Paramahāmsa, Nitai and I received unique, transcendental treasures during our stay in Atlanta. When Śrīla Prabhupāda arrived the weather was rather cold. The devotees presented Śrīla Prabhupāda with warm socks and a pair of canvas walking shoes.
The next morning before the walk I assisted Śrīla Prabhupāda by sliding his transcendental toes into his new pair of shoes with his blessed shoe horn.
After his walk and morning program, Śrīla Prabhupāda rang his bell. I found my way to his new quarters and offered my obeisances. I sat up and looked at Śrīla Prabhupāda.
“These shoes do not fit me,” he said. “If they fit, you can use them.”
“I can’t wear your shoes, Śrīla Prabhupāda,” I immediately answered. “That would be offensive.”
“If I say you can do it, then it is all right,” he gently replied.
I was startled! Śrīla Prabhupāda was always full of surprises, but I never imagined walking in my Guru Mahārāja’s shoes! Like a young boy, I grew increasingly excited with the idea of walking in my spiritual father’s shoes. I heard one should not use the spiritual master’s shoes, so this made the idea even more intriguing.
The notion that I could do it was controversial! I liked it! I had firm faith that when Śrīla Prabhupāda said something was all right, then it was definitely all right. I felt safe and was excited knowing his shoes were filled with incredible potency. Smiling, I agreed to take his shoes. Śrīla Prabhupāda’s generosity continued to flow in my direction.
“Do you need any socks?” he asked.
I have to admit, although it was a gluttonous thing to accept gifts from your spiritual master, I thoroughly enjoyed it. With heightened desire, I cheerfully, yet shamefully, replied, “Yes, I guess I do.”
“All right,” he said. “Take some socks for yourself and give some to Paramahāmsa and Nitai also.”
I happily complied with his instructions. I offered my obeisances, filled my arms with his shoes and some socks and dashed out of the room.
The first thing I did was hurry to a secluded spot like a mischievous child and tried to place my feet into his transcendental footwear. Much like the evil stepsister, my feet were regrettably too big to fit into His Divine Grace’s shoes.
Persistently, I kept trying to squeeze my locust feet into Śrīla Prabhupāda’s magical shoes. Finally, I understood the profound lesson. I practically and symbolically could never walk in Śrīla Prabhupāda’s shoes.
Being playful, I unfortunately did not linger upon the depth of this message.
My rascal nature made me rush to my godbrothers where I capriciously handed them Śrīla Prabhupāda’s socks. I explained that he wanted them to have them. They resisted, chastising me for my improper behavior. They reacted exactly as I had anticipated. I confidently passed on Śrīla Prabhupāda’s benediction in spite of their hearty objections.
The controversy was confirmed by their criticism and sweetened the adventure. Contented, I guaranteed that Śrīla Prabhupāda had given his personal endorsement. They could rest assured that Śrīla Prabhupāda had given his seal of approval and it was all right to wear them.
Hearing this, they excitedly grabbed the socks from my hands and happily put them on to warm their cold toes.
Śrīla Prabhupāda personally utilized everything in Kṛṣṇa’s service or engaged others in this transcendental principle of utility. So, trying to follow in his footsteps, not in his shoes, I quickly got over the fact that the shoes did not fit me. The next time I saw the temple president, I explained that the shoes did not fit Śrīla Prabhupāda properly, so he could have them.
He took them and placed them at the foot of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s vyasasana. Embarrassed, I could not bring myself to tell him what had transpired. I took comfort, however, knowing that it was not possible to contaminate anything that came in contact with our completely pure spiritual master.
Śrīla Prabhupāda, you have showered so much mercy upon me. I have often heard it said, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” I know I was always offensive by not fully comprehending your glorious presence.
Contrary to mundane relationships, the more you benedicted me with your association, the more I appreciated your greatness. You continually express your love to everyone. You reciprocate with genuine affection. As you warmly express your love for your disciples, I have become more and more enchanted and attached to you. You embody all that you preach. You freely give your spiritual love to everyone.
Since your love is unmotivated and unconditional, it never diminishes or becomes cheap. Your love crosses time and space and touches the heart of anyone fortunate enough to receive your transcendental literature. You stay ever-close to the hearts of your faithful disciples, who adhere to your Bhagavat Vani.
Please forgive me for thinking I could walk in your shoes. No one compares to you. I should have known better. Although, I can never fit into your shoes, I pray that someday I may follow in those divine footsteps that you have placed clearly before me.