I only saw him four times. I came to the temple in San Diego for the first time in the fall of 1974. I saw Srila Prabhupada in San Diego at the temple there and in Balboa Park. Then I hitchhiked to San Francisco for Ratha Yatra in 1975. And I saw him once in Los Angeles in the temple room and another time we followed him to the airport in Los Angeles. My best memory was the first time I saw him coming to the San Diego Temple. He had just stepped out of the car, I was standing near the curb, and he shot a glance at me and I fell to the ground, reminding me of when Lord Brahma fell like a rod in front of Krsna after stealing the cowherds. Srila Prabhupada’s glance pierced my heart. At that moment I could understand he saw me, not the body, but the soul and I knew he knew me for who I am, a spirit soul, not the body of a young woman, as everyone else related to me. It was a most purifying moment, and a confirmation that "a moment's association with a pure devotee" can change your life.
We hitchhiked to San Francisco, as we heard that Srila Prabhupada would be there for the 1975 Ratha Yatra. We desperately wanted to see him. We had enough gas to go from San Diego to Santa Barbara, then we parked our VW Bus by someone's house and proceeded to hitchhike to San Francisco. It was me and two friends, Bhakta Bill and Bhakta Alex. It took a couple days to get there and we slept in Golden Gate Park, near the museums, in the woods. You could never do that these days and I wouldn't advise it, but we were in ecstasy in anticipation of seeing Srila Prabhupada. I had never been to Ratha Yatra, so I had no idea what to expect.
The next day the devotees brought the carts out to the festival sight and were decorating them. We saw Jayananda Prabhu leading a kirtana around the carts before the festival began. I joined in and then Srila Prabhupada came driving up in his car and got out to sit on the cart. The parade began, going toward the ocean, I walked with my head in the clouds and I thought my feet never touched the ground. Many people came and everyone was dressed in brightly colored clothes. Everyone was dancing and singing, and chanting Hare Krsna. It was the spiritual world, no doubt.
When we reached the meadow, where the festival took place, the parade stopped and we sat on the grass to listen to Srila Prabhupada speak. He stood on the stage and there was a big kirtana. So many hundreds of people were there. The devotees had everyone line up in rows and served out what seemed to be an unlimited amount of prasadam. We saved some for our trip home in two BIG plastic bags, one with halava and one full of Gauranga Potatoes.
After the festival we headed out to hitchhike back to our car and go home. While waiting for a ride we started to eat the bags of prasadam, which should have been enough for a few days, it was a very large amount. Many people were also hitchhiking at the same ramp, so it took many hours to get a ride and we were sharing the prasadam with others, so our big bags of prasadam didn't last for long and by the time we got a ride, it all disappeared. When we returned to San Diego, we found out to our delight, that Srila Prabhupada was coming here.
Another time we hitchhiked to Los Angeles to see Srila Prabhupada at the temple. When we arrived at the temple hundreds of devotees were going to see Srila Prabhupada off at the airport, as we came to late to hear the class, we jumped into the back a truck headed to the airport. When arriving at the airport, all the devotees followed Srila Prabhupada with mrdanga and kartalas all the way down the hallways leading to the waiting area, with a really loud kirtana! Then everyone gathered around to try to catch a glimpse or hear a word from Srila Prabhupada. I stood up on the seat inside of a phone booth, without a top on it, to see over the top and down to where Srila Prabhupada was sitting. A man walked by me and asked what was going on. I told him we were all here to see a very special person, a guru, who had come to America to start a spiritual movement.
During a festival in Balboa Park, Srila Prabhupada gave a talk and when he was leaving the stage, he was walking past me, I bowed down and his feet were just inches from my head, I could have reached out and touched his feet. I didn't, but the memory is very nice. I got the cloth remnants from the Vyasasana he sat on, it smelled like sandalwood, and I distributed them all over the US when I traveled. I left some in the Prabhupada Museum in St. Louis temple.
Who is this wonderful person Srila Prabhupada, who filled our hearts with love and true happiness? He is still with us, but how could we remember without these wonderful pastimes? He lives forever in our hearts. Just as Srila Prabhupada told us to remember the pastimes of Krsna, in our hearts, Srila Prabhupada’s pastimes are also going on in our hearts to enliven and encourage us.
I say I only saw Srila Prabhupada four times, but could have seen him once more, I missed the opportunity! I always urge everyone to go see their guru as often as possible, as you never know when will be the last time you will be able to do so. In other words don't take it for granted that you will be able to see him whenever you desire to. A moment's association is all it takes, but the more moments the better!
Your humble Servant,
Mother Shyama Priya