Bonds of Love: Mahamaya Devi Dasi
When she came to the movement in Boston, Mahamaya, 24, was happy to be in the temple and didn’t know that a guru led the movement.
In the beginning I heard, “Chant and you’ll be happy.” I tried it for a week and was happier. Then I tried it for another week. At some point I knew I wasn’t going back to my old life. Then I read the abridged version of Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita five times. Combined with living the temple lifestyle, it changed my life. I developed some trust in Prabhupada and the process he gave, but I didn’t imagine that he was living in this world and that I could meet him.
When I finally saw Prabhupada for the first time, all of my deep doubts disappeared. It was like seeing an old friend after a long time. I understood that I knew Prabhupada through his picture. When he initiated me in the Henry Street temple in 1971, I was shocked to hear my name.
Prabhupada said, “Mahamaya, Mahamaya, illusory energy. The illusory energy is not all bad. Just like there are phases of the moon, Mahamaya is a phase of Radharani. For one who does not want to serve Krishna, the illusory energy is there.” Prabhupada was personable and human. At the same time, he saw through my uncountable layers of false ego to the real me, the soul.
When I went to India in 1975, I lived in the dhama, met lifelong devotees, and met Prabhupada’s sister Pisima, who adored Prabhupada. My trust in the process deepened, I became more grounded, reinforced, and committed to serving Prabhupada. I came to another level of reality. I always felt that Prabhupada knew what I was doing and accepted my service. And at the same time he was a person; I understood that his memory and knowledge came through Krishna.
When he came to Juhu after Mauritius, Prabhupada invited us to his room and said, “I was in a car accident. Krishna saved me because just before the accident, He told me to move my cane in front of me, and that braced me. But I hurt my knee.” He lifted his dhoti and showed us his bruised knee. It was endearing, personal, and sweet, like something a member of your family would tell you, not the guru of the Hare Krishna movement.
Once at a darshan Sarva said, “Srila Prabhupada, yesterday you said a sannyasi’s business is to preach, a brahmachari’s business is to assist the sannyasis, and a grihastha’s business is Deity worship. But can brahmacharinis do Deity worship?” Prabhupada said, “Yes, you may also do.” We were relieved. I wanted to ask, “Can I have my own Deity?” but I said, “Can devotees have their own Deities?” Prabhupada said, “No, it will distract from the temple Deities.”
Prabhupada didn’t give us a small mandate but a huge mission. Are we using 100% of the power of Lord Chaitanya’s army to help fulfill that mission? If we’re not hearing women’s voices are we working as effectively as we could be? It’s only common sense to honor devotee women.
Prabhupada presented us with a process – to hear and chant, follow the principles, think of Krishna, help others become Krishna conscious – and he exemplified that process. As ISKCON’s founder-acharya, he’s in a special position, and every devotee in ISKCON has an important relationship with him. The disciplic succession goes on, but no one will ever replace Prabhupada. Prabhupada was so Krishna conscious that it made being in his presence special – I could feel he was thinking of Krishna – and at the same time I firmly believe we can experience his presence by reading his books and following his instructions.
There’s every reason to believe that if we follow what he taught us we’ll get the results he said we would get, and he’ll take us back to Godhead at the end. It’s a science.