New people began coming to see Prabhupada on the Bowery. Carl Yeargens, a thirty-three year-old, black, bearded man from the Bronx had attended Cornell University and was now independently studying Indian religion and Zen Buddhism. He had experimented with drugs as “psychedelic tools” and he had an interest in the music and poetry of India. He was influential among his friends and tried to interest them in meditation. He had even been dabbling in Sanskrit.
Carl: I had just finished reading a book called The Wonder That Was India. I had gotten the definition of a sannyasi and a brahmacari and so forth. There was a vivid description in that particular book of how you could see a sannyasicoming down the road with his saffron robe. It must have made more than a superficial impression on me, because it came to me on this one chilly evening. I was going to visit Michael Grant – probably going to smoke some marijuana and sit around, maybe play some music – and I was coming down Hester Street. If you make a left on the Bowery, you can go up to Mike’s place on Grand Street. But it’s a funny thing that I chose to go that way, because the shorter way would have been to go down Grand Street. But if I had gone that way, I probably would have missed Swamiji.
So I decided to go down Hester and make a left. All of a sudden I saw in this dingy alcove, a brilliant saffron robe. As I passed, I saw it was Swamiji knocking on the door, trying to gain entrance. There were two bums hunched up against the door. It was like a two-part door – one of them was sealed and the other was locked. The two bums were lying on either side of Swamiji. One of these men had actually expired – which often happened and you had to call the police or health department to get them.
I don’t think I saw the men lying in the doorway until I walked up to Swamiji and asked him, “Are you a sannyasi?” And he answered, “Yes.” We started this conversation about how he was starting a temple, and he mentioned Lord Caitanya and the whole thing. He just came out with this flow of strange things to me, right there in the street. But I knew what he was talking about somehow. I had the familiarity of having just read this book and delved into Indian religion. So I knew that this was a momentous occasion for me and I wanted to help him. We banged on the door and eventually we got into the loft. He invited me to come to a kirtana, and I came back later that night for my first kirtana. From that point on, it was a fairly regular thing – three times a week. At one point Swamiji asked me to stay with him, and I stayed for about two weeks.
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