Srila Prabhupada at Bhaktivedanta Manor in 1973
Yesterday I wrote about daughters, airports and train stations. Today I want to stay with the big spaces theme.
Anyone who was a devotee of Krishna in the 1970s will remember the heightened level of expectancy a day or two before a visit from Srila Prabhupada. When His Divine Grace visited, your temple had to be clean, tidy, repaired, freshly painted, and generally looking its best. Anyone who was anyone – and anyone else – was invited to come and meet the pure devotee of Lord Krishna. You’d hear the time he was due to arrive and then, an eternity later, the cry went up: “Prabhupada is here!”
If that same cry went up today and Srila Prabhupada were to appear physically before us all in London, not even the 80,000 seater Wembley Stadium would be big enough to accomodate all those who would come for his darshan. Srila Prabhupada gave Krishna to the world and Krishna brought thousands to his lotus feet. Now those thousands have swelled to a vast international multitude.
We have our fair share of the multitude here at the Bhaktivedanta Manor. Around 30,000 come every year for Janmasthami, the largest event of its kind outside India. For many years, due to Srila Prabhupada being born the day after the appearance of Lord Krishna, his own appearance day celebrations have been somewhat modest affairs by comparison. Perhaps 150-200 devotees gather in the temple room or a specially erected tent in the grounds.
This year Srila Prabhupada’s Vyasa Puja celebration falls on the Bank Holiday Monday, which means that huge crowds are expected on that day too. So we’ve planned for the festival to be held in the big main tent with seating capacity of a mere 1,000. I am specially sensitive to the needs of us as disciples to have a celebration where we can all read our Vyasa Puja offerings (the short eulogies and poems written for the occasion of his blessed appearance in this world) and that an uplifting atmosphere of intimate reverence be preserved.
But I am also conscious of the fact that Srila Prabhupada belongs to everyone and that a Vyasa Puja in the 21st century deserves to be a much bigger affair. How to accomplish that without devotees feeling that something has been lost? Well, that is the challenge. I hope that we can accomplish it this year. We’ll be bringing Srila Prabhupada from the temple over to the big top tent just after guru puja, then offering him the international Vyasa Puja book while continuing kirtan. There’ll be two screens showing a subtitled class, then the personal readings will begin. Representatives from the different communities and teams making up the congregation will all have a chance to say something about the way His Divine Grace has touched their lives.