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1966 New York Journal - Introduction
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda had been in America four months when he began this 1966 diary of his daily notes and accounts. During the previous year, Śrīla Prabhupāda had kept a record of his voyage from India, which has been published by the Bhaktivedanta Archives as The Jaladuta Diary. Śrīla Prabhupāda later described the early part of the 1966 period recounted in this diary as one of hardship. Having no money or followers, nor the means to live independantly, and often alone with limited opportunities for preaching, Śrīla Prabhupāda sometimes contemplated going back to India.
Śrīla Prabhupāda's resolve is evidenced by the purchase of his first tape recorder, a major expenditure for him. He started recording his classes, kīrtanas and bhajanas. He wrote in his Journal: "There was no response of the visitors invited to come and join Hari Kirtan this evening at 7/30 pm. But I alone executed the Kirtan ceremony with my T.R. till 10 pm." Śrīla Prabhupāda's prescience in preserving his spoken word has resulted in a permanent legacy of over two thousand hours of invaluable tape recordings.
Despite austere circumstances, Śrīla Prabhupāda had faith in his mission, and in the end was rewarded with unimaginable successes. The Śrīla Prabhupāda-līlāmṛta, the official biography published in several languages, portrays many of these extraordinary events. However, the author of the Līlāmṛta did not know about the existence of this 1966 diary, and so omitted some episodes that Śrīla Prabhupāda had dutifully recorded. The Beginning: The 1966 Journal of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda presents for the first time the exact sequence of these seminal events and the specific details of the initial year of Śrīla Prabhupāda's mission to the West.
We have divided the journal section of the book into three chapters, corresponding to the three places where Śrīla Prabhupāda stayed in Manhattan. A summary for each chapter has been added to provide readers with insights into the events described. The editors have combined entries that are brief on the same page. Pages of the journal that do not contain entries by Śrīla Prabhupāda are not reproduced. Each month begins with a "Highlights" page that contains short excerpts from some of the pages of the diary to give an "at a glance" view of the month.
The epilogue narrates what happened to the Matchless Gifts shop after Śrīla Prabhupāda left in the beginning of 1967 to go to the West Coast. How ISKCON New York eventually acquired the hallowed storefront and the vibrant preaching activities presently taking place are also depicted.
Very few pictures of Śrīla Prabhupāda were taken in 1966 in New York. Only the photos from newspaper articles and some excerpts from amateur 16mm films exist in the Archives. Because most of these pictures were published previously in the Śrīla Prabhupāda Līlāmṛta, Volume 2, we have included some pictures taken after 1966 which we feel evoke the mood of that year.
This book includes other items of interest, such as letters written to Śrīla Prabhupāda cited in the journal. The replies to these letters are published elsewhere so are not included. Wherever possible we identify the persons Śrīla Prabhupāda names in his journal. The first newspaper accounts about Śrīla Prabhupāda and the impact of his activities are replicated. Also appended is a poem by Hayagrīva dāsa, because it expresses the spirit of the early days on Second Avenue.
It was to the care of Bali-mardana dāsa that this diary, as well as Śrīla Prabhupāda's 1965 Jaladuta diary, devolved in the early seventies. He deposited both diaries in a secured storage. When the Bhaktivedanta Archives expressed interest in publishing them, Bali-mardana dāsa lent the original books for reproduction. Eventually, these will be preserved and permanently displayed.
We gratefully acknowledge Jāhnava devī-dāsī for her paintings, Bhaktin Aleksandra for her drawings, Māyāpriyā devī-dāsī for the design and layout of the book, Nāndī-mukhī devī-dāsī for the epilogue, Brahmānanda dāsa for editorial assistance, Bhaktin Martha for the events calendars, and all others who have helped to produce this publication.
The Beginning: The 1966 Journal of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda is a personal chronicle of the founding of the Hare Kṛṣṇa movement, the Western branch of Gauḍiyā Vaiṣṇavism. This book is a true annal of the courage and purity of a saint, and we trust that it will inspire all who read it.