REMEMBRANCES OF JAYANANDA PRABHU

Bhakta Jim Sullivan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interviewer: State your name.

Bhakta Jim: My name is Jim Sullivan. I joined the Hare Krishna movement in 1973 in the springtime in San Francisco, and I never did get initiated. I'd like to first of all express my gratitude to Jayananda for being so merciful and so kind to a fallen soul such as myself. Without Jayananda's association, there would have been no way that I could have been a devotee. When I first came to the temple in '73, I had a history of a lot of drug abuse and drinking, and they pretty much took one look at me and said, "Hey, you see that guy over there?" and pointed to Jayananda, "I think you ought to go hang out with him." So that's what I proceeded to do for quite a long time and it was really nice, he was very kind. The first thing I remember about Jayananda was that when he was looking at you if you were talking to him, he'd be looking right at you, right in your eyes. He seemed to always have that type of look. You could tell he was looking at you, the soul, not the body and not the mind. He was just very kind.

He tricked me into being a devotee. Seriously, there would have been no way I would have been a devotee without his association. When I first came, I was deeply into Mayavadi philosophy and he tricked me. He tricked me into being a devotee by being loving and kind and tolerant and forgiving and always being a joy to be around, being a very pleasant experience to get his association. He always used to take me around with him on errands or on chores or doing different things for the temple. We'd talk and he was always very nice. Never judgmental, never judgmental, never harsh. I never heard a harsh word come out of Jayananda.

When we were traveling around a lot doing these different errands, sometimes I'd be alone with him and sometimes there would be other devotees along and he would always start a kirtan. He was always fully engaged in Krishna's service and in Prabhupada's service. I kind of got the impression from him that he was always thinking about Prabhupada. That's just the impression I got from him, and he always tricked me. I had no devotion at all whatsoever, and he tricked me. I was such a Mayavadi. He would be so kind and nice to me, and he never pressured me into doing anything. But he would always call me over to him sometimes when nobody was around and he'd look one way and then he'd look the other way and then he'd say, "Jim, I've got something for you," and he'd reach into his pocket and he'd pull out a piece of burfi or something like that and hand it to me in a secretive way like "This is just for you." And he was just so kind. And then if he ever needed any help with anything, he'd come up and say, "Hey, could you help me with this?" He'd put it in such a nice way and he was such a nice individual, you couldn't say no. You had to help him, he was just such a nice person. He was just a real joy to be with. Then I guess I was there about six months and I was living across the street in a hotel, and he was real nice, he'd even come over and knock on the door sometimes just to say hello and sometimes just to see if I could help him do something. He was really supportive and nice.

I can remember when I shaved up. I guess I was shaved up a couple of months and I was with him, we were going down to the San Francisco produce market, where we'd go and get a lot of the bhoga. The first thing we'd do is we'd hit the back, we'd hit the bins and see what we could get free out of there. There was an unbelievably large amount of things in there. We had a big step van and we'd get that probably half loaded up, and then we'd go around the front and see what we could buy after we got all the freebies we could. And all these guys who were working on the docks, they were all very burly types, hard cases; but when they would see Jayananda coming, they'd all stop what they were doing and wave and go, "Oh, Jim, Jim, how ya doin', how ya doin'?" And he'd pull up, he'd talk to them and he'd have some burfi with him or some sweets and he'd distribute it to these guys. Each one of them, like you'd have one guy, the potato man, and he'd give us two or three hundred pounds of potatoes. And then Jayananda would say, "Well, how much do I owe you?" He knew all their names, and they'd go, "Ah, give me a dollar," "Give me five dollars," something ridiculously cheap. So we'd end up with that step van loaded, I mean just loaded real high, real filled up with prasadam for a very minimal amount of money.

And I remember one time, we were just pulling into the produce market, we were back in an alley getting ready to hit the dumpsters, and I was chanting japa and he was chanting japa. All of a sudden, I just started to feel like something was happening. It was the first time I really felt something from the japa besides just feeling a feeling of serenity. I just started to become, I guess, a tiny bit Krishna conscious. I didn't say anything to Jayananda, I just kept chanting and kind of looking around, and Jayananda picked right up on it. He just turned around and looked at me and he said, "You haven't seen anything yet!" So I thought that was pretty amazing that he could sense that I was experiencing something.

So I remember, I think it was...I blooped out at the end of '73, and then I came back in '74 and I was all bummed out. I got kicked again by maya and I pulled into Berkeley. I was just standing there walking down Telegraph Avenue and all of a sudden I heard "ching...ching ching ching." And I looked down the street, oh my God, here's Jayananda with a chanting party, which he took out every day faithfully, sometimes to Berkeley, sometimes to downtown San Francisco. I saw him coming and I just stood there and he came up to me and said, "Oh, Bhakta Jim!" gave me a big hug and said, "Come on, let's go," and I just kind of hopped in line behind him and ended up going back to the temple and shaving up. And he never asked, "Where are you going? What were you doing? Oh, you're in maya." He was just totally supportive, always very positive.

That was the year Prabhupada was coming for the Ratha-yatra, I believe, it was '74. In '73 and '74, I helped Jayananda put the carts together, and we lived out in the parking lot where the carts were being put together. Jayananda really had an appetite, he really loved to eat, he really had a thing with prasadam. I was getting food stamps so I'd just give them to him and he'd go across the street to a market and he'd buy all sorts of bhoga. We had a propane stove and he'd cook up these outrageously delicious feasts on a two-burner propane stove. Everybody was so amazed. We couldn't believe how excellent the prasadam was. We'd have a big feast every night after we were done working, then we'd get up in the morning and go back to work.

Jayananda was actually putting the whole Ratha-yatra together, but never did you see him lose his cool or get cross with anyone. He was always very kind and supportive, and I thought that was really amazing. And I used to be a fault-finder and a critical and a negative type of person, I'd always look for his faults, and I never could spot any. I was always looking to see him slip up or just...but it was just impossible, he was just situated so nicely. And I remember that year, '74, he had such a long list, page after page of things to do for Ratha-yatra. In the morning, we'd get together and he'd say, "Well, you..." talking to somebody, "You go do these two things or three things," and to somebody else, "You do these other two or three things," and to him, "You do this one or two things." And then he himself would be left with so many things to do. I'd come back after struggling all day to do one or two small projects and the other devotees similarly, but he somehow or other managed to accomplish so much in such a short period of time it was like he was in a different dimension of time.

And when I would go out with him, especially when it was getting to the crunch, when it was getting close to Ratha-yatra and there was a lot of things to do, it'd be the strangest thing. We'd walk into a hardware store on a Saturday afternoon, the place would be mobbed, and Jayananda would get the things that he needed. And then just as we were walking to the checkout counters, which were invariably packed with lines of ten to twenty people per line, it was like Krishna's arrangement, they would open a register that had been closed and they'd go, "Oh, right here, sir," and he'd walk up and boom, right through. I could see that Krishna was just totally empowering him to do his service. It's like all the doors were open for Jayananda to do his service.

And that year I was doing something...Prabhupada came, it was before the Ratha-yatra, and I was standing out in front of the Valencia Street temple on the north side of the front door, right in the front, and Jayananda was walking northbound from the south side of the door. It was the middle of the afternoon, and all of a sudden Prabhupada walked out the front door. I don't know what he was doing or where he was going, maybe it was to preach to someone. But as soon as Prabhupada saw Jayananda, a huge smile came on Prabhupada's face, a bigger smile than I ever saw, it was like a smile from ear to ear. And then recently after that I read in the Nectar of Devotion where it says, "When the spiritual master sees that a disciple is making very nice advancement, he smiles very nicely," and I knew that's what that was about.

I had rather a sweet tooth, and I used to go around the corner to a Greek bakery and buy baklava and halava, all these things, and Jayananda saw me doing it once. And he didn't get on my case about it, he was just so nice. He said, "Listen, Jim, you don't have to eat that. If you ever want any sweets to eat, just come over to my house and I'll have somebody...if there's not something readily available, I'll have somebody make something for you. You don't have to eat that stuff." So he was just very open-hearted that way.

The thing about Jayananda is: he never wasted any time. You didn't see him just really lounging around. I can't remember Jayananda just really sitting around and hanging out; sometimes for a few minutes in the evening, something like that, but generally he was always on the go. At that San Francisco temple, not to be critical, but Lord Chaitanya did come to save the most fallen. When I was there, it was a pretty wild scene with a lot of devotees; and without Jayananda, there would have been no way that temple could have functioned. He was doing the trash, he was fixing all the vehicles, he was taking out hari-nama every day, he was doing cooking, he was the counselor for all the devotees there, everybody would always come to Jayananda. But if anyone ever came and said, "Well, hey, who are you?" He'd just go, "Oh, I'm the janitor." He didn't consider himself a big shot or in control. He always maintained that attitude that "I'm just a servant around here." He never lost sight of that, I never saw him lose sight of that.

The one thing that I noticed that Jayananda did not like and that was somebody playing "Hotel Krishna." If somebody was hanging out and not doing anything, for a while Jayananda would let it slide; but then after a while, he would say something to that person, and I know that because he did it to me! I was in a period where I was in the modes and sleeping a lot and hiding out and sleeping, and he came to me, he was very, very nice about it, and he said, "You know, Jim, we want you here but if you don't want to do any service and you want to just eat and sleep all day, I suggest you get a hotel room across the street and just come around. Keep chanting and come to the program, but this isn't right what you're doing. It's kind of like taking advantage." And he was right, I could see. I think at that time I did do that. And I had a drinking problem too, and sometimes I'd bloop out and I'd live in the local hotels and I'd go back to drinking. I can remember one time Jayananda saw me, I was parked right in front of the temple with some karmi person I met and I was drinking. And I know he saw me, but he pretended he didn't see me. He didn't want to make me feel bad about coming back around the temple, so that was really nice.

And he told me too, Jayananda told me that before he was a devotee he used to do a lot of drinking. He even told me that at one point he tried to commit suicide by gas. He stuffed newspapers or cloths around the doors and all the windows and turned on the gas and he was going to kill himself, he felt so morose and hopeless. And then he said the phone rang and it was somebody inviting him to dinner the next night, and he agreed to go. Then when he hung up the phone, he just unplugged everything because he didn't want to let these people down.

And then very shortly after that, on his way...I think he was going to his job, walking to his job, he was walking by the first temple that Prabhupada opened in San Francisco. And he would look in there but he didn't go in. I think he told me he used to walk by a couple of times. Then finally he was walking by and he said, "Hey, what is this?" I think Prabhupada was right there in the front room and he walked in and started talking to Prabhupada, and Prabhupada made...he was the first devotee that Prabhupada made on the West Coast. Then he wanted to give up everything and move in right away, but Prabhupada said, "No, no, keep your job." He was driving a taxi, even though he had a degree in engineering from I think it was Ohio State University. So he continued to do that and gave all the money to Prabhupada. He was totally selfless, he was totally dedicated to Prabhupada.

He had a rich aunt and this aunt told him, "If you get married, I'll give you a certain amount of money," and he could see it was an opportunity to do some service. So he married Trayi-devi, this devotee there who was someone who needed some good association. And I forget how much money he got, but he gave it to Prabhupada. I think it was for the Nectar of Devotion.

Interviewer: It was $5,000.

Bhakta Jim: Yeah, $5,000 for the Nectar of Devotion, which he gave to Prabhupada, and I think Prabhupada mentions his name in the beginning of that. But also, when Prabhupada saw Trayi-devi when he would come to the temple, somebody said once, "Oh, Trayi-devi's here." He says, "Trayi-devi, where is she?" And she was sitting way in the back of the room. And he said, "Come up, come up." And he made Trayi-devi come up to the front of the room and sit on his right. He said, "You sit right here," which was real nice. Whenever Prabhupada was giving a class or a lecture, Jayananda wasn't one of the people who would try to get right up with Prabhupada in the front. He would always stay in the back of the room and he always looked very humble, he always kept his head down.

Interviewer: So you were there for that?

Bhakta Jim: I've seen Prabhupada and Jayananda in the same room like that. Jayananda would always sit in the back of the room and keep his head down, he was very, very humble, and I kind of got the impression that he felt himself very fallen in Prabhupada's presence.

The main thing about Jayananda was his total dedication to Prabhupada and Krishna consciousness and his total support in all ways, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, for all the devotees. He was always in an up mood, in a good mood, always willing to help anybody in any way, and he worked himself so hard for Prabhupada, for Ratha-yatra, and it was nice.

After that I was traveling around, I had blooped out again. But the next time I saw him after that was down in San Diego. He had gotten sick by this time, and me and Nalini-kanta and another devotee, Maharaja Das I believe, we went to San Diego to see him. And I brought a big plate of maha-prasadam for him. And it was so nice to see him again. He was thinner, he looked thinner, but it was the same old Jayananda, his spirit was there. He was just talking about his plans for Ratha-yatra. After we saw him, we came back up to L.A. where we were living and he wrote me a letter after that, thanking me for the prasadam and preaching to me a little bit. It was a real nice letter. I'll give you a copy of that.

And then Jayananda ended up coming here to L.A., and he told me that when he was sick in New York and various places so many people were trying to be so helpful and sending all sorts of remedies and telling him to go to all sorts of doctors. He was telling me it was really a trip. I think he went to Mexico to try laetrile under somebody's advice. He was just agreeable to it, and I don't think he particularly cared. I really don't. I think he was just doing it because devotees were suggesting different things to him. I thought he was pretty aloof.

Anyway, then when he first came up here in L.A., he was working on the Ratha-yatra right away, and he was pretty ill. He'd go out in the sunshine but he'd wear sunglasses because he was pretty sick, and he was getting real, real thin. But he was going down to the site and working on the carts and directing everybody's activities. I think it was before the Ratha-yatra, he was getting real sick, and they had a big surprise party for him in the parking lot here at the Los Angeles temple where they keep the Ratha-yatra carts now. By this time, he wasn't walking around. He needed help for everything. He was pretty much wheelchair-bound, and they wheeled him into the parking lot under some pretense to ask him some questions about the carts or something and it was a surprise party and they had a nice kirtan going. And when the kirtan was going, Jayananda got up out of that wheelchair and just started dancing ecstatically like a 16-year-old, he was really into the kirtan. Then when it was over, he just sat down in the wheelchair like, "Oh yeah, I'm sick." But actually you could tell he was transcendental.

And he told me, I guess it was two or three months before he left his body, I felt like he told me he was a pure devotee in a roundabout way because he told me that a few months before he was having dreams where he would dream of the most disgusting ways to break the four regulative principles. Whether it was meat-eating, illicit sex, intoxication, or gambling, he had these intense dreams like he'd be eating hot dog after hot dog and hamburger after hamburger and just shoving them in his mouth. And what he said to me was he felt that that was the desire seed, the last vestige of that desire to lord it over material energy, leaving him. And he said that he felt like it was gone after that for all four things. So I think what he was telling me was that he was pure.

Even then, he was in his bed a lot and I would bring him...I had a note from the temple president where I had unlimited access to the maha. He could hardly eat anything, but I was bringing him big offerings of maha-prasadam every day, but he could only eat a little. Then there was tons of remnants, so I managed to score big time on that! And then he was preaching to me when he was actually on his deathbed, and I could not believe he was going to die. He would say, "Jim, I'm going to die," and I'd go, "You're not going to die, you're going to get better." I just couldn't conceive of Jayananda leaving his body. But he had people coming to him all the time, and he was just preaching to people and giving different instructions for different things.

Then I was really shocked. Every morning I was bringing him the Deity's flower garland right when they...I guess they change the garlands right before mangal-aratik, and I'd bring him over that flower garland. Before I get to that part, Indra-nath was a devotee...when Jayananda was here in L.A., the devotee who was taking the most care, doing the most service to Jayananda was Indra-nath, to the point of bathing him, and helping him around, and making sure he was really comfortable. I wasn't doing much more than just bringing him some prasadam and flower garlands and sometimes cutting up some fruit or something like that for him, but Indra-nath was the one rendering practically all the service. He was really fortunate.

Then one morning I was bringing in the flower garland and it was just before mangal-aratik, and I walked in the room and Indra-nath and Babhru-vahan were standing around Jayananda's bed and they were saying, "Chant Hare Krishna, Jayananda! Chant Hare Krishna!" They were saying it real loud. And what we had gotten for Jayananda was an endless loop tape of a very nice kirtan of Prabhupada chanting the maha-mantra with only men answering in response. It's one of the old simple tapes, I forget the name of it. But I walked in the room and Indra-nath was on one side of the bed and Babhru-vahan on the other and they were saying, "Chant Hare Krishna, Jayananda! Chant Hare Krishna!" And he had his ear right on the speaker of this tape recorder, and Babhru-vahan saw me come in with the flower garland, turned around and just ran up to me, grabbed the flower garland and ran to Jayananda and just threw it around his neck. They were saying, "Chant Hare Krishna!" And Jayananda just went like this, he just turned up. Before that it looked like he was sleeping. He just turned his head up and he said, "Hare Krishna!" And at that moment he left his body.

When I first walked into that room, what I felt was...I felt like there were very heavy people in that room besides Indra-nath, Babhru-vahan, myself, and Jayananda. I felt like there was an audience there. It almost felt like the walls were not there but like there were giant people there. It was like giant people, an audience of giant people, that's what it felt like to me. And when he left his body, you could tell the moment he left his body because it was like standing next to a Saturn 5 rocket taking off, one of the rockets that we use to launch some of the heavier space capsules and things. It was like the most tremendous...it was like such a tremendous explosion of him going up. And right at that exact moment, they were blowing the conch shell for mangal-aratik, they had just opened the Deity doors.

So I ran to Rameshvara's quarters, he was in one of the front apartments here in the green building, and he was in the shower. I just ran in and said, "Jayananda just left his body!" And he immediately flew out of the shower and grabbed just a gamsha and his tri-danda and came running into the room saying, "Hare Krishna!" But you could tell he had already left, he had already left his body.

So I stayed about a minute or two and then I went over to mangal-aratik. And sometimes the mangal-aratiks in Los Angeles can be a little on the slow side. But I walked into this mangal-aratik and everybody man, woman, and child, down to the last person it looked like they were floating four feet off the ground. Everybody was in ecstasy, you could tell. And I just felt like Jayananda was at mangal-aratik. And then after the mangal-aratik, Rameshvara made an announcement that just at the beginning of mangal-aratik Jayananda had left his body and everybody immediately knew, "Wow!" The kirtan was so intense because of the most auspicious leaving of one's body that I've ever heard about, and just to be there was really ecstatic.

But what the amazing thing was is that the three people who were there, Babhru-vahan, Indra-nath, and myself, that we got to render some service to Jayananda at the end after he had rendered so much service to us was just causeless mercy. And I can speak for myself and I don't think Indra-nath would mind me speaking for him on this account. I don't know about Babhru-vahan so much, though. I heard that he was pretty much a Jayananda mercy case too. All three of us were probably the three people or definitely in the top three people who Jayananda made devotees. There would have been no way on earth that I would have been a devotee. I would not have stayed around Krishna consciousness, and I can say that for Indra-nath too. I don't think he would have stayed around if it hadn't been for Jayananda's association, which I just hope and pray that someday I can have some real appreciation for that, for all that he's done to me, and have some deep, heart-felt gratitude for his mercy and for just being such a wonderful devotee.

Interviewer: What do you think this book should emphasize most on Jayananda's life?

Bhakta Jim: His devotional service and his attitude and his surrender and his love for Srila Prabhupada.

Interviewer: What title would you give this book? For example, "Jayananda's ISKCON," "Jayananda, ISKCON's First Vaishnava Saint."

Bhakta Jim: "Jayananda, ISKCON's First Vaishnava Saint," definitely. And Prabhupada's man, totally! Oh, one other thing too, that reminds me. One time I was shaved up and living at the temple and I started to feel some kind of a conscious contact with Prabhupada. At that time I was doing fairly well in my Krishna consciousness. And I remember Jayananda was in the workshop next door to the temple and he was way back at the workbench doing something, and I walked up to him and he was working on something and I said, "Jayananda, do you ever feel Prabhupada's presence?" And right at that moment, I really felt...as soon as I asked that question, I felt Prabhupada's presence very, very heavily. And Jayananda just turned around and he looked at me and he was very dhira, he was very sober. And he was not one to brag at all, you'd never hear him talk about his Krishna consciousness. But we were all alone and he said to me, "I always feel Prabhupada's presence." And just then, just from the feelings I was feeling, I totally believed that there was not a moment that he spent when he was awake where he wasn't feeling Prabhupada's presence personally.

Interviewer: Okay, Prabhu, thank you very much, I appreciate it. That was a nice little talk you gave on Jayananda. Thank you very much.

Bhakta Jim: Jai, thank you.

 

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