peaceful ashrams. Bringing in too many “differently qualified”, special needs devotees actually sometimes drives our better devotees away.

I do believe in temporary, intensive live-in training for qualified students.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on July 5th, 2010
14 pustakrishna

For the sake of discussion, and to keep things close to Sri Krishna’s teachings precisely, we understand that four classes of people approach Krishna, Chatur vidhi bhajante mam…and we understand them to be those who are “sukritina”, pious souls. They may be materially depressed economically, they may be afflicted emotionally, they may be curious, and they may be seekers. I think it is important for us to see through the shastra and understand things through the shastra. When we inject our values, we run the risk of becoming translucent or even opaque, rather than “transparent” mediums to Krishna. To remain “parampara”, we need to do this. It is really necessary. Whether one is ‘trained up’ in a brahmachary ashram or by visiting the temple from outside, it is an external detail. The Krishna conscious movement was spread throughout the world by dedicated and grateful souls who felt a debt to their spiritual master. We can be cut down at the knees at any moment by the power of Maya, Krishna’s deluding energy. To remain parampara is critical to keeping the shelter of Krishna.

Srila Prabhupad’s vision is necessary to hold close to our hearts. I am placing these words out there to emphasize an important conception. Even ’seekers’ might appear bazaar. Certainly, Sripad Radhanath Swami after being a far-out cave dweller, must have been a sight to see. We must be slow to criticize the book by looking at its cover, because within there is a divine part of Krishna, perhaps a sakha or sakhi/gopi, or perhaps someone who will become a great preacher and distributor of Krishna consciousness. Krishna will watch out for His mission…our business really is distribution of the mercy of Sri Sri Guru Gauranga. To the extent that Krishna will facilitate our service, we must be grateful to play some small role. Any discussion in this regard will not be taken as an offense by our devotional friends and Godbrothers.

Pusta Krishna das

Comment posted by pustakrishna on July 5th, 2010

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