Ambika devi dasi Remembers Srila Prabhupada

Prabhupada Memories

Interview 01

Ambika: When I was in Australia, Srila Prabhupada was not available to most of the devotees. But it was completely different in Bombay. There were so many problems associated with Bombay that whenever Prabhupada was going around the world, he’d stop in Bombay. There, every night on his roof, Srila Prabhupada would have darshan. Sometimes he’d sit alone chanting, and sometimes he’d be with his servant, or someone would be fanning him. Anyone could sit and chant with Prabhupada and ask questions. Then Indian guests and devotees would come. Many film stars and big industrialists came, and Prabhupada would welcome them all warmly. Prabhupada would ask them to sit in the front, and then he would preach to them. There was also an old man who lived nearby that used to come. He had some disease that made his fingers, hands, and head shake all the time. When he visited Srila Prabhupada, he didn’t do much. He would sit and say a few pleasantries and shake. Prabhupada’s servant thought, “Oh, he’s just wasting Prabhupada’s time” and stopped this man from coming. The old man was humble and thought, “Oh, I shouldn’t go.” Then, after a long time, he came in and he offered obeisances. Prabhupada said, “Oh, where have you been? Why haven’t you been coming?” He said, “Oh, Prabhupada, they told me not to come.” Prabhupada said, “You can come at any time,” and Prabhupada chastised his servant. I thought that was wonderful. Srila Prabhupada’s translating work was so important, and there was no immediate benefit from this old gentleman coming, but Srila Prabhupada was generous with his time.

When we cleaned his quarters we would always change his sheets, but Prabhupada stopped that. He said, “Don’t change them every day. Only change them when they’re dirty.” Of course, they were never dirty. But Prabhupada wanted that. Prabhupada had a picture of Radha and Krishna on his little desk, and after he’d come back from his morning class, he’d take off his garland and put it on the picture of Radha and Krishna. We weren’t allowed to throw that garland out. And on his wall, there were pictures of the disciplic succession, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, Srila Gaurakishor and Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur. After the garland had been on the Deity picture, he would place it on Bhaktisiddhanta’s picture, and then the next day we’d move it down to Gaurakhisor’s picture, and then to Bhaktivinode Thakur’s picture, and finally we could take it as prasadam. Prabhupada was very particular about things like that. One day I was wearing a shriveled garland from Bhaktivinode Thakur’s picture. That day I was thinking, “Oh gee, Prabhupada doesn’t really know me. He knows so many devotees so well, but he hardly knows me.” I was feeling bad that I didn’t get to do much for Srila Prabhupada. So the very day I’d been thinking that, I went upstairs when Prabhupada was in his room. First I stopped in fear and awe, and then I walked in and put the flower vases in their places and offered my obeisances. I was flustered and was trying to back out of the room. Prabhupada looked at the old garland I was wearing and said, “Where from you got this garland? Here, you take this one,” and he took the fresh garland from that morning that he had just put over the picture of the Deities and gave it to me. I felt so happy, and I realized that Prabhupada knew exactly what we needed in spiritual life. I was so encouraged by Srila Prabhupada. But I also felt foolish that Prabhupada had to cater to me. Still, that was a treasured moment.

When I dressed Radha Rasabihari, I put a red Ramanuja-type tilak inside Krishna’s tilak. Prabhupada sent a message, “Never put anything in Krishna’s tilak. Krishna’s tilak should always be clear.” Another time he had restricted spicing, and I asked him, “Can’t we even use mustard seeds?” He said, “Just cumin seeds and hing is sufficient for cooking for the Deities.” I also asked him about Radharani’s hair. At that time in Bombay some thought that Her hair shouldn’t be showing, that it should be tied back because She’s a most chaste lady. I asked Srila Prabhupada, “Can Radharani’s hair be out or does it have to be tied back?” He said, “Whatever you think looks nice.” He wasn’t strict on that.

Once, Vishalani came for Govardhan Puja. We performed a play and she played the part of Krishna. She dressed in a dhoti and put blue coloring on her skin. She was so enthusiastic in this service that after the play Srila Prabhupada got up off his vyasasana, walked over to Vishalani, took his garland off, put it on her, folded his hands, bent down and offered pranams to her. He really appreciated what Vishalani had done.

To view the entire unedited video go to Memories 17 - The Australian Yatra

The full Prabhupada Memories Series can be viewed here and also at