ISKCON Atlanta ♦ New Panihati Dhama
International Society for Krishna Consciousness
Srila Prabhupada's visit to Atlanta was a most memorable one
for all of the devotees who had gathered to be with him. He became visibly overwhelmed by the magnanimous presence of Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai, the presiding Deities of Atlanta, and by the fervent, unconditional devotion pouring forth from the more than three hundred disciples surrounding him. In the opening speech his voice became choked with emotion while describing the mercy of the two transcendental brothers Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda, and he found it impossible to continue speaking. That same evening Prabhupada sang Parama Karuna, describing how there is no greater mercy than that delivered by the two Lords Nitai-Gaurachandra. While Prabhupada described the glories of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu, to his disciples sitting reverentially before him he was the manifestation of Gaura and Nitai's mercy that they could fully appreciate. For Srila Prabhupada, seeing so many sincere disciples dedicating their lives to the service of Gaura-Nitai was further proof of Caitanya Mahaprabhu's kindness for having sent him unlimited assistants. The combination of the beautiful Deities of Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda, Their beloved representative Srila Prabhupada, and hundreds of sankirtana devotees created an overpowering atmosphere which submerged everyone in a flood of ecstatic feelings.
On his morning walks in Atlanta's Piedmont Park, Srila Prabhupada would he accompanied by members of the Library Party, the airport sankirtana party, and the devotee-scientists, led by Svarupa Damodara dasa. Our Radha-Damodara brahmacaris were too numerous for all to join the morning excursions, so instead I arranged for a special darsana in Prabhupada's quarters, just as I had done previously in San Francisco. Gradually the newly painted all-white sitting room became tinged with the saffron hue of nearly forty brahmacaris nicely dressed, wearing fresh tilaka.
"This is Chris and this is Rusty. They each distribute hundreds of Back to Godheads a day. His name is Mark, and he has just joined us from Miami. He is sewing clothing, like hats and shirts, for the men. This is Doug, who joined us in Berkeley, where he was studying in college. He has sacrificed the money set aside for school to be used for distributing books to the public." Gradually I introduced every member of our party to Srila Prabhupada, who thanked each one for having surrendered his life to Krsna. When everyone was seated comfortably, Prabhupada lectured on the advantages of remaining a brahmacari throughout one's life. If one could do this, it would make going back to Godhead very simple. A brahmacari need not worry where to sleep or how much to eat. He can sleep underneath a tree or even in the snow. His only concern is how to serve Krsna more and more. He does so much service that at night, when it is time for him to take rest, he falls asleep immediately, because he is free of any anxieties.
Grhastha life, however, is fraught with problems. As soon as one is married there are so many responsibilities which unnecessarily increase life's problems. The wife will make demands: Where is our house? When will we have children? Where are my clothes? Food? In this way there will be so much disturbance, to no advantage. Instead one should be intelligent and avoid this botheration altogether. Simply spend your time distributing books, then there will be no time left for maya to lure you.
The brahmacaris enjoyed hearing Srila Prabhupada glorify a life of celibacy dedicated to preaching. They were already experiencing a carefree existence by avoiding the entanglement of the opposite sex. To have their spiritual master confirm their position strengthened their resolve to remain fixed in their vow. But it was not always easy. When Srila Prabhupada called for questions, one devotee asked, "Srila Prabhupada, we have to approach so many women while distributing books in the parking lots. Yet we have just come from material life and are still feeling attraction. So what is the best way to preach without becoming affected?"
Prabhupada immediately replied, "Sex life is an itch. It has to be tolerated. If you become tolerant, then the itching sensation will go away. Just learn to tolerate it and concentrate more on your service."
Next, one of the devotees wanted to know whether a devotee who dies on sankirtana will go back to Godhead. Prabhupada quoted,
"Yam yam vapi smaran bhavam tyajaty ante kalevaram
tam tam evaite kaunteya sada tad-bhava-bhavitah."
Whatever state one remembers when leaving his body, that state he will attain without fail. [Bg. 8.6]
If you just try to distribute these books up to the time you die, then you're guaranteed to go back home, back to Godhead. Is that all right?" At this, everyone cheered "Jaya Prabhupada!" And Srila Prabhupada continued, "By distributing these books very quickly, you attract the notice of Krsna.
Another brahmacari raised his hand and inquired, "How should we approach someone to ask for a donation?"
"You should go up to the man," Prabhupada instructed, "pay your obeisances, and say, 'My kind sir, you are a very intelligent man. So please kindly forget everything you know, take this book, and give me your wallet.' " The devotees roared with laughter, enjoying Srila Prabhupada's humorous yet serious response.
Bhakta Mark then offered a hat he had sewn from a corduroy material in the Vrndavana style, which Srila Prabhupada had introduced to ISKCON devotees. Unfortunately it was too small and looked funny as Prabhupada tried it on. He could not pull it snugly over his head, and instead it puffed up at the top. Nevertheless, Prabhupada left it on for a few seconds, until Mark pulled out another hat, of a larger size. Still this was too tight, but Srila Prabhupada accepted it with a smile, saying, "It can be used." Mark had given each of the brahmacaris on the party a similar hat as a part of our unofficial uniform, and now that Srila Prabhupada also had one, we felt that he was identified with our party-its commander in chief-which in fact he was.
- From the "Servant of the Servant" by HH Tamala Krsna Goswami