Remembering Tribhuvannatha (Part 3)
Tribhuvannatha Prabhu was always talking about his favorite Prabhupada memories. One in particular stands out. After giving a class from the vyasasana, Srila Prabhupada said the following: "Krsna Consciousness is so simple, that you'll miss it." Tribhuvannatha never forgot that and imbibed it well. He made it his life's goal to please Prabhupada at any cost. It was that simple. No big flash or fanfare. Just please Prabhupada. That's it.
One time, after working & struggling together in some foreign countries, Tribhuvannatha said to me: "Let's go to India." We immediately booked the flight and within a couple of days we were hearing and chanting the Srimad-Bhagavatam on the banks of the Ganges
at Hardwar and Rishikesh.
Tribhuvannatha was like that. The time in between conceiving of something in his mind and making it happen was very short compared to most people I've met. To him, there were never any material reasons why something couldn't be done. He would practically will things into existence for the purpose of serving Krsna and Srila Prabhupada. I saw him do it many times and it left a lasting impression on me. His heart was overflowing with spiritual enthusiasm and he never took no for an answer. He seemed to have this already fixed up from a long long time ago.
One time Tribhuvannatha Prabhu told me that he had received a benediction early in his devotional career that whenever he chanted Hare Krsna in kirtan, he would immediately experience transcendental bliss. Whoever saw him chant the holy names of the Lord so enthusiastically in towns and cities all over the world observed this to be true.
HARE KRSNA HARE KRSNA
KRSNA KRSNA HARE HARE
HARE RAMA HARA RAMA
RAMA RAMA HARE HARE
Tribhuvannatha and money
Tribhuvannatha had an interesting relationship with money. Whenever he got some -- and he often got a lot of it -- it wasn't long before he spent it all in Prabhupada's service. So he either had lots of money or none at all, depending on just when you'd catch him during the cycle. People and devotees would offer him money because they knew he'd do big things for Prabhupada with it -- start & fund preaching programs, print & distribute books, or travel & preach in some capacity or another. Whenever he spent money, it was in relation to service. At night, he was the same old Tribhuvannatha, almost always with a round or two of japa to chant before nodding off to sleep -- unattached and happy to have put in yet another day of service and hard work for the spiritual master and Krsna. He was the personification of the phrase, "Work now, samadhi later."
A friend to the end
One day in 1988 I was passing through England on the way back from India and went to stay at the Bhaktivedanta Manor. I hadn't seen Tribhuvannatha Prabhu for many years. During mangal arotika, unbeknownst to me, Tribhuvannatha was there. Suddenly he turned around and our eyes met. We both embraced and the energy was electric. Old brothers meeting again after so many years and after so many struggles in foreign lands together combined to bring us both to tears. What a blessing to have such a friend in my life. Long before "e-mails," he always used to sign his telexes as "Tribhu," or "Your old trooper, Tribhu." And it was true; he was a real trooper. His loyalty to his friends was unwavering, even in the most dangerous and harrowing of circumstances. He would often show up when he was most needed, just in the nick of time. Who could ask for a better friend?
The Al Jindoul
Tribhuvannatha Prabhu and I used to meet up in different countries, especially in Asia. In one country, which was very expensive, we always had to stay in one of the dumpiest hotels in the world, called the Al Jindoul. We also had to wake up the desk clerk every time -- or run around looking for him. For some reason, we always ended up arriving late at night. Nonetheless, we had the most amazing times, talking about Srila Prabhupada together. I'll never forget that dumpy old hotel. In fact, when Tribhuvannatha was in Brazil during his last days, I wrote to him, reminding him about the Al Jindoul, and he expressed his delight that I had remembered the place, and even the name. Associating with Tribhuvannatha Prabhu was always nectar, no matter where. And for some reason or other, the craziest places and situations seemed to bring out his best -- and funniest.
Today is a good day to die
This is a powerful Native sentiment, especially for warriors. Upon waging each day's battles, we never know if we will come out victorious or if it will be our last day on earth. I observed that Tribhuvannatha Prabhu imbibed that spirit whole-heartedly; not recklessly, but he was always on call, waiting for the order from the spirirutal master, whatever it may be. He wasn't afraid of death and was always willing to take great risks for Krsna and Srila Prabhupada.
Humble to the end
Prior to Tribhuvannatha Prabhu's departure to Brazil in an attempt to heal his stomach cancer, I read about his plight on a devotee website. Very concerned, I immediately wrote to him expressing my anxiety. He replied that the article was "exaggerated" and that his condition was "not that serious." Every time I corresponded with him about it, he kept reassuring me that his condition was not as serious as it was made out to be. So of course, I was completely shocked and devastated to hear the news of his departure because all along my friend was downplaying his condition so as not to worry me. This was Tribhuvannatha's humble nature. He didn't want to make a big fanfare about his illness, and he expressed his embarrassment to me that such a fuss was being made throughout the devotee community at the time. He quietly slipped away to a foreign country where he passed away in very simple and subdued circumstances. And it was totally characteristic of him to be off somewhere in a foreign land at the time, since he spent so much of his life traveling the globe preaching. Although I was terribly sad, I was also very proud of him for displaying such a gentle and self-effacing attitude right to the end. He never lost his genuine heartfelt humility.
The real deal
The first thing that Tribhuvannatha Prabhu said to me when I met him on the roof of the old Delhi temple in Lajput Nagar was, "How would you like to do something special for Srila Prabhupada?" It was the first thing on his mind in the morning and the last thing on his mind at night. It was the only thing that really mattered to Tribhuvannatha. That's what he wanted, birth after birth. No substitutes, no seconds, no reasonable facsimiles. The real deal. The real McCoy. The real thing. It's kind of hard to follow up on that. It reminds me of what Ringo Starr said and felt after the Beatles broke up. What do you after the Beatles? Well, what do you do after Tribhuvannatha?
A lightning rod
A writer once said that people in general don't usually remember what you said or did in life, as much as they remember how you made them feel. Tribhuvannatha was a lightning rod for love of Prabhupada. He used to knock everyone out with his enthusiasm and love for Srila Prabhupada, and the effects have not subsided over time. All glories to Sriman Tribhuvannatha Prabhu for having the courage of his convictions and a deep faith which easily moved mountains.
Always a smile on his face
Tribhuvannatha Prabhu was always trying to cheer us up and make us laugh at our situation, no matter how dire. Oftentimes we had no money or even food, and spent many a night crowded in small dusty hotel rooms or in workshops with a dozen or more poor workers, who lived very austerely so that they could send their meager incomes back home to their wives and family members in India. In some places we lived, the soot was so thick and the noise levels so high, being so overcrowded, that to be healthy there for us westerners was a luxury. From a material perspective, those years were pretty hellish, at least for me. But Tribhuvannatha always had a smile on his face and a good Krsna conscious joke on his lips, making it not only bearable, but actually fun. He had such a jolly spirit and it was contagious. Even though he traveled quite often, he kept in contact through telexes -- and receiving those were the highlights of my day because they took me right out of those situations and immediately raised my spirits, so that I could somehow carry on. Even to this day, I carry around a big stack of Tribhuvannatha's telexes, which easily transport me back to another time and era whenever I read them. Someday I hope to write more about those times.
(To be cont'd.)