PIONEERING THE WAY
Srila Prabhupada Impacts Mexico (Part 10)
LECTURE IN DOWNTOWN CUERNAVACA
After three days of preaching in the big city Srila Prabhupada left it to go to Cuernavaca. Tourists from all around the world visit this city because of its pleasant year round weather. And locally it is called, Cuernavaca, the city of eternal spring.
Lakshmi Priya devi dasi lived in Cuernavaca before joining the movement. Her family would very kindly host the devotees whenever they visited the city for book or prasadam distribution. So in this way they became close friends of the movement. Lakshmi Priya had come in contact with the devotees through a friend of the family who was a regular guest at her house (Anantacarya das). They were both part of the group of devotees who had been initiated a couple of days before.
Anantacarya das: The temple arranged Srila Prabhupada's schedule which aimed mostly at having big, solid preaching engagements every day so that he could preach to as many people as possible all day long. As part of this plan, an entire day was scheduled in the city of Cuernavaca, where large numbers of receptive intellectuals and philosophically oriented upper class of people lived.
Taking advantage of Srila Prabhupada's visit in the country, Lakshmi Priya and her family arranged some preaching programs for him in their home town. With the help of their good personal relationships they were able to secure the Zocalo or the city's main downtown square. This area was always full with an international crowd of tourists who wandered around visiting bars, stores, and other tourist places in the city. Besides this, the local government also helped by providing bleachers and a sound system for Srila Prabhupada's lecture.
After honoring prasadam, a group of devotees left for Cuernavaca City early in the morning taking with them the vyasasana, instruments, and other paraphernalia. Shortly afterwards, Srila Prabhupada left accompanied by Hanuman, Pushta Krishna, Chitsukananda, Haihaya, his personal assistants, and Daniel Partida, who acted as the official chauffer for the trip.
Anantacarya das: In the Cuernavaca Zocalo, Srila Prabhupada sat on his vyasasana which we had brought with us from the temple. He spoke to a crowd of international visitors who sat on the bleacher seats that had been set up there for his lecture.
The atmosphere was intimate but sober; all the devotees were able to go see Srila Prabhupada preach in the open air. Being in his close personal association they watched and listened to him very attentively. Almost everyone understood him in English since most had been to the National University.
Rohini Kumar das: When Srila Prabhupada arrived at Cuernavaca and saw the city, the weather, the trees, buildings etc., he said it looked like India; and as he looked at the people he said they looked like Hindus. When Srila Prabhupada and this group arrived everything was ready. The local government had installed bleachers and in this way provided the public with the nice facility of being able to sit comfortably while listening to Srila Prabhupada's lecture. They also provided a stage on which Srila Prabhupada's vyasasana and a sound system was placed. Everything was set up in the main part of the Zocalo.
Srila Prabhupada walked up onto the stage and sat on his vyasasana while H.H. Pushta Krishna Swami held an umbrella over his head to shield him from the burning midday sun. The devotees then began a kirtan that could be heard for several blocks through the sound system; and when it stopped Srila Prabhupada was introduced to the mixed crowd of local and foreign people who by that time were thronging the stage to see what was going on. Everyone seemed to be attracted by the happy sound of the kirtan and the devotees' colorful robes. Many people took a seat on the bleachers to watch and listen to the mystically uncommon spectacle unfolding before them in one of Mexico's famous plazas.
Srila Prabhupada began his lecture explaining the basic principles of the Krishna consciousness movement and ended it with another kirtan. Some of the local people and also tourists chanted and danced. After a while Srila Prabhupada stopped the kirtan and the devotees got ready to leave the area.
Ram Govinda das: When Srila Prabhupada extended his legs to get off the vyasasana, I ran to put his shoes on. So I was able to see him up close and I could tell that he was very happy because his eyes and face seemed to shine.
Srila Prabhupada got of the stage and headed to the car that was to take him to Lakshmi Priya dasi's house. On his way to the car a drunken man tried to approach Srila Prabhupada.
Shyamasundar das: We walked out there. The car was a couple blocks away. Chitsukananda das myself. Suddenly, before nobody could do anything about it, this drunk staggering across street, came right through all of us, was just about to run into Srila Prabhupada. Prabhupada stopped, lifted his cane in the air and went whack right on the guy's head and laid on him out cold. And the expression on Srila Prabhupada's face was like nothing had happened. He was always cool. Srila Prabhupada always exhibited these qualities that you associate with a great saint. They are listed, of course. In this case, he was always cool-headed or sober.
The devotees then went to Lakshmi Priya dasi's house, where her family had reserved a room for Srila Prabhupada and his group.
Rohini Kumar das: I had taken some things to eat from Mexico City and some things were also prepared there, especially a lot of fruit for Srila Prabhupdada, but he didn't eat anything.
Rama Govinda das: After the Zocalo program we went to Lakshmi Priya dasi's house. Her family welcomed Srila Prabhupada and his group, and then invited everyone into the dining room where the table was served with different types of fruits and other foods, but Srila Prabhupada didn't eat anything.
Anantacarya das: As part of the schedule it was considered that in the afternoon Srila Prabhupada might like to take rest and or prasadam at the house of Raul and Lydia Figueroa (Lakshmi Priya dasi's parents) in Cuernavaca. Arrangements were made so that prasadam from the temple was there, and also, a bedroom was cleaned and straightened up. It was planned that at some point Srila Prabhupada would sit down for lunch with Mr. and Mrs. Figueroa and have some personal exchange with them. Srila Prabhupada and his disciples arrived at the house in the afternoon as planned. He warmly chatted with some of the visitors in the living room and shortly afterwards he was shown into the bedroom to see if he was interested in resting.
Before proceeding further, it is imperative that the reader understand something about a popular Christian tradition in Mexico: the crucifix. In Mexico a crucifix is not just a simple cross as one sees, for example, in the churches of the United States. In Mexico a crucifix is a cross with a figure of Jesus Christ strung up on it with spikes driven thru his hands and feet. He is hanging there, nailed to the cross with blood running from the spikes in his feet and hands. There is a crown of thorns digging into his head and skull, with blood streaming down his face from the thorns. He has a forlorn, hopeless, defeated look like in Mexico. And they come in all sizes, including small, life size and bigger. There was one of these crucifixes hung up in the bedroom that was offered to Srila Prabhupada.
Shyamasundar das: I remember one time in Cuernavaca somebody had given Srila Prabhupada a room. A nice, simple, but very clean room in a Mexican home, and he had gone in for a nap. And about and hour or so later he rang his little bell, and I came. He was sitting on the end of his bed staring at this crucifix on the wall with this tortured picture of Christ, and there were a couple of tears coming out of Prabhupada's eyes. And he said, Shyamasundar, would you please remove this? They killed their spiritual master so that they can sin.
He then promptly left the room. And shortly after that he left the house. He did not stay to eat there. We loaded the buckets of prasadam and left.
SRILA PRABHUPADA BEGINS BOOK DISTRIBUTION IN SPANISH
After his short visit to Lakshmi Priya dasi's house, Srila Prabhupada went on to the next program that would take place in one of the most famous hotels in the city at the time known as the Hotel de la Selva. This hotel was equipped with the best of facilities including conference halls. Lakshmi Priya's family also helped in getting the nice conference hall at the hotel. The devotees again installed Srila Prabhupada's red and gold vyasasana, which combined with the hall's decoration, created a sense of harmony. Everything was ready for the conference and guests gradually arrived as the set time for the lecture came closer. In the meantime the devotees received and entertained them. When Srila Prabhupada entered the people who were sitting stood up to receive him. Srila Prabhupada's aristocratic figure brilliantly stood out, amid the tall, blond, handsome figures of his American disciples, attracting the assembly's attention with his imposing personality and high-class behavior. Srila Prabhupada then proceeded to sit down on the vyasasana, but before this one of his disciples took his shoes off. He then sat comfortably in a lotus position and a garland of fresh flowers was placed around his neck. He asked for his kartals and began a kirtan. By then all the seats in the hall were occupied. The kirtan finished and Chitsukananda das introduced Srila Prabhupada to the audience which was visibly formed by higher class members of society since everyone was very well dressed.
Anantacarya das: By the calendar year 1972 the entire upper class in Mexico was well educated, wealthy, sumptuously housed, and perfectly fluent in English. What to speak of Cuernavaca which was a refuge for the elite and social aristocracy of Mexico. In consequence, when addressing his audience at the Casino de la Selva, Srila Prabhupada could simply speak to them in English without needing an interpreter.
Srila Prabhupada began his lecture by explaining the need for everyone to accept Krishna consciousness. The audience remained very attentive to his words while he exhorted them to understand the Krishna consciousness philosophy and include it in their lives.
Haihaya das: We were working very hard to produce the first book in Spanish. We wanted to present it to Srila Prabhupada so we had to pressure the publisher to insure that he finish some books for us. We wanted to please Srila Prabhupada so as soon as some books were bound we packed them up and left to where Srila Prabhupada was lecturing in Cuernavaca.
Anantacarya das: Also, by 1972 there was still not even one of his books printed in Spanish. The devotees were working on several translations, but no book was ready at the moment of his arrival.
Rama Govinda das: Haihaya entered the conference hall bringing with him packs of books. He went up to the vyasasana and extended himself on the floor offering Srila Prabhupada his obeisances. After this, he opened up a package and handed him a book. Srila Prabhupada stopped talking and with an enormous smile looked through the book obviously very satisfied. He asked Haihaya das for the title who then answered him, Krishna Consciousness the
Topmost Yoga System. Srila Prabhupada then addressed the public and asked them to come take the book and read it. The audience went up to Srila Prabhupada taking books from him and giving generous donations for them.
Anantacarya das: By Krishna's mercy the devotees were able to produce the first-ever Krishna conscious book in Spanish: La Conciencia de Krishna El Sistema de Yoga mas Elevado on the same day that Srila Prabhupada was preaching in Cuernavaca. The devotees filled a cardboard box with the first copies and rushed them to the Casino de la Selva, were Srila Prabhupada was addressing a very cultured and respectful audience. And what did Srila
Prabhupada do when the box arrived? He instantly reached into it and started distributing on the spot. The very first book distributor to distribute books in Spanish was none other than His Divine Grace A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
Rama Govinda das: I was close to Srila Prabhupada when some persons came up to me asking if the swami could sign a book. I then asked his servant who approached Srila Prabhupada conveying the request. He accepted to sign the book and when the other guests saw this they also gathered for his autograph until a line was formed.
Nanda Nandana das: It was the first time that Krishna conscious books were published in Spanish and Srila Prabhupada was their intelligence and properly directed them so they will be able to understand life's real mission.
Anatacarya das: Srila Prabhupada did big. He has meeting twenty pesos a piece for those books. In 1972 the Mexican peso was one of the world's hardest currencies, and twenty pesos back then was a big bill.
Nanda Nandana das: The people that attended the conference were very well dressed in suits and ties. You could tell they very happy and satisfied autographing his books. I also went up to him asking for his autograph but he told me that he would autograph it for me in the temple.
Just as several years before this in New York City, Srila Prabhupada had blessed the first copies of his books in English; he also blessed the first copies of his newly published book in Spanish and immediately gave them away to inquisitive souls. By initiating the distribution of his books in this way he set the example for his Mexican disciples. These in turn set the example for the rest of Latin America which was soon flooded by the endless waves of Srila Prabhupada's transcendental books.
Anantacarya das: Srila Prabhupada would take a twenty, give them a book, and not give any change! So the guest not only received a lovely book on Krishna consciousness, but was also able to give a wonderful donation directly to Srila Prabhupada and his preaching movement. What an auspicious moment for all of those people in the audience, because as he distributed the books he would also directly look at each person and say something very
nice and personal.
In this way, Srila Prabhupada inspired his followers with his presence, words and actions. The lecture ended with a successful book distribution by Srila Prabhupada himself. And all the guests left happily with their autographed books. Srila Prabhupada was very satisfied by the great reception the public gave him and for having taken his first books in Spanish.
Rama Govinda das
(R.G. Bhakti Prapanna Parvata Maharaja)