By Srutadeva das
July 1976 – New York City The kirtana was uproarious as Prabhupada entered the airport with the devotees. He was leaving New York after their first, wonderful Ratha-yatra. The kirtana grew more intense as he went through the security check. Hari Sauri, Guru dasa, and I followed behind. In the waiting lounge, Srila Prabhupada took a seat and kindly motioned for Guru dasa to sit next to him. A well-dressed man seated on Prabhupada’s other side, noticing that there were others with Srila Prabhupada, very politely moved to another seat. Prabhupada again very kindly offered us a seat, this time motioning toward me and Hari Sauri. I gently nudged Hari Sauri toward the seat. He graciously offered it back to me. He was Prabhupada’s personal servant; I nudged him again. He again graciously offered it back to me. I couldn’t resist. I sat down next to Srila Prabhupada.
He looked very grave, almost sad. Perhaps he knew that this had been his last trip to America. His eyes were overflowing with tears of ecstatic love as he sat silently absorbed in his own transcendental thoughts. Not wanting to disturb him I also sat silently, but finally I couldn’t resist the opportunity to ask Srila Prabhupada a question that had been on my mind for some time. Previously I had heard of some Bengali devotees chanting “sri krsna caitanya prabhu nityananda – prabhu nityananda prabhu nityananda – nityananda nityananda nityananda nityananda – sri krsna caitanya prabhu nityananda.” So occassionally I also chanted like that but was criticized by some devotees for not chanting the full Panca Tattva mantra. Of course, in one sense they were right as Srila Prabhupada instructs in the Caitanya-caritamrta to chant the full Panca Tattva mantra. However, on occassion we do chant “nitai gauranga nitai gauranga – jai sachinandana gaura hari.”
So I finally got up the nerve and said, “Srila Prabhupada, sometimes the devotees chant ‘sri krsna caitanya prabhu nityananda – prabhu nityananda prabhu nityananda.’ Is that all right?” Srila Prabhupada turned to look at me and with his beautiful, deep transcendental voice said, “Yes.”
Your humble servant, Srutadeva das
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