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According to material vision, our beloved spiritual master, guide, and friendHis Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupäda passed away from this world on November 14, 1977, but actually he is still present. AsÇréla Prabhupäda often pointed out, there are two ways of associating withthe spiritual master: through his physical presence (vapu) and through hisinstructions (väëé). Sometimes we can associate with the spiritual masterthrough his physical presence and sometimes not, but we can alwaysassociate with him through his instructions
From the very start, I knew that His Divine Grace A.C. BhaktivedantaSwami Prabhupäda was the most extraordinary person I had ever met.The first meeting occurred in the summer of 1966, in New York City. Afriend had invited me to hear a lecture by "an old Indian
" on lowerManhattan's Bowery. Overwhelmed with curiosity about a
lecturing on skid row, I went there and felt my way up a pitch-blackstaircase. A bell-like, rhythmic sound got louder and clearer as I climbedhigher. Finally I reached the fourth floor and opened the door, and therehe was.About fifty feet away from where I stood, at the other end of a long, darkroom, he sat on a small dais, his face and saffron robes radiant under asmall light. He was elderly, perhaps sixty or so, I thought, and he satcross-legged in an erect, stately posture. His head was shaven, and hispowerful face and reddish horn-rimmed glasses gave him the look of amonk who had spent most of his life absorbed in study. His eyes wereclosed, and he softly chanted a simple Sanskrit prayer while playing ahand drum. The small audience joined in at intervals, in call-and-response fashion. A few played hand cymbals, which accounted for thebell-like sounds I'd heard. Fascinated, I sat down quietly at the back,tried to participate in the chanting, and waited.