The appearance of Sri Sri Radha Madana Mohana in Germany is as mysterious as Their Lordships Themselves.
How They came to Germany is not known to me, after all I was traveling on sankirtan all the time and it was not customary that our leaders shared their plans with us. As described in previous text, in times where every yatra had to have a castle to demonstrate its prosperity (?), Schloss Rettershof was rented and along that, rather suddenly, Sri Sri Radha Madana Mohana appeared.
Hamsadutta das, our GBC, wrote to Srila Prabhupada about his plan to install these Deities. Srila Prabhupada wrote him back that this is not the time to do so, and as Germany is becoming glorious by book distribution, this should be the main focus of the yatra. Srila Prabhupada’s letter arrived.......after the installation of Sri Sri Radha Madana Mohana. Did They come anyway, even Their installation was not at that point authorized by the Founder Acharya?
This is not up to me to judge. But Their Lordships did indeed exhibit amazing potency, blessing us over and over again with Their presence as we every week dove into the jungle of German streets to face opposition and challenge again.
When Srila Prabhupada arrived second time in Germany in 1974, the time I got initiated, He was already greeted by Sri Sri Radha Madana Mohana and didn’t objected to Their presence at all.
Being worshiped at the highest standard by Astaratha Prabhu, we simply admired the distant forms of Their Lordships. It’s never a “chance” that Radha-Krsna appear in Their particular forms in particular countries. Overlooking the “Darshan” book which shows the whole variety of Deities in various countries, it cannot go unnoticed how Krsna corresponds to the particular nature of the local residents, however materially conditioned it may be. Srila Prabhupada noticed that when He said that “Krsna came to France because He heard the French girls are most beautiful” :-)
And so Sri Sri Radha Madana Mohana corresponded to the German inherent nature inviting mysticism and heroic pathos of self-sacrifice as several times demonstrated in the history of this country.
Krsna is all attractive and He knows best the nature of a nation, the nature of us all, both the conditioned ones and the original spiritual ones.
And so Sri Sri Radha Madana Mohana were “not easy to worship” as one Indian visiting pujari commented.
Astaratha Prabhu’s devotion was truly amazing. He hardly ever left the temple, worshiping these Deities day and night.
Once I stayed with him in a room overnight. While I was sleeping, I suddenly woke up and heard him in his sleep speaking softly planning what kind of outfit the Deities may wear next day.
The standards of Deity worship as given by Srila Prabhupada were followed by Astaratha Prabhu exactly. No silas were placed on the altar, as Srila Prabhupada didn’t authorize Their worship, and Hamsadutta’s idea to worship Laksmiji on the altar in form of a conch was quickly abandoned as well. The Deities were as Srila Prabhupada said "looking as printed”, standing frontally to receive worship. Not even slightly turned, dressed luxuriously in silks, velvet and pearls in most opulent way. After all Srila Prabhupada, originally hesitant to install Sri Sri Radha Krsna in ISKCON at all, finally established that in ISKCON we DON’T worship Sri Sri Radha Krsna in Their intimate Vrndavana mood, but our worship is conducted in the mood of Laksmi Narayan, meaning in mood of reverence and opulence.
This was strictly followed, and Astaratha Prabhu and his assistants, later on Rohini Devi Dasi to be especially mentioned, did amazing service as demonstrated on many photos from those days.
For us, the sankirtan devotees, the Deities were the Lordships where we placed our prayers for improvement of our book distribution. We used to carry the newly printed books through the whole Sunday Program in our hands. Seeing them being non-different from the Deities, we chanted with them and we danced with them in kirtan joyfully. Standing in front of Sri Sri Madan Mohana we prayed: “My dear Sri Sri Radha Madana Mohana, please, if you so desire, let me distribute 500 of these wonderful books next week.”
…...and They did!
A prominent custom was that whoever distributed most books in that particular week was allowed to perform puja to Their Lordship during Mangala Arotika ceremony. For almost four years in Germany it was... me :-)
First time it happened and I was the number one man, I was terrified.
Freshly showered with new tilak, I stood in the Deity room at 4 A.M. in front of Astaratha Prabhu, telling him: “I cannot do this. I have no idea about Deity worship, (as I don’t have until today), I am not purified enough.”
Astaratha Prabhu looked at me firmly and said: “You were the whole week distributing Srila Prabhupada’s books, you are purified enough!” Such was the mood in those days.
I still objected: “But you chant all these different mantras during the worship, I know nothing of this.”
He looked at me somewhat pragmatically and said: “Don’t bother, just chant Hare Krsna.”
And so he showed me the different items on the plate and the sequence how they should be offered.
The curtain went open and I stood there in front of Their Lordship with the devotees chanting Samsara prayers in the dark temple room. It was a tremendous experience. I had hard time to control my tears as then I wouldn’t be able to see the different items anymore. It was so amazing to be so close to Sri Sri Radha Madana Mohana. Especially Radharani’s smile was the sweetness personified. She looked eagerly, almost excited, towards the devotees, appreciating the tremendous kirtan. (Yes, thanks to Hamsadutta’s presence the kirtans were roaring already in the early mangala arotika, as devotees couldn’t suppress their ecstasy. Kirtan meant those days lots of dancing, and shouts of joy were heard all the time.)
Krsna was more reserved, simply casting His glances filled with blessings and approval upon the chanting sankirtan warriors.
Finally I blew the conch and returned to Astaratha, simply apologizing for all the offences I have done during the puja. Next Sunday I was on the altar again at this hour, only to come back week after week.
Unavoidably after some time I was effected by certain pride, as prior to reading sankirtan results after the Sunday morning lecture, it was already clear who was number one of that week. It was the devotee who did perform the mangala arotika, and that was me :-) And so I offered the camara at the end of arotika, and while offering it to the devotees with big smile on my face I fanned the air to all my “opponents” :-), to all those who tried to defeat me in numbers of distributed books every week.
Certainly, after some years my pride was rectified as far more empowered sankirtan men joined our forces, bringing the book distribution to levels hardly ever to be imagined. Thousands and millions of books went out every week all over the world, with German yatra being always in midst of the action.
Actually, during the management of Harikesha das in his North European zone, reaching from previous Yugoslavia up to Island, more books got published and distributed than across the whole planet during Srila Prabhupada’s presence. To be part of something so gigantic is most inspiring and wonderful.
Srila Prabhupada’s presence can be recognized by the presence of book distribution, as He himself clearly stated: His books are embodying His heart. Whenever book distribution is going on, Srila Prabhupada’s heart is beating strong, and those who are blessed to be part of His pulls are the most blessed souls on this planet.
Sri Sri Radha Madana Mohana ki jaya!
Srila Prabhupada’s book distribution ki jaya!