(Dandavats.com) – Siddhanta dasa: My first contact with the Hare Krishna movement came in the summer of 1969 when I saw its members chanting on the streets of Hollywood. My initial reaction to the shaven heads, saffron-colored robes and seemingly strange activity was one of bewilderment and, to some degree, comic relief. It was not until a year later that I was able to appreciate the sound philosophy which stems from one of the world’s oldest religious traditions, as explained in their Back to Godhead magazine. I soon realized that there was a tremendous wealth of knowledge and logic behind the activities of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness and that it was far from being a new “hippie” cult. In fact, the information contained in that first magazine concisely answered all the questions I ever had regarding life, its purpose and more.
The next year in Dallas, Texas, it was my good fortune to actually come in personal contact with the author of that Back to Godhead magazine, the founder of the Hare Krishna movement, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada. I greeted him along with the other devotees at the airport and then followed the procession back to the temple where Prabhupada gave a Sunday Feast lecture. What struck me most about that lecture more than anything was one question that was asked of him by a member of the audience. Srila Prabhupada had been stressing the importance of chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare, and the guest asked what Srila Prabhupada personally felt when he chanted this mantra. Without hesitation, Srila Prabhupada answered, “I feel no fear”; Because his response was so immediate and filled with such conviction, I sensed that not only what he said was true, but I felt an urgency to try the same mantra-meditation process myself.
Over time, it became apparent to many who observed him firsthand that Srila Prabhupada was steadily situated in a higher state of consciousness, beyond anything that was part of our common experience. But that was not all. After a further study of the teachings in his books and observing his interactions with others, I realized that here was a person who was not materially motivated. He was not interested in mundane acquisition, exploitation or adoration. He was also in complete control of his senses, the very foundation of all yoga practice. By his own example, he was a perfect teacher of the divine process of devotional service, or bhakti-yoga. And by means of his unconditional love and devotion, he was in touch with and connected to the Supreme Being. His mission appeared to be for all of our best interests by making me and everyone else who cared to listen, spiritually happy by engaging our mind, body and soul in serving God, Krishna. Srila Prabhupada taught that as a fish out of water cannot be happy out of its constitutional element, water, similarly, we as spiritual beings cannot be happy simply engaging in activities meant to satisfy our material senses.