Bhaktisiddhānta Dāsa [ACBSP] – Śrī Vṛndāvan Dham:
Evening somnolence given respite, a scornful morn edging the palpable steel suited mantel of deadly night; a tranquil Vrindaban embraces the resplendent light.
Streaked golden red cluster shafts of buoyant effulgence giving new life; just witness this ebullient fireball, just hanging shrouded by the density of early morning sight.
How much space exists between us and this show of magnificence breaking the horizon exhibiting a power beyond earthly delight?
See this reflection of a higher dimension; regulation without deviation, perpetuation with a fixed determination in all its might.
Under close inspection of any fragmental particle of this creation we see the power and majesty of the Divine Creator; Lord Krsna’s power reigning supreme. Eternal time combined with divine design, not merely intelligent design all to bewilder the atheistic mind. Scientists totally miss the inner fabric of our Universal creation. God the person is present in every atom and as instrumentation improves we find that even in sub-atomic particles or smaller scientists continually discover the workings of the Supreme Lord. Why then is God or intelligent design ruled out in every equation? It is not a question of belief; it’s a matter of common sense. Understanding God’s potency is a highly evolved science rather than some secular religion.
As the sun appears and strikes us with light and healing qualities so appears a continual line of pure enlightened beings, distinguished luminaries bringing the gift of transcendence to this fallen age; sages in disciplic succession carry the message delivered by God Himself, Lord Sri Krsna speaks His eternal message disseminated amongst the masses through the agency of pure divine beings. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada has arisen, his powers eternal through his words and actions dispelling the darkness of Kali Yuga for the next 10,000 years; Lord Krsna’s divine messenger speaking in a soft humble voice carrying the force of eternal time. He has benefited our lives with the torchlight of Vedic knowledge; Vedanta personified. His greatness is exemplified in his purports and divine instruction, his purity of vision presents the absolute truth unchanged from its origin as strong as the sun passes on its vital rays of life.
Who is Srila Prabhupada and what is the essence of his message for this fallen age? No one really knows his true spiritual identity, yet it is commonly understood that he is a sakty-avesa avatara. On the level of Jesus Christ and other great saints who visit this earth planet.
“The Caitanya-caritamrta states that in the Age of Kali the only spiritual function is to broadcast the holy name of the Lord, but this function can be performed only by one who is actually empowered by Lord Krsna. The process by which a devotee is thus empowered is called avesa, or sometimes it is called sakty-avesa.” [ADI 10, 59]
“The devotee is especially a savior for human beings, most of whom would surely fall down into lower species in their next lives without the devotee’s efforts to reform them. According to time, place, and person, every pure-devotee savior teaches the same message: “Do not rot in this material world; follow the word of God and be saved.” The world still worships saviors such as Jesus Christ, Lord Buddha, and Lord Caitanya. Many other pure devotees continue to appear, as the son of God or as sakty-avesa avataras, to save the human race. Considering the far-reaching auspicious effects of a pure devotee’s presence, which are mostly beyond normal comprehension, we can appreciate better why Srila Prabhupada said, “If only one man becomes a pure devotee of the Lord, we shall consider our attempt a success.” [NBS 4]
Lord Jesus Christ spoke in parables according to his time and preaching field, Srila Prabhupada spoke in simple clear language for this present age. His message was straightforward; we are something separate from these bodies. We take birth, live in complete illusion covered with false notions of grandeur and shallow happiness and miss the true nature and purpose of life. The principle of life is self-realization or God realization and dedication of one’s life to pure devotional service to the Supreme rather than selfish personal sense gratification.
Looking through the false notions of happiness and distress we can’t see the harsh reality or taste the realization that we all are imprisoned in this material creation of our own making. There is only one escape; death the reality, but try and flee with a slice of the wrists or a jump into oblivion, we push up our prison sentence and our misery increases. Suicide spells out a ghostly existence; those who take their own life face a stiffer payback in this ghostly realm. Ghosts have all the same desires of the living but no material body to satisfy those gross desires. Remember every act pays you back until you settle up the account. We are eternal so cut the illusion which perpetuates in profusion; because deep inside our spirit soul never grows old, there is no other conclusion. Chant the glories of the Lord, dance and sing, let the entire world acknowledge the open secret, this maha mantra will deliver us all from perpetual damnation and bring us back home for eternal glorification. Therefore chant and be happy;
Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
We should also all chant the glories of the spiritual master who has delivered us all from this mire of material existence. The ABC’s of spiritual life delivered by his Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada was a little known truth in the western world; our actual nature lies deeper within, we are eternal spirit souls living a fairy tale of material existence in these temporary bodies.
THE SPIRITUAL MASTER
If we tune in to the divine message carried by the celestial sound of Lord Krsna’s flute, we will begin to taste the nectar which is awaiting all who hold a desire to cross over this material ocean as an insignificant speck of dust on the shores of the spiritual realm. The swan like paramahamsa pure devotee insures a smooth crossing and no boat is required. It is just a question of surrender and looking forward to the mercy which will fill our eyes with tears of ecstasy. The process of devotional service is outlined as the means for crossing this ocean of material existence. There is guaranteed success through the mercy of the spiritual master.
Srila Prabhupada you are the center of all the Universes. All worlds revolve around you. You are the transparent via media, the antenna of reception, and the step-down transformer from the powerhouse of the high voltage coming down from the spiritual world, without you there is no connection. You are the sound representation of Lord Krishna’s flute; you are the solid rock of spiritual life for all your countless thousands of disciples past, present and future. You represent the strength and solid foundation of a thousand Himalayas.
Srila Prabhupada you are the sun, the moon, the Himalayas, the pivotal point of all existence. You are the essence of gentleness, the epitome of greatness. You are the roar of unlimited oceans, primeval worlds past and future, yet you are the sound of silence.
Homage to the savior of the fallen conditioned souls
If what we think is important then what about what we do? As explained by Srila Prabhupada what we die with will ultimately give us our next body. The last thought is all important just as athletics train hard to perform well at the time of competition, we need to be trained for what happens at the time of death by chanting this Maha-mantra; then all purposes are instantly served.
This is the means to always remember God, Lord Krsna and never forget Him. By always singing Lord Krsna’s glories we always remain firmly fixed in His service and with the help of Guru, we will be guided and carried across the finishing line called death into the spiritual realm. This is the eternal message given by Srila Prabhupada a pure bonified spiritual master in the long line of the eternal system of disciplic secession; a message past down from one enlightened being to another since time immemorial. Everlasting truth for a fallen age, the only hope his divine grace.
Since these bodily elements are composed of dead matter and our souls are eternal then there is actually no death. The spirit soul just leaves this body which is already dead, so nothing dies we just get reborn in another body. We move according to our desires. Purify the desire and if we think of the Supreme Lord at the time of so-called death then no more birth in this material world. This maha mantra will deliver us all; as the great sages pouring from this land of Bharata Varsa, India, have all proclaimed, this universal language of Hare Nama is the means of deliverance from this darkness of Kali Yuga. Quarrel and confusion, this age of disillusion requires a fire-brand of illumination to dispel this voidism and impersonalism of a godless society. We watch with stifled breath as the world turns on itself but where is the solution, Lord Krsna is in full control at all times. So what is the cause of all the disasters natural and unnatural? Past Karma, sin passing through the revolving doors of the perpetual confessional brings no forgiveness. If we truly repent then there is no scope for reoccurring transgressions. Forgiven once, forgiven twice; then join the ranks of the fools who think God will forgive forever.
Many thousands still are being touched by the causeless mercy of Srila Prabhupada. Karma quickly absorbed, millions of sinful reactions resolved. Clean slate for those who take initiation and set forth on a spiritual voyage destined to arrive on the shores of the spiritual world. Take advantage of this golden moment and decide now to leave this material world and all the punishments attached to our attachments. The process is eternal, we are eternal; unfortunately we are in temporary illusion of our proper position. We have taken countless cycles of birth and rebirth until now in this human life form we can make the choice to leave all this madness behind.
“Surrender, no it’s too difficult; give up all these wonderful sensual pleasures for something that is hidden, spiritual. We should give up all that we stand for, all that we know and love; our families, possessions, and attachments? Not possible.”
The riddle is Maya herself, is it feasible to escape her trance, her spell is stronger than anyone’s ability to penetrate outside this deep well of darkness, illusion and forgetfulness. She has bound us with our own desires, what stronger material grip is possible then our love to enjoy? A pure devotee is the only means out of this entrapment. When the opportunity presents itself take full advantage by grabbing this rope of rescue and leave behind all attachments by surrendering fully to a pure devotee spiritual master; Srila Prabhupada. That first step will take us on the journey back home back to Godhead. Deeply reading his literatures is the first step in association. By reading his books we access the vast ocean of unlimited Vedic knowledge, the summary of truth on spiritual life which is not readily available in this material world. The world is drowning in the muck of humdrum understanding; giant reservoirs of mundane books in countless libraries throughout the world will never answer the inner call of liberation; nor bring any real pleasure. Dreams of temporary contentment, guidebooks on how to extract the most enjoyment from the dead stone of material existence will always leave us homeless. Our attempt to take pleasure in these material senses will never bring any happiness. Everything is temporary and flickering, enjoy for a moment and suffer for countless lifetimes. Step back and take a good look at our past experiences and see what little hope there is in the future unless we make some change now and look to a person who is free from all material ties and illusions. A pure devotee is rare to find, but the opportunity is being presented. If we look over our shoulder death is in fast pursuit. We have no idea of when our time will terminate, but if we ignore the opportunity now then repeated changes of material bodies is assured. This present body is a manifestation of all our desires from our last birth. What we do in this life will determine what kind of body we get in the next life. Again born, again death until we wake up to our reason for existence in this material corpse which is to surrender to the Supreme Lord and extract ourselves from this eternal change of bodies, Samsara.
Srila Prabhupada lives forever in his books and instructions, if we don’t take advantage our fate is still unlearned. There is no assurance that we will take a human body in our next life, we die and all is forgotten of this present life. OK, forget all this and let’s go on and try to change the world and make a better situation for ourselves and our family; remember we have had many families and many useless attachments which plague us to this present time. Leave behind all that matters composed of matter, give up all mundane love which is shrouded lust and see there is hope for an eternal life full of bliss and knowledge.
What follows is the story of that personality which is making spiritual life available for the entire world. This is the story of building a home for one who built a space big enough for the entire world to live in peacefully this is his final message plain and simple.
THE SAMADHI, CHAPTER ONE
In 1978 Srila Prabhupada’s Samadhi came into being like the seed of a lotus flower slowly pushing itself up, growing day by day, built on a strong foundation this structure was erected to last; a footing for the entire world to rest upon. This ISKCON movement will also rise despite all the internal problems and encompass all those who now and in the future will look upon Srila Prabhupada as the savior for this fallen age. This is a new beginning for future generations to take full advantage of the mercy that is ever existing, ever present. A new concept on living a happy life free of miseries and frustrations leading to everlasting eternal pleasure and knowledge has become available by the mercy of Srila Prabhupada. A silent revolution under the banner of ISKCON is now the undercurrent spreading around the world. The creator and designer Srila Prabhupada is now getting a permanent home. A symbolic parallelism was running with the adventure of raising this memorial for our spiritual master. The setbacks and upsets confronting building this Samadhi reflected Srila Prabhupada’s movement at large, a parade of white elephants dancing and chanting around the world in increasing numbers spell out a drastic change on contemporary society. These dancing white elephants pay the price of dedication and surrender collecting the necessary funds to build this lasting memorial for our divine spiritual master.
As the impersonal war machines build and grind away traces of sanity in this material existence, the same material elements used in this construction became sacred and blessed to become a part of Srila Prabhupada’s eternal home. There were many attempts to check the progress and stifle the growth of what most would think a simple building. In this silent revolution no shots are fired no one is injured rather a far reaching prescription for change in this age is now administering its cure. Srila Prabhupada stated it boldly; Lord Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
In the last months we had the silent darshans, Srila Prabhupada would be taken around the temple three times and then inside under the Tamal tree for the sweetest darshans ever available. He would sit looking at the deities with his hands folded in front of his heart and then came the most intimate moments when he would communicate with the Lord in silence. Tears would flow from his eyes and trickle down his cheeks partly covered with the sunglasses which helped to protect his sensitive eyesight from the brilliant glare of Vrindaban’s morning sun. We would all sit by his side and just watch as this love exchange took place between Their Lordships and himself. Srila Prabhupada was riding in his rocking chair which seemed to become a symbol of his ever present inner authority. This rocking chair power was ongoing for those last few months before he became totally bedridden. Anyone present at those moments will never forget the opportunity he displayed for our eyes to see plainly the true nature of pure love.
As his movement grew he mentioned that only the structure was built; collectively we his disciples had the task of decorating what he built slowly over the short years of his preaching. Srila Prabhupada started with nothing as an example to all; then slowly he kept building his ISKCON society until it became the worldwide organization it is today. Constructing his final resting place followed the same pattern. If we pursue and pattern our lives after the ideal example eventually perfection is guaranteed. Srila Prabhupada will never die.
My wife and I were present for the last few months before he left our worldly purview; but if we use a little spiritual vision we see he never left, he will continue to live through his words and example. Being covered in this material existence we see with faulty vision but through my blunt peripheral he never lost vitality or consciousness in those last days. His body hardly existed but his spirit and determination remained intact to the very end. He lived as he spoke and his preaching continued to his final breath. His body now is bigger and within his ISKCON society he will live forever and continually grow. As I watched on that day, Nov. 14th, 1977 I saw Srila Prabhupada open up for the entire world.
THE FINAL MOMENTS OF SRILA PRABHUPADA.
My wife and I walked into Srila Prabhupada’s room at approximately 7:00 PM. The room was shaking with the sound of kirtan. The intensity of the sound vibration must have reached the spiritual world because as we entered the crowded room we both sensed that the room was full of more than devotees. The room was packed full; but above the heads of everyone the space seemed even more crowded with divine personalities that I could feel had come to witness the rare passing of a pure soul. The event that was to take place in the next 15 minutes would affect countless thousands of men and women around the world. The stage was set for the departure of the Supreme Lord’s pure devotee. Srila Prabhupada would only be with us moments more, no one really believed that Srila Prabhupada would leave. For several days it was never known if Srila Prabhupada would stay or go back to the spiritual realm. He mentioned that Lord Krsna didn’t really mind if he stayed or came back to His abode. When asked Srila Prabhupada said that the Supreme Lord told him;
“It’s up to you if you want to stay OK, but what difference will it make, you have to make the choice.”
The sound vibration reached such a new height everyone in the room was blessed by the rarity of the moment. Everyone was crowding in closer around Srila Prabhupada’s bed. There was no room to move, those fortunate enough to get up close could see that Srila Prabhjupada was getting ready to go. The kaviraja had announced one hour earlier that he had only moments, that he would leave within the hour. He wanted to go out as a warrior preaching to the very end. Even the last breath had to be used in Krsna’s service. He had announced earlier;
“Don’t think this won’t happen to you! Everyone must come to the same end there are no exceptions.”
Srila Prabhupada instructed his disciples throughout his life, and now his departure was supremely instructive. He lived what he spoke and with his last words he gave us the means to graduate from this material covering. The last moment was coming, his voice was choked up and he had difficulty making any sound. But clearly the last words came out, “Hare Krsna!” Then his head fell to the side, Srila Prabhupada left for the spiritual world. The kirtan had reached such a crescendo that I thought it meant he was going to stay. From within the crowd some devotees started to wail and even one fellow started to roll on the floor in front of me. I was sitting behind everyone under the pictures of the acharyas so I didn’t know what was happening. Because the sound of the kirtan was so amazing it seemed to me that Srila Prabhupada was going to stay.Then I heard, “He’s gone, he’s gone!” I couldn’t believe my ears, how could he leave us. Instantly all the intense vibration in the room began to filter away. The shock waves were now moving out to reach around the world. The impact of all the celestial beings who undoubtedly came for this event dispersed; now instead of Srila Prabhupada’s movement it became his institution. Collectively his disciples were left to help perpetuate his ongoing preaching which he declared was only half completed. He had indeed planted the seeds and built a solid foundation for his institution to grow and provide guidance for all future generations.
Quickly we were all asked to leave the room so that Srila Prabhupada could be bathed and dressed. No one wanted to go but slowly everyone but a few of the older senior most devotees stayed on to help handle the matter of getting Srila Prabhupada ready for the final darshan. As we gathered outside of Srila Prabhupada’s quarters I looked over at Bharadvaja my old leader from the FATE days and released the truth that was in my heart;
“Now Srila Prabhupada is for everyone instead of just a select few as before.”
THE LAST OFFERING OF FLOWERS.
Srila Prabhupada was taken around the temple three times and then his palaquin was placed on his vyasasana till early morning. Throughout the entire evening the kirtan continued; later Gaudiya Math men came from Mathura with Narayana Maharaja and their sweet melodious sound filled the temple room; all the devotees present joined in and the kirtan went on non-stop till dawn. I was offering Tulasi arotik following Mangal arotik and as I waved the articles over Tulasi I looked up at Srila Prabhupada sitting there infront of me in the distance behind the tulasi plant, and I swear I saw him blink his right eye. He appeared to be just nodding off, dozing and in a moment he would again speak to us and offer some instruction. Later he was taken down town to visit all the major temples. I walked the first part up to Radha Damodar until I was called back to help fix the marble slab that was placed on the bottom of the hole which was like a ten foot cube. We lowered the slab with ropes on either side and just as the slab was put in place Srila Prabhupada was brought back to the temple for the final arrangements. The atmosphere was generally of disbelief and shock to see Srila Prabhupada in this condition. His body was bathed and new clothes given; then after the final puja he was picked up and moved over the heads of everyone and lowered into the Samadhi hole. When I saw his limp body with arms falling to the side he looked like a reminder of Lord Caitanya in estatic loving mood or a repeat of Haridas Thakura’s passing. His body was just a thin covering of bones but for me he was still the symbol of strength and perfection.
Once placed on the marble slab in lotus position, he was then covered with salt; bags of salt were poured and packed around his body then finally only his head was showing. Then a few more bags were packed over his body as the large crowd all around the samadhi hole all watching in disbelief witnessed this historic event; Srila Prabhupada was gone. I was told to watch his clothes and all the flower garlands that were left on his palaquin, so I had a back seat view of the final moment. Bhakti Caru Swami was the last person to touch his head before he was covered and we lost all view of His Divine Grace. Then we all poured sand over his body until the hole was filled. Those of us present represented all the other members of ISKCON who were unable to come, or were never informed of his passing until it was over. Memories etched in our brains for all time to come, never will it be possible to forget those last moments as we watched Srila Prabhupada disappear from our sight. All lucky enough to get a moments association of Lord Krsna’s pure devotee will never forget those precious moments of blessings that we all received. Now it is just an interlude before we join our spiritual master in the ISKCON in the spiritual sky. Srila Prabhupada said it would be like that, he had the key to the back door and we all were invited to join his party in the spiritual world. Now we have his law books for the next 10,000 years but we all need to describe and record what we saw and experienced during his manifest presence on this planet from what time we were granted and blessed by his divine association. No one knows who Srila Prabhupada is in the spiritual world, but all the other previous Acharyas were Manjaries or divine damsels who attend the intimate pastimes between Radha and Her lover Krsna. Srila Prabhupada did say;
“My spiritual form is golden and if I told you who I am you won’t believe it anyway.”
Now it was time to build the final resting place for His Divine Grace. Initially a small mud hut was built which was only big enough for one person to enter and do the puja and offering which started that day. Above his head a bamboo pole was placed to indicate his exact position. The pole extended out of the earth one foot then a square mound of Vrindaban dust covered that bamboo. I had more bamboo poles with flags attached; I went to my room and brought the extra bamboo which were then placed on the mound and Srila Prabhupada’s picture was rested against the bamboo poles. The puja and offerings started that day and have continued to this present moment. Those fortunate few of us who had the opportunity to do the first puja in that small mud hut that was initially constructed around the mound will never forget the good fortune because Srila Prabhupada was personally present. His blessings and presence were so strong at that moment it was hard to enter that small mud hut; now his mercy and darshans have expanded and become available for all takers. Later when the Samadhi construction started then came a larger brick structure which served as the space for Srila Prabhupada’s puja and boga offering until the Samadhi proper was about half finished. Then a large yellow wooden box was built to contain Srila Prabhupada’s picture and the puja went on throughout all of the construction; there was no interruption or stopping the ongoing puja and offering from the beginning to this present day.
Srila Prabhupada gave us a vision of a better human race a world totally Krsna Conscious. Therefore this final home will be the focal point for all future generations of devotees who are following his footsteps to help make his dream a reality. This Samadhi is the launching pad for the countless thousands of preachers who will come in the future and carry on his dream; a world Krsna Conscious. What chance has anyone adrift in this material ocean? Finding a pure bonified spiritual master will always be a rare gift. Anyone who comes to the shade of his lotus feet will always see this blazing fire of material existence extinguished. This Samadhi is an oasis where everyone can come and drink the nectar which is now eternally available for all takers. Our role as parrots is to understand the philosophy and convey it unchanged as a mailman delivers the letters he carries; so our glory is to bring our realizations to this movement and be careful not to change anything or we spoil our attempts to reach the lotus feet of our spiritual master. A self realized spiritual master is in direct communion with the Supreme Lord at all times so what he says is taken as the ultimate truth spoken by Lord Krsna Himself. Srila Prabhupada never used cheap tricks or showed his mystic perfections but it was clear to everyone he was supremely endowed. Many others and myself included were given this introductory offer to appreciate his eternal glories; let it be known Srila Prabhupada was not of this material world. Often as he walked he left no footprints, with my own eyes I bear witness to this fact. He floated through his life span giving everything and taking nothing. His real power shows in his books and divine instructions. On the rare occasions when he lapsed into an estacstic trance he would come out of it and apologize for the moments he was absent.
THE VRINDABAN SAMADHI DIARY
The initial design work started in 1978 a few months after the departure of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. For the full year of 1978 we had a 24 hour kirtan party running in the temple by the arrangement of the late Sulocana Prabhu who was the temple commander. He did a wonderful job of honoring Srila Prabhupada during that first year. The initial conceptual drawing work on the Samadhi ran for over a full year before any construction was possible.
Let me clarify in the beginning this is the real story as it happened with all the details that I can remember. What I saw was glorious, sad and painful as our ISKCON society initially developed growing pains and is still suffering because of our inability to perform according to the dictations and direction provided by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada. Let us not criticize any individuals rather glorify those persons who gave what they had. This story about the Samadhi concerns all of our inadequacies and our collective inability to overcome the gross qualities that prevented our movement to take over the world in 18 days as stated by Srila Prabhupada. Greed, corruption, and intrigue, even murder has infiltrated within our ranks. If we espy the case of Sulocana our old temple commander we can see how far off we have gone as a society. I always thought well no matter what is wrong within our society at least we aren’t killing one another; subsequently Sulocana was murdered. Generally the disease we all have which has brought us to this material world is still prominent within ISKCON collectively and individually; meaning the need to accumulate abundant personal financial resources and the concomitant reward of power. Therefore our story is riddled with these setbacks.
The question which was asked year after year was; “Why is it taking so long!” The answer is all the above unfortunate ingredients hold us back but still we are a tremendous, growing power source as a worldwide society. The stronger we get as a world class society the stronger the opposition provided by Maya. In the parade of sincere devotees who were involved in the Samadhi construction let there be praise and recognition for each person’s contribution either as money or time donated, everyone who was involved even in the smallest way will certainly be perpetually recognized and glorified by the Supreme Lord. No matter how fallen a person might be if service to a pure devotee is rendered in the smallest way the reward is enormous.
The story begins with H.H. Surabhir Maharaja who was given the responsibility to bring up both Samadhies; namely Vrindaban and Mayapur. He put together some basic ideas on what he wanted in the initial design, then he gave the work to me to elaborate and make an artistic rendering to show the front elevation of how the new design would look on both the Vrindaban and Mayapur Samadhies when there was nothing but some rough ideas on paper. The GBC Samadhi committee assigned to overseeing the final design initially accepted both drawings so the work had to generally follow these two drawings; therefore the work could go ahead without further complications. The initial concepts belonged to Surabhir Maharaja, both Samadhies were his babies; full credit must be given where it is due. Surabhir had the vision and he utilized me and others as his instruments. Simply I had the opportunity to be in the right place at the right time so these two drawings are now exactly what we see today in both finished Samadhies. Next Murti das came in and his effort was the real contribution because he was responsible for most of the working drawings; the building developed mainly because of his early involvement. Mayesvara Prabhu came on to refine the accounting system and worked out the practical applications of doing the actual construction. He also was heavily involved in the general design and early conceptual work. Our focus deals with these first individuals who gave their life and soul to this Samadhi project. This inside story is a reflection of history that has never been told; throughout all the construction I was personally present and witnessed all of the following. Some devotees acted as the devil’s advocate showing a very negative front which came on as a surprise, unfortunately this was part of the cause of all the setbacks and difficulties which stifled the advancement of this construction. Without being biased here is the story as it happened showing both the positive and negative elements that made this time most interesting as well as extremely difficult to work in harmony with god brothers. This history needs to be told as it occurred.
SAMADHI HISTORY AS IT HAPPENED
The actual working drawings hadn’t reached full completion until after the GBC committee arrived in Vrindaban. Most of these GBC members were also part of the new guru clan. Murti das and I went to the meeting where Murti presented some of the conceptual drawings he had been working on, and I had a large drawing showing a whole series of pastimes of Lord Caitanya which was designed as a massive gold plated bronze relief mural to grace the outer walls of the inner chamber of the Samadhi. When we entered the room there was already a heated conversation going on concerning Pradyumna Prabhu who wrote a letter outlining the future outcome of these 11 new acharya’s which later proved to be 100% correct in his vision of the disasters that lay ahead for our ISKCON society. Murti could hardly get a single word out before he was cut off by Ramesvara Maharaja, then I tried to show the drawing I had which would cover the front face of the Samadhi chamber. I displayed the large drawing and immediately again Ramesvara cut us off;
“I DON’T LIKE IT! GET THESE MEN OUT OF HERE. LET’S MOVE ON TO WHAT’S MORE IMPORTANT. GET PRADYUMNA IN HERE; HE’S THE ONE WERE AFTER!”
Ramesvara had the lead voice he had no interest in Srila Prabhupada’s Samadhi, but before we were thrown out of the room a couple other opinions surfaced. Jayatirtha Prabhu had his idea of making the Samadhi a meandering garden affair so the pilgrims could come and just sit and enjoy the atmosphere. Jaypataka Maharaja had the idea of keeping the whole area open and the Samadhi would be up one level like a bowling alley above everyone’s heads so the pilgrims could come in and go immediately into the temple if they so desired. Few of these men really wanted to hear anything since these new guru representatives were here for blood. The Samadhi took a back seat; more important to them at this point was to seek revenge against those who spoke against their newly self- appointment as Acharya’s governing the entire ISKCON world. Two more names on their black list were Harischandra Prabhu and H.H. Yasodananda Maharaja who both wrote letters and solicited signatures on their petitions to challenge this new arrangement.
After this episode the heat was on for all those devotees who signed on these petitions; Gunarnava Prabhu, I and a few others didn’t sign. Almost everyone else in the temple did sign so one by one the 11 new authorities broke everyone’s back who dared to make a challenge to what these men now had in full control. The mood was heavy for some days as the inquisition was going on. The collective power these men had at that time was frightening. It was a no win situation, to counter these men meant Vaisnava aparadha and excommunication from the ranks of our ISKCON society. These men were organized and supported each other with full intensity. Obviously considerable time was spent in organizing their plan to tolerate no opposition and command the respect they demanded.
Later all the devotees living in Vrindaban had the good fortune of seeing the newly invented simultaneous guru puja take place for the first time. Eleven new vyasasanas were installed in the Krsna Balarama temple room and during the guru puja for Srila Prabhupada all the other 11 had their new disciples worship them in full fanfare. There was hardly any room in the temple except for those getting this new worship, some of the 11 didn’t take their seats but their photos were in place. It became quite apparent that this new system wasn’t practical since no one could come into the darshan area to attend the guru puja ceremony and Srila Prabhupada was entirely forgotten. Later one of the new seats ended up being thrown off the gurukula roof as a symbol of protest and the remaining 10 new seats soon disappeared. Some month’s later two new marble seats were installed for the resident and visiting gurus. When we had two guru/ GBC’s stationed in Vrindaban, each had their own permanent seat; which is another story.
DO YOU WANT LIONS?
The translation of the text on the board reads;
“The great sage Narada Muni continued: You must understand that Puranjana, the living entity, transmigrates according to his own work into different types of bodies, which may be one-legged, two-legged, three legged, four-legged, many legged or simply legless. Transmigrating into these various types of bodies, the living entity, as the so-called enjoyer is known as Puranjana. [SB. 4.29.2.]
…The word bahu-pada refers to those creatures that have more than four legs. The name Puranjana indicates one who enjoys possessing different types of bodies. His mentality for enjoyment in the material world is accommodated by different types of bodies.”
During the advent of the new zonal Acharya’s in Vrindaban; Murti das, Mayesvara das and I were asked if we could carry out a little project of building new Vyasasanas for the new Local Acharya’s and the visiting Gurus. In my innocence, I thought the idea was some joke. However, Bhavananda Maharaja now called Visnupada assured us that this was a serious project and he wanted one of us or all to carry out the work. In my joking fashion I asked;
“Do you want lions?” Visnupada, being one of the new pada-squad replied, “Make them cubs.”
None of us took the manner very serious until we all saw Bhavananda Maharaja sitting on the new marble vyasasana having one of his new Bengali initiates cool him with a peacock fan. The two marbles panels on either side of Srila Prabhupada giving his name and title in English and Hindi were removed and discarded. I asked Bhavananda about this and he replied that it would be ok, later we can put the panels somewhere else. All this went on for some extended period, as the new resident guru and all the visiting gurus came and left. Later Bhagavan Maharaja took over the reins as lord and master of our temple and the first time he sat on his marble seat he declared that from this moment on no one could approach Srila Prabhupada unless they went through him. Now I thought that was a big statement for any man to make; again I thought that maybe it was just a joke. But as time progressed, I found that the matter was all very serious and it was going to continue until all opposing elements were eliminated. When all the new eleven initiating gurus had a new vyasasana set up in the temple for the new simultaneous guru puja it appeared like a bad joke. Instantly all the new gurus were placed on equal footing with Srila Prabhupada. However, it really looked funny watching the difficulty since the temple room obviously couldn’t accommodate this new fashion. Something had to give, either Srila Prabhupada had to wait until all the new men took their worship, or we had to expand the temple. Much to our happiness, a third idea came up; all the new vyasasanas were taken out. .
Finally, in 1986, the mood changed and with the clash in New Vrindaban, it was decided that one of the two new seats in any temple could be eliminated. After those senior god brothers made their protests understood Kirtanananda Maharaja had the entire room cleaned with cow dung to purify the air; soon after he was bashed over the head with an iron club.
I kept insisting that our resident group of Brahmans or leading group of god brothers should take a decision and remove both because it was simply asymmetrical. Aesthetically, they both had to go. I was voted the man to do the job. On the appointed day I gathered my crew and before we started to pry off the first piece of marble I was stopped by one pujari who told me that he thought he saw some marble sitting downstairs sometime back. On closer investigation, we found both the original panels buried in the deepest corner of the lower basement. This seemed to me to be a clear sign that this work needed to be done at this time.
As the work started, the most amazing thing happened, as the marble seats came up thousands of ants poured all over the temple room. I could understand the sloka on the board had some significant meaning- many bahu-padas [referring to those creatures that have four legs or more] meaning ants kept pouring out of the seat. Under both marble seats on the resident and visiting guru vyasasanas which were living symbols now gave testimony of the nature of the grand deception that nearly killed our beloved ISKCON society. As the thousands of ants poured out of the two seats and filled the temple room, for a brief moment I paused to question if it could be that these ants were gurus in their past lives and needed to join the new pada-squad to round out their final curtain call. For whatever reason there were padas running in all directions, and it seemed to me something was not quite right.
The matter of restoring the original look took my men and I several days, finally the work was done, and it was time for the first guru puja for Srila Prabhupada. We all assembled that day and right in the beginning of the puja I noticed that suddenly Srila Prabhupada was personally present in his murti form, like some veil or curtain had been lifted. Did it mean that we never had to go through anyone to approach our spiritual master? If this be the case then it would mean that forever any human being has the same option, if he or she wanted to directly approach Srila Prabhupada there are no barriers, as long as his words are kept intact. I looked out over the devotees present and it seemed that only a few others in the kirtan witnessed the same miracle.
All glories to the pada-squad but there should never be another attempt to cover Srila Prabhupada who has eliminated the need for pads or any more material bodies, all glories to Srila Prabhupada, the savior of the entire human race, and even some bahu-padas. We don’t want to exclude eka-pada’s-ghosts, who run on one leg or, dvi-padas-humans- biped or two legs, tri-pada meaning old humans using a cane, catus-pada-four legged, animals, apadaka-without legs, snakes. Srila Prabhupada’s mercy extends to everyone. He is Srila Prabhupada because all Prabhu’s (masters) come and pay obeisances to his lotus feet.
The shock wave of Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance was felt around the world. His sudden departure had turned the world of his disciples upside down. Those were serious moments; however reflecting back on the first day of the Samadhi construction still brings a smile when I picture the unique beginning. The two men who first worked on the design took it upon themselves to get the project moving.
“Mayesvara Prabhu, bring the sledge hammer with you we have a job to do.”
“Murti, I’m with you take this other sledge hammer and today we start the construction destruction.”
The two men were both trained architects and knew that if any construction was ever going to take place the first step was the removal of all existing structures on the site. Murti das was trained directly under the famous Frank Lloyd Wright and Buckminster Fuller the creator of the geodesic dome; so his training was of the highest order. The Samadhi area was delegated by Srila Prabhupada himself; he wanted to be placed directly in front to the left of the temple as you enter. There were rumors that the man who gifted the land wanted to build a petro pump station in front of the temple. So by selecting this site Srila Prabhupada ended that fiasco in a hurry.
Running from the front gate to the temple entrance was a three-tiered fountain that seldom worked; the fountain acted only as a sitting place for pilgrims that would come each day for darshan. These two devotees’ now holding sledgehammers had a sense of humor in all things they did. When they got outside and saw the work in hand, they immediately approached the two men sitting on the side of the fountain talking quietly in the morning sun.
“Murti you take one side and I’ll take the other.”
Without telling the visitors anything they started to smash down the fountain on either side of where the two Indian gentlemen were sitting. Immediately they jumped up and ran out of the temple complex screaming in good English;
“LET’S GET OUT OF HERE, THESE WESTERN GUYS ARE CRAZY!”
The Samadhi construction was officially on. For the first few years the progress was going smoothly and the Laxmi or money was flowing, the structure was going up. In the absence of the spiritual master often a crisis occurs, the inevitable did happen, the management structure started to crumble. The sannyasa in charge Surabhir Maharaja had other projects going. Two Samadhies were being constructed simultaneously; one in Vrindaban where the actual body of his Divine Grace was buried and the other in Mayapur in West Bengal was the puspa or flower Samadhi or where the final flowers from the body of the spiritual master were planted. Both constructions were major works but other projects were also on the drawing table. The one man in charge was being stretched thin and increasing pressure was coming down on his head for results. The man was trained directly under the vision of Srila Prabhupada and one of the few who had working knowledge of how to construct in India. Later on during one visit in Mayapur Surabhir Maharaja was sitting outside of the construction hut and observing the work at hand. So joking I greeted him;
“Maharaja you’ve come, I see your site-seeing again, nice to see your here!”
Later for a short period when the steel frame work and the initial shuttering on the dome was going on there was no one else available to head up the work on both the Mayapur and Vrindaban Samadhies so I was given the task to oversee both projects. Ranjit Prabhu had been the in charge in Mayapur from the beginning. Once the steel framework on the dome was done and the initial shuttering began Ranjit decided to leave, he had witnessed the hardest part getting the project off the ground. Now he turned over the responsibility to my care until someone more qualified would turn up. Because Maharaja was so busy he was seldom able to come to the site; it was rare to see him for more than a couple of days every few months. Because of the lack of his supervision on the site many problems were constantly being faced for immediate decision.
The work on the Mayapur Samadhi was going on with a heavy push for completion before the rains would come. The monsoons spoiled at least four months of the year; the rains would come down so heavy that no work could be done, and the monsoons were due to come within three months. The foundation was put in during the last rainy season and at that time huge amounts of rain water had to be constantly pumped out. The ring beam foundation had to go in fast all in one shot. At no time could the pouring of cement stop for a second. If they stopped pouring even for one day then a split would come in the most crucial moment of the construction. If it weren’t a continuous pour then the whole thing would be wasted and would have to be broken and started again; that cost of money and time was unthinkable. Later Caitanya Singh Prabhu watched through his surveyor scope and measured the displacement on the structure as it went up to see how much settlement would take place. Miraculously there was little change and the additional weight settled evenly. Devotees around the world were out on the street gathering donations by selling books, incense and other devotional items to cover the cost of both the Samadhies being built at the same time in these two remote areas of India.
PAGES FROM THE VRINDABAN SAMADHI DIARY
Because of the importance of the constuction I felt there had to be a series of paintings to capture this moment of history in the making.
This first painting shows the well house being dismantled. The structure was so strongly built it took a couple of months to bring it down. In places the concrete structure work was over two feet thick. This was the only well in the area that delivered fresh sweet water. This area in Raman Rati today is almost all salty down to 200 ft. below surface. Kali Yuga’s progressive march in the holy dham. Behind the well is the first brick Samadhi and the pujari is sitting outside making the offering. To the right is the original marble plaque which is now placed on the back wall behind Srila Prabhupada’s chamber.
The initial piling work started December 18, 1979. Instead of the normal diesel boring rigs commonly seen in the west, the construction crew brought in an inventive corkscrew device that worked just as good as the western counterpart. Two or four men ran like crazy in circles and reached a 5’ depth in 20 minutes.
By January 18th 1980 all the holes were made then the steel rebar and cement was put in the holes and the beginning of the foundation started. The process is repeated all over the site until enough support is positioned in the right places.
In this painting the temporary first Samadhi shows half destroyed. In order to facilitate the outer walls and chamber foundation this front wall had to go temporarily. After the piling is cured for a few days then the sand is cleared away and the footings are poured. From this primitive beginning then the walls started to grow. The pujari had to climb through this war zone in order to make the daily offerings. On the right side we see the string stretched to indicate the level and line of the outer wall.
This one cement mixer was used throughout the construction. Bricks are being soaked to catch the cement properly. Progress is slow the sign board on the Samadhi site kept changing the date of completion, for different reasons the impediments delayed the completion years longer than anticipated; finally the sign board disappeared and the natural flow continued. Srila Prabhupada started simple and slowly in the beginning developing ISKCON; this construction work on his Samadhi also moved slowly and simply. Clearing the site was an enormous job before the actual construction work could begin. Note behind the two boys on the right is the discarded signboard which never gave the correct day of scheduled completion.
By March, 1980 the corner walls are starting to show, first came these corner columns which rose out of the debris. This initial work was the basis for making the upper level.
By June 22nd, 1980 all the inner walls were in place and the upper level was starting. Two slabs were being poured on the upper level of the Samadhi and also on the upper level of the museum side. From the period of February, 1980 through July, 1981 all the RCC work was completed. Throughout this time the Samadhi was overrun with frisky little chipmunks dashing all over the construction. Our lives seem no different chasing false dreams, competitions to get ahead, sporting and chasing the opposite sex— all useless interruptions from our real goal of spiritual life.
In Mayapur like in Vrindaban all the work came out of one cement mixer. In Mayapur when the group of us were showing Beatle member George Harrison around the Samadhi then under construction; I told him that whole building came out of a similar little cement mixer— he was amazed. When I told him all the cement was taken to the top on the rickety bamboo scaffolding that stood in front of us by little old ladies carrying the cement on their heads in little shallow pans he was more amazed. I mentioned that we planned to have one diorama showing Srila Prabhupada meeting with the Beatles. George asked that this not happen because he wanted to return again and this might make that impossible.
The system in use was to first support the shuttering with long wooden poles, then the rebar was cut and placed using bits of wire to tie together the cris-crossed layers of steel reinforcement. Then pieces of light airated cement blocks were loosely placed around the metal rebar structure, then the cement is poured. The column mold is being bolted in place and each day as the cement cures the mold is unbolted and raised to the new height.
Here the upper floor of the museum side is being poured and the columns of the upper level are now being cast inorder to reach the next roof level. The same procedure was reinacted on both sides of the Samadhi area. A small gas operated vibrator is used to help level the cement being poured and to insure no air bubbles were trapped in the casting of the floor slabs and columns. A transcendental competition was in place to see which side would finish first. In the end both sides came to an even draw.
Later as the marble and finishing work was going on two different marble companies were employed to do work separately on either side. As a result the company leaders would tell all the problems that the opposing side were causing and information was constant on what cheating was going on. This two party system worked where dealing with these marble companies was normally almost impossible to control. Monitoring the progress was made easier because of the daily information flow.
July 30, 1981
We watched as strong upper floors and concrete walls were growing; like a lotus spreading its beauty. From make-shift spindly shoring supporting the shuttering which carries the load of fresh cement, we witness a system never to be seen in the west. Watching the work in progress I kept connecting that our collective spiritual growth was also showing as our offering to Srila Prabhupada began to take shape. This construction represents the devotional creeper of all Srila Prabhupada’s disciples and future generations of grand disciples who will also benefit from this simple construction done with crude but time tested Indian building systems. Now the monsoon rains have come just in time curing all the cement work, every morning for the last few weeks there is a constant drizzle just enough to keep the finished concrete work wet. If we just serve without doubt or personal agenda we see the results come manifest; the Samadhi is taking shape almost automatically. Simply serve, nothing more and watch Lord Krsna’s plan take shape, nothing moves without His divine intervention. A full grown tree resides within the devotional seed that Srila Prabhupada planted inside all of us. All we have to do is adjust to our daily situations and with a simple service attitude the watering takes place and we grow. As this building is growing all we have to do is to take the first step towards rendering pure devotional service.
Early in the Mayapur development before anything was constructed devotees had accumulated bricks; cement, stone, sand and pictures were sent to Srila Prabhupada with the devotees sleeping on top of the piles to protect this precious commodity. Governmental premits to get supplies is always hard in India, so the ingrediants must be protected. Srila Prabhupada wrote back when he saw the photos;
“BUILD SOMETHING YOU FOOLS, DON’T JUST SLEEP ON IT.”
If we just sit on our laurals and do nothing what kind of devotees are we? Pure devotional service means doing whatever in the purest most effective means possible. Purity begins with whatever is placed in our hands, if we use what is given to us in service to the Lord then perfection is possible and generally more facility is given.
Our silent heros were those devotees who persuded without wavering from the objective of getting this construction finished. They depended on spiritual energy otherwise it was impossible to cut throught the red tape to get governmental, state, local, construction permits and quota permits for materials. Cement quotas were heavily restricted, government jobs got first priority. Srila Prabhupada did give us the basic foundation in setting up ISKCON but now again all those who were directly involved in the construction had to lay claim to an underlying factor that Srila Prabhupada himself was directly involved in this construction; without his sanction and blessings there was no hope of finishing this building.
Srila Prabhupada will never die nor will he be stuffed in some history book; rather his glories will live on along with the books he wrote. The proof of this is evident in this Samadhi construction, Srila Prabhupada is living and his dynamic force is working through his disciples world wide. The love exchanged between Srila Prabhupada and all his children if kept pure with our activities will carry this movement to the greatest heights. Even though we watched as Srila Prabhupada left our mortal vision still we know he is ever present and never let it be said that Srila Prabhupada is gone. He is the living Guru, ever present, always merciful, eternally exchanging loving relationships with all his children now and in the future. Although there will be many carrying on in the future to preach and make disciples on his behalf; it is he alone who is the designer, creator, and maintainer of this ISKCON society. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
Aug. 9, 1981
Today the front gate corrugated metal wall and all other separation panels came down. Now for the first time we have a full view from the front entrance of the entire construction site. For the first time we can see the vast covering of pure white glistening marble. The affect now is of considerable openness. Local Mathura men who come for the day and return home at night are now carving the marble in front of us on site. Finally more professional carvers have arrived from Makrana and Jaipur; the carving work has greatly improved. The new men are murti carvers who are able to fashion figures in stone. Now that these men have arrived some hope is there of setting up some kind of production. Srila Prabhupada wanted that we carve our own deities here in Vrindaban; sacred figures fashioned in the most sacred place on earth. For different reasons this never manifested. Many workers are coming and making their contribution; all different kinds of skills are being used here on the Samadhi site. Devotees come and go and often lend a hand and help in what manner they can. Already the structure is showing itself to be something very unique in Vrindaban.
The first load of black granite has arrived for the inner and outer walls of the chamber. Each piece was tagged and pre-cut precisely according to a complicated design scheme laid out months before by Mayesvara Prabhu. Each piece has to sit perfectly in accordance to all other pieces as cutting granite is almost impossible because of the extra density and hardness. The yellow wooden chamber was used right up until the inner chamber was ready. Directly below this box is the exact location of Srila Prabhupada by the bamboo stick which sits directly under where his murti is placed today. The marble work around the base of the chamber is near finish.
September 2nd 1981
Change in administration, each time the management changes new problems set in. In one day Srila Prabhupada changed the temple president in Vrindaban three times. There is a curse on the project here in Vrindaban partly because of some flaws in Vastu. The contractors take advantage of the lack of communication. When one manager leaves the new person coming in has to make it on his own from scratch. Several times Maya attacks the Samadhi; the Mathura officials come and repeatedly drop their atom bombs.
“This structure has to come down if you don’t take it down we will. We will be back in two days with a bulldozer and do the job ourselves at your expense. You have two days if the work isn’t done then we will send our men to do the job!”
Over the years periodically the scenario is repeated by greedy government men. The only means in India to correct this problem of corruption these government officials are rotated every two years. So the same problem keeps coming up till this present day. There has to be a 30’ setback from the center of the road to the beginning of the construction. The Samadhi has a canterliver second level, which hangs out over the front area another 10’ which still makes it legal and within the limits of the law. However, the Mathura officials are just looking for some excuse to get some bribe. India is a country built on bribery and graft. There is so much corruption in every aspect of government work that all progress is checked; therefore the progression of this country runs its normal snail pace of 19th century mentality. The officials challenge all the working drawings claiming that big changes were made so more money have to be paid. The folly of the situation, these men want to destroy their lives by trying to tear down the final resting place of a pure devotee, what will be the outcome of their lives and all their families for generations to come?
September 11, 1981
New excitement within the chamber site, the first granite piece is being fixed. It is Vamana Dev’s Appearance day and the work is shifting into high gear on the floors, walls, ceiling, and marble lions. Several persons were involved in making the lions starting with the original design by the Indian artist Shyamasundar Prabhu, then myself and the marble carver in Jaipur who made all the copies.
In this painting the arch has been poured and now watered. We see that the shuttering was done in the old fashion of bamboo tied together to reach the height intended. Unfortunately the first attempt making the arch curve shuttering was 6” too low, Surabhir’s critical eye picked up -this defect and the shuttering was redone and raised 6” at considerable extra cost. The marble steps are now in place the shuttering removed, this element was the talk of Vrindaban for some time; no one had ever seen floating staircases.
In this next painting the fellow who did the marble placement is shown, his job was to see that the marble was positioned without any cracks and fully supported with cement. Unfortunately the job wasn’t done properly and Surabhir Maharaja didn’t like the work and came down the steps jumping on each one and they all had to be replaced. Today we still see the pieces lined with cracks because of the slight give of this floating element and the improper fill under the marble. There is a heavy steel reinforcement following the pattern of the stairs, so there is sufficient support inside the steps themselves. Now the flooring in front of the Samadhi is being laid. Keeping the basic pattern going wasn’t easy in the beginning.
From the vantage point on top of the Gurukula building this scene shows the new pattern of flooring, and the first window being placed in sections. The front temple dome was the inspiration for the eventual domes put in place on the Samadhi which we see today in order to keep an overall cohesive design.
The workflow is going fast with men working on all parts of the structure. Floors, walls, ceiling, marble lions are now being carved from the plaster model we finalized. I had the chance to work on all figurative pieces of sculpture that went into the Samadhi, amazing mercy in this life. The granite is cemented onto the walls with metal clamps placed on top of each granite piece to keep them from buckling out. Because of the weight factor initially some pieces were starting to pop slightly off the wall, the work had to be redone and now the progress is moving fast again. Surabhir adds real zest in the project by cracking jokes and making the painful inadequateness of the Indian labor and bureaucracy dealing with the local governmental raiders makes everything look like some kind of fantasy. The Supreme Lord also had His hand in this construction otherwise no hope. At different times the work goes slow and other times it runs like crazy. The Jaipur men are carving all the marble lions; the first piece had to be checked several times a day just to see the sculpture run in the right direction. Once the first piece is carved properly according to the model then all the other pieces follow a clear set pattern. It’s just difficult to get the motor running. Surabhir gives us all some words of inspiration, today in Bhagavatam class he spoke about the importance of this construction.
“There may be more personal kinds of service that one can perform to our spiritual master but this one is on top of the scale. As Srila Prabhupada grows in popularity his esteem will magnify over the upcoming years and this Samadhi will become more important with time. In the future new disciples will be coming here to experience the mercy of His Divine Grace A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada first hand. As his books circulate and the message he gave to the world becomes more widespread the flow of pilgrims will increase like crazy. There will always be new people coming to see Srila Prabhupada’s home both here in Vrindaban and Mayapur. No one has done more than Srila Prabhupada to spread love of God in this world; certainly his fame will ever increase.”
The spirit is high, the construction site is buzzing and all the workers are fired up. If this spirit can continue then this structure will be finished in one year. If only we could all carry this intensity of spirit into our own devotional life, what kind of spiritual progress could be possible? In another class Surabhir Maharaja also spoke about carrying this spirit into our daily lives. If all the devotees here at the Krishna Balarama Mandhir would work with the intensity that is now going on in the Samadhi then this temple would excel all others. He stressed the importance of getting into the mood of service to Srila Prabhupada now. He had the vision to tell the class that if all the leaders in this movement delegated the management and devoted their time to full on preaching then the movement would grow at some wonderful amazing pace. Although the work is progressing fast still some internal difficulties are causing problems that needn’t arise. The marble is going up fast with little problem.
September 25th, 1981
The granite installation is now finished. So much personal service is now available here; I wondered why there were so few devotees working on the Samadhi? At least different devotes are coming through and giving wonderful classes. Bhagavan, Satsvarupa, Jagadisa, Bhagavatasraya, Bhavananda; everyone is impressed by the fast progress of the Samadhi.
The three dioramas for the top floor on the museum are now in full swing, on the museum top level we will have Srila Prabhupada giving class from his Vyasasana here at the temple, Srila Prabhupada sitting in his room here in Vrindaban and directing his disciples as the movement grows around the world and finally Srila Prabhupada in his final moments and the silent darshans under the Tamal tree in the temple courtyard. Later the bottom two dioramas will go in with Srila Prabhupada writing in his quarters at the Radha Damodara temple and leaving India boarding the Jaladuta.
April 10th, 1982
The ceiling mold work is finished. Early in the game Surabhir Maharaja held fast on the point of having the Indians do the work at the pace and manner they normally see fit. The problem came up many times they would do it with some antiquated system that took much longer and would cost extra money. The ceiling was such an example; the plaster mysteries would come from Jaipur and charge for their transportation, room and board. Eight men would work on one panel and finish one coiffure design each day. Maharaja was satisfied with this production. But my calculation would put the work out of range for the ceiling budget.
“Maharaja just give me some time and I will have 20 of those panels coming out each day instead of one and only one man is needed to do the job!”
“Forget it let them do their work. Don’t get involved, I keep telling you to let the Indians do it!”
Finally I decided to go ahead with my idea and within two months I had production going at 20 panels per day as promised and one man was doing the work. At this time in India no rubber mold compound was available. I heard that one type of meltable rubber was available in Baroda, which had to be poured hot. The first experiment with this solution failed dramatically when the whole batch of rubber we were melting burst into flames. All our hopes burned up in a flash. Luckily we kept extra rubber available for a little more experimentation. In the next attempt finally we got the system to work. We had two rubber molds working full time. Within one month all the panels were cast at considerable savings and later installed.
The carpenters doing the framing work on the ceiling were skilled men but the lack of communication and supervision brought on problems. Previously twice the framework, which was done in the most expensive teak wood, went up wrong. The work was off enough so that it all had to be completely torn down; each time the wood was all ruined and new wood had to be used. Maharaja wasn’t able to spend enough time on the site to see that all was going well; as a consequence amazing things took place. Surabhir Maharaja had one young Indian brahmacari in charge; Bhivujothi Prabhu who had some difficulty understanding what he wanted. On the third attempt the work was done right with no major screw-up’s. There was still a little work remaining but 95% of the job was finished, Maharaja gave the final order in a very loud voice;
“FINISH THE JOB TONIGHT!”
Getting the work finished meant the crew of 5 men had to stay up all night to see the work to a finish. After everyone left the Samadhi immediately the men went right to town working as hard as they could. The framework was crucial, each piece of supporting teak wood had to be placed perfectly or the whole ceiling would be out of whack. Maharaja gave the order with such intensity that they had to be sure that the job would be finished by morning after all the job was done wrong twice and the whole ceiling had to be completely torn down and all that wood was ruined. The pressure was on these men to finish the work that night. However, this time they had it right and only a little change was necessary and the framework would be finished. In the morning it would be ready for the plaster panels to be screwed in place and fixed to the framework before the final plaster finishing work would be done. The men worked hard and did what they were told; they finished the work that night.
But their interpretation of the instruction was to tear it all out again and see that it was finished before morning.
When Maharaja came down to see the work smoke was coming out of his ears; he was boiling. He was so hot that the fire coming out with his words scorched every worker in the place. He started grabbing men and twisting their ears and screaming in each twisted ear;
“You stupid jackass, don’t you know anything. Why don’t you listen to the instructions I give you why do you do this stupid thing on your own?”
He kept screaming at them, “Why, why. Who is responsible for this? Plain stupidity with no excuse, what are we going to do now?”
This was the beginning of the end. By twisting and pulling these men around by the ear he alienated himself from all the workers. The work was done again and when they finished the men left never to come back again. The work on the whole Samadhi stopped for two months, no one would come from Jaipur to do any work. However the sculpture work was still going on here without any stop. Later with a little touchup work the entire coffer ceiling was finished. The ceiling became famous in Vrindaban right from the beginning.
The workload was increasing now both Samadhies were going on and all the sculpture work was in my hands. In both places Vrindaban and Mayapur we had teams of men working to handle the heavy load of sculpture. The panel work in Mayapur kept increasing each time Maharaja and I went over the project.
April 16, 1982
Different individuals are coming and making low bids on certain parts of the construction and then when they have some money in their hands they just pull out and leave everything in a mess. India the land of small time cheaters, even if they manage to cheat on a large scale their mentality is small time. Now keeping the work going without someone pulling out is a full time occupation. Everything had to be checked repeatedly. The only hold on things is to keep the money back until the work is done. The tendency prevalent in most of India is to do the least and expect the most. No pride in the work, no concern if the job is done right or wrong. In some cases the work is sabotaged. Earlier some bathrooms were put into the new Gurukula building during the early initial construction and the sewer pipes weren’t even connected so for years later the dirty water was seeping down through the walls and the whole structure was being destroyed. Srila Prabhupada mentioned that running a spiritual movement was double trouble because you have the normal headaches of management plus you have to attend to everyone’s spiritual life and see that everyone goes back to Godhead. Overseeing the construction work is much the same you have all the normal problems that any construction job has built in plus maintaining your own spiritual life.
There was an oversight regarding the large arch that is positioned behind Srila Prabhupada’s murti; first the arch was carved in teak wood by Ranachorbai in Bombay with the idea of later covering the wood with copper plating and then the copper would be gold plated. However the copper plating normally used in repose’ work, (meaning directly hammered sheets of thin copper into the proper design) was too thin to take the gold plating so the entire arch had to be scraped and later carved in marble.
Surrounding the Samadhi chamber today we see the lions which appear to be holding on their heads all the weight of the upper marble construction. As a safety measure steel beams had to be placed over Srila Prabhupada to actually support the extra weight of marble which later came over and around the inner chamber otherwise those marble lions would have been crushed to powder.
Oct. 2nd 1982
Surabhir and Gunarnava resigned which signaled the beginning of the end of the most productive period in the history of ISKCON construction in India. The man in charge, His Holiness Surabhir Maharaja left because of all the politics and pressure that had been hitting him from all sides for years. On top of all the outside pressure the idea of remaining celibate for one’s entire life was getting more difficult. Many sannyasis were also feeling difficulty and lifetime celibacy seemed out of the question for those new renounced men who were still in the prime of youth. Srila Prabhupada offered this renounced order to many young men just to do the emergency service required to expand this ISKCON movement. Taking sannyasis means no association with women to the extent of no talking in a closed room with any female regardless of age, time or circumstance. Many of Srila Prabhupada’s young disciples couldn’t handle the austerity and left the renounced order and married. Many just left the movement entirely and never came back to spiritual life. Although there were some oversights and setbacks which cost extra time and money at least the work was going on, now with the change in the management that time was over the construction stopped.
Oct 30th, 1982
For this first month it was like a quiet sea, with no work going on. The ship was plying smoothly but no movement; later month after month passed with little or no progress. Everyone is asking;
“When will the Samadhi be finished?”
At the present rate, the Samadhi will never be finished. Like a ship at sea that is just drifting without any wind to keep the sails full, the construction is almost going backwards. With the removal of Surabhir Maharaja nothing is happening. More delay. No one can decide what to do next; there is no clear leadership on the project. The Samadhi work stopped.
CHAPTER TWO, SAMADHI NOW
He built a house big enough for the entire world to live peacefully; building a house for Srila Prabhupada was no small task.
FATE STUDIOS LA, SUMMER 1977
We had been informed by our old friend and savior Yuga dharma das that if we wanted to see our spiritual master alive we had better leave immediately for India. He had just returned from a short stay with Srila Prabhupada and at that time his health was dropping fast. So we immediately packed up all our belongings and left New Dwarka, Los Angeles and carried one Tulasi plant with us back East. This may have been the first traveling Tulasi Sankirtan party. As we traveled east each morning our little Tulasi plant would get the morning sun. The small Tulasi plant sitting on our dash board was growing fast. After arriving back in upstate New York we spent some time in my home town (Corning, New York) and visited both my wife’s relatives and mine before heading for New York and our flight to India. This was my first time home since my mother passed away, so the reunion in our old backyard seemed lacking. We cooked a big vegetarian feast for everyone and then moved on to New York. I had cashed in my old insurance policy and with that money we had our trip to India paid for and with all the remainder we donated the balance to Srila Prabhupada. We carried his typewriter, Dictaphone and wigs for the deities and other gifts for Their Lordships. In the end we came clean with nothing of our own. It was now around August 8th 1977 when we arrived in Vrindaban.
Srila Prabhupada was still recuperating in Vrindaban from his last traveling engagement to Hardwar and Rishikesh at the base of the Himalayas. We took the train from Delhi and in Mathura we hired a Tonga to take us on to Vrindaban. All the way from Delhi we were thinking and reading the pastime of Akrura entering Vrindaban. Now after leaving the Mathura train station we kept asking the Tonga driver;
“Where is Vrindaban, have we arrived yet?”
Finally the man stopped the carriage and told us to get down and offer our obeisances and leave some donation on the ground. We followed his suggestion and immediately he picked up the coins we left and traveled on. At this point we had just passed Fogal ashram, in a few more minutes he told us we had arrived. From the first impression the place was in a shambles. The front gate was a patch work corrugated metal affair and inside workers were busy putting together a full bungalow using banana trunk cuttings and shaped in different designs. It happened to be the day of Jhulan Yatra and as we learned it was a standard competition to see which temple comes up with the best decorations using banana cuttings of all things. We met Dhananjaya Prabhu the temple president who invited us to come and he took out time to show us around the premises. That evening he and his wife showed us around the town of Vrindaban. Jhulan Yatra happens to be a major festival in Vrindaban and the town was packed. There was no room to walk the streets; all the main temples were also beautifully decorated with banana trunk cuttings. The overall impression was totally bewildering; I had never seen so many people jammed into a small space. Vrindaban is a small town one can walk around the whole Parikrama marg in less than 3 hours. The town itself with the 5,000 temples is hard to cover in one day; however, seeing all the major temples without the traffic is easily accomplished on a normal morning. But on festival days the town overflows; on just one day called Guru Purnima the police estimate that over 2 ½ million pilgrims (approx. the population of Delhi) circumambulate Govardhana Hill. Pilgrims come from all over India on packed buses. Each bus is distinctly different as represented by different groups of people from different parts of India; but in most cases the people coming off each bus all look alike. On one occasion I rode on top of the bus going to Delhi because it was so crowded, I don’t recommend this for the normal tourist visiting India.
Oct. 2nd 1977
Morning my wife and I and many other devotees were standing at the guest house gate waiting to greet Srila Prabhupada who was coming back from London. When we saw the condition of Srila Prabhupada it came as a great shock. He looked pale like the color of death, his body was emaciated and it looked like he only had moments left. However, within a few days he was bouncing back and was up and about being taken around on his rocking chair. At this time while Srila Prabhupada was recuperating his sister Bhavatarini Mataji, or Pisima as she was affectingly called was present along with His Divine Grace Krsna das Babaji Maharaja. To see the three of them interact was a wonder to behold. Srila Prabhupada was always chastising his sister and she would never take him serious. Even when Srila Prabhupada was very sick and not eating anything still his sister would cook for him and fry in mustard oil, her idea was that the smell of the cooking would eventually bring around her brother and Srila Prabhupada would eventually take the offering. Eventually she was right and Srila Prabhupada did start eating again even her mustard oil preparations.
On one day Pisima was out walking near the entrance to the Guest House and she met Krsna das Babaji Maharaja. Pisima started to offer her obeisances with tears in her eyes and he told her to get up this was too much trouble for her, not necessary. The whole time he was giggling and laughing. They both started to laugh and joke together. Pisima was always spraying Ganga jel where ever she sat or walked thinking because she had this woman’s body she was contaminating whatever she touched. She had the exact same face as her brother His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada. Babaji Maharaja and Pisima kept trying to touch one another’s feet in a sporting mood, all the time laughing and joking. Pisima was a little bent over so when she tried to touch Babaji’s feet he kept stepping back avoiding her touch; and she kept chasing him. Ayodhya Pati das was ordered by Srila Prabhupada to make sure Babaji Maharaja had some maha prasadam. So he ran over to get what was available at the maha stand. He came back with a few basan ladhus, nothing more was available. When Babaji Maharaja was given those ladhus he looked at them like they were made of gold he kept repeating;
“Oh, you have given me maha prasadam, Oh, maha prasadam.”
He sincerely looked and gave such full respect to the maha and later when he met Pisima he offered her some of this same Maha. Then she looked at it and said the exact same thing;
“Oh, you have given me maha prasadam, Oh, maha prasadam.”
Then she offered him some Ganga gel, and they both laughed and laughed until finally Babaji Maharaja ran off after touching her feet.
Later, I was in the room when three men came to visit with Srila Prabhupada- Bon Maharaja, Narayana Maharaja, and Babaji Maharaja, the other two men were very grave and serious while the whole time Babaji Maharaja was laughing in his usual friendly spirit, and Srila Prabhupada was also laughing in response to whatever Babaji Maharaja spoke; it sounded like they were both cracking jokes in Bengali.
Some days later I approached H.H. Tamal Krsna Goswami and asked about how I should handle the situation I was in; different senior devotees were asking me to leave Vrindaban and go and work in their different zones; i.e. Jaypataka Maharaja keep trying to get me to shift to Mayapur.
“You gave Srila Prabhupada a significant donation; let me ask him if he can solve your problem.”
What I didn’t know was Tamal Krsna Goswami had worked out a system that if anyone donated anything over $1,000 he would arrange darshan with Srila Prabhupada. I didn’t know this so I thought that it was wonderful on the part of Maharaja to go to this extent, but I didn’t think it would actually happen. The very next morning one runner for Srila Prabhupada came banging on our door early in the morning. The go-for was Sura das he demanded that I immediately come downstairs.
“Srila Prabhupada is calling for you right now!”
I had no idea why I was being called (I had forgotten what Tamal Krishna Maharaja had promised); I felt that I must be in some serious trouble. Quickly I showered and put on clean clothes and went immediately down to his quarters which were just below where we were staying in room nine in the guest house. I went into his back room near the garden and saw Srila Prabhupada sitting on the right as one normally walks in the door. The room was dark and full of senior men, GBC’s, Sannyasis and other leaders in the movement. Tamal Krishna was sitting next to Srila Prabhupada. I entered the room head first by paying my obeisances full out and hit the floor face down. Tamal started to introduce me to Srila Prabhupada;
“Srila Prabhupada here is your Bhaktisiddhanta das!”
Immediately the whole room started to crack up and everyone was laughing, like whom is this rascal carrying such a big name? I started to melt into the floor not expecting this kind of reaction. As I lay stretched out on the floor I looked up over my shoulder at Srila Prabhupada, I couldn’t believe my eyes. He was glowing and his effulgence was lighting up the whole room. Even more important he was smiling so bright a smile all his teeth were showing. I again melted back down into the floor. As I finally moved into a sitting position at the lotus feet of my spiritual master Tamal Krishna Maharaja went on with the introduction.
“Srila Prabhupada this devotee was working in LA with FATE, with the doll studio making dioramas.”
“Oh, dioramas better in Mayapur!”
Then in my mind I started to think, no problem I will go anywhere Srila Prabhupada wants but if possible I would like to stay a little longer in Vrindaban since we just arrived. But I didn’t want to make any change in what my spiritual master wanted. I had a question in my mind, since no one was interested or qualified to make marble deities. So I said nothing about leaving Vrindaban, but asked;
“Srila Prabhupada what about carving marble?”
Tamal immediately spoke up; “He means carving marble deities Srila Prabhupada. Many of our men are making dioramas but no one is qualified to carve marble. We can start to make our own deities for the temples around the world.”
“So you can do this?”
I responded yes, since I was trained in Italy to carve marble under one of the late great masters carving in Florence.
“SO, DO IT HERE!”
By the mercy of H.H. Tamal Krsna Goswami’s arrangement I was given this benediction to remain forever in Vrindaban. I can never repay that kind of mercy. My spiritual master had spoken; it was stay in Vrindaban this benediction certainly included my wife. He was reading my heart, I could have told him I wanted to cut up paper and make confetti and he would have told me to do it here. That was the general tone. If I wanted to remain in Vrindaban the rest of my life, so be it, done! This order was spoken with such force he was also in effect carving in stone something which would last for the rest of my life, Srila Prabhupada had just given my wife and I a ticket to remain in Vrindaban for the remainder of our lives. This was the summer of 1977, and as time rolls on still the order holds strong. That same morning my old friend Matsya Avatar Prabhu was told to go back to Italy and continue his work since he was famous and had a major operation going in Italy. So since that day we both compare our situations and how different our lives played out because of the different orders we received.
When I walked outside I was still floating from being in the same room as His Divine Grace. His presence is always electrifying, now he spoke directly to me for the first time and ordered me to stay in Vrindaban, what more mercy is possible? As I went out of the building another devotee artist called me over for an introduction to a senior man wearing Sannyasa cloth. I was introduced by Puskar das to H.H. Kirtanananda Maharaja. Puskar told him I was an artist that served in LA working on the dioramas at FATE. Immediately he asked if I would like to come to New Vrindaban. Again I was expected to surrender and join something I didn’t understand.
“Maharaja thank you for the offer but I just arrived here in Vrindaban only a few days ago and just now Srila Prabhupada ordered me to stay in Vrindaban.”
“Oh that doesn’t matter; I can change his mind in a minute.”
Now this shocked me, how was it possible to countermand an order from the spiritual master? I just told him I would think about the idea and get back to him some time later. From that moment on I kept avoiding him. For several years after this meeting he would always keep approaching me to make this shift to New Vrindaban. Every year when he and his men would come to Vrindaban on their way to the GBC meetings in Mayapur he would always show me all the plans for construction in his home project. When his Palace of Gold was just an idea he commissioned me to do 25 diorama panels working here and then ship it to West Virginia to go into the future Palace. At that time there were few materials available in India, no fiber glass, no good plaster of Paris, nothing solid enough to make a permanent relief panel. I was working on the roof of our building Shyambagh, first making the crate that would carry the first three diorama panels to America. We were lowering the crate down from the roof when the rope broke and the crate just shattered into small pieces. I thought this was not much of an auspicious start, but ok at least we didn’t include the three panels in the crate, so we made another crate and packed up the three panels which were made of Plaster of Paris with white glue mixed in for strength along with bits of jute for added resilience. Then the crate was taken to Delhi for shipping and when the customs opened the crate all they found was powder. This created quite a sensation and a good laugh in New Vrindaban where they had all the latest materials. That was the end of my connection with New Vrindaban.
Back to carving marble in Vrindaban; I tried to find some good marble but in all the Braja area nothing existed here so the next option was Agra. There again no luck, so the last resort was to make the trip to Jaipur and get some good stone and return here to do the carving. I made the trip with Matsya Avatar and Dhananjaya Prabhu’s, somehow along the way I was starting to get this severe headache and fever. For no apparent reason I was getting knocked out, the trip was pure torture, the constant honking, the bumps, the crazy driving, and the constant jibber jabber in Hindi all made me really sick since the trip takes 7 hours going through Delhi. By the time we arrived there at the murti Walla Pandey’s place I was a basket case, the family there diagnosed the symptoms as Malaria. So I was resting in the house of the murti Walla upstairs where the family was living above their shop and carving studios. The next day having taken the proper medicine I was feeling better and I picked up some marble and tools to do some carving and we made the return journey. When I started to carve on the marble to make some sample to show Srila Prabhupada the marble was bad full of faults and the chisels were also a cheap imitation of western equipment and all the points immediately broke so I was again back to nothing but my desire to show something to my spiritual master. Now Srila Prabhupada’s sight was fading he wore sun glasses when he was carried into the temple. As mentioned before this was the time of the silent darshans; Srila Prabhupada would be taken around the temple three times each day and then placed in front of the Deities for his darshan. We all crowded around Srila Prabhupada and just stared at him looking at the deity forms of Their Lordships. Often when I could see tears trickling down off his cheeks from under the sun glasses it was obvious that he was communicating directly with Their Lordships. He was getting very thin and his color was changing becoming paler again. His health was now at a critical low. Every day I would join the kirtan party in Srila Prabhupada’s room and chant softly with the others and watched the drama that was taking place each day. It looked like he was getting such good care; all the senior devotees who were attending Srila Prabhupada seemed to be doing everything possible to make him comfortable and to ease the pain he must be enduring. The doctors kept saying any normal person in this condition would be in constant intense pain so unbearable that death was the only option for any normal person. Srila Prabhupada showed no signs of pain only tears of separation from his Lordships. Every day for months it was the same pattern, devotees would come make their report and after some days leave to go on with their preaching.
During this time Srila Prabhupada would often sit on his roof patio taking some sun after his massage and I would quietly watch him from the guest house balcony outside of room nine. One morning I was playing a tape of Srila Prabhupada giving Bhagavatam class and I played it a little loud so that I could hear it outside of room nine. When I went to the front end of the guest house balcony I looked down on Srila Prabhupada and there he was listening intently to his own class. So after this I kept repeating the play of his tapes whenever I saw him down on his balcony, he seemed to enjoy hearing his own classes.
I was one of the guards at night so my duty was to see no one entered his rooms without permission especially from the back garden area. Late one night in came one Bengali gentleman unannounced, I didn’t recognize this person so I refused to allow him in to see Srila Prabhupada. From behind along came Adridharan who told me;
“This is Srila Prabhupada’s son; let him go in to see his father!”
This was the oldest son and he approached his father and Srila Prabhupada had a long conversation with him and told him his mother and all the children would now be taken care of, he had made a will and all the family were included in a steady stipends for their remaining lifetimes. He told his son to now move on into spiritual life and give up this business mentality. All the children would be adequately provided for. The son heard the instruction and left the next morning never to return, I don’t remember any of his family members ever coming again.
Another little incident happened in those last days, for months I went in and sat under the paintings of the Acharya’s and participated in the kirtan groups that formed chanting for Srila Prabhupada. One day it was Hansaduta Maharaja chanting and playing the harmonium. His voice was too loud and strong for the mood. The whole idea was to produce a sweet melodious sound to keep Srila Prabhupada in good spirits. As Hansaduta was wailing away Srila Prabhupada told to let Bharadvaja lead the kirtan. You could almost see the smoke come out of Hansaduta’s ears. Bharadvaja and he were friends and rival kirtan leaders. Bharadvaja went on with a sweet melody and we all joined in.
So it was only a few days later that I entered the room and only two devotees were present; Shatudunya Maharaja and Jayadvatha Prabhu. Maharaja left the room and Srila Prabhupada called Jayadvatha over to his side, this left me holding the kartels. Never in my life had I ever led a kirtan; now I was sitting in front of my spiritual master and forced to do the needful. So I took the small kartels and started;
“HARE KRSNA, HARE KRSNA…” immediately the entire room transformed and I was sitting in the spiritual world. The whole room seemed to haze out and all I was seeing was Srila Prabhupada lying on his bed with this amazing light coming from nowhere and bathing him on his bed. That light now was being transferred directly at me, I was stunned. My hair was standing on end, my voice choked up, my eyes were now full of tears. Suddenly Lord Krsna was on the line;
“O.K. YOU CALLED WHAT DO YOU WANT!”
No words were spoken but these words came into my head. I couldn’t think of anything, I tried, but obviously this was enough I was getting the full blast of mercy coming straight from the Supreme Lord Himself. We pray for this kind of day and now it was happening. Now I could understand what transparent via media meant. All this power and Shakti was coming straight into Srila Prabhupada’s body and being transferred onto my head, like a step down transformer so I could handle the energy. I couldn’t think of anything to ask for because the energy was so intense I could hardly breathe. There was nothing more I could ask for since I was getting the fullest blast of mercy. Later I felt this was the right response, just appreciating the great mercy that I was given. Suddenly the line was cut as Jayatirtha Prabhu came in with another group of devotees from London— the energy was broken. The whole incident lasted only a couple of minutes.
Now my understanding of the incident was that at all times Srila Prabhupada was fully conscious of all that was going on around him to the very end. If there was any mischief happening he certainly knew about it. The other realization was that the distance that we cover in our chanting to get to the level of reaching Lord Krsna was a quantum leap away from our daily caliber of chanting the Lord’s holy names. In other words this descending process is the only means for obtaining the direct mercy of the Lord. The distance is far away from our attempting to ascend to this status or platform of chanting without offenses. Purity is hard won; in my own chanting I constantly lament my ability to ever reach that instant that was gifted for those few moments. We have to make ourselves as pure receptacles in order to quality for such descending mercy. It all depends on our sincerity and love for Lord Krsna. In total Srila Prabhupada was out of Vrindaban from August 26th to October 2nd for approximately 37 days on his trip to London. He left at midnight so my wife and I and a few other devotees knew he was leaving; when l looked into the car and saw his condition lying down in the back I couldn’t believe he would make the trip even to Delhi what to speak of London. As mentioned before when he returned my wife and I again were standing at the guest house gate when he was carried in. He looked like a dead man; his color was pale grey the color of death. Amazingly as mentioned before within a few days he came back stronger than ever.
“To those who are constantly devoted to serving Me with love,” Lord Krsna states, “I give the understanding by which they can come to Me.” (Bg. 10.10).
Since just after the departure of Srila Prabhupada in 1977, I have been allowed to serve Their Lordships Sri Sri Radha Shyamsundar everyday without interruption. I am often asked how this has been possible to do the same routine work year after year, getting up early each morning and rendering the same menial service without getting bored or paid. The answer is simple the rewards are immediate because of the personal connection of serving the Supreme Lord on a daily basis. The payment is in spiritual dividends which comes immediately, accumulates and carries with us into our next life. Having the opportunity to associate directly with the Lord and render Him intimate service is anything but menial or routine.
Pujari means full lifetime commitment. This is the definition Srila Prabhupada gave for one who serves the Lord in His deity form. He has also mentioned that Lord Sri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead expects that we make a full commitment towards rendering unalloyed devotion when engaged in His service. We may not be pure in this life but the actions we perform now definitely carries with us into the next body. Better that all our present actions are pious and pleasing to the Lord. My old friend Mahanidhi Swami once told me that I should first water Tulasi and all that I do on the altar will be magnified a thousand fold, then he mentioned that the service I do each morning must be appreciated by Their Lordships?
He said; “Imagine if someone came and offered you a tray of wonderful milk sweets every morning just after softly waking you up and later performed an elaborate worship each day in your honor, would that not be pleasing?”
I thought this sounds reasonable but in practice I work hard to keep finding ways to perfect the service. If we all have this in mind when performing any service, meaning whatever we do should be pleasing to the Lord then there is a chance for spiritual advancement. Because of the direct contact with the Supreme Lord and His immediate expansions each day is a new experience. Their Lordships are never the same. Ideally it takes countless years to perfect a service rendered; therefore, each day I see little things I can improve on. Pure devotion is something which one works towards, the better we get at whatever service we render the closer we are to absolute purity. From the first day to the present there has been no time where I was bored or was the service ever monotonous. Srila Prabhupada has stated many times the Lord is 100% present in His murti manifestation. He is not just a big lump of polished stone. Any deity once installed is personally present. Any sincere pujari will certainly confirm this statement. There must be some good reason why in our Gaudiya Vaisnava tradition countless pujari’s have been able to remain in their service for the duration of their entire lives? Gradually one receives a higher taste from the daily little rewards in doing the same exact thing year after year. Srila Prabhupada has stated in Teachings of Queen Kunti;
“Even in the form of stone or metal, Krsna can act as Krsna, and one who worships the Deity will perceive that. The Deity, although apparently stone, may speak with a devotee. At the time of death, if the Deity worshiper remembers and sees before him the personal form of Lord Krsna he will immediately attain to eternal devotional service in the spiritual world.”
There was no construction for five years following Surabhir Maharaja leaving the movement. Finally one morning just before the Srimad Bhagavatam class the Samadhi came back to prominence. That morning I saw two vultures sitting on top of the Samadhi dome. I called the temple president out of guru puja who at that time was Damodara Pundit. He finally agreed that now we had to take the project in hand and do the needful. Till then we were waiting for GBC approval to go ahead with the work, no approval came; there seemed no hope for the future. No money was promised from any quarter. The GBC administration had taken over the charge of both Samadhies but in reality two of the most important projects available on the planet died. The Mayapur and this Vrindaban Samadhi construction are the two most important structures that will ever be built because they are the final resting places of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Service to the spiritual master is the essence of spiritual life, therefore these last direct service connections to Srila Prabhupada will always be most important; how could this work stop?
We jointly came up with the idea of a theme called; “Samadhi Now!” to correct the problem that remained after Surabhir Maharaja left the project. Since the project was dead and there was no attempt to further the work that lay vacant for those long five years something had to be done. So I designed this poster which carried the message loud and clear. “Samadhi Now” became the slogan until soon after the work again resumed.
“He reasons ill who tells that Vaisnavas
Die when thou art living still in sound the
Vaisnavas die to live, and living try to
Spread the holy name around.”
This poster changed the shape of the campaign to resurrect the finishing of the Samadhi. Srila Prabhupada had always stressed, “Work now, Samadhi later” The meaning for all his disciples was clear. The most important thing for a devotee is to render service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the spiritual master; then later when you’re just on the verge of death then think of Samadhi. Samadhi in the literal sense according to Vaisnava terms means leaving the body or liberation from all material entrapments. This poster gave a little twist on the literal meaning;
Samadhi Now became the war cry; finish the Samadhi Now!
From that day Oct. 2nd, 1982 when Surabhir and Gunarnava resigned and the Governing Board Commission [G.B.C.] left all construction to the local temple management in Vrindaban and Mayapur our life breathe stopped for those five years. No one really wanted to take over the responsibility for finishing both Samadhi constructions since the movement was under siege from the new 11 acharya’s fighting to superimpose controls. This spelled a major detour on all progress on both projects because change of management means instant waste of Laxmi. All the suppliers, merchants, plus all the labor force sniff out the opportunity to cheat, and take advantage of the new management which always starts out fresh without any idea of what was going on before. Once Surabhir Maharaja had been pressured out and relinquished the control for both projects local management on both projects had no experience or understanding how to accomplish what now looked impossible. The lack of understanding concerning these two projects reflected the temper of the whole International Society for Krishna Consciousness, ISKCON worldwide was undergoing a crisis. The freeze on both Samadhies acted as a running barometer for the movement at large. Once a pure devotee of the Supreme Lord leaves the planet the forces of Maya or illusion sweeps in to fill up the vacuum; the forces of good and evil will always stand in conflict. Srila Prabhupada was an emblem of pure goodness; in his absence the forces of evil ran full force.
“Quick, look outside what do you see?” I spoke to the temple president asking him to come out of the temple to see what was sitting on top of Srila Prabhupada’s Samadhi.
I pulled my god-brothers outside to see vultures sitting on top of Srila Prabhupada’s Samadhi. Just as another vulture landed on top of the Samadhi Damodara Pandit the temple president appeared in front of the temple. He joined the others standing on the marble steps just outside the Samadhi. Everyone was looking up at this inauspicious omen in a state of shock.
I spoke up first;
“Look, Damodara Pandit how does that make you feel? We have to do something about this right away! We can’t let this go on another day. We have to get this project started again it can’t wait any longer! You have to assume responsibility for this; the GBC will never get it together!”
The poster was printed and I took a copy to New York to start collecting and at the temple in New York I met H.H. Tamal Krishna and he suggested that we build a platform over the past and start fresh and forget what happened before. He agreed we needed to take the matter serious and our approach was noble so he gave his blessings. By the time I returned to Vrindaban the donations had come in from Harikesh Maharaja and the work was again resumed.
The Samadhi committee was meeting twice a week to get the construction running as fast as possible. All the members of the committee were under pressure to get results; we all had only one thing in common it was important to finish this building. We were all committed to serving Srila Prabhupada. All of us sat together with this common goal although we were radically different in mentality still we were tied together with this one unified factor as brothers under God. When one takes spiritual initiation one sets a course where few others travel. Giving one’s life to an authority forever is a big commitment. Ordinarily sitting in the same room with fellow God-brothers is an enlivening experience; however this group was different we were friends and enemies sitting together; this intimate association with each other always caused a distinct air of uneasiness. The tension created in these meetings was accepted as the norm for the course. The sessions were often heavy confrontations. Those occupying chairs around the conference room often used these meetings as a vehicle to air their pent up frustrations or try and kill each other with words.
“The topic on the floor is this, the job of finishing this Samadhi construction is now in our joint hands. All of us now have the responsibility to see that the last resting place of our beloved spiritual master is finished like no other monument that was ever, or will ever be built!”
These opening words by the temple president stopped everyone; this was a big responsibility for a group of men who had no experience in constructing anything. Only a few in the room had such experience and knew what was in store for this committee.
I had been working on the Samadhi since the very beginning. Over the years so many responsibilities including handling all the management fell on my head; now the committee ruled. All decisions now would run through the committee before any action would take place. The good old days of simple management were now over; towards the end of the last management the work was basically in the hands of Surabhir, and I worked with him alone for a period of time. Now the rule of subjecting the design of a horse to this committee was going to make a camel every time.
The committee now requested me to come up with a set of drawings for some bronze bas-relief panels that had been previously part of the design to grace the upper level of the Samadhi. The committee would approve the drawings and the work had to be started as soon as possible. By the next meeting the drawings were ready and the committee found it hard to make any decision, this was an area out of reach of everyone on the committee, still everyone had their opinion and the debate went on for several days. No one could come to any agreement; everyone had some different idea of how these panels should look. And no one would concede that anything but their own ideas would work.
Based on the content the group would say what had to be included, but the artistic part had to be left to the artist. The group agreed in principle, but looking at the expression on most of the faces in this assembly there was no way some of these fellows were about to give me any breathing space or to have any final say on what went into these panels. Questions were being asked that couldn’t be answered by any formal group decision. Everyone knows that a group can’t delegate Art. In all cases the final decision on the manner of execution of any art remains with the choice of the artist commissioned to do the work. On any professional level this is why an artist is commissioned so that the work will come out according to the style of the person chosen. The group let the matter slide; bigger issues were at hand- how to manage the marble contracts. The problem had always been that the management kept changing hands and the marble contractors would take full advantage of the lack of communication from one manager to another.
Prior to this committee management the Laxmi would come through different sources, including the Bhaktivedanta Book trust, direct to Surabhir Maharaja and the work would start. Maharaja’s ex-wife was selling carpets in Paris and the large profit she was making came to the Samadhi account in Delhi. Maharaja would contract the work and delegate the responsibility to someone and come periodically to check the work, now all this was changed from the simple to the complex. Getting the Laxmi to do the first panel was a problem. The initial decision was to let the work start but without any money, like asking someone to climb Mt. Everest and then once he reaches the top send him the money to buy his shoes. Setting up the process required a major investment. The committee was not going to give the sanction for any funding; therefore, if I wanted to do these panels I had to find the Laxmi on his own.
In a few days I had the commitment. My friends in Bombay said they would collect for the project.
“How much is required?” Bhima the Bombay temple president asked.
“Right now I can’t say for sure but this I know, if we do all the work ourselves we can bring the cost down to half of what any commercial foundry would charge,” I gave the figure of five lakhs;
“This should cover all the work including the bronze casting and finishing.”
“Are you sure if it’s over that amount you will have to get someone else to help? We’ll stand on our commitment.”
‘OK, let’s go for it.” I was anxious to start the work. The initial clay work could be started so once the Laxmi came in then the casting could start immediately without any hold up. The first installment came into the Samadhi account according to schedule and the amount was locked into a separate fund to spend on the panels. The work had now advanced so the first three panels were ready in the clay stage. It was time for another meeting with the committee. The drawings had been approved and according to the ideas expressed in the initial drawings the clay artwork was now ready to show as samples in quality for what all the other panels would look like.
The first person to speak up wiped out four months of work;
“I don’t know what the rest of you think but I feel it’s not right to show our spiritual master cut off at the waist. Isn’t it mentioned in Shasta that the spiritual master shouldn’t be seen incomplete, no part of his body should be cut off.”
Although in Srila Prabhupada’s time there was a bust sitting in his room with just his head and shoulders showing. However everyone agreed- the committee had spoken! No one on the committee had raised any objection when the drawings were submitted to the group for their approval. Now the complications were starting.
I spoke up,” I hate to mention this but don’t you all think this should have been considered in the beginning before you let me start on the clay work?”
Hamsarupa spoke, “What’s the problem he’s only done three so far, we have to start over, this will never do!”
Everyone agreed the panels had to be redone; three months later almost four panels were done with the full figure showing in each panel. The meetings on the panels were being held downstairs in the dungeon studio where I worked in isolation. Few people would come down to visit because for years it was a neglected, dark, and damp space used only for storage. Everyone feared to go down into this dark space for fear of snakes and scorpions; however once I had it cleaned and fixed up it was the best place in the temple complex during the summer. When the temperature goes up outside this space remained cool. The studio being underground did resemble a dungeon but for me it was paradise. For light we had a couple small windows one just above my desk and another at the far end of the long space to where you entered to come into this studio work area. The only other opening was the stairs that went up to the ground level. When the power went out, which was frequent, I had to work by candlelight.
The morning came when I had to go and ask for the Laxmi to start making the molds for the first four panels. I had the feeling this was going to be tough; this was the first time I had to ask anyone for money to do any work on the Samadhi. With Surabhir Maharaja the Laxmi was always available. I had turned all the responsibility over to my replacement Hamsarupa only six months before. Now I was just another worker coming to ask for payment. When I walked into the office there were several others requesting payment for various services rendered. So when I approached the man who replaced me as the all-in-charge of the Samadhi I felt something ill fated was about to happen. Now rather than just drawing out the Laxmi required to do the work I was now begging for what was immediately needed.
“Hams, we need some Laxmi now to start making the plaster molds for these first panels. Can we draw something from the account so I can get some materials?”
I looked on the expression of the face of my replacement; his mood had changed, now I saw a man who wasn’t about to give me the time of day.
“I’m sorry but we all decided that you have to show us something in bronze before we release any money!”
“You say we all decided; this is your decision. But what about that Laxmi that I arranged for from Bombay, the stipulation was that it be used only for these panels?”
“Don’t worry I’ll take care of everything, you don’t have to worry anymore how the Samadhi money is spent, that’s my responsibility now!”
“Do you think this is fair? I arranged for this Laxmi and you now decide that nothing will be used for this panel work. Who’s checking your expenditure? I see your driving a brand new car now, who’s paying for that? Did you use this money to buy this stupid car?”
“Like I said in the beginning, you show us something in bronze and then we will release some of the money. Case closed!”
I left the Samadhi office a little ruffled; at that time I was thinking how it was possible for a whole group of sane men to come to this decision to allow this man to buy a new car with these Samadhi funds? I never dared to spend even one paisa on myself. The message was clear loyalty to Srila Prabhupada was now over and the days of making the most of the time allotted in office started. Creaming off the top had now replaced the mood that was set in the time of our spiritual master, he declared that not one farthing should be spent on oneself or this whole movement would be finished— the time had arrived. Since the allotment was turned over to the Samadhi account I had no further leverage or chance to get Bombay to send more separately. Now what to do? Often in our ISKCON society once a person is given a big position Maya creep in and a good devotee turns demoniac especially when large amounts of money are concerned.
As I went back to my studio door there were some signs of rain as clouds were stirring overhead. Lighting could be heard just nearby. I hadn’t expected this reversal; well at least I could go downstairs and work in peace let the matter slide and later I would find some other means to get this panel work to happen. Now that everything was going to be a committee decision I could expect some difficult turns.
Downstairs there was no light so I lit up a candle and walked deep inside to where I did all my drawing work. As I sat down at the drawing table and started the drawings that had to be made for the finish of the twin towers; the rain outside was just pouring down. These drawings would be needed by the marble men ASAP so they could start making the towers. The method they used was original; they would take the drawings we provided and they would make a full size drawing and cut the marble to fit that expanded drawing. Remarkable since the size of the towers were over three stories high. Later when they came with the full size drawing and laid it out on the newly laid marble floor in front of the Samadhi I was surprised. How amazing, and how practical, this was another one for the books for creative thinking.
As I sat in my dungeon studio the rain began to pour down like a flood was imminent. Downstairs in this basement I was dry; no matter how much rain falls at least I could continue working. The walk through the first couple rooms normally had to be done by memory because it was pitch black. All the drawings I did were always worked out on fine clear tracing paper in order to do overlays. If one drop of perspiration fell on the drawing the paper would curl and in a moment weeks of drawing work could be spoiled. So I was being cautious and as I looked up it seemed the rain pouring down outside was taking on the scope of a hurricane. If I have to keep worrying every moment about a little moisture then where is the possibility of working in peace here? Just then the only light in the basement went out. Thinking about how crucial it was that the Samadhi drawings get finished on time I kept pressing on by candlelight again. The work had to be finished within the next couple days. The lights went out every day; load shedding was as common as having light. So I had a few candles ready and within a moment there was enough light to see something crawling across the paper.
“Wow, I’ve never seen a cockroach that big since I was back living on lower East side in New York!”
I had made my peace with all the creatures that were rooming with me in the basement. After 10 years of being dead storage space, little critters were still showing themselves for the first time. My pet rat was sitting up on the ledge of the little window just above my head that shed the only natural light on the subject. His shadow was passing back and forth across the drawing table. The expression on the face of my furry friend showed some compassion and gave a look of understanding. His expression seemed to tell me that don’t worry things can’t get any worse. Suddenly the window burst open followed by a massive force of water. The rat jumped right over the desk and almost landed on top of my head.
The latch holding the window closed had given way under the pressure of all the water backed up outside. What followed behind was like the deluge before the end of creation. The sewage pump had broken the day before and no one fixed it. The rain’s had come two months premature. I couldn’t believe this was happening? From experience I always knew never to think that things couldn’t get worse— but I never expected something as dramatic as this.”
The sewer water was now pouring in from both windows. Being underground there was no pump system. The room was sloped some so the water hadn’t reached the table yet. This must be the token reward I get for being in Rahu; my wife kept telling me that I have to expect the worse. But this is a little much!
I just sat there in the dark watching the room fill up with smelly water. Now what am I supposed to do? Next to the table I had some nails and a hammer was over near the window. In a few moments I had the window nailed shut and wadded through the water to nail down the other little window. By the time I reached the window I saw a bigger problem. Just across the darkened entrance area I saw what looked like Niagara Falls. The water was cascading down the stairs like there was an unlimited supply falling from heaven. When I got to the top of the stairs the situation looked bleak. The rain was pouring down with no let up in sight. The only solution was dike up the entrance. Where do I go for sand bags now? I had the answer, it worked downstairs it would work here. I just have to cut some big boards to close the gap in this doorway; I can wedge in some cloth around the edges and presto the flood into the basement would stop. Just then I hear;
“What’s going on?
Vishwaksena my general manager showed himself. Look I engineered a solution here to close up the gap.
“Vishwaksena I told you that septic pump had to be fixed. Now look we have a swimming pool in the basement no need to go to the Yamuna!”
Vishwaksena was a qualified engineer with 40 years experience working on pumps, motors and other mechanical devices.
“It looks like you have everything under control, ingenious idea you have there.
“Let’s see if it works?” I mumbled to myself.
Within a few moments the flooding of the basement stopped. With the boards in place the water was held back, still the rain was pouring down but there was at least one more foot to clear the barricade that I had set up. Even with the heavy rainfall the water would take another day to reach that height. Within a few more hours the rain stopped and Vishwaksena had the pump working. Now it was bail out time. Vishwaksena spoke up again with some encouraging words.
“Our men are all still here, let me go get them and we can try and salvage something.
I looked down at the water in the basement and smiled,
“The morale of this story is to use thicker tracing paper, or draw on sheets of steel.”
Vishwaksena gave a puzzled look, what’s that mean?”
I was right in the middle of this Rahu period so things had a tendency of going from bad to beyond worse. The clay work was almost finished on the first panel. We heard that one expert was available in Delhi who knew the secrets of lost wax bronze casting. This was a lucky lead because few in India had any working knowledge of how to render in this lost system. We knew the wax got lost but more than that the system was a big mystery. Still we held out to find a solution even though we thought that here in India the system had been long lost as well. Vishwaksena had been doing a thorough search and he found our man through the Delhi School of Art. The fellow we found was the expert we prayed for; Chandrakant Bhatt was a young fellow who was sure in all things connected to this lost wax casting system and within a few weeks he had us all set up and ready to pour.
Just a month before we had tried all possibilities and it looked like the show was over. Amongst our devotee community we had a few who claimed they knew what was the best way to pour white hot metal. Patita pavana das from New Vrindaban told us he knew the entire process; taking his advice we bought a full asbestos suit for the unfortunate man who would be doing the actual casting. We followed this devotee’s instruction and had a pouring device that was so heavy it was hard to pick it up even without another 200 lbs. of molten metal. This made things look like there would be no end of problems and no hope for the future. Listening to our local devotee experts made no sense and the others who were aware of what was happening couldn’t stop laughing. The most discouraging part of the whole episode was the pestering daily visits we had from the new Samadhi-in-charge Hamsarupa;
“Any success today boys?”
This was the early morning greeting we had each day. Hamsarupa would come in look at our situation and leave without saying another word. Just the satisfied look on his face made it all worthwhile. From the beginning it was clear that this fellow wanted to see failure. He saw by our equipment that we hadn’t a clue as to how to make this bronze work happen. Once we hired our expert it only took a couple visits before we were on our feet running. Chandrakant and his wife came down from Delhi whenever we needed them.
“Listen, I see that you fellows are nice guys and I’d like to help you out. I also see that with this fellow hanging over your head you want success more than anything. I feel the same just to see how nasty this man is I want to help you all the way thorough to a success. I think the job is a little bigger than I can honestly handle. Why not call in my guru who is the top most expert in India. In all the land there is no one better than, Rajnikant Panchal. He’s still in charge of the sculpture department in Baroda where I studied under him. If you can get him here then I will guarantee that your panels will be 100% successful. He is without a doubt the best man for the job, between the two of us we will get the work done.”
I was reflecting back on the good old days when things were easier, so now I collected the Laxmi I needed and started to work independent of this committee arrangement. I collected another five lakhs form outside murti work and now we would also fulfill the agreement to provide one sample panel in bronze then with the approval of the group the finances would be given. I already knew this was not going to happen so I independently contacted this man in Baroda and he agreed to come. Now we had a good chance of doing these eight panels.
Another element that went into our favor was this idea of finding the right material to do the casting properly. In the west the latest method is to do a slurry system called ceramic shell casting. The process is very complicated and involved some expensive equipment and the material for the slurry ceramic means of coating the wax piece was also very costly. In the west the wax piece is dipped into this wet slurry which is aerated by a heavy blower below the slurry mixture, the tendency is for this compound to sink to the bottom, so this complicated blow system was needed. Then the piece is dipped in this solution and allowed to dry; so it had be done in layers, in short too complicated for anything we could do here in Vrindaban where no materials are available even good plaster what to speak of a fire resistant plaster.
Our manager Vishwaksena Prabhu, being the expert engineer came up with another amazing invention. The slurry compound in the west coast runs about $100 per lb. Vishwaksena Prabhu checking out sources and found nearly the exact same material right here in Vrindaban. Over near the petrol pump was a foundry that cast the glass like ceramic tops on all the electric poles; all these pieces were cast in large ceramic boxes that were lying around broken. Vishwaksena Prabhu understood what he had found; he filled up a full bullock cart of these broken slagger molds as they were called. Instead of $100 per lb. he paid rs.10 for the entire cart full of this exact composition. So when we pulverized the material which was just clay fired at high temperatures several times over and over, it became the ideal material for our use. When we applied the material to the wax piece being cast we used the finest powder on the first layer and each additional layer was more course finally the last layer was very course so the air inside the mold could escape. Getting the hot bronze in and getting the hot air out is equally important. We combined this material with a high grade fire resistant plaster and the result was perfect. Now we had the top most material at a fraction of the western price.
Rajnikant Panchal came and he instructed us in a new process he originated and found to be easier and more effective in this lost wax process. He showed us that if we put all the piping inside the figures or approach from the back no finishing would be required on any surface. So all the runners and risers went inside the pieces and we put together the first burn out and were now about ready for the first pour. It just so happened that a camp of bronze casters appeared that week and they came in for this art camp hosted by the government. So the total of five men from all parts of India came to Vrindaban; they represented the only persons engaged in this lost wax system. None of them had any knowledge of the system Panchal had invented. So they all came that first day and watched in silence as the casting was going on.
Still being a beginner in this process I knew two things for sure;
1. First at no time should this white hot crucible touch anything cold or wet.
2. Anyone involved in this process should be properly clothed and protected with heavy boots and thick clothing, plus proper head gear with thick protective glasses.
The danger is always that some of this white hot metal might splatter or land on some one’s body this was serious because the white hot metal would stick to one’s skin and burn a severe deep hole instantly where ever this metal hit. Therefore I had no idea of how this pouring should be accomplished. So we hired two local men to do the pouring, they had their own system and had simplified their process. Both men were local brass casters who only did sand casting but the casting business they knew very well.
That morning we all gather around the foundry area we had set up in our shed behind the gurukula building, this was a major event since none of us had any idea of what would happen. The two men brought in their own equipment which was a lighter version of what we had and they laughed at the asbestos suit we bought. Now it was time for the pour as the metal had reached the proper color, in went a little flux and the crucible was pulled out of the fire and transferred into the pouring device. Both men were bare footed and wore only a simple gumsa around their waist. Now they moved to the molds which where underground with only the open lip exposed to the surface. Before my eyes they patted some wet sand around the opening and now set the white hot crucible on that wet sand and turned the crucible and started the pouring. Immediately I ran behind the building expecting a sure explosion and these men were committing suicide. To my great surprise the pour went off perfectly, the exact amount of metal was poured to fill all the seven pieces being cast. No one spoke we all watched in suspense as to what would come out of these molds. Normally it takes about two or three hours for the molds to cool down so there is no cracking. If the bronze is exposed to cold air to soon the whole thing would shatter like a bomb going off. Now the next surprise these men immediately started to open the first mold that was still smoking. Again I was hiding behind the building as a safety measure. Much to everyone’s surprise the first piece came out perfect and all the other pieces also followed the first piece by coming out perfectly; no blow holes, no pits, no imperfections, perfect casting the first time.
The leader of the lost wax experts who came in for this first pour came over to me and said;
“NOW I BELIEVE IN GOD!” shaking his head he went on; “FOR YOU TO GET THIS KIND OF DETAIL AND PERFECT CASTING THERE MUST BE A GOD.”
He went on to explain he had never seen anyone pour metal like this, all of these men well versed in pouring bronze in this lost wax system agreed that this was nothing short of a miracle. When then saw the perfect casting that surfaced in this first piece they were all amazed. Normally the finest you can hope for is 60% at best; all the way through the casting for all eight panels the casting went off perfectly every time.
Later in the basement one old lady had found her way down to where we had these first pieces cast and sitting on our counter. She picked up one of the detail pieces and suddenly dropped the piece and ran out of the basement. This seemed strange, who was this lady? Within a few hours she came back with her two sons who were also local brass casters. They were all amazed by the detail and quality of the casting. They had never seen such work, normally they cast in sand and the result is a blank of no detail and they slave away and put the detail in by chisel and hammer. Locally no one was capable of doing this lost wax system, to this present day in the whole of India there are still only a few who do this kind of casting, now as before all casting is done in the crude sand mold system.
This success was all a tribute to our teachers and expert local casters. So now we had the system and with time we went on and finished all the pouring and had the casting ready for welding. The simple system of casting allowed us to cast separate pieces and later weld all the elements together. However, we couldn’t find anyone locally who could do the welding; so another barrier to getting to a conclusion. Again our manager Vishwaksena Prabhu found a Muslim fellow in Mathura who was willing to come and do the welding we needed. We set up the rented tanks and welding equipment and he was able to do the needful. Once the welding was done on the first few panels we arranged to get to the final stage because of our experts from Delhi and Baroda.
Now came the patina finish which was crucial and we had no idea of the formula required. Again our experts came in to show us this ancient formula which was critical since the acid used would eat through all the metal if done improperly. The acid we used required two things to make the metal go brown or green or combined to get a black color which is known at the noble finish; bronze is famous for the traditional black finish. An iron nail added to the acid made the sculpture go green and a copper coin made the bronze turn brown; using the combination made the sculpture black. Bronze goes black with time since the metal forms a protective copper oxide coating which automatically darkens. Doing this patina work just accelerates the process.
Now we had the formula and all that remained was to do the final grinding and polishing and then we had brought the work which was virtually impossibility now came into its final conclusion. Without the combined effort of all who helped on this project the panels would never have happened.
Now the eight panels were finished and to the displeasure of our committee and managers of the Samadhi the panels were never going to go into the Samadhi since I was going over their heads in the matter of execution. One day following the meeting in the basement studio to see the finished product, both our expert casters and artists from Delhi and Baroda were present and Toshan Krishna started in on me.
“I don’t like the panels, they have no artistic quality, they are done sloppy and never will I allow them to go inside the Samadhi.”
Both our professional experts were shocked at the outburst of this seemingly crazy fellow.
So I said in my own defense;
“Toshan Prabhu, you are entitled to your opinion, although I know nothing that I would do would make you happy. There is no way that I could ever convince you of the value or artistic worth of these bronze panels that we have labored so hard to finish. You’re angry because we did the work and made a success inspite of all the obstacles you and your buddy Hamsarupa placed in our way. So ask the experts who are standing here of the artistic worth of these panels?”
Without waiting for any questioning from these envious fellows both of the professionals responded;
“First the matter is a question of artistic expression, and the artist here is highly qualified and expert in his rendition; in the final analysis it is a matter belonging to those of us in the field who are studied and qualified to make decisions in art. Anyone can voice their opinion but based on training and experience these panels are first class.” This was the first comment by our Delhi professional.
“None of you here are qualified to make any ruling on what is the sole business of the artist. It is the responsibility of the artist to make art not a committee. You have no business dressing down this man who is indeed highly expert in what is now captured in bronze. His work stands high in the professional field since his drawing or rendering in clay is the best I have seen. You will never find anyone better who is willing to put up with your nonsense and still carry out such a difficult job. There are pieces done by the French sculptor Rodin which are famous and now priceless; the work I see here is near the same in quality and expression of his use of the human form. So you figure it out; at some time in the future these pieces will also be considered priceless.”
So spoke the professional who had a lifetime career in teaching sculpture and casting in Baroda. This still wasn’t enough, for some unknown reason the bitterness and hatred for me still went on unchecked as Toshan went on with his tirade lashing away at me. Both the professional men just walked away shaking their heads. They never came back since they feared there would be no installation. The matter didn’t end here, I battled with Toshan and Hamsarupa until I saw there was no way these two men would allow these pieces to go into the Samadhi while they were in control. Therefore, I decided to show the bronzes in Bombay and sell them if I could get an attractive offer. With the help of all my staff we packed up the eight panels with their large display panels which each stood nine feet tall and all my paintings and architectural work that I had accumulated by that time. The train in Mathura would only stop for 15 minutes max. So we were all ready at the platform and it was phoned to the brake van people that some crates would be loaded in those 15 minutes. The last crate went on as the train started to pull out of the station, I had to run to get to my compartment; now off to Bombay.
I set up the show in the gurukula building just in time for the Janmastami celebration and thousands came through and viewed the show including famous persons like; Hema Malini and Jaserat Pandit and others. The show was an amazing success because one of India’s greatest painters S.M. Pandit came to the opening and brought his important friends. All of the men where highly impressed that an artist could be expert in three fields; namely painting, sculpture and architecture. What developed was a deep tie between Pandit and me. It was like meeting Rembrandt or someone of this status and for him to praise the work so highly was a surprise to me since no one had given me the time of day before. We were like two souls reunited from a past lifetime. The exchange went deep, even though he was sick and carrying a bag for his stool he kept coming and tried to bring all his influential friends. When this news got back to Vrindaban and Toshan heard that I was going to sell the panels and collect some outrageous amount for the eight panels he called me and officially apologized and told me to not sell them rather bring them back and we will have a big ceremony and install the panels in their proper home. I was surprised but thankful that the panels would finally go into their actual home to help glorify Srila Prabhupada. The ploy worked since I had no intention of selling the panels. However, soon after I returned from Bombay with the bronze panels and display units another incident happened which delayed the installation of the Bronze panels in the Samadhi.
The following story must be told to clear the air and to help create the flavor of the times. As devotees we are trained by Srila Prabhupada to try and help one another and give as much facility as possible to help our own spiritual lives but also to help others do the same. When devotees disguise as demons it should be told. Not that these personalities are demons disguised as devotees, rather it was just a moment of trial and difficulty that the entire movement was going through with the absence being felt from the divine association of Srila Prabhupada. Maya came in strong as will be revealed in the following story. I harbor no anger, or resentment towards any of these devotees, but the history must be made known so the same errors are never repeated. It was simply the lack of purity that prevailed during the time of Srila Prabhupada’s presence.
THE FEARSOME FIVE
In the summer of 1990 my wife was called into a meeting the result of which still lingers in my mind. The meeting was scheduled to happen in the gurukula building and along the way my wife met me and said she was on the way to a summit so I went along for the ride to see what was scheduled. When we reached the room our daughter Nilu who was just one year old immediately started to cry and shake all over, what was in this room that caused her to scream uncontrolled, this wasn’t like her? Sitting in the darkened room were five of our fearless leaders; Bhurijhan, Dhanudhara Swami, Kadamba Kana, Hamsarupa, and Toshan Krishna. They all looked at my wife like they wanted to kill her.
Prior to this meeting a little history is necessary to explain the situation. For several years my wife Vidya Devi dasi was running a mukut operation which employed over 70 Muslim workers. They would come in each morning and work steady all day making outfits for our ISKCON deities all over the world. My wife would charge a small fee which would cover the cost of providing our own deities here at the Krsna Balarama temple at least four new outfits each year. This ran for years without any problem, the financial details were kept by my wife and this was a great asset to our deity program. At the same time in a small room adjacent to the mukut operation she also ran a sari shop for the gurukula. For years she was single handedly supporting the gurukula during the years all the problems were later discovered. Innocently providing the funding we also became implicated in this abuse. My wife would turn over the profits to Dhanudhara Maharaja and asked no questions as to how the Laxmi was being spent. The amount of funding she collected from selling saris gave Maharaja full vent on travel and carrying on the gurukula activities as well as all his personal needs.
During that same period at no cost to the gurukula, I was running an art program for the students less brahmanically inclined in two rooms on the ground floor. For a period of time the art program was running successful and the boys and I enjoyed the adventure of working together. Once I was told that a few of the teachers were hitting the boys so I asked; the response from the teachers came out that nothing but a few love taps were administered to keep the boys in line. All the abuses were secretly covered so no one knew what was happening behind closed doors.
After some years and considerable funding generated for the gurukula and the deity department, the sari and mukut business’ slowed down as fewer temples were ordering outfits and the sari business slackened as the ladies were leaving the temples and stopped wearing saris in preference to Punjabi outfits. So the income dropped and this set off an alarm; those in control of management expected that some pilfering was taking place. The change of temple management demanded that a severe accountability had to be installed. My wife was being accused of misappropriation of funds. The meeting was all about where was the money going? Where are the books, why is there so little coming in? This was just an excuse to grab full control over these two golden projects. However, cutting my wife’s throat meant loosing the golden eggs she was producing. It didn’t matter since the income was sliding, the real issue was control. Kadamba and his wife Eshani wanted the mukut business to cover their griha life. So the move was to close the sari shop for the gurukula since it wasn’t making enough money and simultaneously take over the mukut business. Immediately the mukut business was firmly in the hands of Eshani. In a short period of one month she destroyed the whole mukut project and closed the shop. Next closing the sari shop meant a great loss in stock, the remaining sari stock was sold off for half the value to our local merchant, who immediately understood now what kind of sari’s were selling to ISKCON ladies. Since this liquidation Loi Bazaar controls the sari business all these years to this present day. And crores of rupees have been lost to the temple. Over 100 mukut workers trained up by my wife now began to make outfits for ISKCON from outside our society; many shops sprung up around the Vrindaban/ Mathura district, so now every temple has to pay more for their deity outfits.
The final dictation of the five was; leave the temple premises and live outside, turn over all the books, all the stock of saris and don’t enter into the mukut or sari shop premises again. This came as a sudden shock, where could we go, what kind of service could my wife do now? Her whole devotional life was developing these two operations and the success of her effort brought in crores over the years; suddenly this slap in the face and get out; nice reward for years of selfless service. I was told not to put the name of ISKCON on any outside project I was working on. I also had to vacate the work space I was using underneath the guest house. I had invested considerable money fixing up this dead space and making it a workable studio for the work I was doing for Srila Prabhupada’s Samadhi. Now I had to pull out and find some other place to carry on. When all of this was being presented by these five men; my immediate reaction was to smash them all but gradually I took it as a blessing and we started to leave the room. I just mentioned a few words to this fearsome five;
“All of you will take a severe reaction for this, mark my words!”
Within a few months they all were kicked out of Vrindaban. The inner truth was revealed about the gurukula, and the two leaders at that time were disgraced; Bhurijhan and Dhanudhara Maharaja. And all the homosexuals they employed molesting and beating the children were exposed. For years now we have come to understand the seriousness of their folly. When Kirtanananda Maharaja came to understand what was happening with his boys at the gurukula he instructed his boys to tear the place apart, which they did. Kirtanananda’s place in ISKCON history is another story. At that time the Guru GBC, the temple president, the head pujari, and several members of the gurukula staff were all practicing homosexuals.
It was at this same time my friend Kelan was murdered and Toshan and Hamsarupa were directly involved. Hamsarupa provided the gun and money to have the job done and quickly disappeared after Kelan’s death. Toshan was told to leave immediately or die, he had a gun on his head when this instruction was given. Kadamba was shot while passing stool in the gurukula building soon after and nearly died. Bhurijhan and Dhanudhara Maharaja stood over Kelan as he was rolling on the ground in pain from being shot in the entrance of the guest house; soon after all five left Vrindaban, never to return except as visitors.
I wished them all the best because the order they gave us allowed my wife and I to start fresh and build up some independence outside the temple proper. I thank them all and hope this little history will give some underlying understanding as to what happens when we try to disrupt any devotee’s service to Their Lordships. We were trained by Srila Prabhupada to give and take nothing; this is devotional service. Seeking power and position leads only to disaster when such persons take advantage of their position by destroying others.
The only violence towards the boys I saw in those years were a few instances when Bhavananda sat in judgment and the young boys lined up to get a slap across the face from the man who had just been honored in the BTG as “Meet a Boni-fied Guru.” A small thing but worse was the incident involving Toshan Krishna. One small Indian boy decided to escape the entrapment in this prison house and all the abuses he faced. He tried to board a bus in Vrindaban; instead he was caught and returned to the Gurukula building. In front of my eyes Toshan grabs the boy and starts to bang his head on the cement floor, I feared he would kill the boy. His banging was so hard the boy might have suffered a severe concussion. I stopped him;
“Toshan this isn’t the way to keep the boy from running away again!”
Anger doesn’t fit into the lifestyle of a devotee, we must all guard against this tendency which exists in everyone; unchecked we see this leads to eventual disaster and disgrace towards Srila Prabhupada. I am so sorry for all the abuses that happened in those years. Although we had no knowledge of what was going on, still it is unforgiveable. It happened! May this brief history allow us to always remember what evil lurks in the hearts of demons masquerading as devotees or in some case the devotees disguised as demons. I pray that this will never happen again, if it does we will never be forgiven if we repeat our mistakes. Srila Prabhupada please protect us from any further abuse to young boys beginning their spiritual lives, the mark those kids suffered from the early days remains imbedded in all our consciousness.
Our children should be protected not abused; those men who violated this sacred responsibility will always carry this stigma for their entire lives and beyond. Still today our entire ISKCON educational system is going secular and constantly being revised and taken from the essence of what our spiritual master wanted. What he didn’t want was this secular mundane education given in exchange for the spiritual education he outlined and provided the space and facility for. All the old teachers and educators know that this present turn will produce only Indian boys whose parents want their children to get a proper secular education which meets all the standards set by the state government. The spiritual side is now secondary at best or totally nonexistent. All the children now being trained will have no working force in the future of our ISKCON society. Rather they will go on their way and pursue a mundane education and their spiritual lives will be lost forever, a great loss to our ISKCON society and to those boys whose future life style will be devoid of anything spiritual. Gone are the days when our children had the chance to make their lives successful by this jump start of spiritual education and early grounding in all the brahmanical concepts outlined by Srila Prabhupada himself. What a shame, where are all these old teachers now who were given this instruction directly from Srila Prabhupada, out of sight out of mind just don’t think about it and the problem will go away.
Finally once the bronze panels were being installed, that same day across the Samadhi area on the museum side Dhanudhara Maharaja was tearing out all the work I had done on the top floor of the museum. Years back Surabhir Maharaja had commandeered the three rooms upstairs in the gurukula. The idea was to turn the rooms into dioramas so the public could see something more when they were taken upstairs to see the life and history of our spiritual master Srila Prabhupada. Now years later this old vendetta had to be replayed. So that day we were installing the bronze panels on the Samadhi side Dhanudhara Maharaja was tearing out the dioramas glorifying Srila Prabhupada on the other side of the Samadhi area. It took some years to make the dioramas and all this was torn out in one day. There were three areas depicting three different moods of Srila Prabhupada; his silent darshans near the end of his life, his preaching from his Vyasasana and the results showing of his temples and disciples all over the world, and sitting in his room here in Vrindaban reflecting on all the books and institutions he had founded. In a flash Dhanudhara Maharaja recaptured the rooms for the sole use of the gurukula. Years of work ruined in one day. Another reason I felt we had to turn to bronze because through the years I have had here at the Krsna Balarama temple all my work has been either removed or destroyed. Now if someone is envious and wants to remove the bronze work they will have some difficulty. Years from now all these stories will be forgotten and nothing will remain except the glorification of Srila Prabhupada in bronze. The original idea was to make this Samadhi as permanent as possible by using Marble, granite, and bronze all long lasting materials to perpetuate the glory of Srila Prabhupada.
Looking back over the years I am able to laugh at what kind of struggle we all had to face at the hands of different madmen in management. Not all managers are mad only those put in place here in Vrindaban, with a few exceptions of course. Like the game of musical chairs I kept moving to avoid any manager’s fury. During the time I spent doing service at the Krsna Balarama Mandhir I was systematically kicked out of every space I was using. I came to expect this reaction which proved to help me stay detached in all manners regarding my position in the temple proper. While working in Mayapur on the Samadhi I made the mistake of staying a few months too long. By the time I returned all my equipment; including special tables and chairs I had made for the gurukula art department everything was gone with no excuse except we needed the space Prabhu, don’t be attached. Then we had a shack behind the gurukula which was taken away in the same fashion; later I had one room in the front of the gurukula and that was taken, finally the dead space I was using beneath the guest house had to be reclaimed and returned to its original status as a dead storage space before we were thrown out of the temple altogether. In hind sight I see all of this as Lord Krsna’s mercy to remain detached and humbled in the light of all that is thrown our way as tests that seem to be increasingly harder as the years roll on. If we are able to roll with the punches it becomes a game of appreciation of the mercy that comes in this form of upsets and seemingly disappointments. Devotional life is always a test and once we get good at this business of remaining detached the faster the spiritual advancement. Hare Krsna. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.