Kausalya dasi meets Prabhupada
From a lecture of HH Giriraja Swami “Yoga and the Gita”
Giriraj Swami: When did you first come in touch with the Gita?
Kausalya dasi: I actually started reading the Bhagavad-gita before I met Srila Prabhupada. I was about fourteen years old, and the first thing I read was a small book from the Ramakrishna Mission called Thus Spake Sri Krishna. It had little quotes from the Bhagavad-gita. So, I was totally absorbed in this book, and I would meditate on these words all the time. I was a hippie, and so I was experimenting with lots of psychedelic drugs and such. When I was about sixteen, I decided to move to Hawaii so I could become totally absorbed in yoga, transcendental meditation–not TM per se, because I never took initiation in that way, but meditation in my own way. I also had come in contact with the Hare Krsna record album that Prabhupada made, that first album he made, back in ‘66. On it, he was chanting, and I used to listen to that Hare Krsna mantra all the time. So I went to Hawaii, because I felt that in Laguna Beach (where I had been living) there were too many people around. I needed to be alone, so I flew to Hawaii, and I put up a little lean-to on the beach, and I was meditating and chanting and praying and wishing I could find a guru, because I knew I needed direction.
So, I am sitting there on the beach, and a flier flies by and hits me on the leg, and it reads, “A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Speaking at Sunset Point on the Bhagavad-gita.” [laughter] Well, I had my little Bhagavad-gita with me. I can’t remember which press it came from. It was not Prabhupada’s. His had not come out yet–the one with the purple cover and the picture of Lord Visnu. Then I thought, “Oh my God, what day is it today?” because I didn’t know. [laughter] So I walked to town and asked someone, and it was that day. So I put out my thumb and hitchhiked to Sunset Point, and there was Prabhupada sitting on a kind of little table with a madras hung over it and a harmonium in front of him, under a palm tree. Kartikeya was fanning him, and Govinda dasi and Gaurasundara were there. And that was it–three devotees and a smattering of hippies. So, I sat there and listened as he chanted, and I learned a lot from him.
Afterwards I asked him some questions from the Bhagavad-gita. I opened my book and said, “In my Bhagavad-gita it says . . . “–blah blah blah. I cannot even remember what I was asking him. Anyway, he said, “I would like to talk to you. Come back to my house.” So I hopped in the back of the pickup truck, and the whole time I was watching his head. Gaurasundara and Prabhupada were in the front cab, and I rode in the back with Kartikeya and Govinda dasi. Prabhupada was on the end of the seat, and his head just had a golden glow. And I thought, “This man–I can learn so much from him.”
So, I went in the house, and Govinda dasi said, “Sit down and as soon as he is free you can talk to him.” I watched him walk down the hallway and into his bedroom. I sat there, and after a couple of minutes I got impatient and said to myself, “He invited me. Why is she telling me that I have to wait?” So I was getting . . . I thought, “I am just going to go in and talk to him. He said that he wanted to talk to me.” [laughter]
So I walked down the hallway and knocked on his door, and the door swung open, because it had not been closed. He said, “Come in. Come in.” So I sat down, and we started talking about the Bhagavad-gita. Then Govinda dasi brought in a tray of sugarcane, and she said to me, “What are you doing here?” [laughter] She had made him a little snack, and she was going to let him have his prasadam and then let me come in and see him. But Prabhupada said, “No, no; she can stay.” So she closed the door, and we sat there, and Prabhupada showed me how to eat sugarcane. I was a hippie in those days, and I said, “I don’t eat sugar.” He said, “Oh, but this is natural. It grows by the side of the road.” [laughter] “Okay, then. That’s fine.” Then he said, “And besides, you don’t eat the whole thing.” Then he showed me how to chew it and suck the juice out. So we were sitting there, chewing the sugarcane and putting the pulp on the plate and talking about the Bhagavad-gita. Then he pulled his book–the purple one–off the shelf and said, “I have just gotten this published.” He showed it to me, and then he said, “Now, what does your Bhagavad-gita say?” And I said . . . I don’t even remember–I feel a little ashamed that I don’t even remember the passage that we discussed–but I told him what it said, and then he read me his, and then he said, “Mine is much better.” [laughter]
So that began my relationship with Srila Prabhupada. I had been absorbing the Bhagavad-gita since I was fourteen, and I met Prabhupada when I was sixteen. And although I was attracted to the Gita from the beginning, and although I have read many editions over the years, I can say honestly say that Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita As It Is surpasses them all.
Devotee: Did you ask Srila Prabhupada if you could see Krsna?
Kausalya: Yes. I am embarrassed. I had been meditating and taking LSD.
(Children, don’t get any ideas.) Anyway, I said to Prabhupada, “When I take LSD, I see Krsna.” And he said, “You see Krsna because Krsna loves you and wants to show favor to you–not because of LSD.” Then he said, “Promise me that you won’t take it anymore.” And I said,” I cannot do that right now. It is my sacrament.” I am sure that for some of the older people here this is going to ring familiar. Anyway, I said, “I cannot do that right now.” Then he said, “Well, will you come and stay here? I would like you to stay here, but . . .” Then he said, “But there are only two bedrooms, and one is mine, and Kartikeya is sleeping in the living room, and Govinda dasi and Gaurasundara have theirs. But please come back.”
So we had a wonderful exchange, and then I went on my merry way. I hitchhiked back to my little place on the beach, and I had continual experiences and realizations. One of them was about acintya-bhedabheda-tattva, although at the time I did not know those words. It was about God being simultaneously one and different.
A month passed, but I could not get Prabhupada out of my mind. It was as if all of a sudden everything was meaningless. He was there in my heart. He had won my heart. I called my friends back in Laguna and said, “I met this swami, and he was just amazing, but I have no idea how to find him. I was in the back of this pickup truck, and I do not even know where I went; I was spaced out, I must say.” They asked, “What is his name?” I answered, “Bhaktivedanta Swami.” And they said, “You’re kidding. They just started a temple up in Los Angeles, and we found it, and we go there on Sunday, when they have a feast.” So I got on a plane and flew back, and that was it.
One last note. Prabhupada was not there when I got to Los Angeles. He was coming in about two weeks. So, Dayananda picked me up from the airport, and they put me in a sari. At the temple when Prabhupada came we used to kneel along this pathway, and he would pat us all on the head, all along the walkway. So I was kneeling on the walkway, and I had my head down waiting for my pat, but I could resist. I looked up, and he looked at me, and he said, “I met you in Hawaii.” [laughter] And then he said, “Come back to my apartment, and we will talk.” And so we did. [applause]
Does anyone want to hear a nice Prabhupada story?
Devotee: Everybody does.
Kausalya dasi: I would like to tell this because I think it is one of the sweetest exchanges. We had so many wonderful exchanges. In India, Prabhupada was very . . . It was a very intimate group. There was a very small number of us. There were only five women and how many men? Ten? Fifteen?
Giriraj Swami: Less than fifteen.
Kausalya dasi: Less than fifteen. So it was a small group. And we traveled a lot. Prabhupada was very protective and nurturing in every way. He tried to teach us everything–how to behave. So, one time I put together a pandal for the movement in Jaipur. It kind of just happened–that is another story. Anyway, I arranged for Prabhupada to live on the grounds of Govindaji temple in Jaipur. One day I went into Prabhupada’s room and said, “Prabhupada, you have to come outside. The sky is filled with kites. It is beautiful.” He said, “Oh, it is kite-flying season.” Little did I know that there was a kite-flying season, but in India apparently there is. He said, “Are you going to fly kites today?” I said, “No,” I wasn’t. He said, “You can.” Then he said, “When I was young I used to fly kites with my sister, only her kite would always fly higher than mine.” He continued, “So one day I cheated. I got up on the roof of our house, and my kite flew higher than hers. Then she started calling, ‘Govinda! Govinda! Govinda!’ and her kite flew higher than mine.” [laughter] So he said, “Even in our childhood we were always remembering Krsna.” [applause]