By Radha Damodar dasa
In June of 1972, I went with the Vancouver devotees to Portland, Oregon to attend a festival with Srila Prabhupada. I was very surprised when he arrived at the temple to see that he was so small (physically speaking), and although apparently old, he seemed like one in the prime of youth—proud, satisfied, content, joyful. When Srila Prabhupada went to his room, I went to the brahmacari quarters and I met his servants and shaved their heads. I had sent Srila Prabhupada a sketchbook of my cartoons and he had written to say that he enjoyed it and was sending it to BTG for publication. I had worried that my act was inappropriate, but his servants assured me that Srila Prabhupada had looked at it long and often and had laughed heartily over it, so I felt some success in my life.
The next day on harinama, Vishnujana Swami told me a story. I gave him a bottle of Coconut Spiritual Sky oil and he said, "I remember when I was just a 'big hippie.' All I had to offer Srila Prabhupada was two bottles of scented oil like this—not Spiritual Sky but something else. And I was told that Srila Prabhupada used to keep these oils in a little drawer in his room and he used to go sometime and open the bottles and then put them back. That's how much Srila Prabhupada loves his devotee!"
When Srila Prabhupada went off to his preaching programs, I stayed back and collected roses door-to-door for his garlands. I showed everyone at their doors a picture of Srila Prabhupada in his book. "See that man—he's my guru; and you see this garland—it's my job to get the flowers for these garlands." Surprisingly, everyone became equally excited by these simple words and ambled down the stairs to give me bags and bags of roses and other flowers.
One day I went on the morning walk with Srila Prabhupada in City Park in Denver. We were approaching the zoo and the president said, "Radha Damodar dasa sometimes distributes 100 books here at the zoo on Saturday." Srila Prabhupada immediately turned around, jumped off the sidewalk, hopped over a little rock and ran to the back of the parade where I was. He came right up to my nose, nodding strongly. "Oh, big books?", he said. "Uh no, Srila Prabhupada. Mostly coloring books and small books," I replied. He said, "Oh, small," and walked on.
I walked with him and we went up to the zoo entrance. He stuck his nose in the fence and turned and asked me, "Can we go in?" I said, "No, Srila Prabhupada. I think it's closed now." He said, "Oh, closed," and walked on. I was surprised at this exchange because, not being formerly introduced, I didn't expect that Srila Prabhupada would know my name and face from the other devotees.
After the walk, I performed the gurupuja, while Kuruksetra and Pranaballava Prabhus washed his feet with hot milk to a roaring kirtan. "It's too hot," Srila Prabhupada said as Kuruksetra poured. "What's that, Srila Prabhupada?", said Pranaballava, holding the bowl. "The milk, it's too hot, " said Srila Prabhupada. Kuruksetra and Pranaballava looked at each other and shrugged. They couldn't hear him over the kirtan, so they just carried on with the ordeal.