H.G. Matsyavatar Das

Monday, 7 March 2011

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

It was ten o'clock a.m. and an italo-australian devotee (Sajanashraya dasa), eager for an opportunity to be in Prabhupada's company, agreed to act as translator and accompanied me to Srila Prabhupada's room; I came up a flight of stairs and turned to my right. I went in. The room was bright with sunshine and Shrila Prabhupada was sitting between two windows on a big cushion, surrounded by some of his disciples (one of them was Gopal Krishna dasa, at that time a grihastha). The floor was covered with a white sheet. I came close to Prabhupada's desk and bowed down in front of him. I had seen this gesture of respect performed many times before in the ashrams I had visited, but personally had not yet performed it. This time, to bow in respect felt very spontaneous. Shrila Prabhupada looked grave and luminous, and we looked each other straight in the eyes for a while. Then he smiled and asked me: "Have we already met?".
I answered: "No, never, but during these days I have intensely and repeatedly thought of you."
Prabhupada: " Do you believe in God?", I answered: "Yes, I do". I thought that this was the first time that I actually meant it. Then he became grave again and told me:" Well, unfortunately modern society is not on God's side, for this reason it can't win, it's already defeated! The false progress that characterizes our society, renders it disgusting: It is a society of ignorant people, with artificial needs. Mankind's greatest victory is to realise that we are not this body, we are spirit souls, part and parcel of Krishna, His eternal servants. Therefore, without God consciousness there can be neither progress nor happiness. To have a material body means to suffer, but people are so ignorant they think that the miseries of life are natural and even enjoyable. To attain the human form is very rare.We are very fortunate to have this body, because the human form is unique among the innumerable other forms of life, in that it can allow us to re-establish our eternal relationship with God. We can attain knowledge of Krishna by leading a simple life based on cultivating the land and protecting, not abusing, cows. Krishna consciousness actually means simple living and high thinking, in harmony with nature. Many people believe themselves independent from nature, they try to take advantage of her as if she were their slave, but inevitably, they are defeated by her laws. The tendency to dominate nature and other living beings can only create a cats and dogs society."
Shrila Prabhupada asked me what I thought about this and I agreed with him. As he spoke to me I realized that meeting him was the opportunity of a lifetime and if I did not take advantage of this experience, it would be useless to continue circling the world looking for God. I felt sure that Prabhupada was totally reliable and for the first time in my life I felt I could abandon myself. All the problems that had previously disturbed me were swept away by his words.
Smiling he asked me: "So, what is the problem?"
I answered: "If I could live here with you and the devotees, dressed like this, there would be no problem. I'm worried about going back home, where I have many responsibilities. I am engaged and will soon be married, I manage various companies and collaborate with many partners. How can I conduct a spiritual life with all of these social responsibilities.
Prabhupada said to me: "Don't worry, just become a devotee, chant Hare Krishna, read the Bhagavad-gita and Krishna will reveal Himself to you. In the Gita you can find the solution to any material problem. In order to put an end once and for all to samsara, the transmigration of the soul from body to body, species to species; animal, plant, human, we have to know Krishna. Don't waste time. You are a gifted man. Do you know where talent comes from? What is it's source, to whom it belongs? It is the property of God, just like everything else that exists, including the fruits of your labor. Therefore you have only one responsibility: put all of your talent to the service of Krishna because the goal of life is to know Krishna and He can be attained only if we serve Him with love and devotion. Go home, chant Hare Krishna, talk about Krishna to the people you meet, Krishna will take care of you, don't worry. Hare Krishna!
A few hours after my encounter with Prabhupada, I left New Delhi to return to Italy. I was determined to follow Prabhupada's instructions and I planned, after some time, to go back to India to inform him how things were going in my life. During the return trip I was worried about the impact I would have on my surroundings, on my family. How would my girlfriend, friends, parents and partners react to my conversion? But Prabhupada's words rang in my ears, giving me hope: "Don't worry. Simply study the Bhagavad-gita, chant Hare Krishna, and Krishna will take care of you". In this state of mind, on the return trip, I started reading "The Bhagavad-gita As It Is", printed by the Macmillan Company, the first edition of the B.G. printed by Prabhupada in America. Something extraordinary happened. Even though my knowledge of written english was very scarse and I had no pretense of understanding the profundity of a philosophic discourse, I had, instead, the clear sensation of understanding it's significance!
After landing in Rome I took a train to Livorno where my falmily was waiting to pick me up. On the train I began to think about planning a concise and delicate explanation for my family about how I was going to organize my life, but Krishna and Prabhupada had another plan! The ticket controller, curious about the strange Indian clothes that I was still wearing, started to ask me questions and I spoke to him about Krishna, Prabhupada and existential topics for the whole trip. I was so happy to have glorified the Supreme Lord and His pure devotee, that I realized I was in Livorno only as the train pulled into the station. I hadn't given even a moments thought to what I would say to my family and friends!
At the station, my father and my girlfriend, Marisa were waiting for me. My father drove us back to our home in Perignano di Lari, province of Pisa. My father was driving, I was by Marisa in the back seat. Right away, I started talking to her about Krishna consciousness, about my encounter with Prabhupada and my intention to accept him as my spiritual guide. After listening to me attentively, Marisa told me that everything that I had just explained to her were the values that she had always admired most in life and that she was determined to follow me on the path of Krishna consciousness. My father listened to my whole story without saying one word. In the meantime, we arrived home, where my mother had prepared a sumptuos meal in honor of my return. Unfortunately, as is common in most of Italy, the table was laid with foods not acceptable to a spiritual life. I spoke to my mother alone and explained to her that it was my firm conviction to change my lifestyle and become a devotee of the Lord, Shri Krishna. She had always been profoundly religious and to hear the message of Krishna was like rediscovering something which for some reason had been forgotten. Almost desparate, with her hands in her hair she cried:"What have we been doing all these years? We've wasted time, we've wasted our lives. We have to put ourselves back on the right path and serve the Lord with love and devotion, like Prabhupada says."
My father did not accept all this right away. He was a person with a strong character, solid and concrete and he could not consider changing his life from one day to the next. After some days of observation, reflection and exchanges of points of view between us on various practical and philosophic aspects, more precisely after a few weeks, even he started on the path indicated by Shrila Prabhupada, gradually becoming an excellent devotee, generous, loyal and dynamic. From then on, for the rest of his life, he was dedicated to Prabhupada's mission. Among his various services, the last was the realization of the marvelous policrome marble temple for the worship of Shri Shri Radha Vrajasundara at Villa Vrindavana near Florence, Italy.
Srila Prabhupada was right. By his causeless mercy my family was now a family of devotees, and my home was a temple. In the spring of '77 Marisa and I were accepted as disciples of Prabhupada, married and initiated, with the spiritual names of Manupatni devi dasi and Matsyavatara dasa. The following summer I returned to Vrindavana to thank His Divine Grace for the priceless gift he gave to me and to my family.
Srila Prabhupada Ki-jaya!


  1. Hare Krsna! What a truly lovely story of faith and devotion and the power of a pure devotee. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Lovely encounters with a pure devotee, Srila Prabhupada.
    Thank you.
    Your godbrother in Arizona,
    Dasarath das