Spending time at the Bhaktivedanta Swami Museum
I am not sure how I missed this place in my 2 last trips. But I did. I knew it was there but I never took the time to go and check it out.
During one of the days at Vrindhavan dham, as I was carrying on with my chanting inside the temple, I noticed that I was getting distracted. The temple was very busy and all sorts of people can be seen visiting the centre and starring at the wonderful deities. Except me. I would be chanting away but my eyes were focused on all the people who were there. Villagers, priests, sanyasis, kids etc etc. I decided that perhaps it was better to step outside and complete the rounds in order to pacify the mind which was like a monkey jumping from tree to tree. But right on top of the wall outside was a real monkey waiting to snatch things from the devotees below. Where do I go now? Prabhupad samadhi was also full of people too. I decided that I would go back to my room.
As I walked towards the exit, I noticed one or two devotees coming out and going into a room on my right. I knew this was Prabhupad’s quarters but have never been there. I figured that I would check out the place for a few minutes before I return to my room to finish my rounds. Distracted again !
As I entered the room, I saw Prabhupad sitting towards the corner. There was a shelf behind him, well lit and containing most of his books. Were they the first copy ever published? I don’t know.
There was a priest conducting a puja. I have never seen anyone perform the act like the way he did. He took all the time in the world to carry out, with so much precision, the various rituals. He was enjoying it and it was great to watch it too. He was like an artist. For him, prabhupad was right there in front of him. And this was no time to make any mistakes. As he circled the ghee lamp in front of him, it looked as if he was painting something very carefully in front of his canvas. I liked it. If I ever get a chance to be involved in conducting pujas, this young bramachari will be my reminder on how lovingly and carefully it must be done. No hurries whatsoever.
Meanwhile, Prabhupad was busy behind his desk. He had a bead bag on his hands. His eyes were fixed on a piece of paper on a desk in front of him. I peeped from the side to read it. Hope he doesn’t mind. It was a letter he had written to a devotee in the USA, probably on the very day, 40 years ago. I read it with much delight and was amazed at how Prabhupad, even though he was so acclaimed by now, still wrote so lovingly to his devotees with so much care, love and patience. He, also was not in a hurry. It was a long letter encouraging a devotee there to have faith in Krishna, to chant and continue with the preaching activities.
I also decided to write. I took my diary out and began to jot down all the happenings of the day to be later used for this blog. I wrote pages and pages and pages. Time was ticking away and I had no idea. Hardly, did anyone venture in. A few devotees were in the room, but they were chanting away softly. I was seated in a corner, near the window at the back of the room, right behind Prabhupad’s bed. It was raining heavily now. And a cool breeze flew in with ease through the heavily wired window. Perfect, ain’t it? Cool air, silence, no distraction and Prabhupad in front.
That was the bed I was talking about earlier. This is where he lay on during his last days before entering samadhi. Devotees who entered the room paid respects to it and so did I. It was carefully spread and a photo of Prabhupad was on the pillow.
The lights were switched off with only a table lamp lighting the room. There was water in a silver cup on the table. In the two rooms behind him were his artifacts, used personally by Srila Prabhupad. One can see in the glass cabinets items like pots, massage oils, manuscripts, his early “Back to Godhead” magazine, letter to a member from his first organization, “League of Devotees”, shaving kit, typewriter, rubber stamps etc. The one that took my interest the most was the 3-tier cooker. This was what he used to cook his rice, vegetables and lentils all at one go. I also want one ! Next time.
I have never seen this picture before. The picture was right above my head where the end of the bed was. It was only when I stood up to leave the room, that I saw it. To see him so frail and grave, moments before he left us all, was heartbreaking. It truly was. In the background, devotees can be seen reading from a holy book and there is a microphone above his head. He must have been speaking about ISKCON, Krishna, Lord Chaitanya etc. He looked so royal, focused and determined even at such a sad and fearful stage of one’s life.
I was inspired. I felt bad that I was taking his instruction to chant so lightly. He had put so much efforts so that each and every devotee of his, then and now, would relish the chanting of the holy name. I sat back on the ground, near the front of the bed this time and closer to Prabhupad. I said, “Sorry” and with determination, closed my eyes and chanted.
As I finished, I looked up at Prabhupad. I felt so good. Chanting went well and only few times the mind wandered. The caretaker of the room came near me and said it was closing time and he was preparing to switch of the fans and lights there. As he left, I looked back at Prabhupad. And the first thing I saw was his lotus feet. It looked so real. I gazed at it for a long time before deciding to take a photo of it for you all.
By serving this feet and those of his devotees, one gets all the inspiration, motivation and dedication to provide the world with the light it desperately needs as it continues to enter a period of great darkness. Even though Prabhupad could not write a letter like how he had done so personally to many devotees and like the one I saw on the desk previously, he still took the time to guide me in his very room, in his own unique way.