Srila Prabhupada visits Washington D. C., to speak as the representative of Lord Krsna
Excerpted from A Transcendental Diary Volume Three. Copyright Lotus Imprints. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
July 2, 1976
A TWO-HOUR FLIGHT from Pittsburgh brought us into Washington, D.C., at 10:00 P. M. At the boarding gate were Rupanuga Dasa (the local GBC* representative), Brsakapi Dasa (the temple president), and Vipina Purandara Dasa (vice president), who all enthusiastically greeted Srila Prabhupada with garlands and obeisances.
* The GBC, or Governing Body Commission, serves as the highest board of management for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
Even at this hour of the night our book distributors were at work. Amid the devotees stood a fresh-faced young soldier clutching a book he had just bought from Praghosa Dasa, a top book seller. Realizing that Srila Prabhupada had arrived, Praghosa had invited the young man to come see Prabhupada. As Prabhupada went past, the soldier held up the book. Prabhupada stopped momentarily, smiled at him, and said, "Jaya. Thank you."
A forty-minute drive took Prabhupada to the ISKCON temple in the hills of Potomac, Maryland. Srila Prabhupada was enlivened and talked almost all the way till we reached the temple. He was obviously inspired by being at the seat of government, with its many statues and memorials to great American thinkers and political mentors. But of course Srila Prabhupada's angle of vision was unique. Americans celebrate Abraham Lincoln and keep a splendid Washington memorial in his honor, he said, but who knows where the person formerly known as Abraham Lincoln is now? Prabhupada said people are satisfied to worship a famous person's memory but they do not consider where he has gone and what he has now become.
Vipina suggested that people actually want to worship Krsna but they don't know how.
Srila Prabhupada didn't think so. "They don't want to worship anyone. They want to worship their senses, that's all. Sense gratification. What is dictated by the senses, they agree to worship. Servant of the senses. In the material world no one worships anyone. Everyone serves his own senses. If the senses say, 'Do this,' he will do it. But in our movement we shall not hear the dictation of the senses; we shall do what Krsna says. As long as I am carrying out the orders of the senses, then I am involved in material birth, death, transmigration."
Vipina informed Srila Prabhupada of a man the book distributors had met in the airport recently. He is the author of a book called The Fourth Kingdom. He bought some of Srila Prabhupada's books and was impressed. He visited the temple, and the devotees have made an arrangement for him to come see Prabhupada. Prabhupada has agreed.
"He's very nice," Vipina said, "but he has some mixed-up ideas."
Prabhupada chuckled. "Everyone has mixed-up ideas, because no one is properly trained. They have some ideas, they have some inquiries, but unless one comes to the right person he cannot be enlightened. Therefore one must approach the proper guru."
Rupanuga said the problem was that everyone has accepted the wrong authority.
"Yes," Srila Prabhupada said, "because he's misled by sense gratification. So even if he approaches a guru, if the guru cannot satisfy his senses he doesn't like that. Because one is under the subjugation of the senses, he expects that the guru also will satisfy his senses then he is guru. If the guru says something against sense gratification 'Ah, he is not guru.' "
Vipina said, "After he'd read your books, he wrote us a letter and said he thought you were a very intelligent man and would like to speak to you. So we'll see. Maybe he can hear."
Prabhupada laughed. "Yes. We are speaking something not of this world. We are pointing out the defects of this world. 'This world' means the world of sense gratification."
Brsakapi said the nondevotees ask, "What is the matter with sense gratification? I like sense gratification; it's very good."
"Very good," Prabhupada said sardonically. "But can you continue it? They never think, 'I may be kicked out from my position at any moment. So what is the value of my sense gratification?' "
The car pulled into our property and stopped outside a white bungalow, Srila Prabhupada's residence while he is here. We climbed out, and the devotees led Srila Prabhupada into a spacious, well-appointed sitting room.
Narottamananda Dasa, who had cooked in Detroit when we were there, brought in a large tray of fresh cut fruit and some hot milk. Prabhupada began to eat and at the same time distribute maha-prasadam to everyone in the room. With the devotees gathered around, all eager to serve and please him, he basked in the warmth of their affection. He was grateful to the devotees for all their service.
"I take America as my fatherland. India is motherland, and here is fatherland." His face softened with a gentle smile, and he spoke with fondness. "So many fathers. My father was very affectionate to me. He would do everything for me. I lost one father, but now I have so many fathers."
Srila Prabhupada's mood was touching. A father is taken as the provider. His Divine Grace is providing everything for us, yet he looks upon us as providing for him. Without him we would have no life to speak of, and yet he is gratified by even the smallest service. His humility and kindness expand his greatness and bind us all completely with love.
As he passed out some of the delicious rasagullas, Narottama asked, "Is there one for you, Srila Prabhupada?"
Prabhupada laughed brightly. "Yes, I am not so foolish that I shall give everything."
After a quiet day the members of the Bhaktivedanta Institute (a group of scientists among Prabhupada's disciples) gathered in Srila Prabhupada's room in the early evening to present a slide show. It was the first meeting of the Institute with His Divine Grace. The slides they showed will be used to illustrate a book. Svarupa Damodara Dasa and Sadaputa Dasa designed the slide show so that it can also be used in college presentations on Krsna consciousness.
Svarupa Damodara began by asking Srila Prabhupada to comment on the suitability of the proposed book.
The book holds that the existence of an Absolute Truth is axiomatic. Svarupa Damodara explained that the book is meant to show philosophically the difference between life and matter. He said, "So this is Sankhya philosophy. As Srila Prabhupada comments in Srimad-Bhagavatam, Third Canto, the Sankhya philosophy is especially meant for persons conditioned by this material world. By understanding the science of devotional service and Sankhya philosophy, one can become free from the modes of material nature.
"We want to propose that to understand the distinction between life and matter one must have at least some idea of the Absolute Truth. Otherwise, the difference between life and matter is impossible to understand. That is why scientists nowadays are so confused about life and matter."
Even before seeing the slides, Srila Prabhupada had significant comments to make about the axiomatic nature of the Absolute Truth. "That Absolute Truth is explained in the Vedanta-sutra janmady asya yatah.The Absolute Truth is that from which everything comes into existence. Now, that has been discussed in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, because Srimad-Bhagavatam is the natural commentary on Vedanta-sutra by the same author. He begins, janmady asya yato 'nvayad itaratas cartesv abhijnah. This word abhijnah (all-knowing) is used. The Absolute Truth is not dead matter. For example, when a mother gives birth to a child, she knows everything how the child was born of the womb, how it developed, how it is coming. At least on the whole she knows everything. Similarly, the original source of everything is given in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Abhijnah. He is experienced. He knows everything. So the origin of everything cannot be dead."
The scientists showed one slide after another, and Prabhupada gave his comments and clarifications.
One of the opening slides, detailing the structure of theory, stated that there are two types of axioms: logical and theoretical. Svarupa Damodara explained that especially in mathematics all theories are developed from axioms, starting points for which there are no proofs. Svarupa Damodara said that the book's opening premise, that the existence of an Absolute Truth should be accepted as axiomatic, therefore lies entirely within the realms of science.
He showed a slide comparing the features of matter and life. This rested on statements of scripture because, as he pointed out, material science fails to separate matter from life and thus cannot make such a comparison. One of the points on this slide stated that life is complex whereas matter, per se, is simple. This means, he said, that if no life is present, a complex combination of matter, such as the body of a living being, breaks down into much simpler structures.
Pusta Krsna, Prabhupada's secretary, wondered how our devotee scientists could state with certainty that the soul is complex by nature.
"We get information that the spiritual world is full of variegatedness," Svarupa Damodara explained. "It is not just oneness. It is full of varieties. So we take that as proof of the complex nature of life."
Srila Prabhupada agreed. "We see that as long as life is in the material body the person has varieties of thoughts. That is proof that life is full of varieties. As soon as life is not there, no more varieties. Only one variety dead body, that's all. Finished. And as long as life is there, a person has so many ideas, so many arts, so many philosophies. That is proof that life is full of varieties."
Srila Prabhupada pointed out that the Vedanta-sutra is entirely axiomatic. It states that the soul is blissful by nature. "And variety is the mother of enjoyment. Just like this bunch of flowers. When there are varieties of flowers, it becomes a very enjoyable bunch. If you simply bring a rose, although it is very valuable it is not so enjoyable. But when there are small, insignificant leaves also, the rose becomes more beautiful. That is life. And who appreciates it? A living person. A dead man cannot appreciate this beauty."
After nearly three hours, although there were more slides to see, Prabhupada called a halt. Although tired, he was enlivened by the serious efforts his men are making to present Krsna consciousness from a scientific standpoint. He encouraged them to continue and to go out and propagate their work.
"Krsna will bless you. Push this scientific movement. Go to every university, every college. How are they receiving this in the college circles?"
Sadaputa told him they had lectured in the university in Gainesville, Florida, and even given some TV interviews. Prabhupada asked what had been the reaction.
"Well, in the class, at first the professor said, 'That's completely fallacious.' But he quieted down," Sadaputa said.
Srila Prabhupada grinned. "Yes, they will say like that 'fallacious' but you have to make them quiet down."
This ended the meeting on a jolly note.
As everyone packed up to go, Srila Prabhupada, always considerate and never neglectful, told me to give everyone prasadam. He turned to Raksana Dasa, who had stood unobtrusively at Prabhupada's side throughout the session, fanning Prabhupada with a peacock fan.
"Give him twice," Prabhupada said. "He has worked very hard. Double. You should give him double."
Raksana beamed with pleasure at having gained his spiritual master's recognition, compared to which the prasadam was simply an added bonus.
It was a typically personal gesture from His Divine Grace. Although absorbed in discussing the highest philosophical and technically scientific subjects with some of his most qualified men, he did not neglect the humble and simple service of another disciple.
Hari Sauri Dasa was Srila Prabhupada's personal servant from November 1975 to March 1977. He is publishing the detailed dairy he kept during that time. Volume one and volume two are available now, and volume three will be available in August. To order see page 59.