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Srila Prabhupada Stories

Stories shared by Srila Prabhupada during conversations and lectures.

Alexander - The Great Thief

You know the story of Alexander the Great and the thief. Alexander the Great arrested one thief, and he was going to punish him. The thief pleaded, "Sir, you are going to punish me, but what is the difference between you and me? I am a small thief, you are a great thief. That's all. (laughter) You are by force occupying other's kingdom, and you have no right. But because you are strong, or some way or other, you have got the opportunity, and you are conquering country after country, country after... So I am also doing the same thing. So what is the difference between you and me?

So Alexander considered that, "Yes, I am nothing but a big thief, that's all." So he released him, "Yes, I am no better than you."

Reference: Lecture on SB 1.16.17 - Los Angeles, January 12, 1974

Anything for Krishna’s Pleasure

So the point is that superficially it may appear sometimes against the social and religious rules and regulation, but if it is done for Krishna. Bhakti means anukulyena krishnanu-silanam [Cc Madhya 19.167]. Krishna should be satisfied. That is... It doesn't matter. Krishna should be satisfied. Just like Krishna pretended that He was sick, and many physicians came. He said, "No physician cured Me. If some devotee gives Me the dust of his feet on My head, then I can be cured." So all devotees were asked, and nobody... "Oh! How can I give? My dust on the head of Krishna? How it is possible?" Nobody prepared.

Then Krishna asked that, "Go to Vrindavana. Just ask the gopis if they can give. They are My best friends. If they are prepared? Oh, I am very much suffering from headache." So nobody was prepared to go... As soon as gopis were approached, "Oh, Krishna is sick. They want, oh, dust of...?"

Immediately, "Please take. Please take." She did not care that, "We are going to hell by offering our dust of feet on the head of Krishna. Never mind. We shall go. Krishna will be happy. That's all. Krishna will be happy." This is gopi.

It doesn't matter the whole world is going to hell, but if Krishna is satisfied, a devotee's prepared to do that. That is, that is called uttama-bhakti. Anukulyena krishnanu-silanam bhaktir uttama [Cc Madhya 19.167].

Reference: The Nectar of Devotion – Bombay, December 26, 1972

Author Knows the Best

Vedanta-sutra was compiled by Vyasadeva. He is incarnation of Krishna, Dvaipayana Vyasa. So therefore, it is compiled by His incarnation, so it is compiled by Him. Because His incarnation, He is the same. So vedanta-krit means Veda..., compiler of the Vedanta, and the compiler of the compiler of the Vedanta is vedanta-vit, one who knows Vedanta. Because I have written some book, so I know what is the purpose of writing my book. You cannot know. My purpose you cannot know. 

There is a small instructive story in this - not story, fact - in this connection. In Calcutta there was a great dramatist. He was very well known, government officer. He wrote one book, Shah Jahan. That is very famous book for theatrical play. So in that Shah Jahan, means the king, Emperor Shah Jahan. Practically, the name which is given on the book, the hero title, he's the hero. So one of the friends of Mr. D. L. Raya, he inquired from Mr. Raya that, "In your book Shah Jahan, the actual hero is Aurangzeb. Why you have given the title Shah Jahan?" He could not understand it. So I'm just trying to explain that the purpose of the book must be known to the author, not others. 

So the author replied, "My dear friend, the actual hero is Shah Jahan, not Aurangzeb." Although the Shah Jahan book is full of the activities of Aurangzeb, the fact is that Shah Jahan was the emperor. He had many, four or five sons, and his wife died, Mumtaz, at an early age. You have seen, those who have gone to India, you have seen the Taj Mahal building. That building was constructed in the memory of that Mumtaz by Shah Jahan. He spent all his money for constructing that building. So it is one of the seven wonders of the world. So that Shah Jahan lost his wife at an early age. He was very fond of his wife. 

And because, affectionate father, he did not very much chastise his sons, and he spent all his money in constructing the memory of his wife, so when the sons grew up, the third son, Aurangzeb, came out very crooked. And he made a plan how to usurp the empire. He killed his elder brother and other brothers. He arrested his father, Shah Jahan. So this is the book subject matter, Shah Jahan. So whole activities. But the author says that, "Aurangzeb is not the hero; hero is Shah Jahan." Then he explained why. "Now, because Shah Jahan was living, sitting in the Agra Fort as a prisoner, and all the reactions of Aurangzeb's activities, killing of his other sons, usurping the empire, that was beating on his heart; therefore he was suffering. He is the hero.

So this is an example. The author of a book knows very well what is the purpose of that book. That is my statement. Similarly, this Vedanta-sutra was compiled by Vyasadeva, or Krishna's incarnation, or Krishna Himself. So He knows what is Vedanta-sutra. So if you want to understand Vedanta-sutra, then you must understand Krishna.

Reference: Sunday Feast Lecture - Los Angeles, May 21, 1972

Chant Chant Chant, Can't Can't Can't.

Everyone can chant. What is the difficulty? Everyone can chant Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare... Where is the difficulty? But they'll not chant. They'll not chant. They'll talk so many rubbish things, but as soon as you ask him to chant Hare Krishna, he'll be silent. That we have experienced. But still our thankless task is to induce everyone: "Chant Hare Krishna.

There is a cartoon picture in New York. One old man and his wife, sitting together. The wife is requesting the husband, old husband, "Chant, chant, chant," and the husband is replying: "Can't, can't, can't." This cartoon we have seen. So this is the... He will say three times: "Can't, can't, can't." But not "Krishna, Krishna, Krishna." That is not possible. 

A similar story is there in the Bengal. One old mother was dying, and the sons requested the mother: "Mother, now you say 'Hare Krishna Hare Krishna'". So after requesting two, three times, mother became disgusted: atha katha nivalta nare. So atha katha vibol ta parane. she could say. Not Hare Krishna. Not Hare Krishna. This is the position. 

Reference: Lecture on Bhagavad-gita 9.10 - Calcutta, June 29, 1973

Gift of a True Friend

There is a little story, very interesting. So one poor boy, he was student in a school, and the teacher's annual ceremony of father's death would be held. So he requested all his student, "What you will give me, contribution?" Somebody said, "I will contribute this cloth," somebody said, "I'll give rice," somebody said something, something, something. There was one poor student, he had no means. He was very poor. So when he was asked, so he replied that, "I cannot say anything without asking my mother." "All right, you ask your mother and tell me tomorrow.

So he asked, "My dear mother, all my class friend have promised the teacher to contribute this, that, this, that. So my turn is there. What shall I promise?" The mother said, "My dear son, we are so poor, we cannot give anything. But if Krishna gives, He is dina-bandhu, the friend of the poor. So if He gives something to you, you can promise." "Oh, where is Krishna? What is His name?" "Now, His name is Dinabandhu, friend of the poor." "Where He is?" "I understand that He is in the forest."

So he went to the forest and called, "Dinabandhu brother, Dinabandhu brother, where are You?" He began to cry. So Krishna came. When a devotee is very much eager to see Him, Krishna comes. He is very kind. "Why you are asking?" "You are Dinabandhu?" "Yes." "So this is my condition, sir. What can I promise?" So He said that, "You promise that you will supply yogurt, dahi. You will supply dahi." So he was very much satisfied. And he came to the teacher that, "My Dinabandhu brother, dada, He will supply dahi, or yogurt, for whatever you require." "Oh, that's nice. Very good.

So on the day of ceremony, so he went to the forest again and called Dinabandhu dada, and He gave him a small pot of dahi, yogurt, a small pot. Oh, he was a child. He did not know. And he brought it to the teacher, "Now, this is my contribution. My Dinabandhu brother has given. So you take." "The hundreds and thousands of people will be given foodstuff and this much dahi?" He became very angry. He became angry, he did not care, and the pot fell down, and the yogurt also fell down. But after some time, when he came, he saw that although the yogurt has fallen down, the pot is full. Then he again dropped it; again it is full. He dropped it; again it is full. Then he could understand it is spiritual. Purnasya purnam adaya purnam eva avasishyate [Iso Invocation]. You take the whole thing; still, the whole thing is there. That is Krishna.

Reference: Lecture on Srimad Bhagavatam 3.25.38 - Bombay, December 7, 1974

Krishna Considers Devotion

It is described there that one brahmana - he was a great devotee - he wanted to offer very brilliant service, arcana, in the temple worship. But he had no money. But some day he was sitting in a Bhagavataclass and he heard that Krishna can be worshiped even within the mind. So he took this opportunity because he was thinking since a long time how to worship Krishna very gorgeously, but he had no money. 

So he, when he got this point, that one can worship Krishna within the mind, so after taking bath in the Godavari River, he was sitting underneath a tree and within his mind he was constructing very gorgeous simhasana, throne, bedecked with jewels and keeping the Deity on the throne, he was bathing the Deity with water of Ganges, Yamuna, Godavari, Narmada, Kaveri. Then he was dressing the Deity very nicely, then offering worship with flower, garland. 

Then he was cooking very nicely, and he was cooking paramanna,sweet rice. So he wanted to taste it, whether it was very hot. Because paramanna is taken cold. Paramanna is not taken very hot. So he put his finger on the paramanna and his finger burned down. Then his meditation broken, because there was nothing. Simply within his mind he was doing everything. So... But he saw that his finger is burned. So he was astonished. 

In this way, Narayana from Vaikuntha, He was smiling. Lakshmiji asked, "Why you are smiling?" "One of My devotee is worshiping like this. So send My men to bring him immediately to Vaikuntha.

So the bhakti-yoga is so nice that even if you have no means to offer the Deity gorgeous worship, you can do it within the mind. That is also possible.

Reference: Bhagavad-gita 4.28 - Bombay, April 17, 1974

Krishna's Protection

Everyone was determined, "I must kill." Duryodhana was determined to kill Bhima, and Bhima was determined to kill. So when they did not listen to the instruction of Baladeva, then Baladeva left the place. He went to Dvaraka, back. Of course, Krishna was there, because Krishna was to give hint to Bhima how to kill Duryodhana. So Duryodhana, by the blessings of his mother, his whole body became iron-like solid. So by beating by the Bhima, it was not easy. 

So the story is that Gandhari, the mother of Duryodhana, she was great chaste woman. Because her husband was blind, she used to remain as blind woman covering the eyes. But she had some power. Chaste woman, anyone who sticks to the regulative principles, he gets a power, spiritual or material. He gets power. A brahmacari gets power if he follows brahmacarya. Everyone, if we follow the prescribed rules and regulations, automatically you become powerful. 

So Gandhari had some power. So her eldest son, Duryodhana, was advised to see the mother naked. She advised, "My dear son, tomorrow morning when you come to offer your obeisances to me, you come naked. I shall see you and you will be solidified just like iron." So he was going naked and Krishna saw. So He asked him, "Where you are going?" "I am going to see my mother." "How is that? You are going naked? At least you have some langota. This is not good." So he took the instruction of Krishna and covered the private part with a langota

And when Gandhari saw, she saw that he was not fully naked, so she regretted, "O my dear son, I asked you to come before me naked. Why you have got this...?" "No, Krishna advised." Then she began to smile, that, "My attempt is failure." So Krishna knew it, that part which was covered, that was not turned iron. The other parts turned into iron on account of seeing by Gandhari. 

So in this fight Krishna hinted Bhima that, "You strike here. That part is not ironized." Although it is against the regulative principle to strike the opponent party below this waist, Krishna advised that, "Unless you transgress this law, you cannot kill him." So he was stroken below the waist, and he was not killed, but his waist was broken. Therefore it is said vrikodaraviddha-gadabhimarsa. Then he died.

Reference: Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.7.13-14 - Vrindavana, September 12, 1976

Live only for the benefit of the guru

Srila Prabhupada : The practical example is here. These European and American boys are coming from well-to-do families. Why are they serving me? I am Indian, coming from a poor country. I cannot pay them. When I came to the West, I had no money. I brought only forty rupees. That was only an hour's expenditure in America. So their soul is to carry out my instruction. And therefore they are making progress. Pranipatena pariprasnena - they are asking questions. I am trying to reply to them, and they have all got full faith. They are serving like menial servants. This is the process. 

If the spiritual master is bona fide and the disciple is very sincere, then the knowledge will be there. This is the secret. Yasya deve para bhaktir yatha deve tatha gurau [SU 6.23] - Vedic knowledge is revealed unto those who have faith in both the Lord and the spiritual master. Therefore in Vedic society, the students are automatically sent to the gurukula [the place of the spiritual master], regardless of whether one is a king's son or from some other background. Even Krishna had to go to gurukula

There is a story that once Krishna went with a classmate to the forest to collect dry wood for His spiritual master. Suddenly there was a heavy rainstorm, and they could not get out of the forest. The whole night they remained in the forest with great difficulty. The next morning, the guru, their teacher, along with other students, came to the forest and found them. So even Krishna, whom we accept as the Supreme Lord, had to go to gurukula and serve the spiritual master as a menial servant. 

So all of the students at the gurukula learn how to be very submissive and how to live only for the benefit of the guru. They are trained from the very beginning to be first-class submissive students. Then the guru, out of affection and with an open heart, teaches the boys all he knows. There is no question of money. It is all done on the basis of love and education.

Reference: Journey of Self-Discovery

Mahabharata for the Nawab

Prabhupada : Yes, there is a nice story in this connection. There was one Gopal Ban. So he was very cunning fellow, in the Muhammadan period in Bengal. So the Muhammadan Nawab asked him, "Gopal Ban, can you prepare a Mahabharata in my name?" "Oh, yes!" So, "I'll engage so many panditas, and they will make a Mahabharata, your activities, your glories, everything. So give me one hundred thousand rupees, just begin." He was taking money, taking money, "Yes, it is going on, going on." "Then when it will be published?" "Yes, just last few days more.

"Now, sir, everything is prepared. So the one thing is, you have to give me information how many husbands you have got, your wife, huh? How many husbands your wife has got?" "That is very insulting. What, you nonsense! You take..." "No, that is the main feature of Mahabharata. Draupadi had five husbands, so how many husbands your wife has got? Tell me that." Then, "No, no, I don't want that. I am the only husband." "Then how can you write Mahabharata?[laughter] "I don't want." "All right. If you want Mahabharatayou must tell how many your wife has got husbands." That he cannot say. So Mahabharata finished.

Reference: Morning Walk - June 4, 1976, Los Angeles

Significance of Ratha-yatra

Krishna went to His father's house, and He came to Kurukshetra in the chariot. This is Ratha-yatra. After Krishna departed from Vrindavana to Mathura and He never returned, once He returned, so Mother Yasoda, the cowherd boys and the gopis, they lost their life and vital force. They were simply crying and weeping. That was their business. So Krishna sent sometimes Uddhava to pacify them that, "I am coming very soon after finishing My business.

So when they got this opportunity that, "Krishna has come to Kurukshetra with His brother, sister, father. So let us go and see..." So they went to Kurukshetra to see Krishna. Whenever they got some opportunity, they wanted to see. So they went to see Krishna in the charioteer fighting dress. They were astonished. They thought that, "Krishna is our friend, cowherd boy. How is that, He is in the chariot, fighting?" So they became astonished. So this is the pastimes of Vrindavana. 

So similarly, when the inhabitants of Vrindavana went to see Lord Krishna, Jagannatha. Krishna means Jagannatha. Jagat means this world, and nathameans master, or proprietor. So Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita, bhoktaram yajna-tapasam sarva-loka-mahesvaram [Bg 5.29]. "I am the proprietor of all the planets." Therefore He is Jagannatha - the proprietor of all the world, all the planets. So the Vrindavana inhabitants went to see Krishna, because their life was Krishna. They did not know anything except Krishna. So that was the opportunity. 

So it was the request of Radharani to Krishna, "My dear Krishna, You are the same Krishna; I am the same Radharani. We are meeting, but We are not meeting in the same place. Here You are just like a royal king, with chariots, with soldiers, with Your ministers, secretaries. And there in Vrindavana You were a cowherd boy, and We used to meet in the jungles, in the bushes. So I want to take You there. Then I will be happy." So that sentiment was expressed by Lord Chaitanya, because Lord Chaitanya's worship was in the mood of Radharani. 

Reference: There is A Story - Compiled from the Books, Lectures and Conversations of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada