Before he left for India, he visited San Francisco to investigate the Hippie movement there. While in San Francisco, he saw devotees doing Kirtan.
In his own words he describes his first encounter with devotees. Transcibed from personal interview with His Grace Tusti Mohan Krishna das.
“There were devotees sitting in a circle doing kirtan. One devotee in the group turned to me and looked at me. When I saw the tilak then I was overwhelmed with fear. I was like somebody who saw a ghost or something. All the hairs on my body were standing on end. It was like you see those pictures of a Cat with shhhhh (sound expression). That’s how I felt. All my back, everything was like electrical shock. I just turned and I ran as fast as I could. I ran about 2kms. And then I asked Myself: 'Who am I running for, who are those people, what is this? It was just like a spontaneous reaction. Then I went back but the devotees were gone. I asked around and they said those are Hare Krsnas. So I was looking around for them.”
“There was another time before this when one devotee wearing a western dress, T-shirt, pants with shaved headed and sikha. No tilak. He was like a hippie or something. I don’t know what he was. He came up to me and handed me a paper and it said “Hare” – the Supreme Pleasure potency, “Krsna” – the Reservoir of All Pleasure, “Rama” – the Supreme Pleasure. Chant this Mantra and you’ll be happy. You get high forever. He gave the address, I tried to find the place, and I couldn’t find it. I must not have been ready then.”
“He didn’t talk to me, he just was walking around and handing people this paper. There was no kirtan party. Even I got the paper, immediately I was attracted, wanted to find but I couldn’t find the temple. When I saw this devotee chanting with tilak that’s when I got this big reaction.”
TMKD: Do You know the name of this person?
HH JPS: No, I don’t know.
TMKD: And after that time how long it took You to join the movement?
HH JPS: From the time I saw the devotee, that wasn’t such a long time. From the first time when I received the paper maybe 6 months or a year. I didn’t get connected till later. I thought who these people were. I never saw them again. But the second time I think it was within a month or two because I saw one poster and it said that there was a Ratha Yatra, I think Festival of the Chariots. At the bottom it says you come and get a vegetarian meal for 25 cents donation.
So then I went to the temple and got the vegetarian meal. After 7 days of visiting ISKCON on the day of Ratha Yatra, HG Jayananda Prabhu shaved me up and I surrendered. 'What I did!', I said in my mind. 'I’ll try it out fully for 2 months and then I’ll re-evaluate whether I’ll stay or not but my desire was to surrender.' But just, you know, like my intelligence said, 'Come on, how you can do it so quickly'. So I said, 'All right, I’ll try it out, if I don’t do it fully how I will know what it is like. And after 2 months if I don’t feel any change and I can reconsider. But then I was not looking back after that.' ”
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When he came to visit the devotees for the first time, they were in the process of building the Ratha or Cart. Jayananda Prabhu was in charge and when he saw Jay, he immediately asked him. “Do you know how to hold a hammer?” Jay replied “Of course.” Jayananda Prabhu immediately gave him a hammer praising how nicely he held it. He then asked if he knew how to use it. Of course. So he hit a nail. Jayananda Prabhu immediately praised him. “You did that really great. You are very expert. So now you can help us build the cart.”
So the first service Jayapataka Swami had when joining the movement was to build the Ratha Cart and help with the Ratha Yatra in San Francisco. By the time the cart had been built and the Ratha Yatra day happened, he had shaved up and joined the movement.
He served in San Francisco for a while, but developed a strong desire to meet Srila Prabhupada. Actually that is what he had been doing before he joined. Looking for his Guru. So he went to the temple president and told him that he wanted to go to Montreal to meet Srila Prabhupada. The temple president told him to stay. That he did not need to go to see Prabhupada to serve Prabhupada.
Feeling disappointed Bhakta Jay went and talked to another devotee. That devotee told him. “He says it is not necessary to go to meet Srila Prabhupada. But you go tell the temple president that you will give him a ticket to go see Srila Prabhupada. See what he says then.” Shortly after Bhakta Jay left for Montreal.
Transcibed from personal interview with His Grace Tusti Mohan Krishna das.
TMKD: What was Your feeling when You met Srila Prabhupada for the first time?
HH JPS: After the Ratha Yatra in San Francisco in 1968, then I wanted to go and see Srila Prabhupada in Montreal. Then I flew to New York and from New York I went up to Montreal. In New York I saw 26, 2ND Avenue temple, then I Went to Montreal. That time there were only 3 temples in the world - San Francisco, New York and Montreal.
So when I first saw Srila Prabhupada, he came for giving Bhagavad-Gita class in the evening. There were about 25 to 30 people there, to hear his class. When I first joined, because I was doing yoga and different things so I could see people’s auras. So then when Prabhupada came to the room, it was like his aura filled the whole room. There was yellow, white color, very soothing. I was so amazed; I’ve never seen anybody with aura like that. Everybody has green, red, blue, and different but I never saw something that was so big. At the end of class Srila Prabhupada said, “Who’s that? That time Gargamuni had also come from San Francisco, he said “This is Bhakta Jay”, my nick name was Jay. That’s what everyone calls me, not by my legal name; Gordon John was my legal name. Jay was what everyone called me. So then Srila Prabhupada said, “Have him come for lunch with me tomorrow”
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The next day at lunch, they had a nice conversation where Jay told Srila Prabhuapda that he wanted to go to India to meet his Guru. Srila Prabhupada told him that this was not necessary, that later he would send Jay to India. For now he should stay with him and help ISKCON in Montreal.
Bhakta Jay was so moved by his newly found teacher that he vigorously participated in the pioneering activities of the fledgling movement. He was intiated by Srila Prabhupada in 1968. Srila Prabhupada gave him the name of Jayapataka (victory flag). Prabhupada said. “You will be Krishna's victory flag.”