Chapter 68: If you want to Build a Temple, It Is Alright

Śrīla Prabhupāda Uvāca 68
If you want to Build a Temple, It Is Alright

Personal Mercy

As Śrīla Prabhupāda's servant there were very few times I had a question on an instruction he gave. Actually, I only remember one time. Śrīla Prabhupāda received a letter from a devotee asking sanction to divorce his wife and permission to marry another. Being present when Śrīla Prabhupāda replied to the letter, I was shocked when he gave permission. It bothered me throughout the day. I understood our philosophy to be that no divorce was allowed. Many times I heard him speak against divorce. I knew it happened, but I didn't think Śrīla Prabhupāda would condone it. I kept thinking, "This is not what Śrīla Prabhupāda would do."

I couldn't hold it in any longer. During his evening massage I had massaged him for about one half hour when I blurted out, "Prabhupāda, I want to ask you something. This devotee who is asking about the divorce . . . "

"Oh yes," he interjected. "I told him he can do it."

"Yes, I know," I continued. "I was wondering. You always say that divorce is against Vedic principles. There can never be any divorce."

"Yes," he said. "But in this society these things are accepted. So we can allow this."

I wasn't feeling satisfied. Śrīla Prabhupāda seemed indifferent about it. It was a quality I hadn't observed on such a matter.

"Yes, but in this society they accept meat-eating and intoxication," I said. "All these things are accepted. Why aren't any of these things allowed?"

My most merciful spiritual master replied with compassion in his voice, "Well, actually whether I give him permission or not, he is going to get the divorce. So if I tell him, 'No, you can't get it' and he does it, that will be a serious offense. If I say, 'Yes, you can do it' because he is going to do it anyway, then the offense is not so great."

I was relieved. It was what I had been thinking, but I needed him to confirm just how incredibly compassionate he was to all of us.

February 1973, Jakarta, Indonesia

While staying at a life member's house, a few Indian guests came to visit Śrīla Prabhupāda. While there, one of them said, "Swamiji, we want you to ask us to build a temple. We want to build a temple for you, but we want your blessings. We want you to ask us."

"No, no," Śrīla Prabhupāda said laughing. "If you want to build a temple, it is all right. Build a temple. We will man it for you."

"Swamiji," the gentleman continued. "We want you to give us your blessings, to ask us to make the temple. We are wanting the benediction."

Śrīla Prabhupāda still smiling and laughing said, "No, no. If I ask you to do it and you don't do it, then it will be offensive. If you don't comply, that will be your fall down. That is very bad. If you do it on your own that is good, but if you don't do it there is no harm done because I haven't told you to do it."

Śrīla Prabhupāda, you showed us what it means to be a leader and how to give instructions without false ego. I was always amazed how you would call me into your room and after I offered my obeisances, you would look at me and innocently say, "Can you give me massage now?"

With disbelief I could only say, "Prabhupāda, that is why I am here. I am waiting to serve you."

You made it very easy to want to serve you. Please let the memories of being with you flow into my thick skull. You have spoiled me. I am so arrogant. Although I am full of faults I compare everyone to you and am unable to serve them. I must sit here and spread your glories so I don't dry up and blow away.