September 5 2008 

 Prabhupada almost always traveled with a secretary and a personal servant.  Devotees are naturally fascinated by what went on in the privacy of Srila Prabhupada’s rooms and how these devotees carried out their services.

 On 17-May-08 I got this question from Ilya Zaharov in Russia:

“I would like to ask about Shrila Prabhupada’s personal servants and secretaries: what exactly was their service and functions? How did they serve Shrila Prabhupada?

Answer Here are five of us in this photo taken on June 11, 1976 on Prabhupada’s arrival at the airport in Detroit:


On the left is former servant/secretary Satsvarupa Das Goswami; with dark hair wearing white is longest-serving servant, Sruta Kirti prabhu; immediately behind Prabhupada and partly obscurred is personal security man Raksana prabhu; carrying danda is secretary Pusta Krsna Swami; and that’s me on the far right. Its a big topic and here’s a very brief overview:

The servant looked after all Srila Prabhupada’s personal needs, such as giving his massages, preparing his bathing, cooking, shaving his head, making sure everything was cleaned everyday, such as rooms and clothing, packing his suitcase, carrying his personal paraphernalia and being on hand whenever he rang his bell. The servant was always the one who was expected to answer the bell, not the secretary.  The servant would also help Srila Prabhupada put his shoes and coat on and off (doesn’t sound much but it was one of the more blissful items!). 

 When Srila Prabhupada traveled by airplane it was generally the servant who sat next to him. On international trips temples would supply first class tickets for Prabhupada and servant, and the rest of the party would travel ecomony.

Because I couldn’t cook, there was a host of devotees who did that service during the 16 months I traveled with Prabhupada. Harikesa prabhu was the cook when I first joined the party in November 1975, and again briefly when he came back on as secretary in July of 1976. In America and again in India in late 1976 it was mainly Palika dasi, but also Srutirupa dasi and sometimes Arundhati dasi. Nandarani dasi,  Yamuna dasi, Parijata dasi, Kaushalya dasi, Kishori dasi all cooked, as did Bhanu das brahmacari and Sukadeva dasa.  

Prabhupada described the function of the secretary in a nutshell to Hansaduta Swami in Hyderabad in December 1976 as ‘one who keeps the secrets’.

The secretary took care of all correspondence, travel arrangements, appointments for visitors and liasons with local temple presidents and GBCs. Secretaries were, by Prabhupada’s preference, nearly always GBC men and he had a system that any GBC could join him for a month on his travels, as a visiting GBC secretary.

 Although it was generally the secretary who took charge of recording the daily classes, walks and conversations, due to pressure of work Pusta Krsna Swami handed that service over to me in May 1976, a service I did till I left the party in March 1977. I loved doing that service because it kept me constantly hearing Srila Prabhupada throughout the day and gave me the perfect reason to always be in his company as we traveled:

recording morning walk nectar

Apart from servant and secretary there were occasions when additional members traveled. Sanskrit editor Pradyumna prabhu re-joined the party in May of 1976 and stayed on until Prabhupada’s disappearance in November 1977. Pradyumna was probably the longest serving personal assistant to travel with Prabhupada. Pradyumna’s wife Arundhati also joined the party in June 1976 to transcribe Srila Prabhupada’s nightly SB dictations. Their six-years-old son Aniruddha was our traveling mascot.

Other members included Raksana dasa, personal body guard while Prabhupada was in America, and Aksaya dasa, Prabhupada’s door guard in India from August 1976 – March 1977.

For a typical day in Srila Prabhupada’s schedule please read the entry from December 5 1975 in the first volume of Transcendental Diary.

Your humble servant,

Hari-sauri dasa

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