Pratapana das Remembers Srila Prabhupada

Following Srila Prabhupada

Interview DVD 06

Pratapana: I had had books which I had purchased a couple of years before when I was an attorney downtown. So I had those books on my bookcase, and occasionally I’d pick up a Bhagavatam and try and read it to see if I could understand it because I’d never really understand, I couldn’t make head or tail of it. But I knew, somehow or another I knew that this was it, this was the truth, this was the real thing. And also Prabhupada, I just had the conviction that this person, he was a person that had no ego and that he stood for what was the truth. Then just prior to the Rathayatra, on the Thursday I was on my way to one of my favorite joints, a wine bar, and next to the wine bar there was a big poster which was promoting the Rathayatra and Prabhupada. On the poster, there was a beautiful picture of Prabhupada with the caption that said, “At whose feet all the masters sit,” and it really impacted on me. I looked at the poster and I thought, “Yes.” Then the Saturday came around, so I went to the Rathayatra. Then in the distance I saw these amazing huge chariots, there were three of them with amazing canopies and this amazing statue which was maybe 30, 40 feet high of this golden personality with His arms in the air. And there were literally hundreds of devotees, it appeared to me, were dancing ecstatically and blissfully; and it was a swirl of color and movement, there were a couple of marching bass drums, and it was just a wonderful sight. I was struck with wonder. Then in the middle of the chanting party was this diminutive personality, Srila Prabhupada, who I had recognized from the books and from the poster. When I first saw him, he was actually dancing blissfully with his arms in the air; and I could see all the devotees were completely caught up in rapture. So it appeared to me in retrospect Prabhupada was like the full moon surrounded by the stars in the sky on a cloudless night. It was just a wonderful sight to behold, and I was completely overcome with joy myself at seeing it. At this stage, I was hooked. So I followed the procession up the street and into the exhibition buildings, and there Prabhupada gave a lecture but I really couldn’t understand what he was saying. But it was something that was totally out of this world and something that I just felt, “This is it, this is it, and I want to be a part of this, whatever it is.” I was caught up. I had Prabhupada fever very quickly. It was very contagious. It was spreading right throughout, and I caught Prabhupada fever that first time that I saw him and I still have it today. Apparently it’s incurable. Once you catch Prabhupada fever, you have it forever.

The next day I was told that there was a big program down at Ormond Hall. I used to go to Ormond Hall back in the mid-’60s when I was a jazzer, and jazz bands used to play down there. So it was one of the joints that we used to frequent. So I went to Ormond Hall and I walked in and there’s this amazing kirtan going on, and Lord Caitanya…once again that golden figure is in the middle of the room, and the devotees are just ecstatically dancing around. It was an ecstatic, blissful kirtan. Once again we had those marching bass drums, I think there was about three of them, and the devotees were just wild with enthusiasm and they were dancing around like Indians surrounding a wagon train, whooping. It was once again another amazing sight. By this time, after seeing Prabhupada and the devotees at Rathayatra, seeing Prabhupada gliding past me at the temple, and then seeing this wonderful sight at the Ormond Hall and then Prabhupada walking in and giving a lecture…once again I couldn’t understand what he was saying…but by this time I was completely convinced that “Yes, I have to become a devotee.” So virtually a couple of days after that I moved into the temple, and a day after that I was out on the street selling incense and collecting donations.