Sandamini devi dasi Remembers Srila Prabhupada

From Vanipedia


Prabhupada Memories

Interview 01


Sandamini: I was raised Catholic and went to a Catholic grade school and high school. It was Our Lady of Lourdes, and so as a young girl I would always go into the grotto and I would pray for Mary to appear to me. I always wanted that personal relationship and to meet a saint. I didn’t know the term “pure devotee”, but that was my desire. I’d make flower garlands out of dandelions and put them on Mary or I’d sneak in and put them on her and I would pray fervently for years and years. Of course when I hit my teenage years that kind of went to the wayside, but I always had that desire deep down. After I met the devotees and they told me about Prabhupada, I was thinking I have to meet him. I was in Ohio and they said the headquarters were in Los Angeles. I thought, “I have to get out there.” My parents were totally dismayed that I was not going to go to college and that I was going to take a little road trip to California. When I got to L.A. the devotees told me that Prabhupada was in San Francisco for the Ratha-yatra. I know it sounds horrible, but in order to see Prabhupada the next day, I hitchhiked up the coast with one lady devotee. The next morning the ladies went up on the bannister with flowers in their hands. I was anticipating finally meeting a living spiritual person. I truly felt Mary was coming through with my prayers. I was so excited. I really didn’t know what to expect. It was kind of like meeting a rock star because you read about them, you hear their music, you hear them speak and now you’re finally going to see them. I was totally ramped up. I was on the balcony and as Prabhupada came closer, the kirtan got more and more fired up. A big group of sannyasis walked in and at first I didn’t realize that Prabhupada was in the middle because he was short in stature. Of course reading about him you think he’s ten feet tall. Finally the sannyasis parted a little bit and there he was. At this point all the ladies instead of tossing gentle flower petals, they were taking whole carnations and belting Prabhupada with them. I was afraid that Prabhupada would get mad but he was not at all agitated. He wasn’t looking for respect for himself but acted as an ambassador for Krishna. He was totally grave. Generally if somebody knocks into us, or steps on our foot, immediately we want to retaliate or give them the evil eye. But Prabhupada was transcendental. He had a mission and he just glided on into the temple room. That really amazed me.


One time Prabhupada came to San Diego. Besides the normal painting and cleaning of the temple, we painted the sidewalk with a beautiful lotus flower. In addition to that, it was decided that we should also paint the Hare Krishna mantra on the steps leading up to the temple. We thought this would really show how Krishna conscious we were. But when Prabhupada got out of the car with everyone chanting in ecstasy and the ladies on the rooftop showering flowers on him, he looked at the steps and immediately stopped. I saw that Prabhupada was disturbed. He spoke to the temple president to have the mantra removed from the steps and he walked up the embankment to enter on the other side of the temple. Srila Prabhupada was always instructing us and in this case he taught us that Krishna and His name were nondifferent and that to step over or on Krishna’s Name was an offense.


I was able to go to India in 1977 and when we got to Mayapur, the ladies were given the rooftop of the kitchen to reside. It had no plastic over it so there was no shelter at all. Within a couple of hours a huge storm came. It was blowing everything away, and we were totally unprepared. Everyone got sick. Some of the girls I was with from San Diego became delirious. There was no facility. The bathrooms were stopped up and on top of that there was a horrible flood. But Prabhupada was there to give class, so the next morning, I literally crawled to the temple. It was quite a distance but I had to see Prabhupada give the Bhagavatam class. Due to my pain I was barely listening as I was bending over holding my stomach for the entire class. After the class Prabhupada would circumambulate the temple with the gurukula boys. All the devotees were up dancing, but I was sitting down because I was so sick. I was dizzy with fever watching Prabhupada. At one point Prabhupada looked over in my direction and of course I thought he was looking right at me. Then with his hand, he gave a very beautiful, graceful gesture to rise up. With that one gesture he uplifted me off my suffering bodily concept and I jumped up and start dancing. I was realizing at that time that not only was he lifting me, but he was lifting the whole world. He was lifting the whole world with simply a mere gesture because behind that gesture was all the potency of the disciplic succession and Sri Krishna Himself. I was transformed for that brief time. I was totally transformed into the spiritual world, and it was ecstatic. After three times around, Prabhupada went up with his entourage and again I crumpled down to the floor and somehow crawled back to my room. But that was an amazing experience that I’ll never forget.


In the early days the temples really depended on the devotees to cut vegetables, to help clean, and all things necessary to make things work which was just nectar. Prabhupada gave us devotional service to help us control the mind and to purify us. One day I was in the deity room cleaning up and all of a sudden Palika came running in. She exclaimed, “Prabhupada wants to eat! He hasn’t eaten in days.” This was in 1977, which was the beginning of Prabhupada’s difficult health period. So Palika said, “Please help me!” I saw this as an amazing opportunity and I helped her put together a nice meal for Prabhupada that she brought up to him. I had cleaned up afterwards and when I was done, I thought, “Here is my golden opportunity. There’s nobody around and she’s going to come down with that big maha plate from Prabhupada. Here’s my chance to get the whole thing.” When she finally came down, I said, “Oh I’ll help you transfer the plates.” But she understood my mind and she said, “Yes, you can do that, but Prabhupada just said that when he’s sick like this, that no one should take his remnants.” She saw the horrified look on my face and gave me a little mercy. She said, “Okay, tilt your head back.” She took his juice that I had actually made which was halfway gone, and poured it from that beautiful marble cup into my mouth. Even though I was disappointed on one hand, that I couldn’t enjoy more of the maha, I really appreciated how Prabhupada in his bad health, several months before he would be leaving us, was still concerned about his disciples. He was looking out for the devotees that they might catch whatever disease might be transmitted. Of course, that’s his humility because every devotee would have lapped it up in a second. Prabhupada was always so caring about the devotees and it wasn’t just when he was feeling good, because that’s easy to do. But to think about and care about others when he was in a difficult situation showed his magnanimous character. He truly loved the devotees and it came out in so many ways that I got to experience first hand.


In the early days the temples really depended on the devotees to cut vegetables, to help clean, and all things necessary to make things work which was just nectar. Prabhupada gave us devotional service to help us control the mind and to purify us. One day I was in the deity room cleaning up and all of a sudden Palika came running in. She exclaimed, “Prabhupada wants to eat! He hasn’t eaten in days.” This was in 1977, which was the beginning of Prabhupada’s difficult health period. So Palika said, “Please help me!” I saw this as an amazing opportunity and I helped her put together a nice meal for Prabhupada that she brought up to him. I had cleaned up afterwards and when I was done, I thought, “Here is my golden opportunity. There’s nobody around and she’s going to come down with that big maha plate from Prabhupada. Here’s my chance to get the whole thing.” When she finally came down, I said, “Oh I’ll help you transfer the plates.” But she understood my mind and she said, “Yes, you can do that, but Prabhupada just said that when he’s sick like this, that no one should take his remnants.” She saw the horrified look on my face and gave me a little mercy. She said, “Okay, tilt your head back.” She took his juice that I had actually made which was halfway gone, and poured it from that beautiful marble cup into my mouth. Even though I was disappointed on one hand, that I couldn’t enjoy more of the maha, I really appreciated how Prabhupada in his bad health, several months before he would be leaving us, was still concerned about his disciples. He was looking out for the devotees that they might catch whatever disease might be transmitted. Of course, that’s his humility because every devotee would have lapped it up in a second. Prabhupada was always so caring about the devotees and it wasn’t just when he was feeling good, because that’s easy to do. But to think about and care about others when he was in a difficult situation showed his magnanimous character. He truly loved the devotees and it came out in so many ways that I got to experience first hand.


A press conference was called in San Francisco at the airport upon Prabhupada’s arrival before the Ratha-yatra. Prabhupada had just flown in and he was telling us that the pilot on his flight sat next to him and said, “Your Grace, do you mind if I could ask you some questions?” Prabhupada, always the gracious host and always anxious to share Krishna consciousness, said he did not mind. The man said, “If God is good and all loving and great,” Prabhupada was agreeing, “then why did God create evil?” Prabhupada said to us, “So I told him that the sun is shining very bright. It’s beautiful, but if you turn your back on the sun, you create a shadow. It’s not the sun’s fault you created the shadow by turning your back. So similarly when people turn their back on God, then evil is there.” Prabhupada looked very innocently at us and asked, “Was that alright? Did I give a good answer?” The devotees clapped and cheered in approval. You could just see the very innocent, boy-like enthusiasm and really deep humility when he asked, “Was that alright? Did I give a good answer?” It was endearing to me that he would bring us in and share that with us. It was a special moment.


One of the things that I really appreciated about being in the presence of Prabhupada was that excitement that Prabhupada brought. Even though Prabhupada would sometimes come with a big fanfare of devotees welcoming him, he always kept a humble profile. Prabhupada was so large and loving that no one ever felt left out. Even though I didn’t get to go on a morning walk or have a personal conversation with him, I felt included. He was so inclusive in his personality and his love that it really just radiated from him, so you felt satisfied. Even though there were other devotees doing more intimate things with him, you always felt a connection with him even though you weren’t personally present with him at the time to feel the mercy, to feel the grace that was coming from him. Sometimes people would say that Prabhupada didn’t smile enough or wasn’t flashy like other gurus. But that was Prabhupada’s grace because he was giving the attention to Krishna and away from himself. I’m just so grateful that I was able to be a part of Prabhupada’s movement and I am still trying in my small way to push on Krishna consciousness and push on the wonderful qualities and the love that Srila Prabhupada had for all of us and to all the next generations to come.

To view the entire unedited video go to Memories 59 - Sravanananda, Krsna Kumari dd, Sandamini dd

The full Prabhupada Memories Series can be viewed here and also at www.prabhupadamemories.com