By His Example
The Wit and Wisdom of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
LORD JAGANNATHA IN SAN FRANCISCO
Krishna works in mysterious ways. Even several months after its opening, the Frederick Street storefront temple was almost bare, with only a painting of Govinda on the wall, a statue of Kartamasi Krishna, and a piece of Madras cloth. Yet Lord Jagannatha would soon miraculously appear in the midst of our new San Francisco temple by way of chaitya-guru, or the spiritual instruction from within. One day Malati prabhu was shopping at Cost-Plus Imports, a huge, warehouse-type store on Fisherman's Wharf, full of knick-knacks from all over the world. A large bin full of two-inch wooden carvings, richly painted and obviously from India, caught her eye. She acquired one of the small statues (some say that she got a five-finger discount!), thinking she would go up to the Swami's room and ask him what it was.
When she placed the figurine on Swamiji's desk, we watched in awe as the great Swami bowed down humbly before the little statue, mumbling something. After paying his respects, then sitting back lightly on his cushion, he said, "That is Lord Jagannatha." Pausing, he then said, "That is Krishna. He is worshipped in the temple of Jagannatha Puri, Orissa, in India. There, He resides with His sister, Subhadra, and His brother, Balaram." He told us that every year the Lord leaves the temple for a trip to the ocean, and how in Jagannatha Puri there is a great procession where thousands and thousands of people come from all over India to see the Lord traveling to the beach in His car. When Lord Chaitanya first walked into the temple and saw Lord Jagannatha, He said, "Here is Krishna." Then He fell into a trance of ecstasy and did not leave the temple for days.
Swamiji continued, "Lord Jagannatha has come of His own accord. We did not have to search Him out. This is most auspicious. It is Krishna's will that we have Lord Jagannatha once a year out of the temple for a visit to the ocean." He proceeded to tell us the story of the carver Visvakarma, how he was commisioned by the king to carve Lord Krishna, Subhadra and Balaram, but only on the condition that he not be disturbed in his work. When the king, no longer able to contain his curiosity, interrupted Vishvakarma before he was finished, the sculptor stopped his work. Thus, Lord Jagannatha, in the form we know Him, is the result.
Shyamasundar perked up as Swamiji beckoned him closer, "Can you carve this, big size?" "Yes, I will try," Shyamasundar replied eagerly. Swamiji then asked if there were two other such dolls available, and Malati returned the next day with the little figures of Balaram and Subhadra. Swamiji requested Shyamasundar to carve Krishna's brother and sister in large size as well. Shortly afterward, Hayagriva found and purchased somewhere a sixteen-inch Lord Jagannatha, Lady Subadhra, and magnificent Balaram. I walked in and They were sitting right on Swamiji's desk. Many of the fledgling devotees started wearing Lord Jagannatha or the holy triumvirate around their necks, which required twisting a small screw-like hook into Their Lordships' crowns. When Swamiji saw this he pointed out that, "One should not put any screws or nails into Lord Jagannatha." Then others showed up with little ropes like "hangman nooses" around their necks. Nara-Narayan prabhu was wearing a huge, dangling eight-inch Lord Jagannatha.
We were new and innocently ignorant of many things which the Swami taught us. Swamiji taught us a new prayer to Lord Jagannatha: "Jagannatha swami nayana patha gami bhavatume." Translated into English this means, "Lord of the universe, kindly be visible unto me." One day I walked over to Shyamasundar's apartment on the corner of Haight and Lyon Streets. His neighbor across the hall, a member of a rock band called The Misunderstood -- and later to be initiated and named Rishikeshananda -- was also there. I had dropped by to visit and to check out the carving progress. Shyamasundar chiseled away on the Supreme Lord to the sounds of Bob Dylan or the "Happening" Hare Krishna record.
On the way back to the temple, I saw Uddhava prabhu selling Oracle newspapers on Haight Street and stopped to chat about how nicely the carving of Lord Jagannatha was progressing. On Frederick Street, a feeling of bliss filled and enveloped me as I entered our welcoming temple, which was growing like a new plant emanating small, fresh buds. The temple fed many and had also become a cleansing house for sojourners coming off LSD trips. Jayananda and Brother David were serving the prasadam that Yamuna, Harsharani, Janaki, and Malati prepared on the new gas stove with a griddle for chapatis, donated by Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead.
Shyamasundar soon completed the Jagannatha Deity at his Haight Street apartment and invited the Swamiji over to see Him. All the devotees squeezed into the small apartment and eagerly waited Swamiji's arrival. We cooked a feast, all new preparations taught to us by Swamiji. When he arrived, Swamiji proceeded directly to the reclining Deity and bowed down. When he got up, he looked very pleased. He settled into a rocking chair and led a kirtan with shining eyes. He also praised the cooks for the fine prasadam and requested Shyamasundar to make an altar in the temple for their Lordships. A few days later, a nice altar of redwood had been finished, with flashing psychedelic spotlights, and Haridas had painted the temple in bright colors.
On the day of the installation, we raised Lord Jagannatha onto a broad shelf above the altar. Then we watched as Swamiji performed a ceremony we had not see before: he offered incense, fire, water, cloth, and flowers. "This is called arati," he explained. "Now the temple is for worshiping." Then Swamiji sat below Jagannatha and, playing bongo drums, led us in chanting the maha-mantra for at least an hour. Hayagriva blew the kelp horn; Israel the trumpet, Mukunda played kartalas, and Haridas banged on a rented timpani drum. Yamuna's piercing "Hari Hari Bol!" resounded through the room.
The day after the installation, some devotees took Lord Jagannatha into Golden Gate Park and started a kirtan. Soon, enthusiastic people gathered and encircled the Lord, all the while chanting and dancing. When the Swami heard from someone about this occurrence, he walked over to the place known as Hippie Hill -- and when he saw Jagannatha, he offered his obeisances. Then he sat beside the Lord and led the chanting. More and more people arrived. Mukunda and Shyamasundar ran back to the temple for the timpani drum and portable microphone.
Later, Swamiji firmly but kindly told us that "Lord Jagannatha always stays in the temple. People come to the temple to visit the Lord, but Lord Jagannatha does not go out to see the people." We were sitting in a circle around the Swami when he told us again of the yearly car festival in Puri where each Deity is taken out, riding on their own ratha, or car. This was his way of forgiving us. While speaking with us, Swamiji was looking out of his apartment window, and he saw a flatbed truck. He drew us a simple diagram of how that could be made into a cart for Lord Jagannatha.
(To be continued.)
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