prabhupada giving beads

Bonds of Love: Lavangalatika Devi Dasi

In ’68, Lavangalatika, 28, was living in a teepee in the hills near Sante Fe when she read Bhagavad-gita As It Is and found it was simple and straightforward and made more sense than all the other books she’d been reading – Zen, Sufism, the Mother. At the Santa Fe temple Harinama Prabhu said to her, “Come – we’re meeting Srila Prabhupada in Los Angeles.” 

My hair was tangled and I was wearing a sari Indumati had put on me when I saw Srila Prabhupada. He looked absolutely wonderful, and I was dumbstruck because I’d never seen such a pure personality. My son was wearing cowboy boots, and his beads were dangling from his hand. Prabhupada took away the beads, saying, “Give them to him later. He’s too young and will spoil them.” Then Srila Prabhupada asked me, “Do you have any questions?” I couldn’t speak, but Indumati had told me, “Please ask Prabhupada what Krishna is like,” so I did. Srila Prabhupada became serious and seemed to emanate displeasure. He pointed to a picture of Krishna next to him and said, “Here is Krishna.” He then pointed to another picture, “There is Krishna.” I understood I have to be pure to know what Krishna is like and it was wrong to try to find out about Him before I’d served my spiritual master.

After I’d lived in the temple a month or two, I said, “Srila Prabhupada, I’d like to get initiated.” He said, “The love is already there. You are serving, so just keep serving and one day you’ll get initiated. It’s a formality you don’t have to worry about.” And the next month, in February 1969, I got initiated. Srila Prabhupada laughed when he gave me my name, which means “cloves.” Before I joined the movement I hadn’t taken care of my teeth and I used to chew cloves. 

My son and I went to New Vrindavan, but Hayagriva didn’t want me there and said, “Srila Prabhupada, does she have to stay?” Srila Prabhupada said, “You can tell a tree by the fruit it produces. Her son is chanting, she is chanting. What’s the problem? They’re both chanting.” 

We women slept in the temple room, and at about two I’d wake to hear the transcendental sound of Srila Prabhupada chanting japa floating down fom his room. My mind bathed in his chanting, and all my anxieties, maya, and karma were washed away. Every morning Srila Prabhupada would come for mangala-arati, standing before the Deities in the dim light.

Once I asked Srila Prabhupada, “What is my service?” He answered, “Your service is your son. See that he never takes birth again in another womb.” Since I didn’t have a husband, another time I asked, “Srila Prabhupada, should I shave my head?” He said, “No, no, don’t do that.” He didn’t want me to be a false renunciant. 

Once Satyabhama said, “Srila Prabhupada, I had a dream about you.” He said, “No, no. If the spiritual master is present, a dream has no meaning. Only after he’s left is your dream significant. While I’m here, don’t pay attention to it.” 

Srila Prabhupada gave me brahmana initiation at New Vrindavan. By mistake I said goroh instead of guroh, and he corrected me: “No, guroh – the spiritual master is not a cow.” 

Once my son Dwarakadisa was crying because the horse passed stool on his little Jagannatha Deities in a box and he didn’t know what to do. We asked Srila Prabhupada if we should clean the box with goba (cow dung). Srila Prabhupada said, “No. You can just show Lord Jagannatha the goba and everything will be clean. You don’t have to actually rub the Deity with goba.” When he was twelve Dwarakadisa received first and second initiation from Srila Prabhupada. 

Srila Prabhupada was compassionate toward the animals at New Vrindavan. He said, “The animals are not ordinary; they’re very fortunate and the devotees will never harm them.” 

Once, Srila Prabhupada saw me distributing books in Los Angeles and gave me a quick look that seemed to say, “Be careful, don’t bother people too much.” He was gentlemanly and I immediately understood I should also behave nicely.

I was happy to do my service and didn’t speak much with Srila Prabhupada, but I did write him a letter. He wrote back saying I had been a devotee in my last life and I should take care of myself and take care of Krishna and I would always be happy. I know how much Srila Prabhupada wanted cow protection, and now I’m protecting cows. Prabhupada said, “This rascal modern civilization based on cow-killing and technology is doomed,” and, “Maharaja Pariksit stopped Kali from killing the cow, and now Krishna wants to see what we will do, how we will do.” He’s left it up to us.