“Where did you meet Śrīla Prabhupāda?” devotees often ask me. I being an initiated disciple of Śrīla Prabhupāda, they hope that I can tell them some Prabhupāda stories of my own. But I have very few.
Like many of his disciples, I joined ISKCON towards the end of Prabhupāda’s manifest līlā. I joined in 1975, when Śrīla Prabhupāda was already established as a great world ācārya. I got to see him in lectures and room darśanas, and even went on one morning walk. But for us junior devotees there was no question of just walking up to Prabhupāda and starting to talk to him. Our position was to be the many faces in the crowd at the class, offering respectful obeisances from a distance, and not expecting to be recognized. We were happy just knowing that we were connected to Śrīla Prabhupāda by service.
When Śrīla Prabhupāda left us, I was still a “new devotee,” just two-and-a-half years in the movement. But I felt my relationship with Śrīla Prabhupāda develop after his disappearance from this world, at a time in which I needed him the most. In Bangladesh we were underwent many difficulties to establish the saṅkīrtana movement. It was tough, very tough. The physical, mental, and economic difficulties, and the pressure and anxiety of working undercover, were compounded by the lack of devotee association. In that situation I often intensely felt Śrīla Prabhupāda’s presence. I knew that he was with me and was pleased that I was taking on difficulties in his service.
Again, in Bangkok, a place where no devotee would want to stay even a minute unless he had specific service to render there, times were hard. Remembering Śrīla Prabhupāda and that he wanted us to preach everywhere, was the only thing that kept us going.
I have met Śrīla Prabhupāda personally and intimately, and continue to do so. And so can everyone else. I don’t have many Prabhupāda stories of my own to tell, but I am not bereft of his association. If we really want to be with Śrīla Prabhupāda, he will always be there to help us. Prabhupāda is available for us always, but how much we take advantage of his presence is up to us. “He lives forever in his divine instruction, and the follower lives with him.”