Gokulananda das Remembers Srila Prabhupada

Prabhupada Memories

Interview 01

Gokulananda: My first meeting with Srila Prabhupada was not physical but on the spiritual plane. Somehow when I met the devotees in Vancouver in the summer of 1971, I had been urgently searching for a true spiritual guide. I remember after I moved into the temple, I saw a nice photo that the devotees were sharing, which had just arrived from Los Angeles, showing Srila Prabhupada with a dozen disciples who were all kneeling as Prabhupada was arriving. The gaze on Prabhupada’s face was so saturated with love and concern, and I could see the devotees were so inspired. They were so nourished by Prabhupada’s loving glance and I was so moved to the core of my being. I thought, “Oh, my God, how great this pure saint is because he can draw out so much love from his followers.” Somehow, I was blessed with a tiny drop of Prabhupada’s Krishna-ananda. [chuckles] It’s been one of the great sustaining forces in my life. Prabhupada was not of this world. He came to bring us out of this world, and he came with the full package, the highest knowledge, the deepest, purest love and ananda. Prabhupada was always in ananda, or spiritual bliss, which could be seen in his preaching. It was his compassion that dominated his life. He spent every ounce of his life to give Krishna to the whole world and we were dragged or pulled into that divine force. We have had such extraordinary lives because Prabhupada brought us into his service to his guru.

The second time I saw Prabhupada was late July in 1972 in New Vrindavan. There was a gathering of devotees for the Bhagavat Dharma discourses, and Prabhupada drew devotees from all across the country. Even some devotees came from Europe to take part in this historic event. At the top of the hill, they had built a special open-air pavilion where all the lectures were held. When Prabhupada arrived by car, it was necessary for us to carry Prabhupada on a palanquin up the hill. Keshava picked a few tall devotees out of the assembly, and he said to me, “Okay, you’re going to help carry Prabhupada’s palanquin.” When the four of us carried the palanquin over to the car and then Prabhupada got on, amazingly we didn’t feel any additional weight. It was as if by his mystic power he became weightless, which is one of the mystic siddhis. We brought the palanquin up the hill and there were four hundred devotees behind us having a rip-roaring kirtan. Prabhupada looked so regal and majestic, but at the same time he was humble because he was egoless. I also once gave a garland to Prabhupada six months later in LaGuardia airport. When I walked up to him, our eyes met and Prabhupada bowed his head in such a beautiful, humble manner as if to say, “Oh, you’re offering this nice thing to me?” You could see it in his eyes. He was so touched by a very small offering. I was a bit nervous, but I could see Prabhupada’s loving, humble nature, and it was such an inspiration to be in his presence.

I was always thankful to Prabhupada for giving me so many wonderful associates. I was on the Library Party, and I had some wonderful friends, such as Ghanashyam, who later became Bhakta Tirtha Swami; Caru; Mahabuddhi; Suhotra and others. At the end of July, 1975, in Chicago, Satsvarupa, our team leader, brought us all to meet Prabhupada. Prabhupada turned to Satsvarupa and said, “So, you have brought your men?” That was the cue for Satsvarupa to name his team. He started with Ghanashyam, Mahabuddhi, Suhotra, but I was forgotten. But then two minutes later, Satsvarupa said, “Oh, there’s another new man from Canada. His name is Gokulananda. Prabhupada said, “What is that?” Satsvarupa repeated, “Oh, Gokulananda is here.” Prabhupada said, “Oh! Such a nice name, Gokula—aananda,” as he emphasized the second part of my name. Prabhupada’s face was filled with ecstasy and an effulgent smile. The ecstasy from Prabhupada entered into everyone’s heart. There were about twenty of us devotees there and everyone felt the magic of Prabhupada’s ecstasy. I’m reminded from time to time when I meet some of my friends like Sesa and others who were there, how they also remember Prabhupada pronouncing my name, Gokula—aananda. That was Prabhupada’s way of sharing the ecstasy, sharing the love. That was magical and, of course, I think of that practically every day. [laughs] It is the best memory because that is such a beautiful name of Krishna. It is very suitable for my own meditation because I am always interested in ananda (spiritual bliss). Who has ananda? Who has the best ananda? Prabhupada has the best ananda because he loves Krishna who is the source of all ananda.

I was about four months in the movement and we were going out on Harinam sankirtan most every day. One day during the Christmas holiday, I was spacing out distributing Back to Godhead magazines. I was thinking about my parents who thought I had abandoned them. My thoughts were going like a whirlpool, and I was thinking, “Oh, my God, what’s happening? Why am I not focused? I’m here. I have to do my duty.” I just literally shook my head and prayed, “Prabhupada, please send me someone to preach to.” There was a guy who had just walked past me about thirty feet down the sidewalk, and as soon as I said that prayer to Prabhupada, that guy stopped, turned around, and practically ran to me. He said, “Hey, what’s this all about anyway?” I was just calling up to Prabhupada and I got an instant response. I said, “Thank you, Prabhupada. Wow!” Prabhupada is the external manifestation of Supersoul and whatever Prabhupada wants, Krishna does. It was amazing. [laughs] I’ve experienced that many times while doing books and other services. I realized that anyone could also be close to Prabhupada by really putting his or her heart and soul into it. Prabhupada once said, “I have never been separated from my spiritual master.” Of course, I don’t pretend to have anything like that guru-nistha, but it is there—it is available.

I have always felt that Srila Prabhupada is the maintainer of his sincere devotees. The beauty about Srila Prabhupada is that he was the living proof of everything he taught us. If you want to know how to serve and love Krishna, everything about Prabhupada teaches us that. I have always been so eager to hear more and more about the beautiful truths that Prabhupada has shared. I have always been inspired to have any information about Prabhupada’s life, and all the biographies and personal accounts are so valuable because they give strength to our inspiration and dedication. I am very grateful for those oral histories.

To view the entire unedited video go to Memories 72 - Canadian Yatra

The full Prabhupada Memories Series can be viewed here and also at www.prabhupadamemories.com