Matchless Gifts; Summer 1966

…Srila Prabhupada was lecturing from the Bhagavad-gita…then, incredibly, midway through the lecture, an old white-haired begrizzled Bowery bum entered the storefront and walked right through the middle of the room, past all of us who sat in shocked silence, and on up towards Srila Prabhupada, who sat beneath the back windows. I didn’t know what he was about to do, but I noticed that he was carrying a package of paper handtowels and a couple of rolls of toilet paper. He didn’t say a word, but walked right past Srila Prabhupada and carefully placed the hand-towels by the sink and the toilet paper on the floor under the sink. Then, clearing his throat and saying something incoherent, he turned around and walked out. No one knew what to say and no one knew whether or not Srila Prabhupada had been insulted.

“Just see,” Srila Prabhupada suddenly said. “He has just begun his devotional service. That is the process. Whatever we have—it doesn’t matter what—we must offer it for Krsna’s service.”

Sleepers Awake!
New York: Summer 1966
By Hayagriva das

Excerpted from ‘Back To Godhead’ Magazine
1970-1973 Vol.1, No. 46

When I first met my spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, I felt that there was never a time when I did not know him. I never tire of telling of my first meeting with him on the streets of Lower East Side New York. At the time, I was hurrying from my Mott Street apartment, which had become a refuge for psychedeliacs, to a much quieter apartment on Fifth Street where I hoped to get some peace. I was walking down Houston Street and across Bowery, past the rushing traffic and stumbling derelicts, and after crossing Bowery, just before Second Avenue, I saw His Divine Grace jauntily strolling down the sidewalk, his head high in the air, his hand in a beadbag. He struck me like a famous actor in a very familiar movie. He seemed ageless, though later I found out that he was seventy years old. He was wearing the traditional saffron colored robes of a sannyasi, the renounced order, and quaint white shoes with points. Coming down Houston Street, he looked like the genie that popped out of Aladdin’s lamp. I was fresh from a trip to India, and His Divine Grace reminded me of the many holy men I had recently seen walking the dirt roads of Hardwar and Rishikesh and bathing in the Ganges. I had gone to India to look for a guru but had returned disappointed. It was on this bright July morning, when I was least expecting it, that Sri Krsna, out of His infinite mercy, sent guru to me. The old Vedic adage—by the grace of Krsna you get guru, and by the grace of guru you get Krsna—was justified. Afterwards, Srila Prabhupada (as we were later to call him) often told me, “If you are sincere, you don’t have to search out your guru. Krsna will send him.” So amid the hot clang and clamor of Houston and Bowery, guru had found me out.

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The Story of MATCHLESS GIFTS

The words “Matchless Gifts” means something very special to the followers of this Hare Krsna movement. The founder and Acharya of this movement, His Divine Grace A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, arrived in the United States from India. Alone, and at the late age of 69, and practically penniless; in September of 1965, on the order of His Spiritual Master, Bhaktisiddanta Saraswati Swami, He came by freighter steamboat, to attempt to spread this Krsna Consciousness to the western countries. He also asked Him to print books. In July 1966, in a storefront in New York City, He began the International Society for Krsna Consciousness, ISKCON, practically single-handed; except for a small group of bohemians and hippies, whom He attracted, while walking the streets of New York City.This small storefront building, had been a curiosity shop before Srila Prabhupada rented it, and someone had painted “Matchless Gifts” over the storefront window. At that time, no one realized just how prophetic these words were; for it was there, that this worldwide movement was started, at the storefront called “Matchless Gifts”. -Krsnadas

The Story of MATCHLESS GIFTS
By Hayagriva das

I walked around the corner with him, and he pointed out a small storefront building between First and Second Streets, next door to a Mobil filling station. It had been a curiosity shop, and someone had painted Matchless Gifts over the window. At the time I didn’t realize how prophetic the words were.

When I first met my spiritual master, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, I felt that there was never a time when I did not know him. I never tire of telling of my first meeting with him on the streets of Lower East Side New York. At the time, I was hurrying from my Mott Street apartment, which had become a refuge for psychedeliacs, to a much quieter apartment on Fifth Street where I hoped to get some peace.

I was walking down Houston Street and across Bowery, past the rushing traffic and stumbling derelicts, and after crossing Bowery, just before Second Avenue, I saw His Divine Grace jauntily strolling down the sidewalk, his head high in the air, his hand in a beadbag. He struck me like a famous actor in a very familiar movie. He seemed ageless, though later I found out that he was seventy years old. He was wearing the traditional saffron-colored robes of a sannyasi; the renounced order, and quaint white shoes with points. Coming down Houston Street, he looked like the genie that popped out of Aladdin’s lamp. I was fresh from a trip to India, and His Divine Grace reminded me of the many holy men I had recently seen walking the dirt roads of Hardwar and Hrishikesh and bathing in the Ganges. I had gone to India to look for a guru but had returned disappointed. It was on this bright July morning, when I was least expecting it, that Sri Krsna, out of His infinite mercy, sent guru to me.

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Enter, Srila Prabhupada (Chapter 13)

The Hare Krishna Explosion
by Hayagriva das

Part III: New Vrindaban, 1968-1969
Chapter 13

Enter, Srila Prabhupada

In his long absence, Swamiji’s words haunt me: “Although I am practically on the path of death, still I cannot forget my publications. I wish that if I live or die, you will take very serious care for my publications.“

We are bewildered trying to keep the ISKCON ship afloat, subsisting on the only supplies left—the holy names, the words, the taped lectures, the few books and pamphlets, the memories and photographs.

“Although I am practically on the path of death….”

(Swamiji always said “practically” for “actually.”)

His publications! The Word in English! Before me sits the first complete draft of Bhagavad-gita As It Is, ready for final English revision. “It must be published at once,” he told us repeatedly. “Either get some publisher, or we print it ourselves. Complete it quickly.”

Leaving San Francisco, even revising the manuscript on the plane, I return to New York to work with Brahmananda, who is still hounding publishers.

In Matchless Gifts, we carry on, keeping silent vigil for reports on Swamiji’s condition. Every day, we wait for a letter from Swamiji himself, signed in a large, firm hand, “Your ever well-wisher, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami.”

Soon letters from Kirtanananda begin to arrive. Word spreads. Swamiji and Kirtanananda were detained overnight in London because someone on the plane was infected with smallpox. A twenty-four hour quarantine. They were accomodated in a hotel by the airline. In the morning, Swamiji was feeling much better, and they were in Moscow in three hours.

Swamiji was not impressed by the stark silence of the Moscow airport. Nor by the peasant women mopping the floor, nor by the Marxist tracts. Women should be protected, and in every society there exists the four castes. How can the sudras, the working class be expected to dominate government? The four castes were proclaimed eternal by Krishna Himself. Mr. Marx cannot arbitrarily abolish them. Such is the illusion of demons.

“We stayed in Moscow about an hour,” Kirtanananda writes, then reboarded and were in Delhi by midnight. We arrived in the middle of the monsoons, so when we got off the plane, the hot and humid Indian air hit us. It was like walking into a scorching brick wall.”

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Swami in Hippyland (Chapter 7)

The Hare Krishna Explosion
by Hayagriva das

Part II: San Francisco, 1967
Chapter 7

Swami in Hippyland

January 17, 1967. When Swamiji descends from the plane and enters the San Francisco airport, he is greeted by a group of about fifty young people. As he is questioned by the press, he extends his usual transcendental invitations.

“We welcome everyone, in any condition of life, to come to our temple and hear the message of Krishna consciousness,” he says.

“Does that include Haight-Ashbury hippies and bohemians?” a reporter asks.

“Everyone, including you or anyone else,” Swamiji says. “Whatever you are—what you call an acid-head, or hippy, or whatever—what you are doesn’t matter. Once you are accepted for training, you will change.”

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A Short Statement of the Philosophy of Krishna Consciousness

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July 9th Letter

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Bhagavad-gita As It Is 1972 Edition “Online”

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Srimad Bhagavatam Online

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108 Imporant Slokas from the 1972 Bhagavad-gita As It Is

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Important Slokas from the Brahma-samhita

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Slokas from the Sri Isopanisad

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Prayers By Queen Kunti (Slokas)

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Gajendra’s Prayers of Surrender (Slokas)

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