yamuna devi dasi with srila prabhupada

In September 1966, Yamuna was in New York for ten days to attend the wedding of her younger sister, Janaki. During that time she heard Srila Prabhupada tell the story “Liquid Beauty,” about love and lust. Hearing that story was like being punched in the solar plexus. She cried and thought, “Yes, it’s true. In the material world, there’s so-called love, but it’s nothing like the real love that Swamiji is speaking about.”

After New York, I left with Janaki, who was the first woman Prabhupada initiated, and her husband, Mukunda Dasa, who was one of the first eleven male disciples Prabhupada initiated. We began to drive out to San Francisco. On the way, we picked up two old friends – Sam Speerstra and Melanie Nagel, who were later initiated as Shyamasundar Dasa and Malati Devi Dasi. With their help and the help of a few more interested people, we started the San Francisco temple in January’67.

Soon, Srila Prabhupada came out to encourage and guide us. In those days, when Prabhupada went out for his daily morning walk, anyone could go with him. So I was walking with him one morning and said, “Swamiji, do you think sometime you could allow us to go to Vrindavan with you?” Prabhupada turned around and said, “Yes, I will take you to Vrindavan one day, and I will show you Vrindavan on foot.” I thought that was the most hopeful thing I had ever heard in my life. I was just waiting for that time to come.

In ’68 August we went to London to try to start the British yatra, and about a year later, Srila Prabhupada came and, on the invitation of John Lennon of the Beatles, stayed with his disciples in John’s Tittenhurst Park estate. After his morning walk on the estate, Srila Prabhupada would sit alone in his little greeting room, take off his socks, and sing prayers while he played the harmonium or drum or a pair of karatalas. One morning, I was sitting silently on the stairs outside his room listening to him sing. I don’t know how he knew I was there, but when he finished, he called me. I went in and he asked, “What are you doing?”

“I’m listening, Srila Prabhupada. Your singing is beautiful.”

He said, “Do you want to come in and listen?”

I said, “Yes, very much.”

He said, “You can play drum and I will play harmonium and Purusottama can play karatalas.”

Then for several mornings we recorded Srila Prabhupada singing a prayer by Narottama dasa Thakura – Vijnapti, Hari Hari Bifale:

hari hari! bifale janama gonainu
manusya-janama paiya, radha-krsna na bhajiya,
janiya suniya bisa khainu

When I heard Srila Prabhupada sing this bhajana I asked him what it meant. We didn’t have songbooks at that time. He explained the meaning: “O Lord Hari, I have wasted my life. Although I have taken a rare human birth, like a miser I have not served Radha and Krishna and thus I knowingly drank poison.”

When Srila Prabhupada sang this bhajana, he went so deeply into the mood of the prayer – “I have not served Radha and Krishna” – he repeated this line eight, nine, ten times.

Then he sang the next verse eight or ten times, going deeply into its meaning:

golokera prema-dhana, hari-nama-sankirtana,
rati na janmilo kene tay
samsara-bisanale, diba-nisi hiya jwale,
juraite na koinu upay

“The treasure of divine love in Goloka Vrindavan has descended as the congregational chanting of Lord Hari’s holy names – Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Why did my attraction for this chanting never come about? Day and night I’m burning in this dark world without working to make the correction.”

After he was finished Srila Prabhupada turned to me and said, “So, Yamuna Prabhu, what is your favorite prayer?” I only knew the prayer from the introduction to the Srimad-Bhagavatam, so I said, “I like the Siksastaka prayers.” He said, “That’s very nice.” I said, “Swamiji, what is your favorite prayer?” He said, “This prayer, Hari Hari Bifale.”

———(Bonds of Love)