It was the summer of '75, and we were hustling like anything, getting ready for Ratha-yatra and the coming of Srila Prabhupada. We all greeted Srila Prabhupada at the Frisco airport, and Jayananda was there with an umbrella and bouquet for him. There is a very nice photo of this in the Vyasa Puja book for '97. You can look at the photo and see the person holding the umbrella over Prabhupada, with flowers in his hands for Prabhupada, but can't see the person's face. One could notice that this person wore a cuffed white shirt, like a business shirt. Jayananda didn't even have a decent kurta to wear to the airport, and he wore this dress-type shirt along with his dhoti. But he looked good in it; it was totally him, Jayananda. And Prabhupada was smiling so wonderfully. You could see the relationship, the master and the servant, and how Prabhupada was happy to be with his dear servant, Jayananda.
The next day we were having the parade and Srila Prabhupada got out of his car to ride on Subhadra's cart. As he was walking toward the cart, he did a 180 degree turnaround and looked directly into my eyes. There were hundreds of people there, but he seemed to look right into my eyes alone. It was as if he was saying, "Yes, I know you're here." I've heard many stories like this from other devotees. We all had this similar experience with Srila Prabhupada, sort of like how Krishna was with all the gopis but each gopi thought He was with her alone. It is a mystical thing, and since other devotees have told me the same thing, I suppose I was not delirious to think that it actually happened to me.
The best moment was when Srila Prabhupada was giving the lecture from the platform. There were thousands of people and I could not even get close to the stage, and I could not see Srila Prabhupada. But while listening to the lecture, every word I heard penetrated my heart very clearly and deeply, and it was an unusual time of aural reception for me. Every word from Srila Prabhupada was very profound to me. It was so heavy and wonderful that I could not stop the tears from flowing down my cheeks. It was a true moment of full consciousness, and I truly understood the nectar words of my spiritual master at that time. I feel that this was my actual initiation, rather than at the ceremony. As they say, divya-jnana is injected into the heart of the disciple by the bonafide spiritual master, and that is initiation.
It was the summer of '75, and a bunch of us were up for initiation. Bhakta Dasa and Jayananda and Bahulasva Dasa were acting as temple presidents. I kept waiting for Bhakta Dasa or Jayananda to tell me that I was getting initiated, but they didn't. I was with Bhakta Dasa for an hour or so the night before Ratha-yatra, and I expected him to tell me about the initiations the next day and how I was a candidate, but he never said anything. Neither did Jayananda. And so I was thinking that I wasn't getting initiated.
Then we had the festival, and when evening came I did my night watch to guard the Ratha carts. Consequently I was sleeping in the next morning. I was suddenly awakened by Jayananda, who exclaimed, "Oh Bhakta Tom, I'm so sorry, I forgot to tell you -- you were supposed to get initiated this morning. I'm sorry, you missed it. But don't worry, Srila Prabhupada wants to see you in his room." I said that I thought I wasn't going to get initiated, and Jayananda said how I was "humility personified," which was his usual way of praising other devotees.
So I went to Berkeley and got to go into Srila Prabhupada's room and be alone with him for a minute. This is another tall tale, but I was paying my obeisances and while reciting the pranam prayers, I happened to glance from the corner of my eye at Srila Prabhupada and saw a bright glow all about him. Blinding glow in fact. I've been told in retrospect that auras are easier to see from a peripheral angle of vision. Oh well, this is another story like the one in Vaiyasaki's book, Radha-Damodara Vilasa, with Vishnujana Swami telling of how Srila Prabhupada's room was full of blinding light. But since we've all heard stories in ISKCON even more amazing than this (how tears shot out from Srila Prabhupada's eyes when he was singing Jaya Radha Madhava, some devotees getting sprinkled by these teardrops several feet away, and how some devotees saw him floating down some stairs, his feet not touching the stairs, and so on) then I see no harm in telling what I saw. Then I got my beads and my name of Vishoka Dasa.
Before I entered the room, I was thinking of how the disciple should always feel a fool before the spiritual master. I had no problem feeling the fool. But... there was a vestige of pride in my heart. It was like I was thinking, "Well here I am I'm getting initiated by the greatest acarya that was ever on the planet." Even though this was philosophically correct, I was feeling unnecessary pride in my heart, and I was mentally tooting my own horn, so to speak. Srila Prabhupada looked at me and saw right through me and immediately detected the pride. Srila Prabhupada could read others' minds. He gave me a hard look and a sarcastic smile that cut me to the quick, totally devastating my petty pride. Although I was raised in Kansas, and although I never thought of myself as a hick, always thinking I was a city slicker I had only one thought in my mind at that time, "I am just a hick from Kansas... and that is all I am... nothing more." It was as if Srila Prabhupada projected this humbling thought into my brain.
Here is another far-out mystical story. Actually, it's not so mystical for one who is a resident of the spiritual world, where it's a normal everyday affair to see devotees talking to Krishna. For Srila Prabhupada, it's a normal thing to do... but down here, amongst us earthlings, it's a rare sight to see Krishna's pure devotee talking to Him in His Deity form. For one who's bankrupt in faith, the Deity appears as a statue, and actually this perception is hellish, naraka. As Krishna says, "For the doubting soul, there is happiness neither in this world or the next." But for one who is stocked up in faith, and who hears from Krishna's pure devotee, especially of the many stories of Deities like how the Sakshi Gopal Deity walked thousands of miles to bear witness for the reputation of His devotee; and how Lord Chaitanya saw Krishna standing in threefold bending form with a flute within the Deity of Lord Jagannatha; and in Los Angeles, how Lord Balarama would jump off the altar when pujaris were late, and so many other stories then such faithful devotees see the Deity as directly the son of Nanda Maharaja. Just as our dear friend Sriman Kusha-kratha Dasa, our modern-day Vaishnava poet, who dreams in Sanskrit and composes and translates thousands of verses in glorification of Sri Radha-Krishna, says in his Sri Sri Radha-Mukunda-Stava "I worship glorious-limbed Sri Sri Radha-Mukunda, who, pretending to be stone statues, truly stand, silent and unmoving by Their wish, in many temples in this world."
So, I was fortunate to see such an exchange of love between Krishna and His pure devotee, Srila Prabhupada. I was in the temple room in Los Angeles when Srila Prabhupada arrived from the airport, and I was in such an angle of vision to see him say a few quick words to Sri Sri Rukmini-Dwarakadhisha. I felt fortunate on one hand, and on the other hand felt like I trespassed into confidential territory. Still, it was a maha moment for me, to see how Krishna comes in His arca-vigraha form and converses with His own pure devotee, Srila Prabhupada. When we see the Krishna Vision slide show and we hear Krishna Prema Prabhu's wonderful recording of the many Holy Names of Deities from around the world, we become awestruck to realize how Krishna agrees to appear hundreds of times, all over the world, all for the sake of His pure devotee, Srila Prabhupada.
Hearing from our spiritual master is the most important process of devotional service. This was vividly illustrated in another experience I had in Srila Prabhupada's presence. We were all on a walk with Srila Prabhupada on Watseka Avenue in Los Angeles, California, across the street from the temple. A major thing I remember was the profound silence around Srila Prabhupada. Usually on Watseka Avenue, there's always a great din in the air, like babies crying in the background, or shouts of "hari-bol," or devotees talking everywhere. But in the presence of Srila Prabhupada there was an absolute silence around the sidewalk. It was as if the Supersoul in everyone's hearts was telling us all to just be quiet and listen to the divine master. Adults, kids, insects, birds and animals were all silent in his divine presence. And we were all listening for the nectar from his lotus lips.