We missed seeing Prabhupada at the airport so we saw him at the University of Detroit that evening. It was one of those long lecture halls that slope down from the rear to the front with the stage. At a certain point we heard a muffled kirtan so we all turned toward the rear of the auditorium. We could see just the tips of dandas and a couple devotees who were pretty tall. The doors opened and I saw Srila Prabhupada who was radiant and effulgent. When I was young I used to read a book called Lives of the Saints, because I was raised Catholic. From this book I became aware of the qualities that were common with the saints. They radiated peace and power, due to their intimate connection with the Supreme. They were concerned for the welfare of others and they were able to create miracles in the lives of others. When I saw Srila Prabhupada, that’s exactly what I thought of. I was struck with the realization that this person was also always intimately connected with the Supreme and he was radiating peace and power. I also sensed that he was concerned for the welfare of others and that he could perform miracles in the lives of others. It was an overwhelming sense of joy and relief in that realization. I actually began to cry a bit because I was just overwhelmed. My ultimate realization was that the saints were not dead. The saints are alive and well.
The apartment for Srila Prabhupada was around the corner from the temple. Since there were darshans in the evening, my God-brother, Jyotiraditya made a nice garland for Srila Prabhupada out of silver pieces that we used for our jewelry business as well as flowers and multiple denominations of dollar bills. Once the garland was completed, Jyotir said, “Let’s go and take this garland to Srila Prabhupada at the darshan.” When we entered Prabhupada’s room, he was seated in those familiar poses, leaning back on the cushions with his knees up at a low table. He looked very regal and saintly. Jyotir turned around, took the garland out of the box that I was holding, put it around Prabhupada’s neck, and paid his obeisances. All the while I was standing in the middle of the room with an empty box, with my mouth open, looking at Srila Prabhupada, just stunned and overwhelmed. Prabhupada looked up at me and said, “Then what is in the box?” I looked in the box, looked up at him and said, “Nothing.” Everyone laughed. They thought I was so foolish, which I was, but somebody explained to Srila Prabhupada that I had carried his garland in the box. From that point forward, however, what I’ve been trying to do is put some service in the box so that the next time I see Srila Prabhupada I can say, “Here, Srila Prabhupada, this is what is in the box, some services that I have rendered to you.” (laughs)
After Jyotir had given the garland to Srila Prabhupada we all sat down. The room was full but very quiet as no one was asking any questions until someone knocked on the door. When an elderly Indian woman came in, Prabhupada looked at me and said, “Go get her a chair.” I was struck by the way that Prabhupada was so aware at all times. The lesson that I took away from that experience is that I need to protect and care for my wife, my sisters, my daughters and my mothers. That is something that must be done.
My God-brother, Jyotiraditya, made a palanquin for Srila Prabhupada at the temple in Detroit. When Prabhupada came in the first day, he looked at the palanquin and continued to walk upstairs to the attic that had been converted into the temple room. But on the third day, Prabhupada came in the front door, he looked at the palanquin again, and he actually went and sat on it. The devotees called for myself and Jyotiraditya and two other devotees to come and carry the palanquin. I was of course quite nervous. As I touched the handle to the palanquin, sweat beads popped out on my head. I was thinking, “We can’t drop Prabhupada because that would be the end of the world.” We all stood up straight, and as I was the tallest person I had to kind of scrunch down a bit to make it level. I was thinking, “We have to make things nice for Prabhupada. We can’t make him uncomfortable.” We were all different sizes, and probably came to the movement at different times, but none of that mattered then. What mattered was that we didn’t inconvenience Prabhupada in any way. We carried him across the floor, up two steps and a little platform, and then turned left to go up the stairs going toward the second floor. I kept thinking, “We can’t drop Prabhupada. We have to watch if his head is coming close to the ceiling.” We came up to that second level and we couldn’t go up any farther with the palanquin because the stairs became tighter. We had to let him down so he could get off the palanquin and he walked into the temple room. My realization from that event was that if we look at ISKCON as Prabhupada’s body, and we’re all helping to carry that body, we all have to cooperate in order that Prabhupada’s not inconvenienced at any point. We have to really work together. It doesn’t matter about our size, shape, when we came, what our different services might be, but they all have to be coordinated in such a way that as Prabhupada’s movement grows, Prabhupada’s not inconvenienced to the point where he becomes upset by the way we act and treat each other.
The thing that really stuck out for me was Prabhupada’s concern for the welfare of all of us. He made such a great sacrifice. I can’t imagine what it must have been like…actually I did sail when I was younger person on a ship, and I experienced a storm, etcetera. But I can’t imagine what it must have been like for him to make that sacrifice to a place where he didn’t know anyone and didn’t have any money. He was depending completely on the Lord. Obviously he had a great sense of compassion, a great concern for others, obviously more than for his own comfort. Otherwise he would have stayed in India. So that’s one of the things that really stands out for me—the sacrifice that he made to give us information that will save us.