Interview with Nanda Krishna Prabhu
MK: Prabhu, please tell us of how and who had started this program?
Nanda Krishna: Before I joined this program, the Question & Answer Classes were held only on the main festival days in ISKCON Mayapur, eg. Christmas Day, January 1st, Rasa Purnima, Gaura Purnima, etc. This was first organized by HG Advaita Acarya Prabhu, HG Murarigupta Prabhu and HG Bhakta Janapriya Prabhu to preach to the large number of pilgrims who gathered on these holy days. Bishap Prabhu also helped with this program when no senior devotees were available.
Three years ago, I decided it would be wonderful to preach Krishna Consciousness in this way all throughout the year. Srila Prabhupada said, “When any person comes to Sri Mayapur, he should hear Hari Nama twenty-four hours a day.”
MK: Tell us how you started these programs regularly, like now - three times a week? You said that before it was only on special occasions, right?
NK: It was five or six years ago - Advaita Prabhu was speaking to the people because a large amount of pilgrims gathered, it was very easy to preach to them, what Srila Prabhupada said in Mayapur. Always we saw that people come here to Mayapur from many places, so this is an opportunity to preach to them. I sometimes joined for one hour once or twice a year. But after few years then I started alone.
MK: Did someone suggest to you that you should start?
NK: No, I remember at that time (three years back) I thought that this should be continued, so I did this after Gaura Purnima festival. In the main pandal, in front of the jagya-shalla, there were some chairs, some sitting places, so in the middle of the day I saw that all people are resting there. I started getting microphones, and I got a banner saying ‘questions and answer’.
So, I gave them a question and answer part. There was no program in the temple to help these visitors. Then I asked them, “Do you have any questions?” I gave them paper and pen. “You can write, and I can answer.”
MK: So, it was your initiative to do this. Then how did it develop?
NK: This program is going on every Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from 12:30 noon until 4:30 pm.
Besides the class, many people receive japa-mala so they can chant in their homes daily. 500 to 600 people attend this program daily and they derive great pleasure from chanting the holy names. When large numbers of pilgrims chant the Mahamantra loudly together it has a wonderful effect on everyone’s heart.
Some people remain chanting when they go back to their homes. Because when I am preaching, I express o them that this is for everyday, so you should chant every day. Then some young people - one, two, three, throughout the year, they communicated. After ‘question and answer’ classes, some were so much impressed that when they got back in their home, they brought their japa-mala, and chanting. They decided to take shelter in Mayapur.
MK: They come on occasion?
NK: Yes, they come. One of the managers of steel in India - he came with his wife during the festival, and he was so much impressed that he came in my house, we had personal relations and then sometimes he would come. Now he has become vegetarian and is regularly chanting every day. He is manager, but he wanted to take shelter of chanting. He’s from Calcutta.
MK: Where all these chairs came from?
NK: We had no pandal – just a tree, under the tree. During the Gaura Purnima Festival for a few days, the pandal remained -for a few days, one week, two weeks. At that time, in the middle of the day, there was no program in the temple so people suggested that I take this opportunity. And after that festival was over that year, some chairs I collected from Bhakti Purushottama Swami. I purchased 20 chairs.
In this way, under the Kadamba tree, I started three times a week. First, I announced to them: “There is no program in the temple, so please take a seat in the chair. If you have some question, I am giving you the paper,” and I had some devotee volunteers also. They distribute paper.
MK: Do you speak into a microphone?
NK: I was announcing from the microphone, that “You please sit here and if you have any type of question, I will try to answer it.” Any type of question, like: What is the meaning of ISKCON? Who am I? What is the aim of life? Who is Lord Caitanya? Why is it that throughout the world, the Western people like this movement?”
Because in the Bhagavatam it is said that Lord Caitanya had predicted that in every town and village [the movement will spread.]
Some people are more interested. Well, there is another couple. They are also now chanting from this program, chanting every day, and they’ve become vegetarian. From these classes, so many people have changed their lives and were attracted to ISKCON.
MK: And who is helping you?
NK: First, Bishal Prabhu, he was sometimes collecting all the pilgrims to sit. (Bishal is the one chanting to the people after mangal aarti -bramachari.) And now, Amrita Gopal and Ramania mataji -a Prabhupada disciple - they also help and give classes for one hour. Bhaktivinode Priya Prabhu, and Lila Madhuri Mataji also.
Now many senior devotees come forward to help with this program: HG Ramaniya Mataji, Sri Kari Mataji, Amrita Gopal Mataji, Bhakta Janapriya Das, Krishna Bahan Das, Bishap Prabhu, Syamasundara Das, etc.
It’s very much appreciated when the western devotees preach as they really catch the interest of the pilgrims. When they chant and preach about Srila Prabhupada and Lord Caitanya’s mission, the pilgrims listen attentively and ask many questions on these two subjects.
MK: What are they doing?
NK: I have given them time, and they speak for one hour or two hours…During Janmastami, up until 10:30 at night, the class continues. It was from 12:00 noon until 10:30 at night.
MK: So they speak on special days?
NK: Yes, but also every day they are coming, just because anyone interested can take part and speak.
MK: And do you continuously have speaking programs, or just continuously ‘question and answer’? No other program, like they sit and some question and answer is always there. And your wife is making juice?
NK: Now I thought, because it is summer and because people will be thirsty. She makes juice with lemons and ice. We’ve purchased some plastic glasses and we give to the people--two hundred, three hundred, or six hundred people—a hundred at least.
MK: How many people on average are there?
NK: On a normal day, four hundred to five hundred.
MK: At one time or they come in shifts?
NK: They shift. Sometimes they are sitting, sometimes they are standing, and then sometimes they are coming under the many kadamba trees and hearing and sitting. Although we have the sitting places only for one hundred, the others are sitting under the other many trees and hearing.
We’re invited among the people, (the visitors). Sometimes they invited us here and there like Mushlidabad, to Bardovan…
MK: When do you have time to do that?
NK: Sometimes they communicated that [they want us to come], then I invited some devotees to help us, and take part. Mataji also sometimes goes.
MK: How do you go, by bus…or…
NK: By Tata Sumo.
MK: Who will provide for that?
NK: Because when we are distributing the free prasadam and local preaching, before the program, there is a paperwork that we fill out that we are doing service, and give to MAC. Through one card, MAC allows us to purchase one Tata Sumo for local preaching. This is only for local preaching. Because I was engaged in this local service, now in my classes, if they invite me, I also utilize this car. And for any local preaching, MAC allows two persons to take one Tata Sumo.
MK: So you go from here by car? You are not changing transport? You go all the way to the house by that car, and you said that you purchased plastic glass and juice. And you take kitcheri.
NK: Kitcheri is outside, when I go in the village, we take outside.
MK: So you cook it right there?
NK: No, kitcheri we bring from sulob kitchen (the Big Kitchen.)
MK: You take kitcheri all the way from here? Who sponsored these free programs, you?
NK: Any of the devotees are also helping me. Some are impressed and they are giving some more donations for this, to distribute.
MK: People who live here?
NK: Ganesh Panda, of Kedampur, (one devotee from the classes,) began to chant and read the books, and he began to donate some.
MK: You have a book store. So it is not really a temple project, but you started it, and you’re developing it?
NK: Yes, from the profits, some are coming, and I can buy something.
And sometimes Lila Madhavi and Param Dham are donating for that program.
MK: You mentioned something about a drama in your paper?
NK: This is actually to Padmalochan Prabhu to make this question. Yes, you can invite anyone who wants to show some sit-drama and show it to the people in front of the classes. Like small boys and girls can come. I invited them to come one time. We welcome them, if someone will come to show this drama.
MK: So you how did you join? How did you come to Krsna Consciousness? Just more detail about your association.
NK: Yes, in the 80’s, 1988. I heard that some foreign boys, some foreign people, today had come to Mayapur. So because as a medical student, (I was an ordinary medical student,) I was interested in why Western people, rich people are coming to Mayapur? So I had some little interest to see, if I had any opportunity came.
So one day, my one doctor friend invited me very near Mayapur, very near to Krsnanagar, (because I was very near to Krsnanagar, but I went to Kalkata every day for a job). Then one day, I said, “okay.” And my friend said, “I can help you if want to see this Mayapur.” So in the Krsnanagar station I waited for him, as per his instructions, like an appointment. Then, that day I came to Mayapur and saw the very nice things which caught my heart and gradually whenever time was available, I came to the Goshala to see the cows. The Goshala, in that time, Padaranga Prabhu was in-charge. He was very attractive, a very sober devotee. He engaged me, and he was always interested to take prasadam from the restaurant. Very nice thing to eat prasadam. In this way, he purchased my heart, so I completely changed my views and then Bhakti Raghava Maharaja- well, I was more interested to talk with Western people. Then one person told me that Bhakti Ragava Swami is there, at the Nama Hatta and if you have any question, you can talk with him. Then I saw him, his leg was—one leg. I saw how he’s very strongly chanting, with a smiling face. When I went back to my home, this face was in my eye, his smiling face, very strongly chanting, smiling face . I felt very--you know--uplifted. At that time Bhakti Raghava Swami Maharaj was in Nama-hatta.
MK: At which year?
NK: 1985-86. Then I want to tell you a bit more. I was posted in Maldah, and then I got married.
MK (to his wife): You are from Maldah?
NK: (laughs) And then my first son…well, that time I came here when he was 2-3 months old. Later when I came from Maldah to Krsnanagar, I came here first, to Mayapur. In 1986, I joined in the Lord Caitanya’s 500 year anniversary. It was a very large gathering of Western people. Very nice they looked back then, I remember. Then I took initiation from His Holiness Jayapataka Swami Maharaja. In this way, from Midnapur (I was posted there) I came here every month, although I had so many difficulties like no leave, because it’s a government service.
MK: What difficulties?
NK: I had no time actually, little time. After all, the government officials knew that I am a devotee, so they were not helping me.
MK: You’re still coming?
NK: Yes, I am still there. The higher officials know me, that he is a devotee, and he has transferred to a nearer place to Mayapur. I can go easily there and back every day.
MK: So you still get some government orders to go here and there?
NK: In the Navadrip block, now someone else is in charge. Now veterinary…
MK: Veterinary hospital, what does it mean, exactly?
NK: Veterinary means an animal station, hospital.
MK: Mostly goshalla?
NK: No, mostly they come from Balmanpukur, or Svarupganj. These blocks, have many villages, hundreds and hundreds. So they have one government place, hospital, for all of the animals to bring them there and treat them every day.
NK: In Svarupganj and Balmanpukur. Previously I was in Balmanpukur, then I transferred to Svarupganj.
MK: They have an animal hospital?
NK: Yes, for cows and bulls, dogs and cats. Many dogs are there also--Doberman, etc.
MK: So you are treating all kinds of animals, not just cows?
NK: Cows are the main because…
MK: They are the main animals. And chickens?
NK: Certainly because they belong to the animals. Sometimes people come to me for training: how to take care of their cow, how to take care of their animals.
MK: So what kind of animals do you heal? Cows?
NK: Horse, dog.
MK: Dogs also? People are keeping dogs?
NK: Yes! Birds, caged birds, even one person took a snake for treatment.
MK: Do you know how to treat snakes?
NK: Yes, they have some wound, so I treat them.
MK: Are they poisonous?
NK: Yes, one person in Shapuri, their business was dancing with them…
MK: They have no teeth?
NK: No teeth.
MK: So they cannot poison you?
NK: (laugh) No. Sometimes they are little, another is big. Rabbits also.
MK: And mongeese?
NK: Mongoose, yea. And cats, little cats.
MK: Do you know how to treat all of these different animals?
NK: In cows we are specialized, but if any person has a different type of animal, where can they go for treatment? So the government says we have no idea, no courses. So when I studied in the university, there were all animals. Even elephants..Different animals. Like an elephant became sick when they get stuck in the mud in the Ganga. That night, it was very serious. Then I communicated with one doctor and said it is okay, you give her the medicine but the quantity needs to be very big.
MK: Did she become better?
MK: Yes, Gulab Kali need maintenance. You do this?
MK: And peacocks?
NK: Yes, and peacocks, and cranes.
MK: So just a side question: why do the peacocks have such a small cage?
NK: Maybe according to the authorities or the money situation.
MK: So then you are still in the government service. When do you have time for all of this?
NK: From 10:00 until 3:00, I’m in the office.
MK: Every day? Now is that time.
NK: Yes. Today is Thursday. Saturday and Sunday off-- well sometimes I will leave at 12:00 and then I join at 1:00 PM in the classroom separately. Sunday and Thursday, I have the morning duty.
MK: You are a busy man! So you getting paid from the government. And your sons?
NK: They are studying. Eleven grade. And the elder son Bhaktivinode, is in Krsnanagar Academy.
MK: Are they going to follow your line, or what they will do?
NK: Yes, following. After bathing every day, I train them, what is the aim of life. And the answer: to know God, to go back to Him, back home, back to Godhead.
MK: No, I mean, for education, what are they trying to become? For education--what kind of education will they be given?
NK: Academic education.
MK: No profession?
NK: Not from the beginning. They are 11th, then graduation and then they may go to further education. But before he was in Gurukul, his foundation, I think, is very strong and when I talk with them, they give me the same answers that they have heard from the Gurukul Maharaja. This kind of education can help in the life to spread and preach Krishna Consciousness
MK: So have they already chosen, are they going for professional education?
NK: No professional education. Professional job means government service. I don’t know what will happen but as a father I give them this opportunity to learn because outside education requires help to learn about the spiritual.
MK: But they have not decided what profession they will have?
MK: And about your wife, how did you meet her?
NK: She is very good wife. She help me to raise the children, put the children in Krsnanagar, and every Sunday, they came to Mayapur.
MK: So how long have they been in Krsnanagar?
NK: Three years
MK: Three years now. And your wife...
NK: She makes the juice. She made village programs, and her main service is in Radha Madhav kitchen.
MK: And so how did you meet your wife first?
NK: How? (laugh) Because I wanted to get married and one maharaja said, no problem if you become married. At the time I did not totally understand what is this. But when I decided to become married and then my father’s mother she selected, because she is born in Navadvip, and lived in Navadvip. Her father’s house is in Navadwip
MK: So how many years you are married already?
NK: Twenty years.