Seven Temples on Seven Hills (Chapter 15)

The Hare Krishna Explosion
by Hayagriva Prabhu

Part III: New Vrindaban, 1968-1969
Chapter 15

Seven Temples on Seven Hills

The Montreal temple is located in a large, grey Gothic building near McGill University. The ground floor is occupied by a commercial printing company. The upstairs bowling alley has been converted into a kirtan hall and living area for new devotees—Shivananda, Jayapataka, Hansadutta, Vaikunthanath. Now it is crowded. There has been a flurry of activity since Prabhupada’s arrival.

Kirtanananda and I visit Prabhupada in his nearby apartment. As always, it seems, Prabhupada is seated behind his footlocker, the familiar aromas of gardenias, incense and sandalwood about him. Goursundar and Govinda dasi scurry about, fretting that too many people are disturbing him. We pay our obeisances, and I offer Prabhupada yellow roses, which Govinda dasi arranges in vases.

“So how have you come?” Prabhupada asks.

“By plane from New York,” I say.

“Ah, very good. And in New York they are doing nicely?”

“Yes, Srila Prabhupada. Very nicely.”

“And what about New Vrindaban? That is doing nicely?”

“The owner has finally agreed on a long term lease,” I say, “but he wants the timber.”

“Oh, that cannot be. We must have all rights.”

“The coal rights were sold sixty-five years ago,” Kirtanananda says. “This is the case with all the properties in that area.”

“This means that if the government develops the coal industry, we may be asked to vacate,” Prabhupada says, concerned. “And no law can stop it.”

We admit that this is a point to consider.

“Yes,” he continues, “even if the government does not interfere, if some big industry moves into our vicinity, our New Vrindaban will fade away.”

I suddenly envision the little farmhouse and willow tree enveloped in a haze of smoke, the pastures invaded by steel drills abusing Mother Earth, giant smokestacks….

“New Vrindaban must be free from industrial contamination,” he says. “Industries like mining will ruin everything. Consider well the land’s future.”

“Most of the coal has already been mined through underground tunnels,” Kirtanananda says.

“Another important point,” Prabhupada goes on. “What happens to the property after ninety-nine years?”

I don’t know,” I say, not having really thought of this. “We won’t be around then.”

“But the Society will,” he says. “There must be an agreement that at the end of the lease, the property will go to us.”

This had been our oversight. Of course it must go to the Society! Great temples will be rising from the blackberries and pokeweed!

“We’ll try to get Foster to agree,” I say.

We then describe the property. As soon as Prabhupada understands where the main road is, he asks, “How do you get up to the farmhouse?”

“Well, that’s the big problem,” I admit. “It’s not really what you’d call easily accessible. But you could drive a jeep or horse and wagon up it. Otherwise, it’s a two mile walk.”

Prabhupada reflects on this a moment.

“Hm. Horse and buggy would be better,” he says at length. “You should avoid machines and become as self-sufficient as possible. And horses are pleasing to look at. They are the most beautiful of animals.”

Kirtanananda presents a quart of blackberry chutney and one of raspberry jam.

“Ah, very fresh,” Prabhupada says, sampling them. Then, serious, thinking again of New Vrindaban: “Yes, in New Vrindaban everything will be Krishna conscious because everything will be for Krishna. So building houses, tending cows, and working fields will also be bhakti-yoga. People mustn’t go there just to retire. They must be engaged. In your country, old people like to keep dogs and smoke pipes when they retire. Or they play… what do you call—?”

“Shuffleboard,” I say, thinking of the old men in Golden Gate Park. “And checkers.”

“Yes. That is what we want to avoid. We must always engage in Krishna’s service so maya cannot enter.”

“There’s no end to engagement, Prabhupada,” Kirtanananda assures him.

I think of breaking my back removing rocks from beneath the waterfalls. I think of all the wildflowers left unpicked.

“The hills and temples must all be named,” Prabhupada says. “On seven hills we will build seven main temples, as in the original Vrindaban—Govindaji, Gopinatha, Madana-Mohana, Shyamasundara, Radha-Ramana, Radha-Damodar, Gokulananda….

Sitting before him, we begin to see spiraling gold-domed temples in the West Virginia hills. Vaporous fantasies, perhaps, but so strong is Prabhupada’s confidence that for us his New Vrindaban temples seem as tangible as his tin footlocker.

“Of course, Kirtanananda, you have seen Vrindaban,” Prabhupada continues. “Remember the atmosphere? There are temples everywhere, some five thousand, it is said. That is a far distant scheme.”

A far distant scheme. I wonder if we can repair the farmhouse roof before the autumn rains.

“But now let us build at least seven temples,” he says, his eyes wide with anticipation. “The hills you can name Govardhan. There must be pastures for the cows, and ghats for bathing, like Kesi-ghat. Oh, I will give you so many names! And Kirtanananda, you can attract the neighbors with your delicious prasadam.”

Talking leisurely in the cool Montreal afternoon, Prabhupada describes New Vrindaban so graphically that we envision great lines of tourists waiting for guides to lead them through marble temples and palaces.

Every moment, Prabhupada builds and tosses out schemes to occupy thousands of devotees. On his footlocker is a lamp, some papers, and a few books. Bhagavad-gita is always within reach. I see him sitting thus eternally, looking up from the holy scriptures through his spectacles, creating whole cultures and civilizations centered about Krishna.

In the evening, Govinda dasi serves spiced puffed rice.

Prabhupada garlands us. We drink sweet yogurt, and he comments on Janardhan’s plans for a Back To Godhead in French for Canada. He is jolly, and when we pay obeisances before leaving, he says, “Yes, try for this New Vrindaban with heart and soul. And rest assured it will develop.”

For four days, Prabhupada waters the New Vrindaban devotional creeper. It is indeed a young, tender plant requiring special treatment.

On the fifth day, carrying plans, schemes, visions, and lofty aspirations, we fly back to New York, accompanied by universal royalty, the Jagannatha Deities, purchased from a Montreal import house.

In New York, we spend two days shopping for the Deities on Orchard Street, bargaining for cloth, haggling over five cents a yard. At Sears, we buy some farming tools, a chainsaw, a new battery, tubs, buckets, hoses.

As bills quickly accumulate, we painfully realize that for our grand enterprise, we will be needing a great deal of money.

From left: original farmhouse on hill slope and first cottage erected by Kirtananda and Hayagriva at New Vrindaban
In West Virginia, the first signs of autumn can be seen even in July. Blackberry picking is over, and some leaves are even turning red. I’m surprised to see visible changes in the forest over our week’s absence.

Foster has been working on his picket fence. Now indicted for attempted manslaughter, he labors over a post-hole digger, pounding out holes for the locust-wood barricade.

“Come on in,” he says, “and we’ll cool off with a soda. I’ve been thinking about that lease.”

I tell him directly that we must have timber and lease transferral rights.

We hem and haw. Worried and tired, Foster finally gives in.

A week later, August 8, 1968, the lease is signed and entered in the courthouse records. With great happiness, we write Prabhupada and tell him that the New Vrindaban property is secured. Prabhupada replies:

“Now we can work with great enthusiasm for constructing a New Vrindaban in the United States of America. Its construction is my great happiness. And I am very glad to notice in Kirtanananda’s letter that he has realized more and more that the function of New Vrindaban is nothing physical or bodily, but purely spiritual and for the glorification of the Lord, Sri Krishna.”
And for Lord Krishna’s immediate glorification, Prabhupada informs us that we can commence holding aratik first thing in the morning.

Aratik is a ritual whereby certain objects are offered to the Deities—incense, camphor, ghee, a conch shell with water, a handkerchief, flower, peacock feather fan, yak-tail whisk—very elaborately to chanting, bell-ringing, and dancing. Prabhupada had performed aratik when Lord Jagannatha was installed in San Francisco.

Another letter from Prabhupada outlines the details:

“I am very glad to learn, Kirtanananda, that you are feeling so happy in serving the beautiful Jagannatha Deities from Montreal. The aratik ceremony can be performed as follows. The first aratik is performed as you have seen in Vrindaban at the Radha-Damodar Temple—early in the morning, at least one and a half hours before sunrise. … The second aratik is performed about 8 a.m., after dressing and decorating the Deity with flowers, the third after offering lunch to the Deity, the fourth in the evening, and the fifth when the Lord goes to bed. … Jagannatha Swami is very kind to the fallen souls, because He is the Lord of the universe, and all the living creatures are His subjects; therefore, Jagannatha Swami will bless you with all the required intelligence needed for knowing how to satisfy Him.”

We awake at 4:30 a.m., sleepily light the kerosene lantern and sponge bathe over buckets of cold water. All agree, cold water awakens the system like nothing else.

We are assisted by Randy Freeman, whom Kirtanananda had met in 1966 in Bellevue Hospital. Now Randy has had his fill of New York City life; he wants to do something grandiose, like build seven Vedic temples on seven West Virginia hills.

At 4:45, we all stand before the little altar of the Jagannatha Deities and chant: Kiba jaya jaya gorachander arotika shobha jahnavi-tata vane jaga jana-manolobha. “Everyone come see the glorious aratik ceremony of Lord Chaitanya. This ceremony, on the Ganges banks, is so beautiful that it attracts the mind of the world.”

The little farmhouse vibrates in the early morning dark. Nary a hint of dawn.

“Boing-boing, boing-boing,” resound the steel gongs salvaged from a local junkyard. The heavy disks hang from straightened clothes hangers, and Harold strikes them with a wooden mallet. Kirtanananda plays the harmonium, and we take turns circulating the offerings before the Deities.

After aratik, we read from Bhagavad-gita. The darkness finally fades. Sitting outside, we eat oatmeal and watch the sunrise. Best to get the hard work done in the cool of the morning.

Now ISKCON is expanding rapidly. Rupanuga is in Buffalo, and Boston is now well established. Los Angeles is ballooning, almost the size of the San Francisco temple. Santa Fe is holding on; Subal’s still in the castle. Even teenage Upendra has gone to Seattle to open a center. And Prabhupada is sending Shivananda to Hamburg, and Umapati to Paris.

I receive packets from Montreal with more Srimad-Bhagavatam manuscripts. Macmillan is promising that Bhagavad-gita As It Is will be ready in January. Rayarama is working on Back To Godhead; I’m entrusted with the editing of Srimad-Bhagavatam.

In Montreal, Prabhupada meets with the San Francisco devotees—Mukunda and Janakil Gurudas and Yamuna, Shyamasundar and Malati, three couples en route to London to try to open ISKCON’s first European center. They want to land with a sankirtan party and attract as much attention as possible.

“You told me that you will arrange for the electricity immediately,” Prabhupada writes me. “As soon as it is there, I shall go and stay in New Vrindaban for some time. Maybe, Krishna desiring, I will make my headquarters there.”

Then a telegram from Brahmananda informs us that Prabhupada has returned to New York.

Kirtanananda, Harold, Randy, and I leave the farm early in the morning, immediately after aratik, and by afternoon we are driving through the Holland Tunnel to the Lower East Side.

Matchless Gifts has never been so alive.

New devotees tiptoe and whisper in the hallway outside Prabhupada’s door. Now there are many new faces from California and Canada, as well as New York. I hardly catch their names. They cluster around Prabhupada in his room, where he sits, as always, on a mat behind his footlocker.

“Ah, come on!” he says as we enter and pay obeisances. “You have all come from New Vrindaban?”

He says “New Vrindaban” as if it had been founded centuries ago.

“Just this morning, Prabhupada.”

“And this is the boy who is interested?”

“I am, Srila Prabhupada,” Harold says in a whisper.

Harold recently wrote to Prabhupada, telling him of his confusion with Christianity and attraction to Krishna.

“So you are liking our Krishna consciousness movement?” Prabhupada asks, smiling broadly. “Yes, that’s good. I received one letter, and thank you. So, tell me—what is the difference between relative and Absolute? Do you actually understand the difference?”

Harold sits and stares. It is the first time he has ever seen Prabhupada. “Relative and absolute?” he repeats, his mind now obviously drained of cognitive thought. “Well, absolute…?”

“That’s all right,” Prabhupada says mercifully. “Anyway, just try to understand. This lightbulb that you see here—light is emanating from the bulb. The bulb is different from the light, but without the bulb, there is no light. The light is dependent on the bulb; therefore we say that it is relative to the bulb. Or we can compare it to the sun and the sunshine. The sunshine is relative to the sun disk itself, because it is emanating from it. And so the Vedas define the Absolute as that from which everything is emanating. Do you understand?”

“I … think so,” Harold says.

“So, Krishna is like the sun disk. He is the Absolute, and everything is emanating from Him. Aham sarvasya prabhavo mattah sarvam pravartate. ‘I am the source of everything. The entire creation is coming from Me.’ All this is explained in Bhagavad-gita. You have read Bhagavad-gita?”

“I … a little.“

“So, what is the difficulty? Krishna is there, and He is the father of all living entities. He declares: Sarvayonishu kaunteya murtayah sambhavanti yah tesham brahma mahad yohir aham bijapradah pita. ‘I am the seed-giving father of all beings, and material nature is the mother.’ And Lord Jesus Christ says, ‘I am the son.’ So where is the contradiction? Do you mean to say that you pay homage to the son and not to the father? Is that very wise? Or do you pay homage to the father and not to the son?”

Prabhupada looks at Harold for an answer. Harold fidgets and looks down, embarrassed. “Well—”

“Therefore we do not decry Christianity,” Prabhupada concludes. “Worship Jesus Christ, but chant Hare Krishna with us and try to understand this sublime philosophy of Krishna consciousness.” Then, turning to me: “He will make a very nice devotee. So, now, this New Vrindaban scheme is progressing nicely? There is one carpenter in Montreal named Vamandev. He can help. And Pradyumna is an intelligent boy who can help you edit Srimad-Bhagavatam. He’s studying Sanskrit and can catch the errors. And he can also help you start a center in Columbus.”

From left: Kirtanananda Swami, Vamandev, Hrsikesh, Hayagriva, and Pradyumna, at New Vrindaban in the summer of 1968
“There are forty thousand students there,” I say. “We can surely open a temple near the university.”

“And you can also invite them to New Vrindaban. It is not far from Ohio. If they see that it’s a spiritual community, they will come. And when you get electricity, I will come, and we shall work there on the remaining cantos of Bhagavatam. We may even buy our own press and print our books there. Adwaita and some other boys are now studying with some commercial press. So there at New Vrindaban we can have the whole operation.”

As Prabhupada talks, Umapati enters and pays his obeisances.

“So how are you feeling?” Prabhupada asks him.

“Very well, Srila Prabhupada,” Umapati says. Then, seeing Kirtanananda and me: “It’s just like old times here now.”

“There are no old times, no new times,” Prabhupada says. “Since we are all eternal associates, there is no old or new.”

“Jai!” Umapati exclaims.

“And the post office?” Prabhupada asks me suddenly. “You have enquired about arranging a New Vrindaban post office?”

“A certain volume of letters is required,” I say.

“So, if you require some letters, that will not be difficult. First of all, find out, and I shall advise our centers to send you letters. At least six or one dozen letters from each temple. This will prove we’re getting plenty of mail. …”

I suddenly realize that establishing a post office is almost as good as establishing a town. If you have your own postmark, the town will follow.

Now, as more disciples crowd into the small room, Prabhupada is inspired to talk on, hour after hour, and in his presence, our bhakti plants are watered yet again and again.

“We can see that the hippies are searching for a peaceful place like New Vrindaban,” Prabhupada observes. “They are now leaving the cities and going to the countryside to seek peace of mind. So you can invite them to New Vrindaban and show them that peace and happiness are there on the spiritual platform, in a community centered about Krishna.

“Now Krishna is giving you boys intelligence and bestowing His mercy upon you. Continue with your present attitude, and whenever you feel some difficulty, chant Hare Krishna. Pray to Krishna to help you, and there will be no difficulty. Rest assured.”

September 5. There is a marriage ceremony. Prabhupada has paired Satsvarupa and Jadurani. Since Satsvarupa holds a responsible job as social worker, he can best protect our chief artist. After the marriage, Harold is initiated as Hrishikesh, and Randy as Ranandhir. Then I receive the brahminical thread. Prabhupada lectures on the qualifications of a brahmin.

“Brahminism is not a birthright,” he says. “It is by guna, by qualification. ‘One cannot be a brahmin without being Krishna conscious. And by being Krishna conscious, one immediately attains the brahmin status.”

After the ceremonies, we enjoy a big feast. Matchless Gifts is packed with new devotees and guests eager to see a fire sacrifice.

It is also Kirtanananda’s thirty-first birthday.

September 8. We see Prabhupada off at Kennedy Airport.

“Please try to organize the students in the university,” he tells me just before boarding. “But do it tactfully so that the administration won’t be disturbed. And as for New Vrindaban—” He turns to Kirtanananda. “There may be many challenges, but do your best, work together, and rest assured that success will be there because you are acting on Krishna’s behalf.”

Then, to the thunder of mridangas and jet engines, he takes off for Los Angeles.

Before returning to New Vrindaban, we acquire a small pair of bell-metal Radha Krishna Deities from a devotee recently returned from India. Back at the farmhouse, we set Their Lordships beside the Jagannatha Deities, and Kirtanananda writes Prabhupada for instructions on worshipping.

“It appears that Krishna has not only given you New Vrindaban,” Prabhupada answers, “but He has also, out of His good will, come to you. It is very surprising.”

He then informs us that we should supply the Deities with a throne and install Them.

You have seen the New York Deity’s dress and process of worship. There is nothing new to add. The same principle should be followed, and the Deities should always be well dressed in clothing and some ornaments and flowers and incense. The Deities should always be attractive. The more we engage in Deity worship, the more we become purified.

Prabhupada flies to Seattle. More centers are opening internationally. He writes:

“I have sent Goursundar to Hawaii to open a branch there, and I have received letters from London that the six devotees there are holding kirtan in the morning, and are having love feasts also. In Berlin also we are hoping for a new branch. I think that as soon as they are prepared to receive me there, I shall go immediately to Europe.”

Ohio State University has changed little since 1965. Forty thousand farm-fed students amble about the sprawling campus and up and down High Street. It is fall, the leaves are red and gold, and in Columbus, consciousness is football.

As an antidote, I quickly organize the O.S.U. Yoga Society. That is, a front for ISKCON.

From Los Angeles, Prabhupada writes:

“It would have been better to name it the Bhakti Yoga Society, otherwise the Society may be misunderstood to be one of the hatha-yoga bogus societies. Anyway, whatever the name may be, it does not matter. If you are successful in capturing the students for chanting, it will be a great success.”
October 30. The new O.S.U. Yoga Society convenes in the Astronomy Department auditorium. About five hundred students assemble. As always, they are very well mannered. I’m always impressed how well dressed and mannered Ohio State students are.

YOGA CHANTS ARE KEY TO KRISHNA, The Ohio State Lantern reports the following day. They quote me as saying, “Chant, surrender and be happy.” Denouncing popularized hatha-yoga as a mere physical discipline, I define real yoga as “linking to the Supreme.“

“Krishna is not Indian or American. He’s beyond material designations. He’s the powerhouse.”

After this, the chairman of the English Department looks on me as another potential timebomb. Yet he has to appear permissive to keep the staff happy in a time of inflation and Vietnam discontent. Faced with the election of Nixon, English professors are flaunting their traditional liberalism.

In New Vrindaban, we buy a 1955 Ford powerwagon for $250. Sputtering and banging and smoking, it grinds like a tank up the two mile Aghasura Road in the cold November drizzlse. Aghasura Road is an obstacle worthy of Vedic heroes, a force to be reckoned with. Every journey is an odyssey of slick mud, washed-out culverts and ruts covered with thin slivers of ice, ruts with soupy mud fillings and more mud under that—a slippery, clammy West Virginia clay impossible to shake off. Each trip involves a major battle wherein Ranandhir or Hrishikesh jump out with shovels and shout directions for me to rock the powerwagon back and forth. We are always having to stop to repair the tire chains, or to cut trees suddenly fallen in the November wind.

We buy gloves and thermal underwear, insulated boots and woolen caps. Wheeling Electric assures us we’ll have light by Christmas.

We take the chainsaw and powerwagon out to the back woods, cut up some dead trees and haul them back. Since the fireplace is inadequate for heating, we buy steel oil drums and make stoves out of them. They blister from the heat.

From Reg, we understand why Foster was so willing to grant us the lease.

“He doesn’t expect you guys to last the winter.”

We pay a local bulldozer firm ten dollars an hour to come out to grade the Aghasura Road. After some twenty hours, the mud is smooth and neatly packed.

Two weeks later, after a few rains and traversals, the old ruts reappear. Muddy Aghasura comes to life, more horrible than before.

We try to get the State Road Commission to pave the road, but it was scratched as a county road years ago. Sympathetic, they send out a man to look Aghasura over.

“This is all gonna have to be drained,” he tells us, shaking his head. “Then it’ll take tons of gravel to build it up. You’ll pay forty thousand dollars. All ’cause you’re wanting a road where a road was never meant to be.”

Prabhupada writes:

“You have asked whether you may use charcoals for fuel during the winter, and since this is the simplest thing to do, certainly it is all right. For such questions, you need only use your good common sense. As for machinery at New Vrindaban, if it is helpful, take advantage of it. We are not enemies of machines. If they can be used for Krishna’s service, welcome them. With nice roads, we can invite many people to New Vrindaban.”
Prabhupada enjoys the good climate of Los Angeles and expects to remain there through the Christmas holidays. The Department of Immigration has granted him a permanent tourist visa.

“You will be glad to know that we have now signed a lease for a new temple for the Los Angeles center,” he writes. “It is for an ex-Japanese-Buddhist temple—Spanish style—on La Cienega Boulevard, a very fine, large chapel, and now there is a program to invite many people.”

Prabhupada offers to sell me two thousand copies of Bhagavad-gita at forty percent discount for distribution to Ohio State students. Macmillan is still promising that the book will be ready by January, 1969. We receive an advance copy. There are introductory appreciations by Allen Ginsberg, Denise Levertov, and Thomas Merton.

It is an exciting moment. Prabhupada is now an author published by New York’s biggest publisher. I assure him that we’ll be able to distribute two thousand in no time.

After the evening aratik at New Vrindaban, we sip hot milk with honey and stand around the fifty-five gallon stove. There’s nothing else to do. From time to time, Kirtanananda stokes the fire. On a battery-run tape recorder, we listen to Prabhupada’s 1966 New York lectures. As the mantle dies out on the kerosene lantern, we drift asleep to visions of Second Avenue.

Prabhupada writes:

“I am so pleased that you are feeling for me and listening to my old tapes with pleasure. As you are remembering our old meeting days on Second Avenue, similarly I also remember the incidents and speak to so many friends and disciples. So our meeting was Krishna’s plan. And we should always remember this plan and continue to work jointly for the advancement of the Krishna consciousness movement.”
December, and still no electricity. We’re going through firewood fast. Heat seeps out cracks and gaps in the old farmhouse. Feet and backs are always cold. The temperature plunges to fifteen, and there’s no way to keep hands warm outside. They even stick on the icy plastic steering wheel of the powerwagon. When the ground freezes, Aghasura Road is hard, jaggy and jolting. We crash through ice and spray mud, and wonder why we’re here.

In December, our first heavy snow descends.

I write Prabhupada and mention that my parents are asking me down south for Christmas. His reply:

“I think you can give up the idea of seeing your parents annually. Just prepare yourself for further advanced spiritual life. After all, our mundane relationships with father and mother, or wife and children, cannot protect us from the trap of maya. One Vaishnava poet says that in every form of life, one gets a father and mother, because without them nobody is able to get a material body. So father and mother are possible in any form of body, but only in this human form can one contact Krishna and a bona fide spiritual master. That is the highest gain of our travelling in different species of life in different planets.”
I switch my plane reservation to Los Angeles. When I arrive December 13, Prabhupada is happily awaiting me in his Hayworth Avenue apartment. He has chosen a wife for me.

I enter and offer obeisances. Prabhupada is all smiles. The California climate is obviously good for him. He looks robust. A Mexican sarape is spread over his footlocker.

“But Srila Prabhupada,” I begin.

“I think you should get married,” he says.

“But right now … I don’t need a wife—”

“Not wife. Assistant. You require an assistant who is an expert typist to be your secretary. Such a wife will be a great asset in your writing. You prefer to be free, but a devoted wife is as good as freedom. The grihastha disciples—just like Shyamasundar, Mukunda and Gurudas and their wives—are doing very nicely in London. Similarly, Dayananda and his wife Nandarani are doing very nicely here. And Satsvarupa and his wife Jadurani are doing very nice in Boston. And Goursundar and Govinda dasi are going to organize Hawaii and the Pacific region. And Rupanuga Prabhu and his wife….”

The matter was settled before my arrival; the girl, already picked, is named Shama dasi. I recall having seen her in the San Francisco temple. She is a tall, very pretty, blonde brahmacharini.

“You American boys are liking tall girls?” Prabhupada asks me, laughing.

He marries us in the La Cienega temple on Christmas Day, 1968. The feast after the wedding is magnificent. We eat beneath a flower-festooned canopy, our clothes tied together, and Prabhupada beams with happiness, flashing smile upon smile.

SWAMI SAYS PEOPLE ARE LIVING ON MOON! The Los Angeles Times reports three days after the wedding.


Prabhupada tells the astounded reporter that the moon is an upper planet inhabited by demigods.

“But with this body, you cannot land there,” he says, “nor can you interfere in their business. They would be almost invisible.”

This write-up provokes many strange phone calls to the temple. Surprisingly, most callers agree with Srila Prabhupada.

Prabhupada discards all propaganda about the planned moon landing.

“They will never get there by these artificial, mechanical means,” he insists. “But even if they manage somehow, the demigods would kick them out.”

Some people, disturbed by this, leave. But most devotees consider it unimportant, saying, “If Prabhupada says it, it’s so.”

End of Chapter 15

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