Kalpalatika: It was 1974, July, and I had traveled by traveling sankirtan from Dallas to Washington, D.C. to get my brahmin initiation from Srila Prabhupada. The system was that you went up to his quarters and Srila Prabhupada personally gave you the gayatri mantra. I was very excited that I was going to finally be alone with my spiritual master. I had tried to think of a deep, philosophical question that I could ask him. I don’t know how deep it was but when it was my turn to go in, I saw Srila Prabhupada sitting on a cushion behind a low table. He was so effulgent and beautiful and I just felt so much awe that I became very nervous. I paid my obeisances, put the guru-dakshina and the flowers on his table, and then I stood up. Srila Prabhupada was looking at me right in the eyes, and like with so many different devotees, you had the sense that he was just looking right into your heart, seeing all the dirt that’s there and just everything about your soul. Then Srila Prabhupada asked me a question but I couldn’t understand what he said. I said, “Excuse me, Srila Prabhupada?” He said the question again and I still couldn’t understand him. I had never had trouble understanding Srila Prabhupada before, but the one time I’m alone with him I can’t understand what he’s saying. I had to ask him a third time, “Srila Prabhupada, I’m sorry, I just don’t understand what you’re saying.” Finally I understood that he was just asking, “Are there any more people out there waiting to be initiated?” I said, “No, Srila Prabhupada.”
At this point I wasn’t going to ask him any deep, philosophical questions. Then he asked me to come and sit right beside him which I did. I was feeling overwhelmed to be sitting right next to the Jagat Guru, my spiritual master. He said to me, “So you know how to do this?” and he moved his fingers like you do for gayatri mantra. I said, “Oh yes, Srila Prabhupada,” but then when I tried to do it, I couldn’t because I was too overwhelmed. So he took his hand and moved my fingers for me, which was really so kind. My realization was that even though I was acting like such a fool in front of my spiritual master, he was never impatient or angry or disturbed or disgusted. He was just kind and compassionate whereby I truly felt how Srila Prabhupada had unconditional love for me.
Guru-Gauranga: On May 29, 1974 Prabhupada landed in Geneva and was accompanied by Satsvarupa Goswami and Nitai. We picked Prabhupada and his team up at the airport and brought him to the temple. I was very busy with all the arrangements for Prabhupada’s meetings and programs and for the official reception of Srila Prabhupada by the Governor of Geneva. I was unaware of the fact that Lilavati dasi, a disciple of Prabhupada’s, had previously arrived to Geneva to do typing for Prabhupada. About three days into Prabhupada’s visit, Prabhupada asked about Lilavati. I didn’t even know that she was in the temple so I went to inquire about her. It turned out that Lilavati had arrived sick with hepatitis from India and had to go directly to the hospital. I came back to Prabhupada’s room and said, “Prabhupada, she’s still in the hospital,” like I actually knew what was going on. Srila Prabhupada said, “We will go and visit Lilavati in the hospital. Make arrangements immediately.”
I rushed out and told the devotees, “We’re all going to the hospital. Get the cars ready for Prabhupada and the devotees. Is there maha prasadam for her? Does she have Prabhupada’s books?” Finally when everything was ready I went back into Srila Prabhupada’s room and said, “Prabhupada, we’re ready now.” Then he said, “Very good. Now go.” And Prabhupada stayed in the temple and sent everybody else to the hospital to visit with Lilavati to give her prasadam and association. What I take from that obviously is that Prabhupada remembered his servants and cared for them. He felt for them and he missed them when they were not around. And he knew who everybody was.
Tattvavit: I associated with Srila Prabhupada mostly by attending his classes. I usually saw him in public as opposed to a darshan in his apartment. He spoke with so much authority and gravity and seriousness that his disciples were always attentive to what he said. Other than Prabhupada’s voice of course, you could hear a pin drop in the room. It was so wonderful to hear the silence of the devotees in their attentiveness. Their ears were just wide open.
I also heard Prabhupada give a lecture once at the Sunday feast in Toronto. The audience then was mostly from India who had come to the west to work. Srila Prabhupada’s talk addressed that fact. He was telling the Indians that they shouldn’t forget Krishna and he quoted the verse, “Patram pushpam phalam toyam…” that if you offer Krishna a flower, a leaf, some fruit or water, Krishna accepts it. He said, “It’s very easy to serve Krishna even in your house, but if you forget Krishna, it won’t be very good. You have come to the west to work, and now you have good apartments, good cars, but if you forget Krishna, then in your next life you’ll become a cockroach in your car.” I think the Indian people may have heard strong words before from saintly people. In other words, it’s not unusual for a saintly person to speak in strong words to wake up a person especially from the culture of India and the land where Krishna appeared.