An unexpected encounter
By Acintya Caitanya Dasa
Jananivas Prabhu’s service was to bring frankincense to Srila Prabhupada’s room in the evening. He mentioned that usually after you fill a room with frankincense, you open the doors and windows so that the mosquitos go out with the smoke. Srila Prabhupada however liked to keep the smoke within the room and stopped Jananivas Prabhu from opening the doors and windows. Since it was Srila Prabhupada’s darshan time, there would usually be many western devotees in the room and these western devotees would begin to cough and their eyes would water since they were not used to the smoke.
On a different occasion Srila Prabhupada with great appreciation said that the frankincense produced such a nice transcendental spiritual atmosphere.Jananivas Prabhu had until then thought that the frankincense was simply meant to drive away the mosquitoes. It was only after Srila Prabhupada said this that he understood that Srila Prabhupada had a deep spiritual appreciation for the frankincense smoke.
Once 4 Rigveda priests from Nepal came to visit Srila Prabhupada in Sri Mayapur. Srila Prabhupada liked them and one of them got initiated by Srila Prabhupada as Gangaram dasa. These priests asked Srila Prabhupada if they could teach devotees some prayers that conform to our vaisnava tradition. Srila Prabhupada agreed and that is how they introduced the Purusa-sukta prayers. One of the priests also taught Jananivas Prabhu different recipes for the frankincense. One recipe involved using a bay leaf and so on. In the evening they would recite the Purusa-sukta prayers as Jananivas Prabhu would bring the frankincense from the temple to Srila Prabhupada’s room. One of the priests knew how to blow a conshell without stopping and he would blow not one but two conchshells simultaneously and non-stop. He would first blow his cheeks and then inhale in such a manner that the conchshells would sound continously. It was quite a ceremony beacuse they would walk up all the way from the temple with prayers, conchshells and frankincense. Devotees would call it Bhooth puja, puja to drive away ghosts. Srila Prabhupada would be talking to his devotees and guests while the frankincense team would arrive on the corridor with all the loud sounds and then enter Srila Prabhupada’s room. Srila Prabhupada would stop and look up. The first time it happened, Srila Prabhupada was patiently looking up at the priest who blew the conchshells. After a while, he realised that the priest was expert at blowing nonstop and would not stop. He was amused and began to laugh.
One day Srila Prabhupada saw Pankajanghri Prabhu mopping the corridor on either side of Srila Prabhupada’s room. He came out and asked “Do you have to do this? Is there nobody else who can do this?” Pankhajanghri Prabhu replied “Srila Prabhupada, I am not Jananivas Prabhu. I am his younger brother, Pankhajanghri das” Srila Prabhupada said “Then it is all right”
One day Pankajanghri Prabhu was posted outside Srila Prabhupada’s room to guard the door. Pankhajanghri Prabhu had a cast on one of his legs. So when he folded his legs, the sole of one his feet was exposed. When Srila Prabhupada noticed this, he said “Don’t you know that it is disrespectful to expose the sole of your foot to the spiritual master?” Pakhajanghri Prabhu apologised and immediately began to re-position his leg when Srila Prabhupada noticed the cast on his leg and asked “Have you injured your leg?” Pankhajanghri Prabhu replied “Yes” and then Srila Prabhupada said “No, no then it is alright, keep your legs as they are”
Once Jananivas Prabhu had a desire to hear from Srila Prabhupada’s lotus lips about what he had written in the Krishna book specifically how everybody in Vrndavan loves Krishna, the birds, the creepers, the residents, the cows and all other inhabitants of Vrndavan. The next day when he entered Srila Prabhupada’s room he was speaking one to one with his different leaders about the preaching activities in their temples and zones. After a while Srila Prabhupada changed topic and instead of addressing anybody one to one, he began to address everybody and narrated how all the inhabitants of Vrindavan love Krishna, the cows, the birds, the creepers, the gopis and all the fortunate residents of Vrndavan. Jananivas Prabhu said that the whole room became illuminated as Srila Prabhupada narrated about the love of the residents of Vrndavan for Krishna. Not only him but some others in the room also told him that they too had the same experience that the whole room became illuminated when Srila Prabhupada began to speak about Vrindavan. Srila Prabhupada’s eyes were sparkling as he narrated those pastimes.
There was a devotee who would bring fresh dab every day in the evening at 4.00 pm for Srila Prabhupada. In 1977 Srila Prabhupada was in Sri Mayapur during Gaura Purnima. He began to thank this devotee who would bring him dab. Then he began to thank Jananivas Prabhu. Like this Srila Prabhupada individually thanked all devotees for the various services that they rendered to him. Jananivas Prabhu thinks that Srila Prabhupada knew that he was leaving the planet that year and wanted to express his appreciation individually to all the devotees who served him in Sri Mayapur.
Once Jananivas Prabhu was in Srila Prabhupada’s room along with Satsvarupa Maharaja. Srila Prabhupada was chanting on his beads softly and gravely while walking back and forth between his darshan room and resting room. At one point, Srila Prabhupada stopped, looked at Jananivas Prabhu and Satsvarupa Maharaja and said in a very deep, serious voice “This chanting of Hare Krishna is transcendental, spiritual sound vibration”. Then he continued chanting while walking.
I asked Jananivas Prabhu about the history of the beautiful Pancha Tattva Deities on the top of the shelf behind Srila Prabhupada. Jananivas Prabhu replied that those Deities were made by Srimati Mataji and gifted personally to Srila Prabhupada. They were never worshiped. He mentioned that these Deities however have a special significance and They are above Srila Prabhupada’s lotus head by transcendental arrangement.He explained how in Deity worship one is first supposed to meditate on the spiritual master sitting at the lotus feet of Pancha-tattva. So Srila Prabhupada is sitting right at the lotus feet of Pancha-tattva in his room. As far as second generation and future generations are concerned, he explained that they can meditate on their spiritual master sitting near Srila Prabhupada who is sitting at the lotus feet of Pancha-tattva in his room.
He went on to mention how Srila Prabhupada had brought different devotees from the west headed by Baradwaj Prabhu and Rukmini mataji so that these devotees could learn how to make diaromas, dolls and learn various other similar skills. They went back and established the FATE museum in Detroit. However they could not put the skills that they learned in India to much use in the west as the conditions there were very different. In the west only sophiticated kilns were available unlike the simple equipments in India. Some people in India criticised Srila Prabhupada that he was making devotees in the west and bringing them to India to teach sudra jobs. As usual Srila Prabhupada was unaffected by it.
Jananaivas Prabhu mentioned that most of the time Srila Prabhupada would be grave while in his room in Sri Mayapur but sometimes he would be in a light hearted mood. Once, pointing to the beautiful picture of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur in his room which was done by Pushkar Prabhu, Srila Prabhupada teased Bharadwaj Prabhu who was considered the leading artist in ISKCON at that time “Pushkar has done better than you” and then smiled mischieveously.
Once Jananivas Prabhu entered Srila Prabhupada’s room as usual in the evening with frankincense. There was noboby in the room. Srila Prabhupada was intensely absorbed in some writing work. Jananivas Prabhu offered his obeisances and as he began to fan the frankinsense, he noticed that the sole of one of Srila Prabhupada’s lotus feet was uncovered. Jananivas Prabhu’s eyes began to drink the beauty of Srila Prabhupada’s pink lotus feet. He began to pray that may he be able to firmly fix his mind on this fortunate sight of Srila Prabhupada’s lotus feet at the time of his death,. Just as he was praying like this, Srila Prabhupada abruptly paused his work, lifted his head and looked up straight into Jananivas Prabhu’s eyes. It was as if the suddenness of that gesture clearly indicated that he had heard Jananivas Prabhu’s prayer. Jananivas Prabhu began to feel shy, looked down immediately and moved on with his frankincense fanning duty.