This is an inspirational, and as far as I know, previously untold story about a private conversation between Srila Prabhupada and a Pancaratriki Sri Vaishnava Pandit named Sampat Kumar Bhattacarya.
The story is told by HG Atma Tattva Das in a Bhagavad Gita class on 9.34 in Los Angeles on the 20th of March 1993. I found it in our old tape collection.
He was not there when the conversation took place, since it was private. However, a tape recorder (which was later lost) was left recording, which he heard; and Sampat Kumar told him what happened straight after.
This story has two parts – the background is common knowledge, and recorded in the Lilamrta. The conversation is the new addition.
It was the beginning of 1977. Prabhupada was in Bombay temple. He was very sick. He had stopped all food intake – he was taking 1/4 a cup of orange juice per day. His body had only bones left – there was no flesh. And yet, he was insisting that he wanted to go to London. The doctors had given up responsibility. But as always, he was adamant.
At this time, one Pancaratrika Pandit from Bangalore named Sampat Kumar Bhattacarya came to know about Srila Prabhupada’s situation. So, he took a flight from Bangalore to Bombay – which in those days was a huge thing for a Brahmin priest – and met Prabhupada, and asked for a private meeting. Generally, nobody was allowed a private meeting, but when he said that he specially came by flight from Bangalore to meet Srila Prabhupada, he was allowed a private meeting.
So, everybody was asked to go out, and they talked. The conversation was like this:
Sampat Kumar: ‘Swamiji, I am feeling very pained that you are suffering like this.’
Srila Prabhupada (laying down, in broken words): ‘The whole world is meant for suffering. Dukhalayam asavatam.’
Sampat Kumar: ‘But still Swamiji, there are so many people depending on you. So when you suffer, they suffer.
Srila Prabhupada: ‘What can I do?’
Bhattacarya: ‘Swamiji, I want to tell you something. In Vrindavan temple, they are having your deity on the altar. And all kinds of people are coming and praying to it, and offering flowers to it, and you are still living. According to Pancaratra, when the Acarya is living, if he puts his deity on the altar, then all the sufferings people are having come to his body through the deity. So you please tell your disciples to worship your deity only after you leave your body.’
He was speaking as if he was giving some information to Prabhupada, which Prabhupada did not note.
Srila Prabhupada: ‘I know. I came here to take their suffering.’
Bhattacarya was shocked. He was not giving any new information. This was well known to Prabhupada; and he was determined to suffer for others.
Srila Prabhupada: ‘Do you have anything else to say?’
Bhattacarya: ‘Swamiji, if that is your wish, what can I say? I am only a priest.’
Srila Prabhupada: ‘Even when I leave, I will keep continuing taking their suffering, and make them free so they can keep chanting Hare Krishna.’
So for 10,000 years, Prabhupada’s deity is going to be sitting in temples around the world, and taking all our sufferings, and making us free so we can chant Hare Krishna.
He is not fiberglass; he is really there, accepting our prayers, obeisances, and suffering. Let us hope this little anecdote reminds us of this, and never lets doubt creep into our minds.
Woman: You say you worship the deity photograph of someone who has gone. But the photograph of a spiritual teacher can be very helpful to teach them to love him because the photograph of a spiritual master is not material value, but it symbolizes the truth from which he has come.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Those who are spiritually advanced, their photograph and ordinary photograph is different. Just like here is a statue of Krishna. He’s not different from Krishna. The original person Krishna and this statue of Krishna is the same. Simlarly, a spiritually perfect person and his photograph is the same. Because it is in the absolute stage. Srila Prabhupada lecture NY, Sept. 16, 1966
Srila Prabhupada is present in picture
Next you ask if I am present in my picture and form? Yes. In form as well as in teachings. To carry out the teachings of guru is more important than to worship the form, but none of them should be neglected. Form is called vapu and teachings is called vāṇī. Both should be worshiped. Vāṇī is more important than vapu.Srila Prabhupada letter December 14, 1972
There is no difference between me and my picture. Therefore we should honor and keep pictures in that spirit. If we throw pictures this way and that way, that is offence. The name and picture are as good as the person in spiritual world. In the material world either picture or person, everything is illusion.
Your ever well-wisher, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prqabhupada letter September 4, 1972