Prabhupada's party flies into Atlanta from Miami. Hundreds of devotees from all over the country join the local devotees to greet Srila Prabhupada with kirtan. Even Jayananda Prabhu is here to greet His Divine Grace. In the midst of all the excitement, Jayananda and Sri Rama are assigned to get Prabhupada's luggage. Upon entering the Arrivals Lounge, Prabhupada stops to survey the devotees who are now completely uncontrolled, singing and dancing in a blissful kirtan. He walks into their midst completely calm, completely controlled, and completely absorbing all their energy. The occasion is overwhelming for the Atlanta book distributors who have been distributing Srila Prabhupada's books every day at this airport. Now His Divine Grace is here at the place where his sankirtan pastimes are performed daily. For them, it's like seeing their spiritual master in the holy dhama.
As Prabhupada walks through the airport followed by hundreds of beaming disciples, a female reporter from Channel Five News interviews His Divine Grace keeping pace with him step by step. After a few short questions she leaves. Everyone resumes chanting Hare Krishna with mridangas pounding in great jubilation. It's a wonderful encounter for the Radha-Damodara men who have been looking forward to seeing their spiritual master after hearing so much about him. As Prabhupada settles into the rear seat of a black Cadillac, Tamal Krishna quickly takes a seat beside him. Everyone is excited to return to the temple to hear Prabhupada's arrival address. However, Jayananda and Sri Rama will stay behind to pick up his luggage and his secretary.
Sri Rama: The memory is clear how I was going to see Srila Prabhupada at the airport and then go back to hear him lecture for the first time. But because of the logistics of picking up the luggage, I would not see Prabhupada at the airport and I would be very lucky if I heard any of his lecture, or even saw him. I had this distinct feeling of being cheated. Hundreds of devotees were at the airport to see Prabhupada and here is the first time I'm going to see my guru and I get stuck with the luggage. But I picked up on the mood of Jayananda Prabhu, "We're very lucky to be collecting Srila Prabhupada's luggage and serving Prabhupada in this way." So due to his influence I reconciled myself to that and gave up my disappointment. I was thinking it's not bad to get stuck with your guru's luggage. That's a very nice service. But getting the luggage meant kissing that lecture goodbye.
Balavanta drives Prabhupada's car through an excellent neighborhood on a long route to the temple so the others can reach there first, to greet their spiritual master a second time. Back at the temple, hundreds of people are packed into the undersized temple room eagerly awaiting Prabhupada's appearance. As everybody chants japa, suddenly someone begins shouting. "He's here! Srila Prabhupada is here!" The devotee throng runs outside to greet Prabhupada's car as it parks in the driveway. With an uproarious kirtan, they escort His Divine Grace to the temple. Upon entering the temple, conches sound and everyone hastily bows down as the curtains open. The sound of Yamuna's voice pervades the atmosphere "Govindam, adi purusam". From their kneeling position, most devotees glance up to see Srila Prabhupada's saffron lotus feet as he walks towards the altar. The Atlanta Deities are Sri-Sri Gaura-Nitai. They are quite tall and effulgent, transcendentally situated on top of lotus flower bases with garlands hanging down past Their knees. Their faces show gentle, compassionate smiles. Their arms are upraised as if urging everyone to experience the nectar of Krishna's Holy Names by chanting and dancing. Prabhupada stands before Gaura-Nitai with folded palms. The ceiling and walls of the Deity room are mirrored and multiply the reflections of the Deities. Prabhupada is again moved to see Sri-Sri Gaura-Nitai. He has now taken Their darshan in three successive centers. He becomes overwhelmed with emotion and his face appears to melt in ecstasy seeing Gaura-Nitai's beauty and mercy.
When Prabhupada turns to face the crowd, men and women separate to create an aisle down the centre of the room with a clear path from the altar to the vyasasana. Prabhupada walks down the aisle casting his auspicious glance upon everyone as he passes. Although the temple is overcrowded, the room quickly hushes into silence as he takes his seat on the vyasasana. "So I am very glad to see you," Prabhupada begins. "I am coming first of all from Mexico City, then Caracas, then Miami. I see your temple is the best." The resident devotees burst into unrestrained cheers of "Jaya!" and "Haribol!" "So Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is very kind, parama karuna, pahu dui jana. Two Lords, nitai-Gauracandra, Nityananda Prabhu and Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, They are very kind, you see. They have appeared just to reclaim the fallen souls of this age. So They are more kind than Krishna. Krishna, He is also very kind. He comes to deliver, but Krishna demands; first of all surrender. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu does not demand." As he tries to explain the unfathomable mercy of Lord Chaitanya, Prabhupada becomes overwhelmed by transcendental emotions. There is a silence, then he continues, "He is so kind", Prabhupada's voice chokes up and he cannot go on. Tears begin to stream down his cheeks. Some devotees can understand that Srila Prabhupada is overwhelmed by the compassion of Lord Chaitanya and is experiencing transcendental symptoms of Krishna prema. Everyone begins chanting japa, waiting for Prabhupada to continue.
Satyaraja: I remember sitting across from Dhira Krishna, close to Prabhupada's asana. We both looked up and saw tears shoot out from Prabhupada's eyes, it seemed as though the tears were darting out of a syringe landing on both Dhira and me. Feeling the wetness of his tears, Dhira and I glanced at each other, and I'll never forget the look in Dhira's eyes when he said: "I'm glad you're experiencing this too, because if I didn't have confirmation from someone else, no one would ever believe me!" I felt the exact same way. I've always carried this with me for my entire devotional life. It was one of my most outstanding experiences with Srila Prabhupada the type of thing you don't forget. Prabhupada attempts to carry on, to overcome the emotional ecstasy, and exclaims in a faltering voice, "So take shelter of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and be happy. Thank you very much." Srila Prabhupada lapses into silence, unable to continue. He is visibly weeping. Several devotees exclaim, "Haribol!" as everyone bows down simultaneously. Prabhupada rarely reveals his ecstatic symptoms. He controls his transcendental ecstasies in order to instruct his disciples and transmit Lord Chaitanya's mission. The senior devotees consider themselves fortunate to witness their spiritual master's tears of ecstasy. The new recruits don't fully understand what is happening. But everyone has been treated to a rare, ecstatic glimpse of their divine master.
Srutakirti: Stunned and astonished, everyone remained motionless; mesmerized by Srila Prabhupada's transcendental mellows. We stood in rapt attention as our spiritual master left external consciousness while each moment seemed like twelve years or more. Mysterious time stretched out around us like the great unknown. Astounded, we ecstatically stood and awaited Srila Prabhupada's return.
While this drama is unfolding in the temple room, Jayananda and Sri Rama have picked up Prabhupada's luggage and have driven back to the temple. Prabhupada's rooms are on the second floor of the house on the left side of the temple. They carry his luggage up the stairway and leave everything in his bedroom. Then, their first thought is to hurry to the temple to hear the rest of Prabhupada's arrival address. When Prabhupada opens his eyes, he nods for kirtan to begin. Then he signals Srutakirti that he wants to leave. His arrival address is over; a powerful event of three minutes. As he slowly walks out of the temple, the kirtan increases in intensity. Devotees are stunned by this brief, but overpowering, darshan.
As Jayananda and Sri Rama hurry down the stairs, low and behold, around the corner comes Srila Prabhupada and his entourage. Sri Rama is bewildered because in his mind, Prabhupada should be speaking in the temple. Since they can no longer go down, in order to get out of the way, Jayananda and Sri Rama have to retreat back up to the landing. They watch as Prabhupada comes up the stairs and is shown to his darshan room, followed by the sannyasis and the big shots. This is the first time Sri Rama is seeing his spiritual master, yet he feels he should leave. Jayananda, however, has had a lot of association with Prabhupada and he bids Sri Rama to wait. Jayananda opens the door to the darshan room and sticks his head in to listen to Srila Prabhupada. Now, Jayananda decides that he doesn't want to leave, so he signals Sri Rama who stands at a distance. "Come here Prabhu. Come here. Come here." Sri Rama approaches and also sneaks his head around the door. Prabhupada is sitting on an asana surrounded by sannyasis and GBC men. Within a few moments Tamal Krishna notices them at the door. He motions Jayananda to come in. Sri Rama follows Jayananda and they sit down at the back of the room. At one point in the conversation, some GBC men are talking about management and meetings. Jayananda takes the liberty to speak up, "The main thing we have to do is, we just have to chant Hare Krishna."
Sri Rama: The irony was that because we went to pick up that luggage we missed the three minute lecture, but we got to hear Prabhupada talk for hours. It was a long session. First it was the sannyasis and the GBC, then the Library party with Satsvarupa Maharaja, then it was the Bhaktivedanta Institute with Svarupa Damodara. I remember in particular that Prabhupada said to the BI people, "the scientists are trying so hard to discover how the material world is functioning, but it's already functioning. So why don't they try to find the Person who has designed it's functioning." That seemed so logical to me. Kim Waters and Chris Murray came from Washington to show Prabhupada their art book Illuminations of the Bhagavad-gita. It was an amazing experience to get relegated to the luggage and then end up with all this darshan. So I wasn't cheated by Krishna. Srila Prabhupada sits in the room surrounded on either side by his senior devotees and sannyasis. During a short lull in the conversation, he suddenly asks, "Where is my guru Maharaja?" There is no photograph of Srila Bhaktisiddhanata on his desk or on the walls of the room. At that moment, Chris Murray gets up and approaches Srila Prabhupada. He offers Prabhupada a photograph of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta beautifully framed and decorated by Kim. Prabhupada folds his hands and nods his head in gratitude of this gift.
Chris Murray: When one goes to see the spiritual master one should have an offering. So Kim and I found a wonderful old photograph of his Guru Maharaja. We put it in a frame and Kim beautifully decorated it with pearls and gold paint. It was a wonderful opportunity to present something to Prabhupada. We were so taken by Prabhupada that we'd go wherever we heard he was and sit near his lotus feet. He never once said don't wear jeans, or cut your hair. He just loved us. He was always so gracious and treated us with affection and respect. Vishnujana Swami was the same way. He accepted whatever service we gave, and that's all that concerned him. He wasn't worried about the rest. That kind of behavior drew you to want to try and perfect your life, and to serve Krishna sweetly.
Later in the evening, Prabhupada comes over to the temple from his rooms next door. More than 300 enthusiastic devotees have gathered to catch a glimpse of him. Besides the local Atlanta devotees and other visitors, almost 40 Radha-Damodara brahmacaris, about 12 Library Party devotees, the devotee-scientists of Svarupa Damodara's Bhaktivedanta Institute group, and about 10 men from the BBT airport distribution party are present. They have all come to Atlanta to meet their spiritual master and to have private talks with him about their various services. The Atlanta temple room is long and narrow. At the far end is Prabhupada's vyasasana. There's not enough room for everyone inside the temple, so many devotees stand outside at a large open window to be near their spiritual master. From this vantage point they can see and hear Prabhupada clearly.
After taking his seat on the vyasasana, Srila Prabhupada says he wants to teach a song, Parama Karuna. The Atlanta devotees pass out sheets of Parama Karuna and Srila Prabhupada begins chanting with his kartals in a slow rhythm. 'parama karuna, pahu dui-jana, nitai-gauracandra saba avatara, sara siromani, kevala ananda-kanda'. None of the devotees can follow. They are fumbling through the song because they don't know it. Although it's included in the Vaishnava Songbook, it has never been sung before. After a few moments, Prabhupada stops and asks if someone can accompany him on mridanga. Several mridanga players join in but they can't seem to find the right beat. Other players get up and take turns on the mridanga thinking that, certainly I can do it. But nobody can pick up this mridanga beat. Finally, Prabhupada stops them and says, "Give me that mridanga." Someone brings him the drum. But after testing it, Prabhupada says that it sounds dead. Quickly, another drum is brought forward. Again, Prabhupada rejects it saying that it's also dead. Finally, one devotee brings Srila Prabhupada his personal mridanga, covered with a red and gold cloth. After testing this drum, Prabhupada finds it satisfactory. Then he says that he will demonstrate how to play the mridanga beat. A devotee rewinds the tape recorder that has been recording Prabhupada's singing and he accompanies his recorded singing on mridanga. 'bhajo bhajo bhai, caitanya nitai sudridha biswasa kori vishaya chadiya, se rase majiya, mukhe bolo hari hari'. Seeing Prabhupada play mridanga is a real treat for everyone. They watch in complete wonderment as he plays along with the taped recording of his voice and kartals just like professional studio musicians do.
After singing this bhajan by Locandas Thakur, he explains its meaning. "Pahu means prabhu. A shortcut of prabhu is pahu. Prabhu means 'lord' or 'master.' So these two prabhus are Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Nityananda. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is addressed as Mahaprabhu, and others are addressed as Prabhu. So these two prabhus, Nityananda Prabhu and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, are very merciful." Some devotees feel that Srila Prabhupada is giving a purport to his irrepressible ecstasy that overwhelmed him earlier in the day. "Parama karuna means extremely merciful," Prabhupada continues with his explanation. "Extremely merciful because Krishna is also merciful, since He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His original feature. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is also Krishna, but He is acting as a devotee. He is not acting as Krishna. He is acting as a devotee of Krishna." Srila Prabhupada recites a sloka written by Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya that further describes Lord Chaitanya's mercy. "Lord Chaitanya has come to teach us because we are all in the bodily concept of life. He has come to teach us detachment and devotional service to Krishna." Then Prabhupada quotes a sloka that begins 'jnane prayasam udapasya namanta eva' which Ramananda Raya recited to Lord Chaitanya as the perfection of dharma. "The meaning is that one should give up other processes and just hear about Krishna. And to hear about Him you do not require to change your position 'sthane sthitah'. You are a scientist, that's all right. You are a lawyer, that's all right. You are a fool, that's all right. But you do one thing. You use your ear and hear from the realized soul." After relating some of Lord Chaitanya's pastimes, Prabhupada makes a comparison. "That same Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has come here to Atlanta. So you worship this Chaitanya Mahaprabhu 'parama karuna, pahu dui jana'. They are very, very merciful. A little service will enhance your devotional service to a larger scale."
At the end of Prabhupada's talk, the puja paraphernalia is brought forward for guru-puja. Someone begins singing sri-guru-carana-padma. The ensuing kirtan becomes more and more ecstatic. As the kirtan reaches a crescendo, Prabhupada starts taking off his garlands one by one and throwing them into the crowd of devotees. Everyone is going mad trying to catch a flying garland. After throwing the last garland, Prabhupada picks up handfuls of loose flowers that have been offered to his lotus feet and flings them into the crowd. The ensuing madness can barely be described; it simply has to be imagined.