How I came to Krishna Consciousness
by Gokulananda das
Srila Prabhupada's appearance in this world is a glorious part of the greatest story ever told: of how God has so much to give that He sends, from among His dear servants, His empowered messenger to abundantly deliver His divine grace and make the unfortunate fortunate again.
Srila Prabhupada is certainly one of Mahaprabhu's most amazingly successful instruments of salvation.
So my own story is yet another instalment in that never-ending miraculous movement of God's heart to save us from our own delusions.
To this day, I still wonder how someone like me could ever have come in touch with someone so great and so pure as His Divine Grace, like the dwarf trying to touch the moon.
I have gradually come to understand that this is only possible by the great mystery of divine grace: how Lord Caitanya chooses, out of His infinite kindness, to reach out to His lost children so that even the most unworthy can also become swept up in His great net of mercy, so expertly yielded by His loving servant Srila Prabhupada.
Looking back, I can see how my life's ups and downs all somehow contributed in some small way to my eventual connection to Srila Prabhupada's mission of mercy.
Born in Ottawa into a devout French-Canadian Catholic family, I was brought up with the simple values of my working-class environment, with a very good education from excellent teacher-priests at a Catholic Seminary.
By the time I reached university at 18, I discovered the whole realm of literature and philosophy, which sent me on a long eclectic search for deeper truths among the most popular luminaries of Western culture.
I found a lot of affinities among the Romantic poets like Keats, Shelley and Wordsworth, as well as the French Pascal, Lamartine, Verlaine and Beaudelaire.
These inspired poets stirred up a lot of feelings in me to seek out the deeper meaning of the human condition. Yet I was also noticing my growing appetite for sensual experiences conflicting with my higher aspirations.
By that time (1967), the whole hippie counter-culture swept me up into its maelstrom of sex, drugs and random spiritual probing. After about four years of confused searching, I became somewhat jaded, yet still hopeful that something real and beautiful still awaited me.
While I was thus winding down my former fixations, I began to feel a growing affinity for all things from India. Starting with Indian music then yoga, I soon found myself searching for anything connected to India's ancient spiritual traditions.
One day, while buying incense from a local Indian import store, I noticed a nice carved sandalwood figure of Lord Krishna, which I bought to put on my mantle-piece. I would often offer the incense to the Lord, thinking it to be a nice Indian custom.
And then, the Lord's unseen hand soon began to vividly appear in my otherwise unfulfilling life.
During a short week-end visit to nearby Montreal, I somehow found, in a downtown mall, a discarded french Back to Godhead magazine, with a beautiful front-cover picture of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta. Then, just a minute later, another gift from above: a beautifully illustrated pamphlet of Krishna, the Reservoir of pleasure.
Eagerly looking through it, I came upon an effulgent color photo of Srila Prabhupada, whose intense smile stirred up deep feelings of inspiration. Upon reading the first words of his enlightening article, "Krishna means the highest pleasure"..., I remember thinking that this effulgent saint's luminous smile spoke volumes about his being immersed in the most intense state of spiritual ecstacy possible.
I was somehow blessed with this fleeting yet moving glimpse into Srila Prabhupada's immense spiritual beauty.
And I thought: where is such a rare saint possibly to be seen and heard? Yet there were none of his followers close to where I was then living; so my budding desire remained unfulfilled.
Well, soon my whole material life started to fall apart. I became deeply restless and dissatisfied with all my previous infatuations; all the music, sex, drugs, my group of bohemian friends, the whole shebang was all pointless.
I was really down; everything seemed futile. I remember sending up a prayer to my childhood saviour Lord Jesus begging for his help in finding the right purpose to my empty life.
Then, one sunny summer morning in 1971, I announced to my young sexy wife that we would be soon leaving to hitch-hike all the way across Canada to the West-coast mecca of the youth counter-culture: Vancouver, B.C.
Some vague but deep calling drew me to go there to seek out some spiritual community.
Soon after arriving, I got to know a couple of nice yoga groups. But that was not really what my heart wanted. Then two wonderful events rewarded my determined search with more than I ever expected.
I soon noticed an ad in the local hippie paper for the "Hare Krishna Sunday Love Feast".
When I showed up the following Sunday, I was totally blown away by everything I experienced there. The temple was on the second floor of a small warehouse in a dingy semi-industrial area near downtown; yet I felt as if I was entering another dimension.
Everything was so intensely beautiful: the smell of the incense and cooking, the bright vibrant colors, and mostly the effulgent smiling faces of the shaven-headed devotees busily preparing for their Sunday festival.
During the kirtan, I gladly joined them to dance and chant to my heart's content, bringing me to the happiest place I had ever been. And then the prasadam was simply out of this world. I felt that the best of India had come to me and that at last my long search was finally over.
A week later, Krishna allowed me to meet a two-devotee chanting party in Gastown. Although I wanted to get their magazine, I didn't have even a penny to offer.
So I returned to get it two days later, but they were not there. While feeling greatly disappointed, I then somehow noticed something lying next to the side-walk half a block away: there was my Back to Godhead magazine!
Yes God was answering my prayers for sure! Running over to pick it up off the street, I gazed at the beautiful cover-painting of an effulgent devotee chanting with arms up-raised, surrounded by dancing deers, tigers and elephants! I would soon learn that this was Lord Caitanya miraculously spreading the Maha-mantra even among the jungle animals while journeying to Sri Vrindavan.
I went to a nearby park to drink deeply from the fountain of truth flowing from Srila Prabhupada's lips.
By the time I had finished entirely reading that effulgent magazine, I was crying abundant tears of joy and gratitude for God's gift. I felt I was in the presence of a rare enlightenened saint, who possessed the deepest knowledge on the planet.
After that intensely uplifting darshan in the park, I knew that my life had changed for good. Srila Prabhupada was somehow reaching out to offer me his matchless gifts of Krishna consciousness. All I had to do was accept and join with his fledgling but very sincere followers.
After being with them repeatedly over the following month, I finally decided to surrender and join His Divine Graces's army of love, with an immense sense of relief and gratitude for God's infinite kindness.
Throughout my life's meager attempts to repay Srila Prabhupada for thus saving me, I have repeatedly experienced his graceful reciprocation in many subtle and sometimes dramatic ways.
Whatever spiritual experiences I've been blessed with have all been manifested in the person of Srila Prabhupada, as precious glimpses, sublime darshans into the transcendental beauty and opulence of a true lover of God.
As Krishna's infinite splendor is acintya, so are His tadiya, His intimate servants. Whatever access we are allowed into their spiritual glories is the ultimate possible reward. Srila Prabhupada has thus been my kalpa-vriksa, fulfilling all of my desires.
I was searching for deeper truth and he brought me to the shores of Gaura-vani, the ocean of transcendental knowledge about the infinite potencies and loving dealings of the Embodiment of all truth, Sri Krishna.
I wanted to discover who the great saints of mankind were, and he revealed to us the glories of the Gaudiya Acharyas, the greatest pantheon of divinely-empowered saints ever to have blessed this world.
I was hankering for deeper happiness and he blessed me to vicariously experience, while listening to his sweet and potent chanting in glorification of His Beloved Lord, a taste of eternity flowing from his pure heart's intense spiritual emotions overflowing with the purest love, which has repeatedly thrilled my whole being.
And I was also hoping for more satisfying relations and he gave me the rewarding kinship of his many pure-hearted sons and daughters.
Everything good and beautiful in my life has all been his enduring yet undeserved gifts. Srila Prabhupada spent his entire life's energy to indiscriminately offer all souls the opportunity to join in the greatest on-going miracle in history: Lord Caitanya's flood of love of God destined to inundate the whole world.
To have been a minute part, one of countless witnesses, in that rarest miracle has made my life infinitely blessed, as one more note in that great symphony of salvation broadcasting Mahaprabhu's glories to the whole world. Jai Sri Guru and Sri Gauranga!