A godbrother of Srila Prabhupada’s remembers their early friendship and their meeting again after many years.
Dr. O.B.L. Kapoor, a scholar and devotee, and a friend of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, gave this interview at his home in Vrndavana, India, in October 1996. The interviewer, Hari Sauri Dasa, served as Srila Prabhupada’s personal servant from November 1975 to March 1977. During that time, he kept a detailed diary that has become the basis of his multi-volume book A Transcendental Diary.
Today in Trinidad and Tobago marks the anniversary of Srila Prabhupada’s appearance in this world. Coming to the West in 1965 on the order of his own spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada would champion the mission of Lord Chaitanya and Krishna in 12 years in a way that was unprecedented in Gaudiya Vaishnava history. We present here, a very nice exchange between one of Srila Prabhupada’s personal servants, Hari Sauri dasa and one of Srila Prabhupada’s God Brothers, Dr. O.B.L. Kapoor.
HARI SAURI DASA: I understand that you first met Srila Prabhupada when he was a householder in Allahabad.
Dr. Kapoor: I was with Prabhupada for about eight years in Allahabad, from 1931 to 1939. We used to meet almost every day. I first met him in 1931 at the Rupa Gaudiya Math [temple and asrama]. The first time I saw him he was playing the mrdanga [drum] at the matha. There was a discourse that evening, and then sankirtana. After the sankirtana the leader of the matha introduced me to him as a research scholar at Allahabad University and a disciple of Prabhupada [Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura]. I had just taken diksa [initiation] from Prabhupada. After that meeting our acquaintance developed into friendship, and friendship developed into intimacy, and so on. We were very good friends. I used to call him Dada, “elder brother.”
After 1939 we didn’t meet for almost twenty-nine years, because I went out of Allahabad. I joined the government service, and he remained there. After some time he took sannyasa [the renounced order of life], and he was going about here and there, so we never met.
We finally met in 1967, here in Vrndavana. In 1967 I retired and came to Vrndavana to settle down. One day I had gone to the Radha Damodara temple. [Bhaktivedanta Swami] Prabhupada had come from the West, and he was staying in a room at the Radha-Damodara temple. I was sitting, waiting for someone, on the verandah just outside his room. And Prabhupada came out.
He was dressed in saffron. I had never seen him like that before. I had only known him as Abhay Babu, as a householder and a businessman. He was now in saffron with a tridandi [renunciant’s staff] in his hand, and two disciples in saffron were following him, like sadhus.
I couldn’t recognize him; thirty years had made a difference in his appearance, and he was dressed in saffron. But he seemed to be looking, trying to recognize me. Then he hazarded a guess. He said, “Dr. Kapoor?”
Oh, I recognized him from his voice! I said, “Abhay Babu?” And he embraced me.
HSD: A very happy meeting.
DK: Yes. He was going somewhere, but he canceled his plans. He took me inside the room and told me all about his preaching work in the West. He showed me the newspaper cuttings and so on. Very interesting meeting, very interesting.
In Allahabad we used to meet almost every day. Sometimes he used to come to my place, but mostly we met in the Rupa Gaudiya Math, in the evening during the discourse and kirtana.
HSD: Can you say something about how Srila Prabhupada conducted his household affairs while he was also developing his spiritual life.
DK: I didn’t know much about his household affairs, because we met mostly at the matha in the evening. He had a shop. He sold medicines, and he also manufactured them. Once he manufactured a tonic, and he gave it to me.
I said, “That’s nice, this gift of yours. I must accept it. But I wish you would give me the tonic which you yourself take the tonic of Krsna-prema [love of Krsna].”
I said, “Oh, wonderful! If it is not a secret, tell me what the formula is.”
He said, “No, it is not a secret at all:
trnad api sunicena
taror iva sahisnuna
kirtaniyah sada harih*
This is the formula, and I am going to preach it all over the world.”
*”One should chant the holy name of the Lord in a humble state of mind. One should be more tolerant than a tree, devoid of all sense of false prestige, and ready to offer all respects to others. In that way one can chant the holy name of the Lord constantly.” (Siksastaka 3)
At that time I couldn’t recognize the significance of his words, but he was going to preach it all over the world. I thought it was just a casual statement. But now I look back, and I can see that he was even then thinking and planning to preach all over the world, which he did.
HSD: Yes, very wonderfully.
DK: Wonderfully. Ten years, I think, only. All the world over he preached. Almost a miracle. Almost a miracle.
DK: Hmm. Unrepeatable. Even Emperor Ashok he preached Buddhism, he was the owner of such a big empire and even he couldn’t do as much as Prabhupada did in ten years.
HSD: You once told me that you saw a great change in Prabhupada from when you knew him in Allahabad.
DK: Of course, in one sense there was a world of difference between the Abhay Babu I had known and the Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada I met in Vrndavana after thirty years. He was now the president of a huge organization, an international organization. He was preaching all over the world. All the same, he was as humble as ever. I could never have imagined that he could one day become Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada. I could never have imagined. He was so simple. But, you see, he had the blessings of [Caitanya] Mahaprabhu. It is the blessings of Mahaprabhu that made him Prabhupada.