Remembering Tribhuvannatha (Part 2)
He was always happy
"This knowledge is the king of education, the most secret of all secrets. It is the purest knowledge, and because it gives direct perception of the self by realization, it is the perfection of religion. It is everlasting, and it is joyfully performed." (Bhagavad-gita 9.2)
One thing that struck me about Tribhuvannatha was the simple fact that he was always happy. His eyes glistened with joy and he never failed to greet others with a hearty "Hari bol" and an enthusiastic "All glories to Srila Prabhupada!" I never saw him morose, not even in the worst or most trying of circumstances. He wasn't moody and depressed about the material world and its myriad challenges (like me). In fact, I doubt that he even knew the meaning of the word "depression" -- unlike today, where even children are suffering from depression and it seems that every second person is on anti-depressants or some such medication. But not Tribhuvannatha Prabhu. He epitomized the phrase, "Chant Hare Krsna and be happy." He was the embodiment of the words, su-sukham kartum avyayam. (B.G. 9.2) He was -- and is -- a genuine devotee of the Lord.
Prabhupada's Edinburgh Temple
Tribhuvannatha Prabhu told me many stories of Edinburgh and how pleased Prabhupada was that he had opened a temple there. Srila Prabhupada went to Scottish Churches College as a young man, so he displayed a special interest in the Edinburgh temple. One time Prabhupada was in Mayapur, surrounded by sannyasis and leaders, while he was looking at some photos of ISKCON projects. But when he heard that Tribhuvannatha Prabhu was at the end of the line, Prabhupada immediately called him to the front and said, "Oh, how is the Edinburgh temple?" It was like his pride and joy. Tribhuvannatha told me that whenever Prabhupada saw him, he would ask about that temple. It was so important to him, and Tribhuvannatha knew it well -- so he dedicated himself to making it a surefire preaching success at all costs, even though he rarely had any money. Yet he somehow made it work by his sincere devotional service. Material means and expertise were not as important to Tribhuvannatha as love and bhakti. These were the key ingredients to his wonderful success in pleasing His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada.
Always dependent on Krsna
Tribhuvannatha Prabhu didn't care much for the needs of the material body. This was not something artificial, but he was just too busy in Prabhupada's service to bother pampering the senses. He naturally expected those who worked with him to be the same.
I remember one time, at the beginning of a new program, there were about seven devotees all stranded together in a hotel room without money or food. This was in a very hot part of the world. The stores had all closed their shutters at noon, so that everyone (i.e. the lucky ones) could get inside, take their noon meal, and go to sleep for the afternoon with
the air-conditioning on full blast. So with the lack of food and very hot weather, the devotees were getting a little testy with each other and even started grumbling about Tribhuvannatha's management style. One brahmacari had a secret stash of money and snuck out to get himself a few snacks on the side, which caused a little furor. Thinking back, it was kind of funny, knowing how young brahmacaris can behave towards one another in extreme circumstances; but it wasn't much fun at the time.
Tribhuvannatha Prabhu was unfazed and kept arranging programs, etc. He assured us that Krsna would provide and not to worry. Well, after the seventh day, everyone was pretty upset, but Tribhuvannatha kept his usual cool and faith. Still there was a lot of arguing going on by this time. Finally, a very devoted Life Member couple (an Indian doctor and his wife) invited the devotees for a program and prasadam at their home. The ladies in the community all pitched in and cooked an incredible feast which consisted of many wonderful preparations -- including sweet rice, halavah, puris, etc. The ladies kept serving the devotees nonstop until finally no one could take another bite. All the devotees were practically rolling on the floor with big grins on their faces, laughing aloud and joking together, as only brahmacaris can do. It was a sight to behold. At the end of the program, the devotees stumbled back to the hotel and Tribhuvannatha's faith and preaching were vindicated. No one doubted him after that.
A humble soul
From my own personal experience with Tribhuvannatha Prabhu for over 20 years, he never failed to apologize when he did or said something which he felt was out of line or wrong. This touched me deeply because he was genuine in his feelings and affection for others. He freely gave his heartfelt respect and appreciation without demanding any in return.
One time something happened which caused me a little inconvenience, but which he never forgave himself for; and for many years afterwards, he always told me that he felt so bad about it. Personally, it was no big deal because we were both under such heavy stress at the time and in some pretty dicey situations together; so problems were to be expected and they weren't anyone's fault. But he never forgot it and always promised that someday he'd make it up to me. Although there was certainly nothing to make up, he never saw it like that. He was always so grateful for any service rendered or loyalty showed to him. His only goal was to capture Prabhupada's mercy, and he dragged me into it, displaying the highest compassion possible from one jiva to another. What a merciful example on so many levels, for which I'm forever grateful. It's true that every devotee is special, but Tribhuvannatha exemplifed it to the highest degree; and yet, he was always a humble soul.
A wonderful inspiration
Tribhuvannatha Prabhu was a devotee who had taken birth in a western body -- Irish in fact -- and therefore many of us could relate to him. It was quite obvious that for a so-called westerner, he possessed a large amount of vijnana, or realized knowledge, as opposed to simply jnana, or theoretical knowledge. In fact, I was always amazed at the depth of his realizations which came to him so naturally and so powerfully at such a young age.
Tribhuvannatha lived life large. He always thought big. His favorite Prabhupada expression was: "If you're going to go hunting, shoot for the rhinocerous." (In other words, if you manage to shoot the rhinocerous, then you'll be a hero; and if you miss, people will say it was impossible anyway.) So Tribhuvannatha was always shooting for the rhinocerous.
I know that I could never imitate Tribhuvannatha Prabhu. I can only admire and honor him from a distance. His contribution to Prabhupada's mission was totally unique and in a league of its own. Tribhuvannatha had no fear and he walked over many a cliff with nothing to save him but Krsna's mercy. He was filled with such deep conviction and absolute faith, which never failed him. By his example, he taught that one should use whatever gifts one has in the Lord's service without reservation. As Prabhupada said, we should each try "to the best of our individual capacity." Tribhuvannatha surely took that instruction to heart and will always serve as a wonderful inspiration to us all.