There are many great stories of the Eastern spiritual renaissance taking hold in the West. There’s Richard Alpert to Ram Dass, Yogananda’s revolution in Los Angeles, Swami Vivekananda bringing Vedanta to the States. And then there’s the story of Srila Prabhuphad and the Hare Krishna movement. It’s one of the most extraordinary stories of human manifestation in the 20th Century. Really. He arrived in America in 1965 at age 69 with $20, a type writer and a mantra. That’s it. And in the front row for the entire phenomena was Shyamasundar Das who was “the Swami’s” private secretary for seven years. His new book “Chasing Rhinos with The Swami” chronicles his life, times and adventures with him from 1967 until 1975. Our podcast talked a lot about the early days of the movement, how it took hold in the Haight Ashbury in the Summer of Love, what Krishna Consciousness is and a few amazingly intimate stories of life with A. C. BHAKTIVEDANTA SWAMI. No matter what you may think of the Hare Krishna movement, I urge you to put all that aside and listen with an open heart and mind. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did, I hung on every word!
About Shyamasundar Das:
I was born in the body of Samuel Speerstra, in Salem, Oregon in May,1942. From early childhood I thrived on adventure and risk. After graduating from Reed College in 1965, I met Bhaktivedanta Swami in San Francisco in January 1967, and immediately became his disciple Shyamasundar Das. The Swami wed me to my girlfriend Melanie (Malati Devi Dasi) in a smoke-filled storefront in Haight-Ashbury we called the Radha-Krishna Temple.
In 1968, to please Swamiji, I traveled with five chosen devotees to London. There, we witnessed firsthand Krishna’s magic display; we befriended the Beatles and, courtesy of Apple Records, spread Hare Krishna Mantra around the world. In October 1970, the Swami took twenty of his Western disciples to India, and together-as Prabhupad and his Dancing White Elephants–we barnstormed the country. In June 1971, Prabhupad accepted me as his Personal Secretary. I was by Prabhupad’s side, day and night, in Europe, USA, Africa, Asia, Australia-even behind Brezhnev’s Iron Curtain. I never saw him sleep, I never saw him make an error of any kind. How did I get this lucky, to observe close-up the life of the Perfect Person? Srila Prabhupad, the Magic Man himself!