The Glasgow Program
Submitted by Yaduvendu Das
In June 1972 Tribhuvanath received a letter from Srila Prabhupada in Los Angeles.
"My Dear Tribhuvanath,
Please accept my blessings. I am in due receipt of your letter dated 10th June, 1972 and with great pleasure I have noted the contents. I was wondering what you are doing, so I am very glad to hear your report of getting the very nice temple in Edinburgh. I think it is Krishna's desire that you have got that place in such perfect location, so now apply yourself very seriously and take advantage of this opportunity for spreading Krishna Consciousness all over that city and in other places in Scotland. The price of £13 a week for such a large place is not at all bad. Yes, take the place for as many years as they will agree to."
Towards the end of the page Srila Prabhupada adds:
"If you can arrange some big meeting for me to speak there and address the public at large as well as the students, that will be very nice. One thing, I am already scheduled to speak in Paris on July 21, 22, 23, so if you arrange some meetings at the Edinburgh Festival, you should schedule them for last part of July or early August accordingly."
Tribhuvanath is ecstatic that Srila Prabhupada had agreed to come to Edinburgh. He must find a suitable venue for him to speak and someone mentions Woodside Hall in Glasgow, which would seat around 500 people. It is available for the last Saturday in July and Tribhuvanath wastes no time booking it.
Prabhavishnu Swami: In April of 1972 I was sent on travelling sankirtan -- the first book distribution party in UK. In June Srila Prabhupada came to London and the following month went to Scotland for a visit. Tribhuvanath requested our sankirtan party to go to distribute leaflets to publicize Prabhupada's programs in Edinburgh and Glasgow and we were very inspired to see the wonderful temple that Tribhuvanath had organized there along with Kishore.
Tribhuvanath: That morning Prabhupada had a bit of breakfast and left about noontime by train for the program in Glasgow, but no one had provided lunch for him. From breakfast until the evening he didn't eat, but he didn't complain even once.
Bhuomadeva: We jumped in vehicles and off we went to Glasgow. Edinburgh and Glasgow are the two major cities in Scotland, Edinburgh being the actual sophisticated, refined capital and Glasgow being more the industrial town. But Glasgow had a sizable Hindu community and we’d done a lot of sankirtan there.
The big red Vyasasan from Bury Place had been brought by transit van from Bury Place, especially for Srila Prabhupada’s visit to Edinburgh. This vyasasan had been made in 1971 by Nara Narayana and Maha Vishnu and was intended to be used on Trafalgar Square at the 1971 Ratha Yatra. It was designed to stand out, to look big and imposing beneath Nelson's column, but it hadn't been finished in time and had remained for a year in the temple room at Bury Place taking up practically the whole of the back wall. In July of 1972 it had been secured to the front of the rath cart and Srila Prabhupada had been pulled through the streets of London from Marble Arch to Trafalgar Square on it. During the afternoon of the Glasgow program the vyasasan was taken from the Edinburgh temple to Woodside Hall and placed at the front of the stage.
Tribhuvanath: The hall was packed with around 500 people including a number of street children, who some devotees had been trying to keep out in case they caused a disturbance during the lecture. But Prabhupada never liked that, he wanted to encourage everyone and I told the devotees to let them in.
Bhuomadeva recalls that practically all the people the devotees had been cultivating in Edinburgh as well as many Hindu families from Glasgow turned up to see Srila Prabhupada.
About twenty minutes before Prabhupada’s taxi is due Revatinandan Swami picks up his mrdanga and calls the devotees on stage for the kirtan. The twenty-four year old sannyasi is an impressive sight in his bright saffron robes. He is the cousin of another sannyasi named Vishnujnana. Revatinandan is intelligent, charismatic and a powerful preacher. Standing besides the red vyasasan he leans into the mic and invites everyone to join in the chanting. He recites the mantra but there is only a faint response. He repeats the exercise -- only louder.
As the devotees chant very few amongst the audience participate. Most are ordinary Glaswegians encountering Krishna Consciousness for the first time and seem quite wary of getting too involved. Srila Prabhupada arrives as the devotees are chanting. He walks in from the back of the stage and the devotees jump up and down around him chanting "Jai Prabhupada, Jai Prabhupada!"
Srila Prabhupada folds his palms and smiles before taking his place on the vyasasana. Tribhangananda adjusts his microphone and Prabhupada chants the Maha mantra.
Tribhuvanath: After the kirtan Prabhupada gave an amazing lecture from the Bhagavad-Gita and then asked if there were any questions.
Prabhupada speaks for only twenty minutes. His theme is love of God. God is known by a variety of different names. Sometimes He is known as Jehovah, Allah, Buddha, Krishna etc., the name does not matter -- our position is that we are servants of God and the purpose of life is to re-establish our relationship with Him by performing devotional service.
Yaduvendu: Prabhupada did not speak for very long. He read a verse from Bhagavad Gita and then explained that all religions teach us how to love God. It was a non-sectarian message and he frequently used the word God where he might otherwise say Krishna.
Prabhupada asked if there were any questions. Someone towards the back put up his hand up. He was in his early twenties -- thin and of hippy appearance with shoulder length hair parted in the middle and a straggly goaty beard. He was dressed in a sleeveless green cardigan, beige corduroys and sandals. But my strongest impression was that he reminded me of the image of the mental speculator in the Gita -- one of the four impious men who do not surrender to Krishna.
As he was sitting at the back through the hall Prabhupada could not pick up his voice and asked him to come a little closer. The hippy walked about half way down the aisle and submitted his question again. Prabhupada still couldn’t hear him and the hippy came to the front of the stage.
Looking up at Prabhupada the hippy spoke:
"You say that we should serve God, but surely, we’re all God aren’t we?"
Srila Prabhupada was sitting very serenely on his vyasasan. In a flash, his mood changed, becoming suddenly dark. He turned on the hapless hippy with a charge of power that was no less devastating than a thunderbolt and with all the ferocity of a lion pouncing on his prey.
"YOU THINK YOU ARE GOD?" Prabhupada bellowed through the microphone.
"YOU’RE NOT GOD, YOU’RE DOG!"
Yaduvendu: Prabhupada could not tolerate such words. He has pure love for Krishna and does not want to hear insignificant living entities comparing themselves to the Supreme Unlimited Lord. But as the acharya of a Vaishnava institution he also has a duty to make this distinction clear, that we should never consider ourselves on a level with God.
Tribhuvanath: This guy was in the front of the audience, looking straight up at Prabhupada and Prabhupada was looking straight at him.
But Prabhupada said it in such an amazing way that the guy practically fell back in shock. After a few moments the audience stood up, clapped, cheered and whistled as if someone had just scored a goal in the world cup. It was an amazing reaction and even Prabhupada was surprised by their response.
Prabhavishnu Swami: The hall was packed out and I remember many, many guests offering obeisances to Prabhupada afterwards. It was at that program that one hippy boy came forward and challenged Prabhupada saying 'we’re all God.' Prabhupada responded 'you are not God, you are dog' and after a few moments of silence the whole auditorium erupted with applause.
Yaduvendu: Everyone rose to their feet giving Prabhupada a standing ovation, some standing in the aisles and some on their seats.
Seizing the moment Tribhuvanath went to the mic and began singing "Jai Prabhupada, Jai Prabhupada" and the whole assembly spontaneously joined in clapping and dancing in ecstasy. I was amazed because there were people of all types and ages and they all seemed to appreciate Prabhupada so much.
I thought that if I lived to be one hundred, I’d never forget what I saw there that day. It made me realise the amazing potency of a pure devotee -- that he could walk into a hall of five hundred strangers and have such an effect -- turning them into instant devotees. Due to his presence they were chanting and dancing ecstatically just as the animals did as Caitanya Mahaprabhu passed through the forest.
Tribhuvanath: After the program we had a feast of oranges, because that was all we could afford. Prabhupada ate about 10 oranges and as he was leaving you could see that he was intoxicated with ecstasy.
I had never seen Prabhupada like that before. I held the door and he put both his hands on my head and started rubbing it in a very gentle way. I couldn't believe it. He said, 'I am very pleased with what you have done. Now you preach Krishna consciousness all over Scotland.' It was so beautiful that it's hard to put into words. It was one of those amazing moments in life that can never be repeated.
After the lecture Bhuomadeva was in the toilet when Srila Prabhupada walked in. It was a story Tribhuvanath was always fond of telling -- of how Bhuomadeva paid his obeisances on the toilet floor obstructing Prabhupada from walking through.
Bhuomadeva: I was in the bathroom with another devotee, we were at the sink being quite flippant when we turned around and there’s His Divine Grace. So we paid our dandavats right in the way of the cubicle where he wanted to go.
But as I came up to the kneeling position I felt Prabhupada’s hand rubbing my head. Afterwards I thought he probably appreciated that even in the toilet we paid our obeisances.
Another great thing I remember from that event -- Prabhupada was in a corridor and there were a whole bunch of Indian people around him. He needed to have a change of dhoti and he just changed it in front of everybody’s eyes. Very articulately, dexterously, magically, one dhoti to the other without showing any lower part of his body, it was phenomenal. At the same time, he was chewing on orange slices. So he was taking a little prasad, talking to the Indians, while changing his dhoti. It was totally magical.
Prabhavishnu Swami: Tribhuvanath was always working very, very hard to serve Srila Prabhupada and the Vaishnavas; eating and sleeping very little. His enthusiasm was infectious and devotees around him always felt enlivenment from his association. Later he began travelling festival programs throughout the UK and had considerable success with that and has continued such preaching until recent times.
Bhuomadeva: Srila Prabhupada thoroughly enjoyed his stay there and you could see this incredible rapport that Tribhuvanath had with Srila Prabhupada.
Tribhangananda: Tribhuvanath told me outside the building in Forest Road, that he’d asked Prabhupada, ‘how can young devotees get the association they need in order to advance in Krishna consciousness' and Prabhupada told him, ‘you become that association.'
I mentioned this to Tribhuvanath many years later and he didn’t remember the conversation, but Tribhuvanath always was that association. He was always very enlivening, fired up and inspiring. He was always ready to preach and be compassionate to others, but he also liked to have a joke and a laugh with the devotees. He used to explain to us that we had to do the needful and he was always talking about pleasing Prabhupada. He loved Krishna consciousness and that was always his mood.
Bhuomadeva: I considered Tribhuvanath to be one of my very best devotee friends as well as my mentor. Everybody loved and adored him. The Edinburgh temple had a really great flavour to it. There was no separation of girls and boys in different sides of the temple. We were just having the best time serving Prabhupada and Krishna. It was just a very loving, happy atmosphere in that temple the whole time and that was only because Tribhuvanath was in charge. His presence created a blissful atmosphere.
He was just perfectly following Prabhupada and all the new devotees would just aspire to be like that and he just created this delightful devotional atmosphere.
We just followed the regular program, mostly chanting up and down Princess Street and going to Glasgow. There were never any politics. Nobody was vying to top the temple president because how could you top this guy? He was just perfect.