Godsisters of the Movement
and Srila Prabhupada
by Prtha devi-dasi
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to our beloved Srila Prabhupada, who has saved us all from the darkness of ignorance and shown us the light of Krishna.
Where to start glorifying the pure devotee? The mercy of Srila Prabhupada is more than I understand of course, but especially back in the early 70's. Yet due to my interest in yoga and meditation, these ultimately lead me to him.
During that time there were many yogis and gurus arriving at the shores of America. While I found this interesting, I also did not want to be cheated. The more I discovered about them, the more I philosophically disagreed.
For example, friends started to show books to me which stated you are one with God -- just as a drop of water merges and becomes one with the ocean losing its individuality, so too do you. That didn't mesh with me. My response may not have been sophisticated in my young mind, but I did not believe we lose our identity and simply "merge." So I put that guru to the side.
Another one, I had briefly met upon a visit to his asrama. A teenage girl there brought to him a bird with a broken wing. He ignored it, acting as if he couldn't care less. Even this follower became irritated by his cold response, saying aloud and in front of all, that he should bless the bird. Finally he did, but it was clear this was only out of her insistence, plus social pressure. Another guru shot down.
Actually there were quite a few whose philosophy or books were finding their way to many of the youth, simply because they were available during that era. Every time I got my hopes up, disappointment soon followed as their nonsense became revealed. I started to be more careful.
Next, entered Srila Prabhupada. By this time I was afraid to trust! (Just my luck.) Yet I wanted to, but I simply wanted it based on sensible knowledge with a realistic program which anyone could work to achieve the goal. And I sure did like those paintings of Krishna. If this is who God is, that immediately made sense to me. Not an old man in a rocking chair who couldn't wait to cast us down into some eternal suffering, but one of compassion, beauty, offering a real method for a way out that could be experienced while in this world. I wanted to know more about "this" guru!
As a new visitor, right on a date Prabhupada that was there, I was given his garland. What mercy! Though upon entering certain rooms, a person could not bring such a transcendental item in with them. I was instructed to hang it on the nail outside the door. Upon my return, it was gone. With my naivety, I had no idea that the devotees would snatch it away. I reminded myself it was so special that it must have been irresistible! My spiritual life seems to have a regular counter balance (or imbalance) to whatever goes on, but one lesson is to appreciate what comes our way. At least I had the opportunity to wear it! It was yellow. I remember the flowers were yellow. Thank you Srila Prabhupada for such mercy, as I so much do NOT deserve it.
Sometime after I moved into the temple, Prabhupada visited America. He was lecturing. The story was from the Bhagavatam about Ajamila and Narayana. As the devotee continued, he read that at the time of death Ajamila called out "O Narayana, O Narayana, O Narayana." To which Prabhupada interrupted and said (rough quote) "Why three times? No. Only once."
Amongst the first handful of devotees I lived with in the asrama was Jahnava devi dasi. Actually the authorities moved everyone from room to room quite a bit, but she sticks out in my mind. Why? For something very simple she said. I asked her to relate a unique story about Prabhupada, and she humbly replied she did not have many because she is not so great, but one time he patted her on the head and this small gesture meant a lot to her. (Clearly, she was taking the humble position!)
Maybe this stuck with me because I do not have countless tales to tell, and use to feel this made me unfortunate and lesser. However, that is not the case with spiritual life. Do not feel this way. Anyone who comes at any point in their life to the lotus feet of Srila Prabhupada, can experience the bliss! His mercy is not limited to any one set of devotees or time line. He is always there and anyone can experience this who wants to experience it. Merely surrender unto him, let go and just do it. Then you will see that Prabhupada will enter your life as well, and you will have stories to share!
As I begin to think about it, I do have some experiences worth repeating. I did get to see Prabhupada more than once, greeted him at an airport, was able to go on one Morning Walk with him (though he wasn't talking that day), and my oldest daughter received a cookie from his hand for her first grain. She was under six months, but who needs grain ceremonies when ya have prasadam right from the hand of the pure devotee?! (Ok, so I did have a tiny ceremony at home later, to include the picking coins or book, as I consider that cookie "THE" grain ceremony.)
When I was in the New York temple Prabhupada had arrived, gave class, then all devotees left the temple room for chores and prasadam. I stayed, as did my friend Bhaktin Terri. We were both chanting japa in front of the Deities, Radha Govinda. I could not stay too long however, nor could she. We both left. But the doorway was blocked. Initially we could not see who was blocking this doorway, and there were (just) a few others there too. Someone had a hand on each side of the doorway as if to hold himself up. Then Bhaktin Terri pointed out to me who it was. Prabhupada! We backed away, and
watched as the other two were doing something to his feet. I could not believe how it was usually so hard to get close to him, yet everyone had duties and breakfast to tend to. They had to go, and here he was, and here we were. More mercy!
Another time when Prabhupada was visiting, I was with a devotee friend Bhaktin Eileen (since initiated I don't know her name). It was warm outside I recall, and many devotees were surrounding and following Prabhupada. We of course did the same, but it was always hard to get close with so many men around him. Suddenly Eileen noticed something on the ground. It was the end of Prabhupada's cane. It came off! She handed it to one of the men in order to have it put back. He accepted it and left. No problem. A little while later she found it again! And again she returned it. I don't know the meaning of this, and suspect maybe it was starting to break. But something always seems to be going on around Prabhupada. Just being able to touch a piece of the cane he used daily, was wonderful.
The unique spiritual powers of Prabhupada would surprise us on various occasions. Bali devi dasi once told me that when she was with child but did not show, Prabhupada looked at her and said she was pregnant. Another godsister had a similar yet different experience. Her husband wanted to renounce her and left to travel with Prabhupada. Then Prabhupada instructed him to return to his wife, stating she's pregnant. This was true, but she had not told her husband. And no one had informed Prabhupada either. He just knew things.
Once decades ago, Cintamani devi dasi shared with me an experience she had when walking behind Srila Prabhupada on a Morning Walk. The grass was wet and the footprints of all the devotees were leaving their impression in it as they took step after step. However, she saw that Prabhupada's did not. There was no pressure applied which would matt down the grass. It appeared as if he were floating over it. (A letter for proof can be found in the VedaBase.)
As I began to write all of this, I noticed there are more memories than I realized. Direct and indirect or shared. Maybe this is, in part, why Prabhupada instructed us to write our realizations daily. I encourage everyone to start writing something to be published on
http://www.prabhupadaconnect.com/ Don't be shy. I felt unqualified, and still do. However it's not about us, it's about sharing the nectar of Prabhupada with those who were not there at the time, or refreshing the memories of those of us who are starting to become a little rusty, or those who never heard your specific story. We need those stories so they don't get lost to the winds of time.
Next... the years passed. Before we knew it, there were so few Prabhupada disciples to be found. Association is important, so I wondered, "Where'd everybody go?" For years I went along, probably like most, dragging myself along just wondering why it was like this, and going nuts when I finally did run into a godsister who was here when Prabhupada was present in vapu form. Nevertheless, there remained a dearth, an emptiness, a void. Too few of us. It wasn't like this before. People were beating down the doors to join, then happily bumping into each other all over the place. I remember one devotee telling me how she decided to bloop, went all the way to the desert, only to bump into a Bhagavad-gita As It Is. She returned as a result. Devotees and books were everywhere! Thus, this change made no sense.
Finally I decided to do whatever I could to relocate some of the women devotees of that era to offer a safe place to reconnect, to talk about things that we need to express, to laugh, cry, and all that goes along with this. Therefore I started an e-group: "Senior Devotee Godsisters." To clarify, it is not an arrogant, elitist group. Rather, we're lost! We've become the minority. And Prabhupada initiated a lot of women! There are so few places anymore where we can go to locate one another, since many no longer fit in, or whatever other reason there may be. Many older godsisters are on their own, but they are like gold! So any ladies out there from the old days of this Movement who'd like the friendship and association of other devotee women who've been there, done that, and come out the other side with boundaries and sanity, please take a look at our egroup and join if the shoe fits. Read and see if it's for you:
On the front page I placed a picture of Prabhupada in his rocking chair at New York because I use to clean that room, saw that rocking chair regularly, and tried to get into the room when he arrived; though too crowded of course. At the time I had little idea of how much mercy I was getting by cleaning that big, long floor, sometimes even making me late. Oh, I understood it to a degree, but finding this picture with him sitting in the white rocking chair holds a nostalgic meaning to me. Though nostalgia is not dead! Lets keep recreating it. So please do come here and chat about Prabhupada!
Thank you for your time. All glories to our beloved spiritual master, jagat guru Srila Prabhupada!
Prtha devi dasi