By Īśāna dāsa
This story still amazes me. It happened in England in 1969, when we were just opening the London temple (in Bloomsbury, near the British Museum). Śrīla Prabhupāda had come, and he was talking with the more experienced devotees and confirming their projects. “Yes,” he would say—”do it very nicely,” and “Very good—make it first class.” For instance, Mukunda was to continue his efforts in public relations and another devotee was to carry on his work in renovating the building.
So I said, “Śrīla Prabhupāda, everyone seems to have something to do—can you give me something to do?”
“No,” he said, gently but firmly. “What would you like to do for Krishna?”
“I don’t know, Śrīla Prabhupāda,” I said. “I’ve never thought about it. But can’t you give me something to do anyway?”
“No,” he told me again. “Just try to understand our Krishna conscious philosophy: you should decide what you want to do for Krishna.”
I felt really thickheaded. All my life I’d been taught not to think about God at all, or to think about what I wanted Him to do for me. But somehow, a long while later, I got an idea.
“Śrīla Prabhupāda, I was thinking that I’d like to make a synthetic version of the clay drums we play when we’re chanting Hare Krishna. We could even mass-produce them.”
He smiled at me warmly and chuckled, “Yes. That is a good idea. But you must make them unbreakable. Otherwise these Western devotees will simply throw them down like clay pots.”
Śrīla Prabhupāda advised that I go to West Bengal, India, and learn the traditional drum-making art firsthand. Then I could return to the West and develop my manufacturing plan.
Several years later, after I had made several hundred of these drums, I realized, “Śrīla Prabhupāda has helped me discover what I always wanted to do for Krishna.”
[An excerpt from Back to Godhead Issue 5, 1978]