Bonds of Love: Hrimati Devi Dasi
Hrimati, an animal lover, decided to become a vegetarian when she was 11. Later, her twin brother gave her an old Govindam adi purusham single record, sung by Yamuna Devi and others. The album cover had on it a picture of Krishna worshiping a cow. As Hrimati was already a vegetarian, it was significant to her that God was worshiping a cow. Sometime after that, on hearing Srila Prabhupada’s voice she was drawn to him. She learned English by listening to Prabhupada’s lecture tapes. When she was 15, disappointed with her family and religion, she came to Krishna consciousness.
I felt Srila Prabhupada was my father and I longed to see him. I was in Germany when he visited Sweden, so I boarded a Sweden-bound train and, while traveling, crocheted a hat of soft white angora wool for him. I wanted to do something for Prabhupada, not just to take from him. The next morning, Prabhupada wore the hat I’d made. He buttoned it under his chin.
Srila Prabhupada went to Uppsala University to lecture, and when he entered the hall I fell flat on the floor in full dandavats (as all the women and men did), not realizing my stretched out arms were blocking his vyasasana. Srila Prabhupada stepped lightly on both my hands as he walked to the vyasasana. It was a wonderful feeling – he was so light and his lotus feet so soft! Prabhupada was not of this world.
In 1976, I was pregnant with my second baby when I went to India with my son, Raghunatha, who was almost two. I delivered the baby in Vrindavan on Prabhupada’s Vyasa-puja day. When my baby was fourteen days old, Prabhupada was sitting behind his desk in his room in Vrindavan when Himavati put her onto Prabhupada’s lap and rubbed her head into Prabhupada’s feet. He raised his arms and smiled, “Oh, so small!” and then talked about his childhood and children while my daughter lay on his lap.
I told him she was born on his appearance day, and Prabhupada smiled and named her Nandini. I asked what it meant, and he said, “Oh, there was so much excitement around that day for Nanda Maharaja with his daughter and son.” Srila Prabhupada put everything in relation to Krishna, not himself.
Once at the Hyderabad farm, where there was no running water or much to eat, at one o’clock in the morning I heard Prabhupada translating his books. He was selflessly serving Krishna with dedication and determination that were beyond my comprehension.
At that farm, my son used to cry so much that Prabhupada became angry. He said, “Why is your son crying twenty-four hours a day? Can’t you take care of him?” I hadn’t seen that side of Prabhupada and wanted to disappear in the ground. I was speechless and felt bad.
Sometime later, after his massage, Prabhupada was sitting in a chair in the sun with one leg down and one leg on his knee, wearing a dhoti but no kurta. My son showed him a homemade book of paintings of Krishna from the German Krishna Book. Prabhupada rubbed my son’s head, hugged him, and together they looked at the paintings. My son said, “Oh, here is Krishna.” Prabhupada looked at me, smiled and said, “Now your son wants to make friends with me.” Prabhupada had kindness in his eyes as he gave this innocent child love. He took away all the fear that I might have developed from his harshness.
Sometimes emphasis is put in designations and ranks, but I don’t think Prabhupada emphasized that. He emphasized a service attitude. Prabhupada worked hard to create a movement where we had an opportunity to serve and remember Krishna. Just as the love that mothers instill in their children will stick with the children when they grow up, so Prabhupada raised us with love and made us part of an eternal family. We can love others as Prabhupada loved us. He instilled in me that my life’s duty is to give Krishna consciousness to others. I owe it to him. Out of love he went to every corner of the world and picked us up. He went to Germany to find me, and he loved me in a way that a father or grandfather would.