In early February, below zero temperatures
and blizzards raged through New York. They were cosmic reactions
to sinful activities, Prabhupada had said. Since he’d
also told us that sinful activities are counteracted by devotional
service, that Krsna conscious paintings were part of devotional
service, and that I should make twenty-four paintings of the
twenty-four main Visnus, I enthusiastically set up my canvas
and started on my second painting of 'Lord Visnu in the Causal
Using Prabhupada’s grid method, I charcoaled in horizontal
and vertical reference lines, and then outlined Lord Visnu’s
form. Using my set of Grumbacher oil paints, varnish, linseed
oil and turpentine, I put in the first layer of flat colors,
preparing for the shading on the second layer.
Again I had to paint Lord Visnu’s name in Sanskrit letters.
This time it was not Madhava, but Narayana, because His hand
symbols were different. Unaware of the tremendous importance
of the Sanskrit language in Krsna consciousness literature,
just trying to make the right shapes was more than enough for
I was already familiar with the aum sign from my Madhava painting,
and also from the Iskcon Flag, which I had completed two weeks
earlier under Prabhupada’s direction. I remembered how
he had told me to colorfully draw on a large piece of cloth
“International Society for” at the top and “Krishna
Consciousness” at the bottom. I remembered how, for the
middle part, he had me draw Radha and Krsna within a large aum
sign. “Aum is the complete truth,” he’d told
me. “‘A’ means Krsna, ‘U’ means
Radha, and ‘M’ means the eternal servitor of the
Lord, the living entity.”
While I was writing the name 'Narayana,' one of the devotees
asked how I felt while I painted. I had no words, I only knew
I experienced some inexplicable sense of freedom—something
like a high, but without any of the sordid side effects of drugs.
Although I still saw Lord Visnu as paint, there was still something
of a sense that the personality of eternity sat before me. Though
I could not maintain my attention, I so liked looking at Him.
I felt like I was in another world. Although I hardly had an
atom's worth of an experience, yet it was so inviting. The experience
was at least real enough to convince me I would never leave
Unfortunately, although I tried to concentrate on my service,
my mind, due to long habit, kept wandering to incidents I had
experienced in former relationships—both happy and unhappy—with
happiness always turning into unhappiness. It was not as if
I did not appreciate my unique opportunity to serve Prabhupada,
but my mind seemed to have a life of its own, which I was powerless
to fully control. As I vacillated between these two concentrations
of painting and regretting, one of the brahmacaris came into
the altar room with a letter from Prabhupada.
“Really?” I asked, thrilled. “A letter for
me?” Half-expecting it to be a chastisement for not concentrating
better, I put my paint brushes aside and picked up the letter.
“I have heard about your good work although you did not
write me. I always remember you as the nicest girl because you
are so devoutly engaged in the service of Krsna. I am sure Krsna
is pleased with you and He will bestow His blessings upon you.
Better you accept Krsna as your husband and He will never be
unfaithful. Mundane husbands and wives never agree with one
another—because in the material world the relations are
on the basis of the body, which is false basically. Under the
circumstances, how we can have the genuine thing on the platform
of false existence? Dev ote yourself therefore twenty-four hours
in the service of Krsna and see how you feel happy in all respects.
You are very good and may Krsna give you more and more enlightenment.
I always pray that you may be happy by our Lord’s grace.
I shall be glad to hear from you.”
I contemplated in awe how Prabhupada could give his love so
fully to each of his disciples. I understood by now, from my
reading and hearing, that because the pure devotee is so intimately
connected with Krsna, like Krsna, he has the ability to give
himself fully to everyone without diminishing any of his loving
capacity for others. I re-read the letter, and I recalled the
story he had told me just before leaving for San Francisco.
His elbow was resting on the trunk-desk in his room on the second
floor of his 26 Second Ave. apartment, and he gestured with
his hand as he related the story of a devotee named Mirabai
who had lived in India a few hundred years earlier. “She
did not want to marry anyone but Krsna, but her family forced
her,” Prabhupada had told me. “The husband was angry
that she was only interested in Krsna. He tried to kill her,
thinking, ‘If I can’t have her, then nobody else
will have her.’ He poisoned her food, but because she
always offered her food to Krsna, Krsna took away the poison.
Then her husband realized, 'She cannot die.'“ Becoming
more enthusiastic as he spoke, Prabhupada continued, “Her
husband gave her a temple room, and she just chanted and danced
there.” He gracefully lifted his arms and swayed back
and forth in his seat.
Snapping back to the present, I noticed that Prabhupada had
also typed in notes to Acyutananda and Gargamuni at the bottom
of my letter. To Acyutananda he wrote, “The more you serve
Krsna, the more you become stronger. I hope you are being properly
assisted by your god-brothers . . . May Krsna give you all protection
in the discharge of your transcendental duties.”
To Gargamuni he asked, “Did you go to your mother along
with Brahmananda? I hope she is all right now.” I then
went to share with them our good fortune.