departed 30th August 2020
Ramadevi left this world in Sridham Mayapur on the appearance day of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. At the time of her departure, her Giriraja Sila was next to her and Srila Prabhupada was chanting japa. She learnt how to sew as a young girl and when Srila Prabhupada first went to Edinburgh she began using her skills in his service. In 1973, shortly after Sri Sri Radha Gokulananda were installed at Bhaktivedanta Manor, she began making Their outfits. Between 1973 and 1986 she made over 100 outfits for Sri Sri Radha Gokulananda and other deities.
In July 1972 Prabhupada came for the London Ratha-yatra. When he arrived in Bury Place he had garlands up to his ears and down to his knees and he was so happy he was beaming. I’d never seen anyone that happy and that otherworldly. Prabhupada walked inside, took darshan of the Deities and thanked Lilasakti for taking nice care of Them. Later on, during the Ratha-yatra, Prabhupada sat on the vyasasana on the Ratha and I danced nearby. I didn’t take my eyes off him the whole time. I didn’t have a spiritual big bang, he just fascinated me.
We had no money in the Edinburgh temple but Prabhupada was going to visit and we had to prepare. Sarvamangala made friends with a department store salesperson and he gave us a role of pink nylon lining on credit. My first direct service for Prabhupada was to make curtains for his room out of that pink nylon lining. I also went to see my mum, who wasn’t speaking to me because I’d joined the temple, and I borrowed sheets and blankets from her for Prabhupada. From a junk shop we got an old table and cut off its legs to make a desk for him.
After Prabhupada visited Edinburgh we all went with him to a program in Woodside Hall in Glasgow where someone said, “I am God,” and Prabhupada said, “No, you are dog.” It was interesting to see Prabhupada in a strong mood. When he was leaving the Hall, Sarva and I dashed into the room where he had been sitting and grabbed his maha oranges and were chomping on them when Prabhupada unexpectedly came back in the room, looked at us, and laughed. We were standing with orange peels in our mouths like complete idiots.
The following year Prabhupada danced the whole way on London Rathayatra. Just watching Prabhupada dance was mesmerizing and it seemed that no one’s feet touched the ground during that Ratha-yatra. Oftentimes the cart – there was just one in those days – would stop and Prabhupada would turn around and see it far behind. Prabhupada would indicate for Jagannatha to come and then the cart would start moving again and when it caught up we’d go on. The police kept telling Srutakirti, “You’re blocking traffic. Tell your leader to keep moving. You can’t do this.” Srutakirti said to the officer, “You tell him,” and the officer backed off. There was a Vaikuntha bubble around Prabhupada protecting everyone who was with him. It was wonderful; amazing. And Prabhupada never showed a hint of tiredness. Actually none of us felt tired even though it was more than a forty-five-minute walk on a hot, sunny day and we didn’t have drinking water. Some Vaikuntha energy sustained us all.
I was young and didn’t know what was going on, I only knew that for the first time in my life I was happy. Once, at the Manor, Prabhupada paid his obeisances with his feet toward me. I paid my obeisances right behind his feet and as he stood up his heels brushed the top of my head. I’m convinced that most of the reason I’m still here today is the fact that Prabhupada’s feet touched my head, just like the mark of Krishna’s feet protected Kaliya from Garuda. The other reason I’m still here is the kindness of the Vaishnavas. Except for these two, there’s no reason I should be here.
I never understood what Krishna consciousness was all about. I never realized how serious it was – the initiation process, the chanting, the reading. It just was something I was doing. I like devotees; I like the service, the excitement and creativity of the festivals, the exotic locations, and the travel. But also I’ve realized that there’s nothing else – nothing else comes even remotely close to the richness that we have in Krishna consciousness. And I’ve realized that if I want to make spiritual progress I’ve got to please Srila Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada captured me and now I’m spoiled for anything else. Rupa Goswami says if you want to maintain your material life, whatever you do, don’t hear Krishna’s flute, don’t see Him standing in the moonlight on the banks of the Yamuna because if you do, you’re captured by Him. That’s what Prabhupada has done for us; I would die if I went anywhere else. There’s no sustenance anywhere else in any way, shape or form. And what’s sustaining us is love and is knowing that even if we’re not on the path, our foot is above the path and at any moment we could put our foot down and start walking. And what’s sustaining us is the safety of the philosophy. You can’t argue with it, it’s so logical, and we have prasadam and the sounds of kirtans. It’s all Prabhupada’s legacy and the potential that he’s left for us. Ultimately our sustenance is the hope that he’s given us. If anyone just applies themselves they can follow the process he’s given and be sustained.
I’m inspired by Prabhupada’s disciples, like my heroes Jananivasa and Pankajanghri, and I’m inspired by his grand disciples like Bhaktipurusottama Maharaja, Naru Gopal – such a quiet, humble soul – and the brahmachari Nitai Prasada. Sitala Prabhu is a Prabhupada person through and through. Murari Gupta has complete faith in chanting; he never misses his rounds and he really tries to chant them well. And Siddhi, a simple, humble devotee, loves to polish and clean. Siddhi sits for hours listening to Chaitanya-charitamrita lectures while curling Pancha-tatttva’s hair and she has no agenda, no fear. These devotees are how I experience Prabhupada. For me, the devotees are Prabhupada’s representatives. Prabhupada is in the devotees who have taken his instructions to heart. I can’t experience Prabhupada directly, I feel so far away from him, but I experience Prabhupada in his devotees. They’re practicing and the process is working. They read, they chant, they hear, they attend the programs, they do service to their capability, they have their priorities straight. Many of them have had many difficulties, but they take shelter and they carry on. I’m grateful that I’m still around, that I’m allowed to take part and breathe the same air as such saintly persons.
I don’t like to think of Prabhupada in his samadhis in Vrindavan or in Mayapur. I prefer to think he’s in his Los Angeles garden reading Krsna Book, he’s preaching to the sages at the Kumbha Mela, he’s scratching the cows’ necks in New Vrindavan. I don’t know where he is now, but for me he’s preaching somewhere.