Looking Eastward (Part 1)
by Gaura dasa
In the late 60's and early 70's, I -- like millions of others -- had been
profoundly influenced by the popular musicians known as the Beatles to look eastward for an alternative to the "Establishment" that represented greedy capitalism, and that was sending off young men to be killed in the Vietnam war.
When I heard that the Beatles were into meditation, I went to the Winnipeg Planetarium to hear a free lecture on the subject, only to see a couple of men dressed in business suits on stage with graphs, explaining how meditation could enhance your income, stress, and all other aspects of material life for a fee of a few hundred dollars. I became very disillusioned by my first experience of "transcendence." It didn't seem right that Truth was only available to the elite who had the bucks, and anyway, what did a better material life have to do with transcending the material world?
At that time I would purchase everything that the Beatles put out on the Apple label of theirs. One such hard to get album was the Radha Krsna Temple album, Govinda, which I found in a delete bin to my great joy, while visiting Minneapolis. Inside the cover, I had my first glance of Srila Prabhupada, and enjoyed hearing the devotional songs. While I was dabbling with yoga and mysticism, I had formed a blues band. Our keyboardist and harmonica player, Gary Preston, was older than all the other members of the band, and he had a degree in theology from the University of Toronto, so we kind of looked up to him.
One day while visiting his "pad," I noticed a black and white photo of
Srila Prabhupada's face on his wall amongst psychedelic posters,
etc. Srila Prabhupada had a grave look on his face, and the black and white enhanced his gravity. I told my friend that after reading several books on mysticism like Autobiography of a Yogi, Handbook to Higher Consciousness, Siddhartha, The Art of Loving and The Art of Dying, I had come to the conclusion that I must seek out a guru for deeper enlightenment. But here I was, on the prairies of Manitoba -- a cowboy hick town. Where would I find a guru here?
I asked my friend who that elderly looking black and white photo was. He told me, "This is Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of the Hare Krsna Movement." I told him that I was looking for a guru, and asked him what he thought of Prabhupada. I respected his opinion, since
he had done a lot more searching and studying than me. He told me that he thought that Srila Prabhupada was one of the best amongst all the gurus of that time because he was not a "commercialized swami" like all the rest, who were just cashing in on the "yoga bandwagon," making an unethical money-making business of what was supposed to be free, and the price being only one's sincerity. He also told me that Prabhupada had translated the Bhagavad-gita, of which I had already read a couple of half-baked versions, as well as other essential Vedas, and that his was the best. So the seed was planted. I wanted to meet this Prabhupada, and learn more about what he had to say.
Although Gary was taking intoxicants and was engaged in promiscuity, he was my vartma-pradarsaka guru. He pointed the way to Prabhupada for me, and through me, as an instrument, several people would later receive Prabhupada's books. Gary would share the credit.
(Cont'd on next page.)