Visakha Devi Dasi: A few days after my arrival, John wanted to introduce me to Prabhupada. After breakfast and with permission from Prabhupada’s secretary, we knocked on Prabhupada's door, heard “come in," and entered. The room was spacious and simple without being austere. It had a cheering depth to it I couldn't name.
Behind a small coffee table, Prabhupada sat cross-legged on a small cushion on the floor. He looked up at us from the book he'd been reading.
Bobbing on waves of suspicion and skepticism, I looked back at this small, thin-limbed holy person. John introduced us.
“This is Jean. She’s just come from America.”
“Yes, welcome. It’s nice to meet you." His accent was heavily Bengali-British, but I understood him.
I attempted a smile while John took the book I’d written and illustrated from under my arm and presented it to Prabhupada.
“This is what she’s done."
With interest, Prabhupada took my book—Photomacrography: Art and Techniques—from John and unhurriedly turned its pages, handling it with his fine, long fingers as if it were something to savor. There was a singular grace about his hands. He paused at the color illustrations, took in the binding and paper quality, scanned the writing style and content and, when he was satisfied, closed it and handed it back to John, his thin arm stretching so John could reach it easily.
“We do not know much about these things,” he said.
Although I was proud of my book, I hadn't been enthusiastic to show it to Prabhupada. “What interest would a guru have in a how-to photography book?” I thought. Yet I was now glad he'd seen it, glad I had had the chance to watch him touch and look at it. Our meeting was brief and ordinary without, I was relieved to note, any intimation of spiritual dimensions. It
contained no holiness.
Later, at the Sea Palace, John said, “What did you think of Prabhupada?”
“I don't know what to think,” I said. I was surprised at myself for not being negative about him, but in fact, there was nothing in my exchange with him for me to be negative about. At the same time, I could not be positive. I lacked a context for Prabhupada.