Drops of Nectar #3
Karandhar and I were in Prabhupada's room in the early seventies. It was a beautiful afternoon, a breeze was blowing, the sun was setting and golden rays were shining on Prabhupada. It was a sublime atmosphere. Prabhupada began to talk about India at the turn of the century. He explained how people used to work, the relationships between the householders and their servants and how people used to cook. He took us back to his early childhood when he was having Ratha-yatra and worshipping Radha Govinda. Then he looked at us very strongly and said, "Whatever I am doing now I was doing then. Do you understand?" We were speechless. Prabhupada said, "Never was there a time when I did not know Krishna. Do you understand?" He said it in such a way that it was clearly the case. That was a very powerful experience.
Hari Sauri dasa:
Prabhupada explained that one of his strategies for making people Krishna conscious was to distribute profuse amounts of prasadam. He said that people are almost like animals in the way they live. They don't know anything other than their bodies. "At least let them eat prasadam, for that's also Krishna," he said. "Our program is to help people gradually become Krishna conscious. Simply by eating prasadam they'll gradually develop an attraction to Krishna, and when that develops, they'll be able to understand the philosophy simply by eating prasadam." Prasadam distribution was one definite way that people could make some advancement.
Pusta Krishna dasa:
We were flying from Singapore to Australia. Prabhupada and Hari Sauri, his servant, were seated in the first class section and I was in the coach section. The plane hit an air pocket and quickly dropped five or ten thousand feet as if it was going down a huge roller coaster. My stomach was in my head and I was pretty shaken, although I was chanting through it all. As soon as the drop was over, I got up, walked to the front and asked Srila Prabhupada, "Are you okay?" Srila Prabhupada said, "Yes. We can die at anytime." He looked as if nothing at all had happened.
"In the future will it be necessary for us to find someone else for more instructions? Or, if we follow your prescription for sadhana, sankirtan, preaching and chanting, will our hearts be purified so that Krishna will reveal subsequent things to us from within?" When I said the latter part, Prabhupada smiled and said, "Yes, that is the way. You will not have to go anywhere else. If you simply follow my instructions, everything will be revealed to you from within." He had a pleased look. It was clear to me that there was no need for information about our rasa because everything is revealed to a pure-hearted devotee.
I arrived twelve days before Prabhupada left the planet. When I came into his room the devotees said, "Chitsukhananda is here." Prabhupada smiled and said, "Oh. Thank you for coming." Even then he was totally attentive. I was able to be with him during his last few days. It was very wonderful. I hated to see him in that condition, but he was so clean and pure. His mind was centered on Krishna and clear. There was never any question of senility, of being an old person, or of being very ill. It was not because I was his disciple that I saw this, but because it's the truth. Anyone, who reads what he wrote and hears what he spoke at that time, will also see that his mind was perfectly clear.
He said, "Do you know what the four principles are?" I said, "Yes." "And you are chanting a minimum of 16 rounds?" I said, "Yes." On that premise he accepted me and then he said, "Your name is Dhananjaya das, a name for Arjuna which means 'conqueror of wealth.' You will have no difficulty in acquiring wealth. Actually there is so much wealth everywhere, money is flying in all directions," and he put his hands up in the air, "you simply have to learn the art of catching it."
At the initiation Prabhupada was very grave when he chanted on the beads. I was sitting just below the Vyasasana when a boy came up and Prabhupada said to him, "What are the four regulative principles?" The boy said, "No intoxication, no gambling, no meat eating, no illicit sex." Prabhupada shot back, "So, which one do you like the best?" The boy went bright red. I thought it was funny because Prabhupada had been so grave. It was a serious occasion yet he talked like that.
Sakshi Gopal dasa:
I was struck by Srila Prabhupada's seriousness. In the temple in Manchester there was a black-and-white poster of Prabhupada sitting on his bed in Bury Place. I used to think, "Why does he look so serious? Why isn't he laughing like other gurus do?" Then it suddenly hit me that life itself is serious. At that point Prabhupada's gravity and the depth of his compassion came across in that picture.
When we had been in Perth, Hansadutta Maharaj had sent new shoes for Prabhupada from Germany and Prabhupada had had Srutakirti send Hansadutta his old shoes. So, when we were in Melbourne, 1974, I wanted to bring some gifts to Prabhupada. Once in the temple room I had heard Prabhupada say, "Don't touch the Bhagavatam to the floor," so I had an idea to get a book cover made and I asked one of the ladies who sewed for the Deities to make it. It had jari and tassels and a pink lining from remnants of Deity clothes. I also bought some peachy pink mangos to give to Prabhupada as a gift. One mataji had knitted a woolen scarf with brown tassels for Prabhupada. So, when Prabhupada was in his room speaking seriously to a large group of devotees, I came in, offered my obeisances and sat and listened. There was a pause in the conversation and Prabhupada looked at the box I had with me. He said, "What is this?" I thought I had some good gifts for Prabhupada. I was puffed up. I got out the book cover and I tried to explain that it was for covering Prabhupada's Bhagavatam because the Bhagavatam shouldn't touch the floor. In a stern and serious way, Prabhupada said, "I don't touch my Bhagavatam to the floor." I repeatedly tried to explain why the book cover was a good idea, but every time I started to speak, Prabhupada spoke before me, saying, "I do not keep my Bhagavatam on the floor. I keep my Bhagavatam on the shelf or table." I tried to keep a serious face, because he was serious but all the devotees started laughing and laughing, particularly Caru. I was totally embarrassed. Prabhupada wasn't going to let me explain, so I decided to just sit there and take whatever happened. Prabhupada said, "That book cover is for you." Then I didn't think I had many nice gifts. I pulled out the scarf and gave it to him. He liked that. By now I was in a humble state. Then I brought out the mangos. Prabhupada's mood changed and he smiled and said, "Ah, mangos, the king of fruit. This is a gift." I put the mangos on his table and he asked someone to make mango milk that night. He said that mango milk was very nutritious.
At some point during one of those lectures, Srila Prabhupada told us frankly that we had all come to Krishna because of prasadam. He told us that we were all prasadam bhaktas. When Prabhupada said that, he was being fanned by Abhirama prabhu, who was the temple president. Abhirama is reserved. He doesn't open his mind, he's a cool customer. But, when Prabhupada said that we were all prasadam devotees, he looked at Abhirama and said, "You too, Abhirama?" Abhirama became sheepish, out of character completely, and said, "Yes Srila Prabhupada, me too." Srila Prabhupada said, "Jai," his head wheeled slowly, like the sun rising, and his smile got bigger until it was ear to ear.
Once a few of us were in Prabhupada's garden when Nanda Kumar was his servant. After some time, Prabhupada wanted to go inside and we walked with him behind the temple into his quarters. Downstairs from Prabhupada's quarters there was a room with some cupboards and some of the Krishna Book paintings were sticking out from one of the cupboards. Other paintings were on the floor, leaning against the wall. Prabhupada noticed that the Krishna Book paintings were not nicely protected and said, "Why are these here? What are these doing here?" Nanda Kumar said, "I don't know Prabhupada, it's not my responsibility." Prabhupada shot back, "It is too your responsibility." That was a clear indication that Prabhupada expected his disciples to take responsibility for things that they saw in his movement.
Krsna Premi dasi:
My husband, Ajit, was from Sweden and had written to Srila Prabhupada asking if he could do some service in his own country. When Srila Prabhupada was in Sydney, he told us that he wanted us to go to Sweden and he asked what Sweden was like. Ajit told Srila Prabhupada about Sweden and then asked, "Srila Prabhupada, should we go out on harinama?" Ajit wanted to preach in universities and he said, "They may not look at us well in Sweden. What should we do, Srila Prabhupada?" Srila Prabhupada said, "That's all right, you can wear a suit and tie and your wife can wear a long dress. You can go and preach like that." We also asked Srila Prabhupada if we could have Deities. Srila Prabhupada said, "Yes, you can get Radha Krishna or Gaura Nitai." We said, "What would be best?" He said, "Either Radha Krishna or Gaura Nitai, but do not install Them immediately." After that, for some minutes Srila Prabhupada sat there and looked at both of us, thinking deeply. Then he opened his eyes wide, looked at me and said, "Who do you love more, Krishna or your husband?" I didn't know what to say. I didn't love Krishna and I also didn't love my husband. So I burst into tears. Srila Prabhupada had a big grin on his face. I could not understand what Prabhupada was thinking. He said, "If you go to Sweden and preach on behalf of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, He will give you all blessings."
Prabhupada had a connection with Scotland, because the school he attended in Calcutta had Scottish missionary teachers. Prabhupada knew more about Scottish people and Scotland than we thought. So, when Prabhupada went to Scotland for the opening of the temple, he held an interesting press conference. Ten or fifteen weary, hard-edged, cynical journalists from various Scottish newspapers had assembled in Prabhupada's room, along with eight or ten devotees. The questions were cynical. Some of them were almost rude and challenging, like "Why have you come here?" "What do you hope to achieve?" Prabhupada was answering eloquently and quoting the Bhagavad-gita. He maintained his composure completely. Before long, the journalists were won over. One journalist, in an offhand manner, asked Prabhupada, "Do you know everything?" Prabhupada took his time to answer. He nodded his head and said, "Yes," and then he added a little something to it. That was a classic moment, when he answered directly and honestly and said, "Yes." At that moment, amongst the devotees and the journalists, there was breathing throughout the room, "Perhaps it is true," and after that the whole mood changed. It became light-hearted.
Ram Prasad dasa:
We were walking and Srila Prabhupada commented, "Why don't they grow some fruit trees here? Then birds would come." I thought, "Who thinks of birds?" But Prabhupada was aware on many different levels. Then he said, "Why do they have all of these big buildings? Wouldn't it be nice if they weren't there?" No one answered the question. I said, "Srila Prabhupada I guess they want to leave something behind, something that showed they were here." He said, "Yes, this is exactly like the washer man's donkey. He feels proud to have all of the washing on his back. Here is the same principle -- they are proud of carrying such a big burden."
Prabhupada and two or three devotees were walking back from the square near the British museum. I said, "Does the Pope make spiritual advancement?" Prabhupada immediately said, "Yes, because he's engaged in God's work." It was quite a surprise because the Pope doesn't follow the regulative principles. But Prabhupada was very definite about it.
The very first time I saw Prabhupada was when I went to the temple in Sydney one Sunday. Srila Prabhupada didn't give the lecture but had Hanuman Swami give it. That impressed me because I thought that the knowledge was absolute and he wasn't promoting himself as a personality. I had already read "Easy Journey to Other Planets," and was also impressed by that book. I thought, "This guru knows how to attract different people for a higher purpose." After the lecture, I drifted towards the kitchen. By that time, Srila Prabhupada had gotten off his Vyasasana and was on the opposite side of the kitchen door. Prabhupada stopped and looked at me and I realized he was actually looking at me -- a soul, not my body. His look said, "Where have you been?" Prabhupada's eyes had a profound affect on me.
Prabhupada didn't say anything for a minute but gazed toward the back of the room. I followed his gaze and there was Jayananda sound asleep. Srila Prabhupada and Jayananda had a special relationship. There was so much love between them. Prabhupada knew that Jayananda worked hard and didn't say anything.
The first time that I translated Prabhupada's words was when he lectured at the school of architecture in Paris. Many young people attended. Prabhupada saw that I was not yet a very expert translator, so he spoke in short sentences. It was very nice of him. Over the years I was able to translate better and he would make his sentences much longer. Astonishingly, once when I forgot to translate part of what Prabhupada had said he noticed it. I don't know how he noticed it, because I don't think Prabhupada knew French, but he noticed I missed a part. He repeated the part I missed so that I would translate it. And I did.
Sruti Rupa dasi:
When Pishima (Srila Prabhupada's sister) brought Prabhupada prasadam that she'd made in her home, the taste was exquisite. Nothing ever tasted as good as her cooking because she made the dishes in mustard oil. Prabhupada said that if you want to eat for taste, you cook with mustard oil. If you want to eat for health, you cook with ghee. We never could duplicate the things that came from Pishima's hands.
Nava Yogendra Swami:
When Prabhupada called me in, I said, "Prabhupada, you didn't take any rest and you're not feeling well. You should have taken some rest." Prabhupada looked at me and said, "Nava Yogendra, sometime this body will be sick, sometime it will be okay, but in any condition you should serve Krishna. That is your eternal credit. That alone will go with you."
Prabhupada came to Buffalo in the spring of '69. He stayed at an Indian man's apartment near the temple. At that time I had been living in the temple for six months or so and Prabhupada initiated me. I remember sitting in the back of Prabhupada's room and watching Prabhupada at his desk. I was trying to penetrate the mystery of Prabhupada. Suddenly he looked up and saw me looking at him. He said, "Yes?" I was caught. I lowered my eyes. In a sense I was intruding and I realized I couldn't know him in that way. I had to somehow get his mercy if I wanted to know him better.
I'd be in the back of the temple when we greeted the Deities. In the old temple room Prabhupada came in the back door and we'd all shout, "Prabhupada, ki jaya!" Once I was yelling, "Prabhupada, jaya!" when he came in the door and he turned around, looked at me and raised his eyebrow as if to say, "Yes, what?" I was yelling like a cheerleader at a football game. I didn't have anything to say, so I paid my obeisances. After that I realized that he was a person. Before that he wasn't real to me. When he looked at me and waited for me to speak, I was flabbergasted and didn't have anything to say. I hardly spoke to him the entire time. But I listened.
In the early days when the girls, Janaki, Yamuna and Malati were taking turns cooking for Prabhupada, they always tried to introduce typical American favorites and turn Prabhupada on to these so-called delicacies. And invariably Prabhupada would be gracious about it and say, "Oh, thank you, I'll try this" but always leave most of it. Janaki once made artichokes, a full artichoke with a dip, and showed him how to do it. And he ate about two and he said, "Why all this trouble, this botheration?" (Laughs) He stuck to his dahl, rice and subjis and in turn taught them how to cook. He didn't like all the American gadgets, the American tastes.
On that morning walk he said, "We are their good fortune," in other words, you and I can also give Krishna consciousness to people. After all, Prabhupada didn't say, "I am their good fortune. I have come from India to give this knowledge." No, "We are their good fortune." That is also Prabhupada's humility and compassion. His was the greatest compassion.
When I was in Australia, Srila Prabhupada was not available to most of the devotees. But it was completely different in Bombay. There were so many problems associated with Bombay that whenever Prabhupada was going around the world, he'd stop in Bombay. There, every night on his roof, Srila Prabhupada would have darshan. Sometimes he'd sit alone chanting and sometimes he'd be with his servant or someone would be fanning him. Anyone could sit and chant with Prabhupada and ask questions. Then Indian guests and devotees would come. Many film stars and big industrialists came and Prabhupada would welcome them all warmly. Prabhupada would ask them to sit in the front and then he would preach to them. There was also an old man who lived nearby that used to come. He had some disease that made his fingers, hands, and head shake all the time. When he visited Srila Prabhupada he didn't do much. He would sit and say a few pleasantries and shake. Prabhupada's servant thought, "Oh he's just wasting Prabhupada's time," and stopped this man from coming. The old man was humble and thought, "Oh I shouldn't go." Then, after a long time, he came in and he offered obeisances. Prabhupada said, "Oh, where have you been? Why haven't you been coming?" He said, "Oh, Prabhupada, they told me not to come." Prabhupada said, "You can come at any time," and Prabhupada chastised his servant. I thought that was wonderful. Srila Prabhupada's translating work was so important and there was no immediate benefit from this old gentleman coming, but Srila Prabhupada was generous with his time.
I was with Prabhupada for about an hour, and Kulashekar was the only other devotee in the room at the time. Before I left, Prabhupada looked at me straight in the eyes and said, "Man is the architect of his own fortune, so you make your fortune now. Whatever is done is done. Now start a new chapter in your life, and in the next life go back home, back to Godhead." Those words are still ringing in my ears to this day.
B.V. Puri Maharaja:
"He has done so much service in the western countries in a small period. He could change Western countries. That is a credit to you all."