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Sri Jayananda Prabhu - Disappearance

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 bhakti.

The background
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.

The beginnings
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 thisrelationship.

Attraction to Krishna consciousness
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 Krishnaconsciousness.

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 takesome.

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 service).

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.

Service attitude
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 finding
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 bhakti.

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 mostcynical.

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 everyone
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 glorifyingthem.

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.

Materially renounced
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 in LosAngeles.

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 anythingmaterial.

Jayananda: king of the Ratha-yatra
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 officials.

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.

Mystic opulence
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 Prabhupada
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.'

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