Jivadhara Das

(from phone conversation

with Krishna Prema Dasi)


My association with Jayananda was in New York City 1976, just as the building of the first New York Ratha-yatra carts was getting under way. I wasn't initiated yet, but I was given alot of service at the temple. Actually, by Jayananda's engagement on the carts Srila Prabhupada told me directly that I should be initiated, so I was initiated the day after Ratha-yatra.

I remember the first day Jayananda came while I was building temple doors. He said, “Are you John B.?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “I heard about you,” and he turned and walked away. That was the first time I met him. I was already so busy, but it was just spontaneous how he got me to work so hard on the carts. He somehow got me to be the person in charge of the construction site. He said he could go back and forth and get all of the materials. Jayananda drove this old bread van. He had a wire tied to the carburetor throttle and he would pull it and accelerate that way. I said, “Jayananda, you better get that fixed right,” and he said, “Krishna will protect me.”

He would discuss everything about the carts with me. He wanted me to help with the carts. He got word that I did alot of construction. He watched me working. I would speak to him off and on. I dropped by the carts one evening and saw a guy struggling, trying to cut some pipe, and I said, “Let me help.” After that, he asked me to come work on the carts.

At the railroad yard, at the cart building sites Jayananda would conduct mangal-aratik. He would pick little flowers from the railroad tracks and offer them, he would offer them to the carts. He said the carts were non-different than Lord Jagannath. I thought maybe he sees Jagannath on the cart. Every morning he would offer flowers to the carts. He also gave Bhagavatam class there in the morning. His main concern was, “I gotta finish this before I die. I have to serve my spiritual master.”

Jayananda was a very unusual person. He was very patient. If something broke or didn't go right, he was always consistent and patient in a very sweet way. He wouldn't yell.

I remember how I was there working with Jayananda on the Ratha carts, being close to him, he said I was his right hand man and 2nd man in command. He used to run out to get stuff and tell me I was in charge. He made you feel special. After work, I used to work for the city till 10 or 11 at night, he used to get me to eat at 11 at night. He made me stuff down halava. He loved halava. You couldn't resist him.

I would take the evening off from work and go to the cart site. One time when I was working on the carts and it was raining, Jayananda was holding a light and handing me nails. He was a little tired and asked me if he could go take rest. He was asking my permission! He was humble like that.

One day as we were working on the carts, I said to one of the guys, “I am not in the position to say this, but I think Jayananda is a pure devotee.” The guy said, “You can't say this.” But in my observations and working with him and by what the scriptures say, I was suspecting it. I couldn't really tell, but I knew he was special.

He was always telling me he was feeling these lumps on his thighs and all over his body. He would tell me, “Whatever it is, I pray to Krishna to let it take my life after Ratha-yatra, because this Ratha-yatra will be the perfection of my life.” Prabhupada was more concerned with this Ratha-yatra festival in New York than with any other Ratha-yatra. Jayananda said, “If I am able to pull this off, whatever these lumps are, this Ratha-yatra will be my perfection.”

One day it was hot and we were tired. I was drawing out the lines of the angles of the carts on the docks, I was working the angle of the side deck over the wheel. Jayananda was standing at the work bench and so was Raghunath Das. Raghunath was saying he was hot and tired and that he wished he could have some Jagannath prasadam. Jayananda took up the can of Quaker State bearing grease and said, “Here you are.” Jayananda said, “It is on the Lord's cart. It is non-different than the Lord.” Raghunath said to Jayananda, “Why don't you eat it, then?” So Jayananda held it up to the cart to offer it, making circles with the can, and then he took a lump of grease out of the can and ate it. He gave the can to Raghunath Das and he took a little lump out and ate it. Jayananda offered some to me and I said, “You are out of your mind. I am not going to eat that!”

One day a little black boy about 7 years old came, and Jayananda spoke to him, mentioning something about Krishna. We chanting and danced in a circle, having alot of fun. Jayananda said to the little boy, “Now I am going to initiate you,” and jokingly or not jokingly, because he was always Krishna Conscious, he said, “So now your name is Paramesvara. Now let's have a kirtan.” The boy was so ecstatic. The boy looked up at Jayananda and asked, “Now I am the boss?” Jayananda said, “Yes, you are now the boss, and we have something for you.” He gave him a can of paint and a brush, because Jayananda always wanted to engage others in service. The boy painted a wheel on the Lord's cart. He had more paint on himself actually than on the wheel! When he looked as if he was finished, Jayananda said, “Oh, it's a great job!” The boy said, “I have to go home to see my mother.” Jayananda was laughing and saying, “When he goes home, he is going to be in big trouble with his mother!”

Day by day, getting close to the time for the parade, alot of people came out to the parking lot. Jayananda was a very patient man. People would come down to the docks because they could see the tops of the carts from the road and were curious. Police used to come down to that place and Jayananda would give them rasagullas. Cops would come up and ask for one, so he would always keep some there for them. The cops liked to talk to him. They always approached Jayananda with great respect. The police who used to come to the cart site and talk to Jayananda arranged to take the day off for the festival. They all showed up. I saw one of them with a camera and another guy brought his wife and kids.

One time Jayananda told me he was picking a rose from someone's front yard and a lady came out screaming at him. Jayananda said, “Lady, I have nothing. It is my daughter's birthday. I want to give her something.” The lady said, “There are nicer roses on the side of the house. Take some of those.”

Another time Jayananda went to a tool rental business in New York City and the guy just gave whatever it was Jayananda wanted to him. We used it for the carts. Jayananda brought it back a few days later, and he said he was sorry it was run down. The fellow said, “Don't worry, we'll fix it.” Somehow Jayananda could engage people in service like this, and they would do things they wouldn't ordinarily do.

Sometimes we would talk alot when we were working, and he would laugh and kid with me that I would be 2nd hand man on traveling Ratha-yatra. Jayananda was always talking to me about making a traveling Ratha-yatra and how I would be his 2nd hand man. I said, “I can't. How would that be possible?” And he'd say he would talk to Lord Jagannath about it. He would say, “Jagannath will trap you.” He would laugh and say, “Besides, I don't have anybody else I can think of.” He kidded me alot like that. When he was in New York City at the end, he would always talk about Ratha-yatra and traveling Ratha-yatra, how next year's cart would be. He would discuss how to extend this or that on the cart.

Also after he found our what those lumps were, he was taking care of other people who were sick. He was amazing.

One day I came up on the 2nd floor at the New York Temple. Half a dozen sannyasis were there. Jayananda walked up and all of the sannyasis bowed down and paid obeisances to him. He was shy in a situation like that. I never saw anything like it. He always wanted to be the average Joe. He didn't like to be a big shot. He would say about taking sannyasa, “Building the Ratha-yatra carts is my dedication to Lord Jagannath, and I would have to give up my service to Jagannath if I ever had to take sannyasa.” He didn't think it was practical. Dravinaksha Prabhu told me one time Jayananda was in a meeting with some sannyasis. While the meeting was going on he just sat and read the Krishna Book.

After Jayananda left his body, for the next year's New York Ratha-yatra I extended the length of the cart just as Jayananda and I had discussed. I thought he would like that.

All glories to Jayananda!!!

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