PIONEERING THE WAY
Srila Prabhupada Impacts Mexico (Part 2)
THE KRISHNA CONSCIOUSNESS MOVEMENT COMES TO MEXICO CITY
With the help of his disciples Srila Prabhupada opened temples in different parts of the world. But up until then the great Spanish speaking population of Latin America had remained untouched. Knowing this, Candravali devi dasi who lived in the San Francisco temple wrote to Srila Prabhupada a letter expressing her desire to go to Mexico and start a temple there. Srila Prabhupada answered her in a letter:
"Regarding your opening a center in Mexico, I think that if some other brahmacharinies are available to go along with you that there will be no objection to this idea. However, where shall these brahmacharinies come from?"
With a lack of qualified Spanish speaking female devotees to help Chandravali d.d. in such a mission, Srila Prabhupada considered that the moment was not adequate. It was against practical Krishna conscious norms that a single female go preaching, unaccompanied, to distant places:
"For the time being, I think you may concentrate upon improving the temple already established in San Francisco." (Letter 28.11.68)
Later on, Chandravali devi dasi wrote to Srila Prabhupada to tell him about her marriage. His Divine Grace was very pleased and gave her his blessings so that her desire to preach in Mexico could come to life:
"I am so glad to learn that you are going to be married with Chitsukananda on Sunday, 11th January, at the Radha-Krishna temple. I like this marriage ceremony because it has given practical poof of my ideas that boys and girls of this country better be married and engaged in preaching work."
"Similarly, when you are married, as it was discussed in Los Angeles, you also go somewhere, probably in Mexico as you desire, and organize a center there and start an edition of B.T.G. in Spanish language." (Letter 9.01.70)
Srila Prabhupada's strategy was working. For cultural reasons, western boys and girls were accustomed to live side by side from an early age, especially in the United States, and he knew that to try to change these customs would not work. So by uniting them in marriage, Srila Prabhupada did not break the deeply rooted social custom but sanctified their union in holy Krishna conscious matrimony, and its effectiveness was already being seen.
"So this is a very good news. I was, since a long time thinking of your marriage. Now Krishna has given you this opportunity. Utilize it properly and be happy." (Letter 9.01.70)
Chitsukananda das: A friend of Candravali d.d. helped her translate the introduction of Bhagavad-Gita into Spanish, and she then presented it to Srila Prabhupada who appreciated her endeavor.
"So why not in Spanish language which you know well and I think Chitsukananda also knows well."
The intelligent way in which Srila Prabhupada was conducting his preaching in the west empowered him to satisfy the desires of the previous acharyas and to fulfill Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's prophecy: that in every town and village the chanting of the holy names of Krishna would be heard. And he did this by taking the Hare Krishna maha-mantra to all continents, countries, cities, towns, and villages, mainly through enthusiastic married couples.
The very next year the new couple decided to please Srila Prabhupada, and made arrangements for moving to Mexico City. At that same time one of the GBC secretaries wrote to Srila Prabhupada requesting Chitsukananda's help. Srila Prabhupada answered him with the following:
"So far as Chitsukananda going to replace Brahmananda Maharaja... I have just received a letter from him dated March, 3rd, 1971 saying that he is in L.A. making final arrangements for opening Mexico City branch." (Letter 03.24.71)
With this answer Srila Prabhupada eliminated any other possibility of service for Chitsukananda. And he further encouraged him to continue his plans by answering his letter with the following:
"I am so glad to hear that you are now in L.A. discussing final plans for opening one center in Mexico City. That is very encouraging news, I am anxious that we establish centers in major cities all over the globe and Mexico City is certainly an important landmark. Both you and your wife Candravali can speak Spanish language nicely, so you are certainly qualified for such a mission." (Letter 3.24.71)
His Divine Grace once mentioned that his Guru Maharaja Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura had sent a sannyasi to preach in Europe but that he had been unsuccessful in the attempt. But Srila Prabhupada, acting as the Acharya of the Sampradaya, was sending married couples to preach with great success. In his time, Guru Maharaja acting as Acharya of the Sampradaya, introduced the order of sannyasa and awarded to his qualified disciples, who then spread the sankirtan movement throughout India with great success. He also sponsored several of his disciples for preaching in Europe. So with complete faith in his spiritual master's words and in the chanting of the holy names Srila Prabhupada introduced this formula into the western countries: regardless of sex or ashrama position a devotee can preach all over the world if he or she has firm faith in the master and in the Supreme Personality of Godhead Sri Krishna. At the end of this last letter to Chitsukananda das, Srila Prabhupada stressed the importance of Back to Godhead magazine, which he himself started publishing many years back during his married life.
"I am also glad to note that you have begun working on BTG Spanish edition. Actually we want that BTG be printed in every major language and distributed all over the world so there is no language barrier in taking to our movement."
Chitsukananda das: Before I went to Mexico I was in the Los Angeles temple. There was a Mexican devotee form Guadalajara, Pipalai, he helped me to translate and print. With his assistance and a friend's printing shop we printed the first magazine in Spanish: 'Regreso a la Divinidad' which was the Spanish version of the original Back to Godhead magazine. It was in black ink and yellow paper, 32 pages, and the front cover had Lord Sri Krishna coming back from the forest with the cows. So once this was ready we set off to Mexico City in our van, loaded with magazines and incense.
Finally in very satisfied mood Srila Prabhupada gives them his blessings for success in the mission they were embarking on.
"So go there, husband and wife, and make our Mexico City branch a grand success, and Krishna will certainly bestow upon you all blessings." (Letter 03.25.71)
Inspired by Srila Prabhupada's works Chitsukananda dasa aquired a VW van, books, incense and other types of paraphernalia. Besides this, two other Spanish speaking devotees joined the mission. And when everything was ready they left Los Angeles for Mexico in their van. The trip took several days and when they finally arrived they rented rooms in a hotel. They were soon able to settle in a nice section of the city, and they then started to preach. Chitsukananda das informed Srila Prabhupada about their trip
and the beginning of their preaching activities in Mexico City. Srila Prabhupada answered him:
"I am so glad to hear that you have gone to Mexico City with Jan and Bhutahrit Prabhus and have rented a nice house in the central part of the city."
Srila Prabhupada mentions here the keys for success in Krishna consciousness: sincerity and effort with determination. These qualities are required in order to obtain the elements necessary for the execution of devotional service.
"From your description. I can tell that there is great field for spreading this sankirtana movement there and if you are sincere and determined in your efforts then surely Krishna will give you all facility. So go on and do things nicely and work very hard to make our newly formed Mexico City branch a great success."
Srila Prabhupada concluded his letter by giving him further instructions and asking him to work hard so that things would turn out well.
"Keep in contact with me occasionally by mail and as soon as you have established yourself nicely there, then as soon as I find an opportunity I shall visit Mexico City." (Letter 7.08.71)
Following Srila Prabhupada's instructions with renewed enthusiasm they vigorously continued to preach. In this positive mood they published the first edition of Back to Godhead in Mexico. The magazine consisted of eight pages explaining the basic principles of the Krishna consciousness movement. They would distribute it when going to chant Hare Krishna through the streets. This drew the attention of local people who started to offer their help to these pioneer devotees in pushing the sankirtan movement of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. After a period of intense preaching, Chitsukananda das was able to rent an old mansion. The house had been used as an embassy until then, and was located only three blocks away from the country's presidential residence.
Chitsukananda das immediately informed Srila Prabhupada that he had secured this mansion for lease, and that he had registered the society for Krishna consciousness with the local authorities. He also let him know about the numerous societies of swamis and yogis that were in fashion throughout the city.
"I am so much pleased that you got a nice place. I shall try to go to your center at my first opportunity. I quite follow the situation described by you, and all these yogis are mostly bluffers. They have not substance to give. You can openly declare this fact. Try to distribute our books very widely and preach also. These bogus yogis and swamis will vanish."
Here Srila Prabhupada gives us one of the reasons for the distribution of His Divine Grace's books and the preaching mission, which is to unmask these false yogis and swamis. He instructed his disciples to openly preach and this way after being exposed these people would lose all influence and would gradually disappear.
"It is very good that you have registered the society. It is very important, actually we are not religious institution. We are presenting a cultural program, making men of good character. Therefore it is cultural institution."
With this Srila Prabhupada pointed out one of the society's activities. And finally he wanted them to carefully supervise all the translations in order to avoid fatal errors.
"One thing is that all translations should be checked by you and Candravali because those who are not our students, if they write some wrong conclusion, the whole thing will be murdered." (Letter 12.10.71)
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's prophecy was taking place because of the hard work and sincere efforts of Srila Prabhupada and his international band of enthusiastic disciples. Up until now no one in India could imagine what was going on here; what was happening was that people from different ways of life were taking the Hare Krishna maha-mantra and in this way becoming Krishna Bhaktas in the full sense of the word. They were accepting taking Bhakti-yoga activities and this was awakening their religious past, which is natural for the Mexican people:
"I am very much pleased to hear that Mexico City centre is developing very nicely under your expert supervision and I also note that you say that Latin America is very much ready for Krishna Consciousness."
Because of this Srila Prabhupada was preparing to visit Mexico for the first time, making it the first country in Latin America that he went to. Thus, through his guidance and transcendental presence he would definitively establish the movement for Krishna consciousness in Mexico City for the Spanish population. No one before him had ever tried to implement such daring missionary work, but it was surely happening thanks to Srila Prabhupada's great preaching vision.
"So if you like I can come after leaving Hawaii, before coming to Los Angeles, were I shall end my touring. So we are going to Honolulu from Tokyo on May 6th 1972, and I think we shall remain about two to three weeks in Hawaii, and then we can come to Mexico City. Is that all right? You may correspond with my secretary, Syamasundara, in this regard, and make all arrangements with him. I think we can stay about one week or ten days before that we must return to Los Angeles."
Srila Prabhupada's idea in going to Mexico City was not only to establish the movement there, buy also to create a solid base for future preaching in South America. He expressed this in the following letter:
"I am sending one of our new sannyasins Hanuman das Goswami, to South America. He is here with me now, but he shall leave by ship very soon, so if you have got any Spanish-speaking devotees there who can assist him in preaching thoughout South America, you can tell them to write him here at the above address, and they can make arrangements to meet for performing this great task of pioneer preachers on South American continent." (Letter 15.04.72)
As someone in the Vaishnava community correctly noted:
gurvajnam sirasi-dharyam saktyavesa-sva rupine
hare krsneti mantrena pascatya-pracya-tarine
"Taking the order of his guru on his head, he became empowered by Nityananda Prabhu to act as a saktyavesa-avatara, he distributed the Hare Krishna mantra all over the eastern and western worlds, delivering and uplifting all fallen souls."
By his expansive preaching Srila Prabhupada was proving to be a person empowered by Sri Nityananda Prabhu. With natural evidence he acted as the auto effulgent acharya of the Brahma Gaudiya Sampradaya in modern times. He satisfied the desires of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu by taking the Hare Krishna maha-mantra to all continents in the globe, and by establishing the sankirtan movement beyond all imaginable aspirations of the Vaishnava community.
In the following report Chitsukananda das sent to Srila Prabhupada he informed him of the temple's development and about the possibility of Srila Prabhupada's visit. Srila Prabhupada answered him:
"I do not think I shall require a special visa for going there for one or two weeks, an ordinary tourist visa will suffice. I shall be reaching Los Angeles on about the 20th of May, 1972 and from there we shall make further plans and get visas for going to Mexico later."
At the end of the letter Srila Prabhupada advised Chitsukananda das to provide the Mexican public with as much literature in Spanish as the possibilities would allow him to:
"The Mexican public is very sympathetic, so produce voluminously Spanish language literature. You can establish correspondence with Karandhara to produce many books and magazines in Spanish." (Letter 3.05.72)
Srila Prabhupada followed the schedule he had described in his letter and arrived in Los Angeles as planned. He and his traveling party which consisted of his servant, personal secretary, and a Sanskrit pandit, remained there for a few days. They had no trouble obtaining visas and a date was set for their visit. Daniel Partida, a close friend of the movement in Mexico, paid for their airline tickets. So in this way everything was conveniently arranged for their departure.
Rama Govinda das
(R.G. Bhakti Prapanna Parvata Maharaja)