This is an inspirational, and as far as I know, previously untold story about a private conversation between Srila Prabhupada and a Pancaratriki 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.’
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.
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.
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.
Prabhupada: ‘Do you have anything else to say?’
Bhattacarya: ‘Swamiji, if that is your wish, what can I say? I am only a priest.’
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 fibreglass; 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.