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Chapter 74: Orange Peels; Juta vs. Mahā Prasad

Śrīla Prabhupāda Uvāca 74
Orange Peels; Juta vs. Mahā Prasad

May 1973, ISKCON Los Angeles

While in New Dwarka Śrīla Prabhupāda wanted his lunch prepared in my room which was adjacent to his quarters. I was pleased with how I set it up. The 8' x 10' room had everything I needed, even though it was the room I stayed in day and night. Karāndhara arranged for a refrigerator to be installed. There was a two-burner gas stove on the floor. I had made a shelf area with two cinder blocks and a 4'-long, 1" x 10" board. There was no running water, so I kept a supply in a plastic bucket. Śrīla Prabhupāda often told me to keep things simple and efficient. This set up worked well.

Every morning after Śrīla Prabhupāda finished breakfast I brought his silver plates into my room and transferred his remnants onto a tray. I put the orange peels, etc. into my trash can and happily distributed the mahā-prasadam to the devotees eagerly awaiting the "mercy."

After breakfast, Śrīla Prabhupāda often walked around his quarters chanting japa. He walked in and out of his rooms, back and forth in the hallway, and sometimes stopped for a moment in front of my room to watch me as I prepared his lunch. One morning he entered my room.

Looking into the small trash can, he shouted, "What is this? You are such a fool."Surprised by his sudden chastisement I said, "It's from your breakfast plate."

It was not a good answer. Śrīla Prabhupāda was just getting started.

"You are supposed to be a devotee," he shouted. "You have no brains. No intelligence whatsoever. You are nothing but a mellecha. You have everything here so neat and you are preparing food for the Deities amidst this eaten garbage. How could you do such a foolish thing? You are such a mellecha."

I didn't know what to say. I was thinking, "These are Prabhupāda's remnants. This isn't garbage." I didn't say anything, though. I learned my lesson months before watching him chastise Nanda Kumar. Finally, I agreed with him.

"Yes, Śrīla Prabhupāda, I am a fool," I said.

He wasn't pacified with my hollow confession and was still very angry.

"Do they do this in the temple kitchen?" he continued. "Do they have a trash can like this?"

"Well, they do have a trash can in the kitchen," I said.

"But, do they put eaten garbage in it?" he quickly said.

"No, Śrīla Prabhupāda," I said exhausted.

Śrīla Prabhupāda never seemed to tire.

"Why are you doing these things?" he said. "You are such a mellecha. You have no intelligence."

It seemed to go on for so long. Finally, he left my room with his hand in his bead bag chanting japa.

I emptied the trash can still considering his remnants to be most sacred. It was ironic because the first piece of mahā-Bhagavat prasadam given to me in New Dwaraka by Nanda Kumar was an orange peel. I felt very fortunate and ate the whole thing. When I gave peel remnants to other devotees, they nibbled off the white area, but discarded the orange rind. Having been chastised, I was shaken, but understood that Śrīla Prabhupāda wanted to teach me a lesson. It seemed that whenever I became puffed-up in my service and thought I was doing a good job, Śrīla Prabhupāda let me know I was far from being a Brahminical Vaiṣṇava. Later he told me I had prepared a very nice lunch. He never let me feel that he maintained any anger. Whenever he chastised me, he later said something nice or told me a pastime about his earlier years. It was a trade off that was well worth it. Śrīla Prabhupāda knew I was very sensitive to criticism and compassionately kept it to a minimum.

In retrospect, I understand that these few instances were blissful because they were the ones I remember most vividly. There were so many opportunities for Śrīla Prabhupāda to correct me. If only I could have appreciated constructive criticism, I would have so many more memories to relish.

Please forgive me, Śrīla Prabhupāda, for being such a puffed-up rascal. I am forever indebted to you for knowing exactly how to deal with such a mellecha as myself.