Srila Prabhupada seated on his Vyasasana in his Palace at New Vrindaban.
New Vrindaban Fall Board Meetings 2014:
An Evening with Srila Prabhupada at his Palace
By Madhava Smullen
At 6:00pm on November 1st, New Vrindaban board and community members ended their first packed day of meetings with a true treat – spending the evening with Srila Prabhupada at his Palace of Gold. The event was one in a series of monthly sangams arranged by Kripamaya Das.
As devotees arrived, Palace Restoration Manager Gopisa Das showed them the latest work done, pointing out the renovated lookout tower, the black granite being laid on the steps, and the new drainage system to prevent future water damage.
As they stepped from the brisk cold outside into Srila Prabhupada’s warm temple room, with the ISKCON Founder-Acharya looking out from his vyasasana over the stunning gilded ornamentation, marble flooring and ceiling paintings of Krishna’s pastimes, they felt as if they were entering the spiritual world.
Chaitanya Mangala speaks to the group.
Joint board member Chaitanya Mangala Das set the tone for the evening by reading a 1974 editors’ letter from the 12th issue of Brijabasi Spirit magazine describing a “hectic” week of “all-out service” as New Vrindaban devotees prepared for Prabhupada’s visit, but saying that even more important was developing the proper consciousness to receive such a great personality.
Chaitanya Mangala pointed that this was still applicable today — as we are outwardly engaged in service, our internal reflection should be to develop qualities of surrender, humility, appreciation and love in order to truly receive Srila Prabhupada.
He then read several stories about the visit itself, including Srila Prabhupada’s arrival at Bahulaban, the Saturday festival with him attended by 400 devotees from around the country, and his tour of his still under-construction Palace.
Chaitanya Mangala also read about Prabhupada’s visit to Daivata Das’ house in Madhuban and pointed out Daivata amongst the devotees gathered. Seeing a devotee featured in a story about Prabhupada sitting right there and smiling at the memory was a wonderful experience for a young devotee like this writer.
His Holiness Varsana Maharaj speaks.
Varshana Swami spoke next, reminding everyone that this Palace was the first Samadhi built for Srila Prabhupada. He told the story of how when Prabhupada visited this very same temple room while it was under construction, his disciple Bali Mardana asked: “Will this room be lit up by jewels like in the Krishna book?” In reply, Prabhupada, gestured to the devotees building the Palace. “These devotees are my jewels,” he said.
Varshana Swami also recalled the night when news came that Prabhupada passed away, and how the shellshocked devotees all gathered in the only place that made sense: his Palace. Although it was the darkest night of their lives, and they felt like they couldn’t go on, as they cried and chanted together in a mood of separation, they began to feel closer to Prabhupada than they ever had.
“Prabhupada’s ultimate gift is that the highest part of Vaishnava siddhanta is service in separation — which we’re all doing right now,” Varshana Swami concluded.
Tamohara prabhu shares his insights.
Finally Tamohara Das spoke about Srila Prabhupada’s management style, comparing it to parenting rather than corporate management and citing three specific qualities.
Firstly, like a good parent, he said, Prabhupada was a great communicator. Secondly, he brought the best out of his “children” by expecting the best from them. “Whatever Prabhupada asked us to do, we felt we could do,” Tamohara said.
Lastly, Prabhupada was warm and nurturing, like every good parent. “If we want to have Prabhupada in our lives and hearts, he’s there,” said Tamohara. “He continues to offer that protection years after his physical departure.”
An endearingly “old school” kirtan lead by Daivata Das in Srila Prabhupada’s classic Hare Krishna tune followed, creating a mood very evocative of the memories that had just been shared. Finally, feeling blissfully closer to Srila Prabhupada and more encouraged in their quest to realize his mission, the devotees sat down together to a delicious prasadam meal.
An attentive crowd inside Prabhupada’s Palace.