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RD TSKP DARSHAN WITH SRILA PRABHUPADA IN NEW YORK 1973!
I am eternally grateful to Sripada Visnujana Maharaja for arranging a darshan with Srila Prabhupada for all of us on the Radha-Damodara Travelling Sankirtana Party. This took place in the Henry Street Temple in Brooklyn, New York, either in early April or late May 1973 (those were the two periods Srila Prabhupada visited New York that year). I think it was in May, because I remember the weather was warm and sunny. New York in early April is often cold and gray. If the darshan was in May, that might explain why it was so brief. At that time Srila Prabhupada stopped in New York for only a day or so, to catch a flight to London.
By mid-'73, the RD TSKP had become quite successful in book distribution. In the sankirtana newsletter, there were different categories like large temple, medium temple and small temple. We were regularly number one in the traveling sankirtana party category, and our results were similar to those in the medium temple category. Visnujana Maharaja felt very grateful to us for this, so on one bright morning in the New York temple, he arranged a darshan for us with Srila Prabhupada.
We followed Maharaja into His Divine Grace's quarters. He was seated on a floor cushion in his bedroom, dressed in sannyasi cloth but wearing neither kurta nor garland. The room was golden with sunlight. Prabhupada's skin glowed with a rich coppery hue. We all offered our obeisances. Srila Prabhupada gave us a friendly nod. His mood seemed light, yet quiet; humble and detached.
Prabhupada spoke a few encouraging words to us about sankirtana, but nothing I can quote as an exceptional instruction or revelation. Then he turned to Visnujana Maharaja. I watched as, for just a moment, a glance passed between them. Wordlessly, something personal and confidential was exchanged.
Was it just my imagination? Well, my older Godbrother Tejas Prabhu assures me that whatever Srila Prabhupada says and does has boundless depth of meaning, because he is the acarya. Everything about him is a teaching. And as he is teaching only Krsna consciousness, everything about him has transcendental significance.
Thus I have no doubt that something meaningful passed between Srila Prabhupada and Visnujana Maharaja. My sense of it--if my sense of anything has any value--was that Srila Prabhupada was transcendentally anxious for his son. He was appreciative for the service Maharaja was offering: the sankirtana results, his preaching programs. But I noted from His Divine Grace's glance that he saw something worrisome, too. From Maharaja's side, I think, there was a look of pleading--pleading for reassurance from his spiritual master. It's a cliché for me to tell you that the moment was intense. . . but it was.
The moment passed. Srila Prabhupada smiled again and with his gentle eyes briefly touched each of our hearts. Without anything further being said, we knew the darshan had ended.
As we offered obeisances to leave, a new brahmacari to our party, Bahushira Prabhu, spoke up. "Srila Prabhupada, you gave me the name Bahushira. Can you tell me what it means?"
Prabhupada cocked his head and uttered a polite, "Hmmm?"
Bahushira repeated his question. Prabhupada apparently heard the name as Bahulasva, for he said, "Bahulasva. . . he is friend of Krsna. "
And that was that. The darshan had hardly spanned three minutes time.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
For a long time I've meditated on that look that Srila Prabhupada exchanged with Visnujana Maharaja. I never spoke with Visnujana Maharaja himself about it. After the darshan Maharaja was very grave; I did not think it was my place to pry. Thus all I can do here is offer the reader my inductive thoughts.
Strictly defined, induction is the process of reaching a conclusion on the basis of indirect or circumstantial evidence. It involves intuition. If Paramatma blesses it, intuition is a powerful means to knowledge. So I pray to the Lord of the heart that my intuition be not amiss.
In the time period of my association with Visnujana Maharaja--from late 1972 to late 1974--it was clear that his only real Godbrotherly friend was HH Tamal Krsna Gosvami. Oh, he was friendly to myself and the other RD TSKP brahmacaris. But there was nontheless a gap between us. Obviously he was senior to us and in the highest ashrama. Thus, until Tamal Krsna Maharaja arrived in mid-1974, Visnujana Maharaja was, in a way, isolated; he maintained distance from his sannyasi Godbrothers. I recall a comment from a tough-talking "made in India" swami to the effect that, "Visnujana doesn't associate. He must be envious. "
I can't agree to the envious part, but in fact he did not associate much with other sannyasis. He once revealed his mind to me about that. He knew that many of ISKCON's swamis of that time were having problems. I've just made a list in my mind of the ISKCON sannyasis I easily remember that were in circulation around the USA during 1973. There were eleven (not including Visnujana Maharaja). Only two are still in the renounced order. Most are not in ISKCON in any capacity now.
But I think the main reason why Visnujana Maharaja stood alone was that he was an eccentric. His eccentricity extended to his relationship with Sri-Sri Radha-Damodara. I mentioned yesterday a rift between Sudama Swami and Visnujana Maharaja. It was a subtle thing, really; neither Visnujana nor Sudama Swamis were inclined to political intrigues. But they couldn't see eye-to-eye about Visnujana Maharaja's keeping Radha-Krsna Deities in a bus.
Shortly before our RD TSKP darshan with Srila Prabhupada, Sudama Swami got a letter from His Divine Grace dated March 23. Now, in those days, when a senior disciple in the States received a letter from Srila Prabhupada, within 48 hours after he or she opened and read it, the contents were being discussed in every ISKCON temple in the country. So what Srila Prabhupada wrote to Sudama Swami was weighing on Visnujana Maharaja's mind during the darshan.
There was a number of sannyasi-led bus parties touring America in 1973, but only Visnujana Maharaja was touring with Radha-Krsna vigraha. It was public knowledge that Prabhupada had advised him that by traveling with Sri-Sri Radha-Damodara, he was exposing himself to great offenses. But as I noted yesterday, he truly loved those Deities. Thus my intuition is that throughout all those years he served Radha-Damodara, a dilemma gnawed at his heart.
It must have been a dilemma for Srila Prabhupada also. He didn't like to discourage his spiritual son; at the same time, he worried for him. As acarya of ISKCON, he couldn't permit the spread of a questionable standard of Deity worship. Thus the relationship between Srila Prabhupada and Visnujana Maharaja was, I think, under some constraint. This is a hard point to explain. I am not intending to suggest that their relationship was taxed or shadowed over. But there was some caution attached to it. Visnujana Maharaja did not want to displease his spiritual master, yet he was in constant danger of doing so. So he had to be cautious. Srila Prabhupada did not want to dishearten his disciple, but he had to be cautious about showing full enthusiasm for his way of Deity worship.
I admit that this explanation is my opinion, not proven fact. But there's even more evidence for it. Yesterday I mentioned the fire that destroyed Radha-Damodara's bus. With my own ears, I heard Visnujana Maharaja lament that it was due to some offense to the Deities. So there is no doubt that he worried about this.
Still, he did save the Deities from the fire, by Their mercy. And when he got another bus for Them underway, Srila Prabhupada remarked, "This boy does not quit. " There is no doubt that Srila Prabhupada appreciated Visnujana Maharaja's sincere service to Sri-Sri Radha-Damodara as we see in this conversation from July 1, 1975 in Denver.
Srila Prabhupada ki jaya!