Always Remain Srila Prabhupada’s Dog

By Giriraj Swami - 6.11 2020

The following incident, described in Watering the Seed, took place exactly forty-five years ago.

Almost every morning in Bombay Srila Prabhupada used to walk on Juhu Beach. One morning I was feeling especially wretched and miserable. Although so many other devotees were present, Srila Prabhupada began to speak as if he were addressing me personally.

He quoted a Sanskrit verse and said there are two words—a-natha and sa-natha. Natha means “master,” so a-natha means “without master” and sa-natha means “with master.” The whole goal of life is to become sa-natha, “with master.”

In the morning on Juhu Beach many gentlemen used to walk their dogs. Srila Prabhupada pointed to a fat and fit gentleman walking with an equally fat and fit dog. The man was walking briskly and confidently with his dog on his leash, and the dog was walking equally briskly and confidently with his master by his side. Srila Prabhupada commented that every dog wants a good master. If the dog has a good master he is happy. He holds his head high; he wags his tail. He knows that his master will maintain and protect him, so he has no anxiety.

But the street dog—“The poor fellow has no master. Therefore he is always suffering.” Srila Prabhupada then pointed to some stray dogs. “They have no master. They do not know where they will sleep, how they will get food. Other dogs bark at them; children throw stones at them. They are always in anxiety.”

Srila Prabhupada stopped walking. He planted his cane firmly in the sand of Juhu Beach. Although I stood behind many of the devotees who moved close around him, with his eyes laden with love and compassion he looked in my eyes. “So we should be sanatha, protected, not anatha—orphan. We should have our master and be exclusively devoted to him. Then we will feel confident in his protection and always be happy.”

Quoting the verse again, Srila Prabhupada explained each Sanskrit word. Mano-ratha: the chariot of the mind. Mental concoction is driving us here, there, here, there. We have no peace. But when we have our perfect master to serve, we become peaceful, prasanta, and jubilant: “I have got my master. I have no cares and anxiety.” This is the ideal of life, to become sanatha-jivitam, living with hope that “I have got my master who will give me protection.”

I knew that Srila Prabhupada was speaking directly to me, addressing my present need in Krishna consciousness. Without my even asking or saying anything, he knew my heart and gave the perfect solution through his instructions. Thus he exemplified the verse from Srimad-Bhagavatam (3.7.36):

anuvratanam sisyanam
  putranam ca dvijottama
anaprsrstam api bruyur
  guravo dina-vatsalah

 “Those who are spiritual masters are very kind to the needy. They are always kind to their followers, disciples, and sons, and without being asked by them, the spiritual master describes all that is knowledge.”

Thereafter, I always tried to remember and follow the instructions Srila Prabhupada gave me on Juhu Beach.

Although I had caught some of the words from the verse and Srila Prabhupada’s explanation, I very much wanted to find the verse—but could not. Then several years later I came across the same verse quoted in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta:

bhavantam evanucaran nirantarah
kadaham aikantika-nitya-kinkarah
  praharsayisyami sanatha-jivitam

“By serving You constantly, one is freed from all material desires and is completely pacified. When shall I engage as Your permanent eternal servant and always feel joyful to have such a fitting master?” (Cc Madhya 1.206)

Reading the purport, I found the same instructions Srila Prabhupada had given on Juhu Beach: “Just as a dog or servant is very satisfied to get a competent, perfect master, or as a child is completely satisfied to possess a competent father, so the living entity is satisfied by completely engaging in the service of the Supreme Lord. He thereby knows that he has a competent master to save him from all kinds of danger.”

I realized that Srila Prabhupada is so perfect that he always spoke on the basis of scripture. At the same time, because of his tremendous compassion and humanity, he could say just the right thing in the right way to deeply touch the heart of the listener.

Now whenever I walk on Juhu Beach and see the different types of dogs—those with masters and those without—I remember Srila Prabhupada’s instructions and pray that I will always remain Srila Prabhupada’s dog.

—Giriraj Swami