During the morning walks in Mayapur, I was the only householder. All the other devotees were sannyasis. I was on the periphery of the group around Prabhupada but still close to him. One morning there was a controversy about a God-brother giving away Prabhupada’s books, and the sannyasis were angry about it. They thought it was wrong. There were big issues to be resolved on this morning walk, but Prabhupada was quiet. He didn’t speak. When someone said, “Prabhupada, he’s giving away your books,” Prabhupada said, “As long as he pays me, as long as he covers the cost of books, he can do that. That’s fine.” Still there was an argument going on and then Prabhupada mentioned, “We have the real United Nations.” We kept on walking and a sannyasi told Srila Prabhupada, “We’ll take you to the pandal exhibit that has photographs of Deities in ISKCON centers around the world.” By this time the hot Bengali sun was coming up. Prabhupada turned around regally and used his cane to point at the trees and scenery. He said, “Now that the sun has come out everything is clear. Similarly, one day you will see Krishna appear, and then you will see everything clearly.” Then he continued walking. Prabhupada wasn’t happy about the arguments and didn’t want to talk. When he walked down to the pandal exhibit hall, children were peeking out and calling Prabhupada’s name. Prabhupada, smiling, pretended that he was about to chase them. Then he turned around and said with a smile, “See, old men and children make friends easily.”
Hanuman Prabhu called me on the phone and said, “Srila Prabhupada is going to Mexico City. Let’s go see him. I’ll recommend you for second initiation.” I was nervous. I’d never been so close to Prabhupada. He grabbed my hand to explain how to count the gayatri mantras. I wanted to give him so much dakshin, but I didn’t have anything. I went out, made some money, and brought it back, but I felt it wasn’t enough. Then I bought a blanket, a little box made of onyx, and a jar of good, quality honey. I wanted to see if I could please Prabhupada and get to see him taste the honey. On the last day of Prabhupada’s stay, his room was bursting with devotees going in and out, getting things ready for his departure. But Prabhupada was very relaxed. Finally, when his room was emptier, I didn’t feel like, saying, “Prabhupada, I brought you this,” so I didn’t say anything. I stood there hoping that he would take the honey. Prabhupada was looking at the things on his desk, and then he noticed the pot of honey. I kept thinking, “Please open it.” He looked up and said, “I can’t eat honey right now. Honey has to be stored for one year before you eat it.” And that was it.
The second time Hanuman and I went to see Prabhupada, he received us in his room. He was wearing a gumsha and sitting casually with one knee up, smiling and fatherly. Satsvarupa Maharaj was behind him taking care of some papers. Hanuman felt bad about leaving the sannyas ashram and becoming a householder. Hanuman said, “Prabhupada, I failed you. I’m a lost cause.” Prabhupada smiled and said, “Oh, no, no.” He laughed and said, “Krishna consciousness is like playing a mridanga. The more you practice, the better you get. Don’t worry.”
Since Hanuman had been a sannyasi and then had gotten married, he lost his GBC position. Hanuman said, “Srila Prabhupada, I don’t seem to get along well with my God-brothers.” Prabhupada smiled and said, “That’s all right. Actually, I didn’t like my spiritual master’s Society either.” We were surprised. Then Prabhupada became serious. He counted with his fingers and said, “I associated with my spiritual master about ten times. But I follow all his instructions. In that way, I am never separate from him, and he is never away from me. Wherever there are two men, there are two opinions. So now you go and preach the cult of Lord Chaitanya.” Hanuman asked, “Srila Prabhupada, when you’re gone, who’s going to succeed you?” Prabhupada quoted Lord Chaitanya’s verse, “I want all of you to become gurus. That’s your duty, to follow in my footsteps.” Hanuman asked, “Who should I go to for advice?” Prabhupada said, “Go to a devotee that your heart tells you to.” That was in 1975.
Once we were in Mexico when Prabhupada met with two sannyasis from India. They wore a big red dot on their forehead, and the devotees thought, “Oh, now Prabhupada is going to sauce them and put them in their place. They’re impersonalists.” These two sannyasis had already argued with the devotees. That afternoon I was in Prabhupada’s room when these two sannyasis came in. Prabhupada immediately arranged for a place for them to sit and was friendly to them. They spoke a little in Bengali and Hindi and then they went on to English. The conversation was light. Prabhupada joked and made them laugh. Then Prabhupada asked them if they knew Bhagavad-gita. They nodded, and Prabhupada said, “Do you know Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu?” They again nodded, and he said, “Now please, preach the cult of Lord Chaitanya. Hari Bol!” Their arms went up and, “Hari Bol!” They were all smiles. The arguments vanished. Devotees brought prasadam, and the two sannyasis happily ate. Prabhupada knew exactly what to do. He knew what to answer to what particular person at what particular time.
In 1976 I was with Gargamuni Maharaj and his traveling sankirtan party. We’d collected lots of money in the US, and then we went to Germany, bought vans, and equipped them with thousands of films, paintings, and pictures of all the ISKCON temples and Deities. Then we went to India and arrived a little before the festival started. Prabhupada arrived two days later. One particular morning, Prabhupada gave a two-hour lecture about consciousness. Prabhupada explained, “It is not the dress. You could be perfectly shaven and have nice tilak.” He looked at a devotee and said, “How much is the thread?” The devotee said, “Twenty paisa.” Prabhupada said, “For twenty paisa I could buy a thread at the market and put it on. But that doesn’t make me a brahman. It’s a matter of consciousness.” Then he looked down and said, “The fly is sitting on the same seat as the spiritual master, but its consciousness is different.” He emphasized that consciousness is above dress or anything else and that we could develop our consciousness through the process of bhakti yoga, rendering service to the pure devotee.
Bhakta dasi became the art director and organizer for the Spanish BBT. Her knowledge of book publication saved the BBT thousands of dollars. She had an office in Los Angeles, and one morning Prabhupada showed up at the BBT with an entourage of sannyasis. They went to her office and—boom!—she opened the door, and there was Srila Prabhupada. Bhakta dasi offered her obeisances. Prabhupada calmed the whole room with his eyes. Bhakta dasi was a meticulous person, and her office was spotless. Prabhupada was very impressed. Then Prabhupada looked at a picture for a long time. Bhakta dasi had gone through shoeboxes of photographs and had found a picture of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati that she’d framed and put on her desk. Prabhupada went into a trance looking at this picture. There was silence in the room. Prabhupada looked at Bhakta dasi like a child asking, “Would you give me this?” Immediately Bhakta dasi gave the picture to Prabhupada. Then in a fatherly way Prabhupada asked her, “Where are your children?” She said, “Oh, Srila Prabhupada, you can see them through this window.” A brahmachari that Hanuman had made a devotee was taking care of the children. Prabhupada said, “Okay, that’s very good,” and then he went on to ask technical questions. Later in New York, Bhavananda Maharaj said to me, “Oh, you’re Bhakta dasi’s brother? Ah, Prabhupada says she’s very intelligent.” I feel that I should tell this story because my sister has passed away. She worked very hard to please Srila Prabhupada.
We were in Mayapur when Hridayananda Maharaj was very ill and had stomach pains. Srila Prabhupada said, “Drink tulasi water.” It helped him.
Then he told Hanuman, “At the most it will take three lifetimes for my initiated disciples. But don’t make me work. Don’t make me come back.”
I was on a morning walk on the roof in Mayapur. At that time, Jagaman was about ten years old and had been rebellious with his teacher. This teacher decided to not feed him for the whole day. I’d never seen Prabhupada angry before, but when he heard this, he hit the roof. He said, “That teacher should be punished. A child should never be starved.” Devotees went to look for that teacher, but he had run to the train station. I saw how much importance Prabhupada gave to everyone, no matter how old, how young, or what gender.
In 1975 in Mexico City, Bhakta dasi and Hanuman met with Srila Prabhupada because Hanuman wanted to ask about zones. Prabhupada didn’t attach much importance to zones. Prabhupada thought that we should preach any place and every place. There might be differences of opinion between us, but our goal was to propagate the cult of Lord Chaitanya. For some reason, during this meeting the topic turned to liberation and when everybody was going to get liberated. Srila Prabhupada looked at Bhakta dasi, my sister, and said, “You’ll be liberated this lifetime.” Last December I had the chance to see her depart. It was very ecstatic, and we felt Srila Prabhupada’s presence there.
When Hungary was behind the iron curtain, a devotee was about to go there, but there was a chance that he would never be able to return to the West. This devotee asked, “Srila Prabhupada, if they put us in jail and try to force us to eat meat, what should we do? Shall we fast?” Prabhupada said, “Yes.” The devotee said, “Even to death?” Prabhupada said, “Yes.” For some people this may be hard to understand, but at that time it made perfect sense. I was the sankirtan leader in Buenos Aires, and sometimes the police would chase the sankirtan devotees and take me to the police station. I would explain the philosophy to the police officers, and usually after an hour they would let me go. But there was one time when they didn’t. They took me from the police station to the secret, police department complex. Argentina is a very heavy place at times. All day I was interrogated, and my life was threatened, but in the midst of this I was praying to Prabhupada. Thanks to Prabhupada I was not afraid for even a moment. I would think twice before I put myself into such a situation for anybody else, and I would be afraid in that situation. But when I went to the secret police for Prabhupada, I had no fear. I experienced what it is to be without anxiety and fear.
After Prabhupada had left that morning, Nanda Kumar said to me, “Srila Prabhupada ate puffies this morning, and I’ve saved some for you.” Then Nanda Kumar told me that the devotees had given Prabhupada some Orowheat whole wheat bread that they thought was very good. Prabhupada ate it and woke up saying, “Please, don’t ever give me bread again. It gives me nightmares. When somebody cooks grains their karma goes into that food. It’s very important that devotees should cook their own grains.” He encouraged us to make bread and not to feed him that commercially baked bread.