While I worked
in Boston on the Krsna book paintings, Srila Prabhupada was
creating a new structure of organization at the Los Angeles
temple. He was creating that temple as the model for standards
in Deity worship, management and preaching, and somehow he also
found time to work regularly on his translation summary of Srila
Rupa Gosvami’s Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu. His summary would
be called The Nectar of Devotion.
Because Prabhupada was always thinking of Krsna, the Supreme
Source of the entire creation, it was natural for him to think
of the entire world's welfare. With that in mind, he found the
time to write me in mid-January with a second list of paintings
for the Krsna book. I had no manuscript to work from, for there
was no manuscript yet, and therefore only Prabhupada knew what
he wanted illustrated. I was always excited to receive a letter
from him; and now, as my hand was almost trembling due to that
excitement, I opened his envelope and read:
"I have noted with pleasure that you are almost done with
the first five Krsna pictures which I suggested to you. I think
that you may immediately send these pictures to me in Los Angeles.
Regarding photographing these pictures for the book, I think
it is essential that these pictures be with bright attractive
colors. So please do them in this way. I am enclosing herewith
the instructions for the next four paintings:
"1. Nanda Maharaja (an old man of not less than 50 years)
is observing a celebration. Many cowherd boys are coming with
milk and curd on a balancing stick on their backs (see enclosed
picture). Nanda Maharaja, who is chief amongst the cowherd men,
is giving them presentations of cloth, ornaments, fruits etc.;
and there is feasting going on. Some of them are enjoying by
throwing butter upon their friends' bodies.
"2. The demonic Putana witch has come to Yasoda, looking
just like a very nice young woman, and she is congratulating
Yasoda for her beautiful child. She said to her, "You have
such a nice baby. Kindly let me hold Him." Yasoda was very
simple and allowed this, but when Krsna sucked the woman's breast,
the demon showed her true gigantic form that was actually miles
long, and she died. In the picture, Krsna is playing on the
breast of this gigantic demon.
"3. Krsna was lying underneath a cart, which was actually
a demon who had taken the shape of a cart so that Krsna would
not suspect danger. Krsna was lying underneath the cart, but
then He kicked it while playing and a great giant came out and
"4. One asura, Trnavarta the Whirlwind demon, took baby
Krsna into the sky and fought with Him. The idea was to take
Krsna into the sky and drop Him. But once in the sky, Krsna
fought with the whirlwind, and the demon fell down dead while
Krsna was lying happily on the ground. Yasoda prayed in thanks
that, 'God has saved my boy.'
"Regarding your question about placing effulgence around
Krsna's head in all of these pictures, yes this should be done.
I hope to be receiving the previous paintings you have done
I looked at the “enclosed picture”. A sketch drawn
by Srila Prabhupada himself, it was a stick figure sketch of
a boy carrying a stick across his back shoulders, with a basket
full of food hung on either end of the stick. The sketch showed
the traditional way in which people in India carry large bundles,
and it was beautiful because it was Prabhupada’s.
I was overjoyed to receive the new assignment and worked hard
on the final details of the previous five canvases – to
get them ready to send to Los Angeles. As work was in progress,
there was a knock on the door. It was Joy, one of the three
new bhaktins now living in our Boston apartment.
About two weeks earlier she had arrived from Seattle, Washington,
sent by Prabhupada himself. She was the “nice artist”
he had written me about in late December, when he suggested
that she could come and help paint for the Krsna book. Since
her arrival I had found her always eager to help, and I had
been glad that she didn't mind that we sat on the floor and
used milk crates for easels.
Now, after I showed her the letter I'd just received, she confided
that she had wanted to come to Boston to learn art from me for
some time, but Prabhupada had discouraged her at first. She
showed me his letter to her, also written in late December:
"I know that you are very nice artist even without the
guidance of Jadurani, so for the time being you should remain
in Seattle and paint independently. You should try to paint
very quickly and very beautifully, because we have need of such
talented artists. When Jadurani first began to paint she was
slow, but now that she has practiced she has become very expert
and quick. So this practice is what will improve all areas of
your already very nice art work."
I had to smile. I'd thought he had always seen me as an expert
– because he'd always told me I was. And he had always
given me a lot of attention and responsibility. Humbled and
amused, I now got a slight glimpse of how Prabhupada had “spoon-fed”
Joy had come just in time to help with some touch-ups of the
first five Krsna book paintings, so she seemed as thrilled as
I was to read aloud the end of his next letter, dated January
21. "I was very gratified to see your expert touch in these
paintings, and also convey my thanks to Joy Fulcher for her
Although I had been painting almost full-time for three years,
my artistic style was actually still quite unrefined. In my
painting, the demigods who mystically appeared in pregnant Devaki's
room were supposed to look like powerful warriors; but both
Devaki and the demigods look like ten-year-old children. Prabhupada
could certainly see these discrepancies, but still he was non-judgmental
and so encouraging. He obviously wanted the world to have the
Krsna book immediately, and he didn't want to wait until we
became more adept and expert.
I had already read in the First Canto Srimad-bhagavatam that
a person of Prabhupada’s caliber has the power to do anything:
"A person who is cent-percent engaged in the service of
the Lord is the emblem of all knowledge. Such a devotee of the
Lord in full perfection of devotional service is also perfect
by the qualification of the Personality of Godhead. As such,
the eightfold perfections of mystic power (asta-siddhi) constitute
very little of his godly opulence." (SB 1.5.6)
He could have gotten expert artists, but he didn't.
* * * *
Chant and be Healthy
We in Boston
always shared our letters from Prabhupada with devotees in other
temples; and they also shared their letters with us. In mid-February
Brahmananda sent us one such letter, which particularly affected
me. Prabhupada had written about his Back to Godhead magazine
– and its art:
"Our Vaisnava religion is so vast that we can supply millions
of pictures and hundreds and thousands of literary contributions
in this paper. In the Christian religion they have got pictures
like the crucifixion and a few others. In the Buddhist religion
they have got the picture of Lord Buddha. In the Mohammedan
religion they have got pictures of Mecca Medina, and I do not
know what the picture is in the Jewish religion. But as far
as our Krsna consciousness is concerned, we can supply millions
of pictures of Krsna, Visnu, Their multi-incarnations and Their
transcendental pastimes. So we have to create a unique position
for this paper, at least in the Western world."
For us, a letter from Prabhupada was a letter from Prabhupada;
it didn't matter who personally received it. Now, reading this
letter, I began thinking, “These other religions don’t
know that Krsna was God. What a great opportunity for service
this is.” I was now inspired to work even harder, to fill
up Prabhupada's books and magazines with millions of pictures
of Krsna and His multi-incarnations. Although living in a remote
corner of the world called Boston, I felt so alive with this
sense of mission and purpose.
A few days later, the swirling snow and ice made cosmopolitan
Boston look like a frozen white desert. The heat in our apartment
left us – as though it were afraid of the angry winds
and looking for friendlier horizons. That heat left for a weekend
vacation, and I caught the flu and became too sick to move.
Still, I had my service to Prabhupada to inspire me. As the
workaholic I was, I continued breathing the paint fumes, hoping
that all of a sudden I would be able to transcend all the difficulties.
Sure enough, however, because I did not have the credits of
vast amounts of devotional service accumulated over millions
of lives to be transcendental, as the illness worsened I became
more and more miserable. “How could I have gotten sick
at such a crucial time?”, I lamented.
Prabhupada wrote to the temple president that I should suspend
all my work and take complete rest, and he even gave me a specific
diet: "Purchase pearl barley from the market, and the recipe
is 1 cup of barley and four cups of water to be boiled for at
least half an hour. That liquid preparation may be mixed with
milk and sugar. No work, complete rest, and chant Hare Krsna.
When she next wants to begin work, she must take my permission."
Two weeks later he wrote again, with more instructions about
diet and rest. "I am concerned about her health condition.
Does she have any fever? If she has a feverish condition, she
should lie down and do no work."
By now, Joy had been initiated by mail as Jahnava. She was kind
enough to take care of me; and Arundhati was also there, just
recently transformed from being bhaktin Arlene. She also tried
to help; but still I didn't get better.
I had a perfect father and I was now resting under his order,
but still I was completely frustrated. I increased my chanting,
but I still had no taste for the holy name. Fortunately I remembered
the letter I had received from Upendra in Los Angeles, in which
he had shared with me his recent experiences with Prabhupada
regarding chanting. Before he joined Prabhupada, he had committed
a crime for which he later had to go to jail. Just before going
to the jail, however, he had gone to see Prabhupada. He told
Prabhupada that he wanted to chant one round with him, because
he had heard it was auspicious to chant with a pure devotee.
Prabhupada then told him that he was always chanting with him.
Upendra became encouraged at that time; and now, remembering
his anecdote, I also became encouraged.
Unfortunately, however, the encouragement was short-lived. Without
being engaged in constant activity – painting, sankirtana,
or preaching – I tended to meditate more on mundane topics.
I envied my husband for floating in the nectar of editing Prabhupada's
Third Canto, and I envied the other devotees, because they were
able to continue their services. Though I was attached to the
idea that Krsna book was my painting service, Prabhupada was
not only detached from that idea, he was also detached from
the idea that I finish the paintings I had begun. He wanted
his books to be published for the world's benefit as soon as
possible. With this in mind he wrote to Ekayani that she should
practice developing her good painting skills very thoroughly,
and if she was ready, he would send her many Bhagavatam pictures
to do. He told her I was now sick for some time, and that there
were some paintings lying in Boston, perhaps unfinished. If
time permitted, he suggested, she could come to Boston to see
them, and if I liked, she could complete them. His letter concluded,
"Picture painting is one of our important departments,
so please try to become expert. You should at least become as
expert as Jadurani, and that will be a great pleasure for me.
Rukmini is also becoming very much expert in her artistic works."
He also wrote to Rayarama that his new assistant Rohini Kumara,
along with the young girls, like Indira, could do the Back to
Worried about my spiritual future, and having heard from Prabhupada
that envy was the main cause of the soul's coming into this
world in the first place, I asked one of the devotees to write
Prabhupada on my behalf and ask him how I could be free from
it. Prabhupada replied on February 20:
“As far as envy is concerned, it can be used only upon
the non-devotees. In the transcendental world a devotee is never
envious of another devotee on account of some excellence. On
the contrary, if a devotee finds some excellence in other devotees
he eulogizes the devotee, admitting his own subordinate position.
Although in the spiritual world there is no such concept of
subordination, still, on account of being very humble and meek,
devotees think that way.
"In the material world the same thing is expressed in a
perverted form. But in the spiritual world to accept one's inferior
position does not mean envious mentality upon the other. Unhappiness
experienced by the devotee on account of feeling himself inferior
is not unusual. Rather, such mentality is an impetus to further
development of devotional service."
Again I was encouraged. The part I liked best about the letter
was when Prabhupada said the feelings that other devotees were
greater is natural, and eternal, and in our natural state such
feelings are the cause of happiness. Because I still identified
with the body, and all material feelings are processed through
the bodily machine, my admiration would be the same unreal emotion
as my jealously and unhappiness, but at least it would at least
be a positive start in the right direction. We are tiny souls,
and it is for our own purification that we need to serve our
Guru – not because we are important. Prabhupada was inviting
all of us lost souls to the wonderful realm of full freedom
* * * *
On March 5th
Prabhupada went to Hawaii, where he continued with his translation
work, preaching and collecting lost souls. He wrote to me from
there and personally invited me to come and experience the healthy
I should have been euphoric that he was actually calling me
to be with him, and part of me knew that I should have jumped
on the first plane. But instead I wrote him that I wanted to
stay in Boston so I could get back to work as soon as possible.
Prabhupada replied in his next letter:
"I am glad to learn that you are feeling somewhat healthier.
Now you have requested to begin working, but I think you should
just suspend your activities at least for one month more. By
that time I shall be in Boston, and I shall examine you personally.
Then I shall do the needful. In the meantime you can sit down
silently, and increase your number of chanting. That is your
work for the time being. And now, as you have the Deity in the
temple, you can rise very early in the morning for mangala-arati.
I hope you are following all the Deity worship rulings. That
is necessary. I hope you are feeling stronger day by day.
"Please convey my blessings to all your god-brothers and
Feeling resentful and envious as a reaction to offenses and
sins from past lives, not having sufficient spiritual pious
credits from the past, and without deserving the full mercy
of Srila Prabhupada, I was without the power to change myself.
I asked my husband to apologize to Prabhupada on my behalf,
in his next letter. Prabhupada replied:
"Regarding her offenses, I do not remember when she committed
offenses; and even though she might have done so, I excuse her
one hundred times without any hesitation. So she should have
nothing to bother about it. I have given her instruction not
to work in her last letter, and we shall discuss it further
when I shall arrive there."
Again he invited me to Hawaii, assuring me of the ample opportunity
for Krsna– kirtana on the beach, plenty of fresh ocean
air, and warm, nourishing sunshine. "Who is that great
person?" I murmured to myself as I read his letter with
wonder and gratitude.
A week later he again wrote me, and then again the next week,
in his own handwriting: "I hope you arrive before I leave
this place on the 31st of March, 1969." Again, Lord Krsna
was making full arrangements for me to go to Hawaii and be with
Prabhupada in person. Not grateful enough, however, not realizing
my rare fortune, and thinking I would very soon be better and
able to work again, I did not accept his invitation. Rather,
I requested my husband to write him again for me, and ask what
I should think about while chanting now that it was my full-time
service. I asked, "You are now sending your Krsna book
tapes, full with Krsna's pastimes, to Boston for typing and
editing. And I am regularly reading the manuscript. Should I
meditate on those pastimes about which I'd just been reading?
Or should I meditate on your instructions? Or should I think
of Krsna's form? Or on His instructions to Arjuna in Bhagavad-gita?
Or, should I just try to blank out all thoughts and just hear?
Prabhupada replied in mid-April:
"Regarding Jadurani's question, hearing the vibration of
Hare Krsna automatically reminds one of Krsna's pastimes. Both
of them arise simultaneously in the mind when one is sincerely
chanting. You cannot make any distinction between listening
to the sound and thinking of the pastimes. But the process is
to hear, and then Krsna's pastimes, form, qualities, etc., will
automatically come to mind. That is very nice."
* * * *
A Rubbish Hell – Turned
Hawaii and spending ten days in New York, Prabhupada went to
Buffalo. Rupanuga had been teaching an accredited bhakt-yoga
course at Buffalo's New York State University. At least sixty
students were enrolled and regularly chanting japa, and now
Prabhupada lectured at that college and initiated new disciples.
Then after leaving Buffalo, he again came to Boston.
On April 23, Jahnava and I rode with Prabhupada and his traveling
companion and servant, Purusottama, from the airport to his
old classic Boston-style apartment about five buildings from
the Glenville Avenue storefront temple. His sublet apartment
belonged to a university student who was away on holiday for
a month, and because it was left in a very unclean state, the
devotees had to scrub every inch of it before he arrived. Even
as Prabhupada walked in the door several devotees were still
cleaning. Prabhupada walked around each room, watched the cleaners,
and examined the sky-blue walls and the gold enamel baseboards,
which had somehow or other become the new standard for painting
his quarters. "When you clean Krsna's temple," he
told the cleaners and scrubbers, "your heart becomes cleansed."
The cleaners responded with broad smiles.
Prabhupada then sat down on a cushion behind his new, low desk.
He looked to his left at the large windows leading out to the
material world, as though sending his glance over many fallen
souls who would, by his mercy, sooner or later come to Krsna
consciousness. I remembered Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, who
had written a bhajana saying that simply by the glance of the
pure devotee all sins go far away, even more so than by bathing
repeatedly in the holy Ganges River.
At least forty devotees crowded into the room for darsana. Purusottama
brought in Prabhupada's exquisite 6" brass Radha-Krsna
Deities and set Them on Their new altar, a cloth-covered table
in the tiny closet that faced Prabhupada's desk. Motioning towards
the closet, Prabhupada proudly announced, "This closet
used to be a rubbish hell – and now it is Vaikuntha."
Noticing that some of us were sitting with our backs toward
the Deities as we happily faced him, he then motioned with his
hands that we should all move towards the two sides of the “Vaikuntha'
door”, and not ignore Sri Sri Radha and Krsna.
After engaging in some friendly hellos, Prabhupada asked Purusottama
to play a cassette tape of Visnujana Svami singing the mangala-carana
prayers and Hare Krsna kirtana. Besides playing mrdanga on the
tape itself, Prabhupada now picked up a mrdanga and played along
with the tape. As we all chanted responsively, he closed his
eyes and let his head fall backwards, and the two mrdangas playing
together sounded like what I considered might have been an ancient
mystical symphony. After the tape stopped, he said, "Visnujana
is a very good singer."
He then noticed my large painting of Krsna and mother Yasoda.
It was the one I'd copied from the 5"x7" print he
had previously mailed me – which he wanted as the standard
for all our Krsna book paintings. In the painting Krsna had
His hair combed back and tied at the nape of His neck, His topknot
was decorated with a peacock feather, and also with gold and
jeweled ornaments. He was running to Mother Yasoda with outstretched
arms and His garland, cape, dhoti and jewels were all moving
with the breeze in the opposite direction. Mother Yasoda, her
sari and veil blowing in the breeze created by her own movements,
was running with her arms outstretched towards Krsna. Balarama
and the cowherd boys and calves were also running into Krsna's
courtyard, and some were jumping over the low courtyard wall.
One blew a bugle as another waved his cadar. The gopis, headed
by Radharani, stood on the palace steps, holding plates of prasadam
and paraphernalia for worship.
"Asamaurdha." Prabhupada said with obvious appreciation.
"God means, 'No one is equal to Him and He has nothing
to do. He is simply enjoying.' There is one story of an Englishman
who went to India. There he visited many temples of gods like
Durga, Siva and Kali. When he finally saw the Krsna Deity he
said, 'Here is God. He has no work. He is simply enjoying.’
He is simply enjoying with His friends, with Radharani, with
the cowherd boys, and with the gopis. That is greatness. He
does not have to think, 'How to provide?'" Prabhupada laughed
as though proud of Krsna, and continued, "That is greatness.
He is taking the cows out to graze as a sporting. You see?"
* * * *
The next day
I made an appointment with Purusottama to talk to Prabhupada
about my going to Hawaii, and about my health. When I arrived
he was alone, standing near his desk and holding onto his back
in different ways, acting as though he were in pain. "I
have so many aches," he said to me, "This ache, backache,
that ache." Then he stopped holding his back and continued,
"Still, before we leave this body, we have to become fully
Krsna conscious." By the end of his statement I understood
he didn't really have any pain; he was just trying to teach
me not to give the body as much importance as my Krsna consciousness.
He then began to ridicule the artificiality of Western civilization
and Western medicine; and he glorified Vedic culture –
and milk. He said, "Real advancement of civilization is
when there is so much butter and yogurt that you can give it
to the monkeys. And milk is so nice that even if you come in
from a snowstorm, if you have a glass of warm milk, you feel
refreshed. Powdered milk is nonsense, and the best milk is buttermilk."
Finally he brought up the subject of Hawaii, and said he wanted
me to go as soon as possible. "When you go there, you should
live on mangos and milk. Govinda dasi is there and she will
help you." He looked down at his desk, at a newspaper article
Govinda dasi had just sent him about his March visit. Controlled
by my competitive spirit, and despite all the personal and preaching
services Govinda dasi had rendered him, the thought ran through
my mind that she was not as advanced as I was in Krsna consciousness.
Prabhupada slowly lifted his head, turned to me and said –
calmly, but as though he really wanted me to get the point –
"She is as good as you are."
* * * *
At his darsana
the next day, Prabhupada once again played a tape of himself,
this time in conversation with some students during his very
recent visit to Buffalo.
He had us all laughing, right from the beginning, because the
students on the tape were out of their minds. One of them blurted
out, "If you sit down and you look very closely into his
eyes, and you get closer and closer and closer and closer. .
. " As he spoke, his voice got progressively louder and
louder, and he sounded as though possessed by a few ghosts.
Prabhupada sounded grave in the tape and asked, "What is
The student answered in the same crazy voice: "You can
go all the way, all the way, all the way . . . and what do you
find?" Again we all laughed.
Prabhupada still sounded grave. He replied on the tape, "You
can find. I cannot find."
After hearing a few more insane comments, Prabhupada finally
said, "Yes, I am prepared to tell you, and this center
has opened for telling you. Our books are there. It is not a
paltry subject that you can understand immediately, but I can
give you one instance. It is stated in the Bhagavad-gita, 'Within
this body there is soul, and the body is changing at every moment.'
That is a fact. We say, 'The child is growing.' Growing or changing
is practically the same thing. Actually, it is changing because
the former body is no longer to be found. The soul has accepted
another body. This is going on from babyhood to childhood, from
childhood to boyhood, boyhood to youth-hood, and then old age."
After another ten minutes the tape was finished, and after a
few more minutes of informal talk with us, our darsana was over.
We didn't feel like we had been cheated out of a personal darsana.
We felt like we had been there in Buffalo.
As Prabhupada now spoke informally with the devotees, he handed
out prasadam. I put out my left hand, but Prabhupada would not
give me the prasadam. "Right hand," he said. "It
is an insult to accept anything with your left hand. There are
two energies of Krsna, the superior spiritual energy and the
inferior material energy, just as there are two hands, the right
hand and the left hand. Although they are both part of the same
body, the right hand is superior and the left hand is inferior."
I smiled, switched hands, and accepted the prasadam from Prabhupada's
* * * *
On April 27,
a group of about fifty of us saw Prabhupada again, and I felt
so much joy being with him that I forgot I was sick.
Arundhati was sitting next to me. Shyly she nudged me, to remind
me to ask her question. "Prabhupada," I said, "Arundhati
wants to know if you can hear Krsna's flute."
Prabhupada tilted his head slightly, as Indians do when they
want to say "yes," and then he half-closed his eyes
and said, "Why not?" He then quoted a prayer about
the six Gosvamis: "The six Gosvamis were always engaged
in worshipping Sri Sri Radha-Krsna in the transcendental land
of Vrndavana, where there are beautiful trees full of fruits
and flowers, which have under their roots all valuable jewels."
It appeared that he wanted our attention off himself as he directed
it to the six Gosvamis. At the same time, in a humble way, he
was admitting his own position clearly. He was a pure devotee
in the line of the Gosvamis, sharing the same activities as
them and with the same opportunities and moods.
Satisfied, I thought, “My own Prabhupada can hear Krsna's
flute.” Prabhupada, she also asked me to ask you about
cooking. Last year you wrote me that when we are cooking, if
something already cooked falls on the ground, it can't be offered.
But if raw food falls and it can be properly washed, it can
be offered. So the question is, regarding cleanliness, if we
touch our clothing while we're cooking, do we then have to wash
our hands before touching any food or utensils again?"
"If your clothes are clean," Prabhupada answered,
"you don't have to wash your hands. If they are not clean,
you should not even be in the kitchen."
Then, seeing our surprise and raised eyebrows, he continued,
"Yes, there are so many rules that you cannot even follow
all of them. In the meantime, until you are more equipped to
hear of them and follow them, you can make up the balance by
chanting Hare Krsna."
It didn't sound like he was minimizing the rules, but rather
that he was maximizing the importance of chanting Hare Krsna.
Because of maya or lack of knowledge we can't follow fully,
but we try our best, as long as we sincerely continue to chant,
then he and the holy names will gradually give us the spiritual
strength and intelligence to do everything properly.
Saradiya then asked about people who criticize Krsna's conjugal
activities with the gopis as immoral. Since 1966 Prabhupada
had been lecturing that Krsna's incarnations descended to execute
a particular purpose, but they did not manifest the full power
of God. Because Krsna manifested the full power, He is the Supreme
Godhead. He is above all rules and regulations and all laws,
and He cannot do anything wrong. Therefore, in dancing with
the young married gopis in rasa dance there was no fault on
His part; the gopis are manifestations of His internal energy.
Still, Saradiya asked for more arguments – for preaching
Prabhupada then entered his debating mood, ready as always to
meet the challenges of offenders to Lord Krsna. He told us about
some Indians he had recently met, who criticized the rasa dance.
"They say that Krsna stole other men's wives," he
remarked, "but actually they have stolen Krsna's wives.
All women, all living entities, are like Krsna's wives and belong
to Him. These people are the ones committing adultery."
I mentally applauded and then nudged Arundhati. Just before
this darsana, Arundhati and I had discussed something that had
been confusing us ever since we joined – two and half
years for me, and six months for her. In fact, most devotees
we knew were also confused. Since our relationship with Lord
Krsna is eternal, how is it that we are not with Him now? And
since His associates are His eternal associates, how can any
of them fall down? Or, since we're fallen, is it that we never
acted in our capacity as eternal associates before? Do we become
eternal associates later? The time seemed right to ask, now
that Prabhupada had just mentioned Lord Krsna's pastimes.
A year earlier at 26 Second Avenue he had said that when a person
is drowning in the ocean, it is impossible to be peaceful enough
to think about how he got there. But once he is on land, he
can think about all things clearly. Similarly, in our conditioned
state of material existence we cannot clearly understand our
origin and how we ended up in this world. Still, Arundhati and
I thought that if we just worded the question carefully, we'd
understand his answer. Since I had asked her previous questions
Arundhati agreed to ask this one, but the point was so confusing
that she could barely even utter the question. She asked, "If
we've never been with Krsna, if we've never been in Krsna-loka,
then how can we start 'remembering' His pastimes and His form?"
"You remember Krsna's pastimes by hearing Srimad-bhagavatam,"
Prabhupada said matter-of-factly, "You can hear Krsna's
pastimes. That you can remember."
"But how can we 'remember' if we've never known them before?"
"How you can remember?"
"If we haven't known it."
"You can know it by hearing from Srimad-bhagavatam. Why
we are citing so many scriptures, like Srimad-bhagavatam and
Bhagavad-gita? Just to remember."
"Just to remember?"
"Something you forget, but I tell you repeatedly; you hear;
you remember. Is it not? Here something you have forgotten completely,
and I remind you constantly. Then don't you remember?"
"Yes. But I don't understand how it is that we ‘forgot
it’ . . . How can we ‘remember’ since we’ve
never been there in the first place?" she asked.
By this time Prabhupada and Arundhati were practically speaking
at the same time, and some of their words simply overlapped.
"Forgot, you forgot." Prabhupada continued to explain
patiently, "That is your nature. You forget so many things.
You cannot remember what you were doing exactly at this time
yesterday. Can you remember immediately? Forgetfulness is our
nature. We are very minute. We are subjected to the quality
“Just like Arjuna. Arjuna was asking Krsna, 'How can I
believe that you told this philosophy of Bhagavad-gita to Vivasvan?'
"And in reply to that question, Krsna said, 'Both you and
I had many, many births before, but you have forgotten, I remember.'
That is the difference between the Supreme Lord and us. He does
not forget. He remembers everything, past, present, future;
all. But we forget. That is the difference between God and living
entity. We are subjected to forgetfulness. So we forget. Again,
if it is reminded, we remember. That is our nature. At the present
moment we are forgetful of our eternal relationship with Krsna.
Then, by good association, by constant chanting, hearing and
remembering, we again invoke our old consciousness. That is
called Krsna consciousness."
I recalled one devotee asking Prabhupada if it rains on Krsna-loka,
and he had answered, "If I told you it rains, still you
would not understand. You would simply think of the rain you
know." Prabhupada's analogy of the moon appearing in between
the tree branches also came to mind. We may point in the direction
of the moon and say to a friend, “Look, there is the moon,
sitting on that branch over there”. Of course it would
be impossible for that large moon, larger and further away than
the sun, to be sitting on this small branch, but still we may
point, to give our friend an indication of direction.
Similarly, hearing Prabhupada’s words I realized that
whether these spiritual truths were understood intellectually
– or not understood at all, not in any way – we
were just getting a hint. How we could 'remember' something
we never experienced before was still a puzzle. But at least
I understood that language itself is a barrier. 'Forget', in
the sense of the souls’ forgetting Krsna wasn’t
totally synonymous with my forgetting what I did yesterday.
I remembered Prabhupada’s letter to Rupanuga, in which
he’d written that, just as the tree is present in potency,
in its seed, so our form is present in a dormant state in our
soul. It is not that the seed forgot its previous experience
as the tree. Rather the tree is there in potency, and by the
correct process it develops.
There was no perfect word in our mundane language. “Old”
didn’t mean that we were with Lord Krsna in Goloka Vrndavana
in the old days and then left and forgot that. It simply meant
that our eternal relationship with Krsna is lying dormant, as
almond-oil is dormant in the almond. By the proper pressing
process, performed by an expert in the field, that almond-oil
would come out. Similarly, our dormant relationship with Krsna
would awaken by following the process of devotional service
as given by Srila Prabhupada and the predecessor spiritual masters.
We were happy to talk with Prabhupada, we took the topic as
one of those inconceivable things that would become clearer
– a little later.
Feeling happy, I asked a question about temple management, but
Prabhupada did not answer. Rather, he reminded me of his previous
instruction when I had first become sick. He said, "That's
all right. For the time being you don't touch management or
work. You chant and everything will be all right. Soon you will
be in good health. Then you will again work. Yes."
Prabhupada turned to Saradiya and asked, "Saradiya, you
are painting? No? All right, you finish your school. You are
going to school?"
"That's nice. You are painting?" She nodded and he
continued. "That's nice. Practice painting nicely. We'll
require so many pictures. We shall publish so many pictures
* * * *