Among the hippies in San Francisco were many young people who were sincerely searching for spiritual enlightenment—and who found it when they met His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
As recently as 1965, Srila Prabhupada, at age 69, had been living as a renounced ascetic in the holy town of Vrndavana, India, where he was regarded as a pure, saintly devotee of Lord Krsna. He had lived there in simple quarters in a famous medieval temple, working tirelessly to translate ancient Sanskrit scriptures into English.
In 1921, Srila Prabhupada’s spiritual master had requested him to spread the science of Krsna consciousness in the West. So in 1965, after a lifetime of preperation, Srila Prabhupada had come to America to do it.
In the whole history of Indian spiritual life, no one had ever attempted something as bold and seemingly impossible—to transform Westerners into full-fledged devotees of Lord Krsna. But by his intense spiritual energy and compassion Srila Prabhupada was successful beyond his own expectations, thus earning recognition as a great spiritual figure of the modern age.
In the Encyclopedia Brittanica Book of the Year for 1975 we read “His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada astonished academic and literary communities worldwide by writing and publishing 52 books on the ancient Vedic culture. The International Society for Krishna Consciousness which he had established in 1966, had expanded by the end of 1975 to seventy eight temples on 5 continents.”
But in 1966, when Srila Prabhupada had come to San Francisco, he had brought only himself. It was by his own qualities of spiritual warmth, humor, mercy, knowledge, friendliness, and love that Srila Prabhupada had charmed and won over the hippies of the Haight.
One of Srila Prabhupada’s early disciples, Mukunda dasa, tells how it was in San Francisco. We would just say to people. ” You have to come and meet the Swami. They would come, and their lives would be transformed in some way, great or small.”