Prabhupada’s incredible positive attitude

Our own beloved Guru Maharaj Srila Prabhupada, he had such incredible positive thinking based on faith.” – Radhanath Swami

Many of you know the story. He left India when he was 69 years old, crossing the Arabian Sea on a cargo ship named Jaladuta. He had two heart attacks, sea sickness, and still he had to cross Africa, the Suez Canal, and the entire Atlantic Ocean! For some short stay he was in Butler, Pennsylvania, at some stranger’s house, and then he was living in the bowery ghetto of New York. Living in the esteem of the highest saint, and around him were drunkards, prostitutes, drug addicts and criminals. The lowest ghetto in America in those days was the bowery. He had no other place. Someone just let him stay on his floor.

He had such a positive attitude. Somebody gave him a tape recorder and he taped himself chanting Hare Krishna. Then he taped not only kirtan, but some little speech along with it. He had a program in somebody’s apartment, only about three or four people came and he played the tape. Srila Prabhupada writes in his diary, “They came. They could not understand the words; they could not understand what I was saying. But they seemed interested. Three or four people, they seemed interested.” He writes, “Now I know that Haridas Thakur’s prophecy that the holy name will convert and transform the hearts of people all over the world will come true.” How many of us… if Gaur Gopal Prabhu or Gauranga Prabhu travel all across the world and there was some little ghetto apartment and three, four people came and they could not even understand what they were saying, would they see this as a sign that the mission of Krishna is going to spread all over the world and be ecstatic about it? Most people would be very depressed.

But Srila Prabhupada had a positive outlook. Any little thing he saw, he saw as Krishna’s sign to encourage him to go on – any little thing.” – Radhanath Swami

He would report to his god brothers what was going on. And they were saying – back in India – “Forget it. Just come back. It is useless.” Nobody else could see it. He had the positive outlook, and then some boy named Paul invites him to stay in his apartment. It was on the 5th floor, and a dark stairway to get up there. It was just a loft. Do you know what a loft is? It is just the small place that was used for warehouses back in the 19th century, when Manhattan developed. They are just practically condemned buildings, and poor people just make those warehouses into their homes. One room, no partition. And in that room is the kitchen, the bathroom, the bedroom, the living room, the dining room, the exercise room and everything. One little dull light bulb hanging from the ceiling, with cobwebs. But Srila Prabhupada was writing, “We have a temple now in New York City.” He was writing to his god brother, “Come, come. Now we have a temple. Now our mission to teach the pure lesson of Bhagavad-Gita… we actually have a centre now in New York City, Manhattan”. Now, most of us in that place, we would think, “Is this temple? Is this a centre?”

And few days later, that boy Paul got intoxicated with some kind of LSD and threatened to kill Srila Prabhupada, and kicked him out of his house. He accused Srila Prabhupada of using his soap, and actually wanted to kill him. So Srila Prabhupada was homeless in the streets of New York. Why did not he return? He still saw with the positive attitude that things were unfolding. A little later he writes in his diary, “Today according to the Vedic Calendar it is Gaura Purnima, the appearance day of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. All my god brothers, they are in Vrindavana and Navadvipa celebrating with kirtan and with katha, and in the association of so many wonderful loving people.” He said, “I am all alone in New York City. There is not another Vaisnava within ten thousand miles. But I am happy because I am doing the work of my spiritual master. I have no personal self-interest. Whatever I am doing is in their service, the mission of their compassion.”

So a situation where almost anybody would be lonely and depressed… “What am I doing in this place?” On that day it was snowing and he had no warm cloths. Very difficult. But he was ecstatic. He was happy. He was seeing positive opportunity. “I am selflessly doing. This is a servant. I do not care, whatever inconvenience. I do not care, whatever success or failure may be coming. I am doing this as a service. Because I know I am pleasing Krishna, that’s all that matters. I know I am trying to do good for humanity, that’s all that matters.”

Then sometime later he was just staying at someone’s house – not a house, another bowery flat – and they got him a little storefront in the lower east sides, small little storefront. Some well-wishers paid for the first month rent and said, “Swamiji, we won’t be able to help you after this.” He had no income, he had no support and he had nothing. He called some well-wishers together to register a religious organization within America, with the government. They called it, “The International Society for Krishna Consciousness.” Then few little well-wishers who were becoming – just barely becoming – devotees, just a few people who had no money at all, they said, “Swamiji, International? We do not even know if we have money for the next month for this little tiny storefront in the lower east side. What is this international?” He said, “No no. We have temples all over the world. We have millions of books being distributed. We have farm communities. It is only separated by time.” That’s the positive attitude.

Then he did it, because that positive attitude was based on his complete faith in the teachings of Bhagavad-Gita, complete faith in Krishna.


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