Srila Prabhupada with desciples on beach

Bonds of Love: Srimati Devi Dasi (part two)

At the L.A. airport Srila Prabhupada was conversing with a newsman. The newsman asked, “How many devotees do you have?” Srila Prabhupada said, “Everyone is a devotee, but some know it and some don’t.”

All my personal association was due to being given intimate service for Srila Prabhupada. One time, I went to see Srila Prabhupada and Jivananda was there. We danced and sang during the arati for Srila Prabhupada’s Deities, as he directed us to, while Purusottama performed the ceremony. Afterward, Srila Prabhupada talked to me about my husband and three children, who were not part of my life at the moment. Srila Prabhupada said, “Srimati, you take Krishna for your husband.” Then he told me to continue to make dioramas as Murlidhara, Vishnujana, and I had been doing at his request. We had made them for Janmastami. Now Gaura-Purnima was coming up, and he told me to make one nice face and then to make a mold of it to reproduce for other forms. He told me to make these heads out of clay, and he drew me a picture of how they should look. Then he told me to bring clay and he would show me how to do it.

I purchased the clay and was back before an hour. I brought the clay, newspaper, water, and clay tool into his room. He asked, “What is this?” and I reminded him of his instructions to buy clay. He said, “Oh, yes!” So I set up the materials on his desk and Srila Prabhupada began sculpting a small head, instructing me as he went along. It was done very simply, but I got the idea.

The memory of these times spent with him is so very dear to me. Srila Prabhupada also asked me to make crowns for his Deities and to put a particular jewel he then handed to me on Krishna’s crown. Later, seeing the finished jeweled crown on Krishna’s head, he exclaimed, “Srimati, generally Krishna is so opulent that He doesn’t need jewelry, but this crown you have made for Him makes Him all the more opulent!”

One time, I was in Srila Prabhupada’s room cleaning his altar just after dressing his Deities. I had made Them new wigs, as he had asked me to do, so when Srila Prabhupada came back from his walk, I asked him if they looked all right? He told me that Krishna’s hair was too long. I asked if I should cut some of it off, and he said yes. I set Krishna on Srila Prabhupada’s desk, took off His crown, and was gauging just where to cut. Srila Prabhupada agreed on a particular length, and as I was held the scissors, ready to cut, he said, “No! Wait, Radharani likes it.”

During one lecture, Srila Prabhupada was glorifying Krishna and revealing to us his own ecstasy while relating Krishna’s pastimes. Then he stated gravely, “It’s not wonderful, it’s practical,” bringing the focus into the realm of possibility for us. One poetic quip I clung to from this same lecture was Srila Prabhupada saying, “Enjoyment means two, Krishna and you.” Another time he said, “It is the intention that counts,” as we were not doing well making chapatis when he was trying to teach us. He has also said it is the feeling that counts. Another time I was impressed when he said, “I have used my intelligence; now you use yours.”

One time I was at the laundromat in the alley behind the new L.A. temple on Watseka. When Srila Prabhupada returned from his morning walk, all the devotees had gathered to greet him as his car pulled into the lot next to the alley. I was slowed down by maya that morning, so I wasn’t there when Srila Prabhupada arrived, but came walking down the alley as Srila Prabhupada began to walk toward the temple. Seeing me he greeted me. Surprisingly, he said, “Srimati, is everything all right?”

“Yes, Srila Prabhupada, everything is all right.”

Then he asked, “When are you coming to India?”

“As soon as I collect the money, Srila Prabhupada.” I closed my gaping mouth into a smile and followed along with the rest of the devotees escorting Srila Prabhupada into the temple room to greet the Deities.

Jayananda and I were then sent to start a temple in Berkeley. Missing so much association with Srila Prabhupada, I sent him part of a poem I had read from Bhaktivinoda Thakura. I wrote, “Srila Prabhupda, you are everything to me – mother, father, lover, son, lord, preceptor, husband.” Srila Prabhupada wrote back saying these sentiments are meant for Krishna; as your spiritual master I am your eternal father.” Oh, yes! This was the father I always wanted.

At that point, the only women who got to go to India were married and traveled with their husbands. Srila Prabhupada must have remembered that he told me that Krishna was my husband, because eventually I came back to L.A. from Berkley and was able to get the money to go to India by selling healthy sweets I called Bhakti Balls, Shakti Balls, and Bliss Bars to the health food stores along the California beaches.

Caitanya Dasi helped me make the sweets, and her husband helped me by driving me to the stores. I had so many sales that I had to invest all of my money back into supplies. Then the temple bought my business and I got the money to go to India.

My first experience in India was the New Delhi Pandal program. This is how we preached in India before we had temples. There was a war between Pakistan and India at that time, and blackouts were in effect in New Delhi. We had to keep all the windows covered and only use candles for light at night. But every night we would have these ecstatic kirtanas and Srila Prabhupada would lecture.