Acquiring of Fisher Mansion and converting it into a Radha Krishna temple is a transcendental lila of Srila Prabhupada which reveals his potency as a preacher of Krishna consciousness and his complete detachment from material opulence.
Fisher mansion belonged to the late auto industry millionaire Lawrence Fisher. After a tour of the grand estate, Prabhupāda liked the property. The palatial building was situated on four acres surrounded by a high stone wall. There were gardens and walkways, as well as fountains and a swimming pool. The vestibule was with ornate Italian tiles and marble archways.
The lobby had a high ceiling covered with classically sculptured leaves, rosettes, and hand-painted plaster flowers. The ballroom had marble floor and high, vaulted ceiling painted to resemble an early-evening blue sky with clouds and stars. The special lighting gave the effect of natural starlight. The ballroom made into a temple with a little renovation.
The tour then proceeded to the boat well, an indoor water garage capable of holding several yachts. The boat well opened into a channel, which opened into the nearby Detroit River. Prabhupāda mentioned that the devotees could get a boat for their preaching.
As Prabhupāda and his entourage entered one gorgeous room after another, they saw the many carved stone columns, hand-painted floor and wall tiles from Italy and Greece, and ceilings ornamented with gold-leafed figures. Rare antique crystal chandeliers adorned many of the rooms. There were living rooms, library rooms, a dining room, a billiard room, a music room, two master bedrooms, other bedrooms-all extravaganzas. “Each room is worth the entire price,” said Prabhupāda privately to the devotees.
The owner spoke of Mayan, Moorish, Spanish, Greek, and Italian influences, and pointed out that the two hand-carved spiral columns in the dining room were salvaged from an ancient European palace. Wherever Śrīla Prabhupāda looked, he saw opulence: an indoor marble fountain, a wall of iridescent tiles, hand-painted cornices. Even the large bathrooms were extraordinary, with glamorous imported tiles and gold-plated accents.
The introductory tour completed, Prabhupāda, his followers, the owner, and the real estate agent sat together at an umbrella-covered patio table by the swimming pool. Prabhupāda spoke up.
“So, we are beggars,” he began. He was serious, and yet he spoke with an air of humor. “We have no money,” Prabhupāda continued boldly. “Therefore, we are asking you, please give us this building.”
The owner glanced incredulously at his real estate agent and then laughed nervously. “It’s out of the question,” he said. “I can’t do that.”
“Then,” said Prabhupāda, “how much do you want?”
“Well,” the man replied, “I have to get at least $350,000.”
None of the devotees dared say anything. Prabhupāda thought for a moment and then said, “We will give you $300,000 cash.”
“I’ll have to think about it,” the man replied.
Prabhupāda then got up and took a short walk in the garden with his men.
Govardhana asked Prabhupāda if he’d liked it, and Prabhupāda said, “Yes, who would not like such a building?”
“Ambarīṣa doesn’t like it,” said Govardhana.
Ambarīṣa said he thought the mansion was māyā.
“Yes,” said Prabhupāda, “but māyā is also Kṛṣṇa. We can use anything in Kṛṣṇa’s service.”
Prabhupāda asked Ambarīṣa and Lekhaśravantī to arrange for the funds. Lekhaśravantī was able to give $125,000. Ambarīṣa had to come up with the balance.
The next day the owner came to see Śrīla Prabhupāda accepted the offer. Prabhupāda smiled and reaffirmed his intention to buy.
Afterward, Śrīla Prabhupāda openly showed his blissfulness about the purchase. “Just see,” he said, “I didn’t have one penny, and yet I offered him $300,000 cash. And now Kṛṣṇa has provided the money.”
As Prabhupāda had told the estate owner, “I am a sannyāsī. I have no money.” And after collecting $300,000 from his disciples, he still had no money. Within a few days he left for Toronto, taking nothing for himself. Everything was Kṛṣṇa’s, to be used in Kṛṣṇa’s service.