I was introduced to the Krishna Consciousness Movement and introduced to Srila Prabhupada by first receiving a copy of Bhagavad Gita As It Is. Sometimes people ask me, “When is the first time you met Srila Prabhupada?” And my answer is always, “I first met Srila Prabhupada in the fall of 1972.” That’s because that was when I got my first copy of “Bhagavad-gita As It Is”, and that was really my first meeting with Srila Prabhupada. It was when I purchased “Bhagavad-gita As It Is” in a bookstore. Physically, the first time I saw Srila Prabhupada was in 1975, in March, 1975. I was already his initiated disciple. And I saw him for the first time after taking both first and second initiation from him without seeing him physically. But my first meeting was when I read “Bhagavad -gita As It Is”.
I was living in Washington D.C. at that time. I was self-employed. I was a carpenter and used to remodel people’s homes. I was twenty years old and I was very interested in Eastern philosophy. I had read many books that were very popular in the sixties, especially amongst the hippie generation. I had already been dabbling with Eastern philosophy in my teenage years having read many books independently from my studies in school and in the university. So having been exposed to different types of Eastern philosophy, I was very much interested in finding a philosophy which I felt was consistent with my aspirations in life, though, to be honest, at that time in my life, I didn’t know what my aspirations really were. All I knew was that I was looking for something that was consistent with what I thought would make me happy. I also noticed that I was a very impressionable youth and that whatever philosophy book I read became my philosophy at the time until I read a different philosophy book. As soon as I read one book, then I was speaking about that philosophy and about that author and I would try to embrace his teachings. And then when I would read another book, I would embrace that philosopher, with his teachings, and then gradually I began experiencing some internal conflict when I saw that they were contradictions between these different philosophers and their conclusions. And that made it even more of a challenge, when I purchased “Bhagavad-gita As It Is”, because I already had a little skepticism in me. “What is going to be my new philosophy, and what new contradictions am I going to confront now?”
So I was living in Washington, D.C. on Connecticut Avenue. I walked into Brentano’s bookstore looking for a book on yoga, and I immediately went to the Eastern Philosophy and Yoga section. I picked up different books, looked through them, and then I saw Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita As It Is. It was printed by the Macmillan company in 1971. I immediately opened up to a picture of a yogi, sitting in meditation, and it showed the soul, going through the body, and leaving the body and exiting to a place unknown. So I thought that it looked like a very interesting book on yoga, although I was thinking about a different type of yoga at that time. Somehow that book attracted me, and I purchased it for the price listed on the back of the book. And twenty years later I found out that that book was never part of the inventory of that bookstore. I found out from one devotee, who actually put that book on the shelf in that bookstore, that he had placed Prabhupada’s book there on the shelf.
That devotee’s name is Damodara dasa. From time to time, he used to go into different bookstores and he just kind of dropped Prabhupada’s books on the bookshelves and just leave it there. And I happened to be the person who picked up that one copy that was in that bookstore in Washington D.C. Of course the bookstore had no reservations to charge me for the cost of the book, because the price was printed on the back of the book. So I thought I bought the book from the bookstore, but actually that’s how it was distributed to me. Later, in this connection, I remembered one quote from Srila Prabhupada. I can’t remember in what year it was, but Prabhupada said that his books are like torpedoes, because you never know where they are going to land. So I realized that this definitely applied in my particular case that this devotee didn’t know where these books were going to land. But somehow it landed with me and I began reading it.
So after I read the introduction, I thought “This is not the kind of book that I thought I was buying, but it sounds good.” So I decided to read it. As I said I was working at that time, I was remodeling homes. And I would come back from work in the evenings, and every night I would read a few pages from “Bhagavad-gita As It Is”. I continued doing it that way until I finished the book. After I finished reading the book, I was thinking, “This book seems a little different than the other philosophy books I’ve read. The arguments seem to be very convincing and very practical. But they seem to require a level of commitment which I am not ready for yet.” I thought that way because I would read in many different places in “Bhagavad-gita As It Is”, in Prabhupada’s commentary, that Krishna was the Supreme Lord, and He wanted absolute surrender to Him. And I found that to be a little bit stifling, too restrictive in comparison to the way I was living. I was accustomed to an independent lifestyle, and therefore I said to myself, “The philosophy in this book looks nice, but I think I’ll put it away on the bookshelf and get back to it some other time.” But then, unconsciously,
I found that my whole world view had been affected. Everywhere I looked, and everything I did, somehow these words that I had read in “Bhagavad-gita As It Is” would resonate in my heart. I found that I just couldn’t see things in the same way as I had previously seen them. At one point I was thinking that I should just forget everything that I read in that book completely. But it wouldn’t let me go. It was a power beyond my control. And unknown to me at that time, it was Srila Prabhupada calling me. I gradually began to realize that when one reads something, or hears something spoken from the lips of a pure devotee of the Lord, if one is genuinely searching for the truth, then he will also get confirmation from within the heart that the words he is hearing are true. And when somebody gets confirmation within the heart about something which is absolutely true, it is very difficult to shed it, to give it up. If Srila Prabhupada himself were not a surrendered servant of Krishna, then his commentaries would have not had that potency. But we understand that because he was fully surrendered to the same teachings that were spoken by Sri Krishna Himself, His
words had potency. And therefore those words would act in such a way that entered into the ear and went into the heart and then one would get confirmation within the heart from the Supreme Lord. When a pure devotee’s message enters the heart, then what does it do? It creates a revolution in the heart of that person— that person actually gets darshan. Prabhupada wanted to give that moment of full consciousness to everyone, because when one gets a glimpse of Krishna, then everything else is a pale. Srila Prabhupada would never say “Surrender to me!”. He would always say “Surrender to Krishna!” And because he was so transparent in his presentation of Krishna Consciousness both within “Bhagavad-gita” and in his lectures to his disciples, an evolution of surrender would awaken within the heart of anyone who would hear from him, that following his words are as good as following Krishna’s words, and that serving his desires are as good as serving Krishna’s desires. They are non-different. Of course it requires faith. And I remember some of the challenges I used to experience in my early days, when I was first exposed to the teachings of “Bhagavad-gita.” One of the questions that I always asked myself, and I remember very vividly these words, I would ask myself, “How do I know if he is pulling the wool over my eyes or not?” Pulling the wool over one’s eyes means, that someone is cheating me. And I remember always asking that question, “How do I know that he is not pulling the wool over my eyes? And I could never really answer that question myself. I didn’t know. But one thing I did know is that everything seem logical. Everything seemed very compelling. Everything
„Mama vérya-saàvido those words are véryasaàvido. Vérya means potency. Just like, if a man is potent, as soon as there is sex, he gives birth, potency. Similarly, we should associate with devotees who have got potency, mama vérya-saàvido, bhavanti håt-karëa-rasäyanäù kathäù. Otherwise we may go on hearing for three millions of years, we are in the same position. But the words must be from the potent person. Potent person. Then it will act very quickly.“ Srila Prabhupada’s Commentary to First Verse of Çré Çré Ñaò-gosvämy-añöaka
seemed very compelling. And everything seemed to be a better proposal, than everything else that I was doing at that time. So it seemed Prabhupada had me. He was pulling me along by a string. He was one step ahead of me. And he was just kind of pulling, it was appealing and it was attractive. And it gave me a sense of purpose and hope, and it seemed to be better than what I had at that particular time. Of course someone may look at what I had in that particular time and say “Hey, it was not so bad.” If I tell you what I had at that time you probably would have a different impression of me. I did not have a lot of wealth, but practically speaking I had everything that one could possibly want, for somebody who grew up in the sixties generation in the hippie culture in America. I actually externally had the appearance of being a hippie. I had very long hair, all the way down to my bottom of my back, and I was really part of a sort of counterculture revolution, not wanting to be the part of a system, but trying to make money in my own way.
And that’s why I described myself as being self-employed. I did not want to work for anybody. I worked for myself and I would simply get work by going to different people’s homes and I requesting them if they needed any renovation work in their homes. And because I had one quality at that particular time, that I was honest, people could see in me that I was honest, I never had any lack of work. I never had any lack of income. I had anything I needed. I had a guitar; I had a dog, a girlfriend and my own car. I had everything, somebody in those years would aspire for. But I realized after reading Prabhupada’s “Bhagavad-gita”, that I didn’t have everything. Because I realized that although by external vision I had anything I could possibly want, I still didn’t have peace, and satisfaction. And Prabhupada would emphasize that point in “Bhagavad-gita”, and many verses in “Bhagavad-gita” would speak about that point, about the necessity of peace. I especially remember reading that verse in the second chapter of the “Bhagavad-gita”, when Krishna says, “How can there be any happiness if there is no peace?” That verse had a lot of influence on me as well as many other verses, and commen-
taries in “Bhagavad-gita.” So obviously “Bhagavad-gita” meant a lot to me, because it was my first contact with Srila Prabhupada. And after I finished reading “Bhagavad-gita As It Is”, I sent a request to the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust to purchase more books by the same author. At that time the only books that were available were “Bhagavad-gita As It Is”, “Krishna Book”, and First Canto, first volume of the “Srimad Bhagavatam.” None of the other Bhagavatams had been published yet at that time. So I purchased “Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead”, and the first volume of “Srimad Bhagavatam.” I then began reading those books as well. So by the time I finished reading those books, I realized, “I have to do something now.” After I finished reading those three books, for the first time I was going to visit the Hare Krishna temple.
So I drove about a hundred miles and I parked the car in front the temple at North Beacon Street in Allston. I looked for a long time at the front of the temple. And I looked at the sign on the temple “International Society for Krishna Consciousness” and I sat there for about a half hour. And I was thinking “If I go in there, I may never come out.” So I turned the engine on and drove a hundred miles back to Cape Cod where I lived at that time. True story. A couple of weeks passed and I said “I really have to go to the temple.” I lived with about 12 people. We were hippies. We all had dogs. 12 people and 12 dogs. We did not believe in cleaning up after them either. Hippie life meant “Just do it”. There was no organization. And I was reading Srila Prabhupada’s books about cooking for Krishna. We were all vegetarians. I became a vegetarian long before I read Prabhupada’s books. So we did not have any problem with that, living together, but I used to think that whatever I cook, at least for myself, I wanted the kitchen to be clean and I wanted offer the food to Krishna. But every time I would go into the kitchen, nobody
ever washed their dishes. So before I could cook anything for Krishna, I had to clean everything in the whole kitchen, and with 12 people living together, it’s a lot of dishes. But I would just do it. But sometimes I would become very, very resentful. “Why do I have to clean up after everybody, just to make a simple offering to Krishna?” And I would not say anything, but internally I was very frustrated. So I went to the temple, and this time I got up enough courage to go into the temple.
I rang the bell. A bright-faced devotee answered the door. I will never forget him. He looked so blissful. While I was ringing the bell he had been sanding the wall, preparing it to paint. He welcomed me in and said “What is your name?” and I told him my name, and I told him why I had come. And I remember the first thing that hit me in the temple was the smell of incense. Although the building was a little bit run down, it was spotlessly clean. You could not see a speck of dust anywhere. And the smell of incense and the clean atmosphere everywhere and I heard devotees chanting in the distance, I thought I had just walked into the spiritual world. Such an overwhelming, completely captivating experience. And just walking into the building I was thinking “This is what I have been looking for, for so many lifetimes.” And Prabhupada would oftentimes say that the presence of the Deities, the presence of devotees, and devotional service rendered, that transforms the whole atmosphere. It’s not the building. It’s devotional service rendered in the building, which included cleaning the temple. Then I was introduced to one of the senior devotees to speak to me because he could see that I was a person who obviously had had some con-
tact with Srila Prabhupada’s books. So we sat and spoke for about four hours and I was very, very impressed by his knowledge of philosophy. He answered all my questions. He asked me if I was chanting Hare Krishna. I said “No” and he instructed me and gave me my first set of japa beads. I gladly took the beads and began chanting on them according to the way he taught me to chant. That first experience, first exposure, being in the temple, had such a deep impression upon me. Although I did not understood what was happening to me, I could understand years later why Prabhupada wanted to establish the temples. Because I had his books, I had “Bhagavadgita”, I had “Srimad Bhagavatam”, I had “Krishna Book”. I was ready for more and Prabhupada, knowing that is what happens when people read his books, they want to get some more, they have to get them someplace. So his purpose for establishing the temples was simply to get these places for people to come and be exposed to a spiritual atmosphere, a spiritual world. Prabhupada used to say that our temples are like embassies to the spiritual world. So you go to the embassy to become qualified to get a visa to get to the next destination.
My first visit was simply an exposure. The atmosphere was so attractive. But on my second visit, Krishna had a plan for me. I thought I would come, sit down and talk about philosophy, which I did. I came in, and they remembered me from my previous visit, and they talked to me for a little while and then one devotee said to me “Would you like to do some devotional service?” And I was very eager for devotional service. I said “Yes, certainly.” So then another devotee came over to me and said “Come with me”. He brought me into the back room. It was right after breakfast and there was just a sink with a mountain of pots…and he said “Would you like to wash Krishna’s pots?” And I thought “Oh no! Again? What is this, a joke?” But I actually realized that no, this is service. So I said “OK I will do it.” Such a big stack of pots I had never seen before. Cleaning pots in my commune seemed insignificant. So I started washing the pots and then another devotee came over to me. I was a little frustrated. I did not expect this kind of service. So he looked at me and with a big smile on this face said “When you clean Krishna’s pots, you clean your heart.” And I remember such a complete trans-
formation of consciousness that immediately took place into my heart. A simple statement, simple words, but my whole attitude completely changed one hundred and eighty degrees. And it became so blissful, so joyful, washing pots. These pots became like jewels, diamonds. I felt that I was polishing diamonds. I was taking every pot and I was placing it very carefully on the shelf. And every single pot was like a new adventure. Completely transformational. And I began to realize it all is consciousness. These are Krishna’s pots and washing these pots is for Krishna’s pleasure. When in my journey in the material world had I been able to wash a pot that belonged to God? It was just overwhelming. And when I finished washing all the pots, I asked the devotee who introduced me to the pots if there were more pots to wash. He said “Yes, they are but they are in the kitchen and only devotees are allowed into the kitchen. Maybe some day you will become qualified and you can go and clean those pots in the kitchen.”
I didn’t become a full time resident of the temple until the later part of 1973. I was visiting the temple every Sunday. The Sunday program was established so that people will come back and hear more after having some little contact with Krishna consciousness and of course that people could come and take Krishna prasadam. I remember in the early seventies it was called The Sunday Love Feast. Emphasis of course was given on love which is obtained by association with devotees and taking Krishna prasadam. I was a fortunate person. When I started coming to my first Sunday feast, it was a real feast. Everything was cooked in ghee and there were two types of subji, halava, sweet rice, puri, nectar drink, pakoras… It was at least 10-12 preparations. I was fortunate…but not only was I fortunate like that when I first visited the temple, but also when I joined the temple it was still like that. I remember I would drive about 70 -80 miles every Sunday and the whole meditation all the way was simply halava… which halava would be this week? Blueberry halava? Strawberry halava? There was never plain halava. Always it was or blueberries, or strawberries, walnuts and vanilla. So I remember just driving to the temple just meditating all the way on halava and I wouldn’t be able to drive all the way back.
And when I moved into the temple we had no place to drive after the Sunday feast. So we would eat so much that we would go upstairs sometimes even before cleaning up after the feast, to the third floor and lie on the floor and couldn’t find a comfortable position… Just lying and groaning Oooo… Prabhupada liked this. Prabhupada actually said that you should eat prasadam until you are walking like a duck. That was his statement actually. And in the early days he definitely wanted people to eat as much prasadam as they wanted. Of course it didn’t always stay like that, but prasadam has the effect that if you eat a lot of prasadam, then you become attached to Krishna.
At that time when I was visiting the temple one devotee took particular interest in me and started befriending me. His name was Keshava dasa. He was a senior devotee even at that time who had the association of Srila Prabhupada. He befriended me and every time I went to the temple he was always right there to greet me and talk to me and one of the things that I really appreciated about him was that he never really preached to me like a senior devotee. He was more like a friend. And what really attracted me about him was that he was so personal and I always felt that I learned a lot just observing him. He did not have to say anything. All I had to do was just observe him and I could learn so much.
But he gave me some precious gifts-not only the gift of his association, but also tapes of Srila Prabhupada. And especially in those days the tapes were not very readily accessible, especially to some long-haired hippie who was visiting the temple. So one time he said “I’ve got something for you,” and he reached in his pocket and he handled me these cassettes and he said “this is a lecture that Prabhupada gave just recently.” And that was a lecture from “Prayers of Queen Kunti” given in New York, April 12, 1973. It was from the first canto, eighth chapter, twentieth verse. And although I had read Bhagavad Gita As It Is and the first volume of Srimad Bhagavatam, I had never heard Prabhupada’s voice before. So I took this cassette home and every day I would listen a little bit of it. And although Prabhupada was speaking English, it wasn’t easy for me to understand his English, because he had an accent that I wasn’t familiar with. And I distinctly remember taking the tape and rewinding it and just playing each section again and again and again until I understood every word, and it took me quite some
time before I listened to the whole lecture. I specifically took note of something that I heard in that lecture because I felt that it was very relevant to me. Prabhupada was speaking about those who are coming to Krishna consciousness. Prabhupada said that being in the material world is like being in the midst of the ocean. He said there can always be disturbances created in the middle of the ocean, and he said as long as we are in the material world we should not expect peace. He said therefore, one has to become very humble and tolerant of this material world. And he said in the beginning when one comes to Krishna consciousness, Maya, who is an agent of Krishna, will be testing to see if one is coming to serve Krishna, or disturb Krishna. And somehow when I heard this, it really resonated with me, because I felt that Prabhupada was speaking directly to me, that in the beginning when one comes into Krishna consciousness, Maya, who is Krishnaâ€™s agent will be testing us. And this was at the time when I was starting to come to Krishna consciousness. So I remembered this. There were many other parts of the lecture I listened to and remembered, but this part really stood out in my mind. And by remembering these words I felt that I was very well-equipped, prepared for whatever would happen to me because Srila Prabhupada
had already warned me “You are coming to Krishna consciousness, you should be prepared for tests.” So I felt really protected. I felt actually like I was given an inoculation to protect me from some disease. And it gave me great strength, because I knew that when I decided to move into the temple I was going to be tested. I was already prepared for it. I was just waiting for what was going to come, because when I moved into the temple after some time I was really blissful. I actually felt like I was liberated. I thought “This is what is means to be liberated.” Everything was just completely blissful. But then I always remembered what Prabhupada said that when you come to Krishna consciousness Maya is going to test you if you are going to serve Krishna, or disturb Krishna”. So although I was blissful, I was always waiting for it to come. And it didn’t take very long… but just by remembering those instructions, it carried me through the most difficult times because I could understand I am going to have to struggle. Struggle doesn’t go away. We have to struggle if we actually want to become Krishna conscious. But in order to continue to struggle we actually have to remember the words of the spiritual master. We have to have faith in the words of the spiritual master that if we strictly follow the instructions of the spiritual master we can be assured of success in this life.
Gradually I started to getting more involved in the temple and a few months later I decided to move in. There were definitely some disturbances along that path until I moved into the temple because externally I was deeply involved in many affairs of this world and I had to gradually extricate myself from those affairs. And that was a test with in itself, but it really wasn’t that difficult. The most difficult attachment that I had was to my dog. I had a girlfriend, I had a guitar, I had many other things that most hippies had, but it was the dog that I was really attached to, because I used to think that this dog is dependent upon me and how can I just leave her? I can’t bring her to the temple. It was very difficult for me to sever my connections to the dog. And my godbrother Keshava who was preaching to me, he knew this, although he never said anything. In fact almost every time I would visit the temple he would always go to the window and say “Where is your dog?” So I would say “well, she is probably on that side of the temple”. Then he would go to the window and start throwing chapatis out, feeding her chapatis and saying “next life, human birth.” It’s another reason why we were such close friends with him.
Prabhupada used to use the expression “love me, love my dog.” Prabhupada used it as an example that the spiritual master is Krishna’s dog, so if you do something for the spiritual master, you become very dear to Krishna. Just like someone who has a dog and you approach him by doing something for the dog, immediately you become very dear to the owner. So that was another reason why I felt such a strong bond with Keshava, because he was always giving my dog prasadam. Because he knew that I was attached to this dog, he said “you know, why don’t you go to New Vrindavan? In New Vrindavan there is a big farm and there are dogs there, you can keep your dog. Because I was thinking “How I can give her up? She is dependent upon me.” And some time around June of that year I decided to go to New Vrindavan and move there. And when I arrived in New Vrindavan, I told them that Keshava told me that I could come here and I could bring my dog. And they said “Oh, sure, you can stay here.You can keep your dog. No problem at all.” So then I asked what I can feed
her, and they said “Well, we don’t feed any dogs.” And I said “ You don’t feed any dogs? How do they eat?” And they immediately pointed to this dog Muchukunda. Muchukunda only had three legs. So he could not really move as fast as a regular dog because he only had three legs. He pointed to Muchukunda “So you see Muchukunda? Does he look like he is starving? We don’t feed them.” I asked “How does he eat?” “He is a dog.” That was the answer. They said “They find their own food. They keep all different creatures out of our gardens. They are very busy and healthy.” So it was a shock to me because I was thinking my dog is so dependent upon me and all of sudden I find out she did not need me for anything. So that was the first thing I learned in New Vrindavan. I didn’t stay in New Vrindavan. I decided to go back to Boston for many reasons. Not just because I could not feed my dog.
So I went back to Boston and in due course of time I did move into the temple and I just left my dog with a friend. In fact when I joined the temple it was because of Keshava. He was visiting the temple and he was only staying there for a short period of time. He had come from San Francisco to Boston. He had taken some interest in me and he said “You are going to be a preacher. We should travel and preach together.” And I was thinking “ What an opportunity...” He said “Yes, when you become serious and you decide to become a devotee, you should think about that.” And he said “When you come to the temple and decide to move in, just shave up, put a dhoti on and come down to Guyana.” And he left Boston and went to Guyana. He knew I had a lot of attachments. He knew exactly what those attachments were, but he never tried to extract me from those attachments. That’s one thing I remember about him more than anything else. He would never even talk about it. The only thing he would do was tell me stories about Prabhupada, be my friend and just encourage me. And just that friendship with him actually was enough to make me really want to become serious about Krishna consciousness. And probably a finishing touch happened when I met Visnujana Swami.
It was spring 1973. I visited the temple one day and the devotees told me that there was a swami in town and I had never met a swami before. So the devotees said that if you want to see him, you have to go down to the Boston Common. He was traveling with Radha Damodar deities and they had this kind of blue hippie bus. So I saw Visnujana Swami sitting and chanting and in that particular time in my search for Krishna consciousness I was really looking for a reason to become a devotee. I was still working at that time and I was very analytical, analyzing people’s expressions, people’s behavior, people’s activities, people’s motives, trying to decide if I am ready to make this kind of commitment. So when I sat down and Visnujana Swami was chanting, he had a particular aura about him that really left a deep impression on anybody. When he was chanting Hare Krishna, he was absorbed. It is the essence of our philosophy is to be absorbed. Nobody would think that his mind was anywhere else except on the Holy Name. So I sat and started look at him. I wasn’t participating in kirtan, I just was sitting in front of him. He was sitting, playing the harmonium, leading kirtan. The deities were next to him. Then I just started to chant with him and then a certain conviction arose in my heart at that particular point, I decided I wanted to become a devotee. That’s it. I remember turning to the devotee who brought me to see him and said “If this is what it means to be a devotee, I want to join”. Visnujana Swami had this kind of aura about him that when you saw him, you experienced Krishna consciousness. To the degree that we are absorbed in Krishna conscious-
ness and to the degree that we associate with those who are absorbed, then it certainly has an impression. It is what we are really looking for. We are not looking for somebody who can create a good image of absorption, we are really looking for somebody who is absorbed. And actually I joined very shortly afterwards. So he has a special place in my heart because he very much attracted me to Krishna consciousness.
When there is kåñëa-kértana, people, all classes of people, become very much pleased, and they join. As soon as your kértana will be pure saìkértana, not artificial, not professional... There are many professional dancer. That will not attract. But, even if you do not know the art of dancing, if you simply dance in ecstasy for Kåñëa’s love, that will be appreciated by everyone. That will be appreciated by everyone. Kåñëot-kértanagäna-nartana-parau. These are the art. One does not require to become a Vedäntist. Simply if one chants Kåñëa’s name, holy name, and in ecstasy dances, he’s more than a Vedäntist. Actually vedänti means one who knows the ultimate knowledge, veda. Veda means knowledge. And anta means ultimate, vedänta. Then what is that ultimate knowledge? Kåñëa. Vedaiç ca sarvair aham eva vedyam [Bg. 15.15]. That is ultimate knowledge. So one who has understood Kåñëa and Kåñëa’s love, he’s dancing, then what more vedänta can do? That is the first class realization of vedänta. Srila Prabhupada’s Commentary to First Verse of Çré Çré Ñaò-gosvämy-añöaka
So I really wanted to join. I said “I am coming. Keshava is waiting for me in Guyana. I am ready to surrender and move into the temple.” Devotees at that time would not let just anybody move into the temple. So they tested me for a little while. They said “If you want to live in the temple then you first should sleep downstairs in the basement on the concrete floor, we want to see if you are sincere.” So that’s what I was told to do and that’s what I did. So I had to stay there for about two weeks. And they said “OK, you can come upstairs now.” And then I was begging them to please shave my head because I really wanted to dedicate myself completely to Prabhupada’s teachings, and I felt that shaving the head was a real indication of surrender, especially long hair…so finally after a few more weeks of persistent pleading with them, they shaved my head. But in those days we didn’t have these electric buzzers. They just didn’t exist. There were dull scissors and a razor and my godbrother Shrinath dasa shaved me up for the first time. It took about an hour, and after he finished I looked like I had been in the battlefield. My head was full of these bleeding scars. And finally after shaving me up I was thinking “Now I am ready to join Keshava”. And they said “No, you said you are ready to surrender.” “Yes I am
ready to surrender.” And then they said “You are not going anywhere.” They took everything away from me. I had to stay in Boston. That’s why I surrendered, but I never saw Keshava again, and when I learned that he had passed away I was very devastated, because I never thanked him.
So the very same day when my head was shaved, they gave me a bag, they brought me out into the middle of downtown Providence, Rhode Island and encouraged me to distribute books. So that was my first exposure to distributeing Srila Prabhupada’s books. I remember my nature when I first came to Krishna consciousness, I was very reserved. I was not so much inclined to go out to distribute books, and it was very difficult for me. I was struggling for two years. I was feeling like I was drowning in the ocean, looking for something to hold on to, and usually there were two things that I would hold on to: remembering how I got Prabhupada’s books and became a devotee, and another one was that cassette with Prabhupada’s lecture which was given to me by my godbrother Keshava dasa when I was visiting the temple. I was always remembering that lecture in the early days that Maya is going to test me to see if I am coming to serve Krishna or
disturb Krishna. I was thinking, “Where would I be if somebody had not left that book in the bookstore?” I thought, “Where I would be?” and I knew that I had an eternal debt to Srila Prabhupada. And Prabhupada gives this example: if we hold on to something that is beyond ouselves, that’s coming from Krishna Himself, from Krishna’s representative, just hold on, go on. We get strength. It doesn’t come from our own intelligence. It doesn’t come from our own mind. It comes from a source beyond ourselves, when Krishna is pleased by our determination to do something to please Him. If I would not have had all those years of distributing Srila Prabhupada’s books in my early years of Krishna consciousness, I would have felt completely cheated. I can say that there is no experience like it in the whole world.
Also, I remember just prior to moving into the temple I was living in a very very quiet place on the beach. I moved to a place where people all left during the winter. It was a small town on the beach and during the winter all the people go back to the cities. So I was accustomed to living in that kind of place, and I had never lived in real big cities.
So when I decided to move into the temple, one of my biggest anxieties was thinking “I don’t know what it is going to be like living in a big city”, because I never really liked big cities. But I knew I had to live in the city because that’s where the temples were. And I was speaking to one devotee about that and he simply said “Prabhuapada said that this is not a city. This is Vaikuntha. It is not even a part of the material world.” And I still had my doubts at that time. And I looked out the window and said “That doesn’t really look like Vaikuntha to me.”
But after living in the temple for a little while, I began to see that actually it is Vaikuntha, and I did not even know I was in the city.
Even although every day I was going out chanting in the streets, distributing little books like â€œReservoir of Pleasureâ€?,
I didnâ€™t even think about the fact that I was in the city.
So this was one of my very first realizations about the potency of Krishna consciousness, that actually if we absorb ourselves in service,
we actually donâ€™t even have to be in the material world.
We never experienced anything else in Prabhupada’s presence other than his burning desire to give Krishna, and that’s what captured our hearts, and that’s what makes us want to make this life successful by doing something to make Prabhupada smile.
And if some day we can become so blessed to be able to do that which he wants us to do, then thatâ€™s the only reason why we live in this world. There is nothing else.