How I came to Krsna Consciousness
by Vyapaka dasa
The year was 1974 and since life seemed confusing and pointless I enrolled in university to study philosophy in the hope of finding some answers. The main hurdle was that I wasn't philosophical by nature but nothing else made sense at the time. During the evenings I sat in the library and looked at the long shelves holding hundreds, if not thousands, of philosophical treatises which in my estimation were all required reading if I was to come to a tangible philosophical conclusion to life's challenge.
So it seemed my chosen direction was posing even greater stress and confusion since this feat of comprehending legions of books eclipsed my ability and intelligence. In the end, it seemed more logical to find a teacher who had already accomplished this feat. But who?
While attending university a renowned psychoanalyst, R.D. Laing, passed through on a speaking tour. I attended his lecture and the following symposium with a number of university professors. He was impressive in his knowledge and ability to defend his own ideas against such an erudite group. Some were quite challenging. During the discourse, Dr. Laing issued an invitation for anyone interested in his presentation that day to come and attend an institute he oversaw in London.
Uncertain if the invitation was only for the learned professors rather than for a lowly undergraduate, I summoned the courage to send a letter requesting that I travel to London and attend the Philadelphia Institute's programs. Since my university term was coming to an end, it was time to head home to a summer job in order to scrimp and save for my hoped-for trip to England.
The fateful day soon arrived and a letter appeared bringing good news and a list of the courses offered. Some were even being taught by Dr. Laing himself. It was from his secretary who requested that I confirm my interest. Off went my response and I returned to my summer job driving a school bus for the physically challenged but now full of hope that my many questions could be answered.
Weeks soon dragged to months and there was no response and my summer job was soon coming to an end. One weekend a friend and I attended a rodeo. While returning to the car I saw some bald headed young men sporting cowboy hats. I recognized them as devotees because on my return home from university, I had met other devotees on my way to the train station and had received a BTG at that time. Another funny coincidence was that I had spent the same afternoon in a museum featuring an Indian cultural presentation and while looking at the many paintings, etc. wondered which artwork depicted Krsna since He was the only thing I knew about Indian culture. Fifteen minutes later after leaving the museum, I ran into the devotees on Toronto's Yonge St. and left with a Krsna conscious magazine to read on the train ride home.
Now, in the midst of the scents of horses and popcorn, I again stumbled into the devotees but had to pass the group twice before being approached by them. I gave a small donation and they were pleased when offering me a BTG I told them I already had that one. The devotee, at the time Bhakta Don (Dharmaprana dasa), invited me to the next day's Sunday feast. I had been a vegetarian for nearly 7 months but didn't know how to cook so this seemed like a dream come true. Philosophy and food at the same time! Could life get better?
The next day a devotee sat me down and described the Hare Krsna philosophy for nearly two hours non-stop. I didn't understand much of it because I came the next day to the morning program thinking that they were going to teach me how to meditate. But some lessons did rub off and as I left the feast it was as if the world had changed. Trees, flowers and plants were now living entities caught up in the cycle of birth and death and life seemed to have a new dimension and purpose.
But still no letter from England and my summer job was soon coming to an end. What to do?
Luckily, the devotees had a candle business and were needing help. So before I knew it I was carving candles listening to strange music and whiffing an exotic blend of paraffin and incense. As we sat there during work, devotees spoke about the philosophy and lifestyle of Krsna consciousness. To blend philosophy and lifestyle together was something important to me because during my studies at university, I found that this was a step that many modern philosophers found elusive. For me philosophy meant little if it didn't translate into daily action.
In regards to lifestyle, the Krsna cuisine was incredible. Never had I experienced such tastes in food before. Life's meaning began to be defined simply by how long we had to wait until the Sunday feast. Five days, three days to go and finally Sunday arrived along with the traditional feast. The kirtans were uproarious, the philosophy sweet and inspiring but the main event was the feast. I ate until I couldn't eat anymore. It was impossible to take another bite. Then the server came around. Well, okay just a little bit more halavah. After all, it would be seven days until the next feast.
One of my co-workers, who also became interested in the philosophy of Krsna consciousness, managed an apartment block with her husband, so I rented an apartment there which was near work. As time passed, some friction developed between this girl's husband and I because he felt threatened by her attraction to Krsna consciousness and I was its most obvious representative. But it didn't seem too serious and life and work continued on as usual.
Then one day after returning from work a large banging reverberated from the door. It definitely didn't sound like an Avon delivery so I peered out the peep hole and there were three rather rough looking dudes best described as bikers. They informed me through the door that a friend of theirs had been picked up while hitch-hiking and was brought to my apartment where an attempted rape occurred. The name given to the assailant was identical to mine. We discussed it through the door and eventually I opened up and explained that I had spent the day with my mother and aunts and to go get the girl and she would certainly identify me as not being the aggressor. They relented and promised to return with the girl.
During my defense I suggested that perhaps the caretaker might be responsible since he had a key to my apartment and we weren't on the best of terms. At the same time, my neighbor, who was a good friend of the caretaker, was carefully listening through the door and promptly informed the caretaker who in turn wanted to beat me up (and rightly so if he indeed was as innocent as I).
I didn't know what to do so I took shelter of the temple and moved in for a few days. However, a few days stretched and the temple soon became my home. It is funny to look back on because if I wasn't so thick headed, I should have realized that Krsna consciousness was the Absolute Truth and moved in on my own. So much for my chosen career path of being a philosopher.
Soon after a letter arrived from England. What happened was my response had been sent to the name of the secretary, who had in the meantime left the Institute's employment. As a result, the letter had sat awaiting delivery. Eventually, she returned for a visit and when they realized the nature of the letter sent me confirmation of my acceptance and a new course outline.
But fortunately I had stumbled into the Absolute Truth and had lost any inclination to look elsewhere. To this day I owe great gratitude to Dharmaprana Prabhu, the three bikers, my nosey neighbour, the caretaker and all the devotees living in the Winnipeg temple. Without their mercy, this thick headed person may never have had the opportunity to take up devotional service.
Most importantly, I must thank Srila Prabhupada for spreading the samkirtan movement around the world. It was his pure love of God which inspired his disciples to don cowboy hats in their attempt to spread Krsna consciousness in such an odd place as a rodeo. I am living proof that Srila Prabhupada's mercy is inconceivable and is offered to even the most fallen.
Srila Prabhupada ki jaya.