Balai devi dasi Remembers Srila Prabhupada

Following Srila Prabhupada

Interview DVD 01

Balai: Because I was pregnant, I got the mercy to ride with Srila Prabhupada after an engagement in Boston. I asked him, “Srila Prabhupada, did Balaram dance with the Gopis too?” Srila Prabhupada said, “Balaram had His own Gopis.”

In Boston in 1968 I was in Srila Prabhupada’s quarters with Himavati and Hamsadutta and others. Himavati had just made Srila Prabhupada a nice bead bag and gave it to him. Her husband Hamsadutta had his beads around his neck because he had just washed his bead bag and it was drying. Srila Prabhupada offered Hamsadutta this new bead bag and Hamsadutta said, “No, Srila Prabhupada, that’s yours”. Srila Prabhupada said, “What’s mine is yours, what’s yours is mine. Everything belongs to Krishna.”

After the Iskcon press moved up to Boston, Srila Prabhupada came to visit and was going to be given a tour of the press. When we opened the doors of the pressroom, which consisted of the press, folding machine and some other large machines, Srila Prabhupada just stopped. He immediately chanted the, “Jai Om” prayers. He said, “My guru maharaj would be very pleased.” Then he kept looking around the press and the devotees were wearing dhotis and he said, “No you should wear pants. Do not have dhotis around the press.” Then he said, “The press should shine like glass and that will make it run properly.” He said, “I have experience with this with my Dictaphone. If I keep it clean, it runs properly.”

This story exemplifies the quality of forgiveness of Srila Prabhupada. Kirtananada and Hayagriva had left the temple for some time. On the day that they finally returned, a fire sacrifice had just concluded. When Kirtanananda came in Srila Prabhupada had someone get a pillow for him. Then he had someone go upstairs and get a brahmin thread from his bag that might have even been one of Srila Prabhupada’s old brahmin threads. He gave Hayagriva brahmin initiation without any previous notification he was going to do that. So, even though these devotees had left the temple and had been saying some not very pleasant things, as soon as they came back, Prabhupada immediately accepted them back.

Balai: To my understanding, Srila Prabhupada didn’t want to give girls gayatri mantra. In India at that time girls didn’t receive gayatri mantra. But one very outspoken woman, Madhava Lati dasi, insisted that the women, especially her, be given gayatri mantra. Srila Prabhupada, being a pure devotee, could make an adjustment to previous customs according to time and circumstance. Thus, he gave all the women gayatri mantra. That adjustment was necessary because so many women did and still do pujari work.

After the installation of the first Radha-Krishna deities in America that was held in New York in 1968, Srila Prabhupada sat on his vyasasana with all the devotees sitting in rows in front of him. He was eating a popper and he broke it in half. Then he looked at all the devotees and said, “All glories to the preparer of prasadam. All glories to the provider of prasadam and all glories to the eater of prasadam.” After that installation Srila Prabhupada also married and initiated some devotees. At that time we were supposed to always keep our hair braided but I didn’t know that, so I came in with my hair down and instead of chastising me, Srila Prabhupada said, “Oh Balai, you are looking like the Goddess of Fortune.” That was really nice. At that installation there were several garlands that were supposed to be for the wedding party but before we could even put them on the people, Srila Prabhupada instructed that they first be placed on the disciplic succession pictures on the altar.

There was one time at 26 2nd Avenue when Srila Prabhupada was in his quarters and my husband, Advaita das, went in and said, “Srila Prabhupada, sometimes I think I love my wife and I love my daughter. What is that?” Srila Prabhupada explained that one hand cannot love the other hand; it has to go through the stomach. The food has to go through the stomach. So one person cannot love another person without having Krishna as the center.

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I was constipated and I asked Srila Prabhupada’s servant Govinda dasi what should I do about constipation? I figured she would know since she was with Srila Prabhupada so much. She said, “Go ask Srila Prabhupada.” I was a little mortified to ask Srila Prabhupada something so mundane, but I went to his room, bowed down and as I kneeled before him I said, “Srila Prabhupada, what should I do about constipation?” Srila Prabhupada said, “Drink milk. Drink more milk.” I was very happy to receive this instruction. Srila Prabhupada had previously told us not to drink cold milk as it gives indigestion. So I knew he meant to drink warm or hot milk and that anything I ever needed to know Srila Prabhupada knew the answer to.

I asked Srila Prabhupada, “What did Krishna call mother Yasoda?” Srila Prabhupada said, “Mother.”

In the Boston temple it was nearing either the appearance or disappearance of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati. Satsvarupa Maharaj, who was the temple president, asked all the devotees to write a poem or a little essay about Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati. We all did that and he sent it to Srila Prabhupada who was in Los Angeles at the time and he asked that all these poems and everything be read in the temple room. Srila Prabhupada said, “I have nothing to offer my Guru Maharaj except these prayers from my disciples.” Later he asked that the prayers be published in the Back to Godhead magazine.

During an engagement in Boston, Srila Prabhupada had a pocket watch on the table in front of him. After the engagement he took the watch and very gently placed it in his bead bag. I could see that everything Srila Prabhupada touched, he was seeing that it belonged to Krishna. He didn’t just pick it up and throw it in his bead bag. He held it as an object that belonged to Krishna.

On April 28th, 1968, Srila Prabhupada was in New York when he installed the first Radha-Krishna deities, Lord Jagannatha, Srimati Subhadra and Lord Baladev. He also initiated and married some devotees. There was a tape that is no longer in existence, so I’m going to read some of the transcription that I had at the time. Srila Prabhupada was marrying me to Advaita and he told my mother what to say: “My girl was so long under my guidance,………. now I entrust this girl under your guidance.” And Advaita said, “I accept this girl for life.” And Balai said, “I accept you as my husband to serve you throughout my whole life.” Then Srila Prabhupada said, “You are promising before Radha and Krishna so you must take this responsibility. I speak to the husbands especially. According to Vedic principles a woman is always to be given protection. They have no freedom. Women are like children. If you give freedom to a child it means death to them. They are tender, feeble and weak. People will exploit them. So long as the girl is young she is under the protection of her parents. In India girls don’t mix with boys. Then she is handed over to a suitable boy to take charge of her. In old age the husband leaves home and takes sannyas. There is no question of divorce or separation. If there is any misunderstanding between husband and wife it should be neglected. Not taken seriously. Just like if there is fighting between two goats, it should not be taken seriously, they cannot hurt each other. If there is thunder sound in the sky in the morning it should not be taken seriously, there is no rain. Nobody should go to court. This is a misuse of understanding. No question of divorce. It is life long. You’re promising before the Supreme Lord Krishna. If you break this promise there will be serious reaction. I am very happy. As a sannyasi I am not to perform marriage ceremonies but for the benefit of my disciples I am doing it. Please remember your responsibility and be happy and chant Hare Krishna. There is no need of abstinence but don’t beget children like cats and dogs. A person in Krishna consciousness must be serious about his position. If you can produce children in Krishna consciousness then you may have hundreds of children, otherwise no children.” So this is a wonderful time when Srila Prabhupada married us in person and initiated us and gave so many wonderful instructions that hopefully we can follow.

Srila Prabhupada wanted my sister to finish high school. He didn’t want her to just quit school and become a devotee. He said, “My students should be educated.” He didn’t want them to just give up all their mundane activities but instead dovetail them for Krishna. In other words, he wanted everyone to become devotees but still go to high school.

Srila Prabhupada asked us to always pray that he’d be able to stay on the planet until he finished his Srimad Bhagavatam. One time I wrote Srila Prabhupada a letter saying, “Srila Prabhupada, I’m always praying that you stay on this planet until you have finished your Srimad Bhagavatam.” He said, “You should pray to Krishna that I stay until I finish all of my books.” He wanted to always spread Krishna consciousness. I guess that’s my big impression of Srila Prabhupada; his whole life was just spreading Krishna consciousness for Krishna, for his spiritual master, for Lord Chaitanya. He didn’t care for himself the way people are absorbed with themselves. He just wanted to get the word out to chant Hare Krishna and go back to Godhead.

To view the entire unedited video go to Memories 48 - Balai dd, Hamsavatar, Jaya Gauranga, Kusa dd, Madhusudan, Naranarayan

The full Prabhupada Memories Series can be viewed here and also at

Following Srila Prabhupada

Interview DVD 01

Balai: I remember Srila Prabhupada came down from his quarters, and we were all going to go to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens together. So there was a car. I don’t know how I got to ride in the car again; but I was in the backseat and the two devotees dressed up like Radha and Krishna were in the backseat. Brahmananda was there, Srila Prabhupada was there and a driver. The devotee who was dressed up like Krishna asked Srila Prabhupada if she could fan Prabhupada, and Prabhupada said, “No. The devotee never accepts service from Krishna.” So he was playing along, though later we found out we were not doing the right thing. Also, before we got in the car, he had come down from his quarters and we were standing on the sidewalk. We had made enough garlands for Srila Prabhupada and Radha and Krishna, but one garland got lost or something. So we put a garland on Krishna and then went to put one on Srila Prabhupada; and as we were putting it on, he was taking it off and putting it on the devotee dressed like Radharani.

I was very late for my wedding. Srila Prabhupada was going to marry Advaita and I that day, and I walked in and I had my hair down, which I didn’t know you weren’t supposed to do. Srila Prabhupada, he looked at me and he said, “Balai is looking like the Goddess of Fortune.” Then he married us. After the marriage ceremony and the installation ceremony, Srila Prabhupada was sitting on the vyasasana and he was eating a popper and he broke the popper into several pieces and he said, “All glories to the provider of prasadam, all glories to the preparer of prasadam, and all glories to the eater of prasadam.”

Interview DVD 04

Balai: When Srila Prabhupada was working on some of the chapters of Chaitanya-caritamrta, we had a recording device. It was big, it was several feet wide. So Srila Prabhupada would dictate Chaitanya-caritamrtaand as soon as he was finished, Pradyumna would bring it up to me and I would immediately transcribe it using this big contraption. We didn’t have a Dictaphone. I would just use the foot pedal, starting and stopping it and starting and stopping it. But we did it right away as soon as Srila Prabhupada was finished with it, and then Pradyumna would bring Srila Prabhupada the transcription back. And Srila Prabhupada said that he was so encouraged because I was doing it so fast that it made him start doing two tapes a day. That is my very best memory ever.