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Wednesday, June 4th, 2003

Johannesburg, South Africa.

South Africa

V.I.P. treatment

Goswami Maharaj and I leave Mumbai (Bombay) on the South African Airways flight to Johannesburg, South Africa, at 2:00 a.m. The flight is not fully booked, so we are able to spread out and get a little sleep.

I marvel at our auspicious sendoff: when we left the Sree Chaitanya Saraswata Krishnanushilana Sangha in Dum Dum Park, Calcutta, earlier in the evening, Srila Gurudeva gave us the garlands off Sri Sri Guru Gauranga Radha Madana Mohanjiu with his own hand, accompanied us to the Kolkata airport, and embraced us before we left. My heart is full; so much mercy.

Upon our arrival in Johannesburg, we discover that the devotees have arranged for V.I.P treatment for us — visiting high priests! — so we are met by a smart young African gentleman who assists us off the plane, carries our luggage, and whisks us past the lines and through customs. Nice!

We are met at the airport by the manager of the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Ashram, Premasindhu Prabhu, and Shanta Prabhu and Gopinath Prabhu, who have taken the bus from Durban, some 650 kilometers (400 miles) away, to be here to greet us.

Premasindhu Prabhu drives us to the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Ashram in Lenasia, gives us a tour of the beautiful ashram that he built for Srila Gurudeva. Much to my surprise, he informs me that I am the first South African citizen ever to take sannyas in the Gaudiya Vaishnava line.

It's hard to believe that this is true. I mean, South Africa was introduced to Krishna consciousness almost thirty years ago — Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Prabhupad visited this country in 1975 — and not one local sannyasi has come forward?

In the evening we have a small program and Premasindhu Prabhu introduces us to the local devotees.

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