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Bonds of Love: Brahmi Devi Dasi

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Brahmi Devi Dasi
My first memory of our beloved Srila Prabhupada was my discovery of him in a book I found in a secondhand bookshop called Krishna Consciousness: The Topmost Yoga System. I also found Easy Journey to Other Planets. I was so intrigued by these titles that I bought them both. One paragraph made such an impression on me. It was, as I remember it, “Why are we sending all these young men to the war in Vietnam when there is a fighting class of men?” That is when I recognized my spiritual master, and I said aloud to myself, “This man is beautiful.” I looked at the back of one of the books, saw the number of the Toronto temple, and called and asked if I could visit. When I was told I could, I took my baby daughter, Visakha, and went to meet the devotees.

I have loved Srila Prabhupada from the moment I read that first one of his books. He has been my life and soul from that moment on. I am, by Krishna’s mercy, now in a 77-year-old body – in the dwindling stage, to be precise. When I think of how my life would have been without Srila Prabhupada’s loving guidance and teachings – well, I shudder to think about it.

I first saw Srila Prabhupada in person at my initiation in West Virginia. We were like excited children, and I felt completely inadequate and unworthy. When I approached his dear lotus feet, he looked at me with his beautiful, noble, dark eyes and said, “Your name is Brahmi Devi.” I felt so ashamed to dare to stand before him. He was sitting on a vyasasana outside in the open, and all the devotees present were looking at that glorious figure of nobility and purity with adoring eyes. We were all his children, lost in the material world and coming to his dear lotus feet for security. There was a dog sitting under his vyasasana. When the devotees tried to move him, he said, “Leave him there.” How fortunate to be that dog!

Well, we simply felt jubilant to have Srila Prabhupada with us. The joy of it all! I remember dancing in the temple with maybe fifty devotees, and there was a devotee who had been a ballet dancer. He was jumping high in the air while the rest of us danced in unison, like in a ballet. I swear I felt time stand still, my heart felt such joy I couldn’t feel my feet touch the floor. The arati bell was ringing, and I just felt suspended in time.

I had felt this before in the Toronto temple during Radhastami – the fire sacrifice, the chanting of the maha-mantra, and time suspended, just the chanting of Hare Krishna.

Then in Los Angeles (or perhaps it was Dallas, I forget), I was asked to prepare Srila Prabhupada’s room and make his bed. I had a young devotee, only 14, to help me. We cleaned everything and made his bed with new sheets, which we had washed and managed to dry just in time. We placed his slippers near his sitting place, and set down his Deities on his table. I put some blue stuff in the toilet to remind him of Krishna (silly! But that’s what I was thinking at the time). We had just finished and were coming out of the kitchen when Srila Prabhupada, with a handful of disciples, passed. He looked at me with such a gaze of nobility, his eyes like black gems. I pushed my assistant back into the kitchen, and together we offered our obeisances loudly.

What a wonderful blessing to have been seen by my beloved spiritual master. I’m not being puffed up, but to have had his lotus eyes look on me, I feel blessed beyond description. The thought of it makes me weep.

When our beloved Srila Prabhupada left this planet, I felt adrift in this world. My only friend and guide had left, and the world seemed empty. My dear father and best friend had gone. How could I continue?

Then I realized he wasn’t gone at all – he is always with me if I follow his teachings. I have his books, which he translated for us, and he is present in all these books. Those books have become my life and soul. When I read them, I know Srila Prabhupada is with me. I also have wonderful association with all the devotees of the Lord. They are my family and friends.

My son, Akincana Dasa, was initiated by Srila Prabhupada in Chicago. He is a wonderful son and spiritual strength to me. We share so many thoughts on Krishna consciousness. And my daughter, Visakha, is the sweetest devotee and my dear friend. We had many lovely times with Catura Devi Dasi in Los Angeles.

When I was accepted for initiation by Srila Prabhupada, I have never stopped looking to him for guidance and strength of purpose. He is always with me. There has never been a time when I thought otherwise. If I need an answer to anything, I consult him in his books. All answers are there, quite clear and explicit. Srila Prabhupada is always with us. It is only we who leave him. For myself, I could not bear to live without him. Maybe this sounds dramatic, but it’s true. My beloved spiritual master is my life and soul. I prostrate myself at his beautiful lotus feet again and again.

What would my spiritual master want me to do in my everyday life? I ask myself that question regularly. Then I remember his words and find myself able to deal with the many disturbances that arise. I must think from a Krishna conscious point of view, and this view is gained from Srila Prabhupada’s teachings – his purports in Srimad-Bhagavatam and Bhagavad-gita. Everything we need to know is there. I always think that I may be the greatest fool, but if I repeat his words, people will listen. Actually, in my experience, when I have shared Krishna consciousness with someone, they have expressed amazement at the words I utter. I smile, knowing that they are my spiritual master’s words and I am simply repeating them. I myself am amazed at their result.

I have firm faith that simply using the words of Srila Prabhupada with conviction will transfer those words into the hearts of the people we speak to. When dealing with people in general, consider the individuality of each person. Everyone is evolving at a different rate, so none can be forced to become a devotee. It is essential that we be kind, friendly, and understanding. The word is empathy – to have an idea how others feel. We must not be judgmental. It is the worst thing. People are suffering, so kindness is needed and then they will listen. Srila Prabhupada accepted us and took it upon himself to train and guide us, although we had no idea how to behave toward people. The least we can do is to try to emulate his conduct with the people in general. Understand people’s situations and circumstances and treat each person as an individual, aware that we ourselves are fallible. To those who are inimical, remain indifferent. In other words, practice what you preach.

I could go on, but I think this covers a little of how I feel. Please accept my humble obeisances and my heart’s affection. I am your humble servant and godsister in our beloved Srila Prabhupada’s family. All glories to His Divine Grace, our dearest father and eternal spiritual master, and to all the devotees of Lord Krishna. May we continue to have his blessings and service to his beautiful lotus feet.

 


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