Srila Prabhupada in Vrindavan
Pradyumna and I arrived in Vrindavan from Hrishikesh at about 4am. We alerted the temple President, Akshayananda Maharaja, of Srila Prabhupada’s statement that he was coming to Vrindavan to ‘leave his body’. We were all shocked at the news. The Maharaja didn’t tell the devotees right away why he was coming, just that he was coming soon and the devotees started ecstatically cleaning his quarters during the morning program. The Holy dust of Vrindavan had blown about everywhere and there was a lot of mercy to deal with.
Srila Prabhupada arrived at the temple at about 7am. At this point Srila Prabhupada’s health had deteriorated so much that he could no longer walk on his own. The devotees in Vrindavan, and around the world, were unaware of this. We brought a rocking chair out to the car to carry Srila Prabhupada in. He asked, as usual, to see the Deities first. We carried him into the temple and placed him before Sri Sri Gaura – Nitai. Srila Prabhupada stood up offering his respectful obeisance’s. At this point someone took the chair away. Srila Prabhupada stood there gazing at Their Lordships for a few moments with tears decorating his face. Then he moved to sit in the chair that wasn’t there. We had to catch him. The devotees looked at each other with grave concern. We brought the chair back and carried Srila Prabhupada over to Sri Sri Krishna and Balarama. Again Srila Prabhupada stood up with tears in his eyes. (This time the chair stayed!) We then moved over to Sri Sri Radha Symasundara and Sri Lalita and Sri Visaka’s alter. Again Srila Prabhupada rose up and gazed lovingly at the Deities. After a few moments he turned to us and said that he wanted to see all of the devotees in his room.
We carried Srila Prabhupada to his room and he took his seat at his desk. The devotees filled the room quickly and were crowded around the doors and windows trying to see and hear our divine master. When all the devotees settled in as much as possible Srila Prabhupada began to speak:
“So I cannot speak. I am feeling weak. I was to go to other places like Chandigarh, but I canceled the program because the condition of my health is very deteriorating. So I preferred to come to Vrindavan. If death takes place, let it take here. So there is nothing new to be said. Whatever I have to speak, I have spoken in my books. Now you try to understand it and continue your endeavor. Whether I am present or not present, it doesn’t matter. As Krsna is living eternally, similarly, the living being also lives eternally. But kirtiryasya sa jivah: ‘One who has done service for the Lord lives forever.’ So you have been taught to serve Krsna, and with Krsna we’ll live eternally. Our life is eternal. Na hanyate hanyamane sarire. A temporary disappearance of this body, it doesn’t matter. Body is meant for disappearance. Tatha dehantara-praptih. So live forever by serving Krsna. Thank you very much.”
At this point most of the devotees were crying. To me it still hadn’t sunk in that Srila Prabhupada was about to depart this world leaving us to grieve in his absence. Srila Prabhupada told us to discuss amongst ourselves and we talked about the future of ISKCON without Srila Prabhupada. It was unthinkable actually, but we were forced to think about it due to the time factor.
Philosophically we understood that Srila Prabhupada would live with us in his books etc. but we would so miss his physical presence. The devotees began to wonder how the movement would go on without Srila Prabhupada to personally direct it. How would the BBT operate? How would the GBC act? Would someone else become the next acharya? Srila Prabhupada answered all of these questions in the next few weeks and months.
Vrndavan India June 1977. I used to take Srila Prabhupada’s paraphelnelia to translate his books up to the rooftop before sundown every evening. Part of the roof was covered and part was open and there is an inside room also and a bathroom. Srila Prabhupada would come up just at about sunset to start his translation work for the night.
My duty was to set up everything at Srila Prabhupada’s desk and then guard it so the monkeys wouldn’t run off with anything. The monkeys in Vrndavan are notorious for stealing things and going to the market place to trade their goods for bananas. They toss things to the vendors who toss back some fruits. These things are still going on! One evening as I was waiting for Srila Prabhupada’s arrival I sat there reading the Srimad Bhagavatam. All of the sudden Srila Prabhupada entered so I put the book on his desk and offered my obeisances. When I rose up Srila Prabhupada asked me what I was reading. I replied that it is your Srimad Bhagavatam 4th Canto part 4. Srila Prabhupada then smiled bigger than any other time the whole 4 months I was with him. He turned to his secretary and said, “He’s reading in his spare time; this is very good!” I was elated. Such a simple thing was so pleasing to His Divine Grace. Simple living and high thinking – ki jai! All the times when I watered his window mats with a low presure hose in the scorching heat and did so many menial services I never got such a smile as when he caught me reading in my spare time. All glories to the book Bhagavata and the person Bhagavata! Now that we don’t have the physical presence of Srila Prabhupada we can still serve the books; and thus make him,ourselves, and others, supremely happy.
This is the story of the time I got electrocuted right in front of Srila Prabhupada. I had been gathering his paraphernalia to take it downstairs and I noticed an extension cord that was rolled up and hanging on a hook on the wall. Some of the visiting devotees wanted to help so they rolled it up and hung it there still plugged in. Thinking it must be ready to go I grabbed it as I walked by. There was a bare spot on the cord wherefrom I got shocked with 220 volts. I remember taking three steps and melting like a candle in front of Srila Prabhupada who was sitting in his chair waiting to be carried downstairs. Everything went black as I melted to the ground and I thought I died.
Upendra Prabhu was in the bathroom gathering a few things when he heard Srila Prabhupada yell, “save him!” pointing at me rolling around in the wires. Upendra ran out and pulled the plug; probably saving my life. They said my heart had even stopped. Premana Swami pounded on my chest and restarted my heart. After about two hours I started to see the devotees faces above me. Still I didn’t have my memory. I didn’t recognize anyone or myself for about twenty minutes. After I had finally got my memory back I was told that Srila Prabhupada wanted to see me. I entered his room and offered my obeisance’s; feeling embarrassed for making such as scene. Srila Prabhupada looked at me most compassionately and said, “so you are alright?” I replied, “yes, Srila Prabhupada” and then he said, “So you should take this as a good lesson that death can come at any moment; and you should always be ready.” I could see That Srila Prabhupada really was my ever well-wisher. “Thank you Srila Prabhupada” I said, as I offered my obeisance’s and backed out of his room grateful to have such a loving Spiritual Master.
Actually it wasn’t so bad ‘leaving my body’ as I thought I had. Being in the service of the guru in Sri Vrindavan Dham would be the best way to go. The best part about staying is that I can serve and share my spiritual master with others. This is the perfection of our lives. Afterall, death can come and any moment and we should always be ready.
I used to take care of Srila Prabhupada’s garden in Vrndavan. He used to come into the garden every morning and chant japa or listen to some devotees chant bhajans; he liked the gurukul children and Sacidananda alot. Sometimes the secretary would read letters and Srila Prabhupada would dictate a response. Srila Prabhupada liked his Brahma toped fountain alot. It always had to be running when he was in the garden. It created a soothing sound in harmony with the chirping birds and temple bells in the distance. Before Srila Prabhupada’s arrival in the garden I would change the cloth on his vyasasana and light his favorite incense sticking about 10 sticks in the ground on both sides of the vyasasana; the smoke would be billowing up and around nicely. One day I lit ‘Sai Flora’, a very strong incense, and Srila Prabhupada told me to take it away. He said it was too strong. (especially when you light 10 sticks!) I brought back a mellower scent, Kesar-Chandan, (saffron-sandlewood), and Srila Prabhupada said it was very nice; so that’s the kind I lit from then on. One of my favorite duties was fanning Srila Prabhupada. I thought I was the best camera fanner around. One day as I was tending to His Divine Grace in his garden a fly landed above his lip. He was chanting with his eyes closed and I was trying to shew the fly away with my finger without touching his face. Just then Srila Prabhupada opened one eye and looked at me as I jumped back and he said, “You are fanning around the world; but you can’t get the fly off my face!” He then told me to give the camara to him and he demonstrated how to fan him by whisking it right across his face, saying, “Do like this”. Moments later the fly reappeared determined to get some more mercy from the lotus mouth of the pure devotee. I reluctantly brushed the camara across the face of His Divine Grace and he smiled and said, “Very nice!”. That made my day. I learned from that experience that devotional service was not just for show but is a practical thing; the way to please the spiritual master and the Lord Sri Krishna. After fanning Srila Prabhupada in his garden we would escort him to the temple where he would sit under the Tamal tree and listen to bhajans from about 9am until about 11am. I had to share my fanning duties more then, but it was ecsatic just to be in the presence of His Divine Grace,Srila Prabhupada.
All glories to Sri Sri Guru and Gauranga!!!
I was preparing Srila Prabhupada’s garden for his arrival early one morning. I had replaced the cover on his vyasasana; turned on the fountain, which he liked very much, and lit one of his favorite incense’s Kesar Chandan. I was thinking of what else I could do to make the atmosphere as pleasant as possible when I noticed a little bush with about 4 flowers on it. They were very fragrent little white flowers. I placed them on Srila Prabhupada’s armrest. When Srila Prabhupada arrived and took his seat he immediately picked up the flowers and smelled them. He held them for most of the morning. The next morning when Srila Prabhupada came into the garden and took his seat he immediately put out his hand. I knew he wanted more of those little flowers without him saying a word. I had picked all of the flowers the day before and didn’t think there would be anymore but I hurried over anyway and to my surprise there were twice as many flowers as the day before. I picked them and dropped them into the lotus hand of His Divine Grace and he smiled. Krsna takes care of His devotees! Srila Prabhupada again held the flowers most of the morning smelling them repeatedly. At one point he said, “Simply by smelling this type of flowers it regulates your life airs.” Srila Prabhupada did everything with purpose. Every day for the next month that little bush provided more and more flowers to the pure devotee. I was constantly amazed at the happenings of and around His Divine Grace, Srila Prabhupada. May those memories always remain in my mind. Your servant, Gauridasa Pandita Dasa
I was fanning Srila Prabhupada in his garden. Swarupa Damodar Swami had just come and began to tell Srila Prabhupada about the scientific conference they had just held in Bombay. Even though this was the time when Srila Prabhupada was sick; he became very enlivened by hearing of the preaching program. Srila Prabhupada sat up straight and pointing his finger to the sky, he declared, “Actually I appeared in this world for two reasons: to establish Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead and to defeat the rascal scientists!” He told Swarupa Damodara that he was very pleased that he was preaching in the scientific community like that. Srila Prabhupada wasn’t against all scientists; just the ones who tried to ‘replace’ God and promote their atheistic theories such as the ‘big bang’ and the like. Some of the devotees today are doing a good job preaching in the scientific community. I’m sure this is very pleasing to Srila Prabhupada. There is a big debate, in India and around the world, over who is the Supreme Godhead. Srila Prabhupada cleared up the issue and established that Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He did this using guru(teacher); sastra (scriptures) and sadhus(saints) to support the facts and his own realization. Srila Prabhupada didn’t water-down the philosophy just to attract some easy followers. He presented the highest truth. Because of Srila Prabhupada, people in every town and village around the world are now chanting the Holy Names of the Lord and perfecting their lives. All glories to the greatest guru of our times; who worked so hard day and night, to translate the Vedic literatures that benefit us now and for thousands of years to come. Srila Prabhupada gave us the highest treasure; the ‘matchless gift’. Let’s take advantage of the gift and go back home, Back To Godhead!
Upendra Prabhu and I had just observed Nirjala Ekadasi in Sri Vrndavan Dham.It was June of 1977. The temperature was over 100*. Even though we were young we became very weak and I could hardly stand up by the end of the day.Upendra would cook Srila Prabhupada’s lunch every day spending hours every morning toiling away in the kitchen. Srila Prabhupada had been sick and he actually came to Vrndavan specifically to ‘leave his body’. Even though Upendra worked so hard to prepare the foods the way Srila Prabhupada liked it; Srila Prabhupada had been refusing to eat. For the previous few weeks when the Plate was brought to Srila Prabhupada he waved it off saying, “Distribute!”. Well after fasting the day before and becoming so weak Upendra got frustrated when Srila Prabhupada again refused to eat. Upendra asked Srila Prabhupada how it was that we young boys could barely survive one day of fasting in the Vrndavan heat and he had been fasting for weeks now. Upendra asked Srila Prabhupada, “How do you do it?” Srila Prabhupada responded, “I am living proof that the soul is not dependant on the body for subsistance; but rather the body is dependant on the soul”! Although I was a neopyhte I could see that Srila Prabhupada was totally Krishna conscious and above the bodily concept of life. He was/is a total inspiration to me. Those were the best days of my life. To serve Srila Prabhupada in Sri Vrndavan Dham was a dream come true. I counted my blessings as I gazed out my window at night and could see Srila Prabhupada translating his books all night long on his rooftop.I could hardly sleep at times anxious for the next morning when I could resume my daily services for Srila Prabhupada. All glories to our transcendental spiritual master; the acharya, our living proof!
“He lives forever by his divine instructions and the followers live with him”
Srila Prabhupada had not been eating regular prasadam for quite some time due to his illness. Almost daily when his lunch was brought to him he waved it off saying to distribute it. Some times I would do the distribution. On one such occasion Srila Prabhupada noticed some of the devotees pointing at the particular preparations that they wanted. Srila Prabhupada called me over and told me to mix the prasadam all together and said that the devotees should not discriminate. So I mixed it up and continued distributing ‘the mercy’ to the devotees. Now they were looking a bit confused and taking a more humble amount. About the only thing I remember Srila Prabhupada taking was some sugar-water. We used to take rock candy and dissolve it in water. He would sip from about two ounces of it while he translated his books all night long on his rooftop. Another one of my services was to hold Srila Prabhupada’s spittoon if he needed it. Due to his illness he did need it often. One time one of the devotees took the container and began to ‘honor the prasada.’ When Srila Prabhupada found out he said not to do that. The devotees were so anxious to ‘get the mercy.’ Sometimes they went overboard!
Srila Prabhupada was sitting with some devotees up on his roof in Sri Vrindavan Dham. I was sitting by the air-conditioner trying to keep it running; a difficult task in India. Srila Prabhupada motioned to me to come over to him. He said that he wanted some limbo-pani, (Lemon & water). I looked around for Upendra or Bhakti Caru, who would usually do that service. I couldn’t find either one of them so I trotted into the kitchen. This wasn’t my normal service so I was extra nervous. I squeezed some lemons into a silver cup; got a cup of water and put some honey in a little silver cup. Putting them on a silver tray I hurried up the stairs and presented the offering to His Divine Grace. He immediately pointed at the honey and asked what it was. I said it’s honey and he said, “Did I ask for honey?” I said, “well no Srila Prabhupada; that’s why I didn’t add it in.” I thought , that’s it I’m going to get ‘blasted’ but Srila Prabhupada kindly nodded his head in approval and I retreated to the air-conditioner. Another, ‘mission accomplished’!
I was fanning Srila Prabhupada in the garden as Tamal K.G. read some letters to him. When Tamal got up and left he forgot the keys which must have fallen out of his pocket. They were actually Srila Prabhupada’s keys to his house and safe etc. Srila Prabhupada immediately noticed the keys on the carpet and told me to hand them to him. Then he told me to “go get Tamal.” I went out to the front room and told Tamal K.G. that Prabhupada wanted him. When he came out Srila Prabhupada told me he wanted his sapphire ring out of the safe. Tamal K.G. felt his pockets nonchalantly for the keys and took a quick look around before disappearing into the house. After a few minutes Srila Prabhupada told me to get Tamal again. This time he was busy tearing his little office up looking for the keys. He asked me if I had seen his keys and I didn’t want to lie so I just made a dumb look and put my hands in the air. When he came out into the garden again Srila Prabhupada asked him where his ring was and Tamal responded that a guest had just come and he had to help him and he would get it right away. He just couldn’t admit that he couldn’t find the keys. As he hurried off again Srila Prabhupada shook his head. I couldn’t help but laugh at what was going on. For the third time I was sent out to get Tamal who asked me to go look in the shower upstairs for the keys. I said that I couldn’t leave Prabhupada alone that long and returned to the garden. When Tamal K.G. came out Srila Prabhupada asked him again where his ring was. Tamal started to make another excuse when Srila Prabhupada pulled the keys out from under his dhoti and dangled them in the air saying, “Here you nonsense, if anything is stolen; it’s your fault for giving them the chance.” Upendra and I cracked up at this because we hardly ever saw Tamal get ‘blasted’ as he did to us so often. Of course we sobered up real fast for fear of Tamal’s temper. This story exemplifies how security conscious Srila Prabhupada was. He was very careful about every detail and didn’t waste a penny of Krishna’s Laxmi.
Srila Prabhupada had some problems with his eyes and told Upendra Prabhu to go to the market and get a glass eye washer. It’s a little cup that you put water into and hold it up to your eye to rinse it out. Upendra went and returned with the desired item. Srila Prabhupada asked him how much it cost. Upendra replied that it cost 4 rupees. (about 50cents) Srila Prabhupada said ,”it should of only cost one rupee, maybe two but you have paid four! You have wasted Krishna’s money!” He went on chastising him for quite some time. He said, “I have millions of dollars but I don’t waste a farthing of Krishna’s money.” I didn’t like to see my friend, Upendra get chastised so much but couldn’t help from laughing a bit to myself at his surprised reaction for what amounted to less than 50 cents. Then again I realized how serious it was/is to spend Krishna’s money properly.
One time Upendra prabhu was holding his beads in his hands as he chanted. Srila Prabhupada asked him where his bead bag was. Upendra said that he had just washed it. Srila Prabhupada said that we should have two bead bags so if we wash one we can use the other. Srila Prabhupada said that we should not show our beads. My understanding of it was that when somebody looks at your beads there was some kind of subtle karmic exchange. The beads have to be protected and respected just like our Bhakti lata bija, our spiritual creeper of devotional love.
When Srila Prabhupada was sick and preparing to leave his body in Vrindavan so many doctors came to see and treat him. I saw doctors from many schools come with various treatments. Some would see Srila Prabhupada and prescribe some medicine etc. and go out in front of the temple and boost that they had ‘saved’ Srila Prabhupada.
The day after one such episode the secretary, Tamal Krishna Goswami, brought some medicine for Srila Prabhupada to take. Srila Prabhupada refused to take it. Tamal K.G. then pleaded with Srila Prabhupada to take it, saying that he told the doctor he would. Srila Prabhupada said that he simply was accepting the doctors service, but he didn’t want the medicine. He said, “Krishna is my medicine!”
Srila Prabhupada was/is an ocean of compassion. He accepted even a little service as very significant from the doctors and even the street person who donated a roll of toilet paper in the early days.
Srila Prabhupada was totally dependant on Krishna. He fasted for days on end and still had the strength to preach. It was obvious that he was getting his strength from Krishna. Balam balavatam caham
“I am the strength of the strong, devoid of passion and desire.” (B.G.7-11) Srila Prabhupada was devoid of material passion although he had great spiritual passion. He was the most expert preacher. He had daily darshans with all kinds of people. Many mayavadis and impersonalists would come and try to argue their ideas but Srila Prabhupada, the perfect host, would gently and charmingly convince them of the defects of impersonalism and the superiority of Krishna Consciousness. For the few that didn’t accept our philosophy they at least left feeling that they were treated respectfully and appreciated Srila Prabhupada’s graciousness. Srila Prabhupada was expert with the crowds and often humorous. These times were bliss for us to experience.
Srila Prabhupada had no material desire; he had total spiritual desire. He had 108% spiritual desire. He used to say, “first deserve, then desire.” He deserves Krishna and therefore he has Krishna. When you have Krishna you have everything. So we should not lament that he is gone, because he’s with Krishna and at the same time he is here, as is Krishna. We should just hurry up and follow his instructions on how to go back to Godhead and join Them personally.
This is another story that exemplifies Srila Prabhupada’s pure transcendental nature. Srila Prabhupada was translating on his rooftop in Vrindavan. At about 2am I was awakened by loud thunder. It was the beginning of the monsoon season. My room in the guesthouse overlooked Srila Prabhupada’s roof. Whenever I woke up at night I would look out and see Srila Prabhupada translating away. This time it was raining pretty hard and Srila Prabhupada was ringing his bell. I could see no one else there. There was supposed to be someone with Srila Prabhupada twenty-four hours a day. Believe it or not sometimes devotees just didn’t show up for their shifts especially late at night. I jumped out of bed and ran over and woke up Tamal K.G. and Upendra and told them of the situation upstairs. We ran up and offered our obeisance’s quickly and then proceeded to pick up the whole bed that Srila Prabhupada was sitting on and carried it to the covered part of the roof. (Keep in mind that at this time Srila Prabhupada could not walk by himself.)
He was soaked! I thought he was going to be very angry and chastise us for neglecting his service. On the contrary, Srila Prabhupada was chanting ‘Jaya Radha-Madhava’ to himself. Upendra Prabhu proceeded to dry Srila Prabhupada off and help him change his clothes. All the while Srila Prabhupada continued to chant, completely transcendental to the modes of material nature. I was astonished.
Some devotees have wondered how I got to do so much personal service for Srila Prabhupada. One reason is that I was always available. If someone didn’t show up for their shift I’d take their shift if possible. To be one of Srila Prabhupada’s close personal servants you had to be quick, quiet, clean, innovative, and have a lot of energy. Of course being with the pure devotee gave us all the sakti in the world. We knew he was going to leave us soon because he told us so many times and I wanted to get all of the mercy I possibly could. I’m so grateful to have done the little service that I did and hope that I will always feel Srila Prabhupada’s presence and act like he’s still here, (because he is spiritually), and could walk into the room at any moment. I better grab a book!
Ys, Gauridasa Pandita Dasa
One time I was watching Srila Prabhupada waiting for him to wake up when all of the sudden he started twitching severely. His arms were moving and his face was contorting. I was alarmed I thought maybe he was having a heart attack. I ran downstairs and got Tamal K.G. to come up and take a look. Watching for a few minutes Tamal said that Srila Prabhupada’s not having a heart attack he’s having ecstatic symptoms; and said not to worry about it. This continued for about a half of an hour; then Srila Prabhupada woke up and started to talk about Krishna. A similar incident happened back in 1976 when I was a pujari in Vrindavan. Srila Prabhupada was chanting ‘Jaya Radha Madhava’ when all of the sudden he went into samadhi. He stopped playing his kartalas and sat there for a few moments with his eyes shut. The pujari next to me whispered to me that Srila Prabhupada had ‘nodded out’. I told him that he hadn’t ‘nodded out’ because his head was still up. A moment later he continued with the kirtan. All glories to the ever blissful Srila Prabhupada who is always absorbed in the mood of the Gopis.
Upendra Prabhu would massage Srila Prabhupada along with the assistance of another devotee every day, after the regular morning program. One morning the assistant was sick and couldn’t help with the massage so I got to fill in. I wanted to do this service, but I was very nervous to get too personal with the pure devotee. Srila Prabhupada had said earlier in a class in Vrindavan that the two most dangerous positions in spiritual life were being a pujari and being his personal servant. He said this was do to the possibility of becoming too familiar as familiarity breeds contempt.
I entered Srila Prabhupada’s room and saw him lying on a mat on the floor with a towel over his face. Upendra instructed me to start rubbing some mustard seed oil on Srila Prabhupada’s legs. As soon as I touched the soft and golden body of His Divine Grace he raised the towel to take a look. I thought he was going to send me out because I had never done it before and was unqualified, but he so mercifully allowed me to continue.
Although Srila Prabhupada was 81 years old/young his legs were soft and smooth just like a 16 year olds. It reminded me of how Krishna is ever youthful. Similarly, Srila Prabhupada was also ever youthful. Even though he was older than all of us we could hardly keep up with him on his morning walks. He was also mentally very youthful and surprised us all with his charming Vaisnava wit and enthusiastic preaching spirit.
Srila Prabhupada gave us everything we need to live a happy healthy life and ultimately go back home, back to Godhead. He saw everything in relation to Krishna and engaged/engages unlimited fortunate souls in Krishna’s devotional service. He had regular massages with mustard seed oil. He ate only healthy Bhagavata Prasadam. He took regular morning walks etc. etc. He gave us remedies for so many problems spiritual and physical in his teachings, especially in his letters to the devotees.
That day was very fortunate for me to be able to touch the lotus body of the pure devotee, Srila Prabhupada. A few other times I got the opportunity to massage Srila Prabhupada’s head with Brahmi oil at night. This was a nectar service. Srila Prabhupada was/is the swanlike pure devotee. The oil is made with herbs such as Brahmi (Gotu Kola) which is said to relax the brain and increase the memory and decrease the time needed to sleep. Most of the Sikh taxi drivers drink tea made from these herbs at night. As we all know Srila Prabhupada slept very little and spent most of his time at night writing his books for our benefit and the benefit of future generations in the Golden Age of Lord Chaitanya. All glories to our Founder/Acharya Srila Prabhupada, the pure devotee, who practiced what he preached!
Your servant, Gauridasa Pandita Dasa
Srila Prabhupada would often tell jokes but they were hard for us to understand. One time he told a joke and Upendra started laughing almost hysterically, and Srila Prabhupada asked him if he understood the joke. Upendra got real serious and embarrassed and replied that he didn’t. Srila Prabhupada then said, “Then why do you laugh?”
We were always happy when Srila Prabhupada was telling a joke but when he was upset about something watch out. Actually in the four months that I personally served Srila Prabhupada I only saw him get angry about two things. One was the slamming of the guest house doors which he could hear from his garden and the other was when he found out that his books were being edited without his authorization
One joke I remember Srila Prabhupada telling was, he said “I am an old man, I can’t even walk anymore, but if I have to go to the bathroom four men and an elephant will come to take me.” You couldn’t help but laugh and be happy when Srila Prabhupada was in these transcendental moods. All glories to our loving spiritual master who is full of Vaisnava wit!
It was a beautiful morning in Sri Vrindavan Dham. We carried Srila Prabhupada in his rocking chair into the temple as usual. He took darshan of the Deities and listened to the devotees chant bhajans under the Tamal tree in the courtyard. Srila Prabhupada was very happy. Even though he was very sick and couldn’t even walk anymore, it was obvious that he was self satisfied and relishing the mellows of pure devotional service.
After leaving the temple Srila Prabhupada went on a tour of the Gurukula building. The construction work was almost done. When Srila Prabhupada saw the contractor he said, “It is all very nice, thank you very much.”
Visvambhar, who was one of Srila Prabhupada’s good friends told Srila Prabhupada that the veranda space in the gurukula was especially for the students to take rest in the hot summer months. Srila Prabhupada approved of the idea.
When Srila Prabhupada saw a class room he said, “This is very nice.” We took Srila Prabhupada around and showed him all of the rooms. He approved of the size of the living quarters. Then Srila Prabhupada said, “Now we have a big building, so you must bring 500 students. Bring from India or abroad; but you must fill up this school. Everyone wants this place that office, one leg here, one leg there, but now you must get students.”
Srila Prabhupada continued, “In Bengal there is a proverb which says, ‘Do not face the north with your head.’ One man said, ‘How can I face anywhere without having a head!’ Everyone is planning, this office, that office, but bring students first!”
Then Srila Prabhupada paused at the stairway and spoke for a few more minutes. He said, “This university education is useless! Boys are going to schools and then they become hippies. The most important thing is self-control. Acaran dasa van nico – Now they get degrees and then they are unemployed. When I was in India before I tried to get Indian children, but everyone was saying that ‘What will happen to my son? He will become a sadhu. What is the use? He will not earn money! They do not know. They are simply thinking money, money, money. No one is thinking of the next change of body. Na jayate mriyate va kadacin. The soul does not die, nor take birth. Anyway we must try to bring 500 children. Whether they are ISKCON or non-ISKCON children, that does not matter.”
Then Visvambhar asked if the education should be given free. Tamal Krishna Maharaja said that would attract low class people and Srila Prabhupada said, “No, we want high class people. The low class they do not need to come to school. They can learn from another person. Book education is for the brahmanas and kshatriyas. The others can plow the fields.
We carried Srila Prabhupada back to his quarters. As we passed the temple door Srila Prabhupada asked what they were chanting. We said they are chanting, “Jaya Prabhupada Jaya Prabhupada…” Srila Prabhupada said, “I do not like this! Tell them to chant Hare Krishna!” Srila Prabhupada was so humble that he didn’t even like his name chanted in the kirtans. I understood that it was ok a couple of times but not over and over.
When Srila Prabhupada got back to his room he continued talking about the gurukula. He said, “Before one can manage, he should bring 50 children. What is this 4 children and 300 managers? Bring 500 children from all over the world. I built this school because there in America the government wanted this change, that change. So I built this school for that purpose.” Gopal Krishna Maharaja asked if the school should be associated with the Government. Srila Prabhupada said, “No! Otherwise they will want to change everything. They will say- Study in this way- eat 3 eggs per day- Do not go to the Yamuna – it is polluted!”
Srila Prabhupada was very proud of his Vrindavan project. He called Vrindavan his home. He wanted the devotees to visit as much as possible. I remember when I was a pujari in Vrindavan and was sitting by the Deities while Srila Prabhupada gave class. He said all of the devotees should come to Vrindavan to get trained up for at least 2 years then go out and preach around the world. He said you make 7 times the advancement in Vrindavan as in the west. He said after preaching during our lives around the world, to come back to Vrindavan, to retire and go back home, back to Godhead.
(by Gauridasa Pandita Dasa using Yasodanandan’s diary)
Serving Srila Prabhupada personally in Bombay, Hrishikesh and Vrindavan were the best days of my life. Those days were numbered and unfortunately ran out at the end of July of 1977. I had entered India on a three month tourist visa. I had received a three month extension already when I applied for another. It was denied. I considered just staying past my expiration date so I could remain with His Divine Grace who I knew was leaving soon. I decided it would be better to go back to America and get another visa and return.
It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make; leaving Srila Prabhupada’s precious personal service. Srila Prabhupada always told us to follow the law; so I did. I had packed my belongings and had it loaded onto a horse drawn cart for my trip to the Mathura train station. I went to offer my obeisance’s to Tamal Krishna Maharaja in his office before leaving. He told me I couldn’t leave without telling Srila Prabhupada. I said Srila Prabhupada knows everything; I don’t want to bother him. Tamal K.G. said to wait and he entered Srila Prabhupada’s room. A moment later he stuck his head out of the door and told me to come in. Now I was really getting nervous. This would prove to be the last time I would see Srila Prabhupada before his divine departure for Goloka Vrindavan.
Upon entering Srila Prabhupada’s room I offered my full dandavats. Tamal K.G. said, “Here’s Gauridasa Pandita, Srila Prabhupada; he has to go back to America now because his visa is expiring and the government wouldn’t give him an extension.” Srila Prabhupada said, “Just see. I just train him up and the rascal government takes him away!” He was sitting behind his desk and looked at me with compassionate eyes, melting my heart. Then he said, “Thank you very much for all of your service, you’ve been very sincere. You are welcome to be my personal servant anytime. So you go worship Radha Damodara and be happy.”
I was ecstatic at the mercy of Srila Prabhupada. Not only did he acknowledge me; but he said I could return to his personal service! I had renewed hope. I said, “Thank you, Srila Prabhupada” and offered my dandavats again and slowly backed out of his room. I paused at the door one last time and he gave me his final nod of his head. Then he continued to translate.
I boarded the horse cart sitting facing back and heading out of Vrindavan. The one hour trip seemed to last for forever as I lamenting having to leave Srila Prabhupada. I became overwhelmed with the thoughts and couldn’t help crying most of the way to the Mathura Station.
Days later I arrived at Gita Nagari and became co-head pujari for Sri Sri Radha-Damodara with Sasthi Prabhu. We were a good team. When we got a letter from Upendra saying that we should fast to help Srila Prabhupada get better we took it up. We fasted for three days straight, then took prasadam one day, then fasted again for three days, like that, until Srila Prabhupada left his body.
When we got the news that Srila Prabhupada had decided to come to Gita-Nagari; to establish the Varna-ashrama system, we were all ecstatic. The devotees were morose before, knowing that Srila Prabhupada was sick and maybe going to leave his body. Now we had renewed hope! The devotees were happy again and very enthusiastically preparing for Srila Prabhupada’s arrival. We painted his house and made all of the necessary arrangements. Seeing all of the renewed enthusiasm I wrote a letter to Srila Prabhupada who was in London at the time. We got a response from his secretary, Tamal K.G., which Paramananda Prabhu, the temple president, read to all of the devotees since it was about Srila Prabhupada. The letter started out, “I read your letter to Srila Prabhupada as I found it very poetic and an excellent description of Gita-Nagari. When I told Srila Prabhupada you had written the letter; he remembered you very fondly.” I was ecstatic to hear this. I was glad to hear that Srila Prabhupada even remembered me. Out of the whole four months I was allowed to serve him I only talked to him shortly a few times. This was because right in the beginning of my service in Bombay, Srila Prabhupada said that the proper etiquette for the servant was to not talk to the spiritual master unless the spiritual master spoke first. He complained about some of the Indian life members who were a bit too talkative and familiar with him at times. So from then on I didn’t say much, but listened as much as possible.
Later we got the unfortunate news that Srila Prabhupada had decided to return to Vrindavan and wouldn’t be coming to Gita-Nagari. We were saddened again.
I wrote Tamal K.G. and got his permission to return to resume my service to Srila Prabhupada. I had to train up a new pujari before leaving Gita-Nagari though. He turned out to be Radha Damodara Dasa! It took two weeks to train him up properly. The day he took over completely I chanted my japa outside the curtains circumambulating Tulasi Devi and the Vyasasana. During that time we got a call from India, that Srila Prabhupada may be leaving his body soon. Then we got a call a little later confirming that he had indeed made his divine departure for Krsna Loka. I sensed something special was going on during my japa, as it was. Actually I didn’t want to see that particular pastime. I thank Krsna for saving me from that. I know that Srila Prabhupada is as present as ever, for me now, and everyone who takes shelter of him.
He reasons ill
Who says that Vaisnavas die
When thou art living still in sound
The Vaisnava dies to live!
And living tries
To spread the Holy Name around.
Your servant, Gauridasa Pandita Dasa