Much to everyone’s joy, in May 1975 Srila Prabhupada opened the newly purchased, current temple. To mark the occasion, he installed the beautiful Deities of Sri Sri Gaura Nitai.
Melbourne reminds me of a smaller version of Bhaktivedanta Manor outside of London. It is a dynamic place, with lots of eager devotees enthusiastically serving and attending programs.
It was 15 years ago that I last visited Melbourne, and the community has grown a lot since then. The temple programs are well attended, and even during the week we can find at least 25 people coming for Mangal artik, which is always a healthy sign. Many grihasthas have moved close to the temple, and every day some of them are engaged in serving on the altar in the mornings before rushing off to work. In this way, Melbourne temple has been able to maintain a very high standard for worship of Sri Sri Gaur Nitai, Radha Vallabha and Jagannath, Baladeva and Subhadra.
There are also plenty of educational activities going on for the children of all age groups. Once when I was invited for dinner to one family's home, the 12-year old daughter recited the entire 15th chapter of the Bhagavad-Gita - by heart! Not only that, she also knows so many prayers from the Srimad-Bhagavatam, such as Gajendra's prayers and others. I was truly impressed...!
Another amazing feature of Melbourne temple is their generous prasadam distribution. Three times a day many people from outside come to take a full plate of nice prasadam - without anybody asking them for a donation. It seems this prasadam distribution is connected to the Food For Life program, since the crowd is a very mixed one with also needy people amongst them. It creates a very generous and hospitable mood - actually, how Srila Prabhupada wanted a temple to be managed.
On the 18th of January, 1977, Srila Prabhupada sent out the following letter:
To All ISKCON Temple Presidents
"Please accept my blessings. Now you must arrange in each temple there must be sufficient stock of prasadam for distribution. You can keep first class cooks, two or three, and they should be always engaged. Whenever any guest comes, he must get prasadam. This arrangement must be made, that the cooks prepare ten-twenty servings at a time, of puris and subji, and you can add halava and pakoras, and the visitors must be supplied immediately. Whenever a gentleman comes, he must be served. As the twenty servings are being distributed, immediately the cooks prepare another twenty servings and store it.
At the end of the day, if no one comes, our own men will take, so there is no loss. You cannot say, "It is finished,'' "It is not cooked yet,'' "There is no supply for cooking'' etc. This must be enforced rigidly.
The temple is managed by Srimati Radharani, Laksmiji; so why should there be want? Our philosophy is, if anyone comes, let him take prasadam, chant Hare Krishna and be happy. Everything is being supplied by Krishna, Krishna is not poor, so why we should deny them? This should be done at any cost. There is no difficulty, it simply requires nice management. At the end of the day you may sell or give away. If we believe that Krishna is providing and maintaining everyone, then why should we be misers? This means losing faith in Krishna, and thinking that we are the doers and suppliers. We are confident Krishna will supply! Let the whole world come, we can feed them. So please do this nicely, begin at once."
In a lecture on the Srimad-Bhagavatam (6.1.18) in Denver, 1 July 1975, Srila Prabhupada elaborates on the importance of taking prasadam at the temple:
"And another complaint I was hearing, that we are not taking prasadam, especially the grihasthas. No. That is not good. You should take prasadam. […] Krishna baro doya... Our tongue is the greatest enemy. Ta 'ra madhye jihwa ati, lobhamoy sudurmati. The tongue is the greatest enemy, and if you can control the tongue, then you can control all the senses. Otherwise tongue will dictate, "Give me this kind of food, give me this kind of food." And if you don't take prasadam in the temple, then our tongue will dictate, "Now you can prepare some nice food. Let us take it." Now that will not help us in our Krishna consciousness. Whatever Krishna..., krishna baro doyamoy, koribare jihwa jay. Krishna-prasadam means to control the tongue. Our main enemy is the tongue. […]
So in our other branches, all the devotees, they take together prasadam. That is nice. Why one should be not liking to take prasadam in the temple? What is the fault? No, this is not good. We should... Everyone should take prasadam. […] It is called prasada-seva, not "prasada enjoyment." Seva means giving service. Prasada is as good as Krishna; therefore prasada should be respected as good as Krishna. As soon as one gets prasadam, immediately he touches on the head because it is Krishna, Absolute. In this way we have to be trained up as it is prescribed in the shastras.
So those who are attached to Krishna consciousness movement and those who are attached to the service, they should take prasadam, first-class prasadam. Everyone likes the taste of the prasadam. I used to go in my household life to take prasadam in the temples and pay them. I used to do that. And I used to go... Especially in Sri Ramapur, there are two temples, one of Jagannatha and one of Radha-Vallabhaji. So it was very nice."
There are also three restaurants in the city, one of them being a Food For Life outlet where people can eat as much as they want, for a minimal financial contribution. The city officials appreciate ISKCON's food distribution in Melbourne to such an extent, that they gave a big contribution towards a huge professional temple kitchen - the best temple kitchen I have ever seen...!
I remember reading in Kurma Prabhu's book "The transcendental Adventure", describing Srila Prabhupada's visits to Australia and New Zealand, how Srila Prabhupada was giving a public program in Melbourne. At the question-answer session not a single person had a question. On the way to the temple Srila Prabhupada said to his disciples: "The Australian people don't have much intelligence. Best to feed them prasadam."
Melbourne temple has wholeheartedly imbibed this mood...
On the 25th of May I flew on to Adelaide....
Your servant, Devaki dd