The holy name, books, prasada, and saints all help a devotee to come to Krishna.
A Chicago, Illinois, in the United States. I went to a Catholic school and developed great affection for Lord Jesus Christ. I really enjoyed baseball, ice hockey, and football, and I would pray to Jesus to please help me win. I did quite well, so it seemed to me that Jesus heard my prayers.
When I was 15, I became a hippie and let my hair grow long. On my own, I regularly read the Bible and other spiritual books, which helped me to feel more love for the Lord. Thankfully, I never developed the fanatic notion that “Jesus is the only way!” as so many Christians do. I would earnestly pray to Jesus to reveal to me the truth, the meaning of life, the nature and form of God, and so on. From time to time I went to Christian meetings and asked about these things, but I never received any answers that satisfied me. They would tell me, “Nobody has ever seen God, and nobody knows what God looks like.” And then they would ask me to leave. I would often argue with them, saying, “If you can’t answer these simple questions, maybe you should leave.”
One day I went into the forest with my best friend, my dog. Suddenly I saw him very intently sniffing something on the ground. My dog was about thirty yards away, so I couldn’t see what he had found. I thought maybe it was a rabbit or a dead animal. But when I got closer, I saw it was a book – the “Krishna Book” by Srila Prabhupada. It was lying face down, so the first thing I saw was a picture of Srila Prabhupada. I turned the book over and read, “Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” I didn’t know what it was or what it was about but I was compelled, so I started reading. I couldn’t pronounce some of the Sanskrit words, but I went on reading anyway. I was amazed to find that Srila Prabhupada had all the answers to my questions. Whenever a new question came to my mind, I would soon find Prabhupada’s answer. It was mystical.
Even the foreword of the book was interesting. It was written by George Harrison, who said that everyone was looking for Krishna. Some realize it, he said, but others don’t. He also said that God has many names – like Allah, Jehova, Buddha, and Krishna – and that if you chant these names of God you will see God and become conscious of His hand in your life. I was shocked. These were the answers to my questions. As George said, the proof of the pudding is in the tasting. That made a lot of sense to me, so I actually started chanting God’s names. George Harrison and Srila Prabhupada recommended chanting God’s names in the form of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. I sat there chanting for a few hours. I could feel Krishna filling my heart with so much mercy. My father had given me a car and money to buy gas and food, so I would often drive around for hours on end, chanting Hare Krishna the whole time. It was so blissful!
Meeting with the Devotees
At that time I had no idea there was a Hare Krishna movement or that there were Hare Krishna devotees who practiced the philosophy I was reading about. One day one of my friends, a boy named Tracy, came to me and began to say, “You know Tom, the Krishna stuff you’re reading…” I thought he was going to blaspheme Krishna, so I got ready to punch him. “Come on, take it easy!” he said. “I want to show you something wonderful.” He reached into his bag and pulled out a huge Krishna book. “Wow! Where did you get that?” I asked in amazement. He said he had been in Chicago and had seen these bald-headed guys that looked like Buddhist monks. They gave him a card with the address for their temple and invited him for a vegetarian feast they had every Sunday.
Of course, I was excited to meet these people. I took the card from my friend. It said “Kisora-Kisori Temple” and below that was the address. It was an afternoon in the middle of the week, but I went to the temple anyway and knocked on the door. A devotee greeted me and invited me to join him and the other devotees for prasada, which he told me was food that had been offered to Krishna. I will never forget the taste of that meal. It was simple – khicari and halava – but it was the most delicious thing I had ever tasted. The devotees invited me to join them distributing Srila Prabhupada’s books, and I agreed. We all went to the Chicago Auditorium, where I soon found myself taking part in Lord Caitanya’s mission.
How Krishna Pulled Me In
I had a job in a factory before I’d decided to join the temple. I worked with huge machines that assembled the various parts of an airplane. While I worked I would sometimes sit back, chant Hare Krishna, and think of devotees. One day, all of a sudden, my long hair got stuck in the machine! I slammed my head with so much force that it ripped my hair off my head. But the amazing thing was that there was no blood. I wasn’t even badly hurt. But I was now completely bald! Afraid that I’d been badly hurt, my boss came running from his office. “Are you okay?” he asked. He was in shock that I hadn’t been seriously injured but seemed to be more afraid of a big lawsuit. In America, anyone will file a lawsuit against anyone else, often without good reason. I assured him I was okay, much to his relief.
When I got home I thought about what had happened and concluded it was Krishna’s sign; He wanted me to surrender to Him completely. Still, I hesitated. I had my best friend with me, my dog, and I didn’t want to give him up. One devotee suggested that I could move into the temple, and that my dog could stay in the basement. I didn’t like the idea, so someone suggested that I move to the New Vrndavana farm and bring my dog with me.
I stayed in New Vrndavana for several months, trying to fulfill Srila Prabhupada’s desire to live simply by working on the land. One day, I was in the garden playing with the cows and calves when I heard a gunshot. A few minutes later, a devotee came running to inform me that someone had shot my dog and killed him. I felt sad to lose my close friend, but the devotees helped me overcome the grief by telling me how Krishna removes all attachments from a devotee’s life so that he can take complete shelter of the Lord. We buried my dog and put a little cross over his grave. That was the end of the “dog chapter” of my life.