H.G. Matsyavatar Das

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

My first meeting with my Guru Maharaja: His Holiness A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Shrila Prabhupada -PART 1/2- Di Matsyavatara dasa (Marco Ferrini)

In the summer of 1976 I was in India, on the Himalaya. I was seriously interested in the philosophy of the sage Patanjali (yoga sutra) and I was living in an ashram in a very austere way, where I studied attentively from dawn to sunset. There nobody knew who I was; I was 31, unmarried and in excellent health. In Europe I was living a period of great material success. In Italy I had founded six companies and I was considered one of the most famous furniture designers in the world. Plenty of money, fame, and a social life studded with VIPs no longer satisfied me, rather the feeling of solitude even among my crowd of anonymous "friends" saddened me. I felt I was wasting my best years in vain and that I was moving in a direction that was completely the opposite of my aspirations. So in 1974, to everyone's great surprise, I gave a turning point to my life: with great caution I selected my friends, eliminated many worldly commitments and directed my interests more and more towards introspection. I found worldly literature nauseating, even if it was written by the most famous authors. Though I had taken part in the student movement in 1968, I had by now lost interest in their requests, which had been betrayed and politicised. Verbal and political violence, sex and drugs, had destroyed the movement's ideals of freedom and fairness, causing it to degenerate in an unacceptable and definitive way. With this state of mind, I was losing interest in the hedonistic, materialistic western culture and, thanks to some material I had read, was starting to look towards the Orient. Likewise, the course of my travels also changed and instead of going to Paris or New York, I began visiting China and India until I finally put into focus the barycentre of my research: My interest was concentrated more and more on the spiritual. I found Vedic literature very interesting, and among this, Patanjali's "Yoga Sutra" was my favorite book. In 1976 I went to India for the third time, resolved to find a satisfying answer to my existential questions. During this, as well as my previous sojourns, I had visited many ashrams and met many yogis and gurus but none of them inspired me deeply, nor did they convince me as much as I had expected. I began to think that I was not yet ready or did not have the "correct vision" and that I would have to purify myself through study and an ascetic life. I was convinced that by doing so God would reveal to me with clarity the path to follow. In this mood, I went to an anonymous ashram to "prepare" myself for spiritual research. This same year, at the end of August in the ashram I have just mentioned, I made friends with a brahmachari of my age, who looked intelligent and ascetic. We both attended the classes on Vedanta-sutra, studying together nd talking about our aspirations. Early one day, he told me gravely: " If you want to be happy you have to devote your life to Krishna and in order to do so you must meet Shrila Prabhupada personally, since he can introduce you to Krishna. Leave this place, go to Vrindavana and speak with Prabhupada". I had never heard anything about this Swami and the figure of Krishna, as it was presented in the Bhagavad-gita that I had read, did not impressed me much. Struck by my friend's attitude, I asked him for more explanations and he replied that he was a Vaishnava and that he was there to preach. We started to talk about Krishna and Prabhupada and one of the first things he told me, was that the Bhagavad-gita I had read was not authentic and that Krishna can be revealed only by one of His pure devotees which was why I should have immediately gone to meet Prabhupada in Vrindavana. We stopped attending the classes on Vedanta and we regularly met on the banks of the Ganges. We would chant the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra and I would listen to him recount Krishna's and Prabhupada's pastimes. On August 27th we affectionately parted ways and I left for Vrindavana in search of Prabhupada. I did not know exactly where Vrindavana was, nor how far it was from where I was at the present. I knew only that I had to meet Prabhupada, who would introduce me to Krishna.
In this manner, thinking intensively of Prabhupada, my trip began. I left that ashram and travelled up to Haridwara, from there I took a train to Delhi, then another to Mathura, from there I took a tanga (a cart drawn by a horse) to Vrindavana. I got to Vrindavan in the early afternoon and under an implacable sun I immediately began to look for Srila Prabhupada. I only knew that he was in a Krishna temple in Vrindavana, so I asked the driver candidly to take me to the temple of Krishna. He took me to innumerable Krishna temples, where I entered and asked about Prabhupada, but even from my first impressions, I knew I was not yet in the right place. After hours spent going in and out of many temples, the tanga driver lost his temper, afraid that I was making fun of him and would never pay him, after a series of threats, he threw my baggage in the middle of the street. I was in Vrindavana, now I knew there were thousands of Krishna temples and more then one person who was claiming to be Prabhupada, but I did not know in which temple my Prabhupada was. I was alone, tired, hungry, sitting on my luggage in the middle of a dusty street, the passerbys watching me curiously. My poor knowledge of English was not of much help. Since I was standing near a fence, after a while I decided to knock on it's large iron gate, which opened at once. A bright, clean devotee appeared and I asked him the same information I had already implored so many times that afternoon: "I am looking for Srila Prabhupada...", from the open gate I could see a coloured temple and a beautiful garden and even before the devotee answered, I felt I was in the right place. The devotee, who was Italian, invited me to come in and seeing my condition, he prepared me a room where I could rest and wash, then he told me that after taking prasada, I could meet Srila Prabhupada. I was extremely happy: I felt safe and my faith in the protection of Prabhupada and Krishna was increasing. Once I had recovered from my tiredness, the devotees informed me that Prabhupada had left for Delhi the day before, therefore the following day I also left for Delhi. Before leaving, I asked the temple president to write me a letter of introduction. When I arrived in Delhi, it was very late at night: I was to meet Prabhupada the next morning.

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