Today His Grace Mahaprabhu Dasa (Sri R. K. Maheshwari), my dear friend and Srila Prabhupada’s staunch devotee, passed away at his home in Khar, Mumbai. To honor his sacred memory, here is an excerpt from my book I’ll Build You a Temple: The Juhu Story about Mahaprabhu’s first visit to Hare Krishna Land, on the occasion of the temple’s grand opening, January 14, 1978.
One of the first-time visitors, a lawyer, R. K. Maheshwari (later initiated as Mahaprabhu dasa), later remembered hearing about the opening day: “I was playing cards at Khar Gymkhana, a well-known club in this area, and all of a sudden I saw a newspaper with a full-page advertisement about the Hare Krishna temple opening that day. So I thought, How much money do these people have? A full-page advertisement in The Times of India! Being a Marwari, I always thought of everything in terms of money.
“Then I decided, ‘Let me see what this place is,’ and I immediately drove to the Juhu temple. At the gate they asked me, ‘Have you got a pass or invitation card? Vaijayanti Mala is giving a dance performance, and the hall is booked, and Raj Narain, union minister, and Patwari, governor, are coming for the inauguration, so there’s a big crowd and only important people are invited today.’
“ ‘Is this a temple or what?’ I asked. ‘Well, today is inauguration day,’ the devotee replied. So, I approached another devotee, an Indian—Rama Tulasi. He was telling a group of visitors that, like fish out of water, in the material world nobody is happy. You are searching happiness in the wrong atmosphere. The Gita has confirmed that this material world is dukhalayam, a place of misery.
“The visitors were asking about the temple, why these foreigners were so much interested in Indian culture. ‘We are having some doubt,’ one said, ‘because when the British came to India . . . Now most of the people here are American. They are coming in the guise of religion and teaching us our sanatana-dharma. We cannot understand all this. We know Krishna very well.’
“But Rama Tulasi was speaking philosophy. ‘If you want to be happy,’ he told them, ‘connect yourself with Lord Krishna by chanting the holy name of the Lord. That is the connection. And if you chant the holy name of the Lord, wherever you may be, whatever situation, you will be blissful. I’m not talking happiness—you may be happy, you may not be happy—but blissful is something different. I cannot explain to you what is spiritual bliss. You have to experience it.’ So, yes, that much I understood.
“I wanted to know more; I wanted to go inside. So I found some stairs, and I got to the second floor and saw the program. I spent the whole day in the temple, and the next day too, and I came regularly thereafter. I could see that these people were genuine, and I made up my mind that I wanted to get involved in their institution and become a life member. My membership card was signed by the temple president: ‘Giriraj das Brahmachari.’ I was keen to get his association, and once I met him, that changed the lifestyle of this practicing lawyer of the Bombay High Court.
“For me, that was a total change. I had been so much involved in material things that when my wife would go to a temple, I would sit in the car. I was never interested to go to any temple because my impression of temples was that they were all cheats, fooling people and making money and not following any rules or regulations or properly guiding people—just making a business. But all that changed with my first visit to Hare Krishna Land, on the day of the grand opening.”
Yours in service,