I Ran to Tehran

[Book distribution, in service to Srila Prabhupada]

by Harer Nama das (ACBSP)

tehran1.jpg - 61631 Bytes Srila Prabhupada stayed at the Krishna Balaram Mandir in Vrindaban in the summer of 1976. I was also there during that time. Srila Prabhupada gave Srimad Bhagawatam class during the morning program frequently. During one class he said some things that stirred up some of the disciples, including myself. He said if you want to chant without offense, don’t try to chant all day in Vrindaban. Instead, leave Vrindaban and go and preach. In that way you will be able to chant without offense. I felt Srila Prabhupada talking to me especially because I, for a few weeks before that class, chanted 64 rounds (mechanical) per day, most done before mangal arotik. This was from the suggestion of a Godbrother. Srila Prabhupada obviously had a different point of view.

After the class was over some devotees, myself included, were inspired to leave Vrindaban and go to another temple and preach. I got the idea to go to Tehran in Iran. This was partly due to misplacing my return ticket back to New York.

I went to stay at the Temple in New Delhi to arrange travel to Iran. I met some English people in downtown New Delhi. They were planning to take a bus from New Delhi to Tehran in a week. The one-way fare was $35.00. They agreed to let me join the bus group.

For the next several days I went to the Delhi airport and asked the people waiting for planes to give a contribution for my trip. After about 4 or 5 days collecting, I had enough money for the bus fare and for other travel expenses.

During that time Srila Prabhupada visited the Delhi Temple. A preaching program in a city north of Delhi was being planned. Some of the disciples accompanying Srila Prabhupada were Hansadutta (then sannyasa), Yasoda Nandana (then sannyasa), and Gopal Krishna.

I remember one of the breakfast meals. It was kittri mixed with potatoes and also lime wedge on the side. Yasoda Nandana asked for some ghee to mix in with the kittri.

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On one morning, after breakfast prasad, the disciples except for me went to do service. They left the temple compound. For some reason I stayed behind, planning to go to the airport later. I was walking in the area near Srila Prabhupada's room when all of a sudden I heard a voice that sounded like thunder or like someone speaking with a muffled megaphone. I was frightened because the sound was unexpected. What I heard was, “Bring Gopal here.” I could understand that Srila Prabhupada spoke those words. I thought he wanted to speak to Gopal Krishna Maharaj. I walked all around the compound. No one was there. I went back to from where I heard the voice. I was afraid to go in Srila Prabhupada's room because the sound frightened me. Was he in ecstasy calling for Gopal or ? I am so fallen (my heart beating fast like a big Mrdanga) I cannot disturb him, is what I was thinking at the time. I shouted: “I can’t find Gopal Krishna Maharaj.” Then I went to the airport.

A few days later I met the bus in Delhi. The trip began. We traveled through the following countries: India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran. In those days terrorism was not as much a problem, so travel to those counties was permitted. I brought along a Mahabharat and did spend time reading it while traveling.

tehran3.jpg - 26241 Bytes I felt I was protected on the trip because I was serving Srila Prabhupada by carrying out his instructions. The mountain roads in Afghanistan in the area of the Khyber Pass were steep, narrow and filled with curves. It was dangerous. At certain points on the windy mountain roads the outer wheels would hang off the cliff and we could hear and see boulders falling and crashing in the valleys. I rode on the roof sometimes and at others inside. Also there was a problem near a village in the Punjab area. Some boys threw rocks at the bus. The bus leader took a rifle and threatened the boys with it. The boys went away. Also on the border between Afghanistan and Iran there was a problem. The border guards spent a long time searching the bus for drugs because most the people on the bus were English. (The 70's was the Hippie era.)

tehran4.jpg - 84810 Bytes We arrived in Tehran and I went to live in the Temple. I stayed there for four months. For 3½ months I taught English class to army personnel. The highlight of my stay there was during the last two weeks. There was only one hotel in the city that accepted Europeans and American. It was called Amir Kabir. I used to go there every afternoon for two weeks to try to distribute books to the guests of the hotel. It was about 2 miles from the Temple to the hotel. I would walk there and back each day. The streets were full of young men rushing around and many women with their heads covered. On some street corners men sold roasted pistachio nuts that I would buy and offer to Krsna. I was focused that I was doing everything on behalf of Srila Prabhupada. From that, I felt satisfied. I would go the hotel lobby and try to interest a guest in the book and to buy it.

I did not sell any books, but I remained satisfied thinking I was a servant of Srila Prabhupada.

Harer Nama das (ACBSP)

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