(Click to enlarge Srila Prabhupada's original Back to Godhead magazine logo.)
Antony Brennan (AB) from Back to Godhead magazine conducted the following interview with Padmapani das (Pd) in 2009.
AB: How did the idea to create the site come about?
Pd: I've always wanted to help spread Srila Prabhupada's glories around the world. So many people know about Mahatma Gandhi, for example, but how many people know about the founder of the Hare Krishna movement in the Western world? Srila Prabhupada was so humble that he placed all the emphasis on Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but it's up to us, his disciples and followers, to inform the world about Krishna's beloved pure devotee who sacrificed so much to spread Krishna Consciousness around the globe.
Another purpose of The Prabhupada Connection is to provide the devotees with an opportunity to share their love and realizations about Srila Prabhupada with one another in a harmonious format. As stated on our "contact" page: "This website is a non-profit, non-political and non-partisan service for the benefit of all." I saw the need for a nonconfrontational space where devotees could come together and enliven one another with their stories and memories of Srila Prabhupada, irregardless of their political or philosophical persuasions. After all, we're devotees first and foremost and surely we can relate peacefully when exchanging our remembrances and love for His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada, our beloved founder-acarya. Prabhupada was always able to bring out the very best in everyone and facilitate co-operation in Krishna Consciousness even amongst the most diverse of personalities. As I wrote in one of my editorials:
"All disparate elements and clashing ideologies were pacified in the presence of Srila Prabhupada. Reflecting on Prabhupada's uncanny ability and potency to unite opposing views and personalities, Allen Ginsberg (perhaps unwittingly) revealed the secret to the original success of Srila Prabhupada's mission:
'The main thing, above and beyond all our differences, was an aroma of sweetness that he had, a personal selfless sweetness like total devotion. And that was what always conquered me, whatever intellectual questions or doubts I had, or even cynical views of ego. In his presence there was a kind of personal charm, coming from dedication, that conquered all our conflicts.'"
So the idea has always been there. In fact, I worked on a publication in the 1980's called The Vaisnava Journal towards the same aim -- to help open up the lines of communication and unify the members of ISKCON by trying to keep Srila Prabhupada and his instructions in the center of our discussions and movement. To some extent it was quite successful, but back in those days (before the Internet), publishing and mailing a 64-page magazine around the world was quite a costly endeavor for one person to maintain indefinitely, so I had to stop after five issues. (It cost tens of thousands of dollars to print and distribute those issues, which I had to collect myself. That was lot of money in those days, especially for me.) So when I saw the potential of the World Wide Web, I immediately wanted to find a way to serve Srila Prabhupada and the devotees through this exciting new technology, which is like the brhat-mrdanga of the modern age. Even if I went out on the streets 24 hours a day, I could never come close to reaching as many people as I could through the Internet, which affords people the time to learn about Srila Prabhupada and Krishna Consciousness in the comfort of their own homes or offices.
Also, I think that the ultimate purpose of The Prabhupada Connection is to spread love of Prabhupada. As I've often said, "To know him is to love him." Srila Prabhupada is so universally attractive and loveable by both the gentle and ruffians alike. Even the Hell's Angels respected Prabhupada, as evidenced in Gurudas's book, By His Example, about the early days of Krishna Consciousness in America. So by presenting devotees' articles, memories, offerings and poems about Srila Prabhupada, along with videos and photographs, people will naturally develop an attraction to Prabhupada's magnanimous personality. And once that love starts to sprout, the desire to serve him will automatically manifest in the hearts of sincere seekers. And that's the secret of success in Krishna Consciousness as Srila Prabhupada writes in the Bhagavad-gita As It Is:
"Satisfaction of the self-realized spiritual master is the secret of advancement in spiritual life." (Bg. 4.34, Purport)
As far as how this all came about, it's quite simple. I just prayed to Krishna to please give me the opportunity and intelligence to serve Srila Prabhupada to the best of my ability according to my (very) limited capacity. That's how I started The Vaisnava Journal too, as well as how I ended up in the Middle East for five years trying to humbly spread Krishna Consciousness there. Prayer is very powerful, so if you want to serve the spiritual master sincerely, Krishna or Supersoul will make the arrangements to satisfy your desire.
AB: What should those who come to your site expect to find there?
Pd: Basically, except for a few simple editorials, I try to get out of the way and let the readers come and associate with Srila Prabhupada through his teachings, his lectures, his chanting, his photos and his videos. I more or less try to let Srila Prabhupada use the website to preach directly to the interested viewers. After all, Prabhupada is by far the best preacher and he can change people's hearts with ease. All they need is the chance to hear from him and then Prabhupada can work his transcendental magic from within their hearts.
AB: Do you get much feedback from those who visit? What kinds of things do they say?
Pd: Yes, my biggest job by far is answering letters and inquiries. People come to the site through all kinds of searches, related and unrelated. But once they take a little time to hear, they become attracted to Srila Prabhupada and his pure message of love of God, or Krishna. It's marvelous to witness the pure devotee in action. So I spend much of my time answering questions about Srila Prabhupada and Krishna Consciousness. Posting new material and revamping the website takes a back seat to the constant flow of messages -- on average about 30 a day. Not bad for a simple and humble website, which is admitedly not very technogically sophisticated. But people are coming nonetheless. So it's a great preaching tool, based on friendly interactions about Krishna and His beloved pure devotee, Srila Prabhupada.
We also have a guest book, but it's used by only a fraction of those who write to us directly though e-mails. In fact, my mailbox is always full and I never quite catch up on all the correspondence. I'd like to write more articles and even a book (or books), but there just isn't enough time. I'm fully engaged as it is. I don't have time for economic development, so I live in pretty much abject poverty, but I'm not complaining. Krishna has answered my prayers to let me try and serve Srila Prabhupada, so I must be satisfied with that, despite the austerities, until Krishna wants me to do something else. However, whenever I've tried to do something else, I keep getting pulled back, so what can I do? It seems that it was meant to be, by the Lord's grace and kindness.
AB: There is so much on your site you must put a great deal of effort into it, do you have help at all?
Pd: I do consult with respected godbrothers and godsisters on weighty issues and questions, but I work on the website for long hours each day, so that's how it's become so large -- and still growing. This is my service to Prabhupada and I humbly try to take it seriously. I'd like to overhaul the site and make it more professional looking and also, as mentioned, write more editorials, etc., but at this stage I'm just doing the needful as best I can. It's Krishna's mercy, so I can't complain. It suits my life situation, my personal limits, and my nature, although someday I do hope to write more. In the meantime, I'm just happy that so many people and devotees are enjoying the website as it is.
Here is our welcome page, outlining the basic intentions of The Prabhupada Connection:
Everyone is invited to participate, because as Krishna's pure unalloyed devotee, Srila Prabhupada is for everyone. You don't have to be his direct disciple, or initiated, or even a member of the Hare Krishna movement to love Srila Prabhupada because Prabhupada's love is oceanic, all-inclusive and unconditional. Hopefully, The Prabhupada Connection reflects even just a little of Prabhupada's love and compassion for all living entities. If so, then I consider the effort a success, although I'm certainly most unqualified and unworthy. But Prabhupada and his causeless mercy can do anything, even engage a complete rogue in his service. All glories to Srila Prabhupada! Thank you very much and best wishes.