Was Srila Prabhupada Systematically “Positioned”?
In April of 1977 I heard that Srila Prabhupada was very ill. Tamal Krishna sent a telegram to Bhavananda Maharaj and request that he immediately come to Vrindavana. So Bhavananda, myself and later Jayapataka Maharaj came. At the beginning my personal service to Prabhupada was somewhat limited. I would stay with him for some hours in the night. At that time we had round the clock service to Prabhupada. In this way, I was learning how to serve Prabhupada personally during the night. Then at the end of April, Bhavananda had to leave and return to Mayapur, due to his management responsibilities there. We all thought he would stay with Prabhupada, but he took Prabhupada’s permission and went back. Bhavananda insisted that I also come back, and help manage Mayapur. However, I did not want to leave Prabhupada at that time. So by Krishnas arrangement and Prabhupada’s grace ,I was able to stay. On the day we were to leave, we packed and then went to Prabhupada’s room to say goodbye. I walked in, and Tamal Krishna told me I should go in and speak to Prabhupada. So I went in and Prabhupada asked me to stay. He said that Bhavananda must go, and that I could stay. Upendra and I would then be his personal servants. I was so very happy upon learning of my good fortune. So from April on, I assisted in serving Prabhupada during his illness. Prabhupada called Upendra the chief nurse, and then Tamal Krishna named me the hospital attendants. Everything had to be done for Prabhupada by either of us. No longer was he doing anything himself. Bathing, dressing, and feeding; we constantly assisted Prabhupada in this daily activities. Prabhupada requested that there should not be one minute of the day that Upendra or myself were not present with him. It was very intense at all times. When Prabhupada was healthy, he would eat alone. However, now that he was ill, he had to be assisted. One of my duties was to seat with Prabhupada while he ate. Sometimes I would have to feed him personally. Sometimes I would have to squeeze the lemon on his food. We were giving him two-man massage, myself and Upendra.
There was one Gaudiya Math brahmacari who made some suggestion of how to cure Prabhupada’s condition. He had some relation with Narayan Maharaja. From time to time, Prabhupada would try new treatments. So this one time, this brahamacari knew this special Vedic health massage. Upendra immediately learned this new technic of massage, and Prabhupada was very satisfied. This massage consisted of a series of different kinds of patting and banging, and Prabhupada said he felt relief from it, and he liked it very much. But it took two men. So Prabhupada called me, and instructed that I should learn from Upendra. We were almost constantly giving Prabhupada some kind of massage. But this intense and special massage, we would give him at least twice a day. Sometimes even at night. It involved hot and cold compress also. In this way, most our time, the whole day sometimes, was spent in physical massage of Prabhupada. It seemed that his capacity to take massage was unlimited, as it brought him some relief. So in this way we gave constant attention to Srila Prabhupada.
Even he could not turn from side to side, and we had to turn him on his instruction. Serving Prabhupada at this point, was not a simply a matter. It was not ordinary service. We had to learn exactly how Prabhupada wanted to be handled. Even when Prabhupada was not ill, he was always delicate. Now, he was extreamly more delicate now. I remember reading in the Srimad-bhagavatam, that spiritual energy is delicate. So in this way, Srila Prabhupada, the direct representative of Krishna, and a completely spiritual person, with a beautiful spiritual body, he was so sensitive and delicate. After Prabhupada took a bath, we assisted him by drying him with a towel. If you took a towel and started drying his arm, he would say “the towel is wet”, even before you went one inch down his arm. He was that sensitive, and in this way, one would learn exactly how Prabhupada wanted to be treated. Very sensitive, and delicate. His orders on simply daily necessities, such as opening and closing windows, turning the fans on, or anything else were not done with words. His words were kept at a minimum, and we had to be extremely attentive to his expressions, in order to know what to do. Simply by a grunt, a turn of head, a wave of the finger, one would have to know what to do. And the only explanation I had is that Prabhupada is the direct representative of the Supersoul. Because sometimes it seemed to me that it was impossible to know what to do.
I remember incident up on the veranda, on the roof where Prabhupada would take rest at night. If the air cooler was on, Prabhupada’s nod would mean turn it off. And if air cooler was off, then Prabhupada’s nod would mean turn it on.
In this way we could understand. But this time Prabhupada nodded, and the air cooler was on, so Upendra went and turned it off.
However Prabhupada nodded again, but more intensely. Then Upendra turned the air cooler on.
Then Prabhupada with a look of frustration on his face, indicating, that the order was not being understood so he grunted.
I looked at Upendra and he looked at me, and we both said that this time we just could not understand.
I asked Prabhupada.
“What can we do?”
He smiled and said,
“No! I just wanted to know if the air cooler was working properly.”
In this way it became very subtle as to what Prabhupada wanted at times. In one sense we had to tune into Prabhupada’s desires. Prabhupada once expressed this to me and others directly.
Prabhupada told us that we could tell if he was well if he was translating. That is one way. And another way you can tell if he is well is by how many chapattis he would eat. And if he could eat four chapattis then he was healthy. However, at this time Prabhupada was eating nothing except juice, and just nibbling at some small amount of prasadam. So one-night Prabhupada decided to translate. It was midnight, and I was the only one there. I sat Prabhupada down to translate and he asked me to turn on the dictaphone. Then the light on the dictaphone did not come on. The dictaphone was not working. So Prabhupada, nodded at me, and he also gave a grunt. Meaning “do something.” I played around with the buttons on the dictaphone, but nothing happened. I then thought that maybe it is disconnected. So I began to follow the wire. Then I heard a loud grunt, and I turned and saw that the light was on. How Prabhupada got it to work. I think he just tapped on the machine and it came on. He was now ready to translation. He then looked at me with a little disgust and said,
“You have to see me. You have to see me. If you want to know what I want, then you must watch my face carefully.”
In this way Prabhupada directly expressed what I have just been trying to explain. That from Prabhupada’s face, we were to know his desires at that time. To compound matters, we were sometimes nervous, and afraid, that we would make a mistake. Especially at this time when Prabhupada was so ill. We did not want to make a mistake. Prabhupada no longer explicitly or verbally declared his physical needs. We had to find them out. Prabhupada’s body now belonged to others and not to him. As we were taking care of Srila Prabhupada body, we felt that this is our property, and we must take care of it very nicely. And Prabhupada also directly expressed this idea one day. It was as though Prabhupada gave his body to us,, and trusting in Krishna. Always wanting us every day, to take care of his body. But never put him in a hospital. Not a day went by, that Prabhupada would say.
“Whatever happens, do not put me in hospital.”
Others, they would spend thousands of dollars to keep their hearts going with pacemakers and other treatments. Prabhupada instead, gave us his body. He gave it to the devotees, and now we should take care of it. But whatever happens, do not give it to the karmis. Even in the name of medically saving him.
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