Why was Srila Prabhupada happy when devotees participated in a materialist ad in Australia?

by Chaitanya Charan dasMay 9, 2012

From Balaram Nitai Prabhu

Why is Srila Prabhupada pleased with this ad? The caption in the ad seems to point otherwise, not able to get the message of the ad correctly

Advertising campaign

Towards the latter half of 1974, a large Melbourne advertising agency had approached the devotees. The company had asked them if they would like to feature in a massive advertising campaign for the Wrangler clothing company. Some devotees feared that the offer was maya. Others, considering that the devotees would be well-paid for their participation, thought that it sounded like a good idea.

Madhudvisa Swami and Ugrasrava especially thought it an excellent proposal. So on two successive early mornings in October, the Melbourne brahmacaris were photographed performing their “sankirtana with a difference”.

By the time Prabhupada had arrived in Melbourne to inaugurate the new temple, the advertising campaign had reached its peak. The poster displayed a group of barefoot brahmacaris dressed in new saffron cloth. They were chanting along the tram lines down the centre of a deserted mid-city street, a brilliant sunrise behind them. The picture captured them in an ecstatic mood. One devotee, however, looked a little glum. Strategically placed in the middle of the photo he wore a blue Wrangler shirt over his saffron dhoti. The photographs, superimposed with the caption: “If I can’t wear my old Wrangler shirt I’m not going”, had appeared throughout Australia as full-page newspaper advertisements, in magazines, cinema houses, and on billboards.

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Before Prabhupada’s massage, Ugrasrava took Prabhupada on a short drive. As Prabhupada sat in the passenger seat, Ugrasrava related the story of the Wrangler campaign. It had become so popular all around Australia, he explained, that the agency had even recorded similar ads for radio and television, and had paid the devotees several thousand dollars for their work. On the return drive to the temple via the city centre, Ugrasrava decided to show Prabhupada one of the massive billboards featuring the famous poster.

Ugrasrava: I pulled up next to a vacant lot on the corner of La Trobe and Elizabeth streets. There, on an exposed wall, was one of the massive posters. It must have been at least 40 feet wide, and I pointed it out to Srila Prabhupada. It was an amazing sight, and I explained that it would certainly capture the attention of thousands of city commuters every day.

While we were parked there, I told Prabhupada that some devotees had thought the whole campaign had been maya. Srila Prabhupada was looking at the poster with a big smile. It was obvious that he liked it. He turned to me and shook his head. “No, no. The boy who did this,” he said, smiling so much his teeth showed, “is very intelligent”.

– From “The Great Transcendental Adventure” by HG Kurma Prabhu

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Chaitanya Charan das

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