Siddhanta Das in saffron to the left of Srila Prabhupada and Brahmananda Das on a morning walk in Denver, CO.
The Prabhupada Memories project is not only nearing a significant milestone of nearly 100 DVDs totaling 450+ interviews of direct disciples of Srila Prabhupada, but it is also reaching thousands of new listeners thanks to the power of social media. The Memories project now has a social media team producing eye-catching short posts across several social media platforms. Most recently, the Prabhupada Memories YouTube channel quadrupled its subscribers in just a few weeks (now over 22K followers), thanks to Ishvara Gauranga Das, who posted a video on his YouTube channel promoting the Memories project. Siddhanta Das, the creator of the Prabhupada Memories series, stated, “This is a service of sharing. The more these memories can be shared, the more people will be inspired by the personality and wisdom of His Divine Grace, Srila Prabhupada.”
Siddhanta first came in contact with Prabhupada’s teachings and ISKCON in 1970 while working as a film editor in Dallas, Texas. Later, he was initiated as Prabhupada’s disciple in 1974 in Denver, Colorado. In 1978 Siddhanta moved to Los Angeles, where he became the co-producer and editor for ISKCON Television (ITV), which created such classics as “The Acharya” series, “The Ramayana,” “Coming Back-Reincarnation in America,” and the 1984 classic and always relevant “Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise.”
The origin of the Prabhupada Memories series could almost be seen as accidental. “At one point, we [ITV] bought new cameras to produce documentaries, and Srutakirti happened to be visiting L.A. at that time,” Siddhanta remembered. “So, we put him in a director’s chair and turned the camera on to test the new equipment. He started sharing some of his memories about Srila Prabhupada, and I so enjoyed this nectar from Prabhupada’s personal servant that I knew others would appreciate these oral histories as well. Thus, the seed of this project sprouted.”
So, for the past three decades, Siddhanta has traveled to over 34 cities worldwide to record hundreds of initiated disciples of our Founder-Acharya Srila Prabhupada. These transcendental anecdotes have also been transcribed into five soft-bound books and Kindle versions as well. Volume 5 alone has interviews with 108 devotees sharing 700 unique stories within the 520 pages, and Volume 6 is in the editing stage. In addition to the English volumes, the hundreds of transcribed interviews are now being translated into Russian and Spanish. The first 27 chapters have been translated into Spanish by Atavi Krsna Das, and 68 videos have been dubbed into the Russian language by Adbhuta Gauranga Das.
Recently Siddhanta interviewed several devotees in the Alachua area, including Vegavati Dasi. She commented, “Siddhanta Prabhu is a great listener, and he encouraged me after each memory I shared. My moments in Prabhupada’s presence were few, yet they affected me deeply, so I was grateful for the chance to share them with the broader community.”
After 32 years of tracking down devotees worldwide, Siddhanta finally recorded an extended interview with Rupanuga Das, the first householder and one of the first dozen devotees to join Srila Prabhupada’s movement. Rupanuga shared many essential memories and artifacts about Srila Prabhupada and the early organization of ISKCON.
“My focus on the Memories series isn’t to compose a kind of history book to document the precise year or place an experience occurred,” Siddhanta commented, “but more importantly, to uncover the lessons the devotees learned when they were in Prabhupada’s association, as well as any quality Srila Prabhupada exhibited that set him apart from other so-called gurus that came to the West.” When working with a devotee he is interviewing, Siddhanta reiterates that aim, and as director, will help keep the content focused on these two points of reference.
Many devotees have expressed that their first exposure to Krishna Consciousness was through the Prabhupada Memories videos. “Prabhupada is not only present in his books, but he’s also present in his pastimes as told by his disciples,” said Siddhanta. “Just as when we hear about Krishna’s pastimes, qualities, and activities in the Krishna Book, we develop our love for Krishna, so similarly, when we listen to Prabhupada’s disciples share his qualities, pastimes, activities, and knowledge, we grow in our love for Krishna’s pure devotee. There is real potency in these oral histories. Devotees hearing and relishing these stories repeatedly is evidence that this is a spiritual activity, ever fresh.”
When the project began, the content was first released on VHS cassettes and later DVDs. Now technology like the flash drive has allowed Siddhanta to share 512 gigabytes of video onto an object the size of a set of nail clippers. The latest flash drive available contains 97 videos which equates to over 150 hours of content.
As the project is reaching its end, the current catalog of content remains a seemingly endless wellspring of nectarian memories that can be presented in new and fresh ways. In 2022 Siddhanta collaborated with Pancharatna Das from the GBC Strategic Planning Team to explore the 26 qualities of a Vaishnava, exemplified by Srila Prabhupada as they are recounted in selected interviews. You can watch the entire series here.
For the first 30 years, the Memories project was almost entirely self-financed, using resources from Siddhanta’s commercial video production company. His clients included ESPN, CBS Sports, and Fox Sports, and most notably, for 20 years, Siddhanta has produced highlight reels for the Hollywood Film Awards. In addition to Siddhanta’s commercial work, however, he is quick to give acknowledgment to Touchstone Foundation in India for covering some travel expenses since COVID-19, as well as Gopal Bhatta Prabhu for paying the fees to archive all the videos and books for the last two years on Amazon’s AWS cloud services. This archiving will help safeguard the content for years to come.
Siddhanta’s Favorite Story
“Of all the stories I have recorded, the one memory that really resonates with me took place in Mexico City,” Siddhanta said. “Prabhupada was speaking at a Sunday feast lecture about how if one at the time of death remembers Krishna, then he/she will go back to the spiritual world. After his lecture, a woman in the audience asked, ‘But Srila Prabhupada, what if we remember you at the time of death? Will that have the same effect?’ Prabhupada paused a moment while closing his eyes, then opened his eyes and, with a smile, humbly said, ‘Yes.’”
The Prabhupada Memories series will continue to be one of the best ways for many souls to make their first connection with Srila Prabhupada, bonding them to this pure devotee of the Lord. To learn more about the Prabhupada Memories series or to donate to the project, visit Siddhanta’s website. To watch these videos, you can visit Siddhanta’s YouTube channel. Giving his videos a “thumbs-up” on YouTube and subscribing to his channel will help him continue to expand this extraordinary service.
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