Chapter 27 – In Puri with Srila Prabhupada

25 January to 26 January


Since arriving in Bhubaneswar, Srila Prabhupada had several times talked about going to Jagannatha Puri, about an hour away. He had not been to Puri since 1958. Since his western disciples were not allowed to enter the Jagannathaa

Temple, Srila Prabhupada said he would not enter either. Early one morning Srila Prabhupada set out in his car for Puri, on the Bay of Bengal.

January 25

“The morning Prabhupada went out by car to visit Jagannathaa Puri. We went early in the morning and it took about an hour to get there.

We drove to a beachfront hotel called Tourist Bungalow Number One. To reach it we went through the main street in front of the temple where the ratha carts are drawn annually. I was surprised to see how wide it is, and at one end there is the famous Gundica temple where Their Lordships stay for one week before returning to the temple. As we went Prabhupada pointed out to us the house where Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati was born.

At the hotel Prabhupada was given a room at the end of the first floor veranda and myself and Satsvarupa camped out in front of his door on the veranda itself. Gargamuni and Gurukrpa and their men got rooms elsewhere. Prabhupada took some breakfast and rested and later, in his room I massaged him.”

Jayadharma dasa: One day Srila Prabhupada wanted to go to Puri and so all the devotees went to Jagannatha Puri along with him. There were many devotees and we all stayed in the Tourist Bungalow Number One on the beach there. We went swimming, and when Srila Prabhupada saw us swimming too much he sent a message down that we should not spend too much time on the beach, but rather we should chant hari-nama. He did not mind a little swimming but no ‘loitering swimming’.

R. dasa: Srila Prabhupada arrived in Jagannatha Puri. He was not well at that time, and most of the devotees were assembled at the Tourist Lodge, the Government Tourist Hotel on the beach.

Jayadharma dasa: The temple brahmanas (Puri pandas) came to the Tourist Bungalow from the Puri temple and invited Srila Prabhupada to go to the Jagannatha temple, but he refused to go as long as his disciples were not allowed to go in.

Srila Prabhupada stayed a day at the beachside Tourist Bungalow, and one of his Godbrothers, Syamasundara brahmacari, from the local Purushottama Gaudiya Math, visited. After he left, Sri Sevasiva Rath, a member of the pujari committee of the Jagannatha temple, also came to visit. Prabhupada spoke to him about the possibility of ISKCON devotees entering the Jagannatha temple. To bar the western vaisnavas from entering the temple was prejudiced and ignorant. Since the members of the Krsna consciousness movement were fully engaged in spiritual life, they should not be considered unfit simply because of their birth status or race. Sevasiva Rath was friendly and agreed with Srila Prabhupada; he promised he would do what he could to help. He also told Srila Prabhupada about a book he had just published and invited him to attend a small pandala meeting the next evening, at which the book would be inaugurated. Srila Prabhupada agreed.

January 26

“After breakfast and his rest Prabhupada called me in to ask what I thought about his bathing in the sea. We all thought it would be a very good idea as the seawater is supposed to be good for health and digestion. So he decided to try it. He had his massage in the bedroom and then he walked down to the beach with his towel on over his gamcha. A concrete path took us 150 yards to within a few yards of the shore, and leaving his towel on the sand Prabhupada stepped carefully down to the water’s edge. All the members of the nama-hatta stood around him in the water with Bhagavata, jayadharma who had his camera, and others.

As the water came in and swirled around his lotus feet almost up to his knees and then out again. I began to scoop up some water and wash Prabhupada’s body. I began with his arms and then his chest and then his back and his head, washing off all the oil. First of all I did it, then Gargumuni, Gurukrpa and then everyone started to scoop a little water and pour it on Prabhupada’s body. Prabhupada laughed and it became like a transcendental abhiseka as all the devotees cried ‘Jaya Prabhupada, Hari bol.’

After about ten minutes in the water Prabhupada came out and then changed into his clothes and went back up to the hotel.”

Next morning, from the porch, Srila Prabhupada was watching the devotees swimming. Calling Harisauri over, he said he would like to bathe in the ocean and asked what he thought about it. Harisauri and the other devotees present all thought it was a good idea. Sea water was supposed to be very good for health, they said. Prabhupada said he would try it, and after taking his morning massage walked down to the seashore, wearing his gamacha and carrying a towel.

Some of the devotees were already in the ocean, and when Srila Prabhupada reached the water’s edge, they all gathered around him…. After about ten minutes, Prabhupada came out of the water, changed his clothes, and walked back to the hotel.

The devotees were requesting Srila Prabhupada to come to the beach for swimming, but he was feeling sick. So the devotees went down to the beach and Srila Prabhupada decided, all right; let me at least see them swimming in the ocean. So he went down to the beach accompanied by some of the devotees and sat down for some time watching the devotees. When he saw they were enjoying such an ecstatic experience in the ocean, he decided to go in too, so he went in and Gurukrpa started bathing him with water and all the devotees started splashing some water on Srila Prabhupada.

Jayadharma dasa: Then Srila Prabhupada came for a swim himself, and he said that he felt a regaining of his life since bathing in the ocean at Jagannatha Puri.

There were many devotees there; the whole nama-hatta party from Japan was there, which was about fifteen men; Bhagavata dasa was there, satsvarupa Maharaja, and Srila Prabhupada’s servant. Gargamuni and his traveling party were there, which must have been at least twenty men; and a couple of devotees from the Gaudily Math. That would have been well over fifty devotees.

Jayadharma dasa: We started chanting on the main street of Puri; that pleased Srila Prabhupada very much. Big hari-nama in the main street for hours in front of the Puri temple. Also at Puri a pandala programmed was organized. Many, many people were there and the people wanted Srila Prabhupada to speak in Bengali, but he did not; he spoke in English because, as he said, ‘They are all my disciples here and it is my duty to enlighten them.’ We really relished Srila Prabhupada for that.

Srila Prabhupada Visits the Saksi-Gopala Temple

“So at 7.30 p.m. we set off of Bhubaneswar and as we drove back we passed through a small town called Saksi Gopala, named after the famous deity mentioned in the Caitanya-caritamrta who is resident there. Because of the desire of the devotees Prabhupada agreed to visit the Deity for darsana. Previously there had been some difficulty with the pujaris, they had not wanted out men to come in, but they relented.”

“As we drove in under the big sign over the entrance I noted it said that this was the Saksi-gopala temple and no admission fee was charged. I thought that if there is no fee then why even advertise it? Why not just allow people to come in without saying, ‘O, we are not charging.’ It obviously meant that the pujaris were money conscious. So we got out and proceed down the left side of the raised darsana area to the end and then began to make our ascent to the deity room viewing area. As we mounted the first steps a number of men appeared at the top clearly bent on intimidating us not come any further. First they tried to tell us we should go to another temple over to our left for darsana but we insisted, ‘No. Saksi-gopala is this way,’ and were making our way to the top of the stairs. Then they drew a large bamboo pole across their front to block us. We were shocked that they were daring to do this front of Prabhupada and the whole situation became very tense. We were concerned that it was Prabhupada who was coming up for darsana and it was Prabhupada who was being checked.”

“Then another man appeared at the top and seeing Prabhupada, he immediately dispersed the others and allowed us up. It was very distasteful.

“So Prabhupada was allowed to walk right into the deity room and a few of us that could fit squeezed in and we found ourselves standing only one or two feet from the beautiful majestic six foot high form of saksi-gopala. Even though the floor was covered with pools of water Prabhupada got down and offered his obeisances and we followed him. After standing for about half a minute he turned to go out and was immediately crowded by the temple pujaris.”

“Gurukrpa told him they were now expecting some money and he handed a fifty rupee note to him to give to the men. I was again surprised at the amount as Prabhupada would never normally give such a large donation for this kind of thing. However he passed out the note to an outstretched hand, and as he did so several men at the back strained over their comrades’ shoulders to see how much. When they saw it was fifty rupees they began to say, ‘Fifty! It’s only fifty. We want one hundred and fifty!’ this was still in the deity room.

“Prabhupada did not stop to discuss the issue and he walked right out and proceeded to the car, followed by the men asking for more. He walked steadily without giving them any recognition. As we came into he courtyard another man came from the front and offered us some maha-prasada in the form of some large laddu balls. However, after giving a small amount to Prabhupada, he began breaking off the tiniest of pieces and after dropping them into our open palms he also began demanding his payment.

“We ignored him and climbed into the car after Prabhupada and thus we drove off. One or two of them continued to pursue the car as we went out the entrance and back on our way to Bhubaneswar, still shouting for their one hundred rupees. The whole thing was a very unpleasant experience. Prabhupada’s only comment was, ‘The saksi-gopala deity is not properly dressed.’

“Finally we arrived back in Bhubaneswar at 9.30 p.m.”

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