In 1969 I was living in Hawaii as a hippie looking for God. I saw a poster on a bakery window that intrigued me and I had my friend take me to the address on the poster. We rang the bell and Prabhupada answered the door, as he was the only one there. He invited us in, and we went upstairs to where Prabhupada sat at a plywood desk with bricks underneath to hold it up, and he started talking about God. He was just like the perfect person who was naturally effulgent. He was so mild and so friendly and so warm and so kind in his mannerisms that you just fell in love with him. He was so expert that he answered all of my questions that I’d been accumulating for years, and I wasn’t even asking him anything. I could see him looking into my mind and into my heart, and just in the course of his conversation, he answered everything.
I went on the first Harinam in Hawaii. The devotees picked me up in an old red truck with Prabhupada seated in the front, and I jumped in the back. I tried talking to the different devotees that were there, but they were all men, and no one would talk to me in my mini-dress. [laughs] When we got to where we were going, I wanted to walk with Prabhupada because he was so kind and I really liked him. Prabhupada had his umbrella and he took a few steps when he stopped, put the umbrella in the ground, looked at me and said, “Do you not know you are woman?” I immediately became embarrassed by my mini-dress, but actually I wasn’t offended at all. He was so wonderful because I was learning everything from him. Everything he said to me had so much knowledge, and that is what I was looking for. He was able to correct my vision of life and I was very happy for that. He was also like the best friend that you had been looking for, but you could also tell, even on the first day I met him, that he was a representative of God. It was just very apparent who he was.
This story is about how Srila Prabhupada’s coat came to be. Govinda dasi said that Prabhupada shouldn’t wear black, neither should he have buttons, so she asked me if I could make a coat for him. I thought she wanted wool and here we were in Hawaii, and what are the chances of finding saffron wool? I went to Sears at Ala Moana Center, and as soon as I walked into the fabric department, there on a table was a bolt of saffron wool, and it was the perfect color. Govinda dasi had Prabhupada’s coat from his business, so I would try Prabhupada’s coat on to measure the coat I was making. My realization was that Krishna was taking such nice care of Srila Prabhupada who wanted to serve Him, and for appearances it was better for him to have a saffron coat because of who he was and his position as a sannyasi. In other words, everything just came together. I couldn’t find anything for the hood, and so I wandered around the store, and there was a toilet bowl cover that was the mustard-colored fleece that I used for the hood. [laughs] Actually, Prabhupada wrote me a letter because I told him that I would want something and then all of a sudden it would appear. Prabhupada wrote to me and he said, “Yes. Krishna takes care of all living entities, but for his devotees He takes specific care. So, don’t be surprised that Krishna is providing for you specifically.”
One of the qualities of a devotee is cleanliness and Prabhupada was a super clean person. When he came to Hawaii, after we moved to the new temple on Coehlo Way, we set up a beautiful room for Srila Prabhupada that’s still there. I was asked to make cushions for his room from a very dark blue fabric the devotees gave me. I stayed up all night making the cushions and bolsters for the side, and the next day Prabhupada sent them back to me. He wanted white fabric. He said, “If it is dark you can’t see that it is dirty,” because he wanted to be able to wash them when they got the least bit dirty. Similarly, when we moved into the Fisher Mansion in Detroit, there were beautiful carpets and Prabhupada wanted white sheets to be put over the carpets. That way we could see the dirt, wash the sheets, and then put them back down over the carpets. He was not fanatical but just extremely clean. Prabhupada always set such a good example for us.
If I had to pick one of the twenty-six qualities of a devotee, I would pick “mercy” as the one that stands out in my mind when defining Prabhupada. Prabhupada was so merciful that he came at an advanced age. I’m almost seventy now and Prabhupada started his westward journey at that age, so it’s hard to imagine how he came to New York City with no money as an elderly gentleman. What compassion, and what mercy and what kindness he had to have. A pure devotee’s mercy is just so deep and Prabhupada showed that in everything he did. His desire for building temples, his desire for distributing books was so far from selfishness. He was so selfless in everything he did because it was for Krishna’s pleasure. Prabhupada’s compassion for the suffering of all living entities had a great impact on the world. We are so fortunate to become the servant of the servant. That means Krishna must be the most merciful because Prabhupada is a beautiful reflection of Krishna.