As ISKCON devotees worldwide prepare for the 50th anniversary of Srila Prabhupada’s journey from Kolkata to the U.S. on the steamship Jaladuta this August, many are purchasing his two personal diaries from the time, now available at Krishna.com, to immerse themselves further in his historic effort.
“The Jaladuta Diary” contains Srila Prabhupada’s handwritten recollections of his 35-day sea voyage from August 13th 1965, when he boarded the ship in Kolkata, to his arrival at Boston Pier on September 17th. “The Beginning” features Prabhupada’s journal from his first year in America, 1966.
The two books will be celebrating their twentieth year since publication this year and next year respectively.
Both coffee-table sized books include color and black and white photos, excerpts from documents and letters, and notes from the editors to give readers a full picture of how it was for Srila Prabhupada in those very early days as he single-handedly started the global movement we know today as ISKCON.
The books are the result of years of hard work by the North Carolina-based Bhaktivedanta Archives, which was established in 1978 and had previously published Prabhupada’s collected lectures, letters and conversations.
In 1994, just after publishing “Back to Godhead - the Pioneer Years,” which feature the issues of BTG magazine Prabhupada produced before coming to the U.S., the Archives were looking for more material to publish when Bali Mardan Das came forward with the diaries.
“The history is that when the New York devotees moved out of the Henry St. temple in Brooklyn to 55th street in Manhattan in 1975, Bali Mardan – who was then the temple president – was cleaning out the safe and found both the Jaladuta Diary and the New York Diary,” says Ranjit Das, a former director of the Bhaktivedanta Archives who now works at Back to Godhead magazine.
At Srila Prabhupada’s request, Bali Mardan stored the diaries in a safe deposit box, which he has continued to do to this day. The diaries were used for Srila Prabhupada’s biography the Lilamrita, the last volume of which was published in 1983.
But it was in 1995 that the Jaladuta Diary was reproduced in full for the first time, followed by the publication in 1996 of Prabhupada’s New York diary under the title “The Beginning.”
A team at the Bhaktivedanta Archives worked hard to make the material legible by digitally removing smudges and imperfections. Indupati Das scanned everything; Jahnavi Dasi did color illustrations for both diaries; Ksama Dasi did the layout work; and Anuradha produced the beautiful pencil drawings of Srila Prabhupada in the New York diary.
The team also inserted transcripts of Prabhupada’s sometimes difficult-to-read handwriting beside every diary entry to make the book easily accessible, as well as an introduction and notes throughout to provide background.
The books are filled with treats for devotees and those interested in ISKCON’s history.
The Jaladuta Diary includes a scan of Srila Prabhupada’s passport with his photograph in it; a copy of his sponsorship letter by his host in the U.S. Gopal Agarwal; and descriptions of his stop-offs at Colombo, Sri Lanka and Cochin, South India, where he picked up two trunkloads of copies of his Srimad Bhagavatam.
Srila Prabhupada also talks about meeting Captain Arun Pandiya and his wife, and about his seasickness and heart-attacks, which he calls a “great crisis on the struggle for life and death.”
“If Atlantic would have shown its usual face perhaps I would have died,” he writes. “But Lord Krishna has taken charge of the ship.” He adds, “I have no qualification, but I have taken up the risk just to carry out the order of His Divine Grace [His guru Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati].”
Meanwhile The Beginning brings readers into Prabhupada’s first year struggling alone in New York City to start his movement.
In it, Prabhupada notes that he recorded an “introduction to Geetopanishad,” which became the introduction to Bhagavad-gita As It Is that we know today. He writes to Padampat Singhania in India about acquiring money to construct a Krishna temple in New York City. And he talks about selling his books to the Paragon Book Gallery and other bookstores; holding kirtans at Dr. Mishra’s Ananda Ashram; and meeting Mike (later to become Mukunda Goswami) – “Mike brought his tanpura and it added to the tune of Samkirtan.”
The New York 26 2nd Avenue devotees in 1966
He also mentions his “International Institute of God Consciousness” (later to become the International Society for Krishna Consciousness), showing that his vision extended far beyond his then condition as a renter with very few followers.
The book also includes many photographs of Srila Prabhupada; scans of the pamphlets containing his essays “Who Is Crazy?” and “Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead”; and the November 25th, 1966 notice outlining the four regulative principles of Krishna consciousness which he posted outside 26 2nd Avenue.
Added notes on such curiosities as Allen Ginsberg singing the Hare Krishna mantra to New York Senator Robert Kennedy in his office give more context and steep the reader in the mood of the time.
“These books give you an amazing discovery of Srila Prabhupada’s personal being and insights, and on how he operated,” says Ranjit Das. “For instance, all the diary entries in which he notes every expenditure and income, no matter how small, show how meticulous he was. And it’s amazing to see how one-pointed he was. There’s no, ‘Oh, today I kicked back and went to the football game.’ That didn’t exist for Srila Prabhupada. Every part of his day-to-day existence was totally focused on Krishna consciousness.”
“For me,” Ranjit concludes, “Working on these books was a great inspiration and brought me closer to understanding Srila Prabhupada.”
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Please click here to purchase The Jaladuta Diary: http://store.krishna.com/jaladuta-diary/
And here to purchase The Beginning: http://store.krishna.com/the-beginning/[ ac-bhaktivedanta-swami-prabhupada ] [ jaladuta ] [ prabhupada ]