The Prabhupada Tree, Thomkins Square Park, New York City[/caption]IMG_6193_1_1View from under Hare Krishna Tree, New York City, 30 July 2007

Visiting New York City was the fulfillment of one of my long-cherished dreams in Krishna consciousness. In Prabhupada Lilamrta, HH Satsvarupa Maharaja poignantly describes the origins of ISKCON in New York City in the mid-1960’s.

The first place I visited was the “Matchless Gifts Storefront” on 26 2nd Avenue. The Storefront is rented by devotees and programmes are held there. I also visited Thompkins Square Park where Prabhupada chanted under a tree and, in effect, began the chanting of the Holy Names of Krishna in the western world. Here I got a sense of Prabhupada’s audacity. He took a pair of karatalas and began chanting, and next thing you have an international spiritual movement. It could have been any park in any city of the world. Prabhupada, however, had the nerve to do it. That is what makes his contribution to world religion so unique. His unwavering, unflinching faith in Krishna. I was fortunate to hold the same bongo drum which Srila Prabhupada played during his early kirtans in Thompkins Square Park at the Palace in New Vrindavan.

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I also visited the fourteenth floor of 33 Riverside Drive on the West Side of the city. This was Prabhupada’s first home in the city. Here he stayed with the impersonalist yoga teacher Dr Misra for a couple of weeks before moving on to Dr Misra’s yoga studio on the corner of 72nd Street and Columbus Avenue (100 West 72nd Street). One of the residents let us look at his 14th floor apartment. There is a beautiful view of the Hudson River from the apartment. The neighbourhood is very aristocratic. Prabhupada used to take walks on the Hudson and in Riverside Park. I retraced Prabhupada’s daily route from 75th Street, past Broadway and Amsterdam, to Dr Misra’s yoga studio.

Prabhupada had stayed in Dr Misra’s yoga studio 507 at the time (now 5G). After some time, he moved into room 301 (3A). Here he held Bhagavad-gita classes and kirtans. He also suffered several setbacks – his typewriter and tape-recorder were stolen here. Later on, he moved to 93 Bowery (which I also visited). This is the address of the Artist In Residence (AIR) loft where Prabhupada stayed with David Allen. Prabhupada fled the place, however, when David, high on LSD, attacked him. He moved to 26 2nd Avenue after this.

I also visited various other Prabhupada tirthas in the city including Washington Square Park (where the annual Festival of Chariots is held), Port Authority Terminal, 143 West 72nd Street (where Prabhupada wanted a Temple) and “West End Superette” (where Prabhupada bought his vegetables and spices). You really get a glimpse into Prabhupada’s oceanic compassion when you visit New York City and this is the valuable lesson that I have learned from my pilgrimmage.

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