Overwhelmed by Prabhupada
In 1970 I first saw Srila Prabhupada's picture at the Portland, Oregon temple, and then saw him for the first time in person in San Francisco. When we Portlandites drove down to Los Angeles in 1971 I was told to go up to Prabhupada's vyasasana to take initiation, receive my beads and instructions from him.
In previous years I had been studying and following gurus like Maharishi Mahesh yogi, Yogananda, and also a Tibetan monk I met in Portland who was your basic sunyavadi exponent. At 18 I really was a true believer in the Void and found a fair amount of illusory joy just "voiding out" most of the time, until I met some devotees.
But this day of initiation was the day that turned my life around, my void-mind upside down, and my heart filled with fresh desires, desires to know what Srila Prabhupada knew, his teachings, and his plans for the enlightenment of the West. As I approached his vyasasana I could actually feel my false ego melting as I got closer to him. It was simultaneously a scary, un-nerving feeling and a liberating feeling as well. As most sensitive devotees can testify, Srila Prabhupada had the ability to see right into your soul.
At the age of 20 I was at a critical point in my life when I was seriously seeking the truth inquiring about all life's and death's major questions. All my previous experiences with gurus was that they were trying to impress me with something or they felt uneasy with my questions or my inquiring stare into their eyes, as if they had something to hide, or they were afraid of being exposed as not really having all the answers. I was pretty intense in those days. Srila Prabhupada could look through any critical set of eyes and always give the perfect answers. He also brought a regulated system for purifying us through hearing, studying, arcana-vidhi, chanting and preaching. This was an authoritative spiritual practice which made other contemporary groups just appear like hodge-podge spirituality to me. I was firmly convinced and joined the movement within about a 12 hour period of observing the devotees practices back in that glorious summer of 1970. That same year Uncle Sam was after me for a second time to be drafted. Becoming a monk in the movement saved me in that way also.
As I was kneeling below Srila Prabhupada's presence, I could sense his powerful purity, (although at the time I didn't know exactly what I was sensing) just as I had felt from my first darshan of his photo in the Portland temple. I never saw another spiritual teacher with such a selfless, humble and majestic look as Srila Prabhupada had in that photo...... see photo. For some reason, I knew he was the one I could depend on implicitly to teach me the absolute truth. Whereas I hadn't felt that way with other teachers before.
When he asked me with a slight warm smile what the four regulative principles are, I found myself feeling very supported by his friendliness, as if he was looking at me saying "you can do it, don't be afraid". I said "we don't eat meat, fish, eggs; no illicit sex, no intoxication.... uhh, no, uhh,". He looked at me in a more stern way and said softly "That's all right, and how many rounds will you chant?". I said "sixteen Srila Prabhupada". He handed me the japa beads.
He then said a few things which to this day I cannot remember as I know he was talking about staying steady on the bhakti path, but I think I was so overwhelmed by the whole experience of being in his presence for the first time, I had some kind of a cloudy brain freeze or something, for lack of better words. All my impersonal voidism was being frozen by his cultured and personable purely Krishna-conscious character. He made me feel totally safe and more sure of my chosen path just by that short meeting with him. And later meetings with him also proved to me that jagat guru Srila Prabhupada never changes, he is changeless, ever-youthful and eternally beloved and intimate servant of Sri Sri Radha and Krishna. Srila Prabhupada always maintained the symptoms of the nitya-siddha maha-bhagavata by his speech, and by his example, and always bringing the conversation back to Krishna. He brought the spiritual world to us. He came from the spiritual world on the order of his spiritual master and the Supreme Personality of Godhead. We may not understand completely how incredibly fortunate we are to receive his books and direct instructions in our time. At that time of initiation I didn't fully comprehend the inestimable gifts Prabhupada was bestowing.
He said to me "Your name is Visnu dasa", the devotees cheered "Visnu dasa!". Of course they cheered everyone's newly initiated name. I walked back into the crowd blissful with my new Prabhupada-blessed beads and asked a devotee nearby, "What is my name again?". Then I was told - the first important thing is to 'hear' - sravanam. ...but...brain freeze! That experience will always be frozen in time for me.
All glories to His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, our eternal lamp shining throughout our lives, dispelling the brain freeze of ignorance!