Bonds of Love: Rasangi Devi Dasi
I lived at the Integral Yoga Society of Swami Satchidananda and became a yoga teacher while I was attending New York University in 1970–71. When I graduated, I traveled and studied Sanskrit under Dr. Ramamurti S. Mishra, with whom Prabhupada had lived when he had first come to the US. I would see and hear devotees throughout New York City, but they seemed odd to me.
While living at the Dr. Mishra’s ashram in San Fransisco, I visited the Valencia Street ISKCON temple and had prasada for the first time. It was as if a light bulb went off in my head. For seven years I had been eating Indian vegetarian food, but there was something in prasada that was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. I now know that it was because it was offered to Sri Krishna first! That was my first connection with Srila Prabhupada and what a profound experience it was!
I married my first husband, Daniel, and we visited the Q Street temple in Washington, D.C., where I met amazing devotees. Among them were Damodara, Mrganetri, Antardhyana, Mamata, Rupamanjari, Varuna, and others, and I never wanted to leave. I moved in with my 5-month-old son Maitreya almost immediately and began practicing Krishna consciousness. It was a very happy time for me. I felt so cared for and protected.
Daniel got a job at BTG and we moved to Los Angeles. We took initiation from Srila Prabhupada in the original temple room on Watseka Avenue before Rukmini and Dwarkadisha. (We also received second initiation directly from His Divine Grace.) I became Rasangi Devi Dasi and Daniel became Dharmadyaksha Dasa. I remember it as if it were yesterday – that when I experienced Srila Prabhupada’s gaze I felt fully seen by him and loved deeply for the first time in my life.
Dharma and I were living at the Berkeley temple in 1975, when Srila Prabhupada visited. We would all pile into Prabhupada’s room for darshans. It was so crowded that sometimes we couldn’t all fit. Once I came when there was no room, and Prabhupada told some men to move aside to let me sit down. Prabhupada took care of me like a daughter and instructed the men to be gentlemen.
When Srila Prabhupada spoke I felt he was talking to me. I listened deeply and felt connected to him. And my energy would soar – I was on a high. I got to cook for him while he was in Berkeley and one time he asked his servant, “Who has made this – an Indian lady?” It felt that my life had become successful at that moment!
I was fortunate to have previously known Alice Coltrane, the wife of the famous jazz musician John Coltrane. We had both been followers of Swami Satchidananda. She was an intimate associate of that swami along with others like Peter Max, while I was a rank-and-file yogini in the ashram.
While I was living in New Dwaraka, it was noted that Alice (known at that time as Turiya Sangitananda) had a subscription to Back to Godhead. I was asked to contact her because I had known her previously. She was happy to hear from me and asked for some devotees to come to her house to teach her and her followers how to make vegetarian food and to do kirtan with her. She had become a meditator and a yoga teacher and had disciples of her own at that time.
Mukunda (before he took sannyasa), Brahmananda Maharaja, and I, with a few others, began to regularly visit her home in Los Angeles. One one visit Alice announced that she had been guided by God from within to go and meet A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami and to go soon. Prabhupada’s health was declining, and somehow she knew that time was of the essence. She asked the temple management to choose a female disciple who had been to India and who knew how to travel there to go with her.
I had never been to India, so I was not considered. I was so sad and began to long to be in the holy dhama, especially with Srila Prabhupada there. A wonderful Vaishnavi was chosen to accompany her, and plans for them to go early in June began to take shape.
One early morning I was chanting my rounds in front of Rukmini-Dwarkadisha and I began to pray really deeply from my heart. “Dear Krishna, you know what is best for me, but I want so much to come to your Vrndavana-dhama and especially to be there with Srila Prabhupada. If there is any way that could happen I would be so happy. I know that if it is Your will You can make it happen.” It was one of those prayers that felt like it pierced through the layers of the universe, went somewhere, and was received!
I left the temple room and headed back to my apartment across the street, and as I walked in the door Dharma said, “Rasangi, Alice Coltrane is on the phone for you.” I was surprised. There was no reason for her to be calling. I answered the phone and she said, “God just told me that I am supposed to take you to India with me and not that other devotee.” As you can imagine I was completely blown away and in awe. How was it possible? I could never have afforded to go to India at that time on my own!
But we left for India in early June 1977! Alice and I were picked up by Brahmananda Swami and driven to the Krishna-Balaram Mandir, where we stayed for a month. We had two private darshans with Srila Prabhupada, and one time he commented to Tamala Krishna Maharaja, who was his servant at the time, that he was very pleased with my service of accompanying Alice to meet him. He also commented that Alice was very sincere, and if she did not concoct, she would be successful. We were taken on parikrama by Pradyumna under Srila Prabhupada’s orders.
We would see Srila Prabhupada each morning when he was carried by a palanquin to have darshan. He was ill and not able to walk, but would come to greet the Deities each day. It was always such a thrill to be in his presence.
It was an amazing experience and feel like it was yesterday! I can still feel the thrill of how Dwarkadisha answered my prayer so quickly! Sometimes I feel shy to talk about this experience, but wanted to share this miracle of Srila Prabhupada with my godsisters! I am so appreciative of all of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples and have a deep love for each and every one of them.