Srila Prabhupada’s Disappearance Festival Highlights:

November 8th, 2002

Srila Prabhupada’s Disappearance Festival


I chanted in Srila Prabhupada’s samadhi until 10 in the morning, so I was late to the pandal (tent) where the program was being held. Still, I heard from quite a few speakers. His Holiness Radhanath Swami alone brought more than a thousand devotees, so a very large professional tent was arranged on the adjacent land to the temple since the Sri Sri Krishna-Balaram Mandir is much too small to accommodate so many.

Sripad Atul Krishna Goswami (a prominent brijbasi, madhva-sannyasi, and Bhagavat lecturer):

“Within the holy name are all 360 philosophies of Indian thought. To distribute the holy name is thus the panacea for all ills. Srila Prabhupada was the most munificent person because he ‘donated’ the holy name to the world.”

Sripad Bhakti Vaibhava Puri Maharaja (Srila Prabhupada’s Godbrother):

“The disciplic succession: There is Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the six Gosvamis, then Srila Prabhupada!”

His Grace Bhurijana Prabhu:

“Brahmananda was reading the philosophy of various great Western philosophers to Srila Prabhupada. A few expressed somewhat profound theistic truths in line with our teachings, so Brahamanda asked Srila Prabhupada, ‘Were they devotees?’ Srila Prabhupada responded, ‘Their sincerity is their devotion.'”

Bhurijana Prabhu then reflected on what sincerity means for a committed disciple. “It is the complete acquiescence of one’s will to the desire of one’s guru. A sincere disciple acts only for the pleasure of his spiritual master, and does nothing independent of his pleasure.”

When Bhurijana was speaking, I thought about how sincere Srila Prabhupada was and how, by his example, he taught sincerity. I also thought about how many sincere devotees were attending the program, devotees who sacrificed everything for Srila Prabhupada’s mission. Bhurijana also humbly spoke on that:

“We are now enjoying so many nice facilities when we come to the dhama, but we should not forget that there was nothing here when Srila Prabhupada started his mission. It was all built on his sacrifice. Not just Srila Prabhupada, but his disciple’s sacrifice; they performed so much austerity in India, and lived in such severe conditions to develop Vrindaban, Mayapur, and Bombay.” Bhurijana then spontaneously mentioned a famous incident with Maithila devi-dasi, the pujari of Sri Sri Radha-Rasabihari. “When hired thugs tried to snatch our land by ripping down the first make-shift temple, she grabbed onto the railing to protect the Deities and just wouldn’t let go. She had to be dragged off by her hair by several attackers after a great struggle. How glorious the sacrifice of Srila Prabhupada’s followers!”

Sri P.L. Sethi (a very old Bombay Life Member, who must be in his 90s, and was an intimate supporter and friend of Srila Prabhupada, offering invaluable service in the development of Hare Krishna Land):

[P.L. Sethi spoke in Hindi and told many stories about his very close relationship with Srila Prabhupada and his dedication to Prabhupada’s mission. Here’s my favorite story, also about when Hare Krishna Land was attacked. His speech was translated and retold by Dina Bandhu Prabhu in his own words.]

“One Friday night, hordes of armed and dangerous thugs attacked Hare Krishna Land and ripped down our temporary temple. The devotees suspected Mr. Nair, the ruthless businessman who had sold the devotees the land, but was now trying to reclaim it by hook or by crook. The devotees were in trouble because they no longer had legal grounds to stay there. According to Indian Law, the place where a temple stands cannot be repossessed, and that was the crux of the devotees’ case. Since their hearing was on Monday, and it was the weekend, the temple could never be rebuilt, which was evidently the dubious Mr. Nair’s plan.”

In distress the devotees approached Mr. Sethi, an ardent follower of Srila Prabhupada, a well-wisher of his disciples, and a building contractor. Mr Sethi was an elderly and distinguished Raj Put (ksatriya, the noble kingly caste), a determined man of impeccable character who sported a handlebar mustache. To the surprise of the devotees, when he heard how they were attacked, Mr. Sethi vowed the impossible: “I will rebuild the temple in 48 hours!” The devotees warned him that the rogues were in cahoots with the local police and even threatened to attack again if they tried anything, but he turned and nonchalantly said to his son, “Brij, get my gun!” Then, he coolly sent his reply through the devotees: “Tell them the first man on our land is a dead man!”

For 48 hours, in constant pouring monsoon rain, out of deep love for Srila Prabhupada, Mr. Sethi fearlessly sat in front of the property, rifle in hand, to protect the land and to supervise his men who worked non-stop around the clock. The impossible was achieved; the temple was reconstructed in time and the situation was saved!

Gargamuni Prabhu (one of the very first disciples of Srila Prabhupada who joined at 26 2nd Avenue and is now retired in Vrindaban):

I was amused by Gargamuni’s offering, but it also deepened my appreciation for Srila Prabhupada for, as Gargamuni said about himself, “By the mercy of Srila Prabhupada, even I am residing in Vrindaban.”

Gargamuni is six feet or more and must be nearly 300 pounds. He always dresses the same, in that Indian hippy look: the cheap cotton pajamas, colored T-shirt, thin cloth vest, long hair, beard, and dark sunglasses. When he was asked to give his offering, rather than sit on the Vyasasana on the stage as the
other speakers had done, he chose to pace back and forth with the microphone in his hand. He spoke nicely and with fervor about three words used by Srila Prabhupada at the end of his letters–“Your ever well-wisher”–to expand on the theme of Srila Prabhupada’s mercy. Often he would almost break down in tears. His whole appearance and manner, however–the way he held the mic and passionately paced the stage, combined with his slight accusatory tone–almost reminded me of an interview with one of those professional wrestlers. One line in particular stuck out in reference to the criticism he gets for apparently pirating the BBT and BBT archive material: “Many people would like to see me shipwrecked off an island of Fiji, but Srila Prabhupada was my ever well-wisher!”

Many cultured Indians from Bombay were in the audience, and I wondered what they thought of the spectacle: Srila Prabhupada’s seniormost disciple dressed like a hippy and pacing across the stage.

My conclusion was that, despite his look and demeanor,everyone saw beyond the exterior to see exactly what I saw–an ISKCON icon with deep love for Srila Prabhupada, and living proof of Srila Prabhupada’s causeless mercy.

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