Can a Pure Devotee Have Personal Preferences?
The first time I encountered this question was in 1966. Devotees were taking lunch prasadam with Srila Prabhupada one day when a young, rather unsubmissive man came into the Swami’s apartment for lunch. I remember that Prabhupada was sprinkling hot sauce on his meal. This young man asked Prabhupada why he was eating this sauce. He replied that he liked it.
The young man became doubtful when Prabhupada said that. He said something to the effect: “You use hot sauce just because you like it? You mean there’s no special spiritual significance?” The young man looked around at us as if to show that he had caught Srila Prabhupada in some relative position, or as if he had defeated him in a debate. I remember thinking that this man’s attitude was ridiculous and offensive, but I also saw the point he was trying to make.
Is Prabhupada’s sprinkling of hot sauce on his meal in this category? Is he doing it for his own sense gratification? Who can know Prabhupada’s inner meditation when he sprinkled that sauce? Also, Vaisnavas are not extreme tyagis. They do not have to prove their devotion by sprinkling ashes on their food or not eating at all. They accept Krishna’s mercy in the form of prasadam. What is the harm if they add seasonings to their food? Prabhupada himself ate very simply. He was elderly and ate things that stimulated his digestion.
His preferences were expressions of Krishna consciousness to us. We were always intrigued and happy to find out the little things that Prabhupada liked. It brought us closer to him. It taught us how to serve him better. In fact, an expert disciple was one who knew exactly how Prabhupada liked his room to be arranged, how to cook for him, how to arrange his schedule, and so on. Even today, the more things you know about how Prabhupada conducted things, the more qualified you to serve in ISKCON.
Sep 25, 2022
Archbishop Eric Escala, Continuing Anglican Church
Sep 24, 2022
Sunanda Das, Temple of the Vedic Planetarium