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Chapter 52: Coveting Śrīla Prabhupāda's Brahmana Thread

Śrīla Prabhupāda Uvāca 52
Coveting Śrīla Prabhupāda's Brahmana Thread

Māyāpur Candrodaya Mandir, Māyāpur, India

On a morning walk in Māyāpur a devotee asked Śrīla Prabhupāda, "Does the spiritual master know everything?"

"The spiritual master knows everything that Kṛṣṇa wants him to know," Śrīla Prabhupāda said. "Only Kṛṣṇa can know everything."

It seemed that Śrīla Prabhupāda knew everything about me. Occasionally, I tried to match wits with Śrīla Prabhupāda only to be quickly and utterly exposed and defeated. The following story is an example.

In August of 1971, I was given Brahmana initiation by Śrīla Prabhupāda at the Los Angeles temple. I had driven with Kīrtanānanda Mahārāja and a few other devotees from New Vrindaban to Los Angeles in an enclosed van for four days. The ride was hellish, but worth every minute.

The process of getting Brahmana initiation was blissful. I went into Śrīla Prabhupāda's quarters and offered my obeisances. Then he held a new Brahmana thread in his hands and whispered the Gayatri mantra in my ear. It happened very quickly. When I left his room, I was given a sheet of paper with the mantra on it. After staying for a few days we took the long drive back to New Vrindaban. The return trip, however, didn't seem so bad.

Then, one morning about 3:00 a.m., I was bathing in a muddy pond in New Vrindaban. The area was totally dark. I was rushing because I had to prepare the Deities plates for the mangala offering. While throwing a bucket of water over my head I must have washed my sacred thread off my body. When I discovered it was gone, hours later, I was brought to tears. The very thread that Śrīla Prabhupāda had given me was gone forever. It was a very bad omen and I feared my connection was lost.

October 1972, Rādhā-Dāmodara Temple,
Vrindaban, India

One year later I became Śrīla Prabhupāda's personal servant. After his morning massage, I always lay fresh clothing on Śrīla Prabhupāda's bed while he bathed. Then, I went into his sitting room, opened his mirror and placed his ball of tilak beside it. I then placed his small, water-filled lota next to these items. After dressing, he sat at his desk, applied tilak and chanted the Gayatri mantra.

It was also my service to place a new Brahmana thread on his desk every month. I did it either on the day of the full moon or on an Ekadāsī. Śrīla Prabhupāda chanted on the new thread while holding his old one. The loss of my Brahmana initiation thread etched a fault across my heart. I was eager to rectify it. This was my first month in Śrīla Prabhupāda's personal service. Therefore, I was excited to obtain His Divine Grace's prasadam thread and resume my transcendental Brahmana connection.

After chanting Gayatri, he walked across the verandah to the kitchen where Yamuna devi was cooking. I walked into his sitting room and picked up his discarded thread only to discover that he had pulled apart each of the threads. I couldn't believe it. (In the two years that followed, he never did that again.) I walked out of his room with the thread in my hand and sat on the verandah. I tied a knot in each of the six threads, determined to make my connection again. It didn't matter to me that he had broken them. It was still HIS thread. While I contentedly sat on the verandah, Śrīla Prabhupāda walked by after finishing his lunch. I offered my obeisances and he smiled at me.

"The Brahmana thread, you have disposed of it?" he asked.

"Not yet, Śrīla Prabhupāda," I said.

"You should bury it underneath the Tulasī plant in the temple courtyard," he instructed. "Put it in the dirt under the roots."

All I could say was, "All right."

I could not believe it. On other occasions I experienced Śrīla Prabhupāda's mystic power as well. If I wanted something, he always made me ask for it. He seemed to enjoy exposing my desires. I also enjoyed it very much. I could have told him about losing my thread, but I was too ashamed. I did not like to ask Śrīla Prabhupāda for anything. I tried not to ask him questions since so many others were inquiring on a regular basis. I tried to think of what Śrīla Prabhupāda wanted, not what I wanted. However, sometimes I would become overwhelmed with my desire.

Śrīla Prabhupāda, please forgive me for not following your instructions. I never did bury the thread as you asked. Thank you, Śrīla Prabhupāda, for tolerating me.