Chapter 101: Prabhupāda Visits a Potential temple in New York
Śrīla Prabhupāda Uvāca 101
Prabhupāda Visits a Potential temple in New York
At this time, Bali Mardan had been talking about getting a new temple facility in New York City, so he invited Śrīla Prabhupāda to look at a possible location. The sun was brightly shining as Bali Mardan, Kirtiraja and I followed Śrīla Prabhupāda into a small Toyota. Bali Mardan drove for a while until he finally stopped across the street from a large, beautiful cathedral.
"This is the possible temple I told you about, Śrīla Prabhupāda," Bali Mardan said. "We can't go in because it may not be beneficial if they know we are Hare Kṛṣṇa's. We can look at it from here."
We all got out of the car and looked at this immense cathedral from across the street. The structure was stately and beautiful. Fortunately, the front doors of the church were open and we could see inside. Śrīla Prabhupāda seemed very impressed with the facility. He could see the huge marble pillars inside.
"This will make a very nice ISKCON hall," he said. "This is beautiful."
As we stood on the sidewalk, Śrīla Prabhupāda turned around and saw a small Italian grocery.
"Do you think they have 7-Up?" he asked Kirtiraja.
"Well, I can see if they do, Śrīla Prabhupāda," Kirtiraja said, with a shocked look. "Do you want one?"
"Yes, I would like a 7-Up," Śrīla Prabhupāda said.
Kirtiraja went into the store and quickly returned with a can of 7-Up. Śrīla Prabhupāda regally stood with cane in hand and japa bag around his neck. He looked especially transcendental.
Kirtiraja opened the can and Śrīla Prabhupāda took it with his right hand. His cane was in his left hand, securely planted on the concrete sidewalk. He lifted the can to his lotus-like lips and sipped the 7-Up. I was in ecstasy watching the next episode of the "7-Up saga." We could not contain our joyful smiles seeing our Guru Mahārāja's aristocratic simplicity as he drank about half the can.
"All right. Now we will go," he said.
After we all got into the car, Śrīla Prabhupāda handed the can to Bali Mardan and said, "I've had enough. You can drink."
The three of us blissfully passed around the mahā-remnants until we finished the can of soda. The ride back to the temple was lighthearted and carefree.
I tried not to spread the news, realizing it could create a 7-Up frenzy. A week later when we arrived in Los Angeles it was apparent that the news had already reached the New Dwaraka community.
"This is not good," he said one day. "We should not be drinking so much 7-Up. I take it for digestion. Otherwise, drinking 7-Up is not necessary."
When we returned to India, many devotees were avidly drinking soda since they had heard that Śrīla Prabhupāda condoned such beverages. One day, as Śrīla Prabhupāda left his flat in Juhu, he noticed the stairway lined with 7-Up and Limca bottles. Disapproving of the juta (contaminated) litter he declared,
"What is this?" he said, disapproving of the juta (contaminated) litter. "This should not be done! This is not good! This can't be done!"
He continued walking to the temple and did not mention it further.
Śrīla Prabhupāda, I never saw you do anything for your own sense gratification. It is my feeling that you engaged in these unique pastimes just to increase the love of your disciples who were fortunate enough to be with you. You were completely renounced and totally satisfied serving the Supreme Lord. The vision of you on the sidewalk is forever etched upon my heart Thank you for teaching us how to use everything in Kṛṣṇa's service.