White Stocking Hat

Rathayatra San Francisco

San Francisco Rathayatra, 1969

Center: Srila Prabhupada on the vyasasana; Upper left: Tamal Krsna, Upper Right: Hansadutta; Bottom (left to right): Jayananda, Hanuman, unknown, Naranarayana (Viswakarma), unknown

The white stocking hat worn by Srila Prabhupada in this photo was loaned to him by myself. It was a rather cold, chilly San Francisco day, especially as we neared the ocean. Srila Prabhupada’s head was cold. He needed a hat, and I happily gave my hat for Prabhupada to wear. Afterwards, he returned this hat to me. Yes. I wore this hat for months, day and night, till it was threadbare. At night I would sleep with it on my head. I wore it will was threadbare, literally. Threadbare. I loved that hat.

In this photo I was wearing an old flyer’s (pilot’s) cap, probably found in a thrift store, thinking it looked like a “Prabhupada hat”. I confidently thought I looked like Prabhupada on account of the hat. I know it sounds silly, but we were really like little children, and Prabhupada was our great, all-knowing and fearless Father, guiding and protecting us at every turn. Of course he is like that… to his children he is — and we were and still are his children, and we can forever remain like children, because he will always be our spiritual Father. What a great family.

I always loved this photo. All the devotees, especially Naranarayana (Viswakarma) Prabhu, look like a crew of space men who have landed on planet Earth and are wondering about the peculiar beings — human beings — who seem to be oblivious to Srila Prabhupada, Lord Jagannatha and the devotees as other world beings and their spaceship, the Rathayatra cart. And its captain, “The Swami”, is obviously presiding over the whole event, the event of having landed on planet Earth from the spiritual world, the world of Krishna Loka.

What a great photo. The whole procession ended up at the Family Dog Hall on the beaches of San Francisco, near the Cliff House, where the devotees had set up Kartamashi on a pedestal and a vyasasana for Srila Prabhupada. All the hippies, devotees and Earth people of the time (1969) flooded the hall. There was a great, volcanic kirtan. Prabhupada gave a wonderful lecture, and afterwards, as he was walking towards the exit door, he stopped an gave a huge, two-armed embrace, a huge bear hug to Madhudvisa, who at the time was the president of the Frederick Street temple in San Francisco. I was astonished. I was awed by the unstinting display of love, affection and resounding satisfaction, pleasure and approval Srila Prabhupada poured on him, Madhudvisa, the example of a hard-working, can-do American, no bull shit disciple, in front of all the world, for all to see. It was very touching, very beautiful.

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