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January 17, 1967 : San Francisco

Guru Dasa: "The Swami's coming, the Swami's coming!" shouted the brightly clad youths. We raced to our vehicles. It was January 17, 1967. He was finally arriving from New York! I'd been told how he was wise and kind. I knew he had opened a storefront temple at 26 Second Avenue. I had heard how the Swami welcomed anyone and everyone who showed up at the door and how he had endured the cold New York winters. I had heard how he had simply stepped over the sleeping winos outside, or greeted them if they were awake. He was able to see their very souls within their miserable outer shells and accept them, even though they were broke and often drunk. Now he was coming to San Francisco!

About fifty people arrived at the airport with me. The air smelled of incense, and the airport resonated with the sound of cymbals, drums, and chanting. A friend later said, "The feeling at the airport was one of loveliness." Suddenly, we saw a small figure in saffron glide out of the airplane, a halo of light surrounding him. Swamiji walked down the stairs slowly and deliberately, and then he crossed the tarmac. It seemed to us as if his feet weren't touching the stairs or ground. His head was raised, and as he walked towards us we were overcome with excitement and ran en masse to the spot where we thought he would enter the terminal. He was relaxed and happy. And when he saw everyone chanting, he gave us a huge smile, and that smile felt like an ocean washing over and protecting me. When Swamiji smiled, that smile became my beacon and shelter.

Mukunda arrived from the car and embraced Swamiji, who hugged him back. The Swami's demeanor was humble, his mind totally absorbed in Krishna. We didn't know about bowing down to him then. We followed him out to the car and watched it drive away, then ran to our respective vans, motorcycles, and cars to follow his vehicle in grand procession to the new, makeshift Radha Krishna Temple on Frederick Street. Swamiji viewed our new temple for the first time and smiled upon us. He singled me out with his glance, looking through my grossness into the very core of my soul-self. Then and there I knew I had found my Guru. My search had ended.

Reference: By His Example - Guru Dasa