Chapter 50: Now Tomorrow You Must Serve Yamuna devi

Śrīla Prabhupāda Uvāca 50
Now Tomorrow You Must Serve Yamuna devi

October 15, 1972, Rādhā-Dāmodara Temple,
Vrindaban, India

At this time I had been cooking for Śrīla Prabhupāda and daily massaging his transcendental body for five weeks. I never understood why I was given this great fortune, but one day something new occurred to change my service to His Divine Grace. Yamuna devi was in Śrīla Prabhupāda's kitchen preparing his lunch. This had been one of my main services. After all, His Divine Grace taught me for two days in Dallas how to use the cooker!

That day, after massaging Śrīla Prabhupāda, I bathed and dressed. Since I didn't have to prepare his lunch, I didn't know what to do with myself, so I walked around the temple compound. I had never been there before and felt a little lost both in my service and in India. It was very different being in Vrindaban. I tried to appreciate my good fortune being in Kṛṣṇa's home and with His pure devotee.

Finally, I made my way to Śrīla Prabhupāda's kitchen. Upon entering, I offered my obeisances. I never considered how offensive I was to take such liberties. Śrīla Prabhupāda was sitting there taking prasadam. He was in the very spot where he had spent years devising his plan to conquer the world with Kṛṣṇa consciousness. He looked up with a beautiful glance and asked, "So, you have taken prasadam?"

"No," I replied. "I have just taken bath."

"Oh, so you haven't taken prasadam," Śrīla Prabhupāda responded charmingly. "Yamuna, fix him a plate of prasadam."

"No, that's all right," I said. "I will wait until you are finished."

"No. Sit down and take prasadam," he told me.

I happily complied with his instruction, a rascal that I was. It was one of the sweetest moments of my life. I was taking prasadam with Śrīla Prabhupāda. Just the two of us. In Vrindaban. At Rādhā-Dāmodara Temple. The mercy of the pure devotee is unlimited.

I wasn't prepared for what followed. After tasting Yamuna devi's cooking, I realized I had never before tasted prasadam. Also, I realized I had never cooked anything fit to be offered. Yamuna devi was an empowered devotee of the Lord, sent here to sumptuously feed Śrīla Prabhupāda. Each and every preparation tasted incredible. She made perfect chapatis. The subjis tasted as if they came from the spiritual world. Seated with Śrīla Prabhupāda I realized what a disservice I had performed by cooking for him. He sometimes said I cooked "nice American prasadam." Now I understood what he meant. Yamuna's cooking was so transcendental that it seemed like I had never eaten before.

"So, you like?" Śrīla Prabhupāda asked as we were finishing.

"Yes, Śrīla Prabhupāda," I enthusiastically said. "Very much."

He smiled and said, "So, today she has fixed your lunch. Now, tomorrow you cook for her. This is the Vedic custom. Today she has done some service for you, now tomorrow you must serve her."

"Oh, yes Prabhupāda," I said.

At other times Śrīla Prabhupāda said, "One has to always be ready to serve a person, not simply you are always accepting service. You call someone 'prabhu'. Prabhu means master. What is the question of you accepting service from your master. You are servant and you are calling them prabhu and accepting so much service from your master. So, I am calling you 'prabhu'. It means I must render service. This attitude must be there, that I am everyone's servant because I am calling everyone 'prabhu'."

I never did cook for Yamuna devi. That would not have been of service. It would have been an austerity for her to have to eat my "American prasadam." Mātājī, please forgive me for accepting service from you. Śrīla Prabhupāda, please forgive me for not following your instructions. I pray to be given the ability to serve my spiritual master with the expertise of a surrendered soul, such as Yamuna devi dāsī.