"Srila Prabhupada had an extraordinary ability
to bring a spiritual vision into physical reality, to change a
part of the material world into spiritual energy…"
I have had the privilege to be associated with the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) almost since its inception. I am much impressed by the extensive religious activities undertaken by this organization, especially in spreading krsna-bhakti in various ways: nagar-sankirtana [chanting in the city streets], bhajanas and kirtanas [songs and glorification of the Lord], distribution of religious books, distribution ofprasadam [vegetarian food offered to the Lord], and enlightening discourses by erudite scholar-devotees. I consider myself fortunate to be associated with such an ideal international religious organization as a life member.
It all happened thus:
One day Sri Tamal Krsna Maharaja, accompanied by some other devotees, called on me at my office with a request that I enroll as a life member of ISKCON. In the process of our conversation on spiritual and religious matters. I was highly absorbed in their religious fervor and in-depth spiritual knowledge, and I became a life member.
After that, in the evenings I was a regular visitor to the Radha-Krsna temple maintained by ISKCON on Albert Road in Calcutta. It was an exhilarating experience to the soul to have darsana [audience] of the Deities so nicely decorated with colorful dresses, dazzling ornaments, and a variety of flowers. The scintillating Deities in the temple attract everybody and give one mental upliftment with an urge to go on sitting, gazing at the altar.
At the temple I met many devotees, and I came in direct association with His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, known as Srila Prabhupada. It was an unforgettable experience.
In our very first meeting I was deeply attracted to him there was some divine power that attracted people to him and I had the pleasure of long discussions with him on religious matters in his room attached to the temple.
Srila Prabhupada loved to talk in Bengali, and as I was also educated in the Bengali medium, it was a unique experience for me to talk with him in this sweet language.
His Divine Grace told me that the ceremony for laying the foundation stone of the Radha-Madhava Temple and International Guesthouse at Mayapur would be performed by him on Gaura Purnima day in February 1972, and he invited me to be present at this auspicious ceremony.
Accordingly, I motored down to Mayapur and was fortunate enough to witness this ceremony so perfectly conducted, as laid down in the scriptures, with chanting of Vedic hymns and blowing of conches. It was really a colorful ceremony, one that would always linger in the minds of the devotees present.
Many devotees spoke on this auspicious occasion, praising theirgurudeva, Srila Prabhupada, the dedicated saintly person who in no time, by his eloquent discourses and pleasing manners, had attracted many foreigners to lead a religious life and had established many ISKCON centers all over the world.
Today Mayapur has become a world center of ISKCON, where students from all over the world come for spiritual upliftment of their souls.
Srila Prabhupada built another temple, in Vrndavana, with three tall domes, and in this temple he installed the Deities of Gauranga-Nitai, Krsna-Balarama, and Radha-Krsna. And alongside the temple he also built an international guesthouse.
Another temple, in the materialistic city of Bombay, was his next aim, and he succeeded in his mission. He had an extraordinary ability to bring a spiritual vision into physical reality, to change a part of the material world into spiritual energy so that even a common man could experience spirituality. Srila Prabhupada's indomitable will, courage of conviction, and unswerving bhakti to Lord Krsna enabled him to cross an ocean of trials and tribulations to construct the Radha-Rasavihari temple in Bombay.
Knowing the human psychology fully well, he made it a point that devotees should be given as much prasadam as they want, and this is an added attraction for spiritual aspirants.
He traveled through various countries of the world, in Australia, the Orient North and South America, Africa, and Europe, his main thrust being in the United States of America, where he preached krsna-bhakti and established the first foreign headquarters of ISKCON.
Thus Srila Prabhupada established a spiritual empire throughout the world, with foreigners themselves as his staunch disciples. His approach to spirituality could be accepted by all, for he saw that everything material had the potential to be used in the service of the Lord. Following this principle, an ardent devotee, although apparently in the material world, could always be in touch with spiritual energy.
Our country has produced a precious jewel in Srila Prabhupada, whose approach to religion and spirituality made a tremendous impact on the present generation and is sure to have a great effect on the generations of the future. He is the embodiment of unalloyed truth and knowledge.
Srila Prabhupada was a staunch devotee of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. whom he considered an avatara of Krsna and whose precepts he followed for spreading krsna-bhakti.
Since I knew something of politics, being an ex-member of the Rajya Sabha [the upper legislative house in the Indian government], Srila Prabhupada used to discuss Indian politics with me, Srila Prabhupada had a low opinion of politicians because of the wrong policies followed by them. He used to say that our India is essentially an agricultural country and we should give priority to growing more food. protecting the mother cow, and maintaining and nourishing our forest wealth, instead of installing giant steel plants. The stress should be on farm output not factory output.
Cow slaughter, he said. must be banned. So long after India's independence, why had this not been done? When Prabhupada asked me this burning question. I simply said to him that politicians are responsible for this neglect since they are bent upon protecting the interests of a few to achieve their selfish ends of vote-catching.
At this he was visibly annoyed and said that these politicians should know that our scriptures acclaim the cow "mother of the universe." Not only that but the Lord of the universe is known as Gopalaka, "protector of cows."
Followers of sanatana-dharma, he said, must condemn the atrocities perpetrated on the poor dumb animals that nourish us from birth till death. Even after their death the cows are useful, in that everything from the top of their horn to the bottom of their hoof comes to our utility, whereas the human body after the soul has passed away is of no use.
Such a cow how dare you kill it? That was his question.
Srila Prabhupada also said that with the present setup of the government, India will not be benefited until erudite scholars well versed in Vedic literature and the cultural heritage of India are inducted as parliamentarians, selected as ministers, and put at the helm of the administration. Otherwise our country would be facing untold miseries due to the present wrong policies propagated by politicians to meet their own personal ends.
Whenever Srila Prabhupada happened to be in Calcutta, I used to visit and pay my respects to him. In the course of our discussions. he would recite verses from Bhagavad-gita and explain them in a very lucid manner, citing examples of how one can conquer maya, the cycle of birth, death, disease, and old age. He used to say that in this Kali-yuga [the present age] complete surrender to the lotus feet of the Lord and chanting of the maha-mantra "Hare Krsna, Hare Rama" vibrating throughout the entire atmosphere, will emancipate one's soul from maya and bring one to attain love of Godhead.
Sri Sitaram Daga, a former member of the Indian Parliament, is the chairman and managing director of several engineering firms. He lives in Calcutta.