(Bhakti Caru Swami was interview by Sesa Dasa. His question and comments are in “Quotes & Bold, & Italic, & Blue” Font.)
While I was in Mayapur, I heard that Prabhupada had returned to Bombay. A few days later, I received a telegram from Tamal Krishna Maharaja saying, that Prabhupada wanted me to immediately to come to Vrndavana. So I returned to Vrndavana as soon as possible. When I arrived my first sight of Prabhupada totally shocked me.
Prabhupada looked so weak. His body was simply bones, with skin wrapped around them. Bones in a bag of skin. It was nighttime when I saw him. The faint light made that sight, the most horrible shock of my life. He was lying on his bed. There are lots of mosquitoes in Vrndavana, so we used to burn frankincense. Frankincense makes the room very smoky. The dim lighting added to the gloomy atmosphere.
Prabhupada looked sick, weak and skinny. I slumped and just sat in a corner. I had a fear in the back of my mind. I probably will never come close to Prabhupada again. I had been away from Prabhupada’s service, and maybe somebody has come and started serving him in my place. I have lost my chance.
Here I was sitting in one corner just like any other visitor. Then Upendra prabhu informed Prabhupada that I had arrived. That day Srila Prabhupada had a bad cough. He was given some medicine, which made him sleepy. The devotees attending him wanted Prabhupada to sleep it off during the night. I was told that Prabhupada had been given that medicine. So here I was sitting in Prabhupada’s room, just glancing at him. He woke up coughing, and Upendra told Prabhupada that I have arrived.
I had received sannyasa, about two and a half months after my initiation in Mayapur. One day after we had arrived in Vrndavana from Hrsikesa, I was informed that I was to take sannyasa the next day. It was very exciting for me, because I never thought that I would be getting sannyasa in such a short time. Then all of a sudden it just comes. There are other things closely connected to this.
You know that Pandava-nirjala ekadasi. Once a year, there is one ekadasi where if you observe complete fasting, even without drinking water. I observed that ekadasi that particular day, and the next day I was told I was getting sannyasa. It shows the effects of observing this vrata.
Then Prabhupada said something like,
“He may be new in the movement, but he already is advanced”.
So later on while I was cooking for Prabhupada, Tamal Krishna and Bhavananda informed me.
“You made it. You are getting sannyasa tomorrow”.
So that evening I went to the Loi Bazaar, and got the things that are needed for my sannyäsa. I went with Bhakti Caitanya, and obtained my sticks. Actually I did not have much time. I had my service of cooking for Prabhupada. However, in the meantime, I managed to get the things I required for my initiation. Yasodanandana Maharaja was so kind to dye my dhoti, and Pramana Maharaj, wrapped my danda. Somehow or another I got ready, and I was prepared to take sannyasa. Anyways, that how I got it. I do not know if I am eligible.
“Did Prabhupada say that due to previous qualification, you were qualified to take, or due to advancement before you came. Did he ever speak to you about it? Because you are Bengali? Did he ever talk to you like that?”
Actually Prabhupada never made any discrimination like that.
He never talked on that platform; that since I was a Bengali, then there was something automatic. Prabhupada would speak to me in Bengali.
However, if some others were around us, Prabhupada would speak in English to me most of the time. I also spoke to him in English. It was during the latter part, when Prabhupada was very weak, that he would speak to me in Bengali. Even when I was not physically present, Prabhupada would say something in Bengali. Upendra would hear him and then he would say.
“Prabhupada, Bhakti Caru is not here”.
Prabhupada would reply.
“Go get him”.
“Was there any explanation? Did Prabhupada call you in and tell you why he was giving you sannyasa?”
It all happened very accidentally. Prabhupada was going to give sannyasa to two other Godbrothers, Bhakti Caitanya Swami, and Bhakti Prem Swami. At that time Bhavananda Maharaja said to me,
“Why did not you ask Prabhupada for sannyasa too?”
I was actually feeling embarrassed, to ask Prabhupada for sannyasa. It was something kind of far out for me at that time. Taking sannyäsa at that time was really not on my mind. I had not been thinking of it before either. So I said to Bhavananda.
“Will you ask Prabhupada? I cannot”.
Bhavananda replied that it would be better if I asked him personally. I then requested Bhavananda to ask Tamal Krishna Maharaja. Maybe he could ask Prabhupada for me. Bhavananda was going to take his bath at that time and during that time he asked Tamal Krishna about me taking sannyasa. He and others did not like the idea, because I was only a new devotee in ISKCON. To sudden for taking sannyäsa. He asked me why I should take sannyasa, or why I should take sannyasa at this time, and then gave me a big lecture. At that time I was a little attached to taking sannyasa. But what to do when you are confronted with some opposition. I just felt like. “Why not?” I found myself trying to prove to him, that I should, and why shouldn’t I take sannyasa. I did not have any gross material attachments, etc. Tamal explained to me the procedure. One has to approach the GBC, and the GBC will propose, and one will have to wait for one year. So I thought. Oh! It is a matter of two more years. In next year’s GBC meeting it will be proposed, then for another year they will watch me, and then II will get sannyasa. None the less, I approached Jayapataka Maharaja. This I was told I had to do first. So when I approached him, he gave me the following reply.
“You submit you application and we will consider the case”.
It was a very vague answer, and I was feeling quite rejected. However at that time I felt that I was so close to Prabhupada, that any time I could just go to him, and ask him personally. So when some of the sannyasis understood this, they decided they would head me off, and approach Prabhupada in order to convince him that I should not take sannyasa, or that he should not give it to me at this time, if I were to ask him personally. However, after they tried to persuade Prabhupada in that way, Upendra told me that Prabhupada said to them.
“Well, if he wants sannyasa, sure it is very nice. II will give him sannyasa”.
Tamal Krishna replied,
“But Prabhupada, he just joined the other day. He is so new in the movement”.