Towards the end of 1973, Prabhupada was in transit. He was either going from Los Angeles to London or coming back from London and going to Los Angeles, and he was just stopping over in New York for one day. I don’t think it was a scheduled visit because we only heard about it that morning. In the morning they announced, “Prabhupada will be here this afternoon and he is going to give the Bhagavad-gita class, and everybody should make sure they are back in time for Prabhupada’s class.” Prabhupada gave a Bhagavad-gita class on the Fourth Chapter, Text 13, catur-varnyam maya srstam. After the class Prabhupada asked for questions, and after a couple of questions, Prabhupada said, “So are there any more questions?” Nobody raised their hands, and then Prabhupada asked again, “Are there any more questions?” I was still not initiated having lived in the temple for only about six months, so I was thinking to myself, “Come on, somebody ask a question.” I could see Prabhupada wanted to continue to speak on the verse, so I finally just raised my hand and they called on me. I said, “Srila Prabhupada, could you say something about the mercy of Lord Caitanya?” It wasn’t even a proper question, but Prabhupada, who was sitting very relaxed, all of a sudden sat up very straight and said, “It is already said, param vijayate sri-krsna-sankirtanam, so continue doing sankirtan and you will be victorious.” I thought, “Wow! What happened? Did I just get chastised or what?” I didn’t know what to make of it and that was the end of the class. Afterwards, the devotees approached me and said, “Oh, congratulations, Bhakta Jeff.” I said, “What? Congratulations?” They said, “Yes, you just got a personal instruction from Srila Prabhupada.” I said, “Oh, okay.” And ironically enough sankirtan has been my service now for over forty-five years.
If I had to choose one quality that Prabhupada had that really stands out in my mind, it is his boldness, or his fearlessness. I joined in 1973 and at that time nobody believed in reincarnation. There were people that maybe have heard of it, but no one in the mainstream of educated people believed in reincarnation. But here comes Srila Prabhupada in 1973, and one of his foremost preaching points was, “We are not the body but spirit soul, transmigrating from body to body,” thus introducing reincarnation into the western society. And now it is very fashionable to say, “I believe in reincarnation.” The same thing can be said about vegetarianism in that Prabhupada wasn’t daunted by how many people were not aware of the health, economic and spiritual benefit of not eating meat. From Prabhupada’s bold preaching, I feel I can present Krishna consciousness to any open-minded person with complete confidence and conviction to the point where they have to admit that this philosophy is something that is worthy of serious consideration. Therefore, I think it is an amazing credit to Srila Prabhupada that he came with the truth and preached it even though it wasn’t popular, which speaks to his boldness and fearlessness.