After the initiation ceremony we were asked to go and get daksina, and none of us really actually understood what that meant. Later we were told that we must go out and beg for money to give to the guru. We walked along the street in St. Kilda to beg for daksina, which was quite ludicrous since it was a very seedy part of town. We would say, “I’ve been initiated by my spiritual master. Can you please give something?” I collected a bowl and a few other items for my offering to Srila Prabhupada. We had the installation of the Deities and a huge feast, and afterwards I took the daksina up to Srila Prabhupada. Everyone was very jovial sitting with Srila Prabhupada, who was very relaxed on some cushions. I walked in, paid my obeisances and Prabhupada asked, “So, what have you brought me?” I said, “Oh, just a little something, Srila Prabhupada.” I handed him the bowl, which included an orange and the little bit of money I had collected. He leaned over the desk, pulled the bowl towards himself, and said, “Oh, it is an orange.” Then he said, “And some flowers—oh, very nice.” He put the flowers on the desk and then he got to the laksmi, which was only eighty cents. That amount was ridiculous, but he counted it. He said, “Ah, laksmi, very nice.” I also had made Srila Prabhupada a beaded kartal bag. He asked, “What is this?” I said, “It’s for your kartals, Prabhupada.” He loved it so much that he said to Srutakirti and Bali Mardan, “Oh, look. This is wonderful.” Then he gave me a huge lugloo, and as I walked out of the room with the lugloo in my hand, Prabhupada said, “You cannot enter the spiritual world unless you like lugloos.” [laughs]
At one point I was put in charge of Srila Prabhupada’s room when he came to Melbourne. I was only fifteen or sixteen years old at the time. One day I was finishing cleaning his room when I heard, “Srila Prabhupada is back from the morning walk!” I went, “Oh, my gosh, he’s back early.” I didn’t know what to do. I just grabbed everything trying to finish up cleaning and I came racing out of the room. Prabhupada came up the stairs as I came out, and I had buckets and mops and everything in my hand. I looked at Srila Prabhupada and I thought, “What do I do? How do I pay my obeisances? I don’t know what to do.” To the right of the stairs was a door that used to be the brahmacarini ashram, so I ducked in there hoping to avoid Srila Prabhupada. As I sat inside waiting for Prabhupada to pass, all of a sudden, the door came open and Srila Prabhupada walked in. He said, “Hare Krishna. Are you cleaning my room?” I said, “Yes, Srila Prabhupada.” He said, “Ah, very nice.” Then he said, “So, I have tricked you today?” I said, “Yes, Prabhupada, but I think I was finished cleaning.” He replied, “Ah, very nice. Hare Krishna.” He was so grateful, so gracious, but at the same time quite playful.
When Prabhupada was with us in Melbourne, it was quite cold. I went everywhere to try and find a particular hat for him, but I could only find one made from yellow wool. I went upstairs to give him the hat, which can now be seen in many photos of Prabhupada, and he asked me, “So what have you got?” I said, “Oh, it is just a little gift. It is very cold Prabhupada and you might like this hat.” He said, “Oh, this is very nice.” Prabhupada took the hat by the pom-pom and he just put it on the top of his head without pulling it down. The majority of the hat was sitting about a foot above his head. I just kept looking at it thinking, “It is sort of not really the way to go.” Prabhupada asked me, “This is nice?” I said, “Yes, Srila Prabhupada.” Then he asked me, “Is this how you wear it?” I said, “Well, Srila Prabhupada, you sort of bring it down like this.” I showed him how to roll up the bottom of the hat and then pull the entire hat down over his ears. He did that and said, “Like this?” I said, “Yes, Prabhupada. That would be very nice like that.” He was very gracious, very humble, but joyful in allowing us to give him an instruction like this. He was letting us take care of him like a father would let the child put on his slippers. That was really special.
I got to go on a morning walk with Srila Prabhupada, and this particular morning was an extremely cold day in the botanical gardens. My god-brother and I were right behind Prabhupada on this misty morning. As was typical when Prabhupada spoke, everyone wanted to huddle around to hear him. At this particular time my god-brother stood on the back of Prabhupada’s shoe. Srila Prabhupada stopped and he looked around. We thought, “Oh gosh! Get back. Get back.” Prabhupada continued walking and again my god-brother stood on Prabhupada’s shoe. Srila Prabhupada turned and stopped for a bit longer and again looked right at my god-brother. Again, we said, “Come back. Come back.” Sure enough, after Prabhupada continued his walk, my god-brother stepped on Prabhupada’s shoe for a third time. This time Srila Prabhupada turned around, took his cane and just whacked him [laughs] firmly across the arm. We all just jumped and were all so terrified that this time we stood ten feet from Prabhupada. I realized Prabhupada could be merciful for a couple of mistakes, but the third time around you were going to get it. [laughs]
One day I had been helping Srutakirti in the kitchen making milk sweets for Prabhupada when Srutakirti said to me, “Why don’t you take Prabhupada’s lunch up?” I was a bit nervous about that idea, but of course I was going to do it anyway. As I was walking up the stairs, I could hear a loud banging on the desk. I hesitated to knock on the door because I heard Srila Prabhupada yelling very vehemently. I knocked gently on the door and Srila Prabhupada said, “Come in.” I opened the door and Prabhupada immediately went into a very sweet, wonderful, gentle mood. He said, “Ah, Hare Krishna—prasadam, very nice. Just put it here.” I put the prasadam down, and as I left the room, I looked feelingly at this particular devotee friend of mine who looked like he’d been taken in by the schoolmaster. As soon as I closed the door, I could hear Prabhupada’s fist going back onto the desk. He wasn’t angry but definitely chastising this devotee. It was interesting to see how Prabhupada went from being like a thunderbolt to being soft as a rose in a split second as soon as I came in.
One particular time in Melbourne I was late offering Prabhupada some flowers before he went upstairs to his quarters. Prabhupada had walked up the stairs to his room and was standing on the landing when Guru Kripa had stopped him to ask a question. Srila Prabhupada answered him, and then he glanced down and saw me with the flowers at the bottom of the stairs. Prabhupada then mercifully walked back down the stairs to take the flowers out of my hand. I just about fell over, of course, because he went out of his way to come back down the stairs and then up again just to accept my small offering of some gardenias and jasmine. When he took the flowers, he said, “Hare Krishna” and walked back up the stairs. He displayed his caring and grateful nature by concerning himself about such a small insignificant gift.
Srila Prabhupada was superior in every single way. I remember asking Prabhupada, “What is the most important thing in devotional service?” He immediately replied, “Hearing.” It was a very clear instruction. Hearing was the most important, but then I went on to understand that hearing is chanting; hearing is reading; hearing is everything including association. It is all there in one word. Another amazing thing is that Prabhupada could talk to anybody. He could talk to a general, a child, a student, a teacher or a priest. Prabhupada would explain philosophy to a priest so eloquently and so brilliantly, but also with compassion. He understood all religions and he could approach them in the most convincing way. In other words, one of the most astounding things was that he knew how to actually answer any question from anybody. Prabhupada was also the perfection of the one-liners, which exhibited his wit and humor. He could defeat any misconception that anyone might have had.