Dec 292021
 

Radhanath Swami: This morning I was listening to the recording of Srila Prabhupada on Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura’s disappearance day in Hyderabad (I think it was 1972), and it is very, very special, because Srila Prabhupada wrote that beautiful poem for him in 1936, and that poem was lost. Srila Prabhupada was saying in this talk that he thought it had been gone forever; he hadn’t seen it in decades. He said, “One of my disciples, Gurudasa, discovered it in a library in London. There was a big pile of Harmonists where it was published.” So, Prabhupada was reading from that poem he had written for Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada, and he was giving a commentary with each verse. It was so beautiful.

It begins, “Adore ye all.” Do you remember?

Giriraj Swami: Yes.

Adore ye all,
The happy day.
Blessed than heaven,
Sweeter than May.
When He appeared at Puri,
The holy place,
My lord and master
His Divine Grace.

Radhanath Swami: In India, May is the worst month, because it is so hot. He was saying, “My guru maharaja told me to preach in the Western countries, and I had heard that May is very pleasing there.” Then he said, “They call ‘May Day’?” The devotees replied, “Yes, Srila Prabhupada.”

He was talking about how Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura so much appreciated this poem. And as Srila Prabhupada was reading each stanza, he was describing his life in relation to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, how when he was a young man, in 1922, he had just joined Gandhi’s movement for independence. At that time, it was part of the movement that they would boycott anything British. Srila Prabhupada was in his last year in college, and he quit and rejected his degree. And he took a job at Kartik Chandra Bose’s chemical, pharmaceutical factory. Prabhupada said that Kartik Chandra Bose was the founder of the chemical industry in India, that he started the Bengal Chemical company and that it is still there today. He said that there’s even a street in Calcutta named Kartika Chandra Bose Street. Prabhupada wore khadar—he said khadar—and one day Kartik Chandra Bose told him, “This is the only thing I like about your whole Gandhi’s movement—this khadar.” When Prabhupada asked why, he said, “Because this hand spinning will give impetus to industry.”

It was around this time that Srila Prabhupada’s friend Narendranath Mullik wanted him to meet a sadhu. He said, “There is a very nice sadhu. Let us go and see him.” Prabhupada commented that he did not very much like sadhus, because in those days he was a nationalist. He replied, “I have seen many sadhus at home, and I was not very pleased with their behavior.” His friend said, “No, I have heard that this person is very exalted.” Prabhupada said, “He forcibly dragged me.” It was on the rooftop of the first Gaudiya Matha outside of Mayapur, which was at Ultadanga Junction Road. They didn’t own it; it was a rented house.

Srila Prabhupada and Narendra were brought up, and on the rooftop the first thing Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura said was, “You are educated young men. Why don’t you preach Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s gospel in the Western countries?” Prabhupada had a discussion with his guru maharaja, and Prabhupada later said, “I was very happy to be defeated by my guru maharaja.”

Prabhupada had recently been married and had a child, and he remained with Kartik Chandra Bose and was asked to be the representative for the chemical company and open a branch in Prayag, Allahabad. So, Prabhupada went there.

Then he talked about how he got initiated. His guru maharaja came to Prayag and remembered him: “This young boy likes to hear. He is patient and he does not go away. So I am very pleased with him, I like him, and I will initiate him.” Prabhupada said, “The high standard of philosophy which he was speaking at that time, practically I could not follow what he was speaking”—Prabhupada is so humble—“but still, I liked to hear him.” And that’s when he was given initiation, in 1933.

And then at Radha-kunda, when Srila Prabhupada met him, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura was expressing his concerns about the Gaudiya Matha and said, “If you ever get money, print books.” At Radharani’s most intimate, dearmost place, he was given that instruction. Sri Varsabhanavi-dayita dasa—Srila Gaurakisora dasa Babaji gave Bhaktisiddhanta that name, how he was dear to Radharani.

And then Srila Prabhupada described that in 1936 for his guru maharaja’s Vyasa-puja he wrote this poem. And he wrote a letter just about two weeks before the disappearance of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura—he was living in Bombay then. Srila Prabhupada had actually started the Gaudiya Matha in Bombay. It’s really interesting because in Allahabad the Gaudiya Matha was already there, but this was, as far as I know, the only Gaudiya Matha that Srila Prabhupada actually started in the lifetime of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati. Was it on Grant Road?

Giriraj Swami: Yes.

Radhanath Swami: So, Srila Prabhupada started it there, along with his godbrothers Bhakti Raksaka Sridharadeva Goswami Maharaja and Bhakti Saranga Goswami Maharaja—they were really close friends of Srila Prabhupada. Prabhupada had his pharmaceutical business there, and they depended on him. He would lead the kirtans, he would raise the funds—he founded the place. Really, he got that temple and his godbrothers were preaching with him. And at that time, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada came to install the deities in Bombay. And his godbrothers were telling Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, “Abhay Babu should be the president of our matha here.” And Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura said, “Let him do what he is doing now. In due course he will do everything.”

And then from Bombay he wrote a letter to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati in Puri and asked, “Most of your disciples—sannyasis and brahmacharis—are serving you full-time, but I am a grihastha.” By this time he had several children. “So, how can I best serve you?” And Srila Prabhupada got a letter back from him from Puri, and it contained the exact same instruction he had gotten in 1922 with the first meeting. It was his first and last instruction: “You are an educated young man; in the English language you should spread the message of Lord Chaitanya in the Western world.”

And then, within two weeks of Prabhupada’s receiving that letter, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, on the day that we are celebrating today, disappeared. It was December 31, late at night, which was January 1st early in the morning, and he disappeared amongst his devotees in Calcutta. It was at the Gaudiya Math, surrounded by his loving disciples.

There are publications of his last instructions to his disciples which he spoke just a day or so before he left the world, lying on his bed. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada had a few devotees who were scribes and wrote down everything he spoke. There was Ananta Vasudeva, Bhakti Pramoda Puri Maharaja, and I think also Sundarananda Vidyavinoda. And the three of them, as Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada would speak, they would write everything down. There were no tape recorders. And then they would together compare to make sure they got every word he had said. His instructions are there, and in those last instructions he said, “I advise all to preach the teachings of Rupa-Raghunatha [two of the Six Gosvamis, direct disciples of Lord Chaitanya] with all energy and resources. Our ultimate goal shall be to become the dust of the lotus feet of Sri Sri Rupa and Raghunatha Gosvamis.” And he explained that we should not be discouraged when there is disappointment or when there are challenges or reversals. We should never give up our service to Sri Guru and Sri Gauranga. “Do not, please, give up the service of Godhead, in spite of all dangers, all criticisms, and all discomforts. Do not be disappointed, for most people in the world do not serve the Personality of Godhead; do not give up your own service, which is your everything and all; neither reject the process of chanting and hearing of the transcendental holy name of Godhead.” And he was very concerned with devotees honoring and respecting each other as Vaishnavas and sustaining unity within his Gaudiya Matha.

And then, surrounded by his living devotees, he departed from the world. Srila Prabhupada was in Bombay at that time. And it’s so special. Srila Prabhupada had started a center for his guru maharaja in Bombay, he got his last instruction of his guru maharaja’s life when he was in Bombay, and he wrote that beautiful poem, which his guru maharaja, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada, loved so much, in Bombay. And when Srila Prabhupada returned to India, his first major preaching program was in Bombay, at Cross Maidan, and that also happens to be where I first met Giriraj Swami.

And Srila Prabhupada made Giriraj Maharaja the president of the temple that Prabhupada personally started at Juhu in Bombay. He said, “Giriraj is Bombay, and Bombay is Giriraj.” How special Bombay is. And somehow or other, I kind of just got dropped off in Bombay to relish the scraps left to me by Giriraj Swami Maharaja.

Then in his talk, Srila Prabhupada explains how in 1965, which was thirty years after he got that last instruction, he finally departed to the West, and he said, “Better late than never.” And in his talk, he also explained how he was a grihastha and his guru maharaja, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada, was appearing to him again and again in dreams, telling him, “Come with me, come with me.” Srila Prabhupada understood that that meant that his guru maharaja wanted him to take sannyasa and preach. And he said that he was horrified. Those were the words he used sometimes, but he said, “My guru maharaja forced me. He forced me to take sannyasa.” And then, in 1965, he took sannyasa in Mathura, and he was living at Radha-Damodara Mandir in Vrindavan, and then he came to the West.

The next year, Srila Prabhupada gave a lecture on Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura’s disappearance day here in Los Angeles, and it’s one of the most emotional recordings that have ever been given to bless the world. Srila Prabhupada told the same kind of stories about his relationship with his guru maharaja and spoke beautiful philosophy. And then at the end he looked at all his devotees and said, “So this is a memorable day. What my guru maharaja desired, I am trying a little bit, and you are all helping me. So I have to thank you more. You are actually representatives of my guru maharaja”—Prabhupada began to cry—“because you are helping me in executing the order of my guru maharaja.”

He was expressing his gratitude to all the devotees, and you could hear how he was choking up and crying. Because Srila Prabhupada took Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura’s instructions as his life and soul, and anybody who came forward to help him, Srila Prabhupada considered to be the representative of his guru maharaja; he considered it the blessing of his guru—every devotee who was sent to assist him to carry out his mission.

His Holiness Giriraj Swami Maharaja is one of the few devotees whom Srila Prabhupada really took into his innermost circle of confidential disciples and personally entrusted with his movement. And we understand how important Bombay is. Not only was it the first major preaching program in India, not only was it the place where Prabhupada opened the first center for Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, but in His Holiness Giriraj Maharaja’s wonderful book I’ll Build You a Temple, we read about how it was the most challenging project in Srila Prabhupada’s life. And throughout, from the beginning till Srila Prabhupada’s last breath, he entrusted the whole project to Giriraj Swami Maharaja.

What is so transformative to my heart is the implicit faith that Giriraj Maharaja has in Srila Prabhupada and how Srila Prabhupada recognized that. Even among Prabhupada’s disciples, for Prabhupada to recognize implicit faith and surrender was something rare, and reciprocally Srila Prabhupada had implicit faith in Giriraj Swami. Therefore, Srila Prabhupada could entrust him with the project that he put the most money into of any project in his entire lifetime. He put the most money into the Juhu project, and he promised the Deities Radha-Rasabihari that he would build a temple. I don’t think there’s any other historical event like that, when Srila Prabhupada put the Deities in a shack and promised Them a temple. He entrusted the fulfillment of that promise to His Holiness Giriraj Swami Maharaja.

I don’t want to embarrass you, Maharaja, and I know that you are just hearing your little brother talking, but I am just so honored to be here with you today, because you have been so much a part of Srila Prabhupada’s loving life of dedication to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura.

Sometimes Srila Prabhupada would cry in separation from Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada, and at the same time as he was crying in separation, he would say, “There is never a moment when I am not feeling the presence of my guru maharaja.”

Hare Krishna.

Giriraj Swami: In the history of ISKCON, we didn’t know about Vyasa-puja, and in Boston Srila Prabhupada said that we should each write an appreciation of his guru maharaja. I didn’t really know much about him in terms of historical detail, but I was thinking how great he must have been for Srila Prabhupada, who is so great, to have surrendered to him. And I knew that it was his instruction to Srila Prabhupada to preach the message of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in the English language in the Western world. So, I felt very grateful to him for having given Srila Prabhupada that instruction.

Srila Prabhupada had our appreciations put together in a little book, and then we got the idea that “Oh, this is what you do for your spiritual master.” It was very subtle, because Srila Prabhupada wasn’t going to tell us to write appreciations of him and produce a book, but he had us do it for his guru maharaja and then we got the idea we should do that for him.

Radhanath Swami: That’s amazing.

Giriraj Swami: Yes. And once, I was with Srila Prabhupada in Los Angeles for his guru maharaja’s disappearance day. He arranged that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura’s seat was higher than his. That was very special.

I visited the Bag Bazaar Gaudiya Matha and saw the room where Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura left. The bed is there, and all his different paraphernalia.

Radhanath Swami: They left it exactly as it was—every detail.

Giriraj Swami: Yes.

Radhanath Swami: He disappeared on his bed there.

Early this coming year, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura’s appearance day, which I believe in India is February 21, a festival for which I have been yearning, longing, and praying for decades is going to take place, because it’s the one hundredth anniversary of when Srila Prabhupada met Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, in 1922. And we have possession of the first Gaudiya Math at Ultadanga Junction Road, that rented place. I think they were there for five years, or maybe eight, and then they moved to Bag Bazaar. They gave up that place, and it was taken up by families—four or five families lived in that little building. And just a year and a half ago we got possession of the whole building. We had to seal parts of it, but we got possession, and just last year we started renovation. And the way they are renovating it—they got as many photos as they could, and they interviewed people, and they are trying to make it exactly the way it was when Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati lived there.

When he went there, there were only three people who lived there with him. I think Bhakti Pradip Tirtha Maharaja and Kunjabihari (later Bhakti Vilasa Tirtha Maharaja) and one other. It was just three people who lived in the Gaudiya Matha with Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati. And then, over the years, he preached, and almost all of his main sannyasi disciples joined there at this little house at Ultadanga Junction Road. And because this house was small, he would give his main lectures on the flat rooftop, and that was where Srila Prabhupada first met him and got the order that changed the whole world—the seed of our movement.

So, on the one hundredth anniversary of Srila Prabhupada getting that instruction, on his guru maharaja’s birthday, we are having an opening of the fully renovated Ultadanga Junction Road preaching center.

About a week ago, they sent me some photos of how the renovations were going, and they have to work hard to get it done in time. All these craftsmen are carving wood, mixing cement, and laying bricks. It’s really a project to make it the way it used to be, because it was totally dilapidated. But we’ll be able to sit right in the very place on the rooftop where Srila Prabhupada, when he was twenty-five years old, sat. In this recording I heard today, he said he was twenty-five years old when he got that instruction. So, I invite you to come for that festival or any time after it.

Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati’s bhajana-kutira, where he lived, was right on the rooftop. Everybody else lived on the ground floor. It’s just a ground floor and a rooftop—that is all it is. But on the roof there’s a room, and that’s where he lived. It’s still there. The building is exactly the same—the way it always was.

And it is interesting, because just earlier this year we got full possession of Srila Prabhupada’s birthplace, and Mamata Banerjee, the chief minister of West Bengal, actually made an extraordinary exception and gave us that government land. Only the chief minister could make such an exception, and she gave the land. We had a little tiny piece a few years ago, but just this year we have about an acre of land. And all the tenants were moved out.

Srila Prabhupada was born under a jackfruit tree, and at Ultadanga Junction Road, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura was speaking on the rooftop, and right behind him, giving shade where he spoke and where he met Srila Prabhupada, was a jackfruit tree. So Srila Prabhupada took his physical birth under a jackfruit tree and then he received his spiritual birth under a jackfruit tree in Calcutta.

Before Bombay, you were serving in Calcutta?

Giriraj Swami: Yes, I was.

Radhanath Swami: You are living history. The most intimate, precious moments of Prabhupada’s pastimes you were not only witnessing, but you were assisting and participating. Thank you.

Giriraj Swami: In Mayapur in 1972, the first Gaura-purnima festival, Srila Prabhupada called for me to come into his quarters—that little hut near the front gate—and he said, “During the British rule, they had three provinces: Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras. So, which do you want?”

Radhanath Swami: He said that to you.

Giriraj Swami: He explained that when the British were ruling India, they divided the country into three province—Bombay, Madras, and Calcutta—each ruled by a governor. Prabhupada had never spoken to me about Indian politics or history, and I did not know where this was all going, but I was fascinated—spellbound—and hung on every word, waiting to find out where he was heading.

“Which one do you want?”

Prabhupada’s question left me speechless. I had never made an independent decision about my service. I told him that I would do whatever he wanted. But he did not accept my answer; he wanted me to decide. So, I asked if I could have time to think about it, and he agreed.

I thought and thought, but I just couldn’t decide. The preaching in Calcutta was good, but Madras also had potential. And I already knew people in both places. Then again, Bombay was the biggest field. Actually, all I really wanted was to please Srila Prabhupada. But how?

After a few days, Prabhupada drove from Mayapur to the Calcutta temple, and the rest of us followed by bus and train. Once there, I felt that my main service, my assignment, was to determine where I should serve. Whenever I could, I would stand before the beautiful Deities of Sri Sri Radha-Govinda and chant and pray to Them for guidance.

I soon realized that Prabhupada was forcing me to come to a higher level of Krishna consciousness. As he sometimes explained, there are three classes of disciples. The third-class receives an instruction from the spiritual master and then forgets it, or neglects to act upon it—or argues. The second-class disciple receives an instruction from the spiritual master and executes it perfectly. And the first-class disciple knows what the spiritual master wants and does it even without being told. To obey the order of the spiritual master requires some basic submission, but to know the desire of the spiritual master without being told requires much more spiritual advancement. I was being compelled to become sincere enough and pure enough to hear the guru in the heart.

But although I thought and thought and prayed and prayed, no answer came. Where did Prabhupada want me to serve?

Not knowing what else to do, I devised a plan to get Prabhupada to reveal his desire. So, one day, sitting before him in his room, I ventured that I had decided to go to Bombay.

Prabhupada’s response was noncommittal: “That’s all right.” His face was inscrutable.

“But then again, the preaching potential in Madras is very good,” I continued, hoping that either by word or gesture or facial expression he would indicate his approval or disapproval.

Once more, he simply replied, “That’s all right.”

“But then again,” I said, “I was thinking of staying in Calcutta.”

“That’s all right.”

How could I try to trick Srila Prabhupada? I felt so ashamed, trying to cheat my spiritual master. But I also felt exhilarated: my spiritual master was so great and perfect that he could not be fooled.

So, I went back to chanting and praying, and then suddenly I had an insight that I should go to Bombay, because the most important program in India was life membership. In fact, Srila Prabhupada said, “If you just get me,” us collectively, “if you just get me three life members a day, I’ll do everything.” And I saw that if we took good care of the life members, they themselves would make more members, and if we didn’t take care of them, even if we ourselves went to make someone a member, they might not have become a member, because they had heard that we didn’t fulfill our promises.

 So, after many days of thought and prayer, the answer came: I should go to Bombay. The most important program in India was life membership. Srila Prabhupada had written, “If you all get me at least three life members daily, I shall do the rest.” And he was pleased that I was making so many life members. But many members were up in arms against us, because we had not given them everything we had promised.

We were making life members, I reasoned, but were we taking care of them? If we took nice care of them, they would be so pleased that they themselves would make more members. But if we neglected them, they would feel cheated and speak ill of us. Then, even when we ourselves approached people, they would not agree.

I felt that I should go to Bombay and organize the life-membership program on an all-India basis. I wrote Prabhupada my conclusion: since Bombay had the most life members and was our head office, I should come and, if required, take care of the life members and attend to other affairs related to the head office.

Prabhupada seemed pleased. “I am very glad to inform you that today we have laid down the cornerstone for our Bombay center here in Juhu,” he replied, “and the ceremony was very wonderful, with many important people attending. I am very much glad that you are doing so nicely in Calcutta by making many life members daily, so now I think you should join me in Bombay immediately as soon as you are free, after training up a competent replacement there. . . . The program now in India is an immense task, so I am very much encouraged that you feel yourself enthusiastic to help me in this way, by taking a bold lead for pushing on this movement here. . . . [C]ome here at the earliest possible . . . at the latest by the 27th March 1972.”

Bhavananda arranged for my ticket, and within a couple of days I reached Bombay.

At that time, Srila Prabhupada was staying in Mr. Acharya’s apartment, and I heard that when he entered he said, “Now I am taking shelter of the Acharyas.” But yes, Padmanabha Acharya really sort of flourished. Recently he was the governor of some Northeastern—

Radhanath Swami: Yes, yes. He came to one of the events I recently attended in Mumbai. He came down. He was governor of Nagaland.

Giriraj Swami: Yes. So, when I arrived, Prabhupada greeted me, took me around the property, and pointed out the coconut trees, and he was saying how valuable it would be. And a few days later, he held a meeting to discuss who would take charge of the project, because Madhudvisa Prabhu, who had been the temple president of Bombay, needed a change, and then he went to Australia. So, it was quite tense; we were all crowded in the house there.

Radhanath Swami: In Mr. Acharya’s house?

Giriraj Swami: Yes. With Brahmananda soon returning to Africa and Madhudvisa proceeding to Australia, Prabhupada had to find someone to fill the position. He called a meeting with his senior disciples. I was present, but more, I thought, as an observer. I was not among the most senior or important devotees, and I had never had a say in such matters.

To begin, Prabhupada raised the question: “So, who will take charge?”

No one said a word. The atmosphere was charged with anxious uncertainty.

From behind his low table, Prabhupada looked up at the group and then directly at me. “So, Giriraj,” he said, “you will take charge?”

I was stunned, silent. My mind was reeling; I didn’t know what to say. It was not at all what I had been expecting; in fact, it was the last thing I could have imagined. I had come to Bombay to preach and develop the life-membership program and had neither the inclination nor any special ability to manage. This project was on a whole other level, and the responsibility seemed too much for me.

Still, I knew that obeying and pleasing the spiritual master was the secret of success in Krishna consciousness. So somehow I managed to stammer, “Well, Srila Prabhupada, if that is what you want me to do, I will.” I didn’t feel comfortable with the idea, but I couldn’t refuse Prabhupada.

“Yes!” he exclaimed with a bright smile.

A day or two later, I went into Prabhupada’s room and sat down in front of his desk. “So now, Giriraj,” he began, “the whole responsibility is on you.” I winced, and he chuckled.

I couldn’t understand why Prabhupada was laughing. Didn’t he know how I felt?

I rarely had such thoughts about the spiritual master. “Why am I thinking like this?” I asked myself. But I was also wondering, “How could Prabhupada be so insensitive? I am reluctant to take this responsibility, and he is rubbing it in by saying, ‘Now it’s all on you’—and on top of that, he is laughing.”

At the same time, I understood that the spiritual master could discern what was best for his disciple, and based on all my experience with Prabhupada, I knew that he must have foreseen that my taking responsibility for the project would be good for me, even though that was hard for me to imagine.

I just had to surrender. I had heard that whenever the spiritual master gave an order, he also gave the potency to execute it. And I knew that for the project to be successful, Prabhupada would have to empower me to act on his behalf.

So, I did surrender, so to speak. At one stage he said, “Giriraj is the only one who understands my vision for this project.”

When he was leaving, we went to the airport—I guess we had arranged a VIP room for him—and Madhudvisa was still there; he led the kirtan. Srila Prabhupada said, “If you go on having kirtans like this, our mission will be successful.” Mrs. Nair came. And Srila Prabhupada said, “Oh, Mrs. Nair, you are becoming one of us!’’ Then he left, and then I did a lot of praying. But yes, he was there to support us with his letters.

To accommodate the Deities without the large hired pandal, Nara Narayan and his wife, Dinadayadri, constructed a small and simple yet festive pandal-like structure. He went to Bhuleshwar and bought bolts of red and yellow cloth, and she sewed it with her special sewing machine from America. He had observed that when Indians built a pandal, they dug holes, put in bamboo poles, and repacked the dirt around them. Then they built a framework, and over that they laid the covering of interlocking pieces laced together. One could make a pandal with just a single piece, or it could be hundreds of yards long. The bamboo was usually covered with striped cloth sleeves, but we didn’t have a way to make them, so our bamboo was just bare. With help from a couple of devotees, Nara Narayan dropped in the poles, packed in the dirt, and put it all together with his own hands. We had almost no money, so there was no hired labor; the devotees built the whole thing themselves. And on a wood-plank platform were the Deities.

To protect the Deities and Their paraphernalia, a devotee stood guard all night, but one night in April the devotee on duty fell asleep and some thieves slipped under the canvas and stole the Deities’ crowns and flute. There was no door—the pandal was really just a tent—so the robbers had just walked in, stepped over the sleeping brahmachari, taken the flute and crowns, and left.

When Prabhupada heard about the incident, he wrote me, “I have got some reports that the Deities in Bombay are being much neglected. This is most abominable affair. Radha and Krishna should not ever be neglected or left unprotected, so I am wondering what you have done to rectify this situation. I have heard that Madhudvisa intervened to get the Deities a better place, so he has done nicely.”

Radhanath Swami: He wrote it to you?

Giriraj Swami: Yes. My mind was reeling. I was shaken to the core that Prabhupada had criticized me so severely, saying that the Deities were neglected and calling the situation abominable. Still, I tried to maintain my spirit and formulate a proper reply. “You are so merciful to take the time to chastise this useless soul,” I wrote. “My sluggishness and thoughtlessness are very shameful, and worst of all, before receiving your letter, I was so unconscious of them. But your absolute mercy is such that your chastisement is as good as your blessings. So, I pray that my determination and enthusiasm shall not be shaken in trying to follow your instructions.”

Srila Prabhupada wrote back a very instructive letter in which he said, “Actually it is the duty of the spiritual master to find fault with his students so that they may make progress, not that he should always be praising them. So, if you find some criticism, kindly accept it in that spirit. I am only interested in that you along with all my other students should become Krishna conscious.”

Sometimes Srila Prabhupada quoted Canakya Pandit that leniency encourages bad qualities in a son or disciple, and strictness helps develop good qualities. He wrote, “My only interest is that you and all of my disciples should make advancement in Krishna consciousness. So if you find some criticism, kindly take it in that way.”

But later I heard or read that Srila Prabhupada said that the one thing he didn’t like about being a spiritual master was that he had to chastise his disciples and they are all Vaishnavas.

Once, I made a mistake, and as Srila Prabhupada was speaking to me about it, he could see that I was looking downcast, and he said, “Don’t lament; I just want you to learn from what happened.”

Srila Prabhupada ki jaya!
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura ki jaya!
His Holiness Radhanath Swami ki jaya!
Gaura-bhakta-vrnda ki jaya!

Radhanath Swami: His Holiness Giriraj Swami Maharaja ki jaya!

[Discussion by Radhanath Swami and Giriraj Swami on Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura’s disappearance day, December 22, 2021, Carpinteria, California]

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