The Pure Devotee and the Bellboy

We were in Boston -- 1971. Srila Prabupada arrived at Logan Airport and the original plan was to take him to a rented hotel room since the Boston temple had limited facility for his stay. On the ride form the airport Prabupada was told of the arrangements and said he did not want to go to any hotel and that it didn’t matter what was available for him at the temple-- but that’s where he wanted to be. I was in charge of picking up Srila Prabhupada’s baggage at the airport and taking them to the hotel but when I arrived there I found out about the change of plans. I got into rush hour traffic between the hotel and the temple so when I finally arrived, Prabhupada had already been there for two hours. He had apparently held darsana when he first arrived and when I got there with his luggage and began taking everything into the temple I was told he was upstairs in his room. I assumed the darsana was still going on but when I knocked and entered Prabhupada was alone. He was sitting on a pillow behind a small table resting his head in his hand and gazing across the bare room at a wall that was also bare except for a taped up picture of Baby Krishna (the Butter Thief). Prabhupada was obviously in samadhi meditating on the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Whenever I found myself alone in the presence of Srila Prabhupada I felt like a clumsy oaf who could do nor say anything right. I mean I know I’m originally pure spirit soul, one ten-thousandth the tip of a hair, but somewhere along the line I puffed myself up into 175 pounds of moronicness and stupidity. On this occasion especially -- lugging his big heavy trunk into the room and interrupting his samadhi -- I felt like Jerry Lewis in the movie "The Bellboy." Prabhupada looked up at me with an amused smile. Not sure what to do nor say at that point I blurted out, "oops - sorry Prabhupada, I didn’t know you were by yourself in here… where do you want me to put your trunk?" He gracefully motioned with his finger that I should place it up against the far wall. I put the trunk down and turned again toward Prabhupada and asked him if he wanted me to open the trunk and maybe set up his dictation equipment. He said "no, it’s late... I’ll begin working tomorrow morning." I started walking toward the door when I remembered that I had come into the room and into his presence and I still had not offered my obeisances. I stopped in my tracks, turned around and dropped to my knees saying, "oh, I’m sorry Prabhupada -- I forgot to bow down when I came in" and then put my head to the floor and began reciting "namah om visnu padaya…" Before I could finish Prabhupada began laughing and said, "alright -- thank you very much -- now get up." When I lifted my head and looked up at him he was looking at me with such love and compassion that my heart melted away and tears came to my eyes. Prabhupada then began quoting several verses with the word "swarup" (my name) in them such as jive swarupaya nitya krsna das. He then said "Swarup -- that is a very nice name I have given you." I answered saying, "yes, you did Srila Prabhupada... thank you." I then thanked him for the recent letter he had written to me in reply to some money and two saffron colored sweaters my wife and I had sent him as guru daksina on the occasion of our recent marriage. I said, "in your letter to me you said I should follow in the footsteps of Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura." Actually his exact words in that letter were "so now you are married in Krishna consciousness. That is very nice. However, married life can be risky business. Sometimes, due to too much affection for one’s wife one forgets Krishna. But if both husband and wife remember Krishna then householder life becomes Vaikuntha. Bhaktivinode Thakur was a great householder in our line. Such great devotee he was and such nice children he produced. He had eleven children and one of them was my guru maharaja. So follow in his footsteps and your life will be successful." I joked with Prabhupada and asked him if that letter meant I should also have eleven children. Prabhupada chuckled and said that in this age two children were sufficient and difficult enough to maintain. We chatted some more and I finally said good night and left his room… floating as if on a cloud. Suddenly I actually did feel the size of ten thousandth the tip of a hair.

Swarup Das
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