(Srila Prabhupada and Vishnujana)
When I first joined the Vancouver temple in the early '70s, a devotee explained to me that everyone who comes in contact with Krishna is a great soul, a mahatma. He told me that even the postman who delivers Krishna's mail is very special and should be respected. I was in awe.
As a new member of ISKCON, I was sometimes naive and overzealous. Having been instructed that hot showers meant too much attachment for the material body, I was very strict about taking cold showers only. One day while waiting in line for my morning shower, I noticed hot steam pouring from underneath the shower curtain. Being a little puffed up with my newfound enthusiasm, I banged on the cubicle and said aloud, "Hey Prabhu, that's maya" (illusion). There was no reply, so I banged a little harder: "Come on, Prabhu, that's sense gratification." Needless to say, I shrunk back in embarrassment when Vishnujana Swami stuck his head out and looked at me. Thankfully, he had a big grin on his face. I promised myself from then on that I'd be more careful at passing judgement on others.
Later that day, Vishnujana Swami asked me if I would shave his head. I was struck with horror since I had never done such a thing before. I informed him so, but he said "That's all right, just do your best." By the time I had finished, there were streams of blood pouring down his head. I had nicked and cut his skin in a number of places. Vishnujana Swami took one look in the mirror, had a chuckle and walked out of the bathroom joyfully singing "Gaura Nityananda bol haribol haribol," unfazed by my hatchet job. He was totally forgiving in his attitude which impressed me to no end. That was more than 45 years ago and I'm still grateful to this day that he was so kind and understanding.
When Vishnujana Swami led kirtana in Stanley Park (a famous Vancouver landmark), large crowds of people encircled our party, all transfixed by his melodious chanting. Usually we might have a couple of dozen onlookers in attendance for harinama, but this was a monumental event. The devotees jumped, twirled and danced with great abandon. The sense of harmony among us was real and palpable. The swelling crowd was a testament to the infectious joy of chanting Hare Krishna in unity and love.
Later in San Francisco, hundreds of devotees arrived for the Rathayatra Festival to be held in Golden Gate Park. A large hall was rented to provide extra accomodation for the visitors who came from all across America and Canada. Vishnujana Swami was there along with his beloved traveling Deities, Sri Sri Radha Damodara. Ecstatic kirtanas lasted for hours as the devotees danced in circles for the pleasure of Their Lordships. Flowers were gathered every morning to offer the Deities, whose divine presence graced the stage. Srila Prabhupada, our spiritual father, was about to arrive soon. We were a great big family. In fact, as we drove to San Francisco from Vancouver through Seattle and Portland, we called the temples in advance and they each arranged prasadam feasts for us along the way to help carry us through our journey.
When the beautiful Deities of Sri Sri Radha Madan Mohan were installed in the Vancouver temple, devotees came from afar to honor the occasion. Sukadeva Prabhu was there chanting his heart out during one of his legendary kirtanas. When the Deities were finally unveiled, we all marvelled at our collective good fortune. To be there with our godbrothers and godsisters during such an historic occasion, was a great blessing indeed. This was spiritual bonding at its best.
In 1976 the devotees chartered a Boeing 747 airplane to fly to India from America for the annual spring pilgrimage and Gaura Purnima festival. Vishnujana Swami led the mangala arotika over the intercom system as we flew high over the Atlantic Ocean. When the airplane encountered some turbulence, the devotees chanted the Nrsimha Prayers for protection. As we landed at the Calcutta airport, a reception party of smiling devotees and a long line of buses stood waiting to whisk us away to Sri Mayapur dhama. We were in good hands.
By recalling the events and experiences which initially touched our hearts with Krishna consciousness, we can embrace the loving mood that Prabhupada so kindly shared with us all. While he was personally present among us, Prabhupada demonstrated practically that we're capable of working together and achieving great things. Srila Prabhupada loved us all, and he entrusted us with the great responsibility of maintaining and expanding his beloved movement. The basic principle behind everything was always love and trust.
"All of our men have volunteered good service, so the background is good will. So everything should be done on the basis of good will."
(Srila Prabhupada Letter, September 7, 1974)
As we move further into the 21st Century and as the next generation of devotees comes of age, we can take this opportunity to contemplate just what kind of legacy we'll leave behind. Although mistakes have certainly been made over the years (both individually and collectively), it's never too late for making amends and moving forward. Srila Prabhupada consistently preached that "there is no question of rejection or dejection" in devotional service, and he was forever patient, as we all know. In other words, hope springs eternal in Krishna consciousness. Prabhupada himself set the perfect example in this regard. Despite overwhelming odds and repeated setbacks, he never stopped endeavoring to make a lasting and worthwhile contribution to human society.
"The world is in a very precarious condition simply for lack of God consciousness, so this should be our point of stressing, that we should revive this emphasis on God consciousness everywhere in the world and that will be our contribution."
(Srila Prabhupada Letter, May 2, 1972)
Prabhupada firmly believed that his movement could save humanity from self-destruction. How fortunate we are to have this opportunity to serve his great mission and contribute to its success. He made it very simple and easy for us all: chanting, dancing, feasting and philosophy in loving co-operation with our godbrothers and godsisters.
"Our process is simple, all-embracing, we have something to offer for everyone. There is chanting, dancing, feasting and very perfect philosophy, so everyone may be satisfied with our Krishna Consciousness Movement."
(Srila Prabhupada Letter, October 4, 1973)
So if we sincerely follow Srila Prabhupada's basic formula "to the best of our individual capacity" as Prabhupada advised, then how can we go wrong? The process of Krishna consciousness is eternal. It worked then, and it works now.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada.