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Hari-Vilasa Dasa: Srila Prabhupada’s Medicine Man

By: on Oct. 1, 2011
Hari-Vilasa Dasa, owner of Uncle Harry's Natural Products
Hari-Vilasa Dasa discovered his livelihood almost by accident while doing the thing he loves most: spreading Krishna consciousness.

In 1970, one year after joining ISKCON, American-born Hari-Vilasa found himself heading up the movement in Paris, France, as temple president. The “temple” was Lochanananda’s apartment, which the devotees were using until they could afford an official center. Hari-Vilasa says he “didn’t know what he was doing,” but just wanted to serve his guru, Srila Prabhupada.

“I would take the devotees out chanting Harinam on the streets of Paris for as many as sixteen hours a day,” he recalls. “We didn’t have any books. We’d just sing, and talk to people about Krishna, and accept whatever donations came. Parisians got to know us really well—sometimes store owners would even invite us to do Harinam in their stores.”

One day, a store owner who had taken a liking to the devotees, and whose store they passed every day, asked Hari-Vilasa, “Do you have Patchouli?”

“What?” he responded, quite understandably. It wasn’t the kind of thing a young, American devotee knew at that time.

“Patchouli,” she said. “It comes from India.”

“I don’t know what that is.”

“But you must have Patchouli!” she cried, distressed.

Not sure what to do, Hari-Vilasa told her he’d find some Patchouli and bring it to her. The next morning, he began frantically calling around Paris, still not sure what Patchouli was. Finally, he discovered a high-class perfumery company and somehow got through to the CEO, who worked for major corporations such as
Guerlain, Chanel, and Yves Saint Laurent as a “nez” or “nose.”

“I told him that I was a Hare Krishna devotee, that we chanted on the streets every day, and that I needed his help because a lady has asked me to get her some Patchouli, and I didn’t know what it was,” recalls Hari-Vilasa. “We were trying to open a temple, I explained helpfully.”

Absolutely intrigued, the CEO made an appointment for Hari-Vilasa to see him. His secretary was alarmed as the young devotee entered the plush office in one of Paris’ most exclusive neighborhoods dressed in full Vaishnava robes. She tried to remove him, but when she found that he had an appointment, she had to let him in.

Taking pity on Hari-Vilasa, the CEO gave him a pound of a special Patchouli compound, some free bottles, and instructions on how to fill them. That afternoon, when the store owner invited the devotees in as usual, he proudly revealed the Patchouli. Delighted and impressed by its quality, she promptly paid him.

“Now, from having nothing, I suddenly had a pocket full of money, and one customer,” he says. “And that’s how I got started.”

From the proceeds of the business, the devotees were able to afford a better temple, where a big program was arranged for Srila Prabhupada when he visited Paris later that year.



Uncle Harry's All Natural Tooth Powder, which Hari-Vilasa based on a recipe by Srila Prabhupada

During a morning walk with his guru, however, when Hari-Vilasa commented on how the new temple could be supported by doing business, Prabhupada replied,

“You are a brahmachari, your business is to do sankirtan. Some grihasta, he can do.”

So Hari-Vilasa put his business in the care of others, until 1974, when he got married and took it over again. The business became the highly successful Spiritual Sky, which sold incense, oils, soap, and other body care items, presented in colorful packaging that featured pictures of Lord Krishna.

In 1988, however, Hari-Vilasa sold the business and moved back to the US, where he served as temple president in Berkely, California, and then Seattle, where he dragged the temple back from the brink of collapse.

One day, during this time, Hari-Vilasa went to see the dentist, and was told that he had infected gums and that soon he wouldn’t have one tooth left in his mouth.
His only options were to either spend $10,000 to save them, or to have them all pulled out.

“At 44, I felt too young to lose all my teeth and spend the rest of my life with dentures,” he says. “So I started to look for a natural cure.”

Once again, he found what he was looking for in Krishna consciousness—specifically, from Srila Prabhupada himself.

“I had heard that Srila Prabhupada, who of course had run his own Prayag Pharmacy business from 1918 to 1950, had developed his own natural ‘tooth powder’ recipe,” Hari-Vilasa says. “So I began to do some research in his books, letters, and conversations.”

He discovered that in 1976, Prabhupada had discussed with Atreya Rishi Dasa some ideas for starting businesses which he said would help devotee householders earn independent incomes. “In our Society,” he said, “It is not that we are simply sannyasis. We have got brahmacharis, we have got grihastas. Grihasthas should be provided with some profession, business, so that they can earn very nicely. That is a good idea.”

Interviewing Atreya Rishi, as well as other devotees who were there at the time such as Harikesa, Tamal Krishna Goswami and Hari Sauri, Hari-Vilasa found that one of Prabhupada’s main businesses ideas was selling his tooth powder formula, which he said could alone make a lot of money. It had saved him from losing all his teeth, he said.

Excited, Hari-Vilasa learned the recipe—sea salt, chalk, mustard seed powder, and essential oils of thyme, clove, peppermint and eucalyptus—found the ingredients, and made the tooth powder.



De's Pain Liniment, which Srila Prabhupada sold at his pharmacy and which Hari-Vilasa based his "Herbal Liniment" upon

“The first time I first used it, I felt like Christmas bells were ringing in my mouth,” he says. “The results were remarkable. The next time I saw the dentist, he said:
‘Hey, I don’t know what you're doing but keep on doing it!’ I got to keep my teeth, and I’m happy to say they are fine to this very day.”

Hari-Vilasa explains the science behind it: “The body has different natural pHs, and an imbalance of these causes sickness. The mouth has a naturally alkaline environment, and eating things that change that environment to acid—such as coffee, tea, sodas, cookies, and cakes—is the major cause of tooth decay, not bacteria. Because Prabhupada’s tooth powder is alkaline, not sweet like conventional toothpaste, it restores the natural alkaline pH of the mouth.”

But dentists never explain the problem of the body’s acid/alkaline balance, nor do they tell people to stop drinking coffee or sodas. Instead, they recommend fluoride—which according to Hari-Vilasa doesn’t really help with teeth, and is a chemical by-product of aluminium manufacturing—and flossing, which he says doesn’t do much more than remove some food particles. They also recommend cleaning your teeth regularly, getting them capped, and getting root canals, all of which is big business for them, and big loss for their customers—as much as $50,000 in a lifetime.

“But not of it is needed,” Hari-Vilasa says. “Simply by using Srila Prabhupada’s tooth powder formula and following some basic dietary suggestions, a person can keep their teeth their whole life.”

Wanting to make this remedy available to others inexpensively, Hari-Vilasa started a business in his home—Uncle Harry’s Natural Products—and gathered both individual clients and stores by sending out free samples of the tooth powder. Gradually, it became popular, and, capitalizing on the brand recognition, he developed a full line of oral hygiene products, including tooth and gum elixir, miracle mouth wash, remineralization powder, and “swishing” oils.

Hari-Vilasa introduced more and more natural health products, all of which he mixed himself using the best raw ingredients. Two more of his products also came from Srila Prabhupada: his all-purpose herbal liniment, a version of Prabhupada’s famous De’s Liniment, which is excellent for muscular pains, arthritis, rheumatism, and acne; and a skin ointment made from the paste of the Indian Neem leaf. The others were his own formulas.



Doing labeling at the Seattle factory

Today, Uncle Harry’s sells nearly 600 different alternative products. As well as oral hygiene products, there are skincare products, tonics, liquid soaps, balms and salves, aromatherapy oils, spa products, and a special shampoo for thinning hair.

“Conventional shampoos contain chemicals that alter the natural pH of the scalp, and can actually be a cause of male pattern baldness,” Hari-Vilasa says. “In contrast, my shampoo, made with Ayurvedic herbs, is soapless, and therefore, while it cleans just as good as regular shampoo, it’s neutral and doesn’t alter the pH of the scalp.”

Hari-Vilasa wants to provide an alternative to the conventional products one buys in stores, which are packed with toxic chemicals and preservatives such as Sodium Benzoate, and are not natural even when advertising themselves as so.

“Companies tout ‘miracle’ ingredients, such as Hexachlorophene, which is supposedly the newest, best product for teeth,” he says. “Well, my rule is, if you can’t pronounce something, then it’s probably toxic. Then there’s supposedly natural ingredients, such as ‘Sodium Sulphate derived from coconut oil.’ Sounds great, until you find out that the process of deriving it is highly toxic. And as a river eventually becomes toxic by continuously throwing garbage into it, so all these chemicals and unnatural compounds eventually make your blood toxic or stick in your liver, and cause all kinds of health problems.”

Uncle Harry’s Natural Products, however, all use easily pronounceable and obtainable ingredients, with absolutely no preservatives or chemical derivatives.

Hari-Vilasa’s version of De’s Liniment contains Golden Seal, nettles, neem, cayenne pepper, camphor, and essential oils. For acid reflux and digestive problems, he sells vegetable capsules with charcoal and Bentonite clay, while for diabetes and high-blood pressure he recommends trifala and guggul, an Ayurvedic herb.

Many of his products contain traditionally-used native remedies. His shingles remedy contains Ravansare and Tamanu oils from Madagascar and the South Pacific. His footsoaks, bodysoaks, facemasks, and foot-healing powders are made with toxin-removing clays from India. And his essential and cosmetic oils include Afghan
Red Palm oil from Africa, Argan oil from Morocco, and Neem oil from India. Other ingredients include Cacao beans from South America, Goji berries from China, and licorice extract from Italy.

All these raw ingredients, however, are mixed at Hari-Vilasa’s factory in Seattle, which he opened in 2003 when the business had grown too big for his house.

As well as himself, there are only five full-time employees, including his daughter Subhadra and son Nitai.



Subhadra and Nitai and Hari Vilasa`s products

“Making the products is a pretty low-tech process that has become very streamlined over the years,” he says. “We do have some mixers and blenders to mix our raw ingredients, and filling machines to fill the containers. We manufacture, package, and ship all under one roof, and usually ship the same day as we receive the order, by Internet or phone. We supply individuals, a lot of mom and pop stores, and some larger retail stores such as Whole Foods. We do have some devotee customers, but mostly they’re just regular Americans all over the country.”

Amazingly, Hari-Vilasa has managed to continue being a GBC member and serving as temple president of ISKCON Seattle while doing all of this, and successfully too. It’s meant a lot of hard work and late nights, but as a result the temple has now come all the way from bankruptcy to being one of the most dynamic preaching projects in North America.

Lately, Hari-Vilasa’s daughter and son have taken over the day-to-day running of his business, leaving him free to put even more energy into spreading Krishna consciousness. In Seattle, he has just opened a full-time ISKCON school, which now accepts children from Kindergarten to third grade, and which will expand all the way up to eighth grade within the next three years. He’s also negotiating to buy a nine-acre farm near the temple, which will open in three months’ time, and even planning a second major temple in Seattle.

As if that wasn’t enough, he’s also expanding his GBC responsibilities to Phoenix, Arizona, where devotees have just gotten permission to build a major new temple on a five-acre plot, and Hawaii, which he’s hoping to see realize its tremendous potential.

“My business has permitted me to not take anything from Srila Prabhupada’s movement, such as money for maintenance of myself and my family, or even smaller things like airline tickets,” he says. “And at the same time it has allowed me to give to the movement by donating my money and time.”

Now, Hari-Vilasa is glad to be able to spend most of his time doing what he loves most.

“My kids have always been better than me at business anyway,” he says. “And I’m sure they will grow Uncle Harry’s Natural Products to become a mid-sized company in the US within the next ten years. Me, I’m glad to be getting the chance to focus more on giving out Srila Prabhupada’s medicine for the soul.”

To purchase Uncle Harry’s Natural Products, and to read detailed information about natural health, please visit http://www.uncleharrys.com.

For more information about ISKCON Seattle, please visit http://www.vedicculturalcenter.org.
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