Yasya Prasadad Bhagavat Prasado
By the mercy of Krishna, one gets Guru
By the mercy of Guru, one gets Krishna

This is a story about my search for the answers to life’s questions. My search to know God. To know the reason for my being here, my purpose. My search for my spiritual master, Krsna’s mercy by sending to me my eternal master, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad, and at the same time, Srila Prabhupad’s causeless mercy by way of answering all my burning questions, quenching my thirst for knowledge of God, enlightening me as to my real and eternal purpose for existing. He has given me everything. More than I can imagine to ever repay in 1,000’s of life times.

I offer my prostrate and humbled obeisances unto the Lotus Feet of my Spiritual Master, A. C. Bhaktivendanta Swami Prabhupad. Without whose causeless mercy I would be today again wandering completely lost with no direction in this material world. My life and soul are surrendered to serving him.

Thus, this is the story of my coming to Krishna Consciousness.

I decided the best place to start is to go all the way back to my early childhood, because in this life time the road back to Godhead started there. There were a few things in my early life that I do not recall ever ‘learning’. They were concepts that came with me when I was born into this world. Probably the most profound was that I always knew the real living entity was an eternal soul, not the temporary body. Somehow I just knew that. It was not until my high school years when I entered a conversation about it with my friends did I realize that most other people in this modern American society did not share this understanding.

I originally began writting this in long hand most likely around 1978 or so. Then I copied it onto my first desktop computer, an old Vector Graphics Z80 running C/PM in 1981. I then copied it from one compute to another but just never got around to completing it over all these years. I finally pulled it out last week and completed it and posted it today, December 24, 2004. Latest changes and modifications on May 13, 2006

Along with understanding the soul was eternal came the related understanding of reincarnation. Again, it was not something that I learned. I just knew that we come back. That the soul is eternal, that we have had innumerable lives before and will have ahead of us. Again, all my childhood I simply assumed that everyone else also knew this.

I was shocked during high school years when my friends argued against the idea of reincarnation. It never really occurred to me that the current popular Christian institutions and their members do not accept this. I just assumed that this was commonly understood and accepted. It took a while for reality to sink in that very few others in the society that I lived understood this.

Also, from earliest childhood, I always felt that this world was a foreign place to me. Everything about it seemed out-of-place. The way people treated each other, the way we communicated and talked, everything just seemed very foreign and also degraded. I never felt that I really fit in. When I discovered that no one else, that I knew at the time, believed in reincarnation or that we are not this temporary material body, I really started to wonder what I was doing here. I was a stranger in a strange land. And my quest to try and figure ot why God had sent me here became prominent in my high school years.

I was born into a Christian family. In my early childhood my family went to church regularly (well, regularly for Christians, once a week on Sunday). I liked Sunday school when the teacher would read stories about Jesus. One day, I must have been around 6 or 7 or so, the Sunday school teacher read the story about one follower of Jesus (I think it was Matthew). He was an important man in the government. He approached Jesus and told Him he wanted to be his disciple and wanted to follow Him. Jesus told him that to become His follower the man would have to renounce his entire family and his wealth. He told him to go home, make sure his family will be taken care of, then give away whatever wealth they did not need and to return with only the clothes he wore and one blanket on this back. He did this and only then Jesus accepted him. (This was like taking sannyas, or the renounced order, in the Vedic culture). So, I was about 6 or 7 years old then and it made me think. I raised my hand and asked the Sunday school teacher, as a confirmation of my understanding, “Then, until we do this, until we leave our family and go to Jesus with only a blanket and one set of clothes, then, Jesus won’t really accept us?”. She was startled. She shook her head and said, “Oh - no, no. No, it doesn’t mean that at all.” She was lost for words. I said, “But, you just told us that is what it says in the Bible. That the only way Jesus would accept us as His real follower was that we had to do that”. She then said, “The world, it is, it is just a different world today then what it was when Jesus was here. Jesus just would not want us to do that today. The Bible tells us stories of how things used to be. But today, we know that Jesus will accept us just by accepting Him in our hearts. He would never want us to do something like this, not today.” She was obviously a bit rattled by my question. And, I again protested, “But, aren’t we supposed to do what Jesus taught in the Bible? Isn’t that what you have always said? I don’t understand how it is so different today?”. The teacher told me, “Jimmy, you’re too little to understand. And you’re too small to be asking such questions”. And that was the end of it. I never asked her any more questions after that. It was a big disappointment for me. Before this incident I really looked up to her. I wanted to learn about God and Jesus. I wanted to be close to God. I really wanted to know what was the right thing to do, how to please Them. So, I felt disappointed because I knew the right thing to do would be to follow what Jesus actually said. The teacher’s idea that we weren’t supposed to had no substance to it.

It was also the beginning of my desire to want to learn and know about God and religion on my own. I now saw that those who were teaching me about religion did not really have all the answers themselves, and this made me want to search out the real truth on my own. Or separate from what I was being told.

Yet, the most positive thing about Sunday school was that it set the foundation for my awareness not just of God, but that God is a person. We were taught about God – The Father. We were instructed to pray to Him – in a personal way. God was a “person”. He would hear and understand our prayers, and if we deserved it, He would answer our prayers. So, those few early years in Sunday school (it was the United Methodist Church in Glidden, Iowa during the mid to late 1950’s) gave me the solid basis that God was a real person, my real father. And, it set a habit for me of constantly praying, within, to my real Father. God, The Father, and Jesus, became my only real friends as I grew up.

Modern psychologists may say that I became somewhat withdrawn. And, I did. Not totally. I had friends and all. But, I considered the external world to be more like a bad dream. I saw it as something unpleasant that I had to suffer through for this life. So I did withdraw at times to my room and just try to talk to God and Jesus. In my heart, They were my guide and my constant companions and friends. I was a stranger in a strange land. I would feel very lonely at times, because there was no one I knew who I could speak to about this. I felt that no one would really understand. So, I kept all of that to myself.

When I was about 12 or 13 (7th grade) we were studying in school about World War I and II. We were reading about the Nazis and Hitler and how the Germans would salute their leader and revere their flag. Even these acts were taught, at least by the teachers, as being wrong and the sign of evil or idolatry. And, the Swastika, being the symbol of the Nazi party, also symbolized hate and evil.

At home my father had just purchased a huge thick college dictionary. It listed the root meanings of all words. A lot of English could be traced to a Latin or Greek root. Yet this dictionary also showed the Sanskrit root for many words. I used to spend hours at a time just studying and reading that dictionary to learn the meaning of words. While studying the World War’s at school I had become intrigued by the Swastika. Not the Nazi flag, but at first it was the word Swastika. It reminded me of something deep in my past. A past life. It seemed familiar to me and I was attracted to it. But, I had no interest at all to study any further about the Nazi’s or Hitler. I felt absolutely no connection with them whatsoever. Just the Swastika grabbed my attention. So, I looked up the word Swastika in our family’s Webster’s Unabridged Collegiate Dictionary and was surprised to find that it originally was, and still is, a sacred religious symbol of the Hindu religion. Swastika was directly a Sanskrit word still widely used throughout India.

For those who do not know, Hitler and members of the Nazi party had a keen interest in the Vedic scripture. The word “Aryan” is also a Sanskrit word and is used in the Vedas. Hitler had Sanskrit scholars who translated many Vedic texts and the Nazi’s studied those texts. Actually, they also studied other ancient teachings as well. But, their goal and motive was not to achieve spiritual advancement or love of God. Many political sects also studied the Kabalah or other similar ancient writings trying to find ancient or mystic keys that they could use to empower them in their quest to conquer the world. They did not study the Vedas for spiritual enlightenment, but to try and extract what they thought would be secrets to obtaining mystic powers or supernatural powers, etc. The Nazi party’s adoption of the Swastika as their symbol was both a complete misuse and misunderstanding of the symbol’s significance, and simultaneously their improper use of the symbol has given the symbol an extremely negative, wrong and undeserved reputation world wide. The Svastika is used in Vedic ceremonies to invoke spiritual auspiciousness. To invoke spiritual success. The Swastika, the symbol, has also been used by other religions and societies over the course of history. But, the Nazi’s use stemmed from the Vedic influence, as the name ‘Svastika’ is the Sanskrit name. The Nazi’s used it to invoke material or political success – not spiritual auspiciousness. Also, the Nazi’s misunderstood the Vedic word ‘Aryan’. This is a whole other story, but the basics are that the actual Vedic term is a title that can be given to any and all people. One can be white, black, yellow, red, it doesn’t mater his color or land of birth. An Aryan is one who accepts and lives by the Vedic scriptures. A non-aryan is one who does not live by the Vedic scripture. The Vedas may give some hint that those who accept and live in accordance with the Vedas are superior to those who do not. Why are they ‘superior’? Because they will reap the benefits of that following the Vedas has to offer, while those who do not follow will be at a disadvantage as they will be bereft of those advantages. It is no different then saying that those who follow the laws of their country, state and local laws are to be considered superior to the common criminals who do not accept or follow the laws where they live. The European historians, however, did not accept this and came up with their own concocted interpretation, which is rejected by those who accept the Vedas (it is rejected by true Aryans). The European historical scholars interpreted Aryan to mean the ‘superior race’, by color, and they concocted so-called historical evidence to show that the Vedas were describing the white, blue-eyed, European race. This is totally rejected by the true Aryans, the true knowers and followers of the Vedas

This was the first time in my life that I knowingly even heard the word or concept “Hindu”. I was attracted to the Svastika symbol and not at all to Hitler, etc. So, I began to wonder, what was “Hinduism”. And, I also became curious about this language called “Sanskrit”?

I have to admit, I was not that educated at 12. I had heard of the Jews, but mostly only from hearing about them from the Bible. I really wasn’t sure who they were. (Obviously, I did not have any friends who were Jewish, or at least who told me they were, at the time.) All I knew was Judaism (or the religion of the Jews) was the religion before and during Jesus’s lifetime. I had not heard about Islam by then either. I had no idea what Islam was, or Mohammed, I didn’t know Allah was a name for God. And, I would have to say, I knew even less, absolutely nothing, of Hinduism (or Buddhism). But, because I felt a deep and almost ancient attraction to the Svastika symbol my view of religion began to open up as I realized there were other religions in this world besides Christianity. That really intrigued me. Up to that time in my life, the public school never taught anything about any other religion, and the Churches we attended never did either. So, really, I assumed that if one wanted to know God and be religious than there was no other path, no other way to the Father, except through the Christian Bible. After all, that is what we had been taught that the Bible teaches. But, the attraction I had toward the Swastika was very real, and very deep – I knew there was a strong connection to my previous life. I started an interest to know more about other religions. And, specifically this strange new word for me, “Hindu”, “Hinduism”. What was it? Even though I had absolute no knowledge of what Hinduism was, nothing, absolutely no connection or knowledge of it in this lifetime, simply due to a deep and distant attraction for the Svastika, and simply because a dictionary listed it as a religious symbol used in India by the Hindus, that day I accepted that I must have been a Hindu in my previous life, and I began to consider myself a Hindu.

And I have to admit, it sounds really odd. I tried to find out more, but all I had was that one dictionary. We had no encyclopedia, and I had not yet gone to the library to do research. I had an extremely limited amount of material available to me to study. But, from that dictionary I learned that Sanskrit was an ancient language, seated in India, the mother of all languages of the planet, and that Hinduism was founded in this ancient Sanskrit language and that the Swatiska was a religious symbol of Hinduism. And from this, I began to consider myself a “Hindu”. I had never met a “Hindu”. I had never known or even had seen anyone up to that time who was from India. But, still, I began to realize that I was a Hindu (and had been in my past-life). These realizations started to manifest to me at about 12 years of age (~ 1963).

Again, my attraction was completely, totally, separate from Hitler. I had absolutely no interest in hearing about him, or Nazism. In fact, I really thought it was quite odd that a sacred religious symbol had been so misused by someone who the masses considered so evil. But, that didn’t even phase me at all, because my interest in the symbol had nothing at all to do with Nazism. I began to draw the symbol on papers and things without thinking about it’s unfortunate association with the Nazis.

A short time later we had a short test in one of my classes at school. The students handed each other our papers so one student would grade another student’s paper as the teacher read off the correct answers. I corrected a girl’s paper who sat near me. For each right answer we were to put a check mark, and for each wrong answer an X. I had mistakenly marked one answer as right with a check mark, then when I understood it was wrong I added a cross mark to turn the check into an X. But, one leg of the X had an extra line on one leg. I thought, ‘hmmm, interesting’. And so without much thought I added the little line to all the legs of the X and basically turned it into a Swastika. The girl was not the brightest bulb in the class and she got a lot of answers wrong. Well, some could say my bulb wasn’t that bright right then either, because without really thinking about it, I turned all of the X’s on her paper into Swastikas. It was done in total innocence on my part. I wasn’t using the Swastika with any sort of thought about Nazism at all. Rather, it looked artistic to me to see the paper filled with so many nice svastikas. In my mind, I had decorated her test sheet with a Hindu religious symbol. And, it was a very poor test sheet on her part, so the paper wound up with a lot Hindu religious symbols all over it. At least, that was the way I was thinking.

After completing the test I handed it back to the girl with her failing score at the top. She immediately let off with a scream. I thought she must be upset about her failing the test. But, she turned to me with such anger and asked, “Why did you put SVASTIKAS all over my paper?”. Not waiting for me to reply, she took her paper and showed it to the teacher. Only then did I learn that this girl was Jewish. The teacher called me up to her desk. She was raging with anger. She grabbed my shoulders and began shaking me violently yelling at me for ‘defacing’ this girl’s paper. She went on about how the Swastika was the symbol of hate, the symbol of Nazism and Hitler. I was surprised by the reaction all this got. I really did it out of innocence. When the teacher cooled down enough to let me speak, I argued that the Swastika was actually a sacred religious symbol used by Hindus. It wasn’t used only by the Nazis, and for a Hindu it does not represent evil, but just the opposite, it is used to invoke good religious fortune. The teacher was a bit taken aback. She had never heard such a thing before. She said, “But you are not a Hindu, you’re a Christian”. She said that my use of it was not for religious reasons but to deface the girl’s paper with a symbol of ‘hate’. So, I then told the teacher that was not true, and that I was a Hindu. (Rather an odd thing for me to claim since I knew absolutely nothing about Hinduism). The teacher asked, “Are you from India?”. “No”. “Are your parent’s from India?” “No”. Are your parent’s Hindu?” “No, but I am”. The teacher then said, if my parent’s weren’t Hindu then I wasn’t either. She considered this to be a cheap excuse and sent me to the Principal’s office, where the principal went into even more of a violent rage. He did not even allow me to say one single word in my own defense. Every time I tried to speak, he demanded that I keep my mouth shut, he didn’t want to hear any sort of defense for the horrible thing I had done. And, so, I got a 3 day suspension from school with a warning that if I pulled something like this again I would be expelled from public school.

At the time, I was totally convinced that I was a Hindu. Yet, looking back, I have to admit that it was really strange. I didn’t know anything about Hinduism – period – other then the Svastika was one of it’s symbols, and that the religion was connected to the Sanskrit language and that Sanskrit was the original human language. And, even though this happened in the 7th grade, when I was ~12, I also forgot about it over time as I had no on-going connection or access to any Hindu, Hindus, or Sanskrit scriptures.

As I said, at that time we were studying how it was evil for the followers of Hitler to practically worship the Swastika flag and how they would raise their arms in salute. At the same time I was studying the Bible on my own at home. I had just come across some verses in the Old Testament where it is said that Jehovah is a jealous God. It says that one shall put no other God before the one and only God, Jehovah. One shall worship the one and Supreme God only and shall not worship ‘false’ gods or idols.

The next morning at school, as we do every single morning for the first class of the day, the entire class stood up, placed our right hands over our hearts and began to recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag. It starts off, “I pledge my allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God…”. As I was chanting the pledge it struck me that this was really a type of daily ritual or ceremony. I was standing there, my hand over my heart, looking up at a red, white and blue cloth flag and daily taking a vow to the flag, by pledging my allegiance to a piece of cloth (and to the Republic for which it stands). It hit me that this was no different then a religious ritual. Pledging my allegiance was no less then making a religious vow to a flag. That flag had became no less than a false-god, or an idol that I was being forced to worship by pledging my vow of allegiance to it. I began to see this as a form of forced worship that I was being engaged in an irreligious ceremony everyday taking a vow before an idol in the form of a flag. We were daily praising it’s glory. Suddenly, I questioned, what was the difference between us, as Americans, placing our hands over our hearts and praising the glory of our flag in a daily ritual, taking a daily vow of allegiance, and the Nazis extending their hands and saluting their flag? That day I now viewed flag worship as irreligious idolatry.

I had just read that God asked that we not worship such idols. In the midst of the pledge, I fell silent and dropped my hand to my side. I decided at that moment I would no longer engage in the worship of such a false idol. And, instead, I began to offer a silent prayer to God, my Father, and vowed to pledge my vow of allegiance to Him, not to a flag.

The next day when the class stood to offer their homage to the flag. I chose not to stand. Instead, I silently offered my pledge of allegiance to my Father, God. The teacher noticed that I was not standing and not worshiping the flag. After the ceremony she called me and asked why? I tried to explain. She said that it was mandatory, all the students “had” to pledge their allegiance to the flag each day. I told her I had chosen not to do so for religious reasons. She did not buy it (it was a different teacher then the one with the Svastika run-in). I was told if I didn’t conform to the rules I would be expelled from school. So, after that, I stood up and put my hand over my heart and pretended to be chanting my vow to the flag, but instead, I daily pledged my vow of allegiance to the Supreme Father, God. I never, again, chanted the flag pledge again. And, it never became an issue until graduation week in high school. During commencement rehearsals they played the “Star Spangled Banner” and I did not stand up. One teacher came running up the bleachers and demanded that I stand, in honor of our flag. I told him, “I’m sorry, but, I cannot. I refused to worship a false idol”. “WHAT!!??! What are you talking about? If you don’t stand up I will have you expelled and you will not get your diploma.” I stood up, but told him I was standing to honor God, not a flag. He backed off.

I probably should not take so much time to mention all this, as it is mostly about ‘me’ and not about how I came to Krsna Consciousness, in a direct way. But, it is about how I joined, in an overall sense. It gives some glimpse to events that I always considered to be major events in my youth, and help to give an idea of who I was, at least in my own eyes. I see all these events leading me up to the time I would find my spiritual master. So, I have included them.

One other thing that took place back in Jr High when I was somewhere around 13-14 yrs old (or maybe it was when I was 12 and I was trying to find information about Hinduism??? I can’t recall exactly). Somehow I got hold of a book on Hatha Yoga from the library. It was an exercise book that showed many different yoga postures that promoted good circulation and good physical health. I recall being extremely fascinated by the word ‘yoga’. The main posture was the full lotus, cross legged with both bottoms of the feet facing up. Seeing the yoga positions again brought back memories of another lifetime. I had no problem sitting in the Lotus position and sat like that for some time, in meditation (the book mentioned meditation as well, and holding of the breath).

When my mother saw the book in the house, she got very upset. And, she mentioned something to me then that didn’t really get through. She mentioned the same thing later (several years after I got out of high school and was studying more heavily in the Vedas and Srila Prabhupad’s books). But, at that time with the yoga book she had mentioned how my father, long ago, long before I was born, and possibly in the 1930’s just before or after they were married, how he had taken up ‘yoga’. My mother told me that he had got some books written by one of the “Swami’s” who had come from India and had started to engage in some yoga meditations. My mother claimed she and others finally persuaded my father to give it up. My mother’s view was that this ‘yoga meditation’ would make people go insane (that was her uninformed perspective). I was very much interested and wanted to learn more, but she would not say anymore than that. I asked my father, and my father at times was a quite person. He just sort of gave it a laugh and said, yeah, but he couldn’t remember much about it. That was all he ever said. But, I found it interesting that he even had any connection at all to yoga and reading a book from a ‘swami’ from India in his younger days.

So, back to 1964 or so, after I had got the yoga book. I was normally a quite kid at school and never liked being the center of attraction. But, one rainy day we were indoors during physical education class and they had us do tumbling down a long string of mats on the floor. So, I ran and as soon as I hit the mat I crossed my legs in the Lotus position and tumbled on down to the end. At the end I just sat there in the lotus position and closed my eyes and went into ‘meditation’. I was faking it, just pretending, but, at the same time, I also got into it. I recall sitting there for sometime. My friends came over and started asking me if I was all right. I was oblivious to them. I just sat there. Even though I was intending to do it as a prank and was pretending, I really felt like I was in one world and they were in another. So, it was easy to just sit there and ignore them. One friend got concerned when I didn’t respond to them. He saw my legs were ‘twisted’. He started telling the others that something bad must have happened to me. He said that when I was tumbling my legs must have got all tied up in a knot and that it did something to my spine or something and that I had lost consciousness while sitting up. He was asking others to help him untwist my legs. Another commented that I looked like I had turned into a pretzel. After sometime all the kids in the class were standing around with everyone asking what had happened to me. Then I heard someone yelling for the teacher saying that something really strange had happened, that I wasn’t moving and that I had stopped breathing. (I was also practicing breath control). I didn’t want to get ‘caught’ by the teacher, so I thought it was long enough and started breathing and opened my eyes again and looked around. Everyone gasped. Then I smiled and jumped up to my feet. Everyone was just standing there staring at me – they didn’t know what to think. Like I said, I always avoided being the center of attention, so I wasn’t really used to it. When the teacher got there and asked what all this was about, I just told him I was doing ‘yoga mediation’. No one knew what I was talking about. That Hatha Yoga book didn’t give much information either. But, I knew it was something I was familiar with from a past life. For the next few days I told everyone about the glories of yoga and mediation. Yet, again, I hardly had read anything, just this one yoga exercise book.

That was it for me having any connection with any other “Hindu” or “yoga”, etc, for about 4-5 years. So, I eventually forgot the idea of thinking myself as being a Hindu – as I just never came in contact with any other books or people, etc., for a long time.

In my last year or 2 of high school I realized that everything I was being taught in school was ultimately meaningless. That is, it was only temporary knowledge and had nothing to do with the real goal of life. I realized that the knowledge I wanted to learn was not taught in public school. I wanted to know what the real purpose of life was for? Who are we? Who is God, really? Why was I born on this planet called earth? How do I get out of this world and back to my real home? Those questions I considered to be real knowledge, not all the useless information that was being fed to us in the modern schools. But, where to find such knowledge?

I had been reading the Bible all my life, but, I had long considered it limited. When I sat down to study it, I could feel my conscious being pulled downwards. Not up. At the request of one High School friend I went back to Church during my Senior HS year and attended Sunday school for teenagers, but found no answers. One day Pastor Dave asked all of us to write down a prayer to God, then come next week and read our prayer out loud to the group and we could all sit around and discuss that person’s prayer. The next week everyone, one by one, read their prayers out loud and everyone gave some appreciation or discussion, except me. I just didn’t get involved. It came to my turn and I simply said that in the Bible Jesus taught that we should not pray openly in the public, for your reward will be the mundane appreciation of those who hear it. Jesus taught us that God, our Father, will not hear those prayers. Jesus taught that instead one should go to the closet, or a secluded place, and he should pray to God in seclusion. God will then hear his prayer and act on it. So, on that basis I told Pastor Dave I was not going to give my prayer publicly and I felt his program for us was wrong. I was just being honest. Pastor Dave was not happy. I guess it sort of made him feel I was trying to one-up him. I was just trying to be faithful to the Bible, that was all. He said that he was the Pastor and that either I should follow his program, or if I didn’t like it I should try and find another group where I better fit in. Okay. Again I found myself being the odd one out. I just didn’t fit in anywhere, and wasn’t finding any answers in Christianity.

Around that time I had now decided to find the knowledge I was seeking in the library. I then began to study other religious teachings. Oddly, by then I had practically forgotten my attraction to “Hinduism”, and so I began my research with Judaism and Islam. I wanted to find out who was God. What does He look like? What activities go on in the Kingdom of God? What do the buildings look like there. I could not find any real answers in the Bible, so I began looking elsewhere. Why should I dedicate my life to trying to go back to God’s Kingdom if I didn’t even know what goes on there? And, how do I know for sure how to go back there? I was on a quest. I had been curious before, when I was younger, but now I had become a more serious seeker of the truth. And, for whatever reason, I was not satisfied with the Bible. I felt it was too shallow. It is not deep enough, it offered little in the way of actual science – no deep philosophic understanding. Not for me. Not that could quench my thirst. But, when I began reading (skimming) the Talmud, the Torah, the Quran, really, all of them offered nothing new. They were all slightly different flavors of the same thing. I felt there had to be something more deep. This was a big world, there had to be more detailed information about God. After all, He is God. I mean, the Bible contained no detailed information, at all. None of the main scriptures I read did.

When I left High School my quest to learn real knowledge had just begun. In America we have 3 summer months between school years, it was the summer of 1969. I had just graduated from High School and was going to attend Jr College in the fall. I spent many days in the library. Not finding any real difference between Judaism and Christianity and Islam, I widened my search. I even read philosophies, like Kant and others, trying to find something with deep substance. I also widened my search by going to the public county library – West Covina branch - which had a lot more books. I found the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Well, that was sure different, but not what I was looking for. Then I found the Tibetan Book of the Dead.

By this time I was 18, it had been ~6 years since I first had the realization that I was a “Hindu”, or was one in my previous life (when I had felt a long past attraction for the Svastika and looked up it’s origin in our home dictionary). And it had been at least 4-5 years since I had gotten the Hath Yoga book and originally started practicing ‘yoga’. During my high school years I basically forgot all about those experiences. Not coming into any contact at all for all those years with anything connected to the Vedas, or “Hinduism”, I had essentially simply forgotten that I had earlier considered myself a Hindu. So now when I discovered books of Tibetan philosophy, which also used a language closely resembling Sanskrit, I again felt I was getting closer to what I was searching for. Then I found Tibetan Buddhism. For a while I thought I had found the keys to unlock the mystery of life. But, even if it was a key, I had no idea where the door knob was, or even where the door was, or which door. I began to chant “Om Hum Hrim Mani Padme Hum” as I sat in the lotus position and mediated on the mind being like a closed thousand pedaled white lotus flower which was gradually opening to reveal the whorl inside, the brahman, the Divine Light, of which I was supposed to enter into and merge as one.

For several weeks this seemed refreshing and I felt, for the first time, I was now on a very spiritual path that would take me to God. The mediations were vibrant, as compared to an emptiness I had long felt in study of the Bible. But, soon the colorful feelings faded as a single questioned took center stage in my mind: “Where is God, the Father? What happened to God?” This mediation on the jewel within the mind was nice and all, and the discovery of the Divine Light, but, if I merge into this all-one divine energy, the diving light, well, what happened to The Father? What happened to that “Person” I had been praying to all my life? My constant companion, God?

When I saw that Buddhism was ‘impersonal’, that it did not account for the ‘Personal’ aspect of God, I realized my search hadn’t ended. So, I would keep going back to the library – seeking something much higher.

I then found Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras in the library. Wow. Astangha Yoga. ‘Yoga’, oh yeah, Hinduism. And again I recalled my long past connection with India, or what I understood to be Hinduism. But, unlike the small Hatha Yoga book I had found many years earlier, I now felt that I had found something much more vital. I again took up practicing pranayam, breath control. And I started to think that the goal of spiritual life was to acquire some mystic powers. I got to a 3 + minute breath cycle and was awakening the chakras and raising them to the top of the head. I felt a great relief. Most fortunately, the book I read included descriptions of meditation upon the SuperSoul, Narayan or Paramatma, the Lord within the heart. Ah, God, the Father, was back in the picture. My friend, the Lord in the heart was back. God was again in the center. But, then, the desire to want to really know “What does He look like? Can I see Him?” Became really strong. I started praying constantly, “Please, God, I want to SEE you, please reveal Yourself to me”.

Actually, it was not a new desire. I had this same desire years ago when all I knew was Christianity. But, now the desire came to the surface and predominated by thoughts and prayers.

I then discovered the book “Autobiography of a Yogi”, by Paramahamsa Yogananda. This was the first book that revealed to me a little bit about life in “modern” India, the culture. It also instilled within me the need to find a real and bona-fied guru who would teach me and answer the questions about life that I was seeking. I wanted answers to life’s deepest questions, and I wanted to know God personally. What this book instilled in me was that the proper path to achieve these goals was to accept a guru, a spiritual teacher who would show me the path. I now knew that I had to find a guru, but, I also knew Paramahansa Yogananda was not that teacher. His books were not able to answer my questions.

It was now the fall of 69 and I went to the Jr College to sign up my classes. I was going to major in electronic design and engineering. But, I was burning up with the need to find answers to my questions. I was burning up with the desire to learn real knowledge, as Krishna calls it, the King of all Knowledge. And, I knew my answers were there in the scriptures of India.

I flipped through the books listing the teachers and subjects looking for the electronics and other classes I needed and I happened to see a Hindu name as I turned the pages. I had never met anyone up to that time who was from India. This teacher taught, of all things, Philosophy of World Religion. In a flash I changed my whole direction in life. I looked into my future if I stuck with my course of taking up electronics as my major. I saw a nice house in a nice area and a wife and family and that Lamborghini sports car I always wanted. I saw material success and wealth. But, I also saw total frustration and an empty void. I saw absolutely no point to such a life. There was no purpose to it. Why? Why live another life of another 80 years just to wind up dying and taking birth in another body and do the same thing again and again? What was the meaning? What was the good of such a life? I saw it as having no real or lasting meaning. Then there were my unanswered questions about God and life. I had to change course. I had to find my answers about life first. I wanted out of the material world, I wanted to go back to God. That was ‘real’ knowledge. That was the real goal. I had come to this conclusion on my own (well, Krishna, from within was telling me this). So, I signed up for Philosophy of World Religion - having no idea what lay ahead. Instead of looking for classes that fit a major for a mundane purpose, I now flipped through the book looking for other teachers with Hindu names. What a criteria for setting one’s curriculum! I found another teaching Political Science. Then another, who taught Physics. I totally abandoned the idea of any major, instead, I felt I would make it my goal to get answers to my questions, that became my major, my quest in life. And what a combination, Religion, Physics and Political Science. To round it out, I decided to take a course on sociology and psychology. I thought it might come in useful someday.

What a disappointment. It hit me like a ton of bricks in the first 2 weeks. I had never met anyone from India. The only books I had read from India were drenched with spirituality. I was expecting to find teachers who were somehow naturally divine and self-realized who were hiding behind a veil of being a mundane teacher (quite naïve wasn’t I?). Instead, they were no more self-realized than any one else I had met or myself for that matter.

The physics class was murder. Absolute murder. The first day the teacher, Hindu or not had no relevance, stood in front of the class and proceeded to, at least in his own tiny little way, try and kill God. Basically he said there was no God, no creator, no director of the Universe. The world, he said, could be fully understood by science. He expounded the virtues of Darwinian evolution, and said that man was the highest form of intelligence and life in the universe. Man was God. And that among men, the scientists, they were actually the supreme due to their being the most intelligent of all beings – the quiescence of intellectual beings. He said that his was to be a class of scientific facts, not wishy-washy religious sentimentalism. There was no place, according to him, for God in a physics science class. He said if anyone had any problem with that, then they should leave immediately and request to be reassigned. One girl stood up with her hands over her ears screaming, “Jesus save me, this man is a blasphemer”. She ran out followed by 3 or 4 others. I gathered my books together ready to leave, but then thought that I really wanted to learn everything there was to know, so why not learn physics from a teacher who really believes in it. My faith in God was not going to be shaken by his ranting and raving, so I stayed.

The Political Science class was not much better. As the name ‘Political Science’ can conjecture, it really wasn’t focused on religion or knowing God. But, it was interesting. I did learn some mundane things. While the teacher was no divine saint, he actually was probably the most personable of the 3 Hindu teachers.

But, the biggest blow was the Philosophy of World Religion class. I had given up my aspiration to become mundanely successful in this world, I had given up my pursuit of a career in electronics, simply on the basis of this class and the fact that it was taught by a Hindu. He may have been a Hindu, but he was insistent that he would not reveal his religious back ground or share it with the class. But, what was most devastating was the course itself. I was expecting a study course that extolled the virtues of each religion. I was expecting a comparative religious course in which I would study the depth and spiritual nature of each religion so that I could than make an educated choice as to which was best for my own advancement. How naïve I was again. Rather, the course was an analytical exposé of each religion for the sole purpose of showing each to be based on primitive man’s need to deify his origins. The text book the course followed was written from the Darwinian premise that basically there was no God and that life has come about by chance and has evolved from the primitive religious past to the advanced scientific present. It showed all religions to be nothing more then cultural mythologies. It was a modern atheistic, so-called ‘scientific’ and analytical exposé of all the world’s religions. That fact struck me hard the first day I looked at the text book the course was based on. But, I had hoped the teacher would make up for what the book lacked. After the 3rd month, I could see that was not going to happen. The teacher stuck to the letter of that book, to the n’th degree. Again, the word disappointment cannot do justice.

As I said, the teacher insisted on not bringing his own religious views into the class room and secondly the book and the teacher himself spent only a few days discussing Hindusim. India, the land of religion, where hundreds of millions do not practice religion once a week but live it in every fiber of their lives day in and day out. India, where temples in some cities outnumber houses. India, the land of the sacred Ganga and Yamuna Rivers and the oldest holy places on earth. The home of the oldest (eternal) scriptures of the planet. The home to the largest religious gatherings in the whole world, etc., etc. This book that the course Philosophy of World Religion was based on had only a few short pages dedicated to it. It swept it off to one side as if it were totally insignificant in regards to the study of religion. Obviously the course and book were written by so-called scholars who had a Judaic-Christian background, and who themselves knew little to nothing of India and the Vedas. It did mention Krishna. It stated that Krishna was worshipped by ‘primitive’ ‘uneducated’ villagers in some ‘remote’ areas of India as “the God of Love”. Then, probably the only beneficial thing of the whole course was that it mentioned Bhagavad Gita as being the most popular book of Hinduism. (Yet, it didn’t even state that the Gita was spoken by that same Lord Sri Krishna who the book said was only worshipped by those remote and primitive villagers !). This was the first time I heard about the Gita. All those books I had read by different swamis and gurus and yogis, they either didn’t mention the Gita, or they didn’t emphasis it to where it got my attention.

When I read this I went to the college library and found 2 English Gita translations, if you could use the term ‘translation’ to describe them. One was a stand alone book authored by a Western scholar. Throughout the Gita it used the terms “The Holy One Spoke” for Krishna and “The Mighty Armed One Spoke” for Arjun. In the preface it only mentioned Krishna once. It described that the Holy One was Krishna, a ‘minor’ incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The other book wasn’t the full Gita, it was an extremely brief summary of the whole Mahabharat, Ramayan and it included excerpts from 10th canto of the Bhagavat Purana. The whole book was less then 300 pages.

Even though these did not at all satisfy my desire to keep searching, and even though those translations were very weak and incorrect (and I was fully aware of that), I also knew, from the very depth of my being, that I had finally touched onto the source of real spiritual knowledge. I knew that within the original Gita and the Vedas were the answers I had been seeking. I knew that I had to find a better translation, but, even from those meager translations, I was 100% convinced that the Gita was the greatest religious book of all time for the whole world. It was this, the discovery of the Gita, that made my whole 6 months of that year in Jr College worth my time for being there.

I had a profound realization. A vision if you want to call it that. I saw that there would come a day when there will be only one religious book for the whole world, and that will be the Bhagavad Gita. I started preaching to everyone I knew like that. The Bhagavad Gita, I told them, is the original scripture of the world and it will again become known and respected world-wide as the greatest scripture for all time. This was before I had seen A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad’s Gita. I based this only on weak and incorrect translations of it I had found.

I shouldn’t paint only a picture of myself as some pure and innocent soul only searching after the absolute truth. I was not all white and pure. I was living in America and was a youth in Southern California in the hay days of the hippie culture. By the time I left high school I had shoulder length hair. I was into the rock and acid-rock music of the period, yet, I had not gotten into the psychedelic drug scene – yet. While, not during my high school days.

Three events changed that. First, about 3 months before the end of my senior high school year I was driving in my car and someone I knew from high school was hitching a ride, so I pulled over and gave him a lift. I never really associated with him, but we knew each other. There were three major recording artists that I listened to, who were my favorites. Well, 4 if you include the Beach Boys. My number one favorite musician was Donovan, from Scotland. I got into his music when he came out with the hit “Mello-Yellow”. At the time, I had no idea that that song was actually about smoking marijuana. Mellow described the ‘high’ and yellow was the most popular color of rolling paper that marijuana joints (cigarettes) were rolled in. Donovan also called it the “electric banana”. My second favorite was the Beatles and third was Bob Dylan. (Later, Ravi Shankar became another favorite artist). So, when I picked up my high school acquaintance he was smoking ‘something’ and was a little high, smiling and laughing for hardly any reason. I was playing Donovan’s “Wear Your Love Like Heaven” tape (on my 8 track cartridge deck). The acquaintance got in and heard the music and then passed me the joint. I asked, “What is that? Is that a marijuana cigarette?” The guy said, “Ye-ahhhh – man, and it’s heaavvyy. Here, take a hit”. I told him, “I’m sorry, but I don’t touch that stuff”. “What, oh man, really?. Whoa, sorry man. Are you sure? I mean, wow, that is far out psychedelic music your playing. I mean, that is righteous sounds, man, who is that?” I told him it was Donovan. He didn’t know who that was, so I told him he had the hit “Mellow Yellow”, and the guy said, “Oh, man, I dig that song. That song is all about smoking pot, man. Mellow Yellow. See this joint, man, it is wrapped in yellow paper. Man, the guy is singing about smoking pot, Mellow Yellow”. Whoa, I was really into Donovan’s music. I had bought all of his albums back to his first, Catch The Wind, and really liked his music. Was my idol ‘Donovan’ into smoking dope? Whoa, that was a real eye opener.

So, this guy was in my 57 Ford Ranchero (only had the front seat) for about 5 min. There isn’t that much room in the cab. During that time he finished off his rather fat marijuana joint and the cab had filled with a thick smoke. At school we had been taught marijuana was really bad stuff. So, I wasn’t expecting the sweet smell that filled my small car. I actually thought the smell was pleasing, unlike tobacco cigarettes. And, in a few minutes my head was feeling a lot lighter then it was before. And, the music I was so used to hearing, it started sounding really different. Actually, by the time he left, we both started laughing about – something - or – maybe we were laughing about nothing – well – heck – it really didn’t matter to us what we were laughing about – we just thought whatever it was - was funny. We couldn’t stop laughing.

So, I was thinking, hey, is Donovan really into smoking marijuana? My hero, Donovan is a ‘drug user’? And, I didn’t want to admit it, but I liked the high from the smoke. But, at school they taught us that if you get hooked on weed, the next thing you know you’ll be hooked on heroin. So, I stuck with it, pot wasn’t for me. I wasn’t going to become addicted to opium and that was that.

The next thing that happened was under a similar circumstance. I was driving in the same Ranchero and again saw an old – old friend. George Fick. We were best friends in 6th grade. But, we wound up not seeing much of one another in Jr High and High School. It had been a good 5 years since we last talked. So, when I saw him walking along the road, I pulled over and said, “George! Hey, hop in”. George said, “No, that’s alright, I prefer to walk”. I said, “George, it’s me, Jim, your old friend, come on, jump in and lets talk.” He knew it was me, and he really didn’t want to get in and talk. “Why? George, we were best friends, come on, I want to know what you’re up to lately”. Finally he got in. First thing off he said, “I’m a born again Christian now. I’ve accepted Jesus in my life”. “Great, George, I knew you were always a serious Christian, I knew your family was very religious. Hey, tell me, what are up to nowadays.” “No, I’ve really accepted Jesus into my life now. I’ve been born again.” So, he went on for a while about it.

I had a tape of the Beatles playing. He then said, “Please, turn the tape off. You’re listening to the work of the devil.” “George, that’s the Beatles.” “Yes, and they have a pact with Satan, they are doing the work of the devil” “Hey, George, come on. What are you talking about. That’s the Beatles playing.” He was looking at my other tapes by Donovan, Dylan and others. He said, “All those people, they are singing on behalf of the Devil. They are all evil.” “Wow, George, come on, that is crazy. The Beatles, Donovan, they are into Love and Peace, how can you say they are evil?” George then told me that they all sang about drugs. They were all into marijuana and LSD. At that time I was still a bit naïve. But, here was another person telling me that my greatest hero, Donovan, was into ‘drugs’. I was really against drug use at the time. So, I just couldn’t believe my music heroes had anything to do with drugs. George was the second one who insisted that Donovan’s Mellow Yellow song was all about marijuana. Dylan, the Beatles, he went over songs and the lyrics and, wow, yeah, maybe George was right. Maybe they were signing about drugs. Maybe they were smoking pot. But, I was convinced they were basically good people. Donovan, he couldn’t hurt a flea. John Lennon and the Beatles, they were definitely not evil. They were definitely not in a pact with the devil. That was ridiculous.

The point was, after this little ride with George I realized he was right about the part that all my heroes were really into taking drugs. Especially marijuana and other psychedelic drugs. But, rather than accept that was somehow evil, I remembered the friend I gave the ride to a few weeks earlier and how I felt high on Marijuana second-hand smoke, and how we just wanted to laugh. The high felt nice to me. I started thinking, maybe marijuana and LSD is not the evil that the school was telling us it was. I mean, if Donovan is into smoking Marijuana and the Beatles, maybe I should try it out. Maybe it is something good instead of something bad.

Finally, the 3rd twig that broke the proverbial camel’s back. It was also during the summer of 1969. This time I was walking down a street near my home to go visit some friends. On the way I ran into another young man walking down the sidewalk. He stopped me and started talking. I had shoulder length hair and we talked about music, and then I mentioned yoga to him, and that I was into meditation and all. He thought all that was really cool. His name was “Pepe” (well, that was his nick name). He was half Apache (American Indian) from his father’s side, and half Swedish from his mother’s side. But, he looked and acted more pure Apache. He also had long hair. So, he said, “Hey, you wanna trip out this weekend on a hit of ACID together?”. “ACID, no way man, I don’t do drugs”. “What?” Pepe couldn’t believe it. I had long hair, was into Dylan, Donovan, the Beatles, was practicing yoga and mediation, dressed and looked like a ‘cool head’, and yet I had never taken ACID? He couldn’t believe it. I told him I was into controlling my mind and didn’t need drugs to get high.

Oops, that did it. He said, “Oh yeah? So, you think you are good at controlling your mind?” “Yeah, I practice yoga every day”. “Oh yeah. I challenge you that you cannot control your mind under LSD”. “Yes, I can”. (What a fool we are in our youth – we think we are so much greater then we really are). He challenged, no way, no way would I be able to control my mind on LSD. “Yes, I could”. “No – No one can” “Well, I can” “Okay, then prove it”. “Hmmm…” “Prove it” “Hmmm..” “Look, tomorrow is Saturday, I know some people who have orange barrel hits of ACID and we both take one and I say that you will not be able to control your mind on LSD”. “Hmmm…” “Look, man, the orange barrel tab is only this big”, he told me while he showed a size smaller then a quarter of a dried pea. He then sort of tricked me and said, “Its just a small amount, man, it’s not going to hurt you. I have taken it many times. Come’on. But, I still say you won’t be able to keep your mind under your own control even with such a small amount”. So Pepe tricked me because LSD was so concentrated, even that small tab was a full strength amount. And, he made it such a challenge. He said, “You say you can control your mind, but if you take LSD then you’ll know just how good you are. If you don’t take it, then you’ll never really know if your mind is stronger or LSD is stronger. Come’on, you’ll want to know, right? Which is stronger, your yoga and controlling your mind or LSD. Lets find out.” I said, “It’s only that small?. Okay, I guess I could take such a small tab. I mean something that small couldn’t really do much. All right, I’ll take up your challenge”. So, the next night Pepe and I went to a common friend’s house, put on a Beatles album and each took a hit of ACID. 15 minutes later I felt butterflies in my stomach. Then the music sounded like it started falling through a vacuum cleaner hose. Sounds were bouncing off the walls and making echoes in my head. And the walls started moving, breathing. Then the music started playing slower and slower. Pepe sat that with a big grin going from ear to ear. He said, “Man, I’m starting to ‘come on’ now, so, are you still in control of your mind? Or is your mind totally blowing it?” “Blowing it? Uh ah. Just my stomach feels like its flying. But, what’s happening with the record? Why is it playing slower and slower?” They said it was playing normal. “No, man, it is going slower and slower” “That’s just the acid, just go with the flow cause you’ve lost control of you mind now man, your on an ACID trip”. “HEY Hey hey h e y h e y h e y” Wow, I went to say something and my own voice echoed all over the place inside my head. And now the Beatles record was playing r e a l l y s l o w w w w . And so were my friends. Then, everything just stopped. Dead. And Pepe and the other friend also just stopped moving. Everything came to a stand still, except me. I looked around, everyone they looked like statues. Someone had tossed something into the air and it was just hanging there in mid air. Time had come to a total stop. But, I was still moving. My mind was racing so fast, I was thinking faster then my body could keep up. The last thing I heard Pepe say was, “Oh wow – my mind is totally blown. This ACID is potent, man”. Finally, the music started playing again, and everyone started moving. But, now the music was playing in reverse, and Rob and Pepe started moving, but they were only moving a small amount, then repeating the same moves several times, hardly moving at all. “Oh wow… this is a trip – where in the world am I going?” But, wait, I was supposed to keep control of my mind. I wasn’t supposed to let this happen. I had totally lost it. It wasn’t a fair fight. I didn’t even see what hit me. I was completely wasted and didn’t even know it until it was way too late. I had to admit, LSD was stronger then my attempt at self control over my mind. I was no match. I was on a trip and I had no control over it. So, that was just the start of my first psychedelic trip, it was a real trip – a- trip trip. 3 months later my new friend and I lost count. By that time we knew we had taken LSD well over 50 times. And that was just the beginning.

After that night I began associating with this American Indian and his friends who were all into getting high, stoned, on psychedelic drugs. And so, I entered the culture of the times, the psychedelic ‘head’ scene. Most of the others took the drugs simply for sense-enjoyment. Since I was already well on a spiritual journey before I took the drugs, I saw them differently. I felt the experiences were “transcendental”. I was thinking that the ‘high’ I experienced was an actual and real transcendence from this material world. I took the experiences to be spiritual. Later, I realized they were not. But, at the time that is what I thought. There were books and a lot of other people who had similar ideas, like Timothy Leary and Allan Watts (Ram Das).

So, when I came down from that first LSD trip, I was convinced that I had just had a glimpse of what spiritual visions and spiritual ecstasy was all about. I was convinced that what I experienced was ‘religious’. And, that is what motivated me to keep taking LSD, Peyote, and as much marijuana I could devour. I wanted to get high, and stay high forever. I thought it was something ‘religious’. I thought it was a gate, and entrance, to the ‘spiritual world’. I could not have been more completely wrong.

Later, as a devotee, I had heard that one devotee had mentioned to Srila Prabhupad that he felt LSD helped him. That if he hadn’t taken LSD he would probably never had taken up Krsna Consciousness. He mentioned how on LSD he had an out of body experience. He could see himself separate from his body. He said the highs were very ‘spiritual’. But, Srila Prabhupad insisted that the drugs were not at all spiritual nor at all vital to his taking up spiritual life. Rather Srila Prabhupad assured him they were a hindrance. That he would have taken it up sooner had he not taken drugs.

This is the truth. I know it. Vividly. In my case, before I started taking the psychedelics I was already well into Yoga, meditation, and was just about to discover the Gita. Without drugs, I would have joined Krsna Consciousness a lot sooner. The drugs were not a help on my path at all, they totally derailed my spiritual journey for 3 years. The psychedelic days were a totally distraction from the path I was already well headed on. I had been practicing yoga as a path to spiritual enlightenment, but now I was convinced a more easier way was to just smoke a few joints, puff on my hooka or take some peyote or LSD.

By Feb. of 1970, after about 6 months of Jr College, I dropped out of school. My attempt to find spiritual enlightenment in the walls of the modern school system had failed. But, I didn’t know where else to look. In those days there were some other gurus who had started ashrams, but not in my area and nothing I was aware of. And so, the library remained my main source of self-taught religious / spiritual knowledge.

The closest Los Angeles (California) county Library was about 5 miles from my home in West Covina. That proved to be a priceless source of spiritual / Vedic books for me. Once I had discovered the Vedic books, I wound up going to the West Covina branch on a regular basis and it was amazing as every 3-4 weeks there would be different Vedic books available. I found 16 books of the 108 Upanishads. These books had been translated in the 1800’s and reprinted in the 1920’s. They were done in the same format as Srila Prabhupad’s books. That is, first the original Sanskrit, then the Roman transliteration, then word for word meaning, then the English translations and then a purport (which the author called his Commentary). It was my first contact with actual Sanskrit script and grammar. I studied the Iso and Katha and other Upanishads. I was convinced, now, without any doubt, that the Vedic scripture contained all the knowledge and all the answers that I was seeking. It was real, and it was deep, philosophical. I knew I had finally found the source of my answers, the Vedas. But, I didn’t trust the realizations of the authors of the translations I was reading. I questioned their true spiritual advancement. In looking back, I think it was the fact that in most of the books I was reading, there was always an emptiness - God – the Divine Energy or Divine Force or Divine Light was referred to, but they lacked a vivid teaching about any personal God or personal relationship with God, a Person. Obviously, I was only getting impersonal writings. I was seeking out a personal relationship with the Supreme Person-God. I was convinced that the Upanishad’s that I had found were very spiritual teachings, but I didn’t trust that the author was realized enough. So, I set out to try and self-teach myself Sanskrit so that I could read the original Sanskrit myself.

Amazingly, when I looked in the same library were 2 books on learning Sanskrit. After having checked the Upanishads out and renewing them for weeks, I had to return them. I went back a week later to again check them out, but they were gone. So, I inquired at the desk. The lady said, “Oh, so your the other person who keeps checking those books out.” She then explained that there was an elderly lady librarian who worked there who was the one responsible for getting those books. She too was making a self-study of Vedic literature and being a librarian she used her contacts to order books from libraries all over the State of California. But, the books were on loan from the other libraries. After she read them they were put out on the shelves for a few weeks (which gave me the opportunity to check them out), then they were sent back to their originating library. Unfortunately I never got to speak with or ever was introduced to this lady.

But, it was Krishna’s arrangement. I was seeking Vedic knowledge, and through this lady, Krishna was sending me so many books. This went on for 1 – 2 years! There were many books about and by so many yogis and self-claimed gurus. Maher Baba, Shirdi Sai Baba, Satya Baba, this baba that baba, Vivikenanda, Ram-Krishna, Maharishi, this yogi, that bogi. Everyone. All sorts of books. All kinds of teachers. I was able to read all sorts of them. And, the more I read the more I was convinced that I needed to find a guru, a teacher. And, I also knew that none of the gurus I was reading from or reading about were fully enlightened (many of them, I could see, they were simply cheaters). I can only explain that I was being guided from within. I had no way of knowing who was qualified or not. But, I knew, very clearly, that God, the Father, He was there. He was with me on my journey, and He was guiding me from within. I was well aware of this.

I would pick up a book by some baba or yogi or guru and I would start reading, and I would immediately get an idea how advanced that teacher was. Usually I would appreciate this or that, so I would keep reading, but, I would also know this person is not so advanced. Sometimes I could tell in seconds. For instance, I picked up a book by one Maher Baba and skimmed over it. I then tried to read part of it. It was as if the book were poison. In my mind I would know, this man is bogus. He has no self realization. He is cheater. So, I would put the book down and go to the next. I read books by Vivekananda and the single message I got was, I needed to find my guru, my spiritual master, my spiritual teacher. And, yet, I knew it was not Vivekananda. He wrote about his guru, Ram Krsna, and so I was thinking, maybe his guru is actually qualified, maybe he is my guru. So, I found a book on Ram Krsna. Within 5 minutes I knew this person was cheater. Rather than feeling up lifted by reading about him, I felt harshly dragged downward. All of those men were no longer living.

Then, I found books on Satya Sai Baba, he was living at the time (still is today, over 30 years later). He was a fairly young man at the time. One day a friend of mine met 2 ladies, they must have been in their upper 30’s to 40’s (I was only about 19-20 at the time). These ladies had just returned from India. They considered themselves disciples of Sai Baba. They told us stories of how they witnessed his mystic powers. They had a photograph of him on their wall and they claimed his picture secreted ashes. (And there were ashes on the bottom edge of the picture frame). They considered him to be God Himself. But, instead of being inspired, I was totally put off. Here I was seeking Indian spiritual knowledge, and as these ladies are telling me about this famous mystic guru my heart starts racing. But, not because I was excited to hear more, instead, I was in so much anxiety to get away. I had to flee. I did not want to hear about this man. God, in my heart, was telling me, this man is a cheater. When these ladies said that they believed Sai Baba was God, I objected sharply and told them, “No, he is NOT God”. At first the 2 ladies thought I didn’t believe that the man had mystic powers. But, it wasn’t that at all. I fully accepted he had mystic powers, but he had no philosophic or spiritual substance. I was put off by him, by his pictures. It can be explained in no other way then the Lord within my heart was guiding me. The more I heard about him, the more I felt like I was taking poison. I finally had to tell my friend that I could not stay there any longer, I had to leave. My friends didn’t understand me. They knew that I was seeking a guru, that I was into the study of India and gurus. Why didn’t I even want to talk to these ladies who had been to India and met with, what they thought, was a real guru. But, no, I had to flee.

And so, I kept up my prayers to the Lord within. To my Father. Actually, by this time I had read about Narayan or the Super-Soul within the heart. So, by the Summer of 1970 I was aware of Vishnu and Narayan and the concept of the Super Soul. I now realized that the person I had been praying to since I was a small child, whom I called the Father, was actually known by the name Narayan, or Visnu, the SuperSoul, the Paramatma. Thus, I now prayed directly to the Supersoul, please reveal yourself to me, and please send me my spiritual teacher. I prayed that God would send someone who was truly and fully realized and who can deliver to me the highest knowledge about God. Those were my sincere prayers.

One day I bought a package of incense at the local ‘Head’ shop (a ‘head’ store is a store where they sold books and posters and paraphernalia on mind expansion drugs and Eastern thought as well. In Southern California we didn’t call ourselves ‘hippies’, but we called ourselves ‘heads’. A ‘head’ was someone who was into the psychedelic drug scene but was also an intellectual of sorts. Someone who was ‘heady’ and into Eastern philosophy and deep thinking). So, I went to the “Head” shop in West Covina and bought a pack of incense. The incense package had a picture of Janardan - Visnu or 4 armed Narayan on it. I didn’t know until after I joined the temple many years latter, but that was the first Spiritual Sky incense package made by the ISKCON devotees. In one of the Vedic books I had got from the library I found the name Janardan to be one of the names of Vishnu. I was immediately attracted to Him. It was the first picture I had ever seen of Vishnu (I had not seen any picture of Krishna up to this point yet). I fell in love with that picture. It was small, maybe 2 ½” inches square. I cut it out and placed it on a small table in my bedroom, which I made like an altar. Actually, I had never seen an altar or Hindu temple. I had no idea what it was I was doing. But, I cut the small picture out and I sat in front of that picture, lit incense and meditated on Him as Vishnu, the SuperSoul, as God, my Father whom I had felt a closeness to all my life. I now had a picture of what God, the Father, really looked like. I was very attracted to that picture.

So, by the summer of 1970, even though I had not come upon a book by Srila Prabhupad yet, I had by that time come to the clear understanding that Bhagavad Gita was the greatest religious book known. That it would someday become the main religious book for the whole world. I knew I needed to find a guru. I was now worshiping the Paramatma within my heart, understanding Him to be God, the Father, and now I knew Him by the name Janardana and now had a picture of Him and knew something of what He looked like.

You might wonder, being born and raised a Christian, now that I was studying Eastern and Vedic thought and worshipping Narayan, the SuperSoul as God, the Divine Father, what about my relation with Jesus? I had never considered Jesus to be God himself (as some modern Christians do). I considered him a saintly teacher. A guru. And, yes, I had always looked to him as my guru, yet, still, I knew that I wanted a guru who could specifically teach me details about God. Details that were lacking in the Bible. I never considered Jesus to be less, but, I wanted a teacher who could teach me things that were not there in the Bible. I never, at any time, lost my closeness or respect and reverence for Jesus.

And, I am embarrassed to include this part, but, since I am writing a lot of detail, I will admit my worse fallen faults at that time as well. LSD was a strong and powerful drug.

Previously I wrote about my drug highs. I may have made it sound like it was ‘far out’ in a positive sense. What I was trying to convey was my experience that I felt at the time. At the time, when I was first taking the drugs, I was mesmerized by the psychedelic experience. I did think the drugs were positive and that the high was ‘religious’. But, that is not how I viewed them later, especially not now. Those drugs are very powerful. They are called mind-altering drugs for a very good reason. They alter the mind. And that can be a very dangerous thing. Because I was studying the Bible at the same time I was also reading about the ‘visions’ of the prophets. And, when you take LSD you definitely have ‘visions’. And, the American Indians would take psychedelic drugs specifically so that one could have what they teach are spiritual or religious visions. So, I was thinking the LSD trips were like some sort of spiritual/religious vision. But, the fact is, these drugs are not spiritual. They do not induce higher spiritual states of consciousness. Rather, they simply put one into an ‘illusion’. They induce false visions. And, they do, in fact, alter the mind. And the way they alter the mind, over time, is generally not good. My given name was James. So, some times high on LSD I would think, yes, I must be James, the disciple of Jesus. The drugs make you think all sorts of crazy things, and so if you think in terms of religious things, when you get high you think all sorts of strange ideas concerning religion. On other LSD trips I would think that I was, in fact, Jesus.

It didn’t help matters much that in those days I had shoulder length hair and a beard. Many times some stranger would see me and think that I was, in fact, Jesus. I had kids come up to me thinking I was Jesus. When you have that happen to you on LSD, which I did, it really puts all sorts of crazy ideas into your head. And, many musicians of the day sang about things that made you think Jesus was going to appear again, any day. So, why not me, why not I be Jesus?

This is all embarrassing. But, it is also taught in our Vedas that when one progresses on the spiritual path to try and get out of this material world, that maya, the material illusory energy, tries to keep you bound up here. Maya tries to keep you away from God, so that only the most sincere will be able to overcome the lure of maya and that way only the most sincere will be able to return and enter into God’s kingdom. It is said that maya’s last and final pull on you, trick on you, is to make you think you are God. Well, for me, Maya worked through the LSD so that I would think, I am Jesus. When I would get high, I would feel it, then, you would come down and see that you aren’t and you would get depressed.

Believe me, I am no advocate for drug use. I know from first hand experience, it is extremely dangerous. It diverts one from actual spiritual life. It is very powerful stuff and I saw, personally, how it messed up my life during the time I was taking it.

Anyway, it was now becoming the summer of 1970. My desire to really know who God was had reached a peak. I had to know Him, personally, for real, who He was in Full. My desire to become self-realized was very strong. And my desire to find my spiritual teacher was also very strong. I had to know, I had to find out. One night I stayed up all night sitting in front of the small picture of Janardana and prayed to Him, as the Lord in the heart, and begged Him, please send me a guru, and please reveal Yourself to me. I want to know who You are. What is the Kingdom of God like? What do You do there. Please, tell me.

I recall praying as hard as I could, with tears in my eyes. With every bit of strength I had, I put into my prayer. Yes, I may have smoked some ganja (marijuana) that night, but that wound up being just a minor distraction. My prayers were sincere and genuine, despite the intoxication.

I cannot recall if it was the very next day, or maybe 1-2 days later, but I really believe it was just the very next day, I went to the West Covina library branch to see what new books they may have there. I went there fully convinced in my heart that God would send me my guru in the form of a book. And that my guru’s book would be the answer to my prayers and would contain all the answers to my questions, who was God, etc. I was sure I would find that book, and my guru, that day and would do so in that library. I had to. I had prayed so hard for it. God had to answer my prayers. He had to.

So, I went to my favorite aisle and to my favorite section and started to look. I was looking for a very old book. You see, the 16 books of the Upanishads I had found there were printed in the 1920’s, and that was actually a reprint of the originals that were translated in the 1800’s. So, I was thinking my guru probably lived long long ago. I was thinking that he would have written some book in which he had explained all the details of who God is, and that this book would just appear in the library. I was thinking that it would have to be a very old book, and that my guru really had written it just for me, many years ago, before he left this world. This book was for me. I knew it was there, waiting for me that day to find it. So, I looked over the shelves, looking for a very old book.

I didn’t see it. I was beginning to feel very vacant, that God had let me down. I didn’t see any old book anywhere. Where was my guru, where was this book?

After a few minutes I noticed something flashing out of the corner of my view. There were fluorescent lights over head, and that may have contributed. But, really, they were not flashing. I looked around, and then again, I noticed something flashing on the shelf. I turned, but saw no old book. Instead, there was a shinny brand new silver book with red letters. The red on the silver seemed to pulsate and flash. “What? What is that?” I went to pull the book down, but, I was thinking, “No, this is cannot be the book I am supposed to find here. This book is shinny and dazzling and it is brand new. The book I am looking for will be very very old. I looked at the letters. K-R-S-N-A, with dots below the RSN. What was that? I never saw that spelling before. I tried to pronounce it. “Kersna” “Krasna”, then I remembered that Sanskrit book I had used dots under letters to equate to the additional letters of the Sanskrit alphabet. I remembered the dot under the r was pronounced ‘ri’ and the dot under the s, that is sh. I now had the book in my hand, and just as I pronounced the word, “Krishna”, I turned to the front cover. As I said the name Krishna, I found myself looking at the most beautiful painting I had ever seen. A dark blue young man in flowing yellow garments and bedecked with jewels standing with a radiantly beautiful young girl in a forest – garden setting. The title of the book read,

The Supreme Personality of Godhead

Tears came gushing out of my eyes. I knew that I was now holding in my hands the book I had been praying for. I was now beholding in my vision a painting showing me the actual form of God, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. My long search for God had been fulfilled. The tears flowed out. My knees weakened and I collapsed onto the floor and just gazed at the painting. And, exactly as Srila Prabhupad had predicted in his introduction to the Krsna Book, on seeing Krsna standing with Radharani, I immediately wondered, “Yes, Krishna is God, but who is that girl standing next to Him?”

After controlling my tears, I opened up the book, so I could read about God, and read about what He does in His kingdom. But, the first thing I noticed there was no Sanskrit. I was at first disappointed. How could I be sure the author had translated this properly if I did not have the original Sanskrit to check it out with? I wanted to be able to read the original Sanskrit. But, rather then finding Sanskrit, I was more than elated to find one full color print after the other showing the pastimes and activities of the Supreme Lord. I was beside myself. Now I knew for a fact, this was indeed the very book I had been praying for, and that I knew would be waiting for me that day in the library. God had answered my prayer.

After flipping through the pages and seeing all the color pictures, I realized, whoever wrote this book, he is my spiritual master. Whoever he is, I accepted him immediately as my spiritual master. As I was thinking like this, I turned the book over and looked on the back side. There was a picture of someone. My first thought was that it was a picture of a small boy. So, my first reaction was, “How could such a small boy write a book like this?” Then, I could see, the photo was of an old man. So, then I though, “Oh, the small boy has an old man’s body”. Those were my first thoughts on seeing Srila Prabhupad’s photo for the first time. I immediately accepted him as my spiritual master.

At that age, everything you do you want to share with your friends. So, I then was thinking how am I going to tell my friends about Krsna? Just then I was flipping the pages and I landed on a page with a green Apple Records logo on it. What was that doing in this book? It was at the top of an introduction, and it was signed by George Harrison of the Beatles. George Harrison. Wow. Oh wow. He is into Krsna and is a follow of this guru? Oh wow. I was thinking, my friends will be blown away.

Prior to this I had given up on trying to find a guru who was still physically living. I had resigned to trying to find my guru through his teachings in an old book. But, here I was holding a brand new book. And, I also noticed, the publish date was that year, 1970. Also, this book had never even been checked out before. I could tell by the binding, it had never even been opened up. So, I was even more happy to know that the person I had accepted as my spiritual master, the author of that Krsna Book, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad, was actually still living on this planet. I could met him in person someday.

I wondered what other books he had written? The libraries had no computers back then. They had several books. One was Books In Print – by Author. I found A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad listed, and was very pleasantly surprised to find a number of books listed. And, some of the titles were very intriguing, such as “Easy Journey to Other Planets” I also noticed Isopanishad, Teachings of Lord Caitanya, Nectar of Devotion, Srimad Bhagavatam and many other books. And, of course, Bhagavad Gita As It Is. That really made me happy because it had been 1 year since I discovered the poor translations of Gita and had come to the conclusion that the Gita was the original and greatest of religious books in the world. I copied down the list of books, then I went to the libraries card files to see what other books they carried.

I found 2 others that the library had. The Nectar of Devotion and The Teachings Of Lord Caitanya. I wrote down their numbers and went to the aisles and shelves and took them, plus the Krsna Book, to the check out counter. I then placed only those 3 books on the counter. The librarian lady was dumb-founded. Her mouth dropped open and in astonishment she exclaimed, “How did you get those 3 books?”. Not knowing what her excitement was all about, I answered her very honestly. I said, “Because God sent them here for me”. This caused the poor lady to gasp in total bewilderment. In fact, her hands began to tremble. I was wondering, ‘what is wrong with this lady?’ I knew these were very potent and spiritual books, and now I was thinking, ‘wow, just see peoples reactions to these books’.

The woman went on, “But, how – why those 3 books?” Again, I said, “Because I had been praying to God to please send me these books, so He did.”. I was telling her the actual truth. Then the lady explained her bewilderment. She said, “Just yesterday 2 young men with shaved heads and pony tails wearing white robes, accompanied by a young lady wrapped in a colorful cloth, came in and donated those same 3 books to the library. And, one of the men told me that these are very spiritual books and were sent here by God Himself”. Although the woman was thinking this was some sort of mysterious or mystic thing that had just taken place, I just took it as something totally normal and expected. I again said, “Yes, God sent these books because I had prayed and asked Him to. I was expecting them to be here.” She then said, “But, how do you get those same 3 books? I know there are in 3 totally separate locations, even on 2 different aisles. How did you know to get those 3 books?”, she was very perplexed. Even though I had looked up by author and found all the books by Srila Prabhupad that the library had, I still told her the actual reason that this happened. I said, “Because God wanted me to find these 3 specific books, so He directed me to them.” And, really, that was the fact.

I went home and began reading to my heart’s content. I had finally found my teacher, and found the book that I had long been wanting to find. A book that described in detail who God, the Supreme Person, is. What He looks like, what His spiritual kingdom looks like. What activities God engages in, who are His friends and what do they do. Everything I was wanting and longing to know. It was all there, in more exacting detail then I had ever imagined, finally, in my hands.

Plus, I had been given the Nectar Of Devotion. This was Srila Prabhupad’s translation of Srila Rupa Gosvami’s book, BhaktiRasAmrtaSindhu. It contained additional nectar about Krsna, as well as some of the rules and regulations the Vaishnav’s (followers of Krsna) follow. It truly was Nectar for my soul.

I was already familiar with the ‘title’ Caitanya from my study of Buddhism and also from some Shankarite books I had read. The word Caitanya meant “Life Force”, and it was a title awarded to sannyasis, members of the renounced order, both by the Buddhists as well as followers of Srila ShankarAcharya. So, I had heard the title before and knew the meaning of the word. But, when I read this book, I was puzzled. The book was about Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu who is Krsna Himself, and who appeared only 500 years ago in Bengal, India. I had no problem accepting Krsna, etc. But, it took me longer to accept Caitanya. I had never heard of Him before in any of the many books I had read. Who was He? But, I when I read the book, Teaching of Lord Caitanya, I was completely satisfied that everything was perfectly correct. Again, the Lord in my heart guiding me.

And, it is here, this aspect of the story, for which I chose the title.

Yasya Prasadad Bhagavat Prasado,
Yasya Prasadan na gati gato’pi.

By the mercy of Krsna, one gets a spiritual master
And by the mercy of the spiritual master, one gets Krsna
Without their mercy, one cannot achieve the goal of human life.

This is from the last verse of a prayer/song that we, ISKCON devotee, sing everyday in glorification of our spiritual master. In a reply to one of my letters that I wrote to Srila Prabhupad he quoted part of that verse and I find it applies very well to how I joined my spiritual master’s mission.

Srila Prabhupad had further explained in this connection that when an aspirant devotee is sincere in wanting to know God, God will deliver to that sincere devotee His representative teacher, the spiritual master. The spiritual master then will deliver Krsna.

Due to some desire, I was praying and had long wanted to know God, to see God, to understand Him. But, I had now also knew that I needed a spiritual teacher to help me on that path. So, Krsna’s mercy is that He did both at the same time. He sent to be His pure representative, Srila Prabhupad, as my spiritual master, and Krsna Himself came, in the form of the Krsna Book, and via Srila Prabhupad’s book – via his mercy – he revealed Krsna to me in the form of that same Krsna Book. I was so fortunate to have received both of their mercy at the same time, and both came in the form of that Krsna Book.

Another interesting thing about this particular book and how it wound up in that library. Back around 1981 I was speaking with Jayatirtha in Detroit. Jayatirtha was the current GBC for the Detroit temple where I was performing my service with the FATE museum project. Jayatirtha was also the temple president of the LA temple when I joined back in 1973. Anyway, in 1981 I was telling him this story of how I had found the Krsna Book. How I had been praying for it, then I went to the library and how it had been donated just the day before. He then asked, “Where was this library?” “West Covina [in Southern California]”. Jayatirtha exclaimed that that was he, along with another grhasta devotee and his wife, who had brought and donated those books to the library. And, he told me something else that was special about this and about that exact Krsna Book. He said that the temple had just received several boxes from the first original printing of the Krsna Book, part 1, of the 2 volume hardbound set. These were large hardbound books. The devotees were distributing mostly Back To Godhead magazines and soft cover smaller books. They really didn’t know what to do with the hardbound books. The didn’t know how to sell them on the streets so well.

So, he had the idea of taking a few of the books and donating them to some libraries. Jayatirtha was also servicing the ‘Head’ shop account for Spiritual Sky – for the incense and posters, and he had to go out to West Covina anyway. So, he took the first Krsna Books from that first box of book and the first place the first Krsna Book distributed went was to the West Covina public library. Along with the Nectar Of Devotion and Teachings Of Lord Caitanya. So, that Krsna Book that I had prayed for was not just very special for me, but it was a very special copy, being the first one to be distributed.

Another thing occurred within the period of my checking out the Krsna Book from the library for the first time (I rechecked it out many times thereafter, as I did not know how or where to purchase it) and having the book in the house (I was staying with my brother at the time). That was that I woke up one morning and the FM underground rock station was on – it was Saturday (or maybe Sunday morning) and they would read off all the name of the US soldiers that had been killed that week in the Viet Nam war. At the same time my brother was frying bacon on the stove. I used to like bacon. But, this morning I was hearing of the dead from the war, and got the smell of the cooking dead flesh, and I saw a very direct karmic link. War and suffering of the people, and an animal that had been killed and it’s dead flesh frying on the stove. My brother yelled out, “Breakfast is ready”. I came out and said, “I’m not going to eat bacon, or any meat any more. I’ve decided to become a vegetarian.” “Huh?” My brother was quite shocked. A vegetarian? Why? I told him, there was a lot of negative karma to kill an animal just to cook and eat it’s flesh. So, I had decided never to eat meat again.

Well, that was a big shock to a lot of people. When I told this to one close friend he exclaimed, “You don’t even know anyone who is a vegetarian. What made you decide this on your own?” I told him, devotees of Krsna do not eat meat, and I guess I got the idea from their books.

And, another thing was that every time I had picked up a book by or about some other guru, spiritual teacher, I always had some reservation. Sometimes I would know immediately, this person is a cheater, or this person lacks genuine realization. Other times I may find some good things and learn something, but after a more thorough reading I would conclude, no, this person is lacking in his realization. But, this never occurred once, never, with any of Srila Prabhupad’s books. From the first word I read, “Krsna”, to every topic, subject and aspect of his teachings, it has only been full and complete acceptance. I would venture to say, I never had any doubts at all. Either regarding his authority, his realization or in any of his teachings. From the very beginning, once I began reading, I just absorbed and accepted. Any and all other books by other teachers, I could never do this. Again, I have to attribute it to the SuperSoul within, or to whatever advancement I had in my previous birth.

Even though I immediately considered myself a devotee of Krishna and a disciple of Srila Prabhupad (I even told people he was my guru), it took three years before I joined the temple. It was almost three years before I even attended any temple program. During those years I had made 4 attempts to do so, but was never successful. It seemed that Krsna didn’t want me to join right away.

In the books the LA temple address was listed. One day my brother wanted me to take a ride with him on his motorcycle. He wanted to take a ride and didn’t care where, so we decided to go to the temple. It was Saturday, mid day. We arrived and saw the main doors we assumed to be the temple. We knocked on the door, no one answered. It was locked. We walked around for a while, knocked on other doors, and no one answered. We sat out on the grass for a while. No one came. Finally we left. Later I found that everyone was out either distributing books or on Hari Nam, chanting of the Holy Name on the streets.

Another time I found an address for a temple in Santa Barbara. It was Sunday late afternoon. I was hitchhiking up to Big Sur in Northern Calif and was passing through Santa Barbara. I went to a gas station and asked for directions to that address. The guy asked if that was for the Hare Krsna temple. I said, yeah, it was. So, he gave me directions – totally in the wrong direction. He purposefully misled me. He sent me to downtown Santa Barbara, and on Sunday the whole downtown area, all the shops, everything was closed. It took me way over an hour to find someone who could help. They told me the address I was looking for was on the other side of the town. It was by then late, I needed to keep going, so I gave it up.

Another day my friends and I had taken a trip to Big Sur and Berkeley and we passed by the Krsna temple when it was located near People’s Park. I asked them to go, but several insisted they wanted nothing to do with the idea, so we didn’t go.

And, another time I had taken a trip with my Apache friend, Pepe, across country to Florida, near Miami. That was the summer of 1972. Everyone I met, I would tell them about Krishna. I had brought a BTG with me on that trip (since 1970 I had come across devotees from time to time distributing BTG’s and books). After loosing the BTG I wound up drawing pencil drawings of Baby Krishna and giving it to people for them to meditate on as I told them about Krishna being the one and only original Personality of Godhead. When I was in Florida I had told a number of young people about the free Sunday feasts and so we loaded up 2 vans and about 15-20 people and headed out to attend a Sunday Love Feast at the Miami temple. I had written down the address from a BTG that was probably a year old. We pulled up to a house that was colorfully painted and above the door it read Sri Sri Radha-Krishna Mandir. Finally, I was going to attend the temple for the first time, and I was bring 2 van fulls of people with me. But, no one was around. It was Sunday Feast time, no one around ? ? A neighbor saw us and told us that the Hare Krishna’s just moved a few days ago. He wasn’t sure where, but not far from there. There was no notice on the door. So, for 3 years I did make some attempts to go to a temple, but all ended in failure. Amazingly, most of the members of that group who I tried to take to the temple told me they would keep trying latter (for me, I had to leave back to California).

Something sort of related to my coming to Krsna Consciousness. I was into the music culture like everyone else in those days. I also had big desire to become a big rock star / even wanted to do movies. But, being a rock star was a big thing. While in Ft Lauderdale, Florida, on the above trip, it was the summer of 1972, the heyday (for me anyway) of the hippie days, I had my 12 string shallow hollow body electric guitar with me. It was my only number one attachment in this material world. I took it with me everywhere. I used to jam on it all the time, that and a harmonica. I never learned music. I had no idea how to play a 'C' or 'G' chord (I have also read that John Lennon never learned to read or write music either. But he would compose a new song by playing it out on the piano). In Ft Lauderdale one day the people I was staying with invited some record people to come by to hear me play. But, they made 2 mistakes. 1) they didn't tell me what was going on, and 2) they thought I would do better if I was flying as high as a kite can go - without a string in a hurricane. So, first they got me so stoned-out on about 3-4 hits of LSD and opened a full kilo of pot. After I was totally wasted the room filled up with all sorts of sllicked out dudes I never saw before - then they through my guitar at me and told me to jam. I was peaking on the LSD and started freaking out. What was going down? Who are all these people and why are they wanting me to perform. I mean, you don't put someone on LSD and do that sort of thing to them, at least without telling them what was going on. When I finally came down, then they told me that "I" had blown it because they had all these real important recording people in the room, some came a long way away, just to hear me play and I wouldn't do it. What does this have to do with my coming to Krsna Conssciousness. Well, I was then told that several of these people would come again, when I was ready. All I had to do was tell them.. But, I chose not to. Why? Because, even though I really wanted to start a group and make records and become famous, I decided that I should first meet my guru, whom I had already taken Srila Prabhupad to be my guru. I wanted to meet him first, and that way I felt I could make recordings that were spiritual in nature. I wanted to sing songs with a message that could help uplift people. Looking back on it, songs like that probably would not have made it. The recording executives would probably not fund it, it probably would not have made it. But, who knows?

Anyway, on my way back to California from that trip, I ran into another person. His name was Jim Mcartney. He told me he was not related to Paul. He was a backup lead guitarist for a group called Mountain. And, he was also the lead guitarist for his group called Cactus. We were both hitchhiking. That was popular in those days with the hippie crowd. We both sat on the side of the road and jammed together for a few hours. He had a harmonica and I had my guitar. Before he told me who he was, he asked me to play. So, we jammed, and we jammed and we jammed. He told me he was really impressed. Then he told me who he was. He told me that, in his opinion, I was too good for any existing group. He told me that I should get my own group together and do lead and singing. He then wrote me out an invitation to come to a party up in Aspen Colorado that was taking place in about 1 month. He said it was at Edgar Winters' place, that Johnny Winters, Edgar, Leon Russel and Elton John would be there, plus a whole lot of talent. He said that Elton John and Leon Russel wanted upcoming musicians to come there because the whole point of the party was to put together some new groups. This Jim McCartney told me I had to be there. He said he would tell Elton I would be coming, and that he was completely confident with my playing that Elton and Leon would do what they could to help set me up with my own back up band and they would help me record some songs. He told me that when I get to the gate, just tell them the password, which he wrote down. He said if that didn't work, to ask for him by name and he would let me in.

Okay, so, what does that have to do with my joining Krsna Consciousness? Well, the same as above. In Florida I had a chance. What I had wanted for a long time, to get noticed and a chance to get into professional music. I turned it down because I wanted to find my spiritual direction first. But, here was even more of a chance. A chance to not only meet Leon Russel, Elton John and a whole lot of top musicians, but I was going to be introduced by someone who was going to ask Elton John to help me form my own group. Talk about abig break. I started writing songs, composing stuff. I got back to California. And, yet, I also knew that I wanted to be a devotee of Krishna. I wanted to met my spiritual master. And, I was thinking that I could also meet George Harrison. That was who I really wanted to get tother with, musically. John Lennon, Harrison, etc. That is what I really wanted. Eric Clapton, Donovan (Goo goo Barabajagal - or Riki Tiki Mongoose) and Dylan. Maybe Young and Stills and Nash too. Give it some American home bred style. I was thinking, now that would be a far-out group. That is who I wanted to perform with. But, still, hey, Leon Russel and Elton John, the Winters brothers, they were in-tight with the blues, but, hey, that would be a real good start. So, it could have led to a major break.

So, one day I sat there and I looked at that invitation, and I looked at the Krsna Book I had again checked out from the library, and I looked back at the invitation, and I prayed to Krsna, what should I do? The message that came was - I was not ready. So, what did I do? I took the written invitation and I proceeded to tear it up, into little tiny pieces, then I burned them. Gone. Finished. I chose that before I become famous, before I get into music, first I have to get my spiritual direction settled up. First, I will join a temple and become a Hare Krsna devotee, then, later, I will get into music.

You know, who knows what would have happened had I gone to Aspen, Co that year (I think it was 1972- but the party could have been early 73 ?). I might not have been as good as Jim McCartney thought. I might have been given the boot. Who knows, I might not have even gotten in. BUT, on the other hand, I might of.... Who knows what might have happened. But, it was another major step in my coming to Krsna Consciouness. I once held in my hands a ticket that 'could' have led me to stardom. But, stardom was not what I was after. It was just like when I was going into Jr College. I looked into the future and I saw me sitting in somewhat of a mansion in Pasadena with a beautiful wife and a Lamborghini sports car, and I felt that was a totally empty - no where life. I wanted to find out who God was. And I was determined to try and get out of this material world in this lifetime. That was the real life. That was what I wanted to live for. Eternal life. Not another temporary life of temporary success. And, so, that is what I looked at with that invitation. I looked into the future and I saw me up on stage before 1,000's of screaming fans. And, I also saw an emptyness again. I wanted that, but I wanted to "give" people a message that would uplift them. To do that, I had to be uplifted myself, first. And I knew that I wasn't. For as much as I thought I was advanced, deep down, I knew I wasn't. So, I decided to throw away the biggest break someone like me could have asked for.

Over the years I have 'wondered' about what might have been. I have never regretted it. But, there have been times in my Krsna Conscious life when I wonder, what If? And, there have been many times that I have thought, may be now I should try to get into music and do something. But, I also saw the music industry is brutal. You can't remain innocent and pure at heart. I also knew I would have to compromise to be successful, and so I never tried. I wrote George Harrison letters over the years. 3-4, but he never replied. Of course, he didn't know who I was, exactly (although I had met him several times as a devotee). So, I left it to Krsna, had Harrison replied and get in touch with me, I would have taken it as a sign to try and do something musically. If not, then I kept letting it go. Now that Harrison has passed away, I have closed that part of my life.

Other interesting things occurred between 1970 and 73. After finding the Krishna books at the library I also found BBT posters of Krishna at the Head shop. One day, while meditating on a poster of Krishna and practicing pranayam (I didn’t know about chanting japa at that point) I was listening to the FM radio. They were playing American Indian Peyote chants. (It was the height of the hippie days in Southern California, remember). Then, with no announcement they played Govinda Jaya Jaya, Gopala Jaya Jaya from the Radha-Krishna Temple record album. But, they didn’t say who or what it was, they just played it in the middle of a set of American Indian chants. When I heard it, it sent shivers all over me. Govinda - Gopala, these were Krishna’s names. This was no American Indian Chant. It was India Indian. The sound of the song sent me into total outer-space. It was the first kirtan-bhajan I had ever heard (in this life). I listened at the end for the announcer to tell who and what it was. But, at the end it went right back into American Indian chants for another 2-3 minutes. Then the announcer came on and explained what he had played, the American Indian chants and he mentioned that Govinda Jaya Jaya was on an album entitled the Radha-Krishna Temple album that was produced by George Harrison.

Oh Wow. My mind was totally blown away. Then, he said the next song was the number one song in England at the time, also from the same album. What played next was the Hare Krsna Maha Mantra.

Over the next few days I heard the Hare Krsna mantra only once or twice more, then I never heard it played on the radio again. [That is another story. It has to do with the idea that the devotees wanted to control the distribution of the record themselves in America – think they could do better then Apple – and at first George insisted that was not good idea. But, the devotees were hoping they could do better, so George gave ISKCON distribution rights, and since we had nothing set up, the record never got onto many stations, didn’t get air time, and didn’t find its way into the store distribution channel. Generally songs that are #1 in England, especially with George Harrison’s name on it, would also be #1 or close to it in America. Instead, the Maha Mantra never made the charts, never even made it to the stores, nothing, in America]

After this I told all my friends about it. A Radha-Krsna Temple album produced by George Harrison. I took some friends and drove to one record store after another to buy the record. Nothing. No one had ever heard of it. One store pulled up a print out of all records produced by Apple, nothing. My friends thought that I must have been hallucinating. They told me I should stop reading and talking about this Krishna so much, it was really getting to me. They seriously did not believe me that I actually heard the record. They told me, “Man, just lay off this ‘Krishna’ stuff. It is really screwing up your mind”.

Well, about 2 months went by and one day I was driving in another city I hardly ever go to (Fulteron). I was by myself and saw a record store I had never been to. A new record by John Lenon had just come out (I can’t recall if that was ‘Imagine’ or not?). I decided to stop in to see if they had it in yet. I walked in and looked at the new releases under Lennon. Nope, nothing. I turned to walk out and got about 5 feet when I felt a hand on my shoulder. The store owner said, “Here I think you’ll want this”, and as I turned around he handed me a record. On one side of the cover was a photo, reddish and yellowish, flowers all over and 2 white marble statues in the center covered with flowers. It was the white marble Deities of Radha-Krishna (either from London or Bhaktivedanta Manor). I had never seen marble Deities before. Instead, I though they were small 12” high white ceramic figurines, like China dolls. It didn’t strike me it was a picture of Radha-Krishna Deities, so I had no idea what the record was.

I turned it over, and there was a picture of Srila Prabhupad, my Spiritual Master, the author of the Krsna Book. And the title, “Radha-Krishna Temple Album”. I was totally floored. I mean, this really blew my mind. Very dramatically and slowly I asked, “How did you know I wanted this record?”. The guy told me that a few weeks earlier several Hare Krishna’s came by and dropped off several albums to see how fast they would sell (their ‘better’ way of record distribution). He said he put it in the new release rack, under Radha-Krishna, but he said no young people even looked at it. He was convinced that if a young, long hair (I had long hair at the time) person saw it, they would want it. He told himself the next hippie who walks in here I am going to show him the record. I happened to have been the next hippie who walked in. I knew this was no coincidence. I also was very much aware that getting the Krishna Book and now this record was the direct results of the dealings of the SuperSoul, who directed me to stop in to that record store, then directed the store owner to give me that record.

untouched original scanned cover

I played that record day and night for the next 2 ½ years. It became my all time favorite. The Govindam Adi Purusam prayers we sing each day to greet the Deities is also on that album.

I was now able to show and play the record to my friends, who really had thought I had hallucinated the whole thing. They were a little impressed that it was a for real thing, but, I was the only one (among them) that really got into it.

The other thing was the picture on the record cover, the picture of the marble Deities of Radha-Krishna. I didn’t know what Deities were, how big they were, etc. When I looked at that picture I thought they were only 12 inches high and made out of white ceramic clay, like China dolls. I had the record for years and spent many long hours looking at the cover, I started to think that these must be some figures Prabhupad brought with him from India. He must keep Them to remind him of Krishna. But, I noticed that They had clothes on and that They also had fresh flower garlands. I started to think that someone must take the time to dress Them and make new garlands for Them. I began to pray to Krishna that someday maybe I could do that service for Srila Prabhupad.

Enhanced scanned (poor quality) of Radha Krishna Temple Album cover

I wanted to be able to dress Them and make new flower garlands for Them. But, I would check myself when those desires arose. I didn’t know if it was ‘sane’ to think like that. I mean, I was a grown young man at the time. I didn’t want anyone knowing that I had a desire to dress small dolls. What would people think? I even questioned if there was something wrong with me for thinking like that. I was almost afraid to ask, but I still prayed to Krishna to be able to do it. I had no idea at all about Deity worship and dressing the Deities. Obviously, after I joined, all of this was so wonderful. Immediately it all seemed so natural to me once I joined the temple. Like I was stepping into something I had done in my past lives.

It was also interesting how I got my first BTG (Back To Godhead) magazines. I liked to burn incense, and I found that the incense that came from India was the best. But, the Head shop only carried the Spiritual Sky incense (it was made in the US, by devotees, but at the time the fragrances they used were not natural, but were synthetic chemicals. Most of it actually gave me a headache – that was then – eventually devotees imported the best incense from India). So, I looked up in the phone book and found some Indian grocery stores. The nearest ones were over 20 miles away. The stores were Indian grocery stores. I wnt to one and bought some incense. A few weeks later I went to another store. This was in the Lakewood Mall. I went there and they had a large glass window and in the window were a number of posters of all sorts of demigods, Shiva, Ganesh, Saraswati, Durga, etc., and there was only one of baby Krishna. Before I entered the store I stopped to view this poster. The title at the bottom of the poster was written in Sanskrit (Hindi) script. As I said, I had started to study Sanskrit on my own, so I was able to read the Sanskrit writing. It said, Bala Rupa Sri Krishna. The form of Baby Krsna. I walked in and asked the store owner how much was that poster of baby Krishna in the window. The owner said all the posters were, I think, $1 or so, but he added all posters were for sale except that one of Krishna. Hmmm, that wasn’t good.

I wanted to make sure we were talking about the same poster, because I wasn’t interested in any pictures of demigods, and I only wanted that one poster of Krishna. I said, “You mean the poster that says ‘Bala Rupa Sri Krishna’ on it?” The owner, an Indian man, obviously, was astounded. He said, “You can read Hindi?” I said, “No, but I can read Sanskrit”, (I didn’t know they used the same alphabet). Even more impressed, he said, “You read Sanskrit?” “Yes.” He asked, “Do you know who Krishna is?” I said, “Lord Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead”. Then the store owner told me, “Go, take the poster, you can have it, it’s yours.” He explained that he originally didn’t want to part with it because it was the last picture of Krishna he had left in his store. But, he said he was going to India soon and could buy many more.

He asked if I had ever been to the Hare Krishna temple? No. So, he invited me, then he reached down under the cash register and asked if I had any BTG’s. No, I had no idea what he was talking about. He handed me a large stack of them, maybe 10 to 15. He explained that one mataji, Krishna devotee, comes to his shop every month and brings him the latest magazine and he gives her some donation. He reads them and leaves them there to give to anyone who might be interested, but he never really found anyone who he thought would appreciate them, so he had a large stack of them, and gave them all to me. So, I bought maybe $3 of incense and walked out with a poster and a large stack of Back To Godhead magazines, the magazine of the Hare Krishna Movement.

Another, odd thing, small, but still it was meaningful to me at the time. My brother was moving into another house. He had already rented it and it had a garage in the back that had been converted into an extra bedroom. My brother told me it would be a prefect place for me to stay. Then he asked me if I knew what “H - a - r - i B - o - l” meant. He asked if it had anything to do with that “Hare Krsna” thing I was into. Hari Bol, yeah, it means to chant Krishna’s name. He said that it was odd because it had been written onto the back door of the house before he rented it. Like I said, this was a small thing, but it had meaning to me when it happened. It was the door I used everyday to enter the house, and everyday I read it, Hari Bol. Another aspiring devotee had lived in that same house. In fact, the landlord told my brother that the previous renter did have a son about 18 years old, so it must have been him.

So, I took all of this as signs from Krishna. The way I received the Krishna Book, the way I heard the songs on the radio, the way I got the record album, the posters of Krishna, the BTG magazines, the Hari Bol on the door. Everything concerning Krishna always seemed to come about in an unusual way. In a way that I could see and felt assured that “someone up there” was ‘personally’ making all these arrangements and was also looking out for me.

Other things I did before actually joining the temple was that I came up with my own alphabet. I made my own new letter shapes and fashioned the alphabet after Sanskrit. That is, each letter has a specific sound. A phonetic alphabet. Also, like Sanskrit, the sound 'ah' (short a) would not be written, but would be assumed after any vowel. And, another thing I did was I designed Vedic communities, which are planned out around a temple, with the temple in the center, and walls surrounding the whole city. I could forsee that there will come a time when people will again live in such Vedic style cities.

Well, after nearly 3 years I finally went to a temple and someone was there. I went to the LA temple (about 30 miles from my house) on a Saturday morning. Only one devotee was there, and after speaking with me for a few minutes asked me to help him clean up the Sankirtan Room and put the books on the shelves. It was the first time I saw the Srimad Bhagavatam and Prabhupad’s Gita. I bought SB 1-1 and the Gita after I spent about 2 hours cleaning and reorganizing the book room. Then he told me that Srila Prabhupad was at the temple and asked that I come back at 7:00 AM to hear his class. He told me that by 8:30 the program would be over.
Before I left the devotee asked me to come into the temple room. The LA temple room then was where the museum is located now. When I entered, the main entrance entered on the side of the temple room, the frst thing I saw was a large painting of Nrsingha on the other wall. I asked, “Who is that?” He is very ferocious looking, but also makes the devotees feel well protected, not intimidated. And, that is how I felt by seeing Lord Nrshingha for the first time. The noon arotik was beginning and the curtain opened. There was Sri Sri Rukmini Dwarakadish. This was the first time I had ever seen Deities. The devotee had told me before we entered the temple that the Deities were the same size as the ones on the Radha Krishna Temple album. But, remember, I thought those were small 1 foot high ceramic dolls. When the curtain opened the Deities stood taller than me, high on the altar. I was totally amazed. So “BIG”. I stood there for some time drinking in Their most exquisite beauty. Then I looked over and saw Lord Jagannath. His eyes were so huge, and he was smiling. I asked the devotee, “Who is that with the big Big eyes and big smile?”

Well, the next morning I got up late and didn’t leave the house until well after 7:00. It was a 45 min drive, plus I had trouble finding the temple again. It was nearly 8:30 when I arrived at the temple. I was feeling despondent because I was sure I had missed the whole program. At best, I was thinking I would only get in on the last few minutes.

This was the first time I ever saw Srila Prabhupad (or he me). I had accepted him as my guru nearly 3 years ago, but I had never seen him. I was thinking some great exchange would take place. I was thinking that when he saw me he would come over and say, “It’s about time you came”, that he would recognize me and would take me in personally. But, as I arrived I began to realize that I was no great soul. I realized it was not going to be so dramatic. Then, I began to pray just to be able to see him at all, now it was so late.

I approached the temple room. There is a small entrance foyer as you go into the older temple room (now museum entrance). Not only was the temple room packed, but the foyer was packed as well. All I could see was the back of those standing in the door way. Even though I arrived late, guru puja had lasted longer and class was less than half over. I kept trying to see in, just to get a glimpse of Srila Prabhupad. Nothing, all I could see were the backs of those in front of me. I could see a peacock fan and chamara rising up and down, and I could see the canopy of the asan, but I could not see Srila Prabhupad. After some time, my legs grew tired. I was expecting and hoping for some dramatic first time meeting, I could see that wasn’t going to happen (at least not the public way I though it would).

Getting tired, I kneeled down with one knee on the floor and accepted it that I was not going to be able to see him that day. After a few more minutes, quickly, one by one, each person standing in front began to lean to one side or the other. It reminded me of the parting of the waters when Moses crossed the Red Sea. Half the people leaned to their left, the other half leaned to their right, and quickly a straight line of site opened up between me and Srila Prabhupad. As the last several people moved to the side and the line of sight opened, there I was, looking directly at Srila Prabhupad, who was also looking directly at me. I was expecting some dramatic, but I was thinking it would be very public, that Prabhupad would come up to me and that everyone else would see just how great I was, that Srila Prabhupad would make a big thing and recognize me and all. I was wanting him to jump up and say, “You finally came, what took you so long”. And, just when I realized how self-centered that desire was, and just as I abandoned that desire, I am kneeling on the floor and at that time Srila Prabhupad and I had our first eye-contact meeting. Even though this was not what I was originally expecting, it was still very dramatic for me, yet it was private, personal, no one else knew anything unusual had just happened.

With Srila Prabhupad looking directly at me, I felt like frozen ice. I didn’t know what to do. Then, I remembered that the devotee who showed me the temple room the day before had bowed down and touched his head to the floor when entering the temple or seeing the Deities. So, I quickly bowed down and touched my head to the floor (for the first time in my life, I hadn’t done it the day before, but had observed it). I stayed down for some time, thinking that when I rise up my head the line of sight would be closed. It wasn’t, and Srila Prabhupad was still looking directly at me. This time he had a smile, but also a concern, like he was inviting me. As I said, it was something that no one else would have noticed. It was dramatic for me, but it was private, personal, not openly public. Then I thought, “Well, here I am, finally, 3 years after I first accepted you in my heart as my guru”, and as I was thinking like this, Srila Prabhupad made more of a smile, still looking directly at me. I knew in my heart he could hear me, he could hear my heart from within. I knew he knew what I was thinking.

He and I looked at one another, probably less than 30 seconds, but it seemed like an eternity. I could feel the compassion, the mercy. Feel it is not the proper word. I was consumed by it. It pierced me, like a flame. For the whole remainder of the class, about another 15 minutes, that line of sight between us stayed open. The devotees who had formed a solid dense wall when I first arrived simply had moved themselves to one side or the other and remained that way for the rest of the class. It was little things like this that made major impressions on me. It made me realize the workings and potency of the SuperSoul.

I left that day knowing that Srila Prabhupad did know me. I knew that he knew that I had accepted him as my guru for the last 3 years. And I felt that he was happy to see that I finally had come. I was happy that I had finally come. My eyes never left him for the rest of the class, and every few minutes he would purposefully look directly at me. His expression was not so much smiling, but beckoning, beckoning all lost souls like me to come and follow him, Back Home, Back To Godhead. He was the embodiment of compassion and mercy.

Yasya Prasadad Bhagavat Prasado Yasyaaprasdad na-gati gato’pi
Dhayan stu vams tasya yasyas tri-sundyam Vande Guro Sri Charanaravindam

Srila Prabhupad ki jai !