The test of a theory is in its implementation. While one can
spend a lot of time analyzingthe process of bhakti, faith readily
comes when one sees the theoryin action. Jayananda Prabhu is such a
devotee who exemplified in analmost classical manner the process of
bhakti from inception tocompletion. When he left his body on May 1,
1977, Srila Prabhupadainstructed that his disappearance day should
be celebrated as thatof a great Vaisnava. Observing the pastimes of
such devoteesgreatly reaffirms one's faith in the process of
Jim Kohr was the all-American boy. Handsome, strong,
intelligentborn in an upper middle-class family. A good student, he
took adegree in mechanical engineering from Ohio State University. However
despite his outward trappingsof success, he was often unhappy,
empty and dissatisfied with thematerial conception of life. Jim did
not fit into the upper classcrowd, so it was not very surprising
that he ended up driving cabsin San Francisco. Though an
introspective person, he was not reallyreligious. His depression was almost suicidal
when in 1967 he happened toread a small article in the San
Francisco paper about an IndianSwami who had come to the Bay area
to propagate the chanting of thenames of God. For some reason the
article ignited a ray of hopewithin him. He resolved to attend the
lecture of the IndianSwami.
In the Bhagavad Gita (7.16), Krishna says, 'four kinds of pious
menbegin to render devotional service unto Me -- the distressed,
thedesirer of wealth, the inquisitive, and he
who is searching forknowledge of the Absolute.' Jim was searching
for answers from thematerial miseries, and in such a mood took his
first step towardshis destiny.
Jim was instantly attracted to the Indian Swami, who was none other than Srila
Prabhupada, the founder acaryaof ISKCON. He had been in the U.S.A
for only a year and was in theprocess of establishing his mission
of bringing Krishnaconsciousness to the Western world. Jim began to
regularly attendthe morning Bhagvatam lectures of Srila Prabhupada.
On someoccasions Jim would be the only guest listening to the
morninglecture. Soon he became very attached to Srila Prabhupada
and histeachings. Prabhupada lovingly reciprocated and would
sometimespersonally cook prasadam for Jim and serve him. Soon
thereafterSrila Prabhupada accepted Jim as his disciple and
initiated himwith the spiritual name Jayananda.
In Cc Madhya 19.151 Caitnaya Mahaprabhu says that '. out of
manymillions of wandering living entities, one who is very
fortunategets an opportunity to associate with a bona fide
spiritual masterby the grace of Krishna. By the mercy of both
Krishna and thespiritual master, such a person receives the seed of
the creeper ofdevotional service.' In this way Jayananda received
the seed ofdevotion, out of the causeless mercy of Srila
Prabhupada. From theinstructions and teaching presented by Srila
Prabhupada, heunderstood his special relationship with Krishna,
with Guru, andthat there is an authorized process to establish
Attraction to Krishna
Jayananda was completely enamored by Krishna consciousness. Hewould
rise every day morning before four, do a little arati, chanthis
rounds of japa, read and cook prasad. Then he would go for
his'incense run' (selling incense sticks). He never deviated
fromthis, he was completely happy as long as he was practicing
Jayananda worshipped prasadam. When a little prasadam spilled onthe
floor he would lick it up. He loved to cook, eat, offer
anddistribute prasadam in a big way. He even said 'prasadam' with
somuch love and devotion that it made one immediately want to
Another example of his attachment to Krishna consciousness was
hislove for the holy name. He was always seen chanting and
dancingenthusiastically during kirtans. One day after working hard
for tenhoursstraight,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 topersonally
associate with each and every syllable of themahamantra.
In Bhakti-rasamrta sindhu, Srila Rupa Goswami mentions that
theprocess of sadhna bhakti begins with a little faith (sraddha).
Thisfaith then blossoms into a desire for devotee
association(sadhu-sanga) and then into bhajan-kriya (devotional
Similarly, Jayananda, after receiving the association of
SrilaPrabhupada and other devotees at the temple began to
executedevotional service as per the instructions he received from
hisspiritual master. As he executed his sadhna sincerely, he
becamepurified of the material impediments to
devotionalservice(anartha-nivrttih) and began to manifest the all-attractive
qualities of a pure devotee.
Humility was certainly Jayananda's most prominent quality.
Hetreated everyone as his superior, even new devotees. Although
hisservice was glorious, he never wanted any glory. He avoided
praiselike the plague. Devotees got to know that if they wanted to
keepJayananda's association they would better not praise him.
Hishumility was very natural and he always found something other
thanhimself 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.
Once a new boy at the temple wanted to do some service and wasasked
to help with the trash. The weekly trash run was done byJayananda,
who cheerfully took the little help the boy gave. Laterwhen the boy
became a devotee, he remembered thinking, 'If thegarbage men at
this temple can be so blissful, just imagine whatthe rest of the
devotees are like!'
Caitanya Mahaprabhu, in the third verse of Siksastakam lays downthe
qualification for offenseless chanting. 'One can chant the holyname
of the Lord in a humble state of mind, thinking himself lowerthan
the straw in the street. One should be more
tolerant than the tree, devoid ofall sense of false prestige and
ready to offer all respects toothers. In such a state of mind one
can chant the holy name of theLord constantly.' Jayananda
exemplified this verse. He was sohumble that just being in his
association would make one feelashamed of one's pride. He was very
special, yet no one paid anyspecial attention to him. That was just
the way he likedthings.
Jayananda was an expert at everything: cooking, preaching, Deity worship,
public relations,sankirtan, selling incense, construction, and
anything that it tookto spread Krishna consciousness. He was a
tireless worker, first torise in the morning and last to sleep at
night. He was alwaysrunning out to get flowers, washing dishes,
cleaning the kitchen or takingout the trash. Whatever service he
was given, he would make surethat it was done, no matter how busy
he was or how much personalhardships he had to endure for it. No
matter how hard he wasworking, he would never stop for a nap during
the day. He seemedinexhaustible.
Many times when Jayananda went to Berkley to distribute
leftoverprasadam, 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 toBerkley, organize the distribution there
and have kirtan while allthis was going on. Many years later he
readily accepted theposition of the driver for the Radha Damodar
travelling sankirtanparty, working side by side with brahmacharis
scarcely half hisage. In spite of his advanced position and
seniority he never askedfor anything special and readily accepted
menial position under newdevotees.
In the Vishnu purana, Sri Krishna informs Arjuna that 'one
whoclaims to be My devotee is actually not My devotee. One who
claimsto be the devotee of my devotees is in actuality My
devotee'.Jayananda completely manifested this quality. He was
alwaysstriving to be the 'dasanudasa', the servant-of-the-servant.
Butthere was no artificial humility in him. Material humility
isrelative, it is predicated on the qualifications of the
recipients.Jayananda had spiritual humility, it was absolute,
without anyconsideration of the status or qualities of the
recipient. Heserved every one and expected no one to serve him.
The process of remembering, discussing or enumerating the
qualitiesand pastimes of the Lord and His devotees is very
purifying. Thisweek we continue the discussion of the qualities of
JayanandaPrabhu, who in the relatively short time he was associated
withKrishna consciousness, perfected his devotional service and
left usmany instructions by example.
Freedom from fault
Perhaps the most defining characteristic of Jayananda was that
henever criticized anyone. Even if a devotee did something
thatwarranted criticism, he would usually not say anything, or
elsemake the mistake appear as something perfectly natural. He
neverspoke harsh words or chastised anybody. Sometimes devotees
wouldcome to him with expansive ideas of how to spread
Krishnaconsciousness. Jayananda would encourage these ideas,
howeverextraordinary. At the same time he was not a fool. He could
alwayspick 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
devoteewho is advanced in undeviated devotional service and whose
heart iscompletely devoid of the propensity to criticize others.'
Jayanandacould not even bear to hear the criticism of another
devotee. Ifsuch a thing were happening he would simply leave the
room. Theseare the characteristics of an uttama-adhikari, one who
has reachedthe highest level of perfection in his sadhana
Dear to everyone
Like the six Goswamis, Jayananda was dear to both the gentle andthe
ruffians. He was as much at home with the Italians at theproduce
market as he was with the Brahmacharis at the temple. Oncea devotee
was approached by a staggering drunk in San Francisco,who looked at
his robes and asked, 'Hey, where is my old friendJayananda?'
Many devotees who took over Jayananda's old territory would
meetpeople 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'tknow much about your philosophy, but if Jayananda is into it,
itmust be all right.'
One woman public official on the San Francisco board was famous
forgiving the devotees a hard time during Ratha-yatra. One year
whenthe devotees approached her, she asked, 'where is Jayananda?'
Onhearing that he had passed away she broke down and began to
cry.The purity in Jayananda's heart would touch the even
In BG 5.7, Sri Krishna says that 'One who works in devotion, who
isa pure soul, and who controls his mind and senses is dear
toeveryone, and everyone is dear to him. Though always working,
sucha man is never entangled.' Every one loved Jayananda, since he
hadcompletely transcended the bodily conception. He would approach
adrunk, a hippie or a devotee with the same compassion
andenthusiasm. He spoke to the Supersoul in everyone, and
everyoneresponded accordingly. Like Maharaja Yudhisthira,
Jayananda's enemywas never born.
Expert at engaging
It is said that though Krishna has nothing to do with
non-devotees,His devotees are even more compassionate than Him and
will try andengage them in the Lord's service. Jayananda was eager
to seeeveryone engaged in Krishna's service. Whenever a new bhakta
wouldcome. Jayananda made him feel he was engaged in important
work. Hewas older, bigger and stronger than just about anyone in
thetemple, and everyone was glad to be working under him.
His preaching style was very simple and direct. He would speak
fromthe heart to the heart. Once he was preaching to a couple
ofhippies, while crawled under an automobile. All that was visible
ofhim was a pair of legs, yet the two hippies stood there,
transfixedby his message. During Ratha-yatra time he would organize
a crew ofcynics, hippies, bloopers, uncooperative personalities
andnon-devotees off the street to help build the carts. He would
getthem to work for ten to fourteen hours a day, always
The Cc Antya 7.11 it is stated, 'The fundamental religious systemin
the Age of Kali is the chanting of the holy name of Krishna.Unless
empowered by Krishna, one cannot propagate the sankirtanamovement.'
Because of the genuine compassion in Jayananda, Krishnagave Him the
unique ability to make people want to renderdevotional service,
directly or indirectly.
Jayananda had almost no possessions, even during his years as
ahouseholder. What ever he had, he used for the service of
thetemple and Srila Prabhupada. When he was gifted five
thousanddollars, he promptly donated that to Srila Prabhupada. In
theintroduction of the Nectar of Devotion, Srila
Prabhupadaacknowledges this contribution. For many years he was
almost singlehandedly supporting the temple by driving his cab for
12-14 hours aday. When he was in his last days of his life, he used
the moneygiven to him for his treatment to support the Ratha-yatra
He was extremely careful with what he considered to be
SrilaPrabhupada's money. When selling incense, he would sleep on
parkbenches in bitter cold rather than spend money on a motel. He
usedhis considerable charm to get people to donate almost every
thingthat was needed. What he could no get for free, he made sure
thathe received a good value for the money spent.
His final lesson in material detachment came when it was
discoveredthat he was suffering from cancer of the lymph and blood.
Jayanandacontinued as if nothing had changed. When his body became
frail andweak, he continued preaching, inspiring and organizing
from his bedin the hospital. For him the body was simply a means to
renderdevotional service to the Lord.
In Cc. Madhya 6.254 Caitanya Mahaprabhu summarizes in the
phrase'vairagya-vidya-nija-bhakti-yoga', which means
'renunciationthrough the wisdom that comes from practicing
devotional service.'Jayananda was a true sannyasi, as one who did
not just renouncematerial objects but actually renounced the desire
for thesematerial objects. He was always eager to use everything
for theservice of Krishna, however he had no personal desire for
Jayananda: king of the
Jayananda was the backbone of the Bay area Ratha-yatra for
severalyears. Behind the scene he would do everything for the
preparationof the festival. He would beg food, flowers, funds - buy
materialsand build the carts. He would arrange for the permits,
organize thecooking and serving of prasad. Although things always
went rightdown the wire, he would consistently succeed in
fulfilling all thisplans every year. After the festival he would
cook a cake or a piefor each and every person who had some how
helped in the festival.Because of his efforts the Bay area devotees
to this day enjoy anamazingly harmonious relationship with the city
In his last days Jayananda was busy organizing the Ratha-yatra
fromthe hospital bed. He would talk to people on the phone, send
hisassociates to meet various persons and things began to
miraculouslymaterialize. Every moment of his life was preciously
used in theservice of Krishna.
It is said that pure devotional service brings about much
opulence.Thought the devotees never seek them out, once they are
there, theyare used for the service of Krishna.
Jayananda apparently could function with very little or even
nosleep. Towards the last few days of the Ratha-yatra he would
sleepless than three hours a day, yet he was the most energetic
andenlivened member of the crew. His propensity to consume prasad
wasastounding. He could consume buckets of halva, plates of
samosasand potatoes without any side effect. When he was in his
last days,he was put on an intravenous diet, yet he would often ask
devoteesto sneak in huge quantities of samosas and cheese-potatoes
for him,which he would happily consume without any apparent
distress. Hewould some times sleep in the Bhagavatam classes, since
he was verytired, yet later on he could perfectly quote from the
class or havea deep discussion about its contents.
In BG 4.26, Sri Krishna declares that, 'One who is engaged in
fulldevotional service, unfailing in all circumstances, at
oncetranscends the modes of material nature and thus comes to the
levelof Brahman.' In the Närada-pancaratra, devotional service to
theLord is likened unto a queen attended by her maidservants in
theform of material opulences, liberation and mysticism.
Jayanandanever had any hankering for these, but when they came, he
simplyused them in the service of Krishna.
Special relationship with Srila
Jayananda has complete faith in Srila Prabhupada. He perfected
hisdevotion by making the instructions of Srila Prabhupada the
verycore of his life. He was advanced enough to realize that
realassociation was through following the instructions of the
spiritualmaster. Unlike most of the other devotees, who would go
out oftheir way to get some personal association of Srila
Prabhupada,Jayananda was contend to work in the background,
carrying out hisinstructions. He exemplified the superiority of
association by vani(instructions) over vapu (personal association).
Srila Prabhupadawould invariably call of Jayananda when he was in
the temple.Jayananda would resist saying, 'No, I cannot go. I am
too dirty. Iam too fallen,' such were the transcendental exchanges
between thespiritual master and his dear disciple.
In Cc. Madhya 19.151, Caitanya Mahaprabhu says that, 'Among all
theliving entities wandering throughout the universe, one who is
mostfortunate comes in contact with a representative of the
SupremePersonality of Godhead and thus gets the opportunity to
executedevotional service.' Jayananda was one of these fortunate
souls whocame in contact with a pure devotee of the Lord and under
hisguidance was able to perfect his devotional life.
Jayananda passed away on May 1, 1977. He joined the
Krishnaconsciousness movement in 1967, just when it is in its
beginning,and left the planet a few months before Srila Prabhupada.
In thescriptures it is said that when the pure devotees of the
Lordappear to execute His will, their associates invariably
accompanythem. One cannot help but speculate that Jayananda had
only come toserve his eternal spiritual master. The fact that Srila
Prabhupadawas on this planet at the time of his passing away is
alsosignificant. It let Srila Prabhupada affirm that 'every one
shouldfollow the example of Jayananda.'