Mahamaya devi dasi Remembers Srila Prabhupada

Prabhupada Memories

Interview 01

Mahamaya: Prabhupada’s books were so transcendental that I couldn’t believe there was somebody on this planet that could write them. Although everybody in the temple knew Prabhupada, I was thinking cynically, “Does the person who wrote these books really exist?” The night before I was initiated, we arrived in New York from Washington, D.C. We missed Prabhupada’s New York airport arrival because our temple president, Damodar, felt that our business was to stay out on sankirtan. Since Prabhupada was having initiations every morning for a week in New York, every night he lectured on Bhagavad-gita. So, the hot July night just before my initiation, I went into the temple room, which was packed with devotees, and waited for Prabhupada to come through the doors. I still doubted, “Is he really going to walk through those doors?” Kirtiraj Prabhu was tapping devotees on the shoulder saying, “There’s not enough room in the temple for everybody and there are people in the hallway who have never seen Prabhupada. So can you please leave?” He asked me this, but I had just arrived and, although Prabhupada had been there for a couple of days, I had never seen him. So I didn’t budge. When Prabhupada walked through the doors all my doubts completely went out the window. I felt as if I was seeing an old, old friend who I hadn’t seen in so long that I had forgotten about him.

When they called me I went to the vyasasana. Aravinda, sitting to Prabhupada’s side, said my initiated name—Mahamaya—and I was bowled over when I heard him say it. Then, when Prabhupada said my name there was shocked silence in the temple room. Prabhupada started laughing and then everyone laughed, including me. Prabhupada said, “The illusory energy is not all bad. For one who does not want to serve Krishna, the illusory energy is there.” He gave the example that just as there are phases of the moon, so Mahamaya is a phase of Radharani’s energy. Being in front of him I felt that he was seeing me— not the layers of false ego that I thought I was—but the soul, and it was a wonderful experience. He was definitely lifting me to his platform.

Every night there was a program at the pandal, and once, when Prabhupada had asked for questions at the end of his lecture, a challenging man came up to the microphone and said, “Can you show me a miracle?” We thought he was demanding that Prabhupada produce ashes in his hands like Sai Baba and others. Prabhupada looked at the 150 devotees sitting on the stage in front of him, swooped his hand to indicate us and said, “This is my miracle. I have changed these mlecchas and yavanas into Vaishnavas.” We all cheered, “Haribol! Jaya!” We were so happy to be his examples of success.

As the others were leaving, my God-sister said, “Should we leave too, Srila Prabhupada?” Prabhupada said, “Not unless you have some questions.” We said, “No, we don’t have any questions,” and we both offered our obeisances. But we did have questions, and, as we got up from paying obeisances, we started asking questions. She said, “Srila Prabhupada, in yesterday’s darshan you said that a sannyasi’s business is to preach, a brahmachari’s business is to assist the sannyasis, and a grihastha’s business is to do Deity worship. What about the brahmacharinis? Can we also do Deity worship?” At the time the brahmacharinis were doing most of the Deity worship for Radha-Rasabehari in the old Juhu temple. Prabhupada said, “Yes, you can also do Deity worship,” and she was satisfied with that answer. Then it was my turn. I had heard from a friend, Cintamani Prabhu, that, since her husband, Sudama, had taken sannyas, Prabhupada had given her personal instructions on two different occasions to make Jagannatha her husband, Subhadra her daughter, and Balaram her son. I had also heard from Nandalal prabhu that in Los Angeles Prabhupada had given her a silver Deity of Krishna right from his desk and told her to worship this Deity. These ladies were in a renounced position—one’s husband was a sannyasi and the other was older and didn’t want to get married. I was 29, and I thought I was very old. I wasn’t going to get married and I wanted an instruction like them. I wanted to ask, “Can I have my own Deity?” but I couldn’t do it because I didn’t have a close, personal relationship with Prabhupada. Instead I said, “Srila Prabhupada, can devotees have their own Deities?” and his answer was “No. That will distract from the temple Deity.” I took that instruction to mean that if you get absorbed in your own Deity worship, then you won’t want to take the time to worship the temple Deity.

To view the entire unedited video go to Memories 41 - Mahamaya dd, Govidna dd, Kulashekhara, Mahavir, Tulsi, Svavasa

The full Prabhupada Memories Series can be viewed here and also at

Following Srila Prabhupada

Interview DVD 07

Mahamaya: In Mayapur, we never bought any flowers. We used flowers for the Deities and for Prabhupada’s garland from the flowers in the garden. And we didn’t pick them ahead of time, we picked them that morning. The little girls who were 10 years old or so, there were three or four of them, they’d go out right after Mangala-aratik even if it was dark, because in the wintertime it would be dark after Mangala-aratik, and they would pick the flowers. Then they would bring them back to the temple and they’d make the garlands. And Prabhupada’s garland, they would really make a nice garland. It was thick and very long. Sometimes they made them down to Prabhupada’s knees. It was hard for him to walk with such a long garland. One of their habits was that they would take the petals that were left over after making all the garlands for the Deities and for Prabhupada and they would sprinkle them on Prabhupada’s shoes, which were right outside the doorway. So one day the little girls told us ladies, “Be there when Prabhupada leaves the temple room. You’re going to see something fun.” So we were outside the door when Prabhupada came out, and a servant would always help Prabhupada on with his shoes. This particular day he started walking and the flower petals normally would fall off his shoes when he took a few steps, but they weren’t going anywhere. Prabhupada looked down at his foot and shook one foot a little bit and put that foot down, then he picked up the other foot and shook it, and there were still flowers on his shoes. And the little girls were cracking up, they thought it was so funny. They had actually made little garlands and tied them around the toe of Prabhupada’s shoe. So then he started laughing too. It was really comical, and Prabhupada was such a good sport. He had such a great sense of humor. So he thought it was really funny that they played this innocent joke.