Looking Eastward (Part 2)
by Gaura dasa
I just remembered a couple of other incidents of causeless mercy which I received around the same time. It was 1970, and I was about 16 years old. I was working as an usher at the Winnipeg Arena. It was announced that one of the biggest rock and roll tours would be traveling across Canada and coming to Winnipeg. It was called the Festival Express -- a train full of the likes of The Band, Janis Joplin, Mountain, Grateful Dead and many other counterculture "heroes" of the day. The Blue Bombers Football field is where we helped to set up the stage. Thousands thronged from far and wide to worship their "demigods" on the "altar" of the stage. One of my jobs was to keep watch that no one jumped over high fences to get in for free, and another was to help anyone in difficulty.
I remember that there was a small white tent set up in the middle of the field for people that were having bad LSD trips, and they were brought in there to help them restabalize, allay their fears, etc. I remember one guy was really losing it and was going out of control, flailing his arms, yelling, and looking and sounding like he had been possessed by some ghost. A couple of the other young ushers and I managed to restrain this poor soul, and we led him to the white tent. When I bent inside, I was very surprised to have my first look at shaven-headed and tilaked Hare Krsna devotees. They were calming another person down and feeding him prasadam. This completely blew my mind! All around me everyone was trying to enjoy the prajalpa songs of their favorite "stars," and here were the devotees, completely oblivious to the big attraction that maya was creating, selflessly healing the short circuited brains of those who chose to be her victims. This left a deep impression on me of how they must be experiencing something that was even better than all the "good sounds," the cloud of marijuana smoke, etc. I remember thinking that these were modern saintly persons to be doing this, and I felt a lot of respect for them, but could not fathom how they could be so dedicated to showing compassion to others and ignore the conglomeration of rock idols onstage.
Like many other youth, I had been a big fan of the late Jimi Hendrix. When his second album was released, it was a worldwide rage. Along with the exotic songs was a foldout album in which there were seemingly unlimited numbers of heads of Hindu gods, elephants, etc. emanating from Jimi's head and those of his band members. I was extremely intrigued by this album cover. It was obvious that Jimi had superimposed his face and those of his band over something else, but what was that something else? I asked many people and no one knew. Then one day, my saxophone player, George, was coming home from an overnight stay with a pharmaceutical company that paid people to be guinea pigs, while they tried out their latest drug on you, and you were paid. He had been kept in the dark for a couple of days. While crossing the lawn of the Parliament buildings, he came across a couple of posters that were lying in the grass. One was of a beautiful human-like monkey that said "Hanuman," and the other, lo and behold, was the same photo that Jimi had used, but with the original face of Lord Visnu, Lord Brahma and Lord Siva, called the Virata Rupa, from the eleventh chapter of the Bhagavad-gita. I was very pleased to get this poster, because I saw it as another piece of the puzzle being put into place towards achieving the higher consciousness that I was searching for.
Shortly after this, I attended the Birds Hill Folk Festival. Again more "big names" like Joan Baez, Buffy Ste.Marie, and many more played music for two or three days. After it was all over, I remember walking over a hill to get to some transportation. I was walking alone early in the morning as the sun was rising. Just as I got over the hill, I encountered a brahmacari dressed in bright saffron, with a gleaming shaved head and a big smile that was shining even more than his head! I didn't know what to make of him. He was very enthusiastic and friendly, and handed me a stick of Spiritual Sky incense as a gift that immediately captured my senses. Then he handed me a copy of Srila Prabhupada's book, The Perfection of Yoga, and I told him I was into it. He asked me for a donation and I gave him whatever I had. It seemed like he had just descended from another planet in the middle of the field, because there were no other devotees with him. I was very happy to receive these gifts. I remember the art in the book was so attractive to me, just like on the posters that George had found and given to me earlier.
One evening I was supposed to go on a date with a girl. I wanted to make a good impression on her, so I went to the local liquor store to purchase my first bottle of wine. As I entered the store, I saw this fellow standing outside the door holding some roses, but didn't pay him much attention. As I was leaving, he asked me if I would like to give a rose to someone. I said, "Sure! It will be the perfect accompaniment to the wine." He then told me that he belonged to a spiritual movement which was trying to help people gain relief from their suffering conditions. As I was inclined to help others, I donated something and happily received the prasadam rose, not knowing at the time that I was one of those suffering souls who had begun his devotional life in Krsna consciousness by contributing something to Srila Prabhupada's mission, and that more devotional sevice would be in store for me soon.
(Cont'd on next page.)