One summer evening at the Bhaktivedanta Manor, near London, Srila Prabhupada was sitting in his room with his disciples, a few guests, and a woman reporter who was scantily dressed despite the chilly English weather. From the first, the reporter’s questions betrayed her cynical view of Srila Prabhupada’s Krsna consciousness movement, At last, clearly exasperated by his adroit and authoritative answers, she resorted to the old standby, “Why do you people have bald heads?”
“Why do you have bare legs?” said Srila Prabhupada.
She was speechless,
“Better to have warm legs and a cool head,” he went on, “You must have a cool head to understand this Krsna consciousness philosophy.”
Everyone, including the woman reporter, laughed with delight.
When Srila Prabhupada was visiting Detroit in 1976, he met with two clergymen. First he asked them if they believed that God is a person. “Yes,” they agreed. Then he asked, “Aren’t we also eternal persons meant to love God?” They agreed again. “And isn’t the only thing separating us from enjoying ecstatic life with God sin?” Once again they agreed. Like a pouncing lion, Srila Prabhupada challenged, “Then why don’t you teach people how to lead a sinless life!”
Srila Prabhupada went on to show that meal-eating, illicit sex, intoxicants, and gambling pollute people’s consciousness, and that if the clergymen rose above these things, others would follow their example. Mundane welfare work or political agitation would be simply a waste of time.
As they left with flower garlands around their necks, packages of Bengali sweets in their hands, and Bhagavad-gitas under their arms, one of them turned to Srila Prabhupada. “Why, I feel like we’ve become your disciples.”
Srila Prabhupada chuckled. After they’d gone he quoted a Sanskrit verse which confirmed that only a gosvami—someone who has gained complete control over his bodily senses—can give real spiritual life to his disciples. And we knew we had a gosvami for our spiritual master.
In 1969 Srila Prabhupada came back to America from his first speaking tour outside the country, and the devotees from the East Coast centers rushed to the Boston center to greet him. While Srila Prabhupada was sitting in his room with all his disciples, one came forward with a gift-wrapped box. He wanted to offer something to Srila Prabhupada, but only had a sweater that his parents had sent as a birthday gift. Someone opened the box before Srila Prabhupada. It was an inexpensive synthetic sweater, but Srila Prabhupada said it was very nice. The devotee apologized to Srila Prabhupada, explaining that it was just a gift from his parents to himself. Then Srila Prabhupada pulled off his own sweater—a beautiful, silky Scottish cashmere sweater that he’d received in London, Srila Prabhupada held it out to the devotee in exhange for the one he had given. The devotee was so moved that he broke into tears. Srila Prabhupada always gave more to us than we were able to give him, because he had the greatest thing to give—Krsna.
The first time he went to Latin America, Srila Prabhupada stopped at our center in Mexico City, He also appeared on national television, lectured at universities, and gave a well-attended address at the town square in Cuernavaca. Then one of our life members invited Srila Prabhupada to visit his country villa in Puerto Vallarta, On the first night there, I was sitting next to Srila Prabhupada when I noticed an itching sensation. Sure enough, some big, ugly mosquitos were flying around, and I wondered whether he might be experiencing the same disturbance.
So I immediately asked, “Are the mosquitos biting you, Srila Prabhupada?”
“No,” he said.
“It must be because you’re a pure devotee of Lord Krsna,” I said. “That must be the reason they’re bothering me and not you.”
“Yes,” he said. “Here they are respectful. But in Calcutta they make no distinction.”
I first met Srila Prabhupada in Dallas, in January of 1975. He came aboard our traveling bus-asrama around lunchtime, and the cook offered him a silver platter filled with assorted Indian delicacies-savories, fried vegetables, milk sweets, and tropical fruits. He ate a single slice of papaya and said briefly that a yogi requires very little food to maintain his body. Then he offered the rest of the fruit dish to a baby boy, who leaned forward from his mother’s arms to snatch a big strawberry. “Children like red,” said Srila Prabhupada, smiling.
Recently the child’s father, one of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples, had left the Krsna consciousness movement and was encountering all sorts of personal problems. When Prabhupada spoke to the disciple’s wife, the words seemed to come right from the core of his heart. “Tell him to come back. He is a very intelligent boy.” He glanced at the child and said, “Now you become a pure devotee and rescue your father.”
Tears welled up in Srila Prabhupada’s eyes. His gravity affected the whole atmosphere. “It is like when I cut my finger—the pain is felt in the mind as well. Similarly, when my disciple has some difficulty, I feel the pain, also.”
Gopala Acarya dasa