When we had been in Perth, Hansadutta Maharaj had sent new shoes for Srila 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.
Once I was trying to understand the four hundred thousand species of human life. I asked Prabhupada, “Those four hundred thousand types of humans, are they on this planet? Are they divided by countries? Does it mean the Chinese, the Japanese, the Americans?” Prabhupada said, “No, you are thinking of this planet, but the Srimad-Bhagavatam is speaking of the entire universe.”
During the morning walks we would sometimes play the role of materialists. Then some time passed, and Ganesh prabhu asked a question, but it wasn’t clear that he was posing as a materialist. He said, “Srila Prabhupada, is the Bhagavad-gita 5,000 years old?” Prabhupada said, “What? The Bhagavad-gita is not 5,000 years old. Have you read Bhagavad-gita?” Ganesh said, “Yes, a little.” Prabhupada responded, “You are a student of Bhagavad-gita and you think it was written 5,000 years ago? You should know that the Bhagavad-gita was first spoken millions of years ago . . .” Ganesh was getting heavily chastised, and I said, “Maybe Ganesh was posing as a materialist, Prabhupada.” Prabhupada said, “Even so, one should know Bhagavad-gita was not written 5,000 years ago.”
On a morning walk I said to Prabhupada, “Non-devotees think Krishna consciousness is a belief, and they question why we call it a science.” Prabhupada said, “If non-devotees can call their beliefs science, then we can call our beliefs science. What they are calling science is really just belief. For example, they believe that the living entity comes from matter, from chemicals. But where is the evidence? Where is the example of a living entity coming from matter, from chemicals? It’s simply a belief, and they’re calling it science. So if they call their belief science, then we can call our belief a science.”
One day Ganesh prabhu brought his mother and his sister to meet Prabhupada. His mother was Jewish, and she was defensive. She said, “You are saying your religion is the truth, so that means you’re saying that mine’s not the truth.” Prabhupada reassured her saying, “It doesn’t matter whether one is Jewish, Christian, or Hindu. If one knows God and loves God, then that is the truth, or the proper path.” Still she was defensive, and again Prabhupada said, “It doesn’t matter—Hindu, Christian, Jew. If you know God and you love God then that is the truth. That is the path.” Then she became more comfortable. She didn’t feel challenged, and she let her defenses down. When Prabhupada had a certain mood, his eyes would be very soft and he was humble. He said, “So, can you tell me who God is?” She turned red and looked down as if to say, “Oh, I couldn’t say anything about that.” Her daughter, Ganesh’s sister, said, “God is love.” Then, Prabhupada began to explain who Krishna is, that he’s Bhagavan, that he has unlimited beauty, unlimited wealth, unlimited strength, unlimited fame, unlimited renunciation. Prabhupada explained that He is the original person and from Him unlimited other forms of Himself arise and that He is eternally young, although He is the oldest. Prabhupada was telling her who God is. It was very nice to see the way Prabhupada dealt with her feelings and then told her who Krishna was in such a way that she could listen.