Chapter 106: Cobras in Śrīla Prabhupāda's Quarters

Śrīla Prabhupāda Uvāca 106
Cobras in Śrīla Prabhupāda's Quarters

October 1974, ISKCON Candrodaya Mandir,
Māyāpur, India

During the month of October (Kartik), Śrīla Prabhupāda benedicted the devotees in Māyāpur with his association. It was an especially pleasant time of year in India. Śrīla Prabhupāda and his entourage stayed on the second floor of the Mandir which was furthest from the road. Śrīla Prabhupāda's quarters consisted of two rooms and his entourage stayed in another two rooms. There was a large bathroom facility at each end of the building. In each bathroom were four shower stalls and four toilet stalls.

One afternoon Śrīla Prabhupāda was giving darsana in his sitting room. I was cleaning Śrīla Prabhupāda's bathroom after His Divine Grace's shower. The entire bathroom facility was exclusively used by His Divine Grace for the duration of his visit.

As I walked past the first toilet stall, a huge six-foot long cobra quickly slithered past me into the stall. Terrified, I raced out of the bathroom as fast as my shaking body could run. I was not sure what kind of snake it was. I didn't want to create a big scene and interrupt Śrīla Prabhupāda's darshan. In spite of my inhibition, Kṛṣṇa ordained that the first devotee I happened upon was Bhavananda Mahārāja. My heart was racing.

"Bhavananda, Bhavananda," I said. "There's a snake in Prabhupāda's bathroom. It went right by my feet and just missed me!"

Of course, my plan to keep calm and not create a disturbance was obviously not what Kṛṣṇa wanted, so He engaged Bhavananda Mahārāja in the drama. Bhavananda loudly burst into Śrīla Prabhupāda's sitting room with his arms flailing.

"OOOHHH! Prabhupāda!" he dramatically exclaimed. "There is a snake in your bathroom! We need help! Let's call Rasaparayana!"Rasaparayana was known as the big, strong, temple "ksatriya."

"Come on. Let's call Rasaparayana!" Bhavananda yelled, as we ran out of Śrīla Prabhupāda's quarters.

We effectively terminated Śrīla Prabhupāda's tranquil darshan. Śrīla Prabhupāda and his disciples left the room and went on the verandah. A couple of devotees went into the bathroom to search for the serpent while the others stayed on the porch. Śrīla Prabhupāda was undisturbed and quietly chanted japa, walking back and forth on the verandah.

"It must have been left by someone from the Gaudiya Math," Bhavananda speculated. "Otherwise, how could the serpent get up to the second floor."

Others agreed, saying it wasn't possible for a snake to appear on an upper floor without being "planted." Some theorized that perhaps it was a communist plot. Since I was a visitor to this sacred Māyāpur Dhama I wasn't knowledgeable of the local political scene. I concluded that the serpent just happened to appear in Śrīla Prabhupāda's bathroom.

Rasaparayana, with a knife in hand, stalked the bathroom to find the snake.

"They travel in pairs," he said. "So if there is one, then its mate is probably nearby."

Finally, he saw part of the huge serpent's body sticking out of the plumbing work in one of the toilet stalls. He reported the good news to the devotees on the verandah. With great excitement Bhavananda and others began chanting, "Kill it! Kill it!"

Śrīla Prabhupāda remained outside, chanting softly on his beads. He didn't instruct us on this dilemma. Rasaparayana chopped the cobra's body in two with his sharp knife.

"We'll keep looking," he said with determination. "There must be another one."

The devotees began to realize that the snakes probably came up through the plumbing. It wasn't a communist plot after all. Several anxious minutes passed searching for the other intruder. Rasaparayana finally spotted the mate in the network of pipes behind the toilets. Having been discovered, it quickly slithered down the pipes, and was never seen again.

After everyone settled down, we went back into Śrīla Prabhupāda's sitting room.

"Sometimes, the snake's mission is to kill a certain person," he told us. "They will not stop until they succeed. Particularly at the end of the snake's life, sometimes, the snake grows wings. He has a particular person he is to kill. The snake will kill that person and then it goes off to die."

One evening Śrīla Prabhupāda pointed out a particular sound in the stillness of the night.

"Hear that sound?" he asked. "That is the snakebird. It has a special sound."

All the devotees became very quiet in hopes of hearing it again. I became a little frightened wondering if I was next.

That evening in Śrīla Prabhupāda's bedroom, I gently massaged his legs. The room was quiet and dark.

"So, what shall I do if I am here and the snake comes?" he asked laughing. "Only one snake has been killed. Perhaps the other will come and get me tonight."

He enjoyed remembering everyone's anxiety during the day. I understood from his tone that he was not at all concerned about the snake. I encouraged his discussion by saying, "I don't know Śrīla Prabhupāda."

"Well, we are not afraid of snakebite," he said. "We'll not worry about it. If it comes, it comes. We will just chant Hare Kṛṣṇa."

I finished massaging my beloved spiritual master. He peacefully went to bed, his fearless mind fixed on the Supreme Lord. I, on the other hand, went back to my room anxiously wondering where the other snake was.

My dear Śrīla Prabhupāda, you are my hero. You are the fearless pure devotee of the Lord. Once on a morning walk in Māyāpur when everyone was discussing their fears and concerns about nuclear war you said, "If the bomb comes we will look up in the sky and say, 'Here comes Kṛṣṇa.'"

Please, benedict me with unflinching faith so I will not fear this material world. I want to chant the Holy Names as the snakebird flies above me preparing to inflict its final bite.