Chapter 72: Classical Indian Music; Most Beautiful Animal

Śrīla Prabhupāda Uvāca 72
Classical Indian Music; Most Beautiful Animal

March 25, 1973, Air India

Śrīla Prabhupāda's actions were ever-fresh. After eight months of being his personal servant, I thought I had a good understanding of how to act and what to say in response to his questions so as to not get me into trouble. I considered that our relationship was strictly spiritual master and servant. Over time, though, it became apparent that Śrīla Prabhupāda wanted me to speak freely and honestly when he asked a question. He was very kind. I never felt he "put me on trial."

One day as Śrīla Prabhupāda and I entered an airplane on Air India, Indian classical music was being played over the intercom. We walked to our seats. As always, Śrīla Prabhupāda took the seat by the window and I sat down beside him. The music continued.

"Do you like this music?" he asked smiling.

I stared at him with an empty glance thinking, "How can I tell him I like this music. Sure it sounds nice, but there is no chanting of the Lord's names going on. It is only instruments playing. That can't be Kṛṣṇa Conscious." Speculating fearfully, I missed my opportunity to be intimate with my loving spiritual master and said nothing.

"This music is very nice," Śrīla Prabhupāda mercifully said.

"Yes, Śrīla Prabhupāda," I answered with relief. "It is nice."

I felt like a cheater unable to be honest. I was so concerned about the outcome of my answer, I forgot that Śrīla Prabhupāda was a person with likes and dislikes. He heard the music and remembered Kṛṣṇa. I heard the music and calculated it was maya and wondered how to answer in a Kṛṣṇa conscious way.

April 1973, ISKCON Los Angeles

I made a few devotee friends while staying with Śrīla Prabhupāda in New Dwarka. One morning I decided to go to mangala arotika to see them. While I was there Pradyumna came into the temple room and said, "Śrīla Prabhupāda has been ringing his bell. He wants to see you now."

I immediately left the temple room and raced into his room. I offered my obeisances and while lifting my head I said, "Did you want me, Śrīla Prabhupāda?"

"You have no business going to mangala arotika," he said in an angry mood. "Your service is to be with me 24 hours a day. If I need you, you should be available."

I apologized and said I would never do it again.

Even before going to arotika I knew it wasn't the right thing to do. I had been restless and thought that no one could fault me for attending mangala arotika. I figured that Śrīla Prabhupāda usually didn't call me so early in the morning. Of course, I should have remembered that he always knew what I was doing, so if I did go to arotika he would certainly call me. I was the only person in ISKCON who had a reason not to go to mangala arotika. For me, attending arotika was a sign I was in maya.

June 1973, ISKCON Bhaktivedanta Manor, England

It was a very beautiful afternoon. The sun was shining into Śrīla Prabhupāda's sitting room through the leaded glass windows. He was walking around the room chanting japa. He stopped in front of the windows and looked out into the garden.

"So, which is the most beautiful animal?" he asked me.

"A cow?!" I blurted out with little conviction in my voice.

"No," he said quickly. "A horse. The horse has a very beautiful form. The muscle structure is very nice."

Again, I messed up. I thought Kṛṣṇa's favorite animal was a cow. It had to have been a cow. As soon as Śrīla Prabhupāda told me otherwise, though, it made perfect sense.

Śrīla Prabhupāda, I beg you to tell me again that my only business is to be with you 24 hours a day.