Govinda Dasi: When we met Swamiji, as he was called then, we had been away from the University for little more than a month. So we were never really "hippies." Almost immediately, we were initiated by him and given the names, Goursundar Dasa and Govinda Dasi.
During my first year of college, I had studied under Thomas Payne, one of the best watercolor artists in America. I had also excelled in life drawing, as I had a flair for drawing the human figure. Between my second and third year of college, I studied art in Europe, in France and Italy, and for a short time in Holland. So I was familiar with the Medieval and Renaissance Schools of art, as well as those of the Dutch Masters, and the art history of Europe, as well as England and America. Yet nothing could have prepared me for the wonderful world of transcendental art that Swamiji, Srila Prabhupada, was about to bring to the realm of mankind.
My first assignment was a huge painting of Radha and Krishna, beside a Surabhi cow, near a desire tree in the Vrindaban background. The painting was four foot by four foot; Swamiji gave me a small book jacket to copy. It was the cover of his Srimad Bhagavatam that he had brought from India. Then he described the details. So only days after meeting His Divine Grace, I was painting daily on this large work, while my husband, Goursundar Dasa, read aloud to me the first three volumes of Swamiji's Srimad Bhagavatam. These three volumes that had traveled with Swamiji from India were the only books we had. Though they sounded like "Indian English," in places, they were wonderfully inspiring; one of my best memories in life is painting and hearing from those early volumes of Srimad Bhagavatam.
However, since I was a new devotee, I often had to ask questions about the work. Swamiji welcomed my questions; he clearly wanted me to paint everything exactly as he described. So I would go to his nearby apartment, where Hayagriva was often present as well, working with Swamiji on the manuscripts of his books. Hayagriva would ask questions about the manuscripts, and I would ask questions about the artwork. Swamiji welcomed our questions; in fact, he encouraged them. Since the book cover he had given me was quite small, I had to ask him about various details.
For example, I had no idea what color to paint Krishna's eyes. So, on one occasion, I went to Swamiji's apartment to ask about this. He was sitting in his rocking chair in the tiny living room, chanting on his japa beads. He welcomed me with a big sunshine smile. After offering my obeisances, I asked, "Swamiji, what color are Krishna's eyes?" For a few long moments, Swamiji was quiet. Then, with a faraway look, as if he were actually gazing at Lord Krishna across the room, he said, with absolute certainty, "Blackish!" I had the distinct feeling that he simply looked into another dimension, one that I could not see, and into Lord Krishna's lotus eyes. This was one of the first of many mystical experiences while working with Srila Prabhupada.