Srila Prabhupada’s Visit to Mexico

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I was talking with one devotee the other day about Puerto Vallarta Mexico. We both agreed that it was a very beautiful and magical place and the devotee informed me that Srila Prabhupada had once visited there, liked it very much and said it reminded him of the birth place of Bhaktivinoda Thakur. This prompted me to do a search on Srila Prabhupada’s visit to Mexico…

Excerpted from; Addendum to Śrīla Prabhupāda-līlāmṛta
by Satsvarūpa dāsa Goswāmī
Vol. 7

In the spring of 1972, after conducting ground-breaking ceremonies at his three new projects in Māyāpur, Vṛndāvana, and Bombay, Śrīla Prabhupāda left India for a world preaching tour. The contested Bombay land purchase had turned into a drawn-out struggle that drew Śrīla Prabhupāda’s thoughts anxiously to Bombay wherever he traveled. Yet he preached with full presence of mind—from Australia to Hong Kong to Tokyo to Hawaii to Los Angeles. While in Los Angeles, Prabhupāda decided to visit Mexico, where his disciples had maintained an ISKCON center for a year.

Mexico City
June 2, 1972

Accompanied by his secretary, Śyāmasundara, and his servant, Nanda-kumāra, Śrīla Prabhupāda flew into Mexico City in the afternoon…

…Śrīla Prabhupāda entered the temple through the kitchen door. A single devotee was cooking. Startled to see Prabhupāda, the devotee offered frantic obeisances before him, and Prabhupāda asked, “Where are the devotees?” Mr. Araiza and Mrs. Diaz escorted him into the main room, a large, open area where devotees and dozens of guests were waiting. When the people saw Prabhupāda, they began to kneel before him with folded hands in the style of Catholic worshipers. He walked forward, pausing to gently touch their heads. A rain of flower petals caused Prabhupāda to look up. From the balcony railing of the second floor mezzanine devotees showered flowers upon Prabhupāda and his party. Ornate flower arrangements decorated the walls. One arrangement formed figures of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa and another the words of the mahā-mantra. “They are very artistic,” Prabhupāda appreciated, “just like in India.”

Belatedly, devotees rushed in from the airport. Conchshells blew, kīrtana began. Citsukhānanda arrived, breathless and apologetic, and offered obeisances before Prabhupāda.

“You have created a very nice transcendental atmosphere,” Prabhupāda said to him.

“Oh, Śrīla Prabhupāda,” Citsukhānanda replied, “it is only because you are here that it is very nice. Otherwise, I cannot do anything.”

Citsukhānanda showed Śrīla Prabhupāda to a room on the second floor, where on an altar small deities of Jagannatha, Subhadrā, and Baladeva stood. The freshly painted floor hadn’t dried, and a devotee spread a cloth for Prabhupāda so he could stand before the deities. Although the paint was tacky, Prabhupāda pushed the cloth away and paid obeisances on the floor, which retained the faint imprint of his soles and body.

Returning to the main room, Prabhupāda sat on his decorated vyāsāsana and spoke to the waiting guests and devotees. After a short lecture, translated phrase by phrase by Lakṣmīpriyā dāsī, Prabhupāda retired to his room. It was about 6:00 P.M. While Prabhupāda rested, the devotees and guests, now numbering several hundred, gathered in the main hall below Śrīla Prabhupāda’s room and began a mighty kīrtana. After an hour they were still going strong. After two hours Prabhupāda’s servant came out on the balcony and shouted down, “Stop the kīrtana!” The chanting subsided, and the servant went back into Prabhupāda’s room.

Śrīla Prabhupāda asked from his bed, “‘Why have they stopped the kīrtana?”

“I thought it was keeping you awake, Prabhupāda,” Nanda-kumāra said.

“I can rest with kīrtana,” Prabhupāda said pleasantly. “‘It doesn’t bother me. It is transcendental. Tell them to go on.”‘

Nanda-kumāra then reappeared on the balcony above the crowd and called down, “Prabhupāda wants to know why the kīrtana stopped. So start it up again.”

The crowd cheered and again began chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare, creating waves of blissful sound vibration that rang through the building. Even in the privacy of his room, Prabhupāda was enjoying a unique reciprocation with the people of Mexico on his first evening in their country—through the medium of the holy name.

Mexico

June 3

The next morning, Saturday, in the first initiation ceremony in Latin America, Śrīla Prabhupāda accepted eight Mexican disciples. He spoke about the mission of Lord Caitanya and then named the initiates after devotees from the pastimes in Caitanya-līlā. Śrīla Prabhupāda explained how Lord Caitanya had turned the nondevotees into devotees during His travels throughout India. Now Prabhupāda was himself extending the boundaries of that preaching mission into a new continent, making devotees for Lord Caitanya wherever he went.

Prabhupāda had never before met the devotees he was about to initiate, but he was accepting them on recommendation from the temple president, who confirmed that they had all been chanting sixteen rounds and following the four regulative principles for at least six months. Of all the candidates, only one young man, a worker in the devotees’ incense business, lived outside the temple, but he also had shaved his head and was eager to accept initiation. When he came before Śrīla Prabhupāda to receive his beads, Prabhupāda asked him, “Do you want a spiritual life or a material life?”

The young man was surprised, since Śrīla Prabhupāda hadn’t asked anyone else. He thought a moment. “I want a spiritual life.”

“That’s all right,”‘ said Śrīla Prabhupāda, and he gave him the beads…

…That evening Citsukhānanda stood in Prabhupāda’s room, about to leave. “Śrīla Prabhupāda, I am almost ashamed to tell you—I know you should rest—but I feel I should at least inform you that we have the opportunity to be on a national television program tonight.”

“Oh?” Prabhupāda replied. “How many people will watch?”

“About thirty million. It’s the most popular show.”

“Thirty million?” Śrīla Prabhupāda’s eyes widened. “‘Then we must go.”

“But Prabhupāda, you won’t be able to get off the program until maybe one or two in the morning.”

Prabhupāda: “That’s all right. We can sleep during the day.” Śrīla Prabhupāda was not at all reluctant, as he had seen that the people were eager to hear him. The great response they had shown during his lecture indicated their enthusiasm to receive his message.

Citsukhānanda: We went to the TV studio and waited there in the audience until after midnight. The program goes until 1:30, so it was a good time. 12:30 is the peak of the show. The TV interviewer asked Prabhupāda many things. When I translated all of what Śrīla Prabhupāda was explaining, the whole audience became stunned. Prabhupāda told them that the world could be happy if they would just love God and chant His names, Hare Kṛṣṇa. It seemed so simple. Actually everyone was stunned. Even the emcee was just completely stunned by Śrīla Prabhupāda’s answers, by his great sense of intelligence, understanding, and devotion. The emcee’s questions were trivial, about why the devotees shaved their heads and wore tilaka, why they dressed as they do, but Prabhupāda’s answers were brilliant.

The devotees chanted with Śrīla Prabhupāda during a kīrtana, accompanying him with guitars—Mexican style. At the conclusion of the show the interviewer asked, “Can you bless me?”

Śrīla Prabhupāda exclaimed, “All glories to Mexico City!”

The program ended. Citsukhānanda turned to the television announcer. “Thank you very much for giving us this opportunity.” The man made no reply. He was captivated by Śrīla Prabhupāda. He was overwhelmed. Śrīla Prabhupāda left the studio with the devotees, returning to the temple to take rest.

Sunday morning Prabhupāda took his walk a few blocks from the temple in Chapultepec Park, a large, beautiful park dating back to the Aztec empire. As he walked along he left the beaten paths and entered into the forest full of huge, old eucalyptus trees. The devotees appreciated how, without asking anyone’s direction, Prabhupāda seemed to know exactly how to go where he wanted and how to extricate himself from the forest and return to the temple.

At the temple Prabhupāda inspected all the rooms. He told the devotees it was a good building and they should keep it. He liked it. Aware that their standard of service and worship was humble, the devotees were amazed that Prabhupāda seemed so pleased with what they had done. For over a year they had been anxiously waiting for him to visit, and now he had come and they were fully satisfied.

Prabhupāda had been in Mexico less than twenty-four hours, yet the devotees already had a wealth of incidents—things Śrīla Prabhupāda had said and done in their country—to remember. He found the Mexican people pious. Their humility, simplicity, and devotion was reminiscent of the people of India. “Mexico is very much like India,” he said.

That same morning Prabhupāda held a second initiation ceremony. That afternoon at the Sunday festival hundreds of people, as many as could fit, crowded into the hall and onto the second-floor balcony to catch a glimpse of Śrīla Prabhupāda and to hear from him.

Radha-Kṛṣṇa: The first day I saw Śrīla Prabhupāda was at the Sunday lecture. I had never seen the temple so crowded. And yet it was completely quiet. There were reporters, students, people interested in different kinds of yoga and transcendentalism. Śrīla Prabhupāda mainly spoke about the principles of yoga. He specifically spoke on the sixth chapter of the Bhagavad-gītā. Somebody asked him why we discourage people from practicing the popular yoga that everyone practices. In answer, Prabhupāda developed a description of all that Lord Kṛṣṇa says in the sixth chapter about the qualities and requirements to practice yoga. He told how the yogī should practice celibacy, go to a sacred place, sit down, and practice the breathing exercises and all the austerities. Yoga was already very popular in Mexico. People had known about it for years. I was practicing yoga, and when I went to see Prabhupāda, I came with a group of people who were also interested in yoga. But when I saw Śrīla Prabhupāda, it was a very incredible experience. I had seen many yogīs, gurus, and Indian spiritual people. But when I saw Śrīla Prabhupāda it was a completely different experience. Suddenly all the other gurus had no place at all for me. Seeing Prabhupāda was like seeing a personification of all the teachings of the Vedas, all the descriptions given in the Bhagavad-gītā about a completely self-realized person. He was sitting and speaking with his eyes closed in such a serene way, without any tinge of material expression.

When Śrīla Prabhupāda returned to his room after the Sunday lecture, more than five hundred people remained, chanting “Jaya Prabhupāda! Jaya Prabhupāda! Jaya Prabhupāda! Jaya Prabhupāda! Prabhupāda, Prabhupāda, Prabhupāda!” Prabhupāda was sitting in his room with a f ew devotees, but the sound of the singing engulfed them. “What kind of kīrtana is this?” Prabhupāda asked. “They are making so much noise.”

“They are chanting your name,” Citsukhānanda said, and he went out to try and calm the crowd. But finding them overwhelmed with chanting Prabhupāda’s name, he returned to Prabhupāda’s room. “Prabhupāda,” he said, “they want to see you.”

“Well, let them come,” Śrīla Prabhupāda replied.

The devotees arranged that everyone could come and see Prabhupāda, one at a time. Through the two doors to his room it was arranged that the people come in a line, enter in one door, and leave from the other to return downstairs. One by one they came through in a great procession. After bowing down with awe and respect for the great saint who had entered among them, they would speak a few words in Spanish.

“What are they saying ?” Prabhupāda asked the devotees.

“Give me a blessing, a benediction,” a Mexican devotee replied.

Prabhupāda, his index finger protruding from his bead bag, began to point to each person as they approached him and say, “Hare Kṛṣṇa.” They were all very happy.

manuel-lepe-2

June 5

Early the next morning Prabhupāda asked Citsukhānanda, “What will we do today?”

“We’ve arranged a program in a nearby city, Cuernavaca,” said Citsukhānanda. “We have the use of the whole central plaza. They’ve given it for your lecture. They have microphones and a stage and everything, all ready for you to come.”

“Oh, this is very nice,” Prabhupāda said.

“Then you’re scheduled to give another lecture at a big hotel in Cuernavaca,” Citsukhānanda continued. “And then we can go to Lakṣmī-priyā dāsī’s house, where we can take prasādam.”

“Yes, this is very nice. Let us go.”

Śrīla Prabhupāda took a light breakfast and left for Cuernavaca by car. On the way one of the devotees explained to him that Cuernavaca, with its scenic location in the mountains, was a favorite place for writers and artists, including Americans.

When Prabhupāda arrived, several hundred people were gathered in the main plaza of the city. The crowd was varied tourists taking photographs, farmers, hippies, shoppers, artists, and businessmen. After a kīrtana the devotees introduced Śrīla Prabhupāda, who sat onstage before a large sign bearing the mahā-mantra. While a devotee held an umbrella over Prabhupāda’s head to protect him from the blazing noon sun, Śrīla Prabhupāda spoke. “We are not hippies,” he said. “We are happies.” The devotees’ happiness, he said, comes from associating with Kṛṣṇa, the reservoir of happiness, through chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa and through eating prasādam. Many people began nodding their heads in agreement. When he asked everyone to repeat the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra, many did.

Suddenly Prabhupāda saw Haihaya arriving with newly printed copies of La Conciencia de Kṛṣṇa Es el Sistema Mas Elevado de Yoga (Kṛṣṇa Consciousness, the Topmost Yoga System). Haihaya had just gotten the books from the printer that day, and Prabhupāda was very happy to see them. Interrupting his lecture, he said, “Now you can all take one of these books and read them.” The people actually came forward on Prabhupāda’s word and began to take the books. Haihaya had only brought about fifty copies, but Prabhupāda sold all of them. The people took the liberty of asking him for an autographed book, and he signed every one.

Immediately after the plaza lecture, Śrīla Prabhupāda went to the Casino de la Salva. With no sign of fatigue, Śrīla Prabhupāda lectured on the fundamental philosophy of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. The audience was particularly interested in haṭha-yoga and theosophy, and Śrīla Prabhupāda carefully answered their questions, introducing them to the elements of Kṛṣṇa consciousness.

Prabhupāda was next supposed to go to Lakṣmī-priyā dāsī’s home to take prasādam and rest. But he decided to return to the Mexico City temple. The devotees drove him back, arriving at about 8:00 P.M. From 8:00 in the morning until 8:00 P.M. he had taken only water. The devotees offered him fruit, but he refused it. He sat in his room, his eyes bright, his face blissful. “This is the way to be happy,” he said “—work all day for Kṛṣṇa.”‘

Prabhupāda asked for a cup of hot milk and purīs with sugar. Receiving these, he crushed the purīs into the sugar and drank the milk. The few devotees sitting with him were enthralled to see Prabhupāda’s transcendental happiness. “This is our life, to serve Kṛṣṇa,” he said. “Work all day for Kṛṣṇa, and take a little prasāda at night.”

June 6

Before one hundred students in an auditorium at the National University of Mexico, Prabhupāda described the student’s life as one of struggle. A student has to study diligently to keep from failing, and then after graduation he has to work hard for his food and other necessities. Material life is therefore always a struggle, ending in death. But a human being should ask why he has to endure all these struggles and sufferings and how he can become free of them. The auditorium was quiet, the students listening attentively, as Śrīla Prabhupāda spoke. But when he asked for questions, a Communist yelled out, “Where do you get the money to pay for your food if you’re so renounced? I think you belong to the C.I.A.!” A few other radicals also began calling out challenges. Prabhupāda promptly replied through his translator that because this university did not educate its students in the science of God, it was producing atheists, demons. Further comments from the radical students were overpowered by the audience’s applause. Śrīla Prabhupāda called for kīrtana and prasādam distribution, and the formal program ended. Many interested persons approached Śrīla Prabhupāda, asking further questions through Hanumān Goswami, who translated. Others sat taking prasādam. Several hours later Śrīla Prabhupāda left.

The university incident typified the response of the Mexican people to Śrīla Prabhupāda. With few exceptions, the people appreciated his work and the purity of his movement. As Prabhupāda had said, the people were simple and pious. Many still lived in villages and were similar to the people of India. Prabhupāda also remarked that the Mexicans were śūdras and that they were being saved by Lord Caitanya’s mercy.

The Masonic Lodge is very popular among respectable people in Mexico, particularly government officials, politicians, and intellectuals. A devotee whose father was a Mason arranged for Prabhupāda to speak at a prestigious Tuesday night gathering. It was a regularly scheduled meeting with some sixty members dressed in the uniform of the club. The devotees held kīrtana, and then Śrīla Prabhupāda spoke in English while Citsukhānanda translated each phrase as Prabhupāda talked. Prabhupāda spoke on the meaning and application of varṇāśrama-dharma, stressing the necessity of religion in all positions of society. The audience, immediately accepting Śrīla Prabhupāda’s authority and scholarship, asked intelligent questions, and at the conclusion of Prabhupāda’s talk they stood and applauded. One official spontaneously glorified Prabhupāda, praising his logic and his erudition. The lodge members, deciding to give Śrīla Prabhupāda a monetary donation, passed around a basket and presented the collection to Śrīla Prabhupāda.

Only a few devotees had been able to attend the meeting, but upon returning to the temple, one of them told the others, “Prabhupāda had the right answer every time, at the very moment he was asked about the philosophy, or about life, or about anything! Everyone was impressed.”

puerto-vallarta

June 7

On Wednesday afternoon Śrīla Prabhupāda left Mexico City and flew to Puerto Vallarta, on the Pacific Coast. Danny, a wealthy race car driver and friend of the Mexico City temple, owned a luxurious villa in the mountains overlooking the ocean. He had invited Śrīla Prabhupāda and several devotees to spend a few peaceful days there before Śrīla Prabhupāda left for Los Angeles.

A neighbor had cows, and the devotees brought one up to show Prabhupāda. “Why do they take milk from the cow and then kill her?” Prabhupāda asked. “Just like I am giving you something valuable every day, but when I cannot give you any more one day, then you put the knife in my throat. This is not right.”

After a mild rain, the sky cleared. Śrīla Prabhupāda sat outdoors on the terrace until sunset, his disciples seated at his feet, chanting. The atmosphere was calm, and beyond the line of palm trees the devotees could see the sun sinking into the ocean. As darkness came, mosquitoes began to bite.

“Prabhupāda,” Citsukhānanda asked, “you’re not getting bitten by mosquitoes?”

“No.”

“They sure are biting me,” said Citsukhānanda. “Most likely because you’re a pure devotee and I am not pure, that’s why the mosquitoes are biting me.”

“Maybe,” Prabhupāda said. “Here they are respectful, but in Calcutta, they make no distinction.”

The devotees asked Śrīla Prabhupāda questions about preaching. Since so many people they met were practicing haṭha-yoga, they asked how to change the people’s minds. Prabhupāda said, “Let them do it. Engage them in service also, and they will become purified.”

Mexico Yoga

Another devotee asked, “Śrīla Prabhupāda, people are always asking me whether I’ve been to India. They think that if I am teaching yoga, I should have gone to India.”

“You just tell them that India has come to you,” Śrīla Prabhupāda replied.

The devotees looked at Prabhupāda with great admiration. Yes, Prabhupāda was India—India personified, sitting before them. But he was more than just India; he was the spiritual world, all they knew of the spiritual world, and he had come for them.

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