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23 : Inexplicable Śrīla Prabhupāda

“Prabhupāda’s behavior was unpredictable, but always Kṛṣṇa conscious and correct,” wrote Satsvarūpa Mahārāja in Śrīla Prabhupāda-līlāmṛta. But Prabhupāda occasionally acted in ways that even his disciples found difficult to understand.

Śrīla Prabhupāda was fond of children and often played and joked with them. The world ācārya come from the spiritual world to save the conditioned jīvas, the head of a worldwide movement, guru of thousands, respected author, scholar, and speaker, would sometimes spend half an hour or more playing with children. Not only did he play with children, but he even played with animals. Once Prabhupāda spent half an hour teasing a Pekingese dog and making it bark. (Prabhupāda-līlā)

Sometimes Prabhupāda told “Gopāla Bāna” stories or humorous Bengali folktales, often with no particular instructive value.

At John Lennon’s estate, Śrīla Prabhupāda was once playing with little Sarasvatī, throwing flowers at her, and apparently ignoring the ārati for his Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa Deities that was going on in the same room. Puruṣottama, his servant, was upset at his spiritual master’s behavior, and shortly thereafter “blooped.” (Told by Mālatī devī dāsi at the Prabhupāda Reunion Festival, England, 1993. Bloop is ISKCON jargon meaning “to leave the association of devotees and revert to nondevotional life.”)

Isn’t this all rather frivolous? Maybe. But if Prabhupāda is apparently frivolous, then that frivolity is also transcendental and Kṛṣṇa conscious. There is no doubt that Śrīla Prabhupāda never forgot Kṛṣṇa, not even for a moment. Prabhupāda is naturally light-hearted, being an eternal resident of Vṛndāvana, where every day is a festival, and where material anxieties are unknown.

At least once, while traveling by train in India, Śrīla Prabhupāda bought hot pakorās from the railway vendors.

Once Prabhupāda wanted idlis, but because no devotee could prepare them immediately, he had them brought from outside. (See Conversation of 5 January 1977)

When Prabhupāda was telling how an English officer became attracted to the black eyes and black hair of a Bengali beauty, his disciple Yogeśvara, as if to steer the conversation away from prajalpa, remarked, “Kṛṣṇa has black hair too.”

Śrīla Prabhupāda replied, “Why do you bring Kṛṣṇa here? This is all sense gratification!” Then he congratulated Yogeśvara for remembering Kṛṣṇa even in the sense gratification conversation. (Conversation, 28 May 1974)

What do we conclude from these unusual incidents? Prabhupāda’s occasional light-heartedness or unorthodox behavior is not at all a blemish, but rather shows that the character of an ācārya is not stereotyped. Śrīla Prabhupāda is a pure devotee, fully engaged in Kṛṣṇa’s service with mind, body, and words. He who follows is saved. He who imitates is lost.