If Only the Busses Were Still Running…
We were dancing so much Sukadeva, the temple president was worried about the floor caving in. What a way to go! I’d never stayed at the temple before but since it was so late I decided to do so…
My association with the Hare Krishna movement started in Seattle in 1973, in a parking lot. I was going towards my car when I was approached by a person who handed me a big Krishna Book. I was impressed by the pictures a bit but wasn’t going to ‘buy’ the book until the devotee showed me the “Words from George Harrison”. He said this is what The Beatles were into now. Since I was into the Beatles I had to have the book. I gave him $20 and he smiled broadly and handed me another book, the Sri Isopanisad.
I took the book home and later that night opened it up and checked it out. When I saw big words like ‘transcendental’ etc. I determined that it was ‘over my head’. I sat the book down by my bed where it stayed unopened for three months. I was in to the whole drug scene at the time and came home one night high on mescaline. (organic LSD) Since I was ‘high’ and couldn’t sleep I began to look at the cover of the Krsna Book. After staring for some time Krishna seemed to come alive and smile at me. I was ecstatic. I read about a third of the book that night.
The next night I was beginning to do the usual ‘partying’ with my friends when I looked around and felt unsatisfied. I couldn’t stop thinking about that Krsna Book and left to go home and read it. My friends thought I lost it. After reading the whole book I wanted to get more so I went to the temple listed and bought every book they had, about $275 worth.
I started visiting the Seattle Hare Krishna temple for the Sunday Feast. I remember when I was a new guest at the Sunday Feast in 1974. I had never seen a sanyasi before when Visnujana Swami appeared behind me as I gazed out the upstairs window. I heard this deep and loving voice, “Haribol! I’m Visnujana Swami. I’m on my way to a festival in Vancouver and am stopping by for the feast. Please accept my humble obeisances”. As I turned to look at him I noticed what an aura was. He was very bright-faced. I had never offered obeisances before and here was a swami offering obeisances to me! Talk about humility! I bowed down with him acting like I knew the prayers. He led an ecstatic kirtan [congregational chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra] and more and more devotees were showing up. He did bhajans [songs about Krishna] until about midnight at the temple. Everytime he stopped the devotees begged him to chant some more.
We were dancing so much Sukadeva, the temple president was worried about the floor caving in. What a way to go! I’d never stayed at the temple before but since it was so late I decided to do so. I laid down outside of the door where Visnujana was staying. Still excited from the experiences I couldn’t sleep. At about 2:30am Visnujana came out to go to the bathroom and noticed me laying there in semi-darkness. His eyes met mine and he said, ‘Haribol’ in his esoteric voice. I was blissed out again.
I was attending college and working at Boeing at this time. The devotees at the temple told me that I should go to San Francisco Rathayatra because Srila Prabhupada would be going. I decided to take a vacation and headed for San Francisco. When I arrived at the temple I was met at prasadam by Jayananda Prabhu. He asked if I could help out with the carts. I’d come about 10 days early. I agreed to help. I was impressed at his Krishna consciousness. He would be singing as he drove us out to the site. He was always working and feeding everyone prasadam. It was amazing and inspiring for all of us who came in contact with him.
The day for the festival arrived and it appeared as if it was going to rain. When Srila Prabhupada arrived and boarded Lady Subhadra’s cart the sky opened up and spotlighted the self-effulgent acharya. Even though I was new and didn’t know anything I knew this was special. The day before Visnujana was giving a lecture in the Armenian Hall where all of the visiting devotees were staying. Having impersonal tendencies I was staring at the Deities, Sri Sri Radha Damodara. Damodara had a blue light on Him and I was staring as Visnujana said, “Don’t think that these Deities are idols. This is Krishna.” Just then a rose fell from Damodara’s check. This really hit me. I felt He was communicating this to me and I believed it.
At the festival Srila Prabhupada had given a great short and sweet lecture. He mentioned that the whole world follows America and if we could make America Krishna conscious the whole world would follow and become like Vaikuntha. The crowd roared in ecstasy. The feast was awesome. We, some 10,000, were served out as we sat in huge rows. It was unforgettable. The next day I had packed my bags and was walking out of the hall when I was stopped by Tamal Krishna Goswami. He asked me if I would like to see Srila Prabhupada in his room saying that if I joined their party I could. I said that I was not ready to join. He made another proposal saying that if I just got the hair trimmed around my ears I would be presentable and I could see Srila Prabhupada. I agreed and was led into the bathroom by a smiling devotee, Aja. As he ‘trimmed’ I felt a few snips on top of my head and demanded to look in the miror. I was shocked to see bald spots. How could I go in public like that? I told him to just shave if off because anything would look better than that. Then I was dressed in dhoti and kopin. New bhakta [devotee] number thirteen! I was very upset and was determined to tell Srila Prabhupada about it when we arrived.
We arrived at Srila Prabhupada’s apartment and headed up to his room. We were all given a long-stemmed rose to hand to him. We were told to offer our obeisances but I didn’t even know them yet. I was very nervous as my turn approached. My anger was subsiding as I enter the room. Srila Prabhupada was sitting behind a low table gracefully with one leg up. My hand shook as I reached to hand him the rose. stepping back and offering my full dandavats I shook uncontrollably. I was now too overwhelmed to be mad now. As we all settled in and sat down Srila Prabhupada began to speak, “So your all very bright-faced and fortunate to come to Lord Chaitanya’s movement. Now that you are fortunate you should make others fortunate. Preach this message of Lord Chaitanya’s all over the world.”… Srila Prabhupada melted my heart. I decided it was Krishna’s arrangement but I wish He would of least let me move out of my apartment in Seattle first!
We boarded the bus and headed out to do a fair in Minot, North Dakota. It was ecstatic cruising down the freeway performing kirtan on the way. We were a shock at times when we stopped. The morning we arrived in Minot we pulled up behind a closed gas station to take our baths with a hose. It was about 4am. All of the sudden a truck pulls around with it’s lights on us. We froze like deer starring into the light as the truck backed up and took off. A bit later three cop cars speed to the scene after receiving a report of a UFO landing. We explained ourselves as they scratched their heads wondering if we were for real. (I guess)
We set up at the fair and it went well. We chanting until midnight and our morning program started at 7am. We would fill up the bathrooms with devotees washing their feet in the sinks etc. and shaving our heads. Needless to say it was a culture shock were some of the locals came in. Some turned right around and walked out.
As we chanted people gathered and some were so shocked that they stood there while their beer bottles dropped from their hands. We had a booth where we sold books; incense; posters and etc. making about eight hundred dollars a day. We made about seven more devotees at the fair. The program was so pure it attracted so many souls.
Where are the buses today?
[From Gauridas Pandit’s website: HARIBOL Home Page]