Collected words from talks of Swami Tirtha


(from a lecture of Swami Tirtha, 6.09.2015 morning, Sofia)

(continues from the previous Monday)

Then in 1965 finally Shrila Prabhupada arrived in New York. And you know, just between you and me, Indians have a very special conception about the West. Just recently, 10-15 years ago, when one other Indian sannyasi started to travel to the West with his disciples, they brought some potatoes with them for security reasons. ‘In case there are no potatoes in the West, we can cook something.’ So innocent!

It also happened to us once when we had a flight from India to Sri Lanka. There was a stewardess and when she saw the kanti-malas[1], she was very satisfied: “Oh, you are following dharma, so nice!” And then she started to supply us extra of these little orange juices and peanuts. “Because you are going to a very strange place, Sri Lanka! Who knows what is there!” I asked: “Have you gone out from the airport?” She said: “Never! And please, take this to be safe!”

So, Prabhupada also arrived with his ammunition, so to say, and he started his individual life in the States. First he took shelter with some Indian family and finally he rented a place in a very bad quarter in New York full of drinkers. He had a room upstairs and a shop downstairs. You see how symbolic it was – the title of the shop by the previous owner was “Matchless gifts”. And he was giving his lectures in the room of this shop “Matchless gifts”. So symbolic! And you know, the people who started to attend were like general guys from this suburb of New York. Shrila Prabhupad started his preaching, and started to have some little accessories for worship, like an altar, a ghee-lamp, etc. And once it happened that somebody was smoking in the temple room and he started to put out his cigarette in the ghee-lamp. I think Prabhupada was tested for his tolerance. But he didn’t consider that too offensive – to use the sacred ghee-lamp for an ashtray, ah my God! Another time somebody brought one roll of toilet paper to the ashram. And you know, the devotees were little surprised: “What’s this?” But Prabhupada was very satisfied, he said: “It’s a very nice donation!” This is the start, somewhere we have to start. Bring something to the temple! Bring something to the ashram! So, in these early times some young people gathered around this old sadhu. And they were listening, they were trying to follow and practice what he suggested.

Then in 1966 he established an organization – the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). And then the Golden years of Shrila Prabhupada came. In the upcoming few years thousands joined him. It is not clear whether finally he had 3000 or 5000 disciples initiated. But anyway this is like a small village – 3000 people. Yet this village’s preaching had a worldwide effect. Therefore his god-brothers understood and identified that he is a person chosen for this purpose. He was travelling first inside the United States, then he went back to India, then he started his worldwide campaign.

And then came the next decade. What happened in 1977? He passed away. So, in a very short 11 years he could finally accomplish the desire of his spiritual master after these 44 years of meditation. Then again this was another disaster for the devotees when their beloved Shrila Prabhupada has left. And then another 11 years passed and what happened in 1988? Shrila Shridhar Maharaja left. Because actually Prabhupada had many friends among the god-brothers, but with Shridhar Maharaja he was cooperating and preaching together very much. They had an agreement between them. Prabhupada said: “I will play the mridanga and you will preach!” You see, so nice. Cooperation means distribute the duties. Then later on they were serving together and preaching together. So, naturally he considered his god-brother, Shridhar Maharaj like a very senior person. Once they were discussing in Bengali when the western devotees were only trying to catch some words, but they didn’t understand. And Shrila Prabhupad told the westerners: “Oh, if you listened to his conclusions, you would faint”. So, naturally after Shrila Prabhupada passed away some of his disciples took shelter of Shrila Shridhar Maharaja. Just like our Gurudev has taken. And then also a new chapter started.

But even if we had hundreds of mouths, that wouldn’t be enough to glorify him properly. So, maybe you have some comments about him, or some realizations?

Nandakumar: I have only one very strong impression of Shrila Prabhupada because I was fortunate enough to meet a devotee of him just in 1988. It was really only 11 years after Shrila Prabhupada left and it is very hard to put in words this atmosphere that was there in Nandafalva at that time. This was the power of Shrila Prabhupada. I feel very fortunate to taste this, despite of so many contradictions which came after. This is really a matchless gift. I feel that this is something living inside me. It is impossible to express, but I have memories, I have tastes, I have smells and colors, and so many impressions. I don’t know whether the next generations can experience this or not. Maybe not, I don’t know. But I am sure that God takes care of everyone and He will give other beautiful tastes and memories to everybody.

Swami Tirtha: I don’t know if you have information about that: he was supposed to come to Hungary. Hungary was on the list to be visited in 1977, yet ultimately it didn’t happen. But as Nandakumar Prabhu said, devotees from those times tell: “Whenever preachers, devotees of Prabhupada came, they had a very special flame in their eyes. And they brought the presence of their master with them.” So, this is another proof that we believe in the presence of the soul, not in the presence of the body. Actually without his efforts, without his sacrifice we wouldn’t be able to sit here and discuss. I think we are eternally indebted to him.


(to be continued)


[1] Kanti-mala – devotional necklace of tulasi beads


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