The Joys of Listening to Srila Prabhupada’s Tapes

Technology achieves a perfection in the taped recordings of Prabhupada's speech. They are a wonderful example of matter being dovetailed in Krishna's service. Prabhupada was himself aware of the importance of tape recordings, and from his first days in America he took pains to have his disciples carefully record his talks on a reel-to-reel machine. Although in the early days we did not know Prabhupada's intention in keeping his tapes, we have in time come to understand their significance.

To better appreciate both Prabhupada's books and tapes, we might consider some of the difference between them. In his Bhaktivedanta purports, Prabhupada presents the philosophy of Krishna consciousness by carefully drawing upon the commentaries of the great acaryas of our sampradaya. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Prabhupada develops the philosophy in a more or less systematic way through the various cantos, and this gives his presentation more of a literary feeling. And Prabhupada's books afford us the advantage of studying the original Sanskrit verses. The tapes, on the other hand, are for the most part extemporaneous talks or lectures that Prabhupada personally spoke in temples and in various public forums. The tapes allow us to travel with Prabhupada to Los Angeles or London and there to hear his well-recorded temple room discourses; or we can listen to Prabhupada lecturing in the noisy ambiance of the 26 Second Avenue storefront. We can hear the sound of the surf and wind on Venice Beach and the greetings of the passersby in Vrndavana and Bombay. We can hear Prabhupada answer the challengers in Stockholm and in South Africa, and we can listen as he speaks over the noises of the streets of Tehran. By entering Prabhupada's personal association through his tapes, we can appreciate and relish the strength of his voice and the inflections, qualities, and deep tones of his speech. In this way, the tapes allow us to deepen our meditation on Prabhupada, and they afford us different vistas of his preaching mission. To hear transcendental sound vibration from the lips of a great, saintly person has for centuries been the traditional way to receive the Vedic knowledge; every follower of Prabhupada should, therefore, regularly hear Prabhupada's tapes so that he can have Prabhupada's association in this special, intimate way throughout his lifetime. And, of course, to actually hear Prabhupada in action as he preaches to different kinds and groups of people is a special benediction for all preachers and lecturers in our movement.

Often devotees find themselves in circumstances that make reading impossible but that allow for the hearing of Prabhupada's tapes. This has become especially true since the introduction of small, highly portable tape players. Devotees can now hear Prabhupada's lectures in almost every situation or circumstance that may arise. While driving or cooking or engaging in activities that bring them into the association of nondevotees, a devotee may take shelter of Prabhupada's tapes and protect himself from any mundane vibration. And we sometimes hear of devotees who are bedridden with prolonged illness but who listen to hundreds of tapes of Prabhupada's lectures, through which they derive great spiritual strength and feel their intimate association with Prabhupada. In this way, virtually every devotee can come to realize the Bhagavatam's ideal of continuously hearing the topics of Krishna.

Just as Prabhupada's books answer all questions, so too do the tapes speak to us and resolve in a personal way the specific problems or difficulties with which we may be struggling. But to hear the tapes properly requires attention and a service attitude. Although not a substitute for the books, Prabhupada's tapes supplement the books and harmonize with them in a wonderful way, and by hearing the tapes carefully, we can gain new lights and realizations and thus deepen our Krishna consciousness.