Visitor From Calcutta (Chapter 1)

The Hare Krishna Explosion
by Hayagriva dasa

Part I: New York, 1966
Chapter 1

Visitor From Calcutta

I first see him just after crossing the Bowery at Houston Street. As he passes before the iron-mesh fence of a playground, I distinctly glimpse the aura of saintliness. I watch him through the rushing traffic and stumbling derelicts.

He strolls almost jauntily down the sidewalk. He is an old man whom age has never touched. Aloof from the people and bustle about him, he walks proudly, independently, his hand in a cloth beadbag. He wears the saffron robes of a sannyasi, and on his feet are quaint, pointed white shoes.

Only seven months ago, I had seen many saffron-robed monks and holymen walking the dirt roads of Hardwar and Rishikesh, and stopping beside the Ganges to bathe. For me, that had been a futile journey to the mystic East in search of the all-knowing guru.

But now—what’s this?

I look again at the pointed white shoes. Did this man follow me all the way from North India? Or did he just suddenly descend from the clouds onto Manhattan sidewalks? I decide I must speak to him.

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The Hare Krishna Explosion

The Hare Krishna Explosion
The Birth of Krishna Consciousness in America 1966 – 1969

by Hayagriva das

tad viddhi pranipatena
pariprashnena sevaya
upadekshyanti te jnanam
jnaninas tattva-darshinah

Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth. (Bhagavad-gita 4.34)

NOTE

The first draft of The Hare Krishna Explosion was written in July, 1969, just after Srila Prabhupada’s first visit to New Vrindaban. At that time, I realized that the details of the beginnings of the Krishna Consciousness Movement had best be recorded while events were still fresh. Working from notebooks, diaries and memory, I compiled the first draft within a month. Then the manuscript remained packed away, until Srila Prabhupada left this mortal world in November, 1977. During those interim years, both the manuscript and my mind had accumulated some dust, but convinced of the value of anything dealing with Srila Prabhupada, I began again, and completed the second draft in 1979. For the next five years, as the Hare Krishna Movement continued to expand, I kept polishing and expanding the manuscript. Clearly, the Hare Krishna explosion was not about to fizzle. “Just as Krishna is always expanding,” Srila Prabhupada had said, “anything related to Krishna is also expanding.” In 1966, unknown to us, Prabhupada had truly launched a dynamic world religion.

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