Srila Prabhupada in conversation

Bonds of Love: Aditi Devi Dasi (Mayapur, speaking through a translator)

In the mid 1970s, Kamalakrsna Dasa, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada then living in Mayapur, went to Bangladesh to preach. As a result, seven or eight families from Bangladesh moved to Mayapur, Aditi and her family among them.

My in-laws were so poor they were not able to take care of the family, so when my husband and I heard from Kamalakrsna Prabhu that in Mayapur, in exchange for our work we could receive prasada and our three children could go to gurukula, we thought we might be able to maintain our family if we went there.

When we got to Mayapur, initially I was sweeping the roads and cleaning the bathrooms in the ISKCON complex. After that, every morning I began husking paddy from the crops the devotees were growing and, sometimes, as he was going on his morning walk, Prabhupada would stop by and observe me and the situation in the kitchen. I also cleaned the kitchen, and I kept it really clean, pukka. Prabhupada asked the in-charge, Tapomaya Prabhu, “Who is doing this wonderful service? It’s so clean. This must be done by a good Bengali girl. Who is that?”

Tapomaya Prabhu told Prabhupada “This is done by Arati.” My legal name was Arati. After that, at Gaura-Purnima in 1977, Prabhupada initiated my husband, our eleven-year-old son Sudhir (who now serves at ISKCON Dallas), me, and some others.

Prabhupada wanted to see us, his new initiates. He said, “You all must come to my room. I want to speak a few words to you.” But I didn’t go, because my third child was a baby, and Tapomaya Prabhu said, “No, you can’t go there, you can’t go there.” He wouldn’t allow me to go close to Prabhupada, so I offered my obeisances to Prabhupada from a distance.

Later, Prabhupada was sick and was leaving Mayapur for the last time, and I made a beautiful, thick rose garland for him, which he was happy to accept. That was the first and last garland I made for Prabhupada. After that he never returned to Mayapur.

How was I so fortunate as to have Srila Prabhupada as my spiritual master? I was only husking grains and keeping the oven and a few pots clean, but Srila Prabhupada was pleased by my service. Even though he’s absent now, we can go on pleasing him by surrendering to him and thinking of him, by remembering him and serving him. I am uneducated and don’t know how to speak well, but I can serve by cooking and making garlands for Prabhupada, and by going to the temple and taking darshan. I’m shy, and when I see other women devotees, I give them a hug and say a few words, like “Are you okay?” and that’s it, because I don’t know what else to say, but still I can try to have my heart in the right place and wish them well and try to see to their needs.

When I was new here, we served with a simple heart, a very simple heart. That simplicity has to be there. Simplicity in Krishna consciousness is a blessing.