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Chapter 78: Dressing Śrīla Prabhupāda

Śrīla Prabhupāda Uvāca 78
Dressing Śrīla Prabhupāda

December 1973, ISKCON Los Angeles

During this winter visit, we experienced extremely cold days in Los Angeles with temperatures dropping to around 40 degrees. This weather, however, afforded me the opportunity to render a little more service to Śrīla Prabhupāda.

No matter how cold it was, Śrīla Prabhupāda went on his morning walk. When it was very cold, though, he wore long underwear and socks. Śrīla Prabhupāda appreciated me helping him to put them on.

First, I got his long, thermal underwear, saffron of course, and Śrīla Prabhupāda sat on his bed already wearing his dhoti and kurta. I pulled them over his lotus feet, one foot at a time, bringing them up to his knees. While he was still sitting, I put saffron socks on those beautiful, soft lotus feet. Then Śrīla Prabhupāda stood up and pulled his long johns up to his waist while keeping his dhoti in place. He would then put on his saffron sweater without my help. Then he went to his sitting place, put on tilak and chant Gayatri mantra.

If other devotees were in the room, they would also chant Gayatri. Usually, this was not a good idea because Śrīla Prabhupāda always finished before his disciples. Their dilemma then became trying to decide whether to stay frozen in their Brahminical pose and miss their Guru Mahārāja walking out the door or to hurriedly get up and try to keep His Divine Grace in their vision. I loved to watch this humorous scenario unfold. Even though it seemed to happen in every temple, I could never bring myself to warn my godbrothers. Being a rascal, I speculated that Śrīla Prabhupāda enjoyed seeing their desperate looks as much as I did.

After chanting the Gayatri mantra, Śrīla Prabhupāda stood and I helped him put on his hooded saffron overcoat. Peacock feathers hung like tassels at his neck. This favorite coat was made by JayaSri dāsī at the Honolulu Temple in 1970 and traveled around the world with Śrīla Prabhupāda for years. I can't imagine anyone but His Divine Grace wearing such a coat. He looked glorious in it.

One time, while traveling to Australia, I made the mistake of not bringing it with us because I didn't realize how cold it would be.

"Why didn't you bring my coat?" Śrīla Prabhupāda asked.

I stood there and said nothing. He was so upset with me that he didn't even yell. His secretary had the coat specially flown in.

After buttoning his coat Śrīla Prabhupāda headed for the front door. Generally, I had his shoes and cane waiting. As he grabbed his cane, he offered me his right foot which I slid into his canvas shoe with the help of a shoe horn I carried around the world. Then, with his next step, I placed his other shoe on his foot before it touched the ground. He did this all in one smooth gesture. His economy of motion was amazing. Once or twice I allowed an eager disciple to perform this most holy service, but after seeing Śrīla Prabhupāda inconvenienced by their awe as they awkwardly fumbled, I decided to hoard the service for myself.

The gopis pray to become Lord Kṛṣṇa's flute, always in touch with His lotus lips. I pray to become Śrīla Prabhupāda's shoehorn.