Aravindaksi devi dasi Remembers Srila Prabhupada

Following Srila Prabhupada

Interview DVD 04

Aravindaksi: When I was in the high school, this was about a year before Srila Prabhupada came to Jakarta. The devotees came to the school auditorium, and they did a massive kirtan whereby I was impressed and more curious to find out about them because it was the first time I was seeing Americans doing something like Hindu kirtan. Although I already had some little background about my own religion from my parents, but this was something different. After they did kirtan, I tried to find out where they were staying, who they were. In fact, I found out that they were staying not far away from the school where I was going, it was Gandhi School, and I went to visit them; and ever since, I always attended their morning kirtans plus the lectures, and I even went in the evening time. We had a small children’s club that they started, and I was chosen as the president. So our activities were to make dramas from the Krsna Book. I was asked to be vegetarian. I was not vegetarian. So Amogha das said, “You cannot help us in cooking until and unless you yourself become vegetarian.” I asked them how long it would take me to become vegetarian first and then help you. So he said, “At least a month. You have to prove to us that you have no tea, no coffee, no onions, no meat-eating.” I actually started doing that, and soon after that I started chanting.

That made my mother very, very angry because she was seeing that I was becoming more and more Krishna conscious, and she was finding it difficult to cook separately for me. She even tried to make it hard for me, “You have to eat what I prepare or not at all.” So when I was really hungry, I had to go in the kitchen and cook myself. After I did that, my mother, I guess, felt pity about it and she started cooking actually for me. After a while, only Amogha das stayed and it was then that he saw my perhaps…this is what he said, that “I see some sincerity in you, and do you want to see Srila Prabhupada?” I said, “I do, but it sounds so impossible. Can we ask Srila Prabhupada to come here, all the way?” Then he said, “Yes, why not? Because Srila Prabhupada always makes trips around the world, and soon he might come to Malaysia and he will go to Australia. And looking at the position of Indonesia, it’s somewhere in between and we could ask him to stop by for a few days.” So I said, “How would I do that?” And he said, “Well, just write sincerely to him, I will help you out, and I will send it to him. Srila Prabhupada always answers all the letters that come to him.” I actually made a letter, but it was modified by Amogha das on how to put the words like “please accept my humble obeisances” in the beginning. I did not know anything about that. Soon after that the letter was sent. In hardly 10 days to 15 days, I got a reply from Srila Prabhupada. It was a full page that he wrote. It was a very long letter, “My blessings are for you and if you have sincerely invited me, if Krishna decides I could stop by for a few days.” He did ask in his letter about how many devotees are there, do you chant regularly, do you have programs regularly, what are your activities. He did ask about “I hope you are keeping well” and “I would like to come and preach to the people there.” He did not stress so much on the Indians, but at that time there were more Indian devotees than the local ones.

This is my sister and me. We were at the exhibition for the book sale. My mother changed a lot after seeing Srila Prabhupada. In fact, she told me that when she had a personal conversation with Srila Prabhupada, she had requested within her heart from Krishna to show whether this Swamiji who is sitting in front of me is actually a true swami and an honest man, and she saw some light coming from Srila Prabhupada’s eyes, some glitter, where she was very, very satisfied. And she told me about this incident after coming out from the conversation with Srila Prabhupada. In fact, after that I also joined the conversation with her and with Srila Prabhupada, and it was a very, very personal conversation where he had sat back comfortably and discussed about the old India times and they were exchanging their own experiences. When seeing that, in fact I was like looking at a sister and a brother talking to each other. He told me about how during his young days he used to see his parents cook rice in the hot sand. And I said, “Srila Prabhupada, it’s impossible to cook rice in hot sand without fire.” And he had laughed and he said, “Yes, what do you know because you are born in the modern age. Why don’t you believe me?” he said. I had to laugh and I said, “Of course, Srila Prabhupada. If you say so and if you’ve seen it, then it must be true.” Then suddenly he asked us, “So are there papadams here? What food do you eat?” We told him, both of us, that we cook Indian food, we get all kinds of vegetables here. “It’s almost like India,” my mother told him. And he asked about papadams again, and then I said, “Oh, Srila Prabhupada, we get giant papadams.” And he began to converse in Hindi with my mother and he said, “Is she saying the truth, there are giant papadams? What do you mean by giant papadams?” Then my mother told him they are double the size of Indian papadams. Then he said, “Who makes them?” And I had to explain to him, “Srila Prabhupada, we have cooks. In most of the Indian homes, we have local cooks who we train up.” “Oh, so you train the cooks and they sell back to you the papadams?” I had to laugh at that and I said, “Yes, Srila Prabhupada, because when they stop working and they get a little older, then they go back to their villages and start some business and they end up making papadams.” “So they learn from you and they sell it back to you,” he said. I said, “Yes, Srila Prabhupada.” So we had taken Srila Prabhupada some of the papadams and given it to him. The other stories that he was discussing with my mom was how the Pakistanis, even Muslim, used to stay as neighbors with the Hindus in peace. He said, “We were staying even with one wall between us.” And my mother had mentioned that there were windows even in the walls, that we could exchange sometimes food and other things that we cooked. There was a lot of conversation between them in Hindi. But he had also at that time told my mother, “So you should read my books.” And my mother told him, “I don’t read and write. I am illiterate.” And he said, “But you can speak Hindi and you can speak Indonesian. So you should learn English.” And my mother told him, “I’m too old.” He said, “It’s never too old to learn.” And she said to him, “But Srila Prabhupada, I have read Mahabharata and Ramayanaall my life.” And he said, “They are very different from my books, and it’s very important that you understand what you read because there are so many translations and they are very, very misleading.” She had Ramayanaand Mahabharatain Sindhi language. In fact, she used to get up very early in the morning, and even since childhood I used to hear her recite those books. So I guess that was the effect on me, that I came to know about Krishna consciousness. Every morning we used to hear her read those books. This is the gathering at the Lembaga Administrasi Negara, it’s an auditorium beside the president’s palace in Jakarta. This is his first day lecture. Kirtans were held and a very strong lecture, which was in fact recorded. All the lectures were, in fact, recorded. I had the opportunity of being with Srila Prabhupada every minute from the morning walks that he had around the place that he stayed. During the first day, we went around Pasar Baru area. And he had, in fact, stopped by at one shop that had words written “Toko India.” “Does toko mean shop?” I said, “Yes.” And he said, “That’s Indian person’s shop?” I said, “Yes.” And miraculously, at that moment when we looked up, there was an Indian lady folding her hands and paying her obeisances to Srila Prabhupada. It was an odd time for Indians to get up at that time. That day he had seen also a vegetable vendor. We could never pace up with Srila Prabhupada because his walks were very, very brisk and very fast despite his age, I was quite surprised, and we were always left behind. So only Amogha das used to walk by his side. So when he saw this vegetable vendor, in fact he had to wait for me to catch up with him. Then he went ahead and asked, “Are those corns for sale?” And I said, “Yes, Srila Prabhupada.” He said, “Could you bargain with him and buy some for my breakfast today morning?” So I said, “Yes, Srila Prabhupada.” And he said, “Do you know how to put them on fire with tamarind, salt and with chili powder?” I said, “Yes, Srila Prabhupada.” “Can you prepare them for me today?” I said, “Yes.” So I bought some, and we took them back to the place where he was staying. There I had no coal fire, so all I could do was put some salt and chili powder. I had no tamarind, nothing else. I had put a little butter on it, and I had to bake it on a gas stove. When I had prepared one, he was already insisting, “Where is the corn?” Amogha das took it up to him. I had to rush and prepare those corns. I think he had about three or four that morning. Amogha das was quite surprised because it’s very, very seldom that Srila Prabhupada eats corn. I was told later on from some other devotees that he said, “That’s food for animals.” The next morning, in fact, we had gone to a very large park, and Srila Prabhupada always took his morning walks very early in the morning so that park was in fact not opened. We were going to go inside the park to park the car, but the guard would not allow Srila Prabhupada to take his walk in that park. I had gone down to the guard to ask and tell him that this is a priest coming from India and he usually takes his morning walks and if he would permit us to just take a morning walk, and the guard totally refused. So all Srila Prabhupada did was open his window, look at the guard and said, “What has happened?” And the guard looking at Srila Prabhupada just was hypnotized and immediately opened the gate for Srila Prabhupada to go in. It was like a miracle, and we were all surprised.

“Is it possible for only one person to be initiated?” Then Amogha das said, “Krishna consciousness believes in quality than in quantity, and I have spoken to Srila Prabhupada and said that there is only one sincere devotee that I see worth getting an initiation from you and he has agreed.” So I myself, I had gone inside the room and he had chanted on the beads. After chanting I had asked him the question, “Srila Prabhupada, what can I do? What is my duty after this? Do I have to leave my home and come and stay at the temple?” He said, “No, it’s not necessary. Krishna consciousness means you have to change your consciousness. It does not matter where you stay. You just have to chant and remember Krishna all the time. That is Krishna consciousness.” Then I said, “What is my duty?” He said, “If you speak Sindhi, then preach to the Indian ladies. Read my books, chant and be happy.”