Unlimited Hospitality of the Jariwala Family
Posted December 9, 2008
While travelling with Srila Prabhupad in the early days in India, we were often guests in the homes of Indian devotees and supporters. One one occasion, Srila Prabhupad was in Surat, Gujarat for several weeks, and the entire city honored him with big parades and wonderful, enthusiastic and respectful gatherings. Srila Prabhupad mentioned at one point, "This is a city of devotees!"
We were guests, all 20 or 25 of us, in the home of a retired banker, Sri Bhagubhai Jariwala, who took care of us in a most wonderful way. We were all young westerners, still filled with western habits, even though we were learning the Vedic culture and doing our best to apply it in our daily lives.
Every day, we would be served wonderful prasadam by Mr. Jariwala and his extended family. None of them ever took any prasadam until every one of us had been fully satisfied. Sometimes there was nothing left after our voracious appetites had been satiated, and still they would serve every last bit of it to us if we would accept. Often they would have to cook again for their family, sometimes many hours after their normal meal time.
For a good part of the time we were there, many of us had campylobacterial dysentery from ingesting contaminated water or food, and were completely out of commission. Many of us were so sick that we could not even take care of our own personal cleanliness very well; it was quite intense. Not only did Mr. Jariwala and his family serve us with unlimited prasadam, they also cleaned up after us and did all our wash daily, which was often gross.
There was a few young and passionate brahmacharis present who for some reason had not yet developed proper Vaishnava etiquette. They would even speak rudely to Mr. Jariwala and his family, ordering them to do things or chastising them in some way. I'm sure they had never seen this kind of behavior before, but none of them took offense, and everyone continued to serve in a wonderful way. Sometimes someone would shout at the servers at mealtime: "Hey, bring me more subji!" or something that could very easily be seen as offensive.
Never once did the Jariwala family take offense. All they did was humbly serve the devotees with a smile on their face and Krishna in their heart. What they saw was a chance to serve devotees, even though we didn't act very much like devotees. Isn't that Lord Chaitanya's Siksastakam instructions for us, after all — to respect all others without any desire to be respected ourselves?
On the last day of our stay, Mr. Jariwala asked if we could all gather in Srila Prabhupad's room. I can still remember it clearly, and the powerful effect it had on me then, as well as many other times over the years.
Here is what he said to us, after giving each of us an envelope with a thank-you card and 51 rupees: "My family and I are so honored and blessed to have had the chance to serve all of you, especially Your Divine Grace Srila Prabhupad. Please forgive us for the many offenses we have committed against you." At this point he began to cry, bowed down, and paid his humble obeisances to every devotee present.
Srila Prabhupad looked at each of us, looking deep into our eyes and soul, and said very powerfully: "This is a real Vaishnava. He sees no faults, even though there may be many. You should all take his pure example and follow it as much as possible."
This was a very wealthy man who was well known and highly respected in a town full of devotees. We were young, uneducated westerners for the most part, who had not even learned how to be polite and control our senses yet.
I have remembered this story hundreds of times over the years, and have been able to use the example of this great and humble Vaishnava to move past some old programmed habits and learn how to be a devotee in action, rather than just someone who dresses the part but hasn't learned how to act it yet.
Hoping this story inspires you as it did me, all glories to His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupad. All glories to His Grace Sri Bhagubhai Jariwala. All glories to the Vaishnava devotees everywhere. I pray to become more like them.