Chapter 71: Perhaps I Have Jaundice Also

Śrīla Prabhupāda Uvaca 71
Perhaps I Have Jaundice Also

December 1972, Ahmedabad, India

Once, during Śrīla Prabhupāda's lecture, I felt very weak and feverish. My head was down and nodding. Śrīla Prabhupāda stopped his lecture.

"Wake up!" he told me. "If you require sleep, go and sleep."

I tried hard to keep my back straight and head up for the rest of the lecture. I don't remember ever feeling so sick. Later I said to Śrīla Prabhupāda, "I don't understand what has happened. I never get sick. I haven't been sick in years."

Śrīla Prabhupāda looked surprised.

"Really, that is very wonderful," he said. "To be sick and have difficulty is the natural condition of life. You are very fortunate."

Two weeks later, while on a morning walk in Bombay, the sun shone brightly. Syamasundara Dāsa looked into my eyes and laughed.

"Boy, are your eyes yellow," he said. "You have jaundice."

Finally, the weakness I had been feeling for the past few weeks made sense. Now diagnosed, I felt worse. I later dragged myself into Śrīla Prabhupāda's room and offered my obeisances.

"Śrīla Prabhupāda, I have jaundice," I said with alarm.

He looked at me with surprise and said, "Oh, what are the symptoms?"

"My urine is dark," I explained. "I have no appetite and feel very weak."

"Hmm," he said smiling. "Perhaps I have jaundice also."

"Tamal Kṛṣṇa Mahārāja and the other devotees suggested that perhaps I shouldn't cook for you because jaundice is very highly contagious," I said. "Even touching your plates and preparing the food would be dangerous."

"No. That's all right," Śrīla Prabhupāda said. "You go ahead and cook. There is nothing to worry about."

Due to Śrīla Prabhupāda's benediction I continued my duties, went on the morning walk, massaged him and cooked throughout my illness.

November 1973, ISKCON Delhi

One year after I had recovered from jaundice, Śrīla Prabhupāda's secretary, Brahmānanda Mahārāja, was afflicted. Being newsworthy I decided to tell Śrīla Prabhupāda.

"Śrīla Prabhupāda," I said. "Brahmānanda has jaundice."

Śrīla Prabhupāda looked surprised.

"Oh, what are the symptoms?" he asked.

I forgot that we had this same conversation the previous year. I repeated the list of symptoms. You guessed it. Śrīla Prabhupāda said, "Hmm, perhaps I have jaundice also."

Finally, after Śrīla Prabhupāda made this statement again, I understood. It only took me a year. Śrīla Prabhupāda was incredible. He remembered everything that happened with his disciples and mentioned it at the perfect moment. I was so dull- headed that the joke was way over my head. The yoga-maya potency was very strong around him. I had no idea who I was with. This was fortunate. Otherwise, I would not have been able to perform my service due to awe and fear. I speculated that Śrīla Prabhupāda was saying he had all the symptoms of illness that I described, but being transcendental, he went about his devotional life in spite of so many painful difficulties.

Śrīla Prabhupāda didn't have jaundice, but he did experience symptoms. He showed us that when we get older, as I am beginning to experience, the body is full of aches and pains, and one's energy level decreases. Śrīla Prabhupāda explained that it was not very amazing that we feel weak, become ill or experience pain. However, it was amazing if we didn't feel these things. He demonstrated how one should not be affected by the limitations of the body.

Śrīla Prabhupāda, when you were in quarantine because of not being immunized against yellow fever you said, "What do they think? I can get yellow fever? Anyone who is cent per cent engaged in Kṛṣṇa's service, there is no question of material contamination. He cannot be infected with any disease."

I pray to be infected with love for you, Śrīla Prabhupāda, so I can be cent per cent engaged in your devotional service. Please give me a glimpse of your transcendental position.