(The entrance to 94 Bowery where Srila Prabhupada shared a loft on the 4th floor)
Srila Prabhupada describes some of his early struggles in America. It's hard to conceive how difficult it must have been for a distinguished Vaisnava gentleman to find himself among the homeless derelicts in New York's infamous Bowery district, but Srila Prabhupada remained undaunted and determined to fullfill the order of his spiritual master to preach in the Western world.
Prabhupāda: One boy, he was coming to me. In that 100... about 171st Street, all my things were stolen. My tape recorder, typewriter. Fortunately they did not touch my manuscript that I was writing, typing my books. So some money was stolen. Then one boy, he was coming to me, he told me, "Please come to my place." A loft, Bowery Street. I did not know the Bowery Street was not a good quarter. All bums and drunks. When I see them, one Jewish friend, he had electrical shop, he told me, "Swāmījī, you have gone to Bowery Street? Oh, it is not your place." I did not know that it is full of drunkards. But they were lying down in front of my door, but they were respectful. When I'd go, these drunkard comes, and they respectfully give me ways. And they would lie down on urine and something like that, on water. Then the boy who took me there... He was Murray. His last title was Murray. And he was taking LSD. So since I went there, he did not go to work. Otherwise, he was working and getting daily twenty-five dollars. In some dock he was working. Since I went, he stopped working, and I had to pay 125 dollars for the loft. One lady was the landlord.
So I was going on. Some people were coming. Then Mukunda began to come, his wife, and another black boy, half-black. Yeargen, Karlāpati. I gave him name, Karlāpati. He was coming. Then one day that boy Murray, he showed some crazy features. So I thought, "It is dangerous to live with him." So I approached Mukunda. Mukunda had no place, still I asked him. So I kept my goods at Mukunda's house and went to live with Yeargen. That is another loft. So in this way, with great hardship—sometime here, sometime there—in this way, I got two hundred dollars by selling book, and then I asked Mukunda to find out an apartment. He found this apartment, 26 Second Avenue: one storefront down and one living quarters up. So I found it very convenient. Down I would lecture and hold kīrtana. So he charged 75 dollars per month for the apartment, small apartment. I think in a space like this room or less than that, everything is there. There was kitchen, there was shower, and two rooms. I think less than this. About two-thirds of this room, and everything there. So I shifted there. And there I remained up to May 1967, I think.
Then I got heart attack. Then I went to Stinson Beach. Then I could not improve my health. No, first of all I went to San Francisco. There also I could not..., I could not sleep at night. There was throbbing in the heart. Kīrtanānanda, he was serving me. So many difficulties. Then I came back to India in 1967, July. Here also not very much improvement. Then again I went to Los Angeles. There also one symptom developed, always some sound in the ear: goh-goh-goh-goh-goh. It was so disturbing, almost half-mad. And then Los Angeles. Then I think I went to Seattle. In this way, in the beginning there were so many difficulties. Montreal. I took Canadian citizenship. America I could not get. So one gentleman in the immigration department, he said, "Swāmījī, you go to Canada, and from there you try. It will be easier." Actually, it acted. The Canadian Consulate General was a black man, American black man. So in the consulate I applied for citizenship... immigration, and he was sympathetic. He saw my Teachings of Lord Caitanya and he became attracted. So he settled up, "This gentleman must be allowed." So he expedited the matter within three months. And then I became immigrant in the USA. Then again I came back in Los Angeles, and then we took that house, La Cienega.
Devotee: La Cienega Boulevard.
Prabhupāda: That man also wanted to kick out after one year. Then we had no place. Then, by Kṛṣṇa's grace, we got this house present. At that time I got fifty thousand dollars. So I advanced them down payment. And it is 225 hundred..., thousand. I think they are still paying two thousand. Twelve years. How many years passed?
Devotee (2): That was in '69?
Prabhupāda: Yes. '68 I got immigration, and '69. Hmm. It is a long history, checkered history. (pause)
So preaching is independent. If you have got desire, you can preach in any circumstances and Kṛṣṇa will help you. I have practically experienced. I went to your country without any help, without any money, alone. And gradually things developed.
(Srila Prabhupada Conversation, Vrindavan, September 30, 1976)