My first sight of Srila Prabhupada was in Detroit in 1971 when he arrived at the airport. I’d come there with Hayagriva and Kirtananda from New Vrindavan and we welcomed Prabhupada as he came out of the jet way. There were about three hundred and fifty devotees welcoming him and the moment he stepped out of the door into our sight everyone began to cry. There was a wave of transcendental emotion that just went throughout the entire room and anyone who was there will remember it. The next thing I remember was Prabhupada sitting down in the airport lounge and the first words out of his mouth were, “You are not that body.” Those words pierced my heart along with everybody else’s there. Indradyumna Swami and I always mention it to each other that we recall that one moment as being so extraordinary for everybody. Then Prabhupada was driven back to the temple and I spent the next three hours crying my heart out being relieved knowing my spiritual father had come back to once again to try and extract me from the material world.
While in New York I was listening to Prabhupada’s lectures where he would say, “Eat less, sleep less”. These material necessities are something that we can reduce and I took it as gospel and that’s what I did. I would refuse to eat more than one chapati at a meal or have more than one cup of dhal or have one serving of whatever was put on my plate. Prabhupada meanwhile noticed me amongst the devotees as I was very thin and years later I found out he had asked Karandar, “Who is this young boy? Please make sure he gets more prasadam.” The following days devotees would come up to me during lunch saying, “Would you like my chapati? I can give you some of my dhal.” I was thinking, “This is how Maya works. She comes at you like this. She’s just tempting me.” And so I would say, “No, thank you very much.” Meanwhile my aunt came to New York and she saw me at the temple and also noticed that I was very thin. She was so alarmed that she called my mother in Chicago. By the time my mother had made arrangements to come to New York I had lost even more weight. I was down to one hundred eight pounds from one hundred eighty. After some time, letters started arriving on a regular basis from my mother to Srila Prabhupada, asking about my welfare and holding him responsible for the fact that I had become so sick, even though it was my own undoing. Karandar became concerned as he was the temple president and he approached me and said that he felt it was better if I left and went home instead of serving. I said, “But Prabhupada’s instructions are that the association of devotees should never be given up. Otherwise you will definitely fall into maya and it would be very difficult to return.” But he was insistent that I leave and told me that Srila Prabhupada wanted to see me. I was very fearful because I thought “Oh, my God. What have I done wrong?” I entered his room and he was taking prasadam. I offered my obeisances and he looked up at me with big compassionate eyes. He said, “So there’s some difficulty with your mother?” I said, “Yes, Srila Prabhupada.” “She wants you to come home for some time.” I said, “Yes, she does Prabhupada.” He said, “You can go home for some time?” I said, “Yes.” Then he said, “I’m going to initiate you with the name Nrsimhananda das and that way you’ll always be protected from your parents. And then you can go home for sometime and come back.” I was stunned. Then he gave me some prasadam and said, “So then, you can eat vegetarian at home?” I said, “Yes, Prabhupada.” He said, “Then what is the difficulty?” And with that I paid my obeisances, went out, and made arrangements to go back to Chicago. Prabhupada had shown compassion not just for me, and what my needs were, but also to my mother. What it showed me was that Prabhupada knew according to time and circumstance exactly what to do. As it turned out, my mother, who was an anti-cult advocate, in 1999 came with me to Vrindavan. She celebrated her birthday, sat at the feet of Prabhupada’s murti, saw his samadhi and paid her respects. It was a beautiful trip and to me it was the ultimate affirmation that Prabhupada’s compassion could carry anyone over the ocean of doubt and illusion. My mother said, “This was the best trip I ever took in my life.”