Shanka das Remembers Srila Prabhupada

Prabhupada Memories

Interview 01

Shanka: In a room conversation in 1976, I asked, “Srila Prabhupada, when you offer flowers to Krishna or to your spiritual master, what benefit do the flowers get?” Srila Prabhupada replied, “The plant the flower came from becomes a human being in its next life.” So, my sankirtan began.

When I went to Juhu in 1973, the devotees there were living very austerely and worshiping the Deities, Sri Sri Radha-Rasabehari, in a small temple. In front of the temple was a fenced-in area where 14 or 15 tulasi-devis were growing. One day on a morning walk Srila Prabhupada asked me, “Why are the tulasis dying?” I said I didn’t know and that I would do some research. That day I dug around the tulasis and found that termites and ants were eating their roots. The next morning on the walk I told Srila Prabhupada what I had found and Srila Prabhupada said, “Take one part lime and one part sulfur, mix it with ten parts of water and sprinkle it all around tulasi-devi. Then the ants will go away.” I did that, and then Prabhupada went on his world tour. While he was gone, all the tulasis died. I made some nice beads for myself, took the fence down, and there was only dirt where the tulasis had been. When Prabhupada had come back from his world tour, I was offering him flowers during gurupuja when he said, “Where are the tulasis?” I said, “Srila Prabhupada, I tried to save them but they all left the planet,” and then I offered my obeisances and slithered out of the temple to avoid getting chastised. On the next morning walk, Srila Prabhupada stopped everybody in front of the big garden that I had made, where 54 tulasi-devis were growing. Srila Prabhupada asked me, “How are these tulasis doing?” I said, “Oh, Srila Prabhupada, they are doing very well except there are spider mites, aphids and other bugs crawling all over them.” He said, “Leave the insects alone. Let them eat as much as they want. Who are you to kill them?”

On Bhaktisiddhanta’s Disappearance Day in 1975, I was in charge of the Bombay temple kitchen and I made 98 of the 108 preparations we offered at the ceremony. When all these preparations were taken to Srila Prabhupada, Gopal Krishna, who was a young grhastha at the time, said, “Shanka das come and tell Srila Prabhupada what you made.” So Gopal Krishna and I went to Prabhupada’s room where he was sitting at a table with these 108 preparations. Prabhupada asked, “What is this preparation?” and I told him what it was and he tasted it. He asked, “What is this preparation?” and I told him what it was and he tasted it. He asked, “What is this preparation?” and I told him what it was and he tasted it. He asked, “What is this preparation?” and I told him what it was and he tasted it. Then the fifth time he asked, “What is this preparation?” and I told him what it was and he tasted it. Then he said, “Radharani has prepared this feast, you can go.”

Once Tamal Krishna Goswami said, “Shanka das, you’re a gardener. You should offer Prabhupada a flower every day.” After that I became Prabhupada’s flower boy. Every time I’d see Srila Prabhupada I’d give him a flower. Sometimes he would touch my hand taking the flower. Sometimes he would grab the flower and start chastising me. Sometimes he would grab it and glorify the flower and me. Prabhupada said, “Mogra is the king of flowers.” Later on I traveled from Bombay to Calcutta on the slowest, cheapest third class train—we had very little money for anything. By the time I got to the Calcutta temple, my suitcase and shoes had been stolen and all I had was the dhoti and kurta I was wearing. And I was completely full of dirt from three days on the train. Finally, I got to Mayapur when Srila Prabhupada and the devotees were going for a morning walk, and Bhavananda Swami told Prabhupada, “Oh, Prabhupada, your gardener from Bombay is here.” Prabhupada didn’t say anything. We walked to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta’s temple and when we returned to our property, we walked under our archway and on the left-hand side there were some cows. I didn’t know anything about cows but I started fooling around with them while everyone else continued towards the temple. Then about 500 yards before they got to the temple Prabhupada stopped, turned around and said, “Shanka, come here!” I went running to him and said, “Srila Prabhupada, what would you like?” He said, “I want you to plant trees on both sides of the road here.” So Jayapataka Maharaj, two Bengali boys and I planted coconut trees along that pathway. Today those trees are producing coconuts—they have survived floods and other disasters and are still going strong.

To view the entire unedited video go to Memories 34 - 25th Anniversary of SP Disappearance

The full Prabhupada Memories Series can be viewed here and also at