Chapter 102: Los Angeles Kitchen, Marriage and Prabhupāda's Mercy

Śrīla Prabhupāda Uvāca 102
Los Angeles Kitchen, Marriage and Prabhupāda's Mercy

January 1973, ISKCON Los Angeles

Sixteen months before this visit, Śrīla Prabhupāda had warned me to stay out of the kitchen in New Dwaraka. Now his words seemed somewhat prophetic. Nanda Kumar, by getting married and leaving Śrīla Prabhupāda's personal service, had demonstrated what could happen by associating with female devotees while performing service in the kitchen. Unfortunately, I didn't learn from his experience and now it was my turn to be overwhelmed with desire.

In September of 1972, Śrīla Prabhupāda instructed me to prepare his meals in the servant's quarters and stay out of the temple kitchen. Due to illusion, I gradually became careless regarding that instruction. History repeated itself and I found myself standing in front of Śrīla Prabhupāda asking if I could remain in New Dwaraka to get married. My senior godbrothers had tried to persuade me to stay with Śrīla Prabhupāda, but I was too far gone. They also encouraged me to marry someone else, but my mind was fixated on a particular girl. I was determined in my course of action.

As easily as I became Śrīla Prabhupāda's personal servant, I quickly lost my most valued treasure due to my uncontrolled senses. Within a few days I abandoned my Guru Mahārāja's personal service. Śrīla Prabhupāda knew me completely. He did not try to convince me to stay with him or try to stop me from getting married.

After a few days, my ever-merciful spiritual master called me to his room. I was consumed with guilt and shame as I trudged toward His Divine Grace's quarters. My senses were reeling. The intelligent part of me realized I was putting personal sense gratification before the intimate service of my spiritual master, but the lusty part of me was hopelessly unbridled. The turmoil churned within me. When I got to Śrīla Prabhupāda's lotus feet, I awkwardly offered my humble obeisances. He kindly spared my shame.

"Bring me my white bag," he instructed.

This white bag traveled with Śrīla Prabhupāda all over the world. He kept all of his important papers, bank books, etc. in this bag. I walked into his bedroom, opened his metal elmira and took out the bag.

When I returned to his sitting room, I placed the white bag on his desk and sat in front of him. I felt disoriented and out of place having not been in his quarters for a few days. I felt I was an intruder and did not belong in this hallowed place, this inner sanctum of spirituality. I had no idea what was happening. I knew I was making a very big mistake leaving him, but could not stop myself from plunging head long.

Śrīla Prabhupāda opened the bag and took out two rings and gave them to me.

"This is for you and your wife," he said.

To say I was shocked would be an understatement. I was feeling completely fallen, leaving my spiritual master to satisfy my desires and he was presenting me with gifts and expressing his gratitude for the service I had performed. It was not out of character for my beloved Gurudeva. It was his normal course of activity. I accepted the gifts, as I had learned long ago that when Śrīla Prabhupāda wanted to give you something, it was best to accept his mercy.

A few days later he again called for me. I went into his room and offered my obeisances.

"So, Kīrtanānanda Mahārāja wants you to go back to New Vrindavan with your new wife," he said smiling.

"Citsukananda prabhu asked me to go to Caracas temple and assist with the Deity worship," I replied.

"Kīrtanānanda is anxious for you to return to New Vrindavan," he continued.

"Śrīla Prabhupāda," I said. "I really do not have any interest in going back."

He smiled and nodded, understanding my determination. I offered my obeisances and left the room.

On January 7, 1974, he sent a letter to Kīrtanānanda Mahārāja that included the following:

"Regarding Śrutakīrti, I proposed to him that he go to New Vrindavan, but he said he did not like farm work and so he wants to go to Caracas and perform deity worship in the temple. So, I have already asked him, but I will say again, how you require him at New Vrindavan and how he should work nicely there with the cows, under your guidance."

Śrīla Prabhupāda did not ask me again. Knowing how stubborn I was, he did not give me the chance to commit another offense at his lotus feet. There were no long lectures. He never tried to manipulate me in any way. He never made me feel guilty. He showed compassion and appreciation for the service I had performed. Śrīla Prabhupāda's amazing grace has never been imitated.

Śrīla Prabhupāda, if one's level of purity is evidenced by his acceptance of a situation as the mercy of Kṛṣṇa, then it proves you are the purest devotee of the Lord. You accepted the inconvenience I created with grace and kindness. Please forgive me for leaving you. Thank you for never leaving me and allowing me to return to your sweet, ever-merciful lotus feet.