Opening the Juhu Temple

in

By Giriraj Swami - 16.1 2018

Three sections from “I’ll Build You a Temple: A Good Fight and a Promise Fulfilled”

Before the Vrindavan temple opening, Srila Prabhupada had instructed us to organize it the way Maharaja Yudhisthira had organized the Rajasuya sacrifice, with a prominent person in charge of each department. As stated in Krsna, “King Yudhisthira arranged to perform the Rajasuya sacrifice. He invited all the qualified brahmanas and sages to take part and appointed them to different positions as priests in charge of the sacrificial arena.”

For the Juhu temple opening, leading devotees came from all over the world. Ramesvara, as the trustee for the North American BBT, based in Los Angeles, gave Mukunda three thousand dollars—quite a lot then—and free rein to promote the event.

“So,” Mukunda recalled, “using the money he gave me, I took a flight from Los Angeles to New York, and I went to a street-side copy shop on 6th Avenue and made printouts of all the slides I had of the Juhu temple, some of which were truly magnificent.

“I then took an Air India flight to New Delhi and got a list of all the foreign media located there. My first stop was to be the Los Angeles Times. I arrived about fifteen minutes later than my appointed time. The woman who was the bureau chief of the Los Angeles Times was wearing tennis shoes and was angry that I was fifteen minutes late, because she said that I would make her late for her tennis match. So I left her the printouts of the Juhu temple and moved on.

“At the office of The New York Times the bureau chief was very friendly and had a copy of the MacMillan edition of Bhagavad-gita As It Is on his bookshelf. I then visited a few more people, including some Australian media and the ABC Television bureau chiefs, and I left printouts of the Juhu temple with all of them.

“A few days later, I was visited by a news representative named Ramanujan. He said that he thought the Juhu temple opening would make a good story for Newsweek, and he also wanted to publish another article, ‘Hare Krishna Is Here to Stay.’ He was very favorable. A photographer named Jahengir Gazdir was eager to take photographs of the events at the temple.

“In Bombay, working with Gopal Krishna and others, I met many people eager to promote the event, and the Indian Express published a two-page article with the headline stating that A. C. Bhaktivedanta was the greatest ambassador of Indian culture to the world.

“Most of the people I visited in Delhi were actually going to come for the opening—from The New York Times, Australian television, ABC News, and others. Barry Came, from Newsweek, flew in from Hong Kong. Most of them stayed at the nearby Holiday Inn. Apparently, their bosses thought the event was important enough to justify their flying to Juhu.” We gave Mukunda a room in the guesthouse for the media people to keep their cameras and other gear, and, assisted by Abhinanda, he organized gift packets for them.

Along with preparations for the grand opening ceremonies, we also had to arrange for the functioning of the project after it opened. Bali Mardan, one of the most prominent temple leaders in America, based in New York, came to run the guesthouse, now finished in finely carved red and white sandstone, which kept the salty ocean air from penetrating the reinforced concrete and corroding the structural steel. Each of the fifty guest rooms, half of which were air-conditioned, had a balcony overlooking the palm trees. The west tower had an extension counter of the Indian Overseas Bank on its ground floor and Srila Prabhupada’s quarters on the top floor.

Michael Lord, who for a decade had managed London’s historic and prestigious Carlton Club, arrived to oversee the restaurant, which would serve Continental and Indian-style vegetarian dishes, all offered to the Lord before being relished as prasada.

Jagat Purusa had always done what was necessary for the project, from cooking to Deity worship to life membership. He had a flair and a passion for Krishna conscious theatrical performances, and he would take charge of the Bhaktivedanta Auditorium. The theater would be among India’s most sophisticated and versatile, with a seating capacity of 425, the most advanced sound and lighting equipment, 16 and 35mm projectors, stage lifts for special effects, a recording studio, and green rooms and dressing rooms for the performers. Burjor Mistry, the consulting architect for Bombay’s National Center for the Performing Arts and the foremost theater builder in India, had done the design. When he had heard that ISKCON was planning a theater for devotional performing arts and that it would be part of a project that would include a modern guesthouse and classical temple, he had been moved to donate his services. And Dravida, who had come from America to do an article about the temple opening for Back to Godhead, wrote, “Srila Prabhupada’s inspiration provided a modern setting where everyone can delight in India’s rich devotional culture. In fact, many people say that the Bhaktivedanta Auditorium will herald a renaissance of devotion in the performing arts.”

Narottamananda, who had a fine artistic sensibility and had served as a pujari in Vrindavan, came to be the head pujari and set up the expanded deity program, as he had done in Vrindavan. As per Srila Prabhupada’s instructions, the installation of the deities was performed by a combination of brahmans and Prabhupada’s disciples. There was one procedure for installing the new deities and one for moving the already installed Deities of Sri Sri Radha-Rasabihari to Their new location. Different senior devotees sat with different small utsava deities; I was with Sitadevi.

Interviewing me for the Back to Godhead article, Dravida began, “Could you tell us how you got involved in the Bombay project?”

“In March of 1972, Srila Prabhupada asked me to take charge,” I replied. “This was one month after we had gotten possession of this land at Juhu Beach. When the first few devotees came here, we were living in a hut. It was really difficult, but eventually we built an additional floor on top of some apartment buildings that were already on the land, and we moved up there. From the beginning Srila Prabhupada emphasized that this project was for spreading Krishna consciousness. Every time he would come to Bombay, he would ask us how the rooms were being used, and he was very critical if we were not making full use of each room. The point was that every available facility should be used for spreading Krishna consciousness.”

“What were some of the highlights of those early days?”

“As soon as we got possession of the land, which we named ‘Hare Krishna Land,’ Srila Prabhupada had us put up a pandal and hold a big Hare Krishna festival. We brought the Deities, Radha-Rasabihariji, from our temple in the city, and every night hundreds of people came to hear Srila Prabhupada speak and to chant Hare Krishna with us and take in a Krishna conscious drama or musical performance. It was then that we started seeing how right Prabhupada had been in making Juhu Beach the site for a temple and cultural center.”

“This was all in March of 1972?”

“Yes, but because of legal difficulties, it wasn’t until October of 1973 that we finally acquired full title to the land and could really begin construction.”

“This project is amazingly unique. Whose idea was it, and what are its main features?”

“From the very beginning, the idea was completely Srila Prabhupada’s. Although no one else could understand it at the time, he knew that this land at Juhu Beach would make for a perfect center for spreading Krishna consciousness: it was far enough from the city to have the peaceful, spiritual atmosphere of the country, but at the same time it was near enough to the city to be convenient for most people.”

“So the temple-hotel-theater complex was originally Srila Prabhupada’s idea to make it easy for people to come and experience Krishna consciousness?”

“Yes, exactly. Srila Prabhupada had written that it is the duty of the acarya to engage everyone in serving Lord Krishna. So Prabhupada’s idea was that whatever people like to enjoy—a comfortable building, good food, beautiful art, music, drama, dance—whatever they want, they should have in superlative form, with Krishna in the center. In other words, people should be able to experience what the Indian culture really is: glorification of the Lord. And above all, visitors should have the opportunity to chant the Lord’s names and read Srila Prabhupada’s books.

“Have the people of Bombay responded favorably?”

“Well, Srila Prabhupada was so farsighted that at first the people here couldn’t appreciate his vision. But now that Juhu has developed into the most important section of Bombay, and now that the people have seen the project take shape, they’re very enthusiastic about it. Many of them want to take an active part.”

“What does the future hold for the new cultural center? Do you have plans for more construction?”

“Yes. Srila Prabhupada wanted us to construct one more large building—six stories—that would include a children’s school, a diorama museum, a retirement home, and a book warehouse. He felt that many of Bombay’s pious and aristocratic families would want to send their children to our school to cultivate character and self-realization—in other words, Krishna consciousness. He also said that we should include a section for older people, that there are many old people who want to give everything up, surrender to Krishna, pass their last days in a Krishna conscious community, and then go back home, back to Godhead. So we should provide a facility for them.”

“When people come to stay here, at either the guesthouse or the retirement home, will there be guidelines for them to follow?”

“Yes. To preserve the spiritual atmosphere here, Srila Prabhupada said that we should begin by requesting every guest to follow our four regulative principles: no gambling, no intoxicants, no illicit sex, and no meat, fish, or eggs.

“And this would keep the atmosphere pure.”

“Yes. ‘Purity is the force,’ Prabhupada always said. He told us never to concoct some materialistic scheme for becoming successful. He just wanted us to stay Krishna conscious, do our best, and leave the rest to Krishna.”

We could hardly sleep for nights before the grand opening: There was so much to do—and we were so excited. Many devotees had participated in the effort, but I also began to notice that some of our leaders preferred to work with—or accommodate—only their friends. Tamal Krishna commented that we had entered a new era: During Prabhupada’s time we had all worked together, for his pleasure. Now many devotees would return to their home countries and cities to be in places where and among people with whom, based on their conditioning, they felt most comfortable. But generally, everyone had cooperated wonderfully and worked hard to publicize and organize the event.

Finally, the big day arrived, Saturday, Makara-sankranti, January 14, 1978—exactly two months after Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance. Visitors started streaming through the gates from early in the morning, and our loyal supporters, who had stood by Srila Prabhupada and the devotees through thick and thin through all the years of struggle against so much opposition, were there to relish the triumphant occasion. Altogether, fifteen thousand people attended the inaugural function.

The temple was decorated with elaborate flower arrangements, including festoons of marigolds strung from the large chandelier hanging from the center of the ceiling of the darshan mandapa to the pillars and balconies at the perimeter of the hall.

When the conch shells sounded and the doors opened to reveal the Deities in Their new home, the devotees were overwhelmed with joy. “Rasabihari had such a big smile,” Pundarika Vidyanidhi remembered. “That was one time when I saw that the Deity was really alive. He had such a big smile on His face when the doors opened.”

A row of ornate chairs, like thrones, was arranged for the special guests: Sri Vasantdada Patil, Chief Minister of Maharashtra; to his left, Sri Prabhudas Patwari, Governor of Tamil Nadu; and to his left, Sri Raj Narain, Union (Central Government) Minister of Health and Family Welfare. To his left was Tamal Krishna, and to the chief minister’s right was Sri Dharamsinh Dadubhai Desai, MP; I sat on his right, at the end of the row.

My heart was pounding with excitement. Scenes from the years of struggles flashed through my mind, and now it was actually happening—Sri Sri Radha-Rasabihari’s new temple was about to open. How I wished Srila Prabhupada could have been personally present to relish the occasion and to bless the honored guests, the throngs of visitors, and his disciples, who had labored so long and hard to bring us to this stage, with his personal presence and divine words.

But Krishna had another plan: We were to experience Prabhupada’s presence even in separation and assume the responsibilities for which he had so carefully and patiently trained us all those years. I prayed that everything would go well, that there wouldn’t be any mishaps or missteps, and that in my nervousness I wouldn’t balk or bungle anything. And, as we had realized so vividly when we were trying to leave Vrindavan for Calcutta and Mayapur, I knew that I was completely dependent on Srila Prabhupada’s mercy at every step.

I had arranged for a framed painting of Shrinathji to be installed, to appeal to His followers, who were mainly Gujaratis, and I gave the honor of unveiling it to Sri D. D. Desai, who had helped us in so many ways.

In his talk, Chief Minister Patil said that all people should follow Lord Krishna’s advice in the Bhagavad-gita for eternal peace and happiness. Raj Narain spoke in appreciation of the devotees, saying, “It is amazing to me that now Westerners have taken to the Indian culture just when we are losing it.”

Governor Patwari spoke extensively about the temple’s universal value and appeal: “I deem it a blessing to be associated with this solemn function. The Krishna consciousness movement is a divine spark, a movement which is meant to give peace and happiness to millions of people all over the world. So I welcome the construction of this temple and the opening of the Bhaktivedanta Center of Vedic Culture in this great cosmopolitan city of Bombay, where people of all races, nationalities, castes, and communities, high and low, live in amity. I have no doubt that this Vedic institution will proclaim to the world that here flourishes a great movement, which has become the symbol of eternal religion (sanatana-dharma).

“Krishna appeared like a common cowherd boy, and therefore He is attractive to the common man. Numerous incidents of His life, from childhood onward, reveal how easily He destroyed evil forces and brought success for the good. Now the Krishna consciousness movement has become an international movement, and this is due to the spiritual stature of Sri A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who, with single-minded devotion, dedication, and love for humanity, spread the gospel of Sri Krishna from continent to continent. Through the exalted mission of Swamiji, the life and teachings of Lord Krishna have inspired millions of men and women throughout the world. The departure of this great world-teacher of God consciousness is a severe loss for the whole world, but I am sure he will continue to guide the Krishna consciousness movement through his teachings, as he was guided by Lord Krishna.

“What is Krishna consciousness? It is an eternal awareness of Lord Krishna’s greatness and glory as revealed by Him in His avatar. Krishna consciousness teaches us that prema-bhakti and nama-sankirtana [loving devotion and the chanting of the Lord’s holy name] constitute the best and easiest pathway to God for all people, a pathway free from perils and pitfalls. Sri Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada added new dimensions to this divine mission.

“No one in this world can call himself happy at all times, because trials and tribulations sometimes shake a man’s faith and life itself becomes a burden. Material prosperity alone cannot give us genuine peace. For that we need spiritual wisdom. Turn the pages of Bhagavad-gita or Srimad-Bhagavatam Maha-Purana. Each verse in each chapter contains the quintessence of spiritual wisdom. Those scriptures have through the centuries inspired saints and sages in India. Mahatma Gandhi used to consult the Gita whenever he was in doubt or difficulty. He once said, ‘The Gita is the universal mother: she turns away nobody; her door is wide open to anyone who knocks. A true votary of the Gita does not know what disappointment is. He ever dwells in perennial joy and peace that passeth understanding, which are reserved only for the humble in spirit. When disappointment stares me in the face and all alone I see not one ray of light, I go back to the Bhagavad-gita. I find a verse here and a verse there, and I immediately begin to smile in the midst of overwhelming tragedies. My life has been full of external tragedies, and if they have left no visible mark, no indelible scar, on me, I owe it all to the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita.’

“In Bhagavad-gita Lord Krishna says:

paritranaya sadhunam
vinasaya ca duskrtam
dharma-samsthapanarthaya
sambhavami yuge yuge

‘For the protection of the good, the destruction of the wicked, and the establishment of righteousness, I appear in every age.’ The greatest savants of the world have been moved by the Lord’s teachings. Out of great concern for us, the Lord, the supreme benefactor of mankind, teaches us through His Gita to do every act as a yajna [sacrifice], without attachment to the fruit of our actions. It is only by a detached outlook in life that we can overcome sorrows and get peace of mind. Attachment takes us away from God, and detachment takes us nearer to Him. By doing everything as a sacrifice to Him, for His sake, we remove false egoism from ourselves and free ourselves from such ideas as ‘I,’ ‘my,’ and ‘mine.’ Lord Krishna says:

sarva-dharman parityajya
mam ekam saranam vraja
aham tvam sarva-papebhyo
moksayisyami ma sucah

‘Abandoning all other duties of the body, mind, and intellect, ending the false ego and developing introspection, come to Me alone for shelter. I will liberate thee from all sins; grieve not.’ What Lord Krishna teaches Arjuna in the Gita, or what He teaches Uddhava in the Bhagavatam, is the highest and most sublime philosophy, which offers wise guidance to us in day-to-day life. The merciful Lord says that He expects nothing from His devotees except single-minded devotion. The devotee can offer Him even a leaf, a flower, or a drop of water, but it is the devotee’s love for Him that matters. The Lord’s love for us has to be matched by our love for Him.

“Srimad-Bhagavatam enjoys universal popularity as the bhakti scripture par excellence. It has inspired the writing of extensive devotional literature, not only in Sanskrit but also in many other Indian as well as foreign languages. The Bhagavatam holds out hope even for the chronic sinner if only he will open his heart to the gentle influence of the love and charm of Lord Krishna. Like the Gita, it presents a program of practical spiritual training through a harmonious combination of jnana, bhakti, and karma (knowledge, devotion, and action) suited to the temperament and limitations of the aspirant. Let us, on this occasion, make a solemn resolve to strengthen the Krishna consciousness movement by untiringly spreading the teachings of Lord Krishna through many languages, to all people in all the nooks and corners of the world. In this way, by our genuine devotion to Krishna and by our austerities, we may create an international climate of peace and happiness and lay the foundation for a religious order acceptable to all on the basis of universal love and brotherhood. May we chant, ‘Hare Krishna! Jaya Sri Krishna!’ to purify our hearts and minds, and may Lord Krishna shower His blessings on humanity and make our humble endeavors a success.”

The next day, Sunday, we had a massive, festive harinama-sankirtana on Juhu Beach, with hundreds of devotees, many carrying orange flags that blew in the wind, with a framed photo and a small brass deity of Srila Prabhupada at the front of the procession. There were even fireworks, mainly in coconut shells, making big popping noises and flashes in the sky.

Because my parents had come to India in October, they hadn’t been able to come again for the opening, but my “second parents,” Grace and Mitchell Block, from the neighboring suburb of Highland Park, in Chicago, attended. I never imagined that they would come all the way to Bombay to see me—what to speak of timing their visit to coincide with the temple opening. I was elated. They were highly impressed with the entire complex, especially the temple. And, of course, we were delighted to be together again, especially after so much time had passed and so much in my life had changed. I arranged a special lunch for them on the mezzanine floor of the restaurant, overseen by Michael Lord in his most dignified and charming manner, and again they were duly pleased and impressed. Mitchell’s firm, Block and Company, manufactured products related to banking and other industries that interacted with the public, and seeing the needs at the reception counter in the guesthouse, he sent a key cabinet and some other items (which are still being used today).

One of the first-time visitors, a lawyer, R. K. Maheshwari (later initiated as Mahaprabhu das), later remembered hearing about the opening day: “I was playing cards at Khar Gymkhana, a well-known club in this area, and all of a sudden I saw a newspaper with a full-page advertisement about the Hare Krishna temple opening that day. So I thought, ‘How much money do these people have?’ A full-page advertisement in The Times of India! Being a Marwari, I always thought of everything only in terms of money.

“Then I decided, ‘Let me see what this place is.’ So I immediately drove to the Juhu temple. At the gate they asked me, ‘Have you got a pass or invitation card? Vaijayanti Mala is giving a dance performance, and the hall is booked, and Raj Narain, Union Minister, and Patwari, governor, are invited for the inauguration, so there’s a big crowd and only important people are invited today.’

“ ‘Is this a temple or what?’ I asked. ‘Well, today is inauguration day,’ the devotee replied. So, I approached another devotee, an Indian devotee—Rama Tulasi dasa. He was telling a group of visitors that in the material world nobody is happy. He said that a fish can never be happy out of water. The original constitutional position of a fish is to be in water, and if we take the fish out of water and put it in an air-conditioned room and give it all facility for enjoyment, the fish will be miserable. Similarly, we are souls, he was telling these people, and the soul’s original constitutional position is to be connected to the Supreme Soul, God, Krishna. If the soul is not connected, whatever facility you give the soul—because we are living beings, once the soul is out of the body, we are dead. So the soul, even if you give it all facilities, if it is not connected to the Supersoul, it will be miserable, like that fish. So material prosperity—having an air-conditioned car, office, diamonds, bangles, the latest gadgets—will not give you satisfaction, because your constitutional position is different. You are searching happiness in the wrong atmosphere. This material world is not the place where you can be happy. In the Gita it has been confirmed that this material world is duhkhalayam. Everybody is unhappy in this material world.

“The visitors were asking about the temple, why these foreigners were so much interested in Indian culture. ‘We are having some doubt,’ one said, ‘because when the British came to India . . . Now most of the people here are American. They are coming in the guise of religion and teaching us our sanatana-dharma. We cannot understand all this. We know Krishna very well.’

“But Rama Tulasi was speaking philosophy. ‘If we want to be happy, we have to be put back in the water,’ he told them. ‘If you want to be happy, connect yourself with Lord Krishna by chanting the holy name of the Lord. That is the connection. And if you chant the holy name of the Lord, wherever you may be, whatever situation, you will be blissful. I’m not talking happiness—you may be happy, you may not be happy—but blissful is something different. I cannot explain to you what is spiritual bliss. You have to experience it.’ So yes, that much I understood.

“Somehow I got a little convinced on the point of fish and water, and I wanted to know more. I wanted to go inside. So I found some stairs, and by those stairs I got to the second floor and saw the program. I spent the whole day in the temple, and the next day too, and I came regularly thereafter. I could see that these people were genuine, and I made up my mind that I wanted to get involved in their institution and become a life member. My membership card was signed by the temple president: ‘Giriraj das Brahmachari.’ I was keen to get his association, and once I met him, that changed the lifestyle of this practicing lawyer of the Bombay High Court.

“For me, that was a total change. I had been so much involved in material things that when my wife would go to a temple, I would sit in the car. I was never interested to go to any temple because my impression of temples was that they were all cheats, fooling people and making money and not following any rules or regulations or guiding people—just making a business. But all that changed with my first visit to Hare Krishna Land, on the day of the grand opening.”

“After the grand opening,” Mukunda recalled, “I took a stroll down Juhu Road, thinking that Srila Prabhupada would be very pleased. I felt that somehow or other, even though he was no longer physically present, the movement was going on.

“Then I took a flight back to Los Angeles, and one of the first things I did was get a copy of Newsweek magazine, because I didn’t know for sure but I thought there must be an article in there. Back at the temple, I worked out approximately what the cost would have been if we had purchased advertisements on ABC News, New York Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, etc., and it came to nearly three hundred thousand dollars, which was about a hundred times the amount of money I was given to promote the event. So I thought the event was very successful, and I used the financial analysis to justify my work to Ramesvara and the other leaders of the temple and the movement.”

After the opening, Back to Godhead described the temple: “The heart of the Bombay center is the temple of Sri Sri Radha-Rasavihariji. (Radha is the name of Lord Krsna’s eternal consort, and Rasa-vihari is a name for Krsna that means ‘the enjoyer of the transcendental rasa dance.’) The temple is a majestic structure, replete with twenty-four domes of sculpted marble. The visitor passes through a finely carved red sandstone gate and up [three marble stairs]. Then he enters a large courtyard bordered by marble pillars and floral-engraved arches. Graceful trees shade the courtyard’s marble floor.

“In alcoves on either side of the courtyard, fifteen colorful dioramas depict scenes from the ancient Srimad-Bhagavatam, Bhagavad-gita, and Ramayana.” I had arranged the dioramas to both attract and educate visitors, particularly Hindus, many of whom worshipped various incarnations of Krishna and also different demigods, misunderstanding them to be equal to or independent of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. To satisfy pilgrims looking for deities of Vithala or Dattatreya, who were especially popular in Maharashtra, or demigods and goddesses such as Siva, Ganesa, and Laksmi, we had dioramas depicting them and signboards describing them in relation to Krishna consciousness. The signboard for Nrsimhadeva, for instance, told the story of Him vanquishing the demon Hiranyakasipu and protecting His devotee Prahlada, concluding, “Materialistic plans of godless demons are always frustrated by the all-powerful Lord.” The board for Laksmidevi noted that according to her desire, “the Supreme Personality of Godhead made His bosom her residence so that by her glance she could favor everyone, including the demigods and ordinary human beings” but that although karmis seek her favor and mercy, “because they are not devotees of Narayana, their opulence is flickering. The opulence of devotees who are attached to the service of Narayana is not like the opulence of karmis. The opulence of devotees is as permanent as the opulence of Narayana Himself. (SB 8.8.25)” There was also a diorama summarizing the transmigration of the soul from one body to another; one on the rasa dance, with a quotation from Krsna explaining that the rasa dance was a spiritual performance and that to establish this fact, Krishna expanded Himself into many forms and stood beside each gopi; one with an elaborate text highlighting the glories of Lord Chaitanya; and one depicting Srila Prabhupada speaking in New York’s Tompkins Square in the summer of 1966, with text in first-person, as if Prabhupada were speaking directly to the viewer.

As the article explained, after entering the temple, “to the right of the courtyard, near the temple’s front side, the visitor finds a darsana-mandapa (a roofed area from which to view the Deity) and a vyasasana (a massive marble chair used only by the spiritual master). In front of the three altars are huge teakwood doors with brass castings that depict Krishna’s twenty-four main incarnations, and beyond the doors stand the Deities, on handsomely carved, silver-plated teakwood simhasanas (altar platforms).” On the left altar stood Lord Nityananda and Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and at Their feet, also carved in marble, sat Srila Prabhupada and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. On the center altar were Sri Sri Radha-Rasabihari and Lalita and Visakha. And on the right altar were Sri Sri Sita-Rama, Laksmana, and Hanuman.

“At the new Bombay center,” the article described, “India’s rich spiritual culture can express itself in thoroughly modern setting. The center lies on four acres in Bombay’s picturesque Juhu Beach and includes a spacious marble temple, a theater, a restaurant, a bank, a Vedic library, and a twin-towered seven-story hotel. The project cost more than $2 million and took nearly three years to build.

“Now, people who are unfamiliar with the philosophy of Krsna consciousness might well ask, ‘Why would a spiritual group that prizes renunciation and detachment want to build a theater and a modern hotel?’ For an answer, we may turn to one of the Krsna consciousness movement’s spiritual giants and founders, Srila Rupa Gosvami. In his Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu (Nectar of Devotion, written in the sixteenth century) he provides many of the philosophical and practical guidelines for today’s International Society for Krishna Consciousness, and here is what he writes about renunciation: ‘When one is not attached to anything but at the same time uses everything in Lord Krsna’s service, one is situated in complete renunciation. On the other hand, one who rejects everything, not knowing how to use things in Krsna’s service, is not as complete in his renunciation.’ So renunciation doesn’t mean walking around in a loincloth or fasting for weeks on end. Rather, in the spirit of detachment we should use everything (including modern hotels and theaters) to glorify God.

“There are several reasons why Srila Prabhupada chose Bombay for this ambitious project. First, Bombay is to India what New York or Los Angeles is to the United States—a leader in commerce and culture. (For instance, the main offices of Air India are in Bombay, as are the headquarters of India’s burgeoning film industry.) Bombay is perhaps India’s most modern and cosmopolitan city, and more important, it is a city whose people cherish their spiritual heritage. In fact, many of its leading citizens are great devotees of Lord Rama and Lord Krsna. So Srila Prabhupada knew that Bombay would welcome the kind of center he envisioned. And through their overwhelming encouragement and assistance, these people have borne out not only Srila Prabhupada’s clarity of vision but also modern India’s continuing spiritual vitality.”

Two days after the opening, The New York Times ran an article on the front page of its second section, with the headline “Hare Krishna Sect Displays Vitality At Its New $2 Million Temple in India”:

“JUHU, India, Jan. 15—Several hundred members of the Hare Krishna sect, chanting and singing and clapping, opened a $2 million temple and cultural center here this weekend in a colorful festival of devotion.

“To the young American monks of the movement the dedication of their sumptuous carved marble temple on the Arabian seacoast here, 10 miles north of Bombay, symbolized a kind of coming of age of the sect, which they hope is becoming less controversial.

“ ‘We are gaining a broader base among the general public, in both India and America,’ explained Tamal Krishna, a 32-year-old New Yorker who is a member of the organization’s 23-member governing board. ‘We’re learning that there’s no way we’re going to give Krishna consciousness a general appeal if we make everyone shave their heads and chant “Hare Krishna” all day long.’

“But like most leaders of the movement, Tamal Krishna, who was named Thomas Herzig when he was growing up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, does have a shaved head, a saffron‐colored flowing garment called a dhoti and streaks of Ganges River mud on his forehead. Like all of them, he chants this mantra at least 1,728 times a day: “Hare Krishna, hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, hare hare, hare Rama, hare Rama, Rama Rama, hare hare.”

“The chant, which has been sung with stomping feet on hundreds of American street corners in the 12 years since the International Society for Krishna Consciousness was started in New York, was the motif of the weekend here. Crowds shouted it to the beat of drums and cymbals as each statue of Krishna was anointed, as each of the huge teak and brass temple doors was opened and as marigolds and bananas were laid in offering beside the silver‐plated altars.

“But one difference between this celebration and the performances in the United States was reflected in the fact that India’s Health Minister and other high Government officials were among the speakers at the dedication ceremony, lending respectability. As a saffronclad monk from Miami Beach put it, ‘When we come to India, we are coming home.’

“Spiritualism is common to Indians, and several thousand of them visited the new temple here during the opening ceremony, joining enthusiastically in the chant of homage to Krishna, a Hindu god, and responding with alacrity when the American monks greeted them in the Hindu fashion, palms pressed together under their chins, as if in prayer.

“But the International Society for Krishna Consciousness is still essentially American, as it has been ever since it was founded by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, an Indian‐born ascetic who went to New York in 1965 with the idea of combining Indian spiritual wisdom and American resourcefulness—a lame man and a blind man helping each other to walk, in the analogy he used to make.

“By the time of his death two months ago at the age of 81, Swami Prabhupada had built up a movement that has 10,000 full‐time monks and an annual income, its present leaders say, of $16 million from the sale of its books—mostly the swami’s translations and interpretations of the ancient Vedic scriptures.

“The Hare Krishna people (a term they use themselves) are reluctant to disclose the details of their finances. But it is known that they have at least a few very substantial donors, including George Harrison, the former Beatle, and Alfred Ford, a great grandson of the founder of the Ford Motor Company and a nephew of Henry Ford 2d. In the last few years the society has acquired working farms in several American states, as well as two dozen big urban properties, including a 14-story temple and hotel at 340 West 55th Street in New York, which it bought for $1 million.

“Another sign of what its leaders like to think of as its move into the Establishment was a ruling in Queens last year by Justice John J. Leahy of the State Supreme Court. He turned aside allegations of brainwashing and ruled that the members of the movement should be allowed to ‘practice the religion of their choice.’

“To the Hare Krishna people, that ruling drew the line between their sect and what they disdain as ‘the modernistic cults,’ such as the Children of God. They also see a great distinction between themselves and the thousands of other young Americans attracted by Indian mysticism in the fact that instead of the self‐indulgence offered by some swamis, Krishna consciousness demands an extraordinarily rigorous routine in which gambling, smoking, drinking, taking drugs, and eating meat, eggs and fish are all forbidden, as is any sexual activity that does not have conception as its immediate goal.

“But beyond the extremely religious vanguard, there is a growing body of other members of the faith who believe to one extent or another in the society’s interpretation of the ancient texts of Lord Krishna. The society, which regards itself as the most orthodox exponent of Hinduism, decrees that spiritual purification, through the omnipresent Lord Krishna, can lead to a life free of anxiety and to ‘pure, unending, blissful consciousness.’

“Its leaders say there are tens of thousands of sympathizers in America and perhaps more than that attending its temples in India. Tamal Krishna, who is called His Holiness and carries a six‐foot orange staff as a symbol of complete control over his senses, looks toward a day when Krishna consciousness will be unexceptional in American society.

“ ‘When you go to the factory or the office and the guy at the next bench or the next desk is a Krishna follower, then we won’t be regarded as weird anymore,’ he said. ‘And believe me, that day is coming.’ ”

The article carried two photos, one with the caption “A young American Krishna follower gives Sanskrit discourse to Indian counterparts at festivities,” and the other with “Hare Krishna devotees chanting at dedication of their new temple in Juhu, India, on Saturday.”

The January 30th edition of Newsweek carried nearly a full page about the opening in color, a rare feature for the time, with the heading “KRISHNA-BY-THE-SEA.” At the top of the page was a photo of the diorama of Srila Prabhupada standing in Tompkins Square Park, next to one of the new temple and guesthouse, with the caption “Rags to riches: Diorama of swami teaching, $2 million complex.”

“The rituals performed,” the article stated, “were as old as India itself—the Sanskrit chants, the sacrificial fire, the bathing of the marble deities in sacred Ganges water—but the celebration was essentially American. For three days last week, several hundred saffron-robed U.S members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness descended on a fashionable beach resort in suburban Bombay to dedicate their new $2 million temple complex, complete with hotel, library, theater and neon signs that flash such blessings as YOUR LIFE WILL BE SUBLIME. The affair was aimed at establishing a legitimacy for the Krishna-consciousness movement, founded in a Greenwich Village storefront twelve years ago by Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who died last November. Today, the movement numbers only 10,000 devotees, half of them in the U.S. Still, the sect—which forbids meat, alcohol, tobacco and illicit sex—claims to earn close to $20 million a year, largely from sales of the prolific swami’s writings.

“The dedication ceremonies attracted 15,000 spectators, including Indian Health Minister Raj Narain. ‘It is amazing to me,’ he said, ‘that now Westerners have taken to the ancient Indian culture just when we are losing it.’ ”

At the bottom was a photo of the procession on Juhu Beach and one of a devotee speaking at the foot of Prabhupada’s vyasasana. The caption read, “Spreading the swami’s word: A joyous procession on the beach, a devotee lecturing inside the temple.” At the front of the procession was a portable seat with a photo and a small brass deity of Srila Prabhupada, and standing near the deity I was fanning him with a camara. The devotee preaching in the temple was Tamal Krishna. At the front of the magazine was a small photo with the caption “Barry Came with a Krishna follower” (Gopal Krishna) and a preview of the main article, to which the reader was directed.

“The rituals were as old as India itself,” the preview began, “but the celebration was essentially American. Hundreds of U.S. members of the movement for Krishna consciousness dedicated their flashy new temple last week in a beach resort near Bombay—and Barry Came joined 15,000 Indians during the devotions.”

I thought of how perfectly Krishna—or Srila Prabhupada—had arranged everything. There I was fanning Srila Prabhupada, happy in my position as his simple servant. And there was Tamal Krishna sitting behind one of Prabhupada’s books, his right arm extended, preaching forcefully on Srila Prabhupada’s behalf—his natural position. And Gopal Krishna, who always worked with the media, was shown with the reporter.

It all seemed perfect. Mukunda had done a great job. How happy Prabhupada would have been to see the coverage—how major news media were recognizing and appreciating his and ISKCON’s progress “from rags to riches.” I could just picture him smiling broadly, his eyes wide open—beaming with pleasure.