Ramanuja Prabhu from Venezuela.
Prabhu was one of the greatest sankirtan leaders in Srila Prabhupad's
time. He won the maha sankirtan prize after distributing 45,000 Bhagavad-gitas.
He is currently preaching via his selling pots of honey made by African
killer bees. He is still doing sankirtan after so many years so let
us ask him how he was introduced to Krishna consciousness. What got
him? How did he arrive to the Ashram?
joined the movement at the age of 18. The first time I read a yoga
book I was fifteen years old. I read about Paramahamsa Yogananda
and I was impressed with his autobiography. At that time in the
70's, during the hippie movement there was a lot of Indian culture
in the music, for example the Beatles, and in the books.... As a
matter of fact the first time I heard the Mahamantra was in the
song My Sweet Lord by George Harrison. I felt that the song
was very spiritual and had to do with some sort of spiritual movement.
I was always attracted to watching good movies, listening to good
music, and reading good books. Those are the three things that were
my addictions. On several occasions I was watching movies and would
see the devotees.
one occasion I saw the devotees in a documentary about North America.
They were chanting in aroti with their shaved heads and their instruments.
I never imagined that I would meet one in person until I ran into
a Harinam group in the street. They were playing drums and singing,
and then they gave me a book. It was a very small pamphlet summarizing
the Back to Godhead magazine in two pages. There was an article
from Srila Bhaktivinod Thakur about Vishnu, and a description of why
the devotees dress the way they do, why they have tilak, and what
it is. It also talked about Mahaprabhu's philosophy. I was already
familiar with the Indian culture so I found the address to the local
temple in a Venezuelan magazine called Bohemian. I finally
went to the temple and bought a book: The Perception of Yoga.
I began to read it and really liked the focus of the book. It talked
about another form of yoga, not just the physical aspect, but about
controlling the senses and mind, and living a healthy regulated life.
was your first impression upon arriving at the temple?
feeling was: "How is it possible that these persons are giving
so much if they aren't receiving anything? How is it possible? I
come here and they attend to all of their guests so nicely. They
give us such delicious food, shelter, and they do it all for free!"
Honestly from the heart that was my first impression. I felt enticed
by that attitude. Such a loving attitude from such brilliant people.
Of course their appearance was a little strange, but like Srila
Prabhupad had said: he had taken a whole bunch of hippies, shaved
their heads, made them chant Hare Krishna, and then they looked
like beautiful peacocks.
began to regularly go to the temple at night and early in the morning,
and I started to read more and understood that I needed to change
my life according to what the books were saying.
stopped eating meat, and began chanting japa on some sandalwood
beads I had. My life began to change completely. New things were
revealed to me after reading the books, and I then gave myself to
the temple. The temple was like another world: it had the fragrance
of flowers, incense and ghee; their was chanting and deity worship
it was so enchanting.
remember there were Parama Karuna deities their and Srila Prabhupad
once said that these deities were very merciful. He left Bengal
to come to this new place and found Parama Karuna here in Caracas
waiting for him. He would chant "Parama Karuna..."
and His body would shake, His voice would crack. So bit by bit,
the books, the association with the devotees, the kindness, the
prasadam, the philosophy, these things began to turn me away from
my other life.
are known for your sankirtan spirit, how did you begin to do sankirtan?
always wanted to travel and at that time we would go out to do sankirtan
on the streets and perform Harinam. We would sell incense, hand
out flyers and invite people to go to the temple. We began to do
that all over Venezuela. We would rent cars, take buses, and eventually
we had our own little van with banners. This is what I liked to
do. What most attracted me was to travel and preach these beautiful
a while we changed our style and dressed professionally when we
would go to preach. We would wear suits and wigs to hide our sikhas
and that way we would sell more books. I remember one time I was
going to Puerto Rico to preach and was wearing a wig because if
they new I was a devotee they wouldn't give me permission to enter
the country. So they saw my wig as they were going through the bags
at the airport and asked me what it was for. I told them that it
was for theater, I was an actor, and they let me go in.
like this I would travel to different places and distribute as many
books as possible to the passengers that were interested. The trick
is to invite people to the feast, make them feel like they are receiving
a lot more then they have to give because that is how it is. The books
we are giving don't have a price. They are too valuable. Another thing
we have to learn when going on sankirtan is patience, humility, and
respect. It is in sankirtan that we have the opportunity to practise
what our Guru teaches us. We have to apply these things to our everyday
life. We are on the battlefield so we must remember that our spiritual
master is present and we are representing him. We must nicely represent
what we are trying to give. Now that Srila Gurudev is here it reminds
me of those times. So many devotees that haven't seen each other for
over 15 or 20 years now have the chance to associate with each other.
there something you would like to say to all of the devotees?
have a lot of affection for all of the devotees, they are my only
family. Another thing is that Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is the Yuga
Avatar for this age. It is only after millions and millions of yugas
that Mahaprabhu comes in the mood of Radharani. For us this happened
only 500 years ago. This opportunity happens every billions and
billions of kalpas. We have such a privileged position that the
demigods from the celestial planets desire to be born on this earth
because there the duration of one lifetime is millions of years,
and liberation is even longer. Here we live up to about 80 years
and don't realize the access we have to that exalted plane. There
are even people in India that don't know about Mahaprabhu.
Govinda Maharaj said the other day that Srila Prabhupad opened a
tunnel in the ego of the Western world and it is through there that
he is penetrating and reaching everywhere. So why should we lament
about anything? We must focus on the essence. We have such a fortune
and that is what we will take with us. All of that service, those
seeds we are planting, they will flourish ten generations into the
past and ten generations into the future. There are beings from
a superior plain coming down here to get in contact with this mercy.
If we focus on service nothing can harm us. If we keep our mind
busy with service we won't fall into any trap.
Interview with Chintamani Devi Dasi from Venezuela.
we have Chintamani Devi Dasi who is doing service at our Sri Chaitanya
Sridhar Govinda Seva Ashram in Venezuela. She was staying at the temple
and cooking everyday, but now she has been sent to take care of the
new temple to be. She is very young and has a sweet mood when it comes
to doing service. This is the first time that she sees Srila Gurudev
in person, so let us ask her about that and how she was introduced to
mom is a devotee and she is very young. She was always preaching about
Krishna but I never paid too much attention to what she was telling
me. Then one day one of mom's Godbrothers and the father of my very
good friend from the temple came to visit us. We hadn't seen them
in a very long time but they began preaching to us. We talked about
the temple and then finally I decided to go with them. When I got
there I was very impressed! All of the things my mom had been telling
me were real, they existed. I decided to stay at the temple for four
days, and I now I have been here for about two years. I then started
learning about Srila Gurudev through photos, and through the math
did you know about the Guru's position?
tell you the truth I didn't know anything until the devotees began
to tell me that the Guru is the connection between Krishna and His
devotees. I began to read more lectures and Srila Sridhar Maharaj's
books. I then asked him if Srila Gurudev, Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda
Maharaj, could accept me as his disciple, and he accepted me.
I heard that he was coming I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe
the fact that everything I was doing was real. He was coming! At the
same time that I felt extremely happy about him coming here, I didn't
feel like I deserved it because he is such an advanced soul and this
is such a mundane country filled with such ignorant people such as
myself. "Gurudev is coming here, to touch this land with his
lotus feet! He is going to give us his mercy." That is all I
could think about. All I want to do now is serve him and serve him
and never be apart from him.
this moment you are washing and ironing the clothes of all of the
Swamis that are here with us. How did you get the chance to do this
was just thinking about that actually. Never in my life did I think
that I would get to do something like this. I do it with so much pleasure
and if they give me tons and tons of clothes to wash and iron, I will
do it. All I want to do is serve Srila Gurudev, whether he knows I
exist or not.
you have any message for the devotees around the world that can't
be here physically at this moment?
might not be with him but he is always with them. I am sure of this
because the relationship with the Guru and his devotee is from heart