Memories and Followings

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 Ocean'.

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 me.

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 Prabhupada’s service.

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. It read:

“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.

Copyright 2001-2002 Jadurani/Syamarani dasi.
All Rights Reserved.