He is Here (Part 1)
by Sangita devi dasi
I first met Srila Prabhupada's devotees in 1969 in San Francisco. By Srila Prabhupada's grace I was taken to the temple. I was fourteen years old, and I did not take to it at the time. I was too involved in enjoying my teenage years. But Srila Prabhupada never gave up on
me. We may think that we find our spiritual master, but actually the spiritual master comes and finds us. Srila Prabhupada made so many arrangements. A year later I met the devotees again in Philadelphia, and then in 1972, when I was sixteen, I moved away from my family. I wrote to Srila Prabhupada and asked him what I could do to serve him. When I look back at it now, I had no idea what I was really asking. He gave me some nice instruction, and I moved into the Los Angelestemple. I was initiated the following year, in 1973, at the age of seventeen. In those days they gave second initiation very quickly because they needed pujaris. So a few months later I became a pujari in Los Angeles.
Eventually I was asked by Jayatirtha Prabhu to go to Hawaii to take care of Panca-tattva there. I could say that in Los Angeles as well as in Hawaii I was always in the right place at the right time, because I saw Srila Prabhupada many, many times. He spent so much
time in Los Angeles, and when I moved to Hawaii he spent a month there, and later he visited Hawaii many times. There was no telling when you would walk around the temple grounds when he would suddenly appear, or come into the kitchen, for example, and ask what I was cooking for him. There were so many nice exchanges. I did not come
early enough in the beginning of the movement to have the mercy that some of my Godsisters had when they traveled with him. But still, with Srila Prabhupada, it is like finding out what the taste of the ocean is. All you need to do is taste one drop and you know what the entire ocean tastes like. It is the same with Srila Prabhupada. You needed just one glance, one smile -- he did not have to say anything -- and you knew his mercy, his unlimited mercy.
I can tell some stories. One time in Hawaii he was giving class. At that time he was taking his morning walks at the beach park, Ala Moana Beach Park, and that is when he made his famous statement about surfers, because there were surfboards on so many of the devotees' cars in the temple parking lot. And after he gave class all the devotees would hit the waves. So when Srila Prabhupada saw the surfers in the water at Ala Moana Beach Park, surfing in the waves, he made that famous statement: "You call them surfers. I call them sufferers." And then he added, "They will all take birth as fish." So when everyone came back from this morning walk and told the other devotees, the next day there were quite a few empty cars without surfboards!
One thing that happened during that visit was that Srila Prabhupada called a big GBC meeting. Ambarisa Prabhu, still Bhakta Alfred Ford, had just donated the new temple in Hawaii, and as many of you know, it is quite a large mansion. It is a beautiful property with two acres of gardens. So Srila Prabhupada called all the GBCs to come, and he was taking his first walk around the grounds. The GBC men surrounded him wherever he went. I was just this young nineteen-year-old pujari girl, feeling very, very insignificant. That was my proper position. I remember sitting in class and praying to Srila Prabhupada, "If you
just give me one look, just look at me one time, then my life will be fulfilled." I felt very unnoticed. I was very immature and needed some attention from Srila Prabhupada, so I prayed like this during class. "If you just look at me one time, my whole life will be
complete." Then class ended and Srila Prabhupada got up from the vyasasana and all the GBCs and sannyasis were following him, singing "Jaya Prabhupada" walking out of the temple room. I had already gotten up and was near the doorway of the pujari room, so
Srila Prabhupada had to pass by me as he was leaving, but I was several feet back in the pujari room. Srila Prabhupada stopped at the entrance, turned, and looked at me. He folded his hands, his eyes lit up, his face broke into a big smile, and he looked me right in the
eyes and nodded as if he was pleased. That was the first time that I realized that Srila Prabhupada hears our prayers. The guru does hear us when we pray. Even though it was a few years after I had joined the movement, I would say that that was the moment that my spiritual life began -- when I realized that Srila Prabhupada is in the heart and that he does hear us. There is a special relationship.
Over the years there were other incidents. I went back to Los Angeles, and we always just tried to get the mercy. We cleaned his room. We arranged the flowers for his vases. This was all while he was on his morning walk. The women were very encouraged because we
had heard this one story that on a morning walk in India some of the sannyasis had been saying something about what the women's position in ISKCON should be. Srila Prabhupada just listened. While he was on his walk, his lady disciples had stayed behind and cleaned his entire room, made the vases, dressed the Deities, and cleaned the altar. When he returned from his walk and saw his lady disciples, he said to the sannyasis, "Yes, but if you associate with these women you will go back to Godhead." So we were very encouraged. He was always very sweet, but he especially gave his gentle, supportive mercy to his Goddaughters. He knew that we could not handle the other type of mercy.
Anyway, I do not want to dwell so much on past stories, because after all Srila Prabhupada is still with us. That sounds almost cliché, but it is true that he is still here and that he is still guiding us and smiling when we accomplish something for him and make some
advancement. And he chastises us in his own way when we fall. But he still always picks us up. We can stumble and fall, but he never lets us stay down too long.
(Cont'd on next page.)