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Media Review: “Memories of Srila Prabhupada”

By: on March 28, 2009

The widely popular DVD series, “Memories of Srila Prabhupada,” now has three volumes, with an incredible total of 48 DVDs. “Memories” includes personal interviews with people who spent time with His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the Founder-Acharya of ISKCON. Srila Prabhupada traveled from India to the United States in 1965. During the next eleven years, he traveled around the world eleven times and spread Krishna consciousness on every continent except Antarctica. He taught the congregational chanting of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Srila Prabhupada passed away in November 1977.

Each “Memories” DVD ranges between 90 and 120 minutes long. The DVDs have also been transcribed into a three volume book series called “Memories – Anecdotes of a Modern-Day Saint.” Siddhanta Dasa, President of Illumination Television (ITV), hopes the DVD series will reach a total of 50 disks in the near future.

The “Memories” series was inspired by a spontaneous interview with Srutakirti Dasa in 1991. When Srutakirti began telling his memories of Srila Prabhupada, Siddhanta was transfixed by the sweet stories. He realized other people might also enjoy hearing these stories, so he recorded them on video. “I was looking for a spiritual project to go along with the commercial video production I was engaged in. Hearing about Srila Prabhupada seemed like a good start.”

Later that year, Siddhanta started the “Memories” project by interviewing devotees who had personal association with Srila Prabhupada. To find those devotees, Siddhanta first called everyone he knew in Los Angeles. Afterwards, he started traveling. He went to large festivals in New York, London, Melbourne, San Diego, Alachua, New Vrindavan, San Francisco, Mayapur, Vrindavan, and Fiji. “After word got out and I started distributing the DVDs, devotees started approaching me and offering to tell their stories. I hope others will come forward and share the nectar.”

The DVD production is a one-man effort – and that man is Siddhanta. He personally conducts every interview and shooting. Next, he edits the interviews. Then he decides which devotees will make an entertaining combination of stories and personalities. Finally, he logs each interview and edits each DVD. Each story begins with the first time they met Srila Prabhupada. From start to finish, the editing process usually takes between seven to ten days. With regards to editing, the stories about Srila Prabhupada must either exemplify his qualities as a pure devotee or contain an instruction that the audience can find relevant even today. The entire DVD project is personally funded by Siddhanta.

The book publication team includes Dinadayadri Dasi, the main transcriber; Visakha Dasi, the transcription editor; and various financial contributors including Ambarish Dasa, Jack Stephens, and an anonymous donor from India. Because of typographical errors in the first edition, Rupa Vilasa Dasa is re-editing the series, and a second edition will soon be available.

Siddhanta says “Memories” allows people to get to know Srila Prabhupada as a unique person. “We are a personal movement. We need to acknowledge Prabhupada’s individual qualities. Prabhupada is our acharya. He is showing us by example how a pure devotee lives. Future generations must know the details – how the pure devotee acts in every possible circumstance.” Jyotirmayi Dasi expresses that same thought in “Memories.”

Jyotirmayi Dasi: “I think that one cannot understand Krishna consciousness only from reading Srila Prabhupada’s books. One must also understand his personal life, his personal example, how he lived the philosophy of Krishna consciousness. If you do that, if you have both together, then you can really understand how to practice Krishna consciousness. Very often the problems we have are that people try to live Krishna consciousness only according to Prabhupada’s books but not according to his personal example. Now, through books and memories of Prabhupada by different devotees, we can have a clear idea of his personal dealings. Many of the things that I have done in Krishna consciousness were based on some instruction he gave while talking with devotees in a casual way. 

Siddhanta says, “When the devotees speak, they are actually back with Prabhupada and feeling those same emotions they had forty years ago. It is very intense. It is definitely a spiritual experience – so many people say they can watch these DVDs over and over again without growing tired of them.”

One of Siddhanta’s favorite stories is told by Prasanta Dasi, the only grand-disciple of Srila Prabhupada on “Memories”:

Prasanta Dasi: “My favorite day of the year is Srila Prabhupada’s Disappearance Day because on that day Prabhupada is fully present through remembrances of him and through the presence of his disciples. Every year I’m thankful for the opportunity to hear Srila Prabhupada’s disciples speak wonderful stories about him.

When I saw the banner here, 25 Years of Service in Separation, it occurred to me that mine is a lifetime of service in separation because I am Srila Prabhupada’s grand disciple. When I joined in ’84, Prabhupada had already left. I never saw Srila Prabhupada.

In honor of Srila Prabhupada’s Centennial in 1996, devotees in England produced two CDs called A Garland of Songs. On one CD, Jayadeva das sings a heartrending song, “I Never Knew You.” I cried. I was part of the team that helped celebrate Srila Prabhupada’s Centennial and for me this recording of glorifications of Srila Prabhupada was our reward. In this song, “I Never Knew You,” one line is, “Where was I when you were on the planet?” I meditated a lot on that.

Sometimes I think that one day during mangal arati there will be a horrible announcement that the last Prabhupada disciple has left the planet. I already apprehend the day when there will be no more Prabhupada disciples. When Prabhupada was on the planet, devotees would tell stories about him—what he was doing and saying—and the news would travel. For us grand disciples it’s like that. When there is a Prabhupada disciple, we get the stories. We get to hear about the flower boy or the bathroom scrubbing, and all these little things that we don’t find in Srila Prabhupada’s books or on his tape recordings. And we get to love Srila Prabhupada.

As Krishna gave us Srimad-Bhagavatam, which has all kinds of stories about Him so that we can develop not just knowledge of Him and His teachings, but also an attraction for His personality, similarly, by hearing these beautiful stories about Srila Prabhupada, we can love Srila Prabhupada. Prabhupada explains that unless there is love, we cannot fix the mind. We cannot fix the mind on something we don’t love. So we must love Srila Prabhupada. And one of the ways to love him is to hear about him. The stories we hear are significant because they teach us the heart of the pure devotee and the concerns of the pure devotee. And they can melt our reluctance to surrender.

Siddhanta is convinced that Prabhupada is alive in the memories of his disciples, as well as in his books. It is not surprising, therefore, that “Memories” has such a strong impact on the lives of so many devotees. One devotee started chanting sixteen rounds again after reading volume one of “Memories.” Another devotee had left the movement; but after watching the DVDs and reading the books, she came back with full conviction and is still serving in New Vrindavan. And Caru Dasa, the temple president in Utah, is taking “Memories” a step further. He says that it was the stories of Prabhupada that initially brought him to Krishna consciousness. Because of that experience, he has indexed every story in the entire three volume set by topic. Whenever Caru gives a class or presentation, he incorporates at least one story from the books to enliven his audience.

Perhaps the most important effect of “Memories” is that it has helped heal relationships between devotees. Even within ISKCON, devotees sometimes hold long-standing grudges against one another. But after seeing an “enemy” exhibit so much love for Srila Prabhupada on “Memories,” ill feelings toward that devotee immediately dissipate.

Now that this project is coming to a close, what does Siddhanta expect his next spiritual project to be? “I want to re-make the ‘Festivals with Srila Prabhupada’ series. These are video slide shows based on twelve lectures given by Srila Prabhupada on twelve different festival days such as Janmastami, Radhastami, and Gaura Purnima. As we hear Srila Prabhupada give the lecture with sub-titles, we see rare photos of Prabhupada changing every 15-20 seconds. These are definitely a must for every temple and home.”

The “Memories” series is available in DVD, MP-3, and book format. To find out more, visit http://www.prabhupadamemories.com

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