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Chapter 59: Prabhupāda, the Puppeteer and London Ratha-yātrā

Śrīla Prabhupāda Uvāca 59
Prabhupāda, the Puppeteer and London Ratha-yātrā

July 7-8, 1973, Ratha-yātrā Festival
ISKCON London

At the completion of Śrīla Prabhupāda's visit to Calcutta, he was deciding where to travel next. That was always an exciting adventure. On this occasion the senior devotees suggested Śrīla Prabhupāda go to Hawaii or Los Angeles to rest. There was an invitation, however, from the devotees in London to attend the Rathayatra festival.

Śrīla Prabhupāda was expert in engaging his disciples in such a way as to develop their love and attachment for him. Wherever Śrīla Prabhupāda stayed the process of deciding where to travel occurred again and again. He allowed his disciples to suggest places and reasons why he should go there. Hawaii was often mentioned because of the nice weather and good fruit. He listened to his disciple's opinions and then did whatever he wanted. Once I became acquainted with the process, it was a great deal of fun.

Sometimes, he traveled to cities all over the world without ever leaving his sitting room. The most important thing for his secretary to know was that until he said, "send a telegram" or "tell them to send us tickets," it was only a suggestion by Śrīla Prabhupāda. It kept his disciples around the world busy painting temples blue and white as these were considered Śrīla Prabhupāda's favorite colors. I'm not sure, but sometimes I thought Śrīla Prabhupāda considered that all temples, outside of India, had the fragrance of an M.A.B. paint store.

"Śrutakīrti, what do you think?" he asked me. "Should I go to London and attend the Ratha-yātrā festival or should I go to Hawaii and rest."

I had been with Śrīla Prabhupāda for almost one year and I knew he would do whatever he wanted. I was thrilled that he would even ask my opinion. Just that one acknowledgment was enough to last my entire life.

"Śrīla Prabhupāda," I quickly responded. "If you go to the Rathayatra festival in London then so many people will be benefited by your association."

"Yes, I think your observation is correct," he said smiling.

After listening to everyone Śrīla Prabhupāda said, "Thank you for the advice. I am going to London for the Rathayatra."

It was an amazing festival. My perspective was limited, since I stayed by Śrīla Prabhupāda's side, but it was filled with adventure. Śrīla Prabhupāda was very enthusiastic. His Vyasasana was available on the Ratha cart, but he decided to walk with the devotees. Śrīla Prabhupāda walked in front of the cart clapping his hands to the beat of the kirtan. He raised his hands in the air encouraging everyone to dance. He looked like the supreme puppeteer. As he raised his hands, everyone leaped into the air in ecstasy. It didn't require any purification. If you were near him, you were in bliss. Except for the bobbies (policemen). They were looking for someone in charge. They wanted to calm everyone down. They were keen enough to realize that if they could control Śrīla Prabhupāda, they could control the "unruly" crowd.

Somehow, they thought I was an "associate" of His Divine Grace.

"You'll have to tell your leader to sit down," one bobbie said. "He's causing too much of a disturbance. Everyone is becoming wild and we can't control the crowd."

"All right," I told him, and then did nothing.

It was apparent that Śrīla Prabhupāda was in charge of the festival. He was visibly ecstatic. The bobbies again approached me.

"You must tell him. He'll have to sit down," they firmly said.

Again I agreed. With fear of reprisal I tapped Śrīla Prabhupāda on his shoulder and said, "Prabhupāda, the policemen, they want you to sit down. They say you are creating havoc here in the parade."

Śrīla Prabhupāda looked through me for a brief moment. He quickly turned away with his arms still raised in the air. Majestically, he continued walking with a bounce in his step. He allowed everyone present to enter into his world of bliss. He never stopped. He walked the length of the parade. The bobbies gave up their attack. They were no match for the pure devotee and the Lord of the Universe.

Śrīla Prabhupāda, when I told you that so many people would benefit by your association, I had no idea of your plans. Like an ocean of mercy you distributed your waves of kindness to all who attended. Please forgive me for tapping you on your shoulder that day. Due to my dullness I attempted to distract you from your mission. Thank you for ignoring my countless shortcomings.