Do Vaisnavas drink Tulasi Tea?
In 1975 Srila Prabhupada visited Govinda’s restaurant in Honolulu, Hawaii. I think it was the first Govinda’s in Iskcon, although at it’s second location in the University area.
The devotees working there were eager to serve their Spiritual Master the day he came to see the restaurant. He was very happy to visit a place where Prasadam was distributed, after all, it is the ‘secret weapon.’ He tried a few items. He had a fresh salad. He didn’t care for the mound of alfalfa sprouts that were generously placed on the top. Of course, he had some crispy cauliflower pakoras, fried in ghee.
Srila Prabhupada tried one of the amazing avo-cheese sandwich wraps, on a freshly made 10″ chapati. Adikarta prabhu could make a three-inch high stack of them, all exactly the same perfect circles.
On that was placed the veggie Monterey Jack cheese that was fried on the grill atop 3 slices of tomato. Once the cheese was beginning to get crisp, Bhakta Knut would scrape it off the grill with his spatula and slide it onto the freshly made chapati. The avo spread was next and a few sprouts, of course, then a sprinkle of masala.
However, what I remember most is when he was given a glass of refreshing iced Tulasi tea. He asked what it was. We explained how there was so much Tulasi in Hawaii, that after we offer the Tulasi garlands to Lord Chaitanya we bring the Prasadam to the restaurant and make a tea out of Her. He said, “That is not to be done!” He understood we were cooking Her to make the tea. He explained how we could put Her in a glass jar in the sun and that it was the accepted way.
In recent years this pure devotee of Krsna, Tulasi Maharani, has become one of the latest wonder cures for various diseases. She is even in some shampoos and other hair care products. Every grocery store in America has Tulasi tea on their shelves.
When I was in India for two months during Kartika I had various health issues. Every Ayura Vedic doctor prescribed Tulasi cough syrup as the best for my cough. I requested and settled for the next best. My cough was severe and lasted over a month, and frankly, made other complications.
I’m sitting here in Hawaii, a few miles away from where the restaurant was located. I was gratefully reminded of this story from a good friend and godbrother, Svatantra , or Sva as he was affectionately called in the olden days.
For the first time, I made a bit of Tulasi sun tea. She does have incredible healing properties and I need all the healing I can get. I didn’t add any sweetener. It’s very pleasant, as some of you know. Who knows, maybe I’ll do it again by putting her in the sun.
I have always witnessed the lenient side of my Spiritual Master but then there were times like this. There was no question. Tulasi Maharani is the topmost devotee. She for the pleasure of Krishna. She cures us by giving us Bhakti. She isn’t meant to be used for mundane cures.
I’m putting this out there for those who might find this helpful.
By Srutakirti das
Room Conversation About Deity-Making and Tulasi Tea
Govinda dāsī: Śrīla Prabhupāda, can I ask one question?
Govinda dāsī: On the tulasī plants. Sometimes they are taking and putting in…, they boil some water and put the tulasī and make some tea and drink it. Is that… I’ve been told both that it’s wrong, and I’ve been told that it’s okay, and I’m wondering whether or not it’s…?
Prabhupāda: Not wrong.
Govinda dāsī: Is it wrong to heat the tulasī, to put, put her in hot water, or is, is that okay?
Prabhupāda: No, it is not wrong, but they are constantly doing that?
Hari-śauri: Oh, I don’t know whether they’re constantly doing it.
Govinda dāsī: There’s so much tulasī that they sell it, tulasī tea, at the restaurant, which is…
Govinda dāsī: …people like it…
Hari-śauri: …but Prabhupada…
Govinda dāsī: …it’s very tasty.
Hari-śauri: Prabhupada said that’s all right.
Govinda dāsī: Yeah, that’s very tasty. There’s just, there’s tons of tulasī, and there’s, there’s…
Prabhupāda: No. That they cannot drink themselves. For customers, that’s all right.
Govinda dāsī: All right. It’s not good for devotees to drink it?
Hari-śauri: No. Because it encourages tea-drinking habit. Becomes a habit to drink tea.
Hari-śauri: So the devotees shouldn’t…, shouldn’t drink anything like that, unless it’s medicinal. Unless they’re sick, they have a fever, and tulasī…
Prabhupāda: Tulasī drink, drink is very palatable.
Govinda dāsī: It’s very palatable. I used to put tulasī in your water, remember? We used to put…
Govinda dāsī: …tulasī flowers in your water, and it flavors the water. Well, when boiled water is poured on it, it’s supposedly very medicinal too. And they drink the tea with a little bit maybe of honey or drink it plain. And it’s very palatable. Customers like it. I’ve…, I used to drink it, but I heard that it was an offense to, to drink it, so I didn’t know. I just thought it was really good.
Prabhupāda: No. That as soon as we like it, that means sense gratification.
Hari-śauri: Once you drink it for the taste…
Govinda dāsī: But we like prasādam. [laughing] I didn’t know, so I… I didn’t know if it was wrong.
Govinda dāsī: I thought to heat the tulasīs, what I’d heard…
Prabhupāda: Tulasī, tulasī leaf you can take, but…
Govinda dāsī: Heat. Eat, but not the…
Prabhupāda: …but this tea habit, that means we may revive our tea-drinking. That is.
Govinda dāsī: Oh, I see.
Prabhupāda: Otherwise, tulasī leaf eating is good. You can eat leaf, especially palatable with water. Water, that is good. But you make it, imitation tea, that means I remember tea-drinking.
Govinda dāsī: I see. Especially the English. That will be very difficult for the Englishmen.
Date: May 21, 1976
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