I OWE A LOT to Lord Krsna's devotees.
On an underground train in London many years ago, as I sat in my seat, alone and lost in thought, I heard a voice call to me "Hey, man!" I glanced up to see a shaven-headed young man with what looked like a white tuning-fork painted on his forehead. As his intense eyes met mine he said, "You know, you don't have to smoke dope to get high."
Did I know? Yes. I'd been searching for natural ways to be happy. When I heard the devotee's words, I knew without a doubt he was right. I pondered what kind of high state might lie behind his serious yet smiling face. Although I didn't know it then, I'd just reached the end of a chapter of my life and was about to begin a new one.
A few days later, as I walked along a dingy Piccadilly Line platform, on the tunnel wall I came across a poster of Krsna and Balarama. As I looked at Their incredibly beautiful faces smiling at me from Their Vrndavana home, I thought that maybe a place of eternal happiness did actually exist.
Another time, at High Street Kensington, I met a devotee who sold me a Back to Godhead magazine and gave me an invitation to a temple where he promised I'd get a free vegetarian love feast. I went to the temple, ate the feast, and joined in the chanting.
On a dark evening I met some devotees walking along a road. Their faces, their movements, and their voices attracted me. Simply by their presence the devotees created an atmosphere in which I felt Krsna's presence.
Though the years have rolled by, I still feel moved when I remember those moments. Without them, where would I be now? Although they may seem ordinary, I see them as part of Lord Caitanya's great movement and of Srila Prabhupada's momentous arrival in the West. In those wonderfully sweet moments of my life, I met Krsna, and my lonely wandering ended.
Krsna's pure devotees are special because Krsna resides within their hearts as their only possession. Therefore, they can share their love for Krsna. They can tell others about Krsna, help others prepare to meet Him, and introduce them to Him. In short, devotees can give us Krsna. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura sings, "O Vaisnava devotee, Krsna is yours. You are able to give Him to me, for such is your power."
Krsna likes to spread Himself around through His devotees. As the Lord's representatives, devotees do their best, sometimes at great personal risk and expense, to give everyone Krsna because they love everyone.
Lord Krsna is pleased when He notices someone giving Him to others. In the Bhagavad-gita (18.69) He says, "There is no servant in this world more dear to Me than he, nor will there ever be one more dear."
For me, Srila Prabhupada was the epitome of these words. A few months before he left this world he said, "I am just trying up to the last moment of my life [to] deliver some good to people. That is my determination."
One of Srila Prabhupada's gifts was showing that preaching is much, much more than telling someone about God and religion. By Prabhupada's courage, dynamism, resourcefulness, enthusiasm, and a host of other attributes, he showed that preaching is a great adventure in which one's life is full of sharing Krsna with others.
When I give Krsna I feel alive. I wake up from the dream that I am the central character in the soap opera of a fearful struggle to survive. I feel the radiant joy of life. No longer am I like George Bernard Shaw's complaining and feverish little clod of ailments and grievances.
Whether we strike up a conversation about Krsna, put up a poster advertising a Hare Krsna festival, or sell someone a book or magazine about Krsna, let's give Krsna to others. Remember Srila Prabhupada's words: "Go and preach. Don't be afraid. … Whatever you have learned from Krsna, from your guru, just repeat it."
Rohininandana Dasa lives in southern England with his wife and their three children. Write to him in care of BTG.