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Chapter 110: Śrīla Prabhupāda's Gray Woolen Chaddar

Śrīla Prabhupāda Uvāca 110
Śrīla Prabhupāda's Gray Woolen Chaddar

April 1975, ISKCON Kṛṣṇa Balarāmam Mandir,
Vrindavan, India

Śrīla Prabhupāda was always very kind to his disciples. Sometimes when he received new clothes, he fulfilled our desires by distributing articles of prasadam clothing he had worn. Śrīla Prabhupāda did not accumulate many belongings because he was always giving things to his disciples. One item that was particularly covetable was Śrīla Prabhupāda's well-worn gray, woolen chaddar. I meditated on this chaddar and imagined Śrīla Prabhupāda had worn it during his transatlantic voyage on the Jaladutta. I imagined he had worn it for years and years. This chaddar's magical value increased each time Śrīla Prabhupāda wore it. For years, I saw His Divine Grace wear it to warmly wrap his transcendental form on morning walks. This chaddar had water spots sprinkled in a few places. It was the chaddar Śrīla Prabhupāda showed me how to fold during my first morning walk as his personal servant in Dallas.

Two years later in Māyāpur, a group of sannyasis put their money together and bought a beautiful cashmere chaddar for Śrīla Prabhupāda. It cost several thousand rupees. It was brown and decorated with a very fancy border. It had been made in an area known for its fine cashmere. I think it was called pashima wool, well known for it's soft, thin, yet warm quality. It was said that a full-sized chaddar made of this cashmere could be pulled through a small ring to demonstrate its lightweight texture. The wool came from the chin of goats that lived on the steepest peeks of the Himalayan mountains.

With great pride, the group of sannyasis presented the new chaddar to Śrīla Prabhupāda in his sitting room. One sannyasi had already decided that when Śrīla Prabhupāda accepted it and gave away his old chaddar, he would be the fortunate one to keep it.

Śrīla Prabhupāda smiled as he received the gift.

"When I was young, I was given one of these every year," Śrīla Prabhupāda said. "One gentleman, one of my father's friends, would go back and forth to Kashmir. He would deal in these chaddars. Every year I was getting one."

Śrīla Prabhupāda accepted the chaddar, but never offered his old one to any of the sannyasis present. His disciples left the room with a little more understanding of their spiritual master's position. Śrīla Prabhupāda didn't wear the new chaddar very often. He continued wearing the well-worn gray chaddar on his morning walks.

One week later Śrīla Prabhupāda was at the Kṛṣṇa Balarāma Mandir. My desire for Śrīla Prabhupāda's gray chaddar increased because everyone else wanted it as well. I was a householder with a few hundred rupees in my pocket, so I decided to buy Śrīla Prabhupāda a gray chaddar just like the one he had. I felt confident that if I gave him an exact replica of his old chaddar, he would immediately give me his blessed old one. Since I never left my servant's quarters, I arranged for a devotee to go to Delhi to purchase one. He soon returned with a new, gray, Lohi-brand chaddar. It cost me Rs.150 which was about $7.00 at that time.

The next afternoon, aware of my selfish motives, I sheepishly walked into Śrīla Prabhupāda's room with this conditional gift neatly tucked into my hand. I offered my obeisances. My Guru Mahārāja was sitting quietly behind his desk, looking as effulgent as ever.

"Śrīla Prabhupāda," I said. "I just bought this chaddar for myself, but I decided that you should have it because it is new. Your chaddar is so old."

Śrīla Prabhupāda, as always, knew my childish mind. He looked right through me and said, "You need a chaddar?"

"Well, yes. I need one," I replied.

"So, you keep it," he said. "That's all right."

Śrīla Prabhupāda was making it difficult for me. He did not allow me an ounce of deception.

"But, Śrīla Prabhupāda," I said squirming. "I'd really be happy if you would take this new chaddar. I would rather you have it. You are my spiritual master."

Śrīla Prabhupāda enjoyed my predicament.

"No, that's all right," he said. "Mine is sufficient. I don't require a new one."

I understood he wasn't allowing me a thread of duplicity. Śrīla Prabhupāda, knowing my heart, toyed with me. I surrendered and finally came clean.

"Actually, Śrīla Prabhupāda, I would much rather have your chaddar than this new one. Yours is prasadam. I want yours," I admitted.

Śrīla Prabhupāda smiled with great pleasure.

"Okay, then you can take mine," he said. "I will take the new one."

I placed the new chaddar on his desk and offered my obeisances. The truth really does set one free. Feeling quite blissful and very relieved, I took Śrīla Prabhupāda's old chaddar and triumphantly floated back to my room.

Śrīla Prabhupāda, I still have your chaddar. Once you instructed, "When the spiritual master leaves the planet all of his paraphernalia is worshipable. Until that time, everything can be used by the disciple, except for his shoes."

Your chaddar is being used on your murti. Your life size-form is seated in my family's temple room. In the winter you wear it as you did for so many years traveling around the globe. When I see it on you, I remember all of the generosity you bestowed upon me. You gave me your mercy in exchange for the insignificant service I performed. Whenever I wore your chaddar, I knew maya could not touch me. Your mercy shields me. Now I know I must wear your instructions as my protective cover by chanting 16 rounds and following the four regulative principles. I want to be with you always and pray I may eternally serve your instructions.