test of a theory is in its implementation. While one can spend a lot of
time analyzing the process of bhakti, faith readily comes when one sees
the theory in action. Jayananda Prabhu is such a devotee who
exemplified in an almost classical manner the process of bhakti from
inception to completion. When he left his body on May 1, 1977, Srila
Prabhupada instructed that his disappearance day should be celebrated
as that of a great Vaisnava. Observing the pastimes of such devotees
greatly reaffirms one's faith in the process of bhakti.
Kohr was the all-American boy. Handsome, strong, intelligent born in an
upper middle-class family. A good student, he took a degree in
mechanical engineering from Ohio State University. However despite his
outward trappings of success, he was often unhappy, empty and
dissatisfied with the material conception of life. Jim did not fit into
the upper class crowd, so it was not very surprising that he ended up
driving cabs in San Francisco. Though an introspective person, he was
not really religious. His depression was almost suicidal when in 1967
he happened to read a small article in the San Francisco paper about an
Indian Swami who had come to the Bay area to propagate the chanting of
the names of God. For some reason the article ignited a ray of hope
within him. He resolved to attend the lecture of the Indian Swami.
the Bhagavad Gita (7.16), Krishna says, 'four kinds of pious men begin
to render devotional service unto Me -- the distressed, the desirer of
wealth, the inquisitive, and he who is searching for knowledge of the
Absolute.' Jim was searching for answers from the material miseries,
and in such a mood took his first step towards his destiny.
was instantly attracted to the Indian Swami, who was none other than
Srila Prabhupada, the founder acarya of ISKCON. He had been in the
U.S.A for only a year and was in the process of establishing his
mission of bringing Krishna consciousness to the Western world. Jim
began to regularly attend the morning Bhagvatam lectures of Srila
Prabhupada. On some occasions Jim would be the only guest listening to
the morning lecture. Soon he became very attached to Srila Prabhupada
and his teachings. Prabhupada lovingly reciprocated and would sometimes
personally cook prasadam for Jim and serve him. Soon thereafter Srila
Prabhupada accepted Jim as his disciple and initiated him with the
spiritual name Jayananda.
In Cc Madhya 19.151 Caitnaya
Mahaprabhu says that '. out of many millions of wandering living
entities, one who is very fortunate gets an opportunity to associate
with a bona fide spiritual master by the grace of Krishna. By the mercy
of both Krishna and the spiritual master, such a person receives the
seed of the creeper of devotional service.' In this way Jayananda
received the seed of devotion, out of the causeless mercy of Srila
Prabhupada. From the instructions and teaching presented by Srila
Prabhupada, he understood his special relationship with Krishna, with
Guru, and that there is an authorized process to establish this
Attraction to Krishna consciousness
was completely enamored by Krishna consciousness. He would rise every
day morning before four, do a little arati, chant his rounds of japa,
read and cook prasad. Then he would go for his 'incense run' (selling
incense sticks). He never deviated from this, he was completely happy
as long as he was practicing Krishna consciousness.
worshipped prasadam. When a little prasadam spilled on the floor he
would lick it up. He loved to cook, eat, offer and distribute prasadam
in a big way. He even said 'prasadam' with so much love and devotion
that it made one immediately want to take some.
of his attachment to Krishna consciousness was his love for the holy
name. He was always seen chanting and dancing enthusiastically during
kirtans. One day after working hard for ten hours straight, when all
the other devotees were looking forward to some rest, Jayananda
enthusiastically bounced into the temple room for kirtan. His japa was
very intense, very focussed, as he strove to personally associate with
each and every syllable of the mahamantra.
sindhu, Srila Rupa Goswami mentions that the process of sadhna bhakti
begins with a little faith (sraddha). This faith then blossoms into a
desire for devotee association (sadhu-sanga) and then into bhajan-kriya
Similarly, Jayananda, after receiving the
association of Srila Prabhupada and other devotees at the temple began
to execute devotional service as per the instructions he received from
his spiritual master. As he executed his sadhna sincerely, he became
purified of the material impediments to devotional
service(anartha-nivrttih) and began to manifest the all-attractive
qualities of a pure devotee.
was certainly Jayananda's most prominent quality. He treated everyone
as his superior, even new devotees. Although his service was glorious,
he never wanted any glory. He avoided praise like the plague. Devotees
got to know that if they wanted to keep Jayananda's association they
would better not praise him. His humility was very natural and he
always found something other than himself that was praiseworthy. Even
though he was a senior devotee, older than most of the people around
him and eminently qualified, he was happy to simply serve.
a new boy at the temple wanted to do some service and was asked to help
with the trash. The weekly trash run was done by Jayananda, who
cheerfully took the little help the boy gave. Later when the boy became
a devotee, he remembered thinking, 'If the garbage men at this temple
can be so blissful, just imagine what the rest of the devotees are
Caitanya Mahaprabhu, in the third verse of Siksastakam
lays down the qualification for offenseless chanting. 'One can chant
the holy name of the Lord in a humble state of mind, thinking himself
lower than the straw in the street. One should be more tolerant than
the tree, devoid of all sense of false prestige and ready to offer all
respects to others. In such a state of mind one can chant the holy name
of the Lord constantly.' Jayananda exemplified this verse. He was so
humble that just being in his association would make one feel ashamed
of one's pride. He was very special, yet no one paid any special
attention to him. That was just the way he liked things.
was an expert at everything: cooking, preaching, Deity worship, public
relations, sankirtan, selling incense, construction, and anything that
it took to spread Krishna consciousness. He was a tireless worker,
first to rise in the morning and last to sleep at night. He was always
running out to get flowers, washing dishes, cleaning the kitchen or
taking out the trash. Whatever service he was given, he would make sure
that it was done, no matter how busy he was or how much personal
hardships he had to endure for it. No matter how hard he was working,
he would never stop for a nap during the day. He seemed inexhaustible.
times when Jayananda went to Berkley to distribute leftover prasadam,
he would first organize a crew to clean the kitchen, working twice as
hard as anybody else, then he would transfer the prasadam, load it into
the van, drive it to Berkley, organize the distribution there and have
kirtan while all this was going on. Many years later he readily
accepted the position of the driver for the Radha Damodar travelling
sankirtan party, working side by side with brahmacharis scarcely half
his age. In spite of his advanced position and seniority he never asked
for anything special and readily accepted menial position under new
In the Vishnu purana, Sri Krishna informs Arjuna that
'one who claims to be My devotee is actually not My devotee. One who
claims to be the devotee of my devotees is in actuality My devotee'.
Jayananda completely manifested this quality. He was always striving to
be the 'dasanudasa', the servant-of-the-servant. But there was no
artificial humility in him. Material humility is relative, it is
predicated on the qualifications of the recipients. Jayananda had
spiritual humility, it was absolute, without any consideration of the
status or qualities of the recipient. He served every one and expected
no one to serve him.
The process of remembering, discussing or
enumerating the qualities and pastimes of the Lord and His devotees is
very purifying. This week we continue the discussion of the qualities
of Jayananda Prabhu, who in the relatively short time he was associated
with Krishna consciousness, perfected his devotional service and left
us many instructions by example.
Freedom from fault finding
the most defining characteristic of Jayananda was that he never
criticized anyone. Even if a devotee did something that warranted
criticism, he would usually not say anything, or else make the mistake
appear as something perfectly natural. He never spoke harsh words or
chastised anybody. Sometimes devotees would come to him with expansive
ideas of how to spread Krishna consciousness. Jayananda would encourage
these ideas, however extraordinary. At the same time he was not a fool.
He could always pick up the right man for the job.
In the Nectar
of Instruction (Verse 5), Srila Rupa Goswami says, 'one should
associate with and faithfully serve that pure devotee who is advanced
in undeviated devotional service and whose heart is completely devoid
of the propensity to criticize others.' Jayananda could not even bear
to hear the criticism of another devotee. If such a thing were
happening he would simply leave the room. These are the characteristics
of an uttama-adhikari, one who has reached the highest level of
perfection in his sadhana bhakti.
Dear to everyone
the six Goswamis, Jayananda was dear to both the gentle and the
ruffians. He was as much at home with the Italians at the produce
market as he was with the Brahmacharis at the temple. Once a devotee
was approached by a staggering drunk in San Francisco, who looked at
his robes and asked, 'Hey, where is my old friend Jayananda?'
devotees who took over Jayananda's old territory would meet people who
would say things like, 'Where is Johnny Ananda?' or 'That man - he's
the nicest and most pure man I've met' or 'I don't know much about your
philosophy, but if Jayananda is into it, it must be all right.'
woman public official on the San Francisco board was famous for giving
the devotees a hard time during Ratha-yatra. One year when the devotees
approached her, she asked, 'where is Jayananda?' On hearing that he had
passed away she broke down and began to cry. The purity in Jayananda's
heart would touch the even most cynical.
In BG 5.7, Sri Krishna
says that 'One who works in devotion, who is a pure soul, and who
controls his mind and senses is dear to everyone, and everyone is dear
to him. Though always working, such a man is never entangled.' Every
one loved Jayananda, since he had completely transcended the bodily
conception. He would approach a drunk, a hippie or a devotee with the
same compassion and enthusiasm. He spoke to the Supersoul in everyone,
and everyone responded accordingly. Like Maharaja Yudhisthira,
Jayananda's enemy was never born.
Expert at engaging everyone
is said that though Krishna has nothing to do with non-devotees, His
devotees are even more compassionate than Him and will try and engage
them in the Lord's service. Jayananda was eager to see everyone engaged
in Krishna's service. Whenever a new bhakta would come. Jayananda made
him feel he was engaged in important work. He was older, bigger and
stronger than just about anyone in the temple, and everyone was glad to
be working under him.
His preaching style was very simple and
direct. He would speak from the heart to the heart. Once he was
preaching to a couple of hippies, while crawled under an automobile.
All that was visible of him was a pair of legs, yet the two hippies
stood there, transfixed by his message. During Ratha-yatra time he
would organize a crew of cynics, hippies, bloopers, uncooperative
personalities and non-devotees off the street to help build the carts.
He would get them to work for ten to fourteen hours a day, always
The Cc Antya 7.11 it is stated, 'The
fundamental religious system in the Age of Kali is the chanting of the
holy name of Krishna. Unless empowered by Krishna, one cannot propagate
the sankirtana movement.' Because of the genuine compassion in
Jayananda, Krishna gave Him the unique ability to make people want to
render devotional service, directly or indirectly.
had almost no possessions, even during his years as a householder. What
ever he had, he used for the service of the temple and Srila
Prabhupada. When he was gifted five thousand dollars, he promptly
donated that to Srila Prabhupada. In the introduction of the Nectar of
Devotion, Srila Prabhupada acknowledges this contribution. For many
years he was almost single handedly supporting the temple by driving
his cab for 12-14 hours a day. When he was in his last days of his
life, he used the money given to him for his treatment to support the
Ratha-yatra in Los Angeles.
He was extremely careful with what
he considered to be Srila Prabhupada's money. When selling incense, he
would sleep on park benches in bitter cold rather than spend money on a
motel. He used his considerable charm to get people to donate almost
every thing that was needed. What he could no get for free, he made
sure that he received a good value for the money spent.
final lesson in material detachment came when it was discovered that he
was suffering from cancer of the lymph and blood. Jayananda continued
as if nothing had changed. When his body became frail and weak, he
continued preaching, inspiring and organizing from his bed in the
hospital. For him the body was simply a means to render devotional
service to the Lord.
In Cc. Madhya 6.254 Caitanya Mahaprabhu
summarizes in the phrase 'vairagya-vidya-nija-bhakti-yoga', which means
'renunciation through the wisdom that comes from practicing devotional
service.' Jayananda was a true sannyasi, as one who did not just
renounce material objects but actually renounced the desire for these
material objects. He was always eager to use everything for the service
of Krishna, however he had no personal desire for anything material.
Jayananda: king of the Ratha-yatra
was the backbone of the Bay area Ratha-yatra for several years. Behind
the scene he would do everything for the preparation of the festival.
He would beg food, flowers, funds - buy materials and build the carts.
He would arrange for the permits, organize the cooking and serving of
prasad. Although things always went right down the wire, he would
consistently succeed in fulfilling all this plans every year. After the
festival he would cook a cake or a pie for each and every person who
had some how helped in the festival. Because of his efforts the Bay
area devotees to this day enjoy an amazingly harmonious relationship
with the city officials.
In his last days Jayananda was busy
organizing the Ratha-yatra from the hospital bed. He would talk to
people on the phone, send his associates to meet various persons and
things began to miraculously materialize. Every moment of his life was
preciously used in the service of Krishna.
is said that pure devotional service brings about much opulence.
Thought the devotees never seek them out, once they are there, they are
used for the service of Krishna.
Jayananda apparently could
function with very little or even no sleep. Towards the last few days
of the Ratha-yatra he would sleep less than three hours a day, yet he
was the most energetic and enlivened member of the crew. His propensity
to consume prasad was astounding. He could consume buckets of halva,
plates of samosas and potatoes without any side effect. When he was in
his last days, he was put on an intravenous diet, yet he would often
ask devotees to sneak in huge quantities of samosas and cheese-potatoes
for him, which he would happily consume without any apparent distress.
He would some times sleep in the Bhagavatam classes, since he was very
tired, yet later on he could perfectly quote from the class or have a
deep discussion about its contents.
In BG 4.26, Sri Krishna
declares that, 'One who is engaged in full devotional service,
unfailing in all circumstances, at once transcends the modes of
material nature and thus comes to the level of Brahman.' In the
Närada-pancaratra, devotional service to the Lord is likened unto a
queen attended by her maidservants in the form of material opulences,
liberation and mysticism. Jayananda never had any hankering for these,
but when they came, he simply used them in the service of Krishna.
Special relationship with Srila Prabhupada
has complete faith in Srila Prabhupada. He perfected his devotion by
making the instructions of Srila Prabhupada the very core of his life.
He was advanced enough to realize that real association was through
following the instructions of the spiritual master. Unlike most of the
other devotees, who would go out of their way to get some personal
association of Srila Prabhupada, Jayananda was contend to work in the
background, carrying out his instructions. He exemplified the
superiority of association by vani (instructions) over vapu (personal
association). Srila Prabhupada would invariably call of Jayananda when
he was in the temple. Jayananda would resist saying, 'No, I cannot go.
I am too dirty. I am too fallen,' such were the transcendental
exchanges between the spiritual master and his dear disciple.
Cc. Madhya 19.151, Caitanya Mahaprabhu says that, 'Among all the living
entities wandering throughout the universe, one who is most fortunate
comes in contact with a representative of the Supreme Personality of
Godhead and thus gets the opportunity to execute devotional service.'
Jayananda was one of these fortunate souls who came in contact with a
pure devotee of the Lord and under his guidance was able to perfect his
away on May 1, 1977. He joined the Krishna consciousness movement in
1967, just when it is in its beginning, and left the planet a few
months before Srila Prabhupada. In the scriptures it is said that when
the pure devotees of the Lord appear to execute His will, their
associates invariably accompany them. One cannot help but speculate
that Jayananda had only come to serve his eternal spiritual master. The
fact that Srila Prabhupada was on this planet at the time of his
passing away is also significant. It let Srila Prabhupada affirm that
'every one should follow the example of Jayananda.'
We offer our
most humble obeisances to Sri Srimad Jayananda Prabhu, the exemplary
teacher of devotional service in Krishna consciousness.