Prabhupada and the Ants
I watched as hundreds of ants ascended up the leg of the choki, circling his plate to finally descend upon his prasadam. They seemed to know exactly when they were allowed on a certain preparation. Srila Prabhupada would eat in stages. First there were the vegetables and chapatis, the rice was mixed in later on and then finally the sweets were eaten. Initially they would congregate around the plate.
June 1973; Mayapura, India;
Camp: ISKCON, Mayapura Candrodaya Mandir
In Mayapur, Srila Prabhupada lived in two rooms. One room was his sitting room where he translated and received guests. Next door was his bedroom, but he also used it to honor prasadam, so there was a small marble prasadam table (choki) set against the wall to the right of his bed.
June is generally very hot, so when Srila Prabhupada took lunch prasadam sometimes I would fan him with a peacock fan. It not only created a breeze but also kept the flies away. However, when Srila Prabhupada took his lunch it immediately became known by the resident ant population. They always had scouts running along the walls and within minutes of putting his plate on the table, they would call in the battalions. Once, in Los Angeles Srila Prabhupada told me to put some turmeric down at the spots they were entering. It worked in Los Angeles. I suppose those ants were more materialistic. The ants in Mayapur could not be stopped. Obviously, they were spiritual entities and they could not be discouraged from taking maha prasadam remnants from the plate of the pure devotee.
I watched as hundreds of ants ascended up the leg of the choki, circling his plate to finally descend upon his prasadam. They seemed to know exactly when they were allowed on a certain preparation. Srila Prabhupada would eat in stages. First there were the vegetables and chapatis, the rice was mixed in later on and then finally the sweets were eaten. Initially they would congregate around the plate. Gradually they would work their way onto the preparations that Srila Prabhupada had finished with. It seemed like the ants had a little courtesy. Finally, Srila Prabhupada would finish his meal with a few sweets and get up to wash. For the ants the moment they had been waiting for had arrived. They knew now was the time to dive into the sweets. Incredibly, Srila Prabhupada never said one word about them during this daily attack on his lunch.
This was not an isolated incident. It happened with great regularity. There seemed to be an arrangement between the pure devotee and these tiny insects. He was free to take as much time as he wanted and they were allowed to eat whatever he was finished with. I tried to get to the plates as quickly as possible after he finished so that there was something left to distribute to his disciples. As Srila Prabhupada said in Calcutta, “It’s all right, they don’t eat very much.” One day while I was fanning him during lunch Srila Prabhupada began to chuckle. He said, “This is the Vedic custom. The wife, she would fan the husband while he ate. After he was done, whatever he would leave, she would take.” Laughing he said, “In this way she always make sure there was plenty of prasadam. Otherwise, she may not eat. But, that was strictly a custom.” Still smiling he continued, “Actually, in the Vedic culture that was the woman’s role. They served in two ways, one by cooking nice foodstuff, the other by providing nice sex life. This is the essence of material life. Of course the difference is in Krishna Consciousness, we stress chastity, being chaste.”
Quietly fanning Srila Prabhupada as he ate I was overwhelmed with embarrassment. This subject was a source of great attraction and aversion for me due to my fascination with the opposite sex and my constant endeavor to control my senses. I stood by trying to appreciate the knowledge he was imparting. Tongue-tied, I didn’t dare say a word being completely attached to material life.
Srila Prabhupada was completely transcendental. Only he could sit and eat with legions of insects preparing to attack his remnants. Only he could speak about sex enjoyment without reservation because he had no attraction to material life. Being the all- compassionate pure devotee he was able to understand our fallen condition, patiently extricate us and give us the opportunity to perform devotional service.
– From the Srila Prabhupada Uvaca by HG Srutakirti Dasa