Berkeley Art and Interreligious Pilgrimage Project

Hare Krishna! A San Francisco Śrīla Prabhupāda Pilgrimage

In Consultation with Dhaniṣṭhā Devī Dasī, Assembled By H.G. Kiśora Śyāma Dāsa (Cogen Bohanec), PhD; Filmed by Kathryn Barush, PhD; Text by H.H. Satsvarūpa Dāsa Goswami.

This pilgrimage offers a homage to the divine Bay Area activities of His Divine Grace, Śrīla A.C. Bhaktivedānta Swami Prabhupāda, the Founder Ācārya of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness, otherwise known as the “Hare Krishna Movement,” or the “Krishna Consciousness Movement.” Although this tradition has very ancient roots in India (namely, as the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava tradition), due to the counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s, it became incredibly popular in the Western world, in part because of its popularity in the Bay Area in the years following the Summer of Love. The tradition teaches that places where a great soul such as Śrīla Prabhupāda visit and engage in their sacred mission become a tīrtha, or a holy place of pilgrimage where pilgrims can gain access to that which is beyond the mundane, as a “crossing point” (lit. tīrtha) to the spiritual realm. It is a great honor and a blessing to have such sites here in the Bay Area where Śrīla Prabhupāda engaged in his pastimes since these enrich both our social and cultural history, and for spiritual spirants, they manifest the transcendental spiritual vibration for the benefit of all of humanity.  

ŚB 1.13.10

भवद्विधा भागवतास्तीर्थभूता: स्वयं विभो ।
तीर्थीकुर्वन्ति तीर्थानि स्वान्त:स्थेन गदाभृता ॥ १० ॥

bhavad-vidhā bhāgavatās
tīrtha-bhūtāḥ svayaṁ vibho
tīrthī-kurvanti tīrthāni
svāntaḥ-sthena gadābhṛtā

My lord,
devotees like your good self
are verily holy places personified.
Because you carry the Personality of Godhead within your heart,

you turn all places into places of pilgrimage.

Jayānanda Dāsa was of significant importance to the early organization and success of the Krishna Consciousness movement, particularly on the West Coast, and particularly in San Francisco. He held a central role in building the success of the ISKCON center in San Francisco. He organized the construction of the cart the first ISKCON Ratha Yatra festival in Golden Gate Park in 1967—the first one ever to be held outside India—where it has been held every year since (with a brief hiatus for the Covid pandemic). He also played a central role in organizing multiple other Ratha Yatra festivals, such as those in New York and in Los Angeles. Jayānanda Prabhu left his body on May 1, 1977 just a few months before Śrīla Prabhupāda likewise departed. Until his last days he was working in spreading the message of Krishna Consciousness, and Śrīla Prabhupāda declared that upon his departure Jayānanda had returned back home, back to Godhead. 

Meet Your Guides

Click on the image to view Gurudas' Introduction!

Overview

Recommended Route: From 1192 Haight through Golden Gate Park, to the Pacific Ocean, and back. However, it is best to include darśana with Lord Jagannath at the Berkeley ISKCON temple since so much of the Bay Area Krishna Consciousness Movement revolves around His Lordship who resides in the Berkeley temple.

Recommended Reading: “Chapter Twenty-Four: New Jagannātha Purī,” In Śrīla Prabhupāda Līlāmṛta, Vol. 1, by Satsvarūpa Dāsa Goswami, pp. 607-663

Location #1: 1095 Lyon

Significance: Where Śyāma-sundara carved Lord Jannatha in the second story apartment, on the corner.

Location of the first public kīrtana in San Francisco (circa 1968-1970) at Fisherman’s Warf, the Aquatic Park. The Aquatic Museum is in the back ground. It is a good location because this is where tourists catch the main trolley. Yamuna is singing, Vishnujana playing harmonium, Tamal Krishna on kartals, Mukunda on the far left with mrdanga, Chidananda is the mrdangam on the right. The photo is the fist attempt of a formal portrait of Prabhupāda, the ISKCON press wanted a formal photo, and Gurudas took the portrait at Willard street:

Location #2: 1192 Haight Street

Building: 10-A Lyon

Significance: Carving of Lord Jagannath by Shyamasundara Das. 

Artifacts: 

Letter to Syamasundara Das 5/21/1967 

Letter to G.L. Nanda, 7/20/1975 

One day Mālatī hurried into Śrīla Prabhupāda’s apartment, took a small item out of her shopping bag, and placed it on Prabhupāda’s desk for his inspection. “What is this, Swamiji?”

Śrīla Prabhupāda looked down and beheld a three-inch wooden doll with a flat head, a black, smiling face, and big, round eyes. The figure had stubby, forward-jutting arms, and a simple green and yellow torso with no visible feet. Śrīla Prabhupāda immediately folded his palms and bowed his head, offering the little figure respects.


“You have brought Lord Jagannātha, the Lord of the universe,” he said, smiling and bright-eyed. “He is Kṛṣṇa. Thank you very much.” Śrīla Prabhupāda beamed with pleasure, while Mālatī and others sat amazed at their good fortune of seeing Swamiji so pleased. Prabhupāda explained that this was Lord Jagannātha, a Deity of Kṛṣṇa worshiped all over India for thousands of years. Jagannātha, he said, is worshiped along with two other deities: His brother, Balarāma, and His sister, Subhadrā.


Excitedly, Mālatī confirmed that there were other, similar figures at Cost Plus, the import store where she had found the little Jagannātha, and Śrīla Prabhupāda said she should go back and buy them. Mālatī told her husband, Śyāmasundara, and together they hurried back and bought the two other dolls in the set.


Śrīla Prabhupāda placed the black-faced, smiling Jagannātha on the right. In the center he placed the smallest figure, Subhadrā, who had a red, smiling mouth and a rectangular black and yellow torso. The third figure, Balarāma, with a white, round head, red-rimmed eyes, and a happy red smile, had the forward-jutting arms like Jagannātha and a blue and yellow base. Prabhupāda placed Him next to Subhadrā. As Prabhupāda looked at them together on his desk, he asked if anyone knew how to carve. Śyāmasundara said he was a wood sculptor, and Prabhupāda asked him to carve three-foot-high copies of the little Jagannātha, Balarāma, and Subhadrā.


More than two thousand years ago, Śrīla Prabhupāda told them, there was a king named Indradyumna, a devotee of Lord Kṛṣṇa. Mahārāja Indradyumna wanted a statue of the Lord as He had appeared when He and His brother and sister had traveled on chariots to the holy field of Kurukṣetra during a solar eclipse. When the king requested a famous artist from the heavenly planets, Viśvakarmā, to sculpture the forms, Viśvakarmā agreed – on the condition that no one interrupt his work. The king waited for a long time, while Viśvakarmā worked behind locked doors. One day, however, the king felt he could wait no longer, and he broke in to see the work in progress. Viśvakarmā, true to his word, vanished, leaving behind the uncompleted forms of the three deities. The king was nevertheless so pleased with the wonderful forms of Kṛṣṇa, Balarāma, and Subhadrā that he decided to worship them as they were. He installed them in a temple and began worshiping them with great opulence.


Since that time, Śrīla Prabhupāda continued, Lord Jagannātha has been worshiped all over India, especially in the province of Orissa, where there is a great temple of Lord Jagannātha at Purī. Each year at Purī, during the gigantic Ratha-yātrā festival, millions of pilgrims from all over India come to worship Lord Jagannātha, Balarāma, and Subhadrā, as the deities ride in procession on three huge carts. Lord Caitanya, who spent the last eighteen years of His life at Jagannātha Purī, used to dance and chant in ecstasy before the Deity of Lord Jagannātha during the yearly Ratha-yātrā festival.
Seeing this appearance of Lord Jagannātha in San Francisco as the will of Kṛṣṇa, Prabhupāda said that they should be careful to receive and worship Lord Jagannātha properly. If Śyāmasundara could carve the forms, Prabhupāda said, he would personally install them in the temple, and the devotees could then begin worshiping the deities. San Francisco, he said, could be renamed New Jagannātha Purī. He chanted, jagannāthaḥ svāmī nayana-patha-gāmī bhavatu me. “This is a mantra for Lord Jagannātha,” he said. “Jagannātha means ‘Lord of the universe.’ ‘O Lord of the universe, kindly be visible unto me.’ It is very auspicious that He has chosen to appear here.”


Śyāmasundara bought three large blocks of hardwood, and Prabhupāda made a sketch and pointed out a number of details. Using the small statues, Śyāmasundara calculated ratios and new dimensions and began carving on the balcony of his apartment. Meanwhile, the devotees bought the rest of the tiny Jagannāthas from Cost Plus, and it became a fashion to glue a little Jagannātha to a simple necklace and wear Him around the neck. Because Lord Jagannātha was very liberal and merciful to the most fallen, Śrīla Prabhupāda explained, the devotees would soon be able to worship Him in their temple. The worship of the forms of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa in the temple required very high, strict standards, which the devotees were not yet able to meet. But Lord Jagannātha was so merciful that He could be worshiped in a simple way (mostly by chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa), even if the devotees weren’t very much advanced.


Prabhupāda set March 26, the appearance day of Lord Caitanya, as the day for installing the deities. The devotees would have a big feast and begin worshiping Lord Jagannātha. Prabhupāda said they would have to build an altar, and he told them how to prepare it.


While Śyāmasundara hurried to finish his carving, a small splinter lodged itself in his hand, and the wound became infected. Finally Śyāmasundara got blood poisoning and became so sick that he had to go to the hospital. Lord Jagannātha was taking away the reactions to Śyāmasundara’s previous sinful activities, Prabhupāda said.

Location #3: Central Ave. and Haight St.

Significance: Beginning of First Ratha Yatra Festival in the Western World.

On July 8 [1967], after Prabhupāda had been at Paradisio for two days, Śyāmasundara and Mukunda drove up from San Francisco. The next day was to be Ratha-yātrā, and Śyāmasundara and Mukunda, the first devotees to visit Prabhupāda since his arrival at Stinson Beach, told Prabhupāda all about the festival preparations. Of course, the whole festival had been Prabhupāda’s idea, but the devotees in San Francisco were trying to do exactly as he had asked.
Śrīla Prabhupāda had first gotten the idea for the festival while looking out the window of his room above Frederick Street. Noticing flatbed trucks passing below, he thought of putting Jagannātha deities on the back of such a truck and conducting an American-style Ratha-yātrā festival. He had even sketched a truck with a four-pillared canopy on the back and decorated with flags, bells, and flower garlands. And he had called in Śyāmasundara: “Make me this cart for Ratha-yātrā.” Now, ready and sitting outside the temple on Frederick Street, was the cart – a yellow Hertz rental truck, compliments of the Diggers and complete with five-foot columns and a pyramidal cloth canopy.
Sitting with Prabhupāda on the beach, Mukunda told how all the devotees were working with great enthusiasm and how the hippies in Haight-Ashbury were talking about the Jagannātha parade that would take place the next day. The devotees had tried to route the parade through Golden Gate Park, but the police department would only give permission for them to go south down Frederick Street to the sea. Mukunda said the devotees planned to have Jagannātha under the canopy, facing the right side of the truck, Subhadrā facing the rear, and Balarāma facing the left side; he wanted to know if that was all right. Actually, Prabhupāda said, the deities should ride in separate carts, pulled with ropes by the crowd through the streets; maybe that could happen in future years.
“Do it nicely,” he cautioned them. “And don’t hurry it up.” The devotees should drive the truck slowly through the streets down to the beach, and there should be constant kīrtana.
Mukunda and Śyāmasundara glorified Jayānanda: he drove all around San Francisco getting donations of fruits and flowers, found people to help decorate the cart, installed the sound system on the truck, and distributed posters in the stores. He was tireless, and his enthusiasm was inspiring everyone else to take part. The women had been cooking capātīs all day, so there should be thousands to give away to the crowd. The devotees had prepared hundreds of Hare Kṛṣṇa Ratha-yātrā festival balloons to release on the streets as the parade began.
When the devotees asked what else they should do, Prabhupāda said that this was all – a procession, prasādam distribution, kīrtana. The people should get a chance to see Lord Jagannātha and chant Hare Kṛṣṇa. There should be chanting and dancing in front of the cart throughout the procession. “But do everything nicely,” Prabhupāda said. “Do it as well as you can, and Lord Jagannātha will be satisfied.”
The next day, in the quiet afternoon, Prabhupāda was sitting in the living room, chanting on his beads. Upendra was with him, and Kīrtanānanda was in the kitchen cooking a feast. Suddenly Prabhupāda heard the familiar ringing of cymbals, and he became very happy, his eyes widening. Looking outside he saw the Ratha-yātrā truck, with Lord Jagannātha, Subhadrā, and Balarāma and dozens of devotees and hippies eager to see him. He went out to greet them and had them bring the deities inside and set them on top of the upright piano. Devotees and guests followed, filling the large living room. Smiling, Prabhupāda embraced some of the men while others made obeisances at his feet. Some devotees helped Kīrtanānanda in the kitchen get ready to distribute the large feast he had prepared. Others reported on the success of the Ratha-yātrā festival.
It was great! It was wonderful! It was a beautiful day, they said. And Prabhupāda listened, moved by his disciples’ description of the celebration. Many hippies had joined the large procession. Mukunda, Haridāsa, Hayagrīva, and some of the women had been on the cart, and the instruments, including Yamunā’s playing on the harmonium, had all been amplified. Everyone in the streets had liked it. The police motor escorts had tried to hurry the devotees, but so many people had crowded in front that the parade had been obliged to go slowly, just as Swamiji had asked. Subala had danced wildly the whole time, and Jayānanda had been jumping up and down, playing karatālas. From the truck some of the women had handed out cut oranges, apples, and bananas, and others had thrown flowers. The crowds had loved it.
Śyāmasundara told how they had been going up a steep hill – Śyāmasundara had been driving, with his dog Ralph beside him on the front seat – when the truck had stalled. He had tried to start the engine but couldn’t. Then the brakes wouldn’t hold. The truck began rolling backward downhill! Finally he had managed to stop. But when he had tried to go forward the engine had stalled and the truck had rolled backwards again! He would get it started, the truck would go forward, then stall, then roll backwards. Everyone had been in anxiety. At last the truck had started forward, and the procession had continued all the way to the beach.
Śrīla Prabhupāda smiled. It was a pastime of Lord Jagannātha’s, he said. The same thing had happened when Lord Caitanya had attended Ratha-yātrā in Jagannātha Purī. Then also the cart had gotten stuck, and no one had been able to move it. The king of Orissa had brought forward the most powerful wrestlers to push the cart and pull on the ropes. But it wouldn’t go. Even the elephants couldn’t move it. Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu had then put His head against the cart and pushed, and only then did the cart begin to move. Now Ratha-yātrā had come to the West, and with it this pastime of Lord Jagannātha’s.
Prabhupāda noticed some devotees were missing. “Where are Yamunā and Jānakī?” he asked. The devotees told him that some hippies had handed out candy spiked with LSD and that a few of the devotees had unwittingly accepted it and were just now recovering.
Subala related how, after the festival, they had traveled out on the freeway in their flower-bedecked, canopy-covered truck carrying thirty devotees and the deities of Jagannātha, Subhadrā, and Balarāma. They had driven up through the mountains in what must have been one of the most unusual vehicles ever seen.
After all the visitors departed, the deities remained in the house with Prabhupāda and his servants. Prabhupāda felt satisfied that his disciples had successfully held a Ratha-yātrā festival. Although untrained, they were sincere. Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī and Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura would have been pleased to see the first American Ratha-yātrā.

Location #4: 1700 Haight Street

Building: Goodwill 

Significance: Location of venue, “Straight Theater”. Early music venue where Hare Krishnas would perform and chant publicly with other notable musicians of the Haight-Ashbury psychedelic music scene.

Image credit: San Francisco Public Library, San Francisco History Center

Location #5: Haight Street & Golden Gate Park

Significance: Tunnel where Śrīla Prabhupāda would enter the park for morning walks.

This walk leads into Robin Williams Meadow by way of an unusual Tunnel underneath the historical Alvord bridge (built 1889).  This tunnel was used frequently by devotees and Swamiji to enter Hippie hill area chanting Hari Nam all the way. 

Film: “Hare Krishna” April 1967 San Francisco — Short Film by Georgio

Location #6: 518 Frederick Street

Significance: The building, “Wash Club” is where the temple was. Śrīla Prabhupāda’s apartment was up the stairs behind the metal door on the left of 514. 

Deity of Krishna as Kartamasi: Gurudas was in the store “All things lucky,” when he came across a deity of Lord Krishna as Kartamasi for $25. Gurudas tried to negotiate the price as he did not have enough money, but the store owner wouldn’t budge. So Gurudas went outside and began begging, telling people he had a family member who had to be bailed out of jail, and subsequently earned the money to “liberate” the Supreme Lord, who then found his home at the Frederick Street temple, and was eventually carried to the Valencia temple.

Artifacts: Pg. 56, 76-77 of “The Swami Who Rocked the Worlds,” by Gurudas. 

Pictures in Līlāmṛta starting on Vol. 1, pg. 620

Significance: Rādha-Kṛṣṇa Temple as New Jagannātha Puri.

 

AS THE UNITED Airlines jet descended on the San Francisco Bay area, Śrīla Prabhupāda turned to his disciple Ranchor and said, “The buildings look like matchboxes. Just imagine how it looks from Kṛṣṇa’s viewpoint.”


Śrīla Prabhupāda was seventy-one years old, and this had been his first air trip. Ranchor, nineteen and dressed in a suit and tie, was supposed to be Śrīla Prabhupāda’s secretary. He was a new disciple but had raised some money and had asked to fly to San Francisco with Prabhupāda.


During the trip Śrīla Prabhupāda had spoken little. He had been chanting: “Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare.” His right hand in his cloth bead bag, he had been fingering one bead after another as he chanted silently to himself. When the plane had first risen over New York City, he had looked out the window at the buildings growing smaller and smaller. Then the plane had entered the clouds, which to Prabhupāda had appeared like an ocean in the sky. He had been bothered by pressure blocking his ears and had mentioned it; otherwise he hadn’t said much, but had only chanted Kṛṣṇa’s names over and over. Now, as the plane began its descent, he continued to chant, his voice slightly audible – “Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa …” – and he looked out the window at the vista of thousands of matchbox houses and streets stretching in charted patterns in every direction.


When the announcement for United Airlines Flight 21 from New York came over the public-address system, the group of about fifty hippies gathered closer together in anticipation. For a moment they appeared almost apprehensive, unsure of what to expect or what the Swami would be like.

Roger Segal: We were quite an assorted lot, even for the San Francisco airport. Mukunda was wearing a Merlin the Magician robe with paisley squares all around, Sam was wearing a Moroccan sheep robe with a hood – he even smelled like a sheep – and I was wearing a sort of blue homemade Japanese samurai robe with small white dots. Long strings of beads were everywhere. Buckskins, boots, army fatigues, people wearing small, round sunglasses – the whole phantasmagoria of San Francisco at its height.


Only a few people in the crowd knew Swamiji: Mukunda and his wife, Jānakī; Ravīndra-svarūpa; Rāya Rāma – all from New York. And Allen Ginsberg was there. (A few days before, Allen had been one of the leaders of the Human Be-In in Golden Gate Park, where over two hundred thousand had come together – “A Gathering of the Tribes … for a joyful pow-wow and Peace Dance.”) Today Allen was on hand to greet Swami Bhaktivedanta, whom he had met and chanted with several months before on New York’s Lower East Side.


Swamiji would be pleased, Mukunda reminded everyone, if they were all chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa when he came through the gate. They were already familiar with the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra. They had heard about the Swami’s chanting in the park in New York or they had seen the article about Swamiji and the chanting in the local underground paper, The Oracle. Earlier today they had gathered in Golden Gate Park – most of them responding to a flyer Mukunda had distributed – and had chanted there for more than an hour before coming to the airport in a caravan of cars. Now many of them – also in response to Mukunda’s flyer – stood with incense and flowers in their hands.


As the disembarking passengers entered the terminal gate and walked up the ramp, they looked in amazement at the reception party of flower-bearing chanters. The chanters, however, gazed past these ordinary, tired-looking travelers, searching for that special person who was supposed to be on the plane. Suddenly, strolling toward them was the Swami, golden-complexioned, dressed in bright saffron robes.
Prabhupāda had heard the chanting even before he had entered the terminal, and he had begun to smile. He was happy and surprised. Glancing over the faces, he recognized only a few. Yet here were fifty people receiving him and chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa without his having said a word!


Mukunda: We just had a look at Swamiji, and then we bowed down – myself, my wife, and the friends I had brought, Sam and Marjorie. And then all of the young men and women there followed suit and all bowed down to Swamiji, just feeling very confident that it was the right and proper thing to do.


The crowd of hippies had formed a line on either side of a narrow passage through which Swamiji would walk. As he passed among his new admirers, dozens of hands stretched out to offer him flowers and incense. He smiled, collecting the offerings in his hands while Ranchor looked on. Allen Ginsberg stepped forward with a large bouquet of flowers, and Śrīla Prabhupāda graciously accepted it. Then Prabhupāda began offering the gifts back to all who reached out to receive them. He proceeded through the terminal, the crowd of young people walking beside him, chanting.

 


At the baggage claim Śrīla Prabhupāda waited for a moment, his eyes taking in everyone around him. Lifting his open palms, he beckoned everyone to chant louder, and the group burst into renewed chanting, with Prabhupāda standing in their midst, softly clapping his hands and singing Hare Kṛṣṇa. Gracefully, he then raised his arms above his head and began to dance, stepping and swaying from side to side.
To the mixed chagrin, amusement, and irresistible joy of the airport workers and passengers, the reception party stayed with Prabhupāda until he got his luggage. Then they escorted him outside into the sunlight and into a waiting car, a black 1949 Cadillac Fleetwood. Prabhupāda got into the back seat with Mukunda and Allen Ginsberg. Until the moment the car pulled away from the curb, Śrīla Prabhupāda, still smiling, continued handing flowers to all those who had come to welcome him as he brought Kṛṣṇa consciousness west.


The Cadillac belonged to Harvey Cohen, who almost a year before had allowed Prabhupāda to stay in his Bowery loft. Harvey was driving, but because of his chauffeur’s hat (picked up at a Salvation Army store) and his black suit and his beard, Prabhupāda didn’t recognize him.


“Where is Harvey?” Prabhupāda asked.
“He’s driving,” Mukunda said.
“Oh, is that you? I didn’t recognize you.”
Harvey smiled. “Welcome to San Francisco, Swamiji.”


Śrīla Prabhupāda was happy to be in another big Western city on behalf of his spiritual master, Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī, and Lord Caitanya. The further west one goes, Lord Caitanya had said, the more materialistic the people. Yet, Lord Caitanya had also said that Kṛṣṇa consciousness should spread all over the world. Prabhupāda’s Godbrothers had often wondered about Lord Caitanya’s statement that one day the name of Kṛṣṇa would be sung in every town and village. Perhaps that verse should be taken symbolically, they said; otherwise, what could it mean – Kṛṣṇa in every town? But Śrīla Prabhupāda had deep faith in that statement by Lord Caitanya and in the instruction of his spiritual master. Here he was in the far-Western city of San Francisco, and already people were chanting. They had enthusiastically received him with flowers and kīrtana. And all over the world there were other cities much like this one.


The temple Mukunda and his friends had obtained was on Frederick Street in the Haight-Ashbury district. Like the temple at 26 Second Avenue in New York, it was a small storefront with a display window facing the street. A sign over the window read, SRI SRI RADHA KRISHNA TEMPLE. Mukunda and his friends had also rented a three-room apartment for Swamiji on the third floor of the adjoining building. It was a small, bare, run-down apartment facing the street.
Followed by several carloads of devotees and curious seekers, Śrīla Prabhupāda arrived at 518 Frederick Street and entered the storefront, which was decorated only by a few madras cloths on the wall. Taking his seat on a cushion, he led a kīrtana and then spoke, inviting everyone to take up Kṛṣṇa consciousness. After his lecture he left the storefront and walked next door and up the two flights of stairs to his apartment. As he entered his apartment, number 32, he was followed not only by his devotees and admirers but also by reporters from San Francisco’s main newspapers: the Chronicle and the Examiner. While some devotees cooked his lunch and Ranchor unpacked his suitcase, Swamiji talked with the reporters, who sat on the floor, taking notes on their pads.


Reporter: “Downstairs, you said you were inviting everyone to Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Does that include the Haight-Ashbury Bohemians and beatniks?”
Prabhupāda: “Yes, everyone, including you or anybody else, be he or she what is called an ‘acidhead’ or a hippie or something else. But once he is accepted for training, he becomes something else from what he had been before.”
Reporter: “What does one have to do to become a member of your movement?”
Prabhupāda: “There are four prerequisites. I do not allow my students to keep girlfriends. I prohibit all kinds of intoxicants, including coffee, tea and cigarettes. I prohibit meat-eating. And I prohibit my students from taking part in gambling.”
Reporter: “Do these shall-not commandments extend to the use of LSD, marijuana, and other narcotics?”
Prabhupāda: “I consider LSD to be an intoxicant. I do not allow any one of my students to use that or any intoxicant. I train my students to rise early in the morning, to take a bath early in the day, and to attend prayer meetings three times a day. Our sect is one of austerity. It is the science of God.”


Although Prabhupāda had found that reporters generally did not report his philosophy, he took the opportunity to preach Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Even if the reporters didn’t want to delve into the philosophy, his followers did. “The big mistake of modern civilization,” Śrīla Prabhupāda continued, “is to encroach upon others’ property as though it were one’s own. This creates an unnatural disturbance. God is the ultimate proprietor of everything in the universe. When people know that God is the ultimate proprietor, the best friend of all living entities, and the object of all offerings and sacrifices – then there will be peace.”
The reporters asked him about his background, and he told briefly about his coming from India and beginning in New York.
After the reporters left, Prabhupāda continued speaking to the young people in his room. Mukunda, who had allowed his hair and beard to grow but who wore around his neck the strand of large red beads Swamiji had given him at initiation, introduced some of his friends and explained that they were all living together and that they wanted to help Swamiji present Kṛṣṇa consciousness to the young people of San Francisco. Mukunda’s wife, Jānakī, asked Swamiji about his plane ride. He said it had been pleasant except for some pressure in his ears. “The houses looked like matchboxes,” he said, and with his thumb and forefinger he indicated the size of a matchbox.

He leaned back against the wall and took off the garlands he had received that day, until only a beaded necklace – a common, inexpensive item with a small bell on it – remained hanging around his neck. Prabhupāda held it, inspected the workmanship, and toyed with it. “This is special,” he said, looking up, “because it was made with devotion.” He continued to pay attention to the necklace, as if receiving it had been one of the most important events of the day.
When his lunch arrived, he distributed some to everyone, and then Ranchor efficiently though tactlessly asked everyone to leave and give the Swami a little time to eat and rest.

Outside the apartment and in the storefront below, the talk was of Swamiji. No one had been disappointed. Everything Mukunda had been telling them about him was true. They particularly enjoyed how he had talked about seeing everything from Kṛṣṇa’s viewpoint.

Reading: Līlāmṛta Vol. 1, pp. 662-663,
Śrīla Prabhupāda ‘s Departure April, 1967
“His top cloth wrapped loosely around his shoulders, Prabhupāda stood a last moment by the open door of the car and looked back in farewell to the devotees and the storefront temple. It was no longer a mere storefront but had become something worthy: New Jagannātha Purī. Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī had asked him to come here. Who among his Godbrothers could imagine how crazy these American hippies were – hallucinating on drugs, crying out, “I am God!” So many girls and boys – unhappy, mad, despite their wealth and education. But now, through Kṛṣṇa consciousness, some were finding happiness.
The first day he had arrived the reporter had asked him why he had come to Haight-Ashbury. “Because the rent is cheap,” he had replied. His desire was to spread the movement of Lord Caitanya; why else would he have come to such a dilapidated little storefront to live next to a Chinese laundry and Diggers’ Free Store? The reporters had asked if he were inviting the hippies and Bohemians to take to Kṛṣṇa consciousness. “Yes,” he had said, “everyone.” But he had known that once joining him, his followers would become something different from what they had been before.
Now the devotees were a family. If they followed his instructions they would remain strong. If they were sincere, Kṛṣṇa would help them. Lord Jagannātha was present, and the devotees would have to worship Him faithfully. They would be purified by chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa and following their spiritual master’s instructions.
Prabhupāda got into the car, accompanied by some of his disciples, and a devotee drove him to the airport. Several carloads of devotees followed behind.
At the airport the devotees were crying. But Prabhupāda assured them he would return if they would hold a Ratha-yātrā festival. “You must arrange a procession down the main street,” he told them. “Do it nicely. We must attract many people. They have such a procession yearly in Jagannātha Purī. At this time the Deity may leave the temple.”
He would have to return, he knew, to tend the delicate devotional plants he had placed in their hearts. Otherwise, how could he expect these neophytes to survive in the ocean of material desires known as Haight-Ashbury? Repeatedly he promised them he would return. He asked them to cooperate among themselves – Mukunda, Śyāmasundara, Gurudāsa, Jayānanda, Subala, Gaurasundara, Hayagrīva, Haridāsa, and the girls.
Only two and a half months ago he had arrived here at this very terminal, greeted by a throng of chanting young people. Many were now his disciples, although just barely assuming their spiritual identities and vows. Yet he felt no compunctions about leaving them. He knew that some of them might fall away, but he couldn’t stay with them always. His time was limited.
Śrīla Prabhupāda, the father of two small bands of neophytes, tenderly left one group and headed east, where the other group waited in a different mood, a mood of joyful reception.

Location #7: 1251 Willard Street

Building: Periwinkle House

Significance:  Yamuna’s & Gurudas’s house where Śrīla Prabhupāda moved from Frederick Street. It was here that Śrīla Prabhupāda received his first copies of the newly printed Krishna Book.

Click to view the Temporary residence of Srila Prabhupada.

Reading: Līlāmṛta Vol. 2, Pp. 701-704 

AS SOON AS Śrīla Prabhupāda came into view, many devotees began to cry out or shed tears. He looked much healthier, tanned from the sun, spritely. He waved and smiled. That smile made them still more eager, and they could hardly contain themselves while Prabhupāda patiently waited for a customs official to inspect his bags.
When Prabhupāda had left America, his disciples had been uncertain whether they would ever see him again. He had suffered a paralyzing stroke in New York and had gone back to India to recuperate. If he were going to die, he had said, the best place in the world was Vṛndāvana. But soon in his letters from India came news of his returning strength. Kṛṣṇa had saved him. Now he was back. They needed him; if they were to represent him and spread Kṛṣṇa consciousness, then they needed more association with Kṛṣṇa’s pure devotee.


Jayānanda drove him from the airport in an old limousine decorated with flowers. Prabhupāda would be staying in an apartment in the brahmacārīs’ house on Willard Street, about two blocks from the storefront temple on Frederick Street. As he approached the door of his apartment, he saw the picture of Lord Viṣṇu, taped to the inside of the glass, facing him. Although the devotees had debated about the picture because Lord Viṣṇu had not been colored blue, Prabhupāda joined his palms together in the praṇāma gesture and, slightly bowing his head, passed Lord Viṣṇu and entered the house.

The devotees gathered excitedly in Prabhupāda’s room. One of them had read about a Vaiṣṇava ceremony of washing the feet of the spiritual master, so they had prepared a pitcher of water and a bowl. Prabhupāda permitted it, and in a few seconds it was done. Then he sat facing a crowded room of intimate devotees. Taking his karatālas and playing them softly and sweetly, he led a Hare Kṛṣṇa kīrtana. It was no ordinary thing how Prabhupāda sang and how they listened and chanted in response with fastened, ecstatic attention. But it was brief.

Afterwards, he began to speak of Kṛṣṇa. He said that Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and everyone’s best friend. Even a good friendship in this world is a small indication of Kṛṣṇa’s friendship, because everything is coming from Kṛṣṇa. If you feel good on a nice spring day, that is an indication of Kṛṣṇa. The smell of an aromatic flower – that is Kṛṣṇa. Whatever is good in this world is Kṛṣṇa, and all that is bad comes from forgetfulness of Kṛṣṇa. Prabhupāda spoke with a kind, gentle, and humble attitude.

He had brought back some gifts. For the ladies he had sārīs. He held up the thin cotton cloths one at a time, called the name of each initiated girl disciple, and handed her a sārī. One sārī was white with a red and black design, others were white with single-color borders. In a small saffron cloth Prabhupāda had three silken garlands. He unwrapped them, saying, “These can be tied around the necks of Lord Jagannātha, Subhadrā, and Balarāma.” Previous to this, the deities had received no dresses or decorations.

Mukunda and Śyāmasundara came forward to show Prabhupāda their first American-made karatālas. Months ago Prabhupāda had suggested that they might make karatālas in America, and the men had analyzed the metals in the Indian karatālas, gathered the ingredients from scrapyards, taken them to a foundry, and had them molded into a finished product. Prabhupāda took the first pair of American karatālas in his hand, hit them together a few times, and pronounced, “Not so great.” Again he took up his own beautifully polished brass karatālas from India. Striking them together once, he let them ring for a long time. “This is great,” he said.

Then, looking around the room, Prabhupāda engaged in friendly little exchanges with his disciples. Seeing Līlāvatī sitting in a corner with her baby daughter, Subhadrā, Prabhupāda said, “Your daughter looks just like Subhadrā.” Līlāvatī sighed gratefully to hear it. “Govinda dāsī,” Prabhupāda said, “I am always thinking of your paintings.”
Prabhupāda asked whether all the devotees were chanting their prescribed sixteen rounds daily. Almost everyone replied, “Yes, Swamiji.” One new devotee, however, an English girl whose face turned bright red, began to stammer in a faltering voice. “I chant …,” she said, “I chant …” and then suddenly blurting out like a little girl about to cry, “Sometimes I chant more than sixteen rounds a day!” Her voice cracked, and she seemed on the brink of tears, but the devotees and Prabhupāda could not help from laughing. In Prabhupāda’s presence it all seemed jovial. Uddhava dāsa came into the room and announced, “We have some prasādam for you, Swamiji. Would you like to take now?”
“What?” asked Prabhupāda. “A little rice?” The devotees began to laugh, thinking of the elaborate feast they had prepared for Prabhupāda.

Prabhupāda had one more thing to show them in his bag. It was a coconut grater commonly used in Bengali households. Prabhupāda gave it to Yamunā, who began to grate a coconut while the devotees watched. Surrounded by his devotees, Prabhupāda then went to the kitchen and prepared coconut laḍḍus made from the white coconut pulp, butter, sugar, black pepper, cardamom, and camphor flavor. He rolled them into balls, ate one himself, and distributed a few.
Prabhupāda returned to his room, where he sat down again and was silent. Sensing that he should be left alone, the devotees excused themselves from his presence. Everyone was satisfied. Prabhupāda was back, and they would have him for a while.


Jīvānanda: After everybody left, I stayed behind to talk to him, and seeing me just kind of sitting there, he put me to work and made me clean up his room. I began to pick up the paper and stuff and throw away all the boxes. So afterwards Prabhupāda said, “So you have some question?” And I said, “Yes, Swamiji. I would like to get married to Harṣarāṇī.” He said, “Oh. Who are you?” I said, “I am Jīvānanda.” He said, “Oh, you have been initiated?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “By me?” and I said, “Yes.” He said, “That’s very nice. What do you do?” I said, “Well, when I was in Santa Fe, I used to milk the cows.” He said, “That is very nice.” We talked some more, and then I said, “Swamiji, can I get married?” He said, “I will think about it. You can ask me again later.”


Cidānanda: That evening I went to his room to see him, as I felt he might be lonely. I went into his room to try to keep him company, but as soon as I got there he started talking about Kṛṣṇa. There were some Brijabasi posters of Kṛṣṇa on the wall, and he would point to them and explain a little, saying, “Here is Kṛṣṇa and Arjuna on the Battlefield of Kurukṣetra.” He talked, and I didn’t have a chance to say anything, but he just talked about the posters on the wall. I got the feeling that we had known each other from some other time, although this was the first time I was seeing him. Yet he seemed like an old friend. He was certainly magnanimous and cordial as he sat there and talked about Kṛṣṇa. I felt that if he was an old friend, then maybe I would know this to be a fact some day. But my attention span was not very long, and I really didn’t know very much about the life of Kṛṣṇa, so I left after a short period of time.

….One night in his room on Willard Street, Prabhupāda was talking about seeing Kṛṣṇa. “Don’t try to see Him,” Prabhupāda said, “but act in such a way that He will come and see you … Sūradāsa was a blind man, yet due to his sincere chanting – ‘O Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa’ – Kṛṣṇa came to see him. So Kṛṣṇa is there whether we see Him or not. All we must do is become sincere, and He will present Himself whether we see Him or not. Kṛṣṇa hugs the cow. What does a cow know? He is a dumb animal. Is the cow as great as Arjuna? No. Yet due to the cow’s sincerity to come and lick Kṛṣṇa’s body, Kṛṣṇa says, ‘Oh, yes, My dear cow, come, and I shall take care of you.’ And Kṛṣṇa gives him some sweet nectar. So we should want Kṛṣṇa to come and see us, not that you should want to see Kṛṣṇa.”


…. Upendra: At the Willard Street apartment, Prabhupāda would sometimes go out on the back porch. It was very small and wasn’t meant for walking, just for going down the back stairs two levels. But the people in the apartment below us had a little Pekingese dog that would bark at anyone who would come out above. The dog would run up the stairs to the next platform below and yap away with a shrill bark. Prabhupāda would go out and stand on the little porch, inciting the dog’s barking, and then ignore the dog. Then all of a sudden he would turn to the dog, raise his hands, and make a scary face. The Pekingese would become very frightened and would whimper and run down the stairs, while Prabhupāda would laugh. He did this a number of times, like a young boy.

Location #8: Robin Williams Meadows & Hippie Hill

Significance: Terminus of Current Ratha Yatra, where Śrīla Prabhupāda would chant in front of Hippie Hill.

Click to view the Tree cluster at Robin Williams Park.

“We shall go for a walk at six-thirty,” Śrīla Prabhupāda said one morning. “You can drive me to the park.”
Several devotees accompanied him to Golden Gate Park’s Stow Lake. They knew the park well and led Śrīla Prabhupāda on a scenic walk around the lake, over a bridge, through forest-enclosed paths, and across a small rivulet, hoping to please him with nature’s beauty.
As he walked, striding quickly, he would point to a tree or stop to examine a flower. “What is this tree?” he would ask. “What is this flower?” although his disciples were usually at a loss to answer. “When Caitanya Mahāprabhu passed through the forest of Vṛndāvana,” he said, “all the plants, trees, and creepers were delighted to see Him and rejoiced in His presence. The plant life there is like that in the spiritual sky – fully conscious.”
“And these trees, Swamiji – how conscious are they?”
“Oh, the spirit soul is there,” Prabhupāda said, “but the consciousness has been arrested temporarily. Perception is more limited.”
Whatever Prabhupāda saw he saw through the eyes of scripture, and his comments on the most ordinary things were full of transcendental instruction. As he walked, he reflected aloud, “Those who want to see God must first have the qualifications to see God. They must be purified. Just like the cloud is now covering the sun. They say, ‘Oh, the sun is not out,’ but the sun is there. Only our eyes are covered.”
Like tour guides the boys led Prabhupāda to the more picturesque areas. They came upon swans gliding on the lake. “Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam,” Prabhupāda said, “compares devotees to swans, and literature about Lord Kṛṣṇa to beautiful, clear lakes.” The nondevotees, he said, were like crows attracted by the rubbish of mundane topics. Walking over a gravel path, he stopped and drew their attention: “Look at the pebbles. As many pebbles there are, there are that many universes. And in each universe there are innumerable living entities.”
The devotees delighted in bringing Swamiji to a rhododendron glen, its big bushes completely covered with white and pink flowers. And they felt privileged to see Kṛṣṇa through Swamiji’s eyes.
The next morning, when Prabhupāda again wanted to go to the park, more devotees accompanied him; they had heard from the others how Swamiji had displayed a different mood while walking. Again the boys were ready to lead him along new trails around the lake, but without announcing a change in plans, he walked up and down the macadam road beside the lake.
Prabhupāda and his followers came upon a flock of sleeping ducks. Awakened by the sound of people walking on the path, the ducks began quacking, moving their wings, and walking away. When a few devotees hurried ahead to shoo the ducks from Prabhupāda’s path, the ducks began making sounds of grouching and grumbling. “Move, you ducks,” one devotee said. “You’re disturbing Swamiji.” Prabhupāda said quietly, “As we are thinking they are disturbing us, they are thinking we are disturbing them.”
Prabhupāda stopped beneath a large tree and pointed to some bird droppings on the ground. “What does this mean?” he asked, turning to a new boy who stood beside him. Prabhupāda’s face was serious. The boy blushed. “I … uh … I don’t know what it means.” Prabhupāda remained thoughtful, waiting for an explanation. The devotees gathered around him. Looking intently down at the bird droppings, the boy thought the Swami might be expecting him to decipher some hidden meaning in the pattern of the droppings, the way people read the future in tea leaves. He felt he should say something: “It’s the … uh … excreta, the defecations of … uh … birds.” Prabhupāda smiled and turned toward the others for an answer. They were silent.
“It means,” said Prabhupāda, “that these birds [he pronounced the word “bards”] have lived in the same tree for more than two weeks.” He laughed. “Even the birds are attached to their apartments.”
As they passed the shuffleboard courts and the old men playing checkers, Prabhupāda stopped and turned to the boys. “Just see,” he said. “Old people in this country do not know what to do. So they play like children, wasting their last days, which should be meant for developing Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Their children are grown and gone away, so this is a natural time for spiritual cultivation. But no. They get some cat or dog, and instead of serving God, they serve dog. It is most unfortunate. But they will not listen. Their ways are set. Therefore we are speaking to the youth, who are searching.”
When Prabhupāda and the boys passed a sloping green lawn just off Kezar Drive, the boys pointed out that this was the famous Hippie Hill. In the early morning the gently sloping hill and the big quiet meadow surrounded by eucalyptuses and oaks were silent and still. But in a few hours hundreds of hippies would gather here to lounge on the grass, meet friends, and get high. Prabhupāda advised the boys to come here and hold kīrtanas.

Līlāmṛta, Vol. 1, pg. 607-611 


ŚRĪLA PRABHUPĀDA PUT on a sweater over his turtleneck jersey, wrapped his cādara around his shoulders, and left his apartment, accompanied by a few disciples. The weather was beautiful, and the blue, cloudless sky reminded him of India. An hour before, he had sent devotees ahead to start a kīrtana, and now one of the girls had come running back to him, excitedly knocking on his door and announcing, “Swamiji, there are so many people!”
The clay mṛdaṅgas he had ordered many months ago from Calcutta had recently arrived. Today would be one of the first times he would play a genuine clay mṛdaṅga in America. The boys and girls would like it. He had arranged for the drums to be wrapped in cloth and had cautioned the boys to be careful because the clay drums broke easily.
The walk to the park was short, and as usual Prabhupāda walked faster than his young followers. They walked down Frederick Street to Stanyan, where they turned the corner at the doughnut shop (frequented by the Hell’s Angels and still sometimes visited by certain devotees). On Stanyan they hurried past the parking lot of Kezar Stadium, the stadium itself looming beyond. At the Wallen Street intersection Prabhupāda continued his rapid stride without stopping or even bothering to look at the light. One of the boys caught his arm: “Wait, Swamiji – the light.” But Prabhupāda darted across the street.
As they continued down Stanyan toward Haight Street, the park appeared on the right. They entered, walking past a duck pond with a fountain and a willow tree on its center island. They walked past tall redwoods and eucalyptus trees, which lent fragrance to the surrounding area. There were also maple, oak, and ash trees and flowering shrubs, like azaleas. Prabhupāda said that the park resembled parks in Bombay and that the city was like a holy place because it was named after St. Francis.
They entered a fifty-foot-long tunnel with artificial stalactites hanging from the ceiling and came out onto a path heavily shaded by trees on either side. Just ahead was the meadow, covered with tiny daisies and clover and encircled by redwood and eucalyptus trees. Prabhupāda could hear the chanting, the karatālas, and the booming of the timpani. As he entered the meadow, he saw a sloping hill dotted with hundreds of young people – sitting, lying, lounging, smoking, throwing Frisbees, or walking around; and in the meadow below the hill was his kīrtana.
The meadow was a popular place. People walked through it on the way to the zoo or the tennis courts. But today many passersby had stopped and were listening in a group, about two hundred feet from the kīrtana. Closer in, about fifty feet from the kīrtana, was another group, listening more intently. And then there was the kīrtana party itself, Prabhupāda’s disciples and dozens of young hippies, sitting tightly together and chanting. And others were standing nearby, clapping and swaying to the rhythm of the drum and karatālas.
Flags decorated the kīrtana area. Three feet by four feet, they had been made by devotees, and each bore the symbol of a different religion. A bright red flag with a yellow star and the crescent moon of Islam flew from a ten-foot bamboo pole stuck into the earth. Beside it waved a pale blue flag with a dark blue Star of David in the center. And beside that, a yellow flag bore the Sanskrit oṁkāra.
Prabhupāda’s disciples, with their long hair and casual clothes, were indistinguishable from the other young dancers and singers except for the strands of large red chanting beads around their necks. Some of the devotees danced, with arms upraised against the background of uninterrupted blue sky. Others played instruments. The karatālas and timpani were there, Hayagrīva had brought his cornet, and there were other instruments brought by devotees and hippies. Little children were taking part. Even a stray dog pranced in the innermost circle of the kīrtana party. On Sundays the meadow beneath Hippie Hill was always an open show, and today the kīrtana was the featured attraction.
Prabhupāda joined the kīrtana. Walking up suddenly, to the surprise and delight of the devotees, he sat down and began playing the mṛdaṅga and leading the singing in a loud voice.
Mukunda: Although we had heard Swamiji play different drums before and some of us had played along with him, when he played the clay mṛdaṅga from India it was a completely different feeling. The feeling it created was akin to seeing an old friend after many, many years. It was so right and so natural. It was the very thing our kīrtanas had been missing, and it increased our feelings of ecstasy many times over. Obviously Swamiji was in greater ecstasy than ever. You could sense by the way he held the drum, by the ease with which he brought out its intricate rhythms to control the kīrtana, that this drum was like a long-lost friend to him. Swamiji playing that drum was the talk of the community. Now we knew what kīrtana really was, how it was supposed to sound, what it was really like.
Prabhupāda was the center of attraction. Even his age and dress made him prominent. Whereas the others in the park were mostly young people dressed in denims or various hippie costumes, Prabhupāda was seventy and distinctly dressed in saffron robes. And the way the devotees had all cheered and bowed before him and were now looking at him so lovingly caused onlookers to regard him with curiosity and respect. As soon as he had sat down, some young children had gathered in close to him. He had smiled at them, deftly playing the mṛdaṅga, enthralling and entertaining them with his playing.
Govinda dāsī: With Swamiji’s arrival there was a mastery and an authority about the whole kīrtana that was absent before. We were no longer kids in San Francisco chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa. Now we had historical depth and meaning. Now the kīrtana had credentials. His presence established the ancient historical quality of the chanting. When Swamiji came, the whole disciplic succession came.
After an hour of chanting, Prabhupāda stopped the kīrtana and addressed the crowd: “Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare. This is the sound vibration, and it is to be understood that the sound vibration is transcendental. And because it is transcendental vibration, therefore it appeals to everyone, even without understanding the language of the sound. This is the beauty. Even children respond to it. …”
After speaking five minutes, Prabhupāda began the kīrtana again. One woman with long, uncombed red hair began dancing back and forth and chanting, her baby in her arms. A man and woman sitting side by side played together on the heads of a pair of bongos. Subala, in tight corduroy pants and a flowing white shirt, danced in a semblance of the step Swamiji had shown him, although Subala looked somewhat like an American Indian dancer. A little girl no more than four years old sat cross-legged, playing karatālas and chanting seriously. A suave-looking fellow wearing a vest and round sunglasses played castanets against his palm. Ravīndra-svarūpa sat rocking back and forth as he played the drone on the harmonium. Beside him, Hayagrīva chanted forcefully, his head and upper body lunging forward and back, his long hair and beard jutting out wildly, while nearby a girl stood with her right arm around one boy and her left arm around another, all three of them swaying back and forth, singing with peaceful, blissful smiles, enjoying the chanting and the sunshine. One girl sat silently meditating, while beside her a girl danced provocatively and a five-year-old beside the dancing girl played with two balloons.
Prabhupāda set his mṛdaṅga aside and stood, playing karatālas and swaying among the dancers, his feet moving in a stately measure. A big black man danced nearby, facing his white girlfriend, both of them moving as if they were at the Avalon. The girl shook her body and head in wild abandon, and her long straight hair completely covered her face. Bright, blonde Nandarāṇī stood on Prabhupāda’s right, playing karatālas. Sometimes Prabhupāda stopped singing and simply observed the scene, his mouth closed in a stern yet sublimely tolerant expression.
Some of the young people joined hands, forming a circle, and began to dance around and around in front of Swamiji. Then they encircled him, and as he looked on, still swaying and now clapping solemnly, they danced around him hand in hand, jumping and wriggling and chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa. The soft pink hue of his khādī robes contrasting with the pied dress of the hippies, Swamiji looked unusual and wonderful, watching and solemnly sanctioning the kīrtana performance.
The dancing was free-form and sensuous. But that was the way these young people expressed their feelings – through their bodies. They bounced and bounded into the air. Sometimes the circle of dancers would break and become a single line, weaving in and out among the people sitting on the grass, in and out among the silk flags. A muscular boy held the hand of a girl wearing long dark braids and a black headband in American Indian style. At the end of the line, a boy held a girl’s hand with his left hand while with his right he held a wooden recorder to his mouth and tooted as he weaved in and out of the crowd.
Prabhupāda became tired and sat beside the brass-bottomed timpani. Singing and playing karatālas, he sat grave and straight like an ancient sage. Nearby, a blonde woman sat in yogic posture, bending her body forward until her forehead touched the ground again and again, in supplication or exhibition. Another girl stretched out her hands imploringly in a mixed expression of inner feelings – physical and spiritual – while her golden earrings jangled. A Mexican in a checkered shirt beat a tomtom. A white sheep dog wandered from person to person.
Swamiji looked kind and amused. The hippies found him beautiful. He remained gentlemanly, aloof amid the twisting, shaking, rocking, dancing young people. Amid their most sensual movements, he appeared not at all like them, for he moved in a stately, elderly way.
As he surveyed the activities in the meadow, he seemed deeply pleased to see the ring of dancers singing all around him, chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa. Although the enthusiasm of these hippies was often wild and sensual, the gathering assumed a wholesome sweetness due to the chanting of Hare Kṛṣṇa. For Swamiji the main thing was that the chanting was going on and on. Dressed in his saffron cloth that seemed to change colors subtly in the fading afternoon sunlight, he watched in a kindly, fatherly way, not imposing any restraint but simply inviting everyone to chant Hare Kṛṣṇa.

March 27, 1967 (?)
The next day, acting on a whim, the devotees took the Jagannātha Deity off the altar and carried Him to Golden Gate Park for a kīrtana. Within minutes, hundreds gathered in the meadow below Hippie Hill, dancing and chanting around Lord Jagannātha. After several hours, the devotees returned Him to the altar.
Prabhupāda disapproved: “The Deity should never leave the temple. The deities don’t go out to see the people, except on special occasions. They are not for parks for birds to drop stool on. If you want to see the deities, you have to visit them.”

Location #9: Stow Lake & Stow Lake Boat House

Significance: Where Śrīla Prabhupāda would take his morning walks. When facing the Boathouse, the path to the left is where Śrīla Prabhupāda would walk clockwise around the lake, usually on the outside of the lake (where you see the Ferris wheel to the left as  you walk). There are many photos of him on this path. He would often turn back as soon as he got to the first hairpin just after the Roman Bridge. They would usually start at 6:30 am or 7:00 am, and go for about 45 minutes.

In November 2022, a crowdfunding campaign was launched to install a new bench and commemorative plaque at Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park to preserve Srila Prabhupada’s memory. Thanks to the benevolent generosity on behalf of our beautiful community, we were able to reach our goal and provide a spiritual touchpoint for devotees visiting Stow Lake to enjoy deep reflection. 

This benchmark has been a long time coming but it’s here now for Srila Prabhupada and his followers! The Memorial Bench department at Golden Gate Park Alliance has placed our plaque and new bench for Srila Prabhupada at Stow Lake Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. This morning walk parikrama location is forever full of Srila Prabhupada’s footprints, speaking, and resting places. Come visit this holy site of the Prabhupada bench directly in front of the boathouse with exquisite viewing of the deep green, holy Stow Lake Dham.” — Dhanistha Devi Dasi 

Activities: Paint a stone and place it in the trees, particularly trees that can be seen in the pictures of Śrīla Prabhupāda. Fill a small jar of water from the lake to honor it as a tirtha. Channel your inner rhythm through music, the bench is a beautiful space to chant kirtan.

Click on links below for:

Stow Lake

Srila Prabhupada touching stones explanation

50 year anniversary of Summer of Love and painted stones

Srila Prabhupada morning walk explanation (Mother’s Meadows. Good location for people to park and have picnics, next to Stow Lake by the bridge where Prabhupāda crossed.)

Pilgrims on a bench at Stow Lake where His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada would rest (L-R H.G. Dhaniṣṭā Devī Dasī, Gurudas, and Kathryn Barush)

Artifacts: Film, Pg. 14-15 of Gurudas, photo of Roman Bridge (built “1893”). “Swami in the Park.” 

Prabhupāda had a small band of disciples in San Francisco – not more than fifteen – but they were becoming intensely attached to him, especially since his poignant departure and now his return into their midst. Each of them wanted to engage more in Prabhupāda’s personal service, although only his secretaries, Gaurasundara and Govinda dāsī, and his servant, Upendra, were allowed to be with him constantly. One of the devotees asked Prabhupāda about feeling envy toward those devotees who seemed to be especially favored. Everyone, Prabhupāda replied, from Lord Brahmā and Indra down to the insignificant ant, is sometimes envious. No one wants to tolerate another person’s advancement or another person’s taking an exalted position. And it is a fact, Prabhupāda said, that if we find a person excelling in a field or serving the spiritual master, then that person is very fortunate by Kṛṣṇa’s arrangement. But in the spiritual world there is no envy over such a thing. Rather, in the spiritual world everyone is pleased and excited to see that one person is in a more advanced position. They are enthused and gladdened by it. But in the material world there is always competitive nature and envy. His words pacified them. If Prabhupāda allowed someone to serve him, they would accept it as the arrangement of Kṛṣṇa.
But everyone got a chance to accompany Swamiji on his morning walks. They were open to whoever wanted to go. Usually one or two of the brahmacārīs and one or two householder couples would accompany him. They would drive Prabhupāda to the park in the temple’s car, a 1952 blue Ford coupé. Usually Jayānanda would drive the car. The passenger seat was broken and tilted back at a forty-five-degree angle to the ground, and although Prabhupāda sat up straight, his chin held high, the seat slanted so much that he could only see out of the lowest part of the window. But it was the only car they had, and Prabhupāda never complained.
He began his old routine of daily walking around Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park. Healthy, free, and spontaneous, always in command, talking and preaching, Prabhupāda seemed very happy to be back in San Francisco. And there were also new devotees who were seeing him for the first time.
For about the first week on his morning walks, Prabhupāda talked frequently about the existence of the soul, explaining Kṛṣṇa’s arguments in the Bhagavad-gītā.
One morning a car was parked near where they walked, and seated in the driver’s seat was a dejected-looking man who sat slumped over, with a long, drawn, unhappy face. Day after day this car appeared there, and the man sat unhappily while the devotees walked past in the company of Śrīla Prabhupāda. Finally, after about a week, Prabhupāda one day broke away from the group of devotees and approached the man’s car. The car window was rolled up, but on seeing Prabhupāda, the man rolled down the window. Prabhupāda greeted him, “Good morning.” The man smiled, happy to see Prabhupāda, as if he had never noticed Prabhupāda and the devotees walking by day after day. Prabhupāda then rejoined his disciples and continued walking. They looked back and saw that the deep unhappiness in the man’s face had vanished and he appeared happier. They did not see him anymore on the morning walks. Among themselves the devotees discussed these things or kept the impressions privately in their hearts. After a little incident like that of the man sitting slumped in his car, they were even more convinced that Swamiji had the power and ability to make people happy, and that he really wanted to do it.
One morning Prabhupāda arrived in the park, stepped out of his car, and waited for the devotees who had come in another car to join him. Līlāvatī had difficulty getting out of the car because she had her baby, Subhadrā, in a carrier on her back. When she finally did get out of the car, Prabhupāda turned and laughed at her, saying, “Ah, burden of affection.” “Yes, Swamiji,” Līlāvatī replied. They all began to walk together along the path.
“So there are two ways to carry a baby,” Prabhupāda said, tapping his cane on the ground in time with his regular stride. “There is the monkey way and the cat way. Do you know this?”
“No, Swamiji,” said Līlāvatī.
“Well, which way do you think is better?” Prabhupāda asked her. “The monkey way or the cat way?” She couldn’t understand or imagine what he meant. Prabhupāda continued, “The monkey baby climbs on the back of the mother and holds on, and this is the way he travels. And the kitten is carried in the teeth of the mother. So which is better?”
Līlāvatī could still not understand which way could be better; they both sounded very difficult to her.
“Well,” Prabhupāda said, “the monkey baby is very small and very weak, and he is holding on to the mother by his own strength. But the kitten is being supported by the strength of the mother. So which way do you think is better?”
And then she understood. “The cat way is better.”
“Yes,” Prabhupāda said, “that is the difference between the yogī and the devotee. The yogī is trying to climb on the back of the Absolute Truth by his own strength, but he is very weak, so he will fall. But a devotee, he cries out for Kṛṣṇa” – and as he spoke the word Kṛṣṇa, Prabhupāda held his arms up high and looked up at the clear morning sky – “A devotee cries out for Kṛṣṇa, and Kṛṣṇa picks him up.”
Another time a devotee picked a pretty bluish-colored flower and handed it to Prabhupāda. Prabhupāda took it, smelled it, then held it far away and looked at it, saying, “Oh, this is like a beautiful man without any qualifications.” He then tossed it away. It had no aroma.
Upendra liked to ask Swamiji questions on the morning walks.
“Swamiji,” Upendra asked, “what does the spiritual master or pure devotee see as he walks through the park?”
“He sees Kṛṣṇa,” Prabhupāda replied. “He thinks that these are Kṛṣṇa’s trees, and this is Kṛṣṇa’s house. He sees everything as belonging to the Supreme Lord.”
“But if Kṛṣṇa is everywhere,” Upendra pursued, “does the pure devotee see Kṛṣṇa on the wall on the right and then the wall on the left or in the corner or in between every atom? Does he see one form of Kṛṣṇa merge into another? Where does one form of Kṛṣṇa begin and take off from the other form?”
“No, it is not like that,” Prabhupāda said. “Do you see my spectacles?”
“Yes,” said Upendra.
“So whose spectacles are they?” Prabhupāda asked.
“They are yours.”
Prabhupāda pointed to his shoes. “And what is that?”
“Those are your shoes,” said Upendra.
“Yes,” Prabhupāda said. “Similarly, a pure devotee sees Kṛṣṇa like that. Everything is Kṛṣṇa’s. This is how he sees Kṛṣṇa everywhere.” Near the end of the walk, when Prabhupāda had answered many questions, Upendra asked again, “Swamiji, you’ve spoken to us so much, but I forget most of it. If a devotee becomes Kṛṣṇa conscious, will he remember everything the spiritual master says?”
“Yes,” Prabhupāda replied. “It is all there. Not only that, but when a person becomes Kṛṣṇa conscious, he will be able to see his relationship with Kṛṣṇa.”
Walking through Golden Gate Park one day, they heard a scratching coming from a garbage can. Prabhupāda went over and looked in, then pulled back in repulsion. A big city rat had somehow become trapped in the garbage can and was scratching, trying to get out. Prabhupāda shook his head and said, “He is doomed.” He walked on. Prabhupāda commented that later the garbagemen would come, see the rat, and kill him. Prabhupāda was always after the philosophical and Kṛṣṇa conscious meaning; even a seemingly ordinary comment about the rat’s doom struck his disciples as deep and philosophical. They could understand that their position was similar: they were trapped in the material world, waiting for the end, but Prabhupāda was saving them.
On his return from India, after taking part in the first evening kīrtana in the San Francisco temple, Prabhupāda said, “You have all advanced.” He saw that the devotees had become more enthusiastic and ecstatic – guests were also rising and dancing – and that pleased his own Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
Each night after kīrtana he would lecture. He was discussing the verses in the sixth chapter of Bhagavad-gītā. “I am making here a series of lectures on the Kṛṣṇa conscious yoga system,” Prabhupāda wrote to Brahmānanda in mid-December of 1967, “and they are tape recorded.”
Prabhupāda thought of assembling the lectures into a small book. Indian gurus introducing self-styled techniques were increasingly popular in the U.S. Therefore Prabhupāda wanted to distinguish the standard form of yoga and meditation, as taught by Lord Kṛṣṇa in the Bhagavad-gītā, from the farce taught by gurus who never mention Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Personality of Godhead but rather say everyone is equal to God, and whose disciples are allowed to indulge their senses in intoxication and illicit sex. They give a mantra for a fee, Prabhupāda noted, and claim that by meditating twenty minutes in the morning you can become God in six months. He was surprised that American people, who were supposedly intelligent, were being so easily cheated. “We have actually seen such so-called yogīs,” Prabhupāda said, “sleeping and snoring while meditating.”
“Service begins by the tongue,” Prabhupāda said in one of his December ’67 lectures, “by chanting this Hare Kṛṣṇa, and by the taste of kṛṣṇa-prasādam. The beginning process is very nice. If prasādam is offered to you, accept it. If you become submissive and give service, by these two practices, Kṛṣṇa will reveal Himself to you – just like Kṛṣṇa is revealing Himself to Arjuna. Arjuna is a devotee, he is a friend: ‘I am speaking to you that old system of yoga, bhakti-yoga.’ Only one who has developed the service spirit with love and devotion, he can understand Kṛṣṇa.”
After the lecture Prabhupāda would continue the theme, Kṛṣṇa consciousness, in his room. It was the same theme as on his morning walks, in his letters, or in his intimate talks with individual disciples or visitors; it was the theme of his writing, and the very heartbeat of his life. When a devotee asked Prabhupāda how the soul is carried from body to body, Prabhupāda replied, “By desire,” and cited himself as an example. “Just like I have come to America. Why? Because I wanted to preach. So by that desire I was carried here. Otherwise, I have no business to come here.”
Cidānanda: There would be three, four, or five devotees in his room, and he would just start talking. They would somehow gather in his room, and he would start talking about what he was trying to do. His talk was not directed specifically to anyone, but he was saying that this is what he was doing. He made everything very clear. He wanted to publish his books. He was trying to get a press for this back in New York. And if he had a letter from Rāya Rāma in New York, he would read the letter right there. In this way it was allaying any doubts in people’s minds about what he was really going to try to do. He had his books and the temple. He was concerned about the temple and the new lunch program, where we were giving out free prasādam. His concern kept everybody going. Before he came, there wasn’t that much activity. But when Prabhupāda came, things started bustling very fast.
One night in his room on Willard Street, Prabhupāda was talking about seeing Kṛṣṇa. “Don’t try to see Him,” Prabhupāda said, “but act in such a way that He will come and see you … Sūradāsa was a blind man, yet due to his sincere chanting – ‘O Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa’ – Kṛṣṇa came to see him. So Kṛṣṇa is there whether we see Him or not. All we must do is become sincere, and He will present Himself whether we see Him or not. Kṛṣṇa hugs the cow. What does a cow know? He is a dumb animal. Is the cow as great as Arjuna? No. Yet due to the cow’s sincerity to come and lick Kṛṣṇa’s body, Kṛṣṇa says, ‘Oh, yes, My dear cow, come, and I shall take care of you.’ And Kṛṣṇa gives him some sweet nectar. So we should want Kṛṣṇa to come and see us, not that you should want to see Kṛṣṇa.”
At that time, few devotees were very well read in Prabhupāda’s books. They didn’t know the vastness of the philosophy. Only a few books were published, and so Prabhupāda in person was the real source of Kṛṣṇa conscious knowledge.
Eighteen-year-old Kim used to have philosophical arguments with his atheistic father and then invariably have questions for Prabhupāda at the end of the lectures. He would ask so consistently that Prabhupāda would turn to him and say, “Are there any questions?” Given a good question, Prabhupāda might launch into another impromptu lecture.
Kim’s sister, who was only sixteen, also wanted to get initiated. “Are there offenses in the spiritual world?” she asked Prabhupāda at one evening lecture. Prabhupāda turned to the audience. “See?” he said. “This little girl, she wants to go back to Godhead.” And in the course of the answer, he said, “Kṛṣṇa may kiss you.” 
When he said that, Kim’s sister blushed, and everyone laughed.
Upendra asked, “Swamiji, how should we feel humble? I feel sometimes that when I try to be humble I first think about it, and then I try to be humble. But it seems artificial.”
This is humbleness,” Prabhupāda said. “When we think, ‘Oh, I should have done it this way’ – that is good. Because then there is always room for improvement. If you go on thinking, ‘Oh, I did not perform this duty so nicely. I should have done it this way,’ then you will improve. Our love for Kṛṣṇa keeps growing as long as we think that we are not doing the most for Kṛṣṇa and that we must do more. This is humbleness. If you think, ‘Oh, I did this so wonderfully. I am such a nice and sincere devotee,’ then this is not good. There will be no improvement.”
If, in questioning, anyone brought up the names and philosophies of famous contemporary Māyāvādīs, Prabhupāda would become angry. He was adamantly against the mission of the Māyāvādīs, who deny the absolute reality of Kṛṣṇa. Prabhupāda expressed that they had greatly damaged the original Vedic culture by spreading misleading doctrines. One time Mālatī brought up the subject of certain Māyāvādī teachings, and Prabhupāda, as usual, argued strongly. Afterwards Upendra chastised Mālatī, saying that she shouldn’t have brought it up because Prabhupāda was still recuperating in his health. In his excitement his blood pressure might rise too much. Mālatī was silent, but later gave Upendra a letter to be delivered to Prabhupāda. “What have you said to Mālatī,” Prabhupāda asked after reading her letter, “that now she no longer feels she can come before me?” Upendra explained how he had corrected her for inciting Prabhupāda too much. It was nonsense, Prabhupāda said, and he told Upendra to apologize to her.
Uddhava confided to Kim that he felt left out because he never had any questions to ask Prabhupāda. Kim encouraged him. One night Uddhava finally asked, but it was a strange question. “Swamiji,” said Uddhava, “what is Rādhārāṇī’s relationship with Kṛṣṇa’s brother, Balarāma?”
Prabhupāda was annoyed: “Why are you asking that? You don’t even understand the basic principle of the Bhagavad-gītā. You don’t understand the nature of the soul and the Supersoul or Kṛṣṇa and devotional service, and yet you are asking questions like this?” For a long while Uddhava didn’t ask again.

Location #10: 740 John F. Kennedy Dr.

Description: Where Crossover Dr. crosses over John F. Kennedy in the Park.
Significance: Current location where the Ratha Yatra Starts

Location #11: Spreckels Lake

Significance: Spreckels lake can be seen in the earliest films/videos of the San Francisco Ratha Yatra in Golden Gate Park. This was a site where there was a speaking presentation put on by Krishna’s devotees and Śrīla Prabhupāda in cooperation with important city leaders who spoke to the eclectic crowd of followers. The city leaders highly commended Śrīla Prabhupāda as well as the devotees for many services to the San Francisco community. At one point in one of the videos, Śyāmasundara’s dog can be seen running and leaping through the surface of the very shallow Spreckels Lake.

Location #12: The Family Dog Concert Hall

Description: Where the Pacific Ocean meets the Park.
Significance: Where the Ratha Yatra used to end and where Śrīla Prabhupāda would speak.

 

San Francisco, July 25, 1969
The day before the Ratha-yātrā festival, Prabhupāda arrived at the San Francisco airport, where a crowd of fifty chanting devotees greeted him. Reporters stepped forward with what to them was an important, relevant question: “Swami, what is your opinion on the recent manned U.S. moon landing?”
“Shall I flatter you or tell the truth?” Prabhupāda asked.
The truth, they said.
“It is a waste of time because it does not benefit you if you cannot live there. The time could have been better spent in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. We must go beyond this universe to the spiritual sky, which is eternal, beyond birth, death, old age, and disease.” The San Francisco Chronicle printed a picture and story: “Ecstasy in Concourse B.”

On the day of the Ratha-yātrā parade, a hundred devotees and a crowd of one thousand gathered on Haight Street before the tall cart. The deities of Jagannātha, Subhadrā, and Balarāma, from their elevated platform within the cart, smiled down upon the crowd. A group of devotee-musicians seated themselves within the cart, made last-minute checks of their loudspeaker system, and began kīrtana. In the center of the cart, just beneath the deity platform, a red upholstered vyāsāsana awaited Prabhupāda’s arrival.

As Prabhupāda’s car approached he could hear the cries of the devotees, and as he stepped from the car he saw them all bow down in obeisances. Folding his hands and smiling, he acknowledged his enthusiastic disciples, and he looked around with pleasure at the large crowd that had already gathered. Turning toward the cart, he beheld the deities on their throne, the same deities who had inaugurated Ratha-yātrā in America two years before. They were beautifully dressed and garlanded, and multicolored pennants and thick garlands of carnations decorated their cart. Ratha-yātrā was becoming more wonderful each year. Prabhupāda bowed down before Jagannātha, Subhadrā, and Balarāma, and his disciples all bowed with him.
As Prabhupāda took his seat on the cart the kīrtana began again, and the cart, pulled with two long ropes by dozens of men and women, slowly began to move forward. Buckets of burning frankincense poured aromatic clouds from the deities’ platform above Prabhupāda’s head, as slowly the cart moved along the road to the park.

“How many people are behind us?” Prabhupāda asked, turning to Tamāla Kṛṣṇa, who rode beside him on the cart and had been leading the kīrtana. Tamāla Kṛṣṇa climbed back and surveyed the crowd as far as he could see.
“Five thousand!”
“Sing ‘Jaya Jagannātha,’ ” Prabhupāda said, and Tamāla Kṛṣṇa then changed the chant from Hare Kṛṣṇa to “Jaya Jagannātha! Jaya Jagannātha!”
Throughout the parade Prabhupāda sat serenely watching, his right hand in his bead bag. The large crowd consisted mostly of young hippies but also included businessmen dressed in suits and ties, elderly persons with their grandchildren and families, and a few stray dogs. A mixed Sunday crowd.

Suddenly devotees in front began shouting, “Stop the cart! Stop the cart!” Ahead, the low arch of a park bridge spanned the roadway. The devotees managed to stop the 35-foot-high cart just before it reached the bridge. Although the parade appeared to have reached an unforeseen impasse, the chanting continued unabated. The previous year the procession had taken this same route – with a smaller cart – and even then Śyāmasundara had had to climb up and saw off the spire. This year, however, Nara-Nārāyaṇa had devised a collapsible dome with a crank to lower the canopy and superstructure. When Prabhupāda had heard of these plans, he had asked, “Are you sure you want to depend on mechanical means? It could be a disaster.” Now the time to lower the canopy had come, and the crank wouldn’t work.
With the cart stopped before the bridge, the chanters gathered in greater numbers, facing Prabhupāda and Lord Jagannātha. Under the bridge at least a thousand voices sang together, creating an incredible echo. Then Prabhupāda stood, raised his arms to the crowd, and began dancing.

Bhavānanda: Everyone went wild. The sound was so uproarious you were deafened under that bridge. Prabhupāda was dancing, jumping on the cart.
Nara-Nārāyaṇa: He was dancing, and as he danced his feet crushed the flowers. His garland broke and flowers began cascading everywhere as he danced up and down. He was leaping very deliberately, almost like slow motion.
Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: Prabhupāda was jumping up and down, and the people went crazy seeing him in complete ecstasy. He kept jumping and slowly turned around until he was face to face with Lord Jagannātha.
Prabhupāda sat down and still the car didn’t go, and the people were roaring.
“What do they want?” Prabhupāda asked Tamāla Kṛṣṇa.
“I think they want to see you dance again, Śrīla Prabhupāda,” Tamāla Kṛṣṇa replied.
“Do you think so?”
“Yes.” He then got up and started dancing again. The white wool cap pushed to the back of his head, his arms extended, with the right hand still clutching the japa bead bag, his right forefinger extended, and long robes flowing.

The ecstatic chanting and dancing continued. After about fifteen minutes, Nara-Nārāyaṇa finally got the crank to work, and down came the canopy. Again the cart moved forward, under the bridge and on through the park. The crowd had grown now to ten thousand. This was much bigger than any Kṛṣṇa conscious festival ever held before.

Bhavānanda: Many of these people who attended Ratha-yātrā were intoxicated. We were not intoxicated, of course, but we were higher than they. That we could understand. Everyone was smiling, everyone was laughing, everyone was in ecstasy, everyone was dancing, everyone was chanting. And we were doing it more than anyone. We were doing more chanting, more laughing and smiling, and feeling more freedom. We were free to have a shaved head, free to wear a dhotī, free to blow a conchshell, free to spin around on the street and jump up. Even if you were a hippie you couldn’t be more far out than the ratha cart and Jagannātha, because no one looks more far out than Him. The hippies had come dressed up in outfits with big feathers in their hair and everything, but they were dim compared to Jagannātha.

The parade route ended at an oceanside dance hall, The Family Dog Auditorium, where the devotees had prepared ten thousand feast plates of prasādam – fruit salad, apple chutney, halavā, and watermelon slices. Although the cart had stopped, the chanting continued, as Prabhupāda led the crowd inside the auditorium to a temporary stage and altar the devotees had erected among the bizarre trappings of the dance hall. A giant silk screen of Lord Caitanya covered the hall’s Tibetan maṇḍala, and pictures of Lord Viṣṇu and Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī were on the stage. The Jagannātha deities now looked down from their high platform above Prabhupāda’s seat, and a garlanded statue of Lord Kṛṣṇa stood on a marble pillar.

Prabhupāda began speaking, and the crowd quieted. He quoted a song by Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura: “My dear Lord Caitanya, please be merciful upon me. I do not find anyone as merciful as You.” Drawing the audience’s attention to the large silkscreen of Lord Caitanya, Prabhupāda described the Lord’s merciful distribution of the holy name of God. Lord Caitanya, he said, was teaching the same thing Lord Kṛṣṇa had taught in Bhagavad-gītā: “My dear sons, do not suffer in this abominable condition of material existence. Come back to Me. Come back to home. Enjoy eternal, blissful life, a life of knowledge.”
Prabhupāda explained the simplicity of Kṛṣṇa consciousness:
“Lord Caitanya appeared five hundred years ago to establish the direct principles of Bhagavad-gītā. He showed that even if you do not understand the process of religion, then simply chant Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare / Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare. The results are practical. For example, when we were chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa all the members who are assembled here were joining in, but now when I am talking about philosophy some are leaving. It is very practical. You can see. The Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra is so enchanting that anyone in any condition can take part. And if he continues to chant, gradually he will develop his dormant love of God. It is very simple.

“We are requesting everyone to chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra and take prasādam. When you are tired of chanting, the prasādam is ready; you can immediately take prasādam. And if you dance, then all bodily exercise is Kṛṣṇa-ized. And all of the attempts of the yoga processes are attained by this simple process.

“So chant, dance, take prasādam. Even if you do not at first hear this philosophy, it will act, and you will be elevated to the highest platform of perfection.”

In July Prabhupāda visited San Francisco for the fourth annual ISKCON Ratha-yātrā. It was the biggest festival ever, with ten thousand people joining in the procession through Golden Gate Park to the beach. Prabhupāda felt ill and didn’t join the parade until about midway. He danced in the road before the carts, as a hundred disciples encircled him, chanting and playing karatālas and mṛdaṅgas.

Afterward, Prabhupāda wanted to ride in the cart, just as he had done the year before, but some of his disciples restrained him. A gang of hoodlums, they said, had caused trouble earlier, and for Prabhupāda to ride on the cart might be dangerous. He disagreed, but finally relented and rode in his car to the beach.

At The Family Dog Auditorium on the beach Prabhupāda began his lecture. “I want to thank you all for coming. Although I am not well, I felt it my responsibility to come, as you have so kindly attended Lord Jagannātha’s Ratha-yātrā festival. I felt it my duty to come and see you and address you.” His voice was frail.

Later in his apartment in San Francisco, Prabhupāda complained that he had not been allowed to ride in the cart. As leader of the Hare Kṛṣṇa movement, he should have ridden on the cart. Not only had his disciples refused him, but several disciples had prominently ridden on the cart – as if in his place.

Prabhupāda asked the many temple presidents assembled for the Ratha-yātrā to meet and discuss forming a governing body to manage ISKCON. The devotees met and then reported that they thought only one of them should be elected the chief representative.

They hadn’t understood. The strength should be in a group, Prabhupāda said, not in a single individual. Since he was ISKCON’s founder-ācārya, what need was there for another single leader? He asked them to meet again.

Location #13: Tunnel at the End of Judah

Building: “Public Convenience Station” 
Description: The tunnel is now closed, but it used to be how Śrīla Prabhupāda would get to the beach.
Suggested Activities: Go for a walk on the beach and marvel at the immensity of the “nectarean ocean of devotional love” (bhakti-rasa-amṛta-sindhu) metaphor that describes the complete reservoir of bhakti-rasa.

Guides H.G. Dhaniṣṭā Devī Dasī and Gurudas, photographer and author of The Swami Who Rocked the Worlds, showing his photographs of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada at the sea wall, on location.
We invite you to pause at Ocean Beach, remove your shoes and feel the water and sand under your pilgrim feet.  If you wish, listen to this devotional song by George Harrison, Gurudas’s dear friend (and devotee of Lord Krishna and Srila Prabhupada). Chant along if you wish and become aware of the transcendental presence of the Holy Ones surrounding you.
If you are taking part in this pilgrimage virtually, you can contemplate the images of the water where Srila Prabhupada led his devotees in prayer.
Gurudas discusses music as a pilgrimage in a taxi on the way to Ocean Beach.

 On the invitation of his disciples, Śrīla Prabhupāda agreed to hold a kīrtana on the beach. On a Tuesday night, with no kīrtana or lecture scheduled in the temple, he got into the back seat of one of the devotees’ cars. About a dozen initiated followers and a couple of dogs got into other cars, and together they traveled to the beach. When they arrived, some devotees went running across the beach, gathering driftwood and building a fire in the shelter of a sand dune.

The late afternoon air was cool, and there was a seaside wind. Prabhupāda was dressed in a long checkered coat over a hooded sweatshirt. During the kīrtana he clapped and danced while the devotees joined hands, forming a circle around him. As the sun was setting, all the devotees faced the ocean, raising their arms and singing as loudly as they could, “Hariiiiibol!” But with the surf pounding in on the coast and with the great expanse of windy air around them, their kīrtana sounded very small.

Gathering around the fire, the devotees buried foil-wrapped potatoes and foil-wrapped apples filled with raisins and brown sugar under the coals. It was their idea, but Prabhupāda was happy to comply with their ideas of California kīrtana fun.

Haridāsa and Hayagrīva had composed a song about the sage Nārada Muni, and they sang it for Prabhupāda.
Do you know who is the first eternal spaceman of this universe?
The first to send his wild, wild vibrations
To all those cosmic superstations?
For the song he always shouts
Sends the planets flipping out.
But I’ll tell you before you think me loony
That I’m talking about Narada Muni,
Singing
HARE KRISHNA HARE KRISHNA
KRISHNA KRISHNA HARE HARE
HARE RAMA HARE RAMA
RAMA RAMA HARE HARE

Prabhupāda laughed. He liked anything that had chanting in it. And he asked them to compose more such songs for their countrymen.
Walking together along the beach, they came upon an old, dilapidated Dutch windmill. “Mukunda,” Prabhupāda said, “you should approach the government and tell them that we will restore this windmill if they let us build a temple on this site.” Mukunda took it as a joke at first, but then he saw that Prabhupāda was completely serious. Mukunda said he would inquire about it.

Prabhupāda, in his oversized checkered coat buttoned up to the neck, was the beloved center of the devotees’ outing. After their walk, he sat with them on a big log, eating baked potatoes smeared with melted butter; and when he finished he threw his remnants to the dogs.

As the night grew dark, stars appeared high over the ocean, and the devotees stood close around Prabhupāda for a last kīrtana. Then, just as in the temple, they bowed down, and Prabhupāda called out the prayers to the Lord and the disciplic succession. But he ended: “All glories to the assembled devotees! All glories to the assembled devotees! All glories to the Pacific Ocean!”  
They all laughed. Swamiji was doing what his disciples wanted: enjoying an evening kīrtana-cookout at the beach with them. And they were doing what he wanted: chanting the mahā-mantra, becoming devotees of Kṛṣṇa, and becoming happy.

Location #14: New Jagannatha Puri, Berkeley ISKCON Temple

Click on the image to view the Sacred Space!