The Door To That Bus

by Vrindapati das from the Feb. 1979 Issue of the Brijabasi Spirit

There they were, the ”weird baldies” Joe had warned us about. They appeared very odd but harmless as they jumped around in the field. Joe was an elderly fellow who drew a. lot of attention and respect as one of the established hippies in Coconut Grove, He was rather knowledgeable in the occult sciences and his advice car­ried some weight. “Don’t talk with them, they can put a spell on ya. Rite powerful one,” Joe warned as we sat on the wall across the street from the park.

Later, as Pat and I walked toward town through the park one of the “baldies” left the group. He was running an intercept course with us as he juggled paper plates and cups. His big smile seemed genuine enough and I wondered why Joe seemed worried about these freaks. On the paper plates was a yellow wet potato salad and a strange yellow drink in the cups. He muttered something about “spir­itual food and seeing God” and I asked him why his head was bald. The sour taste of the potato salad kept me from hearing his answer though. I drank the stuff- in the cup to wash the taste out of my mouth. It was the first time I tasted buttermilk and the long day in the Florida sun had made it seem very sour too.

As Pat and I walked away laughing, the devotee was simply interested in cleaning the gouranga potatoes and buttermilk off the ground and himself. His concern for the potatoes on the ground was a rather surprising reaction.

Eight months later I remembered that day quite well. I was in Port Authority in New York City, I was handcuffed to an escort from the Juvenile Detention Center in Hackensack, New Jersey. He was taking me back to my home town in Pennsylvania.

A devotee mother came up to us and ‘made some remark about my bad luck, in a nice way of course. I told her I’d get over it and she suggested I take a Back To Godhead. When I saw some pictures in it, I remembered the de­votees in Florida. I laughingly told her of my encounter with one of her people in Florida.

She about knocked me out of my seat when she replied, “‘That’s OK, you’ll be forgiven if you’ll only chant God’s names, Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” As she mentioned I’d be forgiven she tapped me on the wrist with the Back To Godhead where the handcuffs were.

That did it! Did she put a spell on me? What did she mumble? Was she a witch? What DID she mumble? What DID she mumble? The escort ended up taking the magazine and gave her some change. He even tried to convince me to read it on the way to Pennsylvania. I wasn’t touching that magazine!

Not for another 8 months would I encounter the devotees again. This time it was different. Less than a week after the last encounter I joined the Service. After 8 months in the Marines I was trying pretty hard to get out. I had no idea what was in store for me this Sunday in September in Memphis, Tennessee.

I had just spent over $30.00 on a few books on astrology, advanced tarot reading and “cosmic consciousness” and like any good serviceman, I was rather intoxicated.

It was just beginning to drizzle as a friend and I walked through the park. It would be hard to say if the unusual music would have attracted me if it had not been coming from a big white school bus. The bus was a long ways up the hill and nobody plays music that loud unless they’re partying. That’s what this Sunday needed.

As Rick and I started up the incline through the drizzling rain, I noticed the bus was rocking back and forth. This only heightened my anticipation but Rick seemed frightened. I tried to ignore it until lie blurted out, “Let’s get, come on,” I was surprised to see him like this. By this time we were just outside the bus and I was trying to make some sense out of the writing on the side of the bus. It wasn’t any thing I could identify or figure out. What was Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare / Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. These big bold letters seemed to absorb my atten­tion for an eternity. It was cut short though by Rick tugging on my arm yelling, “Let’s go!”

Why was he afraid of this bus? What was the apparent calamity I couldn’t recognize? “I just want to look inside once,” I suggested. As I opened the door to the bus I saw what seemed to be dozens, hundreds, thousands of shoes on the steps. As I turned to Rick for reassurance that this scene” was in­deed unusual I began to recognize the music. Furthermore, Rick was gone, nowhere to be seen. As I read the mantra on the side of the bus again I knew it was unavoidable to look inside, even though I felt I would be captured by the “weird baldies” Joe had warned me about.

The kirtan was the only thing in existence at this point. The loud, loud, music. Louder and louder. Then I re­membered that mother in New York City and the mantra she chanted as she touched me on the wrist with her magazine like it was a magic wand. Curiosity got the better part of me and I finally leaned up into the bus and looked inside. I was so frightened for the first time in many years I asked God to protect me.

I had never seen anything like this. One devotee sat on the floor (playing harmonium), rocking like he was having an epileptic fit. Another in the middle jumping up and down beating on a drum, and a few more playing karatalas, spinning in circles with their robes flapping like flags. It was like something from the movies, THEN! Then I saw the Gour Nitai Deities, The loud music, the incense, the weird baldies, the talk of spells, the shoes, the LSD, all, was racing through my mind but the statues were very peaceful and pacifying. Not even when the one fellow waved his hand through the “cup of fire” and touched my head did I get excited. The deities made the whole thing seem right, orderly, and peaceful.

After aratika, a boy walked over to me and said, “Hare Krsna, thanks for coming.” “We’re going back to our house now, would you like to come along,” he asked politely. I was sur­prised to hear myself answer, “Sure” in a calm sort of way. Aja das and I talked a little about the deities and then he asked what I had in the plastic bag. I was quick to show him my “spiritual books.” He laughed lightly and asked another devotee to come see.

With more sincerity and conviction than I had ever experienced in my whole life, he told me, “Here, this Bhagavad-gita As It Is contains every­thing that is in those books and a lot more. Those books were written by crazy men, crazy because they think they’re their bodies.” Then he opened the Gita to show me Prabhupada’s picture. As I stared at his beautiful face, Aja told me, “This is a perfect person. He’s come to this world to save us from our hellish life and expose the cheaters.” His words were a long awaited comfort. I had been thinking, there are so many yogas, religions, types of mysticisms, types of divination. How can one ever master them all? I felt so small in my search for knowledge.

Here this “Aja” was telling me his teacher, was at least an equal to Jesus Christ and this one book of his was worth more than dozens of others in the “spiritual” field.

In his words was a genuine concern that practically begged me to accept Prabhupada. I guess I did because on the way back we laughed and chanted as the devotees helped me tear up my occult books into little pieces. I felt a strong attachment to my Gita, like it was a good friend. My anxieties were all gone, I had found the genuine path. Now I had to learn it and apply it. Could I do it? Chanting and dancing seemed easy enough for now.

Once at the house I was brought inside to meet the swami, Rupanuga was inside, busy with some paper work but he stopped to talk a little bit. Aja told him I was trying to get out of the service. Rupanuga told me he was once in the service and he could help me get out. This was music to my ears. “How?” I begged. “Join Krsna’s army, they’ll have to let you go,” he said confidently. With a smile he went back to his papers. Then he looked up again, “Study that book daily and chant the maha mantra daily.”

Aja took me to the kitchen and gave me more apple chutney than I could eat, 3 big plates. I ate 2 and took one with me back to base. Aja gave me a string of beads and showed me how to chant.

Then it happened. “Oh, before you, go, can you sort of help with the printing of the book. They cost a lot­ to print.” As I opened my wallet and handed him a $20, I asked for change! Ignoring me he handed me a Sri Isopanisad and reached for the other $20, bill in the wallet. Looking me in the eye he asked, “You know, a lot of people are searching for the truth, Some can’t afford to pay for their books though. Can you leave this for a brother?”

As much as I wanted to refuse, I couldn’t. It sounded like a plain hustle but I knew he lived for those Gitas, He was serious about printing more. Then he said, “Krsna will take care of you.” As I walked to the bus stop, I con­sidered how I would get out of the corps by chanting Hare Krsna. That’s a whole other story. Maybe I’ll tell it later.

All glories to Sri Caitanya’s Sankirtan Movement.

Thank you Srila Prabhupada!

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Reader Comments

hare krishna!

your post made me realize how fortunate i am to be born an indian and a bengali like srila prabhupada, to understand the mahamantra practically from birth. but i am really unfortunate not to practice it untill late in my life.since 1990 i have been reading prabhupada’s books and appreciating them. but it took me 10 years to start practicing the 4 regulative principles.i am really amazed at how you westerners have adopted the vaisnava culture. actually it is according to your past karma, you pick up where you left it. all glories to srila prabhupada!