Many people have asked about this photograph. It was taken by Bindu Madhava das of France, Monday 16 August 1999, during the time that Srila Bhakti Ballabh Tirtha Maharaj and His entourage were in Phoenix, Arizona. A rather unusual program had been arranged for that particular evening at a place called the "Mountain Temple Center" which actually was the home of a local magician named Michael Crowley (a descendent of Alistair Crowley). Michael is a very humble and deferential person and he was extremely desirous of having Maharaj come speak at the Center. The Center sits atop a small mountain in the middle of a mountain preserve that runs right through the center of north Phoenix. Due to the small size of the house, it had been decided that the program be held outside. There, Michael had constructed a stone circle, like a miniature Stonehenge. The program was to take place inside this circle.
Earlier that day, Maharaj inquired as to the nature of the program that evening. When He heard that the program was to be at the home of a magician, Gurudeva said, "Ah-ho!" and proceeded to relate lovely esoteric stories of His boyhood encounters with village yogis. He told one tale of the time that He and some of the village boys had tried to come near one of these yogis. This particular yogi was so powerful, however, that he had constructed a barrier of heat around himself so that no one could come near and disturb him. The boys ran and fled from that place. After telling these stories, Maharaj remained alone as He constructed the lecture for that evening in His mind.
Phoenix is a desert valley, but it sits at the foot of the Rocky Mountains and, as such, there are summer monsoon rains. That evening, the clouds were building and building up, darker and darker, and a storm looked imminent. The program started near sunset, at which time Maharaj asked, as He always does, who was the host of the program. Michael was introduced to Him and Maharaj said that He had heard that he was a magician. Michael confirmed that he was.
"Well, what is magic?" Maharaj began, and He launched into several amusing personal anecdotes about magic and magicians. He also gave some humorous examples citing modern technology and media as a form of magic. In this short space we will not go into the contents of these stories, but He ended the stories by saying... "These are examples of man's magic....and what are these displays of magic?.... they are illusion....."
"But, who is the greatest magician?" He asked mysteriously.
On the mountain, the wind starts to blow... On the video of the event, Maharaj's chadar can be seen flapping in the strong winds. The clouds start getting thicker.
"Supreme Lord Sri Krsna is the greatest magician...."
Now, there is lightning in the sky and thunder resounding throughout the valley. Things start falling over on the altar that Michael had constructed. All this is visible and audible on the video tape...even the video camera itself becomes unsteady due to wind and has to be held tightly.
"This is Krsna's magic," Maharaj says, pointing to the storm clouds and lightning.
To demonstrate how Krsna is the greatest magician, Srila Gurudeva told narrated the wonderful story of Markedeya Rsi. Afterwards, He told the story that was the highlight of the evening, a very lengthy and beautiful rendering of the story wherein Narada Muni asks Sri Krsna if he can see His Maya potency.
Maharaj explained that, so long as Narada Muni remembered Krsna, there could be no possibility of Krsna showing him His Maya but, to demonstrate His Maya as per Narada's request, Krsna arranged a very complicated scenario. Catching Narada Muni off guard, Krsna bids Narada to bathe in a beautiful lake. Narada submerges himself and when he resurfaces, Krsna has disappeared. Narada, himself, has been transformed into a woman. "She" cannot remember Krsna. She cannot even remember who she, herself, is. The woman finds herself drowning in a sea of rocky waves. "Who will rescue me?! Who will rescue me?!" she cries. A king comes along and saves her. He is immediately captivated by her beauty. Ultimately, Narada as a woman takes shelter of this king and his kingdom. He marries her and they have 50 sons. She is so attached to her husband, her sons and her role as queen that she has no time to go to the temple or perform bhajan. Over time, the sons marry and, due to internal jealousies among the wives of the sons, war breaks out among the sons over land disputes. Eventually, all the sons are killed.
Back in Phoenix, lightning is filling the sky. It is like a natural light-show running behind the lecture. Thunder is echoing louder throughout the mountains and the wind is gaining strength. The devotees are fearful that, at any moment, they will be caught in a deluge that is typical of a desert monsoon that time of year. A few devotees are standing in the back of the meeting, planning how to pack everything quickly and keep Gurudeva dry in case the need to escape in a hurry should arise.
Narada as the queen is devastated. She is suicidal over the loss of her sons. Krsna comes to her in the form of a brahmin. She does not recognize Him, but only sees a brahmin. She cries to Him that the Supreme Lord must be very stupid. "He is a dunderhead!" Maharaj quotes. If He takes away everyone's sons in this fashion, then creation will cease because who will want to have children just to suffer this pain? Krsna as the brahmin requests the queen to perform some ablutions at the lake so that she might gain some peace of mind. After some persuasion, she goes to the lake. As she picks her head up from the waters, "she" is now "he" once again, and Narada sees Krsna standing on the bank of the lake.
The moment Narada sees Krsna, he remembers who Krsna is, who he himself is and also all that had just transpired. With some amount of embarrassment, he relates to the Lord all that he had experienced.
"So," Krsna says, "That is my Maya! As soon as you forget Me, Maya comes. If you remember Me, Maya cannot come. Do you want to see it again?"
"Oh no! No!" Narada replies emphatically. "Please, I do not want to see it again."
Maharaj concludes... "So long as we remember Krsna, Maya cannot come. The moment we forget Krsna, Maya comes."
"So... you see," Maharaj explains, "Krsna is the greatest magician. All this," Maharaj says as He points to the sky and the mountains all around us, "this is illusion.... Krsna's illusion... not man-made illusion."
Then He turns to our host and playfully asks him, "Can you do this?"
Michael laughs and humbly admits he cannot.
The wind has started to subside and the thunder has grown fainter. The lightning is no longer visible. The storm, the devotees thought, had passed them over.
After escorting Maharaj to the car, the devotees distributed prasad to the guests and spoke with them for a few minutes as they packed things up and prepared to leave.
As they descended the mountain driving in the car, however, they were amazed. To their great surprise, the ground at the foot of the mountain and all the surrounding areas had been drenched with rain. Only the little spot on top of the mountain had been spared the inundation. This is absolutely true and all the devotees witnessed it. The skeptic would say that this is coincidence, but if the Supreme Lord Sri Krsna, Lord of all lords, can sustain all the universes with a fraction of His "magic," then how difficult is it to withhold the rain from pouring on the head of His Most Beloved Associate, the Pure Devotee?
When we see this picture, we should always remember how fortunate we all are to have had the grace of Srila Gurudeva, and of all our respective Gurudevas, just to have seen Them and heard Them. That this is our great good fortune, within this world of Krsna's illusion, is certainly the greatest magic of all.