PIONEERING THE WAY
Srila Prabhupada Impacts Mexico (Part 4)
THE TELEVISION INTERVIEW
On the second day of his visit, Srila Prabhupada celebrated the first initiation ceremony in the country. Later on that same day his appearance in the country's most important TV news program was arranged.
Chitsukananda das: On my third day in Mexico City I got the bright idea of going to "Televicentro" (NOTA) -- to see if we could be on a television program and I was fortunate enough to be interviewed by Jacobo Zabludovsky. I took the opportunity then to ask him if Srila Prabhupada could also appear as his guest when he came to visit us. Srila Prabhupada had promised me that he would come to visit the temple when it was opened. Srila Prabhupada did come to visit us and Jacobo Zabludovsky agreed to the interview on his TV
The news was "24 horas" (twenty-four hours) and was hosted by Mr. Zabludovsky, a world renowned journalist. Chitsukananda told Srila Prabhupada about the television program who then asked about the number of people who watched it. When he was told that the program had twenty million viewers he was very surprised, and opening his eyes widely he said, "We will certainly go." When he was told that he would appear in the early hours of the morning, he said, "We can rest during the day." A group of devotees then prepared themselves to accompany Srila Prabhupada to the television program.
Pushta Krishna: I remember the television program very well. I was in the group who accompanied Srila Prabhupada to the program. I remember the images vividly. As Srila Prabhupada was sitting, chanting his japa very humbly, the TV host came up to him welcoming him in a very gentlemanly way. Srila Prabhupada responded to his gesture by attentively receiving the courtesy. I saw Prabhupada smile very beautifully on that occasion, as the man greeted him with a hand shake thanking him very much for accepting his invitation to participate in his program. It was the warmest and most beautiful smile that I ever saw on Srila Prabhupada.
Stutya das: It was late at night and I was watching the news on TV. At the end there was a section with Jacobo Zabludovsky who is very well known in Mexico and he said he had a surprise for everyone. The surprise was that a holy man from India was visiting the city. It was interesting to see the devotees on television and I was certainly surprised because I didn't know what it was all about. The devotees appeared with Srila Prabhupada, he was sitting there with them while they had a kirtan.
Nandanandana das: Jacobo Zabludovsky asked Srila Prabhupada why he was sitting on the Vyasa-asana, and Srila Prabhupada answered him by explaining the nature of a spiritual master. He said that the spiritual master did not ask for anything, but it was the duty of the disciples to offer him the best they had. Considering the enormous amount of viewers watching the program Srila Prabhupada was very thankful to be on it. He explained that it didn't matter what religion one belonged to, and that Krishna consciousness was for everyone, without distinct in of race, creed or sex. And he pointed out that although his young disciples were from different religions, they were practicing Krishna consciousness and developing love for God.
Pushta Krishna das: The gentlemanly program host came up to us and asked each one what religion we were from. One Said, "I'm Christian," another said, "I'm Jewish", etc. And since I was very much enthused having recently been initiated, I answered him, "I am a Vaishnava." Srila Prabhupada simply looked at me. I don't know what he could have thought because he didn't smile or make any expression.
Nandanandana das: At the end of the program Jacobo Zabludovsky asked Srila Prabhupada to bless Mexico, who then said, "Yes, chant Hare Krishna." Prabhupada was very pleased with the interview because of the good questions that were asked and, by showing great respect for Srila Prabhupada, referring to him as "His Divine Grace," the host conducted himself as well as he did the program. In other countries many interviewers could not recognize Srila Prabhupada's spiritual quality, but people in Mexico have some inherent quality in being able to recognize spiritual persons.
Rama Govinda das: Since several of us could not accompany Srila Prabhupada on the night that he appeared on television we went to a private house were we could watch the program on TV. The program was very well lead by Jacobo Zabludovsky, and the TV viewers were surely very satisfied and impressed by Srila Prabhupada. After watching the program we thanked our hosts and returned to the temple to rest.
After the interview Srila Prabhupada returned to the temple in the early morning. He was very satisfied for having the opportunity to preach to twenty million people in a short time; some of who, were attracted to the movement, and later became initiated devotees.
THE SECOND INITIATION CEREMONY
The first initiation ceremony where Srila Prabhupada awarded the order of sannyasa to an American devotee was celebrated on the day after his arrival. The very next day was a Sunday and a second initiation ceremony would take place in the morning heading the events for the day which where all scheduled to be in the temple.
Rama Govinda das: I was walking down the staircase from the first floor when I was called by his Holiness Hanuman das Goswami, who then affectionately shoved me into the temple office. Chitsukananda, the temple president was there and asked me if I wanted to be initiated the following day and I answered him that I did. They said that Srila Prabhupada wanted to initiate the first Mexican devotees and asked me if I could follow the vows for the rest of my life to which I again answered affirmatively. It was so unexpected; I was very surprised because I hadn't been living in the temple for more than three weeks. I didn't know the meaning and significance of the initiation nor the inherent responsibility in accepting a spiritual master. In spite of all this, I accepted.
Rohini Kumar das: Srila Prabhupada said the Mexican people enjoyed a very nice facility in being able to pronounce "Hare Krishna" very clearly. Many American or European devotees, for example, have difficulty in pronouncing "Hare Krishna." Srila Prabhupada had many hopes in making good devotees here because if you can chant clearly you can listen clearly, and by listening one becomes purified.
It was Sunday morning and the second consecutive day that we were to celebrate an initiation ceremony. Srila Prabhupada had accepted some local devotees in the day before, and that day the rest would be initiated. Everything was ready and Srila Prabhupada left his room which was situated on the first floor, the same as the temple room. He walked down the balcony corridor which connected all the main rooms on the first floor and entered the temple room going all the way to the end were the altar was. The ceiling above the altar was a small dome, similar to the ones in Indian temples, which gave the room a beautiful appearance. The altar doors opened revealing the Pancha-Tattva and Srila Prabhupada offered obeisances completely extending him on the floor. Then standing up; He slowly got on his knees, again prostrating his head down, and then gradually got up with folded hands, bending slightly from the waist before going to his Vyasa-asana. The same as the day before he stopped to inspect the sacrificial arena before taking his seat. Once seated on his Vyasa-asana he received a beautiful fragrant garland of fresh flowers that a devotee put around his neck. Again his servant arrived with the japas putting them to his right on the Vyasa-asana.
The newly initiated sannyasi, H.H. Pushta Krishna Swami, conducted the ceremony that day. His Holiness sat in front of the fire altar and, performing the customary purification, he showed the initiating devotees how to purify themselves. In the meantime Srila Prabhupada started to chant on the japas that he would hand out to the devotees. After this ceremony
practically all the residents in the temple ashram were initiated.
Although it was only his third day in the country Srila Prabhupada had already touched the vast Mexican population by appearing on television. And by initiating the rest of the Krishna consciousness movement among the local people.
With an indication from Srila Prabhupada the Maharaja started the ceremony. He talked about the ten offenses to be avoided while chanting the holy names of the Lord, about the importance of accepting a bonfide spiritual master, and about brahminical qualifications since some of the devotees were to receive second initiation. The lecture ended and it was time for the devotees to receive their japas and spiritual names from Srila Prabhupada. It was routine for the secretary to take the civil name and select a spiritual name beginning with the same first letter. Srila Prabhupada would generally approve these names and occasionally he would select different ones. The name was then written down in Srila Prabhupada's book of initiated devotees. And when Srila Prabhupada asked about the four regulative principles the devotees vowed to follow them and to chant sixteen rounds of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra every day. Srila Prabhupada finally handed them their japas and simultaneously gave them their spiritual names.
Upon hearing his name called out Bhakta Daniel got up and went to Srila Prabhupada offering him his obeisances. Remaining kneeled before him he pronounced the vows of initiation. Srila Prabhupada then extended his right arm with japa beads in his hand, and as he handed it to him he said, "Your spiritual name is Nandanandana das." All of the devotees shouted, "Jaya!, Hari Bol!" as Nandanandana das took his japa from Srila Prabhupada, and after again offering him his obeisances he returned to his seat for the rest of the cermonny.
Shyamasundara das: "Something that struck Srila Prabhupada about the Mexican community was that the devotees were from all walks of life and age groups, not just young hippies. Their Catholic background prepared them very nicely to surrender to devotional life."
Rama Govinda das
(R.G. Bhakti Prapanna Parvata Maharaja)