Joan Suval Remembers Srila Prabhupada

Following Srila Prabhupada

Interview DVD 01

Joan: The ashram was open only on the weekends. So we would come out Friday night, driving Swamiji and Guruji and our son, and then on Sunday night come back. Early on, I was given the name of “mother of the ashram.” So if I were mother of the ashram and I was only in my 30’s, then he had to be the grandfather of the ashram. My memories of him were mostly of him smiling and laughing because when he was with Sri Brahmananda, then Dr. Misra, they carried on in Hindi, and they usually ended up in total laughter. After the program of Vedantic readings and chanting, Guruji would turn over the latter part of the evening to Swamiji. He would try to caution him and he’d say, “Swamiji, only 15 minutes remaining. At most 20 minutes, Swamiji.” And Swamiji would look at him very sincerely and say, “I know, I know, people need rest, it is late. I will do little bit chanting.” But it was to no avail because once Swamiji went into that divine chanting, the bhakti chanting, he lost all sense of time and space every time he chanted, and it was seldom that it was less than an hour. And Guruji knew it. It was his joke with Swami Bhaktivedanta. He was serious only when he was chanting or talking about Krishna consciousness. But when he was relating to people, and certainly relating to Guruji, his face would light up. He had a radiance, because he was happy. When Swamiji was happy, it showed. He, I guess because he did a lot of traveling on his own, had become self-sufficient in the kitchen. And he also loved, absolutely loved to make meals for Guruji, and he would make a lot of food. So we knew when Swamiji was cooking that he could serve about 20 people, although he was cooking mainly for Guruji. We would gather around as he was cooking, we wanted to learn from him what he was doing. So we would ask him questions, and he wouldn’t answer because he’d be totally absorbed in his moment-to-moment activity. Although we were in a happy mood because we were anticipating a lovely meal and being with the two of them, he just remained serious until the last morsel was being finished. He was just one-pointed in everything he did. I always felt about him that he was a deeply serious man, serious about life. He never talked about his past, his personal life. I did ask him once or twice a question here and there, and he waved it away. He said, “Not important, that’s not important,” and then I began to feel it wasn’t important. What was important was what he was doing now. It was only once, when he touched me so much, I asked if I could hug him. He said something like, “Why not?” Nobody touched him usually. Guruji did, he would put his arm around him, but this was after I knew him for a while. But it was the Indian way of hugging. Somehow they manage to hug you and be miles apart in the hug; but at the same time, although the bodies were kept apart, it’s only really the shoulders that come together. It’s Indian style. But I felt Swamiji’s love. He was a tender man, he was a caring man, and an innocent man. And in the company of innocency you relax completely, and so I was always relaxed with Swami Bhaktivedanta.