A tribute to a saint on the anniversary of his disappearance day.
Ananda-mayo'bhyosat goes a Vedic aphorism. It states that Living entities constitutionally, are pleasure seeking. But the problem is that living entities are seeking that pleasure in the wrong place. In this material world, all pleasure is temporary in nature and carries along with it immense pain. Thus living entities are subjected to suffering and pain instead of pleasure, life after life. To rectify this situation, the Supreme Lord has descended into this world in the form of Srimad Bhagavatam. Srimad Bhagavatam explains what the goal of life is and how to achieve it. The goal is to fix our consciousness always in Krsna, and this goal is achieved by hearning His glories, by chanting his names and by engaging in the nine processes of devotional service. This simple process is possible for anyone.
Srimad Bhagavatam describes the wonderful pastimes of the Supreme Lord. In all of His incarnations, He descends to protect his devotees, to re-establish religion in this world and to annihilate the demons. These wonderful pastimes of Supreme Lord with his loving associates are capable of attracting our hearts away from trying to find pleasure in this world. Therefore simply by attentively hearing Srimad Bhagavatam, we can be freed from all the sufferings of this material world and achieve pure unalloyed devotion to Krsna. However, we can only understand Srimad Bhagavatam by hearing and seeing the lives of devotees who live by the Srimad Bhagavatam. Srila Prabhupada describes two types of Bhagavata the book Bhagavata and the person Bhagavata. They are both inseparable. We can't understand the person Bhagavata without understanding what is the basis of his life which is revealed in the book Bhagavata. Unless we see or hear the glories of devotes who live by the book Bhagavata, we can't understand the book Bhagavata. Thus, a person Bhagavata is as good as the book Bhagavata. One such person Bhagavata is H.G. Jayananda Prabhu .The 11th of May this year marks the anniversary of his disappearance day. He was very dear to Srila Prabhupada.
H.G. Jayananda Prabhu was born in the USA in a middle class family. He graduated from the Ohio state University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. However he was not concerned with making big money, neither was he concerned about living with high society people. He just wanted to lead a simple life. So out of his own free will, he got himself a job of a taxi driver. He saw the frustration of material society and accepted a simple life since he was always searching for something spiritual. One day in 1967, he read in a newspaper about a program in San Francisco by Srila Prabhupada. He decided to attend the program. The centre was located in the Haight Ashbury district of San Francisco, which was the Hippie capital of America who were frustrated with material existence, and were looking for something higher in drugs, intoxication, sex, rock and roll music etc. Jayananda Prabhu was the only person who was not a hippie there. He had always been a very clean, hard working person in society. When he listened to Srila Prabhupada, he understood that this is the person that he, should follow. From that day, he would come to hear from Srila Prabhupada everyday before work. During those days, Srila Prabhupada would personally cook for devotes and also personally feed them. He would often feed Jayananda Prabhu lots of prasadam. At that time, Srila Prabhupada had 3 volumes of Srimad Bhagavatam and was working on Bhagavad gita and had always wanted to print one. But no one was able to support him. Most of his followers at that time were hippies and most of the devotees who had surrendered themselves to Srila Prabhupada did not have any money. Jayananda Prabhu understood Srila Prabhupada's heart and offered him his entire life's savings($ 5000) to print the Bhagavad gita. Prabhupada never forgot this timely help. Then Jayananda Prabhu joined the temple. Devotes didn't have much money to maintain the temple. Jayananda Prabhu's taxi earnings maintained the temple for years. He did this so that all other devotees were free to preach, chant, and worship the Deities.
INSPIRATION TO OTHERS
Jayananda Prabhu's sadhana was so strict he was the first person up every morning. He would attend mangala arati, he would chant all his rounds enthusiastically, he would hear Srimad Bhagavatam class and then he would cook for all devotees and would serve them all. Then he would go out to work. Although he was senior to all devotees in the temple, he worked harder than them all to maintain and facilitate all the junior devotees so that they could preach. He himself was a best preacher but he would always encourage others to give classes. As soon as he found someone more qualified than himself, he would make the person the temple president. He had immense faith in the Holy Name and Prasad. He would feed Prasad to anyone who came to temple with much love and compassion and so gradually many devotees joined the temple. He would engage them as pujaris, preachers, president and so on. He himself would wash the pots, dishes or toilets. He was also in charge of taking the trash out and dumping it. Jayananda Prabhu would never miss a single kirtana and would be dancing in every single one. He would inspire all devotes in temple to join him in harinama.
INTERACTIONS WITH OTHERS
One time, a new guest came to the temple. The President asked him "Please, can you help Jayananda Prabhu with the garbage?" So he went out along with Jayananda Prabhu. They were collecting garbage from all over and loading it into the garbage collector. This guest later told the devotees that throughout his life he had seen garbage collectors but now it was his fortune to perform service for Krsna. He also revealed why he became a devotee? He was thinking "If the garbage collector is so blissful in this movement, what must the other devotees be like? I have to join this movement! I have never met such a blissful, pure, compassionate garbage collector !"
Once Jayananda Prabhu met a guest in the garden. This devotee was later initiated by Srila Prabhupada and came to be known as Karandhara Dasa. He eventually became the temple president for Los Angeles temple and GBC for most of America. So, he told this devotee that things do not always go right while performing practical activities in trying to execute Krsna Consciousness. However, whether things go right or go wrong we should just chant the names of Krsna. Many things will come and many things will go but we must maintain our faith in the chanting of the holy names. This was Jayananda Prabhu's expertise that he would preach, and make people devotees. He would make them the temple president and he always remained as humble menial servant of this temple president. Jayananda Prabhu inspired people to join the Krsna Consciousness movement just through his pure example.
Once, one devotee asked Jayananda Prabhu – "How does one make spiritual advancement?" And Jayananda Prabhu replied very sincerely, "I do not know. I am too busy working to serve Prabhupada to think about such things."
KING OF RATHA.YATRA.
Jayananda Prabhu was known as ISKCON's king of Ratha yatra . Every year he used to build new carts since there was no storage facility available. The city officials loved Jayananda Prabhu so much they gave all permissions and were very favourable towards the movement. During Ratha yatra, Jayananda Prabhu would do every thing. He would beg the materials to build the cart and would then personally build the cart for Ratha yatra. Everyone helped him build these carts. Devotees, nondevotees, strangers – everyone helped him because of his sweet, charming, devotional nature. They just wanted to get his association. He would get all the permits from city officials, he would do all the advertisements in the city, he would lead kirtana, he would dance in the Kirtanas. And after it was all over, he would break the carts down and he would clean everything up. He worked so hard to serve Srila Prabhupada.
One such year, he alongwith a few devotees worked on the carts until midnight. Everyone was exhausted and soon everyone left to the nearby temple. As soon as one devotee laid down, he saw that Jayananda Prabhu was going out somewhere. He asked Jayananda Prabhu and he replied that he had some rounds left and he was going so that he could complete them. The devotee said that Jayananda Prabhu had worked very hard all day and he could make up for the rounds the next day. Jayananda Prabhu replied that he had to chant the rounds then because he was not tired by the day's work and so it was alright to stay awake and finish his rounds. He did not even make it seem that he was an advanced devotee. He just put it in a simple way so that the other devotee couldn't say much.
In 1976, ISKCON started the Rathayatra in New York City in the most important, prominent street of 5th avenue. Srila Prabhupada was invited to come and of course Jayananda Prabhu was invited to come and build the carts. By that time he was so famous as a humble and an advanced devotee that devotees from all over came to help him because that was the only way to get his association. The day before Ratha yatra, Jayananda Prabhu worked hard till late at night. They were putting up the dome on Lord Baladeva's cart and suddenly a very high wind came off the Hudson Bay and destroyed the structure. Most of the steel of the cart was bent. They had to have the cart ready by 6.30 am in the morning. By Jayananda Prabhu's great determination all 3 carts were finished by that time. Just like Lord Caitanya's cleaning of the Gundica temple, as if he had 100 arms Jayananda Prabhu himself worked hard and inspired all others to work.
FRIEND OF ALL
Shopkeepers at fishermen wharf of San Francisco considered him as their best friend. Just like the six Goswamis he was dear to both the gentlemen and the ruffians. In these areas drunks would be lying on the streets when devotees would go by and they would ask, "Do you know Jayananda? He is my best friend. How is he? Tell him my regards." Shopkeepers would give every thing practically free to Jayananda. All bhoga for the temple was donated free of cost by the shopkeepers because they loved Jayananda Prabhu . These shopkeepers did not know about the Hare Krsna movement or it's philosophy but they just loved Jayananda Prabhu. They said that if Jayananda Prabhu is a Hare Krsna devotee, this Hare Krsna movement must be good. They would say he was the most gentle, pure and respectful person they had met and they trusted him.
He would beg for bhoga to feed thousands during the Ratha yatra. Due to his devotional nature, even the most materialistic people would give everything to him. Then he would cook wonderful delicious prasadam from Bhoga for thousands of people.
JAYANANDA PRABHU'S HUMILITY
Although Jayananda Prabhu always put himself last, Srila Prabhupada saw him first and Krsna saw him first. Although he considered himself as servant of servant, all his god brothers saw him as an exalted Vaisnava. He never cared for prestige or classification No one could glorify him if the person wanted his association. It was a known fact that if someone praised him he wouldn't associate with the person. He would just walk away. He never criticized anyone in all the years he had been a devotee and no others heared him criticizing others. In compassion he would help and correct but he never criticized. If some one was criticizing or chastising some other devotee, Jayananda Prabhu would always very silently go away and make sure that he never listened that.
Jayananda Prabhu took people from off the streets and preached to them, made them dedicated devotees. Some of them became GBCs, sannyasis and leaders. Jayananda Prabhu was offered to be the temple president. If there was a need he would do it. But as soon as anyone else would come up, he would engage him as a president, He also was offered sannyasa but he never wanted to be troubled by these types of positions. He just wanted to serve. He would bring people to Krsna Consciousness and train them. He would put them in high positions and then he would become their menial and humble servant.
RELATIONSHIP WITH SRILA PRABHUPADA
Once Jayananda Prabhu was driving the car meant to pick up Srila Prabhupada from the airport. Prabhupada and H.H. Tamal Krsna Gosvami Maharaja were in the back seat. Srila Prabhupada asked Tamal Krsna Maharaja, "Who is that driving? Maharaja replied "It is Jayananda Prabhu." Srila Prabhupada said, "Oh yes, I know Jayananda Prabhu . In 1967 he gave US $5000 to print my Bhagavad Gita. " Srila Prabhupada never forgot this service that Jayananda Prabhu had rendered.
Actually just as Srila Haridasa Thakura was unable to bear the separation of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Sri Krsna understood that someone who is a loving associate and who has dedicated his whole life completely to Srila Prabhupada will not be able to tolerate separation from him. Krsna did not want him to suffer 'from Srila Prabhupada's disappearance and so by his inconceivable will he contracted a disease called leukemia. Jayananda Prabhu accepted it as Krishna's mercy very gratefully. However, although he was dying he still wanted to serve devotees in this position.
In his last days Jayananda Prabhu used to say that this disease is such a blessing from Krsna. He used to say "I have never appreciated Krsna Consciousness more than now." It was in this mood of pure devotion that Jayananda Prabhu disappeared from this world in May 1977. Srila Prabhupada had already been ill at this time. When Srila Prabhupada heard the news of Jayananda Prabhu's disappearance he manifested the nature of love of a Guru for disciple in a wonderful way. Srila Prabhupada wrote a letter to Jayananda Prabhu with his own hands. Then Srila Srila Prabhupada out of love and gratitude for the surrender and example of this devotee said, "Every year on this day our movement should commemorate the disappearance day celebration all over the world in the same way, as we celebrate the disappearance days for all our previous Acaryas". Also Srila Prabhupada ordered that for every Rathayatra organized by ISKCON, Jayananda Prabhu's photograph must be present on Lord Jagannatha's cart and to this day in New York city and all those places where Srila Prabhupada's instructions are being followed, whenever there is a Rathayatra, Jayananda Prabhu's photograph is present on Lord Jagannatha's cart.
Jayananda Prabhu always took the most humble position to serve Srila Prabhupada but at the end Srila Prabhupada personally glorified Jayananda Prabhu for all time to come so that all the Vaisnavas of the Hare Krsna movement would have his example to follow. Thus we celebrate this occasion known as 'Viraha Mahotsava'. On this day we can pray to Jayananda Prabhu's lotus feet that he bestows his mercy upon us so that we develop a particle of the faith that he had in the holy Name, Srila Prabhupada and the process of devotional service.
Srila Haridasa Thakura Dasa, D.M.E. serves at ISKCON Mumbai and teaches Krsna consciousness to students.