On Thursday 22 October 2009 we celebrated Srila Prabhupada’s 32nd Disappearance anniversary

Samadhi arati

Samadhi arati

here in Mayapur. It was a transcendentally enlivening event, attended by approx. 4,000 yatris from Mumbai and other places, who are all here with HH Radhanath Swami for their Kartika Navadvipa-mandala-parikrama.

We listened to profound recollections, realizations and lilas from Srila Prabhupada’s disciples including Their Holinesses Ramai Swami, Kavicandra Swami, Umapati Swami and Radhanatha Swami, as well as HG Sitala dasi, Ragatmika dasi, Kulingana dasi, Rajendranandan dasa, Pancaratna dasa, Suresvara dasa, Sauri dasa, Bhavananda dasa and many others. We were also glad to welcome and hear from HH Bodhayan Maharaja,

Kavicandra Swami, Radhanatha Swami, Bodhayana Swami

Kavicandra Swami, Radhanatha Swami, Bodhayana Swami

the Acarya of the Gopinatha Gaudiya Matha founded by His Divine Grace Bhakti Pramoda Puri Maharaja.

Afterwards we observed puspanjali and maha-arati in the Puspa Samadhi and this was followed by a wonderful feast,

offerings

cooked in the best traditions of ISKCON Mayapur. In the evening we gathered again to hear from Mayapur’s transcendental twins Jananivas and Pankajanghri prabhus and others, before observing the actual time of Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance by singing Ye anilo prema-dhana….” followed by arati and prasadam distribution.

I can say that personally I thought it was one of the best disappearance festivals I have attended. Many of the talks, especially those of Rajendranandan prabhu and Sitala dasi, were deeply appreciated, and you can download those from the Mayapur website  www.mayapur.com

But that’s not what this blog is about. I want to mention another smaller, more personal anniversary.

The Disappearance day this year marked the 20th anniversary of my personal worship to my Deity of Srila Prabhupada.

Resize of SP murti 002

I guess its a milestone, a marker of devotion. Of course, our worship of Srila Prabhupada is eternal and unending. In that perspective, 20 yrs. isn’t much. But from the view point of a limited life in this Kali-yuga body, it represents one third of my current life’s duration. So I am happy to have achieved it.  I want my personal service to His Divine Grace to go on and on, and my little bit of one hour puja everyday helps keep me connected in a way that performing other services don’t.

In late 1988 I was feeling a little adrift. In 1984 I had given up my sannyasa, and with it all my services as GBC of the South Seas. It took me several years to get over the turbulence and by 1988 I was feeling more positive but also feeling a real need to connect with Srila Prabhupada through some personal service. I started to think about worshipping his Deity but in Australia none was to be found. So I decided I would look in Mayapur and Vrindavana at the1989 Gaura Purnima festival.

In February 1989 then, I came to India. I had a cursory look around Navadvip but I knew there would not be much on offer and that Vrndavana would be the best place. In early March I went out to Loi Bazaar and spent the best part of a day seeking a nice Deity but to no avail. I returned to Krsna Balaram Mandir disappointed.

Next morning I had an appointment to see Bhurijan prabhu

Resize of Bhurijan-mridanga

on the top floor of the Gurukula. As I approached his room, I ran into Aindra prabhu.

Resize of aindra-smile

We are old friends and it was during my tenure as GBC of New York in 1982 that, with my encouragement, Aindra made the decision to come and live in Vrndavan. So here he was, standing outside his room, effulgent and smiling and happy to see me. We talked, and he invited me to see his Deities that he was keeping for his personal puja.

Stepping into his room was an event. The whole place was plastered in cow dung, from top to bottom. In the center, taking up most of the space, was a large wooden simhasana with a host of Deities residing there. I was impressed. As we talked, I suddenly thought, “I wonder if Aindra knows where I can get a nice Deity of Srila Prabhupada.”

As soon as I gave voice to my thought, he dipped his hand behind a curtain covering a set of concrete shelves and instantly produced a beautiful murti of His Divine Grace. “Here, you can have him prabhu. He was given to me six months ago but I haven’t worshipped him because I already have another Deity of Prabhupada on my altar.”

I immediately took it as a confirmation from Srila Prabhupada that he wanted me to begin personally worshipping him again. The Deity was exactly what I was looking for. The right size for traveling, and nicely formed. It looked like Srila Prabhupada. I was very happy.

But I didn’t begin worshipping him immediately. I needed to get myself properly situated before I undertook a task I knew that I could not stop once I started. Being “properly situated” meant getting my asrama status in order. i.e. I needed a good devotee wife to stabilize my life so that I could make steady progress in devotional service. Together we could take up the worship. If for some reason I could not do it one day, she could do it instead.

I thought about an incident in Hyderabad in August of 1976. At the opening of the temple Srila Prabhupada had been given a shaligram-shila by Sri Sampath Kumar Bhattacarya, the leader of the S. Indian pandits who had done all the rituals for the installation and opening. Later he called Pradyumna prabhu into his room:

Pradyumna is on the far right

Pradyumna is on the far right

August 21 1976- Hyderabad

[TD4]

Prabhupada turned to Pradyumna prabhu. He asked him if would like to personally worship the salagrama-sila given by Sampath Kumar, which was still sitting on his desk. He obviously had changed his mind about sending the Lord to the Bombay temple.

Pradyumna was readily agreeable and so Prabhupada gave him some simple instructions. “So we can carry, and every morning just put in a simhasana and tulasi and water and flower and little fruit. That’s all.” Then turning to the rest of us he said, “He has got tendency to worship.”
“He is brahmana, pandita,” Gargamuni added.
“Panditji,” Prabhupada smiled, calling Pradyumna by his popular sobriquet.
Gargamuni mentioned that Pradyumna was also training his son, Aniruddha, and Prabhupada smilingly added, “Yes, his son will be great pandita. Both of them are devotees — husband and wife; therefore nice son is born. Yatha bijam yatha yoni. Yoni is the mother, bijam is the father.”
Then Prabhupada digressed a little, fondly recalling how his own father, following the advice of his spiritual master, always traveled with salagrama-sila hanging around his neck wrapped in a linen handkerchief. “Yes. So it is safe always, kantha. My father used to carry. Wherever he would stay, ganga-jala, tulasi, decoration; say, half an hour business. My father was a great devotee, yes.”
“You dedicated the Krsna book to him,” Gopala Krsna recollected.
Srila Prabhupada smiled. “Yes. Because he was a pure Vaisnava. And he wanted me to become like this. He was praying to Radharani. And any saintly person would come, he would simply say, ‘Give blessings to my son that he may become a Radharani’s servant.’ That was my father’s prayer. He never prayed that ‘My son may become very rich man.’ He never prayed like that. Actually, his ardent desire that his son may become a Vaisnava and my Guru Maharaja’s training, has put me this position. That I have admitted, later on. What is that word I have given? Hmm? Find out.”
Gopala Krsna knew just what Prabhupada meant. He quoted, “Which was later on solidified by my eternal father.”
Prabhupada’s eyes lit up. “Ahh! Read it.”
Gargamuni read Srila Prabhupada’s dedication from the front of the Krsna book: “To my father, Gour Mohan De, 1849-1930, pure devotee of Krsna, who raised me as a Krsna conscious child from the beginning of my life. In my boyhood ages he instructed me how to play the mrdanga. He gave me Radha-Krsna vigraha to worship and he gave me Jagannatha Ratha to duly observe the festival as my childhood play. He was kind to me, and I imbibed from him the ideas later on solidified by my spiritual master, the eternal father.”
As we expressed our appreciation, Prabhupada’s features softened with natural humility and affection. “That is a fact. I got good father and good spiritual master.”
Gargamuni contrasted that with our fortune. “We have gotten bad father, but now we have spiritual father.”
But Prabhupada didn’t agree. “No bad father. Unless good father, son cannot be good. Yatha yoni yatha bijam.” He added that his father had never chastised him.
I thought I remembered him saying that his mother was always very strict and I mentioned this.
Prabhupada smiled. “Because he was very lenient; so mother had to be little strict for my education.”
As the meeting broke up and everyone filed out, Prabhupada finalized Pradyumna’s new duty with him. He told him to buy a small simhasana, a panca-patra waterpot, and some fine linen from which he should make a small dhoti and chadar for the Lord. He was to worship Him with flowers, tulasi and gopi-candana. He referred him to the painting in Caitanya-caritamrta Adi-lila, where Sri Advaitacarya was depicted worshipping the salagrama-sila, and told him to follow that example.
He instructed Pradyumna, “First thing is that when you take salagrama-seva, wherever you stay, this worship must go on daily. That you cannot stop. One day, if you are sick, your wife will do that. But that half an hour puja must continue. That you must decide. So both of you are initiated. In case you are little sick, your wife will do. In that platform you have to do it. Seva shall not be stopped. Gradually as your son grows, he will also do it.”
So although Prabhupada sometimes complains about Pradyumna’s smarta-brahmana tendencies (he once said that he had saved Pradyumna from becoming a smarta) still he recognizes his good brahminical qualifications and learning and is always encouraging him to develop them.
>>> Ref. VedaBase => TD 4-3: Hyderabad

Prabhupada turned to Pradyumna prabhu. He asked him if would like to personally worship the salagrama-sila given by Sampath Kumar, which was still sitting on his desk. He obviously had changed his mind about sending the Lord to the Bombay temple.

Pradyumna was readily agreeable and so Prabhupada gave him some simple instructions. “So we can carry, and every morning just put in a simhasana and tulasi and water and flower and little fruit. That’s all.” Then turning to the rest of us he said, “He has got tendency to worship.”

“He is brahmana, pandita,” Gargamuni added.

“Panditji,” Prabhupada smiled, calling Pradyumna by his popular sobriquet.

Gargamuni mentioned that Pradyumna was also training his son, Aniruddha, and Prabhupada smilingly added, “Yes, his son will be great pandita. Both of them are devotees — husband and wife; therefore nice son is born. Yatha bijam yatha yoni. Yoni is the mother, bijam is the father.”

Then Prabhupada digressed a little, fondly recalling how his own father, following the advice of his spiritual master, always traveled with salagrama-sila hanging around his neck wrapped in a linen handkerchief. “Yes. So it is safe always, kantha. My father used to carry. Wherever he would stay, ganga-jala, tulasi, decoration; say, half an hour business. My father was a great devotee, yes.”


“You dedicated the Krsna book to him,” Gopala Krsna recollected.

Srila Prabhupada smiled. “Yes. Because he was a pure Vaisnava. And he wanted me to become like this. He was praying to Radharani. And any saintly person would come, he would simply say, ‘Give blessings to my son that he may become a Radharani’s servant.’ That was my father’s prayer. He never prayed that ‘My son may become very rich man.’ He never prayed like that. Actually, his ardent desire that his son may become a Vaisnava and my Guru Maharaja’s training, has put me this position. That I have admitted, later on. What is that word I have given? Hmm? Find out.”

Gopala Krsna knew just what Prabhupada meant. He quoted, “Which was later on solidified by my eternal father.”

Prabhupada’s eyes lit up. “Ahh! Read it.”

Gargamuni read Srila Prabhupada’s dedication from the front of the Krsna book: “To my father, Gour Mohan De, 1849-1930, pure devotee of Krsna, who raised me as a Krsna conscious child from the beginning of my life. In my boyhood ages he instructed me how to play the mrdanga. He gave me Radha-Krsna vigraha to worship and he gave me Jagannatha Ratha to duly observe the festival as my childhood play. He was kind to me, and I imbibed from him the ideas later on solidified by my spiritual master, the eternal father.”

As we expressed our appreciation, Prabhupada’s features softened with natural humility and affection. “That is a fact. I got good father and good spiritual master.”

Gargamuni contrasted that with our fortune. “We have gotten bad father, but now we have spiritual father.”

But Prabhupada didn’t agree. “No bad father. Unless good father, son cannot be good. Yatha yoni yatha bijam.” He added that his father had never chastised him.

I thought I remembered him saying that his mother was always very strict and I mentioned this.

Prabhupada smiled. “Because he was very lenient; so mother had to be little strict for my education.”

As the meeting broke up and everyone filed out, Prabhupada finalized Pradyumna’s new duty with him. He told him to buy a small simhasana, a panca-patra waterpot, and some fine linen from which he should make a small dhoti and chadar for the Lord. He was to worship Him with flowers, tulasi and gopi-candana. He referred him to the painting in Caitanya-caritamrta Adi-lila, where Sri Advaitacarya was depicted worshipping the salagrama-sila, and told him to follow that example.

He instructed Pradyumna, “First thing is that when you take salagrama-seva, wherever you stay, this worship must go on daily. That you cannot stop. One day, if you are sick, your wife will do that. But that half an hour puja must continue. That you must decide. So both of you are initiated. In case you are little sick, your wife will do. In that platform you have to do it. Seva shall not be stopped. Gradually as your son grows, he will also do it.”

So although Prabhupada sometimes complains about Pradyumna’s smarta-brahmana tendencies (he once said that he had saved Pradyumna from becoming a smarta) still he recognizes his good brahminical qualifications and learning and is always encouraging him to develop them.”

As fortune would have it I met and married a wonderful devotee, Sitala dasi (long story, maybe for another blog). We married in front of Sri Sri Radha Londonisvara on Friday October 13th 1989 — so that’s another milestone anniversary this year. The next day was the beginning of Kartika and we flew to Delhi and spent the whole of Kartika in Vrndavana. It was an auspicious start to our married life, and now I was feeling confident about commencing the worship of my Deity of Srila Prabhupada. Thus it was that on His Divine Grace’s Disappearance day we started a simple routine of massaging, bathing, dressing and offering arati to Srila Prabhupada. And everyday we offer a plate of fruits.

Somehow that has never been interrupted despite our many travels, a variety of residences and all the ups and downs of living in the material world. On a couple of very rare occasions I have allowed someone else to do the puja but those times can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

In another blog I will tell the story of how I came to include Srila Prabhupada’s tooth in the worship.

Resize of tooth1

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