Chapter 65: Śrīla Prabhupāda's Mastery of English Language

Śrīla Prabhupāda Uvāca 65
Śrīla Prabhupāda's Mastery of English Language

Śrīla Prabhupāda often adapted the English language to suit his requirements, usually with humorous results. One day, while on a morning walk in Hawaii, for example, he looked out into the ocean and momentarily watched the surfers.

"You call them surfers," he said laughing. "I call them sufferers."

Sometimes when he spoke of the democratic form of government in the United States, he used the word "demon crazy" instead of "democracy."

When I was first with Śrīla Prabhupāda he sometimes rang his bell and when I entered the room he would ask, "Where is punditji?" This was an affectionate term for his Sanskrit editor. After several months his Sanskrit editor was not always readily available. Śrīla Prabhupāda would then call me to his room and ask, "Where is banditji?"

In Delhi, Brahmānanda Dāsa and I were sitting in Śrīla Prabhupāda's quarters. I began drying the floor around Śrīla Prabhupāda's clay water pot because water was seeping through and collecting on the floor.

"Śrīla Prabhupāda," Brahmānanda said. "The water is coming out of the pot a little."

"Yes, I believe they call it percolating," Śrīla Prabhupāda said. "Is that right Brahmānanda?"

"I really don't know, Śrīla Prabhupāda," Brahmānanda answered.

I thought his description was close, but off the mark. We had been brought up hearing the term daily because our parents drank coffee that was brewed in a percolator. Brahmānanda, an English major, looked up the word in the dictionary and found Śrīla Prabhupāda's description to be most accurate.

One of my favorite memories of Śrīla Prabhupāda adapting the English language occurred during an evening massage in New Dwarka. Śrīla Prabhupāda was laying in bed on his back. Kneeling on the floor next to his bed I massaged his legs. Smiling, he looked at me and pointed to his feet.

"Do my fingers," he said.

I became confused and knelt motionless for a few seconds. He pointed to his toes again. He had a bigger smile on his face and said, "My fingers, massage my fingers."

I finally realized what he meant.

"Oh! Your toes," I said. "You want me to massage your toes."

Still smilingly broadly he said, "Yes! My fingers. Do my fingers."

This same conversation occurred three other times during future massages. Each time Śrīla Prabhupāda said it to me I was caught off guard and became confused for a moment. It was incredibly sweet.

Sometimes during his evening massage, Śrīla Prabhupāda went into samadhi. This was scary for me because once he instructed me, "You massage until I become tired. Not until you become tired."

He gave me this instruction one day during a morning massage. I moved from one part of his body to the next without him telling me. He let it go on for a few days before chastising me about my laziness.

Therefore, in the evening when he went into samadhi during a massage, I became scared because it was possible to massage him for hours without him saying anything. He would close his eyes. After some time I would begin to rub a little harder hoping that he would notice I was still there. Other times he would say to me, "Are you tired?" I always said, "Oh, no Prabhupāda." There were times when I dozed off while massaging him.

Sometimes Śrīla Prabhupāda closed his eyes while I massaged his feet. When this happened, I placed my head on the bottom of those two beautiful lotus feet. I was always very greedy. It wasn't enough that I massaged his feet every day. I needed more. The massage ended with Śrīla Prabhupāda sweetly saying, "All right, that's enough."

Then there was more nectar. I watched as he sat up and grabbed his covers and in one motion placed his head on the pillow while simultaneously pulling the covers over his head. I could never do it justice by trying to describe it, but it was most endearing to watch. Other times he said, "I hate taking rest. It is a complete waste of time. I wish I didn't ever have to take rest. I am simply wasting my time."

Śrīla Prabhupāda, forgive my offensive behavior thinking that there was something you didn't know or understand. I have finally realized what you were teaching me with your gentle lessons. If you said your toes were fingers, they were fingers. Thank you for letting me massage your 20 fingers.