August 18

Last day in Skopje. Tomorrow I leave for Sophia and the day after, Kolkata India, via Frankfurt.

One of our devotees here is a dentist. On advice from Bhakti Vaibhava Maharaja who had his teeth fixed here a few weeks ago, I went to visit Vraja Kishore this morning and spent an hour and half under the drill, laser, air gun and suction pump.

I love my visits to the dentist

Not a pleasant experience. Not that he’s a bad dentist. I just find it a bit difficult keeping my mouth open for so long (yeah right! I can hear you say). I can’t breath well through my nose (more surprises, it’s certainly big enough) and my jaw almost locks at the joints. On top of that, this time I didn’t have any anaesthetic because Vraja promised me that the new laser techniques were much less painful.

Actually it wasn’t that bad, although I did nearly jump out of my seat a few times. One of my teeth has been sensitive for months and when he checked it, cavities were forming around the old filling, and there was a small crack in the wall. He fixed it up by replacing the filling and cleaning out the crack. There were also cavities forming around some of the other teeth, so he removed them also. I guess it pays to get your teeth checked on a regular basis.

Everytime I have to get dental work done, it makes me appreciate all the more the amazing tolerance to pain that Srila Prabhupada had. He lost a couple of teeth when I was with him in 1976, but refused any dental treatment. He just sucked on a couple of cloves, took some extra rest, and when the tooth got too bad, he just pulled it out himself:

[TD 2] June 17 1976 – Toronto

Srila Prabhupada’s toothache is far worse. His face is beginning to swell and he didn’t take much for breakfast. Jagadisa asked him if he had a headache.

Prabhupada shook his head. “No, there is some pain. My teeth are now useless. So it is all rotten now. Sometimes it becomes acute. There is no strength in the teeth. Some of them, fifty percent, have already fallen. Therefore I cannot eat.”

So far Prabhupada hasn’t taken any remedial measure. He is simply tolerating the pain. I asked him a little later if we could get a pain killer or something from India, but he refused. “No, don’t worry. It will be all right.”

* * *

June 18 1976

After taking breakfast Prabhupada slept until noon. His face is now badly swollen and he has a severe toothache, but he refuses to visit a dentist. Better let it fall out by itself, he said, because a dentist will want to extract all of them. He simply sucks an occasional clove to help deaden the pain.

It is yet another amazing display of his bodily detachment. Any ordinary man would be in agony, completely disturbed mentally, and complaining all the time. But Prabhupada sits quietly and tolerates it without so much as a murmur.

* * *

June 19th, 1976

Srila Prabhupada’s face is still quite swollen from the bad tooth, but he has not mentioned the problem except when someone else brings it to attention. He remains tolerant and transcendental and does not allow his preaching schedule to be affected in any way.

* * *

[TD 4] August 12, 1976 – Tehran

As we prepared to go Srila Prabhupada went over some of the details of how to make his toothpaste with Harikesa, who had been the first to make it for him. Harikesa laughed at the suggestion that they use the bitter nim powder instead of calcium carbonate. He didn’t think anyone would be able to tolerate the taste.

I reminded Srila Prabhupada of what he had said in London about his toothpaste. “You said your teeth were so rotten they want to fall out, but the toothpaste won’t allow them.”

Srila Prabhupada grinned. “Yes, actually my teeth have gone all bad. It is useless. But on account of this toothpaste it is still working.” He gave a laugh. “Otherwise, according to dental science, it has to be extracted. It is no other remedy. If you go to a dentist, immediately he will say, ‘Extract all this and have a new set, artificial.’ That is, I know that. But I don’t want to extract. As far as possible, use them and let them fall out automatically, as they have already fallen out so many. Fifty percent already fallen out, and twenty-five percent are shaking, and still I am eating. Otherwise, according to the dental science, I should not eat any salt.

“In Bengal there is a word that when teeth is rotten, then your eating is gone. You cannot digest, you cannot eat. If the foodstuff is not properly chewed, it causes digestive disturbance. Digestive disturbance means so many diseases. This coughing is due to digestive disturbance. I know that.”

August 15, 1976 – Bombay

Srila Prabhupada rang his buzzer early this morning. I entered his room, offered my obeisances, looked up — and got a shock. Srila Prabhupada was smiling — revealing a gap where his tooth should have been.

With mixed dismay and surprise I asked, “Srila Prabhupada, what happened to your tooth?”

Without saying anything, Srila Prabhupada reached down and pulled open the drawer of his desk. The tooth was lying inside. During the night it had either fallen out, or Srila Prabhupada had pulled it out. He had simply put in the drawer and then gone on with his work. I was both amazed and concerned — another tooth gone and Srila Prabhupada had not said a word.

But then as I sat before him, another thought flashed through my mind. In Sri Caitanya-caritamrta I recalled how because Maharaja Prataparudra was unable to personally associate with Lord Caitanya he obtained a piece of the Lord’s clothing which he worshipped as if it were Lord Caitanya Himself. It occurred to me that at some point in the future my personal service to Srila Prabhupada would stop. However, if I had the tooth, I could worship it instead and get the same benefit.

But I was torn. I knew full well that the spiritual master is never to be asked for anything. Yet at the same time I realized that within a second or two he would close the drawer and the tooth would disappear into the bowels of the desk.

I made a snap decision and hoped I wasn’t being offensive. “Ahm, Srila Prabhupada? Do you think that I could have that tooth?”

Srila Prabhupada didn’t say a word. Reaching into the drawer he picked up the tooth and, with a smile, dropped it into my hand.

Ecstasy! With relief and excitement surging through me, I offered my obeisances and returned to my room, eager to give it a closer inspection.

Srila Prabhuapda’s lower left canine.

The tooth, a lower canine, is astonishing: a huge cavity has eaten away more than half the side at the point where the tooth entered the gum. Bits of prasadam (spices and the like) are lodged inside, as if some squirrel has stored them away for a rainy day. How many more of his teeth must be in the same condition I can only speculate; and how he is able to tolerate such a condition is inconceivable.

I have carefully put the tooth in a bag with other pieces of his paraphernalia. When the right time comes I shall worship it and thus keep up my direct service to His Divine Grace’s transcendental body.” [end]

And I do worship it, every day. Eventually I intend to put it in the Puspa Samadhi in Mayapur, but only if they can gaurantee that it won’t be stolen or lost.

I showed it to Shyamasundara prabhu (1967) a couple of years back when we were both passing through the Chowpatti temple. He told me another amazing story of how he got a tooth from Srila Prabhupada too.

They were flying to Japan. Srila Prabhupada, Shyama, and Tamal Krishna Goswami were all sitting in a row. Shyama turned around in mid-flight to see Srila Prabhupada with his fingers in his mouth, moving them vigorously around. Now, you never saw Srila Prabhupada put his fingers in his mouth, not even when eating. So Shyama was really surprised. Then suddenly, Prabhupada yanks a tooth right out of his mouth. He calmly turns to an astonished Shyama and drops it into his hand!

TKG is watching the whole drama. Always quick to sieze an opportunity, TKG leans over and says “Hey, could I have that?” Shyama told me that he wasn’t attached so he promptly handed it over to his eager companion.

Where is that tooth now? That’s another story which I will tell in another posting.

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