It is not a question whether I go or you go, but if anyone takes to Krishna consciousness he will go back to Godhead.
Coming out of the temple to go for his morning walk, Srila Prabhupada was always accompanied by his servant. As he walked towards the luxurious car, almost the whole community of men and women devotees gathered in front of the temple to see and greet him. "Everyone can see I am Prabhupada's new servant'" I thought. The real thrill, however, was not that my peers could see me, but that Prabhupada now allowed me to always be close to him.
For his morning walks, Prabhupada went, on alternate mornings, to Venice Beach and the Cheviot Hills golf course. His Ph.D. disciple Svarupa Damodara would play the role of a challenging scientist, and Srila Prabhupada would destroy the atheistic theories with devastating logic. Another disciple, Prajapati, had studied at a Christian seminary, and Prabhupada would call to him, "Where is the theologian?" Prajapati would tell Prabhupada some of the latest wild speculations of well-known theologians, and Prabhupada would expose their foolishness while asserting the universal principles of Krishna consciousness. I took no particular role, but was mostly silent and very happy to be there. For me it was easier to be attentive while walking in the morning with Srila Prabhupada than it was sitting down in the temple during a lecture. If I did speak up on the walks, it was often to raise a doubt.
One morning Srila Prabhupada said, "In the Upanishads it says that the sun is God's eye. Unless God sees, you cannot see." As he spoke, the sun rose blazing on the horizon. "What does the atheist say about this?"
I suddenly felt duty-bound to give the atheist's version. "The atheist doesn't believe the sun is God's eye," I said, "because he cannot see the person whose eye it is supposed to be."
Prabhupada replied, "So, sometimes you see a cat's eye, but don't see the cat. So by this process you can see Krishna in everything?the universal form." His answer stopped me, but after a pause I spoke again.
"They don't like that you have to surrender first and then learn."
"Well, that is the process in any field," Prabhupada replied, "You have to accept authority in order to learn."
I tried to remember Srutakirti's advice not to impose myself upon Prabhupada, but there were many occasions when Prabhupada seemed to welcome philosophical discourse. He even said that a disciple should make praises of the spiritual master when he comes before him. I was unfortunately slow to make such praise, but it was more natural for me to make a philosophical inquiry, which I also saw as a way to glorify Srila Prabhupada.
In the back seat of the car, while returning from the morning walk, I asked, "Srila Prabhupada, can we go back to Godhead in this life?"
"Yes, why not?" Prabhupada replied, glancing my way. He held his cane at an angle so it rested on the floor of the car. Everything about Prabhupada was purely Krishna conscious, but it seemed especially so when he was speaking.
"But one has to be free of all material desires," I said.
"Krishna consciousness means no more material desires," Prabhupada answered.
"If someone asked me if he could go back to Godhead in one life," I pursued, "I would say yes. But if he asked me whether I was going back to Godhead, I don't know if I could definitely say yes." Prabhupada recognized the problem, and as master preacher, he immediately gave his advice.
"No," he said. "It is not a question whether I go or you go, but if anyone takes to Krishna consciousness he will go back to Godhead. Krishna says. Of course, if we are preaching, it is not that we are exporting them by consignment back to Godhead and we are not going." Prabhupada laughed. "It is expected," he said, "that the preacher is going also. Just like with our books, our students are very expert at selling them but not at reading them. That is not very good. They should read the books also."
It occurred to me that of all the special privileges afforded the servant, these extra opportunities to inquire from Srila Prabhupada would have the most lasting and significant benefit.
Two weeks went by, and I began to learn the daily routine. My cooking became acceptable, and my Isaac Newton tendencies came more under my control. Along with Srila Prabhupada I began to took forward to his up-coming tour that would take us to Hawaii, Japan, Hong Kong, and to India. One of the devotees who worked at the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust gave me a camera and asked that I take pictures of Srila Prabhupada wherever we went. At my request, they also gave me a new portable typewriter. The manager of Prabhupada's tape ministry gave me charge of a heavy Uher tape recorder and showed me how to use it to record Prabhupada's lectures and talks. So I was well-equipped for world travel as the secretary-servant. All I needed was faith and devotion?the kind that could overcome obstacles?and I hoped to gain that by staying with Srila Prabhupada.