I remember coming to the temple with two of my friends, and a beautiful kirtan—a very sacred kirtan—was in progress, probably led by Yamuna. We sat down and all of a sudden the devotees fell flat on the floor. Being polite young girls, we did the same for the first time in our lives. I was very curious and I wanted to see what was happening. I was thinking, “Why are they doing that?” I put my head up a little and I saw two beautiful golden feet passing by my head. I wanted to see to whom these feet belonged, and for the first time, at least in this life, I saw Srila Prabhupada. It was a very extraordinary scene. He was looking very aristocratic. To me he looked like the emperor of the world. But at the same time, he looked like the most humble sage in the creation. I was so surprised to see these two very different antinomic qualities in one person.
One time at the Bury Place temple in London, Prabhupada sat on the vyasasan and he started looking at everyone’s eyes. When I caught his glance, I SP Memories – DVD 76 Page 5 of 20 became so surprised. I could see in his glance that this personality knows me much better than I do. His eyes had so much compassion. It was like he knew I was suffering. He knew I was questioning, but he had the solution. It was extremely powerful. I didn’t know why, but I felt some tears coming. Then I was wondering, “Why these tears?” That was so powerful, and I understood it was because of his compassion. He sat on the vyasasan, he gave a lecture, and amazingly in his lecture he answered all the questions we had without us asking anything.
From the very beginning of my association with the devotees, I would always question whether Srila Prabhupada was our spiritual master. Is this a bona fide process? Is this a bonafide tradition? So I would always be eager to hear something directly from Prabhupada that would be mystical to convince me this was the spiritual path I had been looking for. On one walk in Russell Square during the winter, all of a sudden Prabhupada stopped and he became very intense. He looked at me very deeply and I thought, “He’s going to say it—that mystical sentence—he’s going to say it!” I too was looking at him for a few long seconds. Then he opened his mouth and said, “Are you cold?” I looked at him very disappointed. He was playing; he was playing with us. I told him, “No, Srila Prabhupada, I’m not cold.” [laughs]
We were told to go to Srila Prabhupada’s room. Srila Prabhupada was very charming as he asked me, “What is your name?” I was thinking, “I couldn’t take part in the initiation,” so I told him, “Srila Prabhupada, I have no name.” Prabhupada looked puzzled and he started to laugh. Then he said, “You don’t like the name your parents gave you?” He had a big, big smile, meaning, “I will give you a name you are going to like.” And actually he did! At that time there was one devotee I particularly loved—Yamuna Devi. And there was a devotee also who was like a big brother to us—Trivikrama Swami. We were doing Harinam all day practically, and at night when a lot of people were drunk, he would protect us like a big brother. When I received my initiation letter, Srila Prabhupada said, “My Dear Daughter Mondakini Devi, I am very happy to accept you as my initiated disciple. I am also very happy that you are appreciating the bliss of Krishna consciousness.” Then he said, “Your name is Mondakini. It’s the name of a river—the river Ganges.” And I thought, “Oh, like Yamuna, I got the name of a river.” Then he went on explaining, “Lord Vamanadeva made a little hole in the universe. When He became gigantic, His name was Trivikrama; then the Mondakini fell on the Earth planet.” So he connected me with the two devotees I really appreciated so much at that time. I understood later that Prabhupada knew my wish for that name. Somebody asked Srila Prabhupada, “Srila Prabhupada, do you know everything?” Srila Prabhupada said, “No. I just know what Krishna wants me to know.”
I got the service of helping Yamuna in the pujari room although I had absolutely no qualification. That service actually helped me to get rid of most of my impersonalism. During that service I also learned how to cook for Krishna. I heard that Srila Prabhupada said, “I would like to go to the spiritual world to eat luglu and kachoris.” So I became very enthusiastic to learn these two preparations. We had a lot of Bengali ladies coming to the London temple and they taught me how to prepare kachoris with peas, and they also taught me how to make luglus. Prabhupada at one point came to London, but he was not feeling so well. Somehow or other, Himavati was supposed to cook for him, but she declined and I was asked to replace her. So every day I used to do the basics. Prabhupada wanted dhal, rice, two subjis—one dry, one wet—and anything else we could do such as bitter melon. We could add extra preparations. I was preparing everything I learned from the Indian ladies and finally I made him kachoris. I brought the plate to Srila Prabhupada in his room, and when I came in, his eyes became very, very big. In his eyes I could see the eyes of the little kid when he was in Calcutta, putting kachoris in his pockets. He asked, “Mondakini, you made kachoris?” I said, “I tried Srila Prabhupada.” Obviously he was pleased, but I didn’t receive any feedback. He stayed for about one month and I was wondering, “Does Srila Prabhupada like it or not?” On the last day of his visit, Srutakirti brought a big list and said, “Srila Prabhupada wants you to cook all this for the plane.” On the list I saw all the special preparations I had been making. So in this way I was thinking, “The spiritual master is actually playing with the disciple to increase the love the disciple has for the spiritual master. SP Memories – DVD 76 Page 10 of 20 And he doesn’t keep this love. He is giving this love to his spiritual master and up through the disciplic succession, up to Krishna.
In the temple in London, Prabhupada had shown Yamuna very simple worship as in Vrindavan. We saw Krishna as a person and He was the best friend. Our worship was more spontaneous rather than in the mood of awe and reverence. When a sannyasi from Los Angeles came to London at one point, he said, “Oh, you have to change your Deity worship. It’s really sentimental. You have to be more in awe and reverence.” I really didn’t want to change. I told him, “That’s the way Yamuna showed me. That’s the way Prabhupada showed her. We shouldn’t change.” But there was such a pressure from all the temple presidents and everybody. I resisted a long time, but after some time, I thought, “Maybe it’s better to change.” Also, he was saying, “The way I show you, there will be more devotion to your spiritual master. You have to start with the spiritual master and then you offer all the paraphernalia to Krishna.” So in the end I had to be obedient. Then I wrote to Srila Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada was displeased. In the letter he wrote that once you have established a standard of Deity worship, you shouldn’t change. He was chastising, not in an angry mood, but chastising. But it was softened by very kind words afterwards. He said, “But I understand that you wanted to increase your service to your spiritual master. So this is all right.” It showed me that even if Srila Prabhupada chastises, he shows great, great kindness. It showed me that I should have resisted the sannyasi more.
One day in London I was doing arati alone. In the middle of the arati, one guest, who came regularly and who had heavy mental difficulties, came into the temple room. He had flowers he had gathered from the cemetery and he threw them on the altar. I thought, “What to do?” Anyway, I went down to clean the dishes. All of a sudden I heard a big noise. I rushed upstairs. This deranged fellow had actually jumped on the Deities and threw Them on the floor. Srimati Radharani’s finger or hand was not in a good state. It was a catastrophe! I called and everybody came and they took care of the boy. We brought the Deities to Srila Prabhupada’s room. It was a tragedy and Prabhupada was so shocked and displeased. On retrospect I realized I shouldn’t have left the altar. But Prabhupada didn’t chastise me directly. He SP Memories – DVD 76 Page 14 of 20 chastised the temple president at that time. By Krishna’s grace a sculptor came and he fixed everything very nicely. And by this service that sculptor became Mahavishnu Swami. When Prabhupada came to London shortly after that, the Deities were resting when he gravely asked to see the Deities. At that time we had taken the vases out to make them fresh for when They would wake up. But Prabhupada said, “Why no vases for the Deities?” It showed me how concerned he was. Definitely for Srila Prabhupada, Krishna was not only a murti, Krishna was really present in His form. If something terrible happened, he was extremely concerned, and he wanted to know if the consciousness of the devotee was alright.
In 1976 Prabhupada was sick and he decided to cancel his trip from London to New Mayapur, France. Then our leader Bhagavan das said, “We’ll go to London and we’ll get Srila Prabhupada.” But I felt very disobedient. I thought, “You will never get Prabhupada. I don’t want to take the risk.” So I just decided to go, no matter what, to London to see Srila Prabhupada. I convinced another brahmacarini to come with me although the temple president and everybody was against it. We took the boat from Paris to London, but when we arrived, we were told that Prabhupada had changed his mind and had already left for France. It was a one night trip, so we decided we would go back on the boat. Then when we reached Paris, Prabhupada had gone on to New Mayapur, which is a three hour drive. So we didn’t sleep. Tired, exhausted, and not in good consciousness, we finally reached New Mayapur. Then Harikesa prabhu said to me, “Prabhupada wants you to make kachoris.” I hardly knew my name anymore because I was so exhausted and not in good consciousness having disobeyed everyone. So I went and cooked the kachoris. Then Prabhupada’s servant came and said, “Prabhupada didn’t like your kachoris.” I could understand that was because of my consciousness. The spiritual master is not only tasting the food, but he’s tasting the consciousness. The next day the devotees asked Prabhupada, “Do you want Mondakini to cook for you?” Prabhupada said, “Oh, she didn’t do very well.” I understood that was my consciousness. He was right, so I learned from that.
We had a very sweet and funny relationship and exchanges with Srila Prabhupada when he came to London. It shows actually how he would relate to the young lady devotees. Prabhupada often asked me if I wanted to get married. I didn’t want to get married at that time at all. So anytime there was a proposal, I would put on the worst sari in the world and make a very sad face, very grave, and people would leave me alone. When Prabhupada came to the temple, he used to say, “Mondakini, you are not married yet?” and he used to laugh. Then he would say, “You didn’t find anybody good enough for you?” I would become all red and he would laugh. One day we heard the most amazing thing. Srila Prabhupada was in Moscow. I remember I was very proud of Srila Prabhupada. I thought, “He is so brave,” because we had read so many books about what happened behind the Iron Curtain, how dangerous it was. Even if you slightly said a word against Stalin, you would go to jail. I thought, “Prabhupada is amazing. He is really Abhay Charan—fearless at the lotus feet of Krishna.” And I remember thinking, “That’s a country I will probably never go to.” Meanwhile, Prabhupada left Moscow and he came to Paris first and then he came to London. I was doing some menial service for him. One devotee said, “Mondakini, Prabhupada wants to see you.” I thought I made a mistake in my service. I knocked and Prabhupada said, “Come in.” I went in and he had a big, big smile. Shyamasundar was standing near him. I offered my obeisances and he said, “Come closer.” Then he looked at me with a beautiful smile, and I remember how he talked to me in the same way that he would ask me to go and get some potatoes from across the street. He said, “Mondakini, would you like to go to Moscow and marry this boy Anatoly? And by the grace of Lord Caitanya, you can assist the mission there.” Before that, when the desire to take part in the preaching mission came in my heart, I had read in one of Srila Prabhupada’s purports that if the spiritual master is asking you to do a difficult task, and if you say, “Yes,” immediately you will make a lot of spiritual progress. I was very young. I was twenty-one at that time. I ran to Sri Sri Radha-Londonisvara and because I knew They were real, I knew They could help. So I prayed, “Please, please, my dear Lord, can you make an arrangement so that Srila Prabhupada would ask me to do something a little difficult? But, please, please remind me to say, ‘Yes!’” Then when Srila Prabhupada asked, “Would you go to Moscow and marry this boy Anatoly?” I was just shocked for half a second, but I remembered my prayer and I looked at him and I said, “Yes, Srila Prabhupada!” And his smile became, like we say, oceanic. He told Shyamasundar, “Now you arrange everything.” So it was the beginning of that beautiful saga when I went to Moscow, and when Srila Prabhupada and I would meet, he would ask me, “What’s happening there?” He would be very enlivened when I was telling him about Anatoly. He wanted me to actually marry Anatoly, who became Ananta Shanti prabhu, and to get a residential SP Memories – DVD 76 Page 17 of 20 permit. But somehow or other the KGB knew about our mission and would never give the residential permit. The longest I went was two weeks and the shortest visa I received was for two days. At one point Srila Prabhupada said not to go anymore because he said, “Europe is sure and Moscow can be risky; it’s not sure.” One realization I had is that Prabhupada knew they wouldn’t give the residential permit. But I was so touched by that mission and I loved the people there, the spiritual seekers. They were ready to give up their lives, their health and their freedom just for spiritual life. So I told Srila Prabhupada, “Srila Prabupada, can I try another time? Maybe I will get the residential permit.” Srila Prabhupada was so kind as usual. He knew I wouldn’t get it, and when I went the last time, it became clear. It was not time to go back. But Prabhupada said, “Of course you can go back. Yes! Try, try!” Always kind, dedicated, encouraging, never discouraging the devotees, Srila Prabhupada was always encouraging the devotees. At the time we were quite fanatical. When I met Ananta Shanti prabhu, I told him, “You know, prabhu, actually sex life is only to have children.” He said, “Oh, Haribol!” I had heard that, so I also told him, “And in order to have children, we have to be pure devotees.” I was not mature. I was just twenty-one and having been a brahmacarini for almost two years, that’s what I thought. So “Haribol! Haribol!” But we had a very nice, sweet relationship—that was the mission of Srila Prabhupada. We were not like husband and wife as in an intimate relationship. But we felt very happy. I was very happy. It was really Prabhupada. Prabhupada was always present. Ananta Shanti was a wonderful young boy. He was very educated. He had studied philosophy and he knew also the philosophy from India before meeting Srila Prabhupada. He was speaking in English. He took this mission very seriously. He met Srila Prabhupada only for two days. But Shyamasundar said he never saw Prabhupada giving so much to one person. They talked about varnashram dharma. Anatoly then asked Prabhupada, “Srila Prabhupada, in order to preach Krishna consciousness, should I become a Pope?” Srila Prabhupada laughed and said, “It’s not necessary.” Then he asked Srila Prabhupada before leaving, “It would be good for me to have a Western wife.” This is how it came to be. On sankirtan Ananta Shanti would approach friends. In the Soviet Union no one could preach directly to people in the street. For example, he had the Srimad-Bhagavatam that I brought to Moscow with the help of Srila Prabhupada and Krishna. It was such an adventure. He would sit at a table in a café in the summer and open Srimad-Bhagavatam—the pages with the pictures, the beautiful paintings—and people would be very attracted. They had never seen such pictures. They would say, “What is that? Can you tell us?” And he would say, “Sit down. I am going to explain to you.” They would sit so the police couldn’t see. That was one way. When there were no books, Ananta Shanti would distribute prasadam. Devotees in Russia at that time had absolute faith in prasadam. So he would dress very nicely; he would buy a bouquet of red roses; he would offer them to Krishna; and then he would go out in the street and approach the people and tell them, “Smell this rose. At least you will get a human form of life.” If the police would come, they would ask him, “What are you doing? What are you doing?” He would say, “Today, I am in love SP Memories – DVD 76 Page 18 of 20 and I want to share this love with everybody.” The police would laugh and he would carry on distributing the roses. Ananta Shanti established a scientific institute. He registered the scientific institute because at that time until the present time in the Soviet Union, Science was God. There was even a University of Atheism. Because it was a scientific institute, it got registered without any problem. What was the goal of this institute? It was to test the power of Vedic mantras on plants, animals and human beings. When you would go into this institute, you would have a lot of green plants, you would have a few cats and dogs, and you would have a lot of devotees chanting Hare Krishna. That was the way he was actually doing his preaching mission. Another way Ananta Shanti would preach—I would always say, not to be imitated by a brahmacari—was that he would dress very nicely and go to a place where young boys and girls were dancing. Soon enough some girls would be interested. After some time, he would tell them, “Would you come home with me? We can discuss more.” And they would say, “Yes, yes. I want to come.” So they would go to the little flat he was sharing with his mother and then he would preach from Srimad-Bhagavatam. Also a big international book fair was arranged in Moscow with the help of Gopal Krishna Goswami and Kirtiraj prabhu. For the first time, all of Srila Prabhupada’s books were at this international fair in Moscow. That’s the way Ananta Shanti would preach. He would travel all over Russia, as much as he could. Ananta Shanti was a very unusual personality. For example, he would say, “I’ll come on Monday at such and such time.” But he would come two or three days later and say, “Time is eternal.” Then he would start preaching, talking about Bhagavad-gita very, very powerfully for maybe seven hours. When people got used to that, they brought their sleeping bags and their prasadam while listening to the lecture. He was very powerful, but then persecution started a few years later.
What impressed me the most about Prabhupada was his complete selflessness, his infinite compassion, his complete dedication to helping the suffering souls, to helping humanity, and also the fact he had perfect knowledge. He had an answer for any problem. He had a remedy, not only for the personal problems of his disciple, but he had the perfect peace formula for the whole world. He had infinite kindness, complete knowledge, extreme kindness, mysticism. We could feel that wonderful mysticism. Actually being near Srila Prabhupada, we could see that he was opening for us a little window into the spiritual world. The spiritual world, God, became so real in Srila Prabhupada’s presence. It was very possible to reach perfection. In the beginning just a month after I joined, I remember Tamal Krishna Goswami told me, “Mondakini, in three years we are all going to become pure devotees.” We were convinced just by following Srila Prabhupada, perfection would be very quickly attained.