In every possible way, our Srila Prabhupada was a strict disciple and follower of his beloved Gurudeva, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada. On two different occasions Srila Prabhupada’s Guru observed a Karttika Vrata in Vraja Mandala. “In October 1934, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada and many disciples stayed in Mathura strictly executing the Kartika Vrata. During this time, he spoke on the topics of Radha-Krishna’s asta-kaliya-lila in Vrindavana.” (Ray of Vishnu) In 1935, Sarasvati Prabhupada observed Karttika-vrata in Sri Radha-kunda.
Perfectly following the example of his Gurudeva, Srila Prabhupada came to Vrindavana to observe the Karttika Vrata in 1972. In August of 1972, Prabhupada wrote a letter to the T.P. of Krishna-Balarama Mandira: “My plan is to come to Vrindavana for the Karttika Vrata, and I want to sit down there in the Sri Sri Radha-Damodara temple until sometime near the end of November. I will lecture daily in the courtyard on Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, especially for the benefit of the devotees.”
Srila Prabhupada came to the Radha Damodara temple, the place of Sri Rupa Goswami and the lotus feet of Sri Sri Radha Damodara—the source of the nectar of devotion. The time was Karttika 1972 and the audience was filled with fledgling disciples eager for nourishment. So it was the natural choice, according to time, place and circumstance for Srila Prabhupada to deliver the “Nectar of Devotion”.
What follows are excerpts from my book Prabhupada at Radha-Damodara, wherein various devotees told me their memories of that astonishing time:
Ganga Mayi dasi: “Every morning the devotees who were staying at Keshi Ghat would assemble outside Prabhupada’s room in the Radha-Damodara courtyard. Thirty devotees would have these real far-out, rip-roaring kirtanas. The sannyasis Subala, Parivrajakacharya, Paramahamsa and Tushta Krishna used to jump up and down with their dandas whirling about. And they would leap into the air, pole vaulting with their dandas. Those kirtanas were pretty amazing, come to think about it. They were very ecstatic. I remember thinking to record one of those kirtanas. But it was so wild I couldn’t figure out where to put the tape recorder. They were leaping around the courtyard like anything in ecstasy.”
Gopala Ghosh: “Prabhupadaji would come out of his room with his stick, and his chaddar wrapped over his shoulder. Two devotees would accompany him, waving camara and peacock fans. First he would do pranams to Radha-Damodaraji, then Jiva Goswami, Rupa Goswami and then sit down to lecture. During his lectures, he often paused and asked Hari Charan Goswami, famous pandit who would attend, if he had any questions. Prabhupada invited him many times to come to New York or London and preach the glories of his Deity, Radha-Raman and the aims of Gopal Bhatta Goswami.”
Ganga Mayi: “Prabhupada spoke from a small asana facing north, between Rupa Goswami’s bhajana kutira and samadhi. It was a tight cluster of fifty disciples sitting in the courtyard, which was just dirt and clumps of grass. The public didn’t pay attention, they just walked around us. During the talks, the monkeys would be jumping about in the trees, dangling on loose wires, or occasionally bounding amongst the devotees.”
Next we have some very enlightening quotes from Prabhupada’s 1972 Karttika Nectar of Devotion lectures. Gurudeva’s classes focused on four main topics: Guru, devotees, Goloka and living in Vrindavana. By reading these entries one can appreciate the special flavor of Srila Prabhupada’s intimate preaching to his disciples within the sanctified setting of Seva Kunja, Vrindavana.
Srila Prabhupada: “A spiritual master does not think of himself as Hari, although he is offered the respect of Hari. He thinks of himself as the humble servant of Hari and all others. He takes his own disciples as his spiritual masters, and thinks himself to be their servant. They have to be trained, and Krishna has appointed me to train them.”
Srila Prabhupada: “We should always be ready to offer respects, not only to devotees but to everyone.”
DANCING IN GOLOKA
Srila Prabhupada: “Once we go to the spiritual world, we stay with Krishna, dance with Him and play with Krishna. Or we serve Krishna as a tree, a plant, water, cow, land, as cowherd boys, as father or mother, or as gopis. When we go to Krishna, we live forever with Krishna in either of these capacities. Let me live at Vrindavana in any of these capacities, it doesn’t matter, but live there.”
Srila Prabhupada: We should be very much respectful toward Vrindavana Dhama. If we remain here in Vrindavana, we should know that we are living with Krishna. How much we should be cautious, how much we should be careful, if we actually understand what the dhama is. The Holy Dhama is also Krishna. If You actually live in Vrindavan carefully without committing any offense or sinful life, then in this life you are going to Krishna.”
Srila Prabhupada: “Cupid is one of the agents of this illusory material energy. There may be thousands of beautiful girls before a devotee, but that does not disturb his mind. He sees that they are all energies of Krishna. They are gopis of Krishna. They are enjoyable by Krishna. I have to serve them, they are gopis, because I am a servant of the servant: gopi bhartuh pada kamalayor das anudas anudasa.
Srila Prabhupada: “Just like in Vrindavana, they always speak of Radharani, because the Vrajavasis have taken shelter of Radharani to approach Krishna very easily. The facility of Vrindavana is that you take shelter of Radharani directly, and Radharani will help you to approach Krishna very soon. This is the idea of coming to Vrindavana.”
Srila Prabhupada: “This is the sign of a devotee, appreciation. The devotee always appreciates the qualities of the other devotees. A devotee who is actually freed from all contaminations does not find any fault with other devotees. He does not think that he’s a bigger devotee or greater devotee than others. He thinks himself as the lowest of all.”
The Dancing Lions
All narrations and dramatic performances should end on a sweet note, madhureëa samäpayet.
Thus we are concluding this Karttika article with a very funny true story that happened in Vrindavana during Karttika 1972.
A great Vrajavasi Gaudiya Vaisnava named Shri Gopala Chandra Ghosh, who has now gone serve his beloved Gopala, personally told me the following anecdote revealed in a conversation Srila Prabhupada had with Vishvambhara Goswami during Karttika in 1972.
Visvambhara Goswami: “Prabhupada, are you doing a circus in Vrindavana?”
Srila Prabhupada: “Circus? I am not doing a circus.”
Visvambhara Goswami: “Yes you are. You have caught many lions, and you have thrown them in the Vrindavana market. Many lions are now dancing there.”
Srila Prabhupada: “Lions dancing…. Goswamiji, you are an advocate, a big, big scholar and a leading person of Vrindavana. And you are my friend. So why are you saying this?”
Visvambhara Goswami: “Swamiji, with my own eyes I have seen five of your disciples riding on rickshaws, snatching from the shopkeepers and eating. The shopkeepers asked me, ‘Goswamiji, will you please save us! These Englishmen are snatching our yogurt, and snatching our pera, our sweets and our fruits. And as they do it they just say, ‘Hari Bol and Hare Krishna!’ This is very bad. Will you please go tell Prabhupada.’”
Srila Prabhupada: “Who has done this work?”
A short time later, five errant disciples came into Prabhupada’s quarters to plead their case.
Disciples: “Prabhupada, Lord Krishna stole yogurt and butter, so why can’t we? We are also following Him?”
Srila Prabhupada: “Lord Krishna played flute and performed rasa lila. So you do maha-rasa lila? And Krishna lifted Govardhan Hill, so you will lift Govardhana Hill? And Krishna danced on a serpent, can you do? Therefore, first of all you obey our Vaisnava order: trnad api sunicena taror iva sahisnuna; be humble and always chant Hare Krishna. When you go out on the road and see the Vaisnavas, you say Hare Krishna and bow your head.
“And when you go to the market, you can simply beg the shopkeeper to give you a sample of his sweets and then you can purchase. And if you have no money, then ask a Vrajavasi and he will surely give you some yogurt, sweets or anything you want. But you have snatched, this is very shameful.”
Karttika Vratotsava ki jai! Joi Damodara Jeu! Jai Jai Sri Radhe!
Srila Prabhupada ki jai!