Rasaraja Prabhu’s remembrance of Sri Nathji, who recently passed away
In 1981 or 1982, I went to visit the Chennai temple from the Detroit temple, where I'd joined ISKCON as a brahmacari. One morning, a gentleman in a suit walked into the temple for the Deity greeting, and the Chennai devotees very happily greeted him. After the arati, he was asked to give the class. He had come to Chennai on business, and straight to the temple from the airport. He gave a very good class.
Near the end of the class, he mentioned the difficulties of the devotees in the USSR. He was getting the Gita printed in Russian, he said, and secretly having it shipped it to the USSR. He was a major force in the development of the preaching there. He produced a pocket-size Gita in Russian, and he said it was the first such edition.
Then he gave it to the temple president, who was Paradhyeya Prabhu from the UK, as I recall. The man in the suit was Sri Nathji Prabhu.
That very day, worldwide and especially in India, our temples in major cities had been asked by the GBC to march with as many devotees as possible to Russian embassies and present a form letter asking the Soviets to stop harassing the devotees.
The Chennai temple had organized about a hundred devotees and congregational members. The temple had very few Tamil devotees, but I was from Chennai, so the temple president was happy I was there. And he said that when we reached the consulate, I should go inside and hand over the petition.
We reached the USSR consulate while doing harinama sankirtana for a few miles. The police were there, and they stopped us outside. The building was the last one in a cul de sac in an affluent neighborhood.
After some time I was invited to go in, and at the last moment, Paradhyeya handed me the pocket Gita, and whispered, “If you get a chance, please distribute it.”
He advised me to keep the book hidden in my kurta pocket. Soon the front door opened, and I was escorted in and seated on a sofa.
A huge Russian man came and asked, “Are you here to give a petition from the Hare Krishnas?”
I nodded. He shook my hand, then said to follow him. We entered a room marked Consul General. I followed him inside, and he closed the door behind us.
I was quite afraid, and wanted to get out of the place as soon as possible.
He said, “I am the Consul General. Please give me the petition.”
I gave it to him, and he sternly said, “I will pass it on to Moscow, but I don't think anything will come of it.”
He then furtively looked here and there and whispered, “There is something I want to ask you. This is my last day of service here. For three years I have been trying to get the Bhaghavad-gita, but a KGB man is constantly with me, so I couldn't buy one. Last night, I was praying to God, please somehow get me a Gita before I leave India. Tonight my flight leaves. Do you have a Gita to give me?”
I was completely amazed, but I didn't know whether this was a trap. He sounded so sincere and distraught that after a few seconds, I pulled out the pocket edition that Nathji had left behind and gave it to him.
It was his turn to be amazed to see the Gita in Russian. With a huge grin, he shook my hand up and down so vigorously that I thought it would come out of its socket. (I was a little young man then.)
He said something like: “I knew God would never let me down. Thank you very much. I will read this.”
When I left, I was thinking how wonderfully Lord Chaitanya acts and how Sri Nathiji Prabhu's service was arranged by the Lord to serve the Lord's purpose.
Nathji is a greatly fortunate person. All of us know that he did many wonderful services on many fronts, and he will be missed.
Your servant, Rasaraja Dasa