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Prabhupada could pick up exactly where we had left off.

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Guru-Gauranga: Srila Prabhupada’s sole visit to Switzerland was from May 29 to June 8, 1974. He arrived in the morning and with special authorization we got to greet him on the tarmac along with the Swiss national television crew. That afternoon we had an official reception at the city hall of Geneva, the Hotel de Ville, where Srila Prabhupada was going to be welcomed by the Governor of Geneva. Sometimes devotees think it was the mayor of Geneva, like in Paris where it was the vice-mayor, but in Geneva it was the Governor of the Canton of Geneva.

 

What I thought was significant about the Governor was that he addressed Srila Prabhupada as “Your Divine Grace”. For non-devotees it’s not the easiest way to address Prabhupada, but he minced no words. With respect he said, “Your Divine Grace” in the beginning and he said, “Your Divine Grace” at the end of his welcome speech. Then Prabhupada gave a response to the Governor as he talked about varnashrama dharma. He explained how a perfect society is organized and how it functions. At the end of Prabhupada’s talk there was a small conversation between Prabhupada and the Governor. The Governor asked about a concern that he was feeling. He said, “Your Divine Grace, if everybody joins your movement, what will happen to the economy?”

 

Going forward about ten months, it was time for the Mayapur festival in 1975. I went to India with a few Swiss devotees, and we had booked our flight through Bombay to Calcutta. When we arrived in Bombay we immediately drove by taxi from the airport to the temple in Juhu. Prabhupada was just leaving the compound for a morning walk with an entourage of devotees. We told the taxi driver to stop and we jumped out and did a one hundred eighty degree turn to go on the morning walk with Prabhupada. Everyone was talking about how Srila Prabhupada was about to leave for the Mayapur festival, but no one knew what flight Srila Prabhupada was taking. Everyone was eager to find out what flight it was so they could book their tickets on the same flight. But by the time it was known what flight Srila Prabhupada was on, the flight was fully booked and no one could get on. However, I looked at our tickets from Switzerland, and by pure serendipity we were on Prabhupada’s flight. When the devotees took Prabhupada through the airport with a rip-roaring kirtan, they couldn’t get past security, but we did. Everyone was saying, “What is it with those devotees? I tried but I couldn’t get on the flight. How did they pull that off?”

 

We went to the small waiting room with Prabhupada, and I found myself with Prabhupada and only his secretary and the two other devotees from Switzerland. We could hear the kirtan in the distance but that was it. I decided I had to be very Krishna conscious because Prabhupada might notice me and I didn’t want to look anything but Krishna conscious. So I was chanting my japa pacing back and forth in the lounge area. As I turned to pace back I saw that Prabhupada was calling me. It was almost like in the movies where I had to look in both directions to see who he was talking to, because I couldn’t believe Srila Prabhupada was calling me.

 

Prabhupada gestured for me to come over and he tapped the seat right next to him for me to sit down. Prabhupada asked me, “So how is the Governor of Geneva? Is he still worried about the Swiss economy if everyone joins our movement?” At that moment I realized that Srila Prabhupada knew who I was because it’s not that Srila Prabhupada always called us by our name. When we were in his presence sometimes you wonder, “Does Prabhupada really know who I am?” What I learned from that experience was that Prabhupada not only remembered me, he not only remembered the Governor, he remembered everything that had been said and he also remembered that that was the service that I performed for him. Prabhupada could pick up exactly where we had left off, the same conversation, knowing exactly who was doing what for him. That gave me an enormous amount of inspiration, that truly no service is unrecognized by Srila Prabhupada.

 

Guru-Gauranga: A short, sweet story that was told to me by Hiranmayi dasi, a French-Swiss devotee who lives in Montreal, was about another French-Swiss devotee named Krishna Kanta dasi. Krishna Kanta was one of the very first Swiss devotees to join in Geneva. When Prabhupada came she had some affliction in her leg and had strict orders from the doctor to keep her leg up. When she heard that Srila Prabhupada was going to speak at the World Health Organization at the United Nations, she very much wanted to attend. Of course there was no room in a car for a brahmacharini, so she decided to hitchhike from the temple to the World Health Organization, which she did. She managed to get in and she attended the entire lecture that Srila Prabhupada gave.

 

On the way out Srila Prabhupada noticed her and said to us, “How will this brahmacharini get back to the temple? Who is looking after her?” We all looked at each other, clueless, having given no concern whatsoever to that problem. But then we made arrangements for her to get back safely to the temple. I realized that Srila Prabhupada recognized and appreciated all of his disciples, man or woman. That’s a theme that I saw recur over and over – that no servant and no service was too small to escape Srila Prabhupada’s notice and care.

 

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