One day while in Kaaawa, I walked into Srila Prabhupada’s room, and he looked quite troubled. His mail had arrived, and he was holding a letter in his hand, shaking his head. Feeling concerned, I asked, “Srila Prabhupada, what’s the matter? Is there some distressing news? What has upset you?”
Srila Prabhupada shook his head slowly, and very sadly said, “This letter is from our Janardan. He has been working to translate my ‘Bhagavad Gita As It Is’ into French. Now, he is asking me, so how much money for me, how much money for my wife, for doing this translation work.” Srila Prabhupada almost tearfully said, “His wife has now spoiled him. This is not devotional service, this has become a business. To take money from the Guru is not good.”
He shook his head sadly and placed the letter on his desk. I was wide-eyed with disbelief by now, as Janardan was our dear friend, and I also knew he loved Srila Prabhupada very much. We had just spent three months in Montreal, and Janardan came almost daily to meet with Srila Prabhupada. He too was a scholar, and so he spent much time with my husband Goursundar, also a scholar, who was by then translating Chaitanya Charitamrita.
Janardan das was working daily to translate Srila Prabhupada’s Gita into French, since he was a French resident of Montreal. While we were in Montreal, he would visit almost daily to discuss various philosophical points with Srila Prabhupada, in order to fully understand the purports.
Unfortunately, however, Janardan was married to a pretty lady who had no interest whatsoever in Krishna consciousness. She once told me pointedly, “All I want from Krishna is plenty of money eternally!” and she sat down on my small altar, that was nothing more than a bench with a picture of Krishna on it. I found her very difficult to understand, but tried to always be friendly with her. When the couple would sometimes visit together, she would refuse to sit on the floor in front of Srila Prabhupada, and would instead sit above him on a nearby couch. This always bothered me, but since my job was to be polite to Srila Prabhupada’s guests, I never said anything.
But now, Srila Prabhupada was aggrieved at what seemed to be the loss of his dear disciple Janardan. Srila Prabhupada loved each and every one of his disciples in a way that is not even known or understood in this material realm. Our loves tend to be selfish, and self-interested. Srila Prabhupada’s love for us was full of concern for our welfare, and for our ultimate deliverance from this world of samsara. There was no tinge of selfishness. And we understood this, we felt this, each and every one of us, even if we happened to meet him only once, or even if we never had the chance to meet him personally. He was there for us, always. And he continues to be there for us, in his books, and his videos; his presence is a spiritual presence that continues to pervade our existence in this material world.
He guides us every step of the way.
Srila Prabhupada sighed and softly muttered, “Hare Krishna.” It was his surrendered way of saying, “whatever Krishna arranges.” He then explained to me that if one takes money for devotional service, that is all he will get – the money. But not Krishna bhakti. He said it is better to do some business and make money separately than to serve Krishna and Guru and expect to be paid. That will not give the desired result of Krishna bhakti; one will get only the money. And, moreover, to take money from the Guru is considered to be a very bad thing. One should give to one’s guru, not take. There is a saying in India, “The Guru’s money is Bad money.” This saying says a lot. In India, there is an age-old understanding that to take from one’s guru ultimately brings great misfortune. Instead, out of gratitude for the loving instructions and grace coming from the Satguru, this great and illumined personality Srila Prabhupada, one should offer one’s mind and heart, as well as one’s wealth and time.
This meeting with Srila Prabhupada left a very deep mark on my consciousness. Over the years, I have always been amazed at how often this tendency is repeated. Perhaps it is one of the last traps of the conditioned soul. That day Srila Prabhupada explained to me that whatever we accomplish is by the grace of Guru and Krishna. He communicated to me the understanding that devotional service is indeed a greatly fortunate opportunity, not one to be taken lightly. To think that “I am the doer,” “I have done all this, it is to my credit,” “I should be paid money for my devotional accomplishments,” “I did all this, I deserve to be paid,” are all poisonous misconceptions of devotional service. Such poisonous perspectives lead to eventual fall down and the loss of the opportunity to perform devotional service in this lifetime. These attitudes lead to a hardened and selfish mentality where the pure bhakti of Krishna consciousness cannot reside.
Srila Prabhupada never considered himself to be the “doer” of anything. Rather, he always said “I have simply tried to follow the orders of my Spiritual Master, and if there is some little success, that is due to his mercy only.” He never laid claim to name and fame, though it was certainly his. He always remained humble, and expressed gratitude for his Guru’s guidance and the blessings of Lord Krishna.
Compiled by Mahavishnu Dasa