(Click to enlarge photo of Srila Prabhupada [top floor] and devotees, Paris temple, 1973)
By Nikhilananda dasa
In April 1973, the German devotees visited Srila Prabhupada in Paris and stayed with him for about one week. I was part of the group, thankful for the great mercy of attending Srila Prabhupada's installing the deities of Sri Sri Paris Isvara, hearing Srila Prabhupada's daily classes, attending morning walks and being in his room when Srila Prabhupada held conversations with guests. There were devotees from all over France, from Germany and even a few from England and the U.S. It was also a wonderful chance of rendering small personal services to Srila Prabhupada.
One day, it was late in the evening, we were sitting in Srila Prabhupada's room on the fourth floor of the temple building. Everyone of us felt relaxed, hearing Srila Prabhupada's nectarean instructions, when the penetrating sound of kartals and enthusiastic kirtan was distinctly audible from the temple room on the ground floor. Srila Prabhupada stopped speaking for a moment and looked meditative. One of the servants asked "Srila Prabhupada, should we go down and ask the devotees to stop the kirtan?" Srila Prabhupada replied "No, don't stop it." And after a while, with a very meaningful look at us: "Kirtan is always pleasing."
One day in the afternoon, Srila Prabhupada sat in his room, discussing Krishna conscious philosophy with distinguished guests. Some of his disciples were also attending. I was sitting in the back, listening attentively and taking pictures. At one point, a journalist lady from France who took great interest in Srila Prabhupada's books, asked Srila Prabhupada if a devotee can see the heavenly planets before going back to Godhead, even if he was already liberated. She asked this because she had a strong desire to see them. Srila Prabhupada assured her that some liberated devotees get to see all the higher heavenly planets after leaving their bodies, on their way back home, back to Godhead. So nothing was missing.
One day, Srila Prabhupada looked out of the window of his room and observed a brahmacari who was a photographer, talk to the wife of another devotee for a long time, who was also into photography. They were both standing at the street-corner alone, in the view of everyone. Srila Prabhupada instructed his servants to inform the devotees that he very much disliked this because it was giving a bad example. Brahmacaris should not hold intimate personal conversations with women, not not even in public and not even with the wives of others. We took this as a strong reminder that to preserve a pure and spiritual atmosphere, both men and women in the ISKCON society should give an example of chastity, especially in and around the temples.
On another day, it was around ten p.m. and Srila Prabhupada was still sitting with us, answering questions and speaking about Krishna. It was a most pleasant atmosphere. At this point, one of his concerned servants approached Srila Prabhupada and asked him: "Srila Prabhupada, would you like to go to bed? We can finish the meeting if you want." Srila Prabhupada paused, looked around at us and said: "Anyone wants to go to bed?" We all started to laugh, because it was obvious that everyone enjoyed it so much, no one wanted to go. Although Srila Prabhupada usually followed a very disciplined and tight schedule, he always reserved his transcendental right to make changes and small allowances here and there. But he also respected the concern of his servants to protect his health. So about ten minutes later, the meeting was closed and we all went to take rest, feeling most happy inside, over the gentle and wonderful ways of our beloved spiritual master.
One day, a servant distributed some of the personal remnants of food left over by Srila Prabhupada to those of us who were waiting next to Srila Prabhupada's room, waiting eagerly for the golden opportunity. I remember receiving a mango peel on that day, straight from Srila Prabhupada's plate, from which Srila Prabhupada had eaten almost all of the mango flesh. Receiving this maha prasad and eating it with gratitude and great respect gave me the greatest happiness, impossible to describe.
The pastimes of Srila Prabhupada and his merciful exchanges are unlimited and most nectarean. Although I am hopeless, low-born and very fallen, they are my only hope of purification. Let us remember them always.