Satsvarupa dasa Goswami

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Writtings by Satsvarupa dasa Goswami re-published from various sources.

"...Around this time there were around sixty devotees living in the temple..."
"...Painting was a service that gave the painters great enthusiasm, and they worked all day and night, and I had to tear them away from their canvases..."

- Satsvarupa dasa Goswami

Glimpses of Preaching in Boston

This picture shows Bharadraja holding up a Back to Godhead magazine and giving a short speech to the folks who had gathered to watch at a distance at the Boston Commons. We would sing for about a half hour and then a devotee would give a short talk. Shortly after this picture was taken a rowdy rushed from the crowd and punched Bharadraja in the stomach. Bharadraja had the wind taken out of him, and he crumpled up, although he uttered the words “Hare Krishna”. Several devotee men immediately grabbed the assailant and turned him over to the police. We charged him with assault and the case went to court. The rowdy’s lawyer said that Bharadraj had provoked the man with “inflammatory speech.” The judge then heard Bharadraja’s version. The judge was still for a less than a minute and then he said “I don’t think this man is capable of inflammatory speech.” He sent the assailant to thirty days in jail. But it wasn’t the last of assaults on devotees.

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This is a picture of night sankirtana in downtown Boston in 1970. The Broadway musical “Hair” was showing at the theater in Boston. “Hair” was a musical about what hippie life was like in the 1960s and the very last scene ended with the entire cast singing the Hare Krishna mantra. The devotees took the opportunity to stand right outside the theatre and chant Hare Krishna to the exiting theatre goers who had just heard “Hare Krishna” sung in the theatre. The devotees would distribute handfuls of burning incense and hold out conch shells asking for donations. The crowd was in a good mood having just heard the Hare Krishna mantra and when they saw the nontheatrical authentic version of Hare Krishna chanters it warmed them up. Devotees would usually collect forty or fifty dollars within a few minutes and thoroughly enjoy themselves chanting in such a heart-warming atmosphere.

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Early Classes in Boston

These are pictures of scriptural classes held in the Boston temple around 1969. The temple room was spacious. The men sat on one side and the women sat on the other side. We would take turns reading out loud from one of Prabhupada’s books. And we would have some kind of discussion or questions and answers, I can’t remember exactly what. But there was sharing of realizations. We would sometimes have two classes a day. It wasn’t one devotee giving a monologue lecture. It was a warm and sweet atmosphere. We were learning for the first time. Some students were more advanced than others, but there wasn’t envy. Everyone wanted to learn and become more Krishna conscious. In one of the photos the devotee on the right, wearing spectacles, is Hridayananda. He was a good student. He was one of the few who could pronounce the Sanskrit, and he was appreciated. It was an ista-gosthi (“discussion among friends”) mood and devotees were not afraid to ask questions and expose that they didn’t know the answers to information in the scriptures. It was more important to learn that to bluff or remain quiet and ignorant. Sometimes there were disagreements, and we wrote our question in a letter to Srila Prabhupada. Around this time there were around sixty devotees living in the temple. We had speaker systems throughout the building and devotees in the kitchen or press department in the basement or art department who could not attend the scripture class could hear it on speakers.

At this time I was typing Prabhupada’s dictation tapes for the Krishna book, and I was the first one to hear the pastimes. It was a great pleasure and privilege to be the first one to speak the lilas and the devotees enjoyed me telling the stories. Those who read his books and were cognizant of the philosophy of Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam were looked up to. But they did not act puffed up about it but shared it with the community. It was a good period in ISKCON in that temple.

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ISKCON Artists Boston 1970s

These are pictures of the ISKCON artists working in Boston in 1970. Bharadraja is painting Lord Caitanya taming the wild beasts in the jungle by His chanting of the holy names. Murali-dhara is touching up a picture of four-headed Lord Brahma in Satyaloka. The devotees hadn’t been painting so long, but they were learning by working. This was a favorite policy of Prabhupada’s: A book distributor would learn how to sell books by doing it, a manager would learn on the job. The artists made mistakes and were awkward at first, but they would work so hard and constantly that they would quickly learn. Prabhupada didn’t even like the idea of their studying the great masters in painting. They should just paint by their own abilities. Prabhupada had introduced paintings as illustrations for his books. He initially asked Jadurani to paint dozens of pictures of Krishna’s pastimes for his Krishna book. Some of the paintings were obviously beginners work, but he saw some sincerity in them and he published them. Gradually the artist group became efficient in a realistic style of figures painted according to the way they were described in the scriptures, literally.

They worked in a rather large area on a second floor with lots of windows. About six painters could work at one time, with lamps clamped to their canvases. They’d listen to Prabhupada’s lectures or bhajans of him singing while they painted, and they considered their lives blissful. Working on the Press in separation from Prabhupada while he toured the world produced intense dedication. The painters felt dedicated. During this early time I was the manager of the painting department. I didn’t have many duties. I assigned the pictures, managed the personnel and my main job turned out to be how to restrain the devotees from working too much. Painting was a service that gave the painters great enthusiasm, and they worked all day and night, and I had to tear them away from their canvases. They were in a mood of painting in a marathon spirit, and Prabhupada encouraged it.  When the paintings were completed and used in the books the originals were put in simple frames and hung in the temples. Prabhupada personally gave instructions by mail as to how  exactly the characters should be painted.  Arjuna should not wear a mustache, Radharani’s feet should not show, as a sign of Her modesty. And he liked bright colors. Jadurani kept painting men with long curly hair below their shoulders. Prabhupada had a hard time curing her of this habit. He wanted the hair only down to their shoulders. Prabhupada declared the paintings were “windows to the spiritual sky” and were worshipable objects, like Deities.

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July 1971

A favorite picture, I show it again. It’s Prabhupada installing Radha Krishna (now called Radha Gopivallabha) in Boston in July of 1971. That’s a long time ago. I was still dressed in white. The installation ceremony was simpler than was done in later years. Prabhupada supervised it and told exactly what paraphernalia to use, so it is a bona fide installation even though lacking some of the ingredients and procedures used nowadays. Only two people conducted the yajna. Prabhupada reads from the Gaudiya Matha edition of the Brahma-samhita, the Sanskrit prayers of Lord Brahma. He has come to Boston for a few days in the midst of worldwide quick-stop travels. Despite the simplicity, the ceremony is clean and neat and the Deities are very beautiful. The temple room is effulgent in late morning sunlight. Prabhupada has personally selected the deities in India, identical to Radha Madhava in Mayapur.

I pour milk and yogurt on the Deities. The temple is filled with devotees, approximately twenty of whom will be initiated by Prabhupada on a next day. Boston is no longer a big, important temple with ISKCON Press having moved to Brooklyn, but Prabhupada has kindly come to the city at my repeated requests. He has recently been to Moscow and Paris and he will next go to Brooklyn. He is most affectionate and caring to have stopped to perform this installation, and he impresses us with the importance of Deity worship, that he personally took the trouble of coming and that he allowed me to assist him as priest.

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Srila Prabhupada at Boston Logan Airport, 1971

These are pictures of a jolly procession of Prabhupada and his disciples at Logan Airport, Boston. It is July 1971, and His Divine Grace is leaving Boston to catch a plane to New York. As usual, the happy Hare Krishnas are oblivious to being in public, adoring their spiritual master and loudly singing the Hare Krishna mantra. Prabhupada is walking at a sprightly pace, with long flower garlands, orange socks and black slippers. He is like a Pied Piper leading us away from the material world and are happily following him as far as he will lead us. On his left, Drstadyumna and Sumati Dasi are carrying a large seat for him to sit on when he reaches the final airport gate where we can sit at his feet and share some last moments. To his left, his traveling secretary, Aravinda Dasa is carrying packages for the plane. An Indian lady, a congregational member, is along for the walk. Tall Kirtiraja is looming over Prabhupada’s head, and I am playing clanging karatalas. For those who recognize the devotees, Patita Pavana, Samba, Rupanuga, Svarupa are also in the picture and a causal friend of the temple, dressed in black. We were sitting in a waiting area quietly and suddenly one of the devotees started a kirtana, then his plane was called and then we all began our merry march. Prabhupada doesn’t seem to mind it a bit, is not embarrassed, but likes the spreading of the holy name in a public place. We would probably never attempt such a tumultuous kirtana at Logan Airport if Prabhupada hadn’t been present. He allowed you to break barriers and take chances. I remember it was late morning, and when we reached the end of the corridor we shared sweet moments with him before his plane was called. After he left, my wife told me I should have gone to New York with Prabhupada, it was such a rare opportunity to spend time with one’s spiritual master. But he had just installed Radha-Krishna Deities and initiated about twenty devotees, and I felt I had a responsibility to stay in my prabhu-datta-desa and serve him there.

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