What was your first impression of India?
When I arrived to India, my first impression was that they had such big eyes. In Russia we always hear that eyes are the windows of the soul, and here their eyes are like children's eyes. I was surprised to see that.
Vrinda Devi Dasi (left) interviews Tungabhadra Devi Dasi.
Then, when I came to Nabadwip with Sripad Avadhut Maharaj and a group of devotees from Russia, we went on parikrama and I saw the people here were very open. Usually it takes so much to make someone smile, but here you just need to smile and they will smile back at you. They don't have so many things, but still they feel happy.
Why did you come to India ?
I came to see Srila Gurudev, and when I saw the face of Srila Gurudev, it gave me the impression one receives from reading a fantastic, imaginative book, but in this book he is real. He is more real than what we find in this material world.
This reminds me of an incident during Sri Gaura Purnima, which was a very busy time when many devotees were preoccupied with their service. There was a small dog with a broken leg and he was in so much pain. Even though the devotees know that we are not this body and only the soul is important, they still showed compassion for this dog and helped ease his suffering. Usually people say great things like the body is this, the body is that, but when it comes to small things they don't do anything. But the devotees, they are doing real service, trying to take care of the smallest things.
My heart was very happy when I saw how the devotees felt about Srila Gurudev. When he is walking, I saw how the devotees and Srila Gurudev were interacting and exchanging very great and affectionate feelings.
One of Srila Gurudev's gifts to us is these feelings of love we have for him.
How did you come to the Krishna consciousness movement?
I never thought I would be in the Krishna consciousness movement or that I would go on Harinam sankirttan. I had always heard about these strange people of some religion that would go into town and chant, and I thought, for what? But now I think it's not religion. It is about real love, not love that will die like all the things in this world, but it's another love; it is real. And now when I see parikrama, and Harinama, I see it with different eyes. I see what the devotees are doing, and why they are doing it. And it seems to me like they can't help but do it. They are happy doing it. By the mercy of Srila Gurudev, we are being given eyes in order to see properly, and our hearts are being awakened to these feelings.
When I came to my first Namahata in Moscow, I heard a lecture by Sripad Bharati Maharaj, and I was shocked - so surprised to see that these devotees had an answer for all my questions. Before that I was practising yoga, and Buddhism, and I saw they knew a little something of what I was looking for. But here I could see they know - they have consciousness. After listening to the class, they sang some bhajans, and I was singing as well. Then we had a big plate of prasadam and I was told that I had to eat all of it and I could not throw any of it away. It surprised me even more to hear that. Since then I have always kept going back to hear about this Krishna consciousness movement.
Then Sripad Goswami Maharaj came and I felt, “I can't forget this, I must be near these people. It's extremely necessary for my real life.” Now I'm trying to find out how I can practise Krishna consciousness in my daily life, because I feel that real life is the life of service to Srila Gurudev.