I remember the day well. It was the 14th of May, 1975 when I boarded my first jet plane. Iwas bound for Dallas Texas and this was my first trip out of the country. In those days ISKCON had just one school and it was in Dallas, the heart of the American bible belt. You could not imagine a worse place for a Krishna school.
In those days I was searching for a place within the society of devotees. After all the years serving the Toronto temple, I could see that it held no future for me. I was in third year of university and so I thought, “Let me go to Dallas for the summer and have a look at the Krishna School. Maybe I can find a place there.” My adopted parents, Gerard and Edith, had recently moved to Dallas and they would allow me to stay with them. So off to Dallas I went.
I remember stepping off that American Airlines flight and into the most incredible wall of humidity and heat. This was start of summer in Dallas. The snow had barely melted from the streets of Toronto and here I was four hours later in another world. I had never experienced such unrelenting humidity and heat. That first night I slept on the floor in the Dallas temple only to be awakened by the sound of a gun shot. Welcome to America! An intruder entered the temple in the night and had been spotted by a guard and shot at. America was a whole different world to me. Temple life was not easy. That first day I woke up at 3:45 AM took a shower went to mangal arati, which started at 4:30 AM. This was the first religious service of the day.
The assembly room in the Dallas temple was monsterous compared to Toronto. It could hold over two hundred children and a hundred adults and still be barely filled. The ceiling was high and massive. So on that first morning I arrived in the temple room all dressed up in dhoti and tilak. The school children were lined up in rows in their respective classes. The girls were on one side and the boys were on the other. The girls covered their heads with a kerchief. The children were assembled in the front and the adults were in the back, and like the students, the adults stood in rows, men on one side, ladies on the other.
I was jet lagged from the flight and the midnight gunshot. Four thirty AM felt like the middle of the night. As I entered the temple room the light was dim and the air was incense laden. Suddenly a conch shell sounded, the temple bells rang out, and the deity doors opened. Everyone fell to the ground at the appearance of the Deity, Kalachandji. And then, as my eyes gradually adjusted to the new light, I noticed the form of a most beautiful woman across the room. It was Kama Nagari, my first love and soon to be wife. She was dressed in a simple cotton sari, and to me she was the most stunning woman. It was love at first sight.