1984 Prayer to Always Feel Your Presence
Dear Śrīla Prabhupāda,
Please accept my humble obeisances at your divine lotus feet.
nama oṁ viṣṇu-pādāya kṛṣṇa-preṣṭhāya bhū-tale
śrīmate bhaktivedānta-svāmin iti nāmine
namas te sārasvate deve gaura-vāṇī-pracāriṇe
In 1971, I recall flying over New York on the way to Miami, a hippie on some unmentionable business, Kṛṣṇa book in hand. As I turned to the back cover, you are holding a flower in your hand and a transcendental compassionate smile on your beautiful face. I turned to my companion. “I would like to ask him what the purpose of life is. I wonder where he is now?”
I don’t know where that idea came from (an echo of a timeless struggle to cast off this veil of illusion?), but I felt a great attraction, a great longing to be with you. By Kṛṣṇa’s grace I knew that you were the teacher to free me from illusion, to answer all my questions, eradicate my doubts and establish my identity as an eternal servant of Kṛṣṇa. I never doubted that you were the only transparent medium to God, that you were a perfect spiritual master, and that you were beyond the modes of material nature. Where were you then? On one of your countless trips around the world, while I kept flying on into illusion, with a faint cry for help echoing in the recesses of my consciousness. Years melted away into uselessness, while the next memory surfaces in Montreal. In 1973, Bhakta Peter finally pulled out of material life, left his wife and parents behind, university, hippie-LSD consciousness, and a hopeless paranoia that haunted me day and night, an insecurity and fear that was pushing me on the verge of insanity, for everywhere that I turned I could see that human endeavor was simply one selfish, exploitative attempt for sense gratification after another. Now some hope, your shelter, a desire to become a sannyāsī, and an addiction for simply wonderful spurred me on in a new experience called Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. Days, weeks and months go by, and the impetus for all our service is “Śrīla Prabhupāda said.” Bhakta Peter, in a kurta three sizes too small, polyester dhotī, still a bit bewildered, bathroom cleaner, book distributor, brahmacārī, and your servant.
Standing on St. Catherines Street one summer noon with an older God brother, learning to distribute BTGs, a struggle for the first few weeks (they told me Kṛṣṇa would tell me what to say), then I turned to look at your picture for some reassurance, and released some wonderful potency, the urgency and bliss of saving conditioned souls from their hopeless illusion and revealed a drop of the nectar of saṅkīrtana. Racing from person to person, book in hand, tears on my cheeks, feeling absorbed in the powerful connection where you, the ācāryas and Lord Caitanya abide bestowing benediction on all those who dedicate themselves for pushing on the saṅkīrtana movement. It’s ecstasy: “Distribute books, distribute books, distribute books.”
Summer, 1975, you came to Montreal, and eager and foolish I told you how difficult it was to distribute books at the airport, how they were persecuting us in our endeavor to please you. And you smiled and said gravely: “So if it is too difficult, you can come with me to India.” I was bewildered and embarrassed. I took it as a reproach. Now, ten years later, Brahmānanda Swami explains that you were canvassing for Canadians to come help you build India, but I missed out, standing at the top of the escalator, watching to get a last glimpse of you as you entered your plane.
Memories are surfacing, but where is the place to write them all? I am not even sure if this is the proper for this forum (maybe my sannyāsī God brothers will call me a sentimentalist or a sahajiyā?). Through these memories your presence is becoming more and more intense, but there is nothing new, just something growing, blossoming as the years go by.
Through the years, as my God brothers, in your books, in dreams and in your service, you have remained with me, as I feel your presence now. Actually all these memories are just evidence of your presence in our hearts. Years have gone by, in your presence and now in your absence, but in both absence and presence you are equally there. For those who carry out your order distributing books, building temples, making devotees, your pūjā is a daily affair, and those who take that up make every day a vyāsa-pūjā day, a celebration of your glories through not only words but actual service. The memories expressed above and others are but fruits of service, your kindness in revealing yourself to us. But the same experience through chanting, hearing, remembering, praying – all the nine processes of devotional service – is always there to the surrendered disciples and to future generations who never deviate from your order. As you have attested to the fact that “I was never alone, for I always felt presence of my spiritual master,” so I pray that I may always feel your divine presence, and through my service glorify you who can never be glorified enough. Today is vyāsa-pūjā day, to put in writing what we experience and perform through service throughout the year. May you bless us to unlimitedly increase our service to Your Divine Grace in the security of your eternal association.
Your eternal servant,