Glories to His Divine Grace
Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswami Maharaj
World Tour Interviews
Seva Ashram, USA,
and Quinta Parama Karuna, Venezuela
Vaidehi Devi Dasi
to World Tour Interviews. This is part of the Krishna conscious series
in which the devotees tell us the story of how they came into Krishna
consciousness. There are so many devotees who want to share their first
experience with the movement, so let us listen to what they have to say.
This devotee you see is special. Disguised as a local Santa Cruz bike
rider he has their Lordships on his mind twenty-four hours a day. Changing
Their outfits two times or more a day, making sure Their hair is brushed,
cutting the fruit for the 4pm offering, doing worship three or more time
a day and even bike riding all the way across town to buy the milk for
the burfy he makes every night. He is none other than the amazing multi
service pujari at the Soquel Seva Ashram! Let us hear his story!
What inspired you to join the Krishna conscious movement and how did
you become a pujari?
upon a time back in the late sixties and early seventies, I and the kids
I was hanging out with were reading books by Richard Albert, and The Tibetan
Book of the Dead and other Eastern philosophy type books. I was working
at the King of Prussia mall and then one day I was there on my lunch hour
and the devotees were there. They were Sripad Goswami Maharaj and Nabadwip
Prabhu. Goswami Maharaj hit me up first. He said: "Hey man I am from
the Krishna yoga society and we've got this book that George Harrison
paid for." It was an Isopanishad and so he told me a little bit about
it and gave me the line that they were feeding people in Bangladesh and
stuff like that, and so I gave him five dollars for the book. He left
and as I was making my way home Nabadwip Prabhu hit me up with the same
book and some incense. I gave him a few dollars for that and got back
home to begin reading the book.
Even from then it began to change us a little bit because my friends and
I would read it every day. In Prabhupad's purports it said that if you
eat meat you could not make any spiritual advancement, and that really
concerned us so we stopped eating meat and some other things we were doing
at that time. We were near Philadelphia at that time and we went back
to Indiana where my parents lived.
Devananda Prabhu's grandmother was coming in from England one day so we
went to the airport kind of looking for the devotees. We thought they
would be there and we saw them! We began to talk to one of them, and another
devotee came up from behind us and said that the spirit of Krishna had
brought us together. We bought from them the Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam,
and Teachings of Lord Chaitanya and a couple of Back to Godhead magazines.
We read all of those books for a while and then after a couple of months
I moved to England with Devananda.
The devotees had just gotten Bhaktivedanta Manor at the time so we started
going to the temple. We would sit around and wait at Piccadilly Circus
for the Harinam party to come around. Gambling was legal at that time
in London so the devotees would chant in front of these places and people
would come out and join us. Some of them would take pictures and some
people would make fun of us. We would then go back to the temple at night
and they would serve hot milk. It was a novel thing for me and my friend
since we had never experienced anything like that.
After some time we went back to America to find a job and Devananda started
doing construction. I didn't want to follow him on this so I decided I
was going to move into the temple. Devananda and all of my other friends
asked me why, so I told them that Prabhupad said we needed to have association
of the devotees and that was what I was going to do. I went up to Chicago
to ask the devotees at the temple if I could move in and they said yes.
So then I imagine you started doing service but how long was it before
you became a pujari and how did you get this opportunity?
was eighteen when I moved into the temple, and it was about two years
before I became the pujari. At first I did the usual stuff. Cleaning the
floors, washing the pots, and that kind of stuff. When I got my first
initiation there were many sankirtan parties going out, and the sankirtan
leader told me: "You aren't really very good at distributing books,
but you like seeing the books get distributed right?" I told him:
"Well yeah...." Then he said they would make me a pujari. It
was in 1973 but since I only had first initiation they let me start out
polishing the Deities' crowns, flutes, shoes, washing Their plates, carrying
out the offerings and stuff like that. When they would dress the Deities
I would put Their clothes away and make Their bath trays ready to take
to the altar. A lot of times the devotee kids didn't know how to bathe
the Deities very well and they would leave the instructions laying around
so I would read them and that way learned how to do a lot of the stuff
before I got second initiation. There was this one kid that used to come
and bathe the Deities on Sunday afternoon. I would stand at the door of
the altar and tell him how to do it because he didn't know how, and I
did. I would tell him to start with Prabhupad, and do this and whatnot.
I would do that every week.
A year after that Prabhupad came to Chicago again and I got second initiation.
Shortly after that just after the fire yajna one devotee was supposed
to offer arati but he wasn't there, so I was asked to do it and I said
OK. That was the first time I offered arati, in 1974. I couldn't blow
the conch in those days so Satsvarupa Maharaj would do it for me. It took
me a couple of weeks before I felt confident offering arati. I knew how
to do it but it would make me nervous when people that knew me were watching.
One day I offered the afternoon arati and thought I was going to die but
in the end it wasn't that hard because no one that I knew was there so
I didn't feel so self conscious. After that it was very easy for me and
every time that the devotee kids would go to India they would ask me to
do their worship for them, and that is how I learned to dress the Deities
and ...that's that!
Jaya Ramai Prabhu! Thank you for sharing with us your story and for
letting us steal some of your time. We will see you in arati.
Interview with Divyashari Devi Dasi from London, visiting Caracas Venezuela
during Srila Govinda Maharaj's visit.
Devi Dasi is a very dear and kind devotee. Despite her duties in London
she was very captivated by the enthusiasm of the devotees in Venezuela
and made the immediate arrangements to come and serve here. She is a very
inspiring and nourishing devotee with deep insights about Krishna consciousness
and the Vaisnavas. We have the honor to hear her story about her first
taste of the Krishna consciousness movement. What a story!
had already been practising transcendental meditation since I was eleven
years old for five years and I wasn't getting any satisfaction. I had
some astrologer friends tell me that if I ended my life on a particular
day, I would be transferred to another planetary system. So on that specific
day I was sitting on the steps of the Berkeley campus kind of saying good-bye
to life, when a devotee named Vyaladas approached me and gave me a Bhagavad-gita.
It was an immediate acceptance. I took the Gita and wrapped it in a cloth,
he put Tulasi beads around my neck, and took me to the Berkeley temple
which was three blocks from where we were. I remember Hamsaduta Maharaj
was there at that time, and I moved in that same night. That is how it
began. That was in 1977 after Srila Prabhupad had just left the planet
and coming up was Govardhan Puja. Sometime later, within that year I had
a dream. Srila Prabhupad was in the dream and he said: "Go to Nabadwip."
Did you know what Nabadwip was at that time? Did you end up going to Nabadwip
after that dream?
I had never heard the word before, but I didn't go there until 1981. That
came about in Los Angeles in 1980 when Sripad Bhakti Sudhir Goswami Maharaj
was my temple president. He came back with a tape recording of Srila Sridhar
Maharaj's discourse and played it for just four of us, and we just melted.
We couldn't believe what we were hearing! I thought to myself: I've found
my Guru. We were all crying after listening to the tape for one hour and
then walked around outside the New Dwaraka Temple. It all looked dead
to us. After listening to that tape our consciousness had been altered.
Later on I sent a telegram to Nabadwip. Within five minutes I ran into
an Indian doctor and started talking to him about India and randomly asked
him if he knew Srila Sridhar Maharaj. He told me he did! I was wowed!
I told him about the recording I had just heard and expressed to him how
I wanted to ask to be his disciple. He then told me he was going to Bombay
this same night and he could give Srila Sridhar Maharaj a letter from
So I wrote him this letter and he gave it to Srila Sridhar Maharaj but
it was Sridhar Maharaj from ISKCON. He told me this years later. So when
that other Sridhar Maharaj received the letter he knew it was for someone
else. Doctor Amiya Asthana then had to go to Nabadwip to send the letter
to Srila Sridhar Maharaj and ended up becoming his disciple and sleeping
in his room and contributed the money to print the first English abridged
edition of Sri Sri Prapanna-jivanamritam. His name is even in that book.
A little before that though, I had sent a telegram to Nabadwip telling
Srila Sridhar Maharaj that I had heard his cassette, and that I am a fallen
soul, and I asked him if he could accept me as his disciple. Within forty-eight
hours I got a response from Srila Govinda Maharaj who was the secretary
at that time and he told me to come immediately to Nabadwip. I left Iskcon
and then tried very hard to get to Nabadwip. There were many obstacles
and inconveniences along the way. That is how I at last went to meet Srila
What was it like to meet him for the first time?
Srila Sridhar Maharaj for the first time was a really indescribable experience.
It was like I just appeared there, walked into the Math and said that
I wanted to see Srila Sridhar Maharaj, and his devotees took me to him
right away. I can remember walking up the steps to his quarters. This
feeling like you are returning home was such an overwhelming feeling.
It was like every single step was meaningful. Every step was taking you
home. As I reached his verandah he was just sitting there like he was
waiting for me. I saw him there and just lost all composure. I completely
lost it and he just sat there and then patted me on the head trying to
calm me down.
The first feeling that I got was infinite acceptance and that is a feeling
that I had always craved when I started my spiritual search at eleven
years old. Even at five years old I remember I always wanted to feel accepted.
Not judged. I wanted to feel accepted and to be where I belonged. Sitting
at his lotus feet, this is how I felt. I didn't want to be anywhere else
because this is where I belonged.
It is like that analogy where the baby is crying and is being placed in
the lap of so many mothers until he finally sits in his mama's lap. Sitting
there with him made me feel like this was it. I have finally reached my
home. I remember Srila Govinda Maharaj was there standing by his side
and they would have discourses. Srila Guru Maharaj asked me all sorts
of questions about my life and I told him where I was from, who my parents
were, what education I had....
How long was it before you took initiation?
remember he had told me to come back next year but I must have taken initiation
at that time because Anuradha Devi Dasi who lived there took care of me.
She took me to the Ganga so that we could bathe, and then she dressed
me in a sari. We sat in front of the Deities for a while and then sat
in front of Srila Sridhar Maharaj and I asked him to sign my copy of Sri
Sri Prapannam-jivanmritam. He then chanted on the beads and dropped them
into my hand. I remember Srila Govinda Maharaj was there.... He wasn't
going to change my name at first but I asked him to, and so he changed
it from Desiree to Divyashari. After I took initiation I went and sat
in front of the Deities to chant.
Do you have any message for the devotees around the world?
the words of Antaryyami Prabhu: "Go to the market to buy vegetables
for the Deities, and serve the devotees."