A fleeting memory... It was mid morning, I believe the summer of 1975. I gazed up to see Srila Prabhupada standing alone, outside an open door, at the steps of the side entrance to the L.A. temple in the alley just below His quarters. Smiling, he held a silver tray in one hand, giving out cookies with the other to just a small handful of children, only two or three, and to one woman in a white or pale sari, whom I believe might have been Man Mohini Devi Dasi. I had never seen Srila Prabhupada alone like that, without the usual shield-like barrier of saffron and white, and shaven heads, and tridandi sticks pointing in every direction. In awe I stopped and was unable to move closer, especially since I felt embarrassed that my head was no longer clean shaven. I turned my head around to look behind me towards the sidewalks on Watseka Ave.; and there, just a few feet behind me, were dozens of devotes in white, saffron and colorful saris all milling about, chanting and conversing, with great big bright expectant smiles on every face. It looked like a toothpaste convention. Clueless that Srila Prabhupada was just around the corner in the alley way, they glanced here and there with anxious expectations. But when I turned my head back around Srila Prabhupada was gone, just as quickly as he had appeared, the door was closed, the children had gone, and the woman ran past me like a little girl back into the cheerful crowd with a cookie in her hand, showing the biggest, widest smile yet.
I still remember the chill that ran all the way up my spine and into the crown of my head, and scalp, when I realized what had just happened. There was some kind of magic about New Dvarka in that brief incident that reverberates in my heart to this day, like a small bubble in time or space that allowed for those few children to share a lone moment with Srila Prabhupada, amidst the commotion of eager yet unknowing numbers of smiling faces that were expecting His presence just a few feet away -- yet were totally unaware.
I had just arrived to New Dvarka from the Berkeley temple the day before, to join what appeared to be hundreds of devotees at the Los Angeles airport to greet Srila Prabhupada. Before coming here, I had been part of two Rathayatras on the East coast, and lived in three temples, but until this day in New Dvarka I had never seen so many Hare Krsna devotees assembled in one place. It was tumultuous. This magical place seemed like a transitional segue between Earth and Vaikuntha. As it turned out, I had fallen in love with New Dvarka on that particular day and chose not to return to Berkeley.
It is now twenty eight years later, I am sitting in the balcony of the temple room overlooking the street through wooden arched windows that seem to have been here forever. It is a weeknight just before eight in the evening and just after a sincere and refreshingly simple Bhagavad Gita class, a down to earth reminder that I was not this body, but a jiva soul servant of Krsna. Below on the marble floor awaits the nightly crowd of three dozen or more devotees and guests that are patiently anticipating the sweet bhajans and last arati of the day. The restaurant tables were all full when I left a few moments before, the store was clad with new costumers, there are a dozen or more happy children playing and laughing innocently out front, and the appearance of the grounds and gardens is clean, safe, and most importantly 'trouble' free.
The Conch shell blows and the deity doors are opened to reveal Their Smiling Lordships, Sri Sri Gaura Nitai, Rukmini and Dvarkadish, and Jagganatha, Baladeva and Subhadra, who gaze upon the sincere visitors that come every single night. The magic is still here, that same magic that I remember from that one morning when Srila Prabhupada appeared smiling with cookies and children, and disappeared as quickly into that still morning, like a promise that 'everything was going to be alright'. Now, almost 30 years later, I realize that here in New Dvarka everything is more than just all right -- this is the Holy Dhama, like Srila Prabhupada had insisted so many times. The lord Himself and His devotees have managed, maintained, and developed this, community with impeccable care and devotion. All this is revealed through the continuing smiling faces of devotees, friends and new comers that pour into the morning and evening programs everyday. From where I am standing, outside-looking-in, all is running as it should be running in what appears to be auto-pilot through dedication and devotion.
Now, every time I pass that alley doorway I am reminded of that reassuring moment in time which was so sudden that I almost don't trust if it was real or a just dream. All the same, it has left me with a comforting note about Srila Prabhupada's presence and magic in this beautiful New Dvarka Dhama -- a snap shot of the children and the cookies, and the love in His smile, and the grown woman who appeared to turn into a child, and the crowd so close and unaware...
Yadunandana Pada Dasa