How Shall I Take Shelter of One More Merciful Than You?
My dear Srila Prabhupada,
Please accept my prostrated obeisances at your divine lotus feet. All glories to Your Divine Grace and to your sublime mercy.
Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto Three, Chapter Two, verse 23 is very significant. Not only is the verse beautiful, but it also has historical significance, because when after sixteen years Sukadeva Gosvami came out of the womb, he left home immediately, and his father, Srila Vyasadeva, followed him into the forest. And when Vyasadeva came close enough to his son for Sukadeva to hear, he recited two verses from Srimad-Bhagavatam, one describing Krishna’s beauty, from the Tenth Canto, and one—this verse—describing Krishna’s mercy.
When Sukadeva Gosvami heard these two verses—the one describing Krishna’s mercy and the one describing Krishna’s beauty—he became attracted. Although liberated, he became attracted by Krishna’s transcendental qualities, and he came back to hear Srimad-Bhagavatam from his father.
I quote this verse today because it reminds me of you—how shall I take shelter of one more merciful than you?
aho baki yam stana-kala-kutam
jighamsayapayayad apy asadhvi
lebhe gatim dhatry-ucitam tato ’nyam
kam va dayalum saranam vrajema
Alas, how shall I take shelter of one more merciful than Him [Lord Krishna] who granted the position of mother to the she-demon Putana although she was faithless and had prepared deadly poison to be sucked from her breast?
Here is an example of the extreme mercy of the Lord, even to His enemy. It is said that a noble man accepts the good qualities of a person of doubtful character, just as one accepts nectar from a stock of poison. In His babyhood, the Lord was administered deadly poison by Putana, a she-demon who tried to kill the wonderful baby. And because she was a demon, it was impossible for her to know that the Supreme Lord, even though playing the part of a baby, was no one less than the Supreme Personality of Godhead. His value as the Supreme Lord did not diminish upon His becoming a baby to please His devotee Yasoda. The Lord may assume the form of a baby or a shape other than that of a human being, but it doesn’t make the slightest difference: He is always the same Supreme. A living creature, however powerful he may become by dint of severe penance, can never become equal to the Supreme Lord.
Lord Krsna accepted the motherhood of Putana because she pretended to be an affectionate mother, allowing Krsna to suck her breast. The Lord accepts the least qualification of the living entity and awards him the highest reward. That is the standard of His character. Therefore, who but the Lord can be the ultimate shelter?
[End of purport.]
The Lord is absolute. He is all good for everyone, and He is neutral toward everyone. He is always thinking of how to do good for others. So even if one approaches Him as an enemy, He will try to do good for the person, as in the case of Putana. Although she came to kill Krishna by administering poison from her breast, He elevated her to the position of a nurse, like a mother, in the spiritual world. And merciful as He is, you are even more merciful.
You said that it is a mark of a good man that he sees the good side, not the bad side, of others. You gave the example of your guru maharaja, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta had a disciple named Kunjabihari dasa—people used to call him Kunja Babu—who, you said, came to do business with your guru maharaja, to profit personally from his relationship with him and from his service in the Gaudiya Math. But you said that your guru maharaja didn’t focus on Kunja’s dark side, that he was coming to make business, but on his bright side, that he was coming to offer service.
In your conversation with Bob Cohen on February 28, 1972, in Mayapur, you said, “Putana Raksasi—she offered Krishna poison. But Krishna is so nice that He thought, ‘She took Me as My mother,’ so He took the poison and delivered her. Krishna does not take the bad side. A good man does not take the bad side—he takes only the good side. Just like one of my big godbrothers—he wanted to make business with my guru maharaja, but my guru maharaja did not take the bad side. He took the good side. He thought, ‘He has come forward to give me some service.’ ”
So, this verse reminds me of you: How shall I take shelter of one more merciful than Your Divine Grace? There was no one more merciful than you. Lord Nityananda is most merciful, and you manifested the same quality of mercy as Nityananda Prabhu.
In Bombay you received a phone call from the temple president in Calcutta, who reported that one of your earliest disciples from America had come to Calcutta and was smoking ganja, marijuana, and asked what to do. You instructed your secretary to relay your response: “Tell him that if he doesn’t stop smoking ganja I will reject him.” Afterwards, Tamal Krishna Goswami asked, “Is it true that if he doesn’t stop smoking ganja you will reject him?” And you said, “No—I cannot reject anyone. The mercy of Lord Nityananda has no limit.”
Then, maybe two years later, we were in Juhu, and you had a disciple who fell into bad company and was living on Juhu Beach with a bogus, so-called yogi and doing tricks. He was putting a coin in one ear and then making it come out the other—different strange things to collect money—and he was known as your disciple and as a member of ISKCON. So, Tamal Krishna Goswami approached you and said, “This is happening, and he is giving you a bad name and giving ISKCON a bad name. You should reject him.”
And again you replied, “I cannot reject anyone.”
Tamal Krishna Goswami asked, “But don’t you have to draw the line somewhere?”
And again you said, “The mercy of Lord Nityananda has no limits.”
Srila Prabhupada, you are the manifest representative of Lord Nityananda Prabhu, and your forgiveness is like His. How shall I take shelter of one more merciful than you?
Another, similar quality of yours is that you were always willing to give someone a chance to take up Krishna consciousness. Around 1976 a strange man with a PhD came to the Juhu temple and said he wanted to join, and you invited him to stay upstairs with your personal staff, in the flat adjoining yours. And you spent quite a bit of time with him. Hamsaduta Prabhu was visiting at the time, and he told you, “Prabhupada, you are just wasting your time with this man. He is never going to amount to anything.” But you kept spending time with him. And in the end, the man left; he never did amount to anything. But when Hamsaduta mentioned that to you—“I could see that he never was going to amount to anything”—you replied, “I wanted to give him a chance.”
Another person whom you encouraged was Dr. C. P. Patel, who would almost always accompany you on your morning walks on Juhu Beach. You had a friendly relationship with him, but Dr. Patel would sometimes speak like a Mayavadi. You would accuse him, “You are a Mayavadi!” and Dr. Patel would reply, “No sir, I am a Vaishnava, a pure Vaishnava.”
One morning Dr. Patel and you had a huge argument. Dr. Patel would bring up different so-called holy men of India, and if they were not up to standard, you would criticize them. So, one morning you were criticizing one of Dr. Patel’s favorite revered so-called saints of India, and Dr. Patel and you had a huge argument. He raised his voice to you, and you raised your voice to him—the two of you were literally shouting at each other. And Dr. Patel’s friends, his cronies, were trying to pull him away, saying, “Don’t upset Swamiji; he has a heart condition.” And eventually they pulled him away.
Back at Hare Krishna Land, Tamal Krishna Goswami approached you in your room and asked, “What is Dr. Patel’s position? Is he a Vaishnava or a Mayavadi, an impersonalist?”
In response, you told a story about a man who could speak many languages. In whatever language people addressed him, he would respond fluently. No one could figure out where the man was actually from.
After much discussion, a neighbor said, “I will find out.” So, one day, when the man was preoccupied, the neighbor came up behind him and gave him a big whack. And when the man started to curse in his native tongue, his origin was disclosed.
“Dr. Patel is like that,” Prabhupada said. “He can speak very expertly. He can sound like a devotee, sound like a Vaishnava, sound like a Mayavadi, sound like anything. But when I gave a slap where it really hurt—this so-called saintly person that he revered—his real language came out.”
“So, why do you put up with him?” Tamal Krishna asked. “He is so offensive.”
“It is our duty to engage everyone,” you said. You wanted to give Dr. Patel a chance. And as the years passed, Dr. Patel developed great affection for you, and after you left this world he wrote a beautiful article for Back to Godhead about his relationship with you. The article was titled “My Life’s Most Precious Moments,” with the subtitle “A Bombay doctor wins the title ‘big fool’ and loves it”—because you would always call Dr. Patel a mudha. You would say, “I am not saying—Krishna is saying: na mam duskrtino mudhah.” [Anyone who doesn’t surrender to Krishna is a mudha, fool.]
So, how shall I take shelter of one more merciful than you? Your Divine Grace had so many wonderful qualities, but your most significant quality, for us especially, was your extreme mercifulness.
You had a good friend in Bombay named Bhogilal Patel, who was extremely pious. The first devotee to meet him was Gargamuni, and when Gargamuni was explaining your work, Bhogilal wept profuse tears of appreciation.
One day some years later, Bhogilal Patel came to meet you in your flat at the back of Hare Krishna Land. I had a close relationship with Seth Bhogilal, so I brought him up to meet you. The two of you were talking and, as is natural in a conversation, when you were speaking I would look at you, and when Bhogilal was speaking I would look at him. But at one point, while Bhogilal was speaking I looked at you, which you were not expecting, and I saw that you were looking at me with such love and affection, like a father or a grandfather (by age, you were more like my grandfather). I was surprised that you were looking at me with so much love. But as soon as you saw me looking at you, you changed your expression and became very grave and serious. I think it was some special mercy that I got a glimpse of how much love you had for us, which you didn’t usually show very openly. Your love for us was manifest in your care for us and your giving us the knowledge of Krishna consciousness and engaging us in Krishna’s service.
You were very reserved about touching people, including even disciples. In 1971 in Gorakhpur, as guests of Hanuman Prasad Poddar of Gita Press, we were staying in his large estate, Sri Krishna Niketan, which had previously been his personal residence.
You were traveling with your small Radha-Krishna Deities, and you wanted to establish an altar for Them in Sri Krishna Niketan. You wanted some foliage for the altar, so you sent a couple of devotees, including me, to collect some. I went out to a thicket and was collecting branches with leaves. I wasn’t tearing them live—I was looking for branches and leaves that had fallen. I just kept going deeper into the woods and collecting more and more foliage, and eventually I had a huge bundle, as much as I could possibly carry.
So, I lugged the bundle back to Sri Krishna Niketan and up the stairs, and when I reached the temple room you were there and the altar was being set up. I just dropped the bundle on the floor and offered my obeisances. And while I was on the floor, you patted me on the back. It was one of the only times—maybe the only time—that you physically touched me. I looked up and saw you smiling broadly. I didn’t know if you even needed any more foliage, but you were pleased by my effort.
Again I ask: Srila Prabhupada, how shall I take shelter of one more merciful than you?
Thank you for your ongoing causeless mercy, which, like Nityananda Prabhu’s, has no limit.
I pray to serve your merciful lotus feet eternally, and in doing so, share your sublime mercy with others.
Your eternal servant,