Memoirs of Jayananda Thakur
by Dhanistha dasi
From Dhanistha Dasi’s book- “Prabhupada Guide Dreams to Rock My Soul."
along Market Street in downtown San Francisco, 1973, I saw them. This time
there were maybe eight devotees dancing, chanting, and playing, drums and
cymbals. The person leading was a tall strong man with the kindest face,
childlike innocence, and an intensity that took me to a higher level. He
closed his eyes, tightly in total concentration as he sang and stepped
side to side with the rhythms of the mantra… Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama … I followed, recognizing
the words from my favorite song and stayed glued to them until they turned
to go back to the temple. This was it … all paths crossed here. …
I often see in my mind’s eye that tall strong man with the
kindest face and childlike innocence who was leading the hari-nama
sankirtan party down Market Street the first time I saw devotees
chanting … that gentle soul was Jayananda Prabhu. ”
naturally stood in a yogic pose sometimes as he cooked or while casually
conversing with other devotees. It was a fixed position with the right
foot (leg bent at the knee) placed on the left inner thigh. He would hold
perfectly still this way as the most natural thing. On one leg like the
mystic yogic boy Druva Maharaja, Jayananda stood this way quite at ease …
lacking any pretension to the fact he was in yogic posture. He once
instructed me how to make puris in the kitchen all after noon in
this unassuming position.
Sunday feast, Jayananda would help serve prasadam
to all the guest and devotees until everyone was stuffed and buckets were
pretty well empty. Then he would sit down and deeply relish the ecstasy of
feasting on Krishna prasadam
with great joy. Afterwards, he made sure the pots and kitchen cleaning
were getting done, usually leading the endeavor hands on, then, if there
was a measurable amount of prasadam
left over, he would round up a few eager devotees and we would take the
remaining foodstuffs to the streets with accompanying devotional chanting.
a very sweet opportunity, praising God and distributing free sanctified
foods just like Lord Chaitanya wanted … I always chose to go, when
possible, for once I had begun book distribution at the airport there were
not as many opportunities for me to engage in street chanting with
Jayananda’s hari-nama Party. I
missed the collective spirit special to these efforts.
I remember Jayananda Prabhu leading us down Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley singing the holy names of Krishna to his heart’s content. In those days, Berkeley, California was known as “Berserkly” (According to Webster, the descriptive word was quite appropriately placed: meaning, “In a frenzied rage.”)
There was a particularly cute representative of “Berserkly” who used to follow our street chanting party shouting obscenities and making threats, ironically enough in the Name of God. His religious affiliation, he had determined, gave him the special privilege to condemn our efforts in public prayer … we ignored him by following Jayananda’s joyful dancing. One day in particular, however, Jayananda Prabhu looked very serious and, to me, seemed urgent in his efforts to drown out the intruder’s curses. He would look the man right in the eyes while jumping up and down to the rhythm of the kartals (small cymbals) he played so emphatically. The man, however, wouldn’t release his evil intentions and persisted in harassing our little chanting choir. As we came to a street crossing on our daily route, the light was red and we were temporarily held face to face with this irate fellow who had now focused on Jayananda one on one.
I saw Jayananda warn him with deep concern and compassion, “If you don’t stop disturbing the devotees and Lord Chaitanya’s mission, Krishna will kill you. Please, you should be more careful.” The man continued mad with rage. Then, in his blind climax of enthusiasm, the forever-angry man stepped off a curb and was immediately hit by a bus. The light had changed to green. We continued, unaware for a few moments, as the crowd gathered behind us. Looking back, we never stopped praying and our voices lifted in the clearing ether to the rhythm of singing kartals. There was sadness in Jayananda’s eyes that caused my heart to enlarge a bit, still I couldn’t take it all in, like I saw what he did in full.
By his example, Jayananda Prabhu exemplified the term Godbrother. He was just so kind and unpretentious. His motivation was Prabhupada. The verses I read to learn the qualities of true devotional sainthood, remind me how fortunate I am to have Srila Prabhupada and Srila Prabhupada’s Jayananda in my life continuously.
I remember before Srila Prabhupada’s arrival, early one morning, some of the brahmacharis and Jayananda Prabhu had gone for a japa walk through the Mission District neighborhood near the temple. when they returned, Krita Karma Dasa said Jayananda had taken off a flower garland he was wearing, given from the Deities and had carefully placed it around a statue of the Virgin Mary they had passed during the walk. I had heard before that he did this sometimes and later went to see for myself … Sure enough, there she stood with hands to her heart and a pink and white carnation garland draped around her neck and shoulders. She would have seemed forlorn or a little forgotten if it had not been for this gesture of respect and devotion. It is remembrances like these that have inspired me to continue and to understand a little deeper (my capacity is minuscule). Understanding of true Vaishnava culture and behavior is a joy and source of relief in this world where disrespect and violence against innocent hearts of saintly men and women have become somewhat commonplace.
Jayananda used to stand casually with the other devotees in the entrance hall to the temple, between various functions or before breakfast prasadam. Often times, the conversations took on current events within the society’s walls and sometimes this could sink to gossip or tremendous undue worry over different leaders or matters. I tended to watch Jayananda from some distance, often peripherally, so as not to interfere with his natural demeanor. When topics sometimes took a turn for the worst, that is, away from the delight of Krishna nectar to the refuse piles, he would gradually recede within himself. First, (he always had his hand in his bead bag) he would gently shake his beads and softly begin to chant. Within a few mantras his eyes would be closing and his consciousness withdrawing from the group of chatters he stood amongst. His hand with his bead bag would draw slowly to his heart. Then transfixed, he would pull those of us who could manage to let go of the stranglehold we had on the conversation to the sweet taste of the holy names… I remember whole rooms full of devotees gradually affected by a radiating wave of soft chanting, until unified, we would sanctify the whole universal atmosphere while Krishna danced on our tongues.”
I believe without Jayananda’s presence and memory early on in my devotional life, at times, I would have been completely forlorn and disillusioned. He is even more important to me now. I pray to Jayananda the saint. He needs no canonization for us to recognize his qualities steeped in love and compassion. It was easy to follow his instruction and guidance. It is still easy and reassuring to feel his presence. He brought many souls to Srila Prabhupada’s Krishna Consciousness Movement and by his loving strength, he kept us in good association, determined to keep our vows.
Jayananda was a mechanical genius, an architect, a kind brother, and a true friend. Foremost, he was absolutely absorbed in love for his spiritual master. This ingredient empowered him with simplistic know-how in all fields of action. Folks loved him and thus he brought souls to God daily. This devotee did not discriminate and could engage anyone, literally just off the street, in Krishna’s loving service. He often got food and useful items donated from those whose hearts he touched. When we were near him, we were like him, like children trying to imitate a hero. - Dhanistha Dasi
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