I came here empty-handed, I shall go back empty-handed.
Prabhupada took advantage of the presence of the traveling sankirtana party in Seattle. He told Tamala Krishna he wanted to organize a world sankirtana party, with twelve men, twelve women, and himself going all over the world. But for the present, the devotees went out daily in the downtown city. In Seattle, citizens were astounded to see young Americans with shaven heads, saffron robes, women in saris, playing cymbals and singing "Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare." The devotees would chant Hare Krishna for hours, give out cards with the maha-mantra printed on them, and sometimes bring people back to the temple. As a result, attendance was good at Prabhupada's evening lectures. With the devotees chanting on the streets during the day and Prabhupada speaking at night, the city was quickly becoming spiritualized. Therefore, each evening the small cedarwood-paneled temple room of Lord Jagannatha was filled with considerable transcendental excitement. For Prabhupada, it was very encouraging to lecture to a hall crowded with both disciples and guests.
After the evening kirtana, everyone would sit down on the floor, and some people would even stand outside the house, looking in and listening at the windows. Prabhupada invariably began by chanting, in a strong, simple melody, the refrain govindam adi-purusham tam aham bhajami. And everyone would repeat in chorus, govindam adi-purusham tam aham bhajami. He would chant it half a dozen times and then begin his lecture.
Prabhupada's Teachings of Lord Caitanya had recently been published, and he often lectured by having a devotee read out loud. Prabhupada would listen, and whenever he felt moved to, he would interrupt and begin speaking. "This Krishna consciousness movement," Prabhupada explained, "has to be understood through the teachings of Lord Caitanya. He appeared in Bengal, a province in India, five hundred years ago. And He specifically preached the Krishna consciousness movement. To execute that order we have come to your country. My request is that you try to understand this Krishna consciousness movement with all your knowledge, scrutinizingly. Don't accept it blindly. We have this book Teachings of Lord Caitanya, and other books also, many books. So try to read them. And we have our magazine Back to Godhead. We are not sentimentalists that we are simply dancing. Dancing has got great value. That, if you dance with us, you will feel. It is not that some crazy fellows are dancing. The most intelligent persons are dancing, and yet it is so nicely made that even a boy like here, he is a boy, he can take part."
Prabhupada emphasized that Krishna consciousness was universal. It was full of sound philosophy, and yet it was very simple. The simple message was, "God is great, and we are His part and parcel." And to prove it, he gave simple examples: The hand is part of the body and has great value when working as part of the whole. A small screw in the typewriting machine is very valuable as long as it is working as part of the machine; otherwise it is useless. Similarly, unless the individual spirit soul engages in devotional service to Krishna, he is incomplete.
Prabhupada spoke some basic Krishna consciousness for about a half-hour and then asked for questions. Always at least a few hands raised. He recognized the outsiders first. It was not unusual in those days to find young people, college students and hippies, asking cosmic questions, dabbling in yoga and Eastern philosophy. Often, however, they had many different things on their minds, including drugs, and were frequently confused. But Prabhupada, experienced with over three years of constant preaching to young Americans, had already heard almost anything they could possibly ask.
Young man: "Is there a communication that is not the word itself but beyond words, perhaps a vibration reaching for the om? I mean, does one attain a communication, something understood between you and myself and my brother, an experience like the sound dong or aung? Is there something else beyond the verbal?"
"Yes," Prabhupada replied, "this Hare Krishna."
Man: "Hare Krishna?"
Man: "But can you tell me how this can be? How to talk that language all the time rather than English or other languages?"
Prabhupada: "It doesn't matter that Hare Krishna can be sounded in Sanskrit only. You can sound it in English tone also, Hare Krishna. Is there any difficulty? These boys are also sounding Hare Krishna. Just like the piano. If you touch, there is dung. It doesn't matter whether an American is striking or an Indian striking or a Hindu striking or a Muslim striking, the sound is sound. Similarly, this piano, Hare Krishna, you just touch it and it will sound. That's all."
Someone asked about meditation.
Prabhupada asked, "What do you mean by meditation?"
"Sitting alone quietly."
"How is it possible?" Prabhupada asked. "Is there any experience that the mind is not acting when you sit silently? You have to engage your mind in something."
"What do you engage it in?"
"Yes," Prabhupada replied. "That is Krishna. We engage our mind in Krishna, the beautiful Supreme Personality of Godhead. Not only simply engaging the mind, but engaging the mind in action with the senses. Because mind is acting with our senses. Your mind said, "Let us go to that newly started ISKCON society.' So your legs carried you here. So mind-thinking, feeling, willing-these are the functions of the mind. You have to fix up your mind not only thinking of Krishna, but also working for Krishna, feeling for Krishna. That is complete meditation."
Someone asked if a Christian, by reading the Bible and following Jesus's words, required a spiritual master. As soon as you read the Bible, Prabhupada replied, that means you are following the instructions of Lord Jesus Christ, so where is the opportunity of being without a spiritual master?
"I was referring to a living spiritual master."
Prabhupada: "You may accept this spiritual master or that spiritual master. That is a different thing. But you have to accept. When you read the Bible, that means you are following the spiritual master represented by some priest or clergyman in the line of Lord Jesus Christ. So, in any case, you have to follow a spiritual master. There is no question of being without a spiritual master. Is that clear?"
"Many different sects of Christianity interpret the Bible in different ways."
Prabhupada: "There cannot be any interpretation in the Bible; then there is no authority. Just like this is a watch. Everyone has called it a watch, and if I call it a spectacle, then what is the value of my being spiritual master? I'm misleading. It is a watch, and that I must say. This intelligence you must have-who is a pseudo spiritual master and a real spiritual master. Otherwise, you'll be cheated, and that is being done. Everyone is interpreting in his own way.
"There are thousands of editions of the Bhagavad-gita, and they have tried to interpret it in their own way-all nonsense. They should all be thrown away. Simply you have to read the Bhagavad-gita as it is, then you'll understand. If anyone can understand the clear passage, just like the Bible, "God said, "Let there be creation," and there was creation.' What is the question of interpretation? Yes, God created. You cannot create. Where is opportunity of interpretation?
"Am I right, in the beginning of the Bible it is said like that: "God said, "Let there be creation," and there was creation.' So what is your interpretation? Tell me what is your interpretation. Can any one of you suggest? One can explain; that is a different thing. But the fact that God created, that will remain; that we cannot change.
"Now how the creative process took place, that is explained in the Bhagavatam. First of all there was sky, then there was sound, then there was this, that. But the primary fact that God created, that will remain in any circumstance. Not the rascal scientist who says, "Oh, there was a chunk, and it split up, and there was this planet. Perhaps this and likely this,' all this nonsense. Why "perhaps'? Here is clear statement: God created. That's all. Finished."
Another guest said he didn't feel subordinate to anyone, therefore he didn't feel he had to bow down to anyone. Indirectly, he was criticizing the devotees' offering of obeisances to Prabhupada. It is a material disease, Prabhupada replied, to think that we don't have to bow down. He demonstrated logically that nature forces each of us to be subordinate, "to bow down" to old age, disease, death, and many other things.
Guest: "O.K. But who or what should I bow down to?"
Prabhupada: "Since you are being forced to bow down, now you have to find where you shall be happy even by bowing down. And that is Krishna. Your bowing down will not be stopped, because you are meant for that; but if you bow down to Krishna and Krishna's representative, then you become happy."
The disciples were submissive, and therefore only to them could the spiritual master impart knowledge of Krishna consciousness. But some of them were also doubtful, and Prabhupada had to convince them with the same logical arguments he used with the outsiders.
Devotee: "Prabhupada? How do you logically explain to impersonalists the existence of the Personality of Godhead?"
Prabhupada began to explain the three features of the Absolute and compared them to the three features of the sun, namely the sunshine, the sun disk, and the sun-god. Using the well-known example, he thoroughly explained the existence of the Supreme Person as the source of all expansions, including the impersonal Brahman.
"But [the devotee was not yet satisfied] how does one explain to such an impersonalist the Absolute Truth logically. I was told Srila Bhaktivinoda had such a proof."
Prabhupada: "Apart from Bhaktivinoda, try to understand in your common sense." Painstakingly, Prabhupada explained again, this time at greater length. He quoted the Vedanta-sutra verse janmadyasya yatah, explaining how everything in existence comes from the Supreme Absolute. Therefore, as we are persons, there must be a Supreme Person, the reservoir of all personality, from whom everything comes. As we experience that our father is a person, therefore we are persons.
Often Prabhupada was simply saying there is God and one should love God. But one student protested why love of God should come in the form of the Krishna consciousness movement.
Student: "If our first concern should be to serve God, or Krishna, then why should there be a movement? You might get so caught up in the movement that you're forgetting about serving God."
Prabhupada: "Why am I serving God? This movement means I am serving God. What do you mean by "serving'? If Krishna says, "You obey Me,' and if I say, "You obey Krishna,' is this not service?"
Prabhupada: "So we are doing the same business. Krishna says, "Surrender to Me and give up all other engagement, and I shall give you protection.' And we are saying the same thing, that you surrender to Krishna and you'll be happy. So we are voluntarily giving service to Krishna. Preaching work is the best service, if you preach rightly. If you preach wrongly, that is disservice. You have to simply say the same thing as Krishna."
Student: "But the movement might get in the way of serving Krishna."
Prabhupada: "It is service to Krishna. Because we have understood what Krishna wants, we are preaching the same thing."
Student: "Was there always a kind of movement?"
Prabhupada: "Yes, the movement is always there. Just like in the Bhagavad-gita it is said, "My dear Arjuna, whenever people are misguided and there is too much irreligiosity, at that time I appear Myself.' The material world is such that, if something is set right, still some time it will be distorted. Therefore a movement is required whenever there is deterioration of the real truth. But it is the same movement, not a new movement. The movement means God is there, He is great, and we are all subordinate. Our duty is to abide by the order of God, then we are happy. The movement is simple. The same movement was preached by Lord Krishna. The same movement was preached by Lord Jesus Christ. The same movement we are also preaching. Simply accepting the authority or the greatness of the Supreme Lord and engaging oneself, that's all. There is nothing new. Don't try to see something new. It is the oldest because God is the oldest, you are also the oldest, and your relationship is also the oldest. Therefore the movement is also the oldest. But the process adopted is suitable for this time. That is also not new, not manufactured. It is recommended for this age. Just like during the winter season, the process is to protect your body from being affected by cold. Similarly in this age, Kali-yuga, it is recommended that God realization is only possible by this chanting of Hare Krishna."
Many of the youngsters would try to catch Prabhupada in contradictions. One boy noted Prabhupada's statement that it was natural for a child to drink milk and not eat the meat of an animal. The boy argued that if Prabhupada's emphasis was on being natural, then is it natural for a child to grow up, shave his head, and serve God, or was that just another form of socialization? Another challenger asked why the International Society for Krishna Consciousness was "incorporated." Another asked if the sadhus in India who wore long hair and wandered in the woods needed spiritual masters.
The questions revealed the guests' uneasiness. Prabhupada was demanding a full commitment to the truth. They could understand that if they accepted that he was presenting the truth, then they, too, like the bright-faced disciples sitting beside them in the crowded temple room, should bow down to Prabhupada and Lord Jagannatha, join "the movement," shave their heads, and go out chanting Hare Krishna. At least that was the implication. So those who deeply wanted to avoid the austerity, the surrender, the uprooting of a whole lifetime of illusion, sought out the flaws, the possible contradictions. But kind and lenient though he was, Prabhupada-never demanding that they shave their heads or live in the temple-continued to defeat their doubting arguments, expose the weakness of their atheistic reasoning, and smash the folly of their material desires. He ruled forth as Krishna's representative, speaking from the blue and gold velvet vyasasana in the front room of the Seattle house.
Woman: "I wish to see proofs of afterlife, in writing, so that I can read it and study it and examine it carefully. Is it available in writing?"
Prabhupada: "Read Bhagavad-gita. You'll understand everything."
Woman: "That's sixty-eight volumes?"
Prabhupada: "No, Bhagavad-gita is one volume only. Eighteen chapters, seven hundred verses. You can read it in three days. It is not very difficult. We have published Bhagavad-gita As It Is, and I think if you read it, you will get so many nice informations. After reading Bhagavad-gita, you read Srimad-Bhagavatam. Then you get further enlightenment. Then you read Teachings of Lord Caitanya, and you get further enlightenment. And for general information, we have this Back to Godhead you can read. It is not that simply we are talking. We are backed by sufficient knowledge and literature."
And so it went into the evening, nine o'clock turned to ten o'clock and ten o'clock to ten-thirty.
Is bhakti-yoga for everyone? What about kundalini-yoga? Why did Krishna ask Arjuna to fight? What about Christ consciousness? What about the Trinity? Prabhupada was completely absorbed in defeating arguments and answering questions about Krishna-a samadhi of debate on behalf of his Lord Krishna. Yes, he did expect them, if they were gentlemen, to accept his presentation as correct and to make a real commitment to Krishna consciousness. "So here is the offering," Prabhupada said. "Take Krishna consciousness. Now it is your choice. If you can take it, it is good. If you don't take it, that is your misfortune. Is there any difficulty to accept our formula? I ask all of you, is there any difficulty? I am asking this. You have asked so many questions of me. Is there any difficulty to accept this formula?"
The assembled guests and devotees murmured in reply, "No."
"So why don't you take it?" Prabhupada laughed. "It is so simple, nice. Try to understand by your knowledge. We are not pushing forcibly. You have got your intelligence, argument, logic, everything. But you'll find it sublime. The author of Caitanya-caritamrita says that we are placing it for your judgment, not that we are pushing it by force. Sometimes it is said that the Mohammedans propagated their religion by holding a sword in one hand and the Koran in another hand: Either you accept Koran, or there is sword for you. Krishna consciousness is not like that. It is placed for your judgment. And if you like, you can accept. Otherwise, I came here empty-handed, I shall go back empty-handed. There is no loss, no gain."
Prabhupada laughed with the satisfaction of the completely surrendered servant. Then he asked them all to chant Hare Krishna.
Tamala Krishna: At that point, I could recognize that Prabhupada was my complete lord and master. Whenever he would get up from the vyasasana I would just grip his feet and hold them and hold them. I would hold his feet at my head, and I wouldn't let him walk at all. I was so eager to be at Prabhupada's lotus feet. I wanted to be with him as much as I could. I would feel very torn apart when he would go to another temple. I remember sometimes after the program, he would finish eating a piece of fruit and would throw the peel on the floor. We would all jump for it and fight with each other in front of the altar and Prabhupada. We would be scrapping around like little puppies. Prabhupada would lean back and laugh. He thought we were making very nice advancement by this.
Reference: Prabhupada Lila
Author: Satsvarupa Das Goswami