Cobras in Srila Prabhupada’s Quarters
As I walked past the first toilet stall a huge six feet long cobra quickly slithered past me into the stall. Terrified I raced out of the bathroom as fast as my shaking body could take me. I was not sure what kind of snake it was. I didn’t want to create a big scene and interrupt Srila Prabhupada’s darshan…
October 1974, Mayapura, India;
Camp: ISKCON Candrodaya Mandir
During the month of October (Kartik) Srila Prabhupada benedicted the devotees in Mayapur with his association. It was an especially pleasant time of year in India. Srila Prabhupada’s and his entourage stayed on the side of the Mandir furthest from the road, up on the second floor. Srila Prabhupada’s quarters consisted of two rooms and his entourage stayed in another two. There was a large bathroom facility at each end of the building. In each bathroom were four shower stalls and four toilet stalls.
One late afternoon Srila Prabhupada was giving darsana in his sitting room. I did some clean up work in Srila Prabhupada’s bathroom after His Divine Grace’s shower. The entire bathroom facility was exclusively used by His Divine Grace for the duration of his visit. As I walked past the first toilet stall a huge six feet long cobra quickly slithered past me into the stall. Terrified I raced out of the bathroom as fast as my shaking body could take me. I was not sure what kind of snake it was. I didn’t want to create a big scene and interrupt Srila Prabhupada’s darshan. In spite of my inhibition, Krsna ordained that the first devotee I happened upon was Bhavananda Maharaja. My heart racing I said, “Bhavananda, Bhavananda, there’s a snake in Prabhupada’s bathroom. It went right by my feet and just missed me!”
Of course, my plan to keep calm and not create a disturbance was obviously not what Krsna wanted so He engaged Bhavananda Maharaja in the drama. Bhavananda loudly burst into Srila Prabhupada’s sitting room, arms flailing he dramatically exclaimed, “OOOHHH! Prabhupada! There is a snake in your bathroom! We need help! Let’s call Rasaparayana!” Rasaparayana was the big, strong temple Ksatriya. “Come on, let’s call Rasaparayana!” Bhavananda yelled as we ran out of Srila Prabhupada’s quarters.
We effectively terminated the tranquil darshan. Srila Prabhupada and his disciples left the room moving out onto the wrap around verandah. A couple of devotees went into the bathroom to search for the serpent while the others stayed out on the porch. Srila Prabhupada quietly chanted japa, walking back and forth on the verandah undisturbed.
Bhavananda started speculating, “It must have been left by someone from the Gaudiya Math, otherwise how could the serpent get up to the second floor.” Others agreed, saying it wasn’t possible for a snake to appear on an upper floor without being planted. Some theorized perhaps it was a communist plot. Since I was a visitor to this sacred Mayapur Dhama I wasn’t knowledgeable of the local political scene. I concluded that the serpent just happened to appear in Srila Prabhupada’s bathroom.
Rasaparayana stalked about with knife in hand trying to find the snake. He informed us, “They travel in pairs, so if there is one, then it’s mate is probably nearby.” Finally he saw part of the huge serpent’s body sticking out of the plumbing work in one of the toilet stalls. He reported the good news to the devotees out on the verandah. With great excitement Bhavananda and others began chanting, “Kill it! Kill it!” Srila Prabhupada remained outside still chanting softly on his beads. He didn’t give any instructions on this dilemma. Rasaparayana chopped the cobra’s body in two with his sharp knife. With determined resolution he said, “We’ll keep looking. There must be another one.” The devotees began to realize that the snakes probably came up through the plumbing. It wasn’t a communist plot after all. Several anxious minutes passed searching for the other intruder. Rasaparayana finally spotted the mate in the network of pipes behind the toilets. Once discovered, it quickly slithered down the pipes, escaping, never to be seen again, hopefully.
After everyone settled down, we went back into Srila Prabhupada’s sitting room. He said, “Sometimes, these snakes mission is to kill a certain person. They will not stop until they succeed. Particularly at the end of the snake’s life, sometimes, the snake grows wings. He has a particular person that he is to kill. The snake will kill that person and then it goes off to die.” I remember a few times in Mayapura in the quiet of the evening, Srila Prabhupada would point out a sound, “Hear that sound. That is the snakebird. It has a special sound.” All the devotees present would become very quiet for a time in hopes of hearing it again. I became a little frightened wondering if I was next.
That evening in Srila Prabhupada’s bedroom I gently massaged his legs. The room was quiet and dark. He began chuckling and, “So, what shall I do if I am here and the snake comes. Only one snake has been killed. Perhaps the other will come and get me tonight.” He seemed to enjoy the remembrance of everyone’s anxiety during the day. I understood from his tone that he was not at all concerned about the snake. I encouraged his discussion by saying, “I don’t know Srila Prabhupada.” He replied, “Well, we are not afraid of snakebite. We’ll not worry about it. If it comes, it comes. We will just chant Hare Krsna.” I finished massaging my beloved spiritual master. He peacefully took rest, his fearless mind fixed on the Supreme Lord. Conversely, I went back to my room anxiously wondering where the other snake was.
Srila Prabhupada, you are my hero. You are the fearless pure devotee of the Lord. Once on a morning walk in Mayapura when everyone was discussing their fearful concerns about nuclear war you said, “If the bomb comes we will look up in the sky and say, ‘Here comes Krsna.’” Please, benedict me with unflinching faith in you so that I have no fear within this material world. I want to be able to chant the Holy Names as the snakebird flies preparing to inflict it’s final bite.
- From the Srila Prabhupada Uvaca by HG Srutakirti Dasa