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I have tricked you this morning

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Bonds of Love: Sukla Devi Dasi (Australia)

Sukla had just finished high school and was reading all sorts of spiritual books, praying desperately to the full moon for a spiritual master. Then her brother came with a bead bag around his neck and said, “Guess what? The leader of the Hare Krishna Movement is coming in one week.”

At the time I didn’t realize my brother was into Krishna consciousness. He told me I could go to the temple, and I thought, “Very cool!” The next day I went to the Melbourne temple and found myself sewing Deity outfits. A couple of months later I moved in.

A year later, in January 1973, Prabhupada was going to install beautiful big marble Deities – Radha-Vallabha – in Melbourne. About an hour before the installation Madhudvisa sent a message that I was to receive first and second initiation at the same time. He told me, “But you have to understand that you’ll never see the sun again because you’ll be serving the Deities forever. If you accept that, then OK.” I thought about it for about five minutes and then said, “Yes, certainly.”

I called my mother and told her I was participating in a fire sacrifice in an hour. My mother didn’t know what that meant, but she came to the temple during the ceremony. I saw her there, but she didn’t say anything. Prabhupada said to me, “Your name is Sukla. Sukla is “pure” and “white” and refers to the full moon. Krishna is the full moon among many stars.” I had been praying to the full moon. It was like I’d known my name from lifetimes. Prabhupada then told me to always take care of the Deities nicely.

After that my mother, who had been so worried about what it meant to participate in a fire sacrifice – or what any of this meant – met Prabhupada and he made her feel peaceful.

The initiates had gone door to door to collect money for dakshina. I gave Prabhupada an orange and a gold-beaded karatala bag I had made for him. I offered my obeisances when we all went to make our offerings. Prabhupada smiled and said, “So what have you brought me?” I said, “Oh, it’s just a little dakshina, Prabhupada.” He loved it. He said, “Bali Mardana, Srutakirti, come see what she has made me,” and he showed them the karatala bag.

The day after my initiation was rainy, and Prabhupada came back from his walk early. I was cleaning and had a bucket and a mop in my hands when I saw him coming. I didn’t know what to do. How could I offer my obeisances with all that my hands? I saw a side door and slipped behind it, closing it and thinking, “I hope he didn’t see me.” All of a sudden Prabhupada opened the door and said, “So I have tricked you this morning.” I said, “Oh, yes, Srila Prabhupada, I wasn’t expecting you back so soon.” He said, “It is raining.” I said, “Yes, Srila Prabhupada.” He laughed, said “Hare Krishna,” and walked back into his room.

The following day he came back early again, but this time I was prepared. He said, “You were ready.” I said, “Yes, I was ready.”

Ramaniya used to chant fast and wildly, and we all thought she would be chastised for it, but on a morning walk Prabhupada turned to her and said, “Very nice chanting.” From then on we were quiet about her chanting.

Once, Srutakirti asked me to take Prabhupada his lunch. I was at Prabhupada’s door with his plate and I could hear him banging his fist on the desk and yelling at someone, “You will never make advancement while you’re envious of the spiritual master!” I thought, “Do I have to knock on the door now?”

But I knocked and Prabhupada said, “Come in.” I opened the door quietly and Prabhupada broke into a big smile, “Hare Krishna, ah, prasada.” He said it so sweetly. I put the plate down and Prabhupada thanked me. After I closed the door I could hear Prabhupada banging his fist on the desk again. He wasn’t really angry, I realized, just making a point.

The last time Prabhupada came to Australia, in May 1976, I was at the bottom of the stairs waiting for him to come out of his room. Prabhupada saw me there, holding a flower. He walked down the stairs, took the flower out of my hand, and walked back up the stairs.

During that visit I asked Prabhupada, “What is most important, hearing, chanting reading, or remembering?” Prabhupada looked at me and said, “Hearing.”

I thought of the time Srila Prabhupada had tried to teach me to chant Gayatri and count the mantras on my fingers, but I was too absorbed in looking at his face and didn’t hear a word. When he told me to repeat what he’s said I couldn’t.

Prabhupada was loving and compassionate, warm and caring, like no one I’d ever known. Every word that came out of his mouth was full of love and purity. Whenever he saw me he always had a big smile. He was so grand and royal he made me want to always do things properly. He was also mischievous and playful with me.

Whether devotees have met Prabhupada or not, his instructions are there for everyone, and the more we hear those instructions, the more our relationship with him develops on a personal and spiritual level.

We can get to know Prabhupada through his disciples, too. By hearing about Prabhupada from them, a person can come to know him well. If we open our heart, Prabhupada is there, ready to give us spiritual life.

It was the philosophy, the instructions and the scriptures, that brought me to and hold me in Krishna consciousness. My sweet relationship with Prabhupada enhanced those things, but affection for guru must go hand in hand with knowledge of scripture. A lot of people develop sentimental relationships with the guru, but there must be philosophy and instruction and seriousness behind it. Otherwise misunderstandings and inconsistencies in how we practice arise.

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