Chapter 96: Critiquing Class in Vrindavan
Śrīla Prabhupāda Uvāca 96
Critiquing Class in Vrindavan
To everyone's relief, Śrīla Prabhupāda began to recover from his illness. As his health improved, he spent an hour, every evening, sitting in a chair under the tamal tree in the temple courtyard and listened to his disciples give class. He wasn't sitting with them, but observed the class from a short distance. Sometimes he enjoyed listening to his senior disciples speak and sometimes I heard him critique the lecture. He was an attentive listener. I can recall while traveling with him. He would sometimes ask a disciple to speak in his presence. My heart would stop, fearing that he would ask me. I was happy when I realized that Śrīla Prabhupāda was aware of my lack of philosophical understanding. He never put me on the spot.
One evening, the temple commander gave a class. Śrīla Prabhupāda sat comfortably in his chair while I sat at his feet on the marble floor. Śrīla Prabhupāda's disciple began to speak about the importance of following the temple program. Some of the devotees were not strictly following the schedule and the temple commander was using the class as a means to encourage the devotees to be more careful. He began to chastise a French devotee for not attending the morning class.
"It doesn't matter if you don't understand English," he said. "It is transcendental sound vibration."
He continued to speak harshly. Finally, Śrīla Prabhupāda said to me, "Tell him to stop speaking now. He has been speaking long enough." I relayed the message and the devotee stopped speaking.
A few days later the same temple commander was lecturing in the same way.
"These lectures should only be half an hour," he told me. "Otherwise, no one is going to listen. He is talking too much. Tell him half an hour only."
I immediately went to the speaker and relayed Śrīla Prabhupāda's message. I didn't ask, but it seemed that it wasn't so much the length of the lecture that disturbed His Divine Grace, but the fact that the speaker was giving more of an istagosti than a class from the Sastra. Observing Śrīla Prabhupāda's opulence of renunciation, one could see that once His Divine Grace gave a personal instruction, he was done. He never belabored a point or belittled anyone. He was interested in training his disciples so they could advance in spiritual life.
One evening, as Śrīla Prabhupāda sat in his chair in the courtyard and I sat on the marble floor next to his glorious lotus feet, I asked him to elaborate on a statement he had made earlier while in his sitting room.
"When the Indians touch my feet," he said, "They are simply looking for some material benediction. Therefore, don't let anyone touch my feet because I will have to take their sinful reaction and then I will get sick and it will cause more weakness."
"Śrīla Prabhupāda," I said during class. "When your disciples touch your lotus feet, they are trying to show respect. They are not interested in material profit."
"Yes, that's there," he knowingly replied. "But, still, I have to suffer. Even they may not be trying to achieve some goal by touching my feet, still, the spiritual master has to suffer by accepting their sinful reactions."
He stayed in the courtyard a while longer. I sat by him, delighted he had decided to stay with his spiritual children. He was concerned about keeping healthy and not leaving us on our own.
Śrīla Prabhupāda, my desire is to live in the past. My understanding is that your pastimes on this planet are eternal. Therefore, I can always be with you simply by remembering your beautiful lotus feet resting softly on the courtyard floor of the Kṛṣṇa Balarāma Mandir. Thank you, for allowing me to touch your feet daily. Forgive me for forcing the reactions of my sinful life upon you. Please, don't kick me away.