Pushta Krishna Maharaja brought in a stack of mail from around the world and Prabhupada answered them one after another.
Chayavana Swami, who was so disturbed when we saw him in Delhi last March, is now living in the Chicago temple. He wrote a letter expressing deep regret for his past inability to strictly follow the regulative principles, and he pleaded for Prabhupada's mercy to save him from further attacks of maya. He requested some service, declaring he was prepared to do anything to atone for his fall downs.
Prabhupada was pleased that Chayavana is still trying to remain within devotional service, and he asked him to come to New York when he visits there next month.
Vegavan dasa, president of the Stockholm center, sent a brief one page report. He informed Prabhupada that the Bhagavad-gita is translated into Swedish and is now being checked by two professional translators before being typeset. He said many schools are eagerly awaiting its publication so that they can use it as a text in their courses, and they have already received many orders. Once this is out, they plan to approach the Nobel Prize committee, based in Sweden. He said a now deceased member was reported to have said, "Of everything pious, bhakti is the most pious." They intend to find out who his friends were on the committee and approach them with Srila Prabhupada's books.
Srila Prabhupada replied with a request that they try to get all fifty-four of his books accepted in the universities, either in English or in any other language.
Jayatirtha prabhu sent a response from London to Srila Prabhupada's last letter, in which Prabhupada suggested that he get a loan from the European BBTs to finance the purchase of the building he wanted to buy near Regents Park. Jayatirtha explained that the German BBT was in great debt, owing $60,000 to creditors, principally to the Los Angeles BBT, and the general state of affairs in Germany is not good. Although they have a large stock of books worth about $200,000, they are mainly large, hard-bound books, which no one knows how to sell. On top of this, most of the sankirtana devotees joined Hansaduta Swami's India party, and the fifteen remaining are only collecting about $6,000 per week. The main temple there, the Schloss Reterschoff, owes $20,000 to the BBT and Jayatirtha has had to radically adjust their budget to prevent excessive spending. In the light of all this, he didn't think it possible that the German BBT could give a loan for the England temple purchase.
As far as the trouble in Germany with the authorities was concerned, the government continues to hold $300,000 which they will not release without a court fight. They are now trying to make us pay an additional $250,000. Jayatirtha said it was questionable whether we would get a fair trial in Germany because "they have a bad reputation throughout the world for being unfair in matters of civil rights."
As far as England is concerned, the Regents Park building was withdrawn from the market, so now they are looking for something else. He said he felt a place that would allow us to run a restaurant alongside a temple would be ideal, but he wanted to know Srila Prabhupada's opinion on this.
Finally, he asked Srila Prabhupada to send a letter to George Harrison, inviting him to come when Prabhupada visits in July. George is reported to be unhappy about the way the Manor is being run, and is therefore holding off completing a lease agreement. Jayatirtha felt that if he comes to the Manor and sees some improvement he may then be more inclined.
Srila Prabhupada's reply informed him that the idea for a restaurant was possible, but only if it is completely separate from the temple, with its own entrance. The activities of the two should not mix.
Prabhupada didn't comment on the German situation, save to express his disturbance at their inability to sell the big books. "I am informing Tamal Krishna Goswami in New York to try to arrange to send some men to Germany to help train the men and distribute these books."
He also enclosed a short letter of invitation to be delivered to George Harrison.
"My dear Sriman George,
"Please accept my blessings. I would be very much pleased if you can meet me the next time that I am in London. I am scheduled to be there from July 20th to July 26th, 1976, and for further details you can contact Mukunda das. I am looking forward to seeing you again.
"Hoping that this meets you in good health. Your ever well-wisher, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami."
From Vrindavana, India, Akshayananda Swami reported some promising developments. His traveling party has collected twenty-five thousand rupees during the month of May. With donations given at the temple, they are now self-sufficient. He also gave a good account of the temple activities. At least one thousand people visit daily, and from books and prasadam sales they raise three hundred and fifty rupees per day. Akshayananda Maharaja praised Haihaya's efforts as the temple manager. His letter had an upbeat tone. "Now that so many more people are coming we must now attract them to stay with us in the Guesthouse."
He also said Bhagataji (Visvambar Dayal), who donated the land for the new gurukula building, is happy with a company from Kanpur which has now begun construction.
Akshayananda Swami also reported on efforts by Kirtanananda Swami to bring Indian workers to America, something which Srila Prabhupada and Kirtanananda have discussed since we have been here. Although there is no objection from the American side, the Indian government will not issue passports to the workers because they cannot speak English.
Prabhupada was pleased to hear of the management improvements. "I am very pleased to hear that Haihaya is doing nicely as manager. He is a good boy. Now train him to be first class manager." But he went on, "You mention attracting more people to stay in our guesthouse ... yes, but when will that attraction be made? First attraction is to clear all children out of the guesthouse, otherwise no one will come. It is very much botheration."
Srila Prabhupada left it to the local management to deal with the workers' immigration problems. "Concerning the 4 men who were supposed to have come to New Vrindaban for constructing purposes, Kirtanananda Swami will correspond with you directly in the event the need may arise." Despite Akshayananda's assurance that he was just about to send Fiji the altar measurements for their construction work, Prabhupada reminded him once more to do it, since the work in Fiji is about to begin and he has just heard from Vasudeva dasa there that they still haven't received anything from India.
Gopala Krishna prabhu sent a lengthy letter, reporting on various happenings in India. He also gave a few details of his trip to eastern Europe. "I went to East Berlin for two days. The border police caught me with the books but I, after a one hour debate, was allowed to take the books into East Berlin. In East Berlin, Humbolt University, one of the biggest in Eastern Europe, is ordering Your books. They are ordering Bhagavad-gita, a few volumes of Caitanya-caritamrta, Krishna Book, Krishna Book paperback, and a few other books. In 1978 they are starting a course in Sanskrit and for that they will order Your Srimad-Bhagavatam next year. I have established very good relations with the head of the Asian Study Department. She is sending me a review of Your books also."
Gopala also reported that the East Berlin Library put in an order for a full set of Sri Caitanya-caritamritas and the Academy of Sciences also wants to order. However, because their foreign exchange allocation is used up they cannot order until next year. They suggested a book exchange program, and Gopala suggested to Srila Prabhupada that an exchange program with Russian institutes would be all right, since their literature is of a high quality. East German products however, are of inferior quality, and he is not inclined to exchange with them.
Gopala also mentioned that when he was in Russia the only negative reaction he got was from Professor Kotovsky, the academic who had invited Srila Prabhupada to Moscow in June 1971. He was the only person there who knew that the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust and ISKCON were affiliated. Gopala said he was able to change the professor's opinion, getting him to agree to recommend our books to the Russian libraries.
Gopala expressed his enthusiasm to preach in all the eastern European countries. Having heard about Tamal Krishna Maharaja's worldwide book distribution project, he wrote, "I have developed a special sales pitch that I use that I am going to write Tamal Krishna Goswami. I am very glad that someone is looking into the area of increasing book sales. I am very interested in working or helping him on this project. As You know, I had my post-graduate studies in marketing and marketing research which is nothing but learning the art of increasing sales of your product and of thinking sales appeals and other methods that will make the customer buy our product."
He also sent a disturbing news clipping about the activities of an organization in Delhi. "Yesterday I read in the papers that the Indian Council for Cultural Research is agreeing to American requests to certifying which yogis are bona fide and which are not so that the American public does not get bluffed by so many bogus yogis. However, the secretary said this will discourage bogus people like; Bal Yogi (Guru Maharaji), the Transcendental Meditationist (Maharishi Yogi), and the Hare Krishna culturalist. I am now going to meet the secretary of this organization, Mrs. Kochar, in Delhi. They obviously don't know the difference between day and night, or genuine and false."
Unfortunately, he informed Srila Prabhupada of more agitation between himself and Yasodanandana Swami's party. Although they are reported to be selling a lot of books and making good collections, Yasodanandana's party owes the Bombay BBT Rs. 83,000. Gopala asked for permission to stop supplying them books until they pay their bill. He also complained that instead of selling full sets of books to the libraries, they are merely offering Patron Membership and then giving the books as part of the membership package. Gopala said he felt this would undermine the work of the BBT Library Party as well as create problems for the BBT because the membership fee does not cover the full cost of the books.
Regarding New Delhi, his report centered on Tejiyas prabhu. Gopala said he personally had no difficulty with Tejiyas, and the new temple is going well. The problem is that no devotee will stay in Delhi for any period of time because he is too difficult to get along with. Gopala has therefore put a Bengali devotee who was educated in Germany, Sarvabhavana dasa, in charge of the daily management. Tejiyas is remaining as a figurehead temple president, and Gopala has asked him to concentrate on collecting funds, with minimal interaction with the other devotees.
Now that a few new local bhaktas are joining in India Gopala told Prabhupada that he wants to start a special program. He proposed that for the first few months they should concentrate their attention on studying Prabhupada's books, with little practical service. He feels this will help them properly understand the philosophy and enable them to distinguish between us and the many bogus groups.
Gopala also suggested that Yasomatinandana prabhu, who is still preaching in Gujarat, be brought back to either Bombay or Vrindavana. He feels he is not being fully utilized in Ahmedabad. They have only a few devotees and are struggling to maintain, whereas in Bombay he could head up the Gujarati translation program and make occasional trips to Ahmedabad, or he could head the new bhakta program in Vrindavana.
Srila Prabhupada carefully heard the whole of his report and replied to each point. He had already expressed his desire regarding the book exchange program in a previous letter, but he reiterated himself, this time voicing his frank opinion of their literature. "Concerning the book exchange from Russia or wherever, first of all see if they can be exchanged, sold, in India. Otherwise we do not want to trouble ourselves with their rubbish literature."
He encouraged Gopala Krishna prabhu to utilize his talents for selling his books as widely as possible. "Now you can utilize your knowledge of marketing for Krishna's service. Idam hi pumsas tapasya srntasya va, svistasya suktasya ca buddhi dattayo, etc. This is the perfection of education."
Prabhupada gave a clear mandate to the South Indian party. "This business of Yasodanandan's party giving life membership to libraries should be stopped. I am also informing him in Hyderabad that the program must be standard all over India, just as they have had so much success in America and are very respected also."
Srila Prabhupada was pleased to hear that new Indian devotees are joining. This is something he has wanted for a long time. Still, he doesn't want to admit just anyone who comes along; in India many are simply attracted by the superficial material opulence of the western devotees. Prabhupada therefore informed Gopala how he could ensure a good standard of new recruits. "Concerning the new bhakta program, unless one is educated, we should not admit anyone and everyone without discrimination. One who has got culture and education, he can be accepted."
He also agreed with the idea of pulling Yasomatinandana prabhu out of Ahmedabad, saying he preferred that he return to Bombay to work on publications.
Prabhupada was particularly annoyed by the news article and told Gopala Krishna to take strong action. "That Mrs. Kochar, she should be brought in to court, immediately. The Hare Krishna Cult is bonafide, why she should say otherwise. She must withdraw this statement publically. It is Vedic culture. We have so many letters from professors, parents, other swamis, and even in the Encyclopedia Brittanica. All the Gaudiya Maths and Vaishnava Goswamis should join us in fighting this. This must be done very seriously. She should be removed from her post and a responsible person should be there. Therefore, I have wanted to have this Bajaj meeting. In India we have so many things to do." In his reply he included some favorable statements attesting to the bona fides of ISKCON, made by the leaders of other sampradayas in South India, for Gopala to use as support in counteracting Mrs. Kochar.
The testaments were gathered by Yasodanandana and Acyutananda swamis on their recent tour through Bangalore. They had included them with a report of successful preaching, with huge crowds attending two four-day programs. Guests of honor were His Holiness Visvesa Tirtha Swami of the Pejavar Matha, Udupi, who is one of the heads of the Madhva sampradaya, and His Holiness Parakala Swami of Parakala Matha, Mysore, from the Ramanuja sampradaya. Yasodanandana Maharaja wrote that both men gave opening speeches praising Srila Prabhupada and his foreign devotees. On the last day of their festivals, they all assembled together on stage for a grand finale. "Huge crowds came and heard discourses by the guest speakers and Achyutananda Swami and myself. Later we showed the Hare Krishna Movie and As Brilliant as the Sun. Everyone was amazed by the extremely modern methods of producing and publishing your transcendental books. Overall we made a deep impression on the people of Bangalore."
Not everyone was as favorable though. Yasodanandana added a footnote: "NB. We were called one day by one Madhva sannyasi and had a 2 hours long discussion with him and his leading pundit about Vaishnava jati buddhi and caste. They maintained that only born brahmins could take Vaishnava diksha but we defeated them before a group of 100 of their disciples and the public took our side. We want to publish a pamphlet containing all the slokas and arguments...."
Their letter also contained photos of leading members of society buying Prabhupada's books.
Srila Prabhupada was very happy with their preaching efforts, especially with the endorsements they have gathered. He liked the photos "especially the one taken in Bangalore of the Bar Association members taking my books was best of all."
Not everyone welcomes his disciples in India and several important temples even refuse us admission, so Srila Prabhupada encouraged his sannyasis to continue with their propaganda work. "The people of Bangalore have again shown nice response to our coming, so keep the relationship very friendly, and deal carefully. I am very pleased to read the letter of commendation from the other sanyasis in South India. Now you can make copies of all these letters and send them to both the Jagannath Temple in Puri, and the Ranganath Temple in Vrindaban and get their official reply. Our movement is for everyone. It is not sectarian....
"The devotee is great and the non-devotee is downtrodden. And in the matter of devotional service of Krishna, there is no concern of caste and creed. Krishna also says, mam hi partha vyapasritya ye'pi syuh papa-yonayah. Even the papa-yonayah, if he takes to devotional service, he also goes back to Home, Back-to-Godhead. This conception of caste on the basis of birthright has killed Vedic culture. Also in the Srimad-Bhagavatam it is said: yasya yallaksanam proktam puso varnabhivyanjakam, yadanyatrapi drsyeta tat tenaiva vinirdiset 7.11.35. So despite all these things, these people are still insisting that one can only be vaishnava if born in a brahmin family. That is not a very learned position."
As a final paragraph he added a question about their payments to the BBT. "Also, the BBT Bombay says that you owe Rs. 83,000 to them. So why haven't you paid yet? You are such a big preacher, why you shall remain in debt?"
Not all the correspondence Prabhupada received was welcome news. A small package was sent on to him from the BBT offices in Los Angeles addressed to "The Secretary To HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swamiji." It was from Srivatsa Goswami of the Radha-ramana temple in Vrindavana who is currently studying for his Ph.D. in Varanasi. His cover letter detailed an arrangement between himself and one of our devotees, Santosha dasa, for a book exchange. From the documentation he enclosed, it was evident that Santosha had gone to visit him in Vrindavana during the opening ceremonies of our Krishna-Balaram Mandir in March 1975. Santosha, who was working with the BBT at that time as a part of the editorial department, had requested a complete set of "Gosvami literature," edited by Sri Puridasa and distributed exclusively by the Radha-Ramana temple. Srivatsa Goswami stated in his cover letter that "The published works in that series are over 60 and are the best editions so far." In return, Santosha offered a full set of Srila Prabhupada's books.
From the documents now enclosed it was evident that Santosha had returned to America with a set of their books, giving a couple of Srila Prabhupada volumes as an immediate swap. Santosha then wrote Srivatsa Goswami in July of 1975, confirming that a standing order of Srila Prabhupada's books had been assigned to him and that several volumes had been sent out. After mentioning his recent experience at a festival in San Francisco, Santosha glorified the books he had received from India. "We just returned from our Rath Yatra celebrations in San Francisco (New Jagannatha Puri) where Srila Prabhupada spoke to over 10,000 people in this golden gate park on the subject of simply chanting Hare Krishna and eating prasada. There was a nice program of kirtana, plays, and feasts so that everyone was satisfied. Even the candidate for Mayor of San Francisco spoke on behalf of Krishna Consciousness. It is all due to the mercy of HDG Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura and all the previous acaryas.
"So now A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami has requested us to complete the entire Caitanya-Caritamrta within 2 months time. Therefore I have been extremely busy doing the Sanskrit and Bengali proofreading and editing.... The books I have received from you have proven to be of immense value in this work and so I am sending what books of ours are available in separate cover. This is very much appreciated by us. Of course we feel that any encouragement we receive from the Vrndavana community in preaching activities is most enlivening."
There was another level of exchange revealed in Santosha's letter to Srivatsa Goswami that did not escape Srila Prabhupada's attention, especially after the recent events in Los Angeles. "I have a small personal request. Recently Nitai dasa returned from Vrndavana where he attended a function of appearance day of Gopala Bhatta Goswami at Sri Radha Ramana Mandira. There he made a recording of a marvelous bhajana or musical kirtana. I was hoping you might have access to the words (Hindi?) of the songs performed there; and thus perhaps send a copy and/or tell the story of Radha Ramana again or of Gopala Bhatta Goswami."
Another letter dated December 1975 from Santosha again confirmed to Srivatsa Goswami his standing order for all of Srila Prabhupada's books, and Srivatsa's reply a few days later confirmed his receipt of two volumes of Sri Caitanya-caritamrita in the mail. However, on January 9th, 1976 Ranadhira dasa, from the BBT mailorder, sent a letter to Srivatsa Goswami informing him that "it is our policy not to give these books away, unless specifically authorised by our Spiritual Master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, in writing. If you wish to pay for these volumes and continue to receive new ones, you may arrange payment with Gopal Krishna dasa Adhikari, Hare Krishna Land, Juhu Road, Juhu, Bombay 400054, upon his notification I would be glad to ship the paid for books. Otherwise, I shall only be at liberty to restore your standing order upon the direct authorization of His Divine Grace, Srila Prabhupada, or his secretary. I invite you to correspond with them at your earliest convenience."
In February Srivatsa Goswami wrote to Santosha dasa, who by this time was no longer with the BBT, to inform him of the cancellation. After getting no reply from Santosha, he sent the package which Srila Prabhupada received today. He concluded his cover letter, "Because of his [Santosha's] silence I am writing to you as you have the authority to direct BBT warehouse to immediately restore the shipment of books. The value and importance of the books I gave to BBT has been acknowledged by Sri Santosa Dasa....
"It is clear that the books I gave to BBT through Sri Santosa Dasa ji in exchange for their publication, proved extremely useful for them. I have no occasion to doubt the sincerity and integrity of a BBT staff and above all a devotee of Sri Bhaktivedanta Swamiji. Please see that the agreement is honored."
Srila Prabhupada was very disturbed to hear of the transaction. He was not pleased at all that his BBT man had acted without his authorization. He first of all dictated a reply to Srivatsa Goswami. "Dear Sir: Please accept my greetings. With reference to your letter of June 5, 1976, I regret to inform you that this transaction has taken place without my sanction. We are not interested in book exchange. If you want our books you should purchase them from our Bombay centre: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, Hare Krishna Land, Juhu Rd., Juhu, Bombay 400-054, India. Our Los Angeles office has been notified to return all your volumes to you. I hope that you have not been too much inconvienced."
Then he dictated a letter to Ramesvara Maharaja. "Please accept my blessings. I am in receipt of one letter from Srivatsa Goswami, 45 Dumrao Bagh Colony, Assi, Varanasi 221 005, India. He has written that Santosa das met him at his residence in Vrindaban and proposed to give Srivatsa Goswami all of my books in exchange for a set of "Goswami literature" edited by Sri Puridasa; all this was done without my sanction. Why has Santosa asked him for this? No one told him to do so. Write to him and ask him who gave him permission to do this!
"What is this swop? Why haven't they asked me first? We have nothing to do with any publication by these people. Those books should be returned at once. Do the needful. Already they have sent several of my books to Srivatsa Goswami and Srivatsa Goswami mentions that he received 2 volumes of Chaitanya Caritamrta from Los Angeles BBT Warehouse. Who is doing this?"