In Surat we stayed at the house of Bhagubhai Jariwala. (Janwalas are people who make gold threads). Early every morning Prabhupada would have a program, which generally only devotees attended, but in the evening local people came for darshan. At one evening darshan a man said, “Ramakrishna says that he was Krishna and Rama. What do you think of that?” From Prabhupada’s previous vociferous reactions toward this kind of question, I thought, “Prabhupada is going to lay into this guy.” But he didn’t.
Prabhupada said, “I don’t know, maybe he was.” Then he held up the Bhagavad-gita and said, “but I know for sure this is Krishna, so why should I take a chance?”
The same question could be asked of Prabhupada ten times, and each time he’d answer it in a different way. Once I heard a reporter ask him, “Are you a pure devotee of Krishna?” Prabhupada said, “Yes.” “So that means you see Krishna?” “Yes.” “So that means you can show me Krishna?” “Yes.” The reporter said, “So show me.” Prabhupada said, “Yes.” The reporter said, “Well?” Prabhupada said, “First you become like them,” and pointed to his disciples with their shaved heads. The reporter said, “Oh.”
But at other times, to answer the same question Prabhupada would say, “No, I’m not a pure devotee.” Panditah sama darsinah. He would say, “I’m ordinary, just like you. All I know is what I heard from my guru, and I’m explaining that to you.” Then they would say, “Then why are we listening to you?” Prabhupada would say, “You don’t have to listen. All I can tell you is what I heard from my spiritual master. Otherwise, I’m ordinary just like you.”
Prabhupada’s answers were always complete, irrefutable, and self-evident, but how he answered a question depended on who he was talking to. Sometimes his answers were amusing and sometimes they were so profound that they made your head spin.
Once, when Prabhupada was lecturing to a room full of hippies at 26 Second Avenue, a girl near him kept raising her hand and Prabhupada deliberately ignored her. He knew that she was going to say something foolish. But she persisted and finally Prabhupada said, “Yes?” “Swamiji, aren’t there many ways to God?” Prabhupada said, “No. There is only one way. Just like food. You can’t put it in your ear or in your rectum, it must go in your mouth.” Everyone burst into laughter.