The Boat Ride of a Lifetime


by Yvonne

Dear, Dear Srila Prabhupada,
Please accept my humble obeisances.
I pray that you will forgive my offenses.

I pray that you will continue to guide me, and offer me the rare opportunity to serve the wonderful Vaishnavas that you so lovingly guided to understand and actualize these absolute Truths that have and are continually being spread throughout this whole world, which is so permeated by the illusory energy, called Maya.

Because you were so unselfishly determined to translate and give this wonderful Gift of ancient and timeless scriptures from India, to our increasingly decadent society here in the West, I will be eternally grateful.

By your persistence, including much bodily suffering on your trip over here-two heart attacks-the only passenger, you left the soft sands of Vrindavan and landed with your lotus feet firm and steadfast on that soil (or most likely concrete), of your destination-of all unlikely places, New York City; the most famous city in the world; famous for some good things, infamous for so many things bad and scary. Your faith in your Mission, spurred on by and totally encouraged by another great soul, your Spiritual Master, ensured you of your success. You knew that all along.

You knew that to simply sit and chant by yourself, at first, armed with that eternal, blissful Maha Mantra, along with other beautiful bhajans, you would automatically attract numerous souls, mainly including the many souls of my generation. You soon found out that these were the main folks questioning and searching… searching for some real meaning in the face of war and rampant materialism; where money is considered the real god and superficiality is greatly encouraged.

You came to a place where impersonalism (in the relative sense), is predominent; where exploitation of the material energies for selfish gain is socially championed; where so many people hurt and marginalize one another; where two human beings can be in a small space and time together, not acknowledging, not even glancing at one another, making one or the other feel as if they are an invisible ghost– So, so many, being “comfortably numb.”

It didn’t matter to you that you were virtually penniless when you arrived. You had your unshakable faith in God, along with the eternal scriptures you were working so hard to translate, helping people by bringing that Maha Mantra to anyone lucky enough to listen and then to hear; lovingly teaching men and women who were attracted more and more, learning and then helping you to achieve this mutual goal.

Later, when asked on a televised news report, if you thought the movement was growing, you couldn’t help but laugh out loud–because of the obvious answer- as by that time it had grown by leaps and bounds. Then, in a humorous and proud way, you answered her– “The flowers of your country, the young generation-they are taking it very seriously.” What an endearing change-up of the phrase “the flower power generation”; perhaps deliberately or part of that innocent spirit of yours.

Other teachers, gurus had come before and continued to come after you. Some had their place in reaching individuals to perhaps step back, relax, “meditate”, etc. Some sincere -but how they paled in comparison to your expertise in translating these timeless scriptures and ability to disseminate this pure Knowledge, that so few at the time, had access to. Your message was never watered down. Understanding the inevitability of karma and of its exacting effects within this material world, you did not compromise the most important aspects of this beautiful philosophy.

You did not let us off the hook by saying things like, (and I paraphrase)- ‘sure you can still eat meat, live your life basically the same, just meditate and all will be well.’ You brought the personalist point of view, expertly, and equipped with your eternal scriptures, convincing so many of the obvious pitfalls of eating animals. The heavy fact of reincarnation was written and explained so plainly and logically. To keep living our lives ‘the way we were’ as some teachers were encouraging, was in itself wrought with heavy consequences–namely the danger of remaining lifetimes in this material quagmire.
By your unwavering mercy, kindness and intelligence, you never would have let us go down that dead end road.

Knowing that these bodily designations are a complete unnecessary flaw on our mindset, you helped us to get a “reality check” of the “unreality” of this material world and our mis-guided attachment to it.

You knew this philosophy and the Maha Mantra would not have a dollar sign attached to it. Yes, you needed money to translate, print books, provide “shelter from the storm” in the way of beautiful Temples, delicious, endless Prasadam, spreading the Message to more and more bewildered souls and other obvious related costs. The Mantra you brought was not for sale. It was free. One didn’t have to worry about coming up with funds to receive a “secret Mantra” that could ‘change one’s life’, when in actuality the Mantra was eternal and FREE.

You put up with so much, in the way of dealing with and learning to be in a completely different culture that you were not at all used to. That caused you to adjust (what some could have considered as compromising), the way in which you dealt with some aspects of the stark cultural differences between the West (especially in the U.S.) and your homeland, the great India. Even some of your own Godbrothers may have been skeptical, to a point, and may have been critical of some changes you felt that you needed to make, to reach more and more of our covered souls. Sincerely wanting to please God and your Spiritual Master, you took that chance, knowing the importance of the Mission. In the end however, your obvious successes must have been very inspiring to those special souls!
You said that you were not amazed by how many people had left this dynamic movement, but by how many people had stayed. We learned from you that not a blade of grass moves without the Will of the Supreme Lord. You had said with Krishna, expect the unexpected.

You said that your life would be complete if you could just make one pure devotee. I felt that you were speaking to each and every one of us –every single soul you had come across.

You knew that at any second or moment in time, any one of us can perish, but you had taught us that it is only our bodies that perish, not our eternal souls. You and many of us have seen how probably most human beings do not really believe they are going to die. They may know it in an abstract way, but their actions towards themselves, others and the world, prove they believe that they will live forever, so they continue to be immersed in the “fast lane”– otherwise, there would be a much less aggressive, far more tolerant world that we are inhabiting.

You taught us that while we have to take advantage of this human form and seriously pursue spiritual life, that in some ways we can’t take ourselves too seriously, perhaps not “sweat the small stuff” so much. You showed us that since Krishna has the best sense of humor, it is a natural, intrinsic part of us. You always looked at the big picture.
While in Berkeley in 1973, after reading an expose in a local newspaper, describing details of the inner workings of slaughterhouses, I gave up eating meat. A few days later a donation was given for an incense package. Soon after receiving that beautiful little package, your inspiring translation of “The Bhagavad-gita As It Is” was mailed and read in another state. I was floored after finishing it, but most probably only understood it intellectually–realized that there had to be something to this, as it was presented so plainly and expertly by you. It just made too much sense. The beautiful paintings of Krishna, Radha and all of Their wonderful Associates were breath-taking. Your expert purports were so very helpful in the understanding of that “Song of God.”

While reading more of your books, what was also so endearing to me, was how innocent you seemed, while having and giving so much true Knowledge. I loved seeing pictures of that big smile of yours.

In 1975, while on a trip to visit my family in Miami, I was convinced to go and visit the Temple in Coconut Grove. I was asking a few questions to a couple of female devotees about women in “their” movement. A lady then stated that you, Srila Prabhupada would be arriving that evening and would I like to go with them to pick you up at the airport. Knowing that I would have had to struggle with my protective mother about driving alone at night, in what she knew to be an unsafe city, I declined that offer. What a mistake! How great would that have been! It’s akin to being handed the most precious jewel in the world and casually tossing it in the ocean, never to be retrieved again. This covered soul was just not aware of that at the time.

But I knew I would be there the following day late afternoon, early evening. In the back yard in front of a huge banyan tree, I had the fortune of watching you walk through the garden to then sit and give a class. It was a beautiful evening.

One thing I do regret. I actually got up, while you were still giving class (I had sat at the very back row from others) and casually climbed the banyan tree to sit on one of its’ huge, lower branches. I wanted to watch from afar and observe. After a bit, I climbed back down and sat where I had been.

Little did I know the greatness of your soul then. Getting up and turning around to climb onto the tree (even the few seconds it took ), while you were speaking, proved at the time, that I did not fully grasp the transcendental soul I was so lucky to be sitting near to. There were others standing, and with the low light, I hope that you had not noticed that! I felt total respect at the same time, so I did not mean for it to be disrespectful. Luckily, while you were looking at the crowd, I could have sworn that your eyes caught mine and that we smiled at each other. (I’m sure many have had that experience-smiling at me?, someone behind me?-funny). I’m sure you did look at each and every one of us.
I had even mustered up the nerve to ask you a question–I believe it was about Christ. My brain just can’t seem to remember that part very well. How foolish-but even though I probably hung on every word you spoke, to this day I can’t remember the exact question or answer. But what I hold dear to my heart were the few seconds that our eyes met, and that smile. I was so lucky, grateful and it was magical.

Knowing how merciful your presence actually was and is, I thank you so much for all of your unconditional love and Knowledge that you bestowed upon these amazing Vaishnavas who remained sincere and determined to spread the Truths that you taught them. There have been so many successes! You have so many reasons to be proud! For these reasons, I pray:

I pray that all Vaishnavas will be inspired to work together while channelling your loving and caring mood.

I pray that we will learn to read hearts as well as you did, and encouraged not to be too hard on each other; to be sympathetic, but just as important, empathetic, (which is so rare nowadays) and give one another more benefit of the doubt.

I pray that more and more Vaishnavas will respect, (be able to participate in) and encourage the success of one another’s bona fide projects, without feeling threatened and just be secure in the fact that if we act more as one unit, one mind (so to speak), it will have a powerful effect on this world as a whole. Let us remember that you were so liberal when needed, without ever compromising the core meaning. Let us remember that spreading the eternal Word to as many people as possible was, after all, your main goal in life.

I pray that the lucky souls who came across you and your Mission, but for one reason or another (perhaps some for no apparant reason)-did not want to associate any more- some even completely rejecting this beautiful Treasure that you brought, will one day realize that it is because of human error -through no fault of yours, that some unfortunate things took place. Nothing diminishes the validity of the Eternal Scriptures, which remain as such-always the Absolute Truth, non-material and flawless. Not to minimize the strife that some went through-I just pray that these souls will once again appreciate you and perhaps re-visit this Path with an open heart and try to be forgiving of those who were misguided. Living in this age of Kali, as many know, is not easy, to put it mildly. Once off this merry-go-round, the dizziness will surely subside.

I pray that we will be able to tell the difference between keeping the essence of the philosophy and knowing what you would accept as “doing the needful”–adjusting as you did, and bring this beautiful, exquisite philosophy to as many souls on this planet as possible.

That was why Krishna was so kind to bring you to us, after all.

I pray for and respect all of the wonderful Vaishnavas, present and past who have worked so hard to propagate these otherwise “imprisoned” scriptures to the whole world, that you so expertly “set free.”

I pray for your mercy that I don’t continue to gamble with your great self and Krishna, miss that train of Transcendence, have my soul yet again captured by the clutches of Maya and regress into this illusory, endless cogwheel of the real nightmare of birth and death.

Your teachings, your very short (unfortunately for us) time here and your divine association that so many fortunate souls were able to become immersed with, will always be eternally appreciated by all involved. I am hopeful and feel so lucky God willing, to perhaps be a part of this Mission of all of the wondrous Vaishnavas that have flourished under your sublime lotus feet.

All Glories to you, Srila Prabhupada!
All Glories to Sri Sri Guru and Gauranga!
All Glories to all sincere, past, present and future Vaishnavas!

I pray for the special compassion and mercy of Lord Nityananda.
Your servant,


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