By: Nityananda das, New Jayapur, Vanua Levu, Fiji Islands,
While Prabhupada chanted on the beads, Jagadisa led the devotees in repetitive chanting of mantras and the neck beads were put on the initiates. Throughout the ceremony was an overlap of activities by the yajna priest Jagadisa and Prabhupada, the diksha guru. Then Prabhupada handed beads and new names to his new disciples who come up to him one by one: Atmarama, Puranjana, Aprakrita das.
Aprakrta means transcendental. … There are different stages of understanding. First understanding is direct perception, pratyaksa. In Sanskrit word it is called pratyaksa, direct understanding. That tenth-class understanding, that is not actually understand-ing, direct perception. But people are giving stress that "I want to see. I want to touch." This is called pratyaksa. Then next is paroksa, hearing from authorities. Then aparoksa, realizing. Then adhoksaja means beyond the perception of the senses. Then aprakrta, transcendental. These are the stages for going to the aprakrta, transcendental stage. From direct perception, then, pratyaksa, paroksa, to take instruction from others. Then realization. Then beyond these senses. Then aprakrta, transcendental. So Krishna is aprakrta. Krishna cannot be understood by direct sense perception. Gradually you have to rise to the aprakrta stage, which is called Vasudeva stage, beyond this material understanding. That will take time. You have to practice that. Hare Krishna. Come on.
Next was Hiranyagarbha, and then Prabhupada noticed an initiate without neck beads, saying: “Where is…? No neck bead? How is that? Where is neck bead? Huh? Oh, these things are not good. It must be well equipped. Otherwise, what is the meaning of initiation? Give… No neck bead? Go on. First of all get neck beads.”
Then : “You have got neck beads? That's all right. Visvakarma. Visvakarma is the engineer of this universe. Hare Krishna. Jaya. You know what are the rules and regulations? That's right. Next? Come on. Dinesvara. Dinesvara is the name of sun, sun-god. Come on. We are all dasa, not the person. … Our position is always servant. Dasa-anudasa. Servant of the servant, servant of the servant, the more, the more you become on the lower status of servant, our position is greater. This is…”
Next: “You arranged for offering this sacrifice? You arranged? What is name? Maha? Mahavira. Eh? M, h, r. Mahavira. Mahavira is the name of Hanuman, the servant of Lord Ramacandra. He was very strong. He could raise even the hills for service of the Lord. Mahavira. Maha means great, and vira means hero.”
Prabhupada gave the name Bahishmati to a lady, and asked her, “You know, what are the rules? Tell me. Thank you. Hare Krishna.” Prabhupada asked how many initiates were remaining, and began chanting on more beads again. He noticed someone’s beads lying on the floor, noting this should never be done. Then another lady approached the Vyasasana: “Mahayajni is a name of Lord Siva. Hare Krishna. Take.”
Uttamasloka das and Pratyatosa das received their beads, also Bhagavati dasi, Tapasvini dasi, and Svarga dasi. Jagadisa had continued with the sacrificial mantras while the beads were being distributed, and the fire reached its peak as the bananas were offered to the flames. Prabhupada left the temple room filling up with thick smoke to cross the central hallway foyer into the large and empty prasadam room. He sat down behind a small low table and Rupanuga pulled the huge and tall double sliding ballroom doors shut as they met in the middle, and stood guard. He gave entry to one new brahmana initiate at a time so they could quietly, privately, and personally receive the Gayatri mantra directly from their spiritual master.
Every time an initiate came out and another went in, I positioned myself to peer inside, able to glimpse Srila Prabhupada for a few seconds. All I wanted was to keep Prabhupada in my vision as much as I could. Then it was my wife Kanya Kumari’s turn; she was my first initiation recommendation as New Orleans temple president, and she was ushered inside to receive the mantra. I felt very left out and wanted to see the exchange, but the doors prevented that. Why was my wife entitled to personally sit alone with Prabhupada, when I had gotten both first and second initiations by mail?
Just then a rascal idea arose in my mind, and I quickly jostled through the packed devotees engaged in kirtan, rushed through the kitchen, past surprised and protesting cooks, and out the rear door of the temple. I picked up another devotee as accomplice with a few words, “Let’s watch through the window!” Around the building we ran, to the front of the temple, and we peeked through the glass of a large window, the sill being at my eye level. On tiptoes I saw Srila Prabhupada’s back towards me and my wife sitting next to him counting the mantras on her fingers. I didn’t want to miss this – I had never seen Prabhupada give the Gayatri mantra before.
However, after a half minute, inexplicably, Srila Prabhupada turned and looked directly at us. I ducked quickly; how did he know I was there? Had I made a sound that he heard? I thought it was just coincidence, so again I cautiously edged my eyes up to the window ledge and peeked inside once more. Prabhupada turned his head around again, as I ducked down, now shocked. The other devotee had muttered, “Oh, oh…” and run away. Hunched down, I stubbornly crept around the corner to the side window and cautiously glimpsed in a third time. Within seconds Prabhupada again turned my way and stared directly at me. I sank down to the ground. Visually, I should have been invisible to Prabhupada – so he could somehow sense my presence beyond normal powers of sight. My inappropriate intrusion was detected from any direction, even from behind. How could he catch me spying on him? Flushed with embarrassment at my own brash foolishness, and returning inside past the cooks again, I realized the error of invading my spiritual master’s privacy and taking him to have the same limitations as I had. At the same time I was amazed and exhilarated to have experienced the mystic abilities of the pure devotee. My faith that Prabhupada was not an ordinary person increased dramatically.
After Prabhupada had given the last brahmana initiate the Gayatri mantra, he came out amid the devotees who had all the while been engaged in kirtan. They filled the grand entrance foyer and stood on the staircase for a better view. Prabhupada spoke into a leaning Rupanuga’s ear, asking if he could be shown to a bathroom. Rupanuga led Prabhupada through the parting crowd to the same rear doorway which led to the kitchen, where a bathroom was located in a hallway. The devotees pushed up in front of this doorway, waiting for Prabhupada to return, and I was left in the rear. Again inspiration struck. I ran out the front door, around the temple through the yard, past the windows through which I had just been peeking, and into the rear door. Surprising the cooking crew in the kitchen for a third time, I tried to appear as though I had some serious service rationale for passing through, and then I stood in the empty narrow hallway next to Rupanuga outside the bathroom. It was just my mentor and myself, waiting for Prabhupada to appear.
Prabhupada arrives at dawn
Rupanuga held Prabhupada’s bead bag, as japa beads are never taken into the bathroom. Grinning, Rupanuga began playfully touching Prabhupada’s bead bag to his head several times, and then raised them up graciously and dramatically, resting them on top of my head, holding them there for a few moments. The spiritual potency of Prabhupada’s most holy japa beads soaked through my heavy skull. What a benediction! Srila Prabhupada came out, I awkwardly snapped a photo, and in a minute he was gone back to his suburban retreat until the next day.
During these long days in Detroit, I did not pitch in to help with cleaning, cooking, or much of anything. My attitude was that I had come to see Prabhupada, and I avoided getting involved. Rather, I simply loitered about, meeting new devotees, chanting spacy rounds, looking for a place to take a nap, and wondering where I could find some prasadam or privacy. I found my way up to the attic via a substantial staircase and admired the hefty wood beams and solid construction of this fourth level of the temple mansion. I envisioned how the walls and ceiling could be finished with wallboard and how the inadequate temple room downstairs could be shifted up there where the spaciousness measured the full length and width of the building. Testing the attic floor, I could tell that it was plenty sturdy to support many devotees dancing in kirtan. Inspired, I found Bhagavan das and shared my suggestion with him: finish the attic into the new temple room! He was dubious, and busy. Later I saw photos of the new Detroit temple room in the former attic.
(….To be continued)