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Chapter 92: Ants and Fanning During Prasādam

Śrīla Prabhupāda Uvāca 92
Ants and Fanning During Prasādam

June 1973, ISKCON Māyāpur Candrodaya Mandir

In Māyāpur, Śrīla Prabhupāda lived in two rooms. One room was his sitting room where he translated and received guests. Next door was his bedroom. He also used it to honor prasādam, so there was a small marble prasādam table (choki) set against the wall to the right of his bed.

June was generally very hot, so when Śrīla Prabhupāda took lunch prasādam, I sometimes fanned him with a peacock fan. It not only created a breeze, but also kept the flies away. However, when Śrīla Prabhupāda took his lunch, it immediately alerted the resident ant population. They always had scouts running along the walls and within minutes of putting his plate on the table, they called in the battalion. In Los Angeles, Śrīla Prabhupāda told me to put turmeric where they entered. It had worked in Los Angeles. I suppose those ants were more materialistic. The ants in Māyāpur, however, could not be stopped. Obviously, they were spiritual entities who could not be discouraged from taking mahā-prasadam remnants from the plate of the pure devotee.

I watched as hundreds of ants ascended the leg of the choki, circled his plate and finally descended upon his prasadam. They seemed to know when they were allowed on a certain preparation. Śrīla Prabhupāda ate in stages. First, he ate the vegetables and chapatis, then he added the rice, and finally he ate the sweets. The ants initially congregated around the plate. Gradually they worked their way onto the preparations that Śrīla Prabhupāda had finished. It seemed like the ants were a little courteous. Finally, Śrīla Prabhupāda ended his meal with a few sweets. He then got up to wash. For the ants, the moment they had been waiting for had arrived. They now knew it was time to dive into the sweets. Incredibly, Śrīla Prabhupāda never said one word about them during this daily attack on his lunch.

This was not an isolated incident. It happened with great regularity. There seemed to be an arrangement between the pure devotee and these tiny insects. He was free to take as much time as he wanted and they were allowed to eat whatever he did not finish. I tried to take away the plates as quickly as possible so there was something left to distribute to his disciples. Referring to ants in Calcutta, Śrīla Prabhupāda once said, "It's all right, they don't eat very much."

One day while I fanned him during lunch, Śrīla Prabhupāda chuckled.

"This is the Vedic custom," he said. "The wife, she would fan the husband while he ate. After he was done, whatever he would leave, she would take. In this way she always made sure there was plenty of prasadam. Otherwise, she may not eat. But, that was strictly a custom. Actually, in the Vedic culture that was the woman's role. They served in two ways, one by cooking nice foodstuffs, the other by providing nice sex life. This is the essence of material life. Of course the difference is in Kṛṣṇa Consciousness, we stress chastity, being chaste."

Quietly fanning Śrīla Prabhupāda as he ate, I was overwhelmed with embarrassment. This subject was a source of both attraction and aversion for me due to my fascination with the opposite sex and my constant endeavor to control my senses. I tried to appreciate the knowledge he was imparting. Tongue-tied, I didn't dare say a word.

Śrīla Prabhupāda was completely transcendental. Only he could sit and eat with legions of insects preparing to attack his remnants. Only he could speak about sex enjoyment without reservation because he had no attraction to material life. Because he was a compassionate pure devotee, he was able to understand our fallen condition, patiently extricate us and give us the opportunity to perform devotional service.